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





Confounded Anxiety

Please note that this is my personal story about dealing with mental health issues. All opinions are my own and unique to my story. Everyone and every situation is unique; as such treatment options vary and one should not be considered superior to the other in any way. Help is help. Help is good.

Irish coast

Off and on throughout my life I’ve dealt with depression. It came and went and came again depending on the circumstances of my life. Once in a while I would get anxious, but it was situation-dependent – a big test, a presentation, a difficult conversation, etc.  It was “normal.”

In law school, I began having panic attacks. These were stress-induced and given my life circumstances at the time, considered, if not normal, then not surprising. It was the first time I ever received medication treatment for my depression, and it was such a relief! I had resisted drug therapy for so long due to the social and familial stigma associated with such treatment. For the first time in my life, it occurred to me that no one needed to know – simple as that. It was one of the best decisions I made during that time period in my life.

After graduation, I moved out to Arizona and re-booted my life. The change of scenery seemed to be exactly what I needed and for several years I was fine, “normal” in my ups and downs. Then, as seems to happen, a series of unfortunate events occurred and I found myself back at the doctor’s office. Only this time it wasn’t only for depression. Anxiety had crept into my daily life like a thief, stealing all joy and hope. I could counter any positive thought with ten “what-ifs” or “buts.” In an effort to hide my suffering and to spare others my negativity, I also hid my thoughts. I would smile as friends tried to put a positive spin on a situation. I’d even go so far as to agree, to say the words they needed to hear to think I was alright. Every time I did this I robbed myself of comfort and my friends of the truth – I became a thief in my own right and to my own detriment.

By the time I sought professional help, I was having anxiety attacks. I find them to be subtly different from panic attacks, mainly in that I could see the former building while the latter generally took me by surprise. The same chest-crushing, end-of-the-world feelings were present for both.

I returned to my anti-depressants as if reuniting an old friend. The effect was profound and comforting. I discussed several options with my doctor for treating my anxiety and after much trial and error we finally determined an as-needed prescription would be my best option. The side effects of anti-anxiety medication can be overwhelming; in my case most drugs I tried were worse than dealing with the anxiety itself. Reading about the different options was discouraging to say the least – most anti-anxiety drugs also seemed to double as treatment for other illnesses;  few seemed made for the express purpose of treating anxiety.

Around this same time, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Doctors still don’t understand what causes fibromyalgia, but the consensus seems to think it’s normally triggered by a severe illness, a physical trauma (car accident, etc.), or prolonged exposure to severe stress. I fell solidly into the third category. My experience with FM is for another post, but I will say that the anger I felt about it all wasn’t helpful. I couldn’t help but think it was my own fault for landing myself in all of this – the choices I made led to these consequences. There was no one else to blame, so I took it all upon myself. Luckily, I was already seeking treatment for depression when this occurred or I shudder to think what might have happened.

I bring up fibromyalgia because it slots in so snugly with my mental health issues – does depression and anxiety cause FM or does FM cause depression and anxiety? It’s very much a chicken/egg sort of thing, which can make treatment tricky. The drugs for FM weren’t much better than the anti-anxiety options (in my opinion), so I decided to look into holistic options. Fortunately, I had a doctor who was open to that and helped me work through the various options. We finally settled on a holistic treatment plan that was best for me with very satisfactory results. The added benefit is that the treatment options selected also helped greatly with my anxiety – talk about a win/win!

It’s been decided that I will likely stay on my current anti-depressant indefinitely (or so long as it continues working). It treats the depression effectively and also seems to assist with some of the FM symptoms. Unfortunately, it can also cause anxiety to worsen. To combat that I do have an as-needed option to use in those situations where necessary. Otherwise, I try to take a very holistic approach to treatment. Most days this works really well, other days it doesn’t seem to help at all. You win some, you lose some.

What mostly frustrates me these days is the timing of it all – if I’m really excited about something such as an event or a trip, I can almost guarantee anxiety will swoop in to steal at least some of the joy. If it’s a concert, the crowds bother me. If it’s travel, it might be turbulence or a creepy person following me or lost luggage, etc. (basically all the parts of travel that make it an adventure). Most of the time I can foresee this and I try to maintain a mental grip. I have to work a little harder to find joy in the activity, but I do. I refuse to let the thief get everything. But again, I’m not always successful; sometimes anxiety wins. Dealing with that disappointment, learning not to blame myself when this happens, these are my new challenges. I know that I have other options to treat the anxiety. Treating myself with grace and kindness, however, is something I must learn to do for myself. There is no drug for self-love.

I share my story today in hopes that it might somehow benefit others. The attitudes about mental illness are a huge part of the problem and need to change. I can no more control my depression or anxiety than I could a cold or flu. I can, however, seek medical attention to help just the same. If we can accept treatment for one without stigma, then why not the other?

In the last year or so I’ve really tried to open up and share my experiences with my friends. It was so incredibly uncomfortable at first, but now it’s just another part of our conversation. I didn’t let it become a big deal and after a while, my friends realized it didn’t need to be. It’s opened up another level of conversation to us – it allows both sides the freedom to discuss parts of our life that we might otherwise keep hidden. It’s a safe space between us, which I have found to be invaluable, particularly on the bad days. I would like this blog to likewise be a safe space – for me to include my struggles in the conversation, but also for anyone else who might need to share in the comfort of knowing they are not alone.

You are not alone.


Life Lately: Birthday Edition

If I had to choose one word to describe life the last month, I’d probably go with hectic. I feel like I haven’t had time to breathe over the last six weeks and while some of that is self-inflicted, a lot of it has been beyond my control. It’s definitely been a push/pull, love/hate vibe. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to make some amazing memories though, so I’d say that overall the good outweighs the bad. (smile)


The Morocco trip was amazing. Fabulous. Perspective-changing even. I learned a bit about photography, got to see and experience an amazing country, and (perhaps most importantly) remembered a few key things about myself. Namely, that I am always happiest when I’m out of my bubble. And really, isn’t that the best kind of trip?? I’ve been posting a few teaser photos here and there, but I will definitely be sharing more soon!

I had just enough time to re-adjust my time zones before my dad and grandma flew out for a long weekend. I was so excited that they were able to come out and explore! The Grand Canyon has been on Gran’s bucket list as long as I can remember, so to be able to take her there and see her face as she first walked up to the edge is a memory I will treasure forever. We had a busy few days, but I hope think know she had a great time. I will admit, though, that I was more tired after that adventure than Morocco. Keeping up manners around grandma is hard work! Just goes to show that I’ve become a total heathen I guess. (smile)

Marrakesh Morocco

Work has gotten so busy! I believe there was a time a few months ago when I was complaining about not being busy enough… I hope this is a good reminder to my future self to not jinx such things! It is nice to be busy again, but of course it comes right when I have other avenues I’d prefer to explore. That’s life I suppose… It just means I have less time with my Kindle and more time with the laptop!

Sedona, Arizona

Looking at my calendar the other day, I realized that it’s not reasonable to think about coming back to this space in any meaningful way this year (aka the next 6 weeks or so!!!). I think it’s better if I just continue on casually for a bit and come back with a fresh perspective in the new year. I’ve kind of enjoyed being a bit sporadic in my posting truthfully, but there’s also something to be said for a schedule! I am a land of contrasts. Ha.

Speaking of contrasts, the weather in Phoenix has finally reached perfection. This time of year is the reason I enjoy living here – it’s absolutely gorgeous! (Not to brag or anything…) I’ve been on a hiking kick lately and have really enjoyed marking a few peaks off my list. I recently discovered that Phoenix has an annual Summit Challenge and I’m hoping to participate next year (if I’m still here!). The idea is to climb a certain number of the local summits all in one day – so time to get training!

I’ve also been taking a lot of photos the past few months. I haven’t ever really considered a full time career in photography, but lately I feel it shaping into something more than recreational therapy. I started a shop of sorts, which has been fun, but I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to really make it more than a random page. I’m really excited to work with that space more as I try to figure out where all this is headed. No matter what, I want to keep it fun though – photography has been such a positive activity for me, I definitely want that to remain it’s priority.

In other news, today’s my birthday! It does not seem like it’s been a year already… People really weren’t kidding when they said time seems to speed up as you get older! I like to think I’ll get the hang of this adult-ing thing eventually. In the meantime, I’m breaking out the bike to pedal over to my birthday brunch and bottomless mimosas. Adult-ing can wait another day. 😉



Havasupai Falls, Arizona

Way back in April, my friend and I scheduled camping space at Havasu Falls for September (it’s a popular spot). However, my friend, being rather tenacious, called just in time to pick up a canceled reservation over the 4th of July weekend. Cue loud cheering followed by a few expletives when we realized that left us just over a week to prepare. Oh boy…

We all scrambled around gathering camping gear borrow, rent, or buy until we had a reasonable assimilation of equipment and food for 3 days in a canyon. We knew that there was an option to have our packs taken in, but we didn’t really take it seriously until the night before – way too late to book a pack horse. Plus, you know, animal ethics and all that. Besides, we were all in decent shape, it was only a 10-mile hike, it couldn’t be that bad…right??

Havasupai Indian Tribe, Havasupai Falls, Havasu Creek, trail, canyon

View from the trailhead

A few facts:

  • The famous waterfalls are located on the Havasupai Indian Reservation and thus they are generally known as “Havasupai Falls.” Havasupai means “people of the blue green water.”
  • Supai Village, located within Havasu Canyon (a large tributary on the south side of the Grand Canyon) is not accessible yet by road.
  • The trail into Supai begins at Hualapai Hilltop. From the trailhead to Supai Village is 8 miles (one way). From Supai Village to the actual campground is an additional 2 miles (one way).
  • Visitors can carry their supplies in with them or hire one of the pack animals that make the trek. There is also a helicopter option available certain days of the week that will take you and your bags in and out.

So yeah, 10-mile hike with a 20-pound backpack (plus camera bag because duh!). No big deal. The first 2 miles of the hike into the canyon are a series of steadily descending switchbacks. The next 6 miles meander through some awesome canyon scenery and weren’t really all that bad. But oh man, that last 2 miles between Supai Village and the campground – we unanimously agreed it had to be a living level from Dante’s Inferno! It’s literally up and down and up again in sand, as in beach sand. Ugh.

We were all struggling at this point for our own reasons – one had a pack that was too heavy; one was an inexperienced hiker; and I…I had forgotten my knee brace. You see, I have a tricky right knee thanks to an old injury. It flares up from time to time but generally can be controlled with a brace and care. But in my excitement for the journey, I’d forgotten both. Rookie mistake. The discomfort started around the half-way point and the last 2 miles of sand totally did me in. Luckily I had remembered to bring hiking poles and ibuprofen…

After we finally found a spot to pitch our tents and had lunch, we all felt a bit better and ready to explore. We also unanimously agreed we wouldn’t be carrying those packs back out! So the next day it was back up to the Village to book pack animals. Worth.Every.Penny. And we made sure to give the horses a few apples we had leftover, so there’s some small token to assuage our guilt. [Note: There are mixed views on the pack animals here. Some people report seeing atrocious standards of care, but we didn’t witness that on this trip. It’s still something to be aware of though.]

When it came time to walk back out again, I truly didn’t think I could do it. But the helicopters were on a medi-vac mission and there was no guarantee of getting out that way, so I sucked it up. According to my trust FitBit, we walked well over 30 miles that weekend. And a month later I am still in physical therapy….Let’s just consider it a lesson learned the painful way! (smile)

So, was it worth it? Absolutely. We all learned a lot on that trip, about backpacking, camping, and our individual levels of endurance. But the waterfalls…oh the waterfalls were gorgeous! (smile) Of course, as my luck would have it, we went in after a prolonged period of rain so those normally pristine turquoise waters were pretty brown. They cleared up over the weekend, but I’ll definitely be going back to see them in their full glory! I mean just consider – these were taken on a “bad day”…

Havasu Falls

Havasupai Indian Tribe, Havasupai Falls, Havasu Creek, Havasu Falls

Perhaps the best known – Havasu Falls

Mooney Falls

Havasupai Indian Tribe, Havasupai Falls, Havasu Creek, Havasu Falls

My favorite – Mooney Falls

Little Navajo Falls

Havasupai Indian Tribe, Havasupai Falls, Havasu Creek, Little Navajo Falls

Little Navajo Falls

Reservations & Fees

Reservations are best done well in advance. Call the tribe to determine availability and to book.

Fees: Payments are taken at the visitor’s check-in at Supai Village. Cash and major credit cards are accepted.

  • Environmental care fee – $5 per person
  • Entry fee – $35 per person + tax
  • Campground – $17 per person, per night + tax
  • Lodge – $145 for up to 4 people + tax (rates subject to change)
  • Helicopter – Fees vary and tickets are issued on a first come, first served basis. (My quote was $85 for me and my bag to ride out of the canyon). Note: tribal members are given priority when boarding.
  • Horses – $75 (one way) – $150 (round trip) + tax. Note: One horse carried four bags, so it was whatever amount split 4 ways. Extra tags are a hot commodity around the campground, so ask around if you have an extra.

Tips & Tricks

  • Weather: The weather in northern Arizona is strangely unpredictable compared to the eternal sunshine of the lower 2/3rds of the state. Pay close attention to the weather predictions. As you are walking through a canyon with the occasional wash, the trail is occasionally closed due to flooding. There’s also not a lot of “high ground” in the camping area, so be aware of that when picking a spot – especially if there’s rain in the forecast. Another thing to note, especially if you’re planning a trip in warmer months is that it will actually be much warmer at the bottom of the canyon than at the top. All that air gets trapped down there and it can quickly catch up to you, especially if you aren’t expecting it. And finally, START EARLY. By early I mean before sunrise – trust me on this one.
  • Packing: Pack as lightly as possible. You’ll likely only need about half of what you think you do. If you are an inexperienced backpacker, there is no shame in going with alternative options for getting your bags down and up again. For clothing I suggest you bring layers, a swimsuit, good hiking shoes, and camp sandals/water shoes. Flip flops are okay, but not ideal. Other considerations – a good hat, sunscreen, first aid kit (your feet will thank you), and a head lamp (for those early starts).
  • Water & Food: Notice that water comes first here. No matter what time of year you go, you need to take plenty of water. Take way more than you think you’ll need and surprise yourself. We also took some electrolyte chews, which were lifesavers at some points. I think we did really well on food – plenty of protein and super filling foods. Don’t hesitate to get creative! There’s a fresh water station in Supai Village and a fresh water spring at the campground. Water tasted great at both!
  • Camping: There is a lodge located in Supai Village. They’re basic accommodations, but they’re there. (You still have to get through the sandy hell to get to the falls though…) The campground is an oasis of cottonwood trees along Havasu Creek. There are no assigned spots; you just pitch a tent wherever you find a good spot. We noticed that a lot of people just brought hammocks, which was brilliant. They’re lighter to carry, cooler to sleep in,  and there were plenty of trees that seemed made for that purpose. Something to consider for sure.
  • Guide: There are plenty of guided tours on offer. I strongly recommend trolling TripAdvisor reviews for further info – I mean this post (as long as it is) barely even scratches the surface! A good guide book would also probably come in handy.
  • Other: Several people brought blow up floats for hanging out in the water. Not sure I saw the necessity, but should you be so inclined… The reservation is alcohol free, so take note. A wide angle camera lens is your friend – everything is on a monumental scale. There is a cafeteria and store in the Village, but supplies there are pretty basic.
  • Attitude: And finally, take a good attitude. There were so many things that went awry on our impromptu hike, but we didn’t let it get us down. You’re doing something amazing – enjoy every minute! (smile)


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 🙂 )

Weekly Photo Challenge: Painted Walls

urban art, wall murals, graffiti

urban art, wall murals, graffiti

Several years ago, my friend and I took a daring chance and moved to downtown Phoenix. She liked to say we were “urban hipsters.” I believe the more common slang at the time was “ghetto snobs.” Tomat-o, tomahto, right? It doesn’t matter really, all we cared about was having a good time and exploring our ‘hood. During that time, downtown was in transition from “slightly scary” to “place to be.” When we first moved in, everything shut down at 7pm with the exception of a few nightclubs (or on game nights – both the pro baseball and basketball teams are down there). Fast forward a few years and suddenly all the newest, trendy bars and restaurants were within easy walking distance of our little casa.

It was a hard decision to leave the area, but she followed a guy to California and I couldn’t quite afford the prices in the renewed area (go figure). I’ve lived all over the valley, but downtown is still my favorite place to be. Luckily, I don’t live that far away now so I can visit fairly often. These days the trendy just keeps trending and it’s almost hard to recognize our old neighborhood. Walls that were once covered in graffiti now feature “urban art.” Old houses that made you pick up your step before are now the places to go for organic coffee, vegan treats, and hot boutiques. It’s amazing how so much can change in so little time! I admit that sometimes I do miss the downtown I knew, but I can’t help but be happy for this little piece of the big, bad city. It deserves all the attention and pretty outdoor artwork it can get. (smile)

This week’s photo challenge is “wall.”

This post is also Day 2 of the 5 day challenge. I’m tagging Ruth at Mad Meandering Me to join the fun! If you would like to participate, post a photo every day for five days and write a story to go along with each photo. Your stories can be fiction or non-fiction; short paragraphs, multiple pages, or poems. Each day, please invite one person to carry on the challenge. The challenge is not mandatory and can be refused, but I hope you accept and have fun!

Reasons NOT To Go To Law School

Inns of Court

When I was just a kid my family (my mom especially) liked to tell me that I should be a lawyer because I liked to argue so much. Not knowing any better I took their advice to heart and determined that I would go to law school. I did everything I could to make that dream happen – it influenced my extracurricular activities, my school decisions, and to some degree even my relationships/social life. I just knew that I was meant to be an attorney.

So imagine my surprise when I realized during my senior year of college that I didn’t really want to go to law school! My gut told me to go to grad school instead and study something I was passionate about. But after 20 +/- years of working towards law school, I couldn’t just walk away. The idea of disappointing my family like that was unbearable, so I decided instead to go forward with the original plan and just make the best of it. I knew by the end of the first semester it was a mistake, but stubbornness runs deep in my family. (smile)

I learned a lot in law school – about the law of course, but also about society, my peers, and myself – things better left to another post perhaps. For this post I want to share the top reasons not to go to law school. These are a combination of my own experience and a few colleagues who were nice enough to contribute to the cause – consider them words of wisdom we all wish someone would’ve told us before we enrolled.

Without A Doubt Book Cover

Anyone remember that O.J. trial? (This is a great book btw)

I want to be rich and/or famous

Oh don’t we all? Especially when we’re young and think being rich and famous would solve all of our problems. The truth is, the majority of attorneys do make good money. But they work hard for that money – 50+ hours a week, living life in 6 minute billing increments. Of course most of us also have student loans to pay back so… The rich and famous attorneys are far and few between. Sure one case can make you, but chances are someone had to be really hurt to get you that case, so it’s a bit of a catch 22 when wishing for action. If you’re in it for the justice, well then, the money shouldn’t matter so much, huh? And P.S., there is no justice in the justice system. It really is all about the better attorney – no pressure though!

My family/friends/etc. want me to be a lawyer…

Most of my immediate family didn’t make it past high school, so they were all very encouraging when it came to higher education (which I appreciate very, very much). I think my mom felt like my going to law school would somehow give her an affirmation of being a good parent, of getting me through the “rebellious years.” The others were a mix of wanting a secure future for me and getting free legal advice. But here’s the thing, your family/friends/whomever aren’t the ones who have to do all of the work. These are your choices that you are making for your life. You’ll be the one who has to keep up the grades, pick the right major, and then survive law school – not them. And you will be the one who practices law every day and sees the realities behind the profession.

I’ve always thought that being a lawyer was like being an inactive law enforcement officer. There are some truly good days that make it all worthwhile, but you also see people in all their not-so-glorious humanity as well. There are so many rules to follow, so many politics to maneuver, it’s really no wonder that alcoholism runs rampant amongst attorneys. (And no, I am not saying you’ll become an alcoholic because you are an attorney, I’m just saying it’s a prevalent pitfall of the profession.)

Blind justice clip art

Blind Justice indeed

I love to argue – and win…

Congratulations! I’m sure your friends love carrying on conversations with you…*ahem* Let me tell you something now that I didn’t realize until it was way too late – you get further by persuading people than by arguing with them. And persuading is exactly what lawyers do. It’s never really an argument so much as (at best) a heated debate. If you’re arguing, you’re on the defensive and perhaps missing a key opportunity to present your side of the story. Oh and you will lose sometimes won’t always get everything you want/ask for. The final decision is almost never up to you – that lies in the hands of your clients or a judge. Sometimes they’re capable of appreciating the finer nuances of the situation, but oftentimes it all just depends on a mood or even a bias. Nobody’s perfect. And when you lose don’t get exactly what you were hoping for, there may or may not be ways to appeal the decision – either way it will be steeped in rules that oftentimes take the wind right out of those puffy red cheeks. Maybe you should consider being a political commentator instead?

I don’t know what else to do…

Look into other grad school options, join the peace corps, take the first interesting job you come across, explore your options!! You can always go to law school later. In fact, I often wonder if I would have done better with a more mature perspective. Law school can be an expensive and stressful gamble if you aren’t 100% dedicated to the cause. Explore your reasoning for thinking about law in the first place – is it on this list? (If so, reevaluate!) Would you rather be more active – perhaps a cop, a forensic scientist, or an FBI agent (my dream long ago) would be a better option? Do you want to bring about justice and change in the world? Try joining a non-profit in another capacity first. If you really enjoy it and feel like a law degree would be helpful, that knowledge will help you better focus your studies and graduate with a much better sense of direction. Law school is a life changing journey, much more so than an undergrad degree. You owe it to yourself – and your potential future clients – to choose the option truest to yourself and your own happiness. I can promise you that personal happiness will go a long way in building a successful career. (smile)

Graduation photo

I promise I was happier than I appear in this photo!


Sunday Photo: Dream or Not???

My brother and I have been on a mission for the past year or so to scan all of the family photos, papers, and other worthwhile odds and ends. He scans, I sort (I feel I may have gotten the wrong end of this deal somehow). I thought we were making good progress until I found the storage tub full of photos on my last trip home…yeah. Anyway, while I was sorting through the latest round of scans I found this photo – clear evidence that this macabre interest of mine in cemeteries and supernatural goes back further than I realized!

Fifth grade poetry

From the local paper (I blame them for the “misprint”)