planning Travel on a Budget

This one is for all of you who wonder so much about our travels.

Greg and I love to explore. We’re always planning our next quick trip somewhere local or far (depending on the budget). Moving to Columbus meant that we’d be closer to a few midwest cities. Living close to big cities = saving money on airfare. We drive to pretty much everywhere we go because flying gets expensive really quick. If you know us, you probably think: they’re always going somewhere, they’re always doing something. Guess what? You can too! I’m going to breakdown how we do it in a few steps.

1. Location

Pretty self explanatory. Where do you want to go? Greg and I have been to Nashville, Chicago, random parts of Ohio, Miami, Ft. Myers, San Diego, Richmond (VA), random parts of Pennsylvania, a few towns/cities in NJ, the Fingerlakes (NY), Kentucky. We’ve been to a few places and the only spots on that list we didn’t drive to were Florida and San Diego. The smaller towns are random, but we love going to wineries and vineyards, those are typically surrounded by small towns you’ve never heard of.

2. How much time can you spend there?

This is the most important aspect of traveling on a budget. The amount of time you can spend in a place will depend on your budget. Greg and I pretty much always stay in AirBnB’s when we travel. It’s typically more affordable than a hotel and if you get a place with a kitchen, you can cook a few of your meals rather than eat out for every one of them. Now that you’ve figured out how long you plan to spend at your destination, you have to figure out what you can actually spend when you’re there.

3. How much will it cost to experience this place?

This is the third question we ask ourselves. The answer to this depends on the location. When Greg and I visited Chicago, we knew we’d need a little more money than we needed when we visited Nashville. We also visited Chicago in the Winter, which helped a bit because the city gets flooded with people in the Summer and of course, touristy things are usually expensive and the warm weather tends to drive prices up.

Chicago has a mix of different cultures which usually means the food will be awesome and authentic. I knew I had to have Cuban food in Chicago; after some research, I figured out it wouldn’t be too expensive of a meal (score). We also wanted to try deep dish pizza (we hated it, btw). Sorry, midwesterners, you don’t know pizza, it’s not your fault. Anyway, my point is that we knew we’d be spending some money eating out so we factored that into our budget. Food ADDS UP. It ends up being the most expensive part of our trip 70% of the time (yes, sometimes even more than lodging… you can find some great places on airbnb for a bargain, friends).

Think hard about what you want to see when you’re in a city and what you want to do. if you can’t come up with a hard number, ball-park it (I suggest aiming a little hire than you actually plan to spend, the “buffer” budget). We try to think of three or four things we REALLY want to do in that city. Then, we decided if we can afford all of them or just one or two. Once we’ve decided on our must-do’s, we leave the rest of the trip up to chance. If we HAVE to have dinner at this one restaurant, we’ll head down to the area it’s in a just explore. Same goes for tourist attractions. We’ll put money aside for that one experience and let the rest of the day fall into place (that’s what the buffer part of the budget is for). You don’t want to drive 3-8 hours to get somewhere and miss out because you didn’t think about how much cash you’d need to have fun.

4. Enjoy it!

This is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP. Stress the budget before your trip (not during). Plan it out! Have an idea of what you want to see or do and let the rest of the trip kind of fall into place. So, first step: pick your place. Once you’ve decided on your location check out what it will cost to stay there. Explore all of your options, Airbnb and hotels. Next, think about how much time you can spend there. What will the lodging cost for a weekend vs. four or five days? After that, think about what you want to do there. It’s a good idea to have a few key spots and experiences in mind. You can figure out how much doing those will cost and live the rest of the trip around that.

Planning a trip? I’d be happy to help! Tell me if you’re heading somewhere in the comments.

with love & gratitude,

stef

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opinions: everybody has them

True story. Sorry for the foul language in the title there. It’s true, though. Think about all of the things or “gossip” people have told you over the years, how much of it came from COLD HARD FACTS? How much of it wasn’t just their BS take on someone else’s life?

We’re surrounded by opinions, judgements, and criticism. Sometimes they can be really helpful. They can lead us toward the right decisions or help us see things from a different perspective. And other times, well, other times they could just be someone else projecting their stuff onto you. It’s important to know the difference.

Full disclosure, I’ve completely been that person. The person who says “you should do it this way because of X,Y,Z”. Instead of asking, “What do you feel is the right thing to do?” or “Let’s talk about the different options here and what feels right to you” OR the person who says things based on what I heard from someone else, from someone else, from someone else. That person SUCKS, guys! And in my opinion, that person isn’t coming from a supportive place. They’re coming from a: I’ve been through more-I know more-you’re young-you’re inexperienced-you’re emotional-you’re blah blah blah-place. And maybe you are a couple of those things, but you still have the right to make your own decisions and talk about your life with the people closest to you without being judged, right?

So here’s what I think/do when people pull this stuff on me. I think about it, really, really think about it. We are all living our lives and inexperienced in some way, at something. There isn’t one person who just knows it all and has it all figured out. So when people give me their thoughts, or opinions, or share some random gossip with me, I remind myself of that. This person is completely equal to me. There is something I know that they don’t, there is something I have more experience in than they do. And most importantly, only you know you (only you know what you truly want deep down inside/what’s true about you).

It certainly isn’t easy, but letting the opinions of others control everything you do and all of the decisions you make is not the way to live a fulfilled, happy, life. I really believe you have to make your own decisions and maybe even fail a couple of times to survive. Sure, other people may be around to help make the ride less bumpy, but don’t let those people dictate your life because when they’re gone or when they stop wanting to make all of your decisions for you (because that HAS to be exhausting, too) what will you do? You’ll be that person who was so worried about everyone’s opinion, did everything everyone else expected of them/thought was right, and now has no idea how to make decisions/form opinions for themselves.

As always, I’m just speaking my truth/from my own experiences. I don’t know everything now and I won’t when I’m 100 🙂

With love & gratitude,

stef

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WEIGHT

Apple Cider Donuts at Demarest Farms in NJ are my favorite!

Yep, we all struggle with this. I’ve had the weight loss conversation one too many times in my life. With my friends, my husband, family, etc. Growing up in a Hispanic family meant that if I hadn’t seen an aunt or uncle in awhile and I put on a few pounds, they would definitely be commenting on it. Sometimes the most subtle of comments like “oh, you’re a little thicker”. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! Do you mean thick like the good thick or do you mean thick as in I’ve gained too much weight and shouldn’t be wearing this outfit!? (LOL). It sucks. But I think we all do it, no matter what size we are.

****BY THE WAY, your weight is actually no ones business. Lose 30 pounds, gain 10 pounds, it’s YOUR business (and your doctor’s if you want it to be). People (family, friends, whoever) don’t have the right to tell you you’ve gained too much weight and they don’t have the right to tell you you’ve lost too much weight. It’s your damn business.

Sometimes I let myself believe that if I could just get down to a size 2, I’ll be happy. Then I remind myself that the moment I zipped that size 2 dress, I’d start working towards something else like a six pack or thinner thighs or thinner arms, the list goes on and on.

Do I think it’s important to live a healthy life and be mindful of what you put in your body? of course! there’s nothing like eating well for a few weeks and noticing the positive changes in your body and your skin. At the same time, I think we all get a little too obsessed (sometimes) with looking a certain way or even being perceived by others a certain way. I’ll admit it, a few times I’ve found myself actually thinking “oh great! I haven’t seen this person in awhile, I hope they think I’m thin” I mean… crazy or what?! but I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. Am I?!

the famous crop top…
linked here if you’re interested

So what am I doing to stop this crappy way of thinking? I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. Two years ago I would go on and on about how I’d never been caught dead in a crop top. I thought I didn’t have the body type for it (I weighed the same weight that I am right now). Guess what? I currently own TWO! Do I actually show my midriff? No, I’m 27 and haven’t gotten past thinking I’m too old for that BUT I do wear them and that’s a big deal for me! I know that’s crazy because pretty much everyone my age and under wears crop tops, but a milestone for me nonetheless.

here it is again

In a world full of self-love and body positivity, you’d think it’d be easy to get past all of this stuff and just “love the skin you’re in”. Unfortunately it’s not that simple (for me at least). I think no matter what weight we’re at we tend to tell ourselves it’s not good enough and we compare ourselves to others no matter how hard we’re working. If you don’t love every little thing about yourself right now, it’s okay and honestly I think it’s pretty normal, but at the very least, be grateful for the body you have and don’t make others feel badly about theirs!

What’s your take on weight loss, health, or struggle? Tell me in the comments!

with love & gratitude,

stef

** This is my personal experience with my weight. As always, I’m speaking from my heart and sharing how I’m dealing with this. We’re all on our own journey!

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What Therapy Did For Me

To put it simply, therapy changed my life. I’ll start off by saying that I don’t currently see a therapist. I did for awhile about 4 years ago and it was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.

I initially began going to therapy because I felt off. I stopped wanting to get out of bed, stopped wanting to be around people, started pushing my friends away, and was pretty much consumed by my depression. I wasn’t right, but I wanted to be and I knew I needed help. I needed someone to help me see things more clearly and I needed a new perspective.

1. sometimes optimism isn’t enough

Before you say: “well, you just have to be positive and optimistic. That’s all it is!” No, it’s not. Trust me, I’ve had certified therapists and psychiatrist tell me that it’s not. Therapy isn’t just for people who have gone through something traumatic. It’s for everyone. Everyone dealing with stress or anxiety. If you ask me, anyone breathing right now deals with stress and anxiety and being positive doesn’t somehow just make all of that go away. Are you high strung? Do you always need to be in control? Do you dislike confrontation? Do you feel like you’re usually right and other people need to do things your way? Are you sad for no reason sometimes? Do you feel hopeless? Do you get really angry over small things? Do you have trouble expressing yourself without offending people? Do you feel uncomfortable when you’re not in the drivers seat? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you might benefit from speaking to a therapist!

outfit linked in ‘shop’ tab

My point is that no matter where you are in life, therapy can be super helpful and you don’t need to have a severe mental health condition to benefit from it.

Now, what did therapy do for me?

2. try to understand where people are coming from

well, it completely changed the way I see things. Before, I jumped to conclusions and I assumed things. I assumed I knew what other people felt and I assumed they were just being jerks when they acted out or said something offensive. Now, rather than jumping to conclusions and getting really angry I try to stop my thoughts and understand why a person is choosing to respond to me the way they are. Could there be something else happening in their lives stressing them out? How can I put myself in their shoes and try to understand what they’re dealing with? Is there a way for me to respond and try to help them understand where I’m coming from?

Maybe all of that makes me sound like I’m full of shit. I promise, I’m not. I’m big on telling people how I feel. Ask anyone, I’m extremely passionate, sometimes overwhelmingly so. I can harp on something for hours if you let me. Want to talk about inequality or racism? I will literally sit there and debate about it for a day (although it’s not a debate, that stuff is wrong and stupid and if you can’t see that, then BYE). ANYWAY, that’s me sometimes. I recognize that many people are uncomfortable with it. I work on my approach everyday and I’ve learned that well, some people just won’t understand me. Some people just don’t want to put themselves in my shoes or concern themselves with how their actions make me feel and that’s okay.

3. don’t apologize for feeling

I’ll never apologize for how I feel because it’s something I can’t control. Therapy helped me see that. I learned that: no I can’t control how I’m feeling, but I CAN control how I deal with my feelings. I CAN control how I approach people who hurt me. I CAN wait until my anger subsides and have a civil conversation. THIS has kept me from being overly emotional, from crying and getting upset with people instead of telling them how I feel.

Something else I learned? A LOT of people are uncomfortable with feelings. There are people who act as though expressing how they make you feel is a weakness or dramatic. Guess what? they should probably be in therapy and figure that shit out (lol).

There’s nothing wrong with telling people how you feel. Just, you know, try not be a jerk when you’re doing it. And most importantly, remember that when you express your feelings, you can’t go into it expecting a specific response and you can’t get angry when you don’t get the response you want. Express your feelings for your own sake, to get them off your chest. Not to hurt others or to try to make them feel badly. My goal is always to let the person know how I feel and when/if they’re ready to acknowledge my feelings they will and should they respond negatively, that’s on them.

4. be nice

Last but no least, I learned how important and EASY it is to be nice. Try to understand where other people are coming from. We all have a different experience, we come into each others lives and we make an impact, we change each others perspectives, help each other grow, etc. Be cool with it. Try to release control (it feels really good). Most importantly, be nice to yourself. Be mindful of who you allow into your life and who you let fill up your headspace. Sometimes even the people closest to you aren’t the nicest people. Too often do we allow family members and friends to put their fears onto us or let their opinions or remarks affect how we feel about ourselves. In times like that, remember to not only be kind to them, but remove yourself from a situation that doesn’t make you feel good and hope that eventually they’ll understand why you did it (after you’ve tried to explain why of course, don’t just drop people like flies…that ain’t cool).

P.S. I’m not perfect (a total work in progress). Also, I’m not a professional, this is just my personal experience as is everything else in this blog!

with love & gratitude,

stef

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Dealing with Insecurity

**Linked everything under the first photo to make for easy shopping!

I’ll start off by saying, I am not the most confident person. There are days when I just rip myself to shreds. I pick apart things that I don’t love about myself (my hair, my belly, my thighs, my nose, my forehead); it’s a long list. Anyway, I’m positive I’m not the only person that does this and so I thought “just be open about it”.

skirt linked here
crop top linked here
wedges linked here
exact belt no longer available but linked a similar one here

Starting this blog meant having to put myself out there, take pictures of myself, hear my own voice (ugh, who wants to do that?!), and dealing with my insecurity and anxiety. When I took these pictures (well when Greg took them… all 238 of them), I picked every single one apart. I literally thought “too bad I’m not skinner, wow my forehead sucks, ugh I wish my upper lip existed, damn my hair needs another keratin treatment”. Again, super long list. After I said all of those things out loud, I realized, holy crap, I’m being really mean to myself.

Anyway, I struggle with getting past this stuff all the time and so I’ve started to try and change the rhetoric in my mind. Instead of focusing on all of the things I wish were different about myself, I put focus on the positive things. I won’t list those out because my confidence is just SOOO not at that level yet (LOL). But, it helps me to stop and think about good things instead of obsessing over all of the things I don’t necessarily love about myself.

If that doesn’t work, I think about the things I’m doing to better myself. For example, I don’t like my belly so i’ve challenged myself to walk at least two hours a day 4x a week. I don’t like my forehead, I’m learning how to contour better 😉 (just joking there, I can’t contour to save my life). You get the point.

I’m also honest with myself; no, i’ll never be 5’9 with long legs and blonde hair, so why compare myself to those people!?

Can you relate to any of this? let me know in the comments.

with love & gratitude,

stef

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