How to start a mental health routine
Little things to remember when I'm anxious
In the past 2.5 years I have been to 47 cities across 3 continents. Some of these tricks apply specifically to women, but a lot are just helpful for anyone who likes to travel. Here’s a massive brain-dump, so let’s do this!
1. FIND YOUR PEOPLEProblem: I was scared to travel alone as a lady, especially late at night. I heard horror stories of women getting abducted or assaulted while traveling.
Solution: Join communities online and in person and use the buddy system. Cough up the extra bucks to take taxis home late at night. I always do research right before I land to check which taxi cabs are the least sketchy (this is particularly necessary in SE Asia). I also save the emergency numbers for police and ambulance in my contacts.
Join Online Communities
2. PRIORITIZE YOUR HEALTH
Problem: Sometimes I like to cry. But when I travel, I don’t have my best friend or family next door.
Solution: Joining communities like I spoke about above or Skyping my family/friends. There are also options such as talking to active listeners or even therapists that will Skype you.
Mental health or therapy: Traveling alone is not easy. It may look glamorous on Instagram, but sometimes you just want a big hug from your best friend or mom. Some people think traveling is therapy, but sometimes that is not the case.
Mindfulness/Meditation: I get anxious, medidation and yoga and my ways of calming my crazy inner voice that may tell me to stop
3. MANAGE YOUR MONEY
Problem: Traveling costs money.
Solution: Find a remote job, creating a travel blog or service, and tracking my expenses diligently.
How to find a remote job
4. TRAVEL SMART
Problem: Planning takes a lot of logistics and time. It also stresses me out when I don’t have my flights or next locations booked (aka right now). I also don’t know which countries are safe for women.
Solution: Have travel goals for the next month, create a budget, and travel hack. Most of the resources below are non-gender specific so I also do research on safety indexes and the perception of women in local cultures before booking flights. Another way I feel safe is by being super aware. My personal rule is I don’t drink when I am alone.
Learn How to Travel Hack
5. STAY INSPIRED
Problem: Travel can be exhausting. No one really talks about the downsides, but they do exist, I swear.
Solution: I keep my wanderlust alive by following beautiful Instagram accounts and blogs to inspire my next travels.
Instagrams to follow
6. PACKING 101
Problem: I can’t lift my suitcase…
Solution: Pack half of what you think you need. You’re going to want to buy stuff when you’re there. I carry a backpack and a carry-on suitcase now. I always test if I can carry my suitcase up the stairs in my house before I leave for the airport.
Gear: cute gear is often hard to find. I am still on the hunt for the perfect backpack, but I like the Thule one I have for now.
7. DON’T GIVE UP ON DATING
Problem: I still want to date, but I don’t trust strangers.
Solution: Do things you like. Those are where the people you may like are hiding. Go to events, play sports, go dancing, just do your thang.
8. UPDATE YOUR TOOLKIT
Problem: I want to stay productive while traveling. Distractions are very easy.
Solution: Track your time, get in consistent routines, and iterate.
The Best Things About Traveling Alone
1. It’s always a judge-free zone. Gelato before dinner, yes please.
2. Traveling is my new form of meditation. When I am walking alone, I focus on my breath and try to let go of all the other thoughts.
3. I feel stronger. I feel extremely independent and proud that I can navigate around cities that I didn’t even know how to pronounce until I stepped foot in them.
5. I can spend as much or as little money as I want. It’s my budget, so I don’t need to conform to the restraints of anyone else's wallet .
6. I have time to read, listen to music, and write. Since I often eat alone, I spend this time journaling or reading. I now seek out cafes that have piles of books and enjoy a leisurely tea or crêpe.
An underground cafe in Aix en Provence I spent 3 hours in reading and savoring a Nutella crêpe
I talk to strangers more than ever when I’m alone, which means I make wonderful new friends from around the world almost everyday.
New friends I met in Altea, Spain at a yoga center.
8. I try new things constantly. When I am with friends, we often fall into a pattern or routine. This is not the case when I am solo.
9. I don’t drink much. I’m not a big drinker, so I don’t miss being peer pressured to chug a beer.
10. I have complete freedom. Tomorrow I could take a flight to Iceland and climb a glacier if I wanted to. I absolutely love the feeling that the entire world can be my trail to blaze.
Made friends at a hostel in Alicante, Spain and we adventured to the top of the Santa Bárbara Castle
The Worst Things About Traveling Alone
1. No one can watch my suitcase when I have to go to the bathroom. This is by far my least favorite thing about traveling solo. Having to lug a suitcase to a small bathroom stall sucks. The fact that this is my number #1 complaint shows that traveling solo really isn’t all that bad…
2. I have to navigate 24/7. Sometimes I want another person to take a hold of Google Maps and steer me towards a delicious meal-but that will always be my job.
3. It gets lonely at night. This can happen even when I am traveling with a group, I know from experience. However, I know that I always feel better in the morning.
4. Swimming at the beach is hard. No one is there to watch my purse or clothes. I have now mastered a lounging position with my purse as a pillow and my feet in the water. It’s quite a talent.
I had a lovely Airbnb host that took me to a secret beach on the Côte Bleue
5. Going out is tricky. Sometimes I want to have a wild night, but as a safety precaution, I never have more than 1 drink if I am alone. I prefer to keep my awareness especially when I’m in a new city late at night.
6. Sometimes I want to cry, and my best friends are thousands of miles away. Thank god for Skype, is all I can say about this.
7. I can’t share food. For example, in Spain, tapas and paella are best with a group. I want to eat all the things, but that’s pricey alone.
I specifically hunted for a paella place that would serve 1 person in Valencia (usually there is a 2 portion minimum). I then devoured the entire thing.
8. Hostels and Airbnb’s can get tiring. Sometimes it’s nice to be with people you know and you don’t have to tiptoe around at night (or hear teenagers vomiting at 4am in a hostel).
9. Staircases are my nemesis on travel days. Having a buddy to help move a suitcase up the stairs is definitely appreciated.
10. I miss my friends and family. Being alone makes me so grateful when I return to those I love or meet up with friends along the route.
After being alone for weeks, meeting up with a wonderful friend in the Alps was absolute heaven. I appreciated the effortless friendship we have rather than the effort of starting a new friendship more than I knew before.
Before I started this trip, I had intense anxiety and almost canceled it 4 times. But as soon as I embarked on my first flight, that anxiety vanished. It was replaced with a lightness I hadn’t felt in months. I am thankful for the meditative state travel puts me in. Transit days are often some of my favorite times to reflect on my favorite aspects of my journey and life.
The beauty of solo traveling is that you can meet people who could change your life as you turn the corner of an unexplored city. My first day traveling alone, I met a wonderful woman from England who shared with me incredibly touching advice.
She told me, “Travel now. Be on your own now because you know what? I got married at 39, and I loved being married. Absolutely loved it. But my husband died 5 years ago, and now traveling alone is much harder. Because I know what I am missing and who I miss being with. So go travel.”
I am so grateful for the experiences and people who have impacted me along this journey and know that this is just the beginning.
If you have been considering traveling alone and are freaked out, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com!
I didn’t drop out of college. 2 years ago, I almost did. I attended a school of 40,000 students and I felt I was sinking in the sea of 500 person lectures. My startup was growing quickly and I thought it could provide more value than my theoretical classes.
However, before making this huge change I wanted to see if I could personalize college to fit my learning style. My goal: craft my own learning environment so I could be immersed in small, passionate communities with the freedom to travel.
First, I found a strong community. I moved into an intentional living home of 20 incredible students and mentors. We took weekend retreats into the Pennsylvania woods where I unraveled new parts of my identity. I also transitioned into my honors program and took small classes of 12 people. During this same time period, I joined the entrepreneurship club and attended hackathons. The sense of community felt much better than the massive lecture halls I once sat in.
Next, I used my schools’ resources. I received grants to pay for my housing in San Francisco, to attend the Thiel Summit in Las Vegas, and to run a crowd-funding campaign for my business. I obtained local press for my startup which resulted in sales around the country from alumni. I signed up for a mentoring program and got matched with a badass alumni mentor. I joined the local coworking space and met community members I never would have before.
Finally, I traveled. I studied abroad in Paris and found a paid internship through attending dozens of startup meetups. I was the only one of my friends to profit while studying abroad. I took an internship in San Francisco where I was immersed in a community thriving with startups and surrounded by endless burritos. I started learning how to code, something my classes were not teaching me.
In my last semester, I received an incredible opportunity to take a job leading a group of 30 entrepreneurs through Southeast Asia. I was granted approval to complete my thesis and class remotely. I traveled to Vietnam, Bali, and Thailand taking exams online while working out of bamboo coworking spaces or rooftop cafes next to the South China Sea. I flew home to graduate.
A map of the places I have explored in the past 2 years, all while enrolled in university.
In the past 4 years I have been to 28 cities in 12 countries across 3 continents. I received thousands of dollars in grant money to support my 3 internships and grow my startup. Most importantly, I made meaningful friends for life and learned how I learn best.
It turns out I was able to personalize college and make it work for me. In the next 10 years, I believe college will evolve towards a more engaging and exploratory environment. But for now, we can change it ourselves.
There are tons of resources for the most effective “productivity hacks” or “life hacks” designed for nomads. These are great, but I wanted more. So I decided to do some experiments of my own during my travels in the past few months, in search of creating a sustainable and healthy nomadic lifestyle.
I studied the techniques detailed in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. His research explains 3 main components of habit loops:
Queue: a trigger for the habit. This could be a craving, event, or action.
Habit- the action that is performed.
Reward- an intrinsic or extrinsic benefit.
As a nomad, my location changes constantly. I may be in a place for a week or a few months, meaning my environmental queues shift periodically. This often makes building a habit difficult. I have been in search of ways to build habits independent of my location and I found the solution in automatic responses such as waking up, getting hungry, and walking.
Queue: Open my eyes to wake up
Habit: Turn on a podcast so I can slowly start to wake up while in bed, open my Evernote to check my goals that I outlined for the week, eat a healthy breakfast in my room, shower, take my multivitamins, do the mini workout, and then start my day.
Reward: I do a little happy dance in the morning to celebrate accomplishing this habit. Our brains can’t tell the different between big and small victories, so even just smiling and essentially patting yourself on the back will work to reward yourself.
2. Journal or logging my goals every week
I love having a weekly check-in with myself. I often even keep a list of specific moments where I am the most happy and least happy in my week to identify common trends. I have realized from these that I can be the happiest when I save one day a week for alone time and wandering.
Queue: Coming home from dinner on Sunday night.
Habit: I sit down and write a list of my goals for the week. I break them down by the day and assign each task to a specific day. For example, I knew I wanted to write this post today and I scheduled it for Thursday. As I mentioned above, my morning routine involves checking in on these goals to keep myself accountable.
Reward: Making the rest of my week more productive.
3. Download podcasts, audiobooks, or lectures to my phone
I find that I crave new knowledge and the most efficient way for me to consume it is when I am walking or waking up.
Queue(s): 1. My morning alarm goes off. 2. As soon as I close my apartment door, I put in headphones and press play.
Habit: Listening to stimulating educational content or fun material. Currently I am listening to 2 audiobooks, reading a physical book that I carry with me at all times, and have tons of podcasts downloaded.
Reward: Learning interesting information. I make sure I have one lighter or silly piece of content in the mix to reward myself with laughter.
4. Take afternoon breaks
I can’t focus forever. As a nomad, I have my own routines and schedule. It is important for productivity to break up the day and give my mind a rest.
Queue: Feeling mentally fatigued. This is one I have learned to be more aware of. I notice myself checking Facebook more or taking longer on a project than I should.
Habit: Ask someone to go for a walk, or get some fresh air.
Reward: Feeling more focused after a break.
5. Track my hours
I use Toggl to do this so that I can be aware of my most productive and least productive hours.
Queue: Starting a new assignment- whether this is opening a new document, tab, or text file. This one is tricky for me because sometimes I am in a flow and don’t notice I am switching tasks.
Habit: Pressing play on Togglr to track the exact amount of time the task takes. I even use this to track my workouts and how many hours a day I listen to podcasts, etc.
Reward: Understanding where I can be more efficient.
Habit forming takes time. Most studies show 30 days is a sufficient time to build a habit, but they can just as easily be broken. My intention is to develop life long habits, not to lose weight or becoming rich overnight. I am determined to set myself up with positive habits at a young age so that I can continue them and perfect them for many years to come.
I’m sitting writing this post on my iPhone waiting to board a flight at the Hanoi airport in northern Vietnam. It is officially my 4th week living in Vietnam and in a few days I head to Bali. I packed up my bags and left the U.S. in a matter of 3 quick weeks and have embarked on a journey to Southeast Asia. Currently I have enough packed for my 3 month trip, but I plan to travel & work remotely for the next year.
Here are 32 thoughts I’ve had during my new journey.
I was madly in love. My heart was full of butterflies and my mind was consumed with the possibilities every day brought. Late nights flew by filled with coffee and racing thoughts. It was effortless. I found my true love…or so my 18-year old mind thought. First loves do that.
Oh did I forget to mention this grandiose love story is about falling in love with my startup?
We met in my Freshman dorm room at college one spontaneous night. From the moment we met, I knew it was something incredible and instantly gushed to all my friends. We traveled the country together. From coast-to-coast, we met amazing new friends and memories I will never forget. Inside jokes, new traditions, and highs I had never felt before. Friends and mentors selflessly offered guidance in this new journey. I invested my time, energy, and money to make it work. And it was.
From the outside, everything looked perfect. But inside, I knew I was becoming too dependent on our relationship. It was ever-consuming, sucked me up and I got tangled in love. My friends became bored with me because I only wanted to talk about it. I was becoming one dimensional, isolated, and unsatisfied. I realized that my identity was shaped by my startup and I was losing myself. The startup was thriving and growing everyday, but I was no longer. Something needed to change.
I tried to work on it. Tried to find a balance, tried to prioritize my health and other friendships and find what would make me the happiest. But something in my gut told me that I wasn’t in love anymore. I had started to find other passions and realized that I didn’t want to be tied down. So I broke up with my startup.
Trust me, it was not easy. I questioned if I was crazy for letting something so fantastic go. I had to deal with the awkward conversations when friends asking how we were doing. This was surprisingly one of the hardest parts and often led to me changing the subject or pretending we were on a break. I went through this just as I was about to leave the country to study in Paris. A place where no one knew my past, present or future. I sure as hell didn’t. I learned to be on my own. I learned to love eating, wandering, reading, writing, and adventuring alone. In one of the most romantic cities in the world, I fell in love with my independence.
Every once in a while, I caught myself reminiscing and wishing we could get back together. Moments of hope fluttered over me, where I’d think we could work again. I’d changed right?! I would stay up late redesigning my logo or launching a new design in a desperate frenzy. But I would wake up the next day only to find the passion that kept me up —gone. I wondered if I would ever find a love like that again.
It’s about a year after the breakup and I could not be happier with my decision. I have grown so much in this year being single and exploring my interests, new and old. I reconnected with my love for teaching, dove into design and did exactly what I wanted to do every day. Now I am finally opening my heart again. I am dating a pretty awesome startup. It’s still new, so I don’t want to jinx it. I have no idea what will happen, but that’s the fun part isn’t it?
I know that in this new chapter in my startup love life, I can hold on to myself and my identity. For those who are thinking about breaking up with a startup you aren’t in love with anymore, trust your gut and know that there are plenty of other startups in the sea. Think about it, how often do you marry your first love or your high school sweetheart? First loves teach us so much; they are a true gift. Don’t be afraid to move forward and open a new chapter because you never know when you will meet “the one.”