Travel Journal: New Orleans

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This is a guide for all you homebody introverts who love a good adventure and want to see the world, but don’t love being drained beyond reason by the time you get home. In this series, I share my city tips on how to conserve your introverted energy and have the best time ever all at once. YOU. CAN. DO. IT. Some people like to call this traveling, but I like to call all trips a vacation. Welcome to a vacationer’s guide to easy travel. You’ll see me uses (+) to denote added energy and (-) to denote lost energy. 

5 Things to Do:

Ferry Boat Ride ($2 each way) 
Energy Level: +5

Practical, relaxing and scenic all at once. If you decide to stay across the river from the French Quarter, this provides views, seats, and a very short “cruise” across the Mississippi. Bonus points for a sunset ride and enjoying the water.

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City Park + Sculpture Garden all at once!
Energy Level: -5

This is just a park, but it’s a pretty park with great trees, interesting sculptures, and a playground. It was fun to walk around this area, appreciate the art, and take a break on a bench every once in awhile.

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Bourbon Street
Energy Level: -10000000

We simply just walked down the street and looked around. Josh bought a drink at one of the stands along the street, just to have the rebellious feeling of carrying a drink in the streets. New Orleans is the only city that allows it, so it’s basically a cultural experience, right? This is loud, dirty, entertaining, fun, and mostly draining if you hate crowds, but love a good scene. Walk through it anyway.

Jazz Bars
Energy Level: +5

After walking along Bourbon street, listen with your ears for the sound of live jazz. I’m sure you’ll find it – just walk towards it until you’re inside and sitting. Ahhhh, jazz music and sitting and drinking. The best. Once you’re inside and find a seat, it’s very relaxing and chill. It’s just getting there that’s the hard part! We went to Fritzel’s and Maison Bourbon Jazz Club. We looked up other places, but ended up here using our mere instincts and grit (ears). Let your ears guide you, people!

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Harrah’s
Energy Level: +2

Casino. So, this only works if you’re with someone who likes to play cards or throw away money into machines. Josh likes to play cards, or that’s what I call it. 😉 This is inside, which was great on a rainy day. It was a surprisingly calming to be in a clean space that felt organized and maintained. (Contrast: Bourbon) This is also called #compromise. I don’t play cards, but had a leisure stroll around the casino and thought about taking a small nap in the bar area. (I didn’t. But I could have. It’s all about having that option, you know?) I ended up watching Josh play cards which was actually entertaining.

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Book Shops: Mid-City Book Shop & Garden District Book Shop
Energy Level: +5

I love a good local book shop. It’s hard for me to justify dishing out $20 for the latest book, so I rarely every buy brand new books. But, I love looking at the locally featured authors and the selection that each shop has. It’s quaint, quiet, and cute – and that for sure refills my energy for a bit. Bonus points for sitting and reading part of a book for a bit, too.

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5 Things to Eat:

Cafe Du Monde (+5)

The line goes by super fast, especially at 11pm at night. Or, it did when we were there. It’s worth the wait to get a table and sit down, don’t be deceived by the “to-go” line that looks shorter. In my opinion, it’s probably not. This gets a +5 energy rating because SUGAR COFFEE DOUGHNUTS, ya hear?

Hansen’s Snow-Bliz Shop (+8)

Refreshing, snowy, and yum. This is a shaved ice place, but with ice that is super smooth and flavors that basically make it taste like ice cream. Thus, it’s the perfect blend between shaved ice and ice cream. Aka the best things ever invented.

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Canjun Seafood (-5)

Crawfish is hard work, so there’s that. There’s no pictures of this because who can pick up a camera when your hands have absorbed all of the juices involved in crawfish. So very tasty, but so much work.

Restaurant Rebirth (+100000000)

An introverts dream! Small, quiet, not crowded, comfy, great bathrooms, and the best and most fancy seafood we’ll ever eat. This is a fancy pants place where you have to be prepared to spend a lot of money, but it’s totally worth it. If anything, you can save all your money eating just this meal and beignets the whole time. It’s worth it. Best and most fresh seafood we’ve ever had. Reservations only. Do it.

Mojo Coffee (+2)

Low key coffee shop that is spacious, has good bathrooms, and good coffee. We had to sit outside in the cold, but that was a small price to pay for the laid back atmosphere and break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Bonus points for reading a book for just a couple of minutes. It’s always worth it.

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Summary:

New Orleans is known for being a crazy party city, but with the right stops throughout the day and a little bit of research in picking out a cozy, yet lively jazz bar for the night, it’s totally doable. I didn’t feel drained at all throughout this trip and my husband Josh and I were quite proud of our ability to stay out #alldaylong. Feel free to leave questions in the comments below! Happy vacationing!

 

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You Have Nothing to Prove

Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard
Jennie Allen

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“The constant feeling that no matter how hard I try, I cannot be enough.”

You know a book has the potential to really wreck you, when you are looking at the cover already questioning the idea that is possible to NOT try so hard. This idea is so contrary to what I so often think and believe. I’m always trying to figure out ways that I can try harder. It’s in my nature. It’s who I am. Simultaneously, it plagues who I am and keeps who I am from actually living.

“I am not ________ enough.”

I remember uncovering this at my college ministry’s winter conference, Epic Anthology, my freshman year of college. The more I reflected on my life long walk with God, I realized how so much of my story was written with these words.

I remember sharing this visual as a youth leader, literally unpeeling the sticky notes of all of the traits I so easily grasped for and eventually revealing that I am actually not enough. In sending this message to teenagers who probably held some sort of idea that I had it all together, and to a group that I was constantly trying to prove my enough-ness to, I experienced the power in being transparent in my journey of letting Jesus be my “enough.”

“We strive to be seen, to be known, to matter.”

This could hold no more relevance to what I continue to struggle with. In my real life career, in my writing endeavors and passions, and in my relationships/friendships – I want to be seen, to be known, and to be matter. And, when I feel like any of these tenants are withering their way out of my hands, I feel a low grade anxiety that fizzles into panic the longer that I let it fester.

“Jesus is better than happy stories that work out perfectly.”

From my lengthiest memories dating back to childhood, I always felt like the stories that played out in my life fell short of a happy story that worked out perfectly. Although I got by, this falling short of perfection that my life seemed to have continued to nag at me. Why didn’t I have that picture perfect best friend that I could confide my adolescent years in? Why didn’t I have that picture perfect ugly duckling turning into beautiful swan story by the end of my high school years?

What I continue to see time and time again, is that I don’t need to have that picture perfect story. I don’t need to have a happy story where everything works out perfectly, because Jesus is better than all of that.

This is a truth that I am speaking to myself in depth today, as I battle what the future holds in these next months for Josh and I. This is a truth relevant to me each day as I wake up and wonder what the day will hold as a teacher – it certainly hasn’t been a perfect story working out perfectly like I had imagined. And you know what? That’s okay.

But, that’s so so so so so hard to believe.

This book spoke to me in ways that I am constantly trying to speak to myself.

Jennie’s words are the words of truth that myself and countless other people throughout the course of my life have been trying to tell me.

It was incredibly life-giving to have a book speak to me in a way of prose that my heart needed, and in a style that my literary brain is drawn to and appeals to.

The idea that I am not enough is indeed crushing at first, but freeing in my exploration of it. Jennie repeats the message of Jesus’ enough-ness on every page of the book, poignantly pointing to the cross with every word she speaks. Jesus is enough, so we don’t have to be.

This book is for the girl sitting on the sidelines, feeling invisible. It’s for the girl striving to be her best, but never actually being THE best at anything. It’s for the girl constantly trying to do better and be better, but never getting noticed. It’s for the man who feels like he doesn’t have enough ______ to support his family and be the leader, strength, and head that he is called to be. It’s for all of us who are clamoring to be heard, seen, recognized, significant, known — to matter.

I know this because I am this person. And if you’re being honest, you are probably this person too. 


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Top 5 Letters in My Alphabet

My February series was a doozy for me, but I keep thinking about how much  I learned about discipline in my writing from it. I’ve also been reflecting on what caught people’s eye the most.

Here are the most popular posts of the alphabet:

5. B is for Books – 4 Reasons to Pick Up a Book Right Now

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4. C is for Change – How to Make a Change Right This Second

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3. S is for Start – What You Need to Do Right No to Jump Start Your Passions

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2. F is for Faith – The Beginner’s Guide to Writing About Faith

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1. A is for Asian Americans – What You Need to Know About the Asian American Identity

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Which one of these stands out to you the most? How about in the rest of the series? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Y is for You

I’ve been so excited for this one all month long. I want to talk about you for a second. Whoever you are, I’m not sure. But, I do want to know who you are. You are important.

My dreams for this space are about you. I want you to breathe a sigh of relief when you happen upon these stories. I want your story to be given light and the justice it deserves. I want you to feel empowered to go out and do justice. I want you to feel enlightened as you read the stories of a diverse group of people, and that this would spark understanding and varying levels of reconciliation amongst racial groups or political groups. I want you to feel heard in your struggle, and validated that you are not alone. The only way this blog is about me is that I’m writing it, but mostly I want it to be about you.

I’m still trying to figure out who you are. But, what I do know, is that in you reading and scoping through words of the internet, you are someone who is thoughtful, kind, and empathetic. You are someone who wants more than just to go to work, watch TV, get married, repeat, and then die. You are someone who wants purpose in your days, and in your life.

You want to do justice and seek mercy and walk humbly. And even if you don’t believe in the book those words just came from, and even if you never do, you are someone who wants to do that anyway.

You are a reader. Maybe you are a reader of tons of books, or no books at all. Maybe you are a reader of blogs and the internet. Maybe you don’t read much at all, but just so happen to be reading this. Whatever it is, you are a reader. You are a reader who takes the time to slow down and to think. To really consider who you are, your strengths, and what you can do.

So, thank you for being you. In all of your complexities, uniqueness, and struggle. Thank you for bringing your true self to these stories and reading to connect and to think. You are thoughtful, insightful, and engaging.

I’m thankful for you, dear reader. You are giving me the gift of having a reader. You are allowing all of us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. And for that, my heart is thankful.


Please tell me who you are and maybe even share your story!

I would also love to feature some your stories relating to justice and identity. Please fill out all sections of this form if you are interested.

S is for Start

You have to start somewhere, right? In this February series, I decided that I just needed to begin my blog. The fact of the matter, and this is something I’m been recently realizing about myself is this: I have a lot of dreams. I have a lot of passions and interests. I’m curious about a lot of things.

I’m most myself as a writer, I’m realizing. I thrived as a college student, particularly one that was enrolled in classes that required writing papers. The reason I ended up loving my college courses is because they required me to write. A lot. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, my ability to put words to paper. To fly my fingers across the keyboard and produce coherent thoughts.

This ability is more than just a convenient skill to have. This ability is one that makes me come alive. I got most excited about being a teacher when I began to write about it. I became most alive to myself when I was connecting through my writing. I could write for forever.

My parents always told me that I had the gift of “blah blah blah.” They told me that I had a way with words, and would even ask me to help them reword things they were writing themselves. I never had any issues being a writer. Yet, I never saw myself as a writer.

Nowhere in my writerly life did someone come to me and call me a writer. Therefore, as my adult interests have begun to expand and my experience as a teenage Xanga blogger resurfaced, I never dared call myself a writer.

As my passions have shifted and are coming out in different forms, it has taken a lot of bravery and mind tricks to finally call myself a writer. I am a writer because I write. And, just as I tell my 10 year old students, they are each writers because they write (or because I make them write, muahaha.) They may not believe me today or even this year. But, I want to gift them with this identity that I never dreamed to have.

Today, I write as a writer who is honing their voice. I don’t have a niche. I don’t have a focus. I am exploring. I am taking on different identities and trying out different topics. I don’t know what kind of writer I will become. But, I do know that I am indeed, a writer.

This is my start of writing more. Of publishing my writing even though it’s scary. Of not hoarding drafts upon drafts on my WordPress account or Google drive. Of sharing the writing that I have that is ever so personal and close to me.

The best way to become a writer is to start. And, the best way to find out the kind of writer I am, is to start.

So, here is my start.

What do you need to start?