My 200 Miles – A Trip On the Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Dear Old Friend,

We live in a giant, magnificent world. With the wonders of the internet I am able to connect with friends and family all over the globe. My grandparents who live almost 1,000 miles away from me, my parents at 200 miles away, my cousins at 3,000 miles away and all of my lovely friends who are anywhere between two feet and 20,000 miles away.

Wherever you are in the world, I wanted to share my journey down the road to Santiago with you. It was a very special journey and I’ll say it again, it is not for everyone. My videos may not be for everyone either. I made a short, fifteen minute video for those who just wanted to see the photos, but for those of you who wanted to really know what we went through and learn about all the things we saw on our journey, you can watch the thirty minute one.

I wish I was better at video editing, but I’m not. I tried my best and the audio is up and down. The timing is a little off, but I did it. Enjoy it as much as you can. I’m also no expert on Spain, the Camino, or long hikes through the country side. I’m simply a girl who had a dream and did everything possible to make it come true.

xoxo,

Your favorite pilgrim

View the FULL length video here! (28mins)

View the condensed version here (15mins)

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The New College Graduate

Dear Old Friend,

Graduating college gives everyone mixed feelings. You’re excited for the next adventure but now you have to leave the place you loved dearly and hated at the same time. I reminisce about college a lot. I really wanted to write it down, so here’s how it was for me:

Freshman year: I had an absurd amount fun almost every single day. I’m being completely honest. I have never laughed until my stomach hurt nearly every single day, ever…until the 2012-2013 school year. I explored so many new places in Virginia that I had never seen before. I tried clubs, activities, and foods that I didn’t think I would even like. I finally could run a mile in under eight minutes, and more than that, I could run two miles without stopping! I had more friends than I ever had in my entire life and I truly loved them all. I ended my first long-term relationship and got taken out on some real “dinner and a movie” dates. I lost my voice cheering on my school at various sports games and I felt what “Hokie Pride” really means. I woke up every day and enjoyed my life as best as I could. And I failed two classes, but who cares! That’s what Withdrawals are for!

Sophomore year: I lived in an expensive townhouse on the edge of town. I started to experiment with cooking and was successful. I found myself in a relationship with a guy who pushed me to be a better person and who actually loved doing all of the outdoor activities I like. He took me on my first off-roading run and first real jeep ride! I worked so many different jobs, I swear I know everything about every department in Virginia Tech. This includes walking up to a laboratory that does REAL research with chemicals and animals and convincing the manager that I, a business major, who had never taken a chemistry course, lab class, or physics class  in college could do it! Guess what? I excelled at that job. I was offered an opportunity to do research with important professors in foreign countries. I worked at a cemetery and re-did their records and learned so many interesting stories. I took my California-boy to the Outer Banks and watched him fall in love with the East coast. I ate steak grilled over an open fire on the beach and avoided sunburn. This year was tougher on me, but I found myself in a giant igloo with tens of friends eating a spaghetti dinner enjoying the first four snow days Virginia Tech has ever had.

Junior year: I lived in a tiny basement apartment with four of my best friends and got to hang out with football players every day. My older brother visited me for Halloween and we had a blast. I made Dean’s List two semesters in a row. I adopted my kitten, Venus. The day I brought her home she walked around and then came up to me and winked as if to say, “You’ll do. It’s just you and me for the rest of forever now. My only rule: feed me. All. The. Time.” She then became Venus the Traveling Cat and we drove all over the state visiting people. I jumped out of a plane! (Everyone should try skydiving, it really is the best thirty seconds of your life.) The year ended with an epic trip to California where my boyfriend took his Virginia-girl from San Diego all the way up to San Francisco. I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time, actual cliffs where the world just seems to end, a real surfer dude, a shaman who blessed our relationship on the side of a cliff, the place where my father grew up, and Half-Moon Bay. What a beautiful place. I went to Hollywood and Pasadena. I saw San Louis Obispo, and four California colleges. I saw magnificent Redwood trees and a tree house far up in the clouds. To top it all off, I threw up on the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s a story for another day. It was adventure from sunrise until we turned into pumpkins. We did it all by plane, train, and in a Mercedes-Benz. It was that laughter, excitement, and fun of Freshman year packed into two weeks.

Senior semester: I lived in a huge, renovated apartment with my boyfriend and my cat. I didn’t have a microwave or a dishwasher. I got really good at cooking. I ran my first 5k. I traveled almost every week once a week for the first half of the semester. I did a lot of self-reflection and planning of my future. I tried a few new clubs and built my very first website. I passed my classes without barely lifting a finger. I worked harder than I ever had preparing for interviews and researching companies. I failed two classes my Freshman year. I did not have above a 3.5 GPA, like the rest of my classmates. However, I got not one, but FIVE job offers from top 100, top 50 companies! I was so humbled! I was so proud! Employers hired me because of my drive, because of my commitment to success, and my acknowledgement of my failures. One company even created a position especially for me just so they could get me on their team. My bosses from all my past jobs emailed me out of the blue and wished me luck in my future. What an excellent way to end a journey.

All of these exciting events were also balanced well with just as many annoying or stressful ones. A few times I thought about transferring or taking a break, I got denied from many companies and internships because of my grades, and I had to say no to a lot of parties and events to make sure I didn’t fail my classes. When I graduated though, thanks to help and almost always being employed by multiple jobs  year round, I didn’t have any student debt. I had $20.89 in my checking and less than $5.00 in my savings. It was a great relief.

Virginia Tech was my home for these years. I hope I never forget everything that happened to me. I hope I continue to be creative in my cooking. I hope the next adventure in North Carolina is just as sweet.

xoxo,

Your favorite graduate

 

A Girl’s Trip to Canada

Dear Old Friend!

Well, while you and your friends were drinking massive amounts of alcohol and sleeping your days away in Panama City Beach, the Girls and I took our Spring Break, or Summer Break, in Canada!

It took us a long time to get there because of bad weather and poorly trained Airline staff, but it was a good test of our character and friendship. I was very proud of my friends. We truly made the best of, quite possibly, the worst flight out ever.

So, when Trump became president of the U.S.A. many thousands of people were saying “Ah, fuck it, now I’m moving to Canada.” Which always made me ask, Why? Well, most people think that Canada is just the U.S.A. but North. Or they’ll say the Canadians are so nice and clean. Or they’ll say that the Canadians love to party.

While I did enjoy Canada and the people were very nice, I would like all those people who wanted to move to Canada to know this:

  • The U.S.A is blessed. We have FREE use of public restrooms just about anywhere. Canada and Europe do not.
  • The U.S.A. lets you drink whatever you want pretty much wherever you want. This includes at restaurants on patios. In Canada you can only drink indoors.
  • Montreal had more trash on the streets than Richmond, VA – which used to be a very dirty place.
  • Their currency is not paper, it’s plastic and that jut makes me ask so many questions.

But with all cons, there are pros and for Canada there are certainly many pros!

We five young women were able to travel around by ourselves and felt very safe. We were able to spend a total of $700 max on this trip. It’s pretty cheap to eat really nice food in Canada. There are summer festivals which are always fun. You can walk all of Montreal and Quebec City in a day each. The buildings in these cities will make you feel like a princess and the art throughout will make you so happy.

Alonzi!

Your favorite adventurer

Camino de Santiago for Lazies

Dear Old Friend,

So, you’re a Lazy. That’s okay. I am, too. In fact, the sparse information about the Camino de Santiago is really contradicting and confusing on the internet. But, just like me, you heard about the Camino and you’re dying to go. In fact you’ve already bought boots and a sea shell and a new pair of shades. Well, that’s great! I hope you have fun on your Camino and that it brings you all you are hoping for. But here’s the truth:

“How was your Camino?” It was incredible. It truly pushed me to my limits and the scenery was amazing. The weather couldn’t have been better and I loved the food.

“Was it scary being out there as a young woman?” No. For one, I had my two adult brothers and my father with me so I was always “safe” as you say, but the Camino was 200 miles of the nicest people on Planet Earth. Secondly, there were many women traveling alone, young and old, and they were having an incredible time. You go, girls!

“Would you ever do it again?” Look, I met many people who were on their third or fourth Camino and you know what? I am happy for them. I am actually astounded that they repeated this journey more than once. Some walk it again or they bike it or even take horses. As for me, no, I would not walk it again. This was a hard journey. It is not for people who prefer to be house cats more than 50% of their time. It is not for people who like to be clean all the time. It is not for people who want to sleep in their own room without the sounds of snoring men AND women nearby. This journey was the most difficult task I had ever begun. My feet hurt and I suffered injuries. I almost wanted to quit at one point and had my family not been with me, I do not think I would have walked the entire way. Oh, and there is the fact that I loved hiking through the mountains, but when we got out of the mountains and into the forests of Galicia, the terrain got monotonous and boring and busy. I, of course, kept it exciting because that is the person I am, but I don’t even think my elaborate imagination could do that again.

“What was the most important thing you brought with you?” The filtered water bottle. That saved us. We spent a very little amount of money (compared to hospital bills) and were able to drink any water any where. We of course tried to stay away from the signs that said “No Potable”, but when it came down to it, we saved money and time with those LifeStraw bottles.

I would love to write about Spain in this post card, but a 200 mile journey through scenes that quite literally took my breath away could never fit in one single post card. That is why I made a video. Oh, and don’t you remember? I’m a little lazy! The video is a whopping thirty minutes long making it seem like a film more than a video, but it answers a lot of questions that people don’t talk about on the Camino de Santiago Compostela. Until I figure out the audio on said video, I’ll give you the gist of the Camino below. Hopefully, it will help you if you ever decide to go or when you go! Always remember, “To find what works for you.” You are a unique person, which is why even if you try to do everything exactly as I did, your experience will be different. Until I release the video, Buen Camino.

So, here you go! My lazy guide to the Camino. Maybe one day I’ll write a book.

The Packing:

Don’t overdo it. Seriously. You can live without it! The long sleeve items were a little hot at times, but they saved me a lot of annoying pain that sunscreen brings me.

  • Outfit one:
    • Quick dry Sunscreen shirt from Columbia (long sleeve)
    • Quick dry Pair of cut off pants or roll up pants from Columbia (hiking)
  • Outfit two:
    • Long sleeve cotton shirt (for cooler days)
    • Athletic leggings either capri style or long
  • Outfit three:
    • Light shirt long or short sleeve
    • Comfy shorts
  • Other
    • Rain poncho – full size
    • Rain cover for backpack
    • 3-4 pairs of underwear
    • 10 pairs of socks (if you change your socks every time you rest, you prevent blisters and other pain)
    • Tiny Comb for brushing hair
    • Girl items if necessary (you know what I mean)
    • First aid kid
      • band aids in all sizes
      • compedes in all sizes
      • neosporin
      • tweezers
      • sewing kit with needles
      • lighter
      • ibproufen
      • allergy medicine
      • tums
      • gauze
      • medical tape
      • ankle brace
    • Sunglasses
    • Full-brimmed hat
    • Small flashlight
    • Phone/Charger/Outlet Converter/Headphones
    • Small quick dry towel
    • Handkerchiefs or tissues
    • Water proof hiking shoes (tennis shoe or boot style)
    • Contacts/Case/Glasses/Contact solution
    • LIGHT sleeping bag or blanket
    • Reusable bag for dirty clothes
    • Small reusable bag to put clothes and shower items in (hang on the shower for easy access to stuff when showering)
    • All in one utensil
    • LifeStraw Water bottle
    • Flip flops or sandals
    • Sunscreen
    • Lotion with aloe
    • Shampoo/conditioner (don’t fall for the Lush shower bar – this made me still feel dirty at the end of the day)
    • Money belt
    • Get a walking stick there – it helps!
    • Camino Guidebook
    • Small notebook and pen for writing

It looks like a lot, but it is actually very little. I used everything on this list more than 10 times each. It was extremely helpful. I definitely could have had a lighter sleeping bag though. Also, Spain is very clean so the bed-bug spray was pointless. Just check your bed before laying down. Download podcasts and play them to help you fall asleep. Earplugs didn’t really help with the snoring- but the podcasts did. Put your feet up at the end of each day – or whenever you can. It helps SO much. Say “Buen Camino” to everyone. It helps. Don’t take too many photos. Look with your eyes. Enjoy the journey and don’t expect to have any life-changing thoughts. Expect to be physically tired and to embrace it. The best thing about this experience for me is that I was not mentally tired for once. I wasn’t worrying about school or work or bills. I was just thinking about how beautiful Spain is and that I would reach my destination one step at a time. Don’t worry- most people know English. Take cash. And as always, know where your towel is.

Buen Camino.

Your favorite traveling pilgrim

You’re An Adult Now

Dear Old Friend,

There’s consistent articles on websites all over that will tell you what you should be doing now that you’re a twenty-something. I’m sure thousands of young people Google things like, “easy crafts,” “skills I should know before I’m 30,” and “what should I do today, I’m bored.” No? Well, maybe it’s just me.

The point is, when you’re in control of your own life and you live by yourself, or with roommates, away from some authoritative figure, you have to decide what to do with your time. Yes, it does sound like a first world problem. That’s because it is. While other people in third world countries are filling their days with hard labor, a fun day at a traditional festival, or something much worse or better, what are you going to do?

Well, my Googling doesn’t get me very far, but when I’m out adventuring I see a lot of things that I wish I knew how to do. Sometimes I write these things down because, let’s face it, I can’t remember anything unless I write it down. Then I go home and make it happen. I learned how to crochet better, I practiced good form in the gym, I practiced running a mile in a faster time and better pace. I practiced languages and cooking and baking. I trained my cat to do more tricks and I even created this blog. I tried to start an indoor garden and I tried my hand at a variety of crafts. While many of these escapades were left unfinished, with a little improvement, or in the case of the indoor garden – dead – the one task I did complete and was very proud of were the wreaths. I made three or four wreaths to hang over the door in Hokie colors of course and gave them away for presents. Of course, I kept the best one and the ugliest ones for myself.

I often think of all the millions of people in the world and ask myself, “Just what are they doing today?” I try to fill my days with learning something new or improving upon something I do less than gracefully. After all, my neighbor said it best, “The day you stop moving is the day you die.”

Well, I’m not ready to die just yet.

xoxo

Your favorite new-adult

Case of the Mondays

Dear Old Friend,

My friends at work always explain the inexplicable ridiculous fever that comes over corporate workers on Fridays with, “Well, looks like another ‘Case of the Fridays!'” This is such a perfect way to describe this Friday Fever when everyone is too happy and looking forward to the weekend that their work performance suffers. But, most people don’t care too much because they, too, have a Case of the Fridays!

Then, most unfortunately, there are Mondays. Cases of the Mondays are not so gleeful. Where Fridays are that pot of gold under the rainbow, Mondays are more like that weird feeling you get when the sun hasn’t been out for a few days; like you have an unquenchable thirst for something but you don’t know what that something is.

Anyways, I’m usually so happy and optimistic all the time that Mondays don’t really affect me, but today was different.

Really, everything was fine until…I scheduled a meeting in a room in the other building. Little did I know, the “other” building wasn’t the building I thought it was. I was in the correctly labeled room, but the wrong building.

When I finally found my way to the correct building and the correct room, I was afraid to walk through the door. You could feel the tension fuming from the room- so thick it could be cut with a knife. My project manager and his engineer were not happy.

I apologized of course and quickly jumped into the meeting – as so not to waste any more of their time and finished getting through all of my questions early. They were still very ungrateful and looked at me like I was worthless and since I was late, lost, and confused they had some right to do so, but here’s what I got out of the meeting.

  1. Always double, triple check where the meeting room is if you haven’t been there before.
  2. Arrive well ahead of time and find the room and make sure it is the right one, once again.
  3. Never, ever treat your subordinates or your team or anyone with the same furious impatience that my managers did.

Number one and two are obvious, but sometimes we all need a reminder. Number three, however is a personal journal entry for myself.

I have been observing businesses and how people work together ever since I got my first job at a retail store. You can learn so much by observing people. When I find an interaction with a manager that I didn’t like or that I did, I write it down or note it somehow so I can try to remember to do or to not do that interaction in the future.

The furious rage and impatience that my managers emitted didn’t help our meeting for a number of reasons. (Even though they had a right to be upset because I was late)

  1. My team and I were upset for the rest of the day that they were so disappointed in us that we could barely focus on our work.
  2. The meeting did not have an atmosphere of “How can we fix this?” and instead had one of “I’m not going to be helpful to these people because they did something stupid.”

What I mean by the first point is that it is okay to be upset, but at the end of the day- mistakes happen. They especially happen when people are new and not accustomed to the layout of the buildings. It’s easy to get lost in these modern buildings that have no sequenced layout. Even with a map!

The second point is so important. While they had a right to be upset, it would have been better if they had taken a deep breath and said, “You know what, it doesn’t matter. Try harder to make this not happen next time. Now, let’s get to work.” Which is what we said, but I don’t think the managers heard us through their rage.

Overall, it sucks when people are late. Nobody enjoys waiting for an appointment to arrive and especially one who can’t plan ahead for issues like these. But, the thing is, acting like that affects the mentality of the team and hinders progress.

I was upset for the rest of the day, mostly being disappointed in myself. A long run through the golf course and the Man Upstairs throwing down a mighty thunderstorm was plenty enough to calm me down. I’ll just have to try again tomorrow.

Just something to think about. One more thing to add to the What I Will Try My Hardest Not To Do When I Am A Manager Someday List- it’s a very simple and very old lesson:

Don’t cry over spilled milk.

Warm wishes,

Your favorite rainy-day adventurer

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The babbling brook behind my house this evening during the mighty thunderstorm. Even the Man Upstairs has a Case of the Mondays sometimes.

 

Hello, Subie

Dear Old Friend,

Two Mondays ago, I bought a car. I also bought this car with no credit.

I researched cars for about a year, well before I got my big girl job. I had narrowed it down to the Subaru Outback and the Toyota Rav4. I wanted a car that could do it all, but also didn’t look like a Prius.

Then I test drove many different vehicles, even ones that weren’t on my list. I tried used cars, new cars, red cars, and blue cars! The one I settled on was brand new, a glorious pearled black, and all mine.

How did I get this car without a credit score you may ask? Well, we all know how I like to fight the man on this whole credit topic and I am happy to say that I won with some old fashioned tools. A bright smile, mountains of research papers, and a confident stature.

First, I really did my research (lacking the fact that I did not read the book “Don’t Get Taken Every Time” recommended by my father…sorry, Dad.)

Second, I called multiple auto loan companies and asked them, “What would you do?”

Third, like I said, I test drove a LOT of cars.

Fourth, I considered the value of the car I was thinking about buying with its annual depreciation – basically how well the car held its value in the market.

Finally, I walked up to the salesman and asked to see the Financial Representative (the one who actually takes your money and gives you a loan). I looked him in the eye and said the following:

“Sir, I am twenty-one years old and I just graduated with my bachelor’s. I have always paid all of my bills on time throughout college and I have paid for them with mostly my own money. I worked very hard through college and I have no outstanding debts. In fact, I have never been in debt. I also am working at a good company that pays me pretty well, and more than enough to buy this car. I am a very responsible young woman and I can get you many letters of recommendation if that’s what you want. I have no credit score, but I have a few thousand dollars saved up that I can put down and I promise to continue saving my money so I can pay down my principal. I would like you to give me a loan for the rest. Making payments on this car would help me get credit so I could eventually buy a house. I know the bank may not accept my offer, but I would like you to try.”

He took a big breath, stood up very tall and straight, and said very surely “Challenge accepted.”

Thirty minutes later I was signing the largest piece of paper I’ve ever seen to become an official car owner. Huzzah!

I’ve come such a long way since my first car and it’s only been four years. I can’t wait to see what I can do with the rest of my life. Every day is an adventure where I wake up and say just what that financial adviser said to me.

Challenge accepted.

Until Next time,

Your favorite Subaru-driver