The Darling Nomadess: January 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Remember When...

Oh high school. For some of the world, it was prime time but for others (ahem, myself included) it was a time filled with a severe case of awkwardness. Let's take a time machine back to circa 2005-2009 and get to know young high school Ashliegh...

…I thought it was cool to dye my hair pink and learn to skateboard…
Being a shy awkward nerd definitely brought some of the most interesting people into my life, many of whom I am still friends with. I was friends with the skaters, the band geeks, the nerds, the theater kids, the goths and eccentrics. Really, anyone who wasn't a cheerleader or into sports (aka, the popular kids). It also lead me to gain the all-important skills of dying hair (seriously, I can give you highlights with a box dye), skateboarding, and drinking polar pops outside of a Circle K.

^^ Senior year I broke my hand while riding my bike to band camp. I ran into a lamppost. #onlyme

…I had dramatic photo captions…
What would a photo be without it's dramatic caption? Even in my early days, I was training for life as a blogger by experimenting with putting my captions on the photos...

…school spirit days. Enough said…

…I had crushes on 3 guys, 2 of which were my best friends. All 3 turned out to be gay…

…Winning the local festival pageant was THE biggest deal…
Yeah, I'm famous in my hometown (population…maybe 1,000?). But…isn't everyone?
High school is when I discovered a love for pageants. When I started at age 16, I was incredibly shy. I couldn't even talk to my grandparents shy! I cried during every speech I had to give in speech class shy! Pageants helped me overcome this and actually enjoy public speaking. By the time I got to college, not a single soul ever believes that I was ever shy. So thanks, local festival pageant, for developing me into the woman I am today!

…I was always the clumsy one during fun group photos…
Sorry for the blur on these. I went all the way back to MySpace to resurrect these photos for you to enjoy. Aww, how cute! These girls are posing for a photo carrying each other and piggyback rides. But wait, what's going on in the bottom left of this photo though? Ashliegh failed to jump in time for the photo and ended up on the ground. #awkward

…I started a business making boutonnieres and corsages for my friends for school dances…
I even made them for the school the next town over and I had a bride order her bouquet once, too! I used fake flowers to make them and my friends loved that they were able to keep them forever! Since I also pieced them together with hot glue, the corsages also make it through the whole dance without falling apart, unlike the local floral shops.

…in high school, there were 4 seasons: marching season, pep band season, concert season, and band camp…
Band was LIFE in high school. I played flute and oboe mostly and senior year I started to learn the trumpet. On top of that, I was also a majorette. Band was an important part of my life since I joined in 5th grade and it taught me so much about persistence, determination, and hard work.

Don't mess with the bow tie.

…because life in a small town meant canoeing in your friend's pool after band camp…
my small town has two major Ohio canalways going right through the center. Once each summer, all of us would gather at my house and go on our annual canoe trip. Of course, being poor, we could only afford to do this once a summer. For the rest of the hot days, we would just go to a friend's house and hang out in the pool. This is also one of my all time favorite photos ever! 

Who were you in high school?

With Love,

The Rachael Way

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

48 Hours in Pompeii

Choosing Pompeii as my destination after running away from Rome was quite possibly the best choice ever. Pompeii served as a place to recoup, gather my thoughts, and actually enjoy Italy. The city itself is a bit ironic, if you know it's history. To put it shortly, in 79 A.D. Mount Vesuvius erupted and left 4 Roman cities, including Pompeii, buried under volcanic ash. It's a place devastated by death, but yet still full of life. With Mount Vesuvius as it's backdrop, it's a constant reminder of nature's incredible forces of growth and also destruction.

Many tourists only go to Pompeii for a day trip but I am so glad Alex and I spent a few days there (after I decided to ran away, Alex came to Italy!). The city closest to the Pompeii ruins is also called Pompei. The locals and shop owners were so friendly! I think it also helped that we went during the off-season. I felt like we had the whole city and ruins to ourselves! Pompeii is easily my favorite European experience thus far. Without further ado, here is my 48 hour guide to Pompeii!

Friday, January 23, 2015

4 Ways to Wear 1 Winter White Sweater

Personally, I find the winter months to be the most difficult to be stylish since I'm more apt to stay inside and hide under a cuddly blanket. Add traveling to the mix, and I've exhausted a lot of my clothing options. Really, there are only so many combinations of layers I can style! So when Erica from Coming Up Roses proposed a style collab, you bet I was on board! I'm in some dire need for some fashion inspirations (how how I miss my clothes in the states!). 

Erica and I put together a guide to wearing the classic white sweater! Erica is one of my favorite bloggers and I recently got to sit down and chat with her on Skype. She is just as charming, bright, and funny as she is on her blog! Erica also got engaged earlier this week (AHHH just SO excited for her)! Make sure to drop by her blog to see how she styled her white sweater! 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Cabin in the Woods

I normally wear white gloves that match my scarf but I lost them! :(
Coat: ℅ Asos // Scarf: H&M // Jeans: Old // Boots: DSW // Glasses: Firmoo

Wintertime in Germany often brings to mind sipping on Gluhwein at a Weihnactsmarkt. The country doesn't seem to get too much snow but BRRR it is so cold here! I'm a complete chicken when it comes to being cold. If it's cold, I don't go outside. But I'm in Germany! There's so much to see, I can't just simply hibernate in my room!

Thankfully, my bordeaux-colored parka from ASOS allows me to keep exploring the gorgeous countryside while looking stylish and staying cozy warm! While I don't wear fur, I love the faux fur around the hood and the waffle-texture of the wool fabric. There are so many cute coats at ASOS, it's difficult to chose just one. Though everything at ASOS is so cute. Can my closet just be an ASOS?

Other Great Coats from ASOS:

On this particular day, Alex showed me the Saarschleife. The Saar is the main river in the Saarland federal state and schleife means "bend" in German, so essentially, Saarschleife is where the Saar river does this cool bendy thing. It's quite scenic with snow covered trees and I can't wait to see what it looks like in the spring/summer as well!

We walked deeper into the forest and found this charming restaurant up on a hill. Though the hill was quite steep and covered in ice and snow, I managed to only slip a few times. Once at the top of the hill, the cabins charm came into full view. I love the glowing lanterns and notice that there is a slide at the exit, folks. Yes! How could one resist such an adorable cabin?!  Once inside, I ordered a coffee and heart-shaped waffles that warmed me right up.

Do you like the winter season? How do you stay warm?

With Love,

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Diary of a Runaway Au Pair

This may be stating the obvious, but sometimes, things don't always go our way. Things aren't always going to go the way we imagined them to be. Sometimes, we think the best of people and they turn out to be completely different.

Traveling, whether a good or bad experience, changes us. Before this grand adventure in Europe commenced, I was full of ideas of how perfect the whole trip would be. My host family has four darling children and two loving parents who will show me the ropes of life in Italy. Flash forward: man, was I wrong!

Do not get me wrong. Italy is an incredible country filled with beautiful rolling countrysides, depths of history, and hospitable personalities. Working as an au pair is similar to working as a nanny but quite different. The au pair experience is supposed to be a cultural exchange. It's a mutually beneficial situation that allows the au pair to explore a new culture while the host family receives childcare assistance. The word "au pair" means "on par," an equal to the family. Au pair work typically includes light housekeeping (like changing the dishwasher, keeping the kids' rooms clean, etc), teaching English, and keeping the kids entertained.

What I experiences with my first host family in Italy was absolutely nuts. I honestly still can't believe that it happened to me. I think the best way for me to share what happened is to give you a look inside my journal.

"My heart breaks for these kids because they can be cute sometimes and they're very intelligent. Their parents are raising them to be useless, rude, and elitist I can't even begin to understand why someone would want to hinder their child's ability to be an independent individual. I wish I had it in me to stay but I refuse to be treated the way this family treats me. I refuse to be a part of this vicious cycle of spoiling these kids to the point of complete dependency." - November 19, one week after arriving in Rome

Rather than typical au pair duties, I was spoon-feeding the 9 and 10 year old kids their breakfasts in bed every morning (insert jaw drop here), putting toothpaste on their tooth brushes, bathing them, blowdrying their hair, and picking up their dirty Kleenex's off the floor (never mind a please or thank you). This is only half of it all while these kids called me "au pair" or "ragazzi" (meaning "girl" in Italian) often refusing to call me by my real name. After only one week, I had already felt completely degraded and worthless. 

"Today the kids told me they liked me. I asked them why. Their response: "Because you don't cry." - November 22

"I'm not here for the family and the kids. I'm here to have the time of my life. I'm here to see sights and have experiences unique to Italy. I'm here to unlock a part of me I've never known before. I'm here for me and this family cannot take that away." - November 22

During this time I was battling with the idea of staying. I had yet to truly experience the reason I chose to begin my travels: Rome. Even though I was living in the city, I felt as though I was giving up too soon perhaps. I still had so many things to do and see in Rome, how could I leave so soon after arriving? I tried to remember why I came to Europe in the first place and that gave me some hope to continue on, at least for a few days and despite the children's tempers.  

"It's starting to get to the point where I don't even want to wake up in the morning or roll out of bed. Please, I'm better of in my dreams. Daytime has become a nightmare. Each day, I wonder, "how bad will the kids be today? Can it be any worse than yesterday?" Answer: it usually is." - November 25, the breaking point

Yeah that hope thing didn't last too long. The breaking point was dinnertime. The kids had gotten up on their chairs and were screaming profanities in English and Italian at me (F*** You, You're a B**** W****, etc). I asked them to stop and they continued. I looked at the parents for help and they continued their conversation like nothing was happening. I had enough.

Later that evening, I had to babysit for the family until around midnight. Once the parents returned home, my host father guided me to the door. As I exited, I turned around, extended my arm, and dropped my house key into his hands. "Thanks for everything, hah, but I'm leaving. Goodnight." I ran to my room and dragging my suitcase and backpack, I ran to the nearest bus station, never looking back.

While some au pairs have a similar experience to mine, a lot of au pairs truly enjoy the job and their host family. Among my Roman au pairs friends, my story was definitely an odd one. Most of their families had them doing far less chores, paid better, and the children and parents respected the au pair so both parties could be good representatives of their home countries. If you're looking to au pair, please do not chicken out because of this blog post. I am now happily living in Germany, a country that I wouldn't otherwise appreciate as much as I do had the Italian experience not happened. 

I learned a lot about myself in Italy. I learned to stand up for myself and that my path of happiness is up to me. I learned that while my trust in people can sometimes lead me to trouble, it is my optimism and desire to learn from experience that will guide me through the tough times. For every cruel person in the world, there are at least double that in nice people. I learned that kindness goes a long way. If I wasn't nice before, I am overly conscious of how I treat others now. 

All in all, while the Italian experience was difficult, it was an eyeopening experience that I think God wanted me to have.

With Love,

Monday, January 12, 2015

2015 Life & Blog Goals

-Develop my blog voice. Rather than just sharing photos, DIY's, etc, I really hope to develop my "blog voice." In 2014, I attended the HerConference in NYC and roomed with Alison Leighann. As longterm followers of each other's blogs, I asked her if she thought my personality matched my personality. She replied that it did for the most part but I'm more funny in person. SUCH VALUABLE INFORMATION! So with this, I really want to share more of my personality and more stories. I want you darlings to feel like you can connect and relate to me.
-Switch to Wordpress? I've been thinking about this for well over a year now and I think this is the year I'll finally "man up" and do it. I'm just so comfortable with Blogger - it's so easy to use and we've been great friends for well over 5 years. But, I think it may be about time to break up this relationship and own my own content.
-Redo my About Me Page. This is long overdue. While some of the information is still relevant, I really want to redo the whole page in a creative way. Thoughts and ideas, anyone?
-Comment more! Blogging is all about creating a sense of community. I love reading blogs and often find myself lost in blogland on a daily basis on blog's I've never heard of (tip: click on other blogger's  sponsors. It helps the blogger out and help you find new bloggers to connect with!). I read a lot of posts but sometimes get so caught up in reading or flying through too many posts in a short time, I forget to leave a comment.

-Get to Level B2 in German. I have completely rediscovered a love for learning languages while abroad. Since I hope to (eventually? maybe soon?) start a career, or at least a job, in Germany it would be beneficial to learn the language (duh). Alex bought me a few language books and the Babbel app for Christmas and my new host family is letting me borrow a few grammar books. I'm also thinking about signing up for a course (I found a really good deal on Groupon Germany!). My intentional goal here is to reach fluency as soon as possible so I can start applying to German universities to get my Masters in 2016!
-Journal at least 2 times a week. While in Italy, I journaled everyday. Italy was a crazy time in my life and I wanted to document it. Since leaving the land of pasta, I have forgotten to continue to journal. I really want to get back into it because I am still abroad and I want to be able to recall what I felt during this crazy time in life. Psst, you'll get a peak into my Italy journal soon!
-Lose the weight I put on in Europe. It was bound to happen since I have been surrounded my so many good foods that MUST be tasted! Now that I'm finally settling down and "slow traveling," it's time to get back into my normal food and exercise routine.

What are your goals for 2015?

With Love,