Alyssa J Freitas

April 18, 2018

A Minimalist Takes Her Own Advice & Deletes Facebook

On Sunday I *deactivated my Facebook account.

Although you might think I jumped on the #deletefacebook bandwagon, it was actually spurred by my recent lack of inspiration and the time I was wasting. At the start of the year I wrote about how I had intentions of "unplugging" and was working towards being ok with deleting profiles that didn't serve me. I'm not considering getting rid of Instagram or Pinterest or Twitter because I do get some value from each, but I have been on the fence about Facebook.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Have you considered deleting Facebook or taking a break from social media? Here's my experience and the extra push you may need to simplify your social presence and embrace minimalism
Whenever I have an idea for a post, I go to my blog and type in the topic in the search bar to see if I've written about it before. I've been blogging for about 4 years now, so it's nearly impossible to remember everything I've said. While most of my opinions have remained consistent, it is interesting to see how my thoughts may have changed over time.

When I looked up this topic, I found a post from 2014 simply titled "Social Media." I wrote about how I was a Facebook virgin and how I was trying to figure out Twitter. I said I was not a supporter of widespread social media usage. At the time, I didn't use social media for my blog (still barely do) and was more interested in seeing people in person and reading to entertain myself.

I think back to my middle and high school days when I would sit for hours with a book and it wasn't uncommon for me to start and finish one in a single weekend (granted, the books I've been reading recently are 700+ pages, but I'm definitely not spending as much time reading). I miss that and I only really have myself to blame for the shift.

Instead, I find myself "catching up" on my social feeds. Even though I am a social media minimalist and don't follow many people on each platform, I'm still spending time consuming media that isn't doing a whole lot for me. The place where I really felt like I was wasting my time was Facebook. I'd done multiple friend purges, but I would still scroll through my feed and not be inspired or uplifted or informed.

My main Facebook usage was for blogging groups, but the conversation was generally around getting more Instagram followers and sponsorships...not sure if you've noticed, but that's not much of a focus for me. Facebook is a great place for connecting with others, especially if you are looking to grow your blog into a business, but for me, I would leave the site asking myself "what did I learn that was applicable to me?" and too often the answer was nothing.

Facebook has done a great job of making itself a utility (Ben Thompson has an awesome post on this topic) and certainly had me feeling like I'd be lost if I didn't have a profile. How would I sign up for other services? How would I know what my friends were up to? How would I know the latest tactics bloggers would be using to get more followers?

But when it comes down to it, simplifying my social presence and leaving Facebook instantly made me feel lighter and will be one less distraction. Plus, if comparison is a challenge for you or social media is a vehicle for validation, it's not a bad idea to leave. Ask yourself what value you get from each platform and if the answer is "not much," consider taking a break or deleting altogether.

Have you deleted or considered deleting any of your profiles? Do you feel stuck with certain platforms? I'd love to hear about your experiences!


-AJF
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*Note: I said "deactivate" not "delete" because I still use Facebook messenger to keep in touch with certain people 

April 11, 2018

How To Organize Your Life On A Calendar

I thought I did a lot in college. I thought my calendar was full and that I was balancing a ton. And yes, I was definitely involved and had a lot to keep track of, but I've now realized that was the easy stuff. Working full time, blogging and taking on other writing projects, seeing my family, keeping in touch with friends, and being in a relationship have brought my calendar to another level. And I'm sure when someday I'm blogging about being an executive and raising kids and traveling the world (hey, a girl can dream), I'll look back at this post and laugh.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Here's how to organize your entire life on a calendar, from work to social life to your side projects.
It's taken me some time to figure out a new method of organizing my calendar, but I finally feel like I'm in a good groove. Here are my top tips for keeping track of your calendar and tasks when there's so much going on.

Types of calendars

At first, I started out with too many calendars. I had one for work and social events and appointments and blogging and more..., until I realized I need to simplify and integrate my life more. Now I've narrowed it down to work, a shared calendar with Joe, and birthdays/holidays. I use my work calendar for everything from actual work calls/meetings, to doctor's appointments, to social events (that don't include Joe haha). I like having one, holistic view and I separate out non-work entries by putting an emoji at the front.

Note: I am a big proponent of having digital v. paper calendars (although I do admit that sometimes paper will win out). Always having my calendar with me on my phone, being able to easily share and change events, and my terrible handwriting all contribute to my opinion. If paper is your jam, then you can color code in place of where I described my different "calendars."

What goes on the calendars 

Nearly everything! I have recently taken to scheduling time for certain projects because if I don't the time ends up getting filled with other calls or priorities without me realizing it until it's the end of the day and I wonder how I never got to that one task. Putting everything on your calendar also gives you a good view of where you are spending your time. Too many work events and not enough catching up with friends? Your calendar will show it. It can take a while to get a good feel for how much you actually want to track, but I would start off with more rather than less and then you can scale back as needed. 

Tracking tasks

As you may remember, I am a big fan of tracking my tasks in Wunderlist (I've been using it since 2014!). However, I got a great organization tip from my friend Lauren at work. She recommended creating a calendar reminder at 5am and listing out your tasks for the day and crossing them off as the day progresses. At the end of the day you can copy what didn't get done and move it to the next day. It's also great for setting a future task; you can immediately put it in your calendar and rest assured you won't forget. I still use Wunderlist for all of my personal tasks and reminders, and for blogging and other writing projects, but work is kept separate.

I wish I could have shared screen shots, but most of my calendar has the names of clients and specific projects, so I'd rather keep that to myself ;)

How do you organize your calendar(s)? Would you like to see a post on how to prioritize your time at work/socially/side projects/all of the above?

-AJF

April 4, 2018

4 Tips To Maximize Your Time At A Conference

A few weeks ago, I went to Las Vegas for the first time. That's right, I was in Sin City. But...I was there for a work conference so I don't think I need to abide by the "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" rule. Over on my LinkedIn I shared a full recap of my experience at IBM's THINK 2018 (check out the tale of bright lights, engaging discussions, and well, thinking here).

While it was a whirlwind at my first industry conference, I did come away with some tips on how to maximize your time (and sanity) at a busy conference.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Heading to a conference and want to make the most of it? Here are 4 of my top tips for maximizing this opportunity

Packing

Recently, I shared a video on how to pack for a week in Italy in a backpack. Many of the same principles apply for a work trip as well. Using the same jacket with multiple outfits and sticking with a single pair of shoes allowed me to pack for 5 days in this duffle bag. I'm a proponent of using a carryon bag whenever you can, and this one fits under the seat. It's such a relief to know your bag can't be lost since it's always in your sight, and saves you time instead of waiting at baggage claim.

Scheduling

I was highly ambitious when planning my schedule for the week. This particular conference was massive, with tons of sessions happening simultaneously, plus a lot to see throughout the day that was unscheduled. At first I thought it would be a good idea to have every moment scheduled; that would mean I was making the most of the conference, right? Ummm not quite. 

After the first day I learned that having a list of sessions you'd like to attend, booths you want to visit, and space in between allows you to be more flexible and open to meeting other people and embracing the unplanned experiences.

Networking

Speaking of meeting people, I was surprisingly quiet on day one. For some reason (probably the overwhelm of the nearly impossible schedule I originally set), I didn't really talk to many people. However, once I allowed for more flexibility and made it a goal to talk to at least one person in each session, I found myself having a much better time and learning more.

Even if there were other available seats, I would choose to sit next to someone. When I was on line for food, I would strike up a conversation with the person next to me. It's as simple as asking them what they think about the conference so far. You have a ton in common just by being at the same event, so take advantage of it!

Play and Rest

Not only were the days filled with events, the night had it's fair share of entertainment too. While evening activities are definitely a good place to network and connect personally, they're also sure to tire you out. It's a good idea to know your limits and make sure you're prepared to get up early the next day. Pick a number of hours you need to be in your room before you have to be up the next day and make sure you keep to your word to yourself.

What advice do you have for attending conferences? Have you found any tactics particularly helpful for making the most of your time?


-AJF

March 28, 2018

Italy Solo Female Itinerary: Rome, Venice, Trieste

Here we go, my full Italy Itinerary post is here! I've already posted about how I packed for this trip in a backpack and what solo female travel in Italy taught me. Now it's time for the practical tips of where to visit and what to see.

ROME

Day 1:
On the first day I arrived at the Rome Fiumicino airport in the early afternoon. I took the Leonardo Express train to the city and then hopped on a bus to get to my Airbnb in the city center. It was the absolute perfect location and price (I paid $200 for 3 nights), plus the hosts were so sweet and I felt secure. If you're going to Rome, I would highly recommend staying here. If you use this link you can get $40 off your first Airbnb stay!
I spent the afternoon and evening wandering the perfectly charming streets and going in and out of every church I saw. I got dinner at Mimi e Coco, which was delicious and affordable, and had gelato at Frigidarium.

Day 2:
Bright and early I took a photography class to hit up some of the main sights of Rome: Trevi Fountain, Temple of Hadrian, Pantheon, Piazza Novona, and Castle Sant'Angelo Bridge. My apartment was within a 15 minute walk of all of these places. This was especially lucky because I overslept and missed the first location and had to dash to meet everyone at the second stop (that jet lag, I tell ya). Shout out to my new friend Hansel who went back to the Trevi Fountain with me to snap a picture :)
Photo Credit: @hansoulfood
Next, I headed to the Vatican Museum. I got a skip the line pass and spent hours wandering the incredible museum. My favorite room was filled with hand painted maps. Every gallery held significant work, and the ceilings were consistently breathtaking. Allocate a good 3-4 hours here if you are an art lover. 
Photo credit: @hansoulfoodhttps://www.instagram.com/hansoulfood/

Then I was off to Il Corallo for lunch/dinner (I was eating at strange times, the jet lag really got me). After that I took a short break at the apartment, then went to take in the views from the Spanish steps and eat some more gelato, naturally. Plus I went back to see the Trevi Fountain at night.



Day 3:
Colosseum day! As you may know, I am obsessed with history, and Rome is the perfect place to soak it all in. Before going to the Colosseum, I stopped at my favorite cafe near the Pantheon (I went 3 times!) and got the best chocolate croissant of my life. Seriously, go to La Casa Del Caffe Tazza D'oro.

I took an early morning tour to skip the lines and get access to the underground area. The tour also included the Forum and Palatine hill. It was a wonderful experience and I was glad to have someone to guide me through the most important spots.



I grabbed my first slice of pizza of the trip, then went back to the Vatican to go to St. Peter's Basilica since I didn't have time the day before. St. Peter's blew. me. away. I don't have many photos since I was too busy taking it all in. It was the highlight of my time in Rome.




TRIESTE

Day 4:
On day 4, I left Rome and made my way to Trieste. I took a flight then a bus to get to my friend Ally's apartment. It was a full travel day, so I didn't see much in Trieste. We had dinner and caught up before bed since we had to wake up early to go to Venice the next day!

VENICE

Day 5:
We took a train from Trieste to Venice. Ally had been to Venice before, so she was the perfect guide. We wandered and ate (Del Moro's is the best for "to go" pasta) and rode on a boat, so needless to say it was a successful day. For other Ally/Alyssa adventures, make sure to check out our trip to California here



We went to St. Mark's Square and checked out the church. The mosaics were phenomenal.



We also went to Libreria Acqua Alta, which is a charming bookstore with creative decorations. My photos don't capture it well, this is a must "see in person" sort of place.



After that, we took a boat to the island of Burano. The island is known for lace making and bright colored buildings. Hot chocolate was a must, since it was chilly!



TREISTE

Day 6:
Back to windy Trieste. Windy? you ask. Yes, incredibly windy. The people of Trieste refer to this winter wind as "the bora" and it will knock you off your feet. The bora made it hard for us to explore outside, but luckily we had a castle to see and history to learn :) 

Miramare Castle was built by Maximillian and has had a number of interesting occupants. I wish I had a better picture, but my fingers were frozen, so this is what we have haha Take a look at the Wikipedia page for more.
 

Day 7: 
Time to head home. I made my way back to the Trieste airport and went home through Rome. The day before Rome had its first snowfall in 6 years, so there were some delays to contend with, but I made it back safe and sound.

Would you like to travel to Italy? What cities would you like to see?

-AJF
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March 21, 2018

Solo Female Travel In Italy

I'm back with another travel post! Most recently I posted a video of how I packed for Italy in a backpack and today I'm sharing my experience with solo female travel. This is something I had considered in the abstract for a while, but when it came to actually taking the leap and going away on my own, the decision was surprisingly easy. Today I'm going to go over my thoughts before the trip, the experience itself, and what I would tell anyone considering taking a solo trip (male or female).
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Considering solo travel? Here's my experience and what you should consider before you go
Photo credit: @allymarcinophotography

First, let me give you a recap of my "big" travels before Italy. I'd been to Europe and Asia with my family once before when I was sixteen. In the spring of 2017 I went to Mexico with some girlfriends and took a one day excursion on my own and I went to California with Ally in January, 2017. Since then I've done a bunch of domestic business travel (with one random solo trip to Disney...read the story here) and a few weekend getaways with Joe.

With working in Manhattan I feel comfortable with public transportation and I don't have much of a problem with being confident in myself to navigate and make sure I'm safe. So what were my main concerns and thoughts before going?

Thoughts before the trip


Will I get bored? Although I've written before about how to be your own best friend, there's a difference between some solo time and going days in a foreign country on your own (naturally). While it's great to be able to control what you want to see, how long you want to be at each attraction, when to eat and sleep, and all that, it's still a big commitment to head out on your own.

Will I regret not getting to share the experience with someone else? One of the joys of traveling is having fun with someone you love and making memories of a shared experience. Without someone else there to discuss the museums I visited or the food I tasted, I wondered if it would take away from the experience of if I would regret going on my own.

Other than that, I felt good to go, but those are two big things! The main reasons I decided to head across the ocean were:
1. To see Ally, obviously
2. I've wanted to visit Italy for a few years
3. I have the means to go and didn't want a lack of companion for the full duration of the trip to hold me back
4. When it came down to it, I would be on my own for about three and a half days before going to Ally, so this felt like a great compromise to give solo travel a try
Photo credit: @hansoulfood

The Experience

As suspected, I didn't have any trouble navigating on my own. From buses to trains to planes to boats, I did it all. And that's because I wasn't afraid to ask and I took my time figuring out a plan instead of rushing myself. It was also a HUGE help to have international cell service so I could use Google maps. Plus, when it came to getting to my accommodations (an Airbnb in Rome and Ally in Trieste) I was given directions by people who live there before I even landed. If something were to go wrong, I've found that you can *usually* find someone who speaks a bit of English and is willing to help (there was some trouble when I was leaving Trieste in an airport where most people did not speak English, but I stayed calm and eventually found someone. Worst case scenario you'll be delayed as you figure it out, no reason to panic).

Safety is always a concern, but I was aware of my surroundings and didn't stay out too late or anywhere I felt uncomfortable. With some research beforehand, I was confident in the area I was staying in and the safety of Rome and Italy in general.

Now on to the two questions that were highest priority on my mind once the basics were covered. 

Will I get bored? Nope, not even a bit! With three days in a city with that much history and art, it was nearly impossible to be bored. I booked a tour for each full day I was there (a photography tour to hit up some of the most iconic sites and a tour of the colosseum) so I knew I would have people to interact with and activities to do. Aside from that I found myself spending hours in the Vatican, eating dinner with a woman I befriended while waiting in line for a restaurant, and even getting to meet up with one of my mother's coworkers who ended up being in Rome at the same time as me!
From talking to locals, getting lost in museums, and getting gelato whenever I felt like it, there certainly wasn't any boredom.

Will I regret not getting to share the experience with someone else? This one is a bit more tricky to answer. It's a yes and no. I think the trip would have been enhanced with a companion by my side for sure, but then it wouldn't have been the same trip. I wouldn't have learned that I can do it on my own, or gotten to meet the people along the way that I did, or frankly, had as much time to fully reflect and take in everything I was experiencing. When it comes down to it, I would rather travel with someone else (if our goals for the trip are aligned, of course. I need a hard core museum buddy for a place like Rome), but if there's somewhere I want to go and the option is go by myself or don't go, I will happily choose go on my own.

There are a lot of hyped stories of solo travel where you go away and find yourself and come back an entirely new, more worldly person. I can't claim this happened to me. What I can say it that I came back more confident and excited about what I saw and what I'll be able to do in the future. 

What I would tell anyone considering taking a solo trip

Do it! Do it now! Just kidding, consider a few things first... then do it!

Here's what you should think about:
  • Is the place you want to go friendly for tourists? I.e. established public transportation, English speakers, generally safe, lots to do/entertain you
  • Are you the type of person who enjoys time on your own? Even if the answer is usually "no," I'd push yourself to consider giving it a go if you think you won't completely hate being on your own the entire time
  • A year from now, will you wish you had done it?
When you can confidently tick of the basics of safety, financial feasibility, and genuine interest in the location, pushing yourself to have a new experience on your own is a great way to grow and challenge yourself. 

Have you taken a trip on your own? What would you tell someone considering venturing off by themselves? Any favorite solo destinations?

-AJF
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