Blogger Trip: Los Cabos

Four content curators walk into a Mexican resort………….. and leave with the best of memories! HAHAHA!

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Feeling nostalgic AF while I write this piece as this trip signified not only my first all blogger getaway but also my first official week of being a full-time Content Curator! EEEK! The expectations of some R+R were far beyond met on this unforgettable trip!

Hotel El Ganzo 

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Welcome to Paradise!

El Ganzo is Los Cabos’ one stop shop for artistic, hipster, luxe boutique hotel vibes! Decorated in contemporary art, this unique hotel is what I’d describe as an experience. With it’s very own recording studio, cultural program, expansive views of the Sea of Cortez and Puerto Los Cabos Yacht Marina, you truly get the best of both modern and indigenous worlds.  Truly, one of it’s kind in Los Cabos. PLUS, THERE ARE SO MANY INSTA-WORTHY AREAS TO SHOOT!

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Each of us had our own ocean-front room equipped with a wooden soaking tub, which may I add, we took full advantage off! Together we scoped each other’s rooms and it was funny how we all entered, with “OOOOhs and AWWEs.”

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For dinner, we went down to one of El Ganzo’s four restaurants, and enjoyed some yummy tacos and guac.

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Acre Baja

A jungle lush dream!

On our second day, we headed to this tucked away lux sanctuary, where tree houses, an organic farm, and palm forest meets modern chic aesthetics found in every corner.

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We enjoyed this hidden gem for most of our day. From the farm to table dishes, playful  billy goats, and the most picture-esque poolside, Acre is an Instagrammer’s dream! If you’re looking for an all-things serene and visually appealing ambience, Acre is your place to visit!

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SUR Beach House

Island Dreams AF!

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On our third day, we headed to Cabo San Lucas to spend the day at SUR. When you walk through their entrance doors, you are instantly transported into your own personal private island, overlooking Cabo’s shoreline and of course, the magical arch. We were greeted by the most impeccable staff with the best Berry Hibiscus Mojitos I’ve ever tried, and the freshest guac I’ve ever tasted! This open-air dining space gave us all the Greece vibes, for sure!

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Once we finished our delish meals, we were then taken to our private beach chairs, where we were quenched with some chilled champaign and toasty vitamin D!

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After sinking our toes in the sand, we were then escorted to SUR’s very own boat service where our group was taken out on our private boat to El Arco. We spent about an hour circling around the rock formations, captured some awesome moments, and even saw some tropical fishies!

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We headed back to Hotel El Ganzo, and soaked up our final night together over looking the marina. How magical that this digital media platform, connected all four of us and our partners from all over the US, allowing our group to bond in one of the most culturally rich countries in the world #blessed .

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On Sunday morning we shared one last meal and said our goodbyes *cue the tears*. This trip will forever hold a special place in my heart! Thank you, Hotel El Ganzo, Acre Baja, and SUR Beach House for making it all possible!

If you’re thinking about heading to Cabo, I highly recommend checking out these bomb establishments. I’m very much about aesthetics, safety, and ambiance and these places were 10/10.

Things to Remember:

  1. Cabo is humid AF! And if you’re like me and are sensitive to the sun, make sure you come prepared with big sun hats, sunnies, hydro flasks to refill your water, and a sh*t ton of sunblock. THAT SUN WAS NO JOKE!
  2. If you have dietary restricts, (like me) *eyeroll* be sure to communicate that with the chef before ordering. I did find it a bit difficult to find non-triggering food options throughout the trip however, all the above restaurants, accommodated my dietary needs as best as they could.
  3. Do not wander off the beaten path. I felt entirely safe during our trip but that was because we did our research ahead of time with the areas we would be frequenting, we made sure we always stayed with our group, and rented a car versus relying on taxis or Uber’s. This is not to say, other means of transportation is dangerous, but it felt a little more comforting knowing we were in control with where we were heading.
  4. Rent a car! Los Cabos and Cabo San Lucas is about a 45 minute drive from each other and with Uber’s being so far and in between, we saved a lot of time just hopping into our car. Plus, if you are planning to shop and location scout, it is much easier to drive there 🙂
  5. Live yo’ best life! This is Mexico, GO LOKO!!

XO

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Vitamin E Oil: Beauty’s Best Kept Secret

So as y’all know, I have been shamelessly promoting Vitamin E for YEARS now, but I ain’t mad bout’ it! I just wish I knew about this secret sauce, sooner! This local drug store product has not only transformed my beauty routine, but most importantly, my skin! Today, I finally have the skin I’ve always wanted: glowy, hydrated, and acne free! Prior to being introduced to Vitamin E, I was running through countless skin and make up products to better the conditions of my skin… and lets face it, that sh*t was discouraging! I had frequent break outs in my t zone, dry areas, numerous sun spots, discoloration, and scarring! I drank a lot of water, exercised, cleansed my face every day, always took off my make up, and ate semi-right (LOL) and nothing really seemed to improved. But since, I was put onto this product, I’m telling y’all, Vitamin E, has legit been THE sole reason that my skin has been treating a sis right all this time.

And before I go in, I just wanted to say how freaking happy I am that soooooo many of y’all have trusted in me enough to incorporate Vitamin E into your daily routine…like not exaggerating, over 100+ of y’all! I’m one happy Vitamin E mama!

SO, let’s go back three years ago. My skin was temperamental AF! I was venting to my fab work bestie bout’ it and he was like “girl, have you ever heard of Vitamin E? Well, that sh*t is $2.99 at CVS/Rite Aid, Target/TJs wherever you shop, and girl, it will change your life!” AND LEMME TELL Y’ALL, IT DID!

He mentioned that he suffered from chronic acne and scarring a few years prior and tried every procedure his dermatologist/esthetician offered. It was not until he began using Vitamin E RELIGIOUSLY that his skin found a new life!

That night, you already know, I rushed my ass to the closest drug store and purchased my first bottle of Vitamin E. LIFE CHANGING, HONESTLYYY!

So let’s get into the most frequently asked questions I’ve received from y’all.

WHAT DOES VITAMIN E DO?!

It HEALS damaged tissue.

  • Which means that Vitamin E’s role is to smooth and repair acne scars, sun spots, wrinkles, discoloration, and prevent any further damage from free radicals. It also moisturizes and softens the skin as well.

HOW DO I APPLY IT?!

This will be your last step of your skin regimen. Personally, I cleanse first, apply moisturizer, then Vitamin E! I know that my routine is pretty simple in comparison to others but whatever yours may be, my only suggestion is to apply Vitamin E as your final step. Personally, I apply Vitamin E twice a day. Once in the AM (right before applying my make-up) and then again right before bed.

I squeeze a generous amount of oil onto CLEAN hands and lather the oil onto my face. I do work it a bit into my skin and massage outwards. I then, bring it down onto my neck and rub any excess I have on my elbows and hands.

If its the AM, I would apply my foundation right on top of the Vitamin E, which will leave me with a dewy finish (which I live for).

If it’s before bed, I will make sure I am up for at least 10 minutes before laying down. This ensures that the product seeps into my skin vs it rubbing off on my pillows (especially if you sleep on your side).

** As a bonus step: invest in a jade roller. The simple hand application of Vitamin E will do the trick, but just recently, I incorporated a jade roller and man, is it heaven like! So, right after I apply Vitamin E, I grab the roller from the freezer, and roll upwards and outwards to really help the product seep into my skin.

WHEN WILL I SEE RESULTS?!

For the past 3 years, I have religiously used Vitamin E every morning and every night.

I’ve given my skin so much TLC, that at this point, it has completely been restored. Like my skin three years ago vs the skin I live in today, dang…almost feels like a different person.

It is all about consistency and trusting in the product.

But initially, I saw a different in my skin after the second weekend of use.

WHAT IF I ALREADY HAVE OILY SKIN?!

So there is a common misconception that oil-prone skin requires regimes that consist of oil free products. EHHHH, WRONG.

In fact, oily skin can be caused by using products that dry out the skin and hence, when the natural oils of our face are stripped off, our skin will tend to overproduce to compensate.

So if this is your skin type, you are actually the most ideal candidate for Vitamin E.

I also suffered from an oily T zone. In school, I would have my compact on hand, ready to dab away at any excess shine. But girl, let me tell you, those days are over!

WHICH BRAND SHOULD I TRY FIRST?!

Which ever drug store is most local to you!

I’ve used: Rite Aid, CVS, Trader Joe’s, & Target brand.

However, I do preferTrader Joe’s bottle as it’s slightly bigger by a few OZ and I believe the cheapest. But, all have worked equally as well.

CAN I USE VITAMIN E ON ANY OTHER PART OF MY BODY?!

Yes! I usually like to apply any excess from my hands onto the ends of my hair, cuticles, and elbows. Vitamin E oil will also work in the same ways to hydrate and moisturize dry hair and/or skin.

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SOOO, this post is obviously not sponsored but rather a little way I can help out a fellow sis (or bro) in need. Like I mentioned before, Vitamin E has been my biggest beauty “secret” (not really since I talk bout it’ so much, but you know what I mean) to date! If you have any more questions, I will be happy to help 🙂 Now glow TF up, queens!

How to Teach Your Man to be the IG Business Partner You Deserve: Our Story

Now, although this post is geared towards bloggers/content creators, I know many people outside of this whole influencer world are curious as to how this whole thing works. So in addition to spilling the tea on how we grew my account, I also wanted to share our tips on how your S/O can also become your business partner.

So before I continue, I have to give major props to my boo for growing into a role he did not ask for. Without him, none of this would have been possible. You believed in me before I even believed in myself and for that, I love you so much! YOU DA REAL MVP, BB!

Ah, so where should we begin!?

If you’re first starting out and have no idea where to start, don’t stress, because I was there…we were there! And I’d like to preface that although I’m referring to a significant other, these tips can hold true to any helpful person in your life.

Backstory:

Prior to bae and I dating, I had been blogging for half a year but only shared my posts with my inner circle of about 1K friends and family on Instagram.

Although, my blog views were low, each post fulfilled me more and more. Especially when I would receive messages that people actually resonated with my content… OMG, the best feeling in the world! I also felt creatively liberated after suppressing this side of me for so long. But, it wasn’t easy, y’all! I was simultaneously just as nervous to really open myself up and remain vulnerable on this platform, I was so used to posting random sh*t, like the fortune in my cookie that came with my Panda Express meal, not paragraphs on (for example) my journey dealing with anxiety, and the like. So with each post, I felt my walls go down, little by little.

So after half-heartedly blogging for 6 months, I finally decided to publish one of my most proudest pieces to date, “Why it is Okay to be Single”. I figured, I needed to give this blogging thing a true shot and put my entire soul into my writing. Coincidentally, this was published just a few days before my now bf, asked me on our first date.

Well, the rest was history! We were inseparable! One of the things I was attracted to the most about him, was his genuine interest in my passions and blog! He complimented my work and it was clear, he had read a few reads! In fact, he had been a food blogger for a while so we shared that common interest.

As our time together grew, so did our mini roadtrips. And since he has an eye for photography and landscape, he had asked me to pose for the camera a few times. And although, I’ve always been photogenic, I felt so awkward and uncomfortable, LOL. This was brand spankin’ new! I did not want him seeing my bad angles, ugly outtakes, etc! But weekend after weekend, he had encouraged me to shake the shyness off.

After a few months in, I remember us having this serious conversation about my intentions surrounding the blog and online presence.

Bae had hyped me up and really gave me the pep talk I needed to hear. In sum, he laid out the facts. He believed in my content, my creative talent, and potential brand but in order to see real growth, I needed to give this my allll and actually share it with the world, (not just the 1K followers on my private IG account.)

He vowed that he would do everything in his power to help me grow! BUT DAMMMNN, WHAT A CRAZY, WILD, STRESSFUL, BEAUTIFUL, JOURNEY ITS BEEN!! (We legit had no idea what we were in for!!)

The Beginning of Our IG/Content Curation Journey:

For starters, we really had no effing clue what we were doing.

On 2.05.18 we decided to try out our first curated post! This was the day, I made my profile public and one year ago to the date, I can say that day/decision was the first day of the rest of my life. I know, sounds dramatic but its so true!

In my caption, I let my followers know the shift of purpose I’d decided to make for my platform. It was my way of 1) holding myself accountable for all I had set out to do, but also 2) alerting my peeps that things would begin to look different.

Bae and I began utilizing our road trips as mini shoots. Both of us gravitate towards aesthetic photography so we just began to take shots that felt whimsical and pleasing to the eye!

At that point, what became equally important was learning/figuring out what editing software/style we liked. Bae introduced me to Adobe Lightroom and together, we learned the ins and outs of the program. I truly believe in creating a cohesive Insta feed through your editing but, at the beginning, it’ll likely take you some time to know what that exactly will look like. You can try out cool or warm toned photos, colorful, black and white, etc. Some people buy presets from other creators to slap onto their every photo or you can go our route and create your own presets; either or!

But this photographer/subject relationship is the hardest part! At first, I felt awkward telling bae that I did not like a photo. But now, let me tell y’all, she does not hold back! Haha, ugh!

In the beginning, it’ll take you some time to develop a trusting relationship with your partner/photographer. Especially if your partner does not come from an artistic background, YOU WILL HAVE TO EXPLAIN WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR. DON’T ASSUME. Even though bae enjoyed taking photos before, ya girl required a whole new level of expertise! SO, YOU WILL NEED TO TEACH HIM!

If you don’t know exactly what this is: I would suggest coming up with a mood board and showing your partner. What niche are you wanting to dabble into? Fashion, Lifestyle, Beauty, Fitness, Travel, etc… the possibilities are endless and with trial and error, you will find yourself gravitating towards one over the other.

So we decided to shoot every weekend at cool locations with some cool outfits that I had in my closet. In the meantime, I began engaging with accounts I found on my explore page and tried to build relationships via DMs with other aspiring content curators/bloggers.

Almost two months later, I landed my first collab. Now, this was the dopest feeling because it made us feel like we had been doing something right.

But with this, also came the pressures to provide service/quality to brands outside of the one we were trying to build for our own.  The bar of expectations were now raised and bae felt that. (Well the relationship did! Will elaborate in a bit)

Road to 10k:

As time passed, I began connecting with soooo many like-minded people! I decided to use the same unfiltered/authentic voice that I spoke in in my blog posts but now in my work over on IG. The more I did this, the more I felt like I was resonating with others. Like actualllly making an impact in someone else’s life, no better feeling! A couple months in, (still figuring out what the heck I was doing) a girl had confided in me in that her random stumbling across my content the night before, actually saved her from hurting herself. I was taken aback. That conversation really moved me.  What good would it be to just post photos? I needed to provide real relatable substance to those who came across my content. I began to feel like this was God’s way of telling me I was heading down the right path…that this was the purpose he had intended for me to live out. That 1 heavy, genuine message, turned into at times 120+ a day. I truly felt so incredibly blessed that my words and photos actually meant something to so many souls!

BUT. All of this correspondence takes time! SOOOO MUCH TIME!

And if you’re in a relationship, this is time away from the relationship!

We struggled with finding this balance for such a long period! This, I’d say is this second hardest part about being business partners with your S/O! It’s really about finding that right balance. But in order for this to work out, your partner must be truly understanding of the hard work this whole thing takes. But in order for your partner to truly understand this world, you must introduce him to it. Show him your stats, explain the pros and cons of this industry, what your intentions are for the passion and if then your partner is willing and all in, here are…

Ways your partner can support:

  • Take his role seriously: 
    • Bae and I are celebrating today as OUR 1 year IG anniversary. The brand of “Jasmin Vanessa” has two heads behind it. He takes pride in all his efforts surrounding my IG, because he has also put his heart and soul into it! AND HE’S SEEN THE BENEFITS! We’ve been blessed enough to BOTH reap the benefits of complementary stays, dinners, amazing experiences, the opportunity to connect with so many people, creating amazing works of art, and just simply sharing each little milestone together.  If your man is talking crap about your passions, thank you, next! LOL JK… But seriously, your S/O may need some convincing, and thats totally okay! I suggest sharing your vision in its full potential! Map it out, create a powerpoint, buy him dinner on shoot days, just whatever you need to get them fully on board. Because at the end of the day, this is a career, and in just one year from now, your life may very well look 100% different! I know yours, does!
  • Research:
    • Understand the dynamics in turning your IG account into a business.
    • Read business articles, study other content curators, watch YouTube vids, etc.
  • Master an editing software:
    • + assist with edits
    • Bae and I worked together to create our own presets (which we hope to release in the near future)
  • First, learn your preferred style of photography:
    • And show him! Practice makes perfect!
  • Be your photographer.
    • THIS can be the trickiest part! We allll know how bratty we can get when we’ve been photographed in an unflattering angle! And sometimes if a friend takes a shot, we’ll joke or mask our frustration. But when it comes to family members or S/O, most of us will say it as it is. I saw a meme recently that said: *Me after my man takes my photo, “Ew, I hate this photo!!” *Him to me: “What do you want me to do about it, thats how you look!!” HAHA. Some days will be easier than others but I def think this is an art form that can take years to master. I mean it makes sense considering, we as the influencer have a creative concept in mind and we are just hoping our partner can evoke that on the other side of the lens. It really is a symbiotic relationship that requires time and patience. What has helped us is positioning bae in the perspective I’d want him to shoot me in, I take the photo on my phone and he’ll study it and then refer back to cross reference while shooting me on his camera or phone.
  • Be the listening ear you’ll need.
    • If your partner is out of the loop, the complaints or frustrations you have about this platform, will sound so ridiculous. But if your partner is as invested and knowledgeable in this as you are, they will not only be understanding but actually have the capacity to provide you insight, morale boosters, and hopefully constructive criticism.
  • Give honest feedback:
    • I am such an indecisive person but having that reassurance or difference in opinion means everything to me!
    • I live for constructive criticism. I always want to know the areas I could improve on for the next time, so having that outsider perspective can really shape and mold your brand into something even greater.
  • Assist in emailing brands:
    • Once you are at a point where you are working with brands, email correspondence can feel overwhelming. Especially when you are constantly negotiating your rates, getting campaign approvals, or just planning out your sponsored content for the month.
    • This is where you will make your money, so having your partner knowledgable in the business side of things can be a hugee help!

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Today, one year later:

02.05.19. We are still wrapping our heads around this all! Just a little over a year ago, I knew I was called to do something more. God was tugging on my heart to ACT but I was just so scared to take that next step. I almost allowed fear of critique and the unknown to block me from one of the biggest blessings God had waiting for me. I truly believe if something is tugging at your heart and it scares TF out of you, it is not random, it is what you were called to do! I am so entirely grateful for every single soul who I’ve connected with this past year. And all I can say is THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Y’all have pushed me to become openly vulnerable, true to my authentic self, and just overall a better freaking person and I thank y’all for giving me so so much in such a short amount of time! I wake up every single day with the intent to create aesthetically pleasing content but most importantly, content that is of substance and content that will somehow shake up and challenge my little community for the better! Love y’all and thank you bae, for everything! I hope I can give just as much to y’all, as you have given me! XOXO

How to Travel On a Budget

“To travel is to live” Legit one of my fav quotes ever! I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: the first time I’ve ever truly felt alive was when I first traveled abroad. But let’s face it, traveling is a luxury! And most people just don’t have it like that!

So in order to make traveling more feasible, I’ve decided to share/backdown what has helped me in planning/budgeting for my travels.

Since this topic was highly suggested, let’s jump right in!

The biggest question I receive is: “How much should I have saved up for a trip like this?

So it really depends on where you are going, some countries are legit so expensive (I could cry) but others can be very reasonable!

To be safe, I always say to give yourself a $2,000 limit when booking a trip abroad.

But considering I have lived and traveled throughout Europe, I will recommend ways in which you can stay under that amount (wellllll, assuming you agree to really ball on a budget).

And I say this because I know many people who only travel in luxury but in all honestly, you can still have the time of your life while watching your pennies, okurrr.

But be forewarned: these amounts are based off of MY experiences in EUROPE, no where else.

ROUNDTRIP AIRFARE ~ $600

This should be the largest lump sum of your trip. And the first matter of business in your planning. You don’t always have to fly in and out of the same country but keep in mind you will have to plan the in-between flights.

I suggest purchasing a non-stop flight as many sites will try to trick you into a good deal but one that has a gnarly layover in a random country, so be thorough with your search.

You will find a reasonably priced non-stop if you are patient. I have made the mistake of booking welllll in advance and honestly, I found much cheaper tickers for the same flight closer to the date. Airlines take advantage, y’all! So be smart with how you book! I say, a good time to book a flight is 2-3 months in advance. Oh, and ALWAYS PURCHASE INSURANCE! The extra $12 is so worth it!

Useful Sites: (Hover for links)

Google Flights

Skyscanner

CheapOair

Orbitz

Expedia

(These sites will compare prices for you, however, sometimes it is cheaper just to go through the specific airline itself)

& In my opinion: Norwegian Air  has had some of the cheapest roundtrip flights into Europe that I’ve seen.

STAY: ~ $350-$600 (Based on a 7 night stay)

Once you have solidified your roundtrip flight, the next order of business, I would suggest booking, is your stay(s).

Now, this is where your budget can significantly be affected.

I say: stray away from hotels. Your best options are either highly rated hostels or Airbnb’s. If you are looking into hotels, be well prepared to spend over $150 a night!

You can find hostels that offer private rooms for as little as $20 Euro per person if you are in a group of 2 or more and entire Airbnb’s for less than $75 a night.

Or if you are a solo traveler: you can choose to stay at a hostel as well, but in a common room and you’d also only be looking at $20-35 euro a night. This is a great way to save and meet other travelers! I’ve gone this route plenty of times with random groups of other women but also men!

But remember: this amount can vary dramatically by the city and/or accommodation method you choose. But the good thing here, is that this total amount most likely will be split amongst you and your traveling buddies.

Side note: London & Paris tend to be the more pricier of countries( for hostels at least) but we found the dreamiest Airbnb in Paris for only $70 a night! So it really depends.

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FOOD: ~$300-$450

Again, this is another area which can highly affect your budget!

If you plan on eating at the hottest restaurants in town and drink your days away, this price budget may not be for you!

But it is possible if are choosy with how and where you dine.

You are traveling, so of course, #treatyoself! BUT, be strategic about it.

Breakfast: Pastries will be your best friend. I know in America, we are used to the grand All-American breakfast: eggs, bacon, toast, avocado, the works! But in Europe (and I’m sure many other regions) breakfast is not as heavy. However, I have seen Europe begin to implement our style of breakfast.

So, in order to save, buy yourself a few pastries to fill up until lunch. We are talking a couple bucks per pastry.

Lunch: Some easy pizza, panino, sandwich, etc ~$10.  I know it may be tempting to have a midday bougie lunch or sangria (which is fine) but I say wait for dinner to do this.

Dinner: This is where you can splurge! I def like to map out a few days of the trip to do this but keep in mind, splurging every night can easilyyy take you well off of your budget. A glass of wine, sure, but this doesn’t mean it HAS to be at the trendiest place in town! Don’t underestimate hole in the wall locations! I’ve found some of the YUMMIEST restaurants that were still 5 course meals but under $15 a person. Yelp will be your best friend!

Dessert: This is also where ya girl splurges! Gelato, Nutella anything, hot chocolate, crepes, etc.

Alcohol: So inserting my opinion heavily on this one but alcohol is one of the easiest ways to break your budget.

I say, limit yourself to some wine at dinner and maybe a couple nights out at the local bar, but save what you would have spent on drinks, to pay for an extra day of (exploring connecting flight, activity, etc). And I say this because you can drink all you want back in your home country, but if you’re on a budget, you can reallocate your money towards the real adventures. BUT, this does not mean, don’t drink. Something I’ve done in most of the countries I’ve visited is simply head to the local supermarket and pick up a few bottles of wine (usually $2-$4 a piece) or mini liquor bottles and enjoy them for a night in or just bring them with me for night time picnics, late night strolls, etc.

Side note: There are so many different cuisines throughout Europe so don’t feel bad if you aren’t eating that particular country’s cuisine every single night. Asian and Mediterranean cuisine are quite popular and inexpensive options as well!

CONNECTING FLIGHTS/TRAINS:  ~$300 (OPTIONAL)

One of the things I love so much about Europe, is that travel amongst cities/countries is relatively cheap. Usually you can find roundtrips for under $100.

Cheapest options:

Airline Sites:

Ryanair

Vueling

WOW Air

EasyJet

Norwegian  

Train Sites:

GoEuro

HappyRail

(Here you can search and compare for the cheapest train options for your destination country)

CITY TRANSPORTATION: ~$100

In Europe, (at least) be prepared to walk, and A LOT! BUT… there will be days when you will need a metro, tram, taxi, and/or bus ticket. Each of these will likely cost ($1.50-$3.00 a piece, excluding taxis) So if you’re looking to explore the entire city, these small amounts can and will add up! Unlike the US, one pass is only good for one stop. Many people aren’t aware of this and get fined a hefty amount. PRO TIP: VALIDATE YOUR TICKETS FOR EACH STOP! So many of us (myself included at one point) have tried to beat the system and just sneak on but I highly discourage this (we did eventually get a 100 EUR fine!) From what I was told, many cities have been stricter on their public transportation so just be safe and cover your bases. As an alternative, some cities do offer City passes that you can purchase in bulk (which would avoid you having to purchase a ticket each and every time you ride).

SHOPPING/SOUVENIRS: ~$20

I personally do not shop abroad, unless its an item, I absolutely need. I use the same logic here that I do with alcohol. I can shop back home and instead allocate that money towards my adventures. However, if you are really dying to shop, most cities usually have cheap flea markets that you can potentially pick up some finds.  If you are looking to bring home some souvenirs, I suggest something small but thoughtful: postcards,  certain packaged foods from that region, etc.

IF YOU ARE A BLOGGER: ~$50 (OPTIONAL)

You may need to allocate some funds for outfits and props. I would suggest thrifting and/or working with brands/hotels to help alleviate the costs.

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IN SUM: ~ $1,500-$2,000.

SOO obviously this budget is not a one size fits all model, BUTTTT I swear, it’s what has worked for me.

I hope this break-down encourages any of y’all who view travel as impossible at the moment, as something that can actually be attainable…when done right!

Happy travels, y’all! Xo

Personal Growth > Social Media Growth

The number one question I receive on social media is : “How do you suggest I best grow my following?” And there is not one simple answer to this. For me, It’s actually taken a lot of PERSONAL growth to even see a dent in my social media growth.

As many of y’all know, blogging and maintaining a social media presence…is basically a full-time job. We are expected to create quality content time and time again, which I LOVE! BUT! We all know the occasional struggle of when we pour our heart into a post, yet it does not do as well as we thought it would! It can be really, really, really discouraging at times. But then theres the other side of that too! When my content compels people to reach out to me, it is in those moments where I feel the most fulfilled. It’s like “whoa, I’m actually making some sort of impact here!” So all this to say, this industry can be an emotional rollercoaster!

And of course, as an individual trying to navigate my way through this space, my own  psyche is affected by it all. I’ve had to learn or am still learning how to be inspired by others’ content rather than intimated. I’ve had to learn how to be vulnerable with all of my followers, rather than just showing the surface level of who I am. I’ve had to shake off and/or learn from any negative comments or criticism I get on posts. And most importantly, I’ve had to gain the patience and understanding that this journey of becoming an “influencer” TAKES TIME! And the most important part of the journey (at least for me) is learning how to accept and grow as a person from all of the ebbs and flows that come our way. Back in February, right before I started to take this platform seriously, I was still very weary and unsure of my content. The numbers meant everything to me and I was heartbroken when they were not up to par. I would compare my humble ass beginnings to one of an influencer with millions of followers! But thank God as time has past, I’ve grown so much as a person and hence, that wisdom and maturity has poured over into my creative realm.

I think the most common sentiment I receive from people asking this question, is discouragement. “Why is my account not growing?! UGHH!” That question alone has the ability to make you second guess yourself and even your potential of making it on this platform. But what has helped me is shifting that question of “how do I grow my followers?” to “what do I need to do to grow as a person so that my content reflects that?”

As an example, I share with y’all these two photos.

The bottom was a girl who was shy and thus a bit uncomfortable with her photographer. I was self-conscious of what the people around me were thinking and you can see that in my pose!

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Over time, I worked through those personal flaws. You now see (in the featured photo) a confident, DFAG gal, living her best posing life. Of course there was a line of people staring at me, but oh well! In addition, you also see the strong connection and trust, I’ve built with my photographer. My personal growth blossomed and in turn, so did my creative juices.

Sooooo, if we only shift our thinking and look inwards for growth, that growth can be multiplied in our content and reach so many more people than even imagined!

I found this quote online and thought it was pretty magical:

“Dream big, develop yourself, unleash your potential, play well with others, play to your strengths, enjoy the process, share your unique gifts with the world, and grow your greatness by testing yourself, expanding yourself, learning and improving.” – Unknown

Owning Who You Are

So, aside from this topic being close to my heart, I’ve also gotten several requests to expand on this on the blog! So, yay!

If you know me well, you’d know that I’m really unapologetically me. And although this has gotten me in soo much trouble in my life (LOL ugh), I feel blessed to have accepted and loved myself from a really young age. I mean, after alllll, we spend more time with ourselves than we ever will spend with anyone else in life.

Owning who you are is a complex matter. There is our inner and outer self. Do our inner and outer selves align? This is a huge question. Your inner self pertains to your values, personality, thoughts, etc. Where as your outer self is what we present to the world; this can include our physical appearance as well.

To me, having a strong inner self is reflected through self-awareness, knowing what you want in this life, being mindful of your feelings, and having clarity in handling them. I think a strong sense of outer self is having the ability to act in ways that avoid putting up a facade for others- aka behaving in ways that differ from what you ultimately feel on the inside. *Aligning both inner and outer self is important because I think this is where our personal happiness meets. *

Okay, so now I’d like to dive a bit deeper. Let’s backtrack to 5th grade. This year was possibly one of the biggest turning points in my life. On this particular day, my parents gave me the two options that forever changed me. Okay, so earlier that day during “weigh-ins,” my P.E. teacher was going around the circle giving everyone their weight for reference. When he got to me, he whispered my weight into my ear, and I instantly became the laughing stock of the class. But in that moment, I wasn’t nearly as embarrassed as you would think. I was actually annoyed at my teacher for attempting to exclude me from the general group practice rather than the kids making fun of me. I mean, I knew I had newly developed hips, but I wasn’t an at-risk overweight youth. So anywayyy. When I got home I remember asking my parents, “why do I look so different than all of the other girls in school?” And my parents then presented me with two options. “Well, Jasmin, you could either embrace your body and all that you are or embrace your body and all that you are. Which one will it be?” And I’m pretty sure that conversation molded my confidence and self acceptance going forward.

As the years past, I kept that conversation close to my heart. And from that young age, I did an inventory check of myself. Who was I? At the time, I gathered that I was stubborn, loud, fiercely passionate, sassy (aka extra), independent kid. And honestly not much has changed. Anyway, I attended three different middle schools. Now I would hate to use the word “bullied” (as I always stood up for myself) but lets just say, some days were torture!! I was picked apart because of my appearance, my extra ass personality, and everything in between. There were even days that I would eat lunch alone-but honestly, that didn’t bother me much; my lonely ass would happily eat my food in peace. But the thing I noticed about these people, is that they were bothered that I wasn’t cracking. Of course there were one or two times that I felt overwhelmed, but I had to remind myself about that 5th grade conversation. If I did not accept, own, and defend who I really was, then I’d be leaving room for other’s to make that decision for me. I truly believe if you are secure in who you are, no rumor, no shitty person, no event will shake you!

And I know some people may say that being secure in your own skin is much easier said than done, but I say that is the only choice you have. You can either own who you are or own who you are! There is no other option!

Believe me when I say, I’ve gotten into a lot of sh*t because of who I am (eeek) but at the end of the day, I know that my inner and outer self (for the most part) align…and hell, I know I’m a bad ass. Don’t allow comparison, shitty people, or doubt hinder your ability to own and love who you are!

If you are struggling with self acceptance, I’d advise to re-frame the ways in which you speak to yourself. Possibly list down the pros and cons of who you are, ask yourself if your actions and presentation to others mirrors what you really feel on the inside, and remember that you have to live with yourself for the rest of your life, so might as well love (clap) thy (clap) self (clap) !! Xo

How to Stay Positive During an Injury

As many of y’all know, I sprained my ankle this week 😦 The sprain is considered a grade III sprain, so ya girl has not been able to walk in like a week! The injury stemmed from bad form at the gym and it has been such a struggleee! Watching your time and weekly goals slip through your fingers can cause even the most resilient of us to spiral into frustration.

Today is day 6 in bed but its felt like an ETERNITY, FAM!! The first word that came to mind, (aside from all the curse words) was, “inconvenience.” Not only am I sidelined from the gym and my 9-5, but most importantly I am disabled from going out and shooting some new content!

On the onset of the injury, I still forced myself to go out and shoot, but joke was on me, because I woke up the next day extremely swollen and in agonizing pain! Panic & anger overcame me! As a creative, not being able to do what you identify the most with is always frustrating! As much as the physical pain hurts, the inability to create, feels even that much more painful! I had so many scheduled shoots, location ideas and collabs that needed to be executed. UGHH!

And even though, I am not even half way healed, heck, I still can’t even walk on the damn foot, I’ve come to finally accept what cards I’ve been dealt.

So as everything does happen for a reason, what is the light of the end of this tunnel?

This is the question, I had been asking myself for the past couple of days.

So here are my 5 reasons, an injury can actually be beneficial to your life and well-being.

  1. Grow a new appreciation for your body 
    • I mean why did I ever complain before? Haha! In all seriousness, the human body is so magical and now more than ever, I see how ungrateful I was for all that I could do with it.  I miss my normally functioning legs, y’all!! These crutches have not been kind to me 😦
  2. Mastering your perspective on shitty situations 
    • As much as I’d like to sulk around all day, I’ve tried my best to shake off all of the negative energies and focus on the progress I’ve been making!
      • Day 6 and I am now able to wiggle my toes!! YAS!
    • Instead of wondering, “what if I get worse?” I am saying positive affirmations aloud! E.g: “I will get better everyday!”
  3. Plot your comeback
    • THIS! THIS! THIS! As bummed out as I was, I have planned out the exact content I will be creating! Scratch what I had in mind before, I will be pushing the boundaries on my new stuff & let me tell you, it’ll be f*cking dope!
    • Part of me sees this as a blessing because before, yes, I had a vision in mind but now I’m yearning for something even greater.
  4. Trust the process
    • UGH, this can be so hard! I am one of the most impatient people I know! I hate when things don’t go as planned so trusting in the chaos is for sure easier said than done! And to be honest, all I want to do to get back out there and shoot if even for 20 mins a day! But as I learned, that’ll only bite me in the ass!
    • So in order for me to embrace what is happening, I have to trust in the unknown. Of course it’s scary, but hey, the unknown has it’s own way of working, and most of the time, for the best!
    • I know this may sound crazy, but I try to think what could have happened to me, if this injury did not occur. How about if I was shooting on a street, and a car missed the stopped sign and hit me? Or how about if I was biting off more than I could chew and had a breakdown? I know these are extreme, but maybe just maybe this injury prevented those situations from occurring!!

 

*I hope this read is helpful for anyone who is in the same predicament! My biggest take from all of this is to be kind to yourself, hard I know, but we will get through this! Xo 

 

5 Ways To Keep Negative Energy Out Of Your Relationship

Heyyy guys! So with the demands of the 9-5, social media, our nation’s climate, and so on, it can be very easy to get sucked into these negative vortexes. Especially when you share your time with another person, it’s so important to understand how these negative energies can detract from the happiness within your relationship.

The spread of these negative energies invites toxicity, annoyances, and unhealthy behaviors into the dynamic. But through stimulating the flow of positive energies/practices, you’re creating an inviting and appealing environment.

Here are my top 5 favorite practices.

1. Pray/Meditate together

  • If even for two minutes, pausing the chaos to center your thoughts can trigger the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain as well as calm the fight or flight reactions. For us, prayer is huge. We ask for direction and clarity but also extend our gratitude.

2. Identifying the negativity 

  • Is the attitude, behaviors, tone, etc. caused from outside tensions (the media, work, friends, family) or is it stemmed from something occurring within the relationship? Regardless of the catalyst, it is important to acknowledge/pin-point the issue.

3. Address tension(s) then and there

  • Super important! I am a firm believer in voicing what issues are at hand and working through them, ASAP. My biggest advice is not to go to sleep upset. We all know the couples who prefer to sweep issues under the rug vs confronting them head on with their partner. But this is soo problematic, because if you’re feeling your energetic connection is out of whack, it is likely that there is healing to do.
  • When there is lack of resolution, this can slowly lead to the demise of a relationship. So all this to say, even if the conversation is uncomfortable, it’ll be worthwhile in the long run.

4.  Experience new adventures together

  • I think the best way to free of negative energies is to travel! If you feel this thickness around you, plan a day-trip together and head that way. Seeing new stimuli is incredibly healthy. I know for us, our worries melt away once we see something new.

5. Build together

  • Working towards a common goal helps create commonality and trust. Whether it is a passion project, DIY home fix, or even the desire to move up in your respective companies… depending on each other for support, creates a focus for an even stronger dynamic/bond. For us, my boo is my photographer and go-to for shoots, blog ideas, etc. He believes in my content just as much as I do, and we work together everyday in attempts to build my social media presence.

 

*Okayyy, enough blabbering. I hope these tips are helpful and provide some sort of relationship Feng Shui or Spring (welll, Summer) cleaning of your relationship interactions. 

How to Create the Bubble Braid

Within the past year, I have challenged myself to step outside of my stylistic comfort zone. Now, I’d describe my overall style as either minimalistic and simple or eclectic. That being said, my hair styles are evolving as well.

I saw a single bubble braid style while scrolling on my Explorer page on Instagram and thought it would be cool to style them as two bubble pigtail braids.

This entire look took me less than 10 mins to complete and all you’ll need is a comb, 8 small rubber bands, and a few pumps of hairspray.

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I first divide my hair down the middle.

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Next, I gather each half to form pigtails.

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Then, I tease about 3-4 inches of hair (depending on your length).

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Once you see volume added, comb it neat, and tie section.

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Mirror the other side…

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Keep alternating halves so that you can make sure each section is even.

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Add a few pumps or hairspray.

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And…

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And Voilà!

I hope you guys found this tutorial helpful!

Let me know if you have any questions! Happy braiding, fam! XO

How Being With the Right Partner Should Boost Your Confidence

Recently I had a conversation with an old friend which compelled me to write this piece.

As we were catching up, she was expressing how happy she was to see me happy. And not the fake illusion of happiness some of us display on social media, but the recent genuine confidence she saw in my smile the few times I’ve posted with my man. She explained that before in my past relationship, she sensed “something was just off.” And she was right. As I mentioned in previous posts, I was not in a healthy relationship. In simple terms, we just were not the right fit for each other, and to almost overcompensate for what we lacked, I guess, I tried to convince myself and others (through my posts) that things were alright. And this is something, I think that many of us have unknowingly done at one point or another. It’s just that some people are able to call “BS” on this illusion we put out. Back then, I felt as if my passions were not important. My ambitions were knocked down at times and hence, the value I thought I brought to this world was suppressed. I began to analyze myself differently and double think on essentially anything I stood for.

I was not only lacking confidence on an individual and creative level, but also on a relational level. When there is instability and uncertainty in the relationship, it is hard to  maintain confidence in the relationship. You wonder how much longer either one of you can take.

I think it is not only important to be with someone who is supportive in all of your ventures, but also with someone who shares the same interests and morals as you. In this way, your partner can appreciate the avenues you decide to take on and even find enthusiasm in joining you in some of them! In addition, finding a partner whom you have built stability and cohesiveness with, enables an environment where both partners can feel fulfilled and assured. When your thoughts and feelings are validated, you are reminded that you are important and cared for, thus your partner is helping nurture the relationship.

In short, my friend was right! In retrospect, I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin than ever before. And although, this process begins within, meeting the right person can most definitely compliment and boost your overall morale.

Knowing You Are Enough

“Am I enough?”

A notoriously toxic question yet one that is often still asked.

Recently I went through an experience that made me come so close to question, if I was enough.

Unfortunately, many of us at one point or another, have had the tendency to focus on what we lack versus taking inventory of what we already possess. It can be extremely easy to do so, especially, when we use social comparisons to determine our own worth based on our perceptions of how we stack up against our peers.

I felt compelled to share this experience because we all need a little reminder every now and again.

About a week or so ago, I was a runner-up for an opportunity I was anxiously awaiting for quite some time! I literally put forth (what seemed like) my blood, sweat, and tears into this as I knew just how many doors this would have opened up for me. I prayed, manifested, and worked my butt off to make this potential opportunity a reality. Even though I had the green light throughout the entire process, I was told last minute that they decided to go with the other individual. Now initially, I was in shock. And for a brief moment, the insecurities set in. I had to stop myself from asking “So what was wrong with ME? Why wasn’t I eno…?” But then I had to quickly remind myself that I gave this my all. No matter their decision, I’m still very much enough.

I think many of us gauge our worth based on certain situations but we must remember that regardless of others’ perspectives of us, regardless of where we are in our lives, and regardless of the way relationships unfold, we must give ourselves internal validation that we are more than enough, as is. When we give life our very best, I am certain it is recycled back to us tenfold later down the line.

Even though, this other person was a “better fit” for this opportunity, it by no means meant I was lacking. We have to realize we hold all that we ever will need, within ourselves. My worth should not be and is not contingent on this opportunity. Knowing we are enough is the first conversation we should be having with ourselves every morning. If we allow ourselves to look outward for qualities that can only be found within, we will be searching for a lifetime. I think situations like this one, are designed to mentally strengthen our perceptions of our inner-selves. They are reminders that no matter what disappointments come our way, we should have no other option but to love and accept who we are, for all that we are and for all what we have and know. By doing this, we will be able to find inner peace.

Tips that have helped me:

  1. Love yourself always, always, always!
  2. Have daily conversations/positive affirmations with yourself
  3. Learn/appreciate the value you bring to this earth
  4. Let go of toxic relationships/situations that make you doubt yourself
  5. Spend more time with yourself- be mindful of who you really are

XO

How to Cope with Anxiety

In recent days, I’ve seen fellow bloggers and friends share their stories and it has inspired me to share a little bit more about myself…

Now before I give my take on the issue, I would like to just preface with that I am obviously not a doctor nor am I speaking on behalf of everyone who has suffered from anxiety, I am simply sharing my story and what has worked for me (:

Ever since I was young, I’ve favored structure and set plans, very, very much. I’ve been known to overthink many situations in my life but figured I was just more of a worrier than others. But the thought of labeling that worry as a “disorder,” never crossed my mind.

5 years ago, I was beginning my first week as a college sophomore. The work load was light and all was well! I grabbed my first coffee of the school year and headed to the library. About half way through my cup, I noticed my heart rate was accelerating by the second. A few moments later, my throat felt like it was closing in, and my chest tightened. I thought, “whoa, okay maybe I’m just getting jittery because I drank too much, too fast.” Unfortunately, for the next 12 hours, I experienced this same ugly feeling. Throughout each class, I could barely hold my pen up to take notes, I had to step outside several times to get some fresh air, and my stomach was in knots! By 8PM, I was legit scared. What the hell was going on? It couldn’t have been the coffee, because coffee was my lifeline freshman year! I wasn’t stressed about school or really anything in particular so it couldn’t of been a panic attack, right? I was left so confused as I never experienced something like this.

The next day, I figured I would try a new Green Tea the café offered. And within the hour, BOOM! The same sh*t happened for hours on end! At this point I couldn’t help but to feel frustrated and wonder what this was?

For the next three days, the symptoms came in waves…3 hours here, 5 hours there. It was pure misery. I literally could not take it anymore.

I went to see a doctor and explained my symptoms and past history. Since caffeine was a common denominator in the past week, she explained that caffeine has the ability to exacerbate anxiety and other stress-related signs. The symptoms I was experiencing was in fact panic attacks but she was surprised I had never experienced one prior to this week. Since she was unsure herself why this was, she suggested I try this antidepressant medication (one, I can’t remember the name of) which, “would alleviate all of the symptoms”. If I continued to have the symptoms after two weeks of use, she suggested that I continue with it. Now I did zero research prior to going in but was so desperate to feel “normal” again, I agreed on taking it. I was so ignorant on mental health and pharmaceutical drugs I had no idea what I was in for. Those following weeks were some of the darkest days I’ve ever experienced.

I believe it was around day 3 when my entire mood shifted. Naturally, I am a social extrovert. Especially in school, I loved being outdoors near our beach and meeting up with friends in between classes. I remember as each day passed on this medication, I found it harder and harder to get out of bed in the morning. I was becoming sad and found little to no energy to go to class or work. Since mental health or antidepressants were such an unfamiliar topic to me and to be honest, taboo, (especially 5 or so years ago) I did not share what was going on with me to my friends or even my roommate. I would hide my medication and take it only while she was not home. I remember cancelling on friends with a BS excuse, all because I simply did not have the energy to get out my apartment. I had difficulty in explaining how I felt to my mom and told her I just did not feel myself. But I kept with it for a number of days after because I legit feared of having another attack.

It was day 12/14 when I woke up in the AM, to dark thoughts. I could not take it anymore. This was not me. I rushed myself to urgent care and told the doctor what I was thinking and how terribly awful I felt while on the medication. I demanded I was taken off of it and at this point did not care if an attack came on. These thoughts were not worth it to me.

She then explained how medication may not work for everyone and then suggested I try alternative methods like meditation, counseling, outdoor physical exercise, journaling, and of course, ditching caffeine altogether.

Just the very next day, I felt back to myself again. As happy as I was because of this, I was also just as upset that this mental health professional immediately prescribed me medication. As I did further research and educated myself on the matter, I found that the alternative methods the Psychiatrist suggested to me after the fact, should have been the first line of treatment.

All this to say, since then I have not experienced panic attacks to that capacity. Every few months or so, however; I do still feel an attack coming on so I will now share what I’ve learned from those few counseling sessions and what has worked for me with dealing with the constant “worry” or anxiety of the day to day.

  1. Cut out all caffeine: coffee, decaff coffee, green tea, iced tea, Matcha, etc.
    • This one has been so hard for me, lol! I miss coffee sooo soo much but an 8 hour attack is not worth one cup of goodness.
  2. Meditate: In your own space, group classes, outdoors, etc.
  3. Briefly talk yourself out of it: May seem easier said than done, but I just talk to myself in third-person in attempts of centering myself again.
    • For example: “Jasmin! You will be okay, just breathe. Relax, take a walk, you’ll be fine.”
  4. Spend more time outside: Going outdoors, especially in the midst of an attack, def distracts me in the moment and without realizing, the attack often goes away.
  5. Distract yourself: I found that by focusing all my energy and efforts into an attack, often times makes it worse. Acknowledge it but still try to move on with your day and plans.
  6. Realize that worrying will not change a situation: This one, of course is a work in progress for me but it is pertinent to remind yourself this.

 

The list can go on and on, but I wanted to highlight those that have helped me the most. I’m aware treatment is by no means, a one size fits all solution, and that I do not suffer from crippling anxiety or have even faced severe mental health issues, but my hopes are by sharing my experience, I can at least start a conversation. On a general basis, I think our society focuses so much on physical health yet the topic of mental heath still remains in the shadows. Let’s all be proactive in looking after our own mental health as well as educating ourselves on such a sensitive topic. Xo

When in Rome…Literally

Roma, La Città Eterna! Ugh, where do I even begin? Rome: A mesmerizing mix of modern and ancient, a rare and colossal capital. I consider myself extremely blessed to have called this place home for four months. I felt the most alive in those 4 months than I ever have. This trip absolutely changed my life. And I’m certain it can change yours too!

Prior to living here, I had so many questions but yet expectations of what this city had to offer. You see the stereotypical depictions in the media of Rome being this magnetic place where the All-American girl meets the love of her life. So I asked myself, would Rome be all that is it lived up to be? This magical land, far far away….

Well, I went looking for adventure but instead I gained so much more; I ended up falling in love with the idea of love and passion and discovery of myself and my environment. If the opportunity arises, experience for yourself the history, mystery and cuisine that Rome has to offer.

Here is my go-to guide for venturing out the front door and onto an experience of a lifetime!

You know… When in Rome!

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Trastevere:

The language, scenery, cuisine, and just the way of life… was as if I was living in a postcard. I lived in one of Rome’s favorite neighborhoods, Trastevere. Just a scroll across the Tiber river, this picturesque, formerly working class district, is truly a slice of modern Roman life. With delicious restaurants nestled in what seemed like every corner and even the tiniest of cafes in between, it would be impossible to find yourself hungry here! If I had to use two words to describe this neighborhood, it would be: romantic and authentic. Should you and your loved ones find yourselves wandering the winding cobble stone streets, y’all are in for a treat! You’d stumble upon nightlife, locals gathered  around smoking and chatting about, all while dodging Vespas zooming past… this is THE place to explore. Trastevere will take you away from the crowds to the hidden corners of Rome.

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Public Transportation:

One of my favorite things about Trastevere is how many sites of interest are at an easy walking distance away. We explored the city, in its entirety, by foot. But if you are on a quick vacation, and do not have the time to do so, there are other easy options: You can hop on the Tram, Bus, Subway, Taxi, etc. In my experience, public transportation throughout the city was extremely reliable and safe! The Metro stops are near most of the major tourist sites or just a quick walk away from a bus stop!

 

 Language Barrier:

I arrived in Rome at the end of August. This is the time of year where many Italians take their month long vacation, leaving many restaurants, shops and cafes in local neighborhoods closed. Streets were fairly empty and the foot traffic was light. It were as if, we had the entire city to ourselves! The cobblestone streets, vine wrapped archways, and the exaggerated hand gestures that the locals exchanged, made my first couple of days all too surreal yet perfect. It was not until we had to grocery shop or order food for the first time that reality hit! Talk about lost in translation…

Unlike, other countries I had visited, Italy was the most stern in speaking in their native tongue. When I first arrived, I mistakenly greeted everyone at all times of the day with, “ciao,” and struggled with the most basic phrases, and after very long, awkward exchanges, I would get: “Just speak to me in English!!” Or  “Non, capisco” (“I don’t understand”) . Very quickly did I pick up on the fact that I was approaching the language barrier and assimilation to the culture, poorly. This was not a forgivable place, where my American ignorance could get me by. I had to learn the language or at least try my very hardest to.

One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects of our school was our Italian classes. I believe we had a midterm (entirely in Italian) on week three! The first thing we were taught was that “ciao” is an informal greeting. It is only used correctly when it’s said among people who know one another. So it all began to make sense, having gotten sideways glances from locals I did not know to whom I was throwing “ciao” to. Once, I began to use the correct formalities and genuinely gave Italian a-go, I felt like I gained their respect. As my time there proceeded, I noticed how much more welcoming the locals were with me. On my walks to school, I developed rapport with the market/cafe/restaurant owners. Closer to the end of my experience, I was greeted by name, a few times a day, by these individuals. This is by no means to say, Italians aren’t friendly, in fact, I met so many locals who were more than willing to help make my visit unforgettable, but rather, When in Rome, you should expect to become familiar with the unfamiliar and appreciate such an authentic culture. And isn’t this the goal when traveling?… To fully immerse yourself in a new culture and engage in authentic local interactions and experiences. So even if you are not planning on learning the language before your trip to Italy, this is your friendly reminder to pack the basic travel phrases along with your belongings 🙂

 

Safety:

From my personal experience, I always felt extremely safe and comfortable within the city! As with every major tourist destination, there are pickpockets and scummy con artists waiting to take advantage of the distracted tourist so take precautions. My biggest piece of advice is to NOT carry your phone or wallet (ahem, men!) in your pockets especially in the back pant pockets. This is pertinent, particularly in public transit! Carry your valuables in a backpack and wear it in front of you, holding onto the bottom portion. I had seen some pretty intricate theft schemes, so I even went as far as locking my backpack and purse to itself while I was out and about. This is something I feel many people don’t talk about when marketing such a beautiful city, but I will definitely suggest to be mindful. Pay attention to your surroundings and keep an eye out for one another. That said, Rome is an overall safe city, with the massive armed presence both the locals and the tourists are well looked after.

 

Favorite Piazzas:

Now, the good stuff! Roman daily life revolves around their piazzas. Piazzas are the hubs for eating, drinking, catching up with friends, or simply sitting by the fountains and watching the world go by.

  • Piazza di Santa Maria : This medieval piazza, is filled with shops, cafes, and religious beauty. Sit alongside locals and tourists at the steps of the fountain. Here is a great place to watch live music, eat up your gelato, or simply people watch.

 

  • Piazza Navona: My favorite of them all! Arguably the most beautiful of all the piazzas in Rome, Piazza Navona is particularly stunning at night. The Baroque architecture, showy fountains, and colorful buildings feel as if you were transported back in time.

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  • Piazza Campo De’ Fiori: This piazza, provides one of the most lively atmospheres I’ve ever experienced! A jewel, really. In the daytime it’s a bustling outdoor market offering fresh produce, flowers, meats, and spices, that transforms into a popular nightlife center in the evening. Mid-day the tents are put away, restaurants set up their outdoor seating options, and the buzz begins. From the Swedish bar to the English pub and Italian wine bar, there is something here for everyone.

     

  • Piazza Dell’Orologio:  My second favorite of them all, this charming piazza is nestled away (just walking distance) from hustle and bustle of the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo. A place you’d likely walk among the locals, this piazza is where I spent most of my time! Not only is this the piazza where my school was located but in all honestly, this was probably the most aesthetically pleasing piazza to me. The square’s name, “Orologio,” which translates to “clock” derives from the 17th century clock highlighted on top of the church bell tower. Wander along the narrow cobble stone side streets and find beautiful mosaics, churches, eateries, and some of the prettiest multicolored buildings, you will find! This piazza is for sure an Instagrammer’s dream!

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  • Largo di Torre Argentina: This square is the site of where Julius Caesar was assassinated! For that reason alone this place is worth a visit. It is also maintained  as a cat sanctuary today. It is a good stop off and resting point if you are walking through the city.

 

  • Piazza Venezia: This white marble modern spectacle is considered the hub of today’s city traffic. This square was the headquarters, if you will, of the Fascist Regime in the 19th century. In fact, this was the very balcony that Mussolini greeted his crowds. It is a stark contrast in architectural style to the neighboring Roman Forum and Colosseum. You can tour the palace and go up to it’s vantage point of the entire city. It is absolutely beautiful!

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  • Piazza di Trevi: Arguably the most magical place in all of Rome! As legend has it, be sure to throw a coin from your right hand over your left shoulder, this will ensure that you will return to Rome. Unfortunately, the fountain was under construction the entire time I was abroad, but I will be revisiting later this year…so I guess the legend is true 🙂 You can also find a lot of eateries, shops, and bars nearby.

 

  • Piazza Della Rotanda: Home to the Pantheon. It is yet again, a majestic marvel. There is the famous Renaissance fountain in the center of the square, and surrounding restaurants and bars.

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  • Piazza Di Spagna: The imposing 138-step staircase, is the perfect gathering place for tourists and locals alike. It was one of my favorite areas to relax in the evenings with some snacks in hand. In the upper Piazza, Trinita dei Monti, you’ll see the stunning twin tower church dominating the steps. From atop, you get one of the best vantage points of the city…domes, church steeples, hotels, in all their glory. Flanking the piazza on all sides is the main shopping street, where some of the world’s largest brands are represented.

 

  • Piazza San Pietro: This holy site, will literally leave you in awe. No words suffice to describe this architectural splendor.  It really is THE place which unites people from all over the world. Marvel over Bernini’s work all while overhearing a Sunday service by Papa Francesco. Religious or not, visiting St. Peter’s Square is an almost out of this world experienece that you will never forget. There are also tons of really yummy restaurants to the right of the basilica.

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  • Piazza del Colosseo: I mean!!! I legit cried walking up to this beauty! Mind you, it is a very congested area with tons of foot traffic but still a great area to rest or marvel in awe. It will cost you € 12.00 to get inside, but once you’re in, you can choose from a guided tour, underground tour, or simply walk around the fascinating grounds at your own speed. Head into the ancient past by visiting the Arch of Constantine before walking through the Roman Forum and up Palatine Hill. Explore the impressive ruins or have lunch at any of the several nearby restaurants.

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Recommended Restaurants:

  • Dar Poeta: This hidden gem is in the heart of Trastevere, nearby the Tiber River. They are famous for their Nutella & Ricotta Calzone.

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  • Mama Angela’s Trattoria: HANDS DOWN MY FAVORITE EATERY IN ROME! It is just a short walk away from the Termini Train Station. Their Cacio e Pepe and Creamy Truffle Pasta were by far my favorite meals. I tried this place on a whim one night and loved it so much, I began going at least once a week!

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  • Ci-Lin: One of my favorite things about Rome was the plethora of Chinese Restaurants. Ci-Lin was the Chinese Restaurant I frequented the most! Yummy food at amazinggg prices. I’m talking about $5 for three course meals!

 

  • Bar Amore: In the heart of Piazza Orologio, this family run eatery, is where I spent all my free time at…breakfasts, lunches, and mid afternoon pick-me-ups! There is a vast variety of fresh, yummy food on their menu. My favorite was the Nutella Panino! Not to mention, the staff here is amazing (ask for Fabio)! They take the time to get to know you, help you out if need be, and they provide such speedy service! Recommended stop for all hours of the day.

 

  • Forno Campo de’ Fiori: As the name suggests, this eatery is in the heart of Campo de’ Fiori. If you are looking for authentic pizza slices, this is your place! Yummy quality pizza at an affordable price.

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  • Gelato at Giolitti: A visit to Rome isn’t complete without gelato! Giolitti, is a famous café and pastry shop as well as the oldest gelateria in Rome. Opt for one of the unusual flavors like champagne or pumpkin pie.

 

Recommended Nightlife:

  • Almalu: In the heart of Trastevere, Almalu serves all kind of funky cocktails, including their famous, “Harry Potter Shot”. This was the first bar I experienced in Rome and definitely a good starting point to your night.

 

  • Art Cafè : This popular dance club is definitely worth a visit. Tucked away near the Borghese Gardens this place is a fun way to dance with the locals. Popular Hip Hop and EDM hits are usually played. However, I would suggest to dress up here.
  • Bum Bum di Mel: This place serves some of the strongest drinks I had in Rome! The size of the glasses are larger and they use tons of fresh fruit in their drinks! It is a more intimate bar but thrives as a relaxed environment.

 

  • Ice Club: This place!! Def a COOL experience! A bar cased in ice, kept at a very cold temp, serves drinks in ice cones while everyone is handed an insulated poncho to wear. This is definitely not a place to bump into locals at, but should be tried during your time there!

 

  • G BAR: One of Trastevere’s most popular bars! This is usually the pregame bar, somewhere with cheap drinks, a great international crowd, and pop hits. You’ll find a mix of locals and visitors alike.

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Recommended Stay:

  • The Yellow : This is a hostel BUT let me emphasize how amazing this place is! I discovered the Yellow on TripAdvisor as it has won #1 hostel several years in a row. I stayed here whenever I had visitors in town and it was by far the cleanest, prettiest, and cheapest place I stayed in in all of Europe! The Yellow is just down the street from Termini station, has a popular bar and yummy brunch spot located downstairs and thrives in a youthful and friendly atmosphere. I know what you could be thinking, a hostel…no thanks! But private rooms were less than $20 a night! Don’t go through the hassle of finding an Airbnb or spending hundreds a night at a fancy hotel, The Yellow is def the place you want to stay.

 

Whew! This was a long one but I hope it has provided you enough information and inspiration to plan a trip! So in conclusion, is Rome this magical place where you’ll fall in love blah blah blah….? Well….it really is! You may not find your Fabio but you will fall in love with the way this city makes you feel. You will feel enchanted, you will feel in awe, and you will marvel at every single corner, dish, and attraction you encounter. Rome is really more than just a city, it is an experience. Xo

 

 

How to Tell if He’s Really That Into you

It usually starts out something like this: *Screenshots convo* and attaches it to the group thread along with this question, “sooo this means, he’s into me, right?” Hoping for validation… us girls, love to analyze. 

A while back I wrote a piece on why it is okay to be single. I shared my transition into singlehood and openly discussed how that decision facilitated self-love. The purpose of the piece was to encourage any person who was in an unfulfilling situation, to embrace the idea of being alone.

I truly believe once you free yourself from the wrong kind of people, you will simultaneously be creating room for the good kind. Ironically, SOON after that piece was written, I began seeing a special someone.

Can you imagine, having made plans one week ahead with a girl who literally posts such a piece just days before your first date?

Today, I can honestly say, the past number of months have felt like a dream! Never did I think that I’d 1) be in a relationship at this point and 2) that that relationship would be the best relationship I have ever known.

From the get-go, he laid his intentions with me out of the table. I was not left questioning or guessing what he felt towards me. I did not experience that limbo, I had usually felt with every situation I was previously involved in.

Dating will show you many things but especially the great lengths someone will go when they are interested in you and of course the contrary. Navigating through this time can be tough! The question narrows down to: Who is a waste of time and who is an investment? And although I am an advocate of singlehood, I also want to express how it is okay to date and give your time and energy to a person, BUT only if he is showing you the listed behaviors below!

Maybe you’re enjoying his company, but his lack of effort or consistency, is concerning.

Maybe you’re opening up to the idea of being with him, but you’re worried about getting your heart broken, so you need the signs or reassurance that this has serious potential.

Or maybe you just don’t know what to call the current situation you are in, and would like to know once and for all: Are you casually dating or exclusive?

I can truly say this was the most seamless and genuine dating experience I’ve ever had. This being the case, I will list the main signs that a guy gives, when he is serious about you. 

 

  1. He will tell you.
    • Simple. And I don’t mean subtly, either. He will be clear and direct. Somewhere along the lines of: “Hey, these are my intentions with you…” xyz.
  2. He will take the initiative to make plans with you IN ADVANCE. 
    • And I don’t mean Netflix and Chill or “what do you want to do tonight?” We deserve much better than this! I’m talking about days, or even weeks out! Oh, and none of this “lets meet there,” crap. If he offers to pick you up, do that! Let him treat you like the lady you are!
  3. He will give you attention & lots of it!
    • You won’t have to worry about sending those double texts, or not hearing back from him for hours on end. He will continue to add to the conversation. Why? Because he enjoys talking with you. And for the times he’s tied-up, he will communicate that with you!
  4. He will surprise you. 
    • Whether it be with a date night, your favorite candy, a visit to your work, etc…he will go out of his way to put a smile on your face.
  5. He will be mindful.
    • He will be delicate with how he talks with you. He will be self-aware of his tone, jokes, and attitude.
  6. He will stimulate you…
    • And not just sexually! I’m talking about stimulating your mind and soul. Sharing ideas, jokes, dreams, aspirations, etc. Basically he will share his most intimate thoughts, beyond the surface level.

*Whew! Now, although this list is not all inclusive and arguably subjective, my hopes are to help steer women into the right direction. If he is not showing you any of these signs, I’d say you can’t afford it. Our energies should be on strict budgets! If it is not serving you at the highest potential, you don’t have that time to waste. All this to say, dating can be all too complicated, but if it is a genuine match, it won’t be. It will feel easy and develop organically!

Xo!

Valentine’s/Galentine’s Date Ideas

Valentine’s Day (or its alternative Galentine’s Day), is literally hours away! Whether you are hoping for a hot date with your boo or sipping on mimosas with your girls, I’ve compiled a list of cheap date ideas you can try!

Valentine’s Date Ideas:

  1. A Boozy Picnic in the Park
    • Hit up your local market and pick up some wine, cheese, crackers, and chocolate, and Voilà! You’ve got yourself a $20 picnic date in the park! It’s thoughtful, intimate, and romantic!
  2. A Night at a Jazz Club 
    • If you google Jazz Clubs in your areas, they are sure to be a few just a drive away! Reservations are usually not required and cover charges range between $15-30. If you are from the Los Angeles area, I would recommend The Bluewhale. They have amazing live performances, great drinks, and a cozy atmosphere. You are sure to impress your date with this kind of a venue!
  3. A Romantic Night In 
    • Choose a theme and center everything you do around it. For example, if you choose an Italian theme, you could have all the ingredients ready for hand-tossed pizza and pasta ($20-30), then watch a movie like Life is Beautiful or Under the Tuscan Sun. You can also have Italian Jazz playing in the background or sing karaoke, finding the lyrics on YouTube. In my opinion, this is the most romantic yet easiest night to plan!
  4.  Whale Watching
    • Take a half day at work and drive your date to the closest coastal town! Groupon has deals for as low as $6 per person. My personal fave is in Newport Beach, California. Kick back and sip some wine while enjoying first-class views to marine life! Same day tickets are available. This is a great way to get some fresh air and experience something different!
  5. Arcade Date Night 
    • Hit up your local arcade or even Dave & Buster’s and have a go at good ol competitive fun! Play the particular games your date gets nostalgic about. $20-30 can get you a solid hour of games! *Bonus* win that teddy bear for her!

 

Galentine’s Date Ideas:

  1. Boozy Brunch
    • Grab your girls, put your Freakum Dress on, and hit the town! Whether you are getting together for brunch or a nice dinner, nothing beats sharing a laugh with your tribe.
    • Last year, (when we were all single), we dressed to the nines, went to this hole in the wall Chinese restaurant, came back home, had some bubbly and just danced around the house for hours. It was hella fun and easy!
  2. Slumber Party
    • Turn up in the comfort of your own home! Add some decor to your living room and cute ballons! Order heart shaped pizza and some board games! Ask that each friend bring over their favorite sweet treat or preferred bottle of wine. Make sure everyone packs their comfiest PJs and favorite playlist. Play games, pamper yourselves, and wind down with a classic chick flick.
  3. Paint & Sip
    •  Sip your favorite beverage and dance to the music while you and your friends enjoy a step-by-step instructional experience with local artists as they help you re-create a featured painting of the night. There are bound to be plenty of local studios in your area, most of which host private parties. I looked around my local studios and still found open availability ranging from $30-$40.
  4. Succulent Extravaganza   
    • Head to your local succulent nursery and enjoy some plant therapy! Grab a glass of wine and start mixing and matching your cart…or consider starting your own collections. My friend and I spent our Sunday there and it was quite peaceful. Smaller succulents start at about $1.50
  5. Collage the Friendship
    • Stop to your local craft store, grab some blank photo books and the works and make actual collages of you and your friends…you know instead of using an app on your phone! Over some wine, these photos are bound to spark up some really good memories! The best part, you can exchange your books with each other once it is complete! $20-$30.

 

*Just remember, the sole purpose of Feb 14th, is to be around the people you love!