My First Week in Paris

It was a cold, rainy, Autumn day when I arrived in Paris on October 15th, 2015. And it was absolutely perfect.  The clouds broke through as we descended on the outskirts of Paris and I was tense with anticipation from the long journey from New York through Iceland onward to France.  We landed at Charles de Gaulle airport and I nervously gathered my things as I prepared to step off the plane.  I was quickly greeted with the “Bienvenue en France” sign and the sound of French automated instructions over the loud speakers at the baggage claim area. I waited for my ride near the exit, looking for a kind gentleman by the name of Richard who was on staff with the organization I was set to volunteer with for a few weeks.  He found me in the airport and helped me with my 2 suitcases and 1 huge backpack, my whole life in 3 pieces of luggage.

We drove quite a ways to reach the village of Ozoir la Ferrière which is about 45 minutes from the center of Paris by train on the RER.  I enjoyed the scenery on that rainy day heading through the ancient French towns and admiring the architecture and small European vehicles and all the French signs.  It was like I woke up in a dream that day.  My host family was a British/American couple on staff with Agape France who had been in France for over 30 years.  Their little farmhouse cottage was located in the next village over, Liverdy-en-Brie, which was quaint and cozy, and just a minute walk to the town bakery which was literally the only boulangerie in this beautiful village surrounded by fields and flowers.  My favorite part of this village was what stood in the center. A century-old stone cathedral, poised with wisdom and grace in its old age, standing strong on the same foundation built so long ago.

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The first day was spent acclimating to the new time zone, 7 hours ahead of my hometown in Tennessee. After much needed rest time, I joined my hosts for church the next day and their daily activities.  My first day volunteering in the office, I met the Agape France staff at the Office Headquarters. This is where I would be volunteering for the next 2 to 3 weeks.  The staff team was so friendly and welcoming and I was able to help with several administrative duties while I was there to do my volunteer work-exchange.  My host family was so sweet and accommodating and also helpful with tips on local travel and how to get around Paris.

By Day 3, I was prepared to head to Paris. I remembered my French class in college where my instructor made us learn navigation skills through the Paris metro and asking for directions.  Little did I know that 5 years later it would become necessary to navigate the huge Parisian train system myself!  It made me very aware and thankful for the little moments of synchronicity along my journey in the past which prepared me for the future.

On Saturday, October 17th, 2015 — I took my first venture into the city.  I took the RER train into the city all the way to the exit “Charles de Gaulle Étoile” where the famous L’Arc de Triomphe stands.  I anxiously stepped off the train, ascended the stairs and when I turned around, there it was.  The grand, monumental arch with 12 streets stemming from this one roundabout.  Busy traffic buzzing by as pedestrians stand underneath this giant monument.  I gasped with excitement as I took my first video and picture in the city.  I could see the top of the Eiffel Tower peeking over the city buildings from this location. I couldn’t believe I was finally here in this city I had dreamed of exploring for so many years.  My senses were fully alive to the sights and sounds around me.

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From the L’Arc de Triomphe, I headed straight down the Champs-Élysées with my end destination being the Louvre Palace and Museum.  I walked cheerfully past prominent stores like Montblanc and Louis Vuitton, Cartier and more.  A man walking next to me hurriedly, obviously en route to somewhere, quickly asked me, “Excusez-moi, mademoiselle. Avez-vous l’heure?”  I smiled at him and a bit shocked that he so naturally spoke to me in French, apparently not knowing that I wasn’t a local.  I responded, “Oui! Oui, bien sûr (nervously, he was very handsome), “Il est neuf heures trente-quatre.”  I remembered the time exactly that morning because that moment was my first time speaking to a Parisian.  The young man thanked me with a, “Merci!  Bonne journée!”  (Thank you!  Have a great day!)

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I arrived at a restaurant minutes later and feasted on my first Parisian breakfast that morning.  Croissants, jam, eggs, toast, fruit, coffee, and orange juice.  It was perfect.  I walked straight towards the Louvre after breakfast, passing monuments along the way and eventually arriving at the Les Jardins des Tuileries (The Tuileries Gardens approaching the Louvre Museum and Palace).  It was slightly raining, people leisurely sitting around the fountain in bistro chairs, umbrellas in hand, a sweet couple conversing.  The unstaged scene, yet picture-perfect; people enjoying the day fully.  It was real life and it was stunningly beautiful and romantic.  If there is such a thing as a perfect day, this was it.  I think the quintessence of life is made up of imperfectly perfect moments. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year…”   And with that notion, indeed, that day was the best day, a perfect day, and a day I will never forget… the day I first saw Paris with my own eyes.

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My total of three weeks in Paris I spent wandering around the massive city, full of its own smaller districts, exploring and getting lost on purpose, wandering into cafés and restaurants, eating the most delicious food, meeting locals, drinking coffee and wine, smelling the cigarettes as I passed by the outdoor terrasses, and seeing all the sights I could.  It rained a lot in Autumn and I didn’t mind one bit. I found my favorite cafes and spots including Le Maraïs district with my favorite coffee shop Le Peleton Café.  I made friends there quickly and helped write a display on their store front window since they had just opened weeks prior.  I discovered my favorite restaurant near Pont Neuf, Ma Salle a Mangé, with the best Boeuf Bourgogne and Crème Brulée I had ever tasted.

I visited the Montmartre district and the Sacre-Coeur which was one of my favorite locations in the city.  One of my last days in Paris, I climbed the 300 stairs up and back down to get one of the best views of the city with La Tour Eiffel.  I posted on Facebook that day, November 1st, 2015:

If you want an amazing view of the city of Paris–it’s worth it to go to the top of the dome of the Sacré-Cœur. It’s cheaper (6€) and the view is one of the best in the city! I teared up because as I was climbing the 300 stairs of the dome I could hear the echo of the choir inside the Sacré-Cœur as they’re having mass. It was so beautiful I teared up. It was heavenly! What an amazing day in the city before heading to Lyon tomorrow. I’m grateful every day for this journey. Every moment and every blessing is counted. The challenges, the gifts, the joy– all of it is a gift. All of it is part of the adventure. The adventure of being alive and living every day to the fullest where ever you are in the world! ‪#‎joy‬ ‪#‎paris‬

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Connected Points on the Map: My Journey Around the World

These wildflowers have a story………..

Back in August 2015, right before I headed to California for a 2 week vacation to visit long-time friends, I had a wild dream…..

I dreamed that I hiked up this mountain and came out to a giant cliff overlooking a beautiful mountain valley.  Across from me was a garden in the valley, being dug up and prepped for new growth and new plants, it was completely empty (so I thought), but I realized that something was being planted.  I couldn’t see the seeds beneath the soil, but they were definitely there!  There were other people on the cliff with me and I turned around, and someone had a bouquet of wildflowers.  As they handed me this GIANT bouquet so vibrant in color, the person said to me, “Something new is happening.  Something new is about to begin.”  As I accepted these wildflowers, I was so overwhelmed with emotion and I started crying tears of joy.

I woke up that morning from the dream with actual tears of joy in my eyes.  It was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had from a dream!  I knew intuitively what this meant for me. All the soul work I had been doing the previous year, the personal growth, seeds being planted, all of it.  I took this dream as a message from the universe and I wrote it down, and I’ve never forgotten it!

A few days later, I left on a flight to California to spend an incredible 2 weeks there with my friends in the LA area.  I also visited a friend in San Diego for a few days. One morning I was at a French cafe there in downtown San Diego called Cafe Chloe…..it was raining….and I remember this feeling of almost like I was in a different world…..like I was in France.  I was eating breakfast and sipping my coffee…..and I just got this feeling like… this is the time…..the time to go to France….

Now at that time, I had been dreaming and planning of going to France over the past year since the summer before — slowly and surely making steps in that direction.  I had moved and downsized at this point from my one bedroom apartment in Franklin, TN and had moved into a studio apartment a couple of miles down the road.  I had sold many of my belongings and was planning to be there in Franklin for maybe 6 months to 1 year….thinking, when will I have the time to go to France?  I had just accepted an offer at the Opryland Hotel which I did not feel peace about, but nonetheless, I thought it was the most “sensible” next step, at least from the societal norm.

While still in California, two days before heading back to Tennessee, I got a phone call from the HR department at the hotel and they informed me that they would have to push back my orientation 2 more weeks (I was supposed to start at the end of the month) and they asked me if that was ok.  I remember knowing intuitively in that moment…..this is happening for a reason.  The time has come. I’m supposed to go to France….like now!!

Sometimes we wait for the perfect time or the “right” time to do something, to reach a goal, to make something happen, to put action behind our ideas and dreams. But if we truly open our eyes and see the signs and the opportunities and timing in front of us…..if we truly follow our intuition….we end up exactly where we need to be.

I returned from California and one week later I booked a flight to Paris through IcelandAir.  My flight would leave 2 months from that point. That gave me enough time to finish selling the rest of my belongings, my car, everything.  To build the rest of my travel fund, to get prepared, and arrange all of my plans and accommodation.  I actually had made a vision board in the beginning of 2015 that listed all of my vision for the year, and Europe was the main theme on that vision board, plus stepping out of bounds, chasing my dreams, running to the roar and to my calling and much more 🙂

So in October 2015, I headed to Europe!  Luckily,  the previous summer, I had been a French translator for Agape France and Cru Highschool for 2 weeks on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.  I made many new friends there and ultimately my trip to Guadeloupe had connected me to the organization headquartered in Paris.  One of my French friends in Guadeloupe, Kirsti, connected me to her friend, Manon, in Lyon, France who offered to host me for a time!  Kirsti told me I had to visit Lyon and that I would love it.

It was incredible!  The timing, the opportunities, the connections — all of it fell into place. I trusted my intuition and my network and I truly was starting to see that the Universe indeed does have our back.  If we trust ourselves and our intuition, the Universe will provide the rest.  I arranged a work exchange with the organization in Paris and the staff agreed to host me in exchange for administrative work as a volunteer. So I spent 3 weeks in Paris, 2.5 months in Lyon, traveled around the eastern part of France and the French Alps, to various towns and regions.  I spent a week in Switzerland and visited the village where my family is from near Zurich.  And I spent a week in Iceland on the way back to the States through my “Stop-Over” through Iceland Air.

So Iceland……an incredibly beautiful and majestic country.  My week there was filled with lots of fresh food, Arctic fish, fresh snow (and I mean a LOT of snow), tours of one of the national parks, geysirs, waterfalls, geothermal hot pools, and the Northern Lights!

One evening I decided to try out a restaurant in Reykjavik that locals had told me about called Sægreifinn (The Sea Baron) which apparently had amazing lobster soup for a very affordable price. The Icelandic Krona was very expensive compared with the American dollar, so I was looking to watch my food budget for sure!  I walked in and ordered the famous lobster soup which came with fresh bread and butter, and I ordered an Icelandic beer, and sat down and ate to my heart’s content!  Let me tell you…..this was one of the best meals I have ever had!!  Absolutely delicious. Especially on a cold, Arctic winter night!

I was the only person in the restaurant at the time, and then a few moments later, this tall, dark, handsome guy walks in with long, dark, curly hair wearing a Canadian beanie. He ordered the same exact thing, minus the beer, and sat down and started eating. As the only other 2 people in the restaurant and traveling solo that night, we of course started chatting 🙂  We soon discovered we both were traveling alone and that his name was Sander.  He was a travel photographer and environmental photo journalist capturing the scenery in Iceland, and this was his third time there!  He had been in Iceland for a few months and was waiting out the stormy season in his current home on the west coast of Canada.   We were definitely kindred spirits and had such a great connection that we exchanged contact info and agreed to meet up to go to the geothermal hot tub together which we both had been wanting to do!

So the next evening, we met up and shared more stories while relaxing with the Icelandic locals in the naturally heated geothermal hot tub in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik.  It was so surreal, this experience.  It is one of the many reasons I love traveling alone.  Not only does it take courage, but it also opens up so many experiences that you wouldn’t necessarily get if you were with a group.  I’m grateful to have met so many incredible people around the world during my travels.

After hours of sharing stories of our travels and wilderness experiences and epic adventures, we headed to Sægreifinn (The Sea Baron) again for dinner.  Then, onward to a cafe for coffee and dessert.  I remember hugging Sander goodbye that last night in Iceland as we talked about how the Universe points us in the right direction through all the connections and synchronicities and points on our map.  It was incredible to meet such a like-minded soul and his story really touched me. We agreed to stay in touch and to write each other.  We gave each other the warmest hug and I waved goodbye on that cold, Arctic winter night as my bus arrived to take me back to my AirBNB.

A few days later, I arrived home back in the States, spending one night in New York City before my flight out to Nashville the next day.  Arriving back home was definitely a reverse culture shock experience, after being immersed in French/European culture for 3 straight months.  I was thinking in French, slipping French words, stumbling to find the English words that I innately knew.  It was hilarious!  After studying and speaking French since I was 14 and being mostly fluent the past few years, I knew at that point, upon returning from France and this full immersion experience, that I had mastered the language.

The following 2 months back in the States were were filled with job applications, figuring out my next steps, and getting my bearings again after this incredible experience in Europe.  I had kept in touch with my new German/Indian friend, Sander, who had been living on Canada’s west coast for some 8 years now.  So he was basically Canadian.  But really, he was a global citizen, and I too felt like a global citizen. We don’t have to call one country home necessarily if we desire to explore and travel and choose a different way of life. He and I talked frequently during those 2 months; about our plans and both seeking direction for the right next steps on our path.  We talked about life, family, goals & dreams, what we wanted next, all of it.

At that time, I had reconnected with my mentor of 2 years and we talked about my direction and plans.  She had spent some time on Vancouver Island in Victoria, B.C. and had told me about her experience there a few years back.  She told me she kept thinking of me when it came to that location and asked if I had checked it out, since they speak French in Canada, and the Pacific Northwest is filled with forest, and ocean, and all kinds of outdoor adventure which I loved so much.  Ironically, she had NO idea about the friend I had just met who was my only contact in that area.  She encouraged me to check out the area and see if it felt like a good fit.

I looked more into it and started looking at jobs and opportunities in that area of British Columbia on Vancouver Island.  I couldn’t believe it!  It seemed perfect. French speaking jobs, outdoor adventure jobs, and so much more!  So I applied for several jobs, booked a vision trip for just a few days, and then contacted my friend Andrew in Seattle and he offered to host me for 2 days en route to Canada!  I was so grateful and excited about this next step. It felt so right.

I booked my flight to Seattle, then a ferry boat to Victoria, B.C. and from there had several stops along the way to follow up on my job applications in person and set up interviews as well.  One of the places I planned to look at was Tofino, B.C., where my friend Sander was living on one of the surrounding islands in the inlet there.  He and I both shared an adventurous and unique spirit, and I had a feeling that I would see him again, but I had no set plans to see him since he was in the remote wilderness there.  I had no idea if he would even be available while I was there, but I had a feeling that our paths might cross again one day, and that our meeting and connection in Iceland happened for a reason!  It connected me to this new place that, upon arriving, was evident that it was my next step and home for a season.

I can’t even explain to you the connection I felt with this place on the globe.  The wilderness, the people, the environment–everything.  I decided I would accept the challenge and stay in this place longer than I had anticipated, and accept all that it would have for me and for however long that was supposed to be.

So each week after I arrived I was trusting for my next steps to come.  I made connections all over the place and was able to meet up with Sander after 2-3 weeks there which was so awesome to reconnect.  We spent so much time together — dining, drinking tea, cooking, bike rides to the beach, and chatting about life, the universe, and our paths.

I met some wonderful locals, including a beautiful soul named Deanna Lankin who was a local artist.  Her artwork was amazing and we got to chatting one day when I went into the shop.  We talked about trusting the universe and ourselves and that the next step would come.  She painted me a little ceramic piece with the word “trust” in gold, “Because trust is gold,” she said.  🙂 And it was perfect!  I held onto that for sure.

I found many like-minded people living in this beautiful spot on the globe.  People from all walks of life, from all over the world, all there for the same reasons — to live life freely, close to nature, to soak in the raw beauty and power of the environment, and all while in great community.

So after 1 month in — I was finally living in a float house on an island close to town.  The way that came about was so full of synchronicity too!  After weeks of searching for housing, I needed some alone time to think and refuel.  So I biked to my favorite beach that day and happened to look over at this island on the way there and I saw several houses.  One house particularly caught my eye and I thought to myself, “ok, if I could live there on that island, I totally would!”  I didn’t know how people lived out there or how it worked, but I figured I have plenty of outdoor adventure/leadership experience, I could make it work.  I’ve been paddling and adventuring in the outdoors for most of my life. But I had no idea if those houses were even available or how to get in touch with anyone living on the island.

Two hours later, I’m at my favorite beach, sitting in one of my favorite spots where I go for “me time” and meditate.  All of a sudden, out of no where, one of the locals who runs the water taxi, Annie, comes out to greet me with her dogs from the woods behind me! We chatted for a few minutes and she sat down next to me — she asked if I had found a place to stay yet.  I told her not yet, that I was still living at the hostel temporarily.  She told me that her neighbors were looking to fill their 3-bedroom float home, and if I could find roommates, and kayak and paddle over, that it could possibly work.  (I hadn’t yet made the connection to where this float home was located 😉 ) She gave me the owners’ contact info and I reached out to them that evening. The funny thing?  It was the exact same house that I had looked at 2 hours earlier while biking to the beach.  Yeah, I can’t make this stuff up.

So the next few weeks were filled with finding roommates and figuring out a plan, picking up the owners’ kayak they lent me, and going to check out the place in person. It was perfect. It took a while to find roommates who were willing to commit to the lifestyle–paddling to and from home every day, hauling in propane for cooking and hot water, limited showers and water at times, but electricity most of the time. Plus, the weather could get stormy…. and the tidal swell comes in…. and with full moons the tide would be quite strong….and the waves could be high……  For me, it was PERFECT.  I live for this stuff!

About a month and a half after moving in and living by myself, and cleaning up the place after it had been vacant for almost a year, I finally found 2 roommates to move in around June 1st!  The owners offered me a position to be the property manager and tenant of the house — to manage the rental property, create the lease agreements, manage everything and take care of the house and logistics. In exchange, the owners compensated me through my rent each month, so I only had to pay a tiny portion.  It was an incredible deal.  My rent exchanged in American dollars made it very, very affordable and honestly I couldn’t have asked for a better setup.  Especially for living on this amazing tiny house on the sea!

I found a rowboat, I used the kayak they provided, and me and my roomies made it work. The Universe truly showed up with more and more opportunities, one by one, as I envisioned what I wanted and needed for my journey.  The power of our vision….and thoughts….truly they impact our reality.

I ended up building a life there, making new friends and building community, and it ended up being 6-7 months! It was epic. After living at the hostel for 1 month, I finally found housing against all odds. (since there’s a housing shortage there). I found consistent freelance/contract work opportunities and an organization who could sponsor me, and I found sustenance. And even better, I found some amazing people I now call dear friends. ❤

I had built a great community and found some good friends through one of my favorite spots, the Tofino Botanical Gardens.  I knew that I would have to leave at the end of my visa and then come back if the opportunity came about, but I was committed to making this entire season count and be fully present while I was there.

Spring and Summer were filled with hikes through the rain forest, climbing mountains, runs on the beach, hikes and trips with friends, enjoying the beach and the waves with these beautiful people, eating amazing food, sunset beach dinners with some of my favorite friends, paddling under full moons and the stars, summer solstice parties, summer storms, and embracing life on the sea.  I also experienced wildlife encounters of all kinds…whales, otters, sea lions, harbor seals, harbor porpoises, jellyfish, bioluminesence, sea stars, bald eagles, bears, and even cougars and wolves roamed the area.

One of the strangest and most inspiring experiences I had was about 2 to 3 months after I had been in Tofino. Mid-summer 2016.  I had already experienced so many synchronicities that summer and many things I had previously envisioned and journaled about a year prior had happened in reality.

So I went to the beach one day, to my favorite spot where I always go for some rest and relaxation.  There weren’t many people around that day and it was a bit overcast/partly cloudy.  I decided to take a nap and I put my hat over my eyes and face as usual.  All I could hear was the sound of the waves, so loud and energizing, the roar of the ocean.  I fell asleep for about 20 minutes.  I woke up, sat up, and looked around me, not many people in sight, a few families down the beach with their dogs.  And I looked to the left of me…..and there it was.  This vibrant, freshly cut, natural bouquet of wildflowers……

I couldn’t really believe my eyes because I knew that these wildflowers were not there when I arrived…..so I looked around the beach thinking maybe someone left them there temporarily?  But there was no one else around……no one left their personal items there or anything…..it was as if they miraculously appeared out of nowhere.

I couldn’t even thank the kind soul who secretly left these for me.  But it touched my heart so deeply!  I mean, for one, I LOVE wildflowers.  I always have since I was a little girl. Hiking in nature from a young age and going on many adventures, you encounter lots of wildflowers on the path.

But these wildflowers, couldn’t be found nearby on the beach…..you would have to go into the woods, the forest, and surrounding areas to find these.  These were left seemingly with intention.  I’ll never forget the experience….the feeling of waking up to these beautiful flowers and just the joy and laughter that overcame me in those moments….. I couldn’t stop smiling.  And all I could think about was that dream……from the year before……and I felt so close to the universe in that moment.  I felt intuitively that I was EXACTLY where I needed to be in my life and on my journey.  It felt like a confirmation that I was moving forward in the right direction and a promise of what was to come.

I had my backpack with me that day, so I placed the wildflowers in the side pocket on the exterior of my pack and joyfully walked down the beach with them.  I trekked back to my bicycle, and headed to the dock, and paddled home.  I proudly put them in a vase and kept them for as long as I could.

I will never forget that day.  I took a picture of the wildflowers exactly how they were left for me on the beach, tucked perfectly into a log of driftwood. The beautiful thing about this experience, is that it didn’t stop there. Soon, the word wildflower kept coming up more and more and more.  I even named my boat Wildflower, and I stumbled upon a necklace at a local jewelry shop about 2 weeks before I left to head back to the States.  It was a hand-crafted necklace, with a gold-plate and the word “WILDFLOWER” hand stamped across it. So of course I bought it 🙂

Upon returning back to the States in October 2016 after my visa ended– it was a season of searching again — getting my bearings for the next direction.  In the Fall, I had started envisioning creating a healthy living blog or something in that category as I had been passionate about holistic/natural health and nutrition for going on 10 years.  I wanted to share my experience with the world and help others in their health journeys, so I felt like I was going in the right direction for sure.  I brainstormed a ton of ideas and names at that point, and the name “wildflower” kept coming into my head.  I put all the names and thoughts in my idea box and continued with my current seasonal jobs: coffee shops, freelance, nannying, and pet sitting.

I had moved back to Chattanooga for what I thought was my next step and realized 2.5 months later — after discovering maintenance & environmental issues with the house I was renting — that the universe was pointing me back to Franklin.  I made a decision the week before I moved back to intentionally figure out my next steps and next direction for my life.  It felt like the right time to move forward in a big way again. After all, I wanted to use my skills, passions, and gifts to do work that I really cared about.  I wanted to keep using my Bachelor’s degree in Business Management/Health Science & Human Performance, including my passion for the outdoors and a healthy and active lifestyle. In previous years, I had led and managed outdoor recreation programs and advocated for active living and the benefits of getting out in nature. I had worked in event management for several years  as well, and I had even started my own event planning business with personal assisting on the side.  I’ve always been very entrepreneurial and I wanted to do my own thing in my own style and in my own time,  and that’s where I knew I would thrive.

I wrote on my vision board for 2016 “The world needs your untamed spirit, your bold ideas.”  And I believe that the world really does need our gifts and passions that we can share.  We can actually change the world when we show up for ourselves and offer the best and healthiest version of ourselves.  So ultimately, I wanted to create the life and work that I really envisioned.  And that meant I had to do something that was my style and build something I was passionate about where I could use my creativity.    Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” And I wanted to change the way the world does health.

So that led me to April 2017, and my mother had now fully recovered from lung cancer after having a critical surgery in October 2016, so by the time Spring rolled around, she was feeling much better and doing very well.  She occasionally felt off, so I gave her some natural solutions and lifestyle changes she could use, and she felt much better within the next week.  So I thought, “hmm, interesting.  I’ve always been passionate about natural / holistic health, what if I could help others too?”  I’ve always been very health conscious, had transformed my weight in high school and college, and ultimately wanted to make good health decisions consistently in my life. Friends and coworkers had often asked me what products I use and about supplements and natural foods, overhauling their pantries with the right foods and healthier alternatives.

I had spoken with my mentor the week I moved back to Franklin in April 2017 and brainstormed ideas.  She asked me what makes me come alive, what do I already do that I’m passionate about regardless of money, and what feeds the fire of my soul.  So I began looking more into it.

I realized that week that I had already been on this journey for a long time….for 10 years! The journey of Holistic Health & Natural Living.  So I found a school program to support this decision, an accredited, reputable 6 month program to become a Certified Health Coach. It all made so much sense!  I am pursuing the life coaching certification as well because it’s something I am also passionate about.

My personal goal is to help people follow their bliss, master their mindset, experience habit change and ultimately transformation.  So all of this tied together so well and I knew it was for me!   It unfolded seamlessly, and now I’m 3 months into the program, starting to work with both practice and paid clients.

I created a Facebook Page, and updated my Instagram, and created a mission statement:

Through holistic health & wellness wisdom, I’m on a mission to empower people to take back their health and transform their lives so they can flourish and follow their bliss!

And the name for my business?  Of course, Wildflower Health Coaching.    🙂

I had brainstormed names for months, and every time, it came back to that word.  Pun intended, things have been blooming now for months, and seeds that were planted a while ago are starting to show up in my life.  Ironically, or in synchronicity rather, my theme/vision word for 2017 has been transformation.  Gradually over the past 8 months and presently….I’m seeing transformation truly happen and new things starting to unfold…. and all of it gives me the feels ❤

What I love about the name wildflower is all that it represents for my path — the sign that it has been for me from my dream to reality.  All the synchronicities, the symbolism, the encouragement and nod from the universe.  For me, it truly represents new beginnings.

Wildflowers represent so many things.  Wild…..undomesticated by society, untamed, free, wild, natural.  Flower….the verb meaning to bloom; to be in or reach an optimum stage of development; develop fully and richly.    

And that’s exactly what I want my clients to feel when they work with me — free to reach their goals and be the healthiest, happiest, and best version of themselves.

I move to California within the next week…..to start a new chapter and to move forward there.  I’m trusting where this step is leading me and enjoying the adventure of it all. And in more ways than one, it really is a new beginning.

So here’s to staying wild and free, to all the synchronicities in our lives, and to new beginnings ❤

A Girl’s Guide to Solo Travel & Safety While Living Abroad

versailles profile picAs a woman, this question gets posed frequently: “Aren’t you scared to travel alone as a female?”  The answer for me is, no.  I have always loved traveling alone — it’s fun to explore and get lost in a city and have no certain agenda. You can take as much time as you want in certain locations.  It’s all part of the adventure of solo travel.  I also love traveling with friends of course and adventure buddies. But I wouldn’t have met some of the people I have in my travels had I not been solo. I’ve made several friends along the way, dined with people from all over the world who were also traveling alone, and had coffee with locals and expats in each city.  And because I chose to travel alone, I have learned so much about other cultures, countries, their history, as well as American history.

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I don’t let fear keep me from moving forward.  I take the necessary precautions and I stay confident and informed. I am a strong advocate for being alert and cautious whether you’re traveling in your home state or country or around the world. But there’s a difference between cautious and fearful. I think it’s important to not live in a fear-based mindset.  When we are constantly bombarded with the media and news which feed those fears, it can leave us reluctant to leave our homes to say the least.  But my advice would be, just be aware of where you’re traveling, the political state, and stay up to date. Use these tips and be prepared for your trip. And then travel on, my friends. Travel on.


Stay alert and informed.

Don’t put yourself in sketchy situations, trust your intuition, don’t walk alone in questionable areas, talk to locals, be aware of your surroundings, and stay informed.

Don’t make yourself a target or appear as a tourist.

When traveling alone, it’s important to blend in and stay confident. I would hang with the locals and orient myself to my surroundings.  Many people often thought I was a local, especially in France.  Speaking the French language fluently also helped.

One of the best ways to avoid being a target is not using your GPS on your phone in highly public places or on the street. If you need to search for directions, pop into a cafe quickly to get your bearings and check your map or phone.  Plan out your next route over lunch and then head out.  Ask for directions from people who work at a cafe or restaurant and know the area.  Avoid asking people on the street or in random places. If needed, go to a local information kiosk or visitor’s center.

Keeping your phone out of sight in busy places also helps to avoid cases of theft where people swipe your phone right out of your hand.  It happens in big cities. So never make your valuables easily accessible.

10520297_173136773030972_1600783352_nGuard your personal belongings on trains and when walking in crowds.

Trains & crowds are highly known for pick-pocketing so it’s important to guard your personal items. Friends and locals always encouraged me to wear my backpack on my front or position myself in a way where people couldn’t access my backpack.  I carried an over the shoulder purse (a thrifty find in Paris in fact!) which I kept on the front of my body where I could guard it.

Lock up valuables.

If you’re staying in a private room at an AirBNB, before you book, make sure it comes with a key to lock the room while you are away.  Many hostels and lodges provide a locker, and typically you must bring your own lock, or you can rent one there. I would use my combo lock that I brought with me and lock up my computer and purse at night and any other valuables during the day that I didn’t need with me.  It’s always a good idea to not carry too many valuables with you on excursions.  Just bring the basics and bare minimum.

This also includes your Passport and ID.  It’s a good idea to make two copies of your passport and ID before you travel.  Scan and e-mail those copies to yourself and a friend or family member, and keep the two paper copies in a separate place while you travel. That way, if for some reason your wallet or passport get stolen, you have a backup plan and copies of your ID.

Research the area before you arrive.

Before I traveled to a new place, I scoped out my transportation options, distances to and from my destinations, and generally researched the area.  I checked reviews on lodging and neighborhoods to make sure it was safe.  I opted for walking and the metro most of the time, but at times I would take a taxi if it was later at night or if I had my luggage with me.  Walking with friends and trusted travelers is also a great way to opt for commuting.

Don’t carry large amounts of cash on you and alert your bank beforehand.

I didn’t carry a large amount of cash on me at one time and I notified my bank before I left the country that I would be traveling internationally so they could put an alert on my account. I informed them of all the countries I planned to travel to. That way, they would only flag my card for possible fraud if any transactions were outside the norm.

But how do you control the amount of cash on hand when you have to exchange currency in each country?

I mostly used my travel debit card or “cash passport” through Travelex  that I purchased at JFK Airport in New York before heading to Europe.  I initially exchanged a portion of American currency and loaded it onto the travel debit card.  It worked just like a normal debit card where I could get cash out at the ATM.  Doing minimal international transactions and currency exchanges limited the amount of foreign transaction fees on my American account.

The Travelex Cash Passport is also really easy to use. I would go online and load currency usually every 2 weeks and withdraw cash once a week. There are also many perks to using a travel debit card.  Since the card is not automatically connected to your main bank account, someone can’t drain your account if the card were lost or stolen. They would only have access to the amount you loaded on there online from your bank which you can control. If you choose the currency card option, you also save money by getting a lower exchange rate.

Check in with people when you get from point A to point B and let others know your travel itinerary.

I checked in with either local friends or family when I left certain locations and arrived at home or at my next destination.  I sent my travel itineraries to my family and friends when I was heading to a new place or going on an excursion.  I gave them contacts of people I would be working with or staying with including organizations, hostels, and AirBNB hosts. This is always a great idea to let friends and family know of your whereabouts or have a contingency plan for trips and outdoor adventures in case you get into an emergency.  So if they don’t hear back from you by a certain time, they can know to contact someone you have listed on your travel itinerary.

So what’s the best way to use your phone internationally?

That depends on your phone carrier and available plans. I had a free Global Roaming Plan with Sprint, so I could text for free and use my unlimited data just as I did in the States.  Through that plan, phone calls cost 20 cents a minute.  So I would opt for WiFi to use WhatsApp and FaceTime Audio for phone calls.  For messaging my international friends at no charge to them, I would use Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.   Some people use SIM Cards when they travel which can be another affordable option. For me, it was easy and affordable to utilize my Global Roaming Plan with my phone carrier.

Carry extra copies of your passport, ID, and bank cards.

It’s not something you want to think about — your passport or ID being stolen or lost– but it can happen.  Make paper copies and pack them in a separate and secure place where they remain throughout the trip.  Also scan and e-mail the copies to yourself or family members.  I did both and I felt much more at ease knowing that I had extra copies on hand.

Get travel insurance.

One of the top travel insurance companies is World Nomads and they offer reasonable plans for the length of your travel.  It’s never a bad idea in case you get injured or have a dental emergency or get severely sick.  It also can protect against theft in some cases. Some countries will accept patients without travel insurance if you need to visit a clinic or pharmacy.  So you have to choose the best option for you.

This is just an overview of what worked for me during my travels and there are many more tips out there!  If you have some of your own, I would love to hear from you!

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How to Plan & Pay for Your Next Adventure

How to Plan & Pay for Your Next Adventure

Vision for the Adventure

Create a vision board.  Make it visual and creative.  Make it your own.  I created a vision board on January 4th, 2015 — it had clips from a Travel + Leisure magazine, a Europe issue in fact that I had purchased, and my vision board had all kinds of words leading me onward.  “Follow your bliss”  “What are you passionate about?”  “Europe”  “Run to the Roar”  and so much more.  It might sound simple, but writing things down makes them real, at least for me, and it brings an idea to life. It is then no longer just an idea.  Your dreams are now visually in front of you.

“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” – Emerson

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Resources & Lodging

You don’t have to have abundant resources, you just need enough.  What do you need to get there?  How much?  How little can you work with?  Minimal is best and of course plan to enjoy some things along the way.  Plan for your big money items and nice dinners, and also be ok with cooking and finding cheap meals along the way.  Also, who do you know?  Do you have contacts?  Would you be willing to do volunteer work in exchange for lodging?  Many travelers do a work exchange with organizations across the globe such as Work Away.

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AirBNB is a great and affordable option for lodging as well as International Backpacker Hostels. These options sometimes include breakfast which can add to your savings.  If you’re willing to share a space with someone or opt for your own private room, you will be surprised at how much better it can be than a hotel!  I enjoy this way of traveling because it provides a “local experience” and what it’s like living in the area, opportunities to meet more people, and inside information into the city and culture.

Find Cheaper Travel Options

Cheaper airfare and train fare is available if you find it at the right time. You can try different routes to avoid higher airfare costs. If you’re going to Europe, IcelandAir offers trans-Atlantic flights and you can find a flight for very cheap depending on the season.  It is worth the travel time and you get to see Iceland!  You can even do  a “Stopover” in Iceland which I did on the way back to the U.S. from France.  You can stay in Iceland for up to 7 nights with no additional airfare cost and explore the beauty, then catch your connecting flight to your next destination.

img_0481You can travel cheaply within Europe on budget airlines such as Ryan Air and EasyJet. I opted for a lot of train travel because it made more sense for me based on my travel time, budget, and locations.  Trains and buses are great methods, and it is best to book tickets for large trains about 2-3 months in advance for the best prices.  The TGV in France (high-speed train) can be taken to so many other countries as well.  I took a 4 hour train trip from Lyon, France to Zürich, Switzerland and it was well worth it.  There are also Euro Rail passes if you’re traveling throughout Europe which can offer big savings for the travel budget.

And last but not least, walking, biking, and metro passes within each city are the most affordable options.  I love exploring cities on foot or by renting a bicycle and getting lost on purpose. It’s one of the best ways to explore and offers unique opportunities to see places that you wouldn’t wander to otherwise.

Food and Dining

When you travel, you want to enjoy the local cuisine, no doubt!  Budget for that!  You don’t have to miss out on amazing, local dining experiences. This can be done on any budget. Scout out the local eateries, find cheap meals, make half your lunch into dinner, buy groceries, make your own meals some days, and dine out other days.  Make the most out of it!   In France, bakeries and wine are both cheap, so there are advantages depending on the country you’re in.  🙂

If you’re in Paris, you have to v42t8w8ifndrewftwisit the famous bakery Eric Kayser Artisan Boulanger which has super affordable options for breakfast and lunch.  A great dinner spot in Paris is Ma Salle à Manger which is a small local restaurant near Pont Neuf.  This place had the best Beef Bourguignon and Crème Brûlée you will ever taste!  So worth the visit.

blog picCurrency Exchanges

If you’re traveling to another country like France, depending on the exchange rate at the time, I found it most economical to get a Currency Debit Card (or Cash Passport) through Travelex in NYC at the airport.  It’s amazing because if you load a certain amount, you get more Euros for the USD, and you can reload your card at any time online for FREE.  You can also withdraw cash with this card at the ATMs with your pin number just like a normal debit card.  Currency exchanges can cost you a lot of money, so doing this the smartest way is important.

Stay Open and Flexible

Whatever you do, you’ll learn and be challenged, that is a guarantee. And it’s also part of the goal.  To overcome obstacles, grow from the experiences, learn more about who you are and what you’re capable of, to adapt to new worlds, to be uncomfortable, to learn about a different culture. To let go and be free, to express your joy, to enjoy life and live simply.  To make the most of my travels, I often adopt the philosophy of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.  The most grand adventures for me have been times where I am challenged.img_0070

Your thoughts and ideas, native cultural paradigms, and routines — everything will be challenged.  This is a good thing.  You will get lost sometimes and go the wrong way, you will arrive at a cafe or restaurant to find out that it’s in fact closed on Mondays. Or maybe there is only lunch served from 12pm-2pm. Maybe they don’t have WiFi.  Maybe they have WiFi, but not on the weekends.  😉  Maybe the bathrooms are so small that there is standing room only.  It’s comical sometimes.  Maybe the streets are small too and you have to dodge mopeds and bicycles.  Maybe the metros are crowded some days and you get to know your neighbor.

You get the point. It’s all part of the deal. You adapt. You learn. You laugh.  You change your plans.  And you make the most of all of it.  It’s what makes the story, the magical experience, the trip you’ll never forget, the adventure of being alive.

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A Girl’s Guide to Solo Travel & Safety While Living Abroad