Should I Eat This? Top Tips for Staying Healthy Abroad

*You can view the original article on GivingWay’s website.

We often see amazing photos of unusual foods from other countries and read other travelers’ and volunteers’ stories regaling us with tales of the delicacies they tried. However, we also have heard of some really awful nights spent in the hostel bathroom after an unfortunate turn at the table. No one wants to miss out on an incredible experience, but where do we draw the line? And how to we avoid being out of commission due to food poisoning or other unfortunate related illnesses?

Check out the top travel tips for staying healthy abroad:

  • Ask your host family, hostel, or other travellers about the water. In some countries such as Switzerland, you can drink straight out of the public fountains! But other countries’ water supplies may generally upset sensitive stomachs, even for brushing one’s teeth. Instead of purchasing inordinate quantities of bottled water, however, try for a straw or water bottle filter. You can find these online for under 20 USD$. You’ll save money, keep the tummy happy, and be environmentally conscious at the same time!
  • Talk to your doctor or local pharmacist for some really helpful medications for typical upset stomach and digestion issues. Also, a daily probiotic and multivitamin will go a long way. It’s worth the space in your bag to bring these along.
  • Meat and dairy are some of the biggest culprits for food poisoning. Yogurt or ice cream in one place will not be the same as in another. They are different in every country and can really upset your stomach, even if you’re used to eating the product at home. I would make a big exception in Italy, ALWAYS have gelato in Italy.Tips for eating when traveling abroad
  •  Fresh fruits and veggie salads get a bad reputation as well, so remember that foods with “skin” on them such as oranges, bananas, and melons are much safer since the skin protects from any water. Cooked veggies are always safer than their raw counterpart.
  • Make friends! The people that you meet may have some great food recommendations. And invite them to eat with you because you never know when you’ll meet a lifelong friend and make some amazing memories across the table.Tips for eating when traveling abroad
  • Know your limits, because the foods and drinks that are fine for locals may not sit as well with you. If you’re unused to type of beverages and other foods, just try a little at a time and see what happens. If whatever you’re trying is really, really good, come back the next day for the full experience!

But keep an open mind and take some risks! Don’t let worrying about what’s on your plate take away from your volunteer or travel experience. Getting sick can happen and that’s okay. Sometimes those times may actually make for some of the best stories!

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Wednesday Warriors – J.K. Rowling

This lady needs no introduction. Author of the Harry Potter series and universe, she’s the lady who single handedly raised children’s literacy rates as none has done before her. But with all of her popularity, I believe many of us have forgotten what an underdog’s tale she is. And, she did it all without the use of magic. At least, as far as we know.

The success of the Harry Potter series followed only after her mother’s death from multiple sclerosis, miscarriage of her first child, an abusive marriage and subsequent divorce. Rowling was unemployed and with her daughter on welfare. But what she writes and speaks about now is how those very dark times, especially the shrouds of death in her life, made their way into the books in ways that spoke to millions of people.

Rowling epitomizes who we all so desperately would like to be: someone who can turn the moldiest of lemons into lemonade. A person with so much character and heart that she can learn from the very dark and ugly feelings, and make them into a way to connect with others. She, through her characters and novels, has helped us feel a little less alone and misunderstood in the world.

J.K. Rowling may have most of us beat on the scale of connecting and encouraging people, but that doesn’t mean we cannot do the same each and every day in our own circles. A smile, and hug, and friendly word or the hundreds of ways that we can express ourselves make a difference. It doesn’t have to be through words, although that is certainly a great medium. Other methods of art, not just literature, can channel those thoughts and feelings.

And hey, this is how I’m starting, a big smile and hug from me to you!

A Letter to My Friends with Anxiety

Everyone has experienced anxiety or stress, but anxiety orders are completely different animals. They often go unannounced and unrecognized, even by friends and family close to the people who have them. Where our culture fails to consider mental health to be just as important as physical health, we must step up to even the score. This is a letter of support and solidarity, genuinely written to each and every friend I have who has such a disorder.

 

To my friends with anxiety,

I write this letter as someone who may not always understand what you’re going through, but who wants you to feel understood. I may not always get “it”, but I want you to feel like I get you. And I like you a lot. I sometimes get irritated, because your tolerances for certain situations aren’t the same as mine. You have to fight to overcome so much more than I do, and I take that for granted. I know there have been times when I haven’t understood what you were going through emotionally, and I may have even said something that put you down or made you feel less-than because of it. A friend should never make you feel that way.

Like any other physical or mental struggle, some of the best medicine (but certainly not the only!) is the support and encouragement of those around us. I apologize for when you haven’t felt supported. Or when you were unable to reach out, and I didn’t meet you halfway. When I didn’t notice that you were feeling down or struggling. When I was too caught up in my own sh!t to notice that something was not quite right.

I hope you know that despite all of these shortcomings I really, truly care. You make me a better, more compassionate person. I’m super blessed to have you in my life. You prove each and every day that human beings can overcome incredible challenges, reaching out to others even when those other people aren’t accepting or understanding of you in the same way. You’re some of my role models, and the bravest people I know.

 

Mad love to each of you,

Natalie

Let Your Little Light Shine

Somedays, or maybe most days, we all lack a little confidence. Maybe it doesn’t go more than skin deep, and we recognize that feeling as if we’re too fat, too skinny, too smart, too dumb, too short, too tall, too whatever, is just us getting caught up in that stupid, social bullsh!t. But, if I’m being honest, many times my lack of confidence goes a lot deeper than acne breakouts and bad hair days.

So in this (relatively) long post, we’re going to explore confidence a bit more. And that’s a pretty big topic so I’m narrowing it down to a specific context: our voices. YOUR voice. MY voice. You know, the thing I’m using to talk to you right now? That thing.

YOUR voice. MY voice. You know, the thing I’m using to talk to you right now? That thing.

A teacher once asked me once what makes a good class participant and student. How does someone get to a place where they are involved in the discussion? Is it intelligence? Determination? Teachability? While these are certainly important, they are not enough. How do teachers get their students to actually learn and contribute to a class? I think back to my middle school and high school classes and ask myself, what drove me to keep writing and keep trying in classes where I wasn’t the smartest or best or, hell, even understood what was going on? It boils down to one, very simple factor.

My teachers convinced me that I had something worth saying.

Let that sink in.

I was convinced that even if I was objectively wrong, my attempts at giving an answer, proposing a solution, or asking a question were good enough to verbalize potentially to complete strangers, or worse, people I knew.

What if we actually believed that our thoughts had value? What if we had enough confidence to say our thoughts and beliefs on a regular basis to people who may not understand or even want to hear us? 

Sure, you can accuse of me of the typical millennial with a load of BS that “everyone’s opinion matters,” but that’s not quite what I mean. What I am saying is, sometimes we get scared to speak out in class and in life’s conversations. We let a lot of those opportunities slip by us. It doesn’t seem important enough, intellectual enough, funny enough, smart enough. These are lies, and a lack of confidence that’s keeping an entire generation silent. Not only is it grossly limiting awesome ideas and our sense of shared community (because I’m pretty sure we’re all thinking what you’re about to say and then we’ll all realize how we’re not alone), but I believe it can negatively impact our own, personal self-confiance. How we feel about ourselves and our “value”. 

The duct tape over the mouth begins innocently enough. Someone gets a couple Bs and Cs on paper or two. The teacher corrects their answers and the other kids in the class laugh. They try to show their new experiment to their parents and are dismissed because the parents are busy. Sure, grades are important, knowing the right answers are important, and parents need a break, too. But that’s just the beginning because there are a million things in our lives that tend to beat us down. Without a whole lot of support to combat these things, the message that comes across is WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY OR DO IS NOT OF VALUE.

Without a whole lot of support to combat these things, the message that comes across is WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY OR DO IS NOT OF VALUE.

Someone tell me I’m not the only one who’s felt like that?

I was a good student in college. Not the smartest, but decent and put in the effort. I was that annoying kid who talked every class and enjoyed chatting with my professors before and after. I had no problem speaking up. But I only was at that place because in some of the formidable years of my life, I had a significant support-network of people (thank you parents and teachers!) telling me that what I said meant something. Was worth something. Wasn’t stupid. Often wrong, but not stupid. Sometimes we just need people to say, hey, what you are thinking and have to say isn’t dumb! Keep trying.

I could easily connect this to the importance of young adult literature, where the characters of the story say and do the things that youths are feeling, thus legitimizing their thoughts and actions, but let’s not go there today. (Maybe Danny will share his writing on that one!) Suffice to say, when voicing and expressing our thoughts and emotions is a roller coaster ride of uncertainty, the best way to set ourselves up in the future to be confident with our voice is to surround ourselves with people who validate our words.

This whole post is a long way of saying that wherever and whoever you are, your voice deserves to be heard. People and life can make us feel really bad about what we have to say, it can get us down, and make us feel like we shouldn’t or can’t express ourselves. But, hey, Danny and I are here so send us a message if you want. Start your own blog (maybe you hate ours anyways), find your own tribe, or just message someone you care about. To quote a well-known nursery rhyme, let your little light shine!

 

Making Laughter Out of Life or, How Much do Millennials not Give a $h!t?

I have a deck of transformational cards where each card uses a parable or story to highlight an empowering attribute. Lately, I’ve been picking at random one per day and meditating on it. This morning’s was “Laughter”. The parable was of the three laughing saints, who, no matter where they went, brought smiles to the people around them. In the market place, they turned greed into warm chuckles and manipulation into a shared, happy moment. Even in death, the saints had placed fireworks in their clothes so when they were burned on the traditional pyres, their funerals turned into a festivals of celebration.

What does this have to do with Millennial selfishness? First, I’d like to dismiss (yes, dismiss) this negative and rather unfair stereotype. Millennials are often seen as carefree, vain, and money-driven, but this is despite trillions of dollars of student debt, pressure to achieve monetary success in life amidst rising costs (including those for mental healthcare), and polarized political and social landscapes. Second, writing as one Millennial to others, I’d like to empower myself and others to break – BREAK THE CHAINS THAT BIND YOUUUU – just kidding, break free from the intense pressures we face.

My grandmother told me a couple years ago as I was sharing about some of my future college and career plans, shaking her head all the while, that she really felt bad for people my age because, “after school we easily had a job and didn’t have to worry about all of that stuff.” And it’s true.

And meanwhile, Millennials have the weight of the world on our shoulders. We are the generation that is supposed to eradicate hunger, save the economy, and live on Mars. A bit of a double standard, perhaps? I’m not saying we won’t be able to accomplish all this, but the pressure to “be adults” certainly isn’t helping us get there. Ingenuity and creative solutions are spurred on by a positive outlook.

And meanwhile, we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. We are the generation that is supposed to eradicate poverty, save the economy, and live on Mars.

We’ve been tasked with immense humanitarian missions in the face of near infinite evidence of a world that far too frequently places greater value on earning money than on the people working for the money. We struggle under the weight of a slowly resurging economy, where even jobs in the “humanitarian/development” sector are doubtful that they help anyone (see the numerous critiques on the United Nations or Clinton Foundation), and that one uncle who always asks why on earth you’re getting a liberal arts degree.

Let’s go back to the parable.

I was convicted this morning of taking life way too seriously. Of giving too many shits. Of not being carefree ENOUGH. Why? Because when I start focusing on all the crap I just wrote above, I stop focusing on the positives. On the possibilities. On my potential.

Life can be a crippling series of challenging events. It can also be an empowering, safe place filled with relationships with wonderful people. These two options often happen simultaneously.

They say laughter is the best medicine. When we start getting well, start feeling better about ourselves, and start being a little more carefree, we are way better at solving life’s and the world’s biggest problems. Feeling guilty and entitled about our 21st century privilege (and other types of privilege) does not help reduce inequality and injustice.

Oh, and the Google search as the featured photo above? It’s real, and I googled it last week. #screenshot.