Finding Adventure in the Simple Things

Anyone who knows me can attest to this simple statement: I can’t sit still for very long.

This is in regards to the work I love to do, the activities I am involved with and especially the location that I reside. If I stay in one place too long, I go stir crazy. I always have and probably always will. And it is not a bad thing to always be on the look out for something different, something exciting; on the other hand, it is bad when you live your life through that lens.

The last few months, I have moved back to the Cleveland area for the third time. The second time I moved here, I was not extremely excited to return to the familiar with few friends around me. I fear the familiar. I was returning to the same work environment and the same people. And I fell into a slump. I was looking for a way out of the situation as fast as I could. So I looked where I can go next, hoping, wishing, and praying to be done with the eighteen weeks of work I signed up for. I was living in a state of “I want to be there, not here.” And because of that, I was very unhappy.

But this semester, I tried to have a better outlook on things. Yes, I was returning to a very similar place, new people, but still the same area. Since the last time I was in the Cleveland area, I had taken up meditation, grown to have better self image and outlook on life and continuously tried my best to fully enjoy the place I was at for the moment. My summer (from my past blog posts) took advantage of the new. Well, this semester I wanted to take advantage of the simple things.

My life the last 9 weeks have been, for some, and for many who know me, probably very boring. I can recite what I have done from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, with little variance. Wake up, shower, eat, drive, work, drive, GRE studying, dinner, yoga, read, sleep – repeat. Kind of sounds dull, I know. But it has helped me remember that there is something to treasure in the little moments as well as to live presently.

Because I have taken time to do a 90 day yoga challenge, I have seen the most outstanding improvement in my practice thus far. I can now do a crow pose and a forearm stand (with the help of the wall). I get exhilarated as well as more serene when I finish a lesson. Every lesson ends with a quote, and that sets the mood for the rest of the night and next day. Without this “boring” life style, I would not be able to see the improvement I have made thus far. 60 days, consistently, working on this has pushed me further than the last two years.

Because I have made an effort to read more, I am more aware of the political situation, my position on it, science, technology, health, mindfulness and other various topics. Reading a paper in a night has helped me use my brain and has helped me fall in love with reading and learning, all over again.

Because I have been studying for the GRE… well i can hope that I get the score I want. Pray for me.

Last but certainly not least, I end my day with a grateful heart. I have journaled everyday since the start of the year, reflecting on topics of “what am I passionate about” to “what did I learn” to “who are people that inspire me” and with a 5-10 minute meditation, I end my night happier than I have been in a long time. I have started to appreciate that I am where I need to be, so why rush it? I can look forward to graduate school, to the summer, to my road trip, to many things, but I look forward to this moment. Enjoying every day where I learn something new, share something new, and enjoy the little adventure called life.

 

Treasure the little things, because the may just turn out to be the big things.

 

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6000 miles across the United States 

 I think everyone can say that they have dreamed of an epic road trip with their friends across the U.S. It is normally on a bucket list but when people want to do it, when they’re younger, they either don’t have money, can’t find people to go with, or can’t find time. 
Well, a roadtrip has always been my dream. I had time. I had a far enough destination. I had 4 friends willing to do it with me. And somehow I made it cheap enough to afford it. So that dream of mine became a reality this summer. 
My first roadtrip was with my best friend from home and spending 6 days, all day and night together was a reminder of the good old days of high school. In almost 3.5 years this was the first time we spent this much time together and I wouldn’t have done it with anyone else. 
The road trip out to Berkeley last 6 days, covered 9 states, and had a bit too many peanut butter banana sandwiches. I was able to drive the longest I ever have, which was 10.5 hours. Until we got past Santa Fe, the drive was boring – except for the company and conversation.
But the highlights of this trip were:

A tex mex restaurant with 102 different margaritas in Santa Fe.

  
Durango, CO and all its beauty in the mountains.

Chimney rock, Mesa verde and four corners monument. These were all so beautiful and unique

  The south rim of the Grand Canyon. I always dreamt of going to the Grand Canyon and finally- I have

Hoover dam and marveling at its engineering capabilities

  
Las Vegas and pretty lights

Death Valley and feeling like you’re experiencing death 262 feet below sea level (and from the heat) 

  
Yosemite and my first glance at half dome.
The southern trip was very consolidated at the end of the trip. So much we missed in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and more. But it gave me the itch to travel south west again. And remember-even though an atlas says it’s a town doesn’t mean it has gas.

The road trip back home to Chicago was longer and has a filled car. Traveling with 4 people for 8 days was… Interesting. But we had a great time together and became better friends.
The trip started off with a bang once we got to Yosemite. We climbed 3200 feet in 4 miles, hiked 17.5 miles, almost got bit by a rattlesnake, and saw a bear in our camp ground. Successful first day. 

  
Started the next day seeing wild mustangs. We then saw Salt Lake City, and the great salt lake. Apparently many places have amazing great Mexican food as we had that there as well. 
  
From there we saw just how beautiful Idaho is. The grand Tetons were incredibly grand. And even if they say it’s an 8 miles hike around lake Jenny- it’s longer.
Yellowstone was the highlight of the trip. So many hot springs, magnificent colors, canyons, falls, bison, and more bison. Yellowstone was huge, old faithful was indeed faithful, and we saw so many different terrains. 

  
We then trekked go South Dakota where he scenery isn’t as gorgeous. Mt Rushmore and crazy horse were the first things we saw that weren’t natural- slightly underwhelming but awesome to see he history. And badlands national park looked like a dessert in New Mexico, not a park in South Dakota. But the highlight here was staying in a tepee where we had massacre the guard goose, gorgeous night stars and shoot stars as well as a lightening show our last night.
  
The 14 trek home was not fun. I lost my sanity quickly. But the trip will be something I never forget. 
Go on a road trip once in your life. Your car may hate you, but it’s worth to see as much as you do. 

Sorry for the delay- I need to keep living in summer now that school starts. 

How was Europe three Months ago?

So I got a little behind in posts. Before I start on my road trips as one of the last posts I make for the summer, I have to talk about my first time in Europe.
I had the pleasure of spending 10 days in Scandinavia for pure vacation (and I a tiny bit of networking). My friend Sarah and I went to Iceland for 5 days and then I ventured more to Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden. The trip was shorter than I wanted, but it surely was amazing.
Iceland brought my first geothermal hot spring experience, the first time driving and not being able to read street signs (which resulted into my first time breaking many many driving laws), the first glacier to ever see, the first midnight sun, and so much more. Iceland is a majestic place– we went from grasslands, to black rock beaches, to Mountain ranges, to lava fields, to a very scary desolate areas. The geography of Iceland is unique in which you can’t describe unless you go there. 
We were able to do the southern end of the ring road and going in May, it was the perfect time! We saw more than 5 different waterfalls, met awesome people (even one from PA), and learned a little Icelandic. The five days were perfect to explore Reykjavik and the southern part. The beauty and the respect nature gets out wins everything.
My next adventure was Copenhagen. Now an amateur mistake when traveling the European Union- you don’t need your passport stamped at every country. Not knowing this thought I entered the country illegally- which is never a good feeling. But thankfully the Danes are incredibly nice and explained this to me. I guess that’s what I get for traveling alone. 
Copenhagen brought me plenty of castles, bikes, fire stories, new friends, and a new culture. The city is beautiful- the European style I always imagined and the vibrant people were amazing. The traffic-all bike- was incredible to see. The mobility around the city and even Malmö was awesome! And with this city, I met people from Canada, UK, Australia, France, Finland, U.S., Denmark, holland, and more! These connections just remind me how small the world is. I’m grateful to have met all these people and share good conversation, food, drinks, and tours with the people. 
Something’s to remember: 

One thing I learned was the language barrier wasn’t very significant which made it easier than I thought
Starting a conversation with people is never a bad thing, you can meet some great people
The Scandinavian breakfast (rice cakes/bread/veggies/yogurt) is the bomb and now eat it all the time
Traveling with similar people makes the experience all the more rewarding. I am happy I had an amazing friend to share it with.
Traveling by yourself is never limiting. Because of it, I met many people, got lost in cities I may have never seen, and met some travel buddies I may have never met.
Reach out to people- I reached out to someone who won a similar scholarship as me and only met her once before as well as meeting someone from the university of Iceland through linked in. I learned about the energy policy and consumption of countries because of it and now have a connection abroad. 

It’s these experiences I won’t forget. Going with friends. Meeting new friends. Getting lost in places. It’s the only thing that has made me richer.
   
    
    
    
 Also shout out to my second time in Boston and having a true Bostonian showing us around. First German food and Boston pizza experience. 

Berkeley, thanks for the friendly reminder

As my final three days in lab come to an end, my time in East bay is almost over. Ten weeks flew by. I worked really hard. I explored even harder. And I’ve probably laughed the hardest with the people and memories I have made. This isn’t my last post about Berkeley, even for the summer, yet the last two weeks have reminded me of a lot:

Exploring the planetarium and watching a movie about moons reminding me that I must remember just how small the world is. If I remember that, perhaps my actions and work will impact more people.

  
As I had a Saturday mish mashed with my first ever headshots (of the beautiful Ukuladies, check them out), work, hiking at Inspiration Point, and making Ethiopian food, I was reminded to take each day one step at a time. The small things that make a day make you remember just how important they are.

   
   
The Berkeley kite festival, aka my first ever kite flying experience, reminded me to never lose the child inside me. Watching the kites just showed me with a little work and a gust of wind, we can fly. 

  
Long days at the lab when nothing goes right that Murphy’s law does do exist and is very prominent in the research field. Even when you think everything is going well, something will make it go terribly wrong. But be resilient. That’s another reminder 
Berkeley in general has consistently reminded me this: enjoy the little things in life, like food. Share a meal with person, make way too many cupcakes with others. These moment let you build friendships and memories you can’t replace.  

    
    
    
   

(I’ve eaten a lot, but that’s okay) 
California in general, has given me the pleasant reminder of just how beautiful this area is. Big Sur, the PCH and the 17 mile drive are magnificently beautiful areas. Seeing such places for the first time reminds me to protect this place and take a step back and just gaze at the beauty.  

    
   
Also, the last two weeks reminded me to laugh at myself, don’t take myself too seriously and be myself, because sometimes a cat hisses at you and the face gets captured very nicely.  

 

Finding Firsts Maybe Harder than I Expected…

Actually, finding time for firsts is the harder part. This is why experiencing new things are important and making a valid effort to always seek the “new” even in the old is so important to remember. I haven’t updated on my weekly progress due to the fact I haven’t done “a lot” compared to other weeks. The last three weeks have been busy; I have done a lot of great work in the lab and absolutely LOVE what I do. I come home from work and still talk about the people and the work I have, but it is because every day is exciting to me. Like today, I did an experiment for the first time and I got REALLY excited about it. This is just a specific first for my project, definitely not the first time I took the water contact angle of something… But it is those small moments that you really make memories and start living.

But, this is the summer of FIRSTS. And I will recap what I have done in the last few weeks that reminded me I am in probably the best place ever (sorry east coast, but west coast is certainly the best coast…)

The last thing I remember sharing with you all was my fourth of July experience, where I crashed and hiked and missed fireworks.

After that, I have made paper flowers (which turned out pretty fantastic if I don’t say so myself) to decorate our office at work. My friends/coworkers and I did a lot of flowers to spruce up our very bland, windowless office, and made a special cacti area for the only guy in our room.

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That week also brought about my first 12 hour day of the summer. I don’t know if that is something to rejoice in or not, but I beat that record yesterday (16 hours). However, yesterday I was able to do tests on a beam line at the Advanced Light Source (wiki it, it’s pretty great). and say I refuse to do an all nighter to my boss.

I also went to my first show in Berkeley at the Shotgun Players Theater and, man, they know how to treat a girl with a champagne ready just as you walk in. The show, Top Girls, was fantastic! Definitely different than previous shows I have seen but I wouldn’t expect anything less from Berkeley.

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That Thursday, I finally went out and did a “grown up” thing and went to the after Dark Academy of Sciences! The rainforest was AWESOME, the music was mediocre, but the drinks were delicious. SO many people were there (I was impressed we picked the happening spot to go) as well as the exhibits on whales, colors and earthquakes were incredibly interesting (and I got to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge).

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That weekend, I visited my uncle in Los Angeles, was sad to leave the Bay Area as I am in love with this place, but happy to have spent the weekend relaxing, running (yes I have been running, a first accomplishment where I ran outside!), art festivaling and cooking – A much needed weekend after a busy week.

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Last week, the week was filled with last minute Grizzly Peak runs to catch the sunset, a date with Maggie (aka my Soul Mate) who I did not see for three weeks with dinner made by me, minions and ice cream, my first ever Indian Street food, and my first hula lesson. At the Oakland Musueum of California (open late on Friday nights), it was a Hawaiian themed night and we learned a very simple hula (but if you want me to teach you, let me know).

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Last weekend also brought about my first Napa experience, where I ate too much, drank just enough, and gaucked at the beautiful area around me. It was my first, so to speak, day-drinking experience, which I will not forget (what better first to have then in wine country?). I had a lot of new first foods, like sashimi and watermelon, lavender chocolate, trout salad, gluten free rosemary donut, and much, much more. If anyone has the chance to go to Taste of Napa, do it. So worth it.

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The food did not end there, I was lucky enough to spend my National Ice Cream day at the festival in SoMa where there were Ice Cream Trucks galore. Watermelon Mint and Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip (the Elvis) were my choices of popsicles.

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This may seem like a lot or a little to some people. But I have stayed busy in the last few weeks while also doing a lot of work. Doing things you love makes life worth it. Don’t do things if you don’t want to do them just because you think you should. Have fire, passion under you, because it is contagious.

I have two weeks remaining the wonderful Bay Area. A few more blog posts to continue the journey. 8 weeks have gone by way too fast and three months have gone by even faster.

I hope you all enjoy my stories. Do something new today 🙂

Throwback: The First week in 3 years 

Earlier this summer, my mom and I went to the Pacific Northwest. It was our first time ever being out that way, and why visit? Well I know they have food, coffee, trees, and mountains: aka Julie’s Haven.

I promised my mom this trip for our birthdays. I turned 21 and she will be turning 50 in August. It was the perfect opportunity to celebrate our milestones and finally spend time together.

This was the first time since high school (so three years) I spent this much uninterrupted time with my mom. And I’ve come to the conclusion she is and will always be “my person.” She is my best friend and to say that about ones mom knows you have an awesome mom.


We explored Portland (and its many food stands, coffee shops, donut and pastry shops). The city was unique in its lack of sky scrapers and larger forest on the outskirts of the city. The thing we enjoyed the most in Oregon was the coast. People say it’s beautiful but really, it’s breathtaking. Packing a picnic and being almost blown away was worth it to spend time with my mom in the gorgeous place.

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Things that are must dos in Portland:

1. As soon as you get off the plane go do something: Like go to the Cascade Locks and hike Multnomah Falls

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2. Drink coffee (Stumptown), Eat Donuts (Voodoo Donuts or Blue Start Donuts), and get lost in Powell’s Books.

3. Go to Cannon Beach, my favorite beach to date and smell nasty fish and get blown away about the beauty and the wind.

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But our quest did not end there! We went north to Seattle, stopping at Mt. St. Helen’s and Mt. Rainier on the way up. The Cascades are absolutely gorgeous and in April, we couldn’t have asked for better weather (it never even rained there!).

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The trip up to Seattle was well worth the time. Exploring the mountains for 8 hours in the car was well worth the sight. Neither of us felt tired but just embracing the beauty was enough. Enjoying nature is something my mom and I both love to do. But city life isn’t too bad either.

Seattle was definitely larger than we anticipated. We went up to the Space Needle, explored downtown, went to the Public Market, saw the Gum Alleyway, the Original Starbucks (my mom’s favorite), and to the Starbuck’s Roastery and Tasting Room. A must stop for food is Portage Bay Cafe! We had the most incredible breakfast there and we couldn’t get enough. We wish we had it back home but honestly, all the food was incredible there. We found all sorts of healthy and gluten free options VERY easily which helped us both. We can’t complain at all!
  
  

Besides these two cities, I got to share a first with my mom: The First Time to Canada!!! (as well as my mom’s first time out of the country). We drove even more north to Vancouver. My mom first was worried about driving in the car, so I had to do the miles to kilometers conversion as our car didn’t have it as well as the crazy roundabouts. But once we got into the city, we enjoyed home made ice cream at Rain or Shine, met lovely  people on 4th Street and Walked along some of the trails at Stanley Park. It  was the first time in Canada and definitely not the last for either of us. The people were friendly and the city was majestic with all the mountains in the background.

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This trip was the first “big” trip of my summer. It was a great way to start the summer as I spent it with my favorite person. We drove almost 1400 miles, saw 3 cities, and had 7 days of together time. We were able to plan things we wanted to do and enjoy each others company for once. It was our first time away from home together and it won’t be our last. 🙂

Work hard, crash harder? 

Last week, I can say was not the most “exciting” week here in the Bay. I guess every week can’t be exciting right? But, disclaimer, I did it to myself. 

Last week I worked a lot. I mean a lot for 4 days. But I also got a lot done and I love what I’m doing. So 12 hours flies by when you’re doing what you love and with awesome people. 

The weekend made up for all the hard work. Especially since it was my only three day weekend. 

Friday, a group of us ventured out to Yosemite in search for the Sequioas!! Mariposa Groves (which just closed for restoration on Monday) had over 200 Sequioas. We explored through the groves, ate two and a half bags of chips because we were so hungry and got some sun! It was my first time seeing Sequioas and my first sunburn of the summer (sad it was on the third of July) 

   
   

On the fourth, even though I REALLY wanted to be home, I made the best of the day. A group of us went down to Monterey!!! And was it worth the trip!! The Monterey bay aquarium was gorgeous with tons of jelly fish, coast views, and the cutest otters. Apparently it is the best aquarium in the world, and I can see why (but they don’t have Dolphins…) 

   
   
After that, we had fresh fish for lunch and a cinnamon roll I can actually enjoy! We just searched around the city and laid on the beach. But here is where the crash of the week happened…
Saturday was the 6th day I woke up before or at 6 am. I worked 46 hours in 4 days. Sat in the car for 6 hours Friday. Drove for 2 hours Saturday. I was exhausted. And so was Sarah. And we therefore fell asleep laying on the beach for an hour! The crash hit hard. My first ever nap on the beach and I should have been exploring!! An adventurer’s worse nightmare! 
But regardless, the area was gorgeous. On the way home we stopped in the world capital of artichokes, castroville. And the world capital of garlic, Gilroy. Both of which we all enjoy.
We got a “little American” and got a hot dog to end the day and attempted to see fireworks. A first I wish I didn’t have to say: a fourth with no fireworks. The most I got was glo sticks and a fire cracker in the street. Slightly disappointing I have to say. But the fourth will never be the same when it’s not at home.  

 
The last first of the weekend after driving successfully with no traffic (shocking, I know!) in California was watching the woman’s World Cup! I never watched it before but hearing about it made me excited to watch. So to end this post, and to look back on the weekend, remember: GO USA 🇺🇸