Asia-Pacific Study Abroad- Australia

Part 1 of 4:

Australia Travels:

As part of my month long Asia-Pacific Study Abroad program as a student at Ball State University, I was lucky enough to go to Sydney, Australia. We spent 4 days there in 2011, and still to date, it’s easily one of the top 5 experiences of my life. During this trip, we didn’t have any classes or assignments until the very end, and as a result, we were able to be fully immersed in the cultures every day in each country we visited.
We left from Indianapolis late on July 20th, 2011 and landed in Singapore on July 22nd. I’ll share events from my Singapore visit in a different post, so be on the lookout! After spending a few days in Singapore, we flew to Sydney, arriving there on July 25th.
Everything about Australia was perfect. Absolutely perfect.
 Summer in Louisville is winter time in Sydney since it’s in the Southern Hemisphere. It was around 50 degrees the whole time we were there and we only needed a light jacket in the mornings and evenings. Coming from the humid and scorching Ohio Valley summer, this type of weather was too perfect.
We landed in Sydney and after getting over the panic of being separated from the rest of the students at the airport, we all caught the tram to check in at The Great Southern Hotel in downtown Sydney. Being lost in a foreign country by yourself is not pleasant but the hotel was beautiful!
As you could imagine, the days were packed with activities.
On the first day, we took the city bus to a ferry ride that would eventually take us to Manly Wharf. The ferry took us through the Sydney Harbor, giving us our first look at the Sydney Opera House. Once we got to Manly Wharf, I was able to take my shoes off and stand in the Pacific Ocean. How cool is it that my first time in the Pacific was in Australia? I’ve never even been to Cali! We visited several shops for souvenirs and got the best gelato I’ve ever had for lunch. There’s something about the chocolate in Australia- it’s SO much better than it is in America so we had to get plenty to bring home with us!
Before we even arrived, our instructor was raving over these delicious homemade noodles we had to get at this little restaurant two blocks from our hotel. We went for dinner on the first night and our group filled the restaurant. And it was absolutely delicious! Just simple noodles with veggies and a soy sauce based dressing made for the perfect end to our first day.
The second day was the winery day- my favorite! We visited two wineries and one pub after driving through true Australian countryside. Seeing kangaroos in the wild was incredible! I literally never thought I would ever be able to experience that in real life! We visited Tempus Two Cellars and Hunter Valley Winery, making sure to bring home a few bottles of wine from each place. Australian wineries are probably what got me started on my love of wine, to be honest. The grounds were so beautiful & the wine was even better. This was day five of being out of America and the day I made so many new friends. There were 20 people on the trip, 16 of us being girls, and to this day, these are still some of the best people I’ve ever known.
Once we got back to the hotel, our instructor went to bed and we all decided to go out for a night on the town. I will never forget using my passport to get my into a club! The drinking age was 18 in Sydney so we all went out and had the most fun! Let me tell you, this was awesome for a bunch of 20 year old kids. 
The next morning was an early one as we got up to hike through the Blue Mountains. We took a cable car up to the highest peaks to see the Three Sisters. It was foggy and cold on the way up, but worth every shiver. The Three Sisters are a strange mountain formation, named after three Aboriginal sisters, who were allegedly turned to stone in order to protect them from harm after falling in love with three men from a different Aboriginal tribe. Have any of you visited the Blue Mountains or Three Sisters? Is there more you can tell me behind the story about them?
The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains
We took a steep train back down the mountains, where I felt like I had to hold on with both hands the whole way down. From the mountains, our group went to a wildlife center where we were able to feed kangaroos and pet koalas. This was definitely an experience I’ll never forget. Ever since my aunt visited Australia when I was very young, I always wanted to visit there and bring home memories of koalas like she had. I’ll never forget the little koala she brought home that she still keeps in the chair in her bedroom. Memories like she still has make me so thankful I was able to create my own.
Later that evening, we visited Olympic Stadium and the Opera House before calling it a night after an extremely long, but definitely fun filled day.
On our final full day in Sydney, we walked to the aquarium downtown from our hotel. This aquarium was my first experience with black tip and white tip reef sharks, which are still my favorite species. Ya’ll know how much I love sharks so being able to experience them up close & personal was a dream. We had lunch in Chinatown that day and spent the afternoon shopping at Paddy’s Market, where I found some pretty pearl earrings that I’m still in love with.
On the streets, you can find Aboriginal Australians, people indigenous to the area, who play music on their handmade instruments. We were lucky enough to talk to this man for a while and he was kind enough to play us a song from his tribe. He was extremely friendly and absolutely thrilled to teach us about his family.
Aboriginese. 
 We went out to the bars one last time before saying goodbye to Sydney and we made it well worth it. I have never met so many consistently kind and welcoming people. Everywhere we went, from the moment we landed to the second we took off back to Singapore, everyone welcomed us with open arms and warm smiles. I never wanted to leave!
If you haven’t been to Sydney or Australia in general, please put it on your list. It is stunning, the people are amazing, and the experience is one you’ll never forget.
How many of you guys have been to Australia, and what part did you visit? Help me decide where I should go when I go back!! I want to hear your stories!
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Beauty Staples I Can’t Live Without.

I previously mentioned that even though I don’t wear a lot of makeup or use a ton of beauty products, I’m still absolutely obsessed with them. I especially love all of the anti-aging, skin brightening, under-eye targeting creams and lotions that I can possibly find. Dry shampoo has also become one of my biggest beauty staples over the last few months. My nursing school friends would be so proud! My basic beauty bag seriously consists of only a few items but I just swear by them!

Whether I’m getting ready at home & have all the time in the world, or I’m getting ready in just a few minutes between Pure Barre and work, my routine is pretty much the same. It’s simple & quick & does the job for me. Here are my favorites! *This post contains affiliate links.


Dry Shampoo: I used to wash my hair every single day and had no idea how damaging that really was for my locks. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I only wash my hair about every three days so my favorite Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo 3.5 oz is essential. Although I’ve only used the original, they now have a shampoo for brunettes, which is awesome! Having dark hair, I realize how tough it is to keep from having white spots from the shampoo throughout your hair. So if y’all have tried this, I wanna hear reviews! I’ve experimented with a lot of different kinds and this is by far the best. It works the best and smells amazing. I know it’s a little pricey so Not Your Mothers Shampoo Clean Freak Dry 7 Ounce is a great alternative. It works quite well and smells good, too!

Mascara: There are at least a million options for mascara out there and a lot of brands insist their product is the best but it costs a fortune. So many times the expensive ones aren’t even worth it! But if you’re looking for sky high, voluminous lashes without the sticky, cakey mascara feeling on your face, this stuff is for you. It is undoubtedly the best mascara I’ve ever used and makes me feel like I don’t need any other kind of makeup. I use Maybelline New York Lash Sensational Luscious Waterproof Mascara, Very Black. My eyes feel brighter and I just plain feel better with this stuff! Even other Maybelline products haven’t lived up the expectations I’d hoped. It’s extremely waterproof and comes off best with some coconut oil instead of eye makeup remover.

Which brings me to my next staple.
Coconut oil: This stuff is a miracle and is without a doubt, my favorite beauty product. For everything. Makeup remover, deep conditioning hair mask, I even use it like body butter sometimes. It’s all natural, of course, so it works for people who are trying to keep any chemicals out of their lifestyle. I even use it around my cuticles before I go to bed. As makeup remover, I just put a little on my finger and rub around my eyes until the mascara & eyeliner come off. It’s the only thing that takes it all off completely, and without much effort at all. When I use it in my hair, I put it from scalp to ends and make sure every hair is completely saturated. I massage it into my scalp, use a clip to tie up the hair, and then put on a shower cap to intensify the conditioning. Usually I try to leave it on for about 2 hours before washing it out with regular shampoo. I also sometimes put it on any dry skin, focusing on feet, elbows, knees or ankles. It works like a gem and you can find one of my favorites here Carrington Farms Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, 54 Ounce.

Nail Polish: When I was younger, I would bite my nails down until they hurt so bad I practically needed band aids on each finger. Gross, I know. It was a terrible habit and NOTHING was working to get me to stop. We put cayenne pepper mixed with clear polish on my nails, we tried no bite, we tried putting little fake nails from Target on them. Everything. Then out of nowhere, I looked down and my nails were long one day! I had stopped biting them without even realizing it. Crazy how that works. Anyway, now nail polish is one of my greatest obsessions. I have more bottles than they carry at the store and can identify each of the colors in a heartbeat. I always paint my own nails instead of getting them done somewhere, mostly because I change my mind about colors so frequently, but also because it’s a little bit of a stress relief for me. My favorite brand of polish in general is Essie, and my favorite color is Peach Daiquiri. You can find it here essie nail polish, peach daiquiri.. Since gel manicures are becoming so popular and they’ve created gel polishes you can use at home to do yourself, I’ve definitely taken advantage. My favorite brand with gel polish and top coat is Sally Hanson in Red Eye. Its the perfect red for all occasions. They have the combos so you can buy the top coat & color together or you can buy them separately. Usually I pick them up at Target! You don’t need the special light or anything fancy to finish the manicure off, the top coat works perfectly. I always use this when I go to the beach for week and it lasts the whole time!

Whitening Strips: Crest 3D White Luxe Whitestrip Teeth Whitening Kit, Glamorous White, 14 Treatments. These are a game changer. So easy & they work better than any other whitening product I’ve used. I drink a lot of tea and coffee, so these babies are definitely an essential! I wear them on the way to work in the mornings or right before bed for 30 minutes about three days a week. They also make ones for people with sensitive teeth that work just as well!

And that’s it! These five items make life easier and help me feel my best. Couldn’t live without them!

What are your beauty staples?

 

*I know I’ve been referring you guys to Amazon a lot in my posts, I just think it’s awesome how much you can order and how quickly you can get it! You can literally get anything you could possibly need! Another thing that’s awesome is the opportunity for Amazon Prime. I’ve linked a 30 day free trial for Amazon Prime to get free shipping in 2 days on thousands of products on the site. I definitely encourage you to at least try Amazon Prime, if you haven’t already. There’s always an option to cancel after the initial 30 days, but the benefits are totally worth it!

Simple Tips for Healthier Living.

Over the last six months, I’ve been looking at my life & my overall health from a different perspective than ever before. Making big changes & small changes in an effort to just be happy. At the beginning of May, I decided I wanted the whole month to be focused on mindfulness and creating a healthier state of mind, rather than solely working on a healthier body. I figured spending 31 days being more aware of the simple things, paying attention to my breathing and thinking, and being more appreciative of the little things would create habits to be able to continue this lifestyle long after the month ended. For so long I put my main focus on the physical aspect of healthy living and had never even considered the mental and emotional aspects. Crazy right? Unfortunately I think a lot of young people approach ‘healthy living’ this way. I don’t even pay enough attention to the things I’m eating or drinking so I especially wasn’t paying enough attention to clearing my mind.
So here we are at the end of the month and I definitely feel like an improved woman. There are a few things that I’ve been sure to do every single day since May 1st that I wanted to share with you! I know we’re all so busy these days and sometimes it’s hard to take 20 minutes out of the day for yourself, especially in addition to your workout. But you need it! Do yourself a favor and take a little more time out of each day for yourself. Your body and mind will thank you. I promise! Here are a few of the biggest things I’ve incorporated into my daily routine.

  • Start each morning with green tea. No special brand, iced or hot. Add some lemon juice to it or drink it plain. Green tea is a natural diuretic and has been proven to help your belly flatten out when you drink it regularly. It’s also said to improve brain function. The biggest reason I drink it every day is because it honestly just makes me feel better.
    • You could also add cinnamon and apple cider vinegar to your daily cup. This combo has gotten a lot of good press because it can help to lower cholesterol!
  • Exercise. Do 100 crunches, 50 push-ups, go to the gym for cardio & weight work, hit a Pure Barre class, run outside. Anything to get your heart pumping and body moving. Working out in the morning boosts your metabolism and gives you all the endorphins you need to make it through the toughest days at work. Plus, it’s out of the way first thing! No one has ever regretted a good sweat session.
  • Deep breathing exercises. Maybe it’s before you even get out of bed, maybe it’s in the car on the way to work, or it’s before you fall asleep at night. Even if you only do this for one minute, the benefit is still great! I always breathe in for 10 seconds, breathe out for 12 seconds. This helps you literally blow off some steam and any anxiety or frustrations you have about the day will dwindle away. If you’re doing these at night like I usually do, it helps clear the mind from the day’s events so we’re not thinking about everything that we still need to do or about anything that happened throughout the day.
    • This has probably been the biggest key to success for me. I used to let so many small things frustrate me & by blowing off some steam this way every single day, I feel brand new.
  • Meditate. I recently downloaded the Mindfulness app on my phone and I can’t believe how much it helps! You can set reminders each day so you don’t forget and it also sends a motivational quote. They have 3, 5, 15, and 30 minute sessions. All of them are beneficial, and with as little as 3 minutes, there’s no excuse not to! This is one of the biggest practices that has helped immensely in realizing what’s really important in life. Spending time getting to know my mind better has helped me just be happier, more motivated, definitely more upbeat through the day. I usually spend 3 or 5 minutes right before bed with one of the guided exercises. I’ve slept better this month than I have in the last six combined.
  • Call someone you love. Whether it’s your mom, sister or brother, best friend, it doesn’t matter. Just give them a call, tell them you love them and you’re thinking about them. It will not only help you feel better but it will make their day too!

And that’s it! Just five little steps that have made me happier and feel so much more content with my life. I haven’t been the most happy with my current working situation so doing these things each day has helped pull out the good things in everything I’m faced with every day. I just decided one day it was time to control all the aspects of my life that I possibly could. By doing this, the negative things that come my way that I can’t control don’t seem so bad. My shoulders are far less tense, I laugh a lot more, and my every day feeling about life is much improved.
Each step is done in no particular order but every one of them is so worth the little extra time and oh so necessary. I’m definitely in the habit of each step and on days where I forget my tea, I just feel out of whack. These habits have helped me immensely and I hope they can do the same for you!

My next goal is to start incorporating yoga into my routine! Any recommendations on where to start?
Do you have daily routines that you just cannot live without?