Thursday, October 18, 2018

Zero Waste Alternative to Paper Towels

Now that I'm on the mend from the health problems that I've been experiencing since Ukraine (more in this life update video), I want to focus on sharing lifestyle and fashion habits that allow me to create less waste in my day-to-day life. These small changes have a big impact on our environment and the way we interact with the world with which God has blessed us.

Today, I wanted to share what I use as an alternative to paper towels: OLD T-SHIRTS! We all have that shelf or drawer in our room that is filled with old t-shirts from high school, college, and freebies from events. Yes, you can wear these to sleep in, but there are only so many pajama shirts that you can wear. About a year ago, I was in this exact dilemma. I wanted to get rid of those old t-shirts that were taking up space, but I didn't want to just throw them away. Around the same time, I started reducing my waste in other areas, but hadn't stopped using paper towels. I realized that my old t-shirts could be the perfect swap for paper towels. Problem solved!

By switching from paper towels to old t-shirts, you are:
  • Utilizing existing resources that otherwise would have been thrown out 
  • Reducing the amount of single-use products in your life 
  • Voting for the type of world you want to live in - when you don't spend money on paper towels, you are reducing the demand of paper towel supply and saving the Earth's resources 
  • Being an example for others to choose eco-friendly alternatives 
  • Saving money - think about how much money you spend on single-use products 
Personally, I use these alternatives for spills and cleaning. After, I place the dirty ones in a jar before washing them in the washing machine. For more info on how to make your own, watch the video below and don't forget to tag me on Instagram if you make these!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Strength in the Face of Adversity

In the face of adversity, there is beauty and there is strength.

These words have never rang more clearly to me than in these last eight weeks. On July 31st, I arrived home from my two-month journey traveling and teaching English in Europe. My best friend was arriving in just a few short days and we were to embark on a three-week road trip up the East Coast into Canada. She arrived, and before I knew it, I was on the road once again...a place where I felt free, where I felt comfortable, where my heart was happy. In the midst of traveling, I started having stomach pains. I dismissed them thinking that they were related to traveling and would go away once I got back to a "normal routine" (whatever that is when you're drawn to living on the road).

Three weeks passed, and the pains persisted. Two months later, after visiting different doctors, I stand in my childhood home in New Jersey awaiting an answer. Did I eat or drink something contaminated? Did I catch a virus from traveling? Did I have this illness before I left? Amidst these questions, I was also faced with the uncertainty of figuring out the next chapter of my life. Where was I going to live? What job was I going to do? Was I going to leave everything behind and pursue the dreams I had dreamt throughout college?

I don't need to know the answers to all of these questions right now. I don't need to know what the future holds because I trust in God and that in due time, all will heal and be revealed to me. I will do what I'm supposed to be doing and the experiences I'm having now will shape where I'll be in the future. Where there is adversity and uncertainty, there will always be beauty and strength, and I know I will take that beauty and strength with me wherever I may go. 

Written by my dear friend with words that inspired this post, "Know that in the cracks, the brokenness, and the uncertainty of your heart, life is growing and a garden is forming." You are beautiful and you are strong. Keep going.

Monday, August 13, 2018

It's Okay to Change - Ukraine (pt. 3)

I've changed a lot over the last three years. I lived in three countries, became vegan, witnessed my 93--year-old father experience the hardships of old age, started loving my curly hair and thick eyebrows, embraced a sustainable lifestyle, lost my dearest brother, fell in love in unexpected places, found strength in God, lost and gained friends, traveled to the mountains of China, the ancient cities of Morocco, and far places in between...

It's no wonder that I've changed. How could someone not change after living in a foreign country where everything is new and different? After watching the one you love take their last breath? After sitting under the stars on a rooftop in Morocco talking about the beauty of life? After experiencing the power of God answering your prayers? 

I remember sitting in the Chapel in Ukraine. I had just finished the second week of teaching and I was filled with so many emotions that I just started crying. As the tears dripped down, I took a deep breath and thanked God. I thanked God for allowing me to experience all of the changes I went through because each and every change brought me to that exact moment, to a small village in Ukraine to teach English and be surrounded by some of the most inspiring people I've ever had the privilege of being with. 

In that moment, everything in my life made sense. I realized that it's okay to change. I used to fight change because I was scared of what was on the other side. I was scared of the judgments I would receive, of the friends I would lose, of the feelings I would feel. Change is good. Change is life. Change is shedding the layers to become exactly who and where you are supposed to be. 

I am where I am and where I'm supposed to be. As I enter into the next chapter of my life and this blog, I am building a story of this crazy journey called life, one change at a time. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Walking into Love - Ukraine (pt. 2)

I breathed a sigh of relief. The day's classes were over and my roommate and I were laying on our beds. She turned to me and said, "I have a song that I want you to listen to." 

We sat in silence and listened to the powerful words of the song. When it was over, I asked her if she could play it again. 

The song finished and one phrase kept ringing in my ears...

Walk into love. 
Walk into love.
Walk into love.

I had read many books and quotes about love, and experienced love in many forms, but I never heard it said that way. 

My roommate turned to me and asked me what my favorite part of the song was. I whispered, "Walk into love". 

As I whispered those three words, thoughts began to enclose my mind. I thought about falling in love in high school with a boy who I thought would remain my love for much longer. With him, I naively thought I knew what love was. As I fell more in love, he fell less in love. Soon enough, we parted our ways as I went on to live in the Czech Republic, China, and Italy and travel to over 20 other countries. In each country I lived and traveled to, I searched for love. I had fun, I was free, but deep down I knew I was afraid to walk into love, the real love where you do more than just fall in get a glimpse of someone's soul, you hear their dreams, you walk together with Christ. 

I am no longer afraid to walk into love. Ukraine taught me that love comes in many forms. Walking into love isn't just falling in love. It's listening to someone play the guitar under the stars and wondering how you never heard the sound of their music before. It's sitting in the Chapel after a long day with your best friend and giving everything to God. It's writing a note to someone who made you smile after a long day. It's giving yourself of service to others exactly how you are, imperfections and all. It's allowing yourself to be worthy of the love you will receive in turn.  

Ukraine taught me how to walk into love. I am strong, I am confident, and I am no longer afraid, and for that I'm forever thankful.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Power of a Smile - Ukraine (pt. 1)

I had just arrived at the Monastery where I would be spending the next few days for teacher orientation. The mentor who had picked me up from the airport said, "Here we are." A thousand questions filled my head...

"What am I doing here?"
"Why did I leave the comfort of my home?"
"How am I going to teach English with a degree in Business?"
"Is there wi-fi?" 
"How am I going to stay vegan when I can't speak Ukrainian?" 
"Will I make friends?" 

The questions billowed as I headed to dinner with a few of the teachers who had also arrived that day. As I munched on my first vegan meal of buckwheat and bread, I overheard a girl at the table next to me say that someone had already put their suitcase on the other bed in her room. 

I interrupted, "Wait, what room are you?"

She responded, "215". 

We spent the remainder of the night talking about our blogs, our struggles, and God. As I was falling asleep, I took a deep breath and whispered, "Thank you, God." We went on to spend the next three weeks laughing until our stomachs hurt, listening to worship music, drinking beer after a long day, and laying in our beds wondering how blessed we were that God brought us to Ukraine. 

Orientation came and went. Before I knew it, Monday morning was here and it was time for the first class. I had my coffee in hand and my lesson plan ready. I lifted my head and shoulders, pretending to be confident as I walked to my "classroom" (a circle of chairs outside the Chapel). I looked at my nine students who were all about my age. I smiled the biggest smile I could, hoping to hide my nervousness, and said, "Hi, my name is Kat." 

My lesson plan tanked numerous times throughout the first class...we finished activities way sooner than I thought. Some tasks were too easy, some too boring, some too challenging. I kept doing the only thing I knew how to do, I smiled and laughed at every opportunity. When I smiled and laughed, my students smiled and laughed. I thought, "Maybe I can do this." 

As the days and weeks passed, I shared conversations with my students and many others in the camp. We went on walks and they wrote to me. They shared their dreams and their hardships. They told me about their families and their friends. They told me what life was like in Ukraine. All the while, I smiled. 

The day I had been dreading finally arrived: the last day of camp. The hours ticked on and I knew it was time to say goodbye. The tears flowed and wouldn't stop. For the first time since my arrival, I couldn't smile knowing I had to leave the people who had made every day a beautiful one. As the tears kept pouring, I noticed something. With every hug came a student who was smiling, a student who said thank you for making them smile, a student who wrote me a letter about how seeing my smile brightened their day. I knew in that moment, my job as a teacher was done. 

If you're reading this, smile. Keep smiling and when you don't feel like it, smile more. Someone is watching. Someone is healing. Someone is falling in love. Someone is turning their fear into confidence. Someone is seeing God in you. Someone is happy and by God, that's a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

5 Reasons Why You Should Travel Alone at Least Once in Your Life

Hello from Prague! I arrived here yesterday after 18 hours of travel and am so happy to be back! This is my 12th solo trip. If you're new around here, I've traveled to 6 countries and over 10 cities solo! I began my solo adventures during my fall semester in Milan in 2016 for two reasons. Foremost, I found that I couldn't always do what I wanted to do when I traveled with a group since most of the time my values didn't align with the group's values. For example, I would rather wake up early and explore the city as opposed to stay up late and drink. While I understand there is value in the latter, I would rather direct my energy towards exploring a new city and learning about a new culture. Secondly, during that period of my life, I lost sense of who I was and subsequently lost my confidence. Traveling solo gave me the opportunity to gain all of my confidence back. I realized if I could survive being alone in a foreign country, I could do anything I set my mind to! 

Here are five reasons why you should travel alone at least once in your life: 
  1. Traveling solo builds confidence because you don't have anyone to rely on but yourself. To me, this is the most rewarding part of traveling solo! There is no greater feeling than finding your way around a foreign city all by yourself. 
  2. When you travel solo, you are the boss of your own schedule which means you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. Wake up as early you want, eat wherever you want, and embrace the freedom! 
  3. When you travel solo, you are forced to step outside your comfort zone. For example, you may find yourself eating alone at a restaurant for the first time. Don't stress it, just put your phone away and talk to your waiter or people sitting near you. You'll be surprised at the stories you hear and the friendships you build.
  4. Traveling solo gives you more time. What I mean by this is that when you travel solo, a day seems much longer because you're by yourself and you're only doing the things you want to do. When I went on my first solo adventure to Venice, I didn't know what to do with myself after the first few hours! I couldn't believe all the time I had. 
  5. Traveling solo allows you to meet more people. I have met people from India, Indonesia, South Korea and beyond during my solo adventures. I would have never met these people had I not traveled alone. This is not to say you can't meet people if you're traveling in a group, but it may not be as likely or may require more effort since you already have a companion. 
Of course, while I love traveling solo and encourage others to do so, this list is not to discard group travel. I've also had some of my best memories while traveling in a group. I am simply encouraging you to step outside your comfort zone and see the world from a different perspective! 

Have you traveled alone? If so, I'd love to hear your experience!! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My Low Waste Vegan Graduation Party + Tips for an Eco-Friendly Party

This weekend I celebrated my graduation by having a low waste vegan party! I was on the fence about having a low waste vegan party since most people have a preconceived notion of what vegan food is and are not familiar with the "zero waste" movement. However, I ended up deciding to just go for it and I'm so glad that I did! 

In order to plan for the party, I started by creating a menu which included appetizers, dinner, and dessert (I'll list it below). After creating the menu, I made a list of what we needed and separated it by produce, bulk items, canned goods, and everything else. For the produce, my brother and I went to the farmer's market and bought all of the fruits and veggies for the party without plastic. I used my reusable produce bags and tote bags so that I didn't have to use any plastic bags (#plasticsucks). I like going to the farmer's market because most produce doesn't come wrapped in plastic! In total, the produce only cost about $50. Although none of it was organic, it was still a step in the right direction. 

The next step was to go to the grocery store for bulk items, canned goods, and everything else. Normally I go to Whole Foods, however I knew it would be too pricey for the party if I'm being honest. Instead, I went to Fairway Market which is similar to Whole Foods. There, I bought rice and coconut flakes from the bulk section, a few cans of chickpeas and sauce, and the rest in packaging. I tried to buy all of the packaged products in glass, paper, or aluminum to support a circular economy. However, this wasn't feasible for items that only came in plastic like veggie burgers, buns, sprouts, chips, and pita bread. Normally, I would not buy anything in plastic. However, this was an exception since I needed to be more flexible for the party and cater to different preferences. This grocery haul cost about $140. 

After buying all of the food, I realized I needed to buy compostable plates, cups, and bowls since we didn't have enough real dishes for all of the guests to use. Another great option would have been to purchase secondhand plates, cups, and bowls from Goodwill since they're usually affordable. You can always donate them back if you don't want them to clutter your home after the party. I've also heard of having a BOYP - bring your own plate - party where all your guests bring their own dish! Either option is a great alternative to using disposable plates that end up in a landfill. In terms of silverware, we had enough real forks and spoons so we just used those! All napkins, plates, cups, and bowls were composted. (:

I said I'd get back to the menu so here we are! 

Appetizers: Hummus w/ Pita Chips, Guacamole, Mixed Veggies (bought in bulk and then cut), Vegan Garlic Bread (toasted with nutritional yeast and oil), Olives, Grilled Zucchini (also bought in bulk then grilled), Marinated Mushrooms, Mango Bean Salsa

Dinner: Impossible Burgers and Boca Veggie Burgers on Buns, Pasta Salad w/ Artichokes and Sun-dried Tomatoes, Corn on the Cob, Salad w/ Strawberries, Oranges, and Cherry Tomatoes, Potato Salad, Vegan Coleslaw 

Dessert: Banana Nice Cream (Cherry, Chocolate PB, and Chocolate), Vegan Raspberry Tart, Assorted Fruit (bought in bulk then cut) 

*If you want any of the recipes, message me on Instagram @anewerkatintown!
In order to reduce waste, I set up three bins: compost, recycles, and trash. I labeled each one with instructions so that guests would know where to put what. All food, plates, bowls, cups, and napkins were composted. All plastic soda, wine, and beer bottles were recycled. All other items that couldn't be composted or recycled were placed in the trash bin!
By shopping from bulk, purchasing items that were mostly in paper, aluminum, or glass, and composting, all 25 of us only created about one jar of trash which I couldn't be happier about! If you're having a party soon, here are some tips for having an eco-friendly party:
  • Don't be afraid to live out your values (i.e.: veganism, zero waste, etc.) 
  • Shop from the bulk section to avoid plastic and excess packaging 
  • Buy produce naked or use reusable produce bags 
  • Don't tell people you're having a vegan party (unless you want to), just let them enjoy the vegan food! 
  • Buy compostable or secondhand dishware 
  • Let go of the idea of having a perfect zero waste party...trash happens 
  • Have fun!!!!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How Veganism Changed My Relationship with Food for the Better

Disclaimer: This is a detailed post of my relationship with food and how that impacted my weight for the last 10+ years. I am not a doctor or dietitian, nor am I making any medical recommendations. I am simply sharing my story to inspire hope and connect with individuals who went through a similar journey.

Let me start by saying that I've always struggled with my weight. Since I was little, I was always one of the biggest girls in my class for both height and weight. I was an athlete, playing whatever sport I could get my hands on that day and using my height and weight to my advantage. Despite playing sports, I consumed more calories than I burned. I just loved food! I lived for Brownie Earthquake sundaes at Dairy Queen and McDonald's hashbrowns. Every year for my check-up, I would inevitably gain weight from all the extra unhealthy food I was eating and be in the upper percentile for children my age.

My family and doctor attributed my weight to having an athletic build (which is true) and thought I would shed off the "baby fat" as I got older. That didn't happen so I ended up going to Weight Watchers when I was in 6th grade. Yes, you read that correctly. I was a little 6th grader sitting in a Weight Watcher meeting every Wednesday after school with my older sister. The program gave me an awareness of the calories in various foods and introduced me to counting calories (they use "points"...same concept) for the first time. Within a few months, I had lost about 10-15 pounds as you can see in the stark contrast in the picture on the right and the one above. I felt great, but the only problem was that I kept losing weight. I became addicted to counting calories. Soon, I also became addicted to working out. I joined a gym and started swimming in the mornings too...all on top of my normal soccer, softball, and swim team practices. I put so much stress on my body that I even stopped getting my period. Mind you, I was still in 6th grade at this point.

I continued on this path for the most part until high school when I finally got tired of counting calories. As soon as I stopped counting calories, I went in the opposite direction which led me to start overeating. This resulted in me gaining all of the weight back plus more. By the end of my Freshman year of high school, I weighed my highest at 152 pounds (I'm 5'5" for reference). Around this time, I also became vegetarian for ethical reasons and was still playing sports.

During my Sophomore year of high school, I lost the weight again by counting calories and working out. I also started taking sports more seriously since I was considering playing sports in college. I needed to be in better shape for recruiters to notice me. I weighed about five pounds more than I did when I went to Weight Watchers the first time.

By my Junior year of high school, I was in a relationship which helped me stay at a pretty steady weight. However, this changed when I was accepted to the United States Naval Academy Summer Seminar the summer following my Junior year. The Seminar was basically a boot camp to weed out the candidates who were planning to apply to the Academy that fall. I trained for weeks leading up to the camp...lifting weights, running, and doing hot yoga every day on top of my usual sports practices. I bulked up and was as strong as I've ever been. I loved keeping up with the boys during the fitness test and throughout the Seminar. Among other factors, I successfully passed the fitness test which opened up new doors for me: I got nominations to the Naval Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy, and was awarded a $180,000 Navy ROTC Scholarship for Villanova University. I was also recruited for D3 Softball and D1 Bowling too.

Senior year of high school rolled around and my boyfriend broke up with me (I thought he was the love of my life lol...I'm glad I can laugh at this now). Later that year, I was also rejected from the Naval Academy. My second best option was to accept the Navy ROTC Scholarship to Villanova University. This is the only reason I ended up at Villanova! After accepting the scholarship, I soon lost hope and no was no longer motivated to do anything physical. By the end of the school year, I quit soccer and softball, stopped all training, and I gained weight again.

Flash forward to two weeks before I was supposed to report to NROTC orientation/boot camp at Villanova University. I was miserable, out of shape, and decided there was no way I could show up for orientation in the physical and negative state that I was in. I gave up my scholarship that day, a guilt-ridden decision that proved to be one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. Although it was the right decision for me at the time, I am still paying for it... literally. A few months later, my father and brother were both diagnosed with cancer within four weeks of one another so I had a huge wake-up call to make my health a priority again. I began working out, introducing distance running into my life, and shed the weight once again.

By Sophomore year of college, I stopped being vegetarian after 4 years and soon gained all of the weight back yet again. Are you seeing the pattern here? I was so tired of gaining and losing the same weight so I went to Weight Watchers for the second time which helped me shed the weight yet again. (Wow, I'm getting tired of writing: I lost the weight again.) While Weight Watchers did help me temporarily, I don't believe the system works because it relies on counting "points" instead of eating intuitively. While attending Weight Watchers, I became more serious about distance running and ended up running my first half marathon in honor of my late brother.

Can you guess the next part of the story? I gained the weight back YET AGAIN during my first semester of Junior year of college in Milan. My clothes hardly fit, I felt more bloated than I ever had, and the thought of exercising and running completely turned me off. I was eating literally whatever I wanted...pasta, pesto, pizza, paninis, and gelato. You name it, I ate it. I came home for Christmas break at the end of the semester and knew I had to do something different to change the on-going relationship I had with food and my body.
After Christmas break, I journeyed back to Milan for the spring semester of my Junior year. Within a few weeks, I was back to being vegetarian and couldn't believe I ever gave it up. Shortly thereafter, I started transitioning to veganism (read my journey in depth here). I focused on eating more fresh fruits and vegetables from the local farmer's market. I also walked a few miles to class and to Mass instead of taking the subway, and walked about 10 miles a day when I was traveling on the weekends. I realized I could be active and healthy without being obsessed with exercising. This realization combined with my new vegan lifestyle allowed me to have positive mindset towards food and exercise and to let go of the excess baggage I was carrying since my high school breakup. I felt better than I had ever felt during this semester!

Now, one year later, I'm here today beyond happy and finally at a healthy weight. I have been vegan for an entire year now (YAY!) which has been the main factor in my stable weight. I now focus on fueling my body with WHOLE fruits and vegetables and WHOLESOME meals. I no longer eat any processed foods and hardly drink alcohol. I also don't count calories anymore. Who wants to do that for the rest of their life? Not me! Instead of counting calories, I am learning to eat intuitively and listen to my body. My binging habits still linger, however they are nowhere near as bad as they used to be! Now if I feel like overeating, I usually indulge in a giant bowl of fruits or vegetables. Lastly, I am working on introducing consistent exercise into my life without being extreme. I haven't stepped foot into a gym in over two years because it's too toxic for me. Instead, I am trying to get back into distance running and yoga. I'm not perfect and it's a work in progress, but veganism has changed my relationship with food and my body for the better and I am so incredibly thankful!

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Newer Kat in CAGLIARI

I'm back with another travel guide this time for Cagliari, a small city on the Italian island of Sardegna. I traveled to this island over spring break and loved the quintessential Italian feel of the city.

Where I Stayed:
I stayed at Villa Beach City which is located in Poetto Beach, about 20 minutes outside the main city of Cagliari. The hostel was only a two-minute walk to the beach and a grocery store. Unfortunately, I went during off season so it was too cold for the beach and most of the restaurants were closed. However, this would be a great location to stay in the summer months! As for the hostel itself, I stayed in a private room since this was the only option the hostel offered. It cost about $30 per night which wasn't bad considering I had my own room and bathroom. My favorite part of my stay was talking with one of the owners of the hostel in Italian. She was so friendly and told me to come back to the island soon. She even drove me to the airport for about 20 euro which I was happy to pay since my flight was early. While I enjoyed my time here and the fairy tale essence of the garden, I will say the common area smelled a little wonky like bad incense and it was a little far from the main city if you want that to be the focus of your trip.

Where I Ate:
I struggled with finding vegan food near my hostel since it was such a small town. I ended up going to the grocery store for my breakfast and lunch meals (which was fine with me) and eating pasta and pizza without the cheese for dinner. I also ventured into the city one afternoon and went to the farmers' market for some fruit to munch on and stopped by a quintessential Italian cafe which I highly recommend doing! I got a bag full of fruit for only two euro and enjoyed a soy cappuccino...vegan heaven if you ask me! I'm sure there are other vegan options in the city as well, I just wasn't staying in that area.

Restaurants in Poetto:
  • Lo Spiedo Sardo Poetto $$ - I don't recommend. The pasta wasn't that great. I only went here since all the other restaurants were closed.  
  • Al Poetto Ristorante Pizzeria $ - This is an OK spot for pizza. Again, I was limited with my options. 
Farmers' market and cafe in Cagliari:
  • Mercato di San Benedetto $ - Highly, highly recommend! The market is open Mon-Sat 7AM-2PM and makes for a great lunch or snack stop. For more info, check out this post
  • Antico Cafe $ - If you want to feel like you're in an old-school Italian movie with Italian music playing in the background and a classic old Italian man reading a newspaper right next to you, go to this cafe. 
What I Did:
Here are some of the places I recommend seeing in Cagliari and Poetto! If you want a more in-depth look, watch my Cagliari Vlog.

1. Poetto Beach
The first thing I did when I arrived at the hostel was venture to the beautiful Poetto Beach. You can tell how much I loved it by the smile on my face! I took a long walk on the beach and enjoyed the view while eating some of the best strawberries I've ever had. I'm sure this beach would be even better when it's warmer. I probably would've stayed all day if it wasn't cold! The restaurants along the beach also looked really cute, although almost all of them were closed like I said. You can also see Sella del Diavolo in the background which is a beautiful place to go hiking or just admire from the beach. There was also a great running/biking path along the beach which I would've taken advantage of it I was there longer. 

2. Sella del Diavolo Hike & Calamosca Beach
As I was researching things to do in Cagliari, hiking the Sella del Diavolo was one of the top things that caught my attention. I tried to find a hiking tour, but there weren't any since it was off season. I hemmed and hawed about hiking solo, and finally decided to just go for it because I didn't want to miss out on something I really wanted to do just because I was alone. I packed some water and a pocket knife and my hiking saga began. I attempted to find the entrance on the Poetto beach side and failed to do so. I didn't want to give up that easily so I tried again later in the day and successfully found it near Calamosca Beach which is also a great beach to visit (beach in the distance of the picture on the right). I found the entrance/trail using this app called Wikiloc and will definitely use the app again in the future! 
As always, if you opt to hike alone, use caution and do so at your own discretion. 

3. Botanical Gardens
My Earth-loving, vegan self had to go to the Botanical Gardens. The Gardens are located in the heart of Cagliari which you would never's like a little oasis from the busy city! I really enjoyed going here because it was a nice break from the ebb and flow of the city. There were also so many different types of plants, most of which I had never seen before! Another thing I loved about the garden is that the people working at the entrance gate were so friendly! I spoke in Italian and you could tell they really appreciated it. If possible, try to learn a few basic phrases of the language wherever you are traveling to! A little effort goes a long way. 

4. Torre dell'Ellefante & Panoramic Viewpoint
Unfortunately, I couldn't climb the Torre dell'Ellefante because it was closed for construction. Instead, I went to a panoramic viewpoint right past the tower! It was overlooked the entire city and port. I loved seeing all of the colorful buildings from above. 

Side note: Right before I took this picture, a little girl walked past me and asked her mom in Italian, "Why is that girl alone?" Of course, she didn't know I could understand her and didn't mean any harm by it. However, it took me by surprise and I ended up thinking about it for the rest of the afternoon. I came to the conclusion that our society is so afraid of being alone because of the stigma that is attached to doing something solo. We are so afraid of being alone that we even use our phones as pacifiers. I say no to this stigma and will proudly keep going solo near and far!  

Other places in my Cagliari Vlog
5. Parco Naturale Molentargius

What To Be Prepared For:
First and foremost, Sardegna runs on Italian time which means schedules don't really exist. I waited over an hour for one bus and 15 minutes for another. Italy has a beautiful way of making you slow down you least want to! Secondly, make sure you buy a ticket for the bus and don't try to ride for free. The first time I purchased a ticket at the machine prior to boarding and the second time I bought a ticket on board. Well, I figured that when I took the bus for a third time, I could just buy a ticket on board again. Apparently only some bus drivers let you do that so buy your ticket in advance! Also make sure you always have a bus ticket and don't try to sneak on without one! On one of the buses I took, two cops got on and started checking everyone's tickets and fining those without one. Lastly, as with any European city, be weary of pick-pocketers.

If any of you have summer travel plans, I'd love to hear in the comments and follow along! xx

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Vote With My Dollar: My Secondhand Graduation Dress

Photography by Maria Daniela Lynn 
Happy graduation week! As of yesterday, I am officially a Villanova University graduate (click here to see my speech for the Villanova School of Business Ceremony! Believe it or not, I started searching for my graduation dress over a month ago because I knew I wanted to purchase sustainable or secondhand dress.

My initial search for a sustainable dress brought me to:
While I found dresses I loved at Reformation and Christy Dawn, I just couldn't convince myself to spend $200+ on a graduation dress that I knew I would likely only wear once. I couldn't help but think that money could go towards my travels to Eastern Europe this summer. I wholeheartedly support and understand that prices need to be higher for sustainable clothing due to the materials which the clothing is made of and the responsible conditions under which the clothing is made. However, given that I would only wear this type of dress one or two times, it didn't make sense for me to make that kind of investment. If the item is versatile and I know I will wear it often, then I am happy to purchase sustainable clothing. In fact, I just purchased my first pair of Reformation jeans! The important thing to remember is that fast fashion, while it appears cheap, comes at a high cost to the environment and the people making it (for more info, I suggest watching the documentary, True Cost).

My next option was to search for a secondhand dress on the following platforms and stores:
After searching on each of these platforms, I successfully found the dress in the pictures above at Value Village which was the dress I wore for the Commencement Ceremony on Friday! This was my first time at the store and I liked it a lot better than Goodwill because there was a larger selection. I used to shop at Goodwill frequently, however I found that most of the clothing is outdated for my style. This isn't to say there aren't some hidden gems in the store, I just won't be frequenting it as often as I was before. 

I also bought a dress on Depop that I wanted to wear for the Business School graduation yesterday. Unfortunately, it didn't fit right so I couldn't wear it. Overall, I like Depop for vintage and more fashion forward clothing, and Poshmark for classics. Both platforms are also great for selling used clothing. 

Okay, so you may be wondering why I spent so much time and put so much effort into finding a secondhand dress. For me, it was really important to purchase a dress that aligned with my values and embodied all that I've learned about the fashion industry this last year. What better way to celebrate the end of a chapter with knowledge that will create a greener future? I firmly believe that we vote with our dollar about the type of world we want to live in. I voted and will continue to vote for a world with less waste, less pollution, and less toxins. What type of world do you vote for? 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Book Every Aspiring #GirlBoss Should Read

Vintage Levi's Jeans // 
Sustainable Tee from Visible Clothing (the company no longer sells women's clothing) //

Ever since I was a little girl, I always loved reading. My sister used to take me to the library once a week and I would end up picking out way too many books, more than I could read before the following week when we would make our way back to the library. However, during high school and throughout a majority of my college years, reading for fun was placed on the back burner and instead was overridden by reading Business textbooks and English novels (I'm a Marketing major and English Minor at Villanova University in case you didn't know). Despite being consumed with reading for class, I made a point to start reading for fun again about six months ago and have since read about a book a month...pretty good for a gal trying to balance all that comes with being a college student!

Back around October when I started reading again, the first book that I picked up was #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso. My friend, Jerica, actually lent it to me when I visited her in San Francisco. I loved it so much that I read the entire book in just a few days! I won't give the whole premise away, but it's an inspiring story about Sophia Amoruso, the woman behind the successful fashion brand, Nasty Gal. She started her career by selling vintage clothing on eBay, grew her customer base in an organic way (unlike influencers and brands paying for likes/follows today), and used her knowledge to create what Nasty Gal is today. Throughout the book, she shares her ups and downs and how she was able to embody the true meaning of a #GirlBoss. I'll leave the rest of the story for all you girl bosses and just share a few of my favorite quotes below. 

Positive Thoughts:
"We control our thoughts and our thoughts control our lives. This is an extremely, simple totally straightforward concept, but for a lot of people, it's so alien that it might as well be magic. Chances are you know someone who is really negative. These people are convinced that life is shit..and so it is. It's the age old concept of like attracts like, or the law of attraction. You get back what you put out, so you might as well think positively, focus on visualizing what you want, and send the universe your good intentions." 

So simple, yet so powerful right? I used to be the negative person she was referring to...the person who would complain about my order being wrong at Dunkin' Donuts or be annoyed that I got stopped at a light when I was in a rush. I shifted my mindset 360 degrees after studying in Milan for a year. I finally realized that whether I was annoyed, complaining, or impatient, the same result would still occur so I might as well just be positive and happy instead! This shift has drastically changed my day to day life and I will never go back to being that person again! 

"Though there was no doubt I was depressed, I refused to take the pills that the psychiatrist prescribed, instead throwing them away. I knew then that my utter misery and universal discontent were not due to a chemical imbalance. This wasn't something that could just be medicated out of me - I just hated where I was." 

Preach, preach, preach. Among other reasons, this was one of the reasons why I studied abroad three times and traveled to 20 plus countries. It goes back to another one of my favorite quotes that I've shared on Instagram before, "When a flower doesn't bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower". (insert praising hands emoji) 

"Own up to your mistakes and apologize for them. Everyone will make a mistake at some point, and the sooner you can admit where you went wrong, the sooner you can start to fix it. Be honest with yourself about your abilities. Many people accept titles beyond their experience to only later find themselves up to their neck in problems they can't solve, and too embarrassed to admit they weren't qualified in the first place. And what's the first rule about holes? If you're in one, stop digging."

I'll let this one speak for itself. Been there, done that. If you're in a hole, stop digging. 

Planning vs. Leaping:
"Had I waited to finish a business plan, or waited for investors to validate my idea, my 10,000-hour clock might never had begun (in reference to the idea that it takes 10,000 to be an expert at something). Don't get me wrong: I'm not knocking business plans. What I intend to illustrate is that just going for it can be much more rewarding...The best entrepreneurs know to listen along the way. This advice applies to life as well. Turn on the jets and ready, set,...listen." 

I began to realize the power of this after I made my vision board back in January. I visualized all of my goals with no idea how I was going to accomplish them. I jumped right in and began to take advantage of every opportunity I could while listening to all the advice I could get along the way. I'm still happily enjoying the ride and chasing after all of those goals. 

I hope you enjoyed this post and let me know if you read this book! Also, if you want to read another blog post about being a #GirlBoss, check out this post. xx

Monday, March 26, 2018

How to Survive Being Vegan While Traveling

Thrifted White Tee // Thrifted Pants //

My recent trip to Italy was the first time I traveled internationally being 100% vegan. Cheers to that! During my year abroad, I was still transitioning to veganism (read more about why I transitioned and how to transition to veganism). I would say that I was vegan for a majority of my time in Milan except when I went out to eat and when I traveled to other countries as it was difficult for me to find vegan options. However, I was determined this time around to do my best to be fully vegan! 

Before I get into the details about how I was able to be vegan, let's be real...I probably did end up eating some form of dairy unknowingly (i.e.: in fresh pasta) and am still convinced one of my dinners had anchovies in the sauce (my body told me so too). I want to be real with you all because when you travel, you can't control everything no matter how much you want to. All you can do is try your best. One of my favorite eco-bloggers, The Girl Gone Green, spoke to this point recently too!  

That being said, I want to share some tips that helped me stay vegan: 
  • Be prepared! I brought a jar of trail mix with me as well as some energy bars (I brought the wrappers back with me to recycle at Mom's Organic Market). These snacks came in handy while I was waiting in the airport and on the plane. I probably would've brought more with me, but I didn't have room in my backpack.
  • Look up farmer's markets in your destination. I already knew where the farmer's market was in Milan, but I looked one up as soon as I got to Cagliari. I stocked up on tons of fruits to munch on there. It's also really cool to go to farmer's markets because they're mostly visited by locals so you get a more in depth look at the culture and the produce is often very cheap!
  • Go to the grocery store. If you can't find a farmer's market or didn't pack snacks, find the nearest grocery store and stock up. Often when we travel, I think we forget that we can go grocery shopping and don't have to eat every meal out. Going to the grocery store is a perfectly viable option! I went to the grocery store in Milan the second day I was there for snacks and both days in Cagliari because I had difficulty finding vegan lunches and wanted to restock on snacks for the long plane ride home.
  • Translate "I'm vegan and can't eat meat, fish, eggs, or dairy" in the local language. I didn't do this because I speak a little bit of Italian so I could explain to waiters that I was vegan. However, if you don't know the language, it is helpful to keep a translation on your phone and show the waiters so they understand. 
  • Use Happy Cow to find vegan restaurants. This website is life-saving for anyone who is vegan or vegetarian! You can look up vegan or vegetarian options in almost all major cities. 
  • Accept that you may unintentionally eat something non-vegan. As I said previously, I did my absolute best to eat fully vegan, however I'm pretty sure there was probably some egg in my pasta or anchovies in my sauce. At the end of the day, you ultimately have to eat and nourish your body. Just do your best! 
I hope these tips were helpful! Even if you're not vegan, you can still use these tips to stay healthy while you travel! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Newer Kat in MILAN (as a tourist this time!)

Previously Owned Jeans // Thrifted Sweatshirt 
Hat from Swap // 

It's been quite some time since I did one of these posts! Even though I studied abroad in Milan for a year, I went back this time as a tourist and I figured I'd create a guide of where I stayed, where I ate, and what I did. I already wrote a very general post about my favorite things to do in Milan and could write another super long post about Milan, but I'll try to limit it to what I specifically did on this trip and must-see places! Be sure to also check out my Milan vlog!

Where I Stayed:
As always, I stayed in a hostel. I always opt for a hostel when I'm traveling solo because it's a great place to meet other solo travelers who are doing the same thing as you. There are a ton of misconceptions about hostels and I think people often fear them which shouldn't be the case. I'll do a video soon about why I love them! For this particular trip, I stayed in Ostello Bello right in the heart of Milan. I loved my stay because it was only a 10 minute walk from the Duomo, it offered free breakfast and dinner, had a garden on the roof, and it was a really social environment with a lot of activities (some hostels don't offer any activities like tours, etc.). The only downside is that it was a bit expensive at $50 a night for a bed in an 8 bed female dorm. Of all the cities and countries I've visited, this the MOST I've ever paid for a hostel. However, I think the amenities were well worth the cost! Lastly, I would recommend booking on Hostelworld which is where I always book my hostels!

Where I Ate:
Eating was a little different for me this time around because this was the first time I'd traveled internationally being 100% vegan. While I was living in Milan last year, I was still transitioning to veganism so I usually cheated when I went out to eat. That being said, I had to make more of an effort this trip to find vegan food.

Restaurants and cafes:
  • Macha Cafe - the cutest little cafe with vegan options
  • Fancy Toast - delicious avocado toast and beet hummus 
  • Fruteiro do Brasil - yummy acai bowls and smoothies 
  • Temakihno - literally the BEST sushi ever and I crave it all the time 
  • Flower Burger - vegan burgers
  • Pizzaria Sibilla - one of my favorite local restaurants for Italian food 
  • Riva Reno - vegan gelato
I also recommend checking Happy Cow for all vegan/vegetarian listings when you travel!

What I Did:
I didn't do as many touristy things in Milan since I had previously done those things. Instead, I spent some time walking around my favorite spots in the city including the Castle, Duomo, Brera, and Navigli.

If it's your first time in Milan I recommend seeing: 

1. Duomo (inside and the top + Mass if you can!)

2. Galleria (enjoy a coffee and people watch!)

3. Navigli Canals

4. Armani Museum 

5. 10 Corso Como 

6. Streets of Brera 

7. Sforza Castle 

8. Arco della Pace 

9. UniCredit Building (I'm at a viewpoint on top of a building close by the Unicredit Building in this photo)

What to Be Prepared For:
Milan is a very diverse, metropolitan city so most people speak English. However, it would be culturally thoughtful to learn a few basic Italian phrases. As always, be careful of pickpocketers! 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my posts about Cagliari! <3