Top 5 Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Next Big Adventure

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When I finally decided to pack my bags and move to Haiti, I didn’t just hop on a plane and wing it. I tried to be strategic enough to avoid hang ups while still keeping some available space for spontaneity. If you are considering on making the big move, especially a foreign country here are some helpful tips to save yourself some major headaches. 

ForiegnMoney

Photo Credit: epSos .de

1. Have enough money saved to pay your obligations. I have some pretty hefty student loan debt and while I often opt for the fun life adventure instead of becoming debt free in 3 years, I always, always, ALWAYS pay my loans. When I took the leap of faith, I made sure I had at least enough money to cover my loan payments for the next three months. You don’t want to be visiting your family on a break to then have the uncomfortable conversation as to why collections has been calling them.

AsiaFarmerPhone

Photo Credit: Ken Banks

2. Contact as many people you know there as possible, even if it is one person. Arriving in a foreign country with a month’s worth of stuff with no one to meet you or a plan, can leave you extremely vulnerable (more on how I learned that another time). Even if you don’t stay with this person, having a friendly face that you can communicate with upon your arrival will ease the already present anxiety. If you are looking for a job, this becomes extremely important as your contact can help you navigate the hiring system and maybe even help you network.

Passports

Photo Credit: J Aaron Farr

3. If you are going abroad, make sure your passport does not expire for at least 3 months. Most countries won’t let you through the airport if your passport is set to expire in three months so save yourself the flight change fees and up date your passport. Also make a copy of that first page. In the countries I’ve visited, a form of identification is needed to buy cellphones, change money, etc. Reduce the risk of losing your passport by carrying a printout, and it will save you time in case you need to replace your passport.

Photo Credit: JannRiik

Photo Credit: JannRiik

4. Give yourself permission to enjoy some of your favorite things. Moving to another country, city, or state will mean that you won’t have the same access to your favorite things. When you have one of those days where you the cashier gets frustrated with your thick American accent, or the power goes out while you were writing the longest email of your life on a desktop, an overpriced tub of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food may be the thing you need to keep you sane. You already get the gold star for taking the leap, so be kind to yourself and pay extra attention to self care. For me, reading books (thank you, Kindle), watching movies (thank you, Netflix), or “Hanging out” with a friend or two (thank you, Google) were my life savers.

Journals

Photo credit: Wen Long

5. Keep a journal, not only to help you remember the cool things you did 10 years from now, but to off load whatever you don’t feel like sharing out loud. It doesn’t even have to be full sentences, it can even be ticket stubs or business cards. There are a lot of changes that you’ll be experiencing so keeping track of them will help you track the progress you’ve made.

Keeping things open ended and keeping a positive attitude will help you bounce back from those days that just don’t go your way. Now get back to packing, your adventure awaits.

Leaving everything you know to embark on an adventure or just came back from one? Share your top tips for how you made it through. 

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How Ferguson Protests Were A National Pressure Release

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Jury duty. That dreaded piece of mail that induces anxiety and panic among every American citizen. Such feelings are probably due the unplanned disruption in the rhythm of life to potentially determine the fate of another human being. What if you get sucked into a 5 day murder trial? The possibility is unsettling.

However, when I was first selected, I was actually excited. I could finally see a trial in real life! Right off the bat, I was selected for a cocaine possession case. The defendant was arrested in that part of town where you double check that your doors are locked, and you hit the gas a little harder than you should. Although the police didn’t find the cocaine on his person, it was found nearby on the side of the road after he ran from the cops. We found him guilty and sent him right back to the jail that he had just left for other drug related charges. As time has gone on, I’ve often wondered what would have happened if he was white, if he had a better lawyer, if he was actually innocent. I think about him even more during these media storms: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and the news stories of thousands of young men who die every year by gunfire, accidental or otherwise.

Courtesy of Common Dreams

While the media fixates on fanning the flames of the racism and police brutality, how are we as American citizens ultimately affected by violent protests in part of the country that many of us have never visited? What our society often forgets, or chooses to ignore, is that there are systems in place that keep groups of citizens in certain areas and the only way to get out is by luck or remarkable determination. As evidenced by the seemingly over the top reaction to a petty thief’s shooting death. Protests and violence never just happen, they are the result of years of pent up frustration with injustice. For example, the Occupy Wall Street protests were a response to years of abuse by the banking system that sent our once thriving country into a recession that we are still recovering from. 

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Now that the molotov cocktails have been put away and a civil rights lawsuit is being filed, will the fiery conversations and artistic performances come to an end? Will we continue to ignore the injustices our system encourages? Or have we gained a collective understanding that there is something very wrong with our system and we have the power to address it?   

20something profile: Marissa

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Thank you David for reaching out to me and letting me share my experience!

20somethings Blog

IMG_0268This post was written by Marissa, who is working on building a product distribution business in rural Haiti:

At 18 years old, if you asked me about my life plan, I’d straighten my back, I’d grow the already present smile, and I’d inform you, “I’m going to save the world as an international lawyer working at the international criminal court…or something like that.”

After a somewhat dramatic epiphany that law school was not for me, I set to finding a new way to honor the root of my desires: solving problems on an international scale.  It wasn’t pretty, and each step hasn’t flowed perfectly to the next, but my career thus far is a patchwork of some very cool experiences.

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Life Update!

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Photo Credit: Miss Turner, Rekre89 on Flikr

Photo Credit: Miss Turner

There’s something magical to me about coffee shops. The constant din of coffee making machinery, the rumble conversations mixing together layered over mellow music has always been the recipe to help me focus on whatever work I needed to get done.

Returning to my hometown in Winter Park, Florida, I am sitting in the Park Avenue Starbucks that carried me through many of my college essays and job applications. Much like the rest of town, it has been updated to respond to the demands of its current clientele, but in many ways has stayed the same.

That’s what I am doing with the Millennial Takeover. After spending a year working in Haiti, and a mini hiatus, I am going to be writing about my observations from my time abroad, my insights on current events, and as always spotlighting incredible millennials. So keep an eye on this space for future posts and follow me on Twitter @themtakeover

 

The Return of Not So Common Advice

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Most commencement speeches inspire their graduates to build their careers, reach for the stars, and do whatever it takes to reach their dreams. After all, they’ve accomplished the first part of that dream: getting a college education. However, my colleagues and I received a commencement speech a couple years ago about the importance of exercise and eating right and not… “letting yourself go” from an older gentleman who could very well have been speaking from experience. Naturally, we didn’t take too kindly to the speech and promptly demoted the bizarre experience to the “to shred” pile in our memories.
Ironically enough, a couple years later I find myself reflecting on that very commencement speech. I’ve been dwelling on the how to define what one needs to sacrifice to be successful. As they say one must sacrifice health, friends and finally family to achieve poster child success. But is that kind of sacrifice even necessary? Without those three things, what do you have? With the increased attention to what the Huffington Post calls the “Third Metric” how is it possible not to sacrifice one or all of these things when you are starting out? Climbing the career ladder often means late nights, early mornings, and often sacrificing the respite of the weekend. Accepting this reality has been difficult for me, because I just can’t help but feel that by now we would have found a way to not be “on” all of the time.
Maybe I struggle the most with this because participating in the Haitian work lifestyle often means having people come by to visit, grab a coffee, and eat up a good 2-3 hours of your work day. Although very nice, the decrease in actual work hours does cut into productivity, something Haiti’s economy most definitely needs. However, in that same breath I see this way of life slowly fade with the aging of previous generations. Life has become busier, people are more on edge, and the pressure that is often omnipresent in the States is increasingly claiming the lifestyles of the current population. Is workaholicsism, reserved for the select few? Or has it become a rite of passage for ambitious young professionals?
Whatever the answer, I have been keeping my sanity by spending my Saturdays with my younger cousins ranging from 17 years to 4 months. The constant energy and the simplicity of life as a young person has been such an outlet for me that Saturday lunches with them have become sacred.
Finding that outlet, even if it only takes place once a week for an hour is so necessary to not completely losing yourself in the work. What is your outlet, how do you keep yourself sane when work becomes overwhelming?

Millennial Interview: Luxury Boutique Hotel owner in Haiti.

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When you first think of a hotel in Haiti, something like this might come to mind:

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Although similar places can be found, a visit to Haiti could land you somewhere like this:
Cafe36DiningRoom

Starting a boutique hotel in a poverty stricken country takes serious guts, commitment, and a stockpile of patience. I found these qualities in Lorraine Hudicourt owner of La Lorraine, the most recent addition to Port-au-Prince’s luxury hotel scene. Lorraine’s laid back ambition and perfectionism boasts from every detail.

Beyond the open walkway encased in linen drapes, you will find the popular restaurant Cafe 36, where I met with Lorraine.  Every inch of decor adds a sense of privacy and a sense of protection from the harsh realities of living in Haiti. All of the daily stress melted away once I arrived at the dining area that provides a Caribbean urban oasis.

The after work crowd starts to settle in as a popular D.J. sets up his kit on the humble stage. I look around for Lorraine and catch her as she is attending to the needs of an ongoing conference and smoothly transitioning the dinner crowd to the happy hour that’s about to begin.

Nothing alters a plan quite like a 7.0 earthquake.With a crushing demand for hotels in the area, Lorraine stayed on to manage the hotel. Coincidentally, a parcel of land that Lorraine had dreamed about for years also came onto the market. With encouragement from her mother, Lorraine did the crazy, risky thing and bought the land to achieve her dream of owning a hotel.  After three years of negotiating, patience, and perseverance, La Lorraine opened her doors in November 2012.

After a little over a year, the wild success experienced by the hotel has encouraged Lorraine to think of how to improve and expand. Although being a millennial hasn’t been a challenge, what has been difficult has been finding quality employees. With a significant portion of the population unable to read or write, finding people who will at least meet expectations can be extremely difficult. But ask her about her big travel dreams, she laughs and responds with: “They are extinct, but I’m happy here.” As Lorraine has shown, life has a funny way of changing our plans, often for the better.

 

Long term benefits to Student Loan Debt?

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Each generation has had an issue that plagued their thoughts, dreams, and aspirations. For our grandparents, it was managing a Post WWII world. For our parents, it was dealing with drug abuse and the now invisible color lines. What could possibly plague our generation more than the broken system that we inherited? The financial crater left by pursuing the one thing that marketed guaranteed success: a college education. 
 
An estimated 7 out of 10 graduating seniors in 2012 walked into the “real world” with an average of $29,400 of student loan debt. According to this Huffington Post article, the burden can lead to a loss of license in some states and most importantly prevents many young people from qualifying for home loans, personal loans, small business loans, and car loans: the bread and butter of the American economy. If you don’t really understand how it all works check out this infographic that breaks it down.
 Student Loan Scheme.
 
Whether or not you or your child are dealing with this type of debt, it has market wide effects. Think about it, with significant portions of 30 million salaries going to feed a collective financial crater, who is going to be purchasing the high priced credit based goods that serve as the metric for a healthy American economy? How can you breed healthy work habits when personal finance is always going to be a significant anxiety? 
 
There are hundreds of suggestions on how to cope with the pressure of dealing with student loan debt, and it deserves serious attention and planning. But once in this crater, why not wear the burden as a badge of courage? Presumably, students don’t take out loans unless they need them in order to get to where they want to go in their careers. As it is in life, taking that kind of risk has forced many in this group to make sacrifices and choices in order to survive. It will be lessons we’ve learned from those choices that will mold the next Great Generation.
 
Lessons in dedication, perseverance, resourcefulness, and long term thinking will only serve us in in the long run. Our generation has already claimed the superlative “most entrepreneurial” and “most diverse” in U.S. history, once we have claimed positions of power these lessons will only make stronger leaders and truly change the direction of the world.
 
Have student loans impacted your life planning and decision making? If so, how?