A LETTER TO 15-YEAR-OLD ME

CHICAGO, IL


A LETTER TO 15-YEAR-OLD ME

Hey Em, 
Been rough lately, yeah? I know, I remember. Lots of noise, confusion, mood swings, bad hair days, physics homework you don’t understand, brother hogging the bathroom, & SO many questions of, “is it going to get better?”

Well 25-year-old-you is here to tell you, it does. Sorry it took me ten years. I’ve been busy.

First things first. Everything & everywhere you predicted would have & be at the age of 25 — it didn’t happen. No, you’re not engaged to that one guy you thought you’d be. You’re not rich. You don’t own a car. You don’t have two books published, & you for sure don’t live in California. 

In fact, you’re going to break your ankle & wrist at the exact same time. You’re going to get mugged - twice in fact! You’re going to get in a few car accidents. You’re going to have rumors spread about you. You’re going to fail some important exams. You’re going to lose someone really close to you. You’re going to get fired. You’re going to have your heart broken in more ways than you can count. Emma, you’re going to experience some pretty awful things.

I know what you’re thinking, “Um, I thought you said it got better?” but hear me out…

You need to go through all of this. You have to! Each one of those terrible things, they’re molding you for what’s to come. Life, God, or whatever the hell put you here (luckily Netflix has been invented & you’ll watch enough Sci-Fi documentaries to figure this out), wouldn’t send all these obstacles your way if you weren’t strong enough to handle them. And you don’t realize this now, but you are one brave, strong & badass little lady

So listen. And listen carefully, because I don’t want you fucking this up. Are you listening? Write this down. Your journal is wedged in between your mattress so your brothers won’t find it. Got it? Good. 

Keep dreaming. Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep questioning. You do this naturally, but promise yourself never to stop. Your independence, your creativity, your curiosity, & that burning fire inside you — it’s all going to take you places you’ve never imagined. When you reach those places, remember even from there, you still have a long way to go. There is always more to learn, more to achieve, more people to meet, more to experience. There will be some serious slumps & rough phases along the way where your entire vision becomes blurry. You will give up & convince yourself that your dreams are impossible to reach, but luckily, that fire inside you doesn’t completely extinguish. Be grateful for that.

Family. They’re number one. No matter the circumstances or dark times. Respect them. Love them always. Support them when they need support. Forgive them no matter what. It doesn’t seem like it now, but you hit the lottery with your (two!) homes, your childhood, your parents, your brothers, & they love all you more than any other person you cross during your journey. And as hard as it is & will be for you to accept, Mom is usually right about everything.

You will give up on a few things. Swimming, photography, homework, friends, doing your hair everyday, writing, even yourself. But don’t worry, some of these things (the ones that are meant to be), they come back to you. Definitely not the drive to do your hair everyday, but your writing & your childhood friends — those essentials that make up who you are & who you always have been, they never really left you. Once you find these things again, it gets easier.

That brings me to people. There will be countless that leave & countless that stick around. For the ones that leave, that’s more than okay. They played some sort of role in your journey, as you did in their’s. It’s no one’s fault if you lose touch, fall-out, or move on. It’s just life! For the ones that stay, hold on tight. You’ll learn later that genuine, relevant, real, & like-minded people are hard to come by. You were never a push-over or people pleaser, this will be helpful in many situations when you smell bullshit. Keep demanding respect & being your true, honest self no matter what challenges others throw your way. Do you! Even if others tell you you’re wrong, or rude, etc. At the end of the day, you only have yourself. And there will be people that gossip about what you’re doing, copy you, & simply screw you over. Just walk away from pointless, boring, crazy, irrelevant or toxic people before you waste any more time, or worse, lose yourself while trying to find the good in them. 

Stop trying to fit in. You don’t. Embrace it. Ugg boots are hideous & you know it. Don’t bug Mom to buy you a pair just because everyone else has them. In fact, just stop shopping all together & put your money into savings. You’re going to hate yourself in the future when you think about all the money you spent on irrelevant things like Ugg boots. And you’ll fight it for years, but you are different than most & that’s a good thing, trust me. You may feel like you need to hide it now, or do what everyone else does, but please don't. Why? Because being different is going to take you places.  

Which brings me to the next part, & the best part. YOU, yes you…you’re going to travel. Not just around the U.S. (like you currently are hoping) but around the entire planet. You’re going to go to places like Mongolia, India, Spain, & Greece. Can you believe it?! Mongolia! Do you know where that even is on a map right now? The bad news is, some of the places you experience will bring tears, pain, terror & confusion & it will force you to question if there is good in this world. There is. So keep traveling & keep questioning. Don’t stop. Even when you find yourself out of money or hitchhiking in the rain. You’ll get your answers out there. The ones you’ve been searching for for years & you’ll feel more inspired than you do right now.

Second best part? Your writing is going to be published. In magazines, newspapers, on the internet, you name it! That thing you hear during your 12th grade Journalism class with Mr. Clark, “good writing is rewriting,” well, it sticks with you. People are actually going to pay you for your words & what you have to say. Especially about all your travels. Remember this when you bomb that physics exam later this week…you’re a writer.

But Emma, if you gain anything from this, from this bizarre, mystical letter from your future self, it should be this: You are beautiful. And you are good enough. More than enough! Do not ever, EVER let anyone tell you otherwise, especially yourself. 

It’s always darkest before the dawn. And DAMN is it dark for you right now. But Mom was right (Jesus, how does she do it?!), “it’s going to get better” & you deserve that. You deserve everything that you’re wishing & hoping for. The bad news is, it’s not a life on the beaches of California with that really cute guy you were crushing on (what was his name again?), or a steep bank account from writing best-seller after best-seller.

The good news is, it’s better. Much better. And I love you.
 ​                                               xx E

LIFE WITHOUT THE LENS

ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA


LIFE WITHOUT THE LENS

“What do you do?” people usually ask me casually, the way people do — new acquaintances, the dentist, someone sitting next to me on an airplane, you get the idea..

But recently I was asked, “What do you WANT to do?” presuming that I had other aspirations other than…well, being a gypsy (as my father jokingly calls me). 

“I travel,” is what I said back. “I want to see the world.” And it feels exactly that simple. 

Travel is really the only thing I’ve found that gives me a sense of everything — creativity, inspiration, answers, freedom and wealth (not talking about money here). It's a way of life where euphoria, simplicity, and a good dose of humor all come together. And the best part is no shoes are ever required.

And of course, throughout my global galavants, I’ve found many things along the way, myself being one of them. I’ve observed, navigated, deciphered, participated, and discovered until it lead me to tears of joy and sheer terror. And I’m grateful for every last millisecond of it all, good and bad. 

But among the many things I’ve noticed is that we traveling millennials (you know, the drone flying, swiping, selfie-taking, self-timer, filtering wizards) are ruining the euphoria of travel. If you’re over the age of 30 and are not familiar with what I’m talking about, all you need to know is that we millennials tend to pathetically say things like “do it for the ‘gram” and “hike for likes”.

Yeah, I’m embarrassed too…

In this time of endless emails, texts, Insta-everything, sponsors, influencers, Snapchat this and Facebook that, we think we are connected. But it’s a false connectivity. What we often lose is a real relationship with the dealer fiber of travel, and moreover…life.

I believe that the more we obsess on social media, posts, sharing, capturing, and creating while traveling, the dirtier things can get. And by dirty I mean further away from the core intention of discovery and magic that we true travelers first fell in love with. To me, pure travel at its best is nothing but a series of happy accidents and freedom. Mostly freedom to discover and be ourselves.

This means no camera set ups, no Instagram stories, sponsored posts, no filters, no angles, no screens, no edits, no drones, no selfies, and whatever else we’re calling “creativity” and “self-expression” these days. Life without the lens or audience, and traveling for the sake of travel. 

I mean sure, if it’s all paying for your plane tickets and hotels then by all means, set up your cameras, filter your selfies in front of Angkor Wat, captioned with a cliche Tomb Raider quote and live your moments to the “fullest” by staring at them through a screen. High five?

But God damnit, it’s 2018! We could be doing something so much more! Something original! Something that will outlive us. Because the clock is ticking, and the world is spinning, and we simply do not have time to think and do so small. They can’t bury you with your likes, product promos, selfies, videos, and sponsors, for crying out loud! 

I know that in this day-and-age it can be excruciatingly difficult because everywhere we go or every Instagram profile we come across, it seems like everyone has their life together and they appear to know exactly which direction they’re going. But the truth is everyone is always striving for more. 

We are conditioned to think that if we have more, own more, make more, achieve more, that they will somehow BE more. More of what? I’m not sure. Human, maybe? But everyone is already human (except for Michael Jordan, of course), so it really doesn’t make sense.

But the truth is, no matter how many zeros you put in your bank account, you can always feel bankrupt inside. No matter how many people comment that you look hot in your bikini picture in Bali, you can still struggle with your self-esteem. I can carry on with this, but I won’t. Again, you get it...

So ask yourself, ARE YOU DOING EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE? Are you getting everything out of your travels? Or are you just following the crowd? Filtering your photos to appear relevant? Hiking for likes? Doing it for the fucking ‘gram? Eye roll. 

Stop chasing the likes. Start living. I promise it gets so much better when you do.

                                                                                                  xx E

STYLE WITH SOUL

PUSHKAR, INDIA


STYLE WITH SOUL

Fashion. A discourse consuming people for decades. I went from someone who use to work in the industry (I lasted all of six months), to someone who sold all of my designer handbags, shoes & dresses to support my nomadic lifestyle, to a frequent "guy’s section" shopper (t-shirts over tube tops), but also someone who fell completely head-over-heels for the textiles, patterns and colors of India, Turkey & Morocco, & now find myself hunting the back streets of Hong Kong for vintage, no one-else-will-have-this, finds.

Style, clothes, fashion & trends have literally & figuratively given me a run for my money & mind. And I grow incredibly frustrated with the idea & pressure society creates, that women should be changing their wardrobes with the season or decade, just to…well… “fit in”. I mean, I’ve tried! But I simply don’t connect with the idea of fast “on trend” fashion, since I believe it encourages a repulsively superficial, consumerist society that at the end of the day, is pretty inauthentic & serves no value. I don’t want any part of that. 


Over the past few years of traveling extensively and living in foreign countries, I’ve truly noticed:

1. A majority of the world’s population wears the same clothes nearly everyday, for years, & are overwhelmingly, to their core, happy!
2. My purchases effect other people. We are all connected. Where I go, what I buy, how I buy, how I throw away, my consumption effects everyone. It unfortunately took visiting a sweatshop in rural China to realize this. 
3. Instagram is where trends go to die.


When you’re attempting to see every inch of the world on a freelancer’s income, a steady influx of cute tops, shoes, & whatever else we purchase these days, is just flippin’ comical. So I stick with a uniform of black, leather & denim (timeless) & of
course yoga pants (purchased from the Yoga Barn in Bali) for comfort on airplanes & overnight trains. But most importantly — I purchase items that have a story behind them, or an item that I can create a story behind. Look around you, does everything you own have a story behind it? Or is it something you just bought to keep up with the latest trends? What do these items mean to you? Where did you purchase it? Where did you wear it? And if you were to get rid of it, would it rid you of that memory, place or feeling?

I consider these things daily. And now, I attempt to wear and purchase unique pieces collected during my travels from all over the world. No, this doesn’t mean I strut down the street in a kimono or an indigenous tribal hat I found in some off-the-grid country. But it does mean, I avoid places like H&M and head straight into second-hand/vintage stores, where I’ll typically find something cheaper, recycled, pre-loved, & possessing a bit more character. Or I’ll head to markets & bazaars where the items have been handmade, tailored, stitched, or crafted by the locals of that country (i.e. a pair of Harlem pants that were custom made for me in Udaipur, India that I lived in for a month on the road), where I can completely skip the greedy middle man, fast fashion machines, & give my money directly to the person who created it.


The pieces I’ve been collecting for my launch of “Emma’s Bazaar” - my upcoming online store - are pieces I’ve found throughout my travels. They speak of another time or place & have a story behind them. They contain quality & are carefully crafted, handmade items that are vastly superior to anything you’d find in a high-street store. They’re made to last, not just to be tossed out once the season is done. When I wear them, I feel transported & nostalgic. And when someone asks me where I got the piece from, I’ll have an interesting story to tell them about my travels, rather than just saying I got it at Zara last week, or hit that fashion blogger's "liketoknowit" on Instagram. Eye roll. 
These peices separate me as a responsible. original consumer & traveler. And that's always the intention.

Stay tuned for the launch this 2018. I’m excited to share my stories & treasures with you all.
                                       
                            xx E
                                                                                                                                                                                                      

ALL THAT IS

LAKE GENEVA, WISCONSIN

ALL THAT IS

Whenever I leave Chicago for my family's home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, I'm always surprised by how my mood and energy completely shifts. 

I'll drive down Highway 50, straight into downtown, and slowly that dose of medicine I always desperately need, no matter how long I’ve been away from my first and greatest love, begins to kick in. And there I am. Home. Happy. But “home” and “happy” feel like an understatement, because it's much, much more than that.


Lake Geneva is a place where your soul can rest, your pulse can slow, where you can be yourself, and where you can drink to life just as it is. It’s who I am, it’s where I belong, it’s where I’ll end up, it’s where my spirit was born. And even after all this time, even after missing a few summers pier-side because I'm  jet-setting around the globe, seeing some of the planet’s most cherished wonders and landscapes — this place is still my favorite in the world.
Champ’s is to my right as I continue to drive, and I’ll slow down to see if I recognize anyone in the front window mingling with a beer. Chances are, I’ll pull over to say “hello” and have a beer with them. Whoever it is, we’ll catch up like it hasn’t been years since we’ve last seen each other.


The lake is to my left, and if I time the drive just right, I can make it as the sun slowly begins to set behind The Rivera — one of many places at the lake where I had some major bucket-list moments. The first time I caught a fish. The first time I rode a jetskii. The first time I crashed a wedding. The latter of these moments always brings a cheeky smile to my face.
​​
This place alone is why we true “lake rats” all have an ode to it, somewhere tattoo-ed on our bodies. But if you don’t, you most certainly have some sort of scar on your foot/leg from the time you were sliced by something at the bottom of the lake, or on your hand because you were so drunk on the back of a boat en route to Chuck’s, and you tried twisting open a ​​Spotted Cow — forgetting that they are, in fact, not twist-offs. And if you're like me, some sort of prized possession once formally yours, is at the bottom of that lake, in nearly every corner of it. The east-end, the west-end, north shore and south, have all robbed me of bracelets, sunglasses and bikini bottoms. Though I blame the bikini bottoms scandal on a late, weeknight skinny dipping session back in my teenage years. Those were the best nights; when it felt like my friends and I had the lake all to ourselves, and that we could do anything. And we did! Well after dark and legal-lake-hours, wakeboard attached to the back of someone's parent's boat…. But glass is glass, and we weren’t going to miss out. ​​

I still hold onto that feeling. Everywhere I go. It’s mine forever, as well as this perfect slice of heaven. I adore you always, LG.

                                                                                                         xx  E


YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME

HONG KONG, CHINA


YOU KNOW WHERE TO FIND ME

Ah ​​​Asia, how I’ve missed you so. Your backpacker ghettos, your chaotic streets with telephone wires hanging above like chandeliers, and street vendors with fake Gucci sunglasses and obnoxious looking Harlem pants that every traveler buys to stay cozy on overnight buses, but then lapses into wearing for four days straight. The place where I developed a love-hate-hate-really-hate relationship with monkeys; where I fell in love, and saw and did things that I can never un-see and do.

For the broke, there are Western Union offices. For the ill and anxious, there are street pharmacies selling antibiotics, blister packs and generic Valium. For the planless, there are “travel agents” working out of kiosks, with obnoxious sandwich-board signs out in front reminding you that for just $200USD, you can have yourself an unforgettable Angkor Wat experience. For the inspired, there are side streets lit up with neon lights, and heart-stopping sunsets that you just can’t quite get in your mother country. 


It takes a certain kind of crazy to live this lifestyle, but I’m back for round two, Asia. This time with new dreams & ambitions.​
                                                                                                                                                      xx  E