Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This Blog is Going...Where?

A couple of weeks ago I applied to something called BlogHouse through Navigate Media Group that will be taking place in Chicago this June. I only told a few people that I was applying because I didn't know how much of a chance I had in getting accepted. They market and advertise this conference publicly but only 15 or so up-and-coming bloggers are invited to stay at the house. The invitees would attend workshops, work with staff from Navigate Media, brainstorm ideas and learn everything they can on how to optimize and promote their blog to their appropriate audience. As an attendee, you would receive free marketing, SEO and web optimization services to make your blog/website look fantastic - all in the vibrant city of Chicago! I was sold on the fact that it was a chance to go spend time in a cool city - which I have not spent enough time in - and learn from experienced and novice bloggers alike. I didn't have anything to lose so I applied and hoped for the best.
However...I was not invited to attend this year's BlogHouse. It's not the end of the world because I will just continue doing what I have been doing: working on the blog by myself and developing it into the kind of blog I'm envisioning in my head right now. We'll see how that pans out in the next year. For now, I will leave you with the 'why' part of my application.
The vision for this blog:
My blog is called "Life in Transition" because I started it the year I graduated from college. Initially I wanted to use it as an outlet to write about the changes and transitions that I would experience during the next few years. I also wanted to share my experiences with others in hopes of offering advice and words of encouragement. The URL is in Spanish for two reasons: 1) was already taken and 2) I speak and write fluent Spanish. I knew that I would be writing and translating some, if not all, of the posts into the language one day. I have written posts about neighborhoods and cities I've lived in, the post-college job search, book reviews, weddings, maintaining local and international friendships, studying and living abroad and tips on how to learn a language. I also hosted a few guest bloggers in 2012 who wrote about how their lives had changed over the last 5 years. While I have enjoyed writing about the above topics, I am hoping to take the blog in a new direction and do a complete redesign.
In the fall of this year, I will be moving to Spain to teach English for at least 1 year. I have followed several travel blogs and have done a decent amount of traveling myself over the last few years but I would like to make traveling a part of my job and turn my blog into a business. I believe that the timing of the next Blog House conference and my move abroad is perfect. The new direction I see for my blog is this: to provide 20-35 year olds with a realistic and affordable tips on traveling throughout the USA and Europe. I want to show people that traveling while you're young is not only possible but fun and enriching no matter what you are experiencing in life. The kicker is that though my target audience will be male and female young professionals, I want to target more than just English speakers. I want to especially reach Spanish and eventually Portuguese speaking travelers.
Based on the number of blogs focused on travel to Europe that I have read, I have noticed that there are very few blogs geared for speakers of these languages. I want to help showcase cities, hotels, hostels, restaurants and tours in Europe to more than just English speaking tourists.

**I can definitely see making travel a part of my career or my whole career entirely. The idea of turning this into a travel focused blog for young professionals excites me. I have an idea of what this blog might look like but I'm still in the planning stages and nothing is set in stone yet. I will keep you updated on future domain and other changes though!**

If you want to share some feedback, please leave me a comment below. :-)

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Time in Jacksonville As Seen Through My T-Shirts

Yesterday I began to pack up my things for my impending move at the end of this month. As I went about gathering up all of my clothes and piling some of them into boxes, I realized that I'm not just packing up my possessions, I'm packing up memories. The things that reminded me most of my time here have been all of the T-shirts I have collected  over the years. I also came to the realization today that the six years I have spent here is equal to about a quarter of my life. The past six years have been the most formative of my life and, while I complain about living here so far away from my family at times, I don't think I could've chosen a better place to go from the wide-eyed brave teenager that I was into the full-grown confident woman that I am today. Good and bad, this city has seen me through it all.

While I could get a little emotional saying goodbye to the city and everyone I know here, I have decided that I'm going to end things on a happy note. And, as a way to remember and close this chapter of my life out with a smile, I'm going to be wearing a different T-shirt from my past every night until I leave. I came up with this idea as I was taking out some of my T-shirts from my dresser drawer and stacking them in a pile on my bed. I thought, "I bet I have enough T-shirts to wear a different one everyday!" And you know what? I was right! It was a good thing I saved and took good care of them after all. :)

No one will see me wearing these out in the real world because I decided that it would be better to wear them at night (since I sleep in a T-shirt and shorts anyway). I would wear them out during the day but I have to leave here in style, you know? :-P And I do realize that this will add to the amount of laundry I'll have to do before I leave but....hey, I think it's worth it!

I will be coming back and updating this post every night until March 29th. I hope you will join me on my mini-journey through the past and as I countdown my final days in Jacksonville.


March 16, 2014

My 007 themed senior year (of HS) class T-shirt. Hard to believe that this shirt is about 8 years old now!

March 17, 2014

We were given this shirt at my freshman orientation (or during one of the WOW events) way back in August 2007. I realized today that just about 7 years ago this month I received a letter stating that I had been accepted into JU! I had no clue the amazing opportunities, experiences and people that were in store for me when I said, "Yes," to Jacksonville University. :)

March 18th, 2014

This is the shirt of the first club I joined at JU: Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM). I bought this particular shirt my senior year of college but the way I'm dressed and how my hair is styled, I might as well be a freshman again. I often sported the T-shirt, jeans and ponytail look during most of my freshman and sophomore years. These two years were also two of my most formative years in college and the friends and leaders who encouraged and mentored me through many Bible studies, small groups, BCM lunches, gatherings mean so much to me - even after all these years. It only took the simple invitation of one person to get me to check BCM out. You never know who you will meet or what you will learn if you ever ask! So, I want to give David a shout out for inviting me to that first BCM Lunch way back in 2007. The students I met in BCM through the years were some of the most incredible and compassionate people I have ever met. BCM rocks! (The shameless plug is now over. :P)

March 19th, 2014

Going to Miami! Er, well I did go to Miami for a spring break mission trip with JU and UNF BCM students my freshman year (March 2008). I picked up this shirt and a few other souvenirs to remember my time there. About 12-15 students and leaders (including our new BCM director Lance Beauchamp and his wife Tiffany-who later become one of my good friends) traveled down in vans to Miami and stayed at the University of Miami BCM. We ministered and evangelized to students at UM, worked on a project with the Florida Baptist Children's Home as well as built relationships with the members of the UM BCM. For fun we went and walked around parts of downtown Miami, saw the beach at night and rode the metro. I broke out of my shell and got to know several people from my own school and from UNF. I also got the courage to share my testimony one night at one of the BCM gatherings. Minus the heat rash I got (from too much sun exposure) and the hot humid weather, it was a fantastic trip and one I think about every know and then! If you're contemplating going on a spring break or short-term mission trip, I would highly recommend you do it. You will not only get to know yourself and others better but you will also be planting (or harvesting) the seeds of the Gospel wherever you go.

Check back here on 3-21 to see which shirt I wore tonight!

Friday, March 14, 2014

If You're in Southern California, You Need to Visit Idyllwild

Sometimes the best kind of relaxation is breaking away from your normal routine and going somewhere quiet for a few days. If you're like me, you are probably surrounded by a lot of noise and distractions. Some of the sounds might be soothing like the birds singing but others might be more harsh and grating like the neighbor'a dog always barking every morning at the same time. Or the the sounds of car horns echoing off the buildings in a big city. Or simply an irritating car alarm or loud music.

For me, the most common and rather annoying sounds I hear everyday are these: two cute dogs barking when they wake up, trains passing by on the tracks at almost every hour on the hour, workers grinding jackhammers and machines at a newly created construction site nearby and the occasional helicopter or plane flying through the area or up the river. In other words, it can get very loud where I live in San Marco. It's a good thing this neighborhood is so beautiful or else I wouldn't have lasted here as long as I have, haha.

The last time I was in California, I was obsessed with all of the palm trees, beaches and sunny weather. While I still enjoy all of those things, I was really glad to have the opportunity to visit a state park and a mountain range near the San Bernardino area. We heard great things about Idyllwild, CA and also heard that there might be snow in the mountains so my brother and I took off on an adventure.

The view on the drive up to Idyllwild.

At one point during our drive up to the mountains, we reached an elevation point of 6,000 feet above sea level. It is by far the highest elevation the two of us have experienced both together and separately. Though my ears hurt a bit at that point, it was really fun to be that far up! The fun was just beginning though.

This kind of elevation makes the Mile High City look like nothing!

One of the things I liked most about the drive up to Idyllwild and the town itself was the quietness. It want until I had experienced almost total silence that I realized how noisy my home environment was. 

I really enjoyed looking at this view as much as I enjoyed taking it with my camera. It was so peaceful and serene up there.

I think the neatest thing about a town of Idyllwild's size was that it was a part of California but it managed to maintain its own culture and charm. The town is heavily influenced by Native American culture and you can see it best represented in their woodwork.

The town monument - all hand carved!

The handcrafted log bench outside of Wooly's Gift Shop.

Not only did the town offer its own brand of charm but the tiny shops and cafes did as well. The people of Idyllwild, locals and tourists alike, were very warm and friendly. They were very diverse too. We enjoyed cups of coffee (Nathan) and tea (me) in a small cafe and overheard a few South Americans carrying on a lively conversation in Spanish. The other two diners in the cafe didn't seem to follow the conversation but Nathan and I were keeping up. It just goes to show you how much more people are traveling and exploring new places these days. The cafe itself has had several international visitors as you can see in the map pictured below:

However, the trip up to the mountains near Idyllwild was not complete without these two things:

Good old Smoky was there warning us about the dangers of forest fires.

And last, but not least, California Redwoods!

If you ever find yourself in Southern California, I hope you will find time to make a trip up to Idyllwild. With great views, friendly people, cute shops and good food, you won't be disappointed! Where is a place that you like to go to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life? Leave a comment below!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Couldn't Keep My New Year's Resolution. . .

One of my resolutions this year was to not miss a single flight, train or national bus ride. Stay tuned for the story of how I failed miserably at that! :-/