Well, I made it back from my 2 weeks in Europe in one piece…kinda.
I’ve been back for more than a week but upon setting foot on US soil I was promptly overtaken by sickness. Thankfully, I’m on the mend now and can get back to my normal life as a skydiver.
The trip was absolutely incredible. It was the time away from work, the city and constant connectivity that I needed. I wouldn’t say I feel refreshed given my continuous coughing for the last week, but my mind got the break it needed.
So much happened in the 12 days I was abroad that I won’t be able to capture it all in this blog post – not only would it be far too long to keep your attention, I simply don’t have the time to recap the details in the way they deserve to be written all in one sitting. Over the course of the next week or so you can expect to hear all about my adventures in Amsterdam, Germany, Belgium and at the Tomorrowland festival (I’m going to save that one for last as it was the most amazing experience of them all).
I’m not just writing this post to tell you to stay tuned, that wouldn’t be very nice of me, but as this was my first time in Europe, I found that I learned some incredible lessons about living life while I was over there. There are things I never imagined I’d miss, things I learned about myself that I like (and some that I don’t), and key tidbits to take with me for the rest of my life. So naturally, as I like to do, I’ve created some lists to capture these fond memories and take them with me through life. Some of these will make more sense with upcoming blog posts, so stay tuned.
What I missed about the United States:
- Large glasses of water – how do the Europeans stay hydrated with these tiny glasses of water during meals? One of our waiters even criticized “us Americans” for our constant need for refills. Don’t they ever get thirsty?
- Ice – it wasn’t until the last day of the trip in Brussels when I actually received ice in my water…two small pieces, but the chill, no matter how small, made me happy.
- Free toilets – you pay to go to the bathroom everywhere (at least in Germany and the Netherlands). Rest areas on the autobon, 1 euro please. At a park, you put in change and they have turnstiles to let you in. Plus side, they were always clean. In the States, you enter public bathrooms at your own risk.
- Air conditioning – of course we ended up in Germany during the one week that it gets hot in the summer. Everyone kept telling us how nice it was, that we came at the perfect time. There was just no escape from the heat – why would they put central air in when it’s only hot one week a year? I get it, but us Americans seemed to be the only ones with issues.
- Signs in English – or, signs with words on them in general. Everything has a symbol on it with no directive. What do you want me to do, people?
What I learned from visiting other countries:
- Americans tend to be very closed off from society. When we’re not buried in our phones seeing what’s going on elsewhere, we are walking around with earbuds in, avoiding eye contact with strangers on public transit and just generally suspect of the people around us. It wasn’t until spending time in Germany trying to find my way around without knowing the language, that I came to appreciate the help that locals can provide. I will never brush someone off again who is in need of directions. Seeing a woman, who was clearly on her way to work, tell a tourist the other day in the subway that “she had no clue where Grand Central was” made me slightly angry – it also made me jump in and give the kind woman directions on getting there. The Dutch, Germans and Belgians were also very connected to what was going on around them. Rarely did you see someone with their nose buried in their mobile device. People interacted with others on the subway, in cafe’s, even on the street.
- The Germans are a friendly people. I came back being incredibly proud of my heritage. Any time we looked lost or were wondering where was good to eat in the area, the locals jumped at the opportunity to help.
- We’re all in a big damn hurry. I’m sure people have things to do and places to be in Europe, but everyone walks around like it’s no big deal. Here in the States, I regularly get run into (both on public transit and on the streets) by people who are rushing. Everyone seems so stressed out all the time…
- Maybe it’s because we are in desperate need of a vacation. 10 days is a joke when it comes to the 25+ days of holiday our European counterparts get. They know how to take a break!
- Nutella is far superior in Europe. Real sugar trumps corn syrup every time.
- EDM is a universal language. It didn’t matter what country you were from, what race you are or what language you spoke, walking into Tomorrowland everyone checked their issues at the proverbial door and partied together while sharing their favorite music.
- Being in touch with your inner child is the only way to live. Have passions. Do everything you can to live them. Get excited about life. And don’t take yourself too seriously.
What I learned about myself:
- I care far too much about 24/7 connectivity. I could fool myself and say that if I’m not around and something happens to someone I love how will I live with myself? But let’s get real here – I just like knowing what’s going on with the people in my life. I have of friends and family all over the world, and Facebook is the best way for me to stay in touch. But I didn’t realize the obsession till I was walking around without 4G LTE access – not to mention the lack of Wifi in public places. Since returning I find myself taking a conscious step back from my phone when I don’t need it for work. I’m also finding that I’m much more annoyed about people being on their phones when they could be spending time interacting with others, in person. I was already annoyed by this so that’s saying something.
- I need to vacation regularly. Stepping away and letting go of the day-to-day every now and again really does help make me happier. And you realize that the world won’t collapse if you don’t respond to that email for a few days.
- I really do love my life. Everything from skydiving to travel opportunities, getting tattoos and going to concerts, to cuddling with my pup on the couch at home, reading a good book and enjoying my quaint little group of friends, I’m proud of the life I’ve built for myself. It’s only going to get better from here.
Stay tuned for more on what I experienced in Europe along with photographic proof.
Whoa! It’s been a few weeks. Sorry about that. I’ve been preparing the entire month for my upcoming Europe trip and that takes a surprising amount of time and energy.
I know, excuses, excuses.
But I decided that I’m going to use this trip as a good life reset. I’ve been all career all the time lately, abandoning yoga, running, writing (clearly) and even skydiving to get ahead. What’s wrong with me?!
Vacation is a great time to step back and assess what’s really important in life. After moving to New York I jumped head first into work and haven’t looked back. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love this job more than any I’ve had so far in my career, but that doesn’t mean I should neglect my other passions.
I’d say 10 days will be sufficient to reflect on where my life is and what I want to prioritize. Vacation is good for more than just time away from work – it gets you out of your own head just enough to recognize what isn’t working and what you need more of in daily life.
Clearly, I’m always going to need more skydiving, but I need to add back in some of those healthy behaviors that keep me sane and happy. Can’t wait to see what happens after nearly 2 weeks, completely unplugged from life in the States.
I’ll be sure to catch everyone up after.
Love and Blue Skies!
I probably shouldn’t be saying this, given that I’m a social media marketer and should love all social networks, but, this is my blog and these opinions are my own, and I think it’s necessary to share this insight…
It’s been less than two weeks since we broke up, but already my life is exponentially better. I gave up the Foursquare addiction to pursue a stronger relationship with Instagram, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s more than just snapping photos of your food (unless of course, you’re a foodie, then that’s it’s primary use I’d gather).
Sure, you can do a lot of the same things on both platforms, like check in to your favorite locations, share on Facebook and Twitter, tag friends, comment on photos, and Foursquare even lets you take and share pictures – though they aren’t exactly a prominent feature of the app.
The one thing Instagram doesn’t allow you to do is compete with others via a leaderboard and gain badges (that mean absolutely nothing, btw) for visiting bars 13 weeks in a row, or snagging that level 8 java badge for checking into a new Starbucks in town. The whole thing is silliness to me now that I’m removed from it.
As I see it, there are two big reasons why Instagram is far superior to Foursquare:
As I said a couple weeks ago, with Instagram you’re doing more than just clicking a button and telling the Interwebs where you are on the map at that moment in time. You’re creating something. By taking a few extra moments to snap a photo while tagging your location and who you are with, you’re sharing a creative moment with your network.
Hashtags! Not only are you able to share with your network, but you can share with others. Hashtags allow you to seek out and find your people. #nyc #tattoos #skydiving #astoria #travel #puppies….remember when I said a few weeks back that you should embrace what you love and seek out people who share those passions? On Instagram, hashtags are exactly the way to do that. You document the things you love with a photo and hashtag it, yelling to the world that you love it and want to share it with everyone. You can also search any hashtag to find and follow like-minded people. It’s a great way to connect with your people, and as far as I’m concerned, one of the most important purposes of social media.
So if you’re interested in following me, check me out (ashleymead) on Instagram. Most of my content is related to the hashtags listed above, with a lot more to come. What are some of your favorite social media platforms?
This spring has not provided the best skydiving weather. I thought maybe it was just the Northeast, but I’m hearing from friends in Chicago, across the Midwest and even into areas of the South that the skies haven’t been playing nice for them, either.
The last few weekends I’ve dedicated one day to heading out and making a day of skydiving, but most of those days were completely weathered out (of course, the day I couldn’t go usually ended up being perfect). This weekend the forecast changed from complete rain to partly cloudy at the last minute so I decided to take the LIRR out to Skydive Long Island for a much needed sky bath.
Upon arrival we were socked in. Complete cloud cover. WTF Weather Channel App?!
Luckily, the 15 minute drive to the dropzone took us into clear skies and skyjumpers in the air. We got up on the first available load and upon checking the spot saw some concerning clouds headed our way. Once we got back down from a super fun freefly, packed up, manifested and were geared up walking to the plane, they shut down due to rain.
We waited an hour or so for clouds to clear and headed back up. Another great freefly and the skies looked clear. Until they weren’t. Another weather hold and we called it for the day. It was supposed to be beautiful on Sunday (and it was) but of course I had other plans.
I’m thinking the sky gods need a sacrifice. Anyone have a goat I can borrow?
Blue skies (please)!
Why is hating such a cool thing to do?
As kids, it was cool to love things. Kids loved riding their bikes, loved being outside, found so much joy in watching the older kids do tricks at the skate park. No one hated on you for embracing what you loved.
As adults, it seems like the cool thing to do is sit around and criticize people for loving what they do. “How can she like that movie? It’s so stupid!” … “Ugh, Nickleback is the worst! You clearly have no taste.” … “How can you jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” … “Tattoos are ugly, you should stop getting them.”
Now to be fair, Nickleback is terrible and anyone who does enjoy their music clearly has no taste.
Ha! Kidding. Kind of.
Note: This is all just an observation – I’m not hating on haters or anything. I have plenty of friends who I would classify as “haters,” but I still love ‘em.
I have three questions for the criticizers:
1) Is this how you make friends, by laughing at the pleasure others get out of their lives?
2) What makes you an expert on what’s worth enjoying and what’s not?
3) Is there anything that you actually enjoy, aside from hating on others?
I think these are very valid questions. I read a statement the other day that slapped me upside the head, and I even tweeted about it:
“Don’t be ashamed of your obsessions. If you love something, go ahead and fucking love it - loudly and all over the place. That’s how you find your people, after all.”
And why shouldn’t we embrace what we love? So what if it’s not “popular.” We’re fucking adults – why on Earth would we make rational, adult decisions to dismiss what we love because someone else thinks it’s stupid?
Our differences are what make us unique, people. I don’t want to live in a world filled with 5 foot 3 blonde chicks who skydive, have tattoos and spend a little too much time on social media. Fuck that noise!
One of the things I love about traveling the world is that you get to experience different cultures, meet new people – some who are like-minded, others who are completely different but are amazing just the same. Aren’t we supposed to live in a “melting pot” culture? One that embraces everyone and their differences, even if their opinions and preferences are different from ours? Hell, especially if they are different from ours!
Whatever, if hating is what you love, then keep on keepin’ on. I personally, will be spending my time loving life in my own way – I challenge you to do the same.
Love and blue skies!
After three long years, I decided that it’s time to break up. It was good while it lasted, but our relationship has reached a level of destructive that just can’t be repaired.
Today, I say goodbye to Foursquare.
This hurts a bit, knowing I have to give up solid mayorships like East Side Ink and the dropzone. But what I’ve come to realize is that mayorships don’t make you loved at these places, being present makes you loved. But being present requires putting the phone down from time to time to have conversations with those around you, to make real relationships, rather than obsessing over keeping the mayorship so everyone knows you’re the most frequent guest (besides, you can tell by the ever-expanding ink on my arm that I’m a regular at a tattoo shop somewhere).
I like to say that Foursquare is one of those tools that allows me to look back and see where I’ve been, who I was with, and gives me the ability to go back and find those cool places I once visited so I can return. But, if I’m honest with myself about the whole thing, I rarely do that.
For one, not all my friends are on Foursquare and I don’t always tag them anyway, so I rarely capture who I was with. And for two, scrolling back through my hundreds of check-ins at work and my apartment is far too annoying to “find that one place from that one time.”
I originally signed up for the platform so I could learn about it (given that I’m a social media marketer and all) and to get deals at local restaurants – back when places actually did that on the regular. My usage has since morphed into this virtual competition with my friends to see who can spend the most time at the top of the leaderboard. This leads to ensuring the first 30 seconds I enter any location is spent checking in so I can get those “first of friends” points. It becomes an obsession I tell ya!
Which is precisely why it’s time to end this unhealthy relationship.
There are other platforms, such as Instagram, that are a better use of my time. If I really want to remember where I was and who I was with, I should just snap a photo and tag the location on Instagram. At least that way I’ve got something to show for it rather than a couple of meaningless points and a pin on a map. It’ll give me a photo to remember the time spent there – I’ve been meaning to take more pictures anyway.
So, I’m officially calling it quits as a Foursquare user. Sure, I’ll keep the platform around in a folder on my phone, check out the new updates so I can stay on top of functionality – it’s what any good social marketer would do. But as far as check ins go, you won’t be seeing me on the map anymore.
Follow me on Instagram if you’re curious what fun things I’m up to.
Love and Blue Skies!
“You can be anything you want if you put your mind to it.”
Living in New York City the past few months has made me realize just how true the above statement is. Of course, that phrase is often used in accordance with a discussion about career paths and serious life decisions.
But it is also true when it comes to the every day.
Often times it’s the little things that add up to make you who you are and your life what it is. You make choices every day that define you. For instance, making the choice to get up in the morning and run, or attend an after work yoga class in lieu of happy hour with co-workers, that makes you an athlete. You can become a chef in your own home simply by picking up fresh ingredients at the local farmers market and cooking dinner rather than ordering in. Spending your weekends living out your passions, whether it’s walking the city with your camera, playing frisbee in the park with your dog, or skydiving with your adrenaline junkie friends, that makes you a photographer, an outdoorsman, and a skydiver, respectively. Even the smallest choices like being a healthy eater or a budgeter (is that a word?), can make the biggest differences in how your life unfolds.
Here’s the thing about definitions – they’re what you make them. If you think that in order to be an “athlete” you have to compete professionally and be famous for it, then there’s a high likelihood you’ll never define yourself that way. But, if you see athletes as those who push themselves physically, who use their body the way it was designed – as your greatest instrument – and are always pushing the limits, striving for improvement, then all it takes is a few right choices to get you there.
But what’s so important about the definition anyway? (Thanks to A Life Less Bullshit for a bit of inspiration.)
Well, for some it’s not. But for others, it’s a way to stay motivated, to make the choices that will lead you to the path to becoming what it is you want to be.
It’s easy, especially in a city like New York, to fall into a routine of coffee, commute, work, happy hour, commute, dinner at 10pm, sleep, repeat 5 times, then booze it up on Friday, day drink Saturday and Sunday and repeat the whole process. There’s always someone in the city willing to grab a drink, there’s always a networking event happening, there’s always an excuse to put off your plans till tomorrow. But it comes down to personal choices, because there’s always people out running, taking spinning classes, or even just willing to go to the park on a nice day to get off the couch. It may not always be the popular decision that’s the right one for you. It’s taken me a few months to realize that just because everyone else is settling into the bar for the evening doesn’t mean I can’t just have one drink then head to spin class as planned. Sure, you might get some flak for it, but it comes down to what’s most important for you. Sometimes, that drink(s) with co-workers is just what the day requires. And sometimes, skipping a fun weekend of day drinking in the city to head to the dropzone is the only choice for sanity sake.
Taking into account all the decisions you make in a day, what can you change in order to define yourself the way you want?
As much as I don’t want to admit it, today I enter the last year of my 20s.
Sure, I joke that I’m celebrating my first 29th birthday this year, but in all honesty, 30 doesn’t scare me all that much. There’s a certain level of respect that seems to come with the big 3-0; especially when it comes to work life. Your expertise carries more weight than a 20-something, mostly because you have more experience – in life and in career terms.
The 20s aren’t to be scoffed at, however. This is a great time of change, of learning and and molding your life for the future you want to have. It’s the times you’ll make the biggest mistakes, but you’ll also walk away with the biggest lessons, the greatest friends and amazing memories. The 20s mold how you see the world, how you reflect on yourself and envision your future.
Of course, I may soon be thinking about wrinkle creams and my ticking biological clock…
Ha, I can’t even finish that statement. Anyone who knows me at all knows I give zero fucks about any of that.
What turning 29 has done is give me a moment to reflect on my 20s – though don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not done with that process – and set a few goals for what I’d like to accomplish in this last year as a 20-something.
Some of these are specific, some are broad, some are yet to be established and won’t even appear on this list. But, I figured I’d put this stuff out there and the community would help keep me accountable.
pst – if I haven’t told you recently, you guys are the greatest! Thanks for sticking by me – even when I’m not talking about skydiving.
- Get out of debt. I’ve been wanting to stick to a budget for months but there’s always something going on in my life that makes it challenging. So, instead of doing an all-or-nothing strict budget, I’m going to set so much aside each month to pay off debt and the rest will be to spend however I see fit.
- Roll with the punches. For someone who not only craves change but creates it frequently in her life, I sometimes have difficulty adapting to it when it’s out of my control. A weakness I think many have, but don’t acknowledge. Not only do I know it exists, I want to overcome it.
- Write something important. That’s not to say what I’m doing here isn’t important. The emails I receive on the regular from jumpers who have gained something from my blog or those who want more advice, even just people thanking me for writing about this amazing sport and community, is heart warming to say the least. But I have some important things to say and a plan for saying them. I can only hope to continue being a resource to those in need.
- Show your compassion. It’s easy to walk through life saying you are empathetic to others, but it’s entirely different to actually show it. Being compassionate doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you not only understand that people have feelings, but that you look out for others. Sometimes it’s just being there, and letting people know you are there – then following through. Keep your promises. Be the person your friends say “she said she would, so she will.” Finding the good in others helps. Positive thinking really does lead to positive action.
- Be more selfish. Wait, what? “But didn’t you just say…” Yeah, yeah, I know what I just said. But there’s a difference between being selfish in a way that hurts other people vs. being selfish in a way that helps you help others. I’m learning the process of taking care of me first. Sometimes that means compromising – balancing my obligations with my wants and knowing the difference between want and need in the first place – and sometimes, the hardest part, is knowing that it may mean walking away from the toxic to keep myself healthy, physically and mentally. It’s an uphill battle, and sometimes in my quest to find the right balance I step on the toes of those around me, but know it’s not intended.
What? Were you expecting me to say more tattoos, more skydiving, more tunnel time? C’mon guys, that should just go without saying by now.
This is just the beginning of what I want to get out of my 29th year of life. Hopefully my efforts to surround myself with good people, to be there for them as they are for me, and to dream big will help me arrive in my 30s next year at this time with a smile on my face.
Love and blue skies!
It’s not uncommon for me to obsess about music from time to time (read: constantly). I’m one of those people who will latch onto a song, switch on the repeat button and drown in it until I’m over it. Sometimes that ruins a song for me, but most of the time I end up baking the sound into a nice little memory of that moment in time and when I hear it in the future it brings overwhelming feelings from that piece of my life and I get to relive those emotions all over again.
The beauty of music.
That said, Armin Van Buuren has been touching my soul for the last couple weeks. Today in particular I’m stuck on Alone. There’s a YouTube embed below so you can listen for yourself, but there are a couple lines that hit me upside the head that I want to talk about.
“Everyone’s connected, but no one is connecting. The human element has long been missing…”
“Is anybody out there? Is anyone listening? Is anyone left in this whole world?…”
This is something I’ve harped on the last couple years as technology continues to infiltrate our lives. My pet peeve has been, and continues to be, those instances where people I’m conversing with pick up their phone mid-sentence to check an email, respond to a tweet, check Facebook…the list goes on. Now, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, if you’re waiting on an important work email or text about someone who is in critical condition in the hospital, get it, free pass. But if I’m telling you something and you interrupt me (yes, even if you don’t speak you’re still interrupting) by sticking this device in your face instead of listening to what I am saying, don’t be surprised if I slap it out of your hand – or, simply stop talking to you altogether and walk away. Seriously, anything other than an emergency can wait 10 seconds while I finish my thought. Otherwise, you’re telling me that whatever buzz your phone made is more important than anything I have to tell you.
I’ve walked away (permanently) from friends for less…why we continue to put up with this behavior as a society is amazing to me. Seeing signs at stores where service will be denied to anyone on their phone makes me want to high five the nearest employee. Good for you guys.
It goes beyond this, though. Living in New York City, a city where you come in contact with hundreds if not thousands of people a day, and saying “hi” to someone in person, in real life, is seemingly startling to them (yes, this happens to a very personable friend of mine all the time), is a disheartening. Are we really living in a society that is that averse to face-to-face human interaction?
It’s entirely possible, even living in New York City, to feel completely alone. We are in an age where we are more connected than ever, but at the same time there seems to be a larger societal disconnect.
Today I tweeted a video that Gizmodo posted about the possible future of Google Glass. It’s worth a watch, but I have to admit this scares me more than a little. Sure, it’s exciting to see where technology is going, what possibilites lie ahead and where this might take us, but it’s also pretty frightening to think that your main verbal interaction every day could be to the fucking glasses on your face!
The ability to have technology at your fingertips and on your person at all times is quite incredible when you think about it. But is it getting to be too much? Are we losing touch with one another?
Here’s a story for you: two days ago I was on the subway and the train I on my commute home goes from underground (read: no cell service) to elevated a little more than half way to my destination. I had a few glasses of wine under my belt and was in full on people watching mode. As the train poked out from underground and 4G returned to smartphones, I was shocked what happened. Quite literally everyone in the car I was on pulled out their phones and stuck them in front of their faces. Conversations that were taking place came to a screeching halt. My mouth dropped open. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Even 10 minutes without virtual connection to the outside world clearly makes people uneasy. Can that much have happened on Facebook and Twitter in the time you were on the train?
As someone who has lived in 6 cities around the country in the last 10 years, none of which are even within 100 miles of where I grew up, I’ll be the first to admit that without Facebook, Twitter, Facetime and texting my relationships with friends and family hundreds of miles away would suffer. I rely heavily on social networks and having technology at my fingertips to keep in touch in those times when I may only have moments free but want to let those close to me know I’m thinking about them, even though we don’t have the luxury of proximity. But, I certainly don’t want that to be at the expense of the relationships with those who I get to look in the eye every day.
I like to think I’m good about that – though I’ve been informed I tend to turn to my phone more than I should sometimes. I am guilty of this too. But, generally speaking, not only do I want to ensure my attention is focused on the people in the moment (and not send the message that there’s something out there in cyberspace that’s more important than spending time with the people in my life) but I know the value of living in the moment (thanks, skydiving) and there’s something to be said for unplugging to enjoy the real world.
Of course, I want to be better about this. I find myself uneasy when I leave my phone at my desk during a meeting, because, what if? I want to start having dinners where devices aren’t even allowed in the vicinity, and if they have to be there, they are turned off. Yes, OFF. I want to be more comfortable disconnecting and reconnect with the real world and the human elements that reside within.
There’s gotta be a 30 day challenge built in there somewhere, right?
Okay…thoughts, feelings, opinions? I know you have them.
And here’s that song…
Love and blue skies!
It should come as no surprise when I say I’m addicted to adrenaline. Between the skydiving and the tattoos, and the fact that I have the adrenaline molecule in permanent ink on my leg, it’s pretty obvious, to say the least.
What surprised even me this morning is the extent to which another addiction is running my life: caffeine.
It’s sad, really. Dragging my ass out of bed is becoming increasingly challenging as the week progresses, and until I take that first glorious sip I don’t feel fit for public. Today I waited until I got to my office to get my fix - nearly an hour of commuting sans java and I have to admit, it was pretty awful. It’s like that paranoid feeling you get after smoking a joint and going out in public (not that I have working knowledge of such things), I was on the subway thinking “everyone knows I haven’t had my coffee yet…ugh, I’m disgusting.”
Once that first drop hit my lips I instantly felt more alive. That was also the moment I cringed as I realized my inability to function without it.
A couple years back I gave up caffeine for more than two months and honestly, it was great. I didn’t have an afternoon crash, my body let me know when it was legitimately tired, and getting out of bed was, for the most part, a breeze. This morning, I considered going down that path again.
Maybe that’ll be my next 30 day challenge. I can only imagine the headaches that will ensue.