Category Archives: Goals/Dreams

How To Avoid Losing Yourself In a Relationship


Does the rest of your life suffer when you fall in love? Do you have a tendency to lose yourself in a relationship? I certainly have! Looking back, it’s rather terrifying, how easily and completely depended on another for “life support”?

It’s natural to be swept away when you first start dating someone new. The trouble starts when you no longer recognize who you are. It can happen in healthy relationships, especially if you have unrealistic expectations about romance. In less healthy relationships, it’s not too difficult if your partner tries to pressure or manipulate you into becoming dependent on them. Research Narcissist Personality Disorder. It’s a real thing. 

Learn how to balance love with the rest of your life. Try these tips for having a more fulfilling relationship with yourself and your partner. You can tell that you’re sacrificing too much if you know where to look.

Spotting the Warning Signs

  1. Maintain other connections. Neglecting your family and friends is one of the most common and obvious signs. Make time for them in your schedule. When you’re with them, be sure to talk about more than your new love interest.
  2. Do your job. Are you too distracted to meet deadlines and participate in meetings? Keep your mind on work when you’re at the office. Save personal calls and texts for lunchtime if necessary.
  3. Watch your spending. Maybe you’re celebrating a little too much with shopping sprees, overeating, or other indulgences. The sooner you slow down, the easier it will be to fix the damage.
  4. Enjoy your hobbies. It’s great if your partner introduces you to new interests but beware of giving up the things you love just to please them. For example, you can take a class while they go to a hockey game.
  5. Voice your opinions. Speak up for yourself. Let your partner know you like jazz more than hip hop. It’s natural to disagree sometimes.

Being Proactive

You may have noticed that even when you start a new relationship, you soon fall into the same patterns you established with your last partner. If you want things to turn out differently, you’ll need to address your personal issues. Albert Einstein said: “Doing the same things over and over, and expecting the same results is insanity”

Keep these tips in mind:

  1. Boost your self-esteem. Make yourself a priority. Remember that you are worthy of love and respect just as you are. Treat yourself with compassion and repeat positive affirmations.
  2. Create boundaries. In a healthy relationship, partners encourage each other to set their own ground rules. Explain what you need and what you find unacceptable.
  3. Set goals. You’re less likely to lose yourself if you’re excited about other aspects of your life. Develop passion projects that motivate you to learn and grow. As a bonus, you’ll probably make yourself more interesting.
  4. Practice self-care. Treating yourself well makes you stronger and more resilient. It also reminds you of your worth. Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Sleep well and deal with stress constructively.
  5. Spend time alone. Do you enjoy your own company? It’s important to have a healthy relationship with yourself in order to bond with others. Solitude gives you an opportunity to increase your self-awareness and center yourself.
  6. Take a break. If you’re dissatisfied with your love life, you might benefit from giving up dating for a while. Use the time to examine your dating criteria and form new habits.
  7. Consider counseling. Working with a therapist might help too. That’s especially true if you’re trying to recover from an abusive relationship or think that childhood issues are affecting your adult behavior.

Hold onto your identity when you’re in a relationship. Losing yourself is too high a price to pay for wanting to be a couple. You and your partner deserve to feel secure and loved for who you are. 

Wishing You Well,

Juan

 

Develop The Growth Habit Mindset


Readers,

Have you ever considered the flip-side of all that, by building a habit that’s positive? What if the habit you formed was one of growth and personal development? Having a growth mindset positively impacts your life. What are the benefits of developing a growth mindset? Why put yourself through so many cathartic changes? Below is my take:

1. You keep learning. Learning is important as you not only discover new ways to do things, but by making it a practice, you develop new ways of thinking, and ideas. Learning connects you with more of the world and helps you see things with a deeper significance than you ever thought possible. But more than that, people who stop learning, very quickly stagnate. Studies have shown that the practice of learning new things when you are older helps ward off problems related to dementia. In short, learning is good for your brain!

2. You learn perseverance. As we learn new things, we adapt and change how we think. That gives us the ability to see other solutions to problems, that would have frustrated us in the past. By challenging yourself to grow, you learn how to push through obstacles and forge new paths.

3. You embrace challenges. Growth can be challenging. But by pushing yourself, you’re able to look at challenges differently. An obstacle now becomes an opportunity to learn something new, and to do things in a way you haven’t before. 

4. You embrace failure. When you’re interested in growing as an individual, you start to see failure differently. Everything becomes a potential lesson in a way that you didn’t think would work. 

5. You become more open to criticism. By being willing to grow, you start to see that the input of other people has significance. You see their words not so much as something negative, but one you can use to develop as a person, and learn something about yourself. You might not always like the lesson, but that’s part of growing too.

By embracing personal growth, you find the best version of yourself. You have the opportunity to become more than you ever thought possible. And the best part? Finding out you can become more still, and that the furthest edges of yourself are far beyond what you thought you ever could be. 

5 Tips for Keeping Self-Sabotage at Bay


Like most people, I want to be productive, but have struggled with self sabotage in the past. It is relatively easy to fall back into old habits. In fact, sometimes I wake up in the morning, with all kinds of enthusiasm for the projects I am determined to going to get done during the day.  Now fast forward a few hours, and suddenly I’m dragging myself home at nightfall wondering where the day went, feeling like I never accomplished anything at all. 

How to get past this? Simple! Here are some things that I have had success with:
Listen to Music
It’s hard to get yourself going if your mood is what’s dragging. Thankfully this is a quick fix. I generally put on some music I love, something fast-paced and catchy for a quick pick-me-up and watch your productivity soar. 
Get up and Move
Like listening to music, putting your body in motion will build your energy levels (so long as you’re not trying to run a marathon). Dance around the room, take a brisk walk or try a few jumping jacks to get the blood flowing. Then tackle your task again, wide-awake and energized.
Look Inward
Conversely, sometimes what I need is some quiet time. During the times I find my mind racing, and unable to concentrate on what I’m doing, meditation tends to slow things down. I find a quiet place, close my eyes, and focus on my breathing. Take deep breaths, nice and slow, and focus yourself on the present until you feel calm again.
Reassess What’s Important
It might be you’re not getting things done because you no longer find the value in your goal. If this seems to be the case, take some time to ask yourself some very crucial questions about why you’re on this journey. It might be you either need to shift your goal to something else entirely or, at the very least, adjust the outcome to serve your present needs.
Contribute
When all else fails, if you do not feel your work has value, offer to help someone else. Mentoring is one of those win-win situations where you bring your life skills and experience to help someone else in need. At the same time, you rediscover your passion through the act of teaching others what you know.

Do all this, and it’s good-bye self-sabotage, hello accomplishment. Soon you’ll be more productive than ever! Have you tried any of these suggestions, and if so which one worked, or didn’t? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Double Your Productivity: Three Simple Steps


If time is one of the main reasons why you have not accomplished some of your New Year’s resolutions, help is here. With no time to waste (pun intended), let’s examine three ways in which 2022 can be different.

Learn to delegate. At work, consider delegating projects and tasks. Match the task with the person who can do it the best…provided you are comfortable in asking for help. You now have time  to focus on parts of the projects you excel at. Refrain from trying to control their actions. Be confident the team around you can do an exceptional job, even if their methods are different. Fostering a team spirit allows everyone be part of the success. The better you are, the less everyone feels the need to turn to you for everything. At home, delegating chores teaches children responsibility, enables them to feel like an integral part of the family, and enjoy the feelings of pride and confidence for a job well done. You now have more time to enjoy with family, and practice self care. Relax, exercise, pray, and meditate, all contribute to helping you relieves stress, and recharge energy. 

Affirmation: I will let go of the need to do and be everything. Taking time to rest fuels my creativity and stamina.

Self-Reflection Questions:
Do I ask others for help?
How can I delegate some of my current responsibilities?
Do I arrange my schedule so I have time for myself?

List Making. Our days quickly become full of tasks. Priorities are often incredibly fluid, forcing us to constantly reevaluate what we must—and can—accomplish before the end of the day. Creating lists aids our ability to focus on the current tasks, while maintaining an awareness of what needs to be accomplished next. Start the day by plotting work. Visualize which tasks need to be completed first, and estimate how long they may take to complete. Giving yourself extra time to complete assignments allows for a buffer, in case unexpected obstacles arise. If possible, attempt to plan for the unexpected. After a break or lunch, quickly revisit the list. Bear in mind the working list is always open to revision, because new tasks arise throughout the day. Priorities change, and  being adaptable is key as things change. Removing completed tasks and adding new work, enable us to see the progress we make during the day.

Affirmation: Today, I anticipate the unexpected. In order to be successful, I must be flexible. Therefore, I allow my list to change with time, fluid priorities, and the can-do attitude that I bring to each new task.

Self-Reflection Questions:
How much time should I spend creating a list of tasks and priorities?
When is the best time to evaluate (and reevaluate) my priorities for the day?
How does making a list help me outside of the workplace?

Organization. Throughout the day, we encounter situations that require us to take action to resolve them. The more efficient the action, the quicker we can tackle other tasks. Your organizational skills are paramount to living life the way you want. You can fill your days with accomplishments and still leave time for fun. Plan ahead, by preparing as much as possible the night before. Before beginning a job, gather the materials and tools needed to finish it. Know beforehand where everything you need is located.  Give everything a home. Declutter regularly. Avoid procrastination. If you encounter something that requires sorting or straightening, do it right away.

Affirmation: Today, I plan to take action to increase my organizational skills. I know I can streamline my home to provide easier access to tools, materials, and personal items I need to live a more organized life. I find that the more organized I am, the better life I live. 

Self-Reflection Questions:
In what situations do I show effective organizational skills?
Are there times that I wish I was more organized? When?
Starting today, what can I do to increase my organizational skills?

Oh look, January is almost over. Where has time gone? I know many of us have discarded our resolutions, because why bother? If you are plagued by self sabotage, keep putting things off, need a mental shift, to help you refocus, the posts I have planned for the rest of the month, will push you to do just that. 

To Your Success,
Juan

Discipline: The Bridge Between Your Goals and Accomplishment


Since the start of the year, I have blogged about making resolutions, forming new habits, and being open to change.  None of these changes can survive without a healthy dose of self discipline. If want to achieve more than you ever thought possible, the next few minutes of your time can be a game-changer. Contrary to what you might have been told in the past, self-discipline is not being harsh to yourself or living a restrictive lifestyle. Rather it is the ability to practice self-control of your actions, and your reactions, the power to stick to hard decisions, and follow them without flaking.

Characteristics includes the ability to postpone immediate enjoyment in favor of future rewards, resolve that pushes us towards working on our goals until we achieve them, strength to overcome addictions, laziness, and procrastination, and the ability not to give up regardless of setbacks and failures. 

No quality is more important in the attainment of long-term sustainable success. Whether you seek to enhance your relationships, work ethic, or health, nothing beats self-discipline as the principal trait. However, while it doesn’t always come naturally, the good news is that it can become a learned behavior. Provided you have created a SMART goal, which of the following proven techniques will you implement?

Remove temptation from your environment is a critical first step. Self-control as an attribute, is one instance in which the saying “out of sight, out of mind” rings so true. For instance, if you are looking to minimize distractions (such as social media) turn off your mobile notifications, and block all social media until a time of your choosing. Need to lose weight? Remove the unhealthy foods from your cabinets and pantry. Schedule time for physical activity, especially if time is one of your excuses.

There will never be a perfect time. Kick the habit of waiting for all things to align perfectly before embarking on any journey. Embrace simple things: changing your daily routine, breaking bad habits such as negative thinking, actively developing new ones, even if it does not feel right in your mind. Start now, tomorrow is not promised to anyone.

Reward yourself for achievements, no matter how small. Being self-disciplined does not mean you have to become miserable or adopt a cold-turkey, drill sergeant type of life. In fact, by being too rigid, you are opening yourself up to disappointment, failure, and the possibility of falling back into old habits. Instead, have days when you relax your regimen. 

Don’t beat yourself up for setbacks. At some point, you will fall into some old habits. Pick yourself up and recommit to the journey. You have to accept that there will be spectacular failures and fabulous successes. Don’t get too hung up in frustration, guilt, and anger, but rather acknowledge mistakes as an essential part of the learning process.

Ultimately, developing self-discipline will allow you to live more freely by making choices that are more positive and healthy. 

To Your Success,

Juan

OVERCOMING POST- HOLIDAY BLUES EXPLAINED


The holidays are often a whirlwind of activity and emotion involving a busy schedule of shopping, school programs and get-togethers with friends and family. If you experience an emotional disappointment when the holidays pass, there are many things you can do to lift your mood and make it through the emotional let-down after the holidays.

If you’re feeling down now that the holidays are behind you, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll begin to rise above those post-holiday blues when you try some of these strategies. Taking some quality time for yourself during this period can lighten your mood immensely and ignite your excitement about the year ahead.
These strategies will boost your spirits and get your New Year off to a great start:

Re-connect with an old friend. There’s something so wonderful about making that call you’ve wanted to make. Hearing your friend’s voice again will bring great joy to your heart. It might be a friend from the old neighborhood, a former college roommate or a past co-worker you were once great friends with.

Take advantage of the extra time you now have for yourself. Since the holiday hullabaloo is over, you have some time to reflect. What do you like about your life? What would you like to change?

Think about small goals you’d like to accomplish. Do you want to finally get that hall closet cleaned out? Maybe you can now complete that special project your boss has wanted you to do.It’s a good time to make a list of all those little tasks you want to get done. Having the list will help you concentrate on your goals. Plus, it’s wonderful to draw a line through an achieved goal.

Focus on you for a change. Now is the time to hone in on personal desires and goals. Perhaps you want to exercise more or spend more quality time with your children. Ponder how you might go about making the changes you seek. Think of taking little steps toward your big goals

Pursue an interest. We’ve all got those interests we hope to “get to” someday. Since you’ve got some down time now, why not go for it? Delve in to that subject you’ve been curious about or start the photography class you’ve longed to take.

If you’re not sure what you’re interested in, do some research. Visit your local library, browse some magazines or look in the newspaper. You’ll most likely find a couple of topics or activities you’d like to learn more about.

Have a dinner party. You’ll have plenty of time to plan and prepare for this event with people you really care about. You’ll enjoy yourself and your mood will lift.

Renew and refresh your surroundings. Do you feel like re-arranging the furniture in a room or two? Maybe you want to paint the walls or make new curtains. Re-decorating your surroundings is a wonderful way to go in to a new year and banish the holiday blues at the same time.

Re-focusing on your surroundings and thinking about any changes you want to make will help you de-focus from the doldrums. If you’re feeling down now that the holidays are behind you, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll begin to rise above those post-holiday blues when you try some of these strategies. Taking some quality time for yourself during this period can lighten your mood immensely and ignite your excitement about the year ahead.

Wishing you and your family the Happiest of New Years, and hoping your dreams come through:)

To Your Success
Best,
Juan

#WFA


15 Legitimate Ways to Work From Home

Did you have a goal to either work from anywhere, in an effort to improve your economic circumstances? If you are already employed, chances are you have considered how this can be achieved, with your current commitments, or even on a full-time basis. Now more than ever, with millions out of work due to the impacts of COVID, we realize the importance of securing a location independent role. The “work from home” field is filled with scams and empty promises. It’s very unfortunate scam artists are busy looking for ways to steal from others. Most of us are simply looking for ways to earn money, stay safe, and keep the lights burning in our homes.
Typical red flags include vague job descriptions, being asked to deposit checks into your bank account before you start work, conducting interviews on social media platforms, grammatical and spelling errors in the job notice, etc. However, there are ways to legitimately make money from home. Always do your due diligence (review websites, cross-check the company, pick up the phone and call the numbers listed especially if you have never heard of the company before, etc). The key is to leverage your strengths and ensure that any companies you’re working with have a good reputation. Avoid doing too much work until you’re paid for the first time. Then you should have an idea of whether the offer is legitimate or not.

Stay at home and pay your bills:

  1. Be a consultant. Many small businesses don’t have a need for a full-time whatever-you-are. But they might need someone with your skills and knowledge for a short period of time.
  2. Transcriptionist. This type of work is available and can be worth your time if you can type quickly. There’s software available that can transcribe with reasonable accuracy. You might be able to make a decent hourly rate without working too hard.
  3. Freelance work. Writing articles, creating videos, performing search engine optimization, or creating graphics are just a few examples of freelance work that’s waiting for you.
  4. Work for a call center. Some businesses want to take your call but are too small to have bodies dedicated to answering the phones 24/7. You can work at home for a call center and receive those important calls.
  5. Teach a language. English is in high demand, particularly in Asian countries. Italki is one website that will allow you to take advantage of your English ability and make $20+/hour.
  6. Virtual assistant. The creativity of your employer will determine your tasks. You could be making travel plans, balancing the books, or researching chocolate cookie recipes.
  7. Rent a room in your home. There are several websites that will connect you with renters, both long-term and short. If you have space you’re not using, consider monetizing it.
  8. Be a juror. Lawyers will pay you to review a case and give your opinion. Think of it as a practice trial before heading to court. Ejury is one such company that will pay you for your jurist skills.
  9. Test and review websites. User Testing is the most popular company. You’re paid $10 for a 20-minute task. That’s $30 per hour if you stay busy.
  10. Take surveys. This field is full of scams, so be sure to check out the company before wasting your time. Never pay to join a survey organization. A few companies with good reputations include Harris Poll Online, Pine Cone Research, and Swag Bucks.
  11. Sell vegetables from your garden. At times, your garden is providing more than you can consume. Visit the local farmer’s market and sell your excess.
  12. Mechanical Turk. This is a service provided by Amazon.com. You can perform small tasks for money. Most of the jobs are very quick and easy. The pay is very low per task, but you can complete multiple tasks per hour.
  13. Tutor at your home. $25/hour isn’t out of line. There are also places to tutor online. Check out Chegg Tutors.
  14. Affiliate marketing. You can sell someone else’s product online and get paid for each sale. For example, Amazon.com has an affiliate program, people earn six figures on Clickbank. There are so many more.
  15. Pet sitting. It’s possible to earn $25/day or more for watching someone else’s pet. Unlike daycare laws, most areas don’t have a limit to how many dogs you can keep in your home! Rover.com is a popular option to connect with pet owners.

If you find yourself between jobs or need to make some extra money, working from home can be both convenient and lucrative. Many work at home offers aren’t worth your valuable time, but others can provide a full-time income if you’re willing to work hard. If you are looking for remote, full-time work, be mindful of sites that sell your personal information, such as Indeed and Ziprecruiter. If you find a role that interests you on their job board, it’s advisable to apply directly from the company’s website. The following is a list of reputable websites to get you started:
www.ratracerebellion.com (sign up for job alerts)
www.upwork.com (get paid for your skills/talents)
www.flexjobs.com (well-known companies)

Until the next post,
Best,
Juan

Re$et Your Wealth


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

If you are reading this, you made it through the hand that 2020 dealt us. I am so happy we made it. Happy to be back to blogging after being on a break! Seems like forever. Here are some lessons I learned from last year; have more than one source of income, learn how to properly invest and plan for retirement, and the importance of stop trading my time for money. Towards the end of the year, I began taking concrete steps to become financially independent. I have started my FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement, as I have some catching up to do. 

Perhaps you are already years ahead in the FIRE movement. Keep at it. Maybe you are already retired. Enjoy these precious years, they go by quickly. However, if you are like me, and have no idea where to start, you are in the right place. It all starts with a belief, that you deserve every good thing that could possibly come your way. You must affirm it. Whether you realize it or not, every word you think or speak is an affirmation. Affirmations are declarations, observations if you will, about you and the world around you. The concept seems simple enough until you realize that what you affirm, positive or negative, is what you internalize and make a part of your reality. Suddenly that statement you made last week to friends about how you will never be able to get ahead isn’t so innocuous, right?!

You can change the way money shows up in your life though, simply by using daily positive affirmations. Eventually, these positive thoughts and words will replace the negative self-talk you’ve had for so long. And when that happens, you’ll begin to enjoy wealth in a way you never thought possible. Affirmations work because they replace the ideas and beliefs that you’ve held for years by replacing them with new statements, that define you in every aspect of your life. That is why it’s so important to use positive affirmations in your life, at every opportunity. That’s especially true for the behavior you want to change, or in how you wish to feel about yourself.

When developing a wealth mindset, affirmations become vitally important. Whatever you affirm, becomes your truth regarding money. Negative thoughts and negative talk about your money make for an impoverished you. What are some positive affirmations regarding a wealth mindset that you can use instead? Try saying these things:

  • I practice good habits that will lead me to success.
  • My intellect is sufficient to lead me to untold wealth.
  • I have what I need to live the life that I want.
  • I am a tribe-gatherer who brings together people and resources that will enable me to reach my goals.
  • My actions are positive and designed to increase my wealth daily.
  • I see opportunities where others do not.
  • I deserve the wealth I desire.
  • I am comfortable asking for help from mentors for what I need.
  • I already have everything I need to become wealthy.
  • I find connections and know-how to leverage my resources.

By repeating these phrases every morning when you get up and again in the evening when you go to bed, you create a habit of thinking positively about money. These affirmations become powerful in rewiring your feelings about wealth and money, and will then subconsciously begin to guide you in ways to make these words a reality. Affirmations have a way of making what you say come true. So be careful of your words. Guard your thoughts. Stay positive and make bold statements about yourself and what you’re out to accomplish. Only then will you seize wealth and leave poverty behind.

Where and how do you start taking control of your financial future? There is a plethora of information to go around. Choose FI (financial independence), offers one of the best courses I have seen on the topic, which I strongly recommend. It will change your life! I am not affiliated with the company in any way, but I am part of the worldwide FIRE movement. believe when we commit to helping others grow, it adds to our wealth. It goes without saying, please do not ever compare your journey with anyone else. The important thing is to start where you are!

Millions have taken the course and started on their own path to wealth. The course is completely free to anyone, regardless of where you live.I hope you found this post helpful, if so, feel free to share on social media or leave a comment below with suggestions. Start your journey to financial independence

To Your Success,

Juan

what to do when


Dear Readers,

I am almost finished with the WFH series. In my own life, the past several months have taken more from me, than I had to give at the time. Like everything else in life, you persevere, dust yourself off, and keep it moving. Working from home can be a real struggle when you aren’t used to it. However, it can be a lot worse when you don’t have supportive employers or managers, especially during difficult times. So, what can you do if yours isn’t? Here, you’ll discover some key steps you can take if you feel you aren’t being fully supported.

Take time for self-reflection
Take a look at your colleagues; what have they earned in the past several years? Which characteristics and skills helped to get them promoted? Consider your own goals, and whether or not this is a company fully aligned with your own goals. Do you want to be promoted within the next year or two? Are there opportunities for growth?
Consider how you have communicated with your manager in the past. What type of relationship do you have with them? How do you perform in meetings-do you sit back and let others take the lead? Have you communicated with your manager about your goals? Provided you have not taken on the role of a victim, and are ready to be assertive, let’s look at the other tips below.

Let them know how you feel
The first step you should take if you feel your employer or manager isn’t being supportive is to talk to them. This can be intimidating, but your employer may not even realize the extent of your concerns. Unless your manager can read minds,  most are very busy trying to put out multiple fires. Consider writing down what you want to say. Think of ways you feel they could be more supportive. They may ask you what you’d like them to do or how they could help, being prepared helps. Communicates your feelings, diplomatically, and honestly.

Team up with other coworkers
Did your efforts to have a conversation with your employer fail miserably? It might be worth teaming up with your coworkers. In all likelihood, someone else is being treated in the same manner. Things do not happen in a vacuum. There is a lot of power in numbers. You’ll stand a better chance of changing how you are being treated if you stand together. Again, try and talk to your employer together, or if that fails try and speak to someone higher up in the company.

Talk to HR if necessary
While your manager is usually the first point of contact, they sometimes cannot resolve all your concerns, and it might be time to speak with HR. Policies need to be followed, and it’s the HR teams’ job to make sure they are implemented. Reported to them as quickly as possible, as some issues can be time-sensitive.

Search for a new job
If all else fails and your employer still isn’t being supportive, take your talents elsewhere. In the current economic situation, it sounds impossible. However, if you’re at home it’s never been a better time to search for alternative employment. The pandemic won’t last forever. When it’s over, do you really want to continue to work for a company that doesn’t support you? Consider taking online courses too if you need to top up your skills. This will make you more employable once you’re ready to make the switch.

No one should have to deal with an unsupportive manager or employer. Do not let anyone deter you from being able to grow within our chosen careers. Times have always been tough, but the majority of us are stronger than any storms. Remember, the current situation is temporary. Support is always available online. With the right attitude, you will attract opportunities you’ve been working towards your entire life.

Until the next post,
Best,
Juan

 

Balkans- Conclusion


Blessed Are The Curious- For They Will Always Have Adventures

Kotor, Montenegro: charming, idyllic, picturesque. It was absolutely wonderful to walk around the smaller, quieter, and more relaxed feel of the city. The cobbled streets, small quaint shops, and way of life resembled a storybook! I’ve got this fascination with alleyways- the town square offered more than enough. Our time there was too short. On Sunday morning before leaving for the next country, we needed food for the long, twelve-hour train journey to Serbia. I ventured out alone, into the local market. I am African American, 5 ‘10’, with a two-toned mohawk. Some locals in the smaller cities, such as the one we spent the night before, don’t have televisions and haven’t seen a person of color before. Well, let me tell you, there was quite a commotion. I left them all with lovely smiles and waves.

Serbia! The journey to the country took us through one of the most scenic rails journeys in all of Europe. A mixture of canyons, gorges, and snow-capped mountains provided a stunning backdrop. Our first stop took us to the more laid back, and second-largest city of Novi Sad, and home of the Petrovaradin Fortress. Novi Sad has the largest preserved military base in Europe, is home to the Danube River. The stunning Roman Catholic Cathedral is not to be missed. To put it bluntly, I’m quite surprised by how rude people were in Belgrade! Having come from previous countries with kind, warm-hearted people, I was taken aback. The group collectively agreed this might be the default behavior. It was interesting to hear their side of the atrocities, that took place in Bosnia, and NATO’s bombing of Serbia. Nevertheless, we made the best of it. Serbia has incredibly delicious food!

Macedonia. We spent the longest time here. First stop- Skopje. A city rich in historical culture and Ottoman heritage. There is so much to love about this country and its kind people. I knew I was going to love this city, the moment we walked up to our hotel steps, and a group of young folks greeted us with warm, wide and inviting smiles! Welcome to Skopje!! The birthplace of Mother Teresa! We toured the small chapel where she was baptized, receive her first communion, and God revealed her life’s mission. On display are some of her last writings, copy of the Nobel Peace Prize Diploma, etc. Skopje is saturated with statues! The main square boasts one of Alexander the Great, riding into the city. The street fighters, aka dogs, customarily run after bikes, mopeds, cars… anything with engines, and cause quite a ruckus. Other POI’s are the archeological museum, old train station- the hands of the clock still at time the earthquake hit.

In Northern Macedonia, we stayed in Bitola; boasts a relaxed coffee culture, that is popular in Europe. This ancient city of Heracles, named after the Greek god, Heracles, dating back to the 4th century BC. Archeologists discovered it in the 1930s. Heracles was built by the father of Alexander the Great. It was a once prosperous city; the ruins were excellent, the amphitheater, once used for gladiator fighting is impressive, and of course some amazingly preserved mosaic floors. The 1km long” BSeen” is the most famous street in Macedonia. One of the most beautiful church interiors I have ever seen is at the 170-year-old St Demetrius Church. It takes your breath away

A scenic drive through the beautiful Galicica National Park brought us to stunning Lake Ohrid-one of Europe’s deepest and oldest lakes. Saint Naum Monastery, built in the 900’s, with the original artwork still in place, is the most photographed place in Macedonia. the surrounding it took my breath away. A highlight of this visit was an afternoon boat ride on the lake; enabling visitors to soak in historical settlements reported to be some 3000 years old. The architecture is captivating, as is the culture. We roamed around the city built by Phillip the First, the Father of Alexander the Great, and the home of the Cyrillic alphabet. No visit to Lake Ohrid is complete, without the view of the sun setting over its expanse.

Kosovo. We traveled through Monrovia National Park, as we made our way to our seventh and final country, making several stops along the way. We roamed around the grounds of the thousand-year-old St John The Baptist Monastery, saw pieces of the cross, on which Jesus was crucified, a small piece of John the Baptist’s rib, and was in for a treat, as we witnessed a Muslim wedding. By the time we arrived in Kosovo, everyone was knackered. There is a huge Bill Clinton statue in the center, along with a Hillary Clinton dress shop. For some time, Bill and Hillary were popular names given to children at birth.

The US Army base is one of the largest and most well-paid employers in the country. Kosovo is the poorest of the Former Yugoslavia nations, with unemployment at over 30%. Immigration to countries such as Germany, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland remain high. Our hotel was five stars… go figure, the poorest country, offering the best accommodation on this trip. While clearing through customs, the immigration officer chatted me up, wanting to know about my experience. His parting words were “You’ll always have a home here”

I had a glorious time in the Balkans, with the exception of Serbia. The majority of the group shared the same opinion. Two months later, countless photos remind me of how blessed I am, to have had this magical adventure. For the first time, I am able to say I ate breakfast in Bosnia, had lunch in Croatia, and dinner in Montenegro. Travel is fatal to ignorance, bigotry, prejudice and narrow mindedness, sometimes it’s the journey, not the arrival that matters, and adventure is always, always worthwhile.

Enjoy your next one!

Until the next post,

Best,

Juan