The Truth About Solo Travel (London 2018)

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When I told my friend from church that I was traveling alone to London, her first reaction was, “Eat, Pray, Love!” To which I immediately responded, “No, not at all. I just want to explore.” The truth of the matter is that traveling alone is romanticized and although I think everyone should try it once in their life, there are lots of things to consider before, after and during a solo trip abroad. (If you’re interested in a vlog of my solo trip, watch this video from my YouTube channel.)

Here are some of my tips from traveling alone to England this past summer.

  • Plan, Plan, Plan

Then after all that planning, accept that there are some things you just can’t plan for. If you’re traveling alone, preparation is your friend. I took time to just watch endless videos of how to take the tube. Coming from NYC, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be, but I still got confused at times. If you get a little lost, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I planned by making sure I could use my phone abroad, packing a portable charger and travel charger. The little things can help a lot if you get stuck somewhere random at night and need to call an uber. I luckily did not have much trouble navigating around London.

  • Stay in a hostel

Even if you are the most introverted person, I think you’ll eventually want to talk to someone. That was one of the weirdest things to me about traveling alone, as an extrovert with heavy introvert tendencies, I thought I’d be fine. I constantly do things alone and enjoy my own company, but when traveling abroad I eventually became really lonely. There were times in which strangers would randomly start conversations with me and I felt so lucky to just have anyone to talk to. At the hostels I had people to talk to every night. I was able to recap my day and there were even people who offered to explore London with me or get a drink at the bar.

  • Bring a kindle or an art pad.

There are times in which I dined alone and was able to open up a book. Everyone should go to a fancy restaurant with a book to soak in the amazing comfort that good food and a nice read brings. Also, if you’re into art, this might be a good chance for you to practice your doodles and maybe even incorporate them into your journals.

  • Be safe

Here’s the reality of solo travel, it isn’t as safe as having someone with you. Don’t stay out too late on your own. (After 10pm?) I looked crazy to my friends but I had a whistle tied to my keys so that if anyone tried to attack me, I could make noise and hopefully protect myself a little. I didn’t need to use the whistle but it never hurts to be prepared.

  • Go in with the right mindset

I honestly got a little bummed while solo traveling. When recounting the experience to my counselor, she noted that sometimes the mindset we have changes our experience. Go in with the expectation of learning about yourself, try to explore more of who you are. There are so many benefits to solo travel. You can be selfish with you time and what you want to do and see. Enjoy that freedom and when you come back, take time to reflect on how you have grown from the experience of traveling alone.

By traveling alone I learned that I was capable of more than I thought I was. I had never been to Europe and was intimidated by the idea of visiting and going own. When I went back home, I felt accomplished and my sense of confidence in my own ability grew just little bit more.

Have you ever solo traveled before? If so, what tips do you have?

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She Gets It From Her Mama

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In honor of Mother’s Day I thought I would share six of the best things I have inherited from my mama. Not everything we learn from our parents is good and there is lots of room for growth in reflecting and changing, but I believe we are placed in certain homes for a reason and I feel so grateful for my mother. Whether we realize it or not, our parents have a huge influence on us and these are some of the ways my mom has impacted me for the better.

1.Don’t let others label you 

I was recounting a story to my mother about a friend’s birthday. Three of my friends attended together and didn’t know the rest of the people at the party. We left the dinner as a group and in passing I commented that it so surprising that all of the people at our friend’s party were so darn good looking. To which my friend replied, “yeah- what were we doing there?” It was a passing joke but it unearthed an insecurity I didn’t realize I had. I tried not think much about it and told my mom the story during one of our usual phone calls. In that moment she told me, “No, don’t let her label you.” And that’s something she has always taught me. Others may want to decide I’m “less than” for whatever reason but my mom has always made me feel like I am worth something.

Years ago in high school, my mom provided the same guidance to a friend of mine. This friend was heavier and we were talking about senior photos and she said something along the lines of how she didn’t want to take too many pictures and take up too much time and seemed insecure because of her weight. My mom told her that she should never be afraid to take up time. She should go there, dress up and take as many photos and she wanted to. My mom refused to think that something like weight should be the reason why she didn’t enjoy her senior photos.

2. Your opinion matters

For as long as I was able to speak, my mother has always asked me what I thought. Granted, she doesn’t always want to hear my opinion and has told me to shut it but whether she likes it or not 😉  she has fostered a natural desire in me to share my ideas. I have learned to speak up at church if something didn’t feel right. I have never entered a conversation feeling like I don’t have something of worth to contribute. In fact, I was so surprised to learn that many people don’t feel like they have something to share in groups settings. I have always learned the value of my thoughts. My mom has taught me that my ideas are worthwhile and often asks me for advice. I think because I was raised to believe I knew something, somewhere along the way I began to share ideas of worth. (Or at least I think they’re important!)

3.  Love those who love you 

Growing up, I naturally wanted to always be friends to with the popular people. My mom always stopped me and said- love those who love you. From that advice I have found the most loyal friends and never found myself trying to be friends with someone who didn’t care for me. I’ve never chased after friendships but instead look to the people who watch out for me.

4. Slow down. 

I am so impulsive. If I decide I’m angry at someone, I throw a fit. I want to thrown in the towel on something I’ve worked hard for. Again and again I’ve learned to wait before my big grand decisions and think through my decisions. I’ve learned the 24 hour rule before sending an angry letter. I am reminded again and again to be patient and slow down.

5. Never leave the house without a good lip color and some mascara 

Everyday, my mom wakes up at 5am. She does her makeup, put on her clothes that she has ironed and planned out a week in advance. She takes time slowly in the morning, enjoys breakfast and shows up early to work. I’m more of the type of person to wake up with 30 minutes to get ready when I really need an hour and rush out the door, making it to work with a minute to spare.

But regardless of our differing morning routines, one thing I’ve always learned from her is presenting myself well. I don’t always succeed and there are days I get lazy but I’ve never seen my momma out in public like a mess. She never let me go out without perfectly groomed hair and a cute outfit. Things went awry when I started dressing myself… But I still learned the basics of good style from her.

6. Trust in God 

I am a natural worry wart. I constantly share my concerns, to which my mom has always responded, trust in God. Will I be able to pay for _____? Trust in God. Will I get this job? Trust in God. Will everything work out? Trust in God. It’s hard to understand fully but this advice offers my natural worrying nature a feeling of peace. I can always trust in God.

I am so grateful for my mom! What lessons have you learned over the years? Comment down below. I hope you had an amazing mother’s day.

 

Being a Brown Girl in Nude Heels

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I started writing this blog post nearly two years ago. I’m continuing it now. Almost two years ago in June,  I took my first ever teaching course with the first professor to tell me to call him by his first name. After four years of undergraduate study I took the best class I had ever taken my first month of graduate school. My teaching cohort spent that month huddled in circles, crumpling up life stories, paired against each other defending our sides on various issues and growing close to one another as a teaching cohort. Of everything that teaching has given me, one of the biggest gifts was that summer with that cohort.

Of the lessons I learned in that classroom management class, the first that hit was: Privilege is having band aids match your skin.

Or in my case, my lack of privilege is wearing nude heels that stick out against my dark skin. It’s always feeling like you don’t just quite fit in and worrying that you never will. I first grew up in a predominately black and hispanic neighborhood. I was generally accepted by my peers and felt proud of being an Indian. I was surprised to find that when I moved to a high-school that was made of 99% whites students, it wasn’t as cool to be “Indian”. In fact, many people didn’t even know what it meant to be an Indian.

I spend a lot of time completely unaware of issues of race and class. It was always underlying every event and circumstance but I never knew what to call that feeling of knowing that my peers looked and grew up differently than me, despite the fact that we attended the same school.

Learning that bandaids didn’t match the skin was at first upsetting. But that summer opened me up to a whole new world in which I learned that when we become aware of a problem, we can do something about it.

I eventually found “nude” heels that matched my skin color. But I first needed to be aware that the shoes I had on before weren’t quite right.

 

Should Christian Women Dress Modestly?

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I first found out about Girl Defined‘s ministry because a guy friend of mine shared a video that they made on Christian modesty. He wrote something along the lines of how as a man, he appreciated when his Christian sisters dressed modestly for their Christian brothers. At the time, I replied that it wasn’t a woman’s responsibility to dress modestly for men, that they made their own decisions and such a mentality leads to victim blaming and other unhealthy patterns of thinking.

We later spoke and clarified what we each meant, a lot of which was misunderstood, but the topic of modesty and whether Christian women should dress modestly has always left me feeling confused and became something I really struggled to understand. I now follow and value Girl Defined’s ministry but I initially found their video and view on modesty unsettling. Ultimately, modesty is an issue of the heart and we should be careful to make “black and white” rules regarding how women and/or men should dress. 

I’ve mentioned my conservative Christian upbringing before on this blog. I’m grateful for how I was raised but I believe one mistake of the church as a whole was stressing modesty without explaining why because the reason why we do something can be just as important as what we choose to do.

Modesty begins at the heart 

I remember going clothing shopping with my mother and just hoping she would be okay with a cute pencil skirt that went just above the knee. I knew that any tank top purchased would require a cardigan. I spent summers in sweltering heat in capris because shorts were seen as way too revealing.

But because I learned that certain things were not allowed without much rationale as for why, I went into college kinda reckless in terms of what I thought was appropriate attire. I use the word reckless loosely. Not only did I show a lot of skin at times, but I didn’t even dress for the weather. I wore spaghetti strap dresses in the winter if it was the fastest thing I could find before heading to class. I didn’t think or care much about what I wore and later on in life enjoyed receiving attention for stylish outfits. I reveled in the freedom of wearing whatever I wanted but wasn’t all too modest in the sense of not drawing attention to myself.

We are quick to recite 1 Timothy 2:9, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,”, forgetting the other plea to not draw attention to ourselves with “luxurious” items. The heart of modesty directs us in vs. 10 to instead, “but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” Meaning, we shouldn’t be known but we do, not how we look. 

There are no hard and fast “rules” 

It can feel natural to make rules. Growing up, not wearing sleeves was considered scandalous. I always needed to cover my knees. But beyond that, it didn’t really matter what I wore. It took me a long time to realize that I could be completely covered but possibly revealing too much if my clothing was too tight and losing the entire point of “covering up”.

If you look at Genesis 2 & 3, you are shown the story of Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:25 reveals that, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” It was only after sinning that they desired to cover themselves in Genesis 3:7,  “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”

Adam and Eve in their sinlessness, were naked. It can be tempting to assign certain rules for how to dress for ourselves and others- but ultimately we must individually weigh our decisions.
 
How we dress is just one part of who we are, an important for me as someone who enjoys dressing up and expressing myself through fashion. But how we dress can also be a way of showing our honor and respect to God while also drawing others to look at who we are rather than what we look like.

 

Do we give up too easily? | Being a Woman in the Indian Church

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I was watching a video of Aimee Mullens’ Ted Talk, for maybe the eighth time. I had already watched her talk several times before deciding to teach my students about about her speech or more so the power of her passion and how that elevated her speaking. She was poised, put together, passionate and was standing on prosthetic legs. She challenged society’s notion of what a “disabled” person should be and I looked at her and thought that if I were her, I wouldn’t have dared to stand on that stage. I wouldn’t have become a runner like her. But she, with her disability, was doing things I could only dream of accomplishing. 

Watching Aimee Mullens made me think- she trusts her legs. She trusts her prosthetics, probably more than I trust my flesh and bones. If she doesn’t give up, why do I? There are many times in life when we may face seemingly insurmountable challenges. Some of these hurdles have presented themselves in my experiences as a woman in the Indian church. In the moment we believe that things cannot and will not get better, that we are limited in some way. But looking at Mullens I am reminded that our definitions and perceptions of situations can be challenged and that maybe- we give up too easily. 

There are two ways people can respond to set backs. There are the Cains of the world and the Davids.

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Characteristics of Cains 

  • Jealous
  • Cynical

Cain and Abel are the children of Adam and Eve. Cain grew jealous of Abel’s sacrifice to God and this ultimately led to his demise:

…Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. Genesis 4:3-5

Cain’s jealousy of what his brother had and what he lacked led him to ultimately killing his brother. Instead of trying to offer something better to God, to be something more- he turned to sin. How many times do we feel like we just cannot do or be more? I believe we all know that feeling all too well. We fail in some way or form and instead of trying again, we give up. A friend of mine told me that before getting the job he now has at a big financial company, he applied to 99 jobs at the same firm. He now worked in hiring and can see all applications that come in for the company and noted how most people apply maybe once or twice. While hearing his story, most of my friends admitted that we would do the same. If a company rejected us after a couple of applications, that was it for us. But my friend didn’t give up on the company he wanted to work at until he finally got a position.

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Characteristics of Davids 

  • Resourceful
  • Hopeful

David was the youngest of his brothers and naturally passed by for opportunities. But David didn’t let his background hold him back. In fact, David leveraged the very qualities that would make others think he was weak. In the classic bible story of David and Goliath, David used the unusual tool of a slingshot to defeat a giant.

 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.(1 Samuel 17:49-50)

In a situation in which others would have given up, David remained hopeful. He trusted in everything that God had provided and in the end was triumph. Growing up as a female in the Indian church, it was hard to have an older brother in some ways.

Being a Woman in the Indian Church

I frequently spoke at church and was very open about how I loved public speaking but no speech I ever gave seemed to measure up to the sermons my brother spoke. He rarely spoke publicly and didn’t care for it, but the few times he spoke were admittedly spectacular. There were many times I wanted to give up on my love of speaking. Why try to have a voice in a society that would rather hear from a man, especially when others could speak better? There were many times when I felt as though the opportunities given to me in the Indian church would be so much grander if I were a man. How could I not think that way when even in one of our most prominent organization, Pentecostal Youth Fellowship of America (PYFA), I have only once seen a female leader in an organization founded in 1981.

My parents and grandparents would pray every night for my brother to be a minister of God, but I never once heard them pray for me to minister God’s word. My grandfather was a prominent pastor and my brother was the only grandson born with the last name “Thomas”, the default heir. My mom recounted that a prophesying preacher once spoke to my parents and told them that they had prayed and hoped for ministry to come from their family from their son, but it would come from their daughter. My mom shared what was said to me but reminded me that she still hoped for my brother to one day minister.

If Aimee Mullens doesn’t give up even when she was prosthetic legs, why would I give up because I’m a woman? Everyday we choose whether we give up or keep going. Giving up can happen in small ways. We stop working towards that goal we really had set in our heart. Or maybe we stop moving forward in acquiring a new skill we long to have. It could even mean underestimating ourselves because of whatever our “disability” may be. There are days that can feel so dark and times in which all hope is lost but I pray that if you cling to hope, you too can do the seemingly impossible.

 

 

 

 

How my Pride Led to Insecurity

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As a Corporate Communications undergraduate major, I gave a ton of speeches back in college and naturally grew tired of a once intimidating task. On one occasion I gave a better speech than usual and upon leaving class two classmates ran up to me and asked, “How were you so confident?” I don’t remember what I answered but the truth was that the secret to my perceived confidence was that I didn’t care about the opinions of anyone in that class I gave a speech to. In a college of 17,000 people, it was easy to be in a class with a bunch of people I never met before and I didn’t care for the opinions of people I didn’t know.

I began to adopt an odd pattern of feeling a sense of pride around people I grew comfortable around or who I felt better than or didn’t care for because I didn’t know them. That is until one day I realized how my pride was the seed from which fruits of my insecurity sprout. But luckily, in learning this lesson, I was also presented with the incredible hope that comes from understanding that humbleness can lead to a God centered sense of security in who God created us to be.

These realizations around my pride all started two weeks ago after  I taught my sunday school students a lesson on a pride- pretty logical progression, right? We explored how pride distorts things meant to be good.

Beauty can become vanity.

Instead of feeling joy in the accomplishments of others, we wonder why we didn’t get what they have.

When criticized, we are defensive, never assessing the validity of the others claim.

I taught that lesson and admitted to my students that I failed “The Pride Test”. I looked at myself with a sudden awareness of how Pride was ruining what was meant to be good in my life. I realized that Pride had led to my feelings of insecurity.

The lies of Pride become smaller next to God

I became prideful in small ways, in comfortable circumstances. My mom would always joke about my cavalier attitude around family members and my church family. I would take up as much space as I liked and probably said some things I shouldn’t have without thinking much about it. I felt confident of myself because I saw others as less. That person doesn’t have a job, at least I have one. I could only feel secure if I could imagine myself as better than someone else. I hate that I thought that. I hate that I’m writing this paragraph and that I’m admitting something so disgusting about myself. I feel ashamed to admit that I treated others so poorly and in turn hurt myself.

How would God look at my heart? I think he must have felt so disappointed. This is the same God who came to earth and didn’t look for any of the things we look for in others. Does the bible talk about how he chose a disciple because of his PhD from an Ivy league? Did he befriend the stylish woman at the well? Sure the bible will give merit to beauty and wisdom, but those factors never stopped God from loving or helping someone. God chose the lowly and despised of the world to shame the wise.

One lesson I taught my students and continually remind myself to remember is that we can begin to feel humble when we remind ourselves of how great our God is. You’re proud of your beauty or intellect? Have you heard of the almighty God? He’s so majestic and beautiful that our eyes cannot even see him and live. When we change our perspective to see ourselves in light of who God is, how can we not be humbled?

How Pride breeds insecurity

In the same way that I would feel better than certain people, I felt worse than others. Pride lied to me and told me that because of my looks or education or my background, I was inherently worth less than someone else. Seeing the success of others made me fear failure.

Did I deserve to work at my job? Was I worthy to be that person’s friend? All of the things I built my worth on crumpled because my pride was built on such an insecure foundation.

 

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Without Pride, we see ourselves and others and God intended

God offers us a unique freedom and privilege to gracefully accept our limits as humans. We are beautiful but not the most beautiful. We are given wisdom, but only because God allows it. We may have accomplished a lot by worldly standards, but how small are our feats in light of eternity? How different would our lives be in a different place or circumstance?

Just as pride brings forth fruits of insecurity, I believe that humbleness can lead to fruits of security in who we are and who it is that God longs for us to be.

Why I Continually Choose Gratefulness

Today’s blog post was inspired by a sermon my uncle gave this past Sunday. Remember, our thoughts shape our lives.  

Proverbs 4:23 Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.”

 

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After graduating from college, nearly three years ago, I found myself in a pattern that was really unusual for me. I would complain a lot. Nothing in life seemed to go as I would have liked. Ugh, why do my days start so early? Why don’t I get paid enough? There was always something wrong, even in the most ideal of circumstances. I started to complain more and more until my mom spoke to me. Do you realize how much you’ve been complaining? I was unaware. Do you realize how complaining hurt the Israelites? That too, I was unaware of.

Growing up in a Christian home, the story of Moses and the Israelites was one of the first stories I ever learned. Moses, an Israelite man, was chosen by God to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt into a promise land. Great idea, right? Except almost all of the original people who left Egypt never did actually make it to that promise land. On their journey from Egypt, after being given victory over Pharoh, the Israelites began to complain. Though they hated their lives in Egypt they began to say that their life was better before they left. They complained of the food God gave them and never trusted that God would provide enough for each day.

In my own personal life, like the Israelites, the complaining didn’t stop. It didn’t stop after my mom chastised me. But, luckily, despite my incessant complaints at the time, I consider myself a positive person. At my very core I hope and dream big dreams. I realize that the moments I choose gratefulness over criticism fill my life with such incredible joy as I look to everything God has given me, rather than what he has not.

I realize that gratefulness gives me hope and joy, while discontentment leads to sadness and pain in my own life.

We see what we expect to see.

 

 

There are some a couple reasons why gratefulness really works, why even research supports the idea that it works. Have you heard of the law of attraction? It sounds like a bunch of hippy love stories until you see it work in your own life. We attract the energy that we send out.

How many times do you see a Prius out on the road? Now that I’ve mentioned this, you’re likely to see them all over. When we focus on something, whether good or bad, we see it more and more.

We can practice contentment in living within God’s provisions for us 

 

 

I remember reading a book on personal finance and God entitled Free. The ideas were revolutionary to me. In a world that praises sacrificing everything in an effort to make more money, the book offers a countercultural idea. Buy that smaller more expensive house closer to work if that means you have more time with your family. Spend less so that you can work less and use your time differently as as you would like. And the biggest of all takeaways for me was the idea of living within the provision God has given me. For me that meant to stop trying to buy clothes and brands that I couldn’t afford and would leave my budget extremely tight. I could feel myself breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t need to buy that $500 wallet if that $50 one looks just as cute. Granted, you can choose the $500 one if you would like, but I realize that there was incredible freedom in living well within our own means. Keep in mind, for a person making millions of dollars, a $500 purse isn’t that expensive. I, on the other hand, don’t make that kind of money. 

So many times we can question the things God has given us. Why were we born into certain families or why are we from a certain country? Why were we inclined to work in a certain field and not another? Our bank accounts and salaries may change, but that doesn’t mean that our joy and contentment in whatever it is God has given us should change as well.  

Gratitude changes the way you think and even feel

 

 

We constantly build habits in our lives, both good and bad. Whichever habits were are used to become easier to repeat again and again. When we train our brains to think positively and to think gratefully we can in turn change how we feel.

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As a Special Education teacher I’ve learned a lot about de-escalating potentially volatile situations. We learn to nip problems in the bud. Cognitive behaviour therapy also follows a similar idea. Our thoughts can lead us to feel unnecessarily anxious or even depressed. In the midst of a spiral of negative thoughts, it’s hard to stop. But instead of allowing thoughts to escalate so fast, we can try to stop negative thinking right when we start to feel it beginning.

One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude is by using the ideas behind The Five Minute Journal. I try to stop and thank God for different things in my life, even things that may seem stupid. I affirm myself and think of what I long to accomplish for the day.

Thank you, whoever you are, for taking the time to read this blog post.

Thank you Lord for giving me fingers to type and a mind to think.

Praise God for another beautiful day.

Have you intentionally tried to practice gratitude in your day to day life?

 

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