Rachel Discovers Happiness

my life and road to happiness

Archive for the tag “travel”

Three States and Back in 36 Hours

This past weekend was a whirlwind of crazy. And by crazy I mean I sat in a car for 20 hours as a drove with my littlest sister to New Mexico where she will be working for the next ten weeks. The two of us took turns driving through California, Arizona and New Mexico where she finally dropped me off at the airport in Albuquerque so I could fly back to California (she continued on to Abiquiu, NM).

Of course I brought my camera with me and was able to snap some photos with my iPhone while I wasn’t driving (safety first!) Here are some of my favorites:

The beginning of the ride – the long road ahead of us

Reaching Arizona… and only driving three miles in an hour.

Adorable red farm house along the way

Fireworks display in a New Mexican convenience store

My view at the airport… three hours and none of those carts moved

And an extra one, just for fun ūüôā
Me and my sister at the Giants Game this past Friday

What did you do this weekend? Anything exciting?

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Nerd-fest 2012: The Waiting Game

AKA South by Southwest Interactive 2012 or Southby or SXSWi from hereon out.

In case you are lame and didn’t read my previous post about this, I recently won a ticket to SXSWi on Twitter. Those tickets go for over $900, are completely sold out, and are the gateway to a wonderful week of networking, start-ups, technology, and mingling with nerds. Nerds just like me!

Looking at me you wouldn’t think I was a nerd – I like to think of myself as a closet nerd and this upcoming SXSWi experience as my Nerd Coming Out Party. (Is that a politically appropriate analogy?)

Anyway, I struggled a lot with whether to go to SXSWi or not. I was nervous for a lot of reasons – money, going out of my comfort zone, being alone, not fitting in, not being nerdy enough (weird fear, right? but totally valid!), etc. but I decided, after 99.9% support from friends, family and strangers, that I would attend. I fretted over the cost of the plane ticket, but thank goodness for Southwest airlines (fitting, isn’t it?) and its low fare calendar, because of that I was able to get tickets to Austin for a fraction of the cost from other airlines. Whew.

I talked to my mom about it a lot – she brought up the clich√© “do one thing each day that scares you.” She then told me that, if I went to SXSWi like she thought I should, I would rack up about a month’s worth of “things that scare me” and hopefully get over some of my anxiety and debilitating fears (there are so many that I’m staring down right now that I’m not even going to get into all of them). But okay Mom, you’re right, I should go. I even got an e-mail from her this morning saying:

South by Southwest has been getting HUGE press in the SF Chron business pages Рarticles yesterday AND today.  You can google that if you are interested and/or have time before you leave today.  It should be an amazing experience.  I am so proud of you for grabbing this opportunity!

Thanks Mom. I really appreciate the support. Really. Now can you pay for the flight? Kidding. Kinda…

I have spent a lot of time this past week talking to just about everybody about what SXSWi is going to be like, what I should do while I’m there, etc. I have been actively posting on Twitter, Facebook, other people’s blogs and¬†just¬†about every other social media site I could think of in order to prepare myself.

I have come to the conclusion that no amount of blog posts, Twitter hash tag chats/follows or conversations about how amazing it’s going to be can prepare me for what I will experience over the next four days.

Although I don’t think all of my research can adequately prepare me for this (what I believe to be) life-changing event, here are the conclusions I’ve come to out of all of my anxious energy/excitement:

  • In going to SXSWi I am reaching so ridiculously far out of my comfort zone it isn’t even funny. I only won one ticket to the conference, which means I will be attending things, gasp!, alone! On the plus side, according to every single person I’ve talked to who has been, that’s the best way to do it! It forces you to get to know people and network. Apparently, going out of your comfort zone is what SXSWi is unofficially all about – who woulda thought!
  • I had no idea what to wear – does it matter? I’m such an over-packer and this event is definitely no exception. Also, I’ve never been to Austin, or even Texas, so I don’t know what the culture is like. If I brought my cowboy boots would people think I was a crazy poser? Since I had no idea what to wear and from convos with a good friend of mine, I just decided to pack everything I could think of. Maybe I’m stupid, but Swouthwest allows you to check one bag free of charge, so I’m golden.*
  • I have no idea what panels/presentations/events to go to because all of this happened so fast and I haven’t had time to research everything. But you know what, that is just part of the experience!
  • I’m not nerdy enough for this event. One of my major fears. Which is complete BS because I am a super nerd and technology and startups and electronics and design and HTML and CSS do interest and excite me. Maybe I’m not an expert like a lot of other people will be, but so what!
  • I never do anything spontaneous which means that this better be good. It could probably make or break my¬†spontaneous¬†side. Kidding (and this time I really am). I’m really excited that I’m being so spontaneous! It is a quality that I always see in other people and really admire, so I guess this is my turn to develop that same quality in myself and hopefully I’ll inspire somebody else who is scared of¬†spontaneity and not having a plan.
  • WHERE WILL I STAY?! Okay well lucky for me, my friend Nikol over at Who’s Austin¬†moved to Austin a few months ago (hence the blog title) and has a floor (or couch?) I can sleep on while I’m there. This means that a) I don’t have to pay for a hotel room (much less find a hotel room since they are all sold out) and b) I get to spend some quality time at presentations, networking events and parties with an old friend (Nikol and I lived on the same floor freshman year of college)
  • Similar to the previous thought, when will I sleep? I’m pretty sure those who go to SXSW don’t get very much sleep. At all. Like, maybe 3 hours a night. I barely survive when I only get 6 hours of sleep a night, so I’m basically planning on being exhausted and getting sick for 2.5 weeks after this event. But hey, that’s all part of the adventure, right? Right?!

My motto over the past few months has been “Be Brave” and that’s exactly what I’m going to be over the next few days (and beyond!)

I know I sound ridiculous, but I’m nervous! So cut me some slack.

Now, as per the title of this post, the waiting game starts. I am currently sitting in those uncomfortable airport chairs at the San Francisco airport waiting for my flight to Austin via Las Vegas (yay slot machines!) We were supposed to leave around now, but the flight was delayed. So i’m just sitting here. Hanging out. Researching SXSWi.

Life could be worse.

P.S. Thanks to Brad King (The Bradpocolypse or @TheBradKing) and everybody else who has written articles/blog posts about how to survive SXSWi – you have been the main instruments responsible for maintaining my sanity over the past 48 hours.

P.P.S. Thank you to everybody who commented on my previous post, everybody on Twitter, all my friends and everybody at work for encouraging me to go – and not really leaving me a choice ūüôā

P.P.P.S. If you are going to be at SXSW, let’s meet up! Comment on here or find me on Twitter (@rockegan). Let me know what your favorite part of SXSWi has been and share any advice you have! Looking forward to meeting you ūüôā

*I read in a few blogs about what I should and shouln’t pack – t-shirts were on the “no pack” list because apparently there are free t-shirts just about everywhere. I didn’t listen to this. I shamefully packed two t-shirts into my suitcase. Two t-shirts that are probably taking up space from all the other t-shirts I will receive while I’m there. Oops.

SXSW Dilemma

Okay, so here’s the scoop:

I won tickets to a convention called South By Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) in Austin, TX. I entered a contest on Twitter* not thinking that I would win, but I did.

The ticket only covers the entrance (something that I could never afford on my own), which means that I’d have to purchase a plane ticket – I have a friend who lives in Austin, the lovely Nikol over at Who’s Austin, which means that I would stay with her and not have to worry about a hotel.

It’s going to be expensive (plane ticket and food), but would it be totally worth it? It sounds like the kind of thing I would absolutely love – start-ups, tech presentations, networking, social media – all things I love!

A few thoughts:

  • I would be going alone, which means I would be completely out of my comfort zone.
  • I never do anything¬†spontaneous which means that this would be kind of a first for me.
  • I made a decision that I want to be more outgoing and likable.
  • I never win anything, so to win something this big is kind of intense.
  • I’ve never been to Texas.

Would it be crazy if I went? Would it be crazy if I didn’t go? Thoughts?

*The contest I entered and the company I won from are completely unrelated to any clients I work with.

And So It Begins

I feel as though everything in my life has been leading up to now. I’ve always had dreams for myself: go to college, live in a big city, have good relationships with my family members, get a great job, be proud of myself, be happy.

As of last week, I can finally say that I have accomplished all of those things thus far:

  • I graduated from college in June.
  • I have wonderful relationships with all four of my parents and all of my siblings, not to mention my extended family.
  • I signed the lease for an apartment in San Francisco.
  • I have an internship at a great company and I couldn’t be happier about it.
  • I am proud of myself and all I have accomplished – especially the apartment and internship, two things that happened last week.
  • I might not be as happy as I could be, but I’m working on it and all the things I just listed sure do help.

Of course, I haven’t officially moved in to my apartment (that happens this weekend) and I haven’t actually started my internship (I begin tomorrow), but man, I just feel like my life is really taking off!

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things that I still want to accomplish in my life, but I am just now starting to feel like a real adult. All of my goals until now have been for my younger self. They were for the me that existed before 2012. The me that was focused on my profession, friends, and dreams. The 22-and-younger me only knew a life that consisted of classes, homework, papers, to and from campus, etc. etc. This new me, the 23-and-older me, has moved on from school, is entering the corporate world, and is ready for new challenges and experiences.

Now, even though it is only 8:20pm, I think I am going to go pick out my outfit for tomorrow, crawl in to bed, read a book, and get a good night’s sleep before my big day tomorrow.

San Francisco, I’m ready for you!

In Defense of Toms

I can’t believe I haven’t posted in almost a week. How lame am I?! I couldn’t let this blog go untouched for an entire week and have two Friday Links posts in a row – that would just be pathetic.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but couldn’t really find the words (plus I wanted to take some photos for it). It’s about the shoe (and glasses) movement: Toms*.

If you aren’t familiar with Toms mission statement, it’s simple: One For One. With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need.

One of my Christmas presents from my mom was a pair of women’s “ash” Toms.¬†Everybody¬†I know has a pair of Toms. I liked the idea of receiving a pair of Toms for Christmas because not only can I wear them anywhere, but they are comfortable (oh so¬†comfortable!), “cute” (I think the other benefits make them cuter than they would be otherwise) AND they help out kids who don’t have the means to purchase their own shoes.

I was so excited when I opened them, and my mom felt really good about gifting them to me. That is, until the first day I wore them in front of Philo. When I pointed out to my mom that I was wearing them, MJD piped in and mentioned that Toms are just about all his girlfriend wears – she likes how cute and comfortable they are. Then, Philo piped in… like he always does.

He started in on this rant about how Toms isn’t actually as great as everybody thinks it is. That the organization may help children, but actually harms the shoe producers and stores in the area that the shoes are handed out.

This is a habit of Philo’s that annoys us all, but have all learned to ignore. One of us says something and Philo jumps in with how we are wrong, then he informs us of the correct way to think about whatever situation we are talking about, and all of it is based off of some article that he read once. Eating meat? Humans are not built to consume meat, also, it’s not sustainable, also, you are consuming a carcass. (I’m sorry for that mental image, but imagine hearing that every time you eat meat) Donating to a charity? That charity isn’t as good as you think it is, the money doesn’t go where you think it does, plus, here is a list of all the vegan charities that actually make a difference in the lives of millions of people. Blah, blah, blah, blah… he goes on and on. Nobody else’s opinions are valid. He always finds a counter argument for everything we say. I could say that dogs like to be pet and wag their tails, and he would come up with a reason why I’m wrong.

Anyway, so this conversation thoroughly bothered the rest of us. When my mom and I got home, we sat down and did some research on Toms, their mission, and where the shoes go. I downloaded the Toms Giving Report and read it beginning to end, then saved it on my computer. I read blogs, articles, and opinion pieces on not only Toms, but other charities as well.

Page from the Toms Giving Report

My conclusion after all my research? Toms was about the best of the best as far as charities go. Your donation goes where they say it goes, and I can’t find anything to suggest otherwise. They aren’t asking you for money, they are asking you to purchase a pair of shoes for yourself so that you get something as well as the children you are helping. Children. NOT adults. Local shoe stores aren’t going out of business; Toms shoes go to children who wouldn’t be shopping at those shoe stores in the first place.

Shoes have value beyond being critical for physical health. Many schools in developing countries require shoes for attendance. And some soil-based diseases not only cause physical symptoms, but create cognitive impairment too, crippling a child‚Äôs long- term potential … Children who are healthy are more likely to be successful students, and access to education is a critical determinant of long-term success.

– Toms Giving Report

The shoes go to kids whose families don’t have the means to purchase shoes on their own. If the kids don’t have shoes, they aren’t able to go to school. If they aren’t able to go to school, they aren’t able to get an education. If they can’t get an education, they are less capable to pull their families and their countries above the poverty line. Toms makes sure that the shoes given to children follow their school’s dress code/uniform in order to ensure that the shoes accomplish what Toms wants them to. Toms also only makes shoes in sizes that are required by the children in need.

School children in Nairobi, Kenya wearing their Toms. (via: http://www.facebook.com/Toms)

Toms is not only giving these children shoes, Toms is giving them a future.

That might sound cheesy, but I firmly believe that it is true.

Toms gives shoes in places such as Argentina, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Zambia, to name a few. These locations aren’t picked at random. Toms and its affiliates do lots of research to make sure that the the children receiving the shoes are deserving and that the shoes will make a difference. Toms doesn’t use any child labor in the production of its shoes and the organization works with its partners around the world as well as businesses where the shoes are delivered whenever possible.

Recently, Toms has expanded from shoes to glasses. I guarantee there will be further expansion in the future. I’d keep my eyes open if I were you.

Anyway, I apologize for this rant. It just really frustrated me and I thought that I would share my thoughts with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

Have you done any research on Toms or other charities? Where are your favorite places to donate? Do you have any opinions that parallel Philo’s mentality?

*FYI: TOMS stands for “Shoes For a Better Tomorrow”

Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with Toms or any of its affiliates. The opinions stated in this post are 100% my own.  

Denmark

My family has a wonderful “little” tradition that started in 2008 when my big sister, Caitlin, studied abroad in a little town in Hungry called Kecskemet. Our parents flew us all out to Hungary for the week of Thanksgiving so that we could visit her. Since then, every time one of the sisters studies abroad, we take the week of Thanksgiving to go visit them. In 2008 it was Hungary for Caitlin, 2009 was Spain for me, and this year was Denmark for KB*.

One of my hobbies is photography. Actually, I think photography is my only hobby. Oh, photography and crafts. But anyway, instead of writing a big long post about our trip, I figured I would show you in pictures. That’s the best way for you to see Denmark through my eyes anyway. I hope you enjoy them ūüôā

Hamlet's Castle

Haribo gummies at the Christmas Market

Very interesting photo/butterfly exhibit at the Arkin - a modern art museum.

Super cute houses, boats, and Christmas Market ūüôā

Our good friend, Hans Christian Anderson.

Tivoli, the inspiration for Disneyland!

I didn't go on any rides, but I loved this picture. I was messing with shutter speed.

Hand made Christmas ornaments at Tivoli (don't worry, we bought a few).

The Brady Bunch at Tivoli

The sisters ... aren't you jealous of my super cool hat?

Pookie and I at one of KB's favorite cafés

The cheese in Denmark was aaaaaamazing!

Pretty display of flowers - there are displays like this all over Copenhagen

Those are some of my favorites. I know there aren’t very many of people, but I generally like taking pictures of scenery and objects and flowers than of people (I always get the lighting all wrong on people).

*Note: KB is the name that Caitlin puts on her blog for one of our younger sisters. She and I discussed using the same pseudonyms for our blogs, with the exception of a few family members, so that we can maintain consistency. I will eventually do a post to introduce you to my family. It can get a little confusing. 
 
All the photos in this post are my own. Please let me know if you would like to use them. I love hearing comments (positive, or constructively critical) about my artwork.

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