Category Archives: Inspiration

Saying Goodbye to 2017 and Hello to 2018!

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Happy New Year, inspirNational! Throughout the first week of 2018 I have found myself reflecting about 2017 and the goals I have for 2018. I can say with confidence that 2017 was a tremendous year of growth and change for me. I learned more about myself and what I want in life than ever before.

Key highlights were my graduation from the USC International MBA Program, moving to Greenville, South Carolina to start my new career at Michelin, and traveling throughout the country to Detroit, Traverse City, Savannah, Seattle, Bellingham, Las Vegas, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Charlotte, Columbia, Nashville, Asheville, and Atlanta. Another highlight that sparked this post is that I read a few introspective books that have made a significant impact on my view of the world. I decided to organize my year’s reflections based on these books below:

The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle). A common focus area for me over the past several years has been to focus on the present. Reading The Power of Now, which a great neighbor in Greenville gave to me, has put a different spin on “presence” for me. While I am almost always thinking about what happened in the past or what I’m planning in the future, I have realized that thinking about what is happening right now, in this moment, gives me a sense of peace and calm. It also makes me more in-tune with my inner thoughts and hopes – leading me in the soul-driven direction I would like to go. I am making a conscious effort to be more “now” focused than ever before.

I read The Power of Now at an opportune time when facing uncertainty in my previous relationship. The book helped me identify that I was in a toxic love-hate relationship where I was dealing with lies, sneakiness, and hurt. All of this was first of all, unhealthy and harmful to me, and second of all, holding me back from being in the “now.” My gut and my closest peers knew this all along, but reading the advice in a book is what hit me the most. I had an “aha!” moment, realizing I needed to let go in order to live in my “now” and achieve my fullest potential and destiny. This “aha!” moment and my willingness to share some parts of the story with you are inspired by the Time’s Up movement in Hollywood. I am proud of the celebrities who are standing up against harassment and abuse of women. I, too, feel the need to share my “aha!” moment as it has only helped me realize what threats women face and how we often feel stuck in toxic situations. Thankfully I felt empowered to leave and I hope to remind any of you who feel stuck that you are never truly stuck. There are always ways out, solutions, and people there to help you! Don’t lose faith! I am grateful that I have grown from my own situation and realized what qualities I am looking for in others, especially my future relationships. I can tell you with confidence that the number one value I have for people I bring into my life is character. My closest friends and family model good character, and I plan to only date those with good character in the future. By practicing being in the “now,” I will be more in-tune with my gut and will be able to identify more quickly people who should and should not be in my life. I highly recommend that you read The Power of Now, and you may also have unexpected realizations that help you grow as a person.

No Greatness Without Goodness (Randy Lewis). 2017 marked the beginning of my post-MBA career at Michelin. My first rotation in Michelin’s Global Leadership Program presented me with awareness about the challenges that people with disabilities face when trying to enter the workforce. A colleague at work gave me No Greatness Without Goodness, which discusses Walgreens VP of Supply Chain’s experience raising a son with autism and leading the initiative at Walgreen’s to hire employees with disabilities at its distribution centers. I am proud that Michelin is mirroring Walgreen’s efforts and has committed to hire people with disabilities at its distribution centers and beyond. In the fall, I had the opportunity to learn sign language and perform the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance in sign language at the Upstate Salute event in Greenville, honoring veterans. This experience at the beginning of my career at Michelin has inspired me to always seek opportunities for goodness as I develop into a leader. I aspire to be a servant leader, always thinking about how I can help others in my daily work and in my community. If you are looking for inspiration in your career, particularly related to helping others, check out No Greatness Without Goodness.

Toward A True Kinship of Faiths (Dalai Lama). I received this book as part of Michelin’s new Interfaith Group forming in 2018. The Dalai Lama shares his perspective of different world religions and how we can develop empathy for others who may be different form us. Empathy for diversity has been one of my passions, particularly since studying abroad in Spain and France. I strive to learn from others – the more different people are from me, the more I want to talk to and learn from them. Throughout 2017, I traveled to many beautiful cities throughout the United States from coast to coast, which made me realize the beauty in the diversity of the US landscape and people. What makes America so special to me is the variety of people (backgrounds, religions, cultures, perspectives, etc.) who can live and thrive in our country and who make the most of whatever landscape and environment that surround them.

While the year brought a lot of political turmoil and what the media portrays as division between people, I found through my travels that we are much more connected than we think we are. We are especially connected by our desire for community, as Mark Zuckerberg eloquently describes here. I was fortunate to have two incredible communities in 2017, first as a Gamecock throughout the beginning of the year and second as a resident in the best apartment complex in Greenville. I had an amazing experience cheering on the Gamecock basketball teams in the Final Four and attending Darius Rucker’s free student concert in honor of the Gamecock football team making it to a bowl game. I was reminded how important it is to me and how much fun it is to be part of a school with great spirit (especially now as both a Michigan and USC alumnus). Also graduating in the middle of a historic campus (USC was founded in 1807!) and attending the law school graduation was surreal. The next time you are graduating, I recommend that you also attend a graduation ceremony at your school – it is amazing to have the experience from both sides of the podium! My second community through my apartment complex was the best decision I made when moving to Greenville. I couldn’t be more grateful for the international community that surrounds me – at any given occasion I hear 3-4 languages exchanged! The almost weekly social events have introduced me to some awesome new friends who have helped me feel at home in Greenville as we have explored the town and often been the “newbies” together. As inspired by the Dalai Lama, I look forward to continuing to have an empathy for those different from me, especially when joining new communities in 2018.

 

Having reflected on 2017, I can now officially welcome 2018. An astrologist in Sri Lanka shared with me that 2018 starts the best 10 years of my life – and I can already feel the positive energy in the air! One of my best friends gave me a “love bell” that she bought in Greece where she got engaged, and as a slightly superstitious hopeless(ful?) romantic, I look forward to seeing what it brings for me in 2018. I also look forward to attending more planned runs throughout the year (hopefully the Charleston Bridge Run!) and I am committed to doing a push-up! My year of travel will be focused on some of my best friend’s weddings in Alabama and Chicago and also some exciting work trips (San Francisco and Montreal to start)! I will continue to share my reflections from my travels and daily life and bring new ideas to you. I hope the new year brings you much happiness, love, new experiences, travel, and inspirNational reflections!

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The Season of Gratitude

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Has anyone else felt that the holidays came at the blink of an eye this year? It was fall, and suddenly it is full-on Christmastime. I hope my American followers enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to relax, reflect, and spend time with family and friends. My holiday wasn’t necessarily relaxing, but I am happy that I made the most of spending time with family and friends throughout the week – from Ohio (Cleveland and Columbus) to Michigan (Royal Oak, Rochester, Bloomfield Hills, and Detroit!).

While it has been easy for me to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season, from travel planning, to shopping for gifts, to decorating my apartment, I wanted to make sure to spend time reflecting. After all, the holiday season for me is the season of gratitude. I wanted to share a few things that make me feel especially grateful this year and hopefully they will inspire you to think about what you are grateful for as well!

First, I am grateful for creativity. Throughout the fall I have had a huge craving for the arts. If I see or think of something creative, I want to try it! I made candles with my neighbors, which is surprisingly much easier than you would think. You collect old jars you have around the house, melt wax in a pan, pour wax into the jars, and mix in your favorite combination of scents from essential oils or spices (fun fact – turmeric is a great spice to color your candle), and voila – you have a candle! I also painted freestyle with my neighbors in our own version of a “wine and paint” party. This is much more budget friendly and intimate way to paint with your friends – you get to choose the wine, paint at your own pace, and be at the comfort of your own home! I practiced flow painting with family during the Thanksgiving – which was so much fun and also therapeutic. What could be more fun (from an arts perspective) than mixing paint with Elmer’s glue and water, combining colors in a cup, and pouring them onto a canvas in whichever order you would like? You would be amazed how quickly you can look like a professional artist through flow painting! And most recently, I decorated a gingerbread house with my dad so that we could share enjoying the Christmas spirit even though we live far apart. Through all of these experiences, I have found that the arts are one way for me to focus my mind on the present. It helps clear my mind even for a short moment – which frees up space for me to problem solve and reflect in my daily life. It is very rewarding to see the outcome, a tangible and visual example of my work. I look forward to continuing the arts in the new year!

I am grateful for home. I have realized how important it is to have a home – and I don’t mean a physical location. My apartment in Greenville feels like home with all the memories from loved ones, including furniture from my grandma, decorations from my travels, warm candles, and photos of important people in my life. Spending time in Michigan with family feels like home, because my loved ones make it home. Even as my relatives have moved locations, I still feel at home when we are all together. It is the sense of togetherness that makes a place home for me. I can say that my heart feels its best and the most complete when it has a sense of “home.”

I am grateful for flexibility. There is no better feeling than when I have options and I don’t feel “stuck” – whether that means in my life decisions, my daily schedule, or my travels. Flexibility and free time are incredibly liberating and are helping me as I plan for the future. I feel lucky that my job allows me to have work-life balance – to flexibly schedule my commitments at work and at home. I just started the book, “The Power of Now,” and through that I am already realizing that time is imaginary and we should never feel stuck in a situation. Everything can be much more flexible if we separate ourselves from time pressures and worries and focus on the present and what we truly want. I have a feeling I will write a post about “The Power of Now” based on how much it has inspired me in just the first 50 pages of the book.

I am grateful for friendship. As I have moved every year since officially being an adult, and often multiple times per year, I could not be more grateful for the friendships I have made along the way. New and old friends along the way have helped me explore new places, laughed with me on the good days, cried with me on the bad days, and reflected on life. Together we have shared experiences that have helped me grow and prepare for the next phase. I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be without them – thank you to everyone who has been a friend along the way – can’t wait for more adventures together!

What are you grateful for? I hope these reflections help all of us remember to pause and think about the season of gratitude. May the holidays bring you much happiness, joy, and peace this year!

Symbols of My Grandma

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October 13, 2017 will forever be a date that I remember. It was the day that I learned that my grandma, Nene, passed away. I was broken hearted because I had gone through so many life milestones with Nene and I couldn’t imagine her no longer being in my life. I had the opportunity to write her eulogy, along with my mom, and share stories about Nene’s life from a granddaughter’s perspective. I wanted to pass along my words about Nene to you as she was a person that I, and many of us, can aspire to be.

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“I have spent time reflecting on what Nene has meant to me. I wanted to share a few symbols of Nene with you that will always remind me of her.

First, the rosary. Nene was one of the most faithful people I knew and was also an inspiring model of church principles, treating everyone with love and compassion. I am blessed to have a grandma who guided me in my own faith, encouraging me as she was my sponsor for my confirmation in the church. She answered my questions along the way and was the best sponsor I could ask for.

Second, a deck of cards: Nene always knew how to have a good time and was the best friend to those around her. She played cards regularly with her friends, often going out to lunch or planning get togethers. I was blessed to join her in some of those get togethers as a little girl, where she taught me Pinochle, Old Maid, and War. She was so caring that when I would cry about the prospect of losing a game, she would make sure I won by the end. I can say with confidence that not many people would do that for others, and that’s just how caring she was.

Third, French anything, starting with French toast and more recently with the French language: Nene made the best French toast I’ve ever had, and I remember vividly eating it at Nene’s black kitchen table, sitting between Nene and Papa Ed, when they would babysit me on weekends. To me, French also symbolizes exquisite taste, which Nene definitely had. She always dressed stylishly and classically like the French. And most recently, while I spent time in Paris and FaceTimed with Nene, she could understand my host mom speaking French in the distance and would respond with “oui oui.” I hope to continue to embrace the French culture that Nene demonstrated to me for the rest of my life.

Fourth, candy: Nene was infamous for her candy cupboard, which was like the holy grail for our family growing up. When all of us would visit Nene, from Sprucewood in Farmington Hills, MI and even in the nursing home, we knew we could find candy. Nene always made sure her guests felt welcomed with treats, and the candy again reinforced how sweet and generous Nene was. She has inspired me to always have treats at home for when guests visit me as well.

Last but not least, chardonnay or vodka, depending on the occasion: Every day was a celebration with Nene. Every time I got together with Nene, we would toast to something, whether I was having apple juice as a little girl, or a glass of Chardonnay as an adult. It always felt like a special occasion. I’ll never forget having my first shot with Nene when I turned 21, or when I made vodka gummy bears for Nene to share our love for vodka and gummy bears. Nene was the perfect example of living life to the fullest and enjoying each day. She was always ready to toast with a glass of Chardonnay or vodka!

As the days pass and we come across these symbols and others, may we be reminded of Nene and the strong faith, love, care, and joy she shared with us. Nene – I know you are already having a great time in heaven and I can’t wait to share a glass of Chardonnay with you there in the future!”

I hope that these words inspire you in the same way that Nene inspired me!

What Can We Learn From An Apple?

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One of my favorite fall time activities is to visit apple orchards, indulging in cider and donuts. Last week, I went on a hunt for an apple orchard since they are less common in the Southeast than in the Midwest. I was lucky to find one of the most beautiful apple orchards I have ever seen in Zirconia, North Carolina – Sky Top Orchard! I was amazed that I had to drive up a mountain to an apple orchard overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. Nestled near the rows and rows of apple trees was a barn with farm animals and an incredible bamboo forest! I felt like I was traveling overseas when I saw the bamboo forest.

Walking through the rows of my favorite apple trees, I started to think about apple wisdom I have heard over the years. Some of the quotes you may have heard, and some maybe not. Below I wanted to pass along some great messages we can learn from apples:

Apples are a symbol of patience for us to wait for the “one” to come to us (aka our ideal life partner), and to not settle for anyone less. As a woman, I appreciate this quote: “Women are like apples on trees; the best ones are on the top of the tree. The men don’t want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and don’t want to get hurt. Instead, they just get the rotten apples from the ground that aren’t so good but easy. So, the apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality they are amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along, the one who’s brave enough to climb all the way to the top because they value quality.”

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“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” Apples are a reminder of how much our parents influence us and how we, as current or future parents, have the opportunity to influence our children. As we reflect upon who we are and who we would like to be, we can consider our circle of influences and what values and traits we would like to pass along.

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples help us stay healthy by eating them regularly. There are so many ways to enjoy apples and get the nutrients we needed…whether we bake an apple crisp or pie, drink apple cider, or simply eat an apple off of a tree. I took this advice as an excuse to cook apple crisp last weekend…which has been one of my annual traditions (originally with my mom!) since I was born. I know some of you are thinking brown sugar and oats in apple crisp don’t have the same health magic as apples…but they are worth every calorie :).

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“Just because you find one bad apple doesn’t mean you should give up on the whole tree.” This quote is a new one for me, and I find it to be really insightful. We can interpret this in many ways. I am thinking about the people I meet personally and professionally…even if we meet one “bad apple,” we should not lose faith or hope about where we are, what we are doing, or where we are going. Everything happens for a reason, and everyone we meet comes into our lives for a reason.

What other apple wisdom have you heard? Share a bite with the inspirNational community! Happy Fall, Y’all 🙂

 

Reflections from Nashville

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Phew! What feels like gust of wind, and my first three months of my post-MBA career have gone by. It all started with a move to Greenville in July, and has since included two trips to Michigan, visits to Charlotte and Columbia, a month spent in Nashville for field sales training, a quick weekend in Chicago, and now back to Greenville. I have been “on the move” throughout, living out of a suitcase, and tonight is one of the first times I have been able to sit and share some of my most recent stories. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have not sat down for more than 5 minutes to relax (besides sleeping at night) in over a month. That phase is now over though, and I am back to “normal” life.

As the hectic few months came to a close last week, I decided to capture some reflections during my flight from Nashville to Greenville…

Living in Nashville as part of my sales training was one of the biggest blessings for me. On the weekends, I spent some time exploring and learning about the culture, which helped me reflect on the lessons I have learned over the past few months.

My first lesson from Nashville is the power of resilience. I have never realized how resilient I am or can be until facing the past few months of struggles…from a shooting of a colleague in my apartment complex, to family health issues, to going through a new challenging work training, to ending a long term relationship after I learned that my significant other wasn’t the person I thought he was. With each challenge, I felt extreme stress…lack of sleep and appetite and spontaneous tears. At the same time, I felt myself grow closer to God, praying consistently, and keeping my focus on my long term goals of good health, happiness with friends and loved ones, and positive impact in my career. I have bounced back from each hardship, potentially with a few more wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes, but also a wider smile to express my gratitude on the good days.

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Country Music Hall of Fame

My second lesson after spending time in Nashville is…country music is a powerful healer. After watching live music almost daily at my hotel and on Broadway Street, I felt tempted to get on stage and pour my heart out. I toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium, both of which told inspiring stories of the musicians from years past, who are no different than you and me, except for their incredible music talent. If you really listen to country music or just music in general, you realize how much you can connect with the artists as they sing about love, hardship, and daily life. I felt so connected to those performing, and at times empowered by their words, particularly about moving on from those who bring us down. One day you may see a country song written by me after all that I have faced lately :).

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Inspiration from the Country Music Hall of Fame

Similar to the country music lesson, I have been reminded how dancing soothes the soul. Nashville has no shortage of places to dance, and I took advantage of many of them. I have never felt so liberated to dance however I want whenever I want. While Nashville is known for bachelorette parties, I was happy to also run into a couple bachelor parties and had a blast. Every kind of dancing you could imagine, from salsa to line dancing to R&B, I was doing it. I have learned in yoga class that our hips carry a lot of our stress, so dancing helps us let go of that negative energy. So if anyone ever critiques your dance moves, just tell him/her that you are relieving stress and there can be no judgement :).

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Inspiration from the Country Music Hall of Fame

And finally…being far away from loved ones has reminded me the importance of a strong support network. I met the best community I could have asked for in my new apartment in Greenville. My friends from high school, college, and grad school have been there every step of the way through phone calls and weekend visits. I couldn’t be more grateful for them and many of you reading this post.

Nashville, and the country music that went along with it, was a strong reminder that I, and all of us, can bounce back from our struggles through the support of family and friends. We are often stronger than we give ourselves credit.

While a few more hours of sleep are in order now that I am back home in Greenville, I feel empowered and eager to start my next chapter. And I can’t wait to share more inspirNational stories along the way. The inspirNational me is back…using travel as an opportunity to reflect, become a better version of myself, and help others do the same.

Day 1, Chapter 1

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Please excuse me as I dust a few cobwebs off my blog page. It has been my longest time in 3 years without writing and boy do I miss it. But that also means I have had one of my busiest, fun-filled summers where I have spent all of my time soaking in every moment with family and friends.

I am writing at the end of day 1 of my new career journey, overlooking my pool from my new Downtown Greenville apartment and drinking my first glass of bubbly in celebration. To think that the last time I wrote a post was the beginning of my summer vacation is unbelievable. It has been a whirlwind – two months of living out of a suitcase between Traverse City and Metro Detroit, Michigan, Seattle, and Utah.

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Image Source: YouTube

Over the past week, I have driven across the country to move and get settled before starting my job today. The moving process (and may I add, all by myself), has been a great time for reflection. I drove from Traverse City, Michigan all the way to Greenville, South Carolina with stops in Detroit and Knoxville in between. The best indication of my incredible summer vacation was how jam-packed my car was. My little-Ford-Escape-that-could fit all of my clothes, geodes and gemstones from Utah, coffee accessories from Seattle, succulents and cacti, linens and dishes for my new apartment, and even a huge wine barrel! Some people thought I had enough things stuffed in my car to open a boutique, a home goods store, a floral shop, or all of the above. While all of these are physical things, what I felt most while driving was all the love I was carrying with me as represented by the trinkets. I am so grateful for all the love that many of you have shared with me over the past two months. I did my best to see as many loved ones as possible before moving, and all of you welcomed me with open arms, reminiscing about the past, sharing in new experiences, and dreaming about the future. The love I felt is what is propelling me forward as I embark on one of my most exciting adventures, and I thank many of you for your amazing support!

Now begins my role in Michelin’s Global Leadership Program, where I will have the opportunity to rotate in various departments and locations throughout the company, focusing on marketing, supply chain, and sustainability, and preparing for management in the near future. I am also going to continue the 1SC2Sustain partnership I started last year with the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and Michelin. I am eager to share my recent trips and my reflections as I start this next chapter, which will be full of introspection and personal growth. I can’t wait to continue pausing to reflect, write, and interact with the inspirNational community. Thank you for following along, and as always, please share any comments or thoughts you have along the way!

How to Make Your Vacation Last Longer

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With spring break recently past for many of us, it is easy to experience the post vacation blues. We may stop and think, “I wish I could go back” or “why can’t vacation last longer?” During my spring break, I spent a week visiting family in Detroit and Northern Michigan and concluded the break with a trip to Savannah with my boyfriend. It was the perfect combination of a family vacation and romantic getaway. 12 days later, and it felt like the trips were like a blink of an eye. Back to reality, back to school, and no more trips until graduation. Fortunately, though, a walking tour of Savannah inspired me to make my vacation continue. While outside the Mercer House, I learned about the book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which made Savannah famous. I decided I would purchase the book when I returned home to see how Savannah became a popular tourist destination.

Flash forward and I am now a quarter of the way through the book. I am so glad that I purchased it, not only because it has an interesting story line, but also because it helps me relive the memories from my trip to Savannah. I realized that it is possible to make our vacations last longer! Below are a few tips I have to make you feel like you are still on vacation:

  • Buy books, both fiction and non-fiction, about your travel destination! As I mentioned with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, it is so fun to relive the memories of your vacation through books. After visiting a place, you feel much more engaged by reading a book about it because you have more context about the story setting. You can easily imagine where the plot is taking place and perhaps learn more about the destination’s history and charm.
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  • Give yourself time to reflect. Don’t over-plan your schedule when you return from vacation. You will need time to readjust to working again and to living your daily routine. With more free time when you return, you will be able to process your travel experiences and help them be properly minted in your memory. You may choose to write a travel diary or blog, to call friends to share your travel stories, or to create digital photo albums. I often jump to my next task when I return from vacation, which delays my personal reflection process. I have been actively working to not over-plan so that I can spend more time reflecting and reliving the exciting travel memories.
  • Contribute to travel forums such as Trip Advisor or Yelp, giving feedback based on your experience at hotels, restaurants, and on excursions. You will engage in dialogue about your travel destination and will be able to share your favorite stories. You may notice comments and questions long after you make your original post, which helps you relive your vacation each time. I have had this experience based on my Trip Advisor review of a Costa Rica horseback riding adventure. Three years later, I am still receiving messages about the number of “likes” or “comments” on my post. It is so fun to be able to talk about Costa Rica again and again!

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  • Make a photo book through Shutterfly or Apple. It is easy to post photos on social media, but there’s nothing like a photo book that combines digital convenience with old fashioned memories in an actual book. A photo book provides a tangible memory of your vacation and you can easily place it on your coffee table for guests to read. Every time you have guests over, they can look through the photo book with you, and you will be reminded of your trip and feel like you are on vacation again.

What other tips do you have that help you make your vacation last longer? As we all return from spring break vacations and are going on the home stretch of spring before the start of summer vacations, may we relive the memories of our great vacations past. And make yourself a promise…. 😉

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Source: Rachel Wilkerson