CultureTravel

“Hitting up the churches and museums in Winnipeg today + the Osborne village shopping district, which is apparently like a shorter version of Gastown. Wanna see the architecture and then relax along la rivière rouge sous le beau soleil.

The photograph is of the cathedral in the cemetery in the saint boniface area of Winnipeg. So cool. Two girls were making candles inside when the wax caught fire and destroyed everything (including the 5000-volume library, alas!). This was in 1860. They’ve rebuilt it since.”

Facebook post from Winnipeg, Canada; July 28th, 2012

Don’t lie. We’ve all been guilty of this at one point or another. You look over at a backpacker on the bus, busily typing into their phone, entering a new status update that proclaims their new destination along with the new photo (or two hundred) of the day. Your forehead wrinkles, your eyebrows crinkle, and you turn away, back to the open scenery rolling by outside your window, wondering how on earth another person could be so absorbed by technology and the maintenance of a superficial image when beauty strolls by so close and refined, if only you’d look.

Wait, you did mean guilty of checking Facebook on your travels, right? Well, no, I meant guilty of judging people who update and stay tuned to social media while traveling.

Yes, I know what most people think when they see someone on vacation just thumbing away on their phones. You’re supposed to be focusing on the new sights and sounds around you! or Why are you so conscious about your image that you have to brag about every new thing that you do? Those opinions are completely warranted in some cases; I won’t discount the arguments that technology is making people more distracted and pulling them away from the real world. Face it; we are the generation that relentlessly, obsessively documents ourselves. Nowadays, people are more interested in taking a selfie and proving that they’ve been to said place than actually taking in the experience. That being said, social media has its good points, and many annoyed looks are merely the result of misled impressions.

“There was no end in sight. Yearning plunged into the distance; frost caught in my hair. Rushing passage, as ona sleigh in space. An intoxicating feeling came over me: a burgeoning sense of life, the limitless, exuberant pleasure of being in the world. The freedom of an hour in the Russian winterland. I loved life.

Years charged by, death wheeled over the earth, God and his stars perished in the West, and there was war on earth. I was a soldier in danger and in pain, a wanderer, a traveler in space. But I loved life.

Willy Peter Reese, 1944. He never came home.”

Private Facebook post from Prague, Czech Republic; June 24th, 2014

The quote above would have escaped my memory had I not saved it online. Re-reading it brings back the same feelings that urged my hand to copy Reese’s words. His words were a mirror to the infinity, that toxic contradiction of invincibility teetering on the edge of a dark crevasse; this I feel when prancing in a winter wonderland, but also when just in flight, in motion, in travel.

It’s sad to say, but I have a memory lacking in depth, in courage. You could argue that I could have just kept my thoughts in a notebook, but I run out of pages. Or I lose the notebook. I probably have dozens of notebooks stored in boxes in the garage; I’ve always been a packrat. But until I find time and the will to venture out to the spiderwebs and dust, there they shall stay: still, closed, aching. Like a time capsule, treasured and waiting.

On the other hand, my Facebook page could run forever; it scrolls off the screen for miles. I can check my account when I’m seventy-six (assuming I live that long) and I’ll still be able to see the thoughts I thought important enough to immortalize, share with the world. Facebook automatically records the time, date and location of writing – which is why it’s so important for me to pen down my reflections of an event at the time and place. It’s like the journalist’s way of holding to the truth, adhering to the authenticity of the moment.

There’s something to be said about writing from the place of now. There’s an urgency to write in real time, to write and immortalize your feelings right in that moment and right before that and right afterwards, because we know that if we leave it till tomorrow, we won’t be able to recall the small details, and if we leave it till the next week, we’ll only remember the highlights. Also true: tomorrow, there will be something else to write; the week after, even more. If I don’t write it now, the great likelihood is that I won’t write it ever.

“Oh, the many shades of Ireland.

I’ve seen it at its most dramatic, the colours vibrant and popping, and its most serene, like you’re invading a private world of nature that isn’t meant for human eyes. You can never get a bad photo of Ireland, this vast, beloved land is just too photogenic, almost to a fault. 😉

Made lots of progress today. Caught an early ferry from Cape Clear Island to Schull, on the Mizen peninsula, and spent the hour-long journey singing and watching the waves and the grey skies – was the only passenger on the boat, total five-star treatment, haha. Biked a total of 70 km today, whoot! The most I’ve done so far in a day this trip, and it’s been among one of the most scenic stretches of the Wild Atlantic Way. Truly, some of the sights I’ve seen are so rugged it makes me feel like I’m facing off danger just being in its awesome presence.The world is just too goddamned beautiful.

Another soggy day, the third wet day of the trip so far, but at 5pm, just when I went down to Mizen Head to get a view of the cliffs and the ocean from the southernmost point of the peninsula, the sky opened up and the sun came through – oh, what a glorious, much-appreciated entrance that was!

West Cork, you’ve been simply stunning! I’m a lucky girl. Tomorrow – crossing the border into Kerry, and beginning leg 2 of the journey.”

Facebook post from the County of Cork, Ireland; August 27th, 2014

One of the most powerful things I find, as a writer, is that looking back at your past entries, you don’t just remember what you’ve seen and accomplished, felt and survived; you also see a different side of yourself, a different maturity or state of mind. Four months before the dated post above, I wrote something in complete juxtaposition:

“I’ve had the opportunity to bike twice in Europe – the first was with my host in Glasgow, if you’ll remember, and the second was alone through the gorgeous grasslands and along the fierce highways. It’s a bit of a fear of mine to cycle alone in a foreign country, but there were so many nice people who helped me along the way.”

Facebook post from Bratislava, Slovakia; May 19th, 2014

Funnily enough, I don’t remember being afraid of biking solo through a foreign country. The immediate thought that would come to mind if you asked me what one of my greatest bicycle journeys (or any journey, period) has been is Oh, the time I biked for ten days around Ireland.

I don’t know if it’s possible to relive moments that have passed, but when I view something I expressed, whether a photograph, a written thought or a drawing, something calls to a long-buried memory tucked between the grooves and ridges of my brain. It’s like a quick flash in front of my eyes, a glimpse of a portal into a different world. It may not play out like an indie film, but all of those glimpses represent hand-picked slides of my past that I would not have remembered without a trigger. For that, I have to thank Facebook.

During my travels, I typically use Facebook at least once a day, unless I’m out in the boonies camping or on some long-distance sea voyage (the latter has yet to happen, sadly). Facebook, for me, is like a virtual diary with the added benefits of automatically sharing the thoughts and images I accumulate on my journey with all the people I care about. I use it to store and share my photographs, the precious moments lucky enough to be caught on film – photographs of myself in situations I won’t remember in a couple of years. A photograph of myself with two guys, all wearing sombreros, in Vietnam?! Check.

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Facebook also lets me keep in contact with friends I meet along the way and friends back home. When I’m lonely on the road, I know I can talk to someone with the touch of a button. Facebook also lets everyone know I’m safe, that I’m still alive. If I don’t post something for a while, people will at least know where I last was, on which day. That’s really important.

But, to some degree, you only post stuff to Facebook to show off, don’t you? One might ask me, eyebrow raised in doubt.

Well, I won’t disagree with you. Travel is, to a degree, a privilege, and while it took me a while to admit it, I have to say that I do take it for granted at times. When I traveled around Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand earlier this year, I kept on thinking about how lucky I was to have simply been born in the ‘right’ country, to a middle-class family with the kind of opportunities we have. I kept on thinking how countries in Southeast Asia were so affordable for people in wealthier countries, but how people from Vietnam, for example, would have to work for a decade or more just to afford one family trip to North America. I’m even lucky to just have a Malaysian passport; my citizenship allows me to visit 166 countries without a visa, or with a visa-on-arrival. That’s a huge amount of mobility that, sadly, citizens of certain other countries aren’t afforded. Life dealt me a pretty good hand.

But I don’t post photographs to show off the fact that I travel. Some travel companies are now taking on the slogan, “Take the next selfie in an exotic location to make your friends jealous!” That literally repulses me. Travel isn’t a competition, and if you think that way, you’re not thinking about travel right. Travel isn’t about one-upping one another for the title of ‘Most Countries I’ve Ever Stepped Foot In’. Travel isn’t calculative. Travel is about an exchange of culture, language, scenery, friends. Travel is about expanding our worlds, showing us just how small we are, teaching ourselves humility and patience. When I put up photographs from my travels, yes, it’s to show everyone I’m having a good time, but it’s also to showcase the beauty of the world, to give them snapshots of what else is out there beyond our comfort zones. A few of my friends tell me they live vicariously through my photographs and travel notes. I can understand that, because when I’m not traveling, I love looking at my Facebook feed, full of photographs from my friends who are frequent travelers, exploring South America and Europe and Asia. It keeps me invigorated, anticipating the next time I can get out on the road again, feeding my inspiration.

There will always be skeptics. My original title for this piece was “Reflections from the Road: A Defense of Facebook on my Travels,” but then I realized that sounded like I was seeking someone’s approval, or needed to prove something. In reality, I don’t, and you don’t. Opinions on social media seem to be divided into two halves: either people reveal too much of their lives, sometimes obnoxiously, sometimes mistakenly, or people filter their lives so that their social media accounts reveal only the parts they want people to see: the happy, glorious, brave side of them. To a certain extent, social media has masked anything that suggests true sorrow, anger or ruthlessness, and so we can’t be blamed for therefore thinking that social media is just for face, for show. But that doesn’t mean it’s all superficial. If you were to look back at what I posted when I was 15, you’d see that it’s all gibberish between young teenage girls. But I think if you looked at my posts in recent years, you could see the rawness of my heart.

“I know where I started out: starry-eyed, idealistic, ambitious and naive. Had the drive and the passion to take it all the way even through the dangers. I still hope I’m that naked flame.

But I wonder what kind of bad habits I have as a traveler. Sure, carrying just one backpack all around Europe has helped me get really far, but what about the deeper issues at play? They say take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footsteps. Do I take too many photos? Am I living in the moment? What kind of mark do I leave on the countries and people that have so kindly hosted me? I hope it’s a footprint that bears my changing identity, that remains bona fide and dedicated to the soul no matter the number of experiences that try to cull it.

But one of my biggest questions – and one of my scariest – is: Can I actually call myself a traveler, instead of a tourist? We always look at tourists with some extent of derision, rolling our eyes at their ignorant antics… As much as I hate to admit it, I do have a bit of the tourist in me, as much as I try hard to avoid that stereotype. One thing I have learned is that the next time I take on a long backpacking journey such as my summer in Europe, I will slow down.”

Facebook post from Dublin, Ireland; August 21st, 2014

Without these posts, these diary entries, I wouldn’t have remembered these specific moments. I’d say we are the sum total of our feelings, thoughts and actions, and if I can’t remember what I felt – the admiration, the inspiration, the luck, the chance, the fight – I would be missing out on a grand part of an experience of a lifetime. Where I might have only remembered the aftermath and the highlights, the great peaks and the final conclusion, with these posts, I have a second chance. I can go back to the in-between.

Yes, social media has made people even more vain and self-absorbed as before – but it has made people more self-conscious and vulnerable too. Social media has people doing all they can for a glamorous selfie, even risking their lives for what they think is the next coolest image. People have died trying to take selfies on top of high buildings and bridges, and in front of oncoming trains. I personally think this is utterly ridiculous. I mean, who wants to be remembered for dying for a selfie? Who wants to be remembered for being vain and stupid? Selfies are symbolic for the wrong things.

Photographs, on the other hand, are symbolic and metaphorical, for all the right reasons. When you put your camera in a stranger’s hand, you’re saying, “I trust you enough. I trust you enough to not steal my camera, and I trust you enough to capture a good image of me.” There’s a touching of hands, a gentle, friendly exchange of human contact. It’s no longer that ‘me, me, me!’ that the selfie screams, but an enveloping of ‘we.’ Photographs are an expression of our souls, and Facebook, for all its downfalls, is a platform for an exchange between us. I launch my wandering thoughts into the universe, virtual or not, so that it might draw out other wandering thoughts and conceive a conversation. I’m inviting people to join in, make themselves a part of my journey, and me a part of theirs.

“I went out to celebrate my last night in the eternal city, wanting to see the famous Fontana di Trevi which I’d left until the last minute. As I approached the junction at which I would turn and marvel at the fountain, I prepared myself mentally for the beautiful sight I’d imagined in my head – clear blue water lit up from below, shadows and light dancing lightly on marble, grand statues perched regally above.

I laughed my head off when I saw that the fountain was being restored. The pool was drained, the building was covered in ugly scaffolding, and a platform had been set up so that throngs of tourists could wait in line to get up close to the statues. Oh my, oh my, too hilarious. It both made my night and didn’t.

My first thought was that, oh well, Rome just wasn’t ready for me. So many buildings and sites were undergoing reconstruction/restoration. But then I thought – Rome, this marvelous city, this grand cradle of civilization that is almost 3000 years old and still so well preserved till today, this giant that tolerates the millions of tourists that stomp on its grounds, cough in its face, that leave after a brief three-day, two-night stay and call it “seeing Rome”… It does not have to be ready for anyone. It’s us that have to be ready for it.”

Facebook post in Rome, Italy; July 21st, 2014

It’s us that have to be ready.

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Images by Alaska Rue and Flickr

Health

Have you ever come across that person who is always complaining, gossiping, or making negative comments? Before identifying him or her, it can be very difficult to stay away from responding with negativity. Negative people like negative company. Constantly dealing with people who bring negativity into your life or who never fail to bring you down in some way are the kinds of people you should consider weeding out of your life. If these are people you ultimately can’t escape, there are ways to distance yourself without being harsh or rude.

Law of Attraction

The law of attraction notes that “likes attract likes” and if you focus on positive thoughts you will find yourself with a positive outcome. Now, consider applying this concept in another form. If you openly display certain qualities or interests, you are likely to attract people who are also interested in those same things. This, after discerning that you want to surround yourself with new people, is the first step of attracting people who are likely to understand you and who share similar traits.

Farewell to Your Comfort Zone

This one is difficult but very important. Many of us do not enjoy leaving our comfort zones because, well, it is no longer a comfortable place. However, leaving your comfort zone is the only way to achieve goals and stand out from the conventional – it is vital in life. It also allows you to get comfortable with what was once uncomfortable, therefore making your life a constant cycle that pushes you to try new things. Try joining a new club, traveling somewhere with a program, sitting somewhere else for lunch, or even inviting people you’ve never spent time with (outside of school or work) for lunch. Branching out is essential in trying to make new relationships.

Make Time for Yourself

Aside from trying out new activities, having some time for yourself is also an important component to this transformative time in your life. Allowing yourself to think alone and reflect on your experiences will bring you to identify the parts of your life you wish to alter. It allows you to make calm, well thought out decisions.

Focus on Work or School

Focusing on work or school is a great way to concentrate on the things that are important. In addition, it only leaves time for few people which allows you realize that quality time is meant for quality people. This is an easier method for not only distancing yourself from negative people, but it is also a great way to appreciate the people who matter most in your life.

Start Acting Positive

Almost like my law of attraction point, you can attract positive people if you begin to act positive. After you hear the typical, “I hate Monday, I wish it were Friday,” you can either not respond to it by changing the topic or you can respond with positivity by noting, “Really? I don’t mind them – they’re like any other day.” Like I previously mentioned, negative people like to feed off of other negative people. You will be surprised as to how quickly people will begin to catch on to this mindset. Being positive can: 1. Help positivity flourish in those around you, and 2. Repel negative people. Both of these are helpful for achieving your goal.

Staying positive is not only a mood booster, but it is also necessary for your physical health. Do yourself a favor and begin changing the parts of your life that will help you become a better person. The steps may be unfamiliar but you can’t go wrong in trying!

How do you add positivity into your life?

P.S. Journaling and living inside out can also help you live a more positive life.

Image: Bảo-Quân Nguyễn

CultureLearn

read

These are the articles #TeamCarpe read and loved this week. What did you enjoy reading?

Travel

10 tricks that travel writers swear by. You, too, can learn their secrets.

Creative

Graphic designer Annie Atkins created an entire world with props in Wes Anderson’s Oscar-nominated film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. How cool does her job sound?

Be Amazed

Vietnam-based artist Adam Tran created stunning origami models of prehistoric creatures. Very impressive.

Watch

PBS created a documentary on Dr. Atul Gawande’s book, Being Mortal. Gawande explores how doctors talk to patients about death and dying and the struggle it entails.

Write

There are so many great health benefits to writing. Try writing daily!

Apply

Thinking about your summer internship already? Maybe one of these 25 highest rated companies for internships might be of interest.

Rethink

Get ready, because in spring 2016 there’s a new redesigned SAT in town.

Image: Carpe Juvenis

Skills

During the holiday season, especially right around Thanksgiving, gratitude is everywhere. Starting around kindergarten, we’re taught that this is the time to list out the things we’re grateful for and say our thank you’s. It’s a wonderful thing, and our warm holiday glow often lasts a few weeks past the big day. But, most of us get caught back up in our busy routines and forget to show or regularly acknowledge our gratitude for the miraculous gifts life has given us: friends, family, love, education, health, pets… and the more simple ones (which may not be so simple to many people in the world): a sip of water, a bite of food, or a breath of fresh air.

Forgetting to show gratitude doesn’t make us bad people, but it actually would serve us and our happiness if we could remember to thank our lucky stars each day. Giving thanks daily can be so quick, but can truly impact the way we see our days.

Here are a few ways to remember our gratitude and give thanks to those who mean so much to us:

  1. Gratitude list – get a small journal, notepad or just sheet of paper, and fill it every day with five things for which you are grateful. You will soon realize how many tiny yet wonderful things have accumulated in your life.
  2. Start your day with thanks – if you happen to be religious or spiritual, wake up and thank the Universe, God, or any divine form of energy or higher power you worship. An example could be “thank you for letting me see another beautiful day.” Repeating this each morning can slowly rewire the way you see things.
  3. Say “thank you” – to EVERYONE! The person who held the door, your server, your friends, your boss for complimenting you, your teammates for working hard. Thank people for just being. Even if they try to play it off cool, no one ever dislikes being genuinely thanked for being kind or doing a good job.
  4. Write thank you notes – it doesn’t matter how long you’ve put them off, write letters to people who have recently given you gifts or cards. Write thank you notes to your friends for being the friends they are. Write a thank you note to the person who smiled at you and made your day, even if you don’t know them and have no way of giving them the note.
  5. Thank yourself – no matter what anyone says, you are doing the best you can, so thank yourself for that. You’re here, living despite any challenges you may be facing. You’re awesome, thanks for being you! Write yourself a note or just look in the mirror and say it.
  6. Share – when we truly appreciate the abundance in our lives, we are more willing to share it. I believe this can work backwards, though; when we share, we often become more aware of our abundance.
  7. Make a phone call – call a grandparent, and ask him or her to tell you a story from his or her life. Ask your dad to tell you his favorite recipe, or your mom to tell you more about her favorite hobby. Asking others about themselves is a way to show we care, we are interested and we’re glad they’re here.
  8. Take a deep breath – and notice the air filling your lungs. That, in itself, is a miracle, and the more we slow down, stop to smell the roses and feel the air in our lungs, the more we train ourselves to realize these small but beautiful things.

Thank you for reading! How do you show your gratitude? Share below!

Image: MTSOfan

InspirationSkills

Taking time to self-reflect is absolutely necessary in this day and age that can sometimes feel like a “societal factory.” Journaling is a great way to balance the mind.

Writing may not be everyone’s forte, and oftentimes people associate writing with school and essays. However, writing can be a wonderful emotional outlet as there are no rules and no structure. Do you keep a journal or diary? Better question: did you keep a journal or diary in the 3rd grade and have it stuffed in a dusty carton shoebox somewhere in your basement? Dig it out. Skim through the pages until you find something juicy. How refreshing was it to write in that diary every single night, and why did you do it? Was there something thrilling about burying your deepest darkest secrets through writing with a chance of them being found with a defining date on the top right hand corner? Or was it simply a cathartic experience to have some sort of emotional release when there was nobody to talk to? Discover the truth behind your diary-keeping and decide whether or not that can be helpful today.

Meanwhile, here are a few reasons why journaling can be a good idea:

  1. Studies Show It’s Healthy For Your Brain

Writing a journal entry each night has incredible benefits for your brain. Writing has been proven to clarify thoughts and feelings to allow you to reflect on yourself and your actions in a more detailed manner. It assists in facing your problems or dilemmas head-on and really analyze your emotions. More specifically, when you write about deep or dark emotions, you are essentially “letting it all out” and releasing some of the stress that has been built up. Studies also show that writing helps solve problems more successfully as it works the right hemisphere of the brain (or the creative/intuitive side) to explore other solutions to problems that you may be facing. This includes misunderstandings with others. Writing out the scenario will help you put yourself in their shoes and understand him or her, or even your point of view, a little better.

(source: http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/000721)

  1. Looking Back is Like Looking At a Masterpiece

There is nothing more valuable than the words you wrote a few years back. They capture your thoughts, beliefs, and point of views in a matter of pages. They even capture the tone of your feelings at the time by observing the hand writing – were there scribbles, were your letters written hard and bold, or were your words written in peaceful cursive? Notes on the side or casual “P.S’s” are sure to crack subtle smiles on your face. Writing things down is a great way to keep a personal time machine. Looking back five or even 10 years later can be a hypnotizing experience as you are glued to the pages until you reach the final blank page. Not only is it fascinating to go back in time, but it’s incredible to see how you have changed as a person. Life is a constant journey that molds the person you are, and every experience and interaction will somehow change your beliefs, points of views, and opinions. New information is received regularly and this only allows for a better, more informed mind. This observation of noting your changes will invite further development and greater reflection for the future.

  1. Organization and Sorting

Journals are a great way for you to keep track of your daily activities. In essence, they are great for keeping up with your goals, dreams, and current endeavors. They are also beneficial for logging your workouts, diet, and anything that is in progress when working on an objective. In addition, journals are a fabulous way to organize the jumble of thoughts that swerve through your mind on a daily basis. Life gets busy; we are all victims of this and sorting out your thoughts and ideas on paper may give a sense of release. Developments will surely arise from this because writing things down are almost like setting things down in stone.

  1. Discovery

Aside from jotting down the ideas and thoughts that have already crossed your mind, a journal or diary is the place where Chapter One begins. It can be the place where you let your creativity dive into a pool of new story plots, life plans, and side notes. The left side of the brain is already busy just by writing, therefore, this allows the right side of the brain to freely roam- allowing your brain to fully serve as a powerhouse of ideas whether it be artistically or philosophically.

  1. The Little Things

Journaling each night has more power than you may think. Take 10 minutes out of your day to write down the best things that have happened to you on that very day. This can include great things that happened to you as a result of luck or hard work, nice things people said or did, and simply the moments that brought positivity in your day and simply made you feel happy. Recognizing these small things has great power to them as they allow you to reflect and appreciate your life in another way. Many times a grave GPA-determining final exam can overlap that moment after lunch when a stranger reminded you with a sincere grin on his face that your shirt was on backwards. Maybe it made you laugh or made you want to hide in the corners of the Earth, but the sincerity of his smile and his good intentions made you see the light in humanity. Little things like this change the way you may view your days and essentially invite a more positive attitude toward your life.

Daily journaling is a fantastic habit to adopt. It brings many benefits to your overall health and well-being. It allows for deeper self-reflection and essentially calls for “me-time,” an essential mechanism that many people ignore today. Treating your journal as if it were your best friend may serve as a great way to purge away negative emotions and bring you to a better mental place. But finally, writing each night primarily does one thing: it allows you to grow. It allows you to develop into a better person and see the world with different eyes.

P.S. You can also start a gratitude journal.

Travel

Summers are underrated. Relaxing under the sun, hanging out with friends, seeing movies whenever you feel like them, and worst of all desperately attempting to avoid work all lead down a high speed road until you’re plopped back into the fall at work or at school and wonder what you’re doing with your life.

For me personally, I am staring the inevitable death of summers right in the face, as I prepare for my senior year of college. But no matter what situation might bring you towards your last summer vacation, what’s important is that you make the most of it.

Here are some ideas for how to make the most out of any summer, and avoid that downhill tumble into September:

1. Make fitness a priority.

The hardest part about exercise is getting it into a part of your daily routine. The dog days of summer are the perfect time to set yourself up for the busier seasons ahead by installing an exercise plan throughout the week. It feels like work, but after awhile the habit will kick in. You’ll want to go for a run rather than need to. Whether it’s to stay in shape or just to keep your mind sharp, exercise is a valuable asset to any go-getter’s arsenal.

2. Mix up your environment.

You’ll have the rest of your life to work in a typical office experience. While getting any professional experience will be incredibly valuable in the future, try to find it in an avenue that’s possibly more of a peripheral interest, or that’ll challenge you in ways your aspiring career might not. I’ll give you a personal example.  During my last summer, I have spent my days as a Creative Writing Intern for a small video game company. Though I’ve always enjoyed both writing and video games, I had never fully combined them into one workday until this experience. I feel like its really broadened my preexisting skillset, and opened a door to a potential career field I hadn’t initially thought about.

3. Keep an idea journal.

One of the most powerful things humans have are ideas. Keeping a journal of your day-to-day ideas keeps them under your control and in your hands. Big or small, easy or difficult, all ideas should be saved. You never know when an idea will come, or when the timing is right to seize on it. Write it down.

4. Take advantage of a flexible schedule.

The last summer also presents the ominous prospect of potentially leaving your home or your hometown. Take some time to revisit landmarks from the past,and to discover new places and possibilities too! The flexible schedule of the summer will leave you with some space to get out of your house and your comfort zone. Sleeping in is always an incredible option, but when you’re young and the world is this old, you gotta take advantage of all it has to offer.

5. Set away time for fun.

At the end of the day, this is still summer vacation. I know it’s hard to remember that second part. But it’s still there! When the waning summer days start to get hectic, give yourself the space to recharge in whatever outlet you find best. Binge a television show you’ve always wanted to binge. Read. Sometimes the best thing you can do to further your professional goals is to achieve your recreational ones. You should love the work you do, but don’t forget to love your life, too.

How have you been making the most of your summer?

Image: Jay Mantri

InspirationSkills

I live a whirlwind of a life. With this constant chaos comes quite the mess to follow. I’m talking papers and books stacked to the ceiling, clothes thrown and shoved in unconventional places and the constant “Where’s Waldo” like escapade when looking for anything.  I couldn’t live like this so I did some searching and found some nifty little fixes that were able to help a Tasmanian devil like myself. When it comes to getting work done, I can use all the help I can get.

Here are my top 4 tips for getting that desk (and brain) of yours organized!

1. Get Pretty.

Invest in pretty stationary! You’ll find yourself being far more careful and considerate with it and it keeps you organized. Who doesn’t want to whip out a gorgeous little book whenever they want to jot down an appointment?

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Whitney English Day Planner

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Mon Cahier Planner

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DIY Planner

 2. Think Sticky.

Sticky notes have changed my life. Like a quick little reminder, you can stick these guys anywhere and be instantly reminded to do just about anything! For me it’s remembering to take my vitamins.

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WTF Sticky Notes

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Ribbon Sticky Notes Pad Set

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I’m Sticky Post It Notes

3. Get Hanging.

Put all those important papers and notes somewhere you can see them! And feel free to style them accordingly.

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Chicken Wire Organization

desk 7

Hanging Desk Organizer

4. Top It All Off.

There are way too many pens, pencils, rulers, and other random doo-dads and gadgets we keep on our desks these days. Why not display and organize them in style?

desk 9

iPhone Dock Plus Vase

desk 10

Mason Jar Organizer

main desk photo

EducationSkills

After reading Arianna Huffington’s book ThriveI was inspired to start a gratitude journal. In her book, Arianna writes about how gratitude exercises can have tangible benefits. She writes, “According to a study by researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida, having participants write down a list of positive events at the close of a day—and why the events made them happy—lowered their self-reported stress levels and gave them a greater sense of calm at night.”  When I read this line, it only seemed natural to start a gratitude journal and document the positive events that had happened in my day or week. Lower stress levels and feeling calmer at night? Yes, please!

Starting and maintaining a journal can be difficult at first because it is another thing to remember to do, but after a while of keeping a gratitude journal, I promise you it’s worth it! Keep doing it every night until it becomes a habit. Luckily, writing in your gratitude journal won’t feel like a chore because it’s a peaceful time to just sit and write about all the things that you are thankful for. The words will flow from you and 15 minutes just might turn into 30. Another great line Arianna notes is, “Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation.” 

The best time to start a gratitude journal is now. These are the incredible benefits associated with journaling, and because maintaining a journal can be challenging, I share the tips that work best for me:

Benefits of a Gratitude Journal

1. Lower stress levels.

2. Feel calm at night.

3. Gain a new perspective of what is important to you and what you truly appreciate in your life.

4. By noting what you are grateful for, you will gain clarity on what you want to have more of in your life, and what you can cut from you life.

5. Helps you focus on what really matters.

6. Keeping a gratitude journal helps you learn more about yourself and become more self-aware.

7. Your gratitude journal is a safe zone for your eyes only, so you can write anything you feel without judgment.

8. On days when you feel blue, read back through your gratitude journal to readjust your attitude and remember that you have great people and things in your life.

Maintaining a Gratitude Journal

1. Plan to write in your gratitude journal every night for 15 minutes before bed. Set an alarm reminder on your phone or schedule it in your calendar. I’ve found that it is easier to write at night so that I can include things that I am grateful for from that day.

2. Keep your gratitude journal by your nightstand so you will see it before going to sleep and remember to jot down what you are thankful for. Your journal may even become a symbol of gratitude so that when you just look at it, you will feel a sense of appreciation.

3. Write as many things as you want in your gratitude journal. Writing down 5-10 things that you are grateful for each day is a good number to aim for.

4. Your gratitude journal doesn’t have to be deep. What you are thankful for can be as simple as “family” or “the new book or movie I recently enjoyed” or “this morning’s breakfast.” What you are grateful for will differ from everyone else.

5. The timing of when you want to write is up to you. While I try to write in my gratitude journal every night, sometimes it becomes every other night. That’s okay. Journal when it feels right for you – the benefits really are worth it.

Are you inspired to start a gratitude journal? Share your tips with us at @carpejuvenis!

Skills

April came and went so quickly! It feels like just yesterday we were starting our 30 Day Challenge. Now that the 30 days are over, we wanted to check in to see how you all did! We have lots of questions for you. These are questions that you should think about and answer for yourselves. How did the 30 days go? Were you able to stick with one challenge for all 30 days? Where did you get stuck? How did you overcome those difficulties? Would you do another 30/31 Day Challenge?

In the past 30 days, you have set a goal and figured out a way to achieve it. That’s pretty awesome. Now that it is May 1, 31 days now await for you to take on another challenge. Are you up for it? We know we are. For April, we challenged ourselves with not hitting the snooze button. While there were mornings that we slipped and added another 15 minutes to our sleep, for the most part we re-trained ourselves not to reach for that dreaded snooze button. When our alarms went off, we were up and ready. We told our sleep selves that hitting the snooze button was not an option. On those rough days, what really helped was thinking about a good thing that we wanted out of the day, and we found ourselves eager to wake up. It’s all about finding the tricks that work for you.

For May, our challenge is to write in a Gratitude journal every night. We will write down 10 things we are grateful for with a brief explanation. There will be a post coming with more details about this because we think expressing gratitude and being self-aware are very important. What is your May 31 Day Challenge?

Good luck, and follow us on Twitter to keep up with the 31 Day Challenge!

Skills

Starting April 1, the Carpe Juvenis team is going to take on a 30 day challenge. There are 30 days in April, hence why it is called the ’30 Day Challenge.’ There can be challenges every month, but we are starting this April and we’ll see how well it goes before committing even more time. Before the 30 Day Challenge even begins, though, we are faced with our first challenge: what to challenge ourselves with! How does one go about deciding what to improve and how to make something challenging? We came up with a list, and if you have any other suggestions, please send them our way!

It is tough to choose just one from this list, but we think that focusing on one challenging thing first will help us stick with it and actually achieve our goals. There is only one rule of this Challenge: do the thing you say you are going to do each day for the entire 30 days. That’s it! It might be hard, it might be the push you need to start something you’ve been delaying, and it might even be life changing. We can’t wait to find out.

30 Day Challenge Ideas (things you will do every day):

1. Don’t hit the snooze button.

2. Read the newspaper every morning.

3. Journal every day.

4. Read one play every night.

5. Exercise.

6. Take one picture a day.

7. Blog.

8. Cook a new recipe.

9.  Go to bed early.

10. Send a handwritten letter.

11. Tell someone you love them.

12. Watch a movie.

13. Write a page of your novel.

14. Apply to internships.

15. Study another language for one hour.

Good luck, keep us posted on how it goes, and remember: good things take time.