36 Hours in Istanbul: Part One

Hey World,

I'm still working on a text-based post about my time in Istanbul, but I also wanted to share some of the 300+ photos I took while I was there (and captions to help)!

Enjoy :)

xoxo,
M

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First stop? Istanbul's Spice bazaar!


Lunchtime snack: Kunefe (fried dessert cheese with ground pistachios on top)


Grand Bazaar!

Found a 'secret' Han for lunch! :)

Yup - turkish meatballs (kofta)!


And then the temptation drew me near...

But I opted for a sidewalk Turkish tea instead!

Sunset outside the Blue Mosque

...and freezing outside of Hagia Sophia

Which led to a breakdown of my abilities to resist...#travelfail

A walk across Galata Bridge

Famous seafood junkboat-restaurants near Galata Bridge

Hagia Sophia at sunrise

A furry man of faith at the Blue Mosque

Hagia Sophia - tickets purchased!

Here begins my obsession with their obsession with beautiful ceilings. 

Note to travelers: don't have people wearing gloves take your picture for you. 

Inside Hagia Sophia






Ticket to: Basilica Cistern

The best rotisserie chicken I've had in years! (Spice Bazaar food stall find)

Tour of the Blue Mosque!


Ticket to: Topkapi Palace




But really guys, these ceilings!

The most loaded baked potato ever = genius. 

Mr. Baklava at Hafiz Mustafa. 

Hafiz Mustafa - dessert for my last dinner!

A Truly Awesome Life


Hey World,

This found its way into my inbox the other day, and it really struck a chord. 

"You know what I love about your life? Well - a lot - but what I really admire 
is that you are living a truly awesome life and you are totally aware of it. It's 
like living in the moment. I'm guessing that comes from being grateful."


I am grateful for the life that I've created for myself. It's taken a lot of dedicated time and effort to get to where I am. But I'm also thankful that so many people supported my ambitions and gave me opportunities when I needed it most -- you cannot succeed without the assistance of others. 

@ the top of Mt. Vesuvius; December 2014

The message above was particularly beautiful in its delivery, but similar comments are made me to me quite often. Comments about how happy I seem, comments about how 'awesome' my life is. Comments that make me question how many others see their own lives as being awesome, as living in a beautiful moment. 

I want a truly awesome life for myself, but I also want that for others. Which is why I think it's important to share my journey to happiness with others, and to share how I got here. 

So here we go, a truly awesome life, in four easy steps:

1. Figure out the ideal. No, I'm serious. Take some serious alone-time to think about what brings happiness/satisfaction into your life. Is it reading? Writing? Traveling? Helping others? Hiking? Running? 


For me, the things that I realized would make me most happy at this point in my life is:

-- time and money to travel
-- financial stability to pay loans
-- job that serves others, location: East Africa 

Figure it out, and prioritize whatever you come up with. Trust me, this is the absolute hardest part. It was a long personal journey to come to this conclusion - and cost me (literally) a ton of money and months of my life. 

2. Work towards your dream job. Unless you're a secret millionaire, you probably need to work to sustain yourself. And if you're going to spend at least 160 hours a month (almost 7 full days) doing it, you might as well love it. Test jobs you think you might like. Walk away from said jobs when you realize you don't. Find another job: rinse, wash, repeat until achieved. 


NOTE:  it's totally okay if your 'dream job' is actually just a job that helps you fund your actual dreams -- like snorkeling in the Galapagos 2x a year, taking a yearlong sabbatical to write a book, becoming financially independent to open your own Etsy shop, or even just having time to spend with family, friends or the great outdoors.  Many times jobs are a means to an end. 

3. Follow through. Stop making excuses, and start taking risks. Push yourself past your comfort zone, one baby step at a time, but in a continuous forward motion. 

For me, I started with a kickboxing challenge, and then a 5K. It opened doors; and within months, I was doing things I never thought I would. Being open to the world and its many opportunities is truly infectious, and you begin to realize that many assumptions are meaningless. 


Anybody can do anything, with a lot of determination and if given the opportunity. I truly believe that (with the exception of becoming famous...jury's still out on that one). 

4.  Never lose your humility. Like Rumi once said, "You are the universe in ecstatic motion". Never stop marveling at the wonders of your existence. Carve out time to reflect and be grateful. Remember that the path to get to wherever you are probably wasn't easy. Find ways to share your thanks - to the people who supported you along the way, to the doors that opened (and even those that didn't), and additional waves of thanks into the world (because why not?). 

It's really that simple. Figure out what makes you happy, find the means, and then go and do it, remaining humble the whole time. Well, it's really not that simple, but it's do-able...so why not do it?


xoxo,
M

The Year of Expansion: 2015 Up Front

Hey World,

It took me awhile to land on a theme for this year. 

2014 was the year of pushing limits, and after nearing an unhappiness breaking point, I made a lot of big changes, and currently find myself living the dream. 

Which means I need bigger dreams, and new goals. But it also means that it's pretty hard to think of additions I want to make in my life, because I'm already there. So, I came up with the following goals, which I hope to reflect on throughout the year to keep me on task, and will expand upon the things that make me happy. 

1. Visit at least FOUR new countries. 

One of the reasons I love my job so much is that it allows me the opportunity to see the world as a reward for working hard. So for as long as I work where I do, I want to spend as much of my vacation time as possible visiting corners of the world I haven't explored yet. 

Loosely on the agenda for this year? Ethiopia + Switzerland + a few surprises :)

Hopefully, with some careful planning and utilization of long layovers I can visit more than four, but it's always great to have achievable goals! 

If you're interested, you can check out my travel wish list from last year here

2. Try 52 new recipes.

I started to look for new recipes online during the last few months of 2014, and I found myself realizing that there are SO many things I can make, even living in Tanzania, that I have never tried before!

Once I get started, I'll put up a blog post that I regularly update with a list of the recipes, and maybe even some pictures!

3. Finish my MA thesis by June, 2015.

One of the promises I made myself was that I would finish my MA program; despite moving away from NYC, and despite not loving my program. All that stands between me and a degree is a 60 page paper...and in the next six months, come hell or high water, that paper is being written!

4. Watch my expenses more closely.

It's so easy to lose track of how much money I spend here because of reimbursements, automatic payments and because receipts, by and large, don't exist. 

This year I want to budget out my day-to-day expenses more carefully to make sure I have enough for small adventures, international travel, and any unforeseen expenses. Plus it's a good habit to have!

5. Less screen, more green.

A lot of work hours are spent in front of a computer. It's so easy to come home and not leave the screen some more, so I can stream television shows or movies to unwind or before bed. However this year, I want to spend more time outside; especially when the sun is out.

I'm always happier when I have a good tan anyways :)

6. Love my naked self. 

Health-related resolutions are cliche, and are hard to commit to for twelve months, so this is what I came up with instead.

Whatever it takes to love me, I'm going to do!

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What are your resolutions for 2015?

xoxo,
M




The Year of Pushing Limits: In Review

Hey World,

I'm back from my trip to Istanbul, Turkey and Italy...but more on that in the next few days. In past blogs, I used to pick words that defined my previous year, and flesh them out. This year, because this blog is still fairly new and most of the posts have been just skin and bones, I'm going to really review what all happened in 2014....a lot went down (both behind the scenes, and what I've shared so far).

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2014 started with a shard of glass wedged in my heel. Yup, it was that kind of New Year. I flew to Florida to spend time with my grandparents, and began my one steadfast resolution: read more (this went well...until August). I then flew back to NYC feeling energized for the year, and started the grind of grad school again. 

Then I walked down the streets in the Village and Abraham Lincoln told me to wake up my mind. It was a strange request, but I decided to heed it. 


In February, Siri refused to be my valentine, which was rather rude. I had been on a long hiatus from dating, and being rejected by my phone was not ideal. So instead I took a half-day shooting course, and felt like Superwoman -- totally worth it. Plus, my hair looked fierce. 


In March, I went to Tempe, Arizona for my 2nd Clinton Global Initiative University after being the Visiting Author in my hometown in upstate NY. Spending a week speaking with eager kids (who raised over $1,000 for The Nyota Fund!) and then spending a long weekend with students who wanted to change the word like me....it was invigorating.


I concluded that I didn't want to live in the US anymore, and that grad school wasn't opening the doors I thought it would for me. I wasn't happy...and I had to start doing something about it. I started to make an exit plan. 

In April, I saw something glimmer on the sidewalk and it changed my life. For the next two months, I found pennies every single day. I began living with my eyes open. I also had an interaction with the NYPD that made me uncomfortable, and started going to kickboxing classes every single day. Overnight, I became the Girl with Gloves in my bag. It was exactly what I needed. 



In May, I took a trip to my alma mater to speak as the Young Alumni Speaker at the GW Women & Philanthropy Forum. The next week, I got on a plane for a sneaky trip to Tanzania for a week for the job interview of my dreams. From the plane, I passed the Swiss Alps and asked myself, What do I have to do to live a life that will get me here? I decided happiness is what's outside your window. I also realized it was hard to inspire others when I wasn't inspired myself. 


The next week, I got the job. It was exactly the kind of job that would let me live the life I wanted.

In June, I started wrapping up my life in NYC. I also decided to run a 5K with just 9 days notice. I finished the 5K without dying, and couldn't have been more proud of myself. My move-out day confirmed that NYC was never mine. 

In July, I took a sneaky trip to Los Angeles to clear my head and detox, with help from one of my best friends. Then the Nancinator and I explored more together in the Adirondacks (and went flying!) before I took off for my new life. 


In the airport, minutes before my flight to Tanzania, I found my last penny in the NYC airport. I put it in my pocket, and taped it to my desk my first day of work. I took it as a sign to keep my eyes open, and hit the ground running (it's still on my desk).

Since moving here, things have been a bit more of a blur. Time moves less on a continuum and more in swatches of time that both rushes by you, and drags along day by day. The five months I've been here feel both like a blip and a century. It's like pulling apart an accordion -- it's pretty great to live in a world of time dualities.  

In September, I backpacked alone in Malawi for 10 days. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. I did jump off a cliff into Lake Malawi though -- 3 times. I was scared, but I did it anyways. #PushingLimits



I got a puppy I named Gus Muffin. My childhood dog Whoopie passed away after 15 years of loyalty. I lost a puppy named Gus Muffin.  It was a really rough month for my heart.



I also got a boyfriend (and thus far, have managed to keep the boyfriend). I pushed myself to try new experiences and cook new dishes, and it worked fairly well -- I now can make pickles! I also tried my hand at cricket...less successful.

And then in December, I solo traveled again, this time to Istanbul for 36 hours, and it was magical. Following that, I spent a week in Italy with Nancinator for Christmas, and arrived back in Tanzania in time for the New Year with another mountain under my belt (Vesuvius).



I've made big promises to myself for 2015, and I think, just maybe, it can top what happened this year.

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2014 was a year of personal awakening. I realized that the life I was living, though it seemed great (Studio in NYC, grad school program at a prestigious University, taking pictures in Central Park with smiling faces, access to delicious food) -- it wasn't great for me. It's hard to shed something that should feel right, but doesn't. But I knew I would have to in order to be happy, so I pivoted. I made some really big decisions. I packed up that beautiful NYC life, and traded it in for a life in East Africa (and also traveled to 4 new countries).



I haven't looked back; I am living the dream. 


I hope your 2015 is a life lived with intention. 
I hope it's12 months of contentment, or working towards it. 
 52 weeks full of personal fulfillment and growth. 
Finally, I hope 2015 is a year with 365 days you are grateful for. 

xoxo,
M