Interview with Melissa Parks from The Intentional Expat

Today’s interview is with Melissa Parks, who writes as The Intentional Expat. On her blog, Melissa writes that during her first international trip (a study abroad with her university), “it only took a couple of days in Madrid before I had fallen in love with the city.” She now lives and works in Spain as a mental health therapist, and blogs to help people “learn how to navigate the ups and downs of expat life,” or more broadly: to “[Live] Your Best Life Abroad.”

Photo courtesy of Melissa Parks (theintentionalexpat.wordpress.com) - Used with permission

Photo courtesy of Melissa Parks – Used with permission

Name and blog:
Melissa Parks from The Intentional Expat

Fun fact about you:
I’ve been writing since before I could actually write. I used to dictate stories to my dad to write for me and then I’d illustrate them. Once I could write, I started journaling and haven’t stopped since. I now have over 70 journals!

Funner fact:
I’ve had a lot of interesting travel experiences. When I was 10, I won a trip for my family and I to go visit Washington D.C., in college I went to Mississippi and New Orleans to help with Hurricane Katrina cleanup and in 2009 I worked as a T.A. for a study abroad program and got paid to travel around Western Europe for ten weeks and help these students navigate the ups and downs of traveling. And now I live in Madrid, Spain!

Funnest fact:
I didn’t start studying Spanish until I was 20 and fell in love with Spain after visiting it for the first time.  Since then, I’ve gotten my masters degree in psychology with all of my courses in Spanish, have presented at research conference in Spanish and have provided psychotherapy to people in Spanish. I still make mistakes, but I’ve found it often helps to break the ice between me and my patients.

What do you think has been essential to your success as a travel blogger?
I know firsthand that one of the keys is to shamelessly promote yourself! I have lots of great content to write about thanks to my travels and experience living abroad and I’ve actually had a blog since 2008, but I never promoted it aside from an occasional share with family and friends on Facebook. Despite having hundreds of posts, I only had three followers and an average of five views per post. This summer I decided to get serious about it, started to research blogging and opened a Facebook page, Twitter account and Pinterest page for my blog. I also joined several expat and traveler blog sites to help connect with potential readers. I’ve had my blog for a little over two months now and already have 94 followers on WordPress, plus many more on Facebook and Twitter. In my first week of blogging, my post on “Ten Tips to Stay Sane Overseas” received over 500 views in one day. I also think *karma* and getting to know your readers are really important in the world of blogging. When you comment, like or follow another person’s blog they’re more likely to go check out yours and people who see your comment might go check out your blog too. Plus, connecting with your readers means connecting with interesting people who can provide you with inspiration OR a local tour guide for your future travels.

What was something that surprised you about blogging?
I’m never at a loss for topics to write about. The hard part is choosing which one!

If you had to describe your blog in 6 words or less, what would you say?
Inspirational Tips for Embracing Life Abroad

Who or what inspires you?
I’m really inspired by people who don’t let their fears hold them back from being themselves and pursuing their dreams. Whether it’s a fear of flying, stumbling through a new language or disagreeing with a friend whose opinion you respect. Because it’s really hard to stand up to fear and I know this from personal experience. People always tell me that they could never do what I’m doing by living abroad because they’d be too afraid. But the truth is that I’m constantly faced with fear, I just know that there are some things that are more important to me than fear. The moments when I’ve faced my fears are when I’ve grown the most as a person (and these also make for great stories to write about on my blog!).

What is your all-time favorite bucket list item (of yours or someone else’s)?
It’s really hard to choose just one! I have lots of places I’d love to travel to, but my most important goal right now is to earn money for writing about things that are important to me so that my writing can inspire other people around the world.

If you weren’t doing anything related to travel, what would you be doing in your free time?
Dancing. If I had to go back to my hometown and was never able to travel again, I’d just dance every day. I think the endorphin boost, artistic expression and escape from reality would be enough to help me to forget about how sad I was about not traveling. Of course, I’d rather just dance while also being abroad! Here in Madrid I try to go swing dancing at least once a week.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
All of my favorite advice usually comes from great books I’ve read! “The way love is conjured is not by concentrating on living life to find love, but simply by living and loving life itself. It seems to strike when one stops trying to find Mr. Right and starts becoming Mrs. Right. People should learn a new language, learn how to paint, go travel the world over, grow plants, experience life…and when life has had its share of you and you have taken life by the handles…love strolls in, so casually, so purposefully.” ~The Orphaned Anythings.

Thank you Melissa for doing the interview and sharing some of your life with us!

Want to keep reading? You can learn more about Melissa and read stories from her life as an expat on her blog, and on Twitter and Facebook.

Who else do you want to see interviewed? If you have an inspiring person in mind, please let me know using the contact form or comments below.

I appreciate your support. Through your normal Amazon shopping, at no extra cost to you, you can support me and this blog by buying items or anything else on Amazon for 24 hours after using one of my affiliate links, like this one here: Click to Shop on Amazon.

Everyone has a story: Karen Humilde

Today’s mini-interview is with Karen Humilde, who describes herself (on her blog livewanderlove) as “a full time dreamer and a part time wanderer [...] who falls in love with life.” She shares recipes, photos, and travel stories on her blog, and today she shares some of her dreams, goals, and advice with you.

(If you’re interested in being interviewed for this blog or have someone in mind for me to interview, please let me know or leave a note in the comments section.)

Photo provided by Karen Humilde (livewanderlove.wordpress.com) - Used with permission

Photo provided by Karen Humilde – Used with permission

What is one of your dreams for your life?
Personally, I want to have a family on my own. I want to get married with the man I love and be a mother of 5 adorable kids. As simple as that.

What is something on your bucket list?
I have 5 destinations in mind that I really would love to set my feet on someday:

  1. Have my photo taken at Big Ben in London.
  2. Wear a geisha costume in Osaka or Gion in Japan.
  3. Visit Hobbiton in New Zealand.
  4. Swim in the clear blue waters of Maldives.
  5. Lie on the beautiful grassland of Batanes, Philippines.

What is the best advice you ever received?
That if something is for you, no matter what the circumstances is, it will be given to you.  I live by that mantra for so many years now and it really helps to avoid over-analyzing and other negative thoughts. Hello, positivity! :)

Thanks, Karen, for sharing your time and dreams with us.

Readers: Do you want to be interviewed, or do you know someone I should ask for an interview? Let me know.

I appreciate your support. Through your normal Amazon shopping, at no extra cost to you, you can support me and this blog by buying items or anything else on Amazon for 24 hours after using one of my affiliate links, like this one here: Click to Shop on Amazon.

Don’t give up on your dreams… or should you?

Pop culture is full of examples of people who achieved their dreams against all odds. We all have those long term dreams, the ones that take extra effort and determination to come true. We hear “no” and “not right now.” It can be postponed, but it never fades in intensity.

Those are the goals and dreams that are often the most satisfying to accomplish. They take planning and persistence, and they are full of memories before they are accomplished.

But there are times when we need to let go of certain dreams to make room for others, even new dreams we may not yet have. Sometimes the accomplishment of dreams is put off time and time again because they really aren’t supposed to happen. Sometimes the things we want now aren’t the best for us in the long run.

I have questions for you. I am trying to collect thoughts on how people decide whether a dream is either the long-term dream that is beneficial to continue to pursue, or the dream that should be let go.

How do you determine whether you should continue pursuing a dream?
What obstacles do you face when pursing your dreams?

Interview with Lara Krupicka, family bucket list expert

Photo provided by Lara Krupicka (larakrupicka.com) - Used with permission

Photo provided by Lara Krupicka – Used with permission

Lara Krupicka is a bucket list blogger specializing in family bucket lists. She is also an author and speaker who enjoys helping people “create lives full of meaningful family adventures.”

Her latest book, Bucket List Living for Moms: Become a More Adventurous Parent, “guides moms through the process of designing, implementing, and celebrating a list of how they want to spend their lives” and “offers reassurance and help as moms face the challenge of redefining themselves as people and mothers” (quotes taken from her website). Below, she shares interesting stories, her inspiration, and the best advice she’s ever received.

Name and blog:
Lara Krupicka at larakrupicka.com – living the bucket list life

Fun fact about you:
I’m addicted to strategy games. A good weekend for me is when I can get my whole family to sit down for a game of Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride.

Funner fact:
I managed to get a back stage tour of the Lyric Opera in Chicago by striking up a conversation on a commuter train with the guy who ran the subtitles. It’s a pretty amazing place.

Funnest fact:
I once had a Russian friend take me through parts of Moscow where Americans aren’t welcome, with the warning that if I was asked, I was to say I was Estonian (I think because my command of the language wasn’t terrific).

What do you think has been essential to your success as a bucket list blogger?
Keeping it real. I’m just a suburban mom of three kids. No corporate sponsors. No special status to give me a leg up on bucket list living. And I try to convey that on my blog. When you’re a parent juggling all the responsibilities of that role, bucket list goals can seem illusive. But I’ve found that moms appreciate hearing about our adventures as an ordinary family, with the thought that maybe they can make their bucket lists happen too. [Editor note: To prevent the Typo Hunters from overrunning the comments: “illusive” is a real word, and is different from “elusive”]

What was something that surprised you about blogging?
I’ve been surprised at how much readers relate to the tough parts of life. It taught me that we all long to know we’re not alone in the challenges we face and the mistakes we make. So I have learned to share about both the good and the bad (although I try not to throw my family under the bus, which makes for a good editorial filter).

If you had to describe your blog in 6 words or less, what would you say?
Regular mom, bucket list life

Who or what inspires you?
People who have found a simple focus for their lives (that benefits others), and who don’t let themselves be taken off course from that focus. Author and speaker Bob Goff comes to mind. He’s so driven by one cause: love in action. And he brings himself fully to it, without apology or conceit. I want to be like that and I want to help others be that way too.

What is your all-time favorite bucket list item (of yours or someone else’s)?
My husband’s bucket list experience playing in the U.S. Disc Golf Championship (the equivalent of playing in the U.S. Open in golf). I loved the week I got to spend with him at the tournament. He’s an avid disc golfer, so it was over-the-top excitement: watching the top players in the world up close and behind the scenes, receiving the five-star treatment afforded to competitors, and watching my husband play in the tournament. Just knowing that this was a dream he had never imagined possible, now come true, made it an unforgettable experience.

If you weren’t doing anything related to your bucket list, what would you be doing in your free time?
I’m a crafter at heart, so I like to spend time in my craft space creating vinyl wall sayings for my kids’ rooms, making cards, and scrapbooking. I also like to read a lot.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow.”

I tend to project into the future and try to plan for every possibility – which is really a form of worrying and trying to control things. But I’m learning (still) that I am much happier when I let go of that control and just focus on what’s in front of me. That doesn’t mean I don’t dream for the future, I just trust that God will work things out according to His plan.

Thanks, Lara, for sharing your time and thoughts with us!
Want to keep reading? You can read more about Lara, her lists, bucket list experiences, and her books on her website. On the site, she also offers links to her profiles on all the usual social media sites, book excerpts, and free resources and worksheets to help you live your bucket list life.

Who else do you want to see interviewed? If you have an inspiring person in mind, please let me know using the contact form or comments below.

Support me through your normal Amazon shopping! At no extra cost to you, you can support me and this blog by buying items or anything else on Amazon for 24 hours after using one of my affiliate links, like this one here: Click to Shop on Amazon.

Everyone has a story: Melissa Kruse

Today’s mini-interview is with Melissa Kruse. She and I met through a mutual friend, who suggested her for this interview. On her Twitter profile, Melissa writes “Design + storytelling + justice = my passion.” Below, she shares how that influences her dreams for her life.

(If you’re interested in being interviewed for this blog or have someone in mind for me to interview, please let me know or leave a note in the comments section.)

Photo courtesy of Melissa Kruse - Used with permission

Photo Courtesy of Melissa Kruse – Used with permission

What is one of your dreams for your life?
My dream is to travel to more places around the world and share people’s stories. I love photography and videography and I have a passion for storytelling. I enjoy interacting with people from other cultures and if I had the resources I would love to travel and shoot a documentary.

What is something on your bucket list?
One of the things on my bucket list is to ride an elephant in Southeast Asia :) I really want to visit Malaysia and Cambodia, and it would be amazing if I got a chance to ride an elephant while I’m there.

What is the best advice you ever received?
Before getting married our pastor was doing some pre-marital counseling with us. He said, “Too many couples spend so much time planning for their wedding and they don’t spend enough time preparing for their marriage. Your wedding is just one day, but your marriage is a lifetime.”

Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your time and dreams with us.
Readers: Do you want to be interviewed, or do you know someone I should ask for an interview? Let me know.

Support me through your normal Amazon shopping! At no extra cost to you, you can support me and this blog by buying items or anything else on Amazon for 24 hours after using one of my affiliate links, like this one here: Click to Shop on Amazon.

Excerpt from SELF magazine: Joan Smalls

The October issue of SELF magazine came in the mail yesterday (this is one of my free subscriptions that I won in some drawing or another). There was an article by Jancee Dunn called “Strong is Beautiful” and featured supermodel Joan Smalls. The thing that really grabbed my interest (apart from the title) was that it opened with a story of a bucket list and closed with a fantastic quote on dreaming big.

Here are a few excerpts from this article.

Just five years ago, Joan Smalls was a struggling model–living at her aunt’s apartment in Queens, New York, taking the bus to catalog shoots and making homesick calls to her family in Puerto Rico. Things were not looking too good. One day, Smalls decided to motivate herself by filling a notebook page with a list of goals. They were big and highly specific. Model for Chanel. Get photographed by an iconic photographer like Mario Testino. Wear angel wings at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

These aims might seem a tad unrealistic–but only to those who have not witnessed Smalls’s unstoppable drive. Five years later, she has done all of those things, even adding in a few surreal bonus items (star in Beyoncé video, have Kanye West rap about you).

The article goes on to talk about how she pushed past “scoliosis in bother her lower and upper spinal column” and rejections from modeling competitions, to complete college in two years (instead of four) and land her first couture modeling job. Then, several pages later, this is how it ends:

She hopes to travel more in the next year. It’s one of the many items on–yes–her new list of goals. Some are small: Learn Thai kickboxing. Most, unsurprisingly, are large. She plans to act and would like to eventually expand into business, along the lines of Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks. “That’s part of the whole grand scheme,” she says. She wants to be a force for diversity in fashion. And taking inspiration from her mom, who worked in a school all her life, she would like to do more charity work, possibly for kids.

Smalls sits back with a smile. “I know, I’m a dreamer,” she says. “But I think it’s amazing to have high hopes.”

I’m always so happy for people when they meet their goals! I hope she always stays a dreamer and continues making progress on her list (and making new lists as she finishes them). Read the rest of her inspiring story in the October issue of SELF magazine.