Tag Archives: inspiration

Where To Go in 2016

20 Mar

Travelust

In college, there was this girl on my floor who got to go to Paris for spring break. She returned with a scowl, complaining how “disgusting” Paris had been.

“It’s nothing like you see in the movies,” she described. “It’s filthy and gray and touristy. There are thieving gypsies, it smells like urine everywhere, and the men are creeps.”

At the time I wondered if it was just her. She seemed like one of those dull, entitled people who never had to explore the world because it was handed to her. She was constantly disappointed, except when she was drunk and dancing.

On the other hand, I was one of those people who imagined that the reason things weren’t going more perfectly in my life was because I wasn’t in Paris. Movies like Sabrina and Amelie enchanted me. They made me believe I would find love, and myself, in Paris. I took French throughout high school and college and imagined how different life could be when you started your morning at Café de Flore (Hemingway’s Parisian hangout) with a café and pain au chocolat. Paris was going to change my life in lovely ways.

And then I met Mr. Poison who said Paris was terrible. But he loved America so that’s where we traveled. To his credit, he enlightened me to the merits of our own vast and diverse country, taking me to places like Austin, where we danced to live music all night long and ate the spiciest food I’ve ever had. Once, we drove to the Badlands of South Dakota, where we listened to Radiohead as we drove into a thunderstorm. We went to Chicago, where we walked from Wrigley Field to Grant Park, eating and drinking our way five miles south to Lake Michigan.

Finally, when we were planning our wedding, we talked about going international, and he set his sights on Tokyo. I wanted to go there, but not for our Honeymoon. I wanted to go somewhere more relaxing and romantic, like Tahiti.

Without his influence, I am now realizing the total freedom I have to travel anywhere in the world that I want. I just need the money to get there. A year of saving and I think I can do it.

Instinctively, I return to my dreams of Paris. But then I think about how much I’ve changed and wonder if my first international experience should be to the place on which I’d hung all my dreams.

While Paris is arguably one of the world’s great cities – so I’ve heard – I can’t help but acknowledge how much the movies make us see things much better than they are in real life. I’ve built up that city so much in my mind that there is no way it will be as fabulous as I’ve imagined it. The last thing I want to do is set my expectations so high that I guarantee myself disappointment. Besides, I’m a new woman now. My dreams should reflect that.

Today it’s cold in Denver, having snowed all day yesterday. I’m curled up under a blanket, and I’ve decided that today is the day I will plan my first international trip.

Here’s what I’m reading and watching right now for inspiration. Feel free to join and leave me some comments on where you think I should go.

“52 Places to Go in 2016”

Every year, the New York Times publishes its list of 52 places to go. Engaging ambient video and grand photography entices you to dive right in and buy a ticket. I can’t say I’m inspired by every locale on this list – the Democratic Republic of Congo is an odd suggestion – but there are many that have captured my interest. Should I go to Coral Bay, St. John? Mozambique? Vinales, Cuba? Guadaloupe? Road of the Seven Lakes, Argentina? Uruguay? Tamil Nadu, India? St. Helena? Barcelona? Mosel wine country? Pyeongchang, South Korea? Kansia, Japan? The possibilities are seemingly endless.

Check out the list here.

Chef’s Table

Netflix created this TV-documentary series that follows one world-renowned chef per 45-minute episode. Each episode tells the origin story of a chef who has perfected his or her craft, by way of a cinematic escape into some of the most remote and beautiful places in the world. Wouldn’t that be a fun way to travel – chasing down the world’s best chefs? Should I go to Sweden, Australia, Italy, or Patagonia?

Check out the show here.

-Jennifer

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You Are a Badass

15 Mar

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I’ve been thinking a bit lately about my opinion regarding self-help books. How do they factor into The IWOM Book Club? Or do they at all?

Certainly, one is never the worse for doing some self-analysis and broadening their own horizons. But does International Woman of Mystery. do self-help? Or does she help herself? I debated these ideas heavily the other day, while doing some soul-searching in a downtown book shop. I had come prepared to choose something off of my required reading list, but when I got to the book store, they were out of most of my picks. I then proceeded to wander a bit aimlessly. For hours.

Call it a fugue state, but when I got to the self-help section, I began to peruse some of the titles. It was then that a book called to me. Front and center with some other bestsellers was Jen Sincero’s “You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living Your Awesome Life.” Surely this wasn’t really self-help. So maybe it was okay to buy? (I rationalized.)

I grabbed it immediately. Paid for it discreetly before going home and tearing it open. I wanted so badly to know, what it had to say. And I’m sure it’s no secret, I very much wish to be told I am a Badass.

Luckily, Sincero’s book, is pretty good about delivering that. Although it verges on self-help often, “You Are a Badass” reads more like sensible friend-to-friend advice. The authoress divulges her own struggles and triumphs, and how she overcame various challenges. She offers up mostly relatable anecdotes to demonstrate her point and frequently reminds us: “Love yourself.” Admittedly, the International Woman of Mystery is a bit of a cynic. There were still a few moments that had my eyes rolling.

Even still, I found it an enlightening and entertaining read. The book is as full of humor as it is deep advice. The book also reads quick. (Perfect for a woman on the run.) And the more I read, the more Sincero’s ideas started to make sense. She advocates heavily for changing your own life, by making better decisions and letting go of self-limiting beliefs. Playing bigger, dreaming bigger and going after what you really want. With chapter titles such as, “Your Brain is Your Bitch” and “Fear Is For Suckers”, one can’t help but be inspired by the moxie in this book.

If anything, this book was so jam-packed with compelling material, that I believe I will have to revisit it later. In the meantime, I intend to bring some of that moxie out of the book and into my own life.

Ciao,
Jenny G.

What Kind of Woman Do I Want to Be?

10 Mar

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Are you the kind of person who could save someone’s life?

I’ve been asking myself this lately as it relates to my future. If the time came, could I fend off a gun-toting villain, could I give someone CPR, could I steer a speeding car out of harm’s way?

Some people believe that everyone has it in them to act heroically when it becomes a matter of life or death; your primal instinct to survive kicks in and your responses become automatic.

I don’t know that I believe that because it suggests that being a hero isn’t a choice – it’s just part of being human. I’d like to think we have a choice in the matter. I’d like to think that the heroic part of it is the choice. True heroes try to save the world, or even just one person, even if they’re not sure how it will end.

These questions all popped up because I’ve been seriously considering what I’m doing with my life. Now that I finally feel established in Denver, it is perhaps time to consider my motivations and long-term goals. In between that, I’ve been procrastinating making any decisions by watching the Kill Bill movies and the Netflix series “Jessica Jones” that feature female heroes. Totally inspired by the courage and tenacity of these hard-core women, I started questioning whether or not I had it in me to live in a similar way. Is there a reason I was never drawn to a career as an EMT, surgeon, police officer or member of the military? Was it because in my heart, I knew I couldn’t do it and didn’t want to do it? Or was it because I was too scared to see if I could?

But wouldn’t it be cool if the result of my moving to Denver is that I changed a life, or several? Wouldn’t it be cool if all this nonsense about a guy was the impetus for me becoming the kind of person who could help the world in a really important way?

Kill Bill is a revenge story, where Uma Thurman’s character, The Bride, searches the globe for the man who tried to kill her, and for anyone who helped. We watch her travel to Japan and learn to use a Samurai sword; we watch her demolish entire gangs of killers with her badass martial arts moves. She’s tough and singular in her vision. She learns new skills and stops at nothing to seek a justified revenge and save her life.

Jessica Jones is a graphic novel superhero, who at first chooses to use her wit to help others rather than use her superpowers. Jessica is unapologetically unpolished and dysfunctional, but also brave, smart, strong and compassionate. She takes tremendous risks and makes personal sacrifices to save others’ lives. She is one of the most inspirational superheroes I’ve seen on the screen.

With the exception of perhaps Wonder Woman, it seems to me a relatively new concept to portray a woman as a traditionally masculine hero. What I mean is that her being a woman does not change the way she fights evil. She uses physical strength and intelligence to save the day, without any caveats from the storyteller.

We’re lucky we live in a time that this portrayal is becoming more popular. We’re lucky we live in a country where women have the choice to be this kind of hero. And I’m lucky I have the luxury to discover who I really am and how I can really contribute to the world.

I want to be the kind of woman who devotes her life to saving others’ lives. What does that look like? Does it mean I have to wear hole-y jeans, combat boots and a leather jacket, or a yellow tracksuit? Or can I still be Audrey Hepburn chic in my trench coat and still save the day?

So I come back to the question: am I someone who could do that? Do I have it in me to be like The Bride or Jessica Jones? Is that what this International Woman of Mystery thing is all about? Would I make the choice to be heroic, even in the face of uncertainty, if the opportunity presented itself?

Perhaps it’s time I figure this out.

-Jennifer

Cooking With a Vengeance

2 Mar

june-cleaver

The email for my assignment requests that I bring two things on my next mission. One of them is a set of knives. And the other? An apron.

Jenny G.: International Woman of Mystery, is about to finish what she started. I am headed for my very first cooking class.

A few weeks ago after some misadventures in my own kitchen, I decided it was time to get proactive and improve upon my somewhat non-existent cooking skills. As it turns out, cooking classes are becoming more popular in Denver, so I was able to locate a plethora of options pretty quickly. There was some heavy debate around pasta and pastry lessons , but I ultimately deemed those options more harmful than helpful. I stumbled across a Healthy Japanese Cooking workshop and registered before I could talk myself out of it.

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Mission: Be Stylish

4 Feb

Style

I’m sprawled out on the floor of the Mystery Abode living room, surrounded by piles of gathered intelligence. I stare at the pages scattered on my floor with a furrowed brow. I know the answer lies in here somewhere. I just have to find it.

In a small black notebook, I scribble notes for myself. Observations to take with me, into the field. A jumbled report on seasonal colors, hemline lengths and silhouettes. Accessories and fabrics. I’m on a hunt. A mission, if you will. Jenny G: International Woman of Mystery is going dress shopping.

A funny thing has happened since moving to Denver. Despite the International Woman of Mystery’s innate desire to exude personal style, it seems a bit of the opposite has happened. I’ve fallen into the attire trap that is Midwestern casual. I’ve assimilated to the ways of jeans and t-shirts and mismatched layers of warmth. It’s an easy mode to default to, by virtue of cold winter days and a local culture that accepts it as the norm. However, if I want to persist in my transformation to worldly ingénue, I’ll need to up my fashion game.

So here I am, armed with old back issues of my favorite fashion magazines and a couple of Pinterest boards. Determined that I will find some new adornment to set the tone. My means are somewhat modest. Most of my extra income these days is being socked away in the travel fund. Exotic adventures on the distant horizon, I thought I might try to find some local inspiration instead. The IWOM’s arsenal is a multifaceted one, but by my estimation, it should include one truly great dress. I’ll choose the outfit and then surely adventure will follow.

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The Secret History of Wonder Woman

16 Nov

Lynda-Carter-as-Wonder-Woman

As per my list of International Woman of Mystery Must-Haves, I recently decided it was time to start looking for outside inspiration. The answer arrived rather serendipitously on my day off. While wandering through a bookstore downtown and glimpsing the shelves, a book caught my attention: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore.

Admittedly I’ve never been a comic enthusiast, but I was intrigued. Even in 2015, women superheroes are hard to come by. It seems like even when we do see women in superhero lore, they exist only to be the scantily clad sidekick to a more prominent, more powerful male superhero. Why is that?

But Wonder Woman was more or less the original, no? Or at least kind of a badass? This book seemed like a perfect way to kick off my International Woman of Mystery book club. Membership: One. For now.

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