Lessons I Learned from Spending a Summer Abroad- #1

IMG_8296We’ve been home for almost a month now, and I have enjoyed every single minute of it. Yes, I still have ocean withdrawals, but I can’t think of a time in my life when I haven’t wanted to be on a beach, so I am slowly getting used to not living within walking distance again.

Like our first experience abroad, Derek and I spent this summer focusing on our ourselves and each other. Time away from home means unfamiliarity, being uncomfortable, and a lot of changes in perspective and mind set. With all of these changes, comes a lot of life lessons learned. I think learning these type of lessons and having the personal growth that I’ve experienced is my absolute favorite thing about traveling, or living in a different place. I absolutely love coming home with a new outlook.

Like my China experience, I am going to share the five main lessons I brought home with me from living abroad this summer. Each lesson is just as important as the others, but knowing myself, I have a lot to share,  so I will be posting each one separately.IMG_8292

Lesson #1- You never realize how great your comfort zone is, until you don’t have it

I think most people go through life feeling quite comfortable. Obviously, there are the occasional moments that bring us all discomfort: public speaking, job interviews, learning something new, the first day at a new place or school, meeting our in laws, etc.

And then there are the more serious things that bring us discomfort: being laid off from a job, going through divorce, dealing with physical and mental health issues, totaling our cars, natural disasters, death of loved ones, etc.

But overall, I think most people are able to live a comfortable life even when they are dealt with uncomfortable situations. They may think “my life is horrible” or “I have bad luck” but I hardly ever hear of someone saying “I am constantly uncomfortable” because I think as humans, we tend to make things work, and find comfort even in the most unfamiliar situations, or we eventually find our way back to the things that make us comfortable.IMG_8291IMG_8290And that leads me to lesson #1. I knew that moving to a different country would force me out of my comfort zone. I knew I’d have to live without the things I was used to like my car, my house, my favorite foods, and being in close proximity to family and friends. I expected to not have hot water or air conditioning, and I obviously expected to be uncomfortable.

see lesson #4 from my China experience—> https://thestellarstories.com/2018/01/24/lessons-i-learned-from-living-abroad-4/

I’ve always been one to like change and unfamiliarity, so I jumped into this opportunity expecting a lot of feelings of discomfort. Like I mentioned before, I personally enjoy the self growth and lessons that come from those situations. What I did not expect is to have such a strong realization of just HOW comfortable I was back home.


IMG_8294I didn’t have this realization until about our half way mark, when all I wanted was something familiar and to feel comfortable again. I was over not having air conditioning, living off food I didn’t love, and not being able to take a hot bath. These are all little things, but for the first time in a very long time, I longed for the feeling of my comfort zone. After spending a good 7 weeks out of it, I really started to miss it and I had the realization that comfort zones aren’t always a bad thing, most of us just tend to take them for granted.

Since being home, I have enjoyed every single minute of being comfortable again and I have focused on the appreciation of all of the little tings I missed while I was gone. The sounds of Harvey’s feet on our hardwood floor, the creaking of our air conditioner. The smell of my candles, and our coffee pot. Driving in my car alone with the windows down, the feeling of my own bed and my bath tub! Practicing yoga in my yoga room with Harvey breathing next to me, cooking in my kitchen while blasting music. Even pulling my weeds and planting flowers. I’m usually far from a homebody, but stepping away from all of these ordinary, every day things gave me a new appreciation of them, and I’ve enjoyed doing each of them more than I ever have.1

I had this similar realization when we came home from living abroad the first time and I learned to not take these little things for granted, but it was much stronger this time around. It took me being VERY uncomfortable, for a long period of time. It took every ounce of my mental strength, patience, and “my first world problems” to disappear completely, before I realized that I actually enjoy being comfortable, and I have it so good at home.


IMG_8287Since being home, I have enjoyed the simple things like being surrounded by people who I love. I’ve enjoyed driving on familiar roads, and having a routine. I’ve enjoyed the places and the little things that I missed so badly, and I have finally consciously enjoyed the feeling of being comfortable in my comfort zone. Even though I know I will eventually crave stepping out of it, I’ve learned to never take it for granted again.

Onto the next adventure, Wren



Using Social Media in a Healthy way, so it Doesn’t Have to Become a Bad Thing

Two words: Social Media.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing?

We all have our different opinions on this topic, and I think most of us would agree that like anything else, it can be a good thing if we use it correctly and in moderation. But what is the “correct” way to use social media? And how much is considered too much before it becomes a “bad thing.”

I think about this topic just about every day. And after spending 90 days living abroad with a group of 18-24 year olds (mostly girls) for the second time around, I decided to share my opinion on the matter. Because, as you all know… I really like sharing my point of view on things. 😉

I’ve loved social media since I first got my Bebo account at the mere age of 12. After that, it was downhill spiraling effect of Tumblr, Myspace, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest. Not all of these accounts are still active, but I have loved them all at one point in my life, some a little too much. They’ve brought me new hobbies, new friends, inspiration, and sometimes embarrassing to admit, self worth and validation.

So…what’s wrong with loving social media?

My answer is nothing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having social media as a hobby, just like there is nothing wrong with having video games, or binge watching episodes on Netflix as a hobby. But like I’ve mentioned before, and like most of you will agree, there is a line that can be crossed when a hobby becomes unhealthy, and I’ve personally crossed that line.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to teach myself over the years how to get away from that line as soon as I find myself using social media in an “unhealthy way” or having an unhealthy mindset about it. In good ol’ Wren fashion, I want to share some of those lessons I’ve learned over the years, so that maybe you can change your perspective of thinking social media is a bad, unhealthy thing. Or change your mindset because you feel like you’ve personally crossed that unhealthy line. Because just like most things, it can be a really good thing if you use it correctly.

1.Post because you WANT to, not because you NEED to.

I’ve heard it many times “I need to post that photo that I took today. I need to edit that video, so that it is up in time. I need to post something right now, because it is a certain time of day, and the algorithm will mess it up if I don’t.” Unless you have turned your social media accounts into your career, there is no reason to feel the pressure of having to post. Wouldn’t it sound silly if you said something like I need to watch my Netflix show today, instead of wanting to? Just like any hobby, posting and using social media should be a fun thing that you do in your spare time. I’m guilty myself for thinking this way, but I’ve learned to remind myself that there is no timeline, or restrictions on when I post. I post for the sake of posting. Because I want to, not because I need to.

2. Ask yourself if you would be “doing this” if there wasn’t anywhere to post it.

Another helpful tip I’ve learned to get out of the unhealthy social media trap is asking myself if I would be doing the thing I am currently doing, if I didn’t have anywhere to post it. I think of this a lot as I am taking pictures, or recording videos. Would I be eating this same meal if the food didn’t look as pretty? Would I be wearing this outfit today, whether it matches my feed or not? Would I even be taking this photo or capturing this moment?? Or I am just doing all of these extra things for the sake of pretty content and likes…?

I can remember a time in my life when my friends and I would get all done up, and take pictures for fun. We would spend hours doing our hair and “re- doing” our make up just to go outside to take a million photos of each other. But that wasn’t the fun part. The fun part was editing the photos, uploading them to our Myspace profiles and watching the notifications flood in. We would spend hours reading photo comments, comparing the number of likes to each other’s, and telling our selves that we could do better next time. This was very fun… until it wasn’t.

None of us were interested in pursuing careers in modeling or photography, so there became a point when we stopped “taking pictures” for fun. Obviously, I continued to capture my life, and pose for photos in the days and moments I want to remember. But my mindset changed when I started asking myself, would I be doing these things or capturing these moments even if I had no where to post them? Most of the time, my answer is yes. I am glad that I have photos of my vacations, my birthdays, my holiday parties with my friends. Even though I post a lot of those photos, I know that I would still be capturing those moments even if I never had social media to post them on.

3. Ask yourself if you would take this picture even if nobody else saw it.

A lot like the prior, I ask myself would I be taking this photo if I was the only person who would ever see it? If you think about the million of selfies you’ve taken just to get that one “good one” this question might make you laugh.

There are so many photos I have that bring me back good memories, remind me of good moments, or just make me genuinely happy looking at them. And if I was the only person to ever see those photos, I’d still be very happy to have them.

On the opposite end, I could do without the hundreds of bad selfies so I don’t waste time taking those anymore. Because if they aren’t making ME happy, then why spend so much time taking them? However, I am not saying I am not for a good selfie. If you are feeling great about yourself, or your having a good hair day, capture it. Just remember to ask yourself if you’d be happy with that photo if you were the only one to ever see it.

4. Post for yourself, and nobody else

In addition to tip number 2 and number 3, this tip is to remind you that in order to get in a healthy mindset of using social media, post for yourself. And yourself only. Not for anyone else. If you are spending hours getting ready, finding the perfect outfit, getting frustrated with your friends for not getting the perfect angle, and taking hundreds of “not good enough” photos, just to delete them for not getting enough likes… you are crossing the line of using social media in an unhealthy way.

5. Connect to connect.

This one may be difficult for some of you, but it shouldn’t be. Social media was created for connection. Which is why it is called SOCIAL media. I come across so many accounts that are filled with beautiful selfies,  and people who get their comments and likes, and that’s that. If that’s how you want to use social media, so be it. I just think after awhile you’re going to be spending time scrolling through beautiful photos of beautiful people and wasting time feeling sorry for yourself and your life because you didn’t get a similar amount of likes as a super model.

Personally, I like to use my social media accounts to connect to others. I like to follow accounts that communicate with others, ask questions, do polls, etc. because if I am not connecting or getting my point across to others, what is the point of spending (or wasting) time on these apps? I’d rather spend all that time connecting, then feeling sorry for myself and I think you would all agree.

6. Unfollow non thought provoking, uninspiring content.

I know I know, you don’t want to offend that girl that once sat by you in 8th grade by hitting the unfollow button. But this tip is probably the most important! Do you listen to music that you don’t like? Do you watch movies that you don’t like? Or listen to podcasts you don’t like? Exactly. My point is, social media is a hobby and if you are scrolling through content that isn’t speaking to you in a way that you enjoy, then why are you even logging on?

A little thing I do that has helped me, is keep those “friends” of mine from middle school on Facebook, but only follow accounts on Instagram that really inspire me. This way they are separate, and when I care to see how the babies of my middle school peers are doing, or who is getting divorced, I scroll through my Facebook. (which is rare). My Instagram is filled with content that gets me excited for future travels, makes me think, inspires me to get off my phone and practice yoga, redecorate my house, dive into a new hobby, or that simply just makes me happy.

I am not saying all of the content you follow should be thought provoking and inspiring, but a majority of it should be. After all, you are choosing to open these apps, spend time on them, and look at this content. You should at least enjoy what you’re looking at.

7. Like posts because you actually LIKE them

Just like choosing the content you follow, you can choose the content you see the most. I understand liking posts because you’re supporting your favorite photographer, or because your sister’s selfie deserves more likes. But you actually like that content right? (I hope you like your sisters face. 😉 ) I’ve never understood liking photos just to “like” them.  Again, you get to choose what you fill your feed with, so why not choose things you enjoy?

If you are constantly liking videos of pig slaughter houses, just because you want to support your vegan friend who constantly shares them, then your feed is going to slowly become filled with pig slaughter houses. And I don’t think anyone would enjoy logging into social media if it was filled with those horrid videos. Personally, I stopped following super models and girls who had “perfect bodies” because those posts weren’t inspiring me, they were making me feel bad about myself and I didn’t like seeing them.

So, only double tap or thumbs up the posts that speak to you in a healthy way. Do you enjoy looking at this post? Does it inspire you? Can you relate in some way? Or does it simply just make you happy? Go ahead and like it, sis. If not, keep scrolling. Fill that feed with joy.

8. Remind yourself that every post is “good.”

I hear it way too often. “that picture isn’t good enough” “I need a better caption” I won’t post this one because it’s not “instagram worthy.” What does that even mean??  We already live in a world that makes us feel not worthy, and the pressure of being “good enough” shouldn’t come from a dumb little hobby that we share online. If you find yourself thinking these thoughts about your self, or your content, take a step back from that fine line. (you know, the unhealthy one.)

If you capture a beautiful moment, or a memory from a special day and you want to share it, DO IT. Whether it’s your best head shot, or the worst angle you’ve ever seen of yourself. If you want to share it, it is good enough.

9.  Don’t look for validation and self worth through social media.

Ahhh the most difficult tip of all. This is so much easier said than done. And if I wasn’t guilty of this one, this blog post wouldn’t even exist. You may have read number 8 and thought “no Wren, it isn’t good enough” and if I heard you say that, I would ask you “why do you think that?” And your answer would be “well because the people of social media didn’t think so. I only got this many likes.” And that’s what brings us to number 9.

Once you start to change your mindset and tell yourself that it doesn’t matter how many likes or views you get, because this is just a dumb online hobby, and not the deciding factor of your whole self worth, you will stop caring how many likes or views you get. Once you change your source of validation from social media, to other real life things (genuine connections, accomplishing goals, etc.) you will stop caring about getting likes from social media, and your self worth won’t be affected by it anymore.

And let me tell you, it is the most freeing feeling once you do this. I remember getting 40 likes on a post that I really liked, and do you know what? I didn’t erase it, or tell myself it “wasn’t good enough” I just looked at the photo, reminded myself of that great day, and felt happy about sharing it on my feed. The post I posted after that one, got 180 likes. And I felt the exact same way about that one as I did the prior.

I finally taught myself to stop looking for validation and my self worth in numbers and through this online hobby. And even though it took about 10 years of practice to do so, I have never felt more free to post what I want, when I want to, because I want to.

10. Disconnect when connecting.

This is the one I focused on most this summer. I constantly notice that people (mostly the younger generations) are so attached to their phones that they don’t know how to make genuine connections in real life, which is why I think of the topic of social media so often. I understand that things change, and times are different now, but this tip is a simple reminder to disconnect from your phone while connecting in real life.

I could sit with someone over coffee, tell them everything I love about them as a person, thank them for being a great friend, etc. But if they leave that coffee shop and log into their social media and see that their post didn’t get the likes they were hoping for, or that cute guy didn’t snap chat them back, suddenly they’re not enough. Which leads to blaming social media for depression, suicide rates, etc. I don’t think it’s social media’s fault at all, it’s the fact that this person didn’t feel good enough through a real life connection and their self worth is based off their life online.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I personally think human connection is the most important thing in this world, and I think it is the stem for all self worth and validation.

Maybe you need this small reminder, or maybe you don’t. But next time you’re with a loved one, listen to them, pay attention to them, communicate with them. Next time you’re with your grandparents, don’t take a photo of your food, or scroll through memes. Instead pay attention to their old hands, and their stories that they love to share with you. Next time you’re in bed with your lover, put your phone down. Pay attention to the way they breathe, and the way you feel curled up to them. Nothing is going to give you more validation or the feeling of being enough like genuine connections and love do.

I hate to see a world that people don’t understand this, and it’s happening so fast. So, I hope this small tip gets through to at least one of you.

Some of you may have read this novel (really, that’s what this is at this point) and thought to yourself, I don’t need any of these tips, I do all of these things. But most of you who are reading (and are still reading) clicked on this post for a reason. Maybe you want more out of your social media accounts, maybe you feel as if you’ve wasted a lot of time online for nothing, or maybe you feel yourself close to crossing that line and thinking that “social media is BAD” or that you need a break.

Take a break if you need to, but eventually you will get back to using social media, and get back into the bad habits and unhealthy mindset. And it’s not going to take long before it becomes a bad thing in your life again. Instead, take these tips into consideration and try to change your mindset and habits while using social media. After all, it is just a dumb online hobby. 😉

Onto the next adventure, Wren