Monthly Archives: December 2014

Happy Holidays from inspirNational!


Happy Holidays from inspirNational!

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season and a new year filled with inspirNational memories. See you again in 2015!



The Pursuit of Happiness


Throughout my life, my peers have called me optimistic, cheerful, perky, and “so happy all the time.” While I most often take this as a compliment, I also get annoyed because I am not always happy and want to make sure that I come across as genuine. One of my goals when interacting with others has always been to bring people up, inspire them, and not transfer negative energy from my stress or worries to them. We all have life challenges, and it is important to me to avoid complaining and instead focus on what is good and keeps us all moving forward. With this goal in mind, I always attempt to see the glass half full and bring positive energy to a group.

Challenged with the thought that I have a perception of always being happy, I decided to write about insights I have found to help me in my pursuit of happiness:

  1. Your happiness is in your hands. It is up to you to choose a career that makes you happy, to surround yourself with people that make you happy, and to take the time to change anything in your life that does not make you happy. One of my favorite quotes about this : “If you can’t change what happens to you, change how you think about it.”
  2. Be balanced. Find ways to incorporate what you love in your everyday life. Most of us have to work, but we also should make time to be with our families and friends, to exercise, to eat healthy food, and to relax.
  3. Have an attitude of gratitude. Remember that you always have something more than someone else. Every day of good health, every meal, and every moment spent with loved ones should be cherished because you never know what’s to come in your path.
  4. Compliment others. You will brighten the days of others and help them find the good in themselves and you!
  5. Listen to music, especially when you are doing tedious tasks or chores. I find that my life is like a playlist, and every song reminds me of different moments throughout my life. Music also helps make chores a little bit more fun.
  6. Travel in order to learn what makes people throughout the world happy. Traveling has helped me realize that experiences and quality time with loved ones provide me with much more happiness than tangible things.
  7. Write a personal vision. With a vision in mind, you will create a path for yourself and will be able to take the necessary steps to make your vision a reality.
  8. Pause and reflect. Make sure to give yourself personal time every week to reflect on what you have done, where you have been, and where you are gone. Little check-ins with yourself will help make sure that you are balanced and happy.
  9. Try new things, whether that means new foods, new hobbies, or new places. By  changing up our daily routine, the element of “newness” keeps life exciting and may provide you with new sources of happiness.
  10. Always have something to look forward to. This is one piece of advice I learned from my grandma, who is now 96 years old. She swears by the fact that always having something to look forward to has kept her going with a zest for life.
Source: iPinion Syndicate

Source: iPinion Syndicate

In the spirit of Christmas, I also found an article, 10 tips for a happy life, according to Pope Francis. As the word Catholic means universal, the Pope provides universal tips for happiness, which apply to anyone regardless of religious or spiritual background. He reminds us to “respect nature,” “work for peace,” “be giving of yourself to others,” and let go of negativity, among other tips.

I hope you feel inspired to continue the pursuit of happiness and I would be grateful to learn how you go about your daily life in order to be happy. May the holiday season and the new year be filled with happiness for us all!

InspirNationalize Your Business Travel


Business travel is commonly perceived as glamorous. I’m writing this as I am bumped up to first class on my way home from a business trip, so it seems contradictory for me to argue otherwise. After all, business travelers get to visit new places, stay at elegant hotels, and dine in nice restaurants. In the meantime, they are able to escape the day-to-day office setting, learn about new business cultures, and meet new people.

Seasoned business professionals often express that business travel is anything but glamorous. Travel to them means time away from family, an interrupted routine, crowded airports and delayed flights, and less sleep.

Going into two years of business travel as a consultant, I can see the argument to both sides. First starting to travel for business, I couldn’t wait to go to different cities, with the hopeful anticipation that I would have time to explore the destinations. With more and more trips, though, I have learned that business travel involves busy days full of meetings and evenings spent dining with clients or colleagues and preparing for the next day of meetings. Rather than be pessimistic though, I was determined to make the most of my business travel, and inspirNationalize it, focusing on the fact that business travel involves limited time. Below I have captured some tips that have helped me inspirNationalize my business travel, and I invite others with more business travel experience to add their insights as well.

Quick note: inspirNationalize is my latest term relating to an inspirNational mindset, which inspires me to take action! It means to seek opportunities, be worldly, explore, and make the most of any situation.

How can you inspirNationalize your business travel?

Try local food. In my experience, food has been the main special occasion of business travel and is the most common “break” from meetings. You will likely have three square meals a day, so this is your chance to learn about your destination’s culture through cuisine.

Open the blinds of the windows in your hotel or meeting room and watch the sunrise/sunset or the skyline of the place you are visiting. It is challenging for those of us with wanderlust to not get out and explore where we are traveling, but at least we can admire the scenery from a distance.

If you have time to exercise, go outside (weather permitting, of course). Take a walk around the company premises or near your hotel. Ask your hotel concierge about exercise paths throughout the city, which is a great way to multitask (or call yourself a business traveling tourist athlete ;)?) and get a quick tour of your destination.

Read local newspapers or tourist magazines provided in your hotel room. This will increase your awareness about the current happenings, customs, and traditions of your destination. This will help liven and personalize your business conversations in the local area as you will be “in the know” about the latest news and can relate to your business counterparts. It will also provide you with ideas for leisure activities should you have free time or decide to return to the destination for vacation.

Talk to locals. Learn about what they like to do and their lifestyle. For those with extra free time, ask the locals for best restaurants or activities to do while in town. The locals will help you avoid tourist traps and give you a more genuine taste of the location.

Learn about your client or company’s involvement in the community. Their involvement will tell you more about key issues and unique cultural aspects of your destination. In my line of work, this is a natural conversation with my sustainability and corporate responsibility projects. Regardless of your line of work, these conversations are becoming more and more common (in the U.S., and are already common worldwide) as several companies are releasing sustainability reports and integrating corporate responsibility efforts with their overall corporate strategies. You’ll experience a win-win in this case—you’ll learn more about your destination like a traveler with an inspirNational mindset and you’ll also develop a deeper understanding of your business.

With every business trip I have learned something new and have felt more inspirNational. I know that we all have our own ways of making the most of our work trips, such as visiting friends in the area or purchasing souvenirs only available in the location. I look forward to building this list as I gather more insights and experiences. How else do you inspirNationalize your business travel?

Source: FlyNRate

Source: FlyNRate

How to Choose a Study Abroad Destination

With the end of the academic semester upon us, many undergraduate and graduate students in the United States are considering study abroad programs for the coming year. Featured on One World 365, I have shared my insights on how to choose a study abroad destination that is right for you.
Studying abroad is one of the most exciting opportunities you have during your academic career. With that excitement comes the challenging decision about where to study abroad, especially for those of us with wanderlust, who want to travel throughout the world.
After studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain for a summer and in Santiago, Chile during an undergraduate spring break, I can now reflect upon the decision process and what made me ultimately decide to travel to these destinations.
As you begin the decision process, the first question to focus on is: what are your goals for the study abroad experience? Once you have a better understanding of your vision for your study abroad program, you will be one step closer to choosing the right destination for you. You may also want to consider the following:
  • Language acquisition: Are you hoping to learn or practice a new language? If so, first focus on the countries that speak your language of choice. In my case, I wanted to practice speaking Spanish, so that made me focus my search on Spain and Latin America. In addition to the country, you should also consider the type of city or town and how many tourists are there. Tourism often means the location is attractive, but it also may hold you back from practicing a new language, especially if your native language is spoken there. For those of us who are native English speakers, it is easy to speak English instead of the language we are trying to learn since English is spoken internationally. This was one of the reasons I was attracted to Salamanca, Spain, as it was a mid-size town, well-known as a great place to practice Spanish, since there are fewer tourists than in larger cities in Spain.
Attending a jazz concert at Casa de Lis with my Spanish host mom in Salamanca

Attending a jazz concert at Casa de Lis with my Spanish host mom in Salamanca, Spain

  • Cultural adaptation: Are you interested in expanding your awareness of cultures? Do you want to study and live in a place with a similar culture, customs, or religious traditions? Think about how much cultural adaptation you would like to experience and this will likely influence where you study. It will also influence the living arrangements you choose. For example, if you are more comfortable studying abroad with your friends or classmates from your university, you may want to live in a dorm environment. If you would like to be immersed in the new culture, you may prefer a homestay option. By going to Spain and South America, my cultural awareness expanded greatly, both because of the cultural differences compared to the United States (my home country) and because I choose to live in a homestay arrangement, which completely immersed me in the Spanish culture. I am forever grateful for this experience and how it expanded my perspective of the world and helped me grow as a person.
  • Program options: Are you looking to study at a university or through an internship? Universities will likely provide a collegial environment, catering to social networking. Internships will likely provide exposure to the work environment, catering to career networking. I chose a university environment in Spain and a business environment in Chile, both of which provide me with unique perspectives of the countries. I am fortunate to have experienced both types of programs, as they each provided me with different benefits. I met great friends in Spain and Chile, but had great networking opportunities and learned about career options while in Chile. Depending on the program environment you are looking for and your goals after the program, you may change the type of program and destination you choose.
Touring Valparaiso with my Chile study abroad friends

Touring Valparaiso with my Chile study abroad friends

  • Food: Are you ready to try foods that you never knew existed? For those with dietary restrictions, will the destination you go to meet those needs? While studying in South America, I noticed it was particularly challenging for vegetarians. Especially when you are going to experience language barriers, it is important to think about food availability and whether you are comfortable with the options available.
  • Proximity to other locations you may want to travel: Do you want to travel to other cities or countries while studying abroad? It is important to consider the transportation options available in your study abroad location and how close it is to other cities or countries of interest. If traveling is one of your main goals, you may want to think twice about going to countries that are more remote or that have limited access to public transportation. I enjoyed studying in Europe because it was easy to travel from one city to the next and from one country to the next. It was a bit more of a challenge in South America, given the large size of many of the countries, which required air travel as opposed to trains or buses.
I hope these insights help you as you plan your study abroad experience. One of the best lessons I learned, though, is that no matter where you study abroad, you will have the opportunity to broaden your perspective of the world, your peers, and even yourself! Good luck in your decision!

The Giving Season, Including Yourself!


Is it just me or is Christmas approaching way more quickly than most years? The Christmas season is one of my favorite times of the year, with holiday brunches, gift exchanges, community festivals, shopping, wrapping, baking, and enjoying time with family and friends. While I have enjoyed all the hype before Christmas, it has taken a lot of preparation and I’m sure I’m not alone in that I almost want a “holiday” from the holidays.

With the theme of the giving season, it is so easy to get wrapped up in everything and everyone else, and lose sight of ourselves (including our health and overall wellbeing). Martha Beck, an American sociologist, life coach, best-selling author, and speaker, wrote an inspiring article in this month’s Oprah Magazine about treating ourselves during the holidays. She reminds us of the gifts we all want, and to not forget about ourselves during the hustle and bustle of the season.


What gifts should we ask for ourselves during the holidays? Martha Beck discusses the following:

1. Time. She reminds us to make time for ourselves, whether that is through meditation, relaxing, or simply resting. We can also save time (and therefore have more time for the things that truly matter) by avoiding mindlessly surfing the Internet or watching television. I have made this a personal goal over the past few months, making sure to give myself at least one night of “me” time per week, making sure that I reflect, rest, and rejuvenate after the constant stimulation involved in working and socializing.

2. Stuffless-ness. She discusses how we don’t always have to ask for tangible gifts. We can give ourselves (or ask for) experiences and time with family and friends. This was a theme in my holiday shopping this year – for example, I gave my brother and sister-in-law a “date afternoon” out in Philadelphia for a holiday tour. She also describes how traveling reminds us of the limited items we actually need to live our daily lives – and anything extra just adds clutter, literally and figuratively, into our lives.

3. Acceptance. She inspires us to accept ourselves and our life circumstances with gratitude. She also discusses forgiveness and permission as common topics people want for themselves. By letting go of what no longer serves us, we lift weight off our shoulders, which enables us to move forward and grow into bigger and better people.

In addition to Martha Beck’s thoughts, I’d like to add a fourth gift that I think we should give to ourselves:

4. Inspiration. It’s a big world out there with people full of wisdom and experiences to share with us. We can be inspired by their words and actions if we are willing to open our eyes, ears, and minds to learn from and get to know them. As I have mentioned before, I am constantly inspired by other people and have quoted that I am inspired to inspire others, as they have inspired me. Whether we are traveling or in our hometown, we can be inspirNational in our everyday lives.

Enjoy the last couple weeks of the Christmas season, and as you’re giving gifts to others, remember to treat yourself as well!


Favorite Ways to Spend Winter in Cleveland


To start my seasonal post, I wanted to share some great news about Cleveland for Millennials – according to Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, Cleveland is one of America’s Most Underrated Cities for Millennials. Grouping Cleveland with Seattle, Charlotte, Atanta, Denver, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Manchester, and Honolulu, the article describes that:

“Cleveland caters to the younger set in neighborhoods like the bar-filled Ohio City, popular among the more than 36 percent of adults who are single. Cleveland also ranks well as a cheap place to live, coming in 15th on Forbes’ list of inexpensive cities. Men’s Health ranks its religious involvement low on the list, just ahead of Austin, which should appeal to the less-devout Millennials—unless, of course, their church is rock and roll.”

It’s exciting to me that Cleveland has made the spotlight and is compared to other well-renowned cities. For those not in the area, come visit and you’ll understand why Cleveland is a fun place to be for young professionals.

With the first (official, not according to the weather :)) day of winter quickly approaching, below I have listed some of my favorite ways to spend winter in Cleveland for all of my Cleveland followers:

During the holiday season:

  • Winterfest in Playhouse Square – weekend after Thanksgiving – Every year, there is a beginning of Christmas festival in Downtown Cleveland. This year was the first Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Playhouse Square. The square was lit up with Christmas lights, and crowds gathered for concerts, performances, and fireworks throughout the day and evening.


  • Holiday CircleFest in University Circle – beginning of December – Start the Christmas season and explore the University Circle neighborhood for free, with events, activities, music, shopping and food at the museums, gardens, galleries, and churches. Wade Oval Park has an ice skating rink and free horse-drawn carriage rides. I walked by some of the best gingerbread house and Christmas tree displays I have ever seen at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. I also enjoyed caroling at the Church of the Covenant.
  • Glow at the Cleveland Botanical Garden – end of November to the beginning of January – Walk through the beautiful gardens that are designed for the holidays and glow with Christmas lights. Hop aboard the Garden Express for a whimsical train ride, decorate your own gingerbread house, and watch carolers perform. I first attended this this year and was in “awe”!
  • Polar Express at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad – mid-November until Christmas – “The award-winning book comes to life on this magical journey to the North Pole and back. Elves will read the story to you on the way to the North Pole to pick up Santa! While Santa visits each car, elves will lead you and your family in Christmas Carols and spread merriment! As in the story, we encourage everyone to wear their pajamas on this special journey. All passengers will enjoy hot cocoa and a cookie.” This is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season in the Cleveland area – how could you not want to go to the North Pole during the Christmas season :)? I enjoy bringing the Christmas spirit to life by volunteering as an elf reader, the person who reads the Polar Express story and entertains the families!


  • A Christmas Story 5K – early December – Did you love A Christmas Story movie? Did you know that the movie was filmed (and Ralphie’s house) is in Tremont, Ohio? And even better – in December – you can run a 5K in Tremont, see A Christmas Story movie set locations, dress up like Ralphie or a leg lamp, and tour Ralphie’s house!
  • Santa Shuffle in Tremont – mid-December – Dress up in your favorite Santa gear, run a mile, and get hydrated at several of the Tremont bars. I will be trying this for the first time this year, but have only heard good things, and look forward to wandering around Tremont dressed up in the Christmas spirit.

After the holiday season:

  • The Rink at Wade Oval – late November to the beginning of March – enjoy ice skating for a nominal fee at Wade Oval Park. The University Circle area is beautiful in the winter, and it is fun to experience the outdoors while ice skating there.
  • Artists Uncork’d Wine and Painting Class – Since we often want to stay inside and bundled up during the winter, why not get creative at the same time? I enjoyed a wine and painting class for my February birthday last year and look forward to finding more wine and art classes this winter.


  • Go to the Lake Erie beaches – Ok, I know you think I’m nuts, but it SO cool to see what a beach looks like in the wintertime. Last winter, I went to Edgewater Park and walked along the shoreline with my friend who was on her spring break – so she got her typical beach vacation in :). She even stuck her toes in the ice cold water!
Lake Erie at Edgewater Park

Lake Erie at Edgewater Park

  • MIX at the Cleveland Museum of Art – year round – if you haven’t yet attended this event on the first Friday of every month, I highly recommend that you go! Every month you can explore the art museum, see the latest exhibits, watch live performances, and enjoy cocktails and food with friends and fellow Clevelanders.
  • Tobogganing at the Cleveland Metroparks – late November to mid-March- I have not yet tried this, but have heard nothing but great things and hope to go tobogganing this year!
  • Short Sweet Film Fest in Ohio City – February – support up-and-coming filmmakers by watching some interesting, and sometimes abstract, films at the bars in Ohio City. This will help prepare you for the Cleveland International Film Festival which takes place in late March.
  • Brite Winter in Ohio City – late February – The event’s mission is “to embrace the Cleveland winter by celebrating with light, fire, art, music, games, and snow.” With the long winter ahead, it is important to get outside and make the most of the snowy days. I enjoy attending the concerts, exploring the restaurants and bars, and shopping throughout the evening at Brite Winter.
  • Lake Erie Monters Game – late October to April – there is so much spirit for the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland! If you are craving hockey, this is the best way for you to watch hockey without having access to a local NHL team.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers Game – October to April – I have been to Quicken Loans Arena (home base for the Cavs) twice – for a circus performance and a Lake Eries Monsters Game, ironically – but have yet to experience a Cavs game. I can’t wait to attend one this year and see The King play live!
  • Cleveland St. Patrick’s Day Parade – March 17 – Learn about the significance of the Irish population in Cleveland. You can watch performers and honorees of Irish awards. This is a great way to be downtown before going to the Irish pubs for the festive holiday.
  • The Corner Alley on E. 4th – Need to get outside but not outdoorsy? Go bowling on E. 4th! The Corney Alley is a classy bowling alley with great food and a fun ambiance.
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – a staple to the Cleveland name, the glass pyramid-style building itself is a site to see. The museum has several floors of exhibits featuring rock and roll music legend paraphenalia and history, rotating exhibits, and the Hall of Fame theater where hall of fame inductees are recognized.

While winter can seem daunting in Cleveland or any midwestern United States city, I hope these exciting upcoming events and activities get you excited for the winter ahead. We’ll get through it together and have fun along the way!

InspirNational Quotes II


How often do we actually spend time reading our e-mails? I have to admit that given the number of advertisements I receive via e-mail, it’s easy to just skim or quickly skip through my e-mails. For some reason, this morning, I decided to read the following e-mail from Susie Frazier, an artist in Cleveland, who got me to pause and reflect today. I wanted to share her wisdom with you:

“How would you feel inside if you knew you could not fail? Say the decision maker that mattered most was already on board with your idea. Would you be assertive to present your dreams? Cool-headed when faced with obstacles? Or more forgiving of yourself when you trip up? It’s true the uncertainty of any outcome has been known to strangle my imagination (and my outlook) at times, despite being a professional imaginer.

But not today.

Today, I opened a door that I previously closed and marched myself right to the edge. I jumped at the chance to try something bold, something risky, with no hesitation and no fear of making the wrong move. All I felt was a gut rattling conviction to trust my instincts. And it was amazing.

Happiness doesn’t magically burst onto the scene because we’re committed to a certain end game. It blooms quietly within when we experience unwavering confidence in ourselves. But first, we must believe.

I am grateful for artists like Susie Frazier who think outside the box, challenge conventional thinking, and push us to be the best versions of ourselves. I feel inspired to believe in myself, trust uncertainty, feel confident, and bloom in happiness.
Below I captured some of my other favorite inspirNational quotes that I have read recently, adding to my original inspirNational quotes post.
“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” -@Inspire_Us
“Turn your can’ts into cans and your dreams into plans.” -@OprahQuotez
“Every day you wake up with the opportunity to make success happen.” -@LinkedIn
“It is not what we give but what we share.” -James Russell Lowell
"The difference between where you were yesterday and where you are going to be tomorrow is what you think, say, and do TODAY!" -@LaBioguia

“The difference between where you were yesterday and where you are going to be tomorrow is what you think, say, and do TODAY!” -@LaBioguia

I tweet inspirational quotes and articles often – follow @brittanyvb to see all the quotes and more information about my sustainability work. Also check out my new inspirNational Facebook page – “like” the page to see all of my blog updates.

I hope these quotes leave you feeling inspired and motivated to start the week. Happy Monday!