Be Bold.

Pull up a seat, get comfortable… I want to share something with you that I learned on my trip.

Before I left, and leading up to when I left in May, I struggled with confidence in my skills, abilities, and myself in general. In my head I could be such a tough guy, but when I spoke… it surely didn’t always come out. It wasn’t uncommon for me to give into someone else’s wants regardless of mine, because I wasn’t good at saying no. Even worse, I wasn’t confident in what I knew or my worth enough to say no. I think people knew it was easy to take advantage of me, so they did, whether meant maliciously or not… and I allowed it.

On the road I met so many strong women. Women my own age were working on their second or third business, spoke as if they had 30 years of experience, and knew they were going to make it, whether they really knew what they were doing or not. They were honest about their failures, owned their mistakes, and grew stronger with each challenge. It was incredibly empowering to be introduced to so many strong females in their twenties that are so successful. The most inspiring part of it, they were real… I mean, they were down to earth and didn’t pretend to be something they weren’t. They were open, encouraging, and supportive. It helped me to see my worth and the value I add to work, people, and life in general. Sometimes I hear the things that I say now when standing up for myself and I think, who am I? Six months ago, some of those things wouldn’t have even popped in my head, let alone, out of my mouth. I have a much clearer picture of what I want, what I’m capable of, and what I offer the world and those around me.

Someone I very much admire told me today that I need to be bold. She told me to be confident in my decision and that I don’t have to do everything the “right” way. Meaning, following a rigid path in the way we’re raised, “you have to do this before doing that,” doesn’t have to be my way. Nothing is permanent. It’s just for right now.

Be bold

Be bold, be confident, and own what you do. You’re strong, talented, and capable of accomplishing anything you dedicate yourself to.

A Lot of Change Comes with Twenty-Something

Last night a new friend of mine shared this post to Facebook: Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 7.09.09 PM

If you haven’t read it, I recommend reading it here: Why Developing Serious Relationships in Your 20s Matters.

I read it, and it resonated with me, especially in my current life’s journey. Remember two posts ago where I mentioned that I struggle sharing my travel story in depth because there were things I wasn’t yet ready to face… here in this post that I linked above pointed out so many of those fears I was forced to sort through. Take into consideration, I read this as more than just about romantic relationships… I read it as relationships of all kinds, friends and family included.

You see, driving for 45 days can get extremely isolating and challenge the relationships you have spent years establishing. It was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that not everyone can handle distance… it’s like that saying, “out of sight, out of mind”… yeah that applies across the board. I thought long distance struggles were just had between the romantic… but in reality, all relationships need attention in one way or another. Everyone has lives of their own and this was (oddly enough) a rude awakening for me.

This journey was a BIG deal for me. It was (and still is) a huge risk. I was experiencing things I couldn’t have planned for. I was dealing with situations and feelings I had put on hold for months, maybe years. And although I was never 100% by myself… as I stayed with someone each night… I felt completely and totally alone. The worst part, I couldn’t understand why.

I’ve spent years developing deep friendships. Friendships that I’ve been proud to recognize were much deeper than most people have, and in an unrealistic quantity. I thought I did what I could to keep up with them. From birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, traveling, you name it… I just don’t like to miss the things that matter to them. I like people, I like listening to people, I like learning people, and I love meeting and developing new relationships with people. So what had I done wrong to feel so dismissed? It was as if no one cared about my journey or the risk I was taking. I felt like not even my family cared. It hurt. A lot.

The hardest, most challenging part of my trip was having someone with me for the last two weeks and seeing his family and friends call every couple of hours to see how it was going… and not see my phone go off but once or twice to his 10.  I questioned everything, every relationship. I felt bitter. Angry. Disappointed. A few times, close to tears. Like I said, it hurt. It hurt to feel like something that meant this much to me meant so little to those I cared most about. And it’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that this is life. We grow up, we grow apart, and we all have lives.

The truth of the matter is, even I didn’t live up to all those things mentioned above. I’ve missed important events, dates, and phone calls. I’ve failed at listening closely at times recently or reading between the lines. I’m not always punctual nor do I have the best memory for big things… although I try, as they tried, more than I realized. I realized, very slowly, after reconnecting one by one with my friends and family that it wasn’t that they didn’t love me, that they didn’t care about what change I’ve experienced or accomplishment I’ve completed… it’s that we all have lives that distract us. We all show how we care for one another in very different ways. And sometimes, we just need to speak up when we need a little extra support. I learned a lot on this trip… and I’m learning even more now that I’ve completed it.

Childhood Memories of Buffett… Totally Normal.

So the 30 day challenge hasn’t gone quite as good as I had hoped… but I promise my weekend was well worth the slip up this early on. This past weekend was one of the best weekends I’ve had in awhile. Saturday triggered some really ridiculously good memories that may involved Buffett, Daisy Duke shorts, and a lot of inappropriate things I probably shouldn’t have been exposed to as a child.

You see, I grew up with parrotheads for parents… I mean it, parrotheads… not like the squawking, feathery animals… that would just be weird. More like the hippy-ish, paradise-chasing, hawaiian shirt wearing, Jimmy Buffett fanatics. Yep, that would be my parents. And to many parents’ horror or concern, I grew up going to at least one of his concerts every summer since I was eight. They were possibly some of my favorite family memories… don’t judge, I promise, they were good parents, maybe a little crazy… well, a lot bit crazy, but good nonetheless.

This past Saturday I went with a group of friends to a Buffett concert in Wisconsin. Not sure why I thought it’d be some kind of different from those I’d grown up going to… but maybe I was just a little rusty… it’s been a few years, give a girl a break… I know jeans were a bad choice.

Jimmy Buffett Concert

I may have had a stranger, but more specifically a steady-hand dentist stranger, cut my jeans down to shorts because the heat was unreal.

Buffett 2013 Jeans  Buffett 2013 Jeans 2Buffett 2013 Jeans 3

I may have even seen more boobs than I ever wanted to see in a lifetime, but I am a girl, so it’s not like I haven’t seen them before. Buffett 2013 Boobs And I definitely saw the full spectrum of Buffett fans… from those wild college kids that can’t handle their alcohol, to the old-timer that knew every word to every song, to the stuffy woman that likes the music but is “above” the shenanigans, to the couple that want to sit at the concert and scold the people in front of them for dancing in the way of their view, to the hula girl that just wants to dance no matter what’s playing… yeah… there’s one of these at every Buffett concert.

Buffett 2013 3

Each made me chuckle and took me back to the memories I have of different run-ins as a kid with my parents with those wildly different characters I just described. Don’t worry my mom typically covered my eyes when boobs were flashed or my dad plugged my ears when the song “Get drunk and screw” came on… probably the only song of his I don’t know every word to, and they definitely encouraged us to dance regardless of the grumpy couple that may or may not have been behind us.

Those concerts were probably what I looked forward to most about summer… it was one of the few times my family could actually enjoy each other without arguing over something stupid… and even if we did, I can’t for the life of me remember it. Sometimes I really miss those outings we had, all five of us together. I don’t always like to reminiscence about my family younger years, because I find that I’m still a little numb from my parents’ separation in my later years… but reflecting on some of those summer adventures we had…  it really put me in a good place.

What’s your favorite memory with your family?

The 30 Day Challenge

I’ve been told that when networking, you should go into it with no expectations. That even if nothing comes from it, you met someone new and gained a new perspective. Since I’ve been in Chicago these last few weeks trying to build my network, I’ve tried keeping an open mind when meeting with new people. Yet, I find it challenging when I’m trying to build a business and establish myself in a new city.

Thursday was different. Thursday I met two absolutely fascinating people that I could never have imagined meeting. My morning meet-up was a different kind of inspiration though. I met with a young lady whose passion completely distracted me from any expectations I could have had. Right before I met her I learned that she would be leaving the city to travel around the country for 8 – 10 weeks. Her mission is to capture the greatest love stories. Needless to say, with or without my recent adventure, I was anxious to hear her plans and the story behind the project.

The excitement and passion she expressed for her project was incredible. She shared the journey’s development, the amazing plot behind her travel partner, and her anxiousness for the experiences her travels will create. She asked me if I had any advice for her before she goes, if there was anything from my trip that could help her better plan. That was the first time I actually shared in detail about my cross country drive. It’s a story that I’ve realized I have struggled to tell in depth. My trip opened my eyes to so much that I wasn’t ready to face. It was overwhelming, incredible, and hard to describe. Hence why I didn’t blog throughout my adventure like I had originally promised to.

We talked for a bit over an hour about what I would have done differently, what I learned, and how exciting her trip was going to be. The stories she is going to get will be more than she can plan for, they will be life changing and beautiful. The freedom of no structure is what I would imagine standing tiptoe on the side of a 1,000 foot cliff would feel like… exhilarating, scary, and weightless. In talking to her I opened up to my struggles with blogging in the recent months because I’ve felt conflicted with what I want to write about and what I shouldn’t write about. Between time, excuses, and my unwillingness to focus on the things I want to write about… you are left with nothing new to read here. She challenged me to a 30 day challenge… to post something each day for 30 days. Even if it’s just a photo with a short thought, I should have something here every day for 30 days. So here I am… day one of 30. I hope you’ll join me.

Unplugging the adventure in exploration of self-awareness

The green color of the rushing water was unreal with clarity as you looked to the bottom knowing there was no way we’d be walking across to the next make-shift path. It glistened with a fairy-tale sparkle from the sun rays gleaming down on the mini-rapids. “Shoes on or off?… Are you ready?” I looked up at him and knew, there was no time to think it through, we just needed to make a move. Into the ice cold water we dove, taking my breath away almost immediately. It made me nervous at first move but a slight fear was shed away when we reached the next rock. I overcame the first unnerving challenge of this hiking adventure we had ahead of us. Onward we climbed and swam in search of the beautiful sight we were so eager to find. With each step we took, little by little I found a peace of mind in my surroundings, the lack of people in earshot, and my focus on each step or movement that we made.

Everyone has continued to tell me on this trip that I need to unplug and step away from my computer, turn my phone off, disconnect from the world a bit. There have been several moments along the drive where my stress was at an all time high because I couldn’t connect like I needed to. Each time I heard the same comment, “maybe that’s the world telling you to unplug.” Yet, still, I couldn’t make myself do it.  I got anxiety over not being able to check my email, update my clients’ Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. It was my responsibility and my promise to my clients and to my company. I couldn’t disconnect.

When I say anxiety, I mean my breathing would increase, my chest would get tight, and my mind raced with “what if’s.” I couldn’t fathome unplugging, it wasn’t possible… not now… or at least so I thought. However, yesterday, I found it. I found the calm I had been desperately searching for, but in the most unexpected way.

We were leaving our campsite at Big Sur for San Francisco when another camper told us about a hike that was a game changer. Although we had plans to be there by early afternoon for other work engagements with a four-hour drive ahead of us, we made a last minute decision to turn around and hike toward these hot springs. Consciously leaving our phones and work behind, we embarked on the very adventure I needed. An adventure that tested my strength mentally and physically. It pushed me out of my comfort zone into a place of vulnerability and uncertainty.

I struggle with asking for help or even accepting it at times. Though in this adventure I found a confidence in asking when needed but also trusting in my abilities and knowledge. His hand was there when I needed it, but he had faith in my capabilities to work through the challenges of the hike. I became more comfortable in accepting his guidance in footing and allowing him to take on some of the weight of my decisions. For the first time it was okay in not having all the answers, let alone the right ones. My fear of failure was ever so slowing shedding away. The two major falls I had, turned out feeding my desire to make it farther and work harder to reach our goal. Sure, it was scary and my ankles hurt a bit, but the test of strength proved to be successful.

We never found the hot springs, waterfall or cave… but laying on that rock as we decided to turn around I felt accomplished as the water rushed by and the warm sun beat down on my white skin. The fresh air breezing through my tangled hair refreshed my sense of freedom and confidence. I felt a calm and excitement in the uncertainty and unknown. I was able to let go and shake my fears of failure for those four and a half hours.  I found something in that moment. I was able to accept where I am in my life, that I don’t have all the answers, that I never will have all the answers, and that it’s not all about finding your picturesque destination as it is the adventure along the way.

Family of Inspiration

Getting up early to drive to my next stop I find I’m often one of very few on the road which gives me time to fade off into my thoughts as my music navigates me through them. Yesterday morning as I left Gulfport, MS I thought about my stay with Josh & Kayt Saturday evening and it made me really appreciate my short time with them.

Tired after my Chattanooga adventure, I spent most of my visit quietly observing their young family interactions. It was one of the most beautiful families to have the opportunity to watch.

Kayt is a gorgeous young mom, pregnant with their second. She engages with Adam (their son) like a well-seasoned mom would; giving no impression of her age or that he is her first. Her love for her husband shines through with no doubt or hesitation. It was truly inspiring to witness the two of them interact. The compassion they showed for one another was comforting and relaxed. There was this calm they’ve created in their home, which I imagine is partially why their son, Adam, was such a well-behaved and fun-loving two-year-old. That kid smiled and laughed with every word that came out of his mouth. Especially with his interchangeable usage of “dad” and “Josh.” It was as if he knew he probably shouldn’t call his dad by his first name but it was thrilling to him to rebel against the norm. Smart kid.

It’s not often I get to witness a dad engage with his kid the way Josh handled Adam. I’ve known Josh for about 12 years, so for me it’s neat to see him in this new role as a husband and father. Watching this young family makes me hopeful that love isn’t hokie. It makes me believe that there are still honest relationships where people admire one another and have a deep respect for one another in a way that words cannot explain.

Beautiful is honestly the best descriptor I have for what I witnessed. And I’m so thankful for my time with them.

More than its brand, Chattanooga showcases community passion.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

Driving around the bend on 24 toward Chattanooga I had no idea where I was headed or what I would find. As I made it around the last curve my jaw dropped. It was as if I drove straight into a Narnia-like valley. The river flowed through and along the mountains, the sun was rising just perfectly reflecting on the river, and my excitement grew in discovering the beauty I was about to explore.

North Shore

Snap, back to reality… signs started to pop up for exits and I had no idea where I was headed. Hm… I’ll just keep driving, there has to be something that will tell me where I need to be. Eventually I found my way to downtown, but nothing looked open yet, so I kept driving thinking there had to be something. That’s when I found North Shore. It was fate. Over the bridge, across the Tennessee river was this quaint area lined with boutique shops, restaurants with character, and a thriving art scene. Done. I’m in.


My purpose for stopping in Chattanooga was a bit different than the reasoning behind all of my other destinations. I had a very focused mission for this visit.

Through my research for FredXchange, I stumbled across multiple PR & economic development case studies on Chattanooga‘s development over the last ten years. Chattanooga has a fascinating story that peaked my nerdy interests — they have the largest fiber optic infrastructure in the entire United States. Basically, their internet is faster than yours… like, a LOT faster. The Gig City, as they’ve become to be known, is a tech heaven. But it’s more than this infrastructure that peaked my interest. All the articles I’ve read about the project displayed a culture like none I’ve ever read about before. It seemed as though their community truly worked together to not only make this project happen but to prove the error in Walter Cronkite’s statement that Chattanooga was the dirtiest city in the country; both public and private sectors worked hand-in-hand with communication professionals to share their story with the world. It’s fascinating but how true could their brand, “Chattanooga can do” really be? Was this place for real or was it all just a big PR stunt to increase job creation and mold perceptions into a more positive light?

Conclusion: The stories don’t do this place justice. Each person that shared their version of the “Chattanooga can do” story told me endless facts, happenings, and tidbits about the city that left me salivating for more. I could have spent hours talking with each of them. Never have I experienced a community that was so proud of where they lived or the growth of their city; never have I experienced a community that demonstrated a brand through-and-through better than a business could ever do. The “Chattanooga Can Do” concept is, in my opinion, a true statement. From the Volkswagen development, to the aquarium production, to the re-purposing of the walking bridge, to the dedication in green living with a high percentage of LEED certified buildings, and the magnitude of their job creation capability stories… I was floored that no matter who told the story, the brand was strong and it truly represented their community.IMG_5774 Their community worked hard to accomplish one mission: to be the best mid-sized city in the United States. I haven’t been to every mid-sized city in the country, but I can imagine they give them all a run for their money.

I’m so thankful I stopped into The Good Dog that morning to spend a few hours researching before hitting the streets to interview a number of diverse people on this subject. The employees at The Good Dog introduced me to deeper stories, the lay of the land, and the amazing Chattanooga hospitality. They were just the kickoff of my exploration though. I had the opportunity to pick the brain of Jim Ingraham with EPB (a community owned electric company). EPBHe led and developed the business plan for the fiber-optic infrastructure project. He helped maintain a community-focused project to be sure this was something the community wanted. He worked to create a culture at EPB that was customer service driven and cut costs for power outages, service time, and so much more. J.Ed. Marston with the Greater Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce only further confirmed the stories I heard from Jim. J.Ed. was able to share a deeper history with me from a business community standpoint. The major correlation between these stories was deeper than the facts, it was about the passion in what they were doing with the community of Chattanooga. There was a passion behind this project that made it what it is now. There was an eagerness to share with me any piece of the story they could and connect me with anyone that could give me more. That kind of story sharing I’ve found to be very rare, but in Chattanooga, it’s part of who they are.

What amazed me more is that it wasn’t just those involved in this project that could speak to these demonstrative points, my college student hosts solidified these conceptual stories. The thing is, I found it to be very true that everyone owns a piece of this project. Everyone takes ownership of Chattanooga. This is their community. This is their city. This is their life.

Imagine if everyone felt this passionate about their own cities. Imagine if this was our country. Imagine what we could accomplish. Impressive isn’t it? Inspired?

I am… Chattanooga definitely raised the bar for the rest of my stops.

Onward I drive.

Did you enjoy your story?

By the time you’re reading this my bare feet are probably exploring the rhythm of my engine, my eyes are probably tinting the surrounding landscape with my sunglasses, my mind is probably letting go of all the tangles inside as I let the music guide my soul, and I’m probably quite a bit along on the beginning of my newest adventure… driving my life away.

For those of you whom I haven’t shared with, today marks day one of my cross country adventure. This adventure has been a dream of mine for many years and finally I decided, what better time than now?

Several months ago a good friend of mine sent me this video with the message “thought you might appreciate this…” I watched it. I cried. Maybe that sounds silly and maybe it somewhat is to most, but to me at that moment this video is exactly what I needed. I needed to be reminded that there is so much more to life than my comfort zone. There’s more to life than routines, have-to’s and can’ts, expectations, going through the motions. There’s just more to life than how I was living.

I didn’t cry because I was sad, I cried because I don’t want to look back one day and wonder what if… to wonder if my choices were wasted on “safe.” I want to look back on my story and enjoy it every time.

Every story is different. What’s your story like? And will you enjoy it when you read it over time and time again?

I hope you’ll join me on my adventure as I share this chapter with you. Until next time, enjoy…

a story for tomorrow. from gnarly bay productions, Inc. on Vimeo.

V-to-the-B… ver-ON-i-CA!

It’s amazing how much one person can truly impact your life without you fully understanding to what extent. The past few weeks I’ve been super sappy and reflecting on memories, going through old photos and trying not to be too selfish with the time left (I say that as if someone is on their death-bed… gosh, I’m such an overdramatic sap sometimes… Lady V will never let me live this one down). It’s funny though, I’ve really taken it for granted how close we’ve lived near each other the last few months (and years for that matter) and in less than 24 hours she’ll be on her way to a life 637 miles  (yes, I google mapped it, don’t judge) from mine… that’s 11 hours and a passport away! Yep, I said passport… Lady V has finally achieved the International Badass title (about damn time!) that we’ve been waiting for since… well, since as long as I’ve known her. When we were 18 we schemed up a plan to make her English dream-life a reality… I mean, we had it down to the late night/early morning kidnapping-drive to the airport and everything. It was fool-proof, I swear… Parent proof… maybe not so much. Even though this time there will be no grand escapes, it still seems as though this adventure seems to be one more worth sharing.

But I’m so not ready for her move now! Excited, but not ready. This lady has helped shape my sarcasm (no matter how bad it still is, she’s determine to not give up), my badassness (okay, maybe I’m not that badass, but I like to think that part of her rubbed off on me) and my appreciation for metal (yes a little poppy-blonde does stand out at a kickass metal show). She has been the logic to my dramatic emotions, the voice of reason that I tend to lack, yet continues to listen without judging when I share my outrageous stories, feelings and life “troubles.”

Lady V is something else I tell ya. I’ve always found myself intrigued by her and I guess that’s why I cherish our friendship in the ways that I do. She’s most unlike any friend you’ll ever have or ever meet… you see, Lady V in a nutshell is a badass-metalhead twisted with a true southern belle… she’s hardcore with class, leather jacket and pearls… she’s a friend my life can’t survive without.

We’ve been through high school awkwardness to college adjustments to post-college uncertainty and strategically grown lives that are destined for greatness. Here’s to a new chapter that I may not physically be there to witness, but I’m so happy to be on the sidelines for. You have so much to offer this world and I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to have the opportunity to watch you take on a new country (even if it is Canada. Okay, bad joke). Never forget your southern roots, the HB love, and all of the ridiculous adventures we’ve had over the years… you, my dear, is what a friend is made of and I thank you for teaching me that. Now go teach Canada the VB way!

What a year!

It’s hard to believe it has been a year since I started this blog… well, it was officially a year this past Friday, but I was on wedding overload… and no, not my wedding. Come on, you read this thing, you should know that I’d clue you in if I was making those kinda changes in my life… give me another 10 years for that (and yes, I can add, I know that puts me at 35 going on 36… don’t judge).

The wedding that took place this weekend was kind of perfect for my year anniversary of the beginnings of my epic adventures. It gave me the opportunity to witness two people who whole-heartedly deserved the beautiful celebration they received and all the love they were showered with. The Most Classy Gal, as she was named in the toast given by Crazy K, has been an inspiration to me over the last 10+ years that I’ve known her, but more specifically in the last three years that I’ve been so fortunate to develop an even stronger friendship with her. The Most Classy Gal is the epitome of a good friend. She has never asked for anything and is forever giving with no expectations. She remembers every meeting, date, trip, and important event you tell her about, sending wishes of good luck before and inquiring about outcomes afterward. She remembers your favorite food, dessert (even if she can’t have it herself), and soda, being sure she stocks up for whenever (even if it’s months down the road) you might stop by next.

Watching The Most Classy Gal & her now husband receive everything she never asked for, but everything she ever deserved gave me chills. It reinforced almost everything my adventures this past year have stood for: finding happiness, love, and the independence & strength she has that I so desire.

I’ve been blessed by being surrounded by friends and family very much like The Most Classy Gal and empowered to move away from those that were toxic. It has been quite a whirlwind of learning, observing, and moving on. Growing up has never been so intense and exciting at the same time. I strive to one day be a friend to the level that The Most Classy Gal is without trying and I will continue to find new adventures that test my strength and broadened my appreciation for other lifestyles & cultures. This year has been a turning point in my life and I will be forever grateful for all that have encouraged me, comforted me, loved me, and pushed me to work harder. This year was only the beginning, I can’t wait to see what’s next. Here’s to the continuation of a mid-twenties’ take on life, love, and discovering independence.