How to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Driving Lessons

I’m learning to drive a stick shift!

I’d tried driving stick a handful of times before, without much success. The first time was in a friend’s Honda in Minnesota, then a minivan when I was an au pair in Switzerland, then in a Mini in Italy, then again in Minnesota in a Mazda.  So I can say that I’ve been given driving lessons in three countries and still haven’t learned. But in my defense, 2/3 of those places were pretty hilly.

When I came out to California earlier this summer, I knew that I would eventually have to learn because it’s the only car available to me here. How bad could it be?

It was pretty bad.

I’ve stalled in intersections. I’ve had drivers honk at me. I’ve panicked when a Tesla pulls up right to my bumper when I’m stopped on a hill. I’ve had times when I came really close to giving up trying to learn. But with practice, it’s starting to click.

And I have to tell you, I have so much respect for people who drive stick now. So much respect. If you’ve only driven an automatic, you just have no idea how much harder other drivers are working to do things you take for granted.

I’m still intimidated by the highways here, because California drivers are intense! And as for parallel parking on Steiner Street in downtown San Francisco, yeah that level of expertise is a loooong way off. It’s hard for me to face my fears and take risks, but I’ve got to do it and drive just a little farther every day.

how to get out of your comfort zone

How to get out of your comfort zone and try something new

Here are three things that have helped me so far in my new endeavor that takes me out of my comfort zone every time I get in the driver’s seat.

A calm attitude. When I get impatient or anxious while driving stick, I’m more likely to make sudden movements like releasing the clutch too quickly and stalling.

Put pride aside. It’s okay to be a beginner. I announce it loud and proud with a bright yellow magnet on the back of the car that says “Learning to Drive a Stick Shift.” Seriously, this is the best thing I’ve done while learning to drive stick shift.

Keep going. Giving up is tempting, but most things do get easier with practice. I’m so proud of my ability to drive stick now. I feel more capable and confident having this new skill.

What’s one thing you’ve done to get out of your comfort zone and try something new?

Welcome Summer with a Gingham Headband

Gingham for Summer

You could say that gingham is the fabric of the summer. Its midcentury appeal is gracing everything from sundresses to bikinis. I found the perfect gingham headband in red and black to wear while traveling this summer. In fact, I used it to keep my hair in place while ghost town hunting! The hunt was somewhat successful since the photo above is taken in an old schoolhouse is Oregon. I have more pictures of it for a future post which I am so excited to share with you! But back to the gingham. To add to its versatility, I also used the headband as a hat ribbon to decorate an old straw hat for summer.

Get the gingham headband look

You can even get a gingham headband that to show off your college athletic team pride. Or go more traditional with this Anthropologie gingham headband. The store also carries this one by Dauphines of New York,  which is a brand I partnered with in 2015 that makes quality headbands. Excitingly, it also comes in pink. 

Best of all they’re all on sale right now.

More gingham looks to love

Here are some more gingham inspiration looks to jump start your summer. I’ve seen a lot of gingham dresses in an off-the-shoulder silhouette, another trend of the season. If you’re wondering how to wear a gingham headband, gingham pairs with florals and solid colors (especially white).

Will you be wearing gingham this summer or saving it for your picnic tablecloth?

How I gained 1000 Instagram followers in two months

How to Grow Your Instagram

I started off spring 2017 with just under a thousand followers. I honestly didn’t think fast growth was possible for me on Instagram. My other platforms, including Pinterest and Twitter, had more followers and a faster growth rate than my Instagram and I assumed it would always stay that way. I was wrong! Today, Instagram is my largest and fastest-growing platform. It was the first of all my social media to reach 2k.

how to grow your instagram account

Gain Instagram Followers

Now, numbers aren’t everything! As a smaller blogger, I’ll be the first one to say that I’m more focused on my engagement rates than my numbers, because that’s what’s important to me. But growing your accounts also means you can reach more followers who are interested in your content. You may wish to grow for the fun of it, or because you want to get brand collaborations and sponsorships that come with a higher following.

I’m also no Instagram expert. I’m an ordinary blogger with only 2k followers. I’m not here to tell you the latest secret, formula or magic trick for success on Instagram. I’m just sharing my story about how I increased my growth rate by ten times in just two months. This is what I did and what worked for me.

how to grow instagram

Here’s what I did to reach 1000 Instagram followers in two months.

The basics of Instagram growth are: make good content + follow others + engage.

Here’s a specific breakdown of things I changed to gain 1000 more followers.

I committed to posting once a day. There are still days that I end up skipping because I’m in a National Park or something, but having a schedule helps.

I followed a lot of people. Now this may be obvious and you’re rolling your eyes right now. But to be honest, I wasn’t actively following accounts before this. To grow, I had to follow 100-200 per week. I don’t follow random accounts, however. I check their profiles first to see if they show signs of liking content similar to mine. You can find people who are interacting with hashtags you use to find like-minded accounts to follow.

I upped my engagement. I commented on others’ pictures. I do this authentically when I like the content and have something to say about it. So I don’t go around spam liking and commenting, but I set aside time each day to engage on Instagram.

I strategized. I focused my energy on accounts with similar numbers to mine. If an account has 15,000 followers and they’re following 600, do you really think they’re going to follow and engage with your content? It’s unlikely.

I organized my content better. Since I cover lifestyle and fashion content, I have to balance the variety of my photos (see what it looks like). Instead of haphazardly posting several fashion shots in a row, I’m trying to bring balance to my feed.

I still have a long way to go in branding my content, keeping it consistent and engaging more on Instagram. But I hope reading my experience was somewhat helpful to you.

Do you use Instagram? How are you working to grow your account?

Stylish Eco-Friendly Living

Eco-friendly doesn’t mean losing out on style.

Think Eco-friendly doesn’t equal aesthetically pleasing? Think again. Something as simple as stylish reusable shopping bags can be a fashion statement, not a fashion fail.

Here’s my outfit from Tech Fashion Week (reader selected by you!) plus a farmer’s market friendly tote bag. It shows that fashionable and Eco-friendly can coexist.

Non-ugly reusable shopping bags

California has a plastic bag ban, which makes sense because the Pacific Ocean doesn’t need any more plastic bags floating in it.

When I think of reusable shopping bags, I think of the free scratchy-fabric promotional totes given out at conferences and vendor fairs. Luckily, they’re not all like that. See why.

Cute reusable shopping bags

My roommate got the Marks and Spencer tote pictured above while she was living in London. I like to keep a packable nylon tote in my purse like these  from Kate Spade so I’ll never be stuck without a bag when I need one. The are washable and the nylon holds up well. It makes a good lunch bag, too.

Thrifted white tulle and lace skirt

I found the white skirt at Goodwill of Silicon Valley for $8! I linked to some similar skirts at the end of this post so you don’t have to scour your local thrift shops. Like reusable shopping totes, secondhand shopping is good for the environment because it keeps clothing out of landfills.  I do a mix of secondhand and new clothes. Like going green with your pet and gardening to save the bees, it’s all about small, doable actions to be more Eco-friendly.

Small ways to be stylishly green

Borrowing clothes is great too — just check out these gorgeous shoes that are definitely not mine but I loved wearing them!

Outfit Details

White Skirt – Jealous Tomato. Scored at Goodwill of Silicon Valley for $8!

Jacket – Anthropologie – newest style here

Shoes – Betsey Johnson

Exploring South Dakota’s Black Hills

Thanks to the South Dakota Department of Tourism for sponsoring this post. I’m excited to share part 1 of my recent cross-country road trip with you!

Leaving Home

Arriving at the Badlands as the sun turned the rock formations to gold was therapeutic, to end a long day’s journey with such a beautiful destination.

History of the Badlands

I picked up all the brochures about the Badlands because the history of the place is so interesting. The Lakota Sioux and the French settlers both called the place the Badlands in their respective languages. After driving through the flat expanse of South Dakota, to find this serene change in the cartography is stirring. It’s been described as otherworldly, and I have to agree. There’s plenty of history within the Black Hills region as a whole as well. The South Dakota Board of Tourism can help you plan a history-rich visit.

The following day we saw Mount Rushmore, which is a must see if you’re in the area, but there’s also so much more to the Black Hills region. Other destinations the area include Devils Tower and more. We had so much ground to cover on the journey we could only spend one night, but there was absolutely more to see so take your time in the Badlands region.

Dog Friendly Badlands, South Dakota

Bringing a dog? Perry was allowed on the trails with us, which isn’t the case at all National Parks. But keep pets leashed at all times! You can see the sign in the photo warning about rattlesnakes. I did observe a few places that looked like a place a rattlesnake would like to live. We were happy to find plenty of dog friendly choices for places to stay as well. This link has a dog friendly itinerary for the Black Hills and more info on places to stay.

Like these pics? Follow me on Instagram for more!

Fourth of July in the Black Hills

If you want to do something incredibly memorable for Independence Day this year, I found out by peeking at the event calendar that the Black Hills Rodeo is held that weekend, complete with a fireworks show. It says that most of the little towns in the area have their own Fourth of July festivals, which sounds so quaintly full of Americana I want to drive right back for it!

Save money on National Parks entry fees

One of the appealing things about vacationing in the Black Hills is the amount of memorable activities to do on a budget. If Badlands National Park (where all these photos were taken) is on your itinerary, you can save with an annual pass. We bought the America the Beautiful pass at the park gate, because we knew that would be seeing more parks on the journey. If you’re traveling with an American citizen who is over 62, they qualify for a lifetime pass to all the National Parks for only $10, so make sure to take advantage of that! We met quite a few retired folks on the journey who had the senior pass. There are also free passes available for U.S. Military, individuals with disabilities and 4th grade students.

I’m definitely yearning to see more of the beautiful United States now. Stay tuned for more about my cross country trip.

What to Wear – Get the Look

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