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Onwards & Upwards

A Little About Life

Ever get stuck in a rut? You can’t tell which way is up and you begin to feel like you’re in a continuous circle. Well that is exactly how I feel at the moment. Since coming home it has been go..go…go..! At first a huge amount of my energy went into finding a job, now I am nearly two months into my new job and I have a chance to breathe again.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about A Little About Life and the direction I should continue in. When living away from home everything was so new and exciting and as the saying goes ‘worth writing home about’. My instagram has even felt the hit! This being said I have decided to continue with my blog keeping the tone nice and light. I am also going to to do some posts about my time in the states as I am getting a lot of questions from friends and friends of friends looking for advice and wanting to know about my experience.

By nature I am a person that likes to continuously challenge myself. Sometimes it is something small like committing to go to the gym five times that week, other times it is something more substantial like enrolling in a html class. What can I say… I like to keep busy :)! At the moment I am not keeping busy enough… but that is about to change.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you ― Fred DeVito

For those of you who know me know that I am extremely interested in the tech industry. My family often slag me saying if there is an app for something I already have it. Not going to lie when in San Francisco this was definitely true. I think I currently have over 90 apps downloads on my phone…most don’t work in Ireland but for some reason I can’t bring myself to delete it. With this in mind it is something that I am going to put a lot of focus on over the next few months and you never know that interest could make an appearance here too!

Stay tuned!

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Settling Back Home

Reflecting on 2015

It’s hard to believe I am home nearly 3 months and it’s almost 4 months since I left San Francisco. Time has flown by, when thinking back about San Francisco it feels like it was all a dream. As expected when coming home I received a lot of ‘Are you delighted to be back?’ questions, this of course only adding to the upset of coming home. I am beyond jealous of those only starting out on their adventures overseas.

When coming home I decided to become more conscious about spending time with my family. Christmas served as the perfect opportunity to do this. My family and I have a tradition of going away for a night or two between Christmas and New Years. It is something I really look forward to and this year was no different. This year we went to Seafield Hotel and I have to say it was one of the best places we have been to yet.

Before Christmas I made a short trip to Galway to spend time with my younger cousins, as I knew once I started working full-time I would not have the opportunity to do this. The trip was great I got to attend my cousins gymnastics competition (a whole 4 hours of it) and visit the Christmas Market on Eyre Square. Believe it or not I even enjoyed helping with homework, although I can’t say the same for my two younger cousins I was helping. Quizzing them on their times tables through Irish was a struggle in itself.

Now as many of my friends know I don’t do well with not being busy. The day after I arrived home I already had booked myself in to get my driving license replaced. It probably wasn’t my smartest move booking it for 11am but sure look it got sorted. I was eager to get straight back driving. One little problem was that my car had been given to my younger sister. Within the week I had bought myself a FIAT Panda, the whole sharing a car wasn’t going to last in the long-term.

Only after buying the car did I found out that since I had let my car insurance lapse for more than 3 months I was considered an unexperienced driver. The fact I am 25 with nearly 5 years driving experience and no claims made absolutely no difference. I was receiving minimum quotes of 2,000euro. Long story short I ended up going with company Boxymo (underwritten by AIG). Boxymo installs a device into your car that monitors your driving providing you with weekly updates. Their target market is young inexperienced drivers, however, when talking to their engineer who installed the device into my car he said over 30% of the cars he works on are owned by people that have come home after living abroad. The cost of the insurance is a fraction of the price I had previously been quoted and will stand to me when looking for quotes in the future.

One of the biggest things I have had to adapt to since moving home is having other people dependant on me. I became so accustomed in doing everything myself, not depending on other people and going places without question. Now obviously I have moved back in with my family and with that comes a certain expectation. Now it’s not half as bad as I’m making it sound, sure there is always food in the fridge and someone to have a chat with. I know it sounds spoilt and believe me it’s not like that at all, it is more being aware that during your free time there may be things other people need help with.

My gran has a theory, that since I now have my own car, a job and money there is no need to ever leave Ireland again. We shall see how her theory plans out but for the moment I am settling back in and looking forward to see what else 2016 has to offer.

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Looking Forward to 2016

Beautiful Ireland

2015 has flown by, it is hard to believe I kicked it off living in California. Although I have been home less than 2 months it already feels like it was all a dream. Since coming home I have been catching up with friends and spending time with my family. It is funny how it is the little things you miss while living away from home and how quick you fall back in place as if nothing has changed. There of course has been an adaptation period which I will talk about in a future post, but for now I am going to look at what lies ahead for 2016.

Travel was a huge part of 2015 for me and I hope it continues to be going forward. Last year saw trips to Seattle, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Las Vegas, New Orleans and New York. Along with many the road trips around California. I was fortunate enough to visit some fantastic places and experience other cultures first hand.

Americans often comment on how beautiful Ireland is and it is not something I really appreciated until I moved away. It takes coming home after being away for so long to realise Ireland is a beautiful place. Growing up my family would rarely travel abroad for a holiday, the first decade of my life was spent in beautiful places such as Cork, Cavan, Kerry and Galway. This year I plan to take advantage of the beautiful country I live in.

Wanderlust (n): a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.

Beautiful Ireland

Growing up I have always had a low immune system, it wasn’t until last year I realized how valuable my health is. As my parents would always tell me ‘your health is your wealth’. As it turns out I am gluten and dairy intolerant. This is something that I have known for a while but have been reluctant to take seriously. After seeing different specialists in both the US and Ireland I have realised I need to make it a priority for 2016. The reason I am posting it here is to make myself more accountable, cause once you put it out there there’s no going back or making excuses.

It is health that is the real wealth – Mahatma Gandhi

I’m sure you have all heard of the well-known saying by Richard Branson; ‘If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later’. Many people turn down opportunities cause they think ‘they can’t’ or ‘they’re not able’. Fortunately I have never been that person and I am certainly not going to start being that person either. As I start the search for new employment these words could never be more true. I am determined to take on every ‘amazing’ opportunity presented to me in 2016, both professionally and personally.

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish – Steve Jobs

For Christmas my sister gave me an empty jar with a small note attached. The note read; ‘Memory Jar. Start 2016 with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen and memories. Then on New Years Eve empty the jar and remember all the great stuff that happened during the year’. I think it is such a lovely idea as we often get caught up with day-to-day life and forget to reflect on the good things that happen.

From my family to yours I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope all your wishes and ambitions come true ❤

Reflecting on 2015

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I’m Coming Home!

Traveling Solo Quote

The past year has been quite an amazing adventure. It has always been a dream of mine to live in the United States and this year I got to fulfill that dream. A friend recently asked me was I glad I did the graduate visa, without hesitation I responded ‘I’d do it again in a heartbeat’.

It is the pity the graduate visa is only 12 months (14 months if you include the 2 months you’re not eligible to work). I would have loved to do another stent in a different State, perhaps New York or take a trip back to Chicago. While my bags may be packed and I get ready to go to the airport I am not ready to leave, there is still so much left for me to discover.

As all my friends know I am obsessed with quotes and sayings. It is amazing how a small phrase can motivate or cause the reader to reflect. With this in mind I have picked out three sayings that pretty much sum up my year and how I am feeling about returning home.

When I told a childhood friend I was going away he gave me smirk as if to say ‘Are you serious?’. As you can imagine this was not well received. He followed up with, ‘I’ve known you forever, there is no way you will last in a hostel never mind alone’. Now I’m the type of person if you tell me I can’t achieve something I will do damn sure to prove you wrong. A week in I had found myself an apartment and had assembled my bed (granted it was IKEA).

One thing that I have discovered this year is that I can achieve anything I set my mind to. Although there was times throughout the year that I wished I was a home curled up in front of the fire or sitting down to one of my Dad’s Irish breakfasts, I remained determined to make the most of my year!

Traveling solo makes you step out of your comfort zone, try to do things you would not normally do. During my first couple of days in SF I was invited to a house party with another Irish girl, I suspected that there might be some awkward lingering until everyone had a couple of drinks. How I was wrong! As people arrived at the party they said hello to people they were familiar with and introduced themselves to people they did not know. As the weeks went on I found that I had no problem introducing myself to people with a handshake and a ‘nice to meet you’.

While growing up my gran would often tell me to always trust my gut instinct. I don’t think I understood quite what she meant until this year! Having ignored my gut and finding myself in a pretty shitty situation I have learnt what she meant the hard way.

I have learnt so much about myself (as cliché as it sounds). I have learnt what I want to achieve in my career over the next few years, where my strengths and weaknesses lie and finally, I have learnt to do things for myself without seeking approval from others.

I no longer fear being seen alone in a coffee shop and would gladly go for a drink alone if I found myself with time to spare. This is something I use to overwhelm me. I do not find myself getting embarrassed as easily as I use to by fear of what others may think.

A Year in San Francisco

Returning home is a bitter-sweet! I am looking forward to a nice healthy home cooked meal, no longer living out of a suitcase and of course seeing my family and friends. Although I know more of me wishes that it was just for a visit and not for ‘the foreseeable future’.

I will miss the pace of life in San Francisco, the work hard play hard attitude with everyone working on ‘the next best thing’. Yet at the same time people remain ‘chilled out’. I was engrossed by the tech industry, using mobile apps for practically everything. I will miss all the different cultural norms that the United States has to offer. Those are only the touch of the iceberg.

Is there anything I would change about the past year? No! Everything that happened over the past year, both good and bad has been a learning experience and I am better off for it. So yes, I would like to go back to page one and do it all again! I have met a great group of friends, inspirational people and fantastic mentors.

I leave with the resounding thought that… What is meant to be will be! Hopefully, that means I’ll be back some day 😉

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Vancouver, British Columbia

Prospect Point Vancouver

On the 12th of October I bid San Francisco goodbye. As my friends and family know I applied for the H1B back in April, with the hope of staying in the States for at least another three years. Over the last few years there has been a huge demand for H1B visas and this year was no different. With over 200,000 applicants and only 60,000 visas available all applicants were entered into a lottery. Unfortunately for me and many others I was unsuccessful.

Instead of going home straight away I decided to spend a month traveling North America. First stop was Vancouver, Canada. I have a good few friends from home living in Canada. Unlike America, work visas to Canada are easier to obtain. This was my first time going to Canada and to be honest I didn’t really know what to expect.

As the friends I was staying with had work during the day I kept busy doing touristy things. Over the 9 days I visited the aquarium, biked around Stanley park, drove to Whistler, visited Grandville Island and the Capilano Suspension Bridge.

Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
A friend suggested that doing a bus tour would be a great way to see the city. The company I went with was WestCoast Sightseeing. There were 20 stops throughout the trip with a pre-recorded audio guide. The one-day ticket was $42 (CA). Highlights of the tour were Gastown, Stanley Park and Chinatown. You could hop on and off the bus throughout the day.

I stayed on the bus all the way round and then got out at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Gardens in Chinatown. Entry to the gardens was $12 (CA). While the gardens were interesting and I got some great pictures there wasn’t a lot to see.

I first visited Stanley Park with a friend from college. We rented bikes ($9 per hr) and cycled around the outskirts of the park. It was a great and easy way to see the cities skyline and see a good bit of the park. On another occasion I walked around the park visiting areas that bus had stopped at during the tour. My two favourite spots in the part were the Totem Poles and Prospect Point.

The Totem Poles are 9 beautifully carved, red cedar portals located at the Brockton Point Visitor Centre.
Prospect Point is located at the highest point of Stanley Park. After the walk up you are rewarding with a spectacular view.

Whistler Vancouver

The only thing I knew about Whistler was that the Winter Olympics was held there in 2010. A friend I was staying with had never been before so we decided this was the perfect opportunity. We rented a car and drove up to Whistler. Since there was three of us this worked out cheaper than the bus and we also could be more flexible on our times. The short hour and a half drive up was beautiful, that being said it would not be a drive I’d like to do in the snow.

When we arrived we discovered that the ‘Peak to Peak’ gondola we had hope to do had closed 3 days previous until the winter season. After wandering round the small village we set off on a walk. We did the ‘Lost Lake Trail’, it brought us around a lake (surprise surprise) that was calm and picturesque. The trail took approximately 2 hours.

I think my favourite part was the drive back. We left relatively early, giving time to stop at the recommended viewing points and take photos along the way. I would definitely like to visit Whistler again, possibly even to go skiing!

Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Capilano Suspension Bridge is 140 metres long and 70 metres above the Capilano river. Entry to the property is $38 (CA) which is quite pricey. There is a free shuttle available over the bridge and depending on your driver the journey should be narrated pointing out places of interest.

If I’m honest the suspension bridge was a little bit of a let down, there really wasn’t much to be excited about. I preferred the complementary tour I took of the grounds that identified each of the trees and informed us of the wildlife in the areas. The treetop walk and cliff walk were really cool and probably the highlight of the property for me.

I really enjoyed my time in Vancouver catching up with old friends and exploring what the city had to offer. A place a recommend everyone should visit!

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Adapting to the New Normal

While Ireland is the place I will inevitably return to and a place I will forever call home, it was always known I would spend my first few years after graduation abroad. Leaving not because I had to, but because I wanted to, something not all of my generation and generations before me are lucky enough to say.

Since leaving Ireland, I have exchanged birthday and Christmas wishes via Skype, been kept updated through plenty of whatsapps, Facebook posts and many Snapchat’s. I have watched my youngest sister complete her leaving cert, finish secondary school and start Art College. My other sister has turned twenty-one, spent five months in Finland, and passed her driving test and these are only the major milestones I’ve missed.

Sisters

I come from a very close-knit family. Growing up I would always know where my siblings were and through the years this didn’t waiver. There is very little we don’t share with each other, which unfortunately, includes my entire wardrobe. This is why it has come as such a shock how quickly I have adapted to the new normal.

The new normal I am referring to is celebrating all these events from afar, yet feeling like it was only yesterday when I was there in person. On a recent phone call my youngest sister, I commented on how it didn’t feel like that long since I’d left and I regretfully admitted that I was no longer missing home.

Connemara

Don’t get me wrong, like everything the bad comes along with the good and on these occasions I find myself longing for home. Varying from the cravings for a decent bar of Cadbury’s chocolate, to a good ole chat with a friend I’ve known longer than the stamp on my passport. The moment that made me realize all the life events big and small I was missing out on, occurred during one of our frequent family skype calls. My mum mentioned an event that occurred three months previous to which I had no knowledge of. Looks of disbelief crossed their faces, they couldn’t believe that this was something I didn’t already know. With a quick summary I was brought up to speed, however, it wasn’t the same. Moments like these have been the toughest part of being away from home; these are also the moments people back home don’t get to see.

As the time approaches for me to return home I do so looking ahead to my next adventure. My gran recently expressed a sigh of relief to hear that I would be coming home, ‘well hopefully that’ll be traveling out of her system for a while’. To this my dad smiled, ‘I don’t think she’s done quite yet’.

Family

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North of San Francisco

Work was closed for Presidents Day (16th February) so a road trip was a must. It was all very last minute and to be honest there wasn’t really much of a plan, other than to get a car and drive.

Sorting Transport 

As I am under 25 years and without a credit card I did not have many options when it came to hiring a car. I ended up going with Hertz and got a Toyota Yaris. With full coverage insurance it cost us $136.

Things to note:

  • Hertz accepts debit cards
  • The card you use must belong to the main driver
  • They will take a $200 deposit from your card
  • If you are under 25 there is discount codes available online
  • You will be asked do you want them to refuel your car or will you do it yourself – do it yourself, its cheaper!                                                                          

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   Route  

  1. Point Reyes National Seashore

   2.  Petaluma (overnight)

   3.   Bodega Bay

 

 

Point Reyes National Seashore

On arrival we found a large cabin that is home to the Point Reyes park rangers and the information centre. It was here we received a map of the area and were recommended the 8 mile (4 there & 4 back) Bear Valley Trail. This is a vey flat trail with a breath-taking view at the end. The walk took 4 hours, walking at a leisurely pace. It was a warm day so we found ourselves gulling through water.

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I was suggest bringing a few snacks for when you reach the edge of the cliff. Sit down and enjoy the view! There is a small but beautiful beach down a rather steep climb. Please note that this is not a recommended climb and I have been told people have been injured during the climb. In saying that, if you would like the adventure I would recommend climbing down onto the beach and enjoying your snacks there.

Point Reyes National Seashore is somewhere I plan to bring all my visitors. A place not known to all travelers but without a doubt worth a visit.

Petaluma

This small town has a lot to offer, from the lovely restaurants to the talented Petaluma Pete who plays his piano on the a street corner. Looking for a quite weekend away or just an evening out of the city I would highly recommend checking out Petaluma.

Accommodation – This was quite a random find and a good one at that. I was checking out google maps and saw it was a town close by. We booked into Motel 6, an absolute steal! $75 for one room, with two queen beds and onsite parking. Remember this was over valentines weekend and a long weekend.

Food – We were very lucky and got a table at Risibisi Restaurant, a busy little Italian restaurant in the center of the town. There was a special Valentines Day set menu which had some lovely dishes. Unfortunately it lacked a choice of good desserts 😦 , which sent us off in search of a supplement, this is where we came across Powell’s Sweet Shoppe. Every wall was covered with a section of sweets/candy to choose from, we were like two kids in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.

On Sunday morning after a quick Yelp search we found ourselves at Hallie’s Diner. I would advise you get down early as the place fills up fast. We were very lucky to get seated straight away. We both devoured the Cinnamon French Toast, a breakfast I would definitely go back for.

Shopping – Another lucky find was Petaluma Village Premium Outlets. After breakfast on Sunday morning we stopped by for what we had intended to be a ‘quick look around’, three hours later we hit the road again. Some great deals can be found in Nike, Ann Taylor and Levis.

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Bodega Bay

It around 2pm by the time we arrived at Bodega Bay. We had sat in a good bit of traffic on the way from Petaluma, I put this down to the fact the sun was beaming and everyone wanted to get out in the fresh air. We didn’t mind too much as the views were breathtaking. We drove all the way up a windy quite narrow hill were we parked the car and walked to the cliff side. There wasn’t much of a walk, more like a stroll along the cliff, this suited us fine as our legs were tired from the previous day.

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Bodega Bay is considered a prime spot for whale watching (especially between the last weeks of April & start of May), but we were hopeful we would catch a glimpse. After a half an hour or so of patiently looking out we began to give up hope. We wandered over to a group that had gathered at the point of one of the cliffs, it was there we caught a glimpse of a group of gray whales. Due to the time of year (February) the whales were quite far off the coast.

Overall our trip was a great success. Although we started out without much of a plan, only a car and a place to sleep, we packed a lot it. When living in a city you can easily forget that there is more than concrete buildings and the hustle and bustle of city life. Some of the most spectacular views are only an hour out of San Francisco.

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Take the Leap

So only about four people know what it was like for me moving away and as I sit on my bed this evening reading my cards and letters that everyone was so kind to give me before I left, I find it only fitting that I write this. Side note – YAY no more writers block!!

I was never scared about moving away and when everyone told me I was very brave, I just kind of thought ‘hey, it’s an adventure’. I got up that morning, stripped my bed (wouldn’t be like me to leave without being a little dramatic), went down for breakfast and set off with my family on my merry way to the airport. First stop was to drop our little ‘teacher in training’ off at the bus stop, which would bring her to teaching practice. It was quick and easy, like ripping a bandaid off, almost like I was going to see her later that day (ignoring the fact it was going to be 14 months).

Then there were three (Dad, Mum & the youngest)! We all lined up to check in, Dad making friends with the people in the line, hoping they’d look after me and Mum making sure I had everything I needed. Bag checked, ticket in hand, it was time to go through security. We walked upstairs in terminal two, making small talk, acting like I was heading away for the weekend. All of a sudden it was time to say goodbye..

I can’t remember who I hugged first but they all got their hugs and kiss goodbye. I remained strong, no tears!! I started to walk up to security… I looked around and in that moment I decided I was no longer going, I was staying at home! I ran back into Mum’s arms with tears in my eyes, I can’t remember saying much, but instead listening to my Mum’s encouraging words. After another big group hug I decided I was going to do this! Dried my eyes, bag on shoulder and off I went, this time without looking back!

Now don’t get me wrong, the water works started straight away once I got on the plane, sat in my lovely middle seat and began to read the letters my family had sent me away with. Now thinking back that wasn’t my smartest move, but sure I’m known to not always make the smartest of moves.

The point I suppose I am trying to make is, although things may seem scary, daunting or a little out of your reach, if it is something you want, what is the harm in trying! Nothing comes easy but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!