Skills

Call it whatever you’d like: a talent, pastime, or your favorite leisure activity, but hobbies are something we all have. Has anyone ever told you, “that sounds more like a hobby than a career!”? I have. In fact, I turned down admission to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City because all of my passions sounded more like “hobbies.” Do I regret this decision? Sometimes, but now I’m finding ways to integrate my hobbies with my career path of choice. However, I’ve found that many of us are sacrificing our hobbies for work and they’re being left behind in the dreamy “good old days.” If you’ve found yourself victim, here are a couple of reasons why it is vital to never neglect your hobbies.

1. They make you you.

Although you’ve probably heard it one million times, you’re special in your own way. Your talents and hobbies are things that make you just that much more unique. What you do in your past time actually says a lot about who you are as a person and what it is that you appreciate in life. People know you for what you do at work or school, but showing them another dynamic part of yourself may give them that unexpected “wow” factor. They are things that distinguish you from the rest of your friends, coworkers, or classmates. Who wouldn’t want to embrace the fabulous and possibly strange parts that make you, well, you?

2. Psych benefits: relaxation, emotional, better thinking.

There are many psychological benefits come with doing what you love. The first one is relaxation. Hobbies serve as an outlet from the stresses that fog up your mind with constant daily worries. They have also been shown to improve your thinking abilities. According to Carol Kauffman, assistant clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, hobbies allow you to go into what is called a “flow state,” which is essentially what you feel when you get intensely focused on whatever it is you are doing – you lose the sense of time and your surroundings seem invisible. Sound familiar? She notes that this actually restores your mind and energy. These states of mind that call for heavy concentration actually boost neurotransmitters in the brain which allow for a mental recharge.

3. Make better decisions.

The best decisions are always made with a clear mind and when you have had plenty of time to think. Taking the time to plunge into your favorite hobby allows you to unshackle your mind from the worries of whatever choices are awaiting to be made. It forces you to go into the “flow state” and return to your decision making process with a clear and more relaxed mind.

4. Meet other people.

What better way to meet people that have the same interests as you? Join a club, take a class, or even get together with some friends that have similar hobbies to you. This will guarantee you meet other people that share your passion. Another case could be in conversation. Discussing hobbies and interests are ways for people to relate and understand one another a little better. Who knows – you may just meet your new bestie!

5. Creativity.

Usually, your definition of success in your hobbies differs from the definition of success that is done in your work. You are the judge of your progress and achievements in your activities. Not only does this boost self-confidence and positive thinking, but this also calls for better creativity. It allows you to express yourself in your own terms and within your own boundaries. You essentially set your own rules because you are doing this hobby for yourself and for nobody else.

Making time for what you love is essential in the society we live in today. It is imperative that we make time for ourselves not only for the luxury of its pleasure, but for our own mental health.

What are your favorite hobbies?

Image: Michelle Tribe

Skills

Today you and I both made a decision. Thus far, today’s decisions have included my choosing to ignore my first alarm clock and wait for the next preset one three minutes later, running a red light while squealing in bliss guilt, and noteworthy progress in my decision to study abroad in Budapest. We are all aware that the decisions we make every day can either be major or minor and the more decisions we make, the more productive we are. And since they are a part of our daily lives, we must learn how to situate ourselves in a position that allows us to make the best decisions we can. Here are a few tips that may help!

1. Objectivity

Emotions take a huge part in our moods and sometimes, our decisions. This can many times fog what is really at stake. The best decisions are those made when there are no judgments or biases and when one is not in a position when his or her emotions are not heavily influencing the choices made. Making decisions in an emotional state may lead to regret later on. Try finding an outlet for emotions elsewhere and later returning to make a decision in a more rational state.

2. Take Your Precious Time

Quick means productive this day and age, and meeting deadlines means efficiency. However, in decision-making, especially with big ones, it is important to fully think out what it is you are choosing to do. More importantly, this means not rushing to conclusions and basing choices off of assumptions. Taking the time to fully analyze the possibilities is the best way to get results. If this means taking an extra day or two to take a look at things with a fresh mind, make arrangements and things will surely fall into place. It is better to take your time than to make hasty and rash decisions.

3. 360˚ POV

Although you may like to think you’re right most of the time, listening to all parts of the story, putting yourself in the shoes of others, and looking at all points of views help you rethink your position. Make sure that when making decisions, you are taking into consideration multiple points of view. This will allow you to see your potential paths. Not only will this call for smarter decisions, but it will also make for more confident ones.

4. Follow Your Gut

I’ve discerned that hunches are often underrated and overlooked. Many celebrities and successful businessmen have thanked their achievements to following their gut. There is a common misconception that “following your gut” means do what you feel, which is very much linked with emotions. However, there is a stark difference between the two. Following your gut is equivalent to following your instinct, which is very different than doing what your emotions want. As noted by Lisa Evans, a writer for Entrepreneur, you can verify if your choices are coming from emotion if you are feeling stressed, anxious, or worried. If not, then you are following your gut, which is something innate in all humans.

5. Make a List

How to not over-analyze? Although everyone says to never over-analyze a situation, they are, regrettably, inevitable sometimes. So, if you happen to be someone of this nature, the best way to structure your “over-analyzing” is by making a list. Jot down all of the pros and cons of making whatever decision you plan on taking and compare. Which makes more sense? Which is common sense? Which has more cons? Writing things down helps with objectivity and seeing things in another form.

Making decisions are a required part of our lives and sometimes making the right ones can be tricky. Hopefully you can find yourself embracing a few of these tips when in a dilemma. How will you approach your next decision?

Image: Julia Mazerova

Education

Deciding what college to attend can seem nearly impossible when there are so many options out there. Of course factors like what major you want come into play, but what if you’re not sure what that is yet? Here are some things to consider to make the process of choosing the best school for you a little easier.

1. Distance

A lot of us think we want to be as far away from home as possible when going to school, but make sure you seriously consider this. Being close to home may mean being close to family, but it also means being close to friends. Decide how far you want to be from the people you’ll miss. Also, consider if you plan on staying on campus or commuting, as this definitely plays a huge role in the schools you can choose from.

2. Cost

Unfortunately, college is ridiculously expensive. Check out the tuition and room and board costs for schools that you’re considering! Make sure to talk to your parents to see if they can help you with school financially. That conversation will help you figure out the amount you’re able and willing to spend on college.

3. Size

Personally, I find the idea of lecture halls pretty intimidating, so when I was looking for a school I knew I didn’t want a huge campus. Consider whether you’d rather have small classes and individual attention from teachers, or if you feel you would do better in a larger class like a lecture hall! It’s all personal preference and up to your learning style.

4. Location

Where the school is located is very important. Is it in the city, country, or a suburban area? Whatever you prefer, be sure to check out the area outside of your school. It’s always nice to be in a place where there are things to do, and especially where it’s safe when you’re off campus.

5. Extracurricular Activities

Check out the sports and clubs that campuses offer. If you’re interested in Greek Life, make sure they have chapters and houses. Also research about other activities like the school newspaper or a lacrosse team. You never know what you’ll feel like doing!

When you narrow down your options, make sure the check out the school for yourself. One of the most important things is making sure you feel at home when you actually step foot on campus.

Happy college hunting!

Image: Stephan Dann, Flickr

CultureEducationTravel

Studying abroad is a big, fantastic, life-changing decision. Kudos to you for making the choice to do it, but now you’ve got a question to answer for yourself: where will I go?

During my junior year of college, I left my little North Carolina university for a semester as an exchange student at a university in Singapore, where I knew no one, about as far across the globe as I could possibly go. Choosing such an unfamiliar location was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but it wasn’t the easiest.

Some people, like me, are all over the map with potential locations and take a little time to choose the right place. I’ve compiled a list of 10 questions that I consider important to ask about each potential location when making the decision on where you’ll spend the next mini chapter of your life:

1. What is my goal? What do I want to get out of this experience?

Do you want to learn a language or discover new cultures? Escape your comfort zone? Explore incredible nightlife? Meet new people, or remain with current classmates/close friends? Volunteer? Travel easily? While the questions below will guide you in determining the program that meets your academic, social, travel and financial needs, answering them is no use without first having an idea of what you truly want to gain from your experience, and how far out of your comfort zone you’d like to go.

2. What are the potential host countries’ official language(s)?

Do you speak it/them? Do the universities or programs you’re considering offer classes in English, or only the host language? Can you enroll in language lessons?

3. How  are the potential host countries’ political climate?

Is the country and its region fairly stable and safe, particularly for people of your nationality? People are people no matter where you go, and no matter the situation. Danger is not alwaysas imminent as the media likes us to believe (don’t tell your parents I said that). However, safety is vital, political climates can change quickly, and even if they don’t necessarily affect safety, they can affect your ability to do things such as travel, stay out late, etc. The UN and your country’s embassy sites are informative in these situations.  

4. How are the social dynamics?

Is the country LGBTQIA friendly? Are gender roles significantly different there than in your home country? Is it safe and respectful to openly practice your religion there? How are people from  your country generally treated? Is partying and/or drinking normal or frowned upon?

5. What about cost of living?

Are you funding the experience yourself or with help? How much can you spend on it? Are scholarships available? Check out factors like public transportation, food and drink, leisure and cultural, and rent costs. It may actually be very possible to live significantly more cheaply as a student than you’d expect. (While Singapore’s cost of living is very high, research showed me it was fairly simple to keep my costs low using student housing, public transit, groceries, duty-free stores and on-campus food canteens.)

6. What amenities are available?

Will you be using toilets or holes in the ground? Is running water available for showers, laundry etc.? WiFi? What, if any, western-style amenities are you willing to forego?

7. What about food and drinks?

What is the local diet? (Noodles, glutinous sticky rice or Indian and Malaysian breads were in almost every meal I ate in Singapore – it would have been difficult were I gluten free.) Know how well your allergies will be accommodated and whether you’re willing to try unfamiliar meats, veggies and more. How available is clean water? You’ll almost always be able to find bottled and clean options, particularly if studying through a university or established program, but it’s good to at least have an idea how easily you can do that.

8. How’s the weather?

Know your potential locations’ climates, and how important weather is to you. (A friend of mine considered study only in Scandinavian nations because he absolutely loves the cold.)

9. How easily can I travel?

Seeing the world is a big reason many of us study abroad. Can you take buses and trains inexpensively for weekend trips? What is your proximity to other destinations? What budget airlines travel through your location and region?

10. CULTURE?!

Were you wondering if I was ever going to list this one? It felt like a no-brainer, so I almost didn’t. If you don’t have one standout culture that interests you, ask yourself other questions. Do you love the study of religion? Interested in architecture? History? Art? Fashion? Choose a location rich in the things that pique your curiosity and interest.

Tips:

  • Reach out to people who studied in your program: your university will often be able to connect you – just ask. I did this and it gave me lots of insider tips. Most of us love talking about our study abroad experiences, plus, we can tell you things the websites and advisors won’t.
  • ProCon it: a list of potential goods and bads can help you organize your thoughts if you’re really struggling to figure out where you want to be.
  • Don’t freak out: you will have a life-changing experience if you let yourself. The location will affect how your life is changed, and in what ways, but it’s very hard to go wrong in that department.

Study abroad is fun, mind-opening and challenging, and your decision to do it is the most important one! So enjoy the decision making process; put thought into it, but don’t over-analyze. Listen to your heart, and you’ll end up in the right place for you.

Next week, I’ll cover the important topic of financing a study abroad trip.

What suggestions do you have for choosing a study abroad location? Comment below!

Image: Dominik S., Flickr

ExploreInspirationLeadershipLearnSkills

If you’re reading this, it’s not likely because you’re a slacker or a procrastinator. Most likely, you’re the type of person that is kept up at night worrying about the future. You’re the type of person that’s invested in self-improvement, always trying to find ways to better yourself.

These are all good traits, but may work against you…especially when the anxiety begins to weigh you down. You may work hard, have talent and be intelligent, but these aren’t the secrets to success; they’re merely tools. It’s handy to have them, but you have to know how to use them in order to reach your maximum potential.

Between training for tennis, managing my academics and securing an internship, I’ve been discovering new ways to uncover my own untapped potential. Here are some of the methods I’ve come up with:

1. Embrace Your Individuality

This is a hard thing to do when everyone around you is trying to get you to conform to a particular mold or stereotype. Especially in the crucial stages of adolescence, it’s important to understand what makes you you. Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, talents and interests are all part of embracing your individuality.

If you have a knack for arts and crafts, it’s easy to accept your talent as useless or listen to the critics that tell you it’s a hopeless line of work. But if it weren’t for the people that like to paper mache and refurbish wood, we wouldn’t have beautiful, handcrafted journals or uniquely refinished furniture. Places like Etsy wouldn’t even exist.

In the book Imagine, Jonah Lehrer discusses the secrets to creative success. He conveys how the interchange of ideas between professionals in varying fields helps stimulate creativity. Differing beliefs, interests and talents, as well as a healthy dose of the unfamiliar, are what produce some of the most successful innovations.

2. Take More Risks

It seems the initial reaction of young professionals is not to speak up, as if keeping quiet is the road to a promotion. While this may apply to some situations, you can’t dismiss the fact that your ideas may be as good as any of your coworkers, or that any question you may have is likely thoughtful and valid. The issue is that the fear of failure always seems to override the chance to succeed.

Nine out of ten times, your question won’t be stupid…your idea won’t be considered dumb. For the one time it is, don’t sweat it. Few people are fired over dumb questions; a lot more are promoted due to sharp ideas. And most importantly, you don’t want someone else to come up with that same idea later on and reap the rewards. The “what ifs”are always the worst.

3. Don’t Worry About Things Out of Your Control

This is a big one for me. There will always be that one teacher that is determined to give you a B no matter how much you deserved an A. Some days, the traffic may be so bad that it takes you two hours to get home from work, even though you live five miles away. You’ll be sick during finals week. You’ll be judged for how you look. People close to you will change.

The key is: Life happens. While it’s easy to fret and blame others or ourselves for the things that are inevitable, it doesn’t help get us anywhere. Most importantly, it doesn’t help us grow as a person. Why give yourself early gray hairs for something you couldn’t have helped?

As much as people tell you otherwise, you have control over your happiness. While you can’t always control the bad things that happen to you, such as being dumped by a boyfriend or a family member passing away, you can control how you respond. While you may grieve for a while, how you channel your emotions afterward is what’s important. You can lock yourself in a room for a week or you can go for a run; the choice is yours.

This idea also translates to the professional world. When you don’t get a promotion, you can mope around feeling sorry for yourself or you can work even harder. You can handle criticism with a heavy heart or you can use it to fuel your ambition. The people that make it to the top get there because they never gave up.

The most important thing is entering a new situation without too many expectations. Expectations are the surest route to disappointment. This doesn’t mean undervaluing yourself, but diving in with an open mind and open heart. Oftentimes, the things we have planned for ourselves don’t turn out to be as great as the paths we happen upon by circumstance.

Whether you’re graduating high school or starting a business, your potential is something that should always be ruminating in the back of your mind. Ask yourself what your goals are. They could be as simple as writing in your journal that night, or they could be as big as being hired by NASA. When you ask yourself, “Is it possible?” know that the answer is always “yes.”

Some people believed I would be a strong, high school tennis player. Others believed I would go pro. The only thing that ever mattered to me was what I thought. And when people asked, “What’s your goal?” I’d always answer: “To see how far I can get.”

Image: Unsplash

EducationHealthSkills

Most parents seem to sign their children up for sports hoping that they’ll learn the importance of dedication, teamwork and responsibility, while “staying out of trouble.” Though these are realistic intentions, few people realize the true value of athletics. By picking up a tennis racquet, I wasn’t preparing myself for college athletics; I was preparing myself for life.

After nine years playing tennis and two playing for the University of Nebraska, I’ve come to recognize some of the most important things that I’ve learned over the years:

How to Handle Adversity

You may be strapped with homework, your coach is screaming at you and you’re running on four hours of sleep, but you still have to play tennis. Right? Well, I can tell you that the ones that choose not to don’t make it very far. So the answer is yes. Though being an athlete has its perks, the initial description I just gave is the life of an athlete. Something is bound to go wrong on a daily basis, but you have to keep picking yourself back up. You’re bound to forget about that day that your boyfriend wouldn’t speak to you, but you’re likely to regret the hours you spent worrying about it instead of giving yourself the chance to grow.

Choose the High Road

After you’ve played a sport at a certain level, you begin to see that hard work pays off. You’ve put in the hours and you’re now beginning to reap the rewards. So the next time you’re given a choice, you’re going to choose the harder path. Whether it’s doing sprints after practice, taking extra time to study for a test, or making amends with a friend even when you did nothing wrong, you understand what it means to take the difficult route. And you become a stronger, better person because of it.

How to Make Tough Choices

I’m ashamed to admit it, but when I was trying to choose which college to go to, I spent an entire evening crying on the couch. There I was, with several scholarship offers, bawling my eyes out. Most of my friends had had their “moment” where they “suddenly knew,” and I was distraught, simply waiting for mine.

But not everyone has that “moment.” In fact, I sometimes think it’s better if you don’t. I’m a realist and a planner. I had my pro-con lists down to every nitpicky detail, from strictly academics to which school had a Starbucks on campus. Though the lists may not have made my decision for me, they definitely guided me along the way. Not to mention, I conducted an extensive amount of research that I’m sure few student-athletes did.

But when it came down to it, the ability to make the decision was innate. I knew enough about myself, and the school, to make a decision I could live with. My friends were right about one thing, and that’s to treat it like any other relationship. It was the right combination of using my head and following my gut.

Self-Reliance

None of the benefits I just mentioned would be possible if it weren’t for one thing: self-reliance. This perfect combination of confidence and independence is what drives you to make tough decisions, run extra sprints and keep your head high. Throughout your entire life you’ll have people telling you 25 different ways to do something, but you have to stick to your guns. There is not one specific path to success, and it’s definitely not a straight line.

Courage

When Hemingway defined courage as grace under pressure, he hit the nail on the head. To me, this is the most important of them all. Being an athlete, you learn to handle high-stress situations, often when they are least convenient. You’re under the pressure of your coaches, professors and parents to do well, and it all begins to add up.

If I’m on the court, playing the #1 position for my team in a conference match against Northwestern, I can’t break down. It’s simply not an option. As an athlete, you understand when the situation is more important than your emotions. You understand the consequences and are able to register that it’s only temporary. To be able to evaluate all of these things in a matter of seconds can only be defined as one thing: grace under pressure.

I can’t imagine trying to summarize the lessons I’ve learned over hours of training on the court. Dedicating my life to athletics not only benefited my health and my college experiences, but also made me grow as a person.

Being an athlete forces you into the tight, uncomfortable crevices of life that most people aren’t familiar with. But in reality, everyone is pushed out of his or her comfort zone at some point in time. Athletes just face it earlier than most; sometimes earlier than they’re ready for. So the next time around, they’re more than prepared. Behind the braided ponytails, bruised shins and tired eyes, they’re becoming something bigger than themselves.

Education

You’re in! After months and months of studying for the SATs or ACTs, maintaining your grades, filling out applications, writing essays, asking for recommendations, and impatiently waiting, you have finally earned a spot in one (or a few!) of the schools from your college list. Even after all that work, the hard part still may not be over. Unless you already know exactly where you want to attend school and have no doubts whatsoever, picking which college to attend can be a very stressful decision. When I was picking between a couple of schools, I visited them both again so I had a fresh perspective. Of course, I ended up transferring colleges, but I learned a lot from that experience and have a better idea of what to think about when deciding on a college.

These are the critical factors to consider once you have been accepted to college…

What Do You Want to Study?

This can be a tough question. You don’t have to declare your major until the end of sophomore year, and unless you have a direct path you want to follow, you should spend your initial semester exploring new topics and being open to a major you might never have thought of before. However, it is important that you take a look at all of the classes and majors offered at each school to be sure that there are at least three topics of interest to you. Think about which professors you would want to learn from, the types of classes offered, and the major requirements. These classes will be a major time commitment when you are at college, so choose a school that has departments that best correlate with your interests.

Visit the School Again

You might change a lot in the time between when you first visit a school and just before you graduate high school.

Talk to Current Students

If you visit the school again, be sure to talk to as many students as you can. Most students are willing to offer their opinions and advice. Ask lots of questions about their experience at that college to get a feel for if it will be the right fit for you. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit the school’s campus, read up on college blogs to get a sense of what the students are like. You may even be able to reach out to the school to see if they have the phone numbers or email addresses of students who would be willing to share their experiences at that college. It will be helpful to hear real life situations to see if you relate or not.

Talk to Alumni

Speaking with people who have graduated from a school you are looking at can be very helpful to see what their experiences were like, as well as what they are currently up to. Maybe one alum has a job somewhere you would love to work, or in an industry that fascinates you. You’ll get a very honest opinion from alumni because they have completed their schooling and have had a couple of years to reflect on their experiences.

Small versus Large

You probably thought about this when you were first creating your list of schools to apply to. I encourage you to think about this again. If you applied to both small colleges and large universities, take a moment to think about the environment that you learn best in. Do you prefer a smaller class size where you can get more attention from the professor, or do you enjoy being surrounded by hundreds of interesting classmates with a variety of opinions and experiences? The size of school really does have an impact on both your educational and personal experiences.

Financials

College is expensive. Period. If you received Financial Aid or Scholarships, congratulations! That’s amazing. However, if you did not, thinking about the cost of college is very important. Not only is the tuition an important aspect of this budget analysis, but also think about travel costs to and from college to home, food costs, and living expenses when you are living on your own. These vary for everyone, but the little things do add up and can play a crucial role in your decision making process.

Career Services

Let’s face it, you probably want a job when you graduate. Or an internship for the summers while you are still in college. Or maybe even a part-time job while you are attending school. Do some research and figure out which schools in your ‘Accepted List’ have strong and well-connected career service centers. These college career service departments usually have their own websites. Take a look and find out whether the school will help you with interviewing, job placement, and resume writing.

Extracurriculars

What kinds of clubs and organizations are available on campus? Do some research to find a couple of clubs that you might want to join on your first day. Are you playing sports or want to play a club sport? You should make sure your school of choice offers that. Have you always wanted to be a part of student government? A language club? Volunteer services? Browse through all of the offerings and think about what you might want to be a part of.

Study Abroad

Most schools offer study abroad, and many have incredible programs. Instead of asking generic questions such as, “Do you have programs in France or Spain?,” ask specific questions that will actually affect you. “Which study abroad programs are best for the topic/major that I am interested in?” Certain study abroad programs are stronger than others in certain departments, and you want to make sure your school can provide those options and assistance when the time comes to apply. Some schools have reputations built around their study abroad programs. If traveling and studying outside of the U.S. is important to you, then you should pick the school with the strongest study abroad program.

Personal Preferences

There is no question that you have personal preferences when it comes to which school you want to attend. Maybe you applied to a wide variety of schools so that you would have many options to choose from. If so, then this is very critical. Think about the things that really matter to you, besides the educational aspect. Do you want a campus or a more urban campus? Do you want to be in the suburbs or the city? How far do you actually want to travel to get home for the holidays? Does the school attract a certain type of person? Are there exclusive groups? Do you want to be at a school with or without a Greek system? To be taught by T.A.s or not to be taught by T.A.s? There are many small decisions that go into making the overall decision, so do not overlook your personal preferences.

Act Now

Don’t wait until the day before you have to commit to a school to think about these decisions. If you do, you will feel rushed and may make a decision you will come to regret. While you can always transfer, do you really want to do the entire application process all over again? Take it from me, it’s not fun.

CultureEducationTravel

CHOOSING THE DESTINATION

With over 190 countries in the world and 50 states in America alone, how do you figure out where to travel to? How do you narrow down the choices let alone choose just one?

Although we live in a globalized world with phenomenally quick modes of transportation and travel guides in every language, the bottom line is that physical convenience does not equal financial accessibility. Traveling is still a very costly activity and must therefore be considered carefully. When it comes to spending, even the smallest details of a trip can make the difference – check out our tips for traveling on a budget.

Ultimately the biggest question still comes down to where you will be going and then building your plans around that decision. I have compiled the most useful information that helped me decide to travel when I had one week available to me this previous November while I was studying abroad in Denmark.

1)   Here at Carpe, we suggest that you aim high! Get a pen and paper out and write down all the places you want to go. Consider characteristics of places you would enjoy exploring. Maybe you want to visit somewhere with historical landmarks or sandy beaches. Perhaps you want to experience what sleeping in an igloo is like! Whatever strikes your fancy write it down! Follow the steps below to sort out what your most realistic options are. I knew that I wanted to go somewhere with a lot of museums and was accessible by public transportation. Those two key factors helped me narrow down my search to London and Paris.

2)   How will you be traveling? Consider the way you will be traveling and what you’re realistically able to afford and physically handle. If you live in the United States but and want to visit Australia, keep in mind that that trip is over 24 hours worth of flying. Don’t be afraid to look locally and consider what is just under your nose! Although I toyed with the idea of going to Turkey or even South America, ultimately I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford those plane tickets and that one week would not be enough time to explore any surrounding areas.

3)   How much time do you have? Are you taking a short getaway weekend trip or will this be an all-out excursion? Figure out how many days and nights you have, and don’t forget to factor in travel time and potential jet-lag. A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to China to see family, but I did not realize that the time difference would cause me to be so tired! It took me about three days on each end of the trip to properly adjust to the new time zone. If you are doing a short trip I would suggest not going too far out of the same time zone, or you will lose exploration time to sleep.

4)   Consider your age. This may sound like an odd step, but take a second to think about your age in relation to the place you want to visit; if you are thinking about going to Las Vegas but are only fifteen, explore some other options and figure out how you can get the most experience out of your trip. If you have a very touristy city like New York on your list, keep in mind that because those are in metropolitan areas and therefore more handicap accessible, they might be better options for when you are older. Take advantage of the extra energy you have when you are younger and go somewhere that you can utilize that physical capability. On my independent trip, I got around almost entirely by walking and taking the metro. It was necessary for me to have the energy for multiple days of walking, but because of the solid infrastructure I could have taken cabs if necessary.

5)   Are you traveling in a group or independently? In our first Travel Series post we outline the importance of safety. It’s critical to take into account safety aspects whether you are in a group or alone. If you have never traveled alone before but are choosing to for the next adventure, consider going somewhere that is safe for a young person who is new to traveling. It also helps to visit somewhere that you know someone. When I travelled to London and Paris by myself I asked my friends via Facebook if they were also in those cities. It turned out that I have more than a few friends in both places who I was able to meet up with and explore the city with! If you are in a larger group maybe go somewhere more adventurous – you will have more people to keep on eye on the surroundings and belongings, and to help take care of each other.

Wherever you choose to go, I hope you have an awesome time! Traveling is a wonderful privilege and I hope some of this advice helps you narrow down your next travel destination!

Where are you going next? Let us know!

Skills

Being a leader – at school, work, or in your own life – involves varying degrees of risk. If you are making a huge life decision, debating whether to put yourself out there to run for student government, or deciding to transfer schools, certain choices you make require risk-taking. Risk-taking is often much easier said than done and it might not come naturally to you. That’s okay. It takes time to become a risk-taker. 

Risk is the possibility that something unpleasant will occur. When you take risks, there is the chance that the outcome you want might not happen, but there is also the chance that it could happen and be everything you wanted and more. 

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If uncertainty frightens or challenges you, keep these 12 tips in mind if you want to be a better risk-taker…

1. Step outside of your comfort zone. Taking risks means doing something that could make you uncomfortable, scared, and stressed. However, know that this is completely normal when you are about to do something that you might not normally do or if you have important things you are giving up to take this risk. Stepping outside of the bounds that you are naturally comfortable with will give you the courage to try new things.

2. Have faith in yourself. Trust yourself. You want to take a backpacking trip across Europe? Go for it! You are thinking about organizing a trash pick-up group over the weekend? You can do it! You have the ability to do anything, especially when you have faith in yourself.

3. Determine why you want to take a risk. What is driving or compelling you to do this thing you really want to do? What are you passionate about? Why now? Figure out why exactly you want to take a risk so that you can use it as fuel to get you started and to keep you moving.

4. Baby steps. Nothing happens overnight. Deciding to take a risk is the leap you make, but take baby steps to build your dreams and achieve your goals.

5. Be comfortable making decisions. Don’t think that making one decision will be “right” or “wrong.” This is not a test. Make a decision based on facts, your gut, and experience, and then deal with the consequences from there – good or bad. You won’t know until you make the first move.

6. Have confidence. You know why you want to take the leap and do something awesome and potentially off the beaten path. Tell others with confidence and let your dreams come to life through your words and actions.

7. Take strategic risks. Don’t just do something to do something. Think through what you want to do and how you plan to accomplish it. If you take a risk without thinking about the consequences or your safety, perhaps you are taking a risk that may in fact be too risky and just plain ol’ dangerous.

8. Identify your fears. What scares you and why? When you can pinpoint what makes you scared, you can then start to overcome those fears.

9. Build a support system. Your friends and family can be a fantastic support system, and on days when you question your abilities, talk to your support system to give you the boost you need to keep going.

10. It’s OK to ‘fail.’ It might be helpful to figure out your definition of failure. Many failures can actually be great when you learn from your mistakes to make you stronger.

11. Stay positive. There will be days you doubt yourself. Totally normal. Maintain a positive attitude so that when you slip out of your funk, you won’t have abandoned your goals due to a low moment that everyone has periodically. Think about what compelled you to take a risk in the first place and use that as positive energy.

12. Stop making excuses. Just stop! It’s too easy and it will prevent you from ever doing what you want to do. Leap, make baby steps, and take it from there. Less talking, more action.

What risks have you taken or want to take?