Letter to 17 Year Old Me

Dear Gab,

Where do I even begin? Your life is so much greater than you could ever imagine that it would be at 17. I don’t even know how to recount the numerous adventures and changes that you have gone through that have brought you some of the most precious things you will ever have. First of all, I want to remind you that it gets better. You feel so alone right now, surrounded by people who do not see the real you and would judge you if they did. You are uncomfortable in your own skin. In fact, you hate your body, but I promise that you are going to find freedom in self-love. Those “friends” that you give your heart and soul to but receive only judgment from in return, they will fade. In a few years you will discover what true friendship actually feels like and it will hold you tight. I can’t even remember how many times you have been telling yourself you will never find love. And it isn’t your fault; you hear it enough from others every day. You have begun to doubt yourself. You are doubting your beauty and you are doubting your worth. You are beautiful and worthy; you just haven’t met the man who will worship those things about you yet. So, hold on and keep believing in true love because I know you are about to give up.

Speaking of the man of your dreams, he is fantastic! He is every fairytale you have ever wished for and every prayer you’ve ever said. He loves you unconditionally and with the passion that you’ve always wanted but never believed that you really deserved. And he’s searching for you too.

Remember that high school isn’t everything and even though you are unhappy, you panic at the thought of going to college. Accept the wonderful change ahead of you because it is so much better than anything that you are leaving behind. Don’t forget to cherish these moments, though. Remember the way your heart races when you walk across the stage and win so many awards for your intelligence (and stop being embarrassed that people think you’re too smart) and savor the adrenaline rush when you step onto that volleyball court. Enjoy your time here but know that the future ahead is blindingly bright.

Please start taking care of yourself. You are going to find friends who accept you and encourage you and a man who loves you with his entire being, but until then, step away from the treadmill and stop skipping lunch. Nourish your body because it going to take you to so many wonderful places. Stop punishing yourself for not being Barbie. You deserve so much better than the hate that you give yourself. You’ll learn to love and nourish your body, but start taking steps now.

Finally, never say yes to anything that you do not deserve. Stop saying yes to the judgmental friendships, or the silent treatments, or the feelings of unworthiness. You deserve more and I promise you will find it. There is so much more that I wish I could say, but I want you to experience all of the love and laughter along the way. Stay strong. I promise you’re going to make it through.

Love,
Me

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*Disclaimer: I know this is a different (more personal) post than I normally do but I think writing letters like this can be very healing. I also wanted to share some of the encouragement and lessons that I wish I had known when I was younger and perhaps inspire you to write your own letter.

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5 Things to Do When You’re Feeling Sad

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Over the past year and a half, I have struggled pretty hard with mental illness and an overall constant feeling of sadness. When it first began, I was so unused to the feeling of constant sadness that I did not know what to do which led to the feelings spiraling out of control. Over the past six months I have worked my butt off stepping out of my comfort zone to seek help and find ways to keep the sadness and anxiety at bay. If you are in the same place my first and biggest piece of advice is: fake it ’til you make it! Honestly this idea always seemed ridiculous to me but it is a miracle worker. When I am sad, my mind and body tell me to stay in bed and sleep, thus shutting out the rest of the world. If I really want to start feeling better, though, I HAVE to push myself out of my comfort zone and do things I do not necessarily feel like doing at the moment. I’ve been through a lot of trial and error, but I’ve discovered that these top 5 activities truly help me turn my emotions around and regain control over my life.

  1. Go Hiking/Walking– Honestly, the main point of this tip is just getting outdoors and getting active. Nature is so beautiful and quiet, which helps center me and make me realize how small my problems are in comparison to the vastness of the world. Also, moving around gets your endorphins pumping which is a natural, automatic mood-booster. I personally love hiking, so if the weather is nice it is my all-time go-to, but even a short walk can turn my mood around.
  2. Talk to a friend– Just getting your emotions somewhere outside of yourself can be such a relief. All of that sadness and anxiety that is churning in the pit of your stomach needs an outlet, so talking to someone else can be a great relief. Even if you do not get down into the nitty-gritty of all your emotions, being with someone who makes you feel safe and you are comfortable around can save you from your thoughts and give you new perspective.
  3. Find a hobby that is medicinal– This can be one of the best parts because it can be anything that makes you happy! So experiment with everything new. For me, I try to have three different types of hobbies: one that gets me active, one that gets me creative, and one that feels indulgent so when I feel sad, I can choose which activity I feel like doing at the time. For me those three are playing frisbee, writing in a journal, and baking healthy desserts. Finding these hobbies may take time and they might push you out of your comfort zone, but open yourself up to the experience and you will have a blast experimenting.
  4. Find new surroundings– This means forcing yourself out of the comfort of your bed or your couch and just finding new scenery. Even if you just relocate to a friends house, your local cafe, or one of your favorite spots outside. Being in a new location forces you to reevaluate your surrounding and your realities. It will provide you with a fresh perspective and new realities. Either way, you’ve accomplished something today by getting out of bed and going somewhere new.
  5. Do not ignore your emotions– Let yourself feel: you cannot be on either extreme. It’s unhealthy to let yourself become consumed with negative emotions but it is also unhealthy to completely ignore or deny these emotions as well. I have done both, so I know that all of these emotions will catch up to you. For so long I wanted to be strong and independent so I ignored my emotions and pushed myself beyond my limits. Eventually, these emotions caught up to me and knocked me on my butt. So let yourself feel, acknowledge these emotions, but also strive to improve this mood as well.

I really hope that you found some comfort in my own personal tips. Remember that no matter what, you are never alone and there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel even if you aren’t seeing it right now.

Lots of love,

GT

10 Lesson I’ve Learned from 2018 so far…

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Although we are only a month into 2018, I feel like I’ve been faced with more challenges and crossroads than I could have ever expected from a new year. So, here are 10 (of the many things) I have learned so far in 2018!

  1. Doing your work in a coffee shop increases motivation x100– I do not know what it is about sitting down at a local coffee shop with a warm drink and your laptop, but I have found it to be incredibly calming and motivational. I am the biggest procrastinator if I am left in my apartment to work because I will find one hundred reasons to keep putting it off. The second I step into the coffee shop though, I am ready to kick some butt (and the coffee certainly doesn’t hurt!).
  2. Find your tribe and love them HARD!– I know that we hear phrases like this all of the time and, until this year, I always brushed them aside as silly sayings. However, this year I have already had to lean on friends much more than I ever have and it has made me realize how absolutely essential it is to surround yourself with people who genuinely love and care for you. Whether it is repeatedly telling you positive things about yourself that you would never admit or joining you for lunch when you are having a bad day or even sending you funny memes throughout the day, true friendships are so priceless.
  3. It’s okay to step back from people who are draining you (even if they are family)– If someone is draining you emotionally or mentally with their presence or even the thought of interacting with them, it is completely okay to take a step back to take care of yourself even if they are family! No matter who it is, no one should be a toxic drain on your emotions or positivity. Maybe they do not even realize they are doing it, but regardless, love yourself enough to put yourself first. Take a step back, recharge, and then reevaluate. Most of the time all you need is a short break and the people who love you will understand your need for space.
  4. Get into a routine– Whether you enjoy a morning routine, a night routine, or anything in between, it is important for us to have some sort of ritual throughout our day. For me, my time is the morning. It allows me to clear my head, treat myself, and prepare my mind for the rest of the day. Routines are comforting and especially during hard weeks, your routines might be what keeps you sane.
  5. Plan one thing every week that you can’t wait for– This doesn’t need to be huge or expensive, but I have found that it is so much easier to get through the week if I have something to look forward to. Whether that is a weekend trip to my favorite coffee shop, catching up with an old friend, trying a new recipe, or even just a relaxing weekend, I feel so much more motivated to kick butt during the week when I know I have a treat waiting for me at the end.
  6. Make time for creativity– Having a creative outlet is so important for my mental health and when I do not make time for it, my attitude and outlook certainly reflects it. Even if all I can do is fit in some calligraphy or reading a chapter of a book each night, I feel so much more recharged when I make creativity a priority.
  7. Chocolate is a life-force and I need it daily to survive- I’ll just leave this here
  8. Do your best even if you aren’t where you want to be yet– This applies to so many things: fitness, relationships, friendships, academics, job positions, etc. So many of us waste away our lives obsessing over getting to the next phase where we believe we will reach the ultimate state of happiness. Then when we get there, we are not absolutely happy and already on the way to wishing for the next thing. Dreams and goals are important, but it is also equally important to slow down and enjoy where you are right now.
  9. Take care of yourself if you expect to take care of anyone else– Like I touched on earlier, in order to be the best version of yourself, you sometimes need to step back and place yourself first. We all push ourselves to beyond our limits sometimes so it is important to make sure that we don’t forget about our mental and physical wellbeing along the way.
  10. Not all fresh starts are instantly happy– With all of the wonderful events happening this year, I somehow thought that 2018 would automatically be the best, happiest year of my life. However, I have already dealt with a lot of sadness and challenges that have shown me that this is not always true, but just because the beginning was rough doesn’t mean that the end won’t be heavenly.

 

I hope you all have a wonderful start to February,

GT

My Biggest Fitness Tips!

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While I don’t consider myself an expert, I’ve certainly been dedicated to health and fitness long enough that I’ve picked up some great lessons along the way. I’ve had the numerous ups and downs of someone traveling along the journey of making their health a lifestyle rather than a short-term goal, although I’ve definitely had those too. Since I know fitness is on a lot of people’s resolutions for 2018, I thought I would share some of my biggest tips that have helped me along the way.

1. Don’t dwell in the “downs”– This is one of the hardest but most important lessons I have learned. When making health and fitness a lifestyle, you are inevitably going to experience some slip ups or moments of stagnation; everyone does. I spent years being so unbelievably strict, working out for 2-3 hours every single day, never even eating a bite of “bad food”, days of not eating anything and guess what? I was miserable AND I didn’t get a single step closer to bettering my health. These habits weren’t good for my mind or body. It’s taken years but I’ve finally learned to embrace the slip-ups. They’re an important part of my journey. They DO NOT mean I have failed, they DO NOT mean I am unworthy, and they certainly DO NOT mean I will never reach my goals. It’s quite the opposite actually because it means I am human and I’m going to come back stronger than ever tomorrow!

2. Drink more water– I know this one is such a cliche but, man, is it true. I think all of us know that we need to drink more water, but we really don’t make an active effort to do it. And for awhile, I had to force myself to carry around a huge liter of water so I remembered to drink it but I cannot tell you how many benefits my body has experienced! I get less migraines, I’m way less bloated, my skin has started glowing, my hunger has decreased, and so much more! It’s so important to stay hydrated, so find ways that makes drinking water more enjoyable for you.

3. Find the workouts you truly enjoy– First of all, there isn’t one kind of workout that is miraculously going to give you your dream body. It’s important to switch it up and try new things to keep your muscles guessing, to keep away boredom, and to make the greatest gains possible. I used to think running was like the holy grail of fitness, but I hated it. So, I either forced myself to run and dreaded it or I would find excuses not to do it. I didn’t get any closer to my goals and my body did not change. I tried so many workouts and found that I love HIIT and strength training the most. Not only does my body respond to these but I truly love doing them. The most beneficial workout is the one you are actually going to do! So experiment and find what you love and switch it up. Maybe it’s walking with a friend, swimming, weights, kickboxing, Zumba, whatever it is embrace what makes you happy and I promise you’ll start to see the changes much sooner!

4. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet– Unfortunately, we can’t all keep our hyper-active teenage metabolisms. So, making healthy choices is vital in making fitness a lifestyle. Try following the 80/20 rule: pick whole, nutritious foods 80% of the time and indulge in your favorite treats 20%. Not only will it help you shed the pounds, it will improve your skin, help fuel your workouts, give you more energy, and much more. Also, stop labeling foods as “bad”. There is no such thing as a bad food. Those are labels we create ourselves. Just try to fuel your body with nutrient dense foods MOST of the time and stop stressing. I used to put ridiculous labels on foods to the point I refused to eat any food I didn’t cook and I didn’t shed a single pound. Now that I am much more balanced and way less stressed, I’ve lost 30 pounds and never felt better. There’s no miracle diet either. You lose weight by being in a calorie deficit, so any eating style that does that will help you lose weight. Also, don’t use exercise as a punishment for indulging. Work on forgiveness and start over tomorrow. Having a healthy relationship with food is so important!

5. Self-love changes EVERYTHING- Finally, this is my most important tip. It’s so sad for me to say but I literally spent my entire teenage years HATING my body. I viewed it as disgusting and unworthy for not looking like my petite best friend’s or like the girls I saw on magazines. I longed for a naturally petite body, but that’s not what I’ve been given. I have an hourglass figure and naturally muscular build. I will never have a petite or Victoria’s Secret angel’s body, and that okay! I was desiring a body that was literally impossible for me to have. Of course I have fitness role models, but I’ve made sure they have similar builds as me so I can be realistic in my goals. Also, I don’t punish myself for not looking like them anymore. We are all in different parts of our journey and I will never look exactly like someone else. I constantly have goals I want to meet but I’ve finally learned to love my body in every stage of the process. I’ve come so far and even though I want to go further, I worked so hard to be the woman I am today and that’s worth celebrating!!

I really hope you’ve found some comfort and inspiration from this post. Like I said, I’m no expert but I know how lonely and defeated I used to feel on my journey and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way. Remember, to love and have fun before anything else. I will always regret the holidays that I was too busy obsessing over my body to enjoy the love and family around me. Enjoying life is so much more important than being shredded, so find your balance and love every step of this journey!

All my love and support,

The Traveling Brunette

2018 Resolutions!

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Hello, 2018!

Wow, I can’t believe that 2017 is actually over and 2018 is here. So many amazing things happened in my life this past year including: finding help and healing, getting my two fur babies, traveling across the world, and getting engaged! Even though 2017 was full of so much love and adventure, I know 2018 is going to be even better: getting married, turning 21, traveling to Scotland for our honeymoon, graduating college early as a double major, and so much more. This year I wanted my resolutions to truly reflect my desire to soak up every single moment, work hard for my dreams, and to focus on all aspects of my health. So, without further delay, here are my 2018 resolutions:

  1. Live in the moment– I have an incredibly bad habit of wishing away the present in order to fast forward to a future I somehow believe will be better, but the truth is, my present isn’t what I want it to be because I’m not putting in the effort to make it positive. There’s nothing more depressing than constantly wishing that you were somewhere else. This year is going to be one of the best years of my life so I want to soak up every single minute of it and that includes taking breaks from social media, focusing on myself and my family, and finding the positive in the negative situations.
  2. Focus on all aspects of my health- I know one of the stereotypical resolutions is getting fit, losing weight, etc. and there is nothing wrong with these resolutions if you are doing them for the right reasons. For years, I struggled with a toxic body image and it poisoned every aspect of my life. I refused to go out to eat or to any event that I did not know exactly what food would be served, I never took a single bite of what I called “bad foods”, and I overexercised myself every single day. When I met Derek, he truly helped me enjoy life and stop focusing on my body. When I actually started having fun, I ironically started losing all of the weight that I had worked so hard on losing before but never had been able to. Last year, I finally reached my ideal body with the definition, speed, and strength I had always wanted. However, after years of overtraining and unhealthy health habits I had completely burned myself out. I literally took off an entire month of any activity because I was so sick, exhausted, and I lost my former “ideal body”. So this year I want to focus on balancing all aspects of my health: physical and mental. Never sacrifice your joy in life in a desire to reach a fitness goal. Find the balance. If your life starts revolving around the gym and unhappiness sets in, reevaluate and find what’s really important to you.
  3. Be more open- What is it about our current social media-obsessed society that has trained us to only reveal a highly edited version of ourselves to the world while we fail to actually open up to anyone? I used to be one of the most reclusive people I had ever met. However, finding love and genuine friends helped me start breaking through my shell. I still struggle being open sometimes, even with those closest to me. Sometimes its out of fear and sometimes it’s just out of habit. Either way, this year I plan on focusing on being open.
  4. Travel every chance that I have– Being the Traveling Brunette I obviously thrive on traveling. I honestly think that I will go insane if I stay in one place for too long. So this year, I really want to focus on traveling, even if that’s just a weekend trip to the state right next to me. There’s something about even the slightest change of scenery that is truly revitalizing to the soul.
  5. Finally, shower others in love- In 2017, I was full of toxic energy due to constant comparison with others, refusal to release the past, and feelings of jealousy. When you hold onto those toxic energies for so long, it truly poisons your mind and body. I became so sick and it has taken me a long time to recover and for what? What did I actually gain from any of that comparison and refusal to forgive? Absolutely nothing and I never would have. So, this year my final resolution is to finally let go of that negativity and just radiate love. I know it will still be difficult sometimes but honestly it is so unbelievably freeing to love, even if others may not deserve it. Do it for you.

I wish you all the very best of luck with your 2018 resolutions and I can’t wait to share this wonderful new year with you!

Happy New Year, everyone!

-Traveling Brunette

 

Tips and Advice to Make Your Traveling Dreams Come True!

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous

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Have you ever wanted to see the world but financial problems held you
back? Have you ever dreamed about traveling but you just can’t seem to find the
time to take a trip? Hectic schedules and financial issues are some of the biggest
reasons why people do not travel and at first glance, these problems may seem
unsolvable. Trust me, I am a college student. I totally get it but trust me, even people with a low income can travel the world if they practice discipline. Once you commit to following some of these easy steps on how to make time and save money, your worries will be a lot easier to conquer and defeat. So if one of your greatest dreams is to travel, do not give up on them because of financial issues or busy schedules. Instead, implement some of these tips into your own life and watch your dreams of traveling become a reality. It’s hard to have the discipline to sacrifice the little stuff now for the big stuff later, but believe me it is oh so worth it! All of that time and energy that you put into saving and planning will all be worth it when you get to see the Eiffel Tower at night, or take a ride on the Orient Express, or drift your cares away while floating on top of the Dead Sea.

P.S. I know the title of this post makes traveling sound like some sort of Disney fairytale, but honestly, it really is and nothing feels better than knowing that you helped make those dreams come true for yourself! Be your own hero and make your life happen!

Unlike many other countries across the world, only a small percentage of
the American population travel outside of North America. By far, the top two
excuses for why Americans do not travel are that they cannot afford it and they
do not have the time. However, both of these excuses are myths. Traveling to
another country does not have to be expensive or time consuming. You can
create the trip of your lifetime by simply researching, planning, and saving.

Get Creative: Research Different Places!

The idea that traveling has to be expensive is a myth. With the proper
research and self-discipline, anyone can travel. Researching has two parts. The
first thing to do is research places that you can see yourself traveling to. If your
heart is not set on one specific location and you are willing to travel anywhere
new, research places that are financially cheap but experience rich. Places like
Thailand, Bali, Costa Rica, and India tend to be places that do not require an
extensive amount of money to travel to. If you do have a specific destination in
mind, research different travel agencies and find the best deals and options for
your life and budget. Once you find a trip where the cost seems to be attainable,
start using these tips to figure out the best ways for you to save up to travel.

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Pull Out That Piggy Bank and Save:

The first step towards saving money for the trip of your dreams is to be
realistic and set short and long term goals. Know what kind of destinations and
trips can actually work for your budget because if you know it can be attainable,
you are more likely to stick to your savings plan. In addition, think of ways to
remind yourself why you are doing this. This could be anything from hanging up
pictures or maps to reading literature by foreign authors; anything that will keep
you encouraged and on the right track towards your goal. Once you do this,
choose some of these tips to help you save money:

  • Make a Wants/Needs List: stick to buying only what you need and save the
    money you usually spend on wants towards your dream trip.
  • Start a specific travel fund– make a separate account solely for your trip
    and make it a goal not to use that money for anything else.
  • Spend less on lunch or drinks– skip your daily trip to Starbucks and fast
    food and make your coffee and lunch at home. Then, take the money that
    you save and put it in your trip fund.
  •  Try to kick unhealthy/ expensive habits– not only does quitting smoking
    and excessive drinking help your body, but it also helps your wallet.
    Smoking is extremely draining to your finances.
  •  Stay at home more often– constantly going to bars and clubs can seriously
    damage your bank. So find ways to have fun with your friends at home
    without breaking your bank.
  •  Stay away from financially irresponsible people– watching your friends
    constantly waste money on buying the newest technology or the fanciest
    clothes can drastically influence your spending habits in a negative way. Do
    not let other people’s financial habits derail your hard earned travel savings
    plan.
  •  Stop waiting on the perfect time to appear– if you wait for the perfect time
    to travel, you never will. You have to put in the effort to find time to make
    traveling a reality for you. Like they say, Carpe Diem, my friends!

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Carve Out “You” Time:

Once you have the financial means to take your trip, do not let a busy schedule
stop you from taking it. It is a common misconception that people who work full-
time or have a family do not have time to take a vacation. The fact is that many
people who work full-time and have a household of kids do travel, but it takes
discipline. It may seem difficult or impossible to do, but with patience, you can
find the time to take the trip of a lifetime. Traveling does not have to be a seven-
week long trip. In fact, you can go to multiple countries in less than one! Again,
the key is finding out what works best for you personally, and then having the
self-discipline to make it work. Here are some tips to help you find and make time
to travel:

  • Turn your three-day weekend into a four or five-day getaway– if you get
    off a week for Christmas and New Year’s, combine it with your yearly vacation time to give yourself a three-week long trip or tack on a few extra days to a long weekend.
  •  Make the most out of your weekends– sometimes those two day trips can be some of the best adventures.
  • Write it down– make yourself pick a date and put it in writing. You are
    much more likely follow a commitment if it is in writing.
  •  Mix business and pleasure– if you already have to travel somewhere for
    work, add on a few days at the end to take time to travel for yourself
    before you come back.

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As you can see, traveling does not have to be expensive or time consuming.
By simply taking the time to research your options and find a trip that can be
tailored perfectly to your financial state and schedule, you can travel to places
you have only ever dreamed about. Most importantly, have fun with it! Just because you’re preparing to travel doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with it! The hardest part of traveling is having the discipline and courage to step out of your comfort zone and make your dreams come true on your own. Never let the excuse of money or time keep you from traveling to places you have always wanted to see. The knowledge that you gain and the memories that you will acquire from traveling will make all of your hard work and preparation worthwhile.

I’ll leave you with this little nugget of wisdom:“Twenty Years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” – Mark Twain

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-The Traveling Brunette