The year the world stood still

2020 was not a good year for travel. Neither was 2021. It seems the pandemic that forced the world to take a health pause is going nowhere fast. What did travelers do to fill the gap that was left by the pandemic?

I spent the last two years in California studying French and International Relations in preparation to make the biggest career jump since deciding to commission into the Air Force – entrance into the Foreign Area Officer (FAO) program. It is no surprise that working in international relations has been and will continue to be my dream job, but ironically, although I got the job I always asked for, it has not been the easiest path to walk.


Every armed service has a FAO program. We are a niche career field working with foreign militaries on security assistance initiatives on behalf of the US government. We also serve as attachés, representing our nations militaries at US embassies in nearly every country in the world. It is exciting, challenging and dynamic work. Every branch splits their FAOs into different regions of the world aligning with the 7 continents. My assigned region is Africa. Only .4% of Air Force officers are FAOs and out of that group of specialized officers, only 12% are assigned to Africa. As a part of the program, you need to be able to speak a language in your assigned region, have at least 7 years in the military, 6 months of which will be focused solely on your region, and have a masters in international relations with a focus on your continent. Best part? To get that degree, language and in-region experience, the military will pay to send you to gorgeous Monterey (and around the world) for two years, or more depending on the language, to study.

Sounds Amazing right?

Sure, until you realize that the military never does anything for free. The Defense Language Institute (DLI) is the hardest academic course I have every completed. Imagine going from not knowing a language to being able to converse at a high school level in 9 months. That is what I did in 2020 – learned French, in the quickest, most condensed way possible. And of course, French is not the hardest language – I at least had an alphabet I knew already. Imagine Russian, a year, or Arabic, Chinese or Hangul all of which are one and half years of training. For most of these programs, nearly half of all students fail out of the course.

It was of course my dream to be able to study a language full time, 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. The problem with school as an adult is it was also my job. So if I failed a class, I failed at my job, leaving the possibility of getting kicked out of the military. It was an all win or loose scenario. I also had never wanted anything so much in my life, so when I put all the effort I had into studying only to get B’s or C’s the joy out of learning a new language was quickly sucked out of me.

Yet against all odds, I passed. Looking back, I didn’t perform quite as bad as I thought, though I certainly wasn’t as good as I wanted to be either. The experience really made me respect those of us who are just not school people – how hard is it to try, to work as tough as you can only to get a mediocre result? One of my teachers chuckled at my stress level saying that she thought it was the first time I had actually been challenged – and she is right. I have never struggled so much academically in my life. If you are naturally talented at academics, never take that for granted and give grace to your fellow students who may not be as naturally gifted.


DLI is not just for FAOs, it is the language institute for any linguist in the department of defense, or other government branches. The majority of the students going through various language programs are 18 year old’s, straight out of High School, from every branch of service who have scored high enough on their entrance tests to get into a linguist program (which is one of the toughest to get into). The below tips are geared towards these bright young people who have possibly, for the first time in their lives, feel the shock of trying their hardest at something academically. Us older officers can also make use of these tips too, as some of you might be like me, thinking it will all be a walk in the park…

1. DO study your language before starting DLI. I made this mistake taking some advice from another individual. The course does move at an insane pace, so whatever you pick up on your own may be covered by the first week or month, but having even the smallest head start will help you get off on the right foot. Focus on the basics – pronunciation and the alphabet. Any program from Duolingo to Rosetta stone works. DLI also has some excellent free programs on their website.

2. Maintain the same effort throughout the course. I think the biggest mistake people make is to slack off in the first semester when the course is relatively easy. Courses themselves get extremely challenging once you move from basic to intermediate material. By the time you realize you are behind, it is already too late. You need to try to stay ahead of the material as best you can until you hit second semester when the level goes up significantly.

3. Dedicate 2 extra hours a day and 8 hours over the weekend. Then stop. Your brain is just like any other muscle – it too needs a rest. You will hear from your professors to do things in your target language that you enjoy – do that. Listen to music, podcasts and watch movies – I promise you that slowly by slowly it will begin to click. Balance the time required to study outside of class with the time needed to rest so that you are absorbing the amount you need to.

4. Take the extra help, even if you don’t think you need it. DLI offers what they call 0 hour and 7th hour. In most cases it is forced study for those not doing so well – at one point our entire class was in 7th hour. If not forced, just volunteer to do the extra time with the instructors. Request to use the time to do speaking or whatever skillset you feel you need most help on. It literally never hurts – like anything the more effort you put in, the more you will get out.

5. Believe you will make it through. I do not know a single person who went through DLI that didn’t hit a point when they thought they might not see the other side. KNOW THAT YOU WILL. If you are putting in the time required, you will pass DLI. It is designed for you to succeed, failing is in no-one’s interest. Be consistent, put in the work and you will see the other end.

Bonne Chance!

The W experience

Would you:
– Drop 500euro on a room
– Buy a flight on a whim
– Where those $300 pumps that you knew would be worth it, one day
– Live like you own a yate/make 3 figures/just are fabulous — for the weekend

If you answer yes to all these questions — then you just might be the right girl for me.

We have this tradition among my girlfriends that I highly recommend you copy (and for dudes just swap out the heels for scotch and cigars) — reunite at a fabulous location and live like you are a rock star. The only requirement – it must be a W hotel.

This tradition started a few years back upon the discovery of the W Dallas. With a posh club that overlooks the city skyline and a rooftop pool, I thought I had made it to heaven. That was until we encountered the W Scotsdale, the W Seoul and more recently, the W Paris.

Can I afford these trips? Not really. But its fun to pretend that you can (even if your jeans are from target) with your best girlfriends for a weekend. Plus if you swing a room with 2 beds, a federal rate (if you are a government employee) and add 4 of your favorite people — the entire weekend is less than $300.
So the next time you better not – dont. Just go for it; go for the W.

Adventure Found in a New Place

Have you ever dreamed of traveling the world? Living in different countries? Speaking new languages, seeing new people — challenging yourself in a way that you never thought possible? I did. It was all I ever thought about.

Sitting here in snowy England, I find myself in a quandary — what do you do when you have achieved your dream?

And then it came to me — you think of a new one.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – something always quoted but rarely actioned. What do you often talk/complain about? Have you done it?

Our dreams

What was your dream?

I am not talking about meeting your perfect mate or climbing Mt. Everest – I am talking about your dream job, career, life’s pursuit. Did you accomplish it? Are you working towards it? Did you ever realize it?

I know my dream and I am still young enough to do it. However, the farther away I go from the world I once knew, the more I think about settling in a career ‘that makes more sense’. Something I swear I would never do only 2 or 3 short years ago.

It is difficult once you have chosen a path of ‘well I’ll do this for now – but later…I’ll do what I really want’ – to actually do what you really want. I am sure as life progresses that thought gets even more difficult as children, spouses and mortgages get in the way and provide an excuse for not just going for it.

Well, this is to serve as a reminder and wake up call for all those that have either said later, or really has not explored their true calling. DON’T YOU DARE FORGET.  OR put it off. Just do it – or at least set yourself up to do it. And when the time is right – jump.

This topic keeps me up at night and even pushes me to write to myself as a reminder to NEVER forget.

So, I now write to you. Never give up on your dreams, your calling, your purpose. Don’t dismiss the idea. Think on it, figure it out. Then do it. It is absolutely, never too late to be truly happy and to follow your dreams.

Christmas in Paradise

What is your dream?

For me it has been to travel the world. And so I have – for 8 years of my live I have traveled to every corner of the earth. Whether it be two stepping in Texas to motorbiking down a dirt road in Rwanda – I have done it all. Yet, there was always one thing missing from this pretty picture; All the traveling I have done in those eight years has been solo. Sure I’d join a study abroad group, volunteer with people from different countries, but I have never had a consistent travel partner in my life.

Until now.

Somehow I find myself cooling in a chic cafe in Kuala Lumpur reminiscing about an evening of cocktails at the Raffles Hotel, Singapore, following a day spent in the botanical gardens within the bustling city limits. Key to this moment though, is the presence of a special someone who is crazy enough to fly halfway across the world to spend Christmas in Singapore, New Years in Kuala Lumpur and all the days in between traveling from the rain forest of Taman Negara to the tropical island of Palau.

What is paradise, or the ability to fulfill your dreams without someone there to share it with?

The moment that Changed my Life

While I would say I have gathered a few life changing moments in my short life thus far, this particular story tells a tale of love – for life, following what your heart tells you and letting the confusion of life take over.

It was a warm Tuesday afternoon in Buenos Aries, I was sitting in an air conditioned classroom on one of the most famous streets in the city, Avenida Corrientes. Know for its bookshops (my favorite was an old theater turned bookstore), it is famously termed ‘the street that never sleeps’. I was 19 and had somehow financed my way to a study abroad course in Argentina for a month.

While study abroad’s had academic coursework – they were rarely about that. They were more for the ‘cultural exchange’ of Quilmes (local beer) and the locals themselves. Yet, I found myself wrapped up in the coursework focused on the effects of globalization.

On this particular day, we had just visited a factory full of blue collar workers wearing little protective equipment and all too skinny. Not to mention our ride there saw many begging children and homeless scattered along the streets. It was my 5th day in the country and I am only slightly ashamed to say that I had a small hangover from our excipades from the night before.

After our field trip, we returned to our classy air conditioned apartment in one of the wealthiest areas of the city. Our professor was asking us what we thought of the experience and we proceeded to discuss the issues of the poor. It was at this moment that it hit me.

I was very, very rich. And it all seemed too unfair in the scheme of the world.

While I was a ‘struggling’ college student – I was in college, in America and born into a family that while they could not afford to pay for college, where defiantly middle class America. Yet, I was born into a society, a nation, that had more opportunity and wealth that a strong 80% of the world would never see. Regardless, we sat there, in our air conditioned, fancy classroom and pretended to discuss issues of the poor like we knew exactly what they went through every day! Ridiculous!

It was at that moment, confused and confronted with the reality of world poverty (and believe me Argentina is not even close to the real poverty line) that I made a very important decision in my life: I would dedicate my life to the service of others.

It was the only way I could begin to accept the random occurance that placed me in America and berka wearing oppressed women in other countries. It drove me nuts that people could parade around in their prada and pretend like they didnt notice the poor in their own country!

At 19 I was about to discover that the issue of poverty was far more complicated than I ever imagined, however, I have never regretted my decision to live for others. For as long as I have lived, I still believe it is the only way to achieve true happiness… for yourself.

Risk Taking in Life – A random Note

Don’t be lame. Please.

Take the risk that you think might not be a good idea. That guy/girl you met at the bar? Go on a date with them – what the Hell. Stay out past your bed time on a school night. Paint your nails blue. Run in the rain. Keep those people that make you laugh in your life.

You live overseas? Well that’s cool. While traveling, why not stay somewhere unconventional – say a treehouse or on the beach. How about trying to meet people that don’t have your same culture and ideals. Interesting? How about traveling to an undeveloped country? Live on the wild side – take the dirt road to work. Hell why don’t you walk it.

Life has all sorts of interesting twists and turns, especially for those of you who can afford to tune into this blog every once in a while. Please! Don’t waste it! I don’t care who you are, what age or what point in life you are in – don’t waste life being conservative, practical and safe (well too safe). By far the worst thing a person can do is waste an opportunity. And let’s face it, Life is the biggest opportunity yet.

Let me start at the Beginning

If you catch the about section, you know that my purpose is to simply share the life stories that make you smile, cry or simply think. It is with this backdrop that I share the perspective of my current conditions.

I am currently in Asia; South Korea specifically. I have one year in this interesting country and much of that will be tainted by my job. If you are a random follower, (one that has stumbled upon this by interest rather than by default of association) you should know that I am in the military – the Air Force to be exact. This should strike you as quite strange when reviewing my posts as you will see stories that encompass all. I envision this to be a collection of stories from my short past, while also including new ones as they follow.

It is also interesting, that I am both a traveler and an LT – but that I struggle to retain the first description rather than the second. Every bit of travel that I share has been an escape from reality. Yet, here in Korea, my reality is mixed with the escape. This provides an interesting struggle that is extremely difficult. How is it that your dream is mixed with the reality of life?

It is with this question that I leave you and encourage you to add posts, comments and follow as I share the interesting ups and downs that make life just that. Life.