I’ve written a little bit (or maybe a lot) about living your dreams, reaching for your goals, and in general, living life to its fullest. I have always felt a sense of urgency in my life and, although I’m not entirely sure the reasoning for it, I have felt it even more since my dad’s passing at the beginning of this year.
When I got the news that my dad needed surgery, of course there was a chance he wouldn’t make it. I immediately started questioning if he lived the life he dreamed he would. In the six months since his death, I’m learning more about my dad’s life, the adventures he took, and the obstacles he conquered.
I’m still not ready to get into details about my dad, but I know today that we all have a life to live and a story to create. And it’s up to us to make things happen.
Last summer, I was visiting some high school friends near my hometown of Columbus, Indiana. Since I was a kid, I wanted to escape Indiana – I’ve always felt there was something bigger in the world for me.
While I will likely never move back to Indiana, I’ve come to appreciate it for what is it, and I can see why so many of my classmates have stayed. Truthfully, I don’t think it matters so much where you live, but what you do there. It’s what you make of it.
Anyway, on this visit last summer, I was having lunch with a guy who was low-key trying to school me on why I needed to come back to Indiana. It became apparent very quickly that he was never planning to leave Indiana, and actually wouldn’t be open to moving anywhere else for any reason. Since I’ve known him, he hasn’t even traveled outside of the Midwest for a vacation.
I get it, traveling isn’t everyone’s thing. But there’s a whole WORLD out there waiting to be discovered! There’s so many different cultures and lifestyles – even moving from Baton Rouge to Austin, I’ve learned so much about the way people live and how cities flow. It’s fascinating to me.
I’ve never had a full-fledged Bucket List – I knew I wanted to fly to a city I’ve never been and see a concert (which I did earlier this year, and you can read about it here). Other than that, I just hear about things or places and think, “Oh, that’d be cool…”
But lately, I have been taking action on these types of things with such force that I almost feel reckless. I’m such an OCD planner (so much so that it often gets on my nerves), that booking flights and trips without much thought is against my grain. Buuuut I’m doing it – I’ve booked a trip to New York City later this year (I’ve never been!) and have also booked a flight to London for Spring 2019 (my first time overseas).
I told my best friend about my London flight just minutes after I booked it, and she booked a similar flight that same day to meet me there. THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! It was then I realized that you don’t often meet people who are DOING things; who are willing to throw themselves into a life that’s dedicated to actually living, instead of just waiting around.
I know so many people who say, “Oh, I’d love to do that” or, “I’ve always wanted to go there,” but what are they doing to actually make it happen? Likely nothing.
While I am still learning and growing, here’s a few tips I’ve been living by to help me live every day to its fullest:
- Be proactive
I believe in fate and destiny, but I also know that we have to take opportunities when they’re presented to us. And perhaps those “presentations” won’t be glaring or on a silver platter – you still have to go after them.
- Create your own opportunities
After I graduated college, I struggled with understanding what my 9-5 life would look like. I got really stuck in what’s “normal” and I definitely was not creating opportunities for myself. But I quickly saw what that looks like: wasting away at a desk job. I vowed that I would never succumb to it and I haven’t. Yes, I do have a desk job, but I have 6 (currently) gigs on the side + my blogging class… plus this blog and my Etsy shop. I’ve always got things going on!
- Set goals… and take action
You know I’m really big on setting goals – I’ve found it’s the best way to visualize and communicate what you want, and then make a fitting plan for action. What will it take to accomplish that goal?
- Always keep learning
This is HUGE. No matter if we’re talking about your career, a hobby, or just life lessons – complacency should NOT be an option. If you don’t keep learning, things will never change.
- Try new things
This goes hand-in-hand with “always keep learning” – try new things! It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, maybe it’s just a new menu item at your favorite restaurant. But if you don’t try new things, how will you know what you like and don’t like?
- Never settle
Don’t make it about what you think you should be doing, who you think you should be dating, etc. – you do what’s best for you and keep raising the bar.
- Live in the moment/be present
I know the future sometimes bogs me down, or even thinking about the past, I am practicing more and more to be present and focus on what’s happening now. It makes things a little less hectic, and it stops me from getting in my own way (I am my own worst enemy sometimes).
When I talk about embracing the YOLO lifestyle and attitude, I’m not just talking about travel or wild adventures. It could just be trying a new restaurant down the road or taking a class you’ve always wanted to take. Here’s a few other examples:
A colleague of mine lives in Brooklyn and was featured in a popular home style publication for all of the cool art and eclectic pieces she had in her home. She told all of these stories about how she spent years searching for these pieces, sometimes schlepping them across the city! She reminded me that even if you live in an apartment or a temporary home, don’t wait to fill it with things (or memories) you love! Especially if the journey leaves you with great stories.
A friend of mine who is a mom makes a big deal about her sons’ birthdays – she throws Pinterest-worthy parties and saves the custom cake-topper from each year for her boys to remember. She even gets festive over smaller events, like Shark Week! I love how she makes every day special; she has been one to remind me that every day we live is a holiday.
Several years ago, my best friend and I met in Las Vegas for the first time. We both admitted we were strapped on cash, and, in a place that’s rather costly, we learned how to have fun on a DIME. We found the cheapest (and most filling) buffets for meals and at night, we bought Four Lokos (RIP sweet nectar) and sipped on them while walking the strip and going into all of the casinos (even dipping our toes into some of the fancy pools). We went back to Vegas last year with a little more money, and while we had fun, our first trip remains to be one of my best memories. We had fun, we got to see the city, and it opened up so many opportunities because we learned that we could go anywhere, no matter what kind of money we had.
A fashion/lifestyle blogger I follow just moved to San Fransisco, and from her Instagram Stories, it looks like her and her husband are on a mission to explore the city every weekend – I love it! They go to farmer’s markets, rent scooters, and try new restaurants. It’s simple, but it’s a great reminder that fun gems can be right around the corner!
I have made it a goal to try a new restaurant each week (I’ve been documenting them on my Instagram @Orangejulius7) and have also been taking new yoga classes as part of my YOLO adventures.
I know every day may not be wild and crazy, but it’s the small things that count, too, right? I’d love to know what things you do to make every day special – YOLO!
But why Denver for a Bucket List Trip? I’ll explain.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to take a trip to a city I’ve never been to and see a concert. So, when a band or a musician I like goes on tour, I always look at the entire list of the cities they’re visiting to see what might work for a possible Bucket List Trip.
Several years ago, I booked a Bucket List Trip with my best friend to Las Vegas to see John Mayer. I bought our concert tickets and was ready for the trip of a lifetime.
And then John Mayer had to have surgery on his vocal chords, and he cancelled his tour. I refused to believe it until I checked my email and saw the refund from the ticket company. My friend and I still went to Vegas, and we had a blast, but it didn’t end up being one off my Bucket List.
As many of you know, I’ve been going through it (what I would consider Hell) since September, when my dad had brain surgery to remove a mass. He passed away in February, shortly after being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.
I am still very much in pain, and sometimes it feels worse than it did the day he died.
In November, after my dad’s surgery and diagnosis, I saw on Twitter that R&B artist Khalid was going on a new leg of his tour. I’d wanted to see him so badly, but the tickets were always so expensive.
I looked at the stops on his tour, and yes, he was coming to Austin, but he was also performing at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre – a place I have ALWAYS wanted to see a concert. If you’re not familiar with Red Rocks, it’s the only natural acoustically perfect concert venue in the world. Basically, it’s at the bottom of a canyon, and the pictures look insane.
The tickets for the show went on sale just a few weeks after I saw the tour list, and I vowed to get myself a ticket. So, on a Saturday morning between dance classes, I locked myself in a dressing room at the studio and purchased a ticket for the show at Red Rocks.At the time, I had no idea I’d be grieving, no idea that I would so desperately need a vacation, but alas, here we are, and I’m so thankful I’ve planned this trip for myself!
But I’ve been waitin’ all year to get the hell up outta here
and throw away my fears.
I started listening to Khalid about a year ago. I heard his single, “Location” on the radio during my commute to work and I liked it so much, I wrote it down in my phone.
Months later, I took a trip to Indianapolis to see friends, family, and a guy I liked. Well, one of my friends refused to see me, my family lied to me, and the guy turned out to be an asshole with a house straight out of an episode of “Hoarders” (and recently confessed to my best friend that he actually liked her all along).
I couldn’t get out of Indiana fast enough. When I got to the airport, I decided to download “Location” and I had it on repeat for a few days. Slowly, I started buying other songs off his album, “American Teen”, and before I knew it, I was listening to the entire album on a loop.
In September, when I flew to Chattanooga to see my dad before his surgery, I was listening to his album to comfort me while I was hysterically crying in the airport:
I cried for my entire Lyft ride to the airport, through security, and once I got to my gate, I found a corner and cried. I cried so hard that someone from TSA came to talk to me to see if I could calm down.
The truth is, how could I be any semblance of okay after what had just happened? In just four days, I’d received the news about my dad AND all of this drama that comes along with my dad’s side of the family had come crashing into my face.
I felt alone; I feel like I don’t have anyone rooting for me; and I was scared shitless that I’d never hear from my dad again. I knew one thing for a fact: I wouldn’t be getting updates from his partner anymore.
Two things stopped me from crying for my six hours of travel home: my trusty Khalid album, and the Dallas Cowboys’ burger kiosk at gate A21 in the DFW airport. It’s the second time I’ve eaten there, both times I was upset, and both times I’ve abandoned my vegan lifestyle to get the Cowboy Blues burger and it is so worth it.
It’s cheesy, but music has always comforted me, and it’s something my dad and I had in common. He loved all sorts of music, and my very first concert was with my parents, seeing one of my dad’s favorite bands, Natalie Merchant and 10,000 Maniacs.
So yes, I’m AMPED to see Khalid, and I’m as equally excited to see Red Rocks… I will probably cry over stimulation overload and I’m okay with that.
The thing about Red Rocks is that there’s always a 99% chance of rain given its location and natural setup. Part of planning for this trip meant reading lots of guides and other blogs from people who’ve been to Red Rocks before. From that, I learned what kind of shoes to wear, and what to pack: an empty water bottle, warm clothes, and a rain poncho.
The concert is rain or shine, and many times it does rain, and the concert keeps going. But sometimes, they cancel it. And I will be damned if this turns into another John Mayer/Vegas/Non-Bucket List trip!
I’ve kept this trip very close to my heart – I’ve only told a few people – because, well, this trip is for me. I’m traveling alone, as I often do, and I’m experiencing this on my own. So many people I know have been to Denver already and I wanted to keep things new to me – sometimes it puts a damper on things when people share their experience with a place before you even get there.
Ever since my dad’s passing, I’ve been very aware of my own mortality. I’ve always felt some sense of pressure to live life, and do things, and don’t regret a moment… but that feeling is very amplified as of late.
I’m also very aware of people around me and what they’re doing with their life: whether it’s planning and taking trips, or building a business, or having a family… I’m just here, and I feel like I’m being left behind. So, this trip is coming at a perfect time – a time when I feel like I need to just get out there and live, and do something I have only dreamt of doing.
I wanted to plan my own activities and make this trip a complete getaway. So, aside from the concert, I do have a list of restaurants and breweries that I want to indulge in, and I’ve got a few sightseeing things on my list. I also treated myself to a fabulous hotel right in Downtown Denver. I’m looking forward to a true adventure.
For the sake of being present, I’m keeping the social media documentation to a minimum. I plan on posting a few Instagram pictures (@OrangeJulius7), but will be staying off other channels.
I’ll tell you all about it when I get the chance.