All Posts By

Erin Sullivan

INSPIRATION

How to Get Lucky

People used to call me lucky all the time. Not as much anymore, probably because I am transparent with which parts of my life are actually luck, and which parts of my life are just hard work.

I believe that luck has been a factor in any success I’ve experienced, no matter the venue. But I have noticed something important.

Luck that really matters only happens when you’re moving.

Luck often looks random from the outside. By definition, sure.

But I’m talking about the times when you couldn’t believe you got this lucky. The big things. The big luck.

Big luck is a helicopter looking for a place to land. You have to clear the space so it can find you. You have to open your hands, and keep them open, in order to receive it.

And indeed this isn’t really luck at all– it’s just the result of work you did. It’s something you invited into your life by investing in it and building a foundation for it, even if you couldn’t have even named it yet.

But let’s just call it luck for now.

Notice the times when you have seen big luck in your own life. I guarantee that it found you at a much higher rate during periods where you were actively doing or seeking something. Luck that matters rarely finds us when we are sitting at home watching reruns of Maury eating whole bags of kettle corn. Chase your dreams, actively, passionately, boldly– and you’ll see this contrast.

It doesn’t come without fear. When we invite really big luck into our lives, we also invite the possibility of failure, of hard decisions, of challenge that could be avoided if we took the easy way out. Only you will know what this means for you. When we pick a more complicated route, there are more variables and more things that could go wrong. It is less comfortable. Decide for yourself where the value falls.

As you work, you will unlock new levels of luck that will find you seemingly effortlessly. When you do more to begin with, you are also creating opportunities for things to just work out. I feel lucky every day because of the life I have created for myself, and indeed, I have noticed that as I work harder, luck flows easily into my life.

If you want to get lucky, you have to get moving. When you do, you’ll see that it was never luck at all. It was just you, getting the opportunities you worked for.

 


 

Feature photo by Ali V. Check out her work here and on Instagram at @alisonvagnini.

TRAVEL

I’m Traveling. Why am I Having a Bad Time?

Travel: it’s magical, life-changing, soul shifting, beautiful, fun, and freeing. At least that’s what it’s supposed to be, right? That’s how it looks from the outside. All highlight reel and no struggle. All mountaintops and no sweaty climb. All peaceful sailing trips and no violent puking off the side of the boat.

There are countless lists on why we should “just go”, and it totally makes sense for these things to be inspirational and aspirational. Travel is all of those things. But nobody tells you about the doubt, anxiety, or depression– and loudest of all, guilt– that comes with the amazing stuff.

It’s easier to talk about what’s easy, and it’s more fun to share what’s beautiful. But you have permission to struggle.

On my first big solo trip, I felt like I was failing. I was drowning in doubt, and I felt so guilty about it. It was hard and I was surprised. I didn’t expect it to be hard. I was going down and I was bringing my dreams with me.

I wondered what I was doing wrong. I had it all planned out: a place to live, an internship, cheap flights to neighboring cities on the weekends. But I didn’t factor in my own loneliness and inexperience. It didn’t occur to me that it was at all possible that a wide range of emotions and challenges would still exist in this new, more photogenic setting.

Nothing was wrong with me. Nothing is wrong with you either.

We are human. It’s unfair to assume that all of our challenges will evaporate just because of a change in location. In fact, the stuff we’re working on at home will often get a lot louder for us when we travel. When we’re in a new place, when we’re living in circumstances that are different than what we are used to, all of our self-critique, bad habits, and anxieties are magnified. And travel is the zoom lens. It’s the microscope.

You are not doing anything wrong.

A few places I have had a bad time: Portugal, Spain, Australia, China, New Zealand, Costa Rica. Mountains, beaches, waterfalls. Postcard-worthy locations where my anxiety drowned everything else out. Add in the acute awareness that travel is a massive and wonderful privilege in the first place, and guilt will follow you around like a cartoon raincloud. After all, you chose to be here, so why are you whining? I’ve often asked myself that.

Look. You are allowed to have a bad time. It is normal, and it is most likely temporary. And if it isn’t, you can go home. Going is just as much of a choice as staying is.

For most people, including me, travel is hard. Especially solo travel. There are a lot of logistics. Unknowns. Language barriers. Lost luggage. Questions within yourself that you thought you’d addressed. Feelings you thought you dealt with but surprise, here they are again.

Things will go wrong. You’ll look around like, “daaaang, who is gonna deal with this shit right now?” and realize… oh, it’s me. Yep. I am going to deal with it.

You will stress out about making friends, and you’ll wonder how everyone else in the hostel already knows each other. You will rehearse openers and practice them in your head. And maybe you’ll try convince yourself that you don’t need to make any friends– at least then you wouldn’t have to put yourself out there. You wouldn’t have to take the risk.

Travel is full of risk. And at times, you’ll feel inadequate, you’ll get lost, you’ll wonder why you put yourself in this situation to begin with. So let the guilt go– it’s not serving you. Feel what you’re feeling. There is no shame in admitting that you’re having a bad time. Let the shame go too.

Maybe you’re reading this because your trip isn’t seamless. Know that it’s normal, and perfectly so. It’s part of the process. It’s not supposed to be easy, and there isn’t one quick fix, because these matters are complicated. They are matters of the heart. They are matters of the self. They are woven within our identities and our connection to the world. It’s no surprise– we are just trying to find our place here.

It’s OK to have a bad time. It’s OK to wonder why. Be kind to yourself. See it, own it, and get on with the show.

BLOGGING INSPIRATION SOCIAL MEDIA

You Will Have Haters

And they’ll be loud sometimes. For real. They’ll get inside your head and make you think you should just be quiet.

I write personal development for adventurous people. I also write about things I believe in, including social & racial justice. This grinds a lot of gears for some folks. It’s political. Well, whoop dee doo– I’m over posting neutral content. I’m over seeing it. I’m over the idea that we should try to appeal to a wide audience. Over. It.

Having an opinion based on your values is way more important than trying to get people to like you.

There was a time when I took everything personally. I can’t anymore.

When you exist on the internet, the one negative comment you get (out of however many) will be the one that sticks, I promise. It’ll be the one you zero in on– the one you let define you. But you can’t let it stick. It’s not personal.

Haters come with the territory when you say anything at all that takes a side. Giving enough of a fuck to take a stand is worth it. It’s not really about you, it’s about a bigger picture, so release yourself from having to take everything as a personal attack. Choosing to stand up for anything says far more about the strength of your character than a few (or even a few hundred) negative comments.

I wear my values boldly because I believe that’s how you get shit done. Anyone can tell me that my values or beliefs are wrong, but that doesn’t mean they are right in their accusations.

You do not exist to make other people feel comfortable. Your actions speak to your priorities. What do you care about, and are you speaking up about it? Standing up? Showing up? When you decide to do so, I’m on your team.

I have been called many names on the internet– some that I am not even comfortable repeating. But it’s the internet. Is anyone surprised?

Getting hated on means I had something provocative to say in the first place. Many agree, some will not. It is hard to have a peaceful conversation with someone who is determined to bring you down. So if that isn’t going to happen, let it go.

When you live in your truth, people will disagree with you loudly and rudely, online and in person. You cannot let this dampen your spirit or dim your light. More people need your ideas, your vision, and your love more than you will ever know.

We have to give a fuck about things that matter, and we’re always going to get hate for it from someone, somewhere.

And I guarantee that amidst any negativity, there will be a day when you will get an email or comment that simply says, “Thank you for speaking up.”

It will be the only reminder you need that now is not the time to be silent.

 


 

Photo snapped by Adaeze Azubuike.

INSPIRATION

Are You Paying Attention?

I can think of a handful of people I have met in my life who I just knew were important. I met them and I felt something– like static shock from the carpet, like a pink sky in the early morning– an unmistakeable pang of feeling. Of something out of the ordinary. It wasn’t love at first sight, but it was a kind of knowing at first sight.

It isn’t just people, but places, stretches of time.

I can think of moments that struck me down to my knees. That shook me to my core. The first time I felt small– standing under a full moon in snowy mountains, just me and my long shadow. The first time I knew, without a doubt, what my next move was. The moments I simply trusted, and surrendered to a feeling of guidance.

And maybe this is science or God, or both, or that they are the same thing in the first place, but it’d be hard to believe that our brains are wired this way without reason.

I am sure you have experienced this– knowing that these places and people in time were important; knowing that they were a part of your path for a reason. That your meeting was not a coincidence or a mistake, or something to brush off or call accidental.

You won’t always be right. We are really good at misplacing reason, or giving fate a name it didn’t ask for. Sometimes we just need to learn a lesson, and that’s it. It is always just fine to be wrong, especially in the name of vulnerability and risk.

The main point is this. When you feel a spark of importance– the curious pull of significance and meaning as it relates to relationships or milestones– listen hard. Follow it. There is never any promise that you’ll be right when you assume anything, and indeed logic might get a say, but magic does not happen on accident.

This is about guidance. It’s about putting your ear to the ground and paying attention. It’s about trust in your path.

It’s in the excitement you feel when someone you admire says hello. It’s the tornado of glitter that starts up in your soul when you hear of a new job opportunity. It’s trying to justify an idea when all you really want to say is, it just feels right. Simple things, maybe, but these are signs even a cynic can admit to seeing.

We have to train our ears to hear the right music. We have to get on a level of humility where we can pay the most attention to what is working, and what is not. There isn’t a guide built by logic or reason, it’s just about working off of a hunch– off something we can’t see– and trusting that it’s there.

Ultimately, it is on us to listen. Are you paying attention?

INSPIRATION JOURNAL

Love is Like That

I know so many people who are heartbroken right now. What’s the deal?! It’s my friends texting me about the ache. It’s the emails from readers I’ve never met. It’s the echo from a post I wrote about love on Instagram.

We are all hungry for feeling. For meaning.

Love is so damn complicated. Trust that I’m screaming this from my soul to my fingertips.

It’s messy. It’s clear and muddy at the same time. It’s the biggest paradox we’ll ever know. And it’s almost a guarantee that at some point in our lives, we’ll have a crazy run-in with love. A head-on collision. We’ll feel like we’ve had 4 strong margaritas and ran around in circles for an hour blindfolded.

Love is like that.

I am addicted to love, and to loving the moments that didn’t even feel good– because we don’t get to choose the ones that stick. I first realized this in a scene I’ve mentioned before– I was 21 and had moved to Porto, Portugal without knowing anyone. I would lay lonely on the roof of my apartment and stare at the sky, knowing that I would eventually miss that moment.

That feeling comes and goes in waves that take me over.

It was the feeling I had dancing to bad pop music with a tall freckled Australian guy in Budapest. It was a comical scene, but I knew I’d miss it as soon as it was over. Because you can love a moment, even a moment like that one. Especially a moment like that one. And maybe it doesn’t entirely make sense which ones our hearts choose, but those are the moments we remember.

It feels like we don’t choose the people we love either. But magic doesn’t happen on accident.

It’s loud, right? So loud sometimes it’s all we can hear. It brings us to our highest highs and our lowest lows, and it doesn’t really care what it does to us. It’ll teach us about the depths of our hearts if we allow it to. If instead of turning up the volume even more, we just got quiet, and listened.

You will read this and connect it to whatever your experience is with love, and whatever it means right now. It can be the way we love wild places, the way we love the way our coffee smells, the wonder of this whole life in general. It can be absolute heartbreak, heartache. It can just be heart, and that’s enough. It shifts and changes and it always will.

We know this: when it shows up, it refuses to be ignored. Love is like that.

JOURNAL

Deep Thoughts from 2016

When I started this blog two years ago, it was hard for me to imagine what it would become. I just set out to share– and as it turns out, that was worth something. Because I’m here, still writing, and still sharing it.

I’ve done these Deep Thoughts posts for the past two years (here’s 2014 and 2015), so in keeping with that tradition, here are my personal reflections from 2016.

1. SET FIRM, LOVING BOUNDARIES

This year, I thought a lot on what I really require– in jobs, in relationships, in what I really need in order to live comfortably. I saw that I often over-compromise. I want to be the best at everything: the best employee, the most supportive friend, the person who wakes up the earliest and stays up the latest to work on their passion project.

For me, a lot of that isn’t healthy. In order to bring out the best in myself, I actually have to set firm boundaries instead of being a pushover. I have to be a bit more thoughtful about what I say yes to and when I say yes to it.

Having boundaries does have to mean that you are closed off– it can mean that you know yourself well enough to identify what works for you, and to stand for those things.

2. IT’S ON YOU TO SHOW UP

My followthrough record in 2016 isn’t as good as it could have been. I said I’d do things that I simply did not have time or energy for. Showing up for me means being vulnerable– in being honest and humble to bring out the best in myself and in others. It also means asking myself if I could have done better, and committing to that goal.

I am proud of how I have showed up in some arenas. But there were failures, too, and they were on me. It’s on me how I show up in my friendships, it’s on me how I show up for my clients, it’s on me how I show up for myself. These are decisions I have the power to make, and that I must make, in order to be effective and bring 100%.

3. YOU CAN’T BE EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE

I tried to do a lot of things this year– and I still am doing a lot of different things. And I wish I had another lifetime to pursue all these passions I have found, but I can’t do everything and I can’t be everything for everyone. I also can’t please everyone with my writing, my beliefs, or the things that I create both on and off the internet.

In pursuing my greatest dreams, I know I will turn people off. I have to be fine with that. And in this pursuit, I also have to be fine with quitting jobs that I love. I have to be fine with saying no to coffee dates that I’d love to go on. Because I can’t be everything for everyone, and if I tried to do that, I’d be ineffective at the things that matter most.

4. FOLLOW YOUR OWN RULES & TAKE YOUR OWN ADVICE

I gave a lot of advice online this year. And I didn’t always listen to myself.

We are fucking wise, y’all. You are fucking wise! Listen to yourself. So often, we undervalue our own rules of life, and for some reason we think they only apply to others but could never fit into our own situation. Many things I dealt with this year could have been dealt with sooner and better had I listened to my own advice and given myself enough credit to do so.

5. BIG DREAMS ALSO REQUIRE DETAILS

I’m a big, big dreamer, and my head is in the clouds constantly. But I need to remember that while I’m enjoying the view up there, my feet are also on the ground. Big dreams require little details in order to thrive. They require steps, planning and logistics. If done right, none of those things take away the magic of the dream. But still, they must be done.

 


 

Thank you for being a part of my story. Feature photo by BC Serna.

INSPIRATION JOURNAL TRAVEL

The Places You Meet Yourself

As a result of seeking an adventurous life through travel, I have met many people.

Amazing people. People who have changed me and the maze of my life forever.

But the really interesting thing– perhaps a simple idea– is that I also met myself.

Being alone in the unknown is never comfortable, and discomfort does things to us that ease and routine cannot. It pushes our buttons, forces us to confront ugly things we’d rather ignore, and teaches us about beauty and truth.

When I replay the montage of all the random and hard and gorgeous fleeting moments of my life, I see all the ways in which I got to know myself. All the scenes where I looked into my heart, and proclaimed that I’d see it for what it was.

I see the loneliness standing on the roof of my apartment in Portugal, my anxiety loud as sirens. And I remember doubting very much, at 21, that I had any idea of who I was.

I see meeting one of the loves of my life at a campsite in Belgium, and knowing he was important. And I see us two years later in Christchurch, crying in our hotel room, not knowing if we would ever hold each other that way again.

I see myself in the eyes of every ex-lover, the ones I knew for a night in cities I did not know well. The ones I never even touched physically, but who shared a conversation through broken English or Spanish, and in doing that, shared a part of themselves.

I see myself under a beat up old red barn, covered in hay, shoveling bags of sheep shit.

I see myself walking through caves of glow worms and thinking they looked like the whole universe.

I see dusty motorcycle rides and boats that made me seasick. I see the faces of all the people who were and are all on their own grand adventure, and it’s beautiful to me to know that I shared a brief moment in time with them. Just knowing that is so powerful. And it’s naïve. But it’s enough.

I have never been able to afford nice hotels or nice restaurants, and sometimes I think it might be nice to travel that way, but for me it’s never been about the comfort, and it might never be.

It’s about the deep brown in the eyes of the woman you met on the streets of Budapest; the way her hair smelled like jasmine and dust.

It’s about the whiskey you did not need to drink, the moon bright on the jagged peaks and pine trees, the wobble in your steps on the walk back to your cabin on icy roads.

It’s about the loneliness, the beauty, the glow worms– all the places you meet yourself over and over again, deeply, profoundly.

The depth and variety within the flip book of your life is easy to forget about. We get sucked in to our daily mundane. We forget about all of these moments we have lived.

When you remember all the places you met yourself– the places you can put on a map and the places you could never even name– you remember that it is all so, so worth watching. And worth experiencing in the first place.