Category Archives: Love

I Love…

Standard

With winter blues and the news destined to make us feel negative, it is a breath of fresh air that we have finally made it to February, the month of love. I am a little biased because it is my birthday month, but I am happy that Valentine’s Day brings us a cheerful holiday to celebrate this winter. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I wanted to share a post about some things that I love, besides of course my family and friends. Hopefully this will help inspire you to step away from the negativity in the world and reflect upon what you love too.

kiss

Source: Cool HD Wallpaper

I love… good health. It is so easy for me to take this for granted because I am healthy on a normal basis. A recent bout of the flu reminded me how hard it is to be sick and how refreshing it is to finally heal and feel better.

I love… cuddling. It is so simple yet so comforting and always brings a smile to my face. If we all spent a little more time cuddling with our loved ones or furry friends, I really think the world would be a happier place.

I love… sunshine. Especially in the winter when it is rare. Now that I am experiencing my first southern winter, I can tell you that it makes a huge different to see the sun regularly even when it is cold outside. The rays soothe the soul and remind me that spring and summer will come.

download

Source: Pexels

I love… day trips on the weekends. So often I spend the weekends catching up, cleaning, and preparing for the next week, especially when I am at apartment in Columbia, SC. It is SO important for me to take breaks though, and one of the best ways for me to make sure that I take a break is going on a little weekend escape. Fortunately, Columbia is within driving distance of many exciting destinations. A couple weekends ago my boyfriend and I took a weekend trip to Charleston and it was the perfect amount of time away. We spent the day wandering the streets, feeling more like locals now that we have visited there a few times. We had a delicious dinner Coast, a seafood restaurant downtown. We spent the evening on King Street, going to some of the swanky bars and enjoying Jeni’s ice cream (the best part of Columbus, OH ;)). If you need a break – go on a day trip!! It makes a world of a difference on your next week.

I love… music. For those who know me well, it is rare for me to not have something playing, especially when I am at home. I listen to all genres of music and secretly love to sing along. I often say that my life is a playlist, because almost all hit songs from the past 25 years I can pinpoint to a particular life phase or moment in my life. I have also made a new year’s resolution with my boyfriend to practice playing piano again (I played pretty well for over 6 years when I was growing up). We have practiced a couple times and played duets, including songs from the award-winning La La Land movie and other love stories. A little music, whether listening, singing, or playing, goes a long way in brightening my day.

I love… free time. My yoga instructor recently inspired me to spend more time pausing, not scheduling anything, and allowing myself to simply be. Every week I am working on allowing myself free time to let my mind wander, relax, and do whatever brings me joy at that specific time. The free time helps spark creativity and refreshes me when I go back to my daily routine.

All of these things bring me warmth this winter and brighten my days when they seem gloomy. I hope that Valentine’s Day inspires you to focus on what you love about the world too. Whether it is your family, friends, home, job, new outfit or that leftover piece of chocolate cake in the fridge – we all have something to love in life!

Advertisements

Adventures in Sri Lanka

Standard

Can you believe that August is already coming to an end? Since my last post earlier this month, I had one of my most adventurous trips so far. I experienced Sri Lanka, the home country of one of my best friends and roommates from college. It was my first time visiting Southeast Asia, and I had an eye-opening cultural experience in Qatar for a layover on my way to Sri Lanka.

The main purpose of my eastbound journey was attend my friend, Chami’s wedding in Colombo, Sri Lanka, which was held in the Sri Lankan Buddhist tradition. My college roommates and I used to imagine going to Sri Lanka for this wedding, and it seemed surreal that it was actually happening when I arrived.

Little did I know that the wedding would also include an incredible itinerary, which I wanted to pass along to you in case you would like to visit Sri Lanka one day.

Before the majority of the wedding guests arrived, my friend, Stacey, and I stayed in a modern, hip hotel called Cinnamon Red in the center of Colombo. We tried traditional Sri Lankan food, including Hoppers, Pol Sambola, Kottu, and Curries at Kaema Sutra with the bride and groom. The cuisine was exciting to try because we had to use our hands rather than utensils and enjoyed flavors and spices unfamiliar to our taste buds. We shopped at the popular Odel mall and experienced glorious foot massages recommended by the groom. We also spent time relaxing at the Cinnamon Red rooftop infinity pool overlooking the Indian Ocean and even had the motivation to go to the rooftop gym because of the spectacular views! We enjoyed our first evening at the Bathiya and Santhush concert, which Chami described as the Backstreet Boys of Sri Lanka. Stacey and I were likely the only non-Sri Lankans there, which was definitely an out of body experience. I was reminded, though, that music is a unifying force and I very much felt like part of the crowd while at the concert.

13920726_10154374428279524_4025401596069139186_n

Over the weekend, we traveled to Negombo for lunch and a beach visit. The beach looked exactly like your desktop background, with palm trees swaying in the breeze, golden sand, and waves of the Indian Ocean crashing. While swimming in the ocean wasn’t safe at the time, I did dip my toes in the water and it was surprisingly warm. Stacey, Chami and I ended up crashing the groom’s bachelor party, which was an interesting way for us to see the party scene and try the local drinks. Balancing out my mantra, I had the fascinating experience of visiting my first Buddhist temple, Gangaramaya. I entered barefoot in all white clothing and was greeted by a friendly regular who offered to give me a tour and explain the history. A few words were lost in translation, but I was grateful to learn about the temple from the perspective of a local.

13901319_10154374433974524_6532793863427437315_n

I also did a solo trip to an astrologist, which was one of the best fortune telling experiences I’ve ever had in an exotic and tropical small town outside of Colombo. The astrologist reviewed my horoscope, my life trajectory, and my compatibility with my boyfriend. I was happy to learn that all insights affirmed what I have envisioned for my life and there were no surprises or deterrents. I hope that the astrologist is right! He also recommended that I wear a yellow sapphire on my left pointer finger to promote good things happening in my life – if you know of any good places to buy a reasonably priced yellow sapphire ring, please let me know!

Once the wedding guests arrived, we had an incredible guide and bus which quickly became called the “American bus.” We took a long trek to Minneriya, the famous safari park with dozens of elephants, birds, insects, and other safari animals scattered around marshes and green mountains in the distance. We experienced the safari by Jeep, which was such an adventurous way to explore, care free with our hair blowing in the wind and all smiles as we were all getting to know each other and preparing for the week ahead. We spent our evening at the Habarana Village, which was a series of bungalows in the middle of the wilderness, with a beautiful pool and marsh in the distance.

13925366_10154380701459524_7987121928913721644_n

Our next day was action-packed. We spent the morning climbing over 1,200 steps to visit Sigiriya, an ancient Sri Lankan village which is now a World Heritage Site with amazing views of nature in the distance. We then traveled to the Kandy City Centre to visit the bride’s family’s mall. It was so fun to be able to explore the mall freely and try the most extravagant food court I’ve ever seen. Kandy was incredibly busy because of the famous Perahera Festival in honor of the Buddhist tooth relic. Our tour group walked through the streets where the parade was going to take place (we felt like part of the parade!) in order to visit the Tooth Relic Temple. We were amazed to see elephants outside the temple who were waiting to be dressed for the parade. We spent the evening watching the Perahera Festival from a balcony overlooking the street, and enjoyed traditional music and dance performances, and elephants dressed elegantly with lights and tapestries. I began to feel like a local watching the festival that is so sacred to the Sri Lankans and enjoying traditional Sri Lankan cuisine with the bride’s family. We had a very late evening before returning to Colombo to begin the wedding festivities.

14045551_10154380707749524_6031416130692128701_n

Chami’s wedding celebration was one that I will never forget. The day before the wedding, the close friends and family were invited to the Chami’s family’s home to watch the Buddhist wedding blessing and enjoy a homemade dinner. This likely became my favorite experience of the trip because I was able to truly understand and be part of the spiritual union of my two close friends. The monks were very friendly, helping the bride translate the blessing into English for many of the guests to understand. They asked us to all hold one string at the same time while they chanted, which was a strong symbol of unity and love that made me feel the power of the Buddhist philosophy. The monks placed string bracelets on all of us (which I am still wearing over a week later!) and encouraged us to try holy water. After the blessing we spent time on the family’s complex rooftop patio, again with beautiful views of Colombo and refreshing cocktails. For dinner, there were live chefs cooking Sri Lankan dishes to order. I had so much fun meeting the bride and groom’s family and friends and learning about the local life in Sri Lanka.

13939561_10154381977054524_8146027021159723352_n

On the wedding day, I had a blast with the American girls getting my hair and makeup done and having a designer help me put on my first sari. I had no idea what to expect and was so happy with the results. Wearing a sari was surprisingly comfortable (except for having to “disrobe” in the bathroom) and I felt like royalty. Speaking of royalty, the true royalty of the day was the bride and groom. Chami was dressed in gorgeous gold jewelry over her stunning white dress, and the groom wore a handsome gold suit in the Kandy tradition. The wedding was outside, with a beautiful flower-covered trellis, a choir, and adorable photos and signs greeting the guests. My friend Stacey and I had the exciting experience of carrying the wedding ceremony gifts down the aisle. We were surrounded by Kandy drummers and greeted with tropical drinks. The ceremony was delivered in Sinhala, so we couldn’t understand the literal meanings of the words, but we could see and feel the spiritual meanings of the blessings. The reception was out of this world as well. We had dinner options representing cuisines from around the world, the largest dessert room I have ever seen, a 30-person orchestra, and a DJ for entertainment. We had so much fun soaking in every moment, watching the gorgeous newly married couple, and dancing to a blend of Sri Lankan and American hits. It was a night that will go down in my personal history as one of the most unique, exciting and fun experiences I’ve ever had.

13939425_10154392543994524_5600835069764138440_n

On our last day, Stacey and I joined some of the other Americans at the Colombo bazaar, which was jam-packed with shops, signs, cars, and a beautiful red mosque. It was very interesting for me to visit a mosque for the first time and I was warmly welcomed by those in the mosque. I also purchased a few souvenirs, including elephant pants and teas to share with friends and family. I spent the rest of the day by the pool, watching the sunset, and enjoying one last oceanside meal before heading to the airport at midnight.

Combining these experiences, I am reminded of the importance of living and traveling with an open mind and an open heart. I experienced a part of the world that was incredibly foreign to me, but I was eager to learn, see, listen, taste, and feel. I was grateful to learn more about Chami’s heritage and to understand traditions like Buddhism that are so fascinating to me. I strongly suggest all of you to go out of your comfort zone in your travels and experience wonderful places like Sri Lanka.

Valentines To Remember

Standard

Happy Valentine’s Day, inspirNational!

DSC04610-350x203

Source: discoverexplorelearn.com

I hope that we all take some time today to say “I love you” to those who bring joy to our lives. We often focus on our significant others (if we have them) on this day of love, but there are many valentines in our lives that we should not forget.

  • Ourselves. Remember to send some lovin’ to yourself today! On the day of love, we often think about everyone else but ourselves. We put ourselves through a lot each day, whether we are working or in school, experiencing life’s changes, maintaining our health and happiness, or staying in touch with loved ones. Let’s be grateful to our minds and bodies for carrying us through the journey of life! Take a nap today, pamper yourself, do your favorite hobby, or reward yourself with a treat to remind yourself that you love “you.” After all, if we don’t love ourselves, it is hard for us to give and receive love from others.
  • Our parents. Remind your parents how grateful you are for all that they have taught you and helped you with throughout your life. By living with a host family in a new country, I am constantly reminded how lucky I was to have such supportive parents while I was growing up. My parents taught me how to always do my best, to make smart decisions, to cherish each day, to explore the world, to respect others, to say “thank you,” to save money, to take care of my belongings, to be tidy and organized, and to welcome guests into my home (and have awesome parties :)). Living in a new environment reminds me that my family values do not exist everywhere, which makes me grateful for the expectations my parents had (and continue to have) for me.
  • Our faith. We all find faith through different outlets, but where we can relate is the little voice coming from our soul. That little voice comforts us, keeps us going each day, reminds us that we can get through life’s challenges, and helps us find hope and love in our lives. I have noticed while in Paris that I am drawn to churches and feel overwhelmingly emotional when I enter them, thinking about all of my loved ones and reflecting on my life. While I am not a devout churchgoer, I am grateful for the strong morals, endless hope, and faith in the world that the Catholic church has provided me throughout my life.
  • Our friends. Think about all the people who have helped you celebrate the joys of life, who have wiped the tears from your face, and who have just sat and listened to you share your thoughts, ideas, and concerns about life. I strongly believe that our friends are our chosen family and in many ways deserve the most of our gratitude. Being thousands of miles away from my best friends, I am so grateful that they continue to stay in touch with me while I embark on this international adventure. I am also grateful to the new people I am meeting in France who are willing to start new friendships. It is very rewarding to share travel experiences with new friends!

I hope these thoughts inspire you to be grateful for all the valentines in your life. May you find peace, joy, and love on this special day!

United by the Circle of Life

Standard

After traveling across three continents and studying intensively in three countries, I am realizing that while it is easy to focus on differences between cultures, it is even more interesting to focus on similarities.

Religion, culture, language, and customs may divide us, but we are all connected by the core purposes of life: milestones, values, relationships, careers, memories of the past and hopes for the future. I am going to combines these core purposes of life and describe them as the circle of life. We are all united by the circle of life.

7iaagM9iA

Source: http://www.canstockphoto.com

I have been reminded of this unity recently while living with my host family in Paris. Almost every evening, we enjoy dinner together and have interesting conversations about life

The Joys of Being a New GrandparentOn Friday, my host family welcomed their first grandson into the world. My host mom discussed how excited she was to share in the “new grandparent” experience with her husband. She described that when women deliver their own baby, mothers and fathers cannot relate. The mother already knows the baby after nine months of carrying it. The dad meets the baby right when it is born. However, grandparents can share in the experience of just meeting the baby because it is new to both of them. This is an exciting time for my host family, which is relevant to any family throughout the world with new grandchildren.

Celebrating 33 Years of MarriageI had a dinner with my host dad one night and discussed the secrets of a lifelong marriage. He and his wife celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary in December, beating the odds of only a 51% marriage success rate in France (very similar odds in the United States as well). He said, first of all, there are no secrets. You have to make your marriage work in your own way. He also described that communication is the most important part of a successful relationship- catching up on each other’s days, discussing successes and failures, and overcoming conflicts. He said he follows his dad’s advice to never go to bed angry. With the challenges of marriage throughout the world, I was intrigued to learn insights about successful marriage in France.

The Purpose of Strikes: Last week, Paris experienced another strike with taxis blocking the streets and requesting higher wages. I learned from my host family how common strikes are in Paris and how they are always related to money. My host family was frustrated with the strike’s disruption to the city and the corruption of Paris’ tax and immigration policies. While our conversation remained politically neutral, it was interesting for me to learn that debates related to social change, taxes, and immigration are present no matter where we live or travel. We are united by our societal challenges, and diverse in our responses and reactions to these challenges.

Stop Striving for Perfection: One of the most insightful life conversations we had was how people are striving for perfection in their careers and relationships. My host family emphasized that perfection is not realistic. There is no perfect job or perfect spouse. People are “job hopping” more now than ever before, assuming that the “grass will be greener on the other side.” In reality, there are no greener pastures, just greener perspectives of the situations we face. In the past, my host family said that they were just grateful to have a job and a steady wage. If they didn’t enjoy their job, they would focus their energy outside of work rather than letting their job consume them. My host family also described that people are also getting divorced too soon, giving up before giving it their all. Now people are expecting so much more and rarely feeling satisfied. I can attest to these sentiments from my own experience and that of my friends, especially those of us in our 20s. The post-college decade is full of uncertainty, change, and striving for the perfect life rather than focusing on the good in today. I posed a question to my host parents, asking how they think we can all stop striving for perfection. They said they didn’t know, but knew it was possible. My proposition is to first stop comparing our lives to others (which is easier today with access to friends and family’s life updates on social media). After, we should create our lives as we see fit, combining our upbringing with what we learn as we live and travel throughout the world.

Each of these circle of life conversations sparks thoughtful insights that we can learn no matter where we are in the world. What life conversations have you had during your travels?

Happy Holidays from inspirNational!

Standard

As we travel near and far throughout the year and especially this holiday season, may we remember that “life brings us to unexpected places, but love brings us home.”image1

Moving to South Carolina and soon to France have both been unexpected for me, but very exciting at the same time! I have started the holidays in Virginia and Ohio, and now will be home in Michigan for the next couple weeks. I look forward to starting the new year Parisienne style! Wishing you, your family and friends a joyful and relaxing holiday season. See you in 2016 with more exciting inspirNational insights from around the world!

What inspirNational topics do you want to see more of in 2015?

Standard

inspirNational has reached a blog milestone (over 50 posts!) and now it is time to reflect. What inspirNational topics do you want to see more of in 2015? Please fill out the poll below and feel free to leave comments with any additional suggestions.

I look forward to writing more about the topics that you enjoy most! Thank you for supporting my inspirNational blog in 2015 and beyond!

InspirNational Music: You Are In Love by Taylor Swift

Standard

Taylor Swift never seizes to amaze me. How can one artist find ways to make us connect to her music regardless of our life stage? Since high school, I have listened to Taylor Swift through every crush, relationship, and life challenge, and I almost always can relate to her.

I’m sure Taylor Swift fans are all in shock (or in love?) to hear her new 1989 album, which removes her from the country star label. I enjoy her “pop” style songs, so this is a great transition for me. Of course I had weeks where I enjoyed “Shake It Off” and more recently “Blank Space” from her 1989 album, but this week I found a less mainstream song than I can’t stop playing.

cover170x170

Taylor Swift’s “You Are In Love” is my latest favorite song because of how it describes love. Every song detail describes how I am feeling now, and it’s exciting, for both Taylor and me :), to go from being a so-called hopeless romantic to a hopeful romantic. The song is inspirNational to me because it reminds us of the powerful influence of love – it completely changes who we are and how we perceive life and the world. I am learning that there is nothing more fulfilling than having a companion to share in our life journey. Taylor Swift is inspirNational as a whole for being able to move people through music. She translates her celebrity lifestyle into the daily lives of the rest of us, and always finds a way to comfort and inspire us.

I encourage you to listen to “You Are In Love” on iTunes, and hopefully YouTube will soon post Taylor Swift’s official music video.