Saving for Travel – April Spending Freeze

I am terrible at saving money. Really, really terrible. I put money into savings yet somehow it always manages to find its way back into my checking as the balance dips close to zero.

Needless to say, that is a bad habit and, with all of this travel coming up, it’s a habit that can’t continue. I can’t get by throwing a few bucks into savings here and there – if I’m going to Guatemala, saving for travel needs to be my #1 priority.

I’m working on increasing my income which will play a major role in all of the saving I need to do but the truth is, I spend a lot of money on a lot of stupid shit and I usually don’t even realize it. I always think I’m doing great and not spending money but A.) I always find a reason I need to “reward” myself and B.) I’m an impulse shopper. I don’t buy anything expensive but all the $5 and $10 purchases add up by the end of the week.

My goal is to buy my plane ticket by end beginning of May so to aid in that, I am imposing an April Spending Freeze to save money for travel.

In April, I will make no unnecessary purchases.

I’ve broken this down into several categories.

1.) Eating Out. In April, I will not eat out at all. It doesn’t matter how hungry or bored I am – I am only eating at home, even if it means eating Ramen. (Also, minus the Ramen, this is better for my health too!)

2.) Groceries. I probably spend more money on food than any 19 year old should. Obviously I need food and I’m certainly not starving myself this month. However, I am cutting back – I’m going to make it a point to be conscious of what I am purchasing, ditch the expensive snacks, and find recipes that call for fewer or cheaper ingredients.

3.) Clothes/Beauty Items. Summer is coming. My clothes are falling apart. I reallllly want to look good this summer. But, April is not the month for this to happen. I need to remind myself that no matter how cute everything in the store is, it’s not realistic for me to purchase a big new wardrobe anyway because in a few months I will be living out of a backpack and all those cute outfits won’t do me much good. Neither will expensive make-up or whatever else I “need”. The exception to this is hair dye as my hair is two different colors and I look like a zebra right now.

4.) Everything else. There will always be something I can justify buying. I need this for my business or this to help with this project or blahblahblah. Yes, a lot of things can make my life easier. But my focus is on work and saving for travel right now – even though these things can improve another factor of my life, they can wait.

Of course, there are some things I need to spend money on – gas for my car is my biggest expense, along with food (as mentioned above) and my car insurance. There are also a few random things that I do need to purchase and I’ve written them down – once they are purchased, that’s it. My money is officially for my car, food, and travel.

I’m actually pretty exciting about this – it’ll be a good test of my self-control and also force me to prove exactly how much travel means to me as I’m passing up Starbucks for the 5th time this week. I can only imagine how it’s going to feel when I purchase my plane ticket!

How do you save for travel? Have you ever done a spending freeze for any reason before?

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The Return to Guatemala – Take Two

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably know about the exciting news I’ve been jumping around about.  If you haven’t, well….I’m going back to Guatemala!

Yes. Finally, after 2 years, I am returning to the country that stole my heart, that has had a piece of my heart every day since I first stepped off the plane 3 years ago.  Guatemala is my “home”, the place I am in love with more than anywhere else and the thought of returning makes my heart race.

Honestly, this trip was unexpected. I’ve been dreaming of returning since I left and though I’ve made multiple plans to return, something always came up. I briefly considered fitting in a trip this summer but with all of my fall plans (!!! details soon!), it just didn’t seem realistic to fit it in.

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But, a few weeks ago, I went out to dinner with one of my high school trip leaders who mentioned she was heading back to Guatemala this summer, along with the other teacher who was leading a church group. Before I knew it a rash “I want to go too!” turned into real plans.

In July, I’ll be heading to Guatemala for 3 weeks. This is made even more exciting because A.) That’s far longer than I’ve ever spent in the country and B.) even though I will be meeting up with the others in Joyabaj, I’ll be on my own for most of the trip, essentially making this my first solo international trip.

I haven’t completely figured out my itinerary for the trip – right now I’m thinking I will be spending a week in Xela visiting my Guatemalan sister and taking intensive Spanish classes and then head back to Joyabaj to visit my Guatemalan family and friends. After that…well, I think I might be a “real” backpacker and leave that up in the air for a while. There are so many choices…the towns surrounding Lake Atitlan, a trip to Tikal, Flores, Antigua, Panajachel…

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Regardless of where I end up, it will be fantastic to finally explore the country. Going by myself and not on a school trip is going to provide a completely different experience, one where I won’t have to worry about restrictions set by teachers or follow a schedule based on what everyone else wants to do. That’s a bit scary – in all reality, this will be my first “big” trip solo and though it’s a bit nervewracking, I’m excited to be able to prove to myself that I can be independent and do the things I love.

It was only yesterday that I realized how close July is – 4 short months and I’ll finally be home!

 

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New Year = New City

Remember how I decided my goal for this year was to be independent?

Well, just 9 days into the new year, I made my first Big Girl decision.

I packed up my car and moved to Pittsburgh.

This is my first time living with anyone other than my parents or grandparents, the first time I haven’t lived in the middle of nowhere, the first time I am completely responsible for myself.

And, quite honestly, this was probably the best decision I ever made.

The majority of my friends live in the general Pittsburgh area. I’m currently living with one. My two best friends are no longer 4 hours away – it will take me only an hour to go see them. The rest of my friends are at college but when they are home, I will no longer need to plan a big roadtrip to go see them. It will only be a short trip up the road.

More importantly, there are things to do here. More jobs available than ever possible back home. I don’t have to drive an hour to get to Walmart or the mall, it’s not going to take ten minutes to get to civilization. If I want to go spend the day in the city, I can do so easily. I’ve always wanted to live in the city and though Pittsburgh was never my dream city, it’s a great place to start.

I’ve been considering the move to Pittsburgh for quite some time, mostly because I wanted to get away and this was the most feasible place to move, but it was never really an option. I had ten thousand excuses as to why I needed to stay in my hometown.

It took everything that my hometown worth staying in falling apart to make me get the hell out of there. Within a week, I lost my two best friends there. Best friend break-ups are the worst and I was completely devastated. I took a week off from work and ran – to Pittsburgh, of course.

The perfect view of the city from Mt. Washington

The perfect view of the city from Mt. Washington

Before I left, I was talking to my boss and she said “Sky, why don’t you just move there? You’re 19, have few responsibilities, and you’re miserable here. If I were you, I’d be running the hell out of here.”

“Well, I want to but -” Suddenly every excuse I’d been using for the past year was no longer valid. There really was nothing holding me back. I called up a friend, asked if she knew anyone interested in renting a room, and bam, I had a place to stay.

It was less than a month between that decision and the day I moved. It was a little crazy, Once I made the decision, I knew it was the right one. There was nothing holding me back. I was ready.

I always said when I moved back to my hometown that I wasn’t going to stay. The plan had been to spend three months there working and then move to California. Yet, somehow, it took nearly two years for me to leave. I don’t regret the extra time I spent there – it was time that I needed to learn and grow and, for the first time ever, I had people around me that truly cared. But I’m a wanderer, I’m not supposed to stay anywhere forever and it was simply time for me to see what I am capable of doing on my own.

The move went flawlessly and though the first few days were a bit awkward, I adjusted quickly. I lined up two jobs within a week, both paying over minimum wage, and I can’t be more thankful for that. I am surrounded by people who love me, just as I was back home, and I honestly feel like it’s a healthy change for my relationships back home.

I’ve yet to make it into the city, thanks to all the snow, but I am excited to explore and get lost as soon as I possibly can. I’m getting involved in things that were not possible back home, meeting new people, and, overall, making significant changes in my life.

And, honestly?

It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

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Here’s to Independence

2013 was one hell of a year. It managed to hold some of my favorite memories and the absolute worst days of my life. I hate to lump an entire year under one label but well, I wasn’t too upset to ring in the new year.

I know that everyone says this but I am really, truly ready to make some changes in my life this year and all of those changes start with me. I have no resolutions but instead set goals and intentions in a bunch of categories that I’ll be sharing later.

I’ve also seen lots of people, including my favorite life coaches, setting a “word” for the year. I’ve never done this before but as I’m not setting resolutions and I so ready to make some changes, I thought it would be a good thing to do.

One of my favorite nights of 2013

One of my favorite nights of 2013

The word I chose to guide me in 2014 is Independent.

Independent. That’s something I haven’t been in a while. It used to be my favorite thing about myself. I worked to earn everything I had, worked even harder to be able to have all the experiences that shaped who I am. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, I completely lost my independence and sunk into a mode where I relied on others for nearly everything. And, let’s be honest – that’s a pretty easy habit to keep. When you’re coming up with excuses to not be your best self, blaming others become pretty easy.

 Not anymore.

This girl loved her independence

This girl loved her independence

I am declaring 2014 the year that I regain my independence, the year I start doing things for myself and begin to see what all I can do. I am taking control and full responsibility for everything that happens (or doesn’t happen) in my life. No one else is going to make me sink or swim. No one ever truly had that power, even when I was willingly handing it over.

I used to have big dreams and goals and you know what? I used to achieve them. I worked my ass off and I did the things I wanted to, got myself where I wanted to be. I ran a fundraiser that raised thousands for libraries, I worked 2 full-time jobs to save up for travel, I spent my nights writing anything and everything, just to get experience, I took 16 classes my senior year to be able to graduate an entire year early. I was proud of myself and my accomplishments.

And now? Not so much.

I want to be that girl again. I don’t know when I lost that love for independence, that pure passion for life, but it’s time to get that back. There are far too many things I want to do to let life pass by idly.

I am taking control again.

Do you set a word for each year? If, share yours below! I’d also love to hear about any resolutions you made.

 

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A Year from Now, I Want to Be Proud

I constantly feel like I’m moving nowhere fast, like none of the decisions I’m making are producing results and that results in a whole lot of unmotivation which then leads to me doing a whole lot of nothing. But the thing is, just because what I do today isn’t changing my life tomorrow doesn’t  mean that it won’t in the long run. And by the long run, I mean a year.

I was talking with a friend the other day about how much has changed in the past year. This time last year, I had just returned from California, where I had experienced homesickness for the first time in my life. I still had plans of going on grand adventures and heading to college. My best friend and I weren’t nearly as close as we were now, my other friend and I were barely on each other’s radar, I was talking to my parents, I was being a productive member of society, and I was doing things that affect my life now.

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I compare life last year to life right now and, well, to say it’s extremely different would be a severe understatement.

That realization brought me to another decision – one year from today, I want to be proud. Proud of the things I’ve accomplished and done, proud of the person I’ve become.

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You know how that’s not going to happen?

By sitting around, complaining how nothing is working, and doing nothing.

That’s my problem – I want results RIGHT NOW. I don’t want to wait a year for my businesses to pick up popularity, I don’t want to learn Spanish the hard way, I don’t want to put the effort into learning something new because none of that is going to get me anything right this second. I will still suck at all of those things and I want to be perfect, I want to be good. RIGHT NOW.

Obviously, that’s a problem. The things I’m doing today – writing blog posts, building a new website, doing squats and push-ups, spending an hour a day learning Spanish – might not drastically change my life today, I might not even notice a difference tomorrow.

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But one year from now, if I keep all of those things up, the difference of what could be is huge. I could be making a profit with my business, I could have a decent following on my blog, I could be a little more in shape, I could be almost fluent in Spanish.

It’s often said that we overestimate what we can do in a day but underestimate what can be done in a year and I highly agree with that statement.

I’m going to work on nothing thinking of things in such a short-term mindset and considering the benefits that I could be seeing a year because in a year, I am going to be proud. I have the potential to make huge changes in my life and the only way to do it is one step at a time.

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Saying Yes by Saying No

Today, I am going to start saying yes.

Yes to the things that I want to do.

Yes to the things that make me happy,  to the things that bring sunshine into my life.

Yes to the people who make me happy, the ones who leave me feeling fulfilled and blessed.

Yes to the adventures I want to take, the things I dream about at night.

Yes to becoming the person I want to be, the girl I want to see in the mirror.

Yes to trying new things.

Yes to finally doing things I’ve always said I would.

Yes to being an awesome friend to the people I love.

Yes to giving out love in large doses, wherever I go.

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I am saying yes by saying no.

No to things I don’t want to do.

No to the things that don’t leave me feeling fulfilled or whole.

No to the things that bring a sense of dread when they occur.

No to doing the same things I have been doing, over and over.

No to the people who don’t bring the light in my life.

No to the people who leave me feeling anything but happy.

No to feeling pressured to do or be anything other than me.

No to ugly emotions, to jealousy, anger, and hate.

No to negative people and negative things.

No to everything I don’t want to be.

Today, I am saying yes by saying no.

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The Return of Wanderlust

A few months ago, I wrote about how restless I was. Shortly after writing that post, I took mini-vacations to both Pittsburgh and Maryland to see friends. Both trips were very low-key and involved a lot of driving on my part and lots of hanging out with friends and catching up but they were exactly what I needed. Being in a city full of life and energy was exactly what I needed to revive my soul and the weekend in Maryland, with a beautiful hotel room overlooking a harbor, brought the calmness into my life that I had been missing.

Both of those trips took place at the end of July/beginning of August and since then, I’ve done a whole lot of nothing. The trips satiated my thirst for adventure temporarily but now not only am I restless, I have a rather severe case of wanderlust.

This time, a quick trip to Pittsburgh or a nearby city is just NOT going to cut it. I’m craving a real, true adventure, one that requires a plane ride and becoming fully immersed in a foreign culture.

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The problem, as usual, is that I have no idea where to go. I want to go everywhere, I want to experience everything, and the horrifying thought of choosing the wrong thing is making me choose nothing at all. (Am I the only one who gets so afraid of choosing the wrong thing that they avoid choosing anything at all?)

But the wanderlust is getting so fierce, invading all parts of my life and my thoughts, that I know I need to start planning something. Something that I will actually go through with – a trip that I can realistically take, something that is going to feel my soul and make me feel alive again.

Money is an issue – it always is and probably will be for the foreseeable future – but I refuse to let that stop me. I’m already getting rid of my stuff, which will help generate some money. I’m working on creating some sources of passive income (more on that later!) and I can start stashing every penny I get. Plus, if I had to, I could go back to my job at Subway. It’s not work that I really want to do but if it means I get to go on an adventure, I can suck it up for a few months.

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I’ve been spending a lot of time the past few weeks trying to figure out where the hell I want to go. I would love to go on a crazy RTW trip but, realistically, that’s not happening right now. Part of me wants to return to Guatemala. I miss my Guatemalan family, I miss the school, and it’s familiar. It’s a place I know that I love and know I can survive in.

But there’s a part of me that knows I need a huge change in my life, that knows if I don’t go big, I’m not going at all. I need to be kicked out of my comfort zone, pushed further than I think I can push myself, and get out of this miserable rut I’m stuck in. I don’t want to play it safe anymore.

And, partially because of that, my gut is screaming Africa. Africa, Africa, Africa. I glance over at the map on my way and dream of all the different countries I could visit. For reasons I don’t quite understand, my heart has been drawn to Africa.

I won’t lie – Africa is scary. There’s no way in hell I’m going solo backpacking anywhere in Africa, not without having more experience, not when I really have no idea what the hell I’m doing.

But I also have this desire to do something good. To create a big difference. Not in an American guilt complex way but in a way that creates lasting change, that is driven by the efforts of Africans, that will allow me to become fully immersed in the culture. There are a few options I’ve found that will allow me to do this – one is an internship with a company I’m in love with and another is with an organization run by Ghanians that another fellow blogger is currently working with.

I don’t know how this is going to work out. I’m a little petrified, honestly. But I need change. I need adventure. I need to do something that is going to shake up my life and allow me to grow as a person. Travel will do that. It always has.

And, fortunately, the only way to cure a bad case of wanderlust is to wander.

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The Thankful Project Day 8 (Or Words Have Power)

This month I am taking part in The Thankful Project, hosted by Chasing Happy. You can read all about it here.

Today’s prompt is words and man, there are so many things I can say about words. Words have power – no matter what form they’re in. It can be words spoken from someone we love, the words in a book, the lyrics to a song. Anything. I think I can easily say that words have had a huge impact on my life, in a variety of formats.

First, let’s talk about the most obvious form of words – books. I am so, so thankful for books. When I was younger and awkward and had no friends, books were my life. I would easily read a book a day. Books opened my mind, expanded my horizons, and made sure to let me know I wasn’t alone. I connected with some of my closest friends over books, namely Harry Potter. The one book that stands out in my mind, more than any other, as having changed my life is Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert. If my house was on fire, that is the first thing I’d grab. It completely changed how I thought about so many things. I still reread it every few months and have forced the majority of my friends to as well.

There is no way to express how much I love this book.

There is no way to express how much I love this book.

Then there is music. I am so, so thankful for music and, specially, the lyrics to music. There are so many lyrics that have connected with me on a personal level, shown me that I was not alone, and made so many bad days good. Songs like Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Nail by A Day to Remember, A Match into Water by Pierce the Veil, and Steadfast by The Color Morale have had a huge impact on my life and I am so thankful that I always have music to turn to.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, I am so thankful for the words that my friends have spoken to me. Words like those that inspired this post, words as simple as “I love you”. Actions may speak louder than words but sometimes it’s the words that you need to hear.

What words are YOU thankful for?

 

 

 

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On Negative Talk and Self-Worth

I sit here tonight, after spending the day working for a woman that I know likes me and hanging out with one of my best friends, with a thousand negative thoughts running through my head. Today was a good day, though nothing overly exciting happened it was still a day spent with people I love and who I know love me. I know this.

Or at least, I should.

But now, after everyone has left and I am alone, all of those negative thoughts return. He’s not really your friend, he’s just too nice to be mean. She doesn’t really like you, she just doesn’t know how to get rid of you. All those ideas you have? They’re worthless. Don’t bother working on them, they’ll never end up being anything. Oh, and that friend who isn’t answering your texts? Yeah, he hates you too. So just stop. Stop pretending people actually give a shit. They don’t.

That voice is a bitch.

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There is also another voice, one that is much quieter. It is saying Stop. You are loved. You know you are loved. He came to hang out because he enjoys your company, you’re working for her because you’re a good worker, and he’s not answering your texts because he never answers his phone. YOU KNOW THIS. So stop, stop listening to that devil on your shoulder. You are loved. You are loved because you are good and you are loving and you care.

I like that voice.

Even as I write this post, there is still a part of me that believes that voice is lying, that I really am unworthy and unloved. No matter how hard I try, that negative voice will not go away. I am no stranger to that voice but tonight it is louder than it has been in weeks. I thought I was making progress, learning to love myself a little more and not take everything so personally. Usually there is a significant trigger that brings the negative self-talk out in full force but tonight, I am not sure what it is. Because, until a little while ago, I was happy. Content. And now…well, now I’m not so sure.

What do you do when that negative voice becomes louder than any positive thought you have?

 

 

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5 Things I’ve Always Wanted to Learn How to Do

I have a bucket list a mile long and I add to it frequently. In fact, the majority of things on my bucket list are things I’ve added within the past year and a half. However, there are some things that have been on my bucket list for much longer and generally, they are items that require practice and time to fully learn how to do. Today, I’m going to share 5 things I’ve wanted to learn how to do for a very long time.

1.) Ride a horse. Like most preteen girls, I was obsessed with horses.My walls were covered in posters, I had shelves and shelves of model horses, I read every book about horses I could get my hands on, and I begged and pleaded with my parents to pleasepleaseplease buy me a horse or get me riding lessons. I eventually ended up owning 2 adorable miniature horses but I never learned how to ride. It’s still a huge dream of mine and something that I always say I’m going to change. There aren’t many places to ride around here but I’m going to put a focus on finding a place this spring and finally learning how to ride a horse.

Someday this will be me (image source)

Someday this will be me (image source)

2.) Speak Spanish. I’ve been saying I was going to learn Spanish since 3rd grade. I can currently speak about 10 words. That’s pretty pathetic considering I took 3 years of high school Spanish and traveled to both Guatemala AND Panama. I want to live in Guatemala and travel extensively through all of Latin America…I’m pretty sure it’s time to learn Spanish for good. This is going to be one of my winter projects. I have plenty of extra time on my hands right now and there is absolutely no reason that I can’t dedicate that time to learning a language.

3.) Crochet. Each winter, I attempt to teach myself how to crochet. Each year, I fail miserably. I’ve always wanted to be able to crochet people gifts – dishcloths, hats, scarfs, etc – but I’ve never been able to master the real art of crocheting. Luckily, my best friend is amazing at it and she’s attempting to teach me how. Next weekend will be spent diligently trying to crochet a hat since I’m so obsessed with the ones she’s made me.

4.) Photography. I love photography. I love the feeling of having a camera in my hands and being able to capture a moment or scene forever. However, my current skills involve taking my point-and-shoot out, looking at the screen, and clicking the button. While my camera rocks and I have captured some awesome images, I know there’s so much more I could be doing. I want to properly learn how to capture images and use all the features of my camera.

I find it hard to believe I will ever be able to twist my body into a position like this. (image source)

I find it hard to believe I will ever be able to twist my body into a position like this. (image source)

5.) Yoga. I’ve attempted yoga. Really, I have. I just kind of fail at it. I had surgery on my legs which makes it hard to twist into many of the positions and I’m always more focused on the fact I’m probably not doing something right than anything else. I tried a beginner’s yoga video and got so frustrated with myself for not being able to do it that I gave up. However, I know that yoga would definitely help will my stress and the health benefits in general are so good that I’m determined to keep trying. Eventually I’ll have to get it right, I think.

What things have you always wanted to learn how to do but just haven’t yet? Have you tried to learn any of the things mentioned? If so, how did you succeed?

 

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