1. Don’t be afraid to travel alone. Solo travel has become one of my favorite pastimes. It’s incredibly empowering to explore a new place all by yourself – and also, incredibly humbling. Asking a French person for directions and getting sneered at. Ordering your meal in broken Italian. Managing to find the correct train after missing the first two. It’s like a fine wine – an acquired taste, with a lasting impression.
2. Pardon my French, but dump the douche. Take it from the girl who has dated just about every kind there is. The self-absorbed model. The wannabe actor. The meathead. The bro. The one who lines up his empty liquor bottles as cheap décor. The almost-30-year-old who still takes selfies in the bathroom mirror. The one who waits hours to text back when you know he doesn’t go five minutes without his phone. SAY CIAO BEFORE YOU LOSE YOUR MIND. You’re better than that. And you will thank me.
3. That being said, don’t be afraid to “dump” any kind of negative relationship. Because it’s never going to get better. I recently had to break a business relationship that I’ve had for years. Our relationship worked for a while, and then suddenly it didn’t. I was nervous to let go but afterward I felt as though the proverbial weight had been lifted off my shoulders. The negative energy was gone and I was able to focus on the relationships I wanted to keep in my life.
4. Even models don’t look like their Instagrams. Has anyone ever actually seen an Instagram model IRL? The one with 100k followers and overly filtered selfies? Yeah, no. I can guarantee she doesn’t look like that in person. Sadly, even I don’t look like my pictures. So next time you’re ten accounts deep on insta and wondering why your skin isn’t perfectly airbrushed, remember that just because that girl is vegan doesn’t mean she also gave up FaceTune.
5. Don’t buy the newest Apple product. I admit I fell into the Apple hype. I bought the latest iPhone 5s only to have it stolen from my purse in a janky Indonesian grocery store. Fancy new electronics are a glittering token in third world countries. A year later here I am with my Samsung J something, not giving two craps about the latest iPhone 7, because it will be old news in about four months. Planned obsolescence, people. Google it.
6. Drink the fat. If you don’t get my Friends reference, leave now. Only joking. There is an underlying message to this – go to any extreme to show your loved ones how much you care about them. Call your parents. Buy your boyfriend that watch he’s been eyeing. Tell your best friend how much you appreciate them. Drink the damn fat.
7. You can get what you want or you can say what you want. And rarely can you have both. Ah, mom and her adages. Up until about a year ago I brushed this one aside – I wanted to have the last word, goddamnit! Argue argue argue. I would say things I didn’t mean in the heat of the moment and regret it later when I was grounded, without a phone, or – my mom loved this one – without a hair straightener. #curlyhairprobs. Silence is your best weapon.
8. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Another adage from mom – it’s called “Murphy’s Law.” And while I don’t necessarily jibe with the pessimism, I do agree with the underlying message: Be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Last year I lost my drivers license, and since I’m a lazy bum I decided to just not reorder one. For months my mom was asking where it was and I would brush her off. Well, turns out I needed my license ASAP to get a visa for India. I had to have it rushed, which cost extra, and it still took about 2 weeks. I wouldn’t say my mom was smug but…anyway, lesson learned.
9. Accept the things you cannot change – the past, your relatives, those who do not want to change, the weather, and the laws of physics.
10. Stop worrying about what all your friends are doing. Sometimes I think to myself, “Wow I’m 24 and I have NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING WITH MY LIFE.” And then I talk to my friends and realize NEITHER DO THEY. Everyone is fighting his or her own internal battles, but unless they want some sort of weird attention they don’t go posting about it on social media. For now, I won’t worry as long as I’m not in jail or the hospital.
11. Try new foods. Nobody likes a picky eater. A Russian friend once forced me to try a bite of her raw salad with chunks of some vegan protein called tempeh, which looked like it had been growing mold. “No, it’s supposed to be like that,” she told me. So I forced myself to eat it. Been buying it ever since. Also, dates. Sure they look a bit like greasy cockroaches but they taste delightful. On that note, don’t ever try durian because it tastes just as bad as it smells. You’re welcome.
12. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Pot, meet kettle. I have a restless mind and I prefer to be busy – and in my culture, it’s encouraged. Then I lived in Italy, and India, and whatever, and I found that this American ideal is stressful and unnecessary. Have some focus in your life. Make plans and stick to them. And for God’s sake – relax. That being said, make time for yourself. TREAT YO SELF. In Bangkok I got a massage every week. Granted, they were 6 bucks but it was still a treat I anxiously awaited. In Bali I took myself out to dinner every night. Even small things, like deep conditioning your hair, or putting on a facemask and watching that trashy reality show you secretly love (cough, Kardashians.) It is completely justified, because I said so.
13. Always show up at least 2 hours before your flight. I used to criticize my dad for showing up 4 hours early to all of his flights. Then I realized how shitty it feels to miss not one, but two flights in a row due to lack of preparation and inadequate timing. The last thing you ever want to hear at an airport is, “Sorry the gate closed three minutes ago.” Arrive early and bring a book. Shop duty free. Treat yourself to a $60 bottle of airport Pinot for being so prepared (guilty.)
14. Don’t worry about being the cool kid. I was not cool or even slightly cool. And guess what? I’m still not. And I’m okay with that. In college, labels completely dissipate and being cool is no longer cool. Stay weird.
15. Success is perspectival. I was back in my hometown the other week for some festival that happens every year. I saw that the majority of my graduating class is either engaged, married, or expecting. Emotions went from shock, to jealousy, to panic, to relief. When you’re in the minority that strayed from the status quo it can be pretty intimidating. I gave up job stability and financial security for a life of travel and unknown possibilities…and it will be a never-ending rollercoaster of emotions, but it just doesn’t make sense to continue to compare myself to my peers.
16. Don’t be a procrastinator. Like changing the oil in your car, or buying a new phone before it reaches perma-death. Which reminds me, my change oil light has been on for a month. Clearly I am still working on this one.
17. Don’t push your opinions on other people. It’s so awkward. Have your opinion, share it, and LISTEN TO THE OTHER PERSON. That’s how a mature conversation works. And if you’re a vegan, Donald Trump supporter, or inherent racist, just get out of here.
18. Take care of your body. Up until I was 18, the only fruit I ate was watermelon. I refused vegetables. I owned a shirt that said “I Love Carbs.” Oh, Delia’s. And while I still absolutely love carbs, I’m more committed to my health. Because your body is one of those things that the more care you put in, the more it’s going to give back. Live by the 80/20 rule and try not to post a picture of your kale smoothie every day.
19. Sleep on a strangers couch. Couchsurfing. Try it. *Tip: Make sure the person has a picture and at least 20 positive reviews*
20. You’re going to get pimples all your life. As I write this I am suffering a purge related breakout from all the shit food I ate on vacation. Four weeks ago. Stress will only make it worse. Invest in a good skin cleanser or concealer and move on with your life.
21. People are going to want to place you in a social order. Don’t let them. For instance, upon meeting someone they might ask, “What do you do?” What they mean is, “Where do I rank in comparison to you?” And for that reason, I have started to give a roundabout answer. I tell them what my hobbies and passions are. I enjoy writing. I want to keep traveling the world. I try to practice sustainable lifestyle habits. I like learning but I’m not sure how to turn this all into a career. When people look at me like “eh?” I know they’re probably not the kind of people I want to hangout with.
22. Don’t get your hair done in a foreign country. Made that mistake three times – and the third time was not a charm. Find a hair stylist you like and don’t cheat on them just because you’re desperate.
23. That happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light (you didn’t think you were getting out of here without a Harry Potter reference did you?) Our mindset plays a huge part in our happiness. Remember earlier when I said to accept the things you cannot change? Well, your mindset is something you can change, and once you realize that you will see that you are in control of your happiness.