5 things I’m trying to do more of

1. smile at strangers
2. say hello to people I pass on the street
3. withhold my judgment
4. focus on the present and less on the future
5. work out in the morning

Have you made any attempts at creating new habits lately?


Technology burnout

I love technology. I hate technology.

Technology allows me to check my email any time anywhere and stay connected 24/7. Technology forces me to check my email all the time everywhere and stay connected 24/7.
I remember when I moved back to the mainland from the Northern Mariana Islands in 2009 I COULD NOT WAIT to buy an iPhone so I could have access to my email and all the wonderful apps that were going to make my life easier.

Be careful what you wish for.

I got that iPhone and a few more since then. (I have, however, refused to buy an iPhone 5 when my iPhone 4 works fine, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find durable covers for my 4. Apple is very smart in that regard.)

But it’s not just my iPhone. It’s everything about our hyper-connected society that has burnt me out. I venture to guess that 15 to 18 hours of my day are spent in front of some kind of screen: a TV, computer, iPhone, iPad. I’m always consuming more: more emails, more tweets, more pictures, more news stories, more Facebook posts, more wikipedia entries.

Sometimes I’ll find myself “relaxing” on my couch and I’ll just pick up my phone and start scrolling through Twitter for no reason. Am I addicted? Yes. There’s no question about that. Am I trying to make some changes to the technology burnout? Yes.

But how do you break an addiction that is considered normal and even praised in some instances?

It’s a question that’s hard to answer, but here are a few steps I’ve taken that I think could help you too. This is a work in progress for me, and like any addict, I sometimes take one step forward and two steps backward. But it’s a start.

1. Take work email off your phone. If you have work email on your phone and your employer doesn’t require it, STOP. There’s no reason to torture yourself. I had my work email on my phone for several years. It was nice in some ways: I knew what was going on at work all hours of the day, even when I wasn’t at work. I knew what to expect in the morning and sometimes heard back from sources at night. That’s also why I took it off my phone. I don’t need to know what is going on at work when I’m away from work, right?

2. Minimize multitasking as much as possible. This is easier said than done, but it can be achieved in small ways like only keeping one or two tabs open on your web browser instead of eight or nine.

3. Only get on Facebook at certain times throughout the day. I no longer scroll through this time suck of a website just to scroll through. At least not during the work day. If I catch myself doing this, I just ask myself what I’m accomplishing and I get off. This has been hard, but it has been one of the most beneficial aspects to my purge.

4. Stop checking your phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night before going to sleep.

5. Read a book. I find that I zone out a lot watching TV or movies and that’s when I grab my phone. It’s like I need even more stimulation. But if I read a book, I actually have to concentrate to understand what I’m reading. If I zone out while I’m reading a book, I realize I need to just do nothing or to go sleep.

Have you experienced technology burnout? How did you cope and what habits did you change?

Money and how to make sure you’re making enough

Money. It’s the one thing that everyone focuses on but no one talks about. Too little of it can make people think they can’t reach their dreams. Too much, in my opinion, is just as bad. Granted, I’ve never been there so maybe that’s why I feel that way.
If you’re like me you think about money way too much. It’s a bad habit I’m really trying to get under control. But I think being aware of your money situation is important. That’s why for the past four years I’ve been tracking my expenses and spending habits each month.

I started doing this when I was a freelancer and basically had to to make sure I wasn’t spending more than I was bringing in. It was really helpful to see how much I was making vs. spending.

Mint.com is really helpful in providing a monthly break down of where you’re spending your money, and I recommend downloading the free app.

But what I do each month is just make sure I’m making enough to cover everything I want to be covering.

In my own expense report I’ll put in a note for especially large expenses, like a treatment at the dentist, new tires on the car or a week-long trip to Greece, or large influxes of cash. For example, some months I get three paychecks instead of the normal two.

Here is an example of what it looks like:



So at the each end of each month I pay my credit card bills and then go into my bank account and add up the money I made and add up the credit card bills and the automatic withdrawals for car insurance, electricity, phone bills, etc.  My amount earned is only the money that I actually take home each month after taxes, insurance, 401K and union deductions and the like.

Then at the end of the year I can add it all up and see how much I really spent and break it down to find my average each month. I’m sure there are nifty apps and programs that do this automatically for you, but I like doing it by hand because it helps me have a better understanding of how much I’m earning and where it’s going.

By keeping track of my total bank account each month, I can track to make sure I’m bringing in enough or see that I need to rein in my spending for next month.

Do you have any methods for tracking your earnings and expenses?

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I went to Greece and got paid to write about it!

That headline says it all. If I were the type to use a certain overused hashtag — you know which one I’m talking about — I’d use it right about now.

I recently spent my 29th birthday in Greece, specifically on the islands of Mykonos and Santorini. I came back and I was able to write about it for the AP. Read it here.

I was asked where I planned to go for my 30th birthday. I have no idea. Where do you think I should go?

Edit: there is some confusion apparently when I said I was paid. I paid for the trip: flight, hotels, meals, drinks, everything. See my earlier posts on why I rode buses and walked instead of taking taxis. I was paid for writing the story. The same fee the AP pays for many travel stories. Because of how I choose to travel, this covered about one day of expenses from my stay in Greece.


The one souvenir I buy on every trip

I spent my last semester in college studying abroad in Italy and traveling to various countries in Europe. Every time I stepped foot in a new country or saw a once-in-a-lifetime sight I had to buy the perfect possession to remember it by:  an oversized coffee cup at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a necklace made of blown glass in Venice and a snow globe from Rome, among other items.

Keep in mind that back then I didn’t drink coffee and I hated wearing necklaces. I bought them because I was happy, and I thought buying stuff would make me happier or I’d somehow keep that happiness high longer through the purchases. I also was doing what every other person was doing: buying the shiny objects that were offered to us.

Later, though, I had to somehow get all the souvenirs back to the United States. I bought a suitcase for 80 euro just for the souvenirs!

The snow globe broke somewhere in the air between Rome and Chicago, while the rest of the souvenirs sat in my childhood bedroom while I continued on with my life. I only recently brought the Eiffel Tower coffee cup to my apartment and now use it to hold all my leftover foreign coins.

I’ve since come up with a souvenir I can buy in every country for the equivalent of a few dollars. It’s something that I enjoy using, have fun picking out and usually has some sort of story behind it.

Here’s what it is:

I got these bracelets in Greece. The one on the left is from Santorini while the one on the right is from Mykonos.


These are from Greece. The one on the left is from Santorini and is a talisman meant to ward off bad wishes and bad people. (The evil eye is pervasive on Santorini). The one on the right is from Mykonos and cost less than 2 euro.


I’ve never been a fan of necklaces and earrings, only bracelets. I sometimes purchase bracelets that cost a little more but are more durable and can be worn for years. Like these:


This is from Suva, Fiji.


Both bracelets are from Italy.

Both bracelets are from markets in Italy.

Recently, though, I’ve been focusing on buying bracelets that are even less expensive and wearing them until they basically fall apart. Once that happens it means it’s time for my next adventure.

This is from Broken Bow, Oklahoma.

This is from Broken Bow, Oklahoma. I wore it so long that the knot that made it easy to get on and off fell apart.

Buying bracelets is ideal for me because they’re easy to transport, they’re inexpensive, I actually use them AND I can spend as little or as long as I want to to find the perfect one to remember a trip!

What kind of souvenirs do you purchase while traveling? Do you display your purchases once you get home?

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Travel twins

I’ve always heard that couples sometimes start dressing alike. It makes sense, right? You have similar interests and lifestyles and so it eventually shows through what you put on your body. But is the same true for friends, too? I’m not sure.

Either way, I noticed something funny when I was waiting for the ferry to go to Mykonos to Santorini: people traveling together who dressed alike.

Some of these may have been a bit of a stretch, but looking for examples also helped me kill a few hours waiting for the ferry. It became a game for me to find “travel twinsies.”

Here are a few examples of travel twinsies I came across. Keep in mind these pictures were taken as I tried to pretend like I was using my phone for something else or talking on it.





And yes, you could also say I was stalking.