Blogger Interview: Makaela from Uniquely Mickie

In my blogging journey, I have become increasingly interested in learning about how other bloggers started their blogs and what they have been able to accomplish. I decided to reach out on Twitter about an interview series, and the interest was more than I ever could have expected!

I decided to start a new series on my blog to interview all of these amazing creators about their blogs, their goals, and more!

So without further ado, here is the first interview in the series!

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Makaela of Uniquely Mickie

 

Hello, my name is Makaela. In my 21 years of life, I have lived in 8 different places in two continents. While I love to travel and would love to continue to do so after college, I spend most of my time now juggling a social life and the homework that comes with being in pharmacy school. This site is dedicated to highlighting the beauty of growth as well as college, fashion, and beauty as seen through my eyes.

 

What is your favorite song at the moment?

My favorite song at the moment is Run Me Dry by Bryson Tiller.

What is your favorite type of food (or types if there are ties!)?

I either love pizza or I love a Chik-fil-a sandwich with cheese on it.

Coffee, tea, neither, or both?

I don’t like coffee or tea, but I love a good hot chocolate!

Do you prefer to hand write or to type?

I prefer to hand write certain things like my school notes or a to-do checklist, but I also love my computer when I’m in a hurry to write something down.
What is your favorite season?

My favorite season is Fall because I love how the weather changes and that I get to wear big, oversized sweaters while drinking hot chocolate.

What is your favorite book (or one that you would recommend at the moment)?

My favorite book is actually a series, which is the Harry Potter series. I’m so obsessed with the storyline and the characters.
Any fun facts you want to share? 

A fun fact about me is that I’ve shaved my head for cancer twice. I donated my hair to different organizations to help cancer patients.

When did you start your blog, and what was the reasoning behind it? Similarly, what was the inspiration behind your blog/brand name (and did you find it difficult to create)?

I started my blog in May 2017 finally. I’ve always wanted to start a blog, but my first attempt failed and I lost motivation to continue writing on that platform. But I recently had the urge to try again and created my blog Uniquely Mickie. My blog name actually came from my current instagram handle. I thought it was fun so I just decided to use it for my blog name too.

When you first started blogging, did you have a goal in mind for where you wanted it to (or thought it would) take you? Have you reached that goal or changed it?

When I started my blog, I definitely had a few goals in my mind some of which are a work in process. Like I wanted to get to 50,000 page views in less than a year, but right now I’m averaging around 4,000 page views. I also wanted to create an income from my blog, which I have started to do, but I would love to see it grow each month.

What did you know about blogging before you started? What were the resources you used to find out more?

Before I started my blog, I would just blog stalk on Pinterest on everything that I found useful and saved in a blogging board for later. So when I started my blog, I went back to those resources and they really helped me a long my journey of starting a profitable blog.

Where do you find your inspiration to continue blogging? Has your inspiration stayed the same since you started your blog?

I don’t really need to find inspiration to blog, because I genuinely love blogging and connecting with others over the internet. My inspiration has definitely stayed the same since I started blogging back in May.

What is your favorite social media platform or method of communication with your readers? What about the platform makes it your favorite?

I love connecting with my readers through Instagram and Twitter. It’s so fun to talk to people and really learn more about the people in your niche or readers.  

If you had to sum up everything that you have learned about blogging to tell someone new to the community, what would you tell them?

If I had to sum up the information that I’ve learned, I would tell a beginner to just go for it. Blogging takes time, patient, and a whole lot of experimenting what works for you and your readers. The best part about blogging is the connections that you make in your community that you get to build from the ground up. It’s a great experience! So if you’re thinking of blogging or starting a Youtube channel, then go for it 100%!  

Where do you see your blog taking you in the future? What are your goals for the next few months/years?

In the future, I would love to see my blog to grow to 50,000 pageviews and earn a livable income from blogging. But I would love to see my brand and blog grow to the point where I get to attend really cool events, like blogging networks, panels, or fashion shows. I would also love to work with brands in commercial or in videos on their platforms to get my face and name out to the public more. It’s a crazy idea, but I’m willing to go alone the journey to get there.

What is your favorite part about the creative process? (i.e. do you have a favorite step in the blog post writing process, a favorite topic or style, etc.)

My favorite part of the creative process is a tie between making pinterest pins or actually writing the blog content itself. I love writing so I could write for days on any topic that I’m truly interested in, but I’m also slightly creative so making images is really fun too. 

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If you would like to learn more about Makaela, you can connect to her blog and her social media on UniquelyMickie! 🙂

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

 

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How to Gain a Twitter Following

I still remember the day that I signed up for Twitter for my blog–I had no idea what I was doing! I signed up and started to look around at all the features, feeling a profound sense of confusion at the whole thing.

Now (two years later), Twitter has become my favorite social media platform for my blog. I’ve received a lot of questions over the years about how I have grown my Twitter following and what I use Twitter for, so I thought I would write a post about my experience!

Whether you’re completely new to Twitter, or if you’re looking for new ways to engage with the platform (there is a lot more to Twitter than just tweeting!), I hope you find this post helpful and informative!

Following others on Twitter

One of the first things you will want to do as a new Twitter user is follow other accounts. This process sounds simple, but Twitter is a social media platform that makes comparison and follower numbers really easy to get caught up in. Every time that you follow a new account, remember that your intention should be that you are genuinely engaged in the content that this creator has.

By following other creators that you are genuinely interested in, you will start to form community (which is one of Twitter’s best strongpoints!). When you’re on your main Twitter profile page, on the lefthand side you will be able to see a box called “Who to Follow”. By clicking “view all” in this box, you will be redirected to a page that lets you view accounts that Twitter recommends.

When you first start out on Twitter, don’t worry too much about how many accounts you’re following. Make it your goal to genuinely engage with these accounts over following as many as possible.

This is where one of my favorite aspects of Twitter comes in: building community. When I started a blog, I thought that the only community I would have is between me and my readers but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

I found so many bloggers who inspired me to be the best that I could be, and to work hard towards my goals. All of this through following them on Twitter and reaching out via Direct Messages (DMs) and engaging with their amazing content!

The other half of this starting out process has to do with your own profile, and tips to make it stand out to others (so that you receive that engagement in return, and connect with others who reach out to you!).

Creating your Twitter profile

One of the most important aspects of a Twitter profile is your bio. Not only does it tell fellow Twitter users about who you are and what you do, it’s what shows up on the screen that encourages users to follow you! I love reading through bios of other users, and over time have crafted mine to convey who I am and what people will read if they follow me.

Your biography has character limitations (much like an actual Tweet), so it’s important to include all of the key features you want to highlight! I highly recommend using the Twitter app on your phone to craft this bio, because then you can use fun emojis and other symbols to add to your overall aesthetic!

Using Twitter: RT, Likes, etc.

One of the main ways to use Twitter is to convey your thoughts, and connect with those of others. What I love most about this is when you have a community of people who support each other and who bond over similar ideas.

I often compose tweets on my phone (mostly because I can use the emoji features of my keyboard). One of the common questions is when and when not to use hashtags, and it took me quite some time to figure out a balance that worked well for me. I don’t like every tweet to have a hashtag, but if I am publishing my work (a new blog post) or the work of someone else (celebrating the successes of others is a great thing!), then I love to include as many hashtags as I can fit with the character limit.

Something important to remember is that the order of your tweet actually does matter to a certain extent. It’s best to use @user [if applicable] +tweet text + content link + hashtags. When I first started out on Twitter, I remember that the hashtags I used didn’t work when I put them somewhere else in the tweet, and the link would often not work if I put it after the hashtags.

When you scroll through Twitter, you can like, respond to, and Retweet the content that others post. I mostly like and respond to posts when I scroll through Twitter (it’s an amazing way to start a conversation–the other day I joined a conversation about favorite types of pasta and why)! Retweeting is a great way to show that you absolutely loved the content that someone produced, and that you want your audience to give it a look. This puts the tweet on your timeline of posts. You can also “quote” a tweet when you Retweet it, meaning that you add your own explanation or food for thought above the original tweet itself.

You can also participate in something widely known as FollowFriday (#FF), where you tweet the hashtag followed by a list of people that you think others should follow. This is an amazing way to recognize amazing content being produced by others, and to grow community!

Using Twitter: Twitter chats

This is one of my absolute favorite parts of Twitter, and why it is my favorite social media platform over Instagram, Facebook, and others. Twitter chats are scheduled meetings of Twitter users to discuss a topic at a certain time in the day/week/month.

The first Twitter chat that I ever joined was #BloggingCollege. I accidentally stumbled upon it after seeing another blogger tweet using that hashtag. I clicked on the hashtag and was brought to a page where everyone was discussing (in real time) a topic related to blogging in college. I joined the chat on a whim and never looked back! I made amazing friends and found so many other amazing blogs to follow along with over the next two years.

I have also found other Twitter chats that I have loved, and this is where the feeling of community grew for me. In fact, something super exciting is that I was able to meet a blogger  (Sara from Sara Laughed!) in real life that I had originally met through #BloggingCollege! I kept thinking of how my life would be so different had I not started blogging–but it’s also true to say that it would be quite different if I hadn’t found Twitter!

 

The tricky aspect: The numbers game

The hardest part about any social media–Twitter definitely included–is the numbers game and comparison. It’s so easy to become disheartened by numbers (this has definitely happened to me in the past, and in all honesty is still happening with sites like Instagram). What’s important to remember is that engagement is more important than numbers. The number of people who engage with your content (like, RT, reply, etc.) is demonstrative of the community that you have built.

As best as you can, try to ignore the numbers and instead focus on engaging with others and using Twitter as a platform that you truly enjoy. I love all of the opportunities that Twitter has for growth and for meeting others!

What is your favorite part about Twitter? Do you have a chat or user to recommend? Also feel free to leave your twitter handle below so that I can follow your updates! 🙂

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

 

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Reverse Bucket List: 2017

I did one of these posts quite a long time ago! (*Looks back at archives to see when it was*…December 30th, 2015…woah!) This list was more of an overarching list of things that I have done throughout my entire life, so I wanted to make one devoted just to 2017 because it has been quite the year! I also wanted to update you on items that I have now crossed off my bucket list, and share new ones with you!

My Reverse Bucket List for 2017: 

  • Did a New Years birdwatching hike in Vermont (it was really cold but so beautiful!)
  • Visited a wildlife conservation center in Florida
  • Pet a camel face to face (they’re adorable)
  • Held a pig (one of the best moments!)
  • Made an entire loaf of bread from scratch with friends in the early hours of the morning
  • Solo traveled to Kansas for an internship
  • Finished my second year of college
  • Successfully started a storm generator
  • Made vegan pancakes as a spontaneous midnight snack
  • Traveled solo to Chile and stayed for 6 weeks (Talca, Concón, Viña del Mar, Valparaiso, Iquique, and Santiago)–made amazing friends here and had such an amazing adventure!
  • Experienced winter in June and July for the first time (it was the first time I was in the southern hemisphere during these months)
  • Tried vegan sushi
  • Traveled solo to Costa Rica
  • Participated in a Save the Frogs! Ecotour in Costa Rica (post coming soon–it was amazing!)
    • Conquered my fear of spiders
    • Saw the inner workings of an ant colony
    • Went to a volcano and volcanic hot springs
    • Learned how to make coffee and hot chocolate
    • Spotted my first frog during a night hike
    • Did a night hike in the cloud forest that ended with homemade vegan pizza
    • Went on a crocodile boat tour
  • Changed my nose stud to a ring
  • Adopted fish with my best friend
  • Ordered vegan pizza at 11pm after setting up the fish tank
  • Sand boarded at the Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Stayed in a drive-in movie theater hotel (where you could watch the movie from your room window)
  • Walked through a freezing cold river to see a waterfall
  • Picked peaches in Vermont
  • Won a gallon (yes an entire gallon!) of maple syrup
  • Went on three new hikes in Vermont
  • Stumbled upon (quite literally) an amazing local music group
  • Drove up to Canada for a flight and ate at an amazing Italian restaurant (we got a bit lost on the way, but we lived the adventure!)
  • Traveled solo to Amsterdam
    • Joined a free walking tour and managed to navigate to it
    • Met a blogging friend for a day in the city (such an amazing time!)
    • Had Belgian fries
    • Tried Indonesian food for the first time (it’s incredible)
    • Visited a Buddhist tea house
    • Stayed in a hostel and watched the sun set from a hammock
    • Made new friends on a broken down train
    • Connected with an amazing group while helping them buy metro tickets (we all spoke Spanish)
  • Traveled solo to Serbia
  • Started my study program and third year of college
  • Had vegan dark chocolate ice cream
  • Studied at a bookstore cafe
  • Celebrated my 21st birthday
  • Learned how to navigate and live in a big city for the first time

Now I wanted to update you on things that I have completed from my bucket list (that I wrote back in December of 2015): 

  • Live and travel in Europe (I am living here for a few months so I consider this to be somewhat completed, though I would like to spend more time here in the future!)
  • Travel to Chile
  • Start a YouTube channel and film my adventures
  • Make lasting connections around the world
  • Get a nose piercing (well, I wrote get a cartilage piercing which I still want, but this was close!)
  • Learn how to speak Italian (I’m a couple of years into this process and am also starting Serbian!)

What is on my bucket list at the moment: 

  • Live on my own in an apartment or small home for some time
  • Rescue a senior dog (or two or three) when I can financially do so
  • Volunteer at a Farm Sanctuary
  • Write a book (which may already be in progress… 🙂 )
  • Start my own non-profit business
  • See The Script and One Republic in concert
  • Write for a publication or magazine (vegan based is the dream!)
  • Visit Prague
  • Live in Parma, Italy
  • Do more live videos for my blog

And more items that I’m sure will come up! I would love to see your reverse bucket lists and regular bucket lists! Leave them in the comments or leave a link to a blog post! 🙂

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

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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
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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.

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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!

 

 

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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.

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Alyssa DeBella

21 | Lifestyle blogger | Minimalist | Dreamer ✨| Language Lover 💕| Animal Obsessed ❤️🐶| Double Major 📚| Vegan 🌱 |Traveler ✈️ (currently in: Europe)
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