21 Things I’ve Learned at 21

I absolutely love the theme of this post, and funnily enough I think I skipped it for my 20th birthday last year! I think there is something so rewarding about reflecting on our experiences in life, and sharing them with others. I know that I love to read what other people have learned over the course of their lives!

This year has been quite a whirlwind for me–so many new experiences and a level of comfort in myself and my world that I hadn’t experienced previously. My birthday came quickly this year, and more generally the time felt as though it went by faster!

So without further ado, here are 21 things that I have learned at 21:

1. Change is inevitable–we must learn to adapt

For many years my life stayed relatively consistent. I went to the same school for consecutive years, had the same schedule, went to the same places, etc. Any amount of change would be accompanied with undue levels of stress and discomfort. Sitting in the unknown was the most uncomfortable feeling, and I would run to the nearest form of familiarity.

When I got to college, it was all thrown out the window. I was in a new place with a new schedule, new people, new classes, new routines, changing routines, and new dynamics. Each day something would fill me with a sense of panic and discomfort, and I would fight against the desire to run and hide in the past. After a while, I started to become more comfortable with discomfort. I would allow myself to be in it, and to feel it despite the challenges. During my second semester I traveled on my own for the first time, staying with people I didn’t previously know and experiencing a new life for a week (on an internship). This experience created a new side of me, one that liked to jump in the deep end and learn how to swim in each current (this is a funny analogy because swimming is not my favorite activity…).

This year I became a part of so many new environments and experiences that I have honestly lost count. In fact, in the past few months the unknown has been the only consistent element of my journey. Every day comes with new challenges, but I no longer feel the need to hide in the known.

2. You can choose to be happy

This past year–though one of the most challenging in many ways–has definitely been my happiest. My days were long, but always filled with sources of joy. My friends, my family, my college community, my classes (studying my passions), and my journeys.

I used to think that happiness was the ultimate destination–something that I would achieve sometime in the future. But happiness is the now, and it’s the everyday. The weather, a cup of coffee, laughter. Happiness is something we can choose to have, not aspire to acquire.

3. Vitamins are essential

This might seem like an odd thing to say that I’ve learned–but vitamins have had such a positive impact on my health this year in particular. When I got back from my summer travels, I found that I was feeling quite off and more exhausted than usual. I did some research and started a new vitamin regimen, and wow has it made a difference! It’s also led to some funny moments (the surprise of airline agents when they see that half my carry on luggage is supplements…).

4. The universe works in interesting ways

In my experiences this year, I have found that the universe seemed to bring me everything I needed at the most opportune times. This is not to say that these moments were purely magical and perfect in nature, but each moment gave me something important. From making networking connections with people at the same metro ticket kiosk to meeting other world travelers on a stalled train in Amsterdam (getting help from travelers who spoke Dutch to figure out how to get on another train after a long travel day)–even chaotic moments brought positivity in some form.

5. Shop with a positive purpose

This year I was fortunate enough to discover local organizations that sell consignment and used clothing, and who use the proceeds to continue a cycle of community support. I have mixed up my wardrobe more times this year than consecutive years in the past, and have saved money while supporting organizations for change. I have also traded in my clothing for new outfits, and shopping has changed from a chore to something that I truly enjoy! I encourage you to find local consignment and thrift organizations to support–and to give your wardrobe a new look (and in doing so give someone else the chance to do the same)!

6. Less is more

You may recognize this quote from a documentary that premiered on Netflix called Minimalism. One week in the spring semester I decided to give this documentary a watch and it completely changed how I saw my life. For a long time, material possessions were something that I was really fond of (I used to perseverate on things until I could save up enough money to buy them). The result? Bins and bins and bins and bins of things that I forgot I even owned. After my journey of shopping with a purpose, I started to question the value of owning something that you couldn’t actually use on a regular basis.

I was able to sell and donate so many items for others to use in more constructive ways (I had clearly forgotten about them, and thus they were not adding value to my own life). Soon I was left with items I used every day, and getting rid of four times as much as I acquired (and if I did acquire things they were usually consumable). The morning that I woke up after a weekend-long process of clearing out, I felt physically lighter. I switched on my well-used water heater for coffee in my favorite mug, and put on my favorite Spotify playlist (because clutter comes in digital forms too!).

I used to think that things could make me happy. By giving them up I released a burden I never knew I carried.

7. Home can be more than one place

I wrote about this a few weeks ago (now that I think about it, it was probably a few months ago and time just keeps flying by like that). After traveling for months on end (and to still be traveling), home has become a concept more than a location. I used to think that going home was returning to where I grew up every so often while in college. But home became so much more. Home became my friends, my family, my college, my college town, multiple states, multiple places. Home became something that I could create anywhere–a concept that travels with me. Long discussions with friends and family, making new connections, reflecting on my experiences, creating the familiar in the unfamiliar.

8.Being alone doesn’t have to be lonely

2017 has been the year of solo travel for me, and one of the questions that I often get is about feeling alone. I have rarely experienced feelings of loneliness during my travels, and have actually found it to be an amazing way to connect with others and make new connections internationally! I also enjoy being able to take the time to reflect on my experiences!

9. Spontaneity often kindles life’s best moments

A few years ago, I was not at all a fan of spontaneity. I am a planner at heart, and for a long time I thrived on established schedules. But when I think about the best moments in my life, most of them came from spontaneous decisions and have left a lasting impression! I’ve learned that there is a wonderful balance to be found between planning and going with the flow of life.

10. The breath is a powerful element of holistic health

This year I started a commitment to a meditation practice, and it has changed my life for the better. The breath is something that is always with us, but that we are hardly aware of. Our breath changes as we experience different things, and can often be a root indicator of stress. By controlling our breath we control what we let into our emotional lives.

11. Sometimes having no plan is the best plan

This goes with spontaneity, but is also a reference to travel. I have had the best experiences when I arrive with a loose plan (lodging and some logistics). I arrived in Amsterdam with very little sense of what my week there was going to entail, and I left with some of the best memories and new friends!

12. Don’t fill your schedule just for the sake of being busy

This is something that I learned over the course of my college career so far, and I am so glad that I did! There is definitely a difference between being busy and having a schedule full of things that you love to do. When you fill your time with things that add value and meaning to your life, you find that the days, months, and years fly by!

13. Laughter is the best remedy for a bad day

Laughter is underrated–it can turn your day around and make you feel connected to the world once more. When was the last time that you laughed so hard that you cried and couldn’t breathe? Make it a goal to laugh at least once every day!

14. Creativity inspires creativity

Since becoming a blogger I have noticed creative blocks more than ever, and over the course of the year have discovered that seeing creativity inspires my own. When I feel lost creatively, I look at all of the amazing work that creators of all mediums are doing. It inspires me to try new things, which often sparks new avenues of creativity!

15. Live the adventure

This year I have embraced adventure more than ever, and it has inspired me to find it wherever I go. No matter where I am, I find that adventure is out there! (Love that quote from UP!) Live the Adventure is originally from creator Louis Cole, and I love what he has done (along with so many others!) to live a life of adventure and purpose!

16. Kindness goes a long way

It costs nothing to be kind, and kindness has a way of brightening the world like rims of water on a pond. Kindness is a ripple effect, and something that we can always use more of in this world. Everyone displays kindness in different ways (I love to connect with people every day, and I show my compassion towards animals with my vegan lifestyle). Embrace your own kindness and share it with the world!

17. Self-love can transform your life

I have been on a long journey with self-love, and only recently has it been a positive one. It took me years and years to embrace qualities and aspects that I could only see as flaws, and to accept myself as I truly am. When I made that switch, it’s like the lens I saw my life through completely changed. Everything was brighter, lighter, and happier. It is a hard journey to follow, but it has completely changed my path and how I relate to the world.

18. Everyone has something to teach you

I learned this the most this year, though I have always thought it to be true. Everyone that you meet has something to teach you. Regardless of anything, everyone has experiences to share and wisdom to impart. Listen to the stories and experiences of others, and you will find connection and knowledge is abundant!

19. Always show your appreciation

You can never show enough appreciation, and oftentimes it can make a huge difference in someone’s day! It is so easy to take the support and love that we receive on a daily basis for granted, and expressing your appreciation can help you stay grounded in gratitude and happiness.

20. Dreaming and reflecting rekindle inspiration

Whenever I feel like I have lost my direction in any aspect in life, I like to journal and write down my dreams and goals. It helps me to think about what I really want, and inspires me to start taking the steps to get there!

21. Work hard to change your world

Sometimes it feels as though we are too small to make a difference, but we are strong. We have the power to change the way our world works. Find what you are passionate about, and follow the path of change. I went vegan for this reason, and I have never looked back. Sometimes it may feel impossible, but no voice and no impact is too small.

I hope you liked this post! I loved reflecting on what I have learned, and I would love to hear what you have learned over the years of your life! I am currently quite busy on my semester abroad, but I hope to post as regularly as I can and keep you all updated on the happenings!

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


OzNaturals Vegan Skincare: Travel Review

I received the OzNaturals vegan skincare products mentioned in this post in exchange for my honest review. Thank you for supporting The Wise Willow!

As you may have gathered by now, I am quite obsessed with natural skincare products, and when I became vegan I found that it was even harder to find skincare products that traveled well and made a noticeable difference in the health of my skin (I have always had combination skin that definitely acts up when I travel or make other lifestyle adjustments).

Lately I have been making a fair few lifestyle adjustments, and in the process I have tried to maintain my skin as much as possible. This can definitely be challenging with changing temperatures and sleeping patterns! I was looking for products that would allow me to establish a routine, as well as ones that I could use on the go during long travel days.

OzNaturals kindly sent me a few of their summer skincare products, and wow have they made a difference in how my skin feels on a daily basis! Just this week I have had a few long travel days, with inner city exploring in between! In fact, I leave on another plane in a matter of hours.

When I travel my skin alternates between being quite dry (usually from the airplane journey) to feeling oily from hours of nonstop travel. After long journeys I also notice tightness around my eyes, which makes me feel even more tired than I actually am (this would also happen to me from late nights of reading during the semester).

I took these products with me when I began my journey, and I wanted to share how they have helped me stay healthy and feeling refreshed despite long travel hours!

Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum (30mL): 

This facial serum contains Vitamin C (something I have always looked for in skincare products, because it is quite refreshing!), Vitamin E (which has amazing restorative properties!), Rose Hips, Green Tea (caffeine is also good for the skin), and Hyaluronic acid. This has been wonderful in keeping my skin even, and eliminating the excess oil that tends to accumulate after being in changing temperatures and modes of transport. The best part, though, is that it doesn’t excessively dry out my skin! This is something that many of the serums I have used in the past do. Also, it is a vegan product with no animal testing or animal derived ingredients. (Curious about the difference between cruelty-free and vegan products? Cruelty free essentially means that no animal testing was used to make the product, while vegan means this and that no animal derived ingredients are used. A product can be cruelty-free and not vegan, for example (as it might contain something like carmine, which is a derivative of an insect that is commonly found in lipsticks and other cosmetics with bright red colors).

Super Youth Eye Gel (15mL): 

As I mentioned before, my eyes are definitely affected by long travel days and long days of studying. The tightness does not help with already feeling quite fatigued. This eye gel is the best for feeling refreshed after a long flight without a lot of effort! I have also found that it has aided with getting over jetlag, or generally feeling more exhausted than usual. The tightness and dryness of my eyes has been reduced, and I have found that I am also less sensitive to wind and other elements that would sometimes give me allergy-like symptoms. This eye gel contains Matrixyl Synthe 6, Plant Stem Cells, Peptide Complex, Hyaluronic acid, and Vitamin E. It is both effective and soothing, and definitely worth it if you find that you have tired eyes from different routines or travel!

Sweet Almond & Macadamia Nut Body Butter (237mL):

This might be the favorite product for me out of the bunch, but that’s because I absolutely love lotions (especially ones that smell as good as this one does!). Sometimes I neglect to take care of my skin in general during busy times, and this is a great addition to my nighttime routine that allows me to unwind after a long day. The best part about this lotion (besides it being vegan of course, which is hard to find!) is that a little goes a long way. Some lotions take a few applications to work well, but this lotion includes both a generous amount of product and an amount that will last through many trips. It contains Shea Butter, Avocado Oil, and Kakui Nut Oil for a perfect balance that isn’t too heavy nor too light (another combo that is hard to find!).

I am about to start my semester abroad, and I am so glad that I will be able to continue my skincare routine no matter where I am! If you would like to find out more about OzNaturals and their mission, you can look here for more information! I am also writing a post full of self-care travel tips, which will be posted in the near future!

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


How I Prepared for my Study Abroad

This post is sponsored by ClassTracker, and I received a copy of the planner in exchange for my honest review. There are also affiliate links featured in the post, through which I may receive a commission for purchases made through them. Thank you for supporting what makes The Wise Willow possible! 

Where did the summer go? I feel like just last month I was leaving my room in college and getting ready for my summer travels! Now it is the 23rd of August and normally I would be moving back into a dorm on campus and getting ready for the semester. But this semester is different, and it’s hard to believe that it came so quickly. I am packing my bags once again and getting ready to go to Serbia for the semester! This can be quite the process, so I wanted to share how I’m going about it for anyone who might be going through the same thing!

Planning, Planning, and More Planning

A lot of planning goes into a regular college semester, and even more goes into a semester abroad. More extraneous logistics and details have to be figured out ahead of time, but it’s all more than worth it. However, I’m not one of those people who can remember everything that they have to do without help. Which is why I love planners so much! I was looking for a new planner to use for this school year, and the ClassTracker planner is the perfect fit.

I was looking for a minimalist planner that would allow me to write down everything I need to do in a way that would be easy to decipher when I take quick glances at my to-do list (has anyone else taken a look at their to-do list and felt completely lost?). I have made many lists that make it hard to remember what to prioritize and when, but the ClassTracker planner has many sections in the weekly layout for all of these details!

Each day I will fill in the top “remember to” panel with important logistics that are usually unrelated to my studies (for example, “remember to send _____ email or remember to go to the store to get more almond milk”). Then there is a space for “quizzes/exams/papers/projects” which I haven’t been filling out yet for the most part as I learn more about my classes upon my arrival.

The “assignments” space is the one I use the most at the moment to keep track of the pre-semester reading assignments and my progress. I write down the specific sections I am going to read each day to make sure that I stay on track. The bottom “activities” section is quite helpful for remembering what other commitments I have each day as I prepare to leave. The monthly pages let me plan big events (like my study abroad departure date!) and keep the big picture in mind.

Preparing to go abroad can be an overwhelming task, but planning really does help to alleviate a lot of the stress that comes along with it! From remembering what to pack to keeping up with reading, writing it down gives me peace of mind that I will have everything I need for my journey. I highly recommend this planner for all of your academic and activity needs! There are a bunch of colors to choose from (I chose the coral color and it’s beautiful!) and it’s perfect for all kinds of students!

Preparing, Preparing, and More Preparing

Now that I have written everything down, it’s time for the actual prep! I received an email to my campus inbox (make sure you’re checking that regularly even though it’s still summer!) about all of the last minute details I would need to know for my program. I joined the online group and printed out the materials that I would need to read over (orientation guides and logistics). They also supplied a list of required and recommended reading materials. A study abroad semester makes this aspect a bit more difficult, as I wasn’t sure whether to look for electronic copies of all of the books that I needed to save space and weight in my luggage. However, I know myself as a student and know that used hardcopies work the best for me.

With that, I went to Textbooks.com to look at the prices of their books and they had all but one of the books I needed. I spent $20 on six books and was able to get the other one quickly from Amazon! They arrived faster than I thought they would, which gave me time to start the readings for the semester and to really reflect on the material. I also bought sticky notes, BIC Atlantis gel pens in black (my favorite pens ever–I’m someone who never uses pencil so I go through pens so fast! But these last for a long time and are super comfortable!), and a five-subject notebook so that I would only have to worry about carrying one notebook around with me. I also picked up two composition notebooks for homeworks that don’t need to be submitted, as I can use the paper in the notebook to turn in assignments. The last part of preparation, and possibly the hardest part, is packing.

Packing, Packing, and More Packing

Since I have just arrived back home from all of my travels I am a bit more prepared than I normally would be to start packing. However, this journey is four months long instead of two months and requires more logistical thinking.

To start, I determined how many bags I would be bringing with me. This is a really important step, because it determines the amount of space that you have to work with. When I traveled this summer, I took three total bags: a small waterproof backpack, another slightly larger backpack from SOLO NY, and a SOLO NY duffel bag/backpack combo. This was perfect for two full months of travel–but since I will be bringing a few more things and school materials I knew I would need more space.

So I have decided to bring the following: my small waterproof backpack (this is the perfect bag for valuables!), a large backpacking bag from Eagle Creek (I got this from a thrift store for $30!), and a small rolling luggage piece for my books and other materials. Now that I know how much space I have to work with, I can start the more complicated part!

For clothes, I checked the forecast for Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo as well as the recommended packing list sent by my program. I allocated my entire backpack and a small portion of my rolling bag for clothing–given that I need four months worth and clothing for different temperatures. I also looked on Pinterest and through my copy of Organizing for Your Lifestyle (if you haven’t seen my minimalist travel tips check out the post here!) for packing inspiration and space-efficient ideas.

I am also bringing all of my supplements (I recently changed up the ones I am using due to what I discovered about my wellness and travel–post coming soon!) and will put these in the rolling bag. I highly recommend bringing all of your supplements and normal wellness remedies with you to make sure that you stay balanced among the changes that come with travel!

Finally, I made sure that all of my important documentation was copied and kept in multiple places to be on the safe side. I also made sure I completed all of my preparations for the semester, and had all of the materials that my program required (an unlocked smartphone that is SIM compatible, for example).

Are you studying abroad or preparing for a new semester? What are your preparation tips? Let me know in the comments!

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.



Traveling to Florence? La Dimora Degli Angeli B&B

This post is sponsored by La Dimora Degli Angeli, thank you for supporting The Wise Willow!

As many of you know, I have been studying Italian for the past year in hopes to return to Italy one day. My family is originally from Italy, and we took a trip there for the first time in the summer of 2015. We visited many cities and towns in Northern Italy, and I have always kept Florence on my bucket list for when I return.

One of the important things to consider when visiting a new place is where you stay–and I have found that I absolutely love Bed and Breakfasts! The La Dimora Degli Angeli B&B has two locations in the historic city centre (La Dimora del Centro and La Dimora degli Angeli). Both locations are close to the Santa Maria Novella train station, which is perfect for exploring new places! The rooms have views of the Duomo in Florence, and are completely furnished with free wifi as part of your stay. They’re also air conditioned (which is key for warmer months!), have en-suite bathrooms, secure rooms, double rooms, satellite TV, an in-room phone, and breakfast.

After a long day of walking and exploring the city, returning to one of the amazing room options (there are various to meet your specific needs-whether you are traveling on your own or in a group) is a great way to rest up and relax.

You can find out more information about the two locations (to choose the one that best fits your travel needs and interests–though it might be hard to choose because both are in beautiful locations!) by visiting their site here. You can also learn more about the travel offers that they have available for different times of year, which could be helpful for deciding when you would like to visit!

If you are interested in learning more about what there is to do in the beautiful city, you can visit their blog where there are posts about local events and places to see! Whether you’re interested in artwork, local events, or food, there are recommendations that will be a perfect match and information about how to get there.

The locations are non-smoking and also have elevators. There are relaxing tea rooms as well where you can read and enjoy downtime during your day.

Have you visited Florence before? What would you recommend to others looking to travel there soon? Let me know in the comments!

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved. #DimoraDegliAngeli


Minimalism: Organizing for Your Lifestyle


I received a copy of Organizing for Your Lifestyle in exchange for my honest review. 

Over the past few months, my travel has taught me that minimalism has benefits that extend beyond your own home. I’ve been traveling with three bags since May of this year, and I packed them all with minimalism in mind.

I have one bag for clothes, one for my health essentials (shampoo, conditioner, skincare, vitamins, etc.), and one for my electronics and school essentials. Three bags has been a manageable amount to carry as one person, and they fit all of my essentials for my everyday life.

My three journey bags

Before I left on my summer trips, I read Organizing for Your Lifestyle by Jane Stoller for packing inspiration. This was an amazing read that gave me ideas for both my home/dorm organization and for minimalist packing!

One of the challenges this summer was packing for both cold and warm weather in one bag. It was winter in Chile, and very much summer in Costa Rica. At first I was at a loss for how to pack for these two conditions, but Organizing for Your Lifestyle had wardrobe tips to help minimize what you carry and maximize your options.

Layered outfits!

I was packing for both professional and casual settings, which can definitely be challenging with limited space. However, I learned that packing layers provided many opportunities for mixing and matching. You can see what I ended up packing for my summer journey here!

I have been embracing a minimalist lifestyle since the summer of 2016, and have refined it to suit my lifestyle. As I have mentioned in previous posts, minimalism is about owning only what you use often—not about owning as few items as possible. I’ve found that eliminating excess from my life has allowed me to eliminate emotional weight and to feel more carefree.

Jane Stoller wrote about her own experience with minimalism, in a piece that emphasizes it’s unique embodiment in everyone:


My Minimalist Lifestyle by Jane Stoller

The Japanese have long been the experts on knowing how to have a minimalist dwelling, and Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo’s best-selling book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2014) is a gem for people who want to move toward a less cluttered lifestyle. Kondo places a lot of emphasis on keeping only items that give you joy, and getting rid of everything else. In her book, Kondo argues that it’s important to create a space in your heart for the things that really matter to you, and that it’s important to give thanks for these things—even literally, by talking to the items in your home. This might sound a bit “airy fairy” to some, but I found that Kondo’s insights helped me to really appreciate what I have, while reminding me not to accumulate stuff I don’t need. Kondo also warns against organizing too much, as this can actually create additional things, and additional clutter.

One particularly valuable trick I learned from Kondo was to never keep all the extra buttons you get with the clothes you buy. I used to be very proud of my button collection, which was, of course, meticulously organized. However, I never used even one of the buttons; when I did lose a button, I would usually go to a tailor, and he would put on a new button that matched. But my button collection just kept growing. When I do feel it’s important to keep a button—from an expensive or unique coat or blazer, for example—I sew it on the inside.

De-clutter your space and your life by embracing minimalism. Personally, I don’t take this one to the extreme, but I do try. I recently read a book written by Francine Jay, who describes herself as Miss Minimalist. After reading Jay’s book, I think she’s earned the title. Jay gives simple strategies on how to begin to live a minimalist lifestyle. My favourite idea from Jay’s book involves downsizing by one thing each day, either by donating it, selling it, tossing it, re-gifting, etc. If you do this, by the end of the year, you’ll have de-cluttered an awe-inspiring 365 items. Jay’s minimalist style might be a bit extreme for some; case in point, she states that black is her staple wardrobe colour, and claims she only has 6 pairs of shoes. But her passionate discussion of her process, and her claims about how much lighter she feels after having made the switch to minimalism, may just be enough to convince you to follow her example. The opening of the book is a letter to her “stuff” which, although comical, really compels you to evaluate why our stuff is so important to us. You might even find it a useful exercise to try and write a similar letter to your own stuff. After all, if you can’t explain the benefits of an item to the item itself, it probably needs to go.

To get you started, here are a few things you can get rid of to live a more minimalist lifestyle: books (they take up so much space!), expired toiletries and products you never use, clothes that don’t fit or that you haven’t worn in years, and of course, those extra buttons.


I highly recommend Organizing for Your Lifestyle if you are interested in learning how to embrace a minimalism that helps you get rid of clutter and embrace a more organized lifestyle! You can purchase it from a number of stores, including Amazon!

I am preparing to go abroad again, this time for an entire semester. I am going to implement the same techniques to pack for this journey, and I will post about the final result! J How have you embraced minimalism in your life? Do you have any minimalist travel tips? Share them in the comments below!

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Traveling on a Tight Budget: Tips and Tricks

Now that I am back from two months abroad, I realized that there are a lot of tips and tricks that I learned along the way about traveling on a budget. I made a few notes along the way of tips that helped me make the most of my budget abroad, and I thought I would put them into a post to share with you!

BookBub is an amazing resource for reading on-the-go!

If you have a Kindle, Nook, or a smartphone/tablet with the Kindle or Nook app then BookBub is perfect for you! Once you sign up, they will send you a daily email with book deals from common websites all in one place. Often they will have one or two free books in each email which has been amazing for my travels abroad! I download them to my kindle app and have been able to read on the go during travel days and on the bus. I have discovered so many amazing books this way, and have saved a lot of money on something I love to do!

Using exact change in local currency saves a lot of money

This was something that I learned after trial and error, and thought that I would share with you! I often used my debit or credit card for small purchases, thinking it was a good idea to save the change and cash that I had. However, I found out that most currency exchange companies and banks do not accept coin currency to convert back into your home country currency. So I had kept many coins thinking I could exchange them back, but I ended up having to keep them all. So for small purchases using up these coins could save you money if you happen to have cash leftover that you want to convert!

Look into alternative housing–not just a hotel/hostel

Depending on your travel goals–whether you are traveling solo or with a program–a homestay can add so many positive elements to your experience! You will be able to experience your location on a different level, and to live life as a local. This is a great way to find hidden gems of spots that might not always be obvious if you’re traveling on your own or staying in a hotel/hostel district.

If you’re a full-time student, take advantage of ISIC benefits

ISIC is an organization that has internationally recognized student ID cards. Your college issued ID card may not be sufficient for redeeming student prices and discounts abroad, as they are all different and hard to verify. The ISIC card is accepted at most retailers and businesses around the world, and is a great way to have another form of identification with you during your travels.

Hand Washing Clothes at Hotels 

Bringing laundry detergent with you (biodegradable is a great option!) is a great way to save money. Most hotels charge quite expensive rates for their laundry services, ranging to pay-per-piece or pay-per-pound. Many hotels have in-room sinks or tubs that are perfect for hand washing. The most difficult part is when you have to dry your clothes in humid climates–but if you pick clothes you won’t need for at least a day or two, they should be dry by the time you need them. You can also use the hotel hairdryer to speed up the drying process.

Bring a reusable water bottle on your journeys

A reusable water bottle can save you a lot of money and keep you well hydrated (not to mention, it keeps the environment cleaner too)! One thing to keep in mind if you decide to refill your water bottle, is to always ask if there is potable water at that location. Many hotels have their own wells, but it’s always better to ask. Hotels also often have places where you can ask to have your water bottle filled in the event that the water in the rooms is not drinkable.

I hope you enjoyed these travel tips for traveling on a tight budget! What have you learned about traveling on a budget? Let me know in the comments!




What I Love about Blogging: My Two Year Blogiversary

I started this blogging journey on August 8th, 2015 with no idea of what it would eventually become. I knew that I wanted to reconnect with my love for writing, and decided to see what the future would hold! I am grateful each time I engage with my blog, social media, and my renewed creative spirit that I decided to give it a go.

I have learned more about my own creative self and my goals in life than I ever thought would be possible from a hobby, and have started to consider blogging as a profession! Since I have answered questions about my blogging journey in previous posts, I thought I would share some of my favorite things about blogging with you all to celebrate! 🙂

Blogging Favorites


1. The blogging community

This is something that I noticed right when I started blogging, and has been one of my favorite (if not my favorite) part about blogging. Despite the differences in topic, blog age, etc. I have been a part of a group of creators that truly value one another’s work and contributions. I have made online friends from my blogging journey, and have felt supported during times when I lack creativity and motivation. 🙂

2. Twitter (and Twitter chats)

Twitter is definitely my favorite social media platform for my blog, and I have met so many amazing content creators through it! I found out about Twitter chats a few months after I started blogging, and they have connected me to so many bloggers from different content areas. They have always been one of my favorite ways to spend an evening!

3. Web design and marketing skills

Something I didn’t expect to love when I started blogging was website design. I always thought that I would view coding and other design elements as one of the costs for all of the benefits I would get from blogging. After awhile I started to realize that I enjoyed designing my website on my own, and I was able to teach myself many of the essential skills and considerations for developing a successful website in a time of changing trends. I also learned how to write different types of copy for various situations, and to create media kits. Developing these skills turned out to be another benefit among many others of starting a blog! If you are interested in having me design a website, write or edit copy, or translate any of your work you can find my shop and rates here! 🙂

4. Gaining experience in different creative venues

Before blogging the thought of uploading a YouTube video was absolutely terrifying. There was no way that I was about to upload a video of me talking to a camera like many of the content creators that I admired! After creating written content and venturing into other social media forms, I finally got the courage to create and start uploading content to a YouTube channel. I have enjoyed documenting my life experiences in video, and branching out with my editing skills! 🙂

5. Having a project that has grown with me

I started this blog before I was a college student, and now I am going into my third year. It’s crazy to think about how much time has passed and how different my life was when I first started my blog! I love being able to read back over posts and reflect on the experiences that I’ve had. The past two years have been full of ups and downs, and being able to read back over my written thoughts is like having a personal diary that (I hope!) helps others who might be going through something similar.

What have you learned from blogging? Have you been thinking about starting a blog but haven’t yet? Feel free to reach out to me on any platform and I’ll help you get started! (Trust me, it’s worth it!) 🙂

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Travel Vlogs: Save the Frogs Costa Rica EcoTour 2017

In July I went on the Save the Frogs Costa Rica EcoTour after my time in Chile, and it was one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had! This entire summer has been filled with wonderful experiences, and I wanted to be able to share moments from them with you.

I took footage on a number of our excursions, and will be editing them and uploading vlogs every Saturday about my travels and other aspects of my life. I have had so much fun exploring the creative opportunities of video through my YouTube channel, and it has added so much to my blogging journey!

Below is the first vlog that I edited, with footage from our first full day in Tortuguero. It was one of those days that I know I will remember for the rest of my life. Not included in the vlog footage is watching a mother sea turtle lay her eggs and return to the tides under red light (the only light that does not significantly harm the turtles). This was one of the moments in which I wanted to be completely present with the wonders of the world, and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be fully emerged in something that few people get to experience. If you are interested in learning more about the dangers that sea turtles are facing in our world today, you can visit the Sea Turtle Conservancy website. It is a wonderful organization protecting animals that have graced the earth with their beautiful presence.

The second vlog is from our boat tour through the jungle, looking at the wide variety of species that live in close proximity to one another and that inhabit the small section of jungle that we went through (there were many more species than I thought possible!). This was another experience in which I felt as though it couldn’t be real–exploring the jungle via boat and being surrounded by natural beauty in all forms.

I hope you enjoy these vlogs as much as I enjoyed filming them! I am so excited to share these moments with you, and hope that you can experience some of the same magic. If you are interested in going on an EcoTour with Save the Frogs (which I highly recommend!), you can learn more about the trip options here!

If you want to learn more about what I took with me and how I stayed healthy while traveling this summer, you can read all of my posts here! 🙂

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.



The Power of the Past: Poems from my Childhood

On August 8th my blog will be two years old. Just writing that out makes it feel more real! I started this journey in a time that feels so different from the present, and my blog has grown with me. Today I was going through storage boxes as I prepare to leave for a semester abroad, and I stumbled upon books of poetry that I wrote in elementary school.

As I have mentioned before, my love for writing started around the second grade, when I would fill notebooks upon notebooks with stories and poems and let my imagination run free. Reading back through these poems, I am reminded of why I started my blog in the first place. It’s so easy to get caught up in the marketing side of blogging, and this has helped me remember that my blog is a place to share my journey with the world. I’ve learned more than I thought possible by learning about marketing and business, but it’s always important to remind yourself why you started.

I wanted to share a few of the poems that I found today with you, so that you can see where my love for writing came from, and where my blog inspiration took root.





As I read back over these poems, I was reminded of my love for the written word. I haven’t written poetry since 2011, but I now feel inspired to start anew. All of my gratitude goes to you, my readers, because you have allowed me to live my dreams.

© 2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.




Planning for a New Semester: Start off Strong!

I don’t know about you, but ordering textbooks for a new semester makes me feel ready to start preparing for the months ahead! This morning I logged on to one of my favorite textbook resources, Textbooks.com. I was able to find all of the books that were on my required reading list at a very affordable price! Once I sent in the order, I knew it was time to start thinking about how to best prepare.

I am going to be a third-year in college (I have no idea where the time went!), and this semester I will be studying abroad! Since I won’t be returning to my home campus this fall, planning is even more important to make sure I start off strong. And as I’m sure you have noticed in many of my posts so far, I love planning on pen and paper. I have tried planning electronically, but something about writing everything down makes it easier to remember and organize!

Sara of College Compass has launched a printable planner that comes different formats for all students! I used to be someone who would open up all the planners in the school supply aisle and look at their formats, searching for one that I knew would work with my organization style. When Amazon became popular, I did the same thing online. It could take hours to find one that fit my needs, and sometimes the price tag would make me search longer.

When I write down assignments, I like to have vertical space for each class (otherwise I will get quite confused!). The College Compass planner includes a vertical format, both decorated (with amazing seasonal designs!) and undecorated depending on your preference. It also includes hourly and horizontal layouts, and both of those options also come in decorated and undecorated formats!

One of the other benefits of a printable planner is the options that you have to bind the pages together! I’m someone who loves DIY projects, and one of my favorite ways to personalize organization methods is to take a hole punch and some twine and bind the pages together with a twine bow. 🙂 You can also opt to bind yours with plastic or any other material that best fits your needs!

Having a printable planner also means that you can customize it as much as you want–this planner includes reflection pages (which I love, because it makes me think about all that I want to accomplish during the week!). There’s also an academic planning bundle that you can add to the planner, with assignment sheets (weekly and semester), grade trackers, fitness logs, and more! You can place these within the planner layout itself to truly make it your own too! 🙂

I’ve already started planning out the weeks leading up to my semester, and have filled the vertical layout with lists of what I need to prepare and remember to do! If you’re looking for a planner that can help you through your entire academic year, I highly recommend this one! There are just so many options, and you can design it any way you want (or change depending on what works best for your class schedule!).

To buy the planner and the academic bundle, you can click here! When you buy the planner or the academic bundle, you will get access to your own shop portal where you can download the files and use them to your heart’s content! The downloads never expire, so you will always have access to them.

What’s your favorite way to plan for the semester? What is your go-to planner layout and what do you use it for? Not sure what the best layout is for your study style? No problem! Take this quiz to find out what layout will work best for your needs! Let me know your result in the comments! 🙂

©2017 The Wise Willow and Alyssa DeBella. All rights reserved.


Alyssa DeBella

21 | Lifestyle blogger | Minimalist | Dreamer ✨| Language Lover 💕| Animal Obsessed ❤️🐶| Double Major 📚| Vegan 🌱 |Traveler ✈️ (currently in: Europe)
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When my phone clock read 23:19 my mind said it like 2319!! And I was so confused until I suddenly remembered:

A quick update on the recovery of The Liber8ed. Frank got to come home today! 🐮 https://t.co/QqpedL5zLV


🥗 #plantshaveprotein #plantpower #salad #saladfordinner #delicious #vegan #studyabroad https://t.co/rnwa71LNQS

Want to join my Pinterest group board (Blogging about Life :) )? DM me or reply w/your email! :) <3 #blogging #pinterest #groupboard #blog

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