What I really think about England

Copy of How to Survive the Visa Process

Dear England,

One year ago I stepped off the plane at 1 am and stumbled my way into the long customs line. I was leaving my family and friends & the drawn out, stress filled visa process behind and spider monkey jumping into the arms of my goofy English man. I thought it was my happy ending or maybe my happy beginning.

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This was not my first international move, but my fourth. My fourth time choosing to start over in a new country.

This time felt different.

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How to Survive the Visa Process

How to Survive the visa process

A year ago today was one of the most emotional days of my entire life. 1 year and 48 hours prior, I received an email that I was waiting for four months. Four long months of being seperated from my partner in crime and the love of my life. Not by choice but because we were simply born in different countries and had different passports. I have to start by thanking everyone who supported us during that extremely difficult time in our lives. You kept me sane and I’m forever grateful.

On this email from the U.K. immigration office, it simply said that the decision for my visa application had been made, not what the decision was. I was staying at my childhood home visiting my parents until I got the decision. I had tracking on the package that contained the decision and my passport so I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know what time so I refreshed the app about 386 times that day.

My mom and I waited by the door the entire day peering out the windows for the UPS truck. I made her stand guard while I did my workout and showered. We took turns using the bathroom. We tried to watch cheesey rom coms to drown out our anxious thoughts but nothing was helping. I have never had so many butterflies in my stomach.

It was such a surreal experience when I saw the brown UPS truck park outside my house. I shot up from the couch and my mom had to catch me in her arms because my legs nearly gave out. I wasn’t sure if I could open it in front of my parents or what I would want to do. As soon as we got the package in the house, I barely remember what happened, the emotions and anticipation flooded my body.

My Dad opened the package for me with a letter opener and handed it to me without looking. My hands were shaking as I read the first line “You have been successfully granted your visa to the U.K…”  and burst into violent tears of joy. Straight up SOBBING.

“I GOT IT!!!!” I screamed eventually because my parents weren’t sure if they were happy or sad sobs. I immediately Facetimed my partner who was waiting for my call in England. I was still sobbing. I won’t lie, I’m a crier but I didn’t expect that reaction. He answered the phone and I was sobbing and within seconds I froze. He had no idea what was happening and thought I didn’t get it. I hung up and tried again and thankfully got a better connection. He was so relieved they were tears of joy. The stress and the build up of almost 2 years of international visa drama were over (for now), just like that with one UPS delivery.

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This all sounds very dramatic, trust me, it was. That’s why looking back a year later I can’t hardly believe that was our reality. When I was going through the process of applying for a partner visa in the U.K. I had no idea where to go to for advice and all I wanted was some personal experience. I couldn’t really find any blogs and all I wanted was someone who understood. It was so stressful it’s taken me a year to even be able to write about it. Every website had conflicting information and you had to pay a lot of money even to get an appointment to see if you wanted to potentially work with an immigration lawyer.

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Should I start running again?

Two weeks ago, in a moment of confusion, I chugged my pre workout, laced up my running shoes, searched for 20 minutes for my ever elusive iPhone compatible headphones and then I hit the pavement for a run.

I used to run every single day of my life.

I was on the cross country team in middle school and I realized very quickly that while I wasn’t particularly talented at sports I was fast and I had a natural endurance for distance running.

I started writing this blog with intentions of just telling the story of getting back into running last month with my random solo mid week 10k and I ended up writing 4,000 words about my journey from non-athlete child to the new girl at private school who went to basketball practice to make friends and stayed with it because of the deep love for that sense of belonging on a team. Then I went from cross country team runner to all season lacrosse athlete in high school, gym bunny and runner at University and in graduate school when I was burning the candle from both ends, I discovered Insanity, the at home workout program that serendipitously lead me into my future career as an online health & lifestyle coach. I’m still processing how this story flowed so freely out of me and how much it is all linked together. But I’ll save that for another day, I just want to tell you about this run.

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WCW: Ashley Katchadourian

It’s March and what do you know I made you wait all month for this #WCW too. The Women Crush Wednesday hashtag and social media trend is nothing new. But I am trying to reclaim that title not just for half naked celebrities or women you actually know nothing about. The women I crush over are using their womenhood, their voice and their passions to make our world brighter. I have some incredible women in my life so I am honored to share them with you. I hope you find them as inspiring as I do.

Meet Ashley.

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Ashley and I met at an event in Sydney, Australia called Rad Livin. I found this event on Instagram and decided to go by myself even though I didn’t know anyone. Ashley had the same calling (except she came all the way from California!) Luckily I saw this pretty brunette sitting by herself and decided it would be a good seat. We instantly bonded over being American and then figured out we had a lot in common. We spent the whole day together at the festival and everyone thought we came together. Luckily, thanks to the power of social media we stayed in touch and eventually Ashley moved back to Sydney. I have seen Ashley transform from talking about her dream life the first time we met to actually living which is pretty fricken amazing to witness. Thanks, Ashley for all you create in this world. Thanks for your young, hungry, hustle mentality and being someone I can always bounce ideas off of. I’ll let her take it from here.

  1. What do you think makes a woman worth “crushing” over?

A woman living passionately doing what she loves.

  1. What do you do for a living? What is the most challenging part about it?

The most challenging part about what I do for a living is explaining what I do for a living. Simply put, I am a content creator. Right now, I’m the community manager and do video for festival called #RadLivin, an annual festival held in Sydney, Australia created to inspire people to do what they love now. Additionally, since I graduated university, I have oscillated working for my family business, which is how I finance everything I’ve done for the last 3 years. I am currently in the application process for a video gig in Manhattan, NYC.

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WCW: Allyson Wettengel

February is the month of love and I made you wait all month for this lovely #WCW. The Women Crush Wednesday hashtag and social media trend is nothing new. But I am trying to reclaim that title not just for half naked celebrities or women you actually know nothing about. The women I crush over are using their womenhood, their voice and their passions to make our world brighter. I have some incredible women in my life so I am honored to share them with you. I hope you find them as inspiring as I do.

Meet Ally.

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The first time I went down to Bondi Beach for a free yoga event I had no idea what to expect. When I got there there were about 250 people there and I didn’t know a single soul. It was Ally’s first time ever teaching after her yoga teacher training and her familiar American accent and bubbly personality caught my attention right away. (One of us. One of us.) She took us through an awesome practice and shared such vulnerable pieces of her life story. After this experience I decided I would come back because she said there was free yoga at One Wave’s events every Friday. I quickly realized it was not just yoga but a whole non profit organization and community dedicated to breaking the stigma against mental health.

Slowly but surely Ally turned from my yoga teacher into my good friend but I felt like I knew her much more than she knew me because a yoga class with Ally is like experiencing part of her soul. She is such an incredible story teller and weaves themes throughout her classes in a way I’ve never seen someone else do. She is someone I am genuinely so grateful to know and I know that anyone who knows her feels the same. Thank you Ally, for shining your light in this world. For being vulnerable, strong, independent, funny and most of all caring. Your friendship and yoga teaching has inspired me in so many ways I’m not sure I could ever explain them all. I’ll let Ally take it from here so you can get to know her too.

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A Slice of England: Beyond London

 

I came to England for the first time in August to meet my partner’s family and travel in Europe for the summer. My partner and I decided to stay longer term and I’m hoping to make it my home now(after a few months of sorting out my visa.) Many people think London as soon as you say England, but just like New York is much bigger than New York City– England is much more diverse than London. London is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but newsflash to my American peeps..  I don’t live in London. I am definitely not an expert on England and I still have tons of places I want to visit but I am going to share with you the gems I’ve discovered since living in Southern England for the last four months! When you plan your trip to England– explore a bit more and see what else this historical and adorable country has to offer.

Glastonbury– This was my first stop when I came to England because it’s my partner’s hometown. It is most famous these days for the huge Glastonbury music festival so most people know the name but haven’t been there when there aren’t 100,000 others lined up in tents raving for five days.

The town itself tiny- it’s colorful, charming and very spiritual. The history runs very deep.The streets are lined with crystal shops, vegan and vegetarian cafes and hippie clothing stores. Right in the center of the town are the Glastonbury Abbey ruins– a former monastery from the 7th century that was burned down in 1184. Christian legends claim the abbey was founded in the 1st century by Joseph of Arimathea.  Another famous landmark in Glastonbury is the Tor. You can see the giant hill with Saint Michael’s roofless tower from miles away. It is said to be a very spiritual location linked to many myths about King Arthur and has a lot of other lasting mythological and spiritual associations. The hike up is steep but the view at the top is incredible.

 

Some of my favorite spots: The Chalice Well, Rainbow Cafe, Red Brick Building– morning yoga classes, brunch at the Boca Bar(which also turns into an amazing night out- think silent discos, live local music and art gallery & bubbles type events) and simply wandering down the high street peeking in all the crystal, book and charity shops and people watching– you will not be disappointed as the fairies, witches and quirky attire is plentiful.

Bath– I fell completely in love with England when I step foot in Bath. It is the definition of a quaint English town with so much character- it almost doesn’t even look real. When I first arrived in England everything looked miniature to me. The houses, cars, buildings, roads. When my partner’s mom picked us up from the airport(we were exhausted traveling from New Zealand) I woke up in a panic in the back seat because I thought we were driving down a one way street! I couldn’t believe how narrow the roads were, and that wasn’t even the worst of them!

Bath is most well known for its natural hot springs. There is a large museum at the site of the original Roman-era Baths with many ancient artifacts, statues and temples. They have audio guides you can get more detail and it’s easily accessible for museum goers like me. I definitely want to see it but I don’t want to spend 2 hours at each exhibit. Quick and dirty is my approach for museums.

Some of my favorite spots:  the Botanical Garden and Royal Victoria Park, a picnic in front of the iconic Royal Crescent, Kennet and Avon Canal and just walking around exploring the amazing architecture, shops and cafes throughout the city. We only had a day there and I felt like we saw a lot but if you have more than one day there are many art galleries, fashion museums, history museums I have on my list for next time.

Bristol– This place is turning into the coolest city and county in South West England. While in England I have lived 30 minutes outside of Bristol(in a quriky little beach town called Weston-Super- Mare)  so I have been there quite a few times and everytime I discover something new to love about it. It has a bigger city feel but there are so many unique areas along the Bristol Harbour and adorable spots like Clifton. The arts are a plenty, the food is delicious and there is always something going on. I’m no expert but these are the places I have enjoyed so far

Clifton Suspension Bridge– In August right when I arrived we went to Bristol for the popular annual Balloon fiesta- bought a little picnic and climbed the hill to Clifton Observatory which has an incredible view of the bridge and the city! Unfortunately the windy weather lead to the balloons being cancelled but the view itself was magical!

Brunch spots– I’ve brunched a few times in Clifton. Proper brunch menus with avocado toast, eggs benny, and my personal fav shakshuka. Primose Cafe and Bistro on Boyce Ave has outdoor seating and very affordable brunch prices. The Crafty Egg was a cozy spot my friend introduced me to with an epic shakshuka and serious good vibes. The Grain Barge is an awesome converted barge that offers delicious brunch, pub grub, drinks and awesome views.

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Some of my favorite spots: people watching Queen Square, Arnolfini- an international arts center I saw the Grayson Perry exhibition, Street art- the birthplace of Banksy Bristol has tons of his work and many others scattered about the city. If you want to see more here’s an awesome guide.  Seasonal favorite was the German Christmas Market ( in November-December) and shopping/grabbing drinks along the harbor anytime of year.

Those are the main places I’ve frequented- but I’ve made awesome day trips to Wells, Burnham on the Sea, Sand Bay, Cheddar Gorge, Lyme Regis Beach,West Bay, Totness and Bantham Beach. All pictured below & worth checking out!

The most exciting part is this is only a tiny sliver of this beautiful country and I haven’t even explored the rest of U.K. yet. When you book your trip to England consider making your stay in London a bit shorter and get out there and explore. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Cheers mate. Happy travels! xxx

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WCW: Davila Thompson

For September’s WCW I have a special treat for you. The Women Crush Wednesday hashtag and social media trend is nothing new. But I am trying to reclaim that title not just for half naked celebrities or women you actually know nothing about. The women I crush over are using their womenhood, their voice and their passions to make our world brighter. I have some incredible women in my life so I am honored to share them with you. I hope you find them as inspiring as I do.

Meet Davila. 

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Davila and I met through social media. She reached out to me about my online health and fitness challenges I run and oddly enough she was also a New Yorker moving to Australia. I coached her online the month before she came to Sydney and we instantly clicked when we got to meet for the first time in person. Davila is such an intelligent, funny and motivated person. She takes her health very seriously but she doesn’t take life too seriously.

 

She has taught me a lot about veganism and I can always run to her with any plant-based questions that pop into my brain. Luckily, we got to spend quality time together while I was still living in Sydney and have stayed in touch since I’ve been away. I can always count on Dav to listen to my feelings and genuinely care about what is happening in my life and vice versa. I am honored to feature her here and to have her in my life. Thanks for your light and your friendship, Davila. I’ll let her take it from here.

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Is Bali Overrated?

Bali is one of the most magical places I have ever been. Overrated?? Absolutely NOT. I would visit there 100 times. I hope to live there long term at some point in my wild ride of a life. I’ve been promising this Bali blog since March and I currently have about four friends waiting from advice from me. So- I think it’s time. Here is my ultimate advice on Bali- what do, where to stay, what to eat, etc.

I’ve been twice. The first time with three American single girlfriends and myself (at the time also single)  and the second time with my partner. Needless to say the trips were very different but the magic about Bali was the same. You want to talk about vibes- Bali has the best vibes of any place I have ever experienced. It feels like the energy levels are sky high and you’re floating in a dream. I’ll write this with the thought that you haven’t already visited South East Asia so some things might be what you already know.

Airport: Stay somewhere where the airport shuttle is included. The nicer hotels are cheap enough that you can stay there for the first few nights (or the whole time depending on your budget) and save yourself the hassle of getting ripped off by the taxi drivers. They will be waiting for you at the airport with a sign and it just eliminates initial culture shock.

Taxis: Speaking of taxis, this is one of the worst parts about Bali. The incessant hounding for people to give you a taxi or motorbike ride or tour. This is an amazing way to see a lot in one day- we did it. But you have to make sure it’s someone you trust. Shop around and BARTER. Do not just pay the first amount they say- even if it seems cheap when you convert it. Your safest bet is using Blue Bird taxis and making sure they have the meter on. Some taxis pretend to be Blue Bird and even have a fake similar logo but you can spot the real from the fake. By far the cheapest  route is to rent a motorbike- but just make sure you take photos of it before so they don’t try to charge you for damages and that you are confident driving in the crazy Bali traffic.

Places to go:

Canggu– This is an up and coming area! I think in a few years it will be much more crowded- so get there now. It’s really peaceful and relaxed and there is a beach close by(which is good for surfing I don’t surf but my boyfriend enjoyed it.) The variety of restaurants is amazing and lots of fun nightlife. The town is mixed right in with rice fields and you don’t feel like you’re overrun by tourists but there are still people about. I would recommend 4 nights in Canggu or longer if you aim is to chill out and have a more relaxed Bali vacation.

Accommodation: We stayed at The Apartments at Canggu- highly recommend. We had our own private villa and pool. Very clean and helpful staff. Great location.

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Food & Nightlife: Nalu Bowls, Crate Cafe (MUST GO) , Finn’s Beach Club

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Should you move abroad?

 

This is probably the most common and repeated question I am asked. Should I study abroad? I was thinking about teaching overseas, what’s it like? What brought you to Thailand…Australia.. New Zealand?When I sense this reoccurring theme I think… blog post. That’s what happens when you’ve been blogging for this long. It’s easier to just get out all the advice in one fell swoop.

So… you’re thinking about teaching abroad? Dreaming of leaving your boring job behind to travel the world? Want to meet a sexy foreign man and never return? Be careful.. It can really happen! Trust me, I’m speaking from experience here.

So let’s go through some pros and the cons and what I believe you need to be ready for no matter where you go or why.

Pros

Your life becomes a “holiday”— When you move abroad everything feels shiny, new and exciting. You always feel like you are traveling because, well, you are. You feel excited to do ordinary and mundane things and every single day someone comments on your accent. You are an outsider, which to me makes life fresh and unusual. And I love that.

You see so much-– I always say the best way to see a country is to live there. 2 weeks in a country. Forget it. You don’t actually get a real feel for the culture, the people, the struggles, the local spots and the hidden gems. Should you still go if that’s all the time you have? Of course. But the best way to see a country/ area of the world is to just move there already. Stop thinking so much.

You never have to say “what if”— I have had so many older people tell me that they wished they did what I did when they were young. I promised myself I would never be someone who looked back and regretted getting settled down too fast– and I am definitely keeping that promise. I would rather give it a shot and hate it, then never try and just dream about it for the rest of my life.

You gain a newfound respect for your home– You start to love and appreciate home more than ever. You understand what a gift it is to have familiar faces and places. You savor every second with loved ones. You realize how privileged you were to grow up where you did. (in my case, anyway) and you are proud to represent your country-no matter where you roam.

You find out what you actually like– Traveling and living abroad teaches you to actually figure out what hobbies and interests light you up. You can’t travel and see the world while having 17 random hobbies you only do because of your group of friends. You probably can’t get your nails done every two weeks and buy all the latest trendy outfits, but if you’re like me you’ll realize that shit didn’t really make you happy anyway.

You don’t define yourself the same way– When you live in your hometown, home state or even your home country: you are constantly defined by constructs outside of yourself. Your family, your church or religion, your friends, your college, your favorite sports team, your gym or your state. Once you cross the borders, you have to define you. Everything about your past is just a story and a memory. People meet you at face value–who are you today? You can be whoever you want to be. Sure, you never lose those parts of yourself but you get to decide how closely you let them define you.

You realize it’s not the only way– This was one of the biggest things for me. The perspective. The cultural differences. It’s absolutely mind blowing at first. I remember when I first moved to Thailand I felt so sorry for the young children playing in the streets with no shoes. I could tell that they lived in the small area at the back of their parents shop and I felt like I wanted to adopt them and “save them.” I quickly realized they had every single thing they needed and they were as happy as clams. I stopped feeling sorry for them and started feeling sorry for the  4 year old kids, glued to their iPad in the back seat of the Range Rover with 4 nannies and a serious lack of attention and interaction with their parents.

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The flow knows where to go

This week and weekend I experienced the feeling of flow so many times that I felt as if I needed to pinch myself. But when you experience flow.. you go with it. C’mon we learned that when we were like ten.  While I was teaching on Monday, a few of my students seemed to be showing tremendous progress from where they started. I felt excited for them and so proud. Hearing and watching someone transform their language, communication skills and confidence is incredibly rewarding. Not only did I feel fulfilled in my teaching job but I had an awesome week with my coaching business as well. I started a new fitness challenge and have another engaged and fun group of women who are making positive, sustainable changes to their health and nutrition. Guiding people through the process of change and believing in the power of their body and especially their mind is so satisfying. I also experimented with going live and sharing some of my thoughts to inspire those who follow along with my journey. It is incredible what a difference it can make for people to hear your voice and feel connected. I am excited to have yet another medium in which I can express myself and impact the lives of others.

Balance is a continual struggle for me and I think it is the true elusive desire of most people. This week the weather has been getting very warm in Australia, which is the complete opposite of the other side of the world. Not only does this make the balancing act of work an play more difficult but this serves as my humbling reminder that we are not all there is. There is  a whole other hemispheres, planets, galaxies and who knows what out there and we are just a mere blip in the radar. But in our day to day life we often get trapped into narrow minded thinking. We get sucked into feeling like our problems are certainly the end of the world and our successes are something that must be celebrated by everyone who knows us.

But here is the thing, although we think we matter a lot, in the scheme of things we matter very little. Some people use this as an excuse to live on a small scale. I view it as the opposite. I use this fact to propel me forward into my future with as much passion, action, adventure and chutzpah as humanly possible. In the end, the only one who knows if you lived the life you are capable of is you.

 You answer to yourself.Personally, I am a very harsh critic. I will be massively successful in all areas of my life.  I refuse not to be. Being mediocre is the most terrifying fate in my book. Sometimes I let this drive me to be a workaholic but thank god I have learned to channel both my workaholic and my free spirit simultaneously. It’s not easy to do this. I continue to struggle with balancing work and play.

But I try to break my life into 1 hour increments. What can I do for the next hour that will be the most beneficial for me? Now, beneficial sometimes means for my business, my mental health, my relationship, my blog, my sanity, my teaching job. If I don’t have an hour-I break it down into half hour segments. It is amazing what you can do when you utilize the time in your day the way YOU want to.

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