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.

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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Clarity and Motivation in Our Goals

Ever since a young age, I knew that I wanted to live a life different than anything I had ever seen.

Growing up, I saw many people with broken dreams, heart break, frustration and unfulfillment.

At the early age of 14, I can remember asking myself a serious question, “Does that have to be the case for my future. Do I really have to be bonded to a life of divorce, drug abuse or co-dependence like the people around me?”

This question stirred within the inside of me and as I laid in bed late at night. I would close my eyes and imagine thoughts of freedom, adventure, joy and unconditional love and many nights I would feel so immersed into those feelings that I would just peacefully drift off to sleep.

Those hopeful thoughts changed from being a random nightly occurrence, to something that consumed me. I started to feel a deep sense of peace, calmness and inner strength that took over me and a whisper that would say,

“Sarah, YOU have the choice to create the life that you have always imagined. It will NOT be easy, but the choice is yours and ONLY yours.”

These whispered words changed my life forever. Although the obstacles of my youth never left my side, I continued forward with hope, passion and a new sense of optimism. I started to change my perspective and dream big by setting dreams and goals for my life. I felt unstoppable and determined.

From a young teenager, to a young adult, my life has had a series of highs and lows. However, that sense of hope that I started feeling from a young age has NEVER left my side, now matter how many obstacle life has thrown at me.

Each of us have the opportunity to create our future and to live with an unshakable hope that will stay by our side, even in the darkest moments.



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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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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.

“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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My First TEDx Talk: How to Become a Speaker

TED (technology, entertainment and design), is a non profit organization that started in 1984, which is dedicated to spreading ideas in 18 minutes or less. While it’s much more challenging to get an invitation to be a TED speaker, there is the opportunity for you to share your idea by giving a TEDx talk.

TEDx are independently-organized, TED-like conferences that are located throughout the whole world. If you are wanting to get your new idea out, this is a great starting place for someone who wants to reach a large audience of people. TEDx has the same idea as the TED on sharing ideas, but this allows independent organizers the opportunity to plan and organize an event in their own community.

Note: if you want to plan your own TEDx event, you must go through an extensive application process and they do not accept all requests. 

I will never forget the first moment I watched my first TEDx talk years back. I spent that whole evening watching talk after talk and it’s as if a light switch went off in my head for the first time and I said to myself,

“Now THAT’S what I want to do!”

From that cold winter day in Arkansas, I was hooked. Watching these videos became the moment of the day that I was most excited about, and thanks to many of these talks, I have learned many amazing new ideas that I have implemented into my everyday life.

However, I was not just content watching good ideas. I had an eagerness and passion to share my own ideas, so I went off on my own personal search to see how I could make dream become a reality.


The Process


There are many different ways to go about finding an opportunity to become a TEDx speaker, but I am only going to speak from my own personal experience and explain exactly what I did to get myself on the TEDx stage in November 2016.

In the process, the first thing I want to point out is: TALK IS CHEAP…

It’s one thing to do what I did for months and say “I would love to give a TEDx talk one day…” I would mention this desire on multiple occasions, but without a clear action plan, they were just empty words and wishes.



If you desire to be a TEDx speaker or any kind of public speaker for that matter, the most important thing is to before anything is:


1.  Identify your Area and General Message

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What makes you different from other speakers?
  • What experience do you have that can set you apart?
  • What is the main message that you want send out into the world?
  • If you could sum your mission statement up into one sentence, what would it be?


IMPORTANT: TED is about ideas, not individuals. Anyone who appears to use the platform for self-promotion will be denied. 


You can’t possible start contacting others about your interesting TEDx idea if you have not decided on what it is, so do a little brainstorming and get your ideas a bit more organized before contacting others. The more organized you appear when making your first call or email, the more likely your chance for success.

When I first did my brainstorming, I identified my mission statement: Spreading a message of friendship and connection between cultures and countries through travel and to inspire others to face fears and live the life they have always imagined.  

It’s not a magical formula where you figure out your mission statement and all the sudden your TEDx idea becomes clear as day. No, however having a clear mission statement and focus can help guide and direct you.

2. Why You?

If you are wanting to give a mind-blowing TEDx talk, keep in mind that you won’t be alone. That is not to discourage you, but rather to press upon you the importance doing everything in your power to sell your idea.

Depending on where you plan to apply for the TEDx event, there will be more requests and referrals than spots available to speak. With that in mind, you need to do all you can to show WHY the organizer should choose you out of all of the other people.

Creating a website showing your personal portfolio is a great place to start.

This website could include, but is not limited to:


  • Past video presentations: If you lack a professional video, I highly suggest showing a video of some type, even if it’s just you recording yourself talking about an interesting talk.
  • Blog entries: Give the organizer an idea of your personal thoughts on topics that you are passionate about via articles.
  • Links to social media: This is a powerful tool to give the organizer a feel for who you are.
  • Resume: Include your experience and past experience speaking if you have some.
  • Photos

There are people that skip this process and still get the opportunity to give a TEDx talk, however if you are not being referred, the event is large, or the organizer does not personally know you, then you will drastically reduce your probability without some sort of content to show.

Remember, in large events there may be hundreds, or even thousands that want to speak as well. It will take time to do this step, but I highly suggest not skipping it. If you plan on public speaking aside from the TEDx talk in the future, its most likely that the next event will also want this as well.


3. Get Busy

As I mentioned before, words are cheap. You can have the best idea in the world, with an incredible website, but if you don’t take action, then you have missed the most important step.

After you have all your ideas and information together, it’s time to send emails and connect. If you plan on applying in your community, start by asking mutual friends if they have any personal contacts to connect you, but if not, it’s okay as well.


Visit the website: and you find exactly what you need to get started.


You can explore the TEDx events by location, name or type and the specific time of year you want. Once you find an event that you think is interesting, click on it and it will take you to the event details. From there you can decide if that event is in line with your idea, and if its not, then simply move onto another one.

Each TEDx conference will have a different theme, so make sure to not waste your time, nor the organizers, with an email on your idea to an event that has absolutely nothing to do with the theme of the conference.

After the event information, you will be able to find the information of the organizer. Many will have links to their contact information, however it many cases there is none available. If it’s an event you are really interested in, don’t give up just because you don’t see the email. There is ALWAYS a way.

You can call this stalky behavior, I put each organizer in Facebook or LinkedIn and sent them a private message from there. I simply mentioned that I got their name off the TED website and I wanted to introduce myself and connect with an idea that I think would be excellent for their TEDx conference.

I sent out multiple Facebook messages with many replies. Some of the organizers did not need speakers at the time, but the best part of getting a reply is the fact that even if they don´t need a speaker for the current year, there is always the option for the future. Having direct communication with the organizer can enhance your chances for the following year, or as a referral to another event.

When you are finally in contact with the organizer, he will she will be able to look over your information and see if you might be a good fit. From there is when you might set up a phone or Skype call and talk more about the specifics of your idea.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have success at first. There are thousands of TEDx events all around the world that might be better for you, so stay focused. Giving my first TEDx talk was such an amazing overall experience that I hope to have again in the future.

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