Anxiety Advice

Recently, I shared my own mental health story with you guys. That was a difficult post to hit publish on, but I’m glad I did. Today I thought I’d share a few of the different methods I personally use to control my anxiety in particular. Most of these have the added benefit of helping with my depression and/or fibromyalgia, which makes them all win/win/win in my book!

yoga mat, Mindfulness in Plain English

1.  Diet & Exercise: Above and beyond anything else, changing my diet has made the biggest difference in the way I feel. I didn’t make any immediate or drastic changes, but rather I started with the small things – for example, I drink one caffeinated drink in the morning before switching to water or herbal tea for the rest of the day. Cutting out the excess caffeine cuts down on the anxiety and drinking more water keeps me better hydrated. Fun side note – I’ve discovered that no matter what’s wrong with me, drinking water helps 99% of the time. Turns out dehydration can cause all sorts  of chaos I’d never known about, but luckily I’ve discovered the secret to “drowning” it out – haha.

Exercise is the next best treatment. Let me be frank here, I hate exercising for a purpose. I don’t enjoy pushing my body to its limits, particularly if it’s just to meet some arbitrary social standard. I can, however, get behind the whole deal if it makes me feel better. So, I walk – a lot. I also start most mornings with 20-30 minutes of yoga. I hike on the weekends whenever possible. All of these gradually keep my body strong but also have the added benefit of soothing me mentally. You have to find those things you enjoy, that make you happier, that aren’t an even bigger challenge to you than the worry you’re trying to combat in the first place! The most important thing is to keep moving.

2. Meditation: Of everything on this list (with the exception of talk therapy), this is the one that’s hardest for me. If you suffer from anxiety/depression/etc., spending “quiet time” in your own mind seems like an oxymoron. There are all sorts of apps out there now that assist with meditation (the free version of Headspace is awesome by the way), but none of those are necessary. Do a bit of background research – there are all sorts of different ways to meditate. You can do the version that follows a voice (aka guided meditation; your breath (aka breathing meditation); a sound (like a gong, mantra, etc.); a candle / light of some sort; or any one of many other versions. You have to find what works for you!

I’m going to share a secret with you today that really helped me. When I first tried meditation, none of these worked for me. I was just too distracted and more often than not, I ended up more frustrated at the end of the 10 minutes than when I started. Then someone told me about an exercise that can help – a warm up if you will to prepare yourself for a more traditional form of meditation.

For 10-15 minutes a day, leave your phone in the other room, turn off the tv and any other electronic distractions, put your book down, find a quiet place free of interaction with any distraction, and just sit with yourself. Let the thoughts come, but don’t argue with them – just notice what they are. There will likely be boredom and a bit of panic, but sit through it.  If you can help it, don’t daydream or allow yourself to focus too long on any one topic – let your mind run the gamut. It’s an incredibly difficult exercise that often doesn’t feel as worthwhile as it is. You see, once you’ve done this often enough, you become familiar with yourself and the thoughts you might typically encounter. So when you venture into a more typical form of meditation, you know what to expect – the thoughts, the feelings, etc. – so there are less surprises. You’re better prepared to view them dispassionately and to just let them pass on a more subconscious level. it takes the pressure off and allows for a more relaxed meditative state. And there’s nothing quite so nice as a 10-minute break from yourself… (smile)

3.  Essential Oils: This one is my favorite. You can use essential oils in a number of ways – aromatically, topically, internally, etc. I will say that they do take a fair amount of research though. First you need to find a reputable place to buy them as they are not all created equal. I can make some recommendations, but the biggest things to look is where the oil comes from (not every plant on this earth should be grown in the U.S.) and it’s Latin name. These two indicators generally give you a good idea of quality. The ranking in the descriptions isn’t regulated, so it’s hard to depend on. And quality becomes a really important factor if you decide to use the oils topically or internally.

Aromatherapy is my personal favorite. I have a couple diffusers set throughout my home. Depending on how I feel, I mix and match the oils to get the effect I want. At first I didn’t believe this would work, but even in my darkest mood, certain smells can make me happy. Some days it even makes me a bit non-plussed at how well this works, but it does work, so I can’t really complain! Find what works for you and go with it – everyone has a different preference.

Topically and internally are a bit trickier for essential oils. It’s almost never a good idea to apply an oil directly to the skin or to put it on your tongue. In both cases the oils should be mixed. For topical application, a carrier oil (coconut, argon, grapeseed, etc.) is used to dilute the essential oil. Likewise for internal use the oil should be mixed with water, juice, etc. In both cases there are some oils that are just no go. For example, wintergreen is one of my favorite smells, but can be quiet poisonous if applied to the skin or taken internally (improperly, which it almost always is outside of candy, etc.). It’s really important to do your research.

4.  Vitamins / Supplements: Other than diet and exercise, I’ve noticed the most long-lasting and consistently positive results from taking a specialized cocktail of vitamins and supplements. The vitamins involved, the brands, the dosage, all of that has been a series of trial and error, but luckily my doctor was there to help me through it all. If I miss a day of any one of these I don’t immediately notice a difference, but I try not to miss more than one a week. It seems like vitamins and supplements really need to be taken consistently to be most effective. My blend comes from both my doctor’s recommendations and my own independent research. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on the holistic journey, it’s how to research. (smile)

I will say that much like essential oils, this can be a tricky treatment option. In the U.S., vitamins and supplements aren’t regulated like prescription drugs. This means that products vary wildly and there are no consistent standards across brands. Furthermore, some vitamins can have negative interactions with prescription drugs. Allergic reactions can also occur. For all of these reasons and so many more, it’s incredibly important to discuss any vitamins or supplements you may consider taking. At the very least you should ensure that your doctor and pharmacist are aware of which ones you take regularly so they can warn you of any possible interactions. I’ve found both to also be good sources for finding reliable brands and for figuring out the proper dosage. And that brings up another point – most vitamins and supplements contain way more of an item than you may need. In some cases, taking the recommended dosage from the bottle can even lead to an overdose for your system! Do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions of those in the know.

5.  Therapies – Talk & Massage: Of all these options, therapy of any sort is my least favorite. I’m uncomfortable talking about the cause of all these issues, especially in being pressed on ways to change the situation. I also get really tired of hearing the same advice over and over. I’ve studied enough psychology in school to know the basic techniques and frankly not only are the conversations uncomfortable, sometimes they can also be downright boring. It’s like repeating a conversation I’ve already had in my head a thousand times out loud – it can be frustrating. I also have a bad tendency to tell the person what they want to hear in order to avoid deeper conversation. Because of this tendency, this is usually one of my first confessions to the good doctor. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is when they then later fail to realize this is what I’m doing. But that’s neither here nor there – the important point is to find someone you like. In order for talk therapy to be useful, you really have to connect with the person you’re talking to. My favorite therapist was someone who would totally call me on my BS – it perturbed me at first, but then I really grew to appreciate her style. Those sessions with her have been the most productive of any of them, and I always feel better after.

Massage therapy may be a bit of a surprise, as most people enjoy massage. I, however, don’t like to be touched – particularly by strangers. The idea of stripping down and having hands all over me does not, therefore, really rock my boat. However, must like the talk therapist, you just have to find someone you connect with. I still get really tense, but I’ve found that focusing the massage only on certain areas really helps relieve and limit the tension. Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about float therapy, where you float in a pod of saline water. I haven’t tried it – yet – but it’s definitely on my radar. I’ll let you know how that goes!

You’ll notice that these are holistic options – that’s because drug therapy is so unique to each individual. I’m not a doctor and so I have zero basis for recommending any one drug over another. And in all cases, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about any therapy you wish to integrate into your treatment, particularly if it involves a major life change.

Anxiety Advice: A Holistic Approach to Dealing with Anxiety





The #1 Thing for Travel

I read oodles of travel articles every week praising the latest must-have gadget, gizmo, app, etc. for the best travel experience possible. There’s a plethora of tips & tricks out there on the internet for pretty much any situation at any destination imaginable. Really, it’s a small world to be so big… Don’t get me wrong, all of these are awesome (and I have the Pinterest boards to prove my undying love), but in my experience the number one thing you need for travel is (practically) free! It doesn’t require money or bag space; a little research helps, but really isn’t necessary; and really we should all already have the stuff to make it. What is this miracle you ask? Patience.

(Insert dramatic pause for eye-rolling.)

Okay, I know it seems like common sense, but it never fails to surprise me how many people don’t utilize patience as their greatest asset – especially when traveling. We invest so much time and resources into planning the perfect experience, but life rarely plays along 100%. (What would be the fun in that?) No matter how many back-up plans you have in place, your best bet to a pleasant experience is to pack a little (extra) patience alongside that super excited attitude.

Clouds, patience quote

I can’t tell you how many times being patient (and persistent) has saved a trip and/or experience for me. It also makes me worry a bit about the state of the world when customer service reps are so taken aback by a little kindness and understanding. No, being patient doesn’t solve the issue every time, but it certainly ups my odds – especially in comparison to the apoplectic guy standing next to me.

So how do you find patience in impossible situations? If possible, take a break and walk away for a bit. Give yourself whatever pep talk necessary to present a calm and reasonable front (even if you don’t feel it inside). Breathe deep. Then breathe even deeper. Once more for good measure. Or lock yourself in the bathroom and cry it all out. Call someone who loves you and have a good rant. Tell yourself every silly joke you can think of. In short, do whatever you can to distract yourself from the initial irritation and/or panic. Acting on those emotions doesn’t leave anyone feeling better about the situation (or at least it shouldn’t).

bee on purple flower, Aristotle quote

I don’t always succeed at feeling as patient as I try to pretend to be. Sometimes I don’t succeed at pretending to be patient. I’m only human. But I also try to remember that whoever’s at the other end of this issue is also human – and that chances are this isn’t their fault. I think that sometimes we all get caught up in the excitement/nerves/anxiety/etc. of our lives – especially when it comes to travel – and forget that we’re responsible for our own actions and attitudes. If you can step out of your bubble and pull out some patience, you’re almost guaranteed greater success and much more fun! It also helps to remember that one day, eventually, all those crazy moments will make for epic travel stories!

Hot Yoga: 3 Essential Things To Know

yoga mat, Mindfulness in Plain EnglishWhen I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, my doctor went over a long list of treatment options. After some ridiculously scary incidences in the past, I will generally try just about anything to avoid taking meds, so luckily my doctor was cool with me trying the holistic approach first. At the top of that list was hot yoga* – the idea being that the heat helps the warm up process and makes things easier on your joints, muscles, etc.

Considering I live in the desert where temps are regularly in the 110+ area, I thought this was a bit crazy at first, but I decided to tried it nonetheless. I mean I enjoy yoga, and goodness knows I’m acclimated to the heat, so I figured there couldn’t be any harm in giving it a go. Color me surprised at how well it worked! And, as it turns out, there’s an advantage to the outside heat – there’s a less drastic immediate temperature difference, which allows your body to acclimate in a much gentler manner. I still think I’m crazy every week about halfway through the class, but the overall benefits have made the insanity worth it. (smile) Those 60 minutes are both physical and mental therapy, so I see it as a double win!

*Hot yoga refers to yoga exercises performed under hot and humid conditions. One of the best known types is Bikram yoga, but there are several other forms. Thanks to Groupon I’ve been able to try a wide range of options, and I have generally found them each to be fairly comparable in terms of atmosphere and work out. The methodology is a bit different though, so find what works best for you.

yoga mat, yoga towel, water bottle, hot yoga, yoga

Hot Yoga Essentials

Other than the temperature difference, there are a few other subtle differences between yoga and hot yoga to be prepared for. A few of these I had to learn the hard way, so I thought I’d pass along the knowledge in case anyone else may be considering a hot yoga practice.

1) Equipment is Key. As you might imagine, it gets pretty hot and sweaty during hot yoga sessions. Wear light clothing, preferably moisture wicking. You’re there for you, so try to put aside any self-image issues and dress comfortably. It may take a couple of classes to get comfortable, but less definitely becomes better. (smile)

Also invest in a good mat and non-slip towel. A regular towel works fine, but I’ve found that the non-slip yoga towels really make a difference in holding certain positions. I recommend bringing a smaller towel as well just to wipe the hands and forehead once in a while. A lot of hot yoga studios provide mat cleanser, but if not I’d suggest you make your own or buy some. Use it often, trust me you’ll be glad you do!

2) Food & Water. If you know you have a hot yoga session waiting for you after work, try to pay closer attention to what and when you eat throughout the day. Lighter, healthier foods will help prevent feeling heavy and/or nauseous during class. On that same note, try not to eat anything for 1-2 hours before class.

Possibly the most important thing to focus on is to hydration. Start in the morning and keep drinking all the way through class. And by hydrate, I mean water, tea, etc., not the sugary sodas and definitely not beer (one of those hard learned lessons). Always have a water bottle nearby in class and don’t hesitate to use it.

3) Pace Yourself. Usually a yoga studio has levels. Even if you’re a pro yogi, if you’ve never tried it in a heated room consider starting in the beginner’s class. Don’t be afraid to modify your poses so that they are most comfortable to you and don’t hurt yourself. You’ll improve over time and feel much better about the experience.

If you feel yourself getting light-headed or dizzy, don’t be afraid to take a break. Go into child’s pose (balasana) or corpse pose (savasana) until you feel better. It’s generally not recommended to leave the room, as the temperature drop can make you feel worse. If you’re in the right studio, no one will judge you. It should be a safe space where everyone is too concerned about holding their own eagle pose (garudasana) to pass judgment on anyone else. (smile)

Do you practice hot yoga? Anything other tips & tricks??

Telephonophobia: A Fear of Phone Calls

Here’s a fact about me – I hate making phone calls. Despite the fact that my cell phone is rarely out of reach, I almost never use it for its original purpose. I call my family now and again, a friend once in a while, other miscellaneous calls as rarely as possible.

black and white office phone

Hi! My name’s Meredith and I’m telephonophobic. Telephonophobia is defined as a reluctance or fear of making or taking phone calls; literally “fear of telephone.” I was reading an article the other day about how common this is amongst millennials. In an age of texting and email, phone calls have become the exception instead of the norm. The funny thing is, I have always felt this way. Even as a child – before the age of text communication – I would rather starve than call to order a pizza. Sure I spent my fair share of teenage time on the phone with boyfriends and BFFs, but I always preferred speaking in person whenever possible.

After much thought and reflection, I’ve narrowed my anxiety down to three major points:

1) Lack of physical cues. I feel much more comfortable being able to read a person’s body language so that I can react appropriately. I also feel that with my sense of humor, it’s to my benefit for the other person to see my face.

2) I’m subconsciously self-conscious about my voice. I don’t ever really think about how I sound until someone mentions my accent or I hear myself on a recording. Then a part of me goes “oh yeah…” It’s silly I know, but there it is.

3) Sometimes I have issues “using my words.” I find text communication easier in part because it gives me time to work out the best phrasing. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a conversation and not being able to find the right word. Sadly, as I find it happening more lately (damn you fibrofog) this has only gotten worse. And I feel like there’s only so many times it can happen before people start questioning your position.

Slinky, desk collection

It’s slinky, It’s slinky…

Unfortunately, a lot of the work I do is done remotely – we work with other companies all over the western U.S. – which means that a there is a great deal of telephonic communication. The conference calls don’t bother me quite so much since I’m rarely in the spotlight, but the one-on-one calls have me cringing every time the phone rings. And oh those truly regrettable instances where a phone call is the only way to explain a complicated matter…sigh.

So, as a matter of survival, I’ve come up with a few tips to help me minimize the pain of phone calls:

1) Create a script. Even if it’s just an opening line and a list of questions to be answered, it keeps me focused and ensures I get all the answers I need before I rush to end the call. (Not that I do that…)

2) Small talk cheat sheet. It always seems to me that everyone – at least in a business setting – wants to make some sort of small talk. I try to equip myself with a little background on the person I’m calling, trivia about the subject we’re speaking on, and a few personal tidbits I don’t mind sharing. If I don’t have to use it that’s fine; better prepared than awkward silence!

3) Use body language. As frustrating as it is to be unable to read the other person’s body language, I find that using my own often helps convey my meaning in the intended way. I try to remember to smile when I’m speaking in hopes of conveying an upbeat and confident attitude. And, when I’m especially nervous, I try to remember my power positions and I find this really helps.

4) Use the slinky. I find that if I keep my hands busy while I’m talking, it gives the anxiety an alternative outlet while allowing my mind to focus on the conversation. I keep an odd assortment of things at hand but my favorite by far is the mini-slinky.

5) Reward yourself. I find that taking a few minutes to do something fun (including a little happy dance that it’s over) really helps work off any remaining nervous energy. It’s also good conditioning to see the phone as a positive rather than a negative and a good way to avoid dwelling on anything ridiculous I probably managed to say. (smile)

Do you enjoy talking on the phone?
Any other tips or tricks??

Language Shouldn’t Be A Barrier

Last week I was catching up with a friend who recently returned from spending a year in New Zealand. The trip was only her third time out of the U.S. and her first solo adventure, so I was really interested to hear her thoughts on the experience. It sounded like she had an excellent time and would have likely not come back but for family commitments here. Our conversation next strayed (naturally) towards future travel and where she would like to go next. Imagine my surprise when I heard she was only interested in opportunities in English-speaking countries!

Now I appreciate the ease of communication that comes with traveling within your native language. However, I’ve also seen enough to know that things can pretty much always get lost in translation no matter where you go! (I mean, accents anyone? Weird slang? Same word, different meaning?) I tried to encourage her to branch out and brave it, but to no avail. Her main concern was in traveling solo, which I can definitely understand. But I’m still a bit sad for her and all the great opportunities she’s missing – hopefully she’ll change her mind as her travel confidence grows!

Wales, Welsh, English, Language, UK

I’ve written some tips on this topic before, but as the conversation has really been on my mind this week, today I thought I’d share a few more reasons why language shouldn’t be – and isn’t – a barrier to seeing your dream destinations, solo or not.

  1. It’s a small world – I suppose there are some places left on the planet that have not been exposed to foreigners, but they are few and far between. Most people are fundamentally good – and understanding. They don’t necessarily expect you to be fluent in their language and customs. As long as you keep a positive and respectful attitude, someone will do all they can to help you out with whatever you need, big or small.
  2. It’s a big, beautiful world – There is too much to see in the world to let language get in the way. The only true barrier to travel should be safety because, well, you want to live to tell your tales. Unless your safety is at risk, #1 will get you through.
  3. Preparation is vital – Presumably you will have some amount of time to research your destination and the means to do so. No matter where you’re going – language barrier or not – knowing the basics is definitely conducive to a positive experience. Search for key words, common traditions (especially greetings), and easy offenses (especially hand gestures). And if you find yourself somewhere on a whim, pay attention to those around you. You should be able to pick up a few basics from observation (though I recommend investing enough time that you hear/see the same thing more than once – then you know it’s more likely a custom and not something you don’t want to repeat).
  4. Map it out – Buy a map and become familiar with the local geography. If you become lost, have someone point on the map – you don’t necessarily have to know how to pronounce the road signs, matching them up visually will usually get you where you want to go. Does this get you branded as a tourist? Yes. Is that a bit dangerous? Potentially, it’s good to be discreet where you can. But is it worth it? Totally.
  5. Miming is fun – Much like math, I have found miming to be an almost universal language. Sure you feel ridiculous, but if you can keep a smile on your face it will all be just fine. I will warn that you should do a search for inappropriate hand gestures for the culture you’re visiting. You don’t want to inadvertently offend anyone! Visual aids (such as pictures or a map) are also super handy for speedy resolution.
  6. Currency considerations – It is generally safe to assume that the price is in the local currency unless otherwise marked. Know the local currency and a rough exchange rate so you can be prepared to do some quick and dirty math. If all else fails, numbers are universal, even if the words for those numbers are not. Write it out or count it out with your fingers.
  7. Lookout for groups – Sometimes you just need to hear a familiar word, so be sure to look for opportunities to find other speakers of your language (you are rarely alone in this small world). Book a day tour, stay in a hostel, find the expat community – any option that exposes you to a group of people will likely help you find a familiar language. It’s also a good chance to make friends and learn some of their tips and tricks.

What would you say to a friend afraid of crossing the language barrier??
(Other than “I’ll be happy to come along and assist!” – that one’s a given 🙂 )

Power of the Travel Review

Travel guides

No matter what, I’ll likely always buy the book – just in case 🙂

I remember my first trip to Paris – I think I bought every guidebook my local bookstore had on the shelf! Fast forward a few years and guidebooks are just one of so many options for planning travel. Digital reviews have allowed us to take hundreds or more opinions into account vs those of the travel company publishing those guidebooks. Sometimes it’s almost overwhelming trying to get through all those different opinions! But overall they’ve certainly saved me over the years and I’m usually only sorry when I didn’t read them first.

The funny thing is, it’s only been fairly recently that I’ve started contributing reviews myself. In the past I would add my two cents only if a place, person, or experience was really stellar or an epic fail. I admit that this was mostly due to laziness, but a lot of it also had to do with not valuing my own opinion – I figured if I didn’t have anything new to add then there was no point.

As the popularity of online ratings and reviews has grown, however, so has the practice of online shaming. One slight to one person can create an avalanche that the business, etc. may be helpless to stop, which is just unfair. I’ve realized that I may not have a wordy recommendation to add to the mix, but my honest feedback and at least a rating can and does make a difference – especially to small businesses or remote locations.

St. Columba's Isle, Isle of Skye, Scotland, UK

There are signs once you find the parking area – yay signs!

I’ve also been lucky enough to find some very off-the-beaten-path destinations compliments of wading through all of those online reviews – and possibly even more importantly, directions on how to get to those locations! When my brother and I went to Scotland in 2013, I was lucky enough to come across directions to the St. Columba’s Isle – a very old cemetery in a remote part of the Isle of Skye. I felt so happy and so lucky to have found that gem! I swore then and there that I would make more of an effort to share my opinions – for better or for worse – and have been slowly getting into the swing of things.

As for as which sites I use…I’d say mostly the mainstream – TripAdvisor is by far my favorite, but I also like for hotel/lodging reviews. Most booking sites sport reviews these days but I always like to check against my tried and true (smile). On the rare occasion I’ve come across something that isn’t on any of my usual sites, I find that Google can be a powerful tool. If you’re really lucky, you might even find a blog post on your subject (which, in a roundabout way is how I came into blogging, but that’s for another day). Oh, and if you can’t find a review somewhere on Google, then you should probably leave well enough alone (thank you Brazilian sex hotel for that lesson learned!).

Brazil, Rio, hotel review

Trust me, it’s best that everything’s a little blurry for this one…

So I guess this post is my PSA to encourage everyone to share their opinion! Whatever your preferred site, whether it’s a full page rave/rant or just a star rating, it can make a big difference to someone’s trip!

And just as a little post-script, here are a list of things I try to remember to include in my reviews. You never know what little detail may help make someone’s decision!

  • Date/Season – off season/on season can make a big difference in expectations
  • Pricing – great for comparison purposes
  • Any special rates received – so the reader knows what to look/ask for
  • Operating hours – helpful when there is no website
  • Tour options
  • Helpful hints
  • Specifics – bad or good, your specific circumstances may matter
  • Location – and any specific turn-left-at-the-second-green-tree-on-the-right hints for those remote locales are a major plus
  • Yay or nay – sometimes a simple “love it” or “didn’t love it” is all you need
  • Amenities – knowing where the porta-potty is located can be just as important as how big the whirlpool tub is (or is not)
  • Special accommodations – especially good for those with different needs
  • Photographs allowed
  • Dress code – especially important for religious destinations

 Anything I’ve missed? What’s your favorite travel review site??

U.S. Expedited Traveler Programs

flying airplane wing through the clouds

After standing in seemingly endless security lines staring longingly at the practically non-existent TSA Pre-Check line, I finally made up my mind to find a way to sign up for the privilege myself. The TSA Pre-check  program allows low-risk travelers to experience expedited, more efficient security screening at U.S. airport checkpoints for domestic and international travel. When the program first came into being, it was an invitation only sort of deal; however, that has now changed. Today you can actively apply for the program without being invited by one of the airlines, etc.

I applied under this independent option and found it to be much simpler than I anticipated. I applied online, scheduled an interview, and voila! I received my known traveler number in the mail about a week later. I’ve been flying through security ever since (smile).

Pre-check entitles you to a special line, which is normally much shorter and quicker. Generally, you don’t have to remove your shoes, laptop, liquids, etc. like you would in the regular security line. I say generally because most of the smaller airports I’ve been through have asked that I remove my laptop and liquids. I haven’t quite figured out the discrepancy, but given all of the other perks I see no reason to protest.

Now that I’ve experienced the benefits of TSA Pre-check firsthand, I’ve been thinking more about enrolling in the Global Entry Program. This program allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low risk travelers upon arrival into the U.S. (Kind of like the pre-check program for the customs line.) You complete the entry process through kiosks instead of the standard customs passport check lines.

From what I gather, signing up for this program is very similar to the TSA Pre-check program. The only complaints I’ve heard relate to finding a nearby Global Entry Enrollment Center, although it appears that most major cities/airports have one. The application fee is $100 vs. the Pre-check $85, but that’s not a hugely significant difference. Given my upcoming travel plans and success with the Pre-check program, I think it’s high time to get on that application!

For both programs, you cannot have been convicted of any criminal offenses, have pending criminal charges, or outstanding warrants. For the Global Entry Program, you must have a valid U.S. passport or permanent resident card; although the program is also available to citizens of a select group of countries through their own qualifying programs. It is also important to note that each program is member specific, so your traveling companions will need to be enrolled in the same program to enjoy the same benefits (the exception to this is that TSA Pre-check will allow children to go through with parents). There are a number of additional requirements for each program that you should read carefully before applying. Both programs are valid for 5 years and may be renewed.

airport terminal

A few people I’ve talked to about these programs have expressed reluctance to give the government any additional personal information/opportunities to play “big brother”/etc. My thoughts are along these lines – if you buy a plane ticket, they already know who you are and where you’re going. If you have a drivers license or passport, they already have that information too. In fact, it’s because they have that information that you can apply to be a “low risk traveler.” If you’re going anyway, and you qualify, why not make it easier on yourself?

I must admit that I’ve debated this post because encouraging others potentially erases that whole “short line” scenario, but in the end that’s selfish reasoning (smile). For anyone who has been on the fence about these options, I strongly encourage you to go for it – it’s totally worth the effort!

10 Alternative Careers for JDs

justice scale clip artI’ve been thinking a lot lately about career choices, especially all the different career paths available for my educational background and experience. Until I went to law school, I had never thought much about alternatives to traditional legal practice. Then I met others who were actually subjecting themselves to law school with no intentions of practicing or even being admitted to a bar! It blew my mind to think of all that hard work without the end “prestige.” Of course now I can look back and smile at my naiveté. It was those people who gave me hope after I hit the real world and realized I didn’t want to be a practicing lawyer. I was lucky enough to fall into environmental consulting, but there’s a whole world of other options out there!

Last month I went over the top reasons NOT to go to law school. This month I wanted to focus on alternative career options for those who survived law school only to discover that the traditional legal field just isn’t for them. So here are my top 10 suggestions (based solely on my opinion):

  1. Academics. Whether you wish to teach law or at a collegiate or K-12 level, academics is a very viable (and popular) option. Law professors, much like college professors, spend a great deal of time teaching (obviously) but also conducting research and writing articles on various aspects of the law.
  2. Agent – sports, entertainment, real estate, etc. My law school had a reputation for sports and entertainment law. Students in that area were generally the ones in law school for the knowledge (with no intention of sitting for a bar exam). Those negotiation and contract skills really help out when it comes time to bring in those endorsement deals! Commercial real estate also seems to be especially popular given all the different laws and regulations in that area. Any of these would certainly put those hours of studying for contracts to good use! (smile)
  3. Banking/finance. If you prefer to stick to working with the money rather than statutes, that law degree can still prove useful, especially when advising clients. Areas such as estates, tax, and small business are popular options.
  4. Compliance. Compliance professionals can be found in almost all industries, but especially health care, technology, insurance, etc. These guys make sure that business flows in accordance with laws and regulations.
  5. HR management. There’s an increasing desire for individuals capable of hiring employees and implementing policies and procedures to enhance work environments. These positions also involve a degree of #4, as the rules and regulations for businesses are constantly evolving.
  6. Government. Several of my classmates and friends have taken government positions as officers in the Foreign Service, asylum or refugee officers in Citizenship and Immigration Services, or policy advisors in one of the other departments. The FBI, CIA, and other enforcement agencies are also popular options. All of these positions fully utilize the skills inherent with a law degree, without requiring you to actually practice.
  7. Journalism/writing. Legal journalism has become popular these days thanks to an increasing interest in high profile cases. There’s even a network devoted to the cause (TruTV, which used to be CourtTV)! But if you find it’s not your thing, consider writing instead – just channel your inner John Grisham. (smile)
  8. Law librarian. Chances are you spent a good amount of law school becoming very familiar with the library. Law librarians maintain the library’s collection of texts and materials as well as assisting lawyers, professors, and students with their research. I actually knew a girl in my class who took this option and loves her job; although I do believe there was some additional training involved.
  9. Politician/lobbyist. Law school does give you a very insider perspective as to how our government works. You begin to understand how an idea comes together to form a law as well as the ramifications from that law – especially if it’s not well written. This is invaluable knowledge for someone running for office or lobbying for particular issues. Politicians make the rules. Lobbyists are often employed by public interest groups, trade organizations, and PR firms to utilize contacts with lawmakers to push certain policies. Lobbyists, like politicians, must be well versed on the issues and possess excellent communication skills, which shouldn’t be a problem for most lawyers.
  10. Consultant. And last on the list, my own choice – consulting. I chose environmental consulting but these days there are consultants in most industries. These guys work with any number of statutes and apply them to their client’s needs. It’s a great way to practice your legal skills in a particular area in a broader way. For instance, I like environmental law but I don’t want to be tied to only water law. As a consultant, there are few environmental laws I haven’t had some exposure to at some point along the way, which certainly keeps things interesting!

This list is by no means comprehensive and I encourage anyone out there thinking about making a change to do your research! I fully understand how hard it is to let go of the idea of being a traditional lawyer, but with so many great options out there these days, there’s no excuse not to be doing something you love. And there’s certainly no shame in being happy!

Traveling Through Time(zones)

Carefree Sun Dial Arizona

Primitive clock (aka Sundial)

Living in Arizona, I’m really only affected by daylight savings time in relation to how it affects the phone calls in my life – personal and professional. You see, Arizona is one of the few places on earth that doesn’t observe this ritual. When I first moved here I thought I would hate that, but now it’s hard for me to understand why everyone continues to observe the time change!

Although Daylight savings time (DST) has only been in practice for about 100 years, the idea was conceived many years before. Ancient civilizations are known to have engaged in a similar practice where they would adjust their daily schedules to the sun’s schedule. DST was officially proposed in 1895 by New Zealander George Vernon Hudson; Germany was the first to organize implementation in 1916. Early proponents of the practice aimed to prolong hours of daylight and reduce the use of artificial lighting in the evening. Given the changes in the use of electricity in modern times, the continuation of DST is the subject of great debate.

What does this all have to do with traveling? Well, it’s particularly difficult when traveling across time zones during that appointed mysterious moment when time shifts. For example, being in New Orleans for a long weekend and realizing you’ll have one hour less to spend in questionable pursuits. Then coming back two hours from a trip one hour forward. It’s all very confusing! And it also aggravates a condition we all know and love – jet lag. So here are a few tips and tricks for traveling across time zones – and hopefully avoiding some of the ill effects of jet lag!

time zone clocks

So many time zones…

Do some research ahead of time. These days most people use their phones for clocks and most phones will automatically adjust for a change in time zone. However, this is not always the case.  Use an app or do some research online and make note of the time difference between where you are and where you’re going. Then set a good old-fashioned watch accordingly. Also, make special note of where one time zone changes into another. This is particularly useful in avoiding “uh oh” moments when traveling across states or countries that are in two (or more) different time zones.

Remember DST. If you’re traveling near a time switch, it’s a good idea to check dates and take note if it happens in the course of a trip. A little research ahead of time can really save some panic when trying to catch a bus out of the middle of the Ecuadorian jungle for example (not that I would know anything about that). Also keep in mind that not all locations observe DST.

Pace your sleep. I usually set my watch for the destination time zone ahead of time and try to plan any sleep/naps accordingly. The sooner you start adjusting your schedule to the new time zone, the easier it is to trick your body into believing it should be operating on the new schedule.

Use light to your advantage. Our bodies are naturally / primitively aligned with light. Exposing yourself to sunlight – or lack thereof – immediately upon arrival can help reset your body’s internal clock.

Be kind to yourself. No matter what, mistakes happen. If you miss out on an opportunity because of a time mishap, try to remember that it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Likewise, be sure to drink plenty of water, exercise, pace yourself, etc. when changing time zones. Sometimes it just takes our bodies a little longer to catch up to our brains clocks.

Do you have any tips for traveling across time zones / avoiding jet lag??

Travel Tuesday: Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel

Happy Travel Tuesday everyone! I was just thinking over the weekend that holidays are always fun times for travels. At least they can be fun, given the proper planning and attitude. I mean, it is prime people watching time! Over the years, and through much trial and error, I’ve found found a few tricks that always help me out. As we head into the busiest travel days of this holiday season, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you guys!

flying airplane wing through the clouds

Stay connected. Luckily there are all sorts of travel apps available these days. From traffic alerts to flight trackers, there seems to be an app for tracking just about any method of transportation! Do some research before your trip to find the one(s) you’re most comfortable with.

On a similar note, make sure you have a list of pertinent phone numbers – hotels, airlines, family, etc. – so you can keep everyone on the other end updated on your progress as well!



Pack snacks and bring water. Hangry is real folks. And it’s a condition that hurts everyone. Pack a few fun snacks for the road for just-in-case situations. If you really want to be nice to your fellow passengers, consider the odor of the food you’re bringing along as well – not everyone is a fan of strange smells!

Likewise, be sure to stay hydrated. If you’re in a car this is straightforward enough, but airports are a bit more challenging thanks to security. I always bring an empty bottle with me and fill it up on the other side A lot of airports these days have special bottle refill stations at the water fountains just for this purpose. A little piece of advice, if you put your empty bottle in the tray outside of your bag, it’ll save TSA and you a lot of trouble when it goes through the machine!

Bring entertainment/headphones. Books, movies, music – pack whatever you need to keep yourself occupied for the duration. Sometimes it really helps the attitude to have a safe activity to retreat into. And don’t forget those headphones! Even if you don’t think you’ll need them, it’s better safe than sorry.

Ilona Andrews, Clean Sweep, book review

Vehicle maintenance. There are few things worse than having car troubles on a trip. While some things are simply unpredictable, having your vehicle serviced prior to the big road trip can at least give you some peace of mind.

Plan your route ahead of time. Then plan route alternatives, just in case. You never know what you’ll find out there on the open road, so it doesn’t hurt to know your options. I also keep a paper map in the car with me just in case I end up somewhere even Google maps can’t follow. (Yes, apparently that is still possible…)

Bring a phone charger. I always charge my phone before I leave, but if I encounter delays, etc. then it’s nice to know I can re-charge. If I’m driving I keep an adapter for my car and if I’m flying I make sure to keep the charger in my carry-on bag. I know this all sounds like a no brainer, but I had to learn it all the hard way!

Ship gifts/buy gift cards. Every year I seem to encounter this issue. I find these really neat gifts and this really pretty paper but then face the ship or unwrap at security situation. I usually succumb to the lure of the shiny paper just ship them all ahead, which also saves space and weight (double win – smile). Of course gift cards are always a fun/easy option. They travel well – either with me or through email – and who doesn’t love a pick-your-own opportunity?

Pack light. This is also something I struggle with every year. Since I’m usually leaving the desert for colder climates, it’s always hard for me to judge exactly what to pack; so I overcompensate. I have improved over time, but it’s been a process. That said, the benefits of being able to navigate my luggage myself and to even occasionally save on checked bag fees make that process totally worthwhile!

Arrive early. It’s worth missing a little sleep to save a lot of worry. If there’s a huge line, you have time and if there’s not, then you have Starbucks (smile).

Soft Kitty always works :)

Soft Kitty always works 🙂

Breathe/be nice. Possibly the most important piece of advice on this list – and somewhat of a mantra for myself this time of year. If you’ve planned ahead, there (hopefully) should be no reason to be in any big hurries. Try to pause, take a deep breath, and remember that we’re all in this together. Someone else’s lack of courtesy should be an encouragement to balance that out with kindness, not to battle it out to the lowest possible levels. In the end a few minutes here or there rarely makes a difference in the destination, but it can make a huge impact on someone else.

What are your travel tips for surviving holiday travel??

Come join Bonnie and her co-hosts Courtney, Cynthia, and Yalanda for more fun adventures!!

Travel Tuesday