Let’s Talk About 2019: New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year!

If you’ve ever talked to me around this time of year, you’ll know that I don’t really like the celebration of New Year’s Eve/Day. I find it to be somewhat arbitrary and get tired of people always saying they’re going to “reinvent” themselves every time a new year starts. Though I don’t really mind having an excuse to get together with friends and have some fun.

So, needless to say, I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. However, I do find it to be a good time to set some new goals and make sure my life is heading in the direction I want. If you would like to argue with me that setting goals are the same thing as setting a resolution, feel free. Whatever you call it, I have things that I want to accomplish in the next 365 days and sharing them seems like a good place to start.

Writing

The obvious place to start: my passion. 2018 was a good year in many respects – but I will say that I stagnated creatively. Quite significantly, actually. I had a fairly successful NaNoWriMo in 2018, ending at 30,000 words for the month, but I don’t think I wrote much more than that in the rest of the year put together.

I spent some time developing my other creative skills – I started painting again, and spent some time drawing. I picked back up my guitar after a 4-year hiatus and after redeveloping my calluses and having to re-teach myself everything I knew before, I can play again. I even brought a piano into my apartment, and found – to my chagrin – that I’m just as clumsy on it as I always have been. I’m working on that.

But I made little-to-no progress on any of my (several) Works In Progress. So that’s the basis of my goal this year.

My goal is a bit lofty:

I would like to end 2019 having written at least 200,000 words. That’s roughly 550 words per day.

Will I make it? We’ll see. I’m pretty optimistic about it, all told – I’ve been known to write 10,000 or more words in one day, so I could get a nice head start right off the bat if I can manage my time correctly. And even if I don’t reach that goal – well, I’ll still write plenty of words.

Now, I know from past experience that a manuscript of mine averages out to be between 150,000 and 200,000 words. So I’m basically aiming to complete at least one manuscript before the end of the year.

I already have 3 I’m splitting my time between, so maybe I can finish more than one (lol @ my ambition).

I’m using WriteTrack to keep up with my goal – it’ll be easier than tallying on my own time.

Note: I’m uploading writing excerpts to Wattpad so I can share them with you. Each will be linked to this post below with a small synopsis of my story.

Health

Now we get into the more personal goals – and also the goals that more closely resemble a classic New Year’s Resolution.

There’s not as much to say here, honestly. I don’t like talking about my health or my weight, but this is on my goals and I want to be transparent. So here are some of my health goals:

Lose roughly 50 pounds. To be honest, this is less about the actual number on the scale than it is about just being healthier. I know that 50 pounds ago is when I felt my best, so that’s what I’m aiming for. But my steps are much more about maintaining my health than they are about reaching a weight or measurement.

Join a gym and go consistently. Shout out to my workout buddies. I actually already started working out several times a week a couple of months ago, so this is more of an obligatory inclusion than anything else.

Maintain a healthy diet. I ate a lot of crap last year. A lot. But I’ve been making strides toward being healthier in the last several months, and I’ve been feeling better than I have in a long time. I ended out 2018 by quitting caffeine, and now that I’ve gotten it completely out of my system, I feel so much better than before. I don’t intend to never drink caffeine again, but I’m certainly intending to have it in moderation from now on.

Add to that, one of my roommates and I are going to attempt the Whole30 diet next month (we were going to do this month along with every other person in the entire world, but there were some circumstances that made it more difficult, so next month it is).

I’m bad at sticking to diets. I like food a lot. But I’ve been spending a lot more time cooking fresh food for myself in the last few months, and I think I’m finally finding a balance between healthy and delicious. And we can only go up from here!

I like using the app Mealime to help with my meal planning, check it out!

Books

Here’s a fun admission that may get my writer card revoked:

I didn’t read a book from cover to cover last year. Not even one.

I’m not exactly sure how that happened? I know I spent a lot of time reading articles online and reading excerpts of books on my phone, or from the library. But I didn’t finish any of them.

So I’m aiming for a reasonable goal of 12 books this year. I would like to fully ready 12 books this year. A book a month. I was going to aim for something higher, like 24 or 36, but – I thought something more reasonable would be in order considering my other goals are also going to eat up a lot of my time.

I’ve already started January’s book – The Elfstones of Shannara, by Terry Brooks. I’ve read the first Shannara book before, but not the rest. I also just finished watching The Shannara Chronicles on Netflix (it’s good, I recommend it) so it seemed like a good place to start.

Feel free to follow this progress on GoodReads!

And that’s about it! As lofty as some of those goals seem, I think they’re completely doable based on my personality and my skills. And though I haven’t gotten as good a start as I would have liked – 2019 has already hit me with a head cold – I believe I’ll make it happen.

I’m also going to attempt to post more on my blog here – that was a side effect of my creativity stagnating. I ran out of ideas for blog posts. But I have some more now! So hopefully all of you haven’t gotten bored of reading about my life just yet.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read a book, write a novel, and eat a salad.

happy new year

Fare Finders: Best Sites for Cheap Travel

From the moment that I first told people that I was going to start traveling all the time, I got one question from everyone:

“How are you going to pay for it?”

That’s a good question. Logically, a 21-year-old writer a year and a half out of college shouldn’t be able to afford traveling the way that I do.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m lucky – since I can work from anywhere traveling around isn’t a challenge for me. But the answer that all I need to work is my laptop and an internet connection didn’t seem to placate the people who kept asking this question.

There’s a perception out there that traveling is expensive. That you need to have some money saved up to travel at all. And while it’s true that traveling can be pricy – that assumption is simply incorrect.

There are a ton of ways to save money while you’re traveling – even traveling in a group. Of course, as someone who always travels alone, it’s far cheaper for me than for people paying for an entire family. But there are still ways to keep things cheap.

The problem is, people are used to luxury travel. Well, if you’re traveling on a budget, it’s not always luxurious. In fact, it’s very rarely luxurious.

But I’m not traveling for the luxury. I’m traveling for the experience. As long as I can afford it, I don’t need to be comfortable to travel.

Deciding where I travel is a process for me – because when I decide where I’m going, I have to compare the prices of transportation. How much does it cost to stay? Then I create a budget with whatever is left over for my bills and – of course – food and activities.

So, I have a myriad of websites and apps that I use to help me plan my trips. Without these, I wouldn’t be able to manage my finances nearly as well – and certainly less efficiently.

Transportation:

The one that people are more curious about is transportation. How can I afford to pay for transportation from place to place? Flying is expensive, after all.

Yeah, that’s true. But I very rarely fly. It’s usually only if I’m traveling a long distance all at once, or all of my other options turned out to be the same price – which has happened before, but rarely.

Mostly, I take buses. There are several bus services that run really cheaply – even if you buy last minute. Of course, it pays to know where to look for deals.

Ground Transport

I normally use a website called Wanderu to book my bus trips. It’s my choice because it lists prices across several different bus companies – and trains, so you’ll know that you’re getting the best deal for where you’re going.

I also use another site called Go To Bus if I suspect that there’s a better deal – or if I can’t find a direct bus from one destination to another. Since they use different services, they sometimes have different lines. So, I make sure to do some double-checking before I make my final purchase.

For trains, I mostly just stick to Amtrak.com and just play around with the dates and times until I find a good deal. This can be annoying and time-consuming. But since traveling on a train is generally more comfortable – in my opinion – than most other forms of long-distance travel, it’s generally worth the hassle.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, some of the bus sites that I use will compare rates with Amtrak, so you can use those to ensure you’re getting a good deal as well.

Air Transport

When it comes to flying – as I said – I don’t often fly because it’s just not cost effective unless you’re hopping coasts, islands, or countries. And I try not to do that, because it’s much cheaper – and it’s also more fun, in my opinion.

It’s more of a challenge to plan bus rides across the country, seeing what the cheapest possibilities are. Planning it this way makes me add places I may not have even considered before to my itinerary – and sometimes unplanned stops are the best stops.

But, when I do fly, I usually check my fares on Kayak. I like using it because – as someone who rarely travels with exact dates – I like that they have flexible departure options.

And, like the other websites I use, it checks fare prices across different airlines. Not to mention it gives you information on legroom, baggage, layover, airports, etc.

Honorable Mention:

I also follow a blog called the Thrifty Traveler – which is always promoting flight deals. I keep an eye on their blog so that if a really good deal pops up (and it does, from time to time) I’m ready to pounce on it and change my plans if necessary.

Lodging:

The most important part of planning where to go is to find where you’re going to stay. I may be adventurous – but if I have my way, I won’t ever sleep on the street. That’s a no-go for me. So usually when I start deciding where to go, I start looking at hostels.

Hostels are my favorite part of traveling, hands down. That may surprise my friends who know me – but I really enjoy brushing elbows with other travelers the way that you can in a hostel.

It’s a unique experience – and I deeply enjoy it. It’s not really comfortable – in fact, it’s very rarely comfortable.

I’m not a picky person. I can put in earplugs or headphones, pull a hood over my eyes, and fall asleep. And once I’m asleep, I stay that way. So staying in a dorm-style room like in a hostel doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But I’ve heard that it can be annoying.

Sidenote: You also see some really… unique things when you stay in a hostel. I spent a fair amount of time trading weird stories with some of my friends I made while staying in Philadelphia. So be aware that sometimes, you may see things that you weren’t expecting…

I normally use hostelworld.com to find places to stay, as you can search by place to find good prices, as well as see the location of each hostel on a map. I’ll also use hostels.com to cross check prices.

If you can’t find hostels in your destination on those sites, you can do a quick Google search. Sometimes cities don’t have hostels. Sometimes they’re just not listed on the other websites. It doesn’t hurt to check.

Now, if you’re really on a tight budget, there are some cities that can be unmanageable. For example, in America: New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and many others, hostels can be an upwards of 40 USD a night.

For people who aren’t familiar with hostels – in other countries, hostels are closer to 10 USD per night – or less. Some countries it can be less than 5 USD.

Other Options:

I’m a stubborn person. So, looking at cities that are pricy like that doesn’t stop me from planning to go. Step number one is usually to figure out if I have friends in the area that might let me crash with them.

I’m lucky – I have friends and family all over the country, so usually, I can find someone to stay with if I look hard enough.

But I know not everyone has the same network as I do – and I don’t have connections everywhere. So if I’m looking at a tight budget, I often check up on Couch Surfing.

Couch Surfing can be a little weird at times. You are, quite literally, sleeping in a stranger’s house, after all.

But as long as you know what you’re doing, it can be just as safe as staying in a hostel. And it’s free! Yep, that’s the best part about it. Couch Surfing isn’t an exchange of money – it’s an exchange of knowledge.

You can update your profile with things you know how to do and are willing to teach, and you and your hosts teach each other things while you’re there.

You can also offer to help with chores, cook meals, or whatever else. It’s completely up to you. I highly recommend it for the traveler on a tight budget.

Be careful, but as long as you take precautions, you’ll do just fine.

Wait, That’s It?

That’s the secret, friends. I’m very careful with my budget and look for the best possible deals. I’m not picky about where I stay (though I’m careful), and I’m willing to make sacrifices to achieve what I want.

That’s how I make it work. It’s not easy – nor should it be. I wake up every day to a new adventure and I love every minute of it.

If any of you are thinking about taking a trip in the near future, I encourage you to bookmark those websites to help you find the best deals you possibly can.

In a future post, I’ll talk about how exactly I manage my budget each month to ensure that I can afford everything, on top of saving. But for now, I think that’s enough.

I always welcome comments and suggestions if you know of some travel sites that I don’t! ***Header image credit: Shutterstock***

The Great Road Trip Playlist!

Approaching a 13-hour road trip this week, I knew that I had to design an amazing playlist to help the drive go by quicker. Of course – we also did things like: listen to podcasts and an audio book. But – honestly – we did spend a lot of the trip listening to music.

Building a long playlist is – more than anything – dependent on being very familiar with what types of music you enjoy. Because once you’re on the road – unless you have a very good road trip companion (which I did) you don’t have a lot of freedom to add or remove things from your playlist. Sure, you can always skip – but that can get old if you’ve misjudged what music you’ll enjoy.

Because I know that I really enjoy Alternative, Indie, and Classic Rock, those genres were heavily represented in the playlist. As well as crossovers from other genres, and just other songs that I like for one reason or another. I also included some songs that were recommended to me, as I love new songs – and pulled some songs that just have to be included in a road trip playlist.

So without further ado, here are some of the highlights of the playlist that I built:

Classic Rock

  • The Beatles (Ticket to Ride, Help, Here Comes the Sun)
  • Fleetwood Mac (Go Your Own Way, The Chain, Landslide)
  • The Rolling Stones (Start Me Up, Sympathy for the Devil, Beast of Burden)
  • Blink 182 (All the Small Things, What’s my Age Again?, First Date)
  • Eagles (Hotel California, Take it Easy, Life in the Fast Lane)

Pop

  • Train (Drops of Jupiter, Play That Song, Marry Me)
  • Panic! at the Disco (LA Devotee, Let’s Kill Tonight, Collar Full)
  • Ed Sheeran (Galway Girl, Don’t, Runaway)
  • Olly Murs (Wan’na Be Like You (with Robbie Williams), Dance With Me Tonight, Troublemaker)
  • Maroon 5 (This Love, Love Somebody, She Will Be Loved)

Alternative

  • Coldplay (Clocks, Adventure of a Lifetime, Yellow, Up & Up)
  • Hozier (Sedated, Arsonist’s Lullaby, Angel of Small Death in the Codeine Scene)
  • Florence + the Machine (Dog Days are Over, Delilah, Shake it Out)
  • Arctic Monkeys (One for the Road, Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High, Fluorescent Adolescent)
  • The 1975 (Love Me, Chocolate, Settle Down)

Rock

  • Red Hot Chili Peppers (Road Trippin’, Californication, Can’t Stop)
  • Rooney (Simply Because, Stay Away, Shaken)
  • Arcade Fire (Normal Person, Keep the Car Runnin’, The Suburbs)
  • Oasis (Champagne Supernova, Don’t Look Back in Anger, Wonderwall)
  • U2 (Vertigo, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Beautiful)

Indie Music

  • Noisettes (Never Forget You, Don’t Upset the Rythym, Wild Young Hearts)
  • Of Monsters and Men (Little Talks, King and Lionheart, Crystals)
  • Mumford & Sons (Believe, Little Lion Man)
  • Bombay Bicycle Club (Shuffle, Luna, Take the Right One, Lights Out Words Gone)
  • Phoenix (Laso, 1901, Lisztomania)

These 25 artists are just a taste of the playlist that we listened to on our 13-hour trip (made even longer by an unintended 6-hour pitstop in Wisconsin). There are over a hundred and fifty songs on the actual playlist – which you can find on Spotify and listen to as much as you want if you want to change up what you listen to for a while!

As always I would love comments, and more suggestions for music to listen to while I’m traveling is always welcome! (Special thanks to my amazing friend Jackie, who has much better taste in music than me and helped build a truly great playlist for our trip).