Travel

Whilst strolling along the warm streets of Philadelphia with a dear friend last summer, a curious conversation developed. He mentioned that in his opinion, cities are more alike than different because they each have downtowns, trendy neighborhoods, grocery stores, and so on. While certainly a valid point, I couldn’t help but to humbly disagree.

Cities, to me, are like people; organic and distinct. Each one has its own unique vibration that affects its dwellers and visitors differently. Perhaps I am a complete travel romantic, but every time I explore a new city I feel a different vibe and perspective.

For example, the powerful city I currently call “home” – Washington, D.C. – is unlike any other I have experienced. Coming from Philadelphia suburbia, the District has been an invigorating breath of fresh air. It seems as though everyone is the city is an innovator, activist, entrepreneur, or artist, and it’s impossible not to be motivated by my impressive peers. I like to call D.C. the “suburban city,” in that it has both the perks of city living (public transportation and never-ending attractions) but also the luxury of green space. Washington D.C. is that friend who is forever humble and calm, while behind closed doors is a remarkable go-getter.

Moving across the globe for a bit, Cape Town is another city that is unmatched in my eyes. With a rich yet tumultuous history on its side, the city overflows with South African pride and passion. Faces of so many colors, and mouths of so many languages, mix to create a city that revels in its diversity. Along with the glamour of the beautiful city, there is also serious grit. Perhaps it was the unfortunate contrast between the sleek buildings of Cape Town’s downtown and the meager homes just on the outskirts; or maybe, the people’s awareness that there is room for growth in social issues. Whatever it was made Cape Town feel unapologetically candid.

Then, there is Auckland. The city, I’ve deemed, that must be one of the happiest places on earth. Not only does New Zealand’s largest metropolis look immaculate, but it also has the ability to make the grumpiest people optimistic. The people are smiling, sun seems to always be shining, and grass is so curiously green. The city brings out an altruistic nature — making you care about other people, the environment, the animals, and the quality of life. It inadvertently motivates its citizens to upkeep the city in the name of sustainability and contentment. In my opinion, Auckland really gives Disney World a run for its money in the happiness competition.

So to me, cities are just as varied as people and their attitudes. The world is a big place, but little did I know about the equally big personalities that exist within it until I started to explore. With that said… get out there, tell me what you feel when you visit a new city (@aysiawoods), and happy travels!

Image: Aysia Woods

Skills

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

This has never rang more true than now. As a twenty-something, my current conversations and thought processes seem to always revolve around the “what am I doing with my life?” question. I am finding that within my circle of peers, someone is either landing a big-time job, traveling the world, attending graduate school, or questioning why they’re not doing any of these things. Social media newsfeeds can be an emerging adult’s biggest frenemy when it comes to keeping track of friends and colleagues. You want to know what someone is up to, but you secretly want to feel like you’re in a better spot than they are. (Oh I’m sorry, that must be my ego talking) That, or you want to justify your place in life by knowing that other people are in the same boat as you. Solidarity, anyone?

I have read countless blogs and articles on this comparison crisis rampant among college students and post-grads. Some have even called it the new OCD: over-comparison disorder. The problem with comparing is that other people’s situations are given a forefront to what progress and success should look like. This is a huge contentment sucker since we each have our own journey to fulfill that is constantly changing shape. Measuring where we are in life with another human being is like trying to shoot at a moving target. It’s frustrating and misaligned. There needs to be a way out of the “this is me” but “this is the world” limbo.

In fact, there is a way that is definitely worth trying. Here it is:

Live your life inside out.

That’s right. We’re about to get real soul-talky. Living life inside out? It means spending more time investing in your journey rather than living up to what others are doing in theirs. It means putting energy into nurturing what makes you unique, learning to not only identify but love your innate abilities and then having the willingness to improve the skills you choose to attain. Rather than absorbing the trends and timelines of your colleagues, observe what inspires you and take action at a pace that’s most beneficial to your own goals, whatever they may be. Identify insecurities and combat them by fostering positive thoughts about yourself and your future. Yes, living life inside out can be easier said than done, but it’s an approach that has a lot of support behind it. To establish some credibility here, Oprah (shout out to you, Oprah) mentioned this approach in a number of her interviews. Life coach and clinical psychologist Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus has even written a book about it with enough empirical research to calm any skeptics out there. Taking a note or two from these inspirers, I’ve learned that self-reflection can really be a gateway into self-acceptance.

So how does living inside out help us compare less and become happier? The first step is to acknowledge the comparisons you have with yourself and others. Say it with me: “Hi. My name is _______, and I am a comparer.” The next step is to shift your focus from the external, material, and visual to your unique personality, places and purpose. Ah, alliteration! Let’s call those the 3 P’s.

Personality: The collection of traits and tendencies that you exhibit to yourself and to the world.
Places: The non-geographical places of interest and value that your actions stem from. Maybe you come from a place of compassion or entrepreneurship or social justice or…
Purpose: Your calling. Your legend. Your reason. The string that threads through everything you do and what ties your beliefs and goals together. It’s your passion turned into action.

Every single person has a different combination of their 3 P’s. If you are able to focus on your 3 P’s you will learn to value them. You can cater your choices to a path that is tailored to who you are, rather than someone else. Don’t let someone else’s decision to join the Peace Corps or go to law school change your dream of launching your own startup. The next time you find yourself feeling uneasy about where you are in life because Person A is way ahead of you or Person B took a different route, realize that it’s because you come from different places, have different personalities, and each have your own special purpose.

A big chunk of this process is definitely learning to love and respect yourself fully so that you can in turn, emit that same positivity to those around you. There is something very freeing about allowing yourself to compare less and to appreciate more. So start within, share your abilities and dreams confidently, and embrace the abilities and dreams of your colleagues. It’s an ongoing process, this whole self-reflection thing, but let’s start at the core so that we can be so happy with ourselves that we are always happy for each other.

Image: David Goehring

CollegeCultureInspiration

I think every female has noticed this phenomenon at some point in their life: men tend to notice women a bit more if their features are slightly enhanced…by make-up. I notice that when I go on my occasional morning jog with no make-up on, barely any guys will try to communicate with me. When I’m at the gym in the evenings after class, I have a bit of make-up on, and for some reason, males will try to come talk to me.

Another instance of this “cosmetic on/off” phenomenon occurs on days when I am hardcore studying in the library after sleepless nights when I tend not to have any sort of lipstick, eyeliner, or foundation on. My acne scars are showing, the shades of dark circles under my eyes are present, and my forehead wrinkles are visible. I do not mind this. This is my natural look and I am proud of it. But why is it that the days I am bereft of any modification, absolutely no guy will sit with me in the library? On days when I am well-rested, showered, and have my make-up on, males with come and occupy some of the vacant seats around me. I attract them with my red lips, and perhaps I repel them with my pale lips.

Why does this happen? I have the same amount of intelligence with or without make-up. I am the same person with or without make-up. I have the same memories, the same sense of humor, and the same sarcastic undertones in some of the words. I am the same person, the same soul, and the same human despite my disheveled and haggard appearance or my prim and proper look.

Perhaps this condition does not only apply to males, and I have only noticed it in them. Maybe it’s just human nature that we tend to approach those who seem clean and beautiful, as opposed to those who look like they just rolled out of bed. It’s just natural for us to judge people by their appearance; it’s an inherent ability that we possess. We tend to feel safer around those who look put together physically.

However, is it possible for us to evolve out of this behavior and thought process? Can we look past people’s physiognomy and actually try to explore their minds? Is that something that our generation could possibly accomplish and set as a trend? Quite possibly, yes. I believe we can do this…next time you see someone sitting alone, regardless of what they look like, just go up to them and talk to them. I try to do this in college and I have met many beautiful souls and amazing characters.

Image: Hayley Bolan

CultureSkills

Before Macklemore made it cool, hipsters used to roam the empty aisles of local thrift shops, handpicking hidden wardrobe gems as the occasional indie tumbleweed rolled by. Fast forward a few years and a catchy chorus, and everyone wants to be a thrifter.

This new trend is really fantastic, because it means: less waste, less sweatshop labor, support for local non-profits and, of course, killer jumpsuits, sweaters, hats, and bowling shirts galore. Self-expression rocks.

Of course, with so many new thrifters on the block, finding those coveted diamonds in the rough has gotten more difficult, and prices have even gone up.

That’s why I’m here to share some tips that will have you poppin’ tags and takin’ names.

1. Patience, friends.

Sometimes you’ll have to search high and low before you find something you want. Other times, nothing will call your name. It’s ok to go home empty handed. Collecting as you go will allow you to slowly build up a collection or wardrobe of items you love.

2. Be willing to get dirty.

If you really want to find something worth writing home about, sometimes you have to go the extra mile. Sift through the entire wall art section; dig through the book bins and clothing piles. I know, it can be a battlefield in there sometimes, but stick it out and you might go home a very happy camper.

P.S. dress comfy and even consider wearing close-toed shoes if you’re heading to a massively popular store on restock day.

3. Research first.

Many thrift shops have great clearance events; call ahead to see if any are coming up. Additionally, ask what days the shop generally restocks its selections. Show up on those days! Be warned, they’ll get hectic at good thrift shops (see item #2).

4. Pay attention to the tags.

Many thrift shops have tiered pricing, meaning they will put an item out at one price, and then lower it a bit if it hasn’t been sold in a couple weeks. The price will continue to drop until the item is discarded to a clothing recycler. If you love that funny floor lamp but don’t want to drop $15 this week, check out the dates on the tags or ask someone working how long it has been out and if/when the price will drop. Just be aware – anything you’re not holding or don’t already own is fair game. That lamp may be gone tomorrow. It’s all about making the tough judgment calls.

5. Budget yourself.

A good way to make those judgment calls is to allocate the amount of money you’re willing to spend. Macklemore only goes in with $20 in his pocket. How much are you going to take? I like the cash thing, because it not only eliminates credit card fees, it allows me to control what I spend. Leave the cards at home or in your glove compartment, and walk in with your allotted cash as your only form of currency.

6. Throw out the gender stereotypes.

By this I mean that a large portion – we’re talking at least 60 percent – of my winter wardrobe consists of sweaters from thrift store men’s racks. They’re oversized and awesome. Don’t limit yourself to your gender’s section only. Gender stereotypes belong nowhere in this day and age, and thrift shops are no exception to that rule.

 7. Use your imagination.

Turn old drawer pulls into wall hooks, and key chains into necklaces. Get super DIY. A good way to get imaginative without losing control: when you see something you might want, envision its purpose in your room, wardrobe or wherever you plan to put it. Does it work? Does it serve a purpose of some kind? If no bells ring, don’t buy it.

8. Keep an open mind.

You may find clothes that scream “I’m weird!” But they could also turn out to be the coolest clothes you’ve ever worn. Don’t be closed off to finding things you didn’t expect to want. While shopping for my new apartment, I went to a thrift shop in search of a lamp. I left with a super cool bed. It happens.

It’s great to see thrift shopping growing in popularity, and it’s even better to see people rocking outfits that match their own individual styles. It’s also an incredible way to save money on clothes that you’ll be able to spend on other experiences. All in all, good things come from thrifting. Do you have any thrifting tips?

Image: Sabrina Dan Photo