This Isn’t Just a Story.

“I got into this business because I love stories. They comfort us, they inspire us, they create a context for how we experience the world, but also you have to be careful because if you spend a lot of time with stories, you start to believe that life is just stories. And it’s not. Life is life. And that’s so … sad … because there’s so little time … and what are we doing with it?”

Princess Carolyn opens the Season 4 finale of Bojack Horseman with these questions. If you wait too long to hit the pause button, you’re quickly ushered away from the drama by the ridiculousness of the adult cartoon, which features a wild amount of animal puns and some of the most devastating plot lines I’ve watched on television. I’ve already talked my coworkers’ ears off about the pure genius of this television show, so I’ll spare you.

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Chiang Rai, The White Temple, and Navigating Southeast Asia as an Embarrassed American

Chiang Rai, The White Temple, And Navigating Southeast Asia as an Embarrassed American

Hey everyone! Megan here. My laptop is up and running, so I’ve been working on some posts for you all!

This post, however, is going to be a bit different. My original plan was to write posts about backpacker destinations in Southeast Asia based on the order in which I visited them. This post is more important. This post is long. This post gets into American politics. This post makes me anxious. It addresses tragedy and war and embarrassment. Just a warning. Here we go.

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Just a Shout Out to All My Friends Who Sell Cool Stuff

Getting down to the wire! Soon you’ll be bombarded with gorgeous photos of Thailand, Cambodia, and Australia.

But for this post, I’m gonna switch the spotlight over to some amazing people in my life who are making some cool stuff. Y’all, it’s so important to support your friends who are making some cool stuff. Coming from someone who briefly had an Etsy shop, the support of friends and friends-of-friends is more touching and beautiful than I can accurately describe. This support creates a connection and a validation that is hard to find as a small business owner or artist, especially when we are constantly being bombarded with products and brands and ads and algorithms fueled by corporations who have more money, reach, and resources than small business owners have when they start out.

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We’re Going to Southeast Asia for Six Weeks. We Should Probably Chat About It.

Going to Southeast Asia would not have been possible, or even a real thought, without my best friend, Andrew. Andrew was the first person to suggest Southeast Asia to me, and about a year and a half ago, we told ourselves we would save up our money and go this summer. Now it’s happening!

andrew and I
Small freshmen children. I promise I will not be wearing any zebra tanks..anymore.

Here’s a little background on our friendship. We met the second day of college through mutual friends. We joined the same gender-inclusive fraternity together (go Phi Sigma Pi!) and lived together for two years. He is 100% my best friend and knows more about me, highs and lows, than anyone needs to know. We’ve seen it all from each other, especially first semester senior year. Yikes.

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Weird Ways to Make Money As a Writer

I’ve got an exciting update: Andrew and I have planned our route! We’re doing a circle for about 5 1/2 weeks, hitting Bangkok, Koh Phagnan, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh, Dalat, Chiang Mai, and Pai. Phew!

Having this part of the planning completed has revealed the reality of other parts of the trip for me. Namely, oh my god I have to go fly to Australia and get a job and not run out of money but maybe stay in Southeast Asia for a bit first and get a job I need to get a job it has been 2 weeks since my last full-time job oh my god. 

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I’m Leaving My Relationship To Travel, Which Oddly Made Our Relationship Even Better

An ex-boyfriend told me once that I shouldn’t see psychics because they communicated with the devil. I try and go to a psychic every year.

This year, I decided there was no better place to have my palms and tarot cards read than in New Orleans. I had been having pretty terrible luck with relationships, and just needed someone to point me in the right direction when it came to many areas of my life. The woman in Jackson Square flipped over a King of Swords, raised her eyebrow, and told me that in a few days I would meet an intellectually driven man who would have a big influence on the next year of my life. She neglected to tell me that I would meet him on Tinder.

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Turning Fear Into Gratitude

It would be too simple to say that I’m scared of the dark, but let’s go for it.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve spent hours in bed awake at night, fearing that someone would break into my home while my eyes were still open. This fear has followed me into many spaces, including my apartment when I’m home alone and my childhood home that had multiple stories. I know these fears are not irrational – they feel quite silly to admit – but my fear has started to get in the way of how I want to live my life. (I make eight hours of sleep a priority, and I can’t achieve that when I’m tossing and turning, worrying about how much I’ll be worrying when I’m camping or sleeping in strange hostel beds in stranger countries.)

On one of my more recent adventures, fear latched onto my heart, brain, and body, while I was camping in Mississippi. Just picture this. You’ve set up camp around 10 P.M. without seeing a soul as you drive into the campsite. There’s a lit bathroom across the path, and an RV displaying hanging lights in the distance, but the rest of your vision is unpopulated. There’s no cell phone service, either. I don’t think it’s outlandish to say that I had shaking fears for hours of getting murdered.

Again, I know that my fears, to a point, are rational. I don’t assume that my fears are unique or speak to anxiety that particularly needs attention. As I picture my death and obituary, or picture being face-to-face with someone who wants to break into my home and cause me harm, I constantly tell myself that I’m thinking irrationally. I don’t do anything irrational due to my fears. (I’ve dragged my boyfriend to sleep in his car, rather than a tent, only once.) I’m writing about fear because I think it presents an interesting opportunity to have gratitude.

I really should be grateful for my health, the sunrise, and all that I have been given, every single day, without a reminder. We all should…but that’s not always how we see things. Gratitude can be tricky: it usually takes a misfortune for anyone to pay attention to the positive things we’ve been given. Often, we are grateful only after we’ve compared our lives or situations to others…something that is otherwise an ineffective and dangerous thing to do.

While I work on taming these fears to the point where I’m only momentarily scared of an axe murderer in an otherwise peaceful and beautiful campsite, I’ve added a new mantra when I get especially nervous or afraid.

“Tomorrow’s sunrise will be so beautiful.” 

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I thought of this mantra once afternoon when I had quite the headache after trying a headstand and could not stop thinking about internal bleeding in my brain (bear with me here.) I can’t use a mantra that will outright tell my brain that my fears are wrong; it’s not going to be effective. So I’ve decided to slide in a positive message between every few thoughts. This message is not only positive, but it travels into the next day. The mantra sets me up for a morning of gratitude. Gratitude, as I’ve learned recently, is an absolutely refreshing way to start off the day.

I woke up in Mississippi to a sunrise over a lake near our campsite that was new to us in the daylight. My sun salutations were charged with gratitude. Rather than rolling my eyes at worrying over absolutely nothing, I was able to start my morning off on a positive, humble, thankful note.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m still working on taming my fears. After all, my future plans involve traveling across the world alone (again) and eventually making a bus or a campervan my home. So let’s figure this out together. What are your mantras when you’re scared? How do you handle anxiety in the dark? Let me know in the comments!!

Thank you for reading. Namaste!

Beat, Broke, Backpacking is nominated for Versatile Blogger Award!

I’m excited to announce that I’ve been nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award! Even with new projects, jobs, and training, I want to shake the dust off of BBB and arrive in Southeast Asia prepared to share my journey. Beat, Broke, Backpacking started as a way to document an open-ended backpacking trip, and I hope to keep leaving the pages in my planner blank to experience whatever life throws at me. Anyway…

Who Nominated Me?

I would love to thank Dot from DOT On Her Way for the nomination. I feel like I’m still figuring out the whole blog world, and it seems like Dot’s got…just about everything figured out. From hanging wallpaper to traveling through Iceland, DOT On Her Way will answer all of your questions for traveling and living the good life.

7 Random Facts about me

As acceptance of this nomination by Dot, here are 7 random facts about me:

  1. I’ve worked for Lush Cosmetics off and on for about four years and in two different stores!
  2. The best hostel I’ve ever stayed in was Grateful Dead themed. Shout out to the Mamas and Papas hostel!
  3. In my junior year of high school, I sang at Carnegie Hall on Easter Sunday.
  4. I sleep in a sleeping bag every night because I think it’s more comfy (and I’m too lazy to buy a real comforter.)
  5. My full-time job includes writing for criminal defense lawyers, real estate agents, and relationship therapists!
  6. Cancer, Moon in Leo, Cancer Ascending.
  7. I just started yoga teacher training in January, but I’ve known I wanted to be a yoga teacher since I “taught” a class to two friends while we were staying at a hotel in Poland!

Versatile Blogger Award Rules

  • Publicly thank the person who nominated you, linking to their blog so everyone else can see how great they are.
  • Pay it forward and select nominees you think are deserving this award. Some of the criteria’s to get the nomination are:
    • the quality of the writing
    • the uniqueness of the subjects covered
    • the quality of the photographs
  • Tell all of these people 7 random things about yourself, and ask your nominees to do the same.

My Nominations

Congratulations to all my nominees. Please read the Versatile Blogger Award Rules above to accept your nomination. Wishing you all the best to my fellow bloggers and let’s keep encouraging each other.

  1. Kayla Blogs – I can barely keep my bed made for five minutes, so I envy Kayla’s ability to organize in the midst of working and going to college. Kayla Blogs is your best resources for planner reviews, book recommendations, or how to travel and stay on top of a busy life.
  2. How Are Ju – America truly looks beautiful through Ju’s lens. Her landscape photos, from Grand Teton National Park to Riverside Drive in Austin, are simply stunning.
  3. Dreamista – Anna knows how to travel in style! She’s the brains and beauty behind Dreamista, a travel, fashion, and lifestyle blog that has you covered no matter where you want to go.
  4. Green Travel Guru – If you’re inspired by these eco warriors, you can grab green products right off of their site! Gijs and Annabeth are committed to keeping their travels green and sustainable, no matter where they go!
  5. Nancy Chandler’s Map of Bangkok – Keeping this one in my back pocket for July! Nancy Chandler is an American artist with a knack for illustrating the beauty in Southeast Asia’s most exciting cities.

Tiptoeing Back into Traveling: Post New Orleans Ramblings

In the past few months, while being jostled around by family reunions and summer vacations, I’ve been greedily collecting ideas, plans, maps, and dreams. Rather than a fire burning or a star bursting, I’ve been feeling like a box inside of me was shrinking, and I was stuffing more into it:

things I wanted to discuss in a coffee shop

projects I wanted to start now

phrases and ramblings and pictures.

These ideas, not being unleashed, were beginning to feel stale.

I’ve learned the only solution this is to stuff a bag full of clothes and notebooks, and head to somewhere fresh.

I spent a blink of an eye in New Orleans. I was able to wander through the cemeteries and fall in love (again) with a city that demands your attention to experience both an otherworldly presence and very real history. From the moment I walked into the Museum District, the soft pain and spooky intrigue of New Orleans that I had fell in love with while reading Bob Dylan’s Chronicles last summer jumped in front of me like one of the many blaring saxophone solos I jumped for on Frenchman Street.

The words in Chronicles that defined New Orleans for me faded away and I replaced them with discussions, stories, and permanent words scribbled into a notebook over a French market crepe or quiet moment at Greenwood cemetery.

(Backpacking stories, hostel whisperings, local and tourist recommendations alike.)

These stories are not familiar, and the words become rearranged in every city you visit.

Hostel residents tend to tell the same story, but with a new twist every time. Where-you-headed-next and where-have-you-beens were exchanged, and as usual, I felt the simultaneous groan and a smile that comes from adding a new destination to my mental bucket list (this time, Costa Rica won out as the top dream.)

Quick run-ins and small chats brought your world in close with a tight squeeze and shrunk your story to a quick flip of a few pages.

The bartender at the shack whose name you hear whispered through the grapevine will tell you your future, finally humoring you until you’ve exhausted the thoughts that have been tumbling in your head about where to move and the pain you’ve felt looking at the artists giving it a go in the corners of galleries around the city.

The tarot reader in Jackson Square will tell you what she sees in your face and what you’re aching for in your bones. You’re hit with a smack in the face once you pop out of the bubble of introversion to discuss her cards, realizing your future is yours to write anyway, you don’t even remember her name.

 . . .

I write these words as I sit on a Megabus seat bumping through Texas. I’m reflecting on my trip, my gratitude, and I feel my energy being restored. Anyone who asks me if I’m an introvert while in a crowd of people will see the bashful answer on my face before I say, “Oh yeah.” I have to be alone to fill up. I opted out of my reserved seat on the Megabus today (a loss of a whole $1) to find a spot where I wouldn’t be surrounded by people. As I flew through the jobs on my to-do list (giving me the illusion I was flying through Louisiana,) I felt restored back to full.

My assignments for the day are done. My time in New Orleans has drawn to a gentle close, like finishing a good book with a long exhale, putting it back on your bookshelf with great care and knowing that in the future, you’ll revisit it once more with fresh eyes and a great yearning for a different interpretation of the story. It’s time to head back to “real life” now, with a clear mind and a refreshed determination to finally build my “what’s next.”