A Brave New Year

I can still remember the time I sat at the airport in 2004 with eight virtual strangers, waiting for our flight to Singapore. I had just graduated from college and was about to participate in an ASEAN exchange program for five months. I was excited, sure, but mostly I was terrified. It was the first time I was traveling without my family, the first time I would live away from home. I was tempted to turn back, but despite the fear, I left anyway. It turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life—and those strangers turned into some of my best friends.

When I joined AMCI Mountaineering Club in 2005, I had no idea what I was getting into. I didn’t know I had to run every training day, climb the toughest mountains, and push myself to the limits. I was afraid I wouldn’t survive. But after all the hard work, I made it! And I wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything. Plus, that’s where I met the love of my life. 😉

I’ve always been a fearful person, but when I was younger, I managed to push through those fears and take big leaps of faith. But as I grew older, it became harder and harder to take risks. Somewhere along the way, I got stuck. I got lazy. I got too comfortable. The fears grew so big that they blocked my path. They said, “Just stay where you are. Stay where it’s safe. There’s no need to move forward.”

Last December, I celebrated my 35th birthday. It was fun being with family and friends and eating to my heart’s content. But deep inside, I had this gnawing feeling. I felt anxious about the future. What was I going to do with the rest of my life? If I died tomorrow, could I honestly say that I lived life to the fullest? That I reached my full potential?

So when 2018 rolled around, I knew I had to do something about it. I couldn’t just sit around and let my fears get the best of me. I had to BE BRAVE.

I know it’s going to be challenging. I could just as easily slip into old habits. That’s why I’m committing to a few things to help me stay focused.

1. Write in my journal once a week.

I love journaling because it helps me make sense of the things going on around me. This year, I got two unique journals.


The Best Year Ever kit is a tool to help you review the past year, set new goals, and set your intention for 2018. Made by my good friend Micah Sulit, together with life coach Aurora Suarez, the kit is also filled with surprises you can open when you hit your milestones. (Spoiler alert: The inspirational stickers are a part of it!) Available at ShopEdenStreet.com.

Also crafted by Aurora, the Sunday Night Journal is a weekly “self-care ritual.” It contains insightful questions to help you reflect on the past week, and start the coming week with gratitude and positivity. I’m hoping to make this a weekly habit! Available at YourSundayNight.com.

2. Join The Purposeful Creative’s Braver Goals Bootcamp.

When pursuing a goal, it always helps to have a mentor and a supportive community cheering you on. I joined Arriane Serafico’s Purpose Driven Branding class last year, and it was so useful in terms of helping me define my personal brand. Since I joined the VIP community, I was also able to meet wonderful new friends who took the class with me. This year, I decided to invest in her Braver Goals class—it’s just perfect since my intention for the year is to be brave! Care to be brave with me? It’s not yet too late to join! Just log on to join.bravergoals.com.

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3. Stay healthy, stay TRUE.

Last year, I had a host of health problems so one of my main goals this year is to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. To ease myself into it, I’m doing Adriene’s 30-Day Yoga Challenge on YouTube. I love how her theme is to be TRUE—as she says on her site, the challenge is designed to “trim, tone, and circle you back to YOU.” And really, what could be braver than staying true to yourself?

4. Pray daily.

One of my favorite bible passages of all time is Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus Walks on Water. Whenever I feel anxious or afraid, I always take comfort in the words of Jesus: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” If you need a guide to prayer, I’ve found the Sacred Space app to be very helpful. Or if you simply want to meditate, Insight Timer has plenty of guided meditations on different topics. My favorite is the one entitled “Transforming Fear” by Sarah Blondin. You can also listen to it here.

Have you set your intention for the New Year? If you have other tips on how to face your fears, I’d love to hear them. Cheers to a #Braver2018!


Travel Journaling Tips from Abbey Sy and Christine Herrin

When I turned twelve years old, my parents gave me a beautiful, hardbound journal for my birthday. It was a light shade of pink with dainty, watercolored illustrations of flowers, a cafe, a plate of food, and a bottle of wine on the cover. It also came with a matching box that had a lock and key. Since then, I began writing pages and pages of words about my life.

In high school, I started scrapbooking. I became obsessed with lettering and calligraphy (back when it wasn’t all the rage yet and all I had to guide me was an old textbook from art class). I started sorting through my photos and old magazines, and cutting and pasting them onto this huge scrapbook. Every time we went to a movie or a trip, I would save all the ticket stubs, the maps, the souvenirs. My friends entrusted me as the memory keeper—the person who had a record of all the photos from all the memorable events in our young lives. By the time I graduated from college, I had more than a dozen thick scrapbooks and albums.

But as the world moved into the digital age, these hobbies fell by the wayside. It became too tedious to print and sort through hundreds of photos on my digicam. Once I started working, I became too busy to sit down and work on a scrapbook. Whereas before, I would write on my journal almost daily, now my handwritten entries are few and far between.

When artist Abbey Sy came out with her book, The ABCs of Hand Lettering, and later, The ABCs of Journaling, I was transported back to my high school days. I immediately got a copy of both books because they reminded me of a simpler time—a time when I was able to diligently record and reflect on my experiences. To me, journaling and scrapbooking weren’t just about preserving memories, they were also about helping me figure out who I was and my place in the world.

abbey and angel

Fangirl moment: I’m such a huge fan of Abbey’s work!

Last Saturday, August 19, I attended a travel journaling workshop at Common Folk Coffee Bar with Abbey and Christine Herrin, another talented artist who also happens to be my former officemate. It was such a fun gathering with fellow creatives and journaling enthusiasts, and it inspired me to start scrapbooking again, especially since I have two big trips coming up!

classmates journaling workshop

With Abbey, Christine, and my fellow travelers at Common Folk Coffee Bar. (Photo courtesy of Abbey Sy)

If you’d like to go back to journaling and scrapbooking (like me) or if this is a hobby you want to start, here are a few of Abbey and Christine’s travel journaling tips:


1. Do your research. Find inspiration online. Look for places that are not only Instagram-worthy, but that you and your travel buddies will also find interesting.

2. Decide on what journal you will use. It can be any old notebook you have lying around, but of course, I would recommend journals from either Abbey or Christine!

enjoy the journey journal by abbey sy

Enjoy the Journey travel journal, P350, available at Abbey-Sy.com (Photo courtesy of Abbey Sy)


3. Remember that there are many ways to journal. For instance, Christine collects ephemera (memorabilia and souvenirs) and sticks them on her journal along with her photos. Abbey does this as well, but she also draws and paints interesting places on her journey. So there is really no right or wrong way to do it. The important thing is to find what works for you.

4. When laying out the pages in your journal, draw or stick the ephemera first before you start writing. You can also use stickers, stamps, and washi tape to decorate it.


Stamp sets by Christine Herrin, P850 each, available at EverydayExplorers.co. She also has a collab stamp sheet with Abbey! (Photo courtesy of Abbey Sy)

5. Do your journaling before breakfast or after dinner to free up headspace. It’s a nice way to remember and appreciate what happened the previous day, while also getting ready to face the day ahead. But don’t spend too much time documenting. Enjoy the place!

6. If you don’t have time to journal during the trip, just use ziplocks to store your ephemera and then work on your journal when you get home. You can also do random stuff like take a screenshot of the weather for the day. I love Christine’s Everyday Explorers journal because it’s filled with a list of prompts that can help you document your trip in a unique and interesting way. It also comes with a box where you can store your souvenirs.

everyday explorers by christine herrin

Everyday Explorers journal kit, available at EverydayExplorers.co. (Photo courtesy of Abbey Sy)


7. If you’re fixing your journal after the trip, decide whether you will arrange everything chronologically, by place, or by theme.

8. Collect and select. You don’t have to put ALL the details of your trip. Choose the best photos and ephemera, and just write the things you want to remember the most.

9. Set aside time to do it soon after your trip—otherwise, you’ll never get around to finishing it!

10. “Don’t be too precious.” As Christine said, don’t be afraid to write on that blank page, to mess it up, and to stick things on it. It’s your journal after all.

journaling loot

My travel journaling loot. I’m so excited and I can’t wait to get started!