Saturday, August 30, 2014

Why it's Important to Feel Uncomfortable

My mom sent me this article the other day, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Even though I've been away from home for a year, leaving home is always a little bit difficult. Home is where the heart is. There's no getting away from that. It's natural to want to go home and see your family (I hope everyone gets to experience those feelings!) However, as time goes on, you've got to learn to start letting go.

My family

At the end of freshman year, most of my friends packed up their dorm rooms and returned to their hometowns for the summer. I, however, packed up my dorm room and moved into a dingy apartment just down the street, in preparation to spend my summer in hotter-than-hell Mid-Missouri to obtain Missouri residency. I wasn't too keen on the idea at first. I longed to spend the summer in my hometown, return to the job I had in high school as a hostess, and have my mom cook my meals and do my laundry for me. That was what was familiar. That was what would be comfortable. 

Staying in Columbia this past summer was a fulfilling experience in more ways than one. Yes, it was uncomfortable at times. Yes, it was a little bit lonely. But, gosh, I grew in so many ways.

I worked as an intern at State Farm Insurance Companies. I was a copywriter in Creative Services, and worked on a variety of internal and external communication pieces. I worked from 8-4:15, M-F, with a 30 minute lunch break each day. It was definitely an adjustment at first. Waking up at (what I considered to be) the crack of dawn and working all day took some getting used to. Even more of a challenge was the fact that I was working remotely, and communicated with my department solely via e-mail, IM, and phone. 

Starting the internship and working with coworkers who were much older than me and who had much more experience wasn't comfortable at first. There were times where I was frustrated and confused and felt like everything I wrote wasn't good enough. However, the internship was an incredible experience and has opened so many doors for me. I have a nice portfolio of work, letters of recommendation, and continue to work for the company part-time. I now have a better idea of where I want to go in the field of journalism. Those first couple of days of discomfort were rough, but they were absolutely worth it. 

Adjusting to living in an apartment was challenging. Learning how to cook for myself, stick to a budget, and get into a cleaning routine took some getting used to. However, I'm so glad I had the summer to get used to apartment life. I'm living in an apartment this year, and the transition from dorm to apartment living was easier since I already had experience from the summer. 

As I mentioned earlier, most of my friends returned home for the summer, so there weren't that many people in Columbia. Luckily, I shared the apartment with Natasha, who I became friends with during freshman year. I also got the opportunity to become closer with Amanda, and I'm so glad I did! If I hadn't have spent my summer in CoMo, we probably wouldn't have become such great friends. Just one more way that being a little bit uncomfortable can lead to something fruitful.

Amanda and I

As I write this post, I have college freshman close to my heart. You've been on campus for about two weeks now. You might still be reeling from the loss of your comfortable childhood bed and room and your mom's home-cooked meals. You may be missing all your high school friends and just want to hop in the car and make the three hour and forty-five minute drive home to go to the Friday night football game because you just feel so uncomfortable here and you don't think it will ever feel like home. As tempting as it is to run home these first couple of weekends, don't. A person can't feel comfortable all the time. Sometimes it's actually a good thing to feel uncomfortable. Step outside of your comfort zone. Reach out to some new people you've never talked to before. You'll only feel uncomfortable for a little while, I promise. 

With the start of each new year and each new semester, little changes take place that cause us to feel uncomfortable. You may feel as if you just got settled in your dorm and all of a sudden it's time to move into your new apartment. (Guilty!) Or maybe you just mastered college algebra and this semester you are taking Calculus. Whatever the discomfort, it's good for us. It causes us to become more flexible, expand our horizons, and seize new opportunities. 

If I could give one piece of advice to incoming college freshman, I think it would be "be willing to be uncomfortable."

Stay Stylish. Stay Classy. Be Creative.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Canada: Baie-Saint-Paul and L'Isle-Aux-Coudres

To read about our first few days in Canada, click here

On Tuesday morning, we woke up pretty early, grabbed some breakfast at our hotel and then headed to the next destination on our itinerary: Baie-Saint-Paul and L'Isle-Aux-Coudres, which were further southwest in the region of Charlevoix, about 45 minutes from La Malbaie.

L'Isle is in the middle of the Fleuve Saint Laurent, and you have to take the ferry. Luckily we arrived in Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive relatively early and didn't have to wait too long to board the ferry for the 15 minute trip across the fleuve. 

The ferry

Beautiful scenery

After driving off the ferry, we drove the main road of the island in pursuit of Velo-Coudres, the bike shop where we planned to rent bikes. We got fitted for bikes and helmets and pedaled away to ride the 16 mile loop around the island.

I've mentioned it before, but I love riding bikes. One of the best ways to get "up close and personal" when you travel is to see a place by bike. In many places, it's the preferred method of transportation, and it's so much easier to make little stops along the way (at fromageries and boulangeries!), take pictures, and absorb the details you wouldn't have seen out the window of a car or bus. 

We stopped quite a few times to appreciate the gorgeous views of the river and mountains, take photos, and we stopped at a delicious boulangerie along the way to enjoy some freshly baked pastries and muffins. 

Just pedal


After the bike ride, we rode the ferry back across the fleuve and continued to Baie-Saint-Paul. We enjoyed lunch at a cafe on the main drag, and then proceeded to check into our hotel, Hotel La Ferme, which was in walking distance of the village. 

The hotel was one of the most unique I've ever stayed at. The decor was farm-inspired and very clean and modern. My siblings and I stayed in one of the dortoirs (dormitories). The room had four pull out murphy beds, four closet lockers, and a modular couch. Super cool!


We spent the remainder of the afternoon at the pool, and then grabbed a semi-early dinner before returning to the hotel. 

On Wednesday, we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and then drove 45 minutes to Parc National des Grand-Jardins. My dad grabbed some maps at the information desk, and then we took off on an 8.2 kilometer hike to the top of Le Mont du Lac de Cygnes. It was an absolutely gorgeous hike, but it was very steep! It was uphill almost the entire way, and towards the summit we confronted steep stairs and rocky paths. Our hard work was worth it though, because the views at the top were breathtaking. 

Confronting the steep inclines

We made it!

That view


From my Instagram: took my Tigers to the summit!

We completed the hike in around three hours, and then headed back to B-S-P to grab some lunch because we were starving. We found a microbrewery along Rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste. We started the meal with some poutine with beer gravy and it was to die for. 


After lunch, my mom and I stayed to peruse the art galleries and shops along the Rue while the rest of the family returned to the hotel to go to the pool. There were so many incredible pieces of art in such a small area. It was entertaining to look at all the different pieces even if we didn't buy anything. We stopped at a bakery on the way back to the hotel so I could get a macaron (obviously!).

On Wednesday night, we enjoyed dinner at Le Mouton Noir. The atmosphere and interior were very hip, and the food was pretty solid. I enjoyed some duck, and my brother ordered an amazing pork dish. Dessert was a mini loaf of carrot cake with super moist cream cheese frosting. 


We were very happy to get to our beds on Wednesday night! The hike wore us out! We rested up to prepare ourselves for the trip to Quebec City on Thursday.

Baie-Saint-Paul was very pleasant. A quaint "seaside" (ok, riverside) village with narrow streets and lots of personality. Still very French, and not very touristy, which was an added bonus.

Today we will explore Quebec City. Expect a post with details within the coming days.

Stay Stylish. Stay Classy. Be Creative.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Canada: La Malbaie

After spending the majority of my summer living in Missouri and interning with State Farm, it was nice to come home for a little while before school starts up again. As soon as my internship finished up, we packed our bags and headed out for our annual summer trip. The location always varies, and this year we decided to venture to Quebec, Canada.

We flew into Quebec City on Saturday evening and made the two hour drive northeast to La Malbaie. It's a quaint little village, right on the Fleuve Saint-Laurent (St. Lawrence River). We checked into the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, had a late dinner, and went to bed to rest up for the next day's adventures.

On Sunday, we drove 45 minutes further northeast to Baie-Sainte-Catherine for a whale watching excursion. Although a bit chilly once on the water, we had a nice time. We saw a few blue whales (which are endangered) and also got to sport some very interesting outfits (see below). The jackets and pants kept us warm and dry!

All suited up

After we got back on dry land, we drove back to La Malbaie and grabbed lunch at a roadside cafe (think beachy, snack stand type vibe) We ordered some poutine for the table, which is a traditional dish in Quebec. It consists of french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. Delicious. I wish I would have gotten a picture, but I'm sure I'll have another opportunity since my brother is in pursuit of more poutine before trip's end. 

We spent the afternoon at the pool and then got cleaned up for dinner. We chose Allegro, an italian place in La Malbaie. The interior was very hip and the food was great.

We started Monday with breakfast at the hotel (Lox on a bagel with all the trimmings for me, I could eat that everyday!) and then headed out on a hike. We were going to hike in a national park nearby, but it turned out it was closed for renovations to the dam. We ended up hiking on some paths near our hotel. The weather was perfect, not too hot but sunny. It was a beautiful hike, but it was STEEP. I think going back down at the end was more difficult than going up because of the incline. We're talking 20% grades in some places!

Breathtaking view of the Fleuve Saint Laurent

After we returned from our hike, my mom and I decided to rent bikes and ride into town. We stopped for lunch at Le Cafe de la Gare by the river and ate on the patio. We continued our ride right along the fleuve, stopping every once in a while to take pictures of the beautiful scenery.

The cutest colorful bed and breakfasts and shops right along the water

Monday afternoon was spent napping, and then we got ready for dinner. We had some appetizers on the patio of the hotel and then headed to Restaurant L'Orchidee for dinner. We had a delicious meal and enjoyed great conversation. I ordered linguini with shrimp, scallops, and mussels for dinner and it was outstanding. I always try to take advantage of the fresh seafood when we go on vacation! 

Before dinner. 
I'm wearing a C.Wonder top, American Eagle jeans, and Jack Rogers sandals. 

Adorable window box outside the restaurant


La Malbaie was beautiful, quaint, and very European. I think Quebec seems the most European compared to other places in Canada (Alberta, British Columbia). This could be due to the fact that French is the primary language spoken here. Not knowing French has proven to be a bit of a challenge, but many employees at hotels and restaurants have pretty good English. However, listening to people speak French makes me want to learn. I can't give up my Spanish minor, though. I might have to do it on my own time!

Today we are in Baie-Saint-Paul and plan on hiking, and tomorrow we will begin our journey West to Quebec City.

Stay Stylish. Stay Classy. Be Creative.