How to Be Single…This Valentine’s Day

“Wherever you are, be all there.”-Jim Elliot

It’s that time of year.  Valentine’s Day.  The couples are either basking in the joy of the holiday–or trying to pass themselves off as too hipster to care about such a “cliche” holiday.  Meanwhile, the single girls alternate between binge-watching Nicholas Sparks and the Hallmark Channel and proudly proclaiming that “they don’t need no man”.  There are red hearts and Dove chocolates everywhere.

Okay, full disclosure: I kind of love Valentine’s Day–and I’m saying that as a single girl.  3C88109E22Is it the most romantic day of the year?  I certainly hope not.  But I do not think it needs to be in order to be a wonderful holiday with a lot to offer.  The pretty colored decorations, delicious goodies, and sweet words to loved ones–whether your platonic besties or your significant other–are enough to make this holiday pretty fantastic.  I love Valentine’s Day because it is one day out of the year where we slow down and are thankful for the people that we love, and that is something that we could all do a little more.

Now, all that being said, there are definitely still moments where, well, Valentine’s Day can serve as a stinging reminder of something or someone you don’t have in your life right now.  That does not mean, though, that you cannot enjoy the day for what it is and still have a blast.  For me this year, celebrating Valentine’s Day means a night out with my roommates, all of whom find ourselves either single or away from our S.O.’s this Valentine’s Day.  So, so what if you’re not dating someone right now?  Or even if you just happen to be farther away from your boy than you’d like.  You can still make this Valentine’s Day a blast.

Here are four ideas to get you started:

Grab your girlfriends.  Whether you just put your nice dresses on and go out to dinner, throw a real party, or just stay in and watch chick flicks in your pajamas, there is something so refreshing about girl time, and especially on Valentine’s Day, it is much more fun to be with your friends than sitting at home

Send someone (or several someones) a Valentine.  It does not have to be a love interest.  Just drop someone you care about a note to let them know how grateful you are for them.

Have an Un-Valentine’s Day party.  Okay, so maybe cute red hearts aren’t your thing.  It does not mean that you can’t hang out with your friends and celebrate your friendships.  Grab a Marvel film or two or the Bourne Trilogy and have an action movie marathon.  Valentine’s Day does not have to look a certain way.

Get crafty.  Valentine’s Day is a fun holiday for the artsy.  Pick a fun craft you’ve been wanting to do and just get to it!  To make it even  more fun, make it a group crafting day.

Treasure this time.  You aren’t going to be single every Valentine’s Day.  So, if you are this year, enjoy it.  Laugh with your girlfriends.  Value the people in your life.  Appreciate right now.

Remember: a lot can change in a year.

 

Why Your Morning Routine Matters

“Life is worth waking up an hour early to live an hour more.”

I have a love-hate relationship with mornings.  I love the feeling of being up and p productive early enough that I can move at my own pace, have my quiet time, read a few blogs, and actually feel on top of things before I go barreling into my day.  However, I definitely do not enjoy that first 15 minutes of dragging myself out of bed and doing the zombie walk to the coffeemaker, hoping my roommates realize I am mentally or emotionally prepared to have people say words to med.

My feelings against those first few minutes served as a huge part of the reason that–for
the first couple of years of college–I took the approach of sleeping for as long as humanly possible.  I would stay in bed until half an hour before class.  Then, hop up, throw on some outfit, and dash out the door chaotically.  I always had things that I told myself I would do in the mornings, and they basically never happened.  The result was that I went into my day with adrenaline pumping and a discouraging weight of failure already taunting me.  Not exactly the ideal start to the day.

So, this year, I decided to switch it up and give my mornings a bit more of a priority.  Now, instead of darting out the door crazily, I make sure I’m up, on average 2-3 hours before I leave for class or work.  I sit down, have my coffee, read my Bible, write in my journal, catch up on the news, sort through emails (by the way, a ridiculous number of emails come in between midnight and 6 a.m.), listen to some music, and do a little reading just for fun.  It’s heavenly.

Does your morning routine need a refreshing?  Here are few things I’ve found helpful as I revamped the start of my days.

Have a plan.  Maybe you’re the type that wants to write your morning routine down on a pretty notecard, or maybe–like me–it’s just a mental checklist.  Either way, know what your morning goals are.  Maybe your list is coffee, news, and emails.  Great.  Maybe it is more extensive.  Fantastic.  Some days, you may want to fit in some extra morning items but put in the effort to establish a minimum  routine.  That provides stability when life catapults you into a more chaotic season.

Make it easy on yourself.  Choose your clothes the night before.  Have your backpack/briefcase packed.  Have the coffee etting out.  Do what you need to do to make the mornings as painless as possible.

Drink that coffee.  Okay, maybe this is just a personal thing, but the world looks sooo much brighter once I have a cute mug full of steaming caffeine in my hand.  So, I make sure that is the first thing I do every day.  If you know something will make the rest of your morning routine easier, do it first!  The goal is to make this easy and fun.

Make mornings fun.  I don’t plan the hard stuff for the mornings.  This is the time that is setting the tone for your whole day.  Do productive things, yes, but do productive things you enjoy.  Do not make it a frantic rat race.

Stop. Breathe. Pray.  Smell the roses.  It will be worth it.

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“…And Then, I Realized Adventures Are The Best Way to Learn.”

“We must take adventures in order to know where we truly belong.”

It’s been a little over two weeks since my Costa Rican adventure came to a close.  I’m already back at college, and after a comedy of errors with my cell provider, I actually have a working iPhone (although I do tend to forget about it and leave texts messages unanswered for hours on end).  Life’s back to normal…but at the same time, my “normal” will never be the same again.  There is a lot that I’m still processing–I think there will be for a long time–but I wanted to take a moment, while my trip is still fresh in my mind, to share at least some about what my time in that beautiful nation taught me…

God is there during perfect mornings on world-class beaches…and at one in the morning in San Jose’s red light district.

I already wrote a little about some of the opportunities I had for ministry in Costa Rica.  Face of Justice, a group working with prostitution and human trafficking in San Jose, is an incredible ministry!  I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside and learn from them.  The wisdom, grace, and generosity of their staff and volunteers amazed me.  While their personal stories and backgrounds are diverse, they are a group knit together by a common goal. 

      The Bible calls us as Christians to be the light of the world–light in the midst of incredible darkness (Matthew 5).  Well, FOJ is the embodiment of this old adage.  I have never been so deeply challenged to live a life poured out.  To the FOJ staff, what they do is not a day job.  It is their life.  They genuinely love every single one of the prostitutes we had the opportunity to meet.  They go over to their homes.  They pray with them.  They cry with them.  They support them.  They are doing holistic ministry in a way that I admire more than I know how to express.  Their approach greatly impacted my idea of ministry…and even challenged my perceptions of what I thought my long-term goals were. I saw Jesus in the way they loved these people.  I saw Jesus in their passion for finding justice for these defenseless ones.  

But honestly, that did not totally surprise me.  I went into my trip expecting to be impacted by FOJ,  a group of people pouring out their lives daily in a way that I so desire to emulate.  What I didn’t expect, though, was how I continually found myself drawn back to God by everything else on my trip.  The breathtaking beauty, the unexpected, honest conversations…sloths, monkeys, snorkeling, perfect sunrises, secret lagoons, untold laughter… I saw God at work time and time again.  That left me grateful and in awe.  God kept surprising me, and that was one of the most beautiful parts of my entire journey.

Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Right up to the time I was sitting on the plane, flying into Costa Rica, a part of me refused to believe that I was actually going to another country for five weeks.  It is something that I’ve been dreaming of for so many years that it did not seem possible that it was finally, actually happening.  People kept asking me before–and during–the trip why I chose Costa Rica.  The only honest answer I could give was “…I have absolutely no idea.” 

And that right there was one of the beautiful things about my time there.  New country. New culture.  New people. New university.  New freedom. I spent a lot of time answering questions with a palms-up shrug of the shoulders, and I loved that.  The spontaneous adventures–and even the misadventures– became comical memories that stay with me.  No, we may not always have been the most time efficient.  No, we definitely weren’t moving at the fast-paced, American speed of life. But just living in the moment, enjoying every experience was utterly priceless.  I learned to love the fact that a single day could mean going from classes to painting a home for girls rescued from human trafficking  to salsa dancing the whole night long.

There’s a quote I love that says, “…at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your eyes sparkling, and your hair a mess.”

That right there captures the essence of my daily life in Costa Rica.

I found myself wondering why I don’t live like that here in the States.  Somehow, because this is my “normal life”, it is much easier to lose sight of the beautiful moments and doorways to adventure that lie right in front of me.  Now that I’m home, I find myself living with greater intentionality–forcing myself to pause and look for those beautiful moments and adventures in the way I learned to in Costa Rica. 

Sometimes, you have to just slow down and be.

     During my last few days in Costa Rica, two of my friends and I took a last minute trip to the breathtaking beach and national park at Manuel Antonio.  We got there late one night and immediately went to bed, planning to get up for the sunrise the next morning.  We actually ended up  waking up around 3 am to the shrill screeching of howler monkeys–if you have never heard them, well, just imagine the most terrifying screams you’ve ever heard in a horror movie.  We lay there in the darkness, our shoulders shaking with laughter as we waited for our heart rates to return to normal.  We managed to fall back asleep for a little while.  Then, we got up and walked the little town until we found a cheap breakfast at the Backpackers Paradise.  From there, we went on into the national park (where most of the Manuel Antonio beaches are).  We climbed and explored.  We saw monkeys and sloths.  All three of us were phone-less (two of us managed to break ours, the third didn’t own one to begin with), so we had literally no idea what time it was.  We journaled and laughed and swam and dreamed and planned future adventures…it was literally a perfect day.  

I’ve never been too good at relaxing.  I can have a good time, but actually slowing down and not doing much of anything?  That’s always been harder for me.  I learned to value the moments of “nothing” in Costa Rica, whether lying on a beach or tucked into my favorite corner booth at La Musa Confusa or Rendezvous (two of the greatest coffee spots I’ve ever discovered).  There’s beauty to be found in simply being still.  It’s a beauty that us Americans could do with learning to appreciate.

Close your eyes and leap.

In five weeks, I went from being a girl who’d never been outside of the US to a girl that did not think twice about buying a one-way bus ticket for the weekend nd heading off to travel with one or two friends, staying in cheap hostels. (The sorts with the detached bathrooms that probably would have sent me running a few weeks prior.)  I went from being timid in my Spanish–so nervous about messing up that I did not even want to try–to having confidence that I could always get my point across–and laughing along with the ticos if my method of getting that point across happened to be less than conventional.  I went from knowing no one to having a favorite coffee shop where they teased me for my coffee obsession and knew my order before I could even place it.  

Basically, I spent five weeks totally out of my comfort zone….and I loved every second of it.  What’s more, the ways I grew during my time there almost entirely came because I allowed myself to be pushed beyond my comfort zone.  Taking the jump into the unknown is absolutely worth it.

Wanderlust is here to stay.

Traveling has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. My ambitions, dreams, plans… so many of them has always been wrapped up in exploring new places and meeting new people, actually being in the places that I fell in love with in books and movies at a very young age.  There was always this part of me, though, that was a little terrified.  What if when I finally do get to travel…I hate it?  What if I don’t have what it takes?  What if everything that I think I want is just a fantasy of what travel is like?

Well, after five weeks of cold showers, days where I could barely walk because I was so sore from hiking, learning to navigate a second language in everyday life for the first time, managing conniving taxi drivers, and staying in a hostel that lost all power while we were staying there…I can honestly say that my time in Costa Rica made me fall in love with traveling.  The crazy moments become the memories you’ll talk about for years to come, and the breathtaking, perfect moments–like reaching the peak of a volcano after hiking for hours and sitting in a park of beautiful ruins watching children laugh and play, or dancing the night away and screaming at the top of my lungs as I rush down an extremely tall water slide into hot springs in the middle of the night–moments like those make it all worth it.

So, I learned that I can travel…and now, I want to more than ever.  Traveling is addictive, and I’m already scheming and dreaming of my next adventure.

Be yourself.

In Costa Rica, I found myself challenged in my faith and convictions.  People asked me hard questions…and I had to be able to articulate where I actually stood and why.  Granted, I did not always do so as coherently as I would have liked.  The result, though, was that I walked away stronger, knowing who I was and able to speak out about my beliefs and convictions in ways I never could have before. 

       At the same time, I found a new freedom to just relax and be myself.  When you’re absorbed in figuring out how to function in an entirely new culture, you don’t have the time to over think things the way you do at home.  I found myself being more open, more quickly than I normally would have dared to be.  I was not worried about fitting in or making friends; I was too concerned with trying to make sure that I had proper change for the cab driver and that the bus I was hopping on was not going to take me to the opposite side of the country.  Friendships? Well, those sort of just…happened along the way, while I was busy being myself and living my Costa Rican life.  I found that so refreshing because it made the relationships we formed so deep and genuine…but I’m getting ahead of myself…

We’re all in this together. 

I honestly could not have made it through Costa Rica without my crazy group of fellow study abroad students.  They became my biggest supporters, cheerleaders, and adventure-buddies.  It became a running joke that we deserved our own reality television show.  Honestly, I’m pretty sure that we would have gotten top ratings.  We never could quite decide, though, if we were a sitcom or a soap opera…

Seriously, though, there’s something about studying abroad, being in a foreign country with a group of people you’ve never met, who have absolute no ties to your life at home, that opens the door for honesty and a depth of relationship at a speed and level I never expected.  It is beautiful…and life-changing.  There’s nothing to lose, so people risk letting their walls down in a very different way.  We were more willing to be honest and vulnerable. I made friendships that I know will last for years to come. (In fact, I just got a save-the-date for one of the girls’ weddings today!)

You’ll change more than you recognize at the time. 

     Ironically, while the pace of life is much slower there, my time in Costa Rica still flew by.  Oh, I knew I was changing and growing, but I had no idea how deeply I was changing…until I came home. It is in the little things that I see it, and honestly, I think that I’ll be realizing how I’ve been impacted for a long time to come.  Because, at my core, I see the world differently now..and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Pura Vida.

Pura Vida. How could my list of lessons be complete without mentioning the unofficial motto of the ticos?  Pura vida…pure life.  It’s the way they live.  It’s the way I lived there.  It’s the way I’m trying to figure out how to continue living now that I’m back here.  There is a beauty and magic in their value on people and relationships as the highest priority.  They understand and appreciate the little things.  The spirit of adventure and excitement that comes with pura vida–embracing the moment–enriches life.  I want to learn to live that life right here, right now…at my little university in west Tennessee.  

Because, while I’m no longer spending my days walking Costa Rica’s perfect beaches, my memories and the lessons I learned will stay with me always.

Pura vida, mis amigos,

Anna

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T-12 Hours

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place…like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll also miss the person you are now at this time and in this place, because you know you’ll never be this way again.” -Azar Nafisi

I don’t know what happened to the past five weeks.  I swear I blinked, and they vanished.  On one hand, I feel like there is no possible way that five weeks have past since I got off that plane–it feels like yesterday.  On the other, the depth of relationships, knowledge, and growth I have gone through leaves me feeling convinced that there is no possible way we’ve been here barely over a month.  

Twelve hours from now, the plane that is supposed to take me home will be boarding.  It seems

so beyond surreal.  I’ve spent the last two days in a seemingly endless stream of goodbyes to people that have come to mean so much to me.  It seems strange to think that five weeks ago, I didn’t know they existed.  

My roommate, Trish, and I spent a while sitting on our balcony tonight, talking about everything we’ve experienced here.  I’ve experienced so much, and going home, I barely know how to begin to explain it all.  I’d heard people say that travel changes you and changes your perspective.  I believed it in theory, but I had no idea how true it was until I came here and experienced it.  There are so many things in life that I can never see the same again.  Costa Rica has changed me.  On some level, I do not think I will have any idea of the the depths of those changes till long after I return to the States.

I’ve been stretched–and strengthened–in my faith.  I’ve asked new questions–and found answers to questions old and new.  I’ve laughed, cried, and laughed until I cried.  I’ve danced till my feet are ready to fall off and eaten some of the best food I’ve ever encountered in my life…. I want to say so much more, but since I probably should try to get some sleep before a 12 hour day of travelling, I’ll close with this for now. 

Costa Rica. Pura Vida.  My life can never be the same.

Pura Vida,

Anna

Pura Vida, Broken Phones, and Real Living

“Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.”

Another week has passed here in Costa Rica, and what a week it has been.  This time, sitting down to blog, I hardly know where to start.  Every day here feels like about five.  If you’ve ever had one of those days where, at the end of it, someone mentions something you did that morning and your reaction is “Wait. I thought that was like two days ago!”…well, that’s how it is here.  Every. Single. Day.

This last week was an intense one, in many ways.  It definitely brought the transition from tourist to student.  I have Spanish for four hours every morning and an intercultural communications class in the afternoons.  Plus, on top of it, I started my service learning last week. I had homework in both classes every day…including a forty-five minute presentation for intercultural communications.  Then, on Tuesday, my iPhone, which had been struggling for the past week, decided that it didn’t want to function any more.  So, I’m phoneless, which also means cameraless–the part that is by far the more frustrating.  I hit a point of exhaustion with the language for the first time.  And two days after we got back from our time at a volcano, my legs are still pretty scraped up (allbeit rather more tan), and every time I try to take the stairs, my muscles are convinced they’re being asked to perform some new type of torture.  All that in a week.  But so, so much more.

This week, I got to spend time praying with prostitutes on the streets of this incredible city and seeing what Jesus is up to right here in San Jose.  I survived mid-terms.  I explored more of this new city and began to have deeper conversations with those around me–both in Spanish and English.  I HIKED A VOLCANO, had a too close for comfort encounter with a jumping pit viper, salsa danced, and explored the city.  I swam in a hidden rainforest lagoon.  I spent an entire weekend waking up to the breathtaking views of the rainforest.  I swam in hot springs and went down some of the most fantastic water slides ever.  I’ve continued to love the food.  My mama tica is an incredible cook.  Not having my phone has forced me to push myself in new ways and get out of my comfort zone at a totally different level.  We found a Starbucks (don’t judge, sometimes, we all need a taste of home…), and for the record, their drinks are wayyyy better here.  I’ve expanded my Spanish vocabulary, made new friends, and now flag down taxis and cross the hectic streets without batting an eye.  It still feels like a dream.  I wake up every morning and have to remind myself this is real life for me, right now.  I feel so beyond blessed to be here.

The Costa Rican mantra is “pura vida”… pure life, or life purely.  That’s truly how they live…and it’s teaching me a lot.  I’m learning to let go and roll with the punches.  How to value the postives in American culture (like how we sure know how to get things done) but to also recognize that I need to slow down more and appreciate the simple things in life.   Pura vida. Costa Rica doesn’t give you a choice… you can fight it, but you’ll be miserable. Or, you can let yourself embrace it and go into every day, basically knowing that nothing is going to be the way you planned it.  It will, however, be a breathtaking adventure that will challenge and grow you in ways you never expected.

Pura Vida,

Anna

Life Lessons, As Taught By Cold Showers, Toilet Paper, and Breakfasting Iguanas

“You will never be completely at home again.  Because part of your heart will always be elsewhere.  That is the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place.”

So much can happen in a day.  Yet weeks can fly by so quickly.  It seems incredibly surreal that I’ve been in Costa Rica for nearly a week and a half now.  From taxi drivers to city explorations to beach days, I honestly have fallen absolutely in love with this country.  Its also been amazing to see how fast our group of students has bonded.  There’s been a lot of laughter…and even a few tears.  Honestly, I can’t even begin to think about the idea of leaving in a few weeks.  Of course, not everything is perfect, but through the good–and the challenging–I’ve learned so much.  In just a week, I feel like I have grown in so many ways.  

Flexibility.

Throwing toilet paper in the trash can?  Really? Who does that?  Never knowing whether the shower will turn on to a nice, normal warm stream or stay at a frigid temperature the entire time? Sitting at breakfast, an iguana decides to wander up and join us? What. (We found out later that the staff regularly feeds them.)  My “comfort zone” right now is growing exponentially, but that’s such a huge part of what makes this whole experience so incredible.  It’s taught me to roll with the punches, be okay with not having a perfect plan, and, above all, recognize that tico time really is a thing.  Costa Ricans are much more relational and polychromatic.  They are not going to be tied to a clock like Americans are, and while this is a foreign concept to me a lot of the time, it is also a refreshing one.  We Americans could benefit from spending a little less time looking at our watches and a little more time investing in others. 

Appreciating the Little Things

We spent the weekend in Playa Tamarindo, which was absolutely fantastic.  Our program gave us the opportunity to stay at a four-star resort.  Our room was pool side, huge, and beautiful…and the thing that sent me around the room squealing with delight was the fact that we actually had a reliable hot shower.  We had an incredible weekend and took some incredible excursions.  Yet, honestly, one of my favorite parts was getting up early on Saturday morning and going down to the beach by myself, taking a long walking and having some quiet time with Jesus.  A vendor, a lovely woman from the Dominican Republic, approached me, and we ended up talking for quite some time…all in Spanish of course.  Moments like that…they seem small, but they make learning the language and spending time here even more rewarding.

Just Do It.

No, this isn’t a Nike commercial…but they had the right idea. Jumping in with both feet has made my study abroad experience so far more rewarding than I ever thought possible.  I spent half an hour talking to an 82-year-old native Costa Rican in a supermercado.  I met a taxi driver who does impressions of American accents better than any American I know.  I’ve tried foods I never knew existed.  I’ve dived into the ocean. I’ve snorkeled. I’ve met incredible new friends.  I’ve learned much about another culture. I’ve learned to stick up for myself and hold to my convictions in new ways.  I’ve learned how to dance the salsa (okay, that one is still in process…).  I’ve seen sea turtles in the ocean and monkeys swinging from trees right in our hotel.  Truly, I feel like God has opened door after door for the most incredible experiences.  Some, true, haven’t worked out quite as planned… But usually, those are the greatest stories.  

I am falling hard…for the people, the nation, the culture.

Pura Vida, 

Anna

First Impressions and Falling in Love

“Our destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller

Today is day 3 in Costa Rica, and I already know it’s going to fly by so quickly.  This morning, I woke up to an open window and a light morning rain.  I could hear passerbys chatting away in Spanish.  When I look outside, I look across the rooftops, and I see mountains in the distance.  Basically, I’m absolutely in love. Already, I have learned so much! 

First off, the language.  I had not used much Spanish in a while, and I was rather nervous what that would mean for my time here.  Then, I got here, and I found myself immediately in several situations where I was the one being looked to to speak Spanish for the group. To say it is a learning curve would be an understatement, but already, the words start to come a little faster.  The language is beautiful, and I love hearing it everywhere we go.  We went to a Costa Rican cafe for the first time yesterday and ordered in Spanish.  

Then, there’s the people.  Waiting for my connecting flight in Houston, I met five other students on their way to the same program in Costa Rica.  It was one of those moments where we just “clicked”.  Definitely a God thing.  We braved customs together and already have plans for grand adventures and exploration.  It is una mezcla fabulosa (a fabulous mix).  The entire program is composed of a group of so many interesting people from all over, and each one has a fascinating story.  I look forward to getting to know them all better in the coming weeks.  Of course, I have to mention the Costa Rican people as well.  Their friendliness and warmth had us feeling at home from the first moments they met us at the university.  Hugs, cheek kisses, incredible food, and warm hospitality. They truly have done all they can to make us feel at home.  Not to mention, my normal obsession with Mexican food is finding beautiful fulfillment in Costa Rican cuisine.

Of course, I have to mention the country itself.  I live in an adorable two-story mint colored house.  Almost all the houses are different colors, which I find enchanting.  San Jose is a mixture of old and new.  The majority of it is not composed of buildings necessarily beautiful in the traditional sense, but all together, their impact is to create a charming and inviting place.  We took a tour yesterday, and I absolutely fell in love.  I also can’t wait to explore on my own and get outside of the city. It is still strange, though, to realize I am in a place where I can drive down the street, and it is perfectly normal to see a sign that says, “Volcano ahead, 52 km”.

Today’s day two of orientation.  So, I’m running off to a fabulous Costa Rican breakfast and another full day.

Tenga un buen dia,

Anna

PS The first round of pictures to come!

Countdown to Take-Off

“To live would be an awfully big adventure.”  -J.M. Barrie,  Peter Pan

Confession: This blog hasn’t received nearly the time or attention over the past few months that I intended to give it.  By that, I mean that it honestly has not gotten any of my attention at all.  Right now, it is a little bit of everything.  This fall, I’ll be working to get it back on track, but for the next few weeks, I’m actually going to use this blog as a travel blog for family and friends back home while I am in Costa Rica.

What am I doing?

For those of you that don’t know, I’m heading to Costa Rica for five weeks for a combination study abroad and missions program.  I’ll be taking classes, living with a local family, and working with a ministry in Costa Rica for the duration of my stay.  Beyond that, it will be a total adventure. 

Why am I doing it?

A couple of reasons.  On the practical side, as a Humanitarian Studies minor, I am required to spend at least four weeks immersed in another culture (not that I’m complaining).  On a more personal note, studying abroad and traveling internationally have been dreams of mine for as long as I can remember.   Even as I sit here writing this, it feels incredibly surreal, and I’m so grateful God has given me this opportunity! 

In four days, I’ll embark on this new adventure.  I’m so excited to see what God has in store for my time there and can’t wait to share about it here on the blog.  All along the way, I would be incredibly greatly for your prayers!

Hasta luego,

Anna

Spring Break [Without Breaking the Bank]

It’s getting to be that time of year for all of us college students: spring break is almost here!  For a some, that means beach days and fabulous excursions.  However, unfortunately, not all of us get that this year.  That does not mean, however, that we can’t have a fabulous spring break.  Even if you’re just heading back home for the week, there are plenty of adventures you can have that don’t require plane tickets or beach houses.  Here are a few ideas to try…

Spring photo shoot.

Whether you’ve brought friends home with you or you’re catching up with your high school friends, get out and take some photos!  It is a great way to spend time together, explore some new areas of your home town, and have some great pictures to take back to school with you.  Plus, let’s face it.  It’s just gorgeous outside in the spring, and that is something to be taken advantage of!

Be a tourist.

It is an ironic truth that we often do fewer of the touristy activities in the city we actually live in than in the ones we visit for only a few days at a time.  Go to that art museum!  See the sites!  Hit up that “have-to-try” restaurant.  If people will travel hundreds of miles to do it, you’ll probably enjoy it too.

Take full advantage of R&R time. 

Just because you’re not spending your week at a seaside spa does not mean you can’t relax and rejuvenate.  Do a home spa with some friends!  Watch chick flicks, make facial masks, and do your nails–maybe go out and get your hair done.  Basically, do all the girly things that you normally just don’t have time for.

Check something off your bucket list.

Not all of the things we say we want to do “some day” require extravagant travel.  Sometimes, there are activities we can find very close by that we’ve always meant to do and just never gotten around to. Well, there’s no time like the present!!

[re]Organize your life.

So, we’ve made it half way through the insanity of spring semester.  One of the things that I love about spring break is how it serves as a reprieve, allowing me to slow down, think, and put my time and priorities back in order.  Make good use of your down time, and the rest of your semester will go a lot more smoothly.

Got more ideas on how to have a great, cost-conscientious spring break?  Feel free to share them in the comments!

xo,

Anna

Snow Days and Slowing Down

“Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective.”  Doc Zantamata

So, today is my fifth snow day in the last month.  Apparently, Tennessee has decided that nice, warm temperatures just aren’t its thing anymore.  Despite the cold, though, these snow days have provided an unexpected and beautiful reprieve from the normal hustle and bustle–something I was totally unaware how desperately I needed.

Yesterday, for instance, the only reason I ventured out was to fulfill an ice cream and coffee craving–

you know, the true necessities of life.  Otherwise, my roommates and I literally spent all day in our living room, watching movies, drinking coffee, doing homework, and enjoying the fact that there was literally no where that any of us had to me.

Everything today is fast-paced and hectic. Sometimes, it can be slightly terrifying to face a totally open schedule, because we are so used to running non-stop.  When we slow down, we have to face our own thoughts.  We have to live with our own company in a way we can avoid in the fast-paced hustle and bustle of normal life. 

Of course, life does not always give us snow days.  Some times, the crazy just keeps going, and that is why it is so important for each of us to learn to make slowing down and resting up a part of our regular lives.

xo,

Anna