How I Graduated with Honors in 1 Year While Traveling Full Time to 20 Countries

If I had to narrow it down to one word to identify the essence of me and my sanity, it’s the word balance.

We live in a world full of constant motion, opportunities, temptations and contradicting opinions and at times life seems to pull us in all different directions.

Maintaining a balanced life, in the area of health/wellness, spiritual, mental, work & play and relationships, is key to feeling a sense of accomplishment and happiness in our overall direction and purpose in life.

Traveling the world, while creating my own personal brand and establishing myself as a digital nomad, has taught me many lessons on the importance of balance and having clear goals and priorities.

It’s one thing to travel for fun and pleasure, like I did when I first started, and a whole different story when trying to combine travel and work together in order to create a life to where you have the freedom to live and work from any place around the world.

About 70 countries into my adventure, I decided to take my brand Nomadic Dreamer to a whole different level and create something lasting and profitable for myself.

When I started, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was pulled in many different directions, growing my social media, writing articles, translating everything from English to Spanish and I was completely lost.

However, I kept putting one foot in front of the other, learning something new each day, offering speeches, courses and making appearances on multiple television and radio shows in order to grow the reputation of my brand.

When I started public speaking in 2015, I was very eager to improve, learn new techniques and push myself past my own personal limits.

I realized that I had a very powerful story and that my calling in life was to share it with others and be the best speaker I could possibly be.

In order to push myself to the next level and accomplish another life long goal of mine, I decided that not only was I going to dedicate 2016 to traveling the world and growing Nomadic Dreamer, but I was going to do it all while finishing my bachelor’s degree at the University of Arkansas in the USA from distance.

They offer an intense program in communication and language that offers tools and trainings that I knew could help me to succeed as a better and more skilled speaker.

I spoke with the director of the program about my desire to start the program in the following semester and that I wanted to do it all in just one year from distance, while working and traveling full time.

Doubts filled her head as she knew how demanding the program is to do in one year for students that physically attend classes. Trying not to discourage me, she made sure I was aware that I would need to be active each and every day for class, engage in all activities, discussions, tests, projects and during multiple times in the year I would have a project where I would need to find my own audience of people in order to give a 15-20 minute speech, which obviously is difficult while on the road and while only interacting with strangers.

As a traveler, I know how from first hand experience how difficult it is to find balance while on the road. There are constant problems of finding strong wifi to upload projects, places to have pure silence in order to work and a constant challenge to find the the motivation to sit down and do projects while in a beautiful destination in a foreign country.

However, I decided that it was worth the risk and I made a firm commitment.

The beginning was much harder than I thought. I not only was trying to juggle six classes that I had to be present in each and every single day, but I had to do all of that while traveling completely alone through countries like India, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc.

Not only that, I had to make sure that I was taking good care of my health, always watching out for my safety, planning my next destination, confirming all my travel arrangements, maintaining my work as a digital nomad and growing the Nomadic Dreamer. As if that were not enough, a few months into the course I got a call to be an invited speaker at the largest TEDx conference in Spain in Spanish.It was an opportunity of a lifetime and I couldn’t say no.

So there I was, with more than I thought I possibly could handle on the table, and wondering how in the world I was going to make all of those dreams become a reality.

In my free time, I eagerly watch videos on YouTube on how to maintain balance, but still struggled to find that perfect balance. However, half way into the course I started a different practice that changed my life and helped me to find better balance and that is the practice of meditation.

During that year, I became very strict and disciplined in all of my practices. I woke up at 5 o’clock every single day, meditated, exercised and all of my classes that I had for the day.

Many times when people were just waking up I had finished with my whole entire day of activities, giving me the freedom to see all the beautiful countries that I was visiting during the day.

Meditation was the medicine that helped me to stay sane during that crazy year. I had absolutely no caffeine during that time and simply relied on my inner power to help me do the impossible.

Many times we have dreams and our heart that seem impossible, just like mine. Sometimes we start something new and we become discouraged because we see our dream as one big mountain, while forgetting the importance of just taking one little step at a time in order to climb up that giant mountain.

I took one baby step each and every day, focusing on my daily actions and making sure that I did not skip a day on any of my commitments.

In those moments that I thought I could not keep moving forward, I quieted my soul with meditation, which always left me feeling refreshed and focused.

It was mentally and physically one of the hardest things I have ever done, but in the end I made my dream a reality. Not only did I graduate in December 2016 with Magna Cum Laude Honors while traveling to 20 countries, I also received an award from the University as an outstanding student that is making a big difference in the world, as well as two newspaper articles about my experience.

In November 2016, I also made another lifelong dream become a reality. I stood before an audience of more than 1,000 people giving a TEDx talk at the largest event in Spain in a language that I could not speak fluently just two years before.

I say all of these accomplishments with a very humble heart. This has nothing to do with me bragging about what I have done, but rather emphasizing the point that if we have a love and passion in our hearts for something, combined with a strong determination to achieve it no matter what the cost, we can make our biggest dreams become a reality.

Does that mean that it’s going to be easy?

Absolutely not.

There were days that I locked myself up in my room crying and wondering how I was going to keep moving forward.

I passed horrible days in that year of traveling with sickness, food poisoning, exhaustion, homesickness and moments that I truly wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits.

However, life is it not about escaping the obstacles in our path, but rather, looking them straight in the eyes and saying,

“I am bigger than you and nothing can stop me!”

 

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9 Powerful Ways Travel and Intercultural Experience Has Changed My Life

When I left my comfort zone in 2013 and moved to Spain, without a single comfort by my side, my world was shaken in an instant. Living in the USA, I had all the comforts of the world by my side: a well paid job as a nurse, family, friends, more than enough materialistic possessions, a beautiful car, home, gym and my favorite body pump class only 5 minutes from my home.

Life was comfortable. I had no complaints…..except for the fact that my heart craved adventure.

Looking back at the close minded small town girl I was in 2013, to where I am now, it is a night and day contrast. My experience living abroad, combined with my experience traveling across the world, has not only changed me as a person, but has changed the lens through which I see the world in 9 big ways:

 

1. Gratitude and Appreciation for the Small Things

It is easy to take our life for granted when we are used to the same daily routine day in and day out. Breaking out of my normal pattern and stepping out into the unknown has allowed me to really appreciate the things that I no longer have within reach, like a hug from my family when I need it the most, or the beautiful Arkansas countryside that I used to see each day as I drove home.

It has also helped me for the first time to really appreciate and be thankful for my country and small town that I grew up in, because until moving abroad I never did.

 

2.  A New Lens Through Which I See People and the World

I used to be a pretty close minded and racist person before being exposed to the world. Living and being completely immersed in a whole new culture, with people that have a whole different way of doing things, has helped me to expand my way of thinking and learn that there is not just one right way of doing things.

Traveling and having stayed with more than 100+ people on Couchsurfing has also given me intercultural experiences that I would of never had with any other experience while traveling. These interactions have helped me to see the beauty and value in people and to realize that, while there are true dangers in the world, there are more people out there that are willing to help you than hurt you.

 

 

3. Reconnection with my Life Purpose and Direction

Moving or traveling to a foreign country truly makes you connect with yourself in a unique way. This connection can help you to tap into your purpose and direction here on Earth, in order to help you live a more fulfilling life.

My plan from day one of moving abroad, to now, is completely different. Everyday that I live abroad and travel, I learn a little bit more about myself and what my heart really desires.

 

4. A New Love with Life, Its Beauty and Adventures

This exciting adventure that I have been on has helped me to fall in love with all that life has to offer. Life is full of so many beautiful people, places and experiences waiting to be had, but we will never have the chance to experience these adventures if we are not willing to step a bit outside of our comfort zone and take a risk.

Through this wild journey, I have many highs and lows. However, I have learned to find beauty, not just in the highs, but also in the lowest and loneliest moments.

 

 

 5. An Adjustment in Focus and Perspective

Although I have always liked to think that I am a generous person, my life has always been more or less focused on myself, or my family/friends. After traveling abroad, I saw for the first time a glimpse of how big the world really is.

Everyday that I travel and see new things, my focus in life shifts more away from myself and more on the big picture. Travel has helped me to see that in life there are way bigger issues to deal with, rather than the little ones that I used to focus all of my time and energy on.

 

6. Improved Ability to Connect, Communicate and Relate to Others

I had not the slightest idea of how to communicate across cultures before moving abroad. I moved to Spain with a very little idea of the world and the norms that many different cultures have. In addition, I didn’t know a single word of Spanish, which was a constant struggle for me in the beginning. I not only struggled with the language, but I struggled with the ability to connect and really relate to others due to my limited and judgmental mindset.

The more time I spend abroad and travel, the more I learn how to properly communicate and relate to different types of people. I have had the opportunity to travel and connect with thousands of people and one of the biggest lessons I have learned is:

While words are a powerful tool in our communication, over 90% of our communication really does come from our nonverbal behavior.

 

Bali, Indonesia

 

7. A Better Ability to Balance Your Life

Traveling for the sake of traveling and seeing new places is one thing, but trying to travel, study full time and work online is another. I started my travels in the beginning because I wanted to see and experience new places, but I eventually discovered that traveling for my own pleasure and fun was not so fulfilling after more than a year of nonstop travel.

I put my heart and soul to it, started the Nomadic Dreamer website and started learning how to make my hobby into my profession. I traveled in 2016 to over 20 countries (total count of 40+), while working as a motivational speaker, studying full time in the university in a distance learning program, preparing a TEDx talk for the largest conference in Spain and full time blogging.

This experience has truly helped me to better balance my time and energy in order to do all that I want to do. It has always taught me that it IS possible to travel the world, work and study, but you can’t do it until you first have a clear idea in your mind of what it is that you want to do.

 

8. A New Sense of Confidence

Every single experience that I have had since 2013 where I put faith and action together, I have become more empowered and have gained a new sense of confidence in myself and my ability.

It’s one thing to step out and face your fears when you have the comfort of someone by your side, but doing it completely alone requires you to dig deep within to find a strength you never knew you had.

 

 

9. Ability to be Present

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” – Henry David Thoreau

Travel and living abroad has inspired me to never settle for a life of mediocrity and to always dream big. It has helped me to really be present and enjoy every experience to the fullest, because we are not promised tomorrow.

 

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Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.com9 Powerful Ways Travel and Intercultural Experience Has Changed My Life
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A New Life Perspective: Burnt to the Ground

Life has a way of sometimes throwing you curveballs in moments in which you least expect it. That is exactly what happened in 2001 when an unexpected tragedy happened that changed my family’s life and outlook on how fragile life really is.

It was a windy day in April and my older brother, Justin, who was just a teenager, was home alone for the evening. We lived in a two story home at that time and when we were not outside playing, we spent our free time upstairs in the computer room chatting with our friends and surfing the internet.

My brother has always had a love for catching things on fire. Any chance he had, he would burn or do something crazy with fire.  In April 2001, he decided that he was going to burn a pile of trash that we had piled up for weeks in the burning barrel next to our home.

He gathered the boxes, lit the fire and ran upstairs to chat on MSN messenger while the fire got started. Given that he had burnt trash in the barrel next to our house countless times without any problem, he didn’t think too much of it and continued talking with his friends.

After a bit of time passed he smelled something strong coming from outside and he quickly ran out to check. He opened the door to walk downstairs and he could barely believe his eyes.  The whole entire downstairs was going up in flames and it was moving rapidly in his direction.

Without hesitation, he shut the door, ran to call 911 and grabbed the dog, two cats and a few important things of his.

Completely in shock at what was happening, he ran outside and watched the house that he was born and raised in go up in flames.

Thankfully, my brother and the animals were safe, but this experience taught us hard lesson on the things that really matter in this life.

As a young girl, this was a hard concept to grasp. I lost all my toys, my collection of beanie babies and glass dolls, clothes and everything that I held so dear to my heart since I was a child.

In that time of transition, my family learned a valuable lesson on what really matters in life.

Of course, it was difficult to lose all our of material possessions that we have spent our lifetime with, but this experience shed light on the importance of the relationships that we have with our friends and family and the memories that we make through our experiences.

These experiences and our personal relationships that we work to build each and every day are the ones that truly matter in life.

 

Don’t forget to read: 

SPEAKING: LIKE A DEER IN HEADLIGHTS

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PICK YOURSELF UP AND CONTINUE

 

 

 

Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comA New Life Perspective: Burnt to the Ground
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My Journey Towards Minimalism & Freedom

Excess is everywhere we look. From our material possessions, school and personal debt to even our weight. Simplicity for most people seems too boring and empty, so to compensate, people tend to add, add and add even more, resulting in more excess. The tendency to have more than has become the the norm in our society today.
It’s been said, “the more the merrier” and some people don’t have any hesitation to live that to a tee.
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The year before moving to Spain, I was in over my head with clutter. Clothes, shoes, school books and bags loaded down my closet shelves to the point where I was afraid to open the closet door. On top of that, I was in over my head with student loan debt,  with a interest rate that was eating me alive. Seeing life outside of my debt seemed like an impossible task.

All of this clutter and excess around me not only cluttered my living and work space, but it cluttered my mind.

When I decided to move to Spain in 2013, I was faced with the hard reality that I was going to have to make a change that I would not be able to take all of my stuff with me. As hard as it was, I packed all three of my big bags to the maximum weight restrictions and made my leap of faith.

After 6 months of living in Spain, I still continued to collect more and more stuff, filling new luggage after another, until I literally had a breaking point.  I felt unorganized, cluttered and was desperate for a solution and in that time I was first introduced to the idea of minimalism.

I sat in my bedroom in Spain, surrounded with all of my materialistic items and completely broken on what to do. The idea of minimalism sounded freeing, but I had such a strong attachment to it all.

From that day I surrendered and decided that I was going to work hard and take one small step towards minimalism. I knew that I would not be able to become an expert over night, but I could read more on the topic and get rid of something unnecessary each day to begin with.

Little by little I began to read about minimalism and the more I read, the more I started to fall in love with the concept.  I went from kicking and screaming over getting rid of something that I thought that I “needed,” to becoming empowered each and every time I donated an item.

As I write this I have truly come along ways in my path towards being a minimalist. I de-cluttered my personal space, paid off all my debt and even managed to travel long term with just a small carry on. The freedom I have experienced through this change has transformed every aspect of my life and has opened the doors to many exciting adventures.

Working towards minimalism is not something that happens over night, but rather something that you can strive to incorporate in your daily life with small steps. It may be hard at first, but I promise you the pay off is worth it.

 

Minimalism in other aspects:

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Art

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Architecture  

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Decoration 

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Design 

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Publicidad y Marketing

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Cooking

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India: Meditation Boot Camp: The Start of My Meditation Practice

When I landed with a one-way ticket to India, I left the airplane in complete culture shock from the madness and chaos that surrounded me. It was an experience that I had never had traveling at that time and I could not get my head around the reality that I was seeing before my eyes.

Thousands of people in every direction, naked kids running and playing, some totally alone and many begging for food. Piles of trash and overflowing trash cans, cows wandering aimlessly between traffic, rushed cabdrivers impatiently driving and honking and one set of eyes after another directed towards me as I stood out like a sore thumb, with my blonde hair and face of utter confusion.

India is known for being one of the most cultural diverse countries in the world, with more than 200 dialects of languages throughout the country. They are famous for their reputation of dedication towards meditation practices and home to some of the most holy places on earth.

 

I traveled to India looking for a different type of experience, something different than the normal travels that I had been having in the more comfortable, westernized countries. I strongly desired to open my heart and mind to a new experience and learn a little bit more about about their culture, connect with the people and learn about their meditation and religious practices. However, in the midst of the chaos, I felt like I was in the wrong place.

After a week of traveling and exploring parts of India, my heart started to change and I began to enjoy and adapt to the experience. However, after just one week I decided to escape the loud, busy streets and enter in a 10 day meditation/silent retreat called Vipassana.

Meditation and I once had a rocky relationship. It’s one of those practices that I always knew were beneficial to my life and health, but for someone who absolutely loves talking, it was a practice that I always put off saying, “one day I will try it out.”

Meditation has been known for countless benefits for the mind body and soul. It’s known to help you stay focused and live in the present moment, while helping you to stay happier, less anxious and keep the stress under control. It enhances compassion and changes the lens in which you see the world, yourself and the situations that come your way.

Some of the biggest names today claim meditation to be one of the main keys to their success and well-being. Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Kobe Bryant, Steve Jobs, Paul McCartney, Tina Turner and Madonna, to name a few, all have enjoyed or are enjoying the countless benefits that meditation offers.

As a person that is always striving for personal growth and development, I decided to give this practice some special attention and knew that there would be no place to do it than in India. Vipassana is only a place for serious learners and people that are committed to making meditation a part of their daily life.

Upon arrival, we were asked to turn in our personal cell phones, computers, cameras and any electronics. There was absolutely no reading, writing, making eye contact, caffeine, alcohol or exercise during the 10 days of the retreat. If you felt like you could not abide by the rules, they simply asked you to leave at the beginning.

Vipassana is not a retreat for the weak in mind.

Meditation started at 4:30am on the dot each every morning. This is not the type of meditation where you’re able to lay down and comfortably meditate in the time frame of your choice. In Vipassanna, you will be assigned to a mat in a meditation hall, set hours, with instructors sitting in front of you making sure you’re doing what you are supposed to do. To best describe it: hard core meditation boot camp

 

 

The retreat is strictly organized because they understand the tendency of the mind to wander, desire to lay down and do exactly what it pleases. The instructors are there to help you incorporate a new practice, become disciplined and be active accountability.

Meditation is not something that is learned overnight, nor in just 10 hours a day for 10 days straight.

However, from the first day I started, compared to the last, it was a complete night and day difference in my focus and ability to sit for hours with little movement and focused concentration.

In the first five days all I could do was move, open my eyes and think about 5000 other things and places that I would rather do and be besides in that hot meditation room sitting on top of my uncomfortable blue pillow. However, like all things in life, mediation requires time, dedication and going through the feelings of being uncomfortable. With time and dedication to the practice, anyone can enjoy the benefits that meditation offers.

All it takes is a starting with a 2-5 minute meditation each day, totally concentrated and once you have that down, you can gradually increase your time. It’s as simple as that.

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“Meditation connects you with your soul, and this connection gives you access to your intuition, your heartfelt desires, your integrity, and the inspiration to create a life you love.” – Sarah McLean

 

 

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Sarah - thenomadicdreamer.comIndia: Meditation Boot Camp: The Start of My Meditation Practice
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