They Want Me to Buy New Shoes

(Said sneakers pictured above)

They want me to buy new shoes, but I will not.

And, by “they”, I mean my sister and boyfriend. If I told my friends that I threw out my sneakers and was currently “sneaker-less” (running shoes aside), one can bet that a similar sentiment would be expressed.

Granted, these sneakers were worth every penny of the $55 I paid for them back in the fall of 2016. They lasted three years, multiple spins in the washing machine, and thousands of miles on my feet in over fifteen countries and too many cities for me to count. They went the distance. Until, of course, they became permanently discolored, developed gaping holes in the soles, and the interior cushioning wore straight through to a point beyond repair.

To this day, I miss them. But, no, I will not be replacing them.

Yes, this seems counter-intuitive. “But they lasted three years” and “obviously they were good quality” one might say; yet, I refrain from tapping the few clicks on my phone that would have them quickly shipped again to my door.

Okay, okay, I’ll tell you why.

First of all, I have fifteen OTHER shoes that are in perfectly good condition with excellent soles. Maybe they won’t look as cute with my outfits as my white sneaks did, but it has forced me to break out my lesser used pairs and bring them out into the light of day. I’ve gone outside of my comfort zone with my footwear and I’m actually loving it. In fact, I might even go as far to say that I’m looking more fashionable and classy than ever? That’s a win in my book.

Second, my white sneakers had to be tossed into the trash can and will end up in a landfill. Nothing irks me more than throwing away shoes. Clothes can be turned into rags, torn apart and reconstructed into something new, or worst case: donated. Shoes though, they don’t seem to have much of an alternative future (besides the quaint and quirky shoe garden in San Francisco). With that knowledge, I can’t bring myself to buy a new pair that will once again, in approximately three years time, end up in a garbage heap too. Since I started this project, I’ve become much more conscious and careful where and from which companies I purchase my clothes and products, and generally speaking, if I don’t buy something secondhand, then I buy sustainable, biodegradable materials (which are generally natural and non-plastic) that will decompose. And when buying new shoes, I buy ones that I know I’ll love forever and can be repaired and re-soled to last me the length of my lifetime. Unfortunately, my favorite sneakers did not fit that bill.

Third, I’m seeking a minimalist lifestyle, and fifteen shoes even feels like a lot to own. Especially since I have two sets of flip flops and triple pairs of black boots. Yes, I love and wear them all (they survived my Marie Kondo and Minimalism Challenge purge), but it’s still fifteen pairs. So, no, I don’t need to add a sixteenth pair to my wardrobe when I have three weeks’ worth of all weather shoes that serve me just fine.

With my new minimalist, sustainable mindset, buying a new pair of sneakers seems like the epitome of frivolity. How fragile is my life that I can’t go without owning a pair of white shoes? A mere hundred years ago, most people were lucky to own two pairs of shoes. Now, we feel deprived if we don’t have a closet full of sneakers or heels to match every single outfit in more colors and style combinations than could possibly be worn in one person’s lifetime.

They want me to buy new shoes, but, no thanks, I know I can go without.

 

Get Fit for (practically) Free!

My dad and I this past September after we completed our second half-marathon together. 

The most common excuses people use to avoid working out and getting fit are generally: a lack of time and/or money, or not knowing where to start or what to do. While I cannot solve your time issue (although, Tim Ferris can!),  I am able to point you in the direction of free, or almost free, resources for working out sans the gym.

I have personally used, or currently use, the following resources with great success. And I, like many of you, get bored easily using the same workout plan or movements. After about ten years of trial or error, I’ve finally found a routine that works for me and has got me feeling and looking great!

The below is my typical weekly workout plan, and I’ve provided links to all of the apps and websites so that you can try them out too!

(Disclaimer: You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs).

Monday: Bikini Body Guide Workout by Kayla Itsines

There’s an initial cost to purchasing the 12 week guide, but I highly recommend it and it is 100% worth the price. I got in the best shape of my life using this three month program, and continually go back to it year after year. My 65-year old father has even had incredible results by doing it three times a week. Kayla’s Instagram account is also very inspiring and she has created a body-positive, health-minded community of people all over the world.

Tuesday: Run

I’ve started to run home from work once a week, and I love it because it is free, I get to explore my city, and I feel like I’m being super productive by exercising, commuting, and listening to an audiobook all at once!

My favorite app for running is MapMyRun because it’s fun to not only track my mileage and pace, but I also get to compete against my boyfriend, dad, and other friends in various challenges. (I’m currently kicking everyone’s butt in the two week step challenge!)

Again, there’s an initial cost associated with running; namely shoes and workout clothes, but once you’ve bought them, the cost per run is minimal. I always run with a lightweight athletic hat and fanny pack too, so I can protect my face and eyes from the sun, and carry my keys, cards/id (just in case), cell phone, chapstick, bandaids, and pepper spray (yep, I’m a woman). I tend to be overly prepared wherever I go, but you never know when it will come in handy.

I also love running around D.C. because I get to explore places I would normally not go, and I enjoy the interactions I have with people on the road. I always make a point to smile and at least say “hi” to the people I pass. While “community building” is not something that one would normally associate with outdoor exercise, it’s amazing how much more comfortable and connected I feel to my community by engaging in meaningful, albeit brief, greetings with random strangers.

Wednesday: Bikini Body Guide by Kayla Itsines

Thursday: Run

Friday: Bikini Body Guide by Kayla Itsines

Saturday and Sunday: Depending on how I’m feeling and what I have going on during the day, I will either choose to go running, do some yoga, enjoy a rest day, or do a shorter strength building workout using the 30 day workout phone apps.

Yoga with Adriene: is my all-time favorite yoga teacher and YouTube channel, and best of all, it’s completely free! She has amazing 30 day programs, and searchable videos of all different lengths when you want to work on a specific pose or part of the body. It’s perfect for everyone, from beginners to advanced. She’s really sweet and quirky, and I always feel wonderful after doing her videos.

The 30 day workout apps are fun because they target specific parts of the body, and are a perfect way of easing back into working out if you’ve been away from it for a while. During my summer of travel, these apps were my primary method for staying in shape, and I was really impressed with my level of fitness post-trip. It definitely helped me maintain my strength and I didn’t have to start from square one after returning to the U.S. All of the apps are free and you can do them anywhere; no equipment necessary. I didn’t even use a mat when I was abroad, just a towel sometimes when doing certain floor exercises.

Other great YouTube channels for easing you back into exercising, or for targeting specific muscle groups are:

Blogilates

POPSUGAR Fitness

Last word: getting fit is hands down one of the best ways to stay healthy, improve your confidence, happiness, sleep habits, sex drive, and avoid the doctor and high medical bills! Even if you start by doing it ten minutes a day, you will see results and a positive impact on many facets of your life.

 

Don’t Buy New Jeans! Repair Them in 4 Easy Steps

Did you know that jeans and denim are just about the most polluting and water consuming piece of clothing that you own? Indeed, it takes approximately 2,000 gallons of water to even grow the amount of cotton required for the raw material in a single pair of jeans.  Little known by the public, a majority of the cotton used to manufacture jeans sold in the U.S. is grown in China and India and consists of genetically modified hybrids that require high amounts of pesticides that are very damaging to the environment.

Many more hundreds of gallons of water are then used to dye the cotton that beautiful indigo color that we’re so addicted to. This is also a highly toxic process, affecting the health of the workers involved in the dying and design process, and causing monumental damage from the run-off and fumes from the dye.

When you purchase the jeans, the water consumption doesn’t stop there. Over the lifetime of your favorite pair, 1,000+ gallons of water will be used in consumer care (washing) and in their final disposal.

Have I convinced you yet not to buy new jeans? If not, I’d encourage you to look in your closet first and check the tally on your total number of pairs. Chances are you own about seven. I myself own six, but I really only wear about two consistently. I’m proud to say though, that three out of the six I got as a hand-me-down, picked up at a clothing swap, or bought used. Anyways….the point is that we own double the amount of jeans that we really need and that waste has a negative effect on the environment (and our bank accounts). Here’s an idea: let’s take care of our beloved jeans, and repair them when necessary, instead of tossing them in the trash.

So, here’s how to repair holes in your jeans very easily and cheaply (for the price of a cup of coffee- definitely less than the price of a new pair)!

  1. Buy a repair kit, or better yet, cut a patch out of an old pair of jeans.
  2. If you do the latter, skip step 3.IMG-2215
  3. Flip your jeans inside out and cut away any loose strings from the hole. Lay them flat and cut the patch to the size of the hole. Make sure that there is about .5 – 1 inch extra patch around the perimeter of the hole to give yourself space for sewing.IMG-22203. Pre-heat your iron for three to five minutes on the “cotton” setting,  and place a towel or piece of brown paper bag between the jeans and your work surface. Next, heat up the fabric around the hole before placing the patch over the area to be repaired. Press down firmly with the iron until the patch is securely adhered to the jeans.IMG-22184. If you don’t have a sewing machine, then you can skip this step, and you’re done! However, I always reinforce the iron-on patch by sewing it with my machine to ensure that it will not come off and the hole will not rip any further. Try to buy a spool of thread as close to the jean color as possible, and then start sewing! IMG-2221Tip: I’ve found that a spiral pattern looks nice, secures the patch, and blends in well with the fabric. But, really, you can sew in whichever direction you prefer. Ta-da!

Do you have any tips for jeans repair? I’d love to hear about them!

Find more fashion-related water facts here.

Marie Kondo Changed My Life

Full disclosure: perhaps like many of you, I had heard of this book in passing but was skeptical about the snippets I caught about “touching an object to see if it gives you joy” and “folding your socks in a way that lets them rest”. Eye roll. But then my cousin told me how after reading the book she managed to donate six bags of clothes. I had been feeling for some time (my whole life?) that I had too many clothes, and it stressed me out, so this caught my attention in a way that I couldn’t shake.

Shortly after she told me this, I logged onto my Overdrive app and downloaded the audio book at no extra cost(!) thanks to my library membership, and started listening. About 20% of the way in, I couldn’t help myself and got to work going through my closets. They were already fairly lean, so I was no where close to having 130 shirts/tops, for example, that the author, Marie Kondo states is the average for her clients; but I nevertheless managed to get rid of two bags of clothes, shoes, and accessories. Next, was reorganizing my closets per her directions. I wish I had taken a before picture, but here are the “after” photos (ignore the pile of dirty laundry in the corner-I’ve since started folding them like the crazy Kondo-method convert I’ve become):

Other than my work-out clothes, coats, shoes, and undergarments that are stored in another location, these are the only clothes that I now own! And, look, there is actually space between the hangers and room for me to hang up my backpack inside. Previously, they were jam-packed together and organized by work clothes in one closet and leisure/other in the second closet. Now, they’re organized by type of clothes, with the longer/heavier ones on the left, with the shorter/lighter garments moving towards the right side of the closet. I can’t tell you how much I love opening up my closet now! I no longer cringe upon turning the door handle, or have feelings of guilt about having too many clothes.

56022089746--2E04E9B5-CDEB-4ACF-9286-D259E2C1F468

Pre-Kondo, this drawer was overflowing to the extent that I couldn’t shut it. Now it’s neatly organized and the top easily closes! I am so proud.

An unexpected benefit of only having items of clothes that inspire joy is that I’m wearing more of my clothes now. I can finally see everything that I own, and I’m excited to wear all of them. Not to mention, that the urge to go shopping has completely dissipated– something I didn’t think would ever happen. And when I eventually acquire a new item (it’s inevitable, I’m only 30), you can bet I’m going to be extremely selective about what I bring into my haven of organization.

Kondo’s only metric for keeping or discarding an item is as follows: does it inspire joy? and will it make you happier by owning it? If the answer is yes, keep it. If no, then give or throw it away. Indeed, the only rule that you need to live by is the one you make for yourself. The only measure is your happiness. When was the last time you were given that freedom? Forget the rule of: “if you haven’t worn or used it in a year, toss it.” If owning 100 books inspires joy for you, then fill up your closets with leafy texts. If stilettos are your source of glee, then stack those shoeboxes to the ceiling. However, if any one of those books or shoes inspire an emotion other than joy, you’ve got to toss it to the curb.

I’m not going to tell you that it’s an easy process. In fact, I was seriously exhausted from a combination of decision fatigue and lugging boxes up from my basement. But, it was 100% worth it this morning to experience the feeling of taking the below containers (bags of clothes not pictured-I’m saving them for an upcoming clothing swap) to the thrift store.

Kondo helpfully provides detailed instructions for which categories of items in your home to start with (first, clothes; then, books, papers, misc., and finally, sentimental mementos) and then gets into the nitty gritty tips and guidelines that will guide you in sorting through the items for each category. Trust the process and follow her method; I can tell you from personal experience that it works. I completed going through the final category last night and managed to get rid of half of my photo albums and photos. I no longer felt obligated to keep photos of extended family members or people that were no longer important in my life. #SorryNotSorry

The “before” picture is on the left and the “after: picture of what I discarded is on the right. I manged to toss my old yearbooks, random small photo albums, old scrapbooks, and a huge pile of photos that did not inspire joy in me. This part was especially emotionally draining as I re-lived the whole spectrum of old emotions, and then pointedly decided to let them go.

 

In the chapter covering the “memento” category, Kondo reminds the reader of the importance of living in the present, and that if the memories were truly special and important, then we don’t need photographs to remember them. Old letters and cards fall into this category, too. I re-read greeting cards from friends and family members, and then only kept the ones that gave me particularly happy feelings, and were special enough to hold on to and take up valuable real estate in my house. As a result, I actually took the time last night to look through my newly improved photo album and enjoyed each and every photo, since it was now filled with pictures that fill me with joy.

The other reason that this book is so aptly named “life-changing” is that Kondo insists that her clients group all of the items of a particular category (clothes, books, papers, batteries, etc.) in one specific location in their home. This has three purposes.

  1. You will easily be able to find your possessions and you will rarely misplace items again! After I completed my round of tidying up, I found at least three “missing” items that I hadn’t been able to find in months.
  2. You will know exactly what you have on hand, which translates into avoiding over-buying or repeat-buying of a certain item.
  3. You will be able to monitor and control the accumulation of objects in that category and cut yourself off before it gets too late and you have stuff that isn’t giving you joy.

In conclusion, I can’t stress the value of this book and its principles enough. You will truly be shocked about how much money, time, and stress you will save if you put her methods into practice.  Your physical space will be clear and you will have room to live out your values in the way that works best for you.

Tidy away and let me know how it goes!

-Abi

 

New Clothes Will NOT Make You Happy

Think for a second: can you remember what your co-workers wore yesterday? Or even the day before that?

I didn’t think so.

So you can imagine that it is very unlikely that they even noticed, let alone remembered what you wore either. Amazing how getting dressed- a task that many of us agonize over daily-  can become inconsequential in a matter of minutes.

What does matter though, is that you felt comfortable and confident in your clothes, not the brand, price tag, or how they rate on the “trendiness” scale.

With that being said, like many Westerners, I’m somewhat obsessed with clothes. Thanks to our lovely system of capitalism and the control exerted over our society by corporations, we have become a culture engrossed with our appearances and social media presence. But, like most consumers, I’ve reached a saturation point where I have too many clothes, and my overflowing closet feels like more of a burden than a boon.

This fact really hit me in April when I was checking in for my flight from Boston Logan Airport and found out (too late), that I was going to have to pay a whopping $90 to lug it the first step in my journey to Europe. All I could to was shake my head and try not to explode with frustration at the realization that I was paying money to carry my possessions around. Why hadn’t I packed lighter and brought fewer clothes!?

Well….clothes, like food, are complicated. We have complex relationships with these material things that we need in order to survive and function in society, and yet, it is far too easy to succumb to the in-your-face advertisements and buy clothes that we don’t need, and food that is both cheap and unhealthy.  We’re tricked into thinking that a new pair of shoes will make us happy, that the trendy blouse will make us attractive, and a flashy suit will make us successful. However, those are downright lies. You will make yourself happy by having fulfilling relationships, you will make yourself attractive by exercising and practicing self-care, and you will become successful through hard-work and determination. The short cuts that the companies sell are pure smoke and mirrors.

In fact, take it from me: when it comes to clothes, less is truly more. I am loving my closet and it is loving me right back now that I’ve given it room to breathe, and have only kept clothes that I actually want to wear, are in good condition, and fit me well.

My mantra now is quality instead of quantity, and I do not buy something unless I 100% need it, love it, and will wear it. Sure, the anticipatory “high” of shopping and buying online is intense, but I guarantee your life will improve if you open up your closet to find only clothes that make you feel your best. Ditch (donate/reuse/mend) the rest!

Here are some of other guidelines that I’ve found helpful:

  • Only buy clothes made from natural fibers: cotton, linen, bamboo, wool, and silk. My favorites are linen, bamboo blends, and (merino) wool.
  • Never purchase clothes made from synthetic materials (polyester, viscose, modal, etc.)  [More to come on this in the next post]
  • Avoid “fast fashion” brands (Forever21, Zara, H&M, etc.) and big corporations (Victoria’s Secret, GAP, Macy’s, etc.), and buy from local, small designers.
  • Buy U.S. made products over foreign-produced.
  • Buy used, second-hand, or consignment unless it’s undergarments/bathing suit.
  • I have to be able to wear it with what I already have in my closet.
  • No impulse shopping! Put it down, leave the store, and take a while to think about it before making the purchase. When I do this, the likelihood that I’ll buy the item drops from 100 to 1.

Be patient with yourself as you work to break your addiction to clothes and consuming. It’s not going to be easy, and you’re not going to be perfect. Most importantly, be mindful and conscious of what you’re buying, and the rest will fall into place.

Additional Resources:

If this is your first foray into cleaning out your closet, and cutting back on buying clothes, check out some links below to get started:

 

In case you’re still not convinced that fewer clothes will make you happier, stay tuned for my next post on the environmental cost of “fast fashion”.

 

The Not-So-Glamorous Impact of Fast-Fashion

Clothes. We can’t exactly live without them.

Nope, I need to go to work and not spend my life at a nudist colony. Darn.

But, we can certainly buy fewer and buy smarter.

Why should I care about clothes, you ask?

Well, for starters when we have too many things that we don’t love, it can cause us stress, decision paralysis, and it causes us to buy things we don’t need. If you think you might have this problem and you’d like some inspiration to go through your clothes once and for all, see my previous post here about Marie Kondo’s life-changing book.

Secondly, clothes are one of the most polluting and high energy/water-consumption items that we purchase on a frequent basis. All made worse by the fact that many of us shop as “a hobby”, a stress-reliever, or addiction; instead of only buying things when we absolutely, positively, can’t live without (i.e., toothpaste, a warm coat, etc.). It’s America, which means that most of us do this.

Third…Read below. I’ve pulled together clothing-related facts that I find both interesting and jaw-dropping.

According to Maxine Bedat’s Ted Talk:

-Consumers have 300% more clothes than they did just a generation ago. That’s like my parents only possessing 20 items of clothing, whereas now I own 60. (Actually, I own 112. Yup, I counted. And this is after I did a serious clean out of my closets. Omigod, I need to get rid of more. Disclaimer: this doesn’t include shoes/accessories).

-The U.S. went from having 95% of its clothes produced domestically to less than 2% being manufactured in the States today (that’s an 80% decrease). One can really see this particular fact come to life on the “Made in” tags of older, vintage clothes versus new ones.

-Polyester is in 50% of all our clothing– and is NON-biodegradable (hint: it’s oil-based); and when these materials are washed, thousands of plastic microfibers end up in the water. And then end up in the fish. That we eat.

Not to mention that plastic-based fibers are not breathable and they retain odors much more than cotton, silk, cashmere, wool, linen, or bamboo. To top it all off, they generally look and feel like the poor quality stand-ins that they are. One reason that “fast-fashion” companies (i.e., H&M, Loft, Zara, A&F, etc.) can sell clothes so cheaply is that most of their items are made out of polyester. Gross.

-Linen, on the other hand, only requires 8% of the energy that is used to manufacture polyester. Natural fibers for the win. Takeaway: DO NOT buy anything with polyester, acrylic, or other synthetic/human-made materials. Trust me on this.

40% of the clothes that the U.S. imports come from China where 75% of the power is generated from coal. Those Chinese-made clothes are dirty and bad for the environment.

One in six people in the world work in some part of the apparel supply chain, with 80% of them being women, and 98% of them not receiving a livable wage. Not to mention that many of them are frequently abused and exploited. If you care about human rights, and especially women and worker rights: Do. Not. Buy. Cheap. Clothes.

So, that leaves us with the big question: where do I buy clothes? Not to fret, I’ve got you covered with my post here.

And no need to throw away perfectly good clothes, learn how to repair them here.

If this got those wheels in your brain churning and your blood pumping with the clothing industry injustices of the world, read through more articles about the topic here:

“We have one eye open and one eye closed”: The Dirty Labor Secrets of Fast Fashion

“Fashion Must Fight the Scourge of Dumped Clothing Clogging Landfills”

“The Clothing Insurrection: It’s Time to Take on the Fashion Supply Chain”

“Is Fast Fashion a Class Issue”

Then, tell me, how many items of clothes do you own?

Self-Reflection: It’s Not Just for Socrates

When was the last time you had a substantial amount of time to yourself and by yourself? And I don’t mean binge watching Netflix or sleeping. Rather, I’m referring to a stretch of hours where all you had for entertainment, or someone to talk to was you, yourself, and thou. If you can think of a time, congrats! If not, don’t be too hard on yourself about it. In our current society with its insane schedules, iPhone addictions, and frenetic activity, quiet time for contemplation and reflection is seldom discussed or prioritized. (To be clear: I am not talking about meditation, although I find this to be of tremendous value as well; and something I practice daily).

In my opinion, Socrates got it right: “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Without taking the time to be alone and even be bored (gasp!), we rob ourselves of the opportunity to let thoughts, feelings, and memories bubble to the surface of our consciousness. We miss out on vital cues from our body and heart, and we maintain the rat race that is 2018. Not to say that self-reflection is easy or enjoyable. Because, it’s not. There were countless times over the past five months where I found myself in fits of tears and anger as I confronted things about myself that I disliked and swam through deep wells of pain that I hadn’t realized still existed. But, it was entirely worth it. The hours I spent wandering around in foreign cities provided me not only with immense cultural enrichment but also a mental quiet in which to experience personal growth. Indeed, one of the most valuable takeaways from my entire trip, was the thing I least expected: having the much-needed time and space to reflect on the past ten years since I graduated college, and where and who I wanted to be for the next decade.

Before my extended traveling this past summer, self-reflection was something that I practiced infrequently and sporadically, but now it is something that has become a habit, thanks to my current lifestyle choices. I am alone when working from home; I take long runs and walks by myself, and enjoy luxurious baths where I let my mind wander. Other times, I lay in my bed or meander through museums and parks; all on my own, alone with myself. And those are the times when I experience epiphanies and have “light-bulb moments”, where I dwell on the things that I am grateful for, and, analyze if I am on the right path.

To be honest, if I had not created time for reflection, I’d still be working my corporate job, buying crap I didn’t need, wasting time on unproductive activities, and eating unhealthily.  I found that change is possible, but not if one doesn’t even have the time to think about what needs to be changed.  With that, I encourage you to to take ten minutes today and just sit with yourself and your thoughts. I can almost guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. Then, try it tomorrow. And the next day. You’ll slowly see how different and more fulfilling your life can be.

Let me know how it goes 🙂

Do You Want Time or Money?

I’m back! After traveling for three and a half months overseas and spending a month with my family in Maine, I’ve returned to D.C. and am currently in the throes of sorting out my life.

*I would like to preface this post by saying that I am fortunate enough to have the privilege to switch career paths due to the safety net of my family and their willingness to lend me money if I don’t get my sh*t together fast enough; even though I’m going to try and avoid it if at all possible and be an “adult” like the 30 year old I am.

Now that that’s out of the way, on to the age old discussion of the tension between time vs. money. It’s a “struggle” because the majority of us never seem to have enough of both at. the. same. time. Before I embarked on my grand summer adventure, I had plenty of money, but no time due to the fact that I worked full-time and had an hour long commute to and from the office. Now, it’s the opposite. I’ve had all the time in the world these past five months, but I’m practically out of money, with no quick inflow coming my way anytime soon.

Every day I confront this tension between time and money within myself. Do I sacrifice my time (energy, freedom, social life, etc.) for a big paycheck, but end up missing out on important events in the lives of people that are important to me, sacrifice my passions, and inevitably compromise on self-care and adequate rest? OR, do I take a big risk and ride the discomfort of not knowing where my next paycheck is going to come from in order to invest in my long term goals and ambitions? Some days I’m scared and I just want the money and comfort; other days I’m feeling liberated by the newfound hours in my day, and I can’t imagine going back to work full-time.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I managed to quit my job and travel for the whole summer, and after I told them (blog post coming soon), their response is always: “Oh, I could never.” And my response is always: “Yes, you could if you really wanted to, and were willing to make the necessary life changes.” In a comical twist of irony, I find that I’m repeating the very words that I’ve uttered to others as a reminder to myself that if I really want more time and freedom, then I have to fully commit to it; cut down on my expenses, and dedicate time and energy to my passions, at the same level as if it were my full-time job.

I share this, because it’s safe to conjecture that many people feel the same internal desire to engage in work that’s meaningful, but might not pay the bills. I know, because that’s what I’ve done for the past few years. I settled for jobs that funded my lifestyle but left me wishing for more. I filled my apartment with “stuff” and bought clothes I didn’t need. I worked in order to go out to overpriced restaurants and wasted my paycheck on tasty, but unhealthy alcoholic drinks. I worked that hard, but for what? To be exhausted and drained, with little energy left to engage in activities that sustained and excited me.

All I know, is that I can’t live like that anymore. I felt like my soul was being sucked dry from my work as a government contractor, and I want to use my skills and passion to help people and animals.  So, yes, that leaves me with the stress of not having money – a complete 180 degree pivot from where I was a year ago. But, the upside is that I feel free. I’m excited about life, and while I know that it’s going to take a lot of hard work to get to where I want, I proactively choose this path because I refuse to be another cog in the corporate machinery, a hamster on a wheel. I want time, and I want lots of it.

Indeed, it’s the most valuable resource we have.

Next up on my reading list: “The Four Hour Work Week” by Tim Feriss

I’d love to hear from you:

Are you experiencing burnout from your 40 your a week corporate job? How do you cope?

Or are you taking the risky route and making sacrifices in the finances department in order to live your dream job? Any tips? Advice Help me! I’m new to this!

Counter Corporate Travel: Miami

This is the first post in a new travel series where I’ll be sharing my recommendations for small, local businesses that I encounter in my domestic and international journeys. Since I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I am in every sense of the word, a “foodie”, you can trust that the restaurants below will be nothing less than mind-blowing.

Miami, or, as I like to refer to it, the “Las Vegas of the East Coast” is a hot, vibrant city coursing with energy, loud music on every corner, and international flavors. It is also, as I happily found out, full of local gems and small businesses galore. There is absolutely NO reason to step foot in Señor Frog’s or Starbucks, or spend your money at big name hotels like the Hilton or Radisson.

I recently traveled last month (March) with my sister to Miami/Miami Beach for four days, and we had an absolutely amazing time despite the fact that we spent about one hour on the actual beach itself.  Below are some of our favorite spots that I would highly recommend visiting if you make it to Miami!

*We are both also gluten free (the Celiac gene runs in our family due to our Irish heritage), so for those of you in the same boat, this will be an added bonus.

Restaurants

Coyo Taco

Located in the Wynwood district of Miami, this taco joint is hip, with lines out the door during its peak hours. They feature myriad types of tacos, burritos, and bowls, along with scrumptious appetizers like the esquites featured above, along with specialty frozen drinks and juices. Will please carnivores to vegans, and everything in between.

The Smoothie Shop

I visited this Caribbean-themed shop twice in four days, because that’s how good their vegetable and fruit juices are. When the sun was it at its peak and I couldn’t dream of eating, their healthy juices made fresh in front of my eyes gave me the nutrition and hydration I needed. All their juices and smoothies are easily customized, and they also have a variety of breakfast and lunch options available; if you’re looking for more sustenance.

Under the Mango Tree

I had never had an acai bowl prior to this trip, however, my sister insisted that they were life-changing, which led me to search out and find this oasis of clean eating. In addition to acai bowls (there are many options available, including gluten free), they have sandwiches, hot drinks, juices, smoothies, and salads. I’m not sure that a restaurant could have a better vibe or more healthy food (that tastes as good as it looks) than this shop.

Fresh First 

On our way to the Fort Lauderdale airport we stumbled upon this 100% gluten free restaurant. For those of you who are shaking their head at this, stop right now, because the food was incredible, and I guarantee you wouldn’t even notice that it was anything other than delicious on all levels. I had Eggs Benedict with turkey bacon, and it blew my mind.

Coffee Shops

The Salty Donut

I think that this was one of my favorite dining experiences in Miami. My sister and I walked in and almost fainted with the aromas of coffee and the pans of freshly baked donuts in flavors such as tres leches, nutella, guava and cheese, and maple bacon. Unfortunately, because we’re living that gluten-free life, we were limited to their one daily option, but it was nonetheless a divine experience. Pictured above is the Samoas (that’s right, like the Girl Scout cookie) gluten-free donut and salted caramel iced latte. I promise you, it doesn’t get better than this.

Panther Coffee

panther

Also located in the Wynwood district of Miami (near Coyo Taco, The Salty Donut, and Nomad Tribe; as well as myriad beautiful murals), Panther Coffee is a hipster cafe boasting outdoor seating beneath a low-hanging, shady tree. I sipped their soy cappuccino, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Shopping

Nomad Tribe

While I didn’t buy anything (I already have too many clothes!), I would have loved to support this company that produces and sells eco and social-conscious fashion. The displays were eye-catching, the storefront bright, and the clothing soft and high-quality.

Attractions

Bass Museum

bass

This pint-sized museum packs a punch, and, for the price of the $10 admission fee, you can experience some pretty fantastic contemporary art. The museum has two floors, gorgeous grounds with ancient Baboab trees, a multi-towered colored rock sculpture, and a cute little cafe. I’d recommend approximately an hour for a visit and suggest putting it at the top of places to visit.

Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

You’ll have to drive to this attraction, but it’s certainly worth it. While admission is a bit steep ($18 for adults, $6 for kids; $10 with a student id), the house, gardens, and view of the ocean are absolutely breathtaking.  I’d recommend approximately 1-2 hours for a visit, and there is a cafe on site when you need a break from all of the walking. Fun fact: the owner was a member of the Deering family of Portland, Maine.

Miami Botanical Gardens

I fell in love with this tropical, tree-covered sanctuary in the middle of the city. It’s free, and very peaceful; perfect when you need to escape the heat and spend some time regathering your energy. I was amazed at the size and age of the trees and delighted with appearances of many types of butterflies. Bring a blanket and cold beverage for extra enjoyment.

Hotels

Princess Ann Hotel

We stayed at the Princess Ann Hotel located on Miami Beach for four nights and were quite pleased with the location (five minute walk from the beach) and amenities. While it’s by no means fancy (especially for the price of $100/night), they provide a free breakfast and quiet rooms.

When booking your hotel, avoid the big corporate names and, instead, find a small, independent establishment to give your business. Not only will you be supporting a locally-owned company, but I bet you’ll also enjoy a more personalized experience.

Transportation

  • Parking: overnight parking is very expensive ($30/night on average on Miami Beach), and the public transportation options are sub-par, so I would recommend taking Ubers/Lyfts/cabs when necessary to get around Miami and then using your feet to walk around Miami Beach.
  • For trips to the Everglades or to other places outside of the city, rent a car for the day or pay for a night of valet parking at your hotel to then drop it off at the airport on your way home (we did this and it worked out really well).
  • To/from the airport:
    • Miami airport: either arrange for your hotel to pick you up/drop you off with their shuttle (if they have one), or hop in an Uber/Lyft/cab.
    • Fort Lauderdale airport: either rent a car or pay for an Uber/Lyft/cab. It’s quite a bit further from the Miami airport to Miami/Miami beach; and, as I mentioned previously, the public transportation options are limited and time consuming. Because I had some extra time on my way there, I took the train from Fort Lauderdale to the Miami station, but then still ended up having to take an Uber/Lyft/cab to my hotel on Miami Beach, and it took close to two hours, instead of the 40 minutes that a car would have been.

Other Tips for Traveling in Miami

  • Attractions: If you’d like to enjoy the beach, but would also like to soak up some culture while you’re there and not just drink yourself silly; be assured, there are plenty of museums and historical sites to see. Most are within a 20-30 minute drive of Miami Beach and are easy to locate. There is also an up-and-coming arts scene in the city, so be sure to check out the Wynwood murals and other galleries scattered around the city. A native also told us that the Fashion district is really nice, but, unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to visit it on this trip.
  • The Beach: Head out to the beach early for a prime spot. Many of the hotels bring out beach chairs and umbrellas for rent, but there is no need to spend money if you have your own. Be sure to ask the front desk staff at your hotel for a beach towel.
  • Put sun screen on before you leave your hotel. Even if you’re not heading to the beach, my sister and I got some serious sun just walking around town. Also, bring a hat and some good sun glasses; and then wear them!
  • Drink lots of water and carry a water bottle around with you to fill up as you go. Miami is VERY hot and humid, and not for the faint of heart. It takes serious energy and money to party like the natives.
  • Best happy hour spots are those located on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach where you can get a 2-for-1 giant (and strong) cocktail during their early and late night happy hours. Point to note: restaurants along Ocean Drive automatically add gratuity to your bill regardless of the party size, so don’t tip extra unless your server went above and beyond. Avoid the hookah at these spots since it will run you $45 on average.

 

That’s it! Enjoy 🙂

*I’m happy to answer any other questions if you’re planning a trip!

-Abi

Fake News, the MSM, and Independent Journalism

 

Preface: While I 100% support the investigative journalists and writers/authors/vloggers/bloggers etc., who dig up and reveal noteworthy events and behind-the-scenes information essential to an informed public, I’ll explain below why I do not wholeheartedly support main stream media (MSM) sources (in this case, MSM refers to such mega-conglomerates such a ABC News, Fox News, NBC News, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times).

An interesting and unexpected side effect of Donald Trump’s “fake news” craze is the fact that more people are doubting the integrity and truthfulness of MSM, and the motives behind government officials, like never before.  At face value this may seem like a catastrophe of epic proportions, but, I beg to disagree.  It is, of course, dangerous when the first amendment rights protecting free speech and journalists come under fire; and, unfortunately, it seems that under Trump’s America, this is is becoming more normalized; however, I believe it is both positive and productive when citizens question the information that the corporate media produces and widely disseminates. I make this assertion because MSM is, at its core biased, although, not in the way that Donald Trump asserts. The bias, and accompanying hazard to society, lies, rather, in the nature  of its ownership and size of the companies. As the below graphic highlights, a majority of the local and smaller print and television companies have been acquired through mergers and buy-outs by larger mega-corporations such as Disney and Fox, as well as the Rockefeller and Rothschild families (for more on these oil tycoons, see these two posts).

media

*A similar infographic regarding the CEOs/owners and their subsidiaries can be found here.*

As a result, the U.S. has lost a great deal of independent news organizations that have gotten swallowed up, and pushed out of the industry due to the prohibitively high costs involved with competing against these media giants and staying afloat in the digital era. As this occurs, the messages become more watered down, more homogeneous, and more  controlled by an ever-shrinking number of individuals. This trend,  not necessarily the accusations of”fake news” is, in my opinion, one of the greatest threats to a free society. Let us not be naive in thinking that the CNN and Fox News executives only started to flex their power in the past few years, this, unfortunately, been a trend that has been occurring for many decades as seen in the below infographic:

infographic

If this doesn’t give you shivers, it should. The pivotal role that the independent media in holding the government, elected officials, and companies accountable to the public and our health and safety cannot be overstated. Without them, it becomes nearly impossible to uncover the truth and be informed about the inner workings, and behind-the-scenes actions that affect our community, family, jobs, environment, and health. Sadly enough, we cannot trust the government or companies to keep us healthy and safe anymore, so we have to take it into our own hands, and independent journalists are a major part of helping us do this.

Actions you can take today:

  1. Can’t believe I would hear myself saying this, but do like DT says and avoid MSM.
  2. In its place, support your local newspaper. Yes, it’s going to cost you, but the few dollars each week that you’ll pay is tiny compared to the price of entirely losing independent and investigative journalism. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to learn about local issues happening in your community, and find ways to get more connected and involved.
  3. Research the owners of news sources that you consume. Be a responsible consumer of news just as much as you are a responsible consumer of other goods and services. These two websites will save you time and energy since they’ve already done the research for you.
  4. Be an active consumer of news. Don’t just let information passively flow in without thinking critically about it and discussing what you hear/read/watch with others.
  5. Write letters to the editor. Don’t be tricked into thinking that your thoughts and opinion don’t matter or don’t deserve to be heard. They do. And I guarantee that if you’re thinking it, then others are too. Who knows, may you’ll start a movement too. Here’s a useful guide to get you started.

I’ve provided some news sources that I find to be (relatively) more independent than MSM sources below.  But PLEASE remember that just like people, no news sources is going to be completely unbiased. With that being said, a quick and dirty way to determine the level of influence that is being flexed over their journalistic integrity is to a) look them up on one or both of the websites above in #3; and b) take note of whether they’re asking for donations and state that they’re reader/audience-supported. If they are, then you can feel relatively safe in knowing that they lean towards being more independent and outside the realm (and control) of the MSM.

If you have any sources that you find to me informative and (less) biased than MSM, PLEASE share them here and help your fellow Counter Corporation-ists!