Happy International Day of Happiness! Today, I wanted to share with you how important it is to know that YOU control your happiness. As I was listening to Joyce Meyer’s podcast series “Thinking Your Way Out of Bondage,” I was inspired to change the path of my thoughts.
On this cheesy holiday, this podcast couldn’t have been any more perfect because it gave me a new perspective on what happiness is all about.
Happiness isn’t what society tells you. Your thoughts control your happiness.
If you’ve been struggling with maintaining a positive attitude lately, change HOW you’re thinking about things.
Meyer gave the example of a house owner who kept thinking bad thoughts about a plant she had in her house. The owner was always worried about the leaves, and one day she noticed they were all dead, regardless of the care she was giving it. Meyer explained this as a life lesson to the owner to think encouraging thoughts about the plant, instead of negative ones.
And so the lesson goes for the rest of us: if we think of an uplifting outcome of things we would normally tear apart, our end result will be significantly better.
This goes on to affect our relationships with those around us also. If we think only loving thoughts of others, our relationships will be much better. Don’t forget to only think kind thoughts of yourself, too!
I’m not saying that spontaneous, weekend trips with friends and comedic movies don’t make us happy, but do remember to be happy from the core, you must start with what is going on inside of your mind first.
Siena, Italy, is a beautiful, small town in Tuscany. It made up for the crazy start to my morning.
After walking downstairs five flights with purses and cameras in hand, three girls are on their way to the metro to ride quite a few stops to the train station, Termini. Finally to the bottom floor and out the door, one girl realizes she doesn’t have her purse. OR her key. (Okay Rachel, just be patient).
Now we are finally back on our way to the metro, and the ride to the train station seems longer than usual. Upon arrival, we find out our train is stationed at the farthest platform. So, off we run, and there I have probably met my burned calories goal for the day. The train conductor laughs and says we have made it just in time, and welcomes us on the train.
In three shorts hours, we arrive in Siena.
Our first stop is Catherine’s Basilica. This church has a medieval theme (as does the town), and is adorned with beautiful, color-filled detail.
Siena is such a beautiful town to simply walk around and enjoy all of the sights. Also, the people here are some of the friendliest I’ve encountered in all of Italy!
I found this adorable little market with lots of fruit, pictured below. I got a bag of dried fruit to take back with me and it was some of the best I’ve had.
While you’re in Siena, I highly recommend stopping at Bar Quattro Cantoni for lunch. It’s an adorable cafe with the friendliest staff, and not to mention freshly baked everything!
I had pumpkin soup (seriously the best I’ve EVER had), a focaccia sandwich with an omelette, and a cappuccino.
Another Italian town, another outstanding dome.
Now on to the main piazza of the city, Il Campo. This is where the horse races take place every summer, and also where the James Bond movie was taped. I loved being in this area and seeing the market they had set up for a casual Saturday.
First off, let’s talk packing. It’s important that you are prepared for your time abroad in case some of your personal necessities can’t be found in a foreign country.
First Aid Kit:
You know yourself best, so make sure you come prepared with the medicines that you know work for you. Your body is more susceptible to becoming sick while you’re traveling, so it’s best to be over-prepared.
Some things to be prepared for:
–Common Cold (Runny nose, sore throat, cough)
-Pain Relief (Headaches, sore muscles, other aches)
I ordered these cute cubicle organizers from Amazon, and they really made a difference with my packing. Also, it’s much easier to unpack to see what you brought! Packing Cubes
*Tip: If you’re very careful to organize what you put into each cube, you can just pull them out of your suitcase whenever you arrive to your final destination and stack them wherever you please. They serve as portable drawers!
-Shirts for warmer weather
-Shirts for cooler weather
-Work-out clothes: It’s important to still maintain your physical goals while you are traveling! Even if it’s just ten minutes every day, you’ll thank yourself for prioritizing your health.
*Tip: It’s best to fold your clothing articles in half first, then roll them up. This will lessen the likeliness of wrinkles during travel, allow you to pack much more, and in the end – save you lots of room for more things to pack!
Depending on the time of year you study abroad or your location specifically, be sure to pack undergarments accordingly (thin socks, thick socks, long-johns, etc.).
*Tip: I recommend packing at least 12 pairs of socks with you. This will help you in the long run in terms of laundry and travel, because with this many pairs with you, you won’t have to do laundry often and you’ll always have a few pairs to spare.
If you are going for an entire semester or longer, then it’s okay to go ahead and pack full-size toiletries instead of the travel-size ones. However, I do recommend packing a travel-size kit for your small get-a-ways.
*Tip: Instead of packing a large bottle of body wash, I recommend packing a couple of body wash soap bars. It’ll save you lots of room and weight!
*Tip: Buy a plastic soap box from Walgreens, Wal-Mart, CVS or Target before your departure. This way, you’ll have something to store your wet soap bar in (they are available in the dollar and travel section).
*Tip: In your travel kit, pack a shampoo bottle, a conditioner bottle, your soap box with a soap bar, face wash, mini deodorant, and a small toothbrush (with a cover for hygiene reasons) and toothpaste. Once again, at Walgreens, Wal-Mart, CVS or Target, you can find a zip-up bag with empty travel-size bottles that you can fill with your own preferences. These are TSA approved (under 3 ounces) and will go through any airport security at that size.
*Tip: I recommend packing a scarf to wear on the plane. It’ll help you feel more comfortable, provide more of a pillow for you to sleep on, and more warmth.
*Tip: Pack a pair of flip flops that you can wear in the shower – it’s better to be safe than sorry! If you take weekend trips to stay in a hostel, Airbnb or hotel, make sure to take them with you too, then!
-Main suitcase: I ordered my main suitcase from Amazon, linked here: IT Luggage. It’s super lightweight (until you pack it, of course). IT Luggage brand is known for providing one of the lightest suitcase lines (this helps to save you a few pounds for other things).
*Tip: I wish I had ordered a suitcase with four wheels on the bottom instead of just two, that way I would be able to stand it up and push it while it is positioned upright.
On the way from the U.S. to Italy, I originally brought a duffel bag to carry on my shoulder (big mistake, I knew better!) and a backpack!
Since I’ve been here, I ended up needing to buy a carry-on bag that I could roll for my weekend trips. This time, I bought one with four wheels and it has saved me a lot of pain! I just bought it from a small, city market here in Rome. If you decide to order one before your trip, I highly recommend ordering an IT from Amazon once again.
*Side note: Here’s why I don’t suggest taking a duffel bag that you carry on your shoulder as your primary carry-on. Picture this: You’re in a crowded airport, specifically Terminal 1. This is your connecting flight. Your next flight leaves out of Terminal 3. This is me: I’m trying to keep my calm amidst pushing through crowds to switch terminals. I have a HEAVY carry-on DIGGING into my shoulder. As I walk through the crowd, my body misses bumping into strangers, but my bag does not. Therefore, I am not only in pain, but I am receiving rude looks from strangers who I’ll never see again that think I am rude for bumping into them (but it’s impossible to miss bumping into people with a large duffel bag). No, I’m not rude, just unprepared by bringing a shoulder bag for a carry-on. Another picture: Me, gracefully navigating through a crowded airport with a small carry-on that rolls. Better yet, I can push it in front of me and float through the crowds. Now you see why I don’t suggest a shoulder bag?
*Tip: Because most international flights are overnight, I would pack a change of clothes! Being on a plane for 10+ hours already makes you feel gross enough, so being able to change into something fresh will make you feel a little better once you arrive to your destination.
-Backpack: I brought one that has a protective sleeve for your laptop, which I highly recommend. I got this backpack from Dillard’s, which has RFID protectors in it as well. In Europe, people are known to scan your information off of you. Make sure to buy a purse or wallet with RFID slots or at least have your ID, passport and credit cards well-covered, that way no one can scan your personal information from you.
-Wallet: I found this well-priced wallet on Amazon. It comes in a variety of colors and helps you to stay organized. It has a spot for your ID card, 3 credit card slots, a place for a pen and a checkbook, a zippered-pocket and an optional loop to use as a key-chain. Travel Wallet
-Passport Cover: I recommend that everyone have a passport cover. In case your passport becomes buried in your bag, it will be much easier to spot with a colored cover on it. In addition, passport covers have small slots inside of them too, which are great for holding your plane tickets or other various things you may want to store in there. I bought this passport cover because I loved the water color within it! Not only that, but it’s also a global map. Anthropologie Water Color Passport Cover
*Tip: Protect your passport with your LIFE! If it is stolen abroad, it is a huge mess to fix. Passports are sold for up to $10,000 in the black market. Make a copy of your passport to keep in your wallet or your purse, then keep your passport secure at your home in your final destination.
–Purse (for the ladies): I recommend taking a small purse, specifically a cross-body. It’s important to have a purse that zips to prevent the possibility of stealing. On the way to my destination, I kept my purse tucked inside of my backpack since you are typically only allowed one carry-on and one personal item for your flight.
*Tip: If you decide to carry a tote-styled purse that zips, when you carry it, make sure the actual zipper is closest to you (right under your armpit). If the zipper is to the back, pick-pocketers are skilled enough to unzip it while it is on you!
*Tip #2: If you carry a cross-body purse, always carry it to where it lays in front of you. If you let it hang to the back of you, you’re giving thieves another chance to pick-pocket you!
-Journal: There are a lot of useful things a journal will provide you, I’ll touch on this more later!
*Back-up Cell Phone: Even if it’s just a little flip phone that you can make calls on, it’s best to come prepared with a back-up in case something happens to your primary phone.
*Portable Charger: In case you are out and about using your phone to navigate a new place, make sure you have a portable charger handy, so you can make it back home safely!
Linked below is my portable charger by Mophie. I like it because it is super thin and barely takes up any room!
*Camera: This one is more optional, but you are travelling so I say you MUST have one! It doesn’t need to be a fancy DSLR, but make sure it’s one you are comfortable working.
*Tip: Take a backup memory card.
-Currency: Wherever you are going, I suggest always keeping that currency on you in cash-form. Each time you use your debit card to make a withdrawal, there will be the exchange rate, the withdrawal fee, and depending on your bank, an international fee. Because of these fees, I suggest taking out a larger amount at least 2x a month, then keeping it in a safe spot at home and keeping a small amount on you for daily things such as metro tickets or the urge to get a coffee or gelato. In the end, taking out larger amounts will save you from losing money to the withdrawal and international fees.
*Tip: Have a debit card and a credit card with you. I suggest leaving the credit card at home just in case you lose your wallet, or it was stolen, that way you would have a back-up. This will help you dodge the stress of having to order a new card!
*Tip #2: Check with your bank before you begin your international travel to see if there are international fees each time you make a charge. If that’s the case, I suggest applying for a Capital One card! There are no hidden international fees.
*Tip #3: Because you’re living abroad, I suggest making a budget plan before you leave. Make a goal not to spend over X amount for food, basic house necessities, etc. each week.
*Tip #4: Before you leave, make sure to tell your bank the dates of your travels and which countries you will be in. It would be awful to have your card locked while you are traveling just because you forgot to alert your bank you will be in a different place!
-Everyday Purpose: It would be smart of you to leave your journal next to your bed or somewhere that will remind you to write in it every day. While you’re traveling, it’s important to document what each day consists of. Don’t forget to include detail about the exhibit you saw, what your favorite part was, and how you felt when you saw it!
-Budget Journal: Each week, I categorize my budget journal into three main sections:
Food: Before you leave, you should think about how many times you normally eat out a week, and how many times you cook a meal and stay in. Whenever you’re in a new city, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and only want to eat out. Also, think about how much you typically spend on groceries per week. Now, try to sensibly translate your usual habits to what your habits will become abroad. Set aside a number of times you’ll allow yourself to eat out a week (including coffee and ice cream), and how much you’ll spend on groceries. At the end of the first week, add your numbers up and see how that compares to what you had in mind. From there, you may need to make some minor changes.
Travel: This includes anything from taxi rides, metro tickets or plane/train tickets for weekend travels.
Anonymous: You can write down fees you don’t expect here (cover charges, coat checks, souvenirs, post card fees, etc.).
I hope these tips will help you to enjoy your time abroad with ease! Please let me know what you think.
I’m feeling optimistic about this month, but mainly because spring is coming near and I can wear bright-colored embroidered things again.
For the month of March, here is what I’m focusing on:
(1) Listen to podcasts.
I’ve started making a list of podcasts regarding health, career and happiness. As I begin to find ones I really like, I’ll be sharing them on my instagram (@allthe_rach). As much as I love to listen to music, I want to learn new things via podcasts. I plan to listen to them as I’m getting ready in the morning and as I am driving place to place.
(2) Food Journaling.
I know spring break is this month, but that’s not why I want to journal what I am eating. I want to start making a difference in my health and that starts with my inner being. When I look at my list of things I’ve eaten at the end of the day, I want to know I’m making the right choices and benefitting myself. On top of that, I’m going to pay attention to foods that don’t always agree with me and make note of that. Or, just food in general that makes me feel bloated or sluggish.
(3) Love what you have.
Sure there are so many things we want, but we need to focus on loving what we already have.
(4) Don’t waste your energy on unimportant things.
I catch myself wasting worry on the smallest things. Instead, I’m going to focus on what really matters this month.
What are some of your goals for this month? Comment below and let me know!
During the month of February, a few things really stood out to me and I’m sharing them down below.
With spring coming around, you’ll be sure to have the cutest shoes if you check out the ones I’ve linked! Also, hair health is something I’ve always really enjoyed focusing on. I’ve linked some hair vitamins to help your hair have the perfect shine after a harsh, dry winter that usually results in dull hair.
Italy has so much to offer and I’ve made it a goal to travel around this country as much as possible. I’ve been wanting to go to Tuscany, and Florence was the perfect start.
I took a train from Rome to Florence and it was only an hour and a half. You could easily make a day trip out of Florence, but we stayed one night at the cutest Airbnb. When I walked out of our door, this is what I saw!
We started at Palazzo Vecchio, where you can see many beautiful, historic statues and lots of fun places to shop.
The more I explore Italy, I realize every well-known town has a famous dome. This one by far is my FAVORITE! The detail of this building is absolutely incredible.
The city of Florence is easy to navigate and all of the major things to see seem to be fairly close together.
Next, we went to the beautiful bridge, Ponte Vecchio.
As much as I want to live in Venice one day, I wouldn’t be opposed to living in one of these colorful apartments along the river.
My roommates and I stopped at a cute little cafe, known as Corona’s Cafe, for hot chocolate and a snack. I had fruit tarts and they were so cute and yummy!
For dinner, we ate at Al Acqua 2, which I highly recommend. Our waitress was so friendly and so sweet to make suggestions (in English!).
I had maccheroni alla vodka e mozzarella. (The closest thing I’ve had to mac n cheese since I’ve been in Italy). It was so good and I loved the vodka sauce!
I have a hard time saying no to dessert (and luckily so does my roomie), so we opted to split the dessert sampler. It had tiramisu, dark chocolate cake, lemon tart and strawberry cheesecake. It was the perfect way to end a dinner!
Saturday morning, we went on a food tasting tour with “Italy On A Budget Tour.” (Linked below) They do everything from olive oils (you would be shocked how many kinds there are) food (such as cheese, bruschetta and salami) and wines. It was a fun way to meet other people who are traveling and experience a little more of Italy!
If you’re not a morning person, this post is for you!
I have put together a few tips and tricks for you to enjoy your mornings a little more – even if you don’t think you can ever be a morning person, adding a few of these steps to your day before you leave for the day will make you feel MUCH more productive.
(1) Drink a warm/hot cup of water with lemon in it BEFORE you have your coffee.
Yeah yeah, I used to go first for the coffee, too. But since I’ve started drinking water with lemon, I’ve noticed a couple of things: (1) I digest my food better throughout the day, (2) Water with lemon helps me to feel fresh and rehydrated, (3) I feel more awake.
Water is the most important thing you can give your body, so might as well start the day with it! It’s not really anything you have to slow down for either, you can just carry your bottle around with you while you’re getting ready.
(2) Whether you’re a coffee or a tea drinker, make the time to drink it with a healthy BREAKFAST! We all know how important it is to start your day with breakfast, and how it helps you perform better with whatever tasks are at hand. Breakfast doesn’t have to be hard either! My go-to lately has been whole-fat or Greek Yogurt mixed with granola or cereal, topped with banana slices or strawberries. Takes no time and you can even make it the night before to enjoy in the morning!
(3) Make your bed! There’s a lot of studies out that say either “Why It’s Better to Not Make Your Bed” or something like “Why You Should Make Your Bed.” I don’t know what to believe, but I do know a room looks much neater when your bed is made, and you feel much more productive.
(4) Journal at least three things you’re grateful for. This is a great way to start the day with positive thoughts. It can be ANYTHING, as long as you’re acknowledging the fact that you’re happy to have whatever it is in your life.
(5) One more thing to write down – anywhere from 1 – 3 tasks that are PRIORITIES for that day. If it’s just one that’s great, at least you’ve accomplished something! I don’t recommend doing more than three because then that can be overwhelming. Just stick to the plan and get it done!
As much as I love New Years Resolutions, I feel like my goals are typically more common: eat healthier, work out everyday, etc. etc.
Someone once told me that each year on their birthday, they took time to reflect. They took time to be grateful for the things they have, the things they wish to change, and the things they aspire to be. So, I started doing that on my twentieth birthday.
In this post, I hope to encourage you to find the sweeter things in life.
(1) “You can be the juiciest, ripest peach, and someone is still not going to like you.”
I’ll be the first to admit I’m a people pleaser. I’ve worked really hard to minimize that mindset and follow my own heart, but it’s something we all struggle with from time to time and that’s okay!
(2) Don’t take people seriously.
Everyone has such different personality traits that you never know how they intend for people to read them. Sometimes it’s best to let what they say go through one ear, and out the other.
(3) Quit taking things personally.
You’ve probably heard something along the lines of “He who angers you controls you.” Well, it’s right. Just brush things off and keep right on moving!
(4) Keep a journal.
It’s your safe place to ramble about your happenings – we all know there’s a lot of things that are best to keep to yourself, your friends don’t want to hear it, etc. etc.!
(5) While you’re keeping a journal, keep a budget journal too!
This has helped me so much – I can see what I need to cut back on or change!
(6) Do something for yourself everyday.
Even if it’s just making your favorite packed lunch before you leave in the morning, do something that reminds yourself that you care!
(7) Don’t participate in gossip.
I know it’s easy to fall into, but you’re putting yourself too low to do that. This is why insecurities exist!
(8) Do your best to speak only with LOVING words.
Think: Uplifting, encouraging, is it necessary, etc.
It’s easy to ramble and complain, but it’s better left unsaid.
(9) Remind yourself what you’re thankful for – EVERY DAY.
I’m working on a morning routine post, but every morning I do my best to start the day with a grateful heart. I try to journal 3 things every day I’m thankful to call mine!
(10) Don’t rush anything.
That job, finishing school, starting school, that relationship. Timing ALWAYS works out for the best!
(11) If you find yourself to have too big of a heart, it’s a gift and you share it.
Don’t beat yourself up because others don’t have the same big heart you do.
(12) While on the note of having a big heart, trust your senses when it comes to people.
If they’re just bringing you down, seriously CUT. THEM. OFF! You don’t have time or energy for those people.
(13) As much as I love “luxury” dogs, I’ve never been more content with a dog as I am my little rescue dog (even if she is deaf and still has house accidents). If you can, ADOPT! I can’t say it enough! (Cats too, if you please).
(14) Prepare for your day the night before!
My mornings are SO much easier and less stressful when I’ve laid out my clothes, packed my bag and lunch for work/school, packed my gym bag, etc. etc.
(15) Never go to sleep angry, or with a messy desk or a messy sink.
You know you’ll probably wake up angry the next morning, and everyone hates waking up to any kind of mess!
(16) Find your community!
When I left for college, this is something I really struggled with. Once I got plugged into a small group at church, I started feeling my best again! Whatever community makes you feel best, plug yourself in!
(17) Always save money from each pay check, and sometimes put some extra back too.
(You’ll thank yourself later when that surprise trip pops up, or you see some shoes that are to DIE for).
(18) REWARD YOURSELF.
Even if it’s a large raspberry lemon water from sonic after a long, tiring day. You deserve it! You should always be your biggest cheerleader.
(19) Complement people.
Not only are you building others up, but you’ll feel better too.
(20) Work your HARDEST.
What’s your hardest is your best, and your potential will only grow. You’ll feel much better knowing it’s YOUR BEST.
As a kid growing up, I learned in private school how important it was to give 10% (or whatever you please) to the church. I’ve started doing this, and I feel as though my relationship with Christ has grown. It opens your eyes to the mission field, and has helped me grow my trust in Him.
This is the most magical little town and I would go again at anytime.
The train ride from Rome to Venice was beautiful. We passed through snowy mountains and little villages which made the ride pass by so much quicker.
The first day we arrived, we unloaded our stuff at the hotel and made our way to find dinner. We ate at Enoteca Rio Martin, which is my new favorite place EVER! I wish I could eat this same exact meal over and over. The restaurant was small with a beautiful set up and wonderful service.
For appetizers, we had a caprese salad and a charcuterie board.
For my main entree, I had gnocchi made with Gorgonzola cheese and walnut. I don’t think I’ll ever find a better gnocchi dish than this!
Lastly, for dessert we had tiramisu and panna cotta. This was my first time ordering panna cotta, and it’s definitely my new favorite dessert!
The weekend we decided to go was actually the same weekend as the Venetian parade. I’m really glad we went this weekend because it was such an experience to see everyone’s beautiful costumes and of course Venetian masks!
If you go to Venice, be sure to buy an eye mask as a souvenir.
In San Marco Square, you can pay €8 at Campanile to take an elevator to the top and look out over the beautiful island of Venice and see how beautiful the water is.
Not going to lie, it was very freezing at the top and extremely windy! Excuse my crazy hair!
While in San Marco square, we also visited the Doge Palace.
P.S. – they offer a student discount!
This is an outstanding building – I loved seeing all of the court rooms and the detailed ceilings!
While you’re still in San Marco square, be sure to check out St. Mark’s Basilica, too!
Also, be sure to try Rosso Pomo Doro. It’s an amazing Italian cuisine chain throughout Italy.
I tried fried pizza – it was great, but more like a dessert. It was too savory to eat as an entree!