Spring Break in Guatemala

Last week was one of the most exciting and life changing experiences. For my spring break, I decided to take a random excursion to a country I had never been to (and never learned anything about). My friend had already booked a flight so I decided it would be fun to tag along with her to Guatemala. We went into the trip with no plans except for our lodging accommodations and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I might be addicted to the backpacker lifestyle now and I may or may not be planning a solo adventure for the summer time (destination TBD).

Before we even got to Guatemala, we made some friends in the El Salvadorian airport. We met a group of musicians/dentists from Pittsburgh who were coming into town for a mission trip. They were nice enough to let us hitch a ride with them from Guatemala City into our first destination: Antigua.

While we were in Antigua, we explored the city and did some awesome shopping. We toured a coffee farm and got to sample some. That night we found a bar that offered free salsa dancing lessons and I met a man who grew up in Guatemala but lived in my hometown of Fredericksburg, Va for two years! He treated me and Shannon to a night out with his friends. Although there was a language barrier between most of us, it was so much fun to make friends and share a new experience with them. Since I’m a huge fan of cooking and learning about culture through cuisine, we took a cooking class and I was able to make a completely vegan Guatemalan dish. It was delicious and I can’t wait to make it again at home.

After saying goodbye to Antigua we traveled north to Lake Atitlan where we stayed for 3 days. The lake is enormous and surrounded by volcanoes. Each little village on the edge of the lake has its own personality and we visited a few places while we were there. We stayed in San Pedro (known as the party town) which was home to many European and American expats looking for a relaxed way of life. While I can see the appeal of a longterm travel stint away from work and responsibilities, I do enjoy my day to day American luxuries (like being able to flush my toilet paper).

We visited San Marcos several times which is another small village known for being the hipster town. Shannon and I booked massages and also had a chakra alignment treatment while we were there. At the time, I was in the throws of a pretty terrible cold and I really felt better afterwards. I can’t say that it cured my cold but it did help me release a few emotional issues I’ve been struggling with and I genuinely felt my mood and my cough improve for the rest of the week.

The rest of our trip was spent shopping and meeting fellow travelers. We made some new friends from the states and brought home some incredible souvenirs. I got a handmade hammock that I cannot wait to put up in my yard now that warm weather is on its way.

This experience was eye opening for me and I feel like I’ve just discovered a whole new window into the world. Although my bank account needs to recover a little bit, I have my eye on a few different trips after my summer session ends for school. I really can’t wait to see what the next adventure will bring me.


Wedding Weekend Ramblings

Last weekend was incredible. I spent Saturday celebrating one of my favorite couples at their wedding in Richmond. I really needed a break from the work/school grind and it was a great opportunity to see my close friends from college and let loose a little. The drive home in the morning had me thinking a lot about the weddings I have coming up in the next year and the relationships in my life (you know-just general car ride musings).

I’ve hit that age where all my friends start coupling off and freaking out about getting married but I don’t get it. I’m obviously very happy for my friends who have found great relationships but on the other hand, I also know a few people who have gotten divorced already and I’ve watched how heart-wrenching and emotionally exhausting that is.

I also know several people who are getting married because they feel like its expected of them and I just don’t understand why. I can definitely see that a lot of people feel pressure from their families to settle down but I don’t understand why we put that pressure on our loved ones in the first place. I stumbled upon this article recently and I thought it was really cool how this woman threw herself a wedding because she doesn’t plan to get married and she wanted to celebrate her commitment to her loved ones (and celebrate own life and her accomplishments).

While I would love to get married one day, I’m left wondering about why there’s this huge rush or timeline. Isn’t marriage supposed to be about your actual relationship, not just all of the life milestones? Shouldn’t it center around the fact that you’ve found someone you want to completely intertwine your life with? I know this isn’t a new phenomenon but because I’m getting to the point where all my friends are coupling off I’m noticing it more. I’ve found that a lot of people my age are staying in relationships because they’re afraid to be alone even though they may not be compatible with their significant other and that’s what really makes me sad.

As someone who has spent most of her life single, I see things from a totally different perspective. I love being in a relationship and sharing my life with someone but I also don’t think that there should be any fear or pressure to move things along before the time is right. I understand the feeling of wanting companionship but its so important not to lose sight of yourself first. The first criteria when you start to date someone shouldn’t be “how soon will we start a family together?”

I noticed this recently in my own life. I found a totally incredible person that I enjoyed spending time with and really felt a connection with. However, both of our lives are crazy at the moment and I honestly just can’t imagine trying to get to know someone while also working nightshifts, starting graduate school, and trying to take care of myself all at the same time. Part of me (ok a lot of me) was bummed that it didn’t work out but I actually found that going to this particular wedding and seeing what a relationship is supposed to look like made me that much more ok with the situation (the fact that it was my choice didn’t hurt either).

I genuinely don’t have anything against young people getting married, I just find myself worried that there is too much pressure to settle down with the first person who comes along and that we are often expected to put off other ambitions in order to start that family dynamic. True, you can definitely balance career and relationships but it’s very difficult to do (especially if you haven’t already partnered off with someone when your career starts to pick up).

Physical Changes Since Going Plant-Based

Now that I’ve truly committed to the Plant Based Journey, I feel like I should update on the physical changes I’ve experienced. I don’t have a crazy weight loss story or dramatic loss in inches from my body but I have experienced enough of a benefit that I can honestly say there’s no turning back now.

Getting personal with things, it’s been three cycles since I’ve started to change my diet and I’ve already noticed an improvement in many things. I came off hormonal birth control last May and switched over to the copper IUD. I will say, things got kinda wonky there for a bit. Between having cramps for the first time in years and having some of the heaviest periods imaginable I almost went back to my GYN to have it removed. I knew the first few cycles would be rough but I was persistent in waiting out the symptoms to see if things balanced out (I also just dreaded getting it out since it hurt putting it in). It took until December for me to get any kind of relief (conveniently around the time I started to completely revamp my diet….). Last month, I noticed my cycle was shorter, less heavy, and I only cramped for one day instead of three days like I had become accustomed to.

I also became used to breaking out the week before my period started. It was how I new my cycle was about to start but this month, I didn’t even get a blemish! In fact, my skin got even clearer the week before my period showed up and a friend of mine even commented on how great my skin looked (without makeup). I have the type of acne that forms painful cysts and scars for months on end. While I still have a few blemishes, my skin is very smooth and there haven’t been any new demons popping up (I hope I didn’t just jinx myself).

I also noticed that my energy levels are improving. The last few months before I started to eliminate animal products from my diet I would get exhausted on my period. It had gotten to a point where I was ready to call in sick from work. I’m not sure if I was anemic since I never actually went to the doctor to get my blood checked but I can say that last month my energy levels were so much better and I was at least able to make it through each day. This month, I was even able to do some light exercise the first few days and I was able to get in about 4 miles of walking on the worst day.

Speaking of healthy eating to help with menstruation, Dr. Greger posted this video last week on Fennel Seeds and ginger for menstrual cramps and PMS. I know its anecdotal but I have been incorporating ginger into my diet more…

Finally, and most importantly to me, my mood has dramatically increased over the last two months. I’ve written about my struggle with depression on this blog before and I’ve always been proud of myself for being able to manage things with mental exercises. I never really put a link to diet and my mood but I have noticed things being a lot better. I know my mood will always fluctuate to some degree and there were obviously precipitating factors to my depressive episodes in the past but anything I can do to keep myself in a healthy state is worth it to me.


Finding Passion Everyday

A friend of mine recently posted an article on social media that I decided to check out. It really resonated with me because lately I’ve been struggling to find what my daily passions are. One of the reasons why this article was so hard hitting for me is because it really made me ask myself what are my priorities.

I feel like I’m at the age now where its time to really ask myself that question. What are the things I hope to accomplish in the next few years and what are the steps I should take to get there? And the truth is that I’m also at the age where I. Just. Don’t. Know.

I recently celebrated my 25th birthday and it was the first time I spent it mostly by myself. My parents took me out to dinner but otherwise it was relatively quiet. Not that there is anything wrong with that, (I’m sure there will be many more birthdays like that over the years) it’s just the first time I haven’t been surrounded by a lot of people who wanted to go out and party all night. I’m at an age where my friends are branching off and finding their own paths and its becoming harder and harder to get groups together frequently. It can be really lonely sometimes and it can also be really freeing (I’m someone who gets energized from time spent alone but not TOO much time alone).

But that brings me back to my original question. What is it that gets me energized on a daily basis? After reading the above mentioned article and spending some time discussing the same thing with my therapist this week, I’m finding there are a few things that get me really excited. I need to focus on bringing those experiences out more in my life.

The first thing that I am passionate about is living a healthy lifestyle. I’ve found that I really, really enjoy cooking. There’s something about it that just makes me feel comforted. It’s not just the fact that you get to eat at the end of the process but the whole ordeal of prepping and tasting and testing as you go along until you find something that just works. I really enjoy that and I love sharing that with others.

Another thing that I truly enjoy and hope to cultivate a little more is spending time giving back to my community. Anyone can give money (and should if they can afford to) to causes they support. But for me, I get a sense of fulfillment when I’m actually interacting with people knowing that I am making a difference in their lives. That shouldn’t be too surprising given my chosen profession but I find that I need to be involved outside of work too. It just feels different when you’re not being compensated.

And the third thing that immediately comes to my mind when I ask myself this question is that I love to write and I haven’t been doing much of that lately. My priorities have been focused on getting into graduate school and I have just kind of let myself shift into this mental laziness. I feel recharged when I write, even if I don’t have much to say. I noticed recently that my current journal has entries in it from college. That was over TWO YEARS AGO. How is it possible that someone who loves to write has put her self expression on hold for so long?

There are other things that energize me as well, spending time with friends, exercising, being outside to name a few. These are things that I really need to put more of an effort into. There’s also horseback riding, one of my favorite activities and it has been over a year since Ive been able to ride. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll have the money to get back in the saddle again but that’s definitely a piece of my life that I’m missing at the moment.

I’m sure this will be an evolving theme of my blog in the coming months as I hope to reexamine what it is that energizes me on a daily basis.