One of my friends recently remarked that she doesn’t think she’s ever seen my mom not smiling or laughing: how awesome is that? In that moment, I became so much more OK with “becoming my mother.”
Here’s my mom’s life in a nutshell: she grew up in small town in Pennsylvania. She applied for a Rotary Club scholarship and said she’d go anywhere in the world. She was accepted for South Africa, but a month before she was supposed to leave, there were riots–so they sent her to France instead. She had never studied French, but still completed her junior year of high school in France without having to repeat–even taking her German classes! She spent a year of college in Montpelier: went to the beach, hitchhiked to Spain, the usual. She came back to Pennsylvania and became a high school French teacher. Then–no joke–she became an FBI special agent and worked on white collar crime in Baltimore before they transferred her out to California to learn Arabic at the Defense Language Institute. When the FBI then wanted to transfer her to Texas, she quit so that she could stay in California–and started working in corporate security for high-tech companies like Apple and National Semiconductor (basically, ensuring that engineers weren’t stealing or selling company secrets). After she sold her first condo, she wasn’t super impressed by the real estate agent–so she took some classes, took her real estate exam and became one of the top-selling agents in the San Jose region. When I started school, she shifted from selling homes into property management: now she owns her own business and still finds time to golf (almost) daily and travel regularly. I know, I know. The woman has some stories to tell.
Beyond stories, though, she has some good advice. My mom and I (and my dad, come to think of it) are pretty straight shooters, and my mom has never been afraid to give me advice. Recently, however, she told me: “I’m your mother. It’s my job to give you advice. But you’re an adult: it’s your choice whether or not to take it.” I don’t always listen to her or follow exactly in her footsteps–I don’t think I ever would have made it to Southeast Asia or New York City if that was the case!–but I definitely respect her opinion. Here are some of my favorites, as they relate to travel, business and life:
Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. You’ll either make a friend or they’ll just think you’re just a typical loud American.
My mom told me this right before I left on my five-week solo backpacking trip around Europe. I was 21 years old, had just graduated college and had never really traveled on my own before. This bit of advice made me so much more confident in hostel common areas and on group tours: it’s a funny way of embracing a stereotype to make it work for you.
Make sure you have a roof over your head, but go on and treat yourself.
My mom is incredibly financially savvy: she works hard and she knows how to save her money, live frugally, invest in the right things. She’s drilled into me paying my bills on time and paying off my credit card each month, but she’s never been one to discourage a bit of relaxation. We both love magazine subscriptions, pedicures and massages, a good book by the pool. It’s that balance between work and play that keeps you happy and healthy.
Become a regular. Find a bar or a cafe, go every day with a book or the newspaper, and smile.
My mom is very big on getting off the computer and going out into the world to meet people. It’s actually a pretty stellar way to start feeling like a local really quickly: you only have to go to a place a few days in a row before you start to know the menu and recognize the staff and feel like a regular. I’ve had my “locals” in Nice, Melbourne, New York City and they were key in feeling at home there.
If you aren’t willing to invest in yourself, who will?
Whenever I talk about the cost of redesigning my blog or going to a conference, she always tells me to just do it. You’ve got to have the confidence in your own skills and the willingness to take it further before anyone else is going to recognize that drive and potential.
Always let people know that you’ve received their gifts, or else they won’t send you any more.
I definitely take this quite literally–as soon as I receive any gift, I always call or email to let the person know I’ve received and then I have a hand-written thank-you note in the mail within a week. But I’ve also found it to be really helpful in business and blogging: you have to acknowledge people, follow up with them, make them feel valued if you want to maintain the relationship. And everyone likes getting mail!
Everything happens for a reason.
When something goes wrong, you pick yourself up and move on to the next. Sitting around crying isn’t going to change anything.