language / life lessons

Thoughts / Travel

Hey there wonderful humans!

As many of you may know, I spent just over six and a half months traveling through Mexico and Guatemala this winter, having the time of my freeking life, eating my weight in refried beans, and communicating mostly with hand signals and broken Spanglish. Towards the end of my time in Latin America I decided to travel to Guatemala to take some Spanish classes (and live with a Spanish-only speaking family) in an attempt to give up the hand signals in favour of actually speaking this thing we call Español; and let’s just say it was a wild, wild ride.

If you’ve ever wondered if throwing yourself into a situation / country / culture where not a single person speaks the same language as you feels overwhelming and terrifying- it does. If it seems like a challenge that requires patience, compassion, countless hours of studying, conversations with strangers about the weather, hot pink flash cards, endless cups of coffee, and many, many, many situations where you look/feel like an idiot – it does. BUT!! If this challenge seems impossible or insurmountable- it is absolutely not.

I promise. 

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that learning a language is easy (or was easy for me) because that would be a lie, and I’m definitely not going to pretend that after three weeks of school I’m somehow fluent, cause that would also be a lie (and would entirely miss the point of what made this process such an incredible learning experience for me.)

I was faced with a lot of uncomfortable and confronting truths about myself throughout my time in Guatemala that stung a little at first, but actually ended up teaching me so much more than I ever imagined. One of the hardest pills to swallow was confronting my tendency to be a perfectionist…. and before we get taking about how that’s not a good thing, just realise that I KNOW. I know, I know, I know. I know that perfectionism is just a shield to hide vulnerability- a shield I use to protect myself from feeling exposed, or like a failure, or like I’m not good enough.

But amigos! If you really want to stare perfectionism (fear) in the face and say “thank’s for trying to protect me, but you gotta go” then seriously- learn another language- because there is absolutely no room for perfection in that process. Seriously. NONE!!!

So anyways, throughout my time in school, struggling through my lack of perfection and overall ability to communicate the most basic of thoughts, I started compiling a list of all the lessons I was being confronted with. This list originally started off in the back of my notebook as small thoughts and encouraging notes, but after reading it at the end of my three weeks, it turns out it’s actually just a big list of lessons that can be applied to life in general. 

So here it is! Disfrutar. (enjoy 😉 )

Language lessons:

  • anything worth doing will feel terrifying and vulnerable at first
  • patience is the ultimate virtue needed for growth
  • there is no shame in not knowing something
  • there is no shame in starting from square one
  • starting is the hardest part – so just do it already
  • sometimes children know more about something than you do and are the least judgemental people to learn from 
  • if you are patient and compassionate with yourself, you can accomplish anything (seriously)
  • perfectionism is only fear disguised- and we don’t need that, do we?
  • getting something wrong is not a point of shame or disappointment, it’s a helpful tool
  • comparing yourself to others serves no one
  • criticising yourself serves no one
  • feeling ashamed serves no one
  • would you talk to a friend this way? no? then don’t talk to yourself that way
  • you’re doing the best you can, and that is enough
  • sometimes taking a day off is more productive than working
  • the more you learn, the more you realise how little you know (the challenge is to let this realisation empower and inspire you, not discourage you)
  • your voice is more than your words
  • your personality is more than your voice
  • your character is more than your personality
  • trust in the process
  • trust in your ability to grow 
  • the basics must be learnt before the fun stuff (sad but true)
  • just because people look at you like you’re stupid doesn’t mean that you are (you’re not)
  • being misunderstood does not make you wrong, it makes you different, and there is nothing wrong with being different
  • its impossible to learn everything at once
  • it’s reckless to try and learn everything at one
  • you are a smart, capable, highly adaptable human being- and don’t you ever forget it 
  • patience, patience patience, patience, patience patience
  • practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice
  • your idea of success will be different than anyone else’s
  • your learning process will be different than anyone else’s
  • coffee makes everything better (until it makes everything worse)
  • sleep > coffee
  • even when it feels like you’re going backwards – you’re progressing (promise)
  • kindness needs no language to be communicated, and that’s really the most important thing after all

So now I want to know, what’s a goal of yours that feels a little out of reach and slightly terrifying? Maybe now is the time to start, and hopefully keeping some of these lessons in mind will help you to persevere when it get’s tough – because it will.

Love you guys! Stay ambitious and endlessly compassionate with yourselves. You deserve it.

Jess

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** why I decided to go to Latin America and how I deal with change can be found—> here
** a nice lil quote about growth can be found —> here

the women inside of me have big summer plans

Fun

Hiiiii! Last year I wrote a post titled “the women inside of me” where I made up, named, and described the personalities of four women I dress like on a daily basis. It got a little weird (in the best way possible), and as it turns out, I continue to subconsciously dress like these women even today. So! Because that was so much fun, and I have a very small window of time where my full wardrobe is available to me, I thought I would write another one!

Although you haven’t heard from them in a while, these ladies have been !BU! !SY! They’ve got places to be, people to see, life to be lived, and they wear some pretty weird and wonderful shit in the process.

So first things first, if you haven’t read the first part that I wrote last year, you’re going to have to do that now, otherwise what’s coming next is going to make even less sense than it does already (it’s a short and happy read).
Link is right here!

You’re back? Perfect, let’s do it!

The women inside of me have some big summer plans, and they include:

Hazel:

Propagating her plants and giving them away as gifts. Taking her grandchildren to the farmers market to buy them ice cream and soap. DIY-ing a bird feeder. Bribing the neighbourhood children to cut her grass in exchange for jars of homemade pickles. Picking wildflowers in the ditch, then taking them home to plant in her flowerbeds.

shirt and pants- thrifted
earrings, basket, and shoes – Mexico

Clair:

Posting photos of her friends from gymnastics to Instagram captioned “The Girls.” Begging her parents to get a dog. Stuffing a tube top and a tiny bottle of green alcohol into her purse to use at her best friends “sleepover” later that night. Blue eyeliner, and lots of it. Screaming “you don’t even know me anymore!!” at her mom at least once. Cutting hair elastics out of her tangly head.

shirt (scarf), cardigan, shorts, belt,
shoes, and bag – thrifted
pom pom – Mexico

Nancy:

Taking a belly dancing class, then planning a trip to Egypt to “see the birthplace of it.” Going on a winery tour with Carol- her recently divorced co-worker, and accidentally getting really drunk on pinot noir. Taking photos of the birds in her neighbours backyard when they aren’t home. Flirting with the yoga instructor. Attending a class about moths, then getting a tattoo of one on her upper thigh.

shirt, skirt, and scarf – thrifted
backpack – matt and nat • shoes – teva

Jewels:

Taking a pottery class and exclusively making tiny bowls that are good for pretty much nothing. Deciding to reorganise her entire apartment at 3am because the “flow” is off. Going to to concerts alone. Starting an etsy shop of ethically sourced, hand made, naturally dyed kites. Going on blind dates with french pilots and single dad’s with ironic moustaches. Painting her front door orange.

dress, skirt, shoes, and necklace – thrifted
bag – Mexico

Wowowowow, what a neat group of ladies these are! Not going to lie, I plan to do a lot of these activities myself this summer (I’m especially into wildflower picking and shameless flirting with random french people these days… and the blue eyeliner is slowly growing on me).

I love fashion, but at the end of the day, I dress for me. I find it empowering and sooooo much fun to just do whatever I want with my wardrobe, and isn’t that what clothing is supposed to be about anyways – feeling empowered and having fun?? (other than not being naked, which is also pretty empowering and fun).

When you dress like how you feel on the inside, you attract people into your life that share those same qualities, and the ones that don’t fade to the back.

**bonus red hot tip – men with fragile ego’s and big mouths are terrified of giant earrings, loud patterns, and pompoms – a win-win!!**

If you didn’t notice, most of this clothing was purchased either second hand, from a classic, quality brand, or from a Mexican Grandma with french braids eating tortillas under a blue tarp. This personally works for me because I find it more fun to shop second hand, and ethically I feel much better about it too. It feels good to take items that are already in the waste stream and give them a new life, to support a quality brand doing good things and sustainable initiatives, and of course, to support a local person making beautiful things instead of giving your money to a multinational corporation.

My wardrobe is eclectic and able to take me from basically any climate and culture with varying modesty-levels, anywhere in the world, but it’s also quite small. By pairing down my wardrobe over the years to only what I absolutely love, I’ve been able to get a really clear idea of my personal style, my lifestyle, and the items I will realistically wear depending on these two factors. With this in mind, it makes it 1000x easier to shop and only buy what I absolutely love and need, and keeps the clutter and stress out of my closet and in turn – my life. (A win-win-win???)

Thanks for reading, friends! I hope this made you smile and inspired you to put on something you feel confident, happy, and wholly yourself in today, and I hope you consider what (and who) you are supporting when you purchase clothing in the future.

Godspeed,

Jessica

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Thoughts on how perfectionism kills progress can be found —> here,
and another post to make you smile can be found —> here.

the journey to feeling human again after returning home from travel

Thoughts / Travel

1 week before you leave: you’re the happiest, most beautiful, and most free you’ve ever felt… while spontaneously bursting into tears at odd and inappropriate times.

2 days before you leave: you have random mini panic attacks interspersed with feeling really excited about all the food you’re about to eat and clothes you’re going to wear when you get home.

on the plane home: you’re binge eating crackers and trail mix, binge listening to nostalgic music, and obsessively thinking about how comfortable your bed is going to feel.

getting off the plane: you have a level of excitement coursing through your veins that gives you an overwhelming desire to throw up and pee at the same time.

1st day back: you’re squealing and bear-hugging everyone in sight, feeling all the love, and eating all the banana muffins.

2nd day back: you feel disbelief mixed with happiness in how many pant options you now have, and disbelief mixed with confusion in how none of those pants fit you anymore. you take the best shower you’ve ever had, and dry yourself with the fluffiest towel you’ve ever felt.

3rd day back: you spend all day cooking your favourite foods and dancing to your favourite music. you’re feeling totally unqualified to drive but do it anyways. you get excited to see all of your friends and do all of your favourite activities.

4th day back: you remember that you don’t really have friends around here anymore, and all of your favourite activities can’t actually be done here. you think about all of the friends you said goodbye to abroad and how you may never see them again. you miss them, and the person you were when you were traveling. you cry silent tears.

5th day back: extreme boredom sets in. you need to leave the house- now, so you decide to get get coffee. everyone at the coffee shop stares at you like you’re from another planet, and you wonder if maybe you are? some guy in construction boots asks where you’re from. you say you’re from here- he doesn’t believe you, and you don’t really believe you, either. you wonder if you’ll always feel like this much of a freak. you take way too long to order a coffee, because none of the drinks on the menu are familiar to you. you look around for other things you might recognise but everything looks different. you wonder if everything really is different, or if it’s only you that’s different. you cry in your (parents) car on the way home.

6 – 10th day back: you read some books, go on walks, ask everyone you know to hang out with you, meditate, binge watch Leonardo Dicaprio movies in the afternoon, dance in the kitchen, sleep in, download tinder cause, what the hell, and feel okay for a little while.

11th day back: you notice that everything you say makes people uncomfortable and slightly irritated. you try to act normal but somehow this makes people even more annoyed. you forget how to make small talk, forget how to talk at all, and feel so lost and uncomfortable inside of your own brain that you temporarily loose your breath. you forget how to act like a human being, try to articulate how you’re feeling and realise that you can’t, feel like the loneliest, smallest soul on the planet, silently implode, and suddenly feel extremely angry for reasons you can’t quite place. you pull yourself together, take photos of the sunset, and cry soft tears into your pillow that night.

12 – 14th day back: you decide to ignore all of your sad and obsessive thoughts by reading two books in three days and eating entire bags of dill pickle potato chips for dinner.

15th day back: you book a spontaneous haircut with a hairdresser you don’t know and wish for the best.

16 – 19th day back: you make pizza for yourself three nights in a row, visit with old friends, wear see-through blouses tied up as crop tops in the middle of the day and pretend that no one is judging you, even though they most definitely are. you go on walks, marvel at the sunsets, and giggle while watching a family of beavers eat some sticks.

20th day back: you have a vulnerable, heartfelt conversation with someone who is able to empathise with what you’re going through, dream about the future for the first time in what seems like forever, and feel a million pounds lighter.

21st- 24th day back: you take a trip to the lake, watch reality tv with your grandma, read a book about birds before bed and spend the mornings watching them, learn how to fly a kite, sing in the car, have your dad spin you so fast on the jungle-gym that you feel like you’re going to throw up, and talk about aliens while looking at the stars. you feel as unsure as ever about your plans for the future, but for the first time, completely certain that wherever life takes you, it will be full and exciting and beautiful.

you feel human again.*

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*If this seems like it was way too easy, I just want to remind everyone of the last time that I returned home after a year and a half of traveling abroad, where I scream-cried all over Saskatchewan for 5 months straight, wrote emo poetry in local coffee shops, and sped down gravel roads and sobbed in an attempt to release pent up rage over being stuck in a place I felt like an alien in, without any money to get me out. I went through phases where I hated my body, hated my job, hated my privilege, and hated myself. I felt ashamed that I was having such a hard time with it all, had no idea who I was, where I was going, or what I wanted, and felt like I had failed myself. I was depressed, angry, and anxious.

Nine months after returning home, I finally faced the anger, disappointment, and most importantly, shame inside of me, and stopped ignoring my most painful feelings. This led to the emotional breakdown I desperately needed, and turned out to be the most life changing and healing time period of my life. With lots of patience, self-reflection, crying, and forgiveness, I pulled myself through it. This process transformed me into the lightest, most whole, grateful, radiant, healthy version of myself I’d ever been, and I moved on with my life and into the future with hopefulness and joy.

My transformation from world traveler to sobbing alien to depressed apartment dweller to high-on-life-bird-watcher took a full year and a half, maybe even more, and 80% of the process was straight pain and struggle. All of it was worth it.

Returning home is going to be a different experience for each one of us depending on what we experienced while we were away, and what we need to learn, but we must remember that comparing our lives to others serves no one; we are all on our own journey with our own timelines. So instead of comparing, let’s try to embrace where we’re at, feel the feelings, scream-cry if we need to, eat potato chips for dinner if we need to, and know that whatever we’re experiencing, someone else has gone through the same thing too- and they survived (and most likely came out stronger and more whole on the other side.)

Even when we feel like the loneliest, most misunderstood, most confused human being on earth; even when we feel like our heart has been ripped in two and left on opposite sides of the planet; even when we feel like weepy, freaky aliens – we’re not the first people to feel this way, and we won’t be the last, either.

Long term traveling is not for the faint of heart, and returning home is probably the hardest part of it all that no one wants to talk about; but if travel has taught us anything, it’s that we are adaptable and clever and resilient and capable of holding space for a multitude of complex emotions within our hearts at once. Travel has shown us how to have perspective when everything is crumbling down and we feel like we can’t recognise a single part of our life or ourselves anymore, and shown us that sometimes the most painful and confusing times in life are also the periods where we experience the most growth.

We see the shiny profiles of influencers and know that travel looks absolutely nothing like that, but instead it is 100x grittier and 1000x more beautiful, and we actually like it that way. We travel to far off places to find answers, but end up realising that what we actually needed all along was simply to let go. We travel because it’s breathtaking and it’s scary and it’s humbling and it’s fulfilling, not because it’s easy… and we know, above all else, that we are not alone, and we will get through it.

With love,
Jessica

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Ps, more about my mental health journey and how I got through it here, more angsty quotes about returning home here, and me rambling on about how to feel at home anywhere here.

words / 13

Words

“And I found that I can do it if I choose to – I can stay awake and let the sorrows of the world tear me apart and then allow the joys to put me back together – different from before, but whole once again.”

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

a letter to the lovers

Thoughts / Travel

On the road, every week feels like a month- a rebirth every seven days, and I slip in and out of love so effortlessly it takes my breath away.

The connections we form, born out of reckless vulnerability, naive optimism, and shameless late-night flirting under the blood moon, are as fiery as they are new, and then just like that- with the same intensity that they began,

they’re over. 

And I’m on the next bus, to the next place; taking the next trip, to the next love. 

Suddenly, abruptly, my hair a mess- coiled tightly on top of my head, a breezy afternoon car ride, your kind eyes and warm embrace, a passionate kiss at 2am against a muraled wall, become only memories- comforting thoughts to be recalled of dreamily, in hushed tones, with a smile. Forever unsure what could have come of this connection had I stayed. 

But I never stay.

Each young romance leaves me feeling lighter, infatuated, and high off of the rush; sick with love, hungover, and craving for more.  

We promise to meet again one day, but know that we won’t- understand that it’s better if we don’t. Better if we leave this delicate romance untouched, unmarked, encapsulated perfectly in time.

The memories of our brief affair become merely a soft spot for our hearts to land when the realities of life are too harsh, forming a warm blanket to cradle our fears and offer our hurt some rest.

For months afterwards, the recollection of these pretty little romances flicker in and out of my mind like a black and white movie- beautiful, tender, timeless, yet easily traded in for the next new thing.

I am fed new love every day. Some of it sweet, some a little sour, a little salty, slightly bitter, but each one equally delicious. I am neither hungry nor nourished, but I am satisfied. Life goes on. 

And then every once and a while, without warning, 

there it is…

a rare love. 

A special love. 

My mouth salivates. I am no longer starving.

These are the romances I recall of years after they’ve ended- nostalgically, longingly, in full colour HD; fully engrossed in the short-lived romance we once had. 

Too short. 

Yearning for what once was; what could have been. Begging for more.

Cursing at the oceans that seperate us. 

Resenting the moon I so easily fell into another mans spell under, knowing the lovers I yearn for are looking up at the same moon; knowing that the man with kind eyes in front of me can never make me feel the way that they once did, 

but hoping that they can.

Thinking back upon these connections makes my heart ache in a way I can’t describe. Full of immense joy for the moments we had, but longing to know what could have been had we both stayed.

Why didn’t we stay?

…why do I never stay?

I ask myself a question I already know the answer to…

my need for freedom far outweighs any desire I have for romance, and that is a truth that will always be. Without freedom I would starve, crumble, wilt- I could never survive.

The nourishment I need to thrive comes from new experiences, new country’s, new language’s- the unknown, the rush. Adventure provides the calories I need to sustain my breath in a way that no lover ever could.

Some days I wonder if I am an addict- always chasing the next best thing. High off the sugar rush and quickly crashing down; craving more. Knowing deep in my heart that this can’t be all there is.

Lusting for someone who can run just as far, just as fast, just as furious as I can and not loose their breath, but gain more; become fuller. Someone who can not only keep up, but push me further, pull me deeper, take me higher.

Chasing a high I’m not sure even exists.

Craving a feeling I have never felt, but know that I am capable of.

A love that I am worthy of.

I am wise enough not hold my breath waiting for the unknown- life is too beautiful a thing to miss out on chasing something I’ve never seen.

Besides, my cup is already overflowing.

Life is already happening, every day, right in front of me. The beauty, the pain- it’s all love. Love surrounds me.

Love is swirling around me like a whirlpool, crashing my body into it’s shore, pulling me out, then back again, then out once more. The same water that draws me into it’s currents also flows through my veins- we are one.

I am built of love. A small piece of an infinite puzzle- white hot. Too beautiful to look at directly; an energy connecting us all. 

Romance may come and go, but the well of love remains deep inside of me, an endless reserve rooted deep within my soul. Bursting.

I am the source of all of the love in my own world. 

Giver and receiver.

The lover is me.