To Those Who Live Vicariously:

I’m living vicariously through you and your travels.

I hear / read some version of the above statement on a regular basis from my non-airline, non-traveling friends and family. And to be honest, it makes me sad. Because I think that people have more opportunities to travel than they think.

But I don’t have money to travel.

Yes you do. You’re just spending it on other things. If you really want to travel, you’ll skip the Starbucks and make coffee at home. You’ll bring your lunch instead of eating out at restaurants. You’ll cancel your cable service and enjoy Netflix and Hulu. There are always places where you can save money and make travel more feasible. Once you make travel a priority with your money instead of with just your thoughts, you’d be amazed at how much you’re able to save up.

But I/we have (a) child(ren).

And?

Take them with you. I don’t know if I’d value travel as much as I do if I hadn’t traveled as a child. Before I hit double digits, I’d already visited four different countries. And as an adult, I can look back on those experiences and remember the thrill that traveling brought me.
I can’t really say too much on this subject as I do not have children yet. However, I don’t think that having a growing family should be a deterrent in traveling.

It’s so easy for you to say this because you travel for a living.

I guess. But I had to get to the point when I asked myself what I wanted to do with my life and travel was always at the top of my list. So I searched for careers that involved travel. I’ve never been keen on the 9-5 daily grind. It’s not my favourite. I found a career that satisfies the ever-present wanderlust that constantly pervades my being. And I’ve been happy ever since.

Being away from home all the time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And there are tough days in the flight attendant world. But with all the delays, reroutes, schedule changes, early mornings, late nights, short layovers, broken planes, and full flights, I still love this job. And I’m thankful that it’s allowed me to experience things I thought I never would. I just spent a week backpacking through Ireland and it was beyond amazing. Met so many interesting people and made a ton of new memories.

If you’re interested in traveling for a living, then search for the many ways that you can accomplish that. Some ways require a bit more skill and flexibility than others, but all options are out there.

But I really enjoy going to the same place(s) every year.

That sounds so boring.

You’ll never see the Colosseum in Rome if you go to the beach every summer. You’ll never see Cristo Redentor in Rio if you’re spending your holiday in the same mountain cabin you rent every year.

Maybe it’s me rebelling against the years that I had to spend summer holiday with my family in the same places, but it saddens me to hear that people go back to the same places year after year.

Maybe I just like adventure more than others.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

So, for those who live and travel vicariously through me and others, get out there and travel.

The world is waiting on you.

– j

Afflicted with Ambition

I don’t write here nearly as often as I’d like. Probably because I don’t think my life is that interesting.

Here’s what my thoughts generally wander to on a daily basis. How behind I am on my desired accomplishments, which are as follows:

  1. Get my Masters degree.
  2. Master German.
  3. Re-master French.
  4. Learn Dutch.
  5. Start a jazz band.
  6. Film a documentary.
  7. Get involved in an improv group.
  8. Write / produce an original screenplay.
  9. Do more photography and hand lettering.
  10. Travel the world.

So much ambition is oddly stifling.

But really, what’s stopping me but me?

j

top ten of twenty fourteen

2014 has been an excellent year. I’ve discovered new places, made new friends, seen older friendships strengthen, learned more about myself, and grown in more ways than I can quantify. Without further ado, here are my top ten of 2014 (in no particular order):

1. My trip to Dachau

I wrote a post on this. My trip to Dachau moved me so much that I was emotionally drained afterwards. I spent the rest of the night in my hotel room…in complete silence. Just trying to process everything I’d seen and learned. This trip ignited a desire to learn more about the Holocaust and everything leading up to it. I devoured documentaries on Netflix. It left an indelible mark on my heart and soul. Never Again.

2. Visiting Brussels during Belgian Beer Weekend

Another post dedicated to this. I had no idea that this was going on until I stepped off of the plane. In a day, I explored a bit of Brussels, ate way too much chocolate, drank delicious beer, and had a fantastic time with my crew. A new favourite destination on my list.

3. Buying our first home

My husband and I bought our first home in July and we love it! Our little house is perfect for us – close to a lot of things, great layout for a party. We’re still settling in, but we enjoy having our own space after living in apartments for two years.

4. The London trip

I took my husband to London for a week in October. It was his first time out of the country. We had a blast! I gladly played tourist with him and saw a lot in a week: Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, London Eye, Imperial War Museum, Churchill War Rooms, Windsor Castle (and we saw the Queen!!!), Stonehenge, Bath, and Buckingham Palace. There’s a lot more for him to see, but he got a thorough introduction to my hometown that week. My husband discovered his love for proper fish and chips and pub lunches. He probably knows the Tube like the back of his hand (or at least the Circle, District, and Jubilee lines). But most importantly, he met my family members in London. That made me happiest of all.

5. Cycling in Amsterdam

A crewmember and I went cycling in the Dutch countryside and it was amazing. 2 hours of green fields, cows, chickens, goats, and adorable houses. It was so relaxing. The pint of Heineken tasted extra good after that bike ride!

6. Walking around the monuments in Washington, D.C at night.

This night was so much fun! The weather was perfect and the crowds were minimal. Two other crewmembers and myself walked to Lincoln, Washington, MLK, Jefferson, and the other ones around the Tidal Basin. This experience made DC one of my favourite cities.

7. Becoming a US Citizen

It was about time. I’ve lived in the US for almost 20 years now. I’m glad that the process is finally over and that I’m able to exercise my rights. I voted for the first time in the midterm elections. Just about everything I voted for lost, but that’s I’m okay with that. #MERICA

8. Stopped biting my nails

This is a big deal because it’d been a nasty habit for as long as I can remember. One day, I say “enough” and stopped. This small victory has taught me that I can change and grow. That nothing needs to have power over me.

9. Seeing friends / family on layovers

One of the great perks of my job is being in cities where my friends/family live. Baltimore, DC, Seattle, London, and everywhere in between. I absolutely love seeing people on my layovers. Some of my favourite times have included sharing a bottle of wine with my best friend and riding around London at night with my dad.

10. Starting weightlifting

I love it. I have no idea why I ever stopped. Or was scared to start again. I’m on the last stretch of this program and I’ve already seen a difference in my strength. Yay!

Here’s to twenty fifteen and all that it holds,

– j

The Problem Is…

I’ve taken some time to digest everything that’s going on in the US right now. Obviously, the outcomes of the grand juries of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases are two very big stories. And, as with any polarizing event, people showed their true colours on social media. I chose to step back, bite my tongue, and form an educated opinion on the matter before saying anything.

To give everyone a frame of reference, I am White British-Black Caribbean. I am not Caucasian (at least not fully). I am not African-American.

Before you go on, dear reader, I remind you that this is my opinion. And that I accept criticism as long as it is constructive. If you cannot be constructive in your debate, then please take your remarks elsewhere.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

First of all, there is a race relation problem in America. To say that there isn’t is to invalidate the beliefs that one group holds. That they are essentially oppressed. “Oppression” is defined as ” unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power; a sense of being weighed down in body or mind” according to Merriam-Webster. Oppression isn’t solely a physical thing – it’s also mental. And that is what I think is going on. I think (and I am making a large generalization here) that the African-American community feels oppressed to some extent. Not necessarily physically, as in the existence of a system exercising power over them (i.e Jim Crow laws), but mentally.

To say that there is not a race relation problem in America is to ignore the obvious, in my opinion. And it’s obvious to me because I’ve experienced plenty of racism first-hand. I think (again, large generalization here) that the Caucasian community believes that there is not an issue with race relations in America. That the civil rights movement nailed the coffin shut on racial tension.

With these two schools of thought conflicting each other, the vicious cycle of racial tension continues. African-Americans believing that the Caucasians are oppressing them. The Caucasians believing that there is no problem with race anymore.

Neither one is right.
Neither view is helpful.
Each side perpetuates the vicious cycle.

Secondly, the problems with race in America have been swept under the rug. Perhaps for fear of truly addressing the issue. Perhaps for lack of understanding how to properly address the issue. Perhaps for more “important” problems like government shutdowns, ISIS, and national healthcare.

I can understand not wanting to tackle this issue. Then again, it’s a big issue. And you can only ignore the giant elephant in the room for so long before you start to get uncomfortable.

Thirdly, I think that the riots, lootings, and destruction of businesses were completely uncalled for. I believe in peaceful protest and civil disobedience to an extent – I don’t believe in destroying things so that your voice can be heard.

But, let’s think about this. And bear with me here. Another large generalization.

I don’t think that a majority of those who rioted and looted in Ferguson were voting citizens. They have the right to vote just like any other US citizen – I just don’t think that voting is a common practice in Ferguson and similar communities. To me, if I want my voice to be heard, I vote and I contact my Representatives and Senators. And even if things don’t go in my favour (as much of the midterm election), at least I know that my voice was heard.

How do you let your voice be heard if you don’t vote? You riot and you loot and you burn buildings. Because those things make statements.

It’s not right. Not at all. But I believe that is the reason behind the destruction.

If this country could open its closets, show its skeletons, and pledge to honestly work to alleviate the problem, then there could be some proper social progress. Until then, I’m afraid that unfortunate events like those involving Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner will continue to happen.

It’s a big, complex, nasty, festering problem. But it’s not impossible to tackle.

I’ve got some ideas…

– j

friendship and fomo

Hello, my name is Jade and I’m getting over a serious case of FOMO.

FOMO, for those who don’t know, stands for Fear Of Missing Out.

Let’s start at the beginning. As a child, I moved around a lot. I went to a different school every year until I was 11. Because of this, I learned to make friends easily – it’s hard to be the new girl every year at a different school. This practice of making friends easily has made me a “social butterfly,” so to speak. In college, I had many different circles of friends.

However, my definition of a “friend” was fairly wide back then. Underneath the outgoing, extroverted personality was my fear of missing out. I always felt like I had to remind friends that I existed. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Or at least it was for me. I can recall a number of times when friends would hang out and not invite me. I remember how upset I’d be at these people I called my friends. I hated being an afterthought.

In recent years, I’d see pictures of these friends from college or high school – a lot of them are all still close today. The same group of people – without me. I’d look at these pictures and be jealous, wishing that I could be there…wishing I could be that close to those friends once again.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about friendship as an adult, it’s this: True friends are the friends that want to be a part of your life and want you to be a part of theirs. They invite you out. They do not hesitate to help in emergencies. They do not hold back when telling you something about yourself that isn’t positive. They lift you up. They encourage you. They challenge you. They’ll stand next to you when you marry the person you love and they’ll sit with you at a coffee shop for hours on end.

As I look at a lot of the friendships that I have or have had over the years, I can now appreciate people for who they were in my life at the time. Some people aren’t meant to stay in your life forever, no matter how good the friendship was/is. No matter how badly we want to hold onto them. I’ve discovered the freedom in letting go of seasonal friends. By seasonal, I mean that they were only around for a season in my life, whether that be a few months or a few years. I can honestly look back and be thankful for these friends, because they were integral in forming the person I am today. I can only hope that old friends can look back on their friendships with me and say the same.

It was hard for me to grasp this concept at first because I draw such energy from people. I get so excited about life after spending quality time with a friend. But I’ve become more deliberate and careful when using the term “friend.” I’ve become more comfortable using the words “acquaintance” and “colleague” to accurately place people in my friendship spectrum.

This isn’t to say that I’ve written people out of my life. Or that I’ll never see them again. I might see them again. We might catch up on life over coffee. We might reminisce about the good old times. We might speculate what life would’ve been had we made different decisions.

I read somewhere once that it’s in our adult life that we get to really choose our friends. When we’re growing up, we have school, religious services, and extracurricular activities that kind of narrow down the friendship scope for us. As adults, we’re not confined by a classroom or school or activity in terms of finding and making friends.

Seasonal friends are a dime a dozen. True friends – lifelong friends – are few and far between. And I’m okay with that.

– j

freedom, simplicity, and materialism

Still reading The Sacred Life by Michael Yankoski. And it’s still rocking my world. I’m making myself read it slowly and allow myself to digest what I read; I’d hate to miss something important because I got too excited and read the entire book in a sitting.

I just finished the chapter on simplicity. And it rings so true.

The tragic irony of today is that we’ve been pushed toward a new kind of slavery by the rhetoric of freedom, liberty, and self-determination. Instead now we find ourselves mired in the intensely arrogant belief that the pinnacle of freedom is a society of individuals running around pursuing whatever they feel like, without any thought whatsoever about what we’ve been created for. (The Sacred Life, p. 70).

As I think on this quote, I see this everywhere. Living in the US, I hear variations of this phrase a lot: “We’ve got freedom of speech; I can say whatever I want!” Heads up, that’s not what the First Amendment means.

Beyond that, I see this twisted sense of freedom rearing its ugly head in my life. Surely, I have the freedom to enact Sweatpants and Netflix Standard Time (SNST) on my days off – it’s exactly what it sounds like – but should I? I feel like making brownies from scratch and eating three of them in a sitting while SNST is enacted, but should I? Answer: definitely not.

Yankoski talks about his own struggles with this sense of freedom – his desire for more wealth. And his idea of “enough” was “just a little bit more.” In that sense, enough is never enough. We will always want “a little bit more.”

Suddenly I see how coercive the idea of more has become in my life. I drive myself toward it ruthlessly, utterly bound to the idea that bigger will always be better, that larger will be stronger, that just a little bit more will be safer, sturdier, more stable. It’s always future tense, never present, always just around the corner of the next accomplishment, the next milestone. I’ve been blinded and have blinded myself to the abundance around me by constantly searching for the evasive and fleeting and retreating more. (The Sacred Life, p. 72).

After all, unchecked growth in a living organism isn’t called health after all. Cancer. That’s what we call it. And left untreated, it is lethal. (The Sacred Life, p. 73).

Growth that is left unpruned is like weeds in the garden, invading and dominating all surrounding plant life. I don’t know about you, but I realize that I need to temper my own desires and work on pruning some things in my life.

Yankoski describes materialism not as the addiction to things, but as the addiction to “the experience of obtaining something new.”

Lines outside of Apple Stores – people camping out for a new mobile phone.
Queuing on the cold morning of Black Friday for special deals.Midnight movie premieres.
Midnight novel releases.

It doesn’t seem like we’re free at all.
I’d say Yankoski hit the nail on the head.

Later in the chapter, Yankoski outlines four simple actions to refocus our sense of freedom.
Prune. Purge. Reclaim. Delight.

The pruning and purging to me are the same thing when it comes to what I should do in my life – get rid of unnecessary things. And the term unnecessary spans a wide variety of things currently in my possession. My husband and I have a hierarchy in place just in case we are suddenly without our incomes. At the top of the list are Internet and cable. We can get rid of those things and survive. When my husband first proposed this to me a few years ago, I gave him the most bewildered look. Now, I get it. I can live without the internet. And some days, I’d love to not have the internet around to distract me. And I can live without cable. In fact, we did for the first two years of our marriage.

Today, I went through my floordrobe (yep, still have stuff on the floor of our guest room from moving in four months ago) and gathered several bags (more than I thought!) of clothes, handbags, and shoes to give to Goodwill. I’d been meaning to do this a long time ago, but it was reading this chapter that gave me the push I needed.

The reclaiming part is something new to me – using the things you have rather than replacing old stuff with new stuff. Pinterest in a haven for repurposing materials into beautiful, functional furniture. My new home is in need of a few things – namely a dining table, bookcases/shelves, and two office desks/one mega desk. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on these items, why not put the money into making our own?! I’ve been delving into DIY blogs and Pinterest for ideas and inspiration. Now, to find some wood pallets…

And delight. Enjoy the true freedom of ridding your life of stuff.

Prune. Purge. Reclaim. Delight.

– j

Stream of Consciousness

I’m in a writing mood and since I can’t really come up with a solid theme for this post, I figured I’d just let my mind wander…

It’s autumn. It’s one of my favourite times of year. It’s when we’re reminded that death can be beautiful. The fiery reds. The vibrant oranges. The deep yellows. All of the leaves changing colour before they fall and become that ever-so-satisfying crunch beneath our feet. That satisfying crunch becomes a wet, soggy mess when it rains. And I loathe walking in wet leaves. For some reason it reminds me of soggy cereal, which I also loathe. But I love autumn. And I love leaves on the ground. And I love the rain. So, I just have to deal with the soggy leaves sometimes.

This is the time of year when I drink copious amounts of Earl Grey tea. Because Autumn = Earl Grey, not this “Pumpkin Spice” nonsense. And really, let’s be honest, you can’t taste any pumpkin in commercially produced “pumpkin spice” flavoured things. You’re just tasting the spice blend – nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, etc.

This is also the time of year when I feel compelled to listen to a lot of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Count Basie, Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. It just feels like autumn when I listen to jazz / big band / easy listening. It all started about three years ago when my husband and I got married and moved into our first place in the autumn. We played Sinatra while we unpacked and I’m reminded of that whenever I listen to him.

That also reminds me of writing my first novel. I did NaNoWriMo in 2012 and wrote a 50,000+ novel in a month. I haven’t read it or touched it since finishing it, but it was such an accomplishment. I listened to a lot of jazz while writing because it helped me focus. Now, any time I listen to Melody Gardot (in particular), I’m reminded of the characters that were brought to life in my novel.

I should start on another novel…

– j

being attentive + single tasking

In my never-ending quest to simplify my life, I’ve found this book that is currently rocking my world. It’s The Sacred Year by Michael Yankoski. I’ve only read the first two chapters, but I’ve been mentally and spiritually digesting those two chapters for the past week. In a nutshell, The Sacred Year is about Yankoski being intentional with incorporating spiritual practices into his life. The second chapter, “Single Tasking: The Practice of Attentiveness,” grabbed me by my shirt collar and hasn’t let me go since.

Yankoski discusses the art of “juggling.” We’re all pros at “juggling,” giving our half-hearted attention to all of the things demanding it in our lives – work, friends, family, television, social networks, emails, meetings, etc. He quotes Tolkien in saying that he is “like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.” Don’t we all feel like that sometimes? In the deepest parts of our minds, we’re juggling decisions, plans, questions, answers, daydreams. In the quiet moments, things are rarely quiet upstairs. In any given moment, I’m thinking of twelve different things. And having the imagination that I possess, I can go from planning tonight’s dinner to trying to figure out why Diet Coke takes forever to settle at 30,000 ft in a moment’s notice. And that’s just what’s going on in my brain.

Let’s talk about the impulse to constantly check social media. It’s embarrassing to say, but it’s the first thing I do when I wake up. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, email. And indeed, it is the last thing that I do before falling asleep. There are many a night when I fall asleep reading Reddit.

The sad thing is…I know that I’m not the only one. Constantly connected, yet so disconnected at the same time.

When was the last time that you had a face-to-face conversation with someone and made a point of giving them your undivided attention?

What about when there’s a silent moment or two in a conversation? Do you reach for your phone for comfort?

I asked myself these questions after reading “Single Tasking: The Practice of Attentiveness.” And the answers were hard to admit to myself.

Yankoski says that the term “pay attention” is really a misguided command. Instead, it should be “be attentive,” as “attentiveness is not something you can buy at any price but rather something you must become.” Yankoski goes on later in the chapter to describe an apple that he spent an hour focusing on. Yes, he spent an hour locked in a room with a red apple. He took in the apple with all five of his senses and his descriptions of this apple made me feel like I could visualize this apple in front of me. He spent an hour focusing on something that he’d probably seen hundreds of times throughout his life, but had never really seen. He discovered characteristics of an apple that he’d previously disregarded.

I took it upon myself this afternoon to spend time single tasking – doing one thing at a time and doing that one thing being fully attentive and aware. I went to my favourite coffee shop. I ordered a mug of black coffee and settled down at a table. I ate a salad that I brought. I read a letter that my sponsored child wrote me. I wrote a letter back. I drank some of the coffee. I reread the second chapter of The Sacred Year. I wrote in my journal. I finished the coffee.

I did all of these things as single tasks. I didn’t have my earphones in at all – partially because I didn’t want music to interfere with my single tasking…partially because I think it’s a bit silly to listen to my music when the coffee shop was playing some pretty excellent music. I put my phone in my handbag and didn’t touch it the entire 1.5 hours I was at that table.

The result of intentionally single tasking? That mug of coffee tasted SO GOOD. I have to be in the mood for black coffee, so I don’t drink it often. But this mug of coffee was wonderful. I was able to taste the complexities of the blend. I bet it probably would’ve tasted a bit different if I hadn’t been attentive. I noticed a bunch of different things about the coffeeshop that I’d never noticed before. The colours (especially the abundance of reds), the arrangement of furniture, the people, even the mug that I was using. I came away from the coffee shop more appreciative of it than before.

This journey to simplification and being attentive has been developing a lot recently, even before I started reading The Sacred Year. While on holiday in England with my husband a week ago, we visited Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath. In the middle of taking pictures, I got frustrated with myself. I wasn’t allowing myself to fully enjoy the sights because I had a camera or an iPhone attached to my hand.

My hope is that I can become more attentive and less attached to social media. I can find more to appreciate in the small, seemingly insignificant details of my everyday life. I can give another person my undivided attention without reaching for my phone the second there’s a lull in the conversation. I can visit a place without “checking in” on Swarm or Facebook. I can have a funny thought to myself without the urge to Tweet it. I can enjoy a beautiful sunset without reaching for my phone to take a picture that will only pale in comparison to the real deal.

This is my invitation to all of you to do two things: realize where you can be more attentive and work on unplugging and becoming more aware of life going on all around you.

Here’s to living a more attentive and thus more fulfilling life,

– j

Harder Better Faster Stronger

I love exercise. Like I really do. It may be hard for me to get out of bed early and go to the gym. Or go to the gym right after I finish a long day of flying. But once I’m in the gym, I’m in the zone.

My love of exercise with my ENFP nature requires me to change things up. And for the longest time, I stuck with workout plans that had me doing all sorts of isolation exercises 5 times a week. I stayed stagnant for a while because I never found a program that truly piqued my interest.

Until recently. (dun dun dunnnnnnn)

Because I joined a new gym, I was given one of those free mini personal training sessions and body analysis meetings. Ya know, the ones where they take your measurements, talk to you about your goals, do a 15 minute personal training session with you to get your endorphins up, then try to sell you a PT package that costs WAY too much. Thankfully, I saw past all of the sales mumbo jumbo and took the meeting for what it was worth.

First off, I balked at my actual weight and body fat percentage, but they actually put me in the “ideal” range, one step from being super lean beasticon lady. Now, I don’t feel ideal and my goal is two-fold: lean up and get stronger. Through recalling what I learned as a scrawny freshman in a weight training class and scouring r/fitness and r/xxfitness, I knew that strength training would be ideal to reach my goals. Compound exercises – exercises that require the use of multiple muscle groups – are the way to go.

I’ve started the 5/3/1 strength training program. With this program, I am lifting weights 3-4 times a week with different assistance exercises added. This program focuses on four core lifts: the squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press. Your sets are based off of your 1RM (one rep maximum – the most weight you can do one rep of.) The program that I found is twelve weeks long, with new 1RMs taken every four weeks. I’m two weeks into the program and I love it for a few reasons:

  1. Cardio is not required. I get so bored doing cardio…unless it’s something outdoors.
  2. I’ve discovered a new love and respect for weight lifting.
  3. I feel like a beast when I’m lifting.

Historically, I’ve been one to quit a new program after two weeks, but I love this one. I love the challenge of beating my current 1RM on these lifts and seeing how much I can get to. I love wearing my Chuck Taylors and knee-high socks on squat and deadlift days. :)

For any of you interested in Wendler’s 5/3/1 program, I suggest you check out this article on Muscleforlife.com. Samantha Menzies published a blog post about 5/3/1 from a woman’s perspective – fyi, the workout is still the same…it’s just nice to get a different perspective :)

Here’s to lifting weights and kickin’ ass!

– j