a southern yankee abroad


travel bug

6 Ways to Show a Little Self-Love

Happy Valentine’s Day / Single’s Awareness Day, blog readers! Today is all about love, although I woke up on this cold, icy NYC morning feeling like death (or at least like I had the flu). Somehow, I managed to make it to class on time despite hitting the snooze button for an hour straight (very unlike me, as I am typically an unapologetic morning person). As the day progressed, I really didn’t think about the fact it was Valentine’s Day at all (despite the fact my sweet mom sent me roses and chocolates yesterday…thanks Mom!) img_2252

However, after I got home and curled up under my electric blanket with a mug of tea, I found myself realizing that it was, in fact, almost the end of Valentine’s Day 2017. So I decided to recognize the holiday with a little reflection on self-love.

Shout out to my besties…y’all know who y’all are! ❤

Last year was the best year of my life in so many ways, but I feel like it was perhaps only setting me up for the year that is ahead. I am so excited to the point I am almost restless for the next few months. Below I’ve made a “list of love” to share the ways I’ve practiced self-love so far in 2017. It doesn’t matter if you’re coupled or single as a pringle—today is also a day to realize you need to love yourself before you can truly love anyone else.

1- Travel! I feel so, so lucky (more so each day) that I am able to continue my traveling this year. I’ve realized over the adventures of the last few years that travel is my first love. I feel fully alive when I am somewhere I’ve never been before. I started off 2017 with a trip home to the South (which honestly feels like visiting another country sometimes) before spending 10 days in Costa Rica. Next month, I am traveling to Israel with a group from NYU Law. We had our first meeting together last night, and I can’t wait to explore with this group next month!

Then, I will be spending 10 weeks in Uganda over the summer as a human rights fellow through law school. And, I may be doing a 10 day safari in Botswana before I start! I feel so grateful to be able to continue doing what I love in the context of my career, education, and research interests.

It’s good to have a taste for traveling alone.

A shot from last month in beautiful Mexico City. I can’t wait to be on the road again!

2- Getting off Facebook. I made the split-second decision to deactivate my Facebook account a few weeks ago. As I sat scrolling through my Newsfeed full of political posts, I realized that I missed having control of how I received information. And as much as we try to fight it, I feel like Facebook use is correlated with desensitization, as we tend to lose sight of the fact we are interacting with people, and not a computer screen, as we type out messages and send “likes” across the void. While I feel a deep despair at the state of the nation and world right now, I realized participating in the Facebook feeding frenzy was counter-productive for me. Instead of being on full emotional blast in reaction to what’s going on, I need to sustain a slow burn for the next few years. So, I deactivated Facebook for the first time since I got it 10 years ago. For the last decade, I could never have imagined life without this service that allows me to “keep in touch” with so many people, yet I haven’t missed it once. In fact, my head feels so much clearer now. And I have had a lot more time to read and write (which is maybe a bit embarrassing to admit, as it shows how much time I was really wasting on Facebook!)

3- DailyOm. DailyOm is a website that offers online journaling classes with a variety of focuses. Because I love writing so much (if you can’t tell already!), I decided to give their strategy of “focused journaling” a try through their course entitled “Heal Yourself With Writing.” The course centers on self-discovery and empowerment by writing and remembering the past from various perspectives. The course starts off with a Native American parable about a man who says he feels he has two wolves fighting in his heart—one vengeful and angry, and the other loving and compassionate. The man admits that the wolf who wins will be the wolf that he feeds, and he chooses which one is fed.

I’ve found the approach to remembering, refocusing, and writing to be transformational, and I am just a few weeks in. Whether it’s writing, meditation, or another mechanism, I would encourage everyone to take some time for self-reflection now—especially as the world seems to spiral into chaos around us.

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The new website I have replaced Facebook with!

4- A fresh approach to law school. The first semester of law school really was a blur to me. I hate to admit this, but I feel like I just showed up and went along for the ride when I returned from traveling back in August. I don’t think I got enough out of this education I am investing so dearly in last semester. This semester, I feel not only more focused, but more knowledgeable about what I need to do to get the most out of law school. For me, that means 1-handwriting all notes (no computer!), 2- hitting the library everyday (no more going home early, chilling, and getting distracted!), and 3- briefing all my cases (I didn’t think it was worth it last semester, but I’ve changed my mind).

A nice snowy day recently at NYU. I feel a lot more grounded and connected to school this semester, and I am happy I get to come here everyday.

5- Be careful who you prioritize. As Maya Angelou once said, “Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” The corollary, I think, would be to be sure to prioritize those people who are important to you so they never have to guess if they are priorities or options. I think this applies to all levels and forms of relationships—friends, family, and dating. For some reason, acting on this lesson of prioritization has become a “priority” for me in the last few months (for lack of a better term!). Not only am I trying to be more discerning about the level of importance I give people in my mind, schedule, and heart, but I am trying to be more intentional in staying connected in certain relationships and establishing firm boundaries in others. After all, if you don’t guard your heart, who will?

6- Take a lot of walks. Those of you who know me well know I used to be adamant about running almost everyday. These days, I like to take walks around Bushwick just about every night. I use this time to think, listen to music, and call friends. There is something about forward motion that’s freeing, no matter what speed you’re going. I surprisingly don’t miss running at all, and that’s ok–there’s a time in life for everything!  I love wandering around, both in big ways (see #1) and small ways (walking around Bushwick). And, it helps me accomplish #5 (staying in touch with friends).

A pink Bushwick sky

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all! Hope you’re feeling the love, inside and out! Xoxoxo

Budapest: Give Me One Good Reason Why I Should Never Make a Change

“If you come from Paris to Budapest, you think you are in Moscow. But if you go from Moscow to Budapest, you think you are in Paris.”

IMG_2985[1]It’s been 85 days since I left the USA, and the exhaustion is starting to set in in the form of sickness. However, surprisingly I am in no way ready to come home. The fact that this adventure is almost over has really started to set in during the last few days in Budapest. I am not ready to be in one place again, even though I know I realistically can’t continue to be a nomad forever.

As I write this, I am on a bus from Budapest to Bratislava feeling a bit light-headed from the variety of Hungarian cold and flu medicines I am currently taking to ward off my stuffy nose, cough, and slight fever. The last few days in Budapest have been both fun and relaxing. On my first night, I discovered Margaret Island in the middle of the Danube River (Budapest consists of 2 cities which used to be separate cities–Buda to the west of the Danube and Pest to the east of the Danube).

A view of Pest-Buda at sunset from the bridge across Margaret Island
Margaret Island is the perfect place to relax, with a walking path, beer gardens, and a beautiful lighted fountain that performs to music. It even performed to George Ezra’s song Budapest (thanks Nat for introducing me to this song before I left to come here!)IMG_2831[1]

My first morning in Budapest, I set off to explore after doing some laundry. I came across a memorial to the Hungarian Holocaust victims that included an active protest area in front. Of course, I had to know what the protest was about, and I soon learned it had to do with what many Hungarians view as the government’s attempt to rewrite the history of WW2. The memorial portrays Germany as a relentless invader and Hungary as a victim of violent imperialism. IMG_2851[1].JPGThe protesters argue that the Hungarian government at the time willingly participated in becoming part of the Third Reich and volunteered to participate in the Holocaust. The protests highlight the stories of Hungarian Jews who lost their lives at the hands of their own government, and also calls for the government to remove this dishonest memorial. If the concerns raised by the protesters are in fact valid, this is quite alarming. One thing I really admired about Berlin was the city’s humility, introspection, and apologetic spirit about the evil atrocities that took place there during the rise and reign of Hitler, and the city’s commitment to equality and ensuring these past sins are not repeated. However, if a nation chooses to disregard and withhold any sort of acknowledgement or apology for past harms, that nation is not only dishonest with itself and others but runs the risk of repeating those evils. Time will tell what happens to this memorial and if there will ever be some kind of apology from the Hungarian government.

I also took time to relax after investigating protests 🙂

On a lighter note, my visit to Budapest was full of relaxation, including a boat cruise down the Danube (where I met some great girls from Spain, Sweden, and the U.K.), a pub crawl (where I met some new USA friends!), visits to a couple of Budapest’s famous “ruin bars,” and several hours at 2 of the city’s famous thermal baths–Szechenyi and Rudas. When the Ottoman Empire invaded the city back in the 16th century, they brought with them the concept of the Turkish bath. Both baths I visited consisted of indoor and outdoor pools at various temperatures designed to promote health and relaxation, as well as several saunas. My favorite bath was Szechenyi, which has been open since 1913 and is absolutely beautiful. It also had a whirlpool in one of its outdoor pools, which was like a small, fast-paced lazy river! It was so fun to get carried along in this, and also quite relaxing! I also enjoyed Rudas, which was smaller and newer but was located just off the Danube and had a rooftop thermal pool that overlooked the city skyline.

I obviously didn’t take this picture (I didn’t want to get my phone wet so I left it in the locker!), but this is a typical day at Szechenyi.

While most of the modern shopping and restaurants are on the Pest side (and this is also where I stayed in 2 different hostels), the Buda side is home to many of the historic sites. I spent the entire third day in the city exploring the Buda side. I started with a visit to the Cave Church, which is exactly what it sounds like–a church carved into a cave in the side of the mountain. The church was closed down under communist rule but reopened its doors in 1989.

Cave church!
I then climbed up Gellert Hill (it was very steep and a good workout!) to see the Citadella, which was used by the Soviets to quell the 1956 Hungarian uprising and is now the home to the Liberty Statue. There are some stunning views of the city from here! I then walked up the Danube to visit Matthias church, which was originally constructed in 1015, reconstructed in the 14th century, and served as the city’s main mosque during Turkish rule.

Liberty Statue atop Gellert hill
Matthias Church
I was in Budapest for 5 days, which was ideal as I still got to see a good bit of the city while also taking time to rest and attempt to recover from being sick. Also, Budapest was very, very cheap–by far the cheapest city I’ve visited in Europe. Hungary uses the Hungarian Forint, and about 280 forints equals 1 US dollar. It was hard to spend even more than 10 US dollars post-conversion on food and drinks at any meal. I am not complaining at all!

Just 3 cities left until I return to NYC…Bratislava, Vienna, and London. I definitely have mixed feelings and am half-tempted to book a ticket back to Asia or Africa instead of starting law school! But, duty calls…IMG_2835[1]

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