How to Change the World in 4 Easy Steps

We all want our lives to have meaning. We all want our time on this earth to be significant. We all want to make a difference in the world.

But how, exactly, do we do that?

It’s something I struggled with greatly when I took a break from wildlife conservation to work in a more stable veterinary clinic setting. It’s something that tormented me as I set off to chase my many dreams. Was I being selfish? How was I giving back to the world?

I have since realized four things:

First, every job is giving back in some way. Maybe you’re helping the needy, maybe you’re inspiring others, maybe you’re boosting the economy, maybe you’re putting a smile on someone’s face or simply making their day a little easier.

Second, my career does not define me. My values, beliefs, morals and desires define me.

Third, by focusing on myself, I have been able to gain incredible self-awareness. I know my wants and needs. I know my skills and talents. And I can nurture them and use them to change the world.

Fourth, changing the world does not happen on a monumental scale. Change in the world is the result of chain effects. Little things. Elementary, my dear Watson.

So how do you change the world?

 1. Know yourself

Self awareness goes a long way toward making the world a better place. Take time to actively engage in conversation with yourself, to get to know you. Spend quality alone time with no one other than yourself and learn to enjoy it, to crave it. Slow down. Pray, meditate, journal or find an active means of self reflection to guide you along the path to self discovery.

 2. Love yourself

Appreciating your own self worth is pivotal to anyone’s success and happiness. People who want to change the world want to do so because they love humanity, they love this earth. But we absolutely cannot fully love anything else without wholly embracing who we are as individuals. If love really does make the world go round, then it starts within ourselves.

3. Be yourself

In a world full of so much sham, authenticity is a rare find. Live your life with honesty and integrity. Never try to be anyone but yourself. If we are not truthful to ourselves, then we are not being truthful to the changes we wish to see in the world.

 4. Give of yourself

Pay it forward. The focus on giving back isn’t on being selfless, because learning to love yourself can be an incredibly selfish task, one that requires constant time and sacrifice. Give of yourself by being open and vulnerable to the world so that you can find your role in it.

And that’s it. It really is that simple.

How do you change the world? By turning the focus inward. Look to yourself and there you’ll find the answer.

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The Stranger on a Plane Who Saw My Broken Heart

I held the pink, laminated reusable boarding pass in my hand, rubbing my finger over its bubbled edges. The weight shifted in my backpack as I re-situated it on my shoulders and picked up my laptop case. I handed my paper ticket to a woman behind the metal fence and walked along the concrete to the plane’s steps.

No security checkpoint and no overhead storage bins awaited me. My ears would not be alerted by an announcement that the plane was about to lift off. I could reach into the cockpit and touch the pilot. I could hold hands with nearly everyone on the plane without having to leave my seat.

Though it felt like the 1940s, it was 2015, and I was leaving the place I’d learned to call home.

I was saying goodbye to an island whose people, simplicity, and natural beauty I’d come to love.

And yet, at that moment, I wanted to be away from people, floating on a cloud among the birds of the sky. I wanted to be free but have all the answers, I wanted to feel loved and worthy and adored, and I wanted the fissure in my heart to be miraculously healed.

As the plane took flight, I leaned against the thick, sweating window glass, trying to become invisible. I didn’t want to look outside because that meant accepting the daunting truth that those turquoise blue waters I’d come to know would no longer be present in my daily life. I didn’t want to look down because then I’d see that I was moving away from those white sand beaches of quiet isolation, not toward them.

I didn’t want to look out the window because then I might see my reflection, and that would feel like staring into the face of someone I didn’t know.

Instead, I closed my eyes tight and hugged my backpack to my chest, trying to shield my face from the other passengers on this 14-seater plane, trying to hide my pain. But the tears falling down my cheeks coupled with my silent sobs gave me away to the man sitting across the two-foot aisle from me.

Wordlessly, he removed a tissue from his bag. I was burying my brokenness into the nylon cover of my travel backpack when he tapped me on the shoulder. I raised my head a couple inches to see the tissue dangling by my cheek.

The stranger on the plane smiled at me.

Without saying anything, I took the tissue and wiped my eyes and runny nose. I crumpled it into a ball for later use and then made eye contact with the man. My lips turned up ever so slightly, a genuine smile but one that took effort nonetheless.

The stranger on the plane nodded his head and turned to look forward, giving me privacy to process my feelings.

His kindness reminded me that I am not and should not feel alone in this world, and that I am also allowed to have my feelings–no questions asked.

I didn’t know that the next two years of my life would be the hardest two years of my 29 years. I didn’t know that they would also be the most rewarding.

I didn’t fully understand all that I was leaving behind, that it was a testament of self-love to jump headfirst into this new unknown–lost, scared, confused, sad, lonely, depressed, anxious, and in that moment, so very broken-hearted.

I didn’t fully grasp that taking this first step on the next part of my journey would, in time, prove to be one of the most valuable and meaningful chapters of my life.

It took me two years to recognize that abandoning the island life to chase opportunities in the city was one of the most courageous things I have ever done. Two years and I realized that leaving that island home–one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done–was also one of the most loving things I could ever do for myself.

I am not, I was not fearless. But I did stare fear in the face while navigating an increasingly rocky path to become the incredibly self-aware woman I am today.

If you asked me if I’d do it all over again, I don’t know that I’d say yes. But if you asked me if the loneliness, heartache, and utter confusion were worth it, I’d look you in the eyes and tell you that believing in myself and knowing who I am and what I want in life is my biggest achievement, and I have those feelings to thank for that.

101 Thoughts I Have While on My Period

Periods suck. Unfortunately, half the global population deals with them–or dealt with, bless you souls–on a monthly basis.

Please enjoy this stream of consciousness list of thoughts I have every month. Note: This is not for the faint of heart. You’ve been warned.

  1. Are you gonna eat that?
  2. Someone please carve out my uterus.
  3. Oh, great, diarrhea.
  4. If men had ovaries…
  5. *Sobbing* But that puppy only had three legs!
  6. Am I dying?
  7. Pretty sure I’m dying.
  8. Wow, I have reached a new level of cranky.
  9. How do men put up with hormonal women?
  10. In need of a sign that says, “Get out of my way, I’m menstruating.”
  11. Why is everyone so loud today?
  12. It’s really only been 7 minutes since I last ate?
  13. My bloated stomach looks like a loaf of bread.
  14. Look at me, still thinking about food.
  15. How many more days is this going to last?
  16. Can I just hibernate for the rest of the week?
  17. It feels like there’s an anvil in my uterus.
  18. This better all be worth it when I have kids.
  19. My poor bed, I remember when you didn’t have period stains.
  20. Why don’t they make black mattresses?
  21. There goes another pair of underwear.
  22. No but seriously, that was my favorite underwear.
  23. I literally have no period-free underwear left.
  24. Was that just the wind or am I leaking down there?
  25. Probably bleeding onto my scrubs but I’m over it.
  26. Why are tampons so expensive?
  27. Maxi pads feel like a diaper.
  28. Wow, these farts could kill a person.
  29.  UTERUS FOR SALE!
  30. There’s an army of angry minions inside me.
  31. Oh, hey, back pain. You’re back.
  32. *Googles: How much of my life will I be on my period?*
  33. Hey. I asked if you were gonna eat that?
  34. YOUR PERIOD ONLY LASTS HOW MANY DAYS?
  35. Life isn’t fair.
  36. I wish I was a man.
  37. No I don’t.
  38. I wish men had periods.
  39. I wish men understood what it’s like to have a period.
  40. I wish periods were universal among women.
  41. Can someone please scratch my head?
  42. And feed me?
  43. Wow, that’s a lot of blood.
  44. Good thing I’ve gotten over my fear of–
  45. Oh my God, I’m going to pass out.
  46. Periods are gross.
  47. I feel really gross right now.
  48. *Sobbing* Why am I so gross!?
  49. And ohmygod, those bags under my eyes!
  50. I just want to cry.
  51. I just want to sleep.
  52. *Searches: “Top 10 Movies to Watch On Your Period”*
  53. *Watches movie and cries like it’s “Titanic” IRL*
  54. Why am I so emotional?
  55. Ohmygod, I can’t stop crying.
  56. But that three-legged dog!!!
  57. How will I ever get through work tomorrow?
  58. BUT I DON’T WANNA GO TO WORK TOMORROW.
  59. Women should be allowed additional sick days because OUR FALLOPIAN TUBES HATE US ONCE A MONTH.
  60. HEY. YOU. THEY CAN HEAR YOU CHEWING ALL THE WAY IN AFRICA.
  61. Food is my favorite.
  62. Free uterus!!!!
  63. Is someone punching my ovaries?
  64. Two thumbs up for diarrhea.
  65. Oh geez, and nausea.
  66. Oh boy, I’m dizzy, too.
  67. Must be because I’ve lost FIVE GALLONS OF MY INSIDES.
  68. World, why you gotta be so cruel?
  69. Girls rule the world.
  70. *Listens to Girl Power playlist*
  71. “If this period doesn’t kill me it’ll make me strongerrrrr, stand a little talllllller”
  72. Maybe I’ll feel better if I go for a run?
  73. Wait, let me poop out the rest of my insides first.
  74. Look at me running like a homicide isn’t happening in my pants.
  75. I feel like my vagina fell off at mile 3.
  76. “My period hasn’t killed me, I am strongerrrrrr.”
  77. Wait. But my period might kill me.
  78. *texts girlfriend: “Why does my uterus hate me?”
  79. *texts other girlfriend random period question*
  80. *breathes sigh of relief with friend’s response*
  81. *friend says she’s on her period, too*
  82. *texts her: “Soulmates.”*
  83. *crying* My friends are the best.
  84. There is nothing to eat in this house!
  85. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.
  86. I could literally tread water in my period blood.
  87. It is literally like Old Faithful has sprung out of my vagina.
  88. I DON’T CARE IF THAT’S GROSS.
  89. YOU TRY HAVING A PERIOD LIKE THIS.
  90. I’m sorry, I love you.
  91. I just love love so much.
  92. I need to be alone right now.
  93. I wish I had a pet.
  94. Animals are the only ones that understand.
  95. Wait, if I got my period today does that mean that I’ll have it when…
  96. *curses like a sailor*
  97. I have Satan for a uterus.
  98. The universe is literally conspiring against me.
  99. This is the worst day of my life.
  100. Wake me when it’s over.
  101. Are you gonna eat that?

My Battle with Lyme Disease All Began When I Met a Paraplegic Sheep

paraplegic sheep

If you’ve read my blog more than a couple times, you’ve probably come across some stories on my battle with Lyme disease.

I’m now entering six years (!) since my diagnosis. The journey has been painful, exhausting, and frustrating but never discouraging–for which I owe a great deal to a paraplegic sheep named Rocky who taught himself to walk.

To read about how Rocky helped me get through my first six months and beyond, read my article here that was recently published in Wide Open Pets, a worldwide website dedicated to all things animals.

If you’re battling Lyme, chronic or not, know that you’re not alone, and that even though the road gets rough, you always have the strength within you to persevere.

UPDATE: My story was picked up my Daily Mail UK! Check out their third-person narrative of me and Rocky, and learn the facts about Lyme disease.

This Is My Greatest Accomplishment, and It Might Be Yours, Too

Earlier in the week, I came across a list of questions on the Internet intended to engage two people in meaningful conversation. The questions are deep, thought-provoking, probing, and personal.

I tried to think of my answers as I went through the list, but one stuck out at me:

“What is your greatest accomplishment?”

I’ve been reflecting a great deal on my most recent accomplishment–becoming a published author. My initial thought was to answer with that.

But then I thought of all the solo female travel I’ve done. Maybe independent travel is my biggest accomplishment.

Yet I couldn’t choose between the two.

So I dug deeper.

I remembered the many hardships I went through to write my book, many of which are outlined in its preface. And then I remembered how I fought through a knot in my stomach each time I set off on a solo excursion abroad.

And then I remembered what it was like to go to my first professional acting audition, to send in my first freelance writing query, to get my first official rejection. But beyond that, I remembered pushing through the rejections, time and again, to follow my passions, my dreams.

In all of my accomplishments, I’ve never been fearless. But I have stared fear in the face and persevered. Courageous people aren’t fearless people; they are the ones who are scared to death but go head to head against their fears anyway.

My greatest accomplishment? It’s believing in myself.

On the days when writing a 254-page book seemed a daunting task, I never doubted that I could and would do it. All the times that I hugged my backpack to my chest on sketchy bus rides, homesickness creeping in, I still trusted in my instincts and personable nature to embrace the culture I was about to immerse myself in.

Every rejection I received after an audition or writing submission was a challenge to press on.

Believing that I can do whatever I set my mind to is, hands down, my greatest accomplishment.

Think really hard about what you consider your greatest accomplishment to be. If you find that you can’t decide between two, reflect on the journey that led you toward each of these.

I’ll bet you’ll find that believing in yourself is your biggest accomplishment, too.

A Look Back at My First Book Signing

My life seems to have more or less gone back to normal after my first mini book tour. I’m basking in Seattle’s brilliant summers, still working my 3 careers. I do have to pinch myself every once in awhile when I forget all that I’ve been through and accomplished in the past 2 years, and the long journey before that to get me where I am today.

Every few days it seems like a friend calls me or texts me or stares at me and reminds me: “You’re a published author.” And hearing that feels so stinking good.

I’m so goddamn happy these days sometimes I think I’m dreaming. Sometimes I think, It can’t really stay this good, can it? I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop.

author

But then I listen to the words of the people who have been there with me on this journey. I hear them telling me to continue basking in this feeling and to stop waiting for it to end, because I deserve this. Because I have worked so freaking flipping hard for this, for so long. And it’s all finally, FINALLY, paying off. Because the sacrifices I made and the trying times I faced to follow my dreams were, hands down, 1,000 times over worth it.

 

Reflections of a Global Nomad: A Decade, From the Beginning Til Now

I intended to give myself a break from work today. No writing, no researching acting gigs, no scouring the Internet for animal opportunities. But I’m not very good at doing nothing. So I started cleaning.

While sweeping, the broom brushed out a rolled up scratch off map my sister and brother-in-law had given me for Christmas. I’d been putting off hanging the map on my wall because I wanted to be reflective during the time I spent scratching off the countries I’ve visited, the cultures I’ve experienced.

Today, I made time for that. And then, naturally, it inspired me to write so here I am at 9 AM on a rare day off that turned into not a day off because, well, I’m writing.

Writing is like an extension of my being. It’s hard-wired into my soul. I was born a writer; I can’t not write.

And just like writing, I’m a born traveler. The world is literally my stage (and I am literally a vagabond actress gallivanting across it, collecting parasites and scars and countless memories).

My first taste of international travel slammed into my heart 10 years ago when, college freshman year, I went with my roommate and a handful of girls from our floor to her home country in the Dominican Republic.

That original passport has since expired, but I was quick to renew it six months prior to the expiration date. I had no set travel plans, but when you’re a nomad at heart–well, you never know.

Today, I continued researching flights for my next international excursion, and I couldn’t help looking at Panama on my map anticipating using a penny to scratch it off. One of my flight options routes me through a layover in El Salvador, and I thought, okay, so I stay a little longer and see El Salvador.

But I don’t want to just see a country. I don’t want to just visit. I want to immerse myself. I want to jump head first into the unknown. I want to get lost and trust my gut and the kindness of strangers to help me find my way. I want to eat foreign foods and struggle to explain veganism to a waiter that can’t fathom it. I want to sleep on lumpy beds fending off cockroaches and humidity that make me toss and turn. I want to hitch hike and swim in new waters. I want to hear laughter and see smiles in a land that is so different from my own, full of people that are simultaneously unique and just the same as me.

As the years have passed and turning 30 looms closer, I had this little checklist in my brain, pushing me to hit 30 countries before I’m 30, so that I could feel like I knew a good chunk of this world. But I’ve stopped counting countries.

When I look at a map and see the big countries I’ve embraced, like Brazil, and then itty bitty ants of a country, like Luxembourg, they are of equal significance to me.

When I scratched off Brazil on my map, I remembered my first trip to the Amazon, something I’d dreamed of since childhood. I could see the faces of the children who helped me build their school. I pictured Bruno’s smile as he stole my bright green hat and taught me “Happy Birthday” in Portuguese, which I still sing a decade later. I felt how sore my muscles got mixing cement by hand in 100+ degree heat.

When I scratched off Luxembourg on my map, I remembered getting caught in a rainstorm and taking refuge in an old museum with a new friend I’d made from Australia. I could see the blood moon hovering over the capital city, brighter than I’ve ever seen it before. I remembered turning down an alley and running into a Serbian I’d met in Germany.

As I scratched off each country, my brain was flooded with memories–the good outweighing the bad, and the bad being mere life experiences that I learned from and laughed at–getting robbed in Ecuador, getting stalked in Canada, getting locked out on a third story terrace in Peru. (Oops, didn’t tell my dad about all of those…)

Scratching off my vagabond adventures, my gypsy life, my nomadic wanderings, I reflected on how many lifelong friends I’ve made all across the globe.

I notice the scars on my legs. I remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach with my inaugural adventure alone in a foreign land. I taste the salty tears dripping into my mouth the first time I set off with a beginning and end but no middle. I see the teenager I was and the woman I’ve become.

And I’m so damn proud of that woman.

She is the woman I’ve always wanted to be but needed to find the courage to become. She is someone who knows herself better than she ever thought she could, who believes in herself, who will try and fail and consider that succeeding. She is someone who knows how to plan and how to be spontaneous, who never stops dreaming and doing and dreaming and doing. She is the type of person who values face to face conversations and snail mail and nostalgia and blasts from the past and out of the blue honesty. She is the woman who loves humanity and this earth and will always do her best to spread love and happiness and the greater good.

Travel made me that woman, the woman I am today.

Looking up at my scratch off map now hanging above my bed, I am humbled. I’ve worked hard to experience so much of this world, yet this map reminds that I’ve still so much to experience. I’ve still so much to do, to learn, to see, to live.

So I’ve stopped counting countries, because I’m the kind of woman who chases meaningful experiences over fleeting moments, who values time over money, and who knows that no matter how small this world sometimes seems, it really is a great big world out there.

never stop dreaming. never stop doing.