Making Travel Effortless

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During my flight across the Pacific to come to Australia, I scribbled down a list of things I wish I knew before I traveled. I may have been bored or maybe I was just reflecting over the last two years and what I would’ve told myself if I could go back in time to when I was a newbie at traveling.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: WHAT IS YOUR PACKING STYLE?

Are you the type of person to pack for a trip weeks in advance, or do tend to throw your things in your suitcase last minute and hope for the best?

By nature, I am the first type. I enjoy the slow process of planning; picking outfits and having an excuse to buy those travel-sized cosmetics and then arranging it all neatly into my suitcase. 

But over the last few years as I’ve basically lived out of a suitcase for months on end, I’ve not only gotten quicker at packing but I also have fewer belongings, so I’ve somewhat morphed into the second type.

For example, when I came to Australia the first time, I was packed a month in advance. This time? I didn’t pack until a few hours before my departure.

There are pros and cons to both packing styles. For instance, when I was checking my bag in at the airport to fly to Australia this time, I had to reshuffle a few things between my carry on and check in to meet the weight restrictions. This meant that when I got to the gate after a tearful goodbye to my family, and after I scanned my boarding pass and was walking down the jetway, I realized that the book I had been planning to read on my flight was now in my check in, in the underbelly of the airplane. I would be very, very bored for the next few days of travel.

Or would I?

Lucky for me, I had a few other options of ways to occupy my time.

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ON YOUR PHONE: 

Download the app for your airline to have automatic access to your booking information or at the very least flag your flight information in your emails so it’s easy for you to find. I’ve had enough flights rescheduled or canceled last minute that I’ve learned that it is also smart to print out your original flight information (I know, old school) so that if you end up on the phone rescheduling, you have the booking information right in front of you. 

FOR ENTERTAINMENT: 

  • Download podcasts or books from Audible ahead of time! Some of my favorites are:

Nothing is wasted Podcast

The Secret Art of Storytelling by Carmine Gallo 

  • Most of the music I listen is on Spotify, which means that I don’t have a lot of music downloaded onto my phone. So before a trip I always download a playlist to give me something new and exciting to listen to.
  • Watch movies. Either on the screen in front of your or download a few on your phone or laptop before your trip.
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IN YOUR BAG:

  • First off, I’d like to give a plug for the Ona Bag. They are Italian made bags and they certainly are quality! I love that their camera bag are versatile for international travel. The Camps Bay Bag is what I have been using for the last year and it has the perfect amount of space for camera gear but also a pocket in the back interior where you can store your laptop and a few personal items. I bought mine on Ebay for half of the original pice and the only complaint I have is that it’s hard to find a water bottle that fits into the side pocket because the pockets are so snug.
  • A water bottle to fill up at a water fountain once you’re beyond security. I don’t know about you, but traveling always makes me so thirsty!
  • An immune booster. I kept several packets of the Pink Drink in my carry on. I went into this trip really tired because of a crazy busy summer at home in North Carolina. In the past, this would’ve meant that I could easily get sick during the trip or upon my arrival into the new country. But not this time! I’ve been working all summer to boost my immune system with ProBio5, and Bio-Cleanse. I’ve also found that jumping ahead in time zones is easier than jumping back, so upon arriving here I didn’t even really have jet lag and I was ready to jump into the busy #ywambrisbane schedule on Monday morning after I arrived into Australia on Sunday night!
  • A good book. And don’t even begin to think of putting it into your check-in. I love reading about the places that I am about to travel to. Sunburnt Country is a great book that tells a lot about Aussie culture and paints beautiful, historical scenes of life in the outback and in the coastal region of Australia. It is written by journalist Bill Bryson who writes candidly about his travels. Australia is unique in the fact that it doubles as its own continent and as everyone knows, it is a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather and the most peculiar and deadliest wildlife that can be found on the planet. He weaves interesting facts in with his witty words to tell a story of his adventures in the Land Down Under. I read this book the first time I was in Australia!
  • A moleskin journal. This was gifted to me by my sister and has become my all-time favorite because it can double as an art book! Also, pens. I’ve had a lot of people ask me what pens I use, so here it is: Tombows are my personal favorite calligraphy pens but I also love Energel pens by Pentel. You’ll need pens for journaling but also to fill out the customs form upon arrival.
  • Snacks! I always make sure to pack a few granola bars or dried fruit or chocolate into my carry on. Airport snacks are always so expensive and so I’ve found it’s nice to have my own stash handy.
  • A toothbrush! My mom taught me to put a toothbrush and a travel sized toothpaste in my handbag and that way I’m golden through my whole flight and travel process, with no bad breath! 

STAY COMFY:

  • Wear comfortable clothes! If you get cold easily, take a light jacket along for the flight. Longer flights provide blankets for you but I’ve found that in the shorter flights, I often get cold and wish for something to warm up with. I always pack one spare set of clothes in my carry on, just in case my cheek in gets lost or to change into before I arrive at my final destination.
  • If you are wearing sandals or flats, take a pair of socks along in your bag and once you are settled into your seat, slip off your shoes and put on the socks! This gives you the illusion that you are hanging out your living room rather than sitting in the cramped row of a jetliner.
  • If possible, reserve a window seat ahead of time! I usually spend most of my time up in the air staring out the window and musing over the deep things of life. Also, this gives you the best views for taking pictures.

FOR LAYOVERS:

  • For super long layovers: check to see if the airport has a shower. I’ve found that airports often have a shower stall in one or more of their bathrooms and it feels heavenly to be able to freshen up after hours and hours of traveling. 
  • Meet people! On my way home from Australia in May, I had a layover in Vancouver. I usually love long layovers but this time I hadn’t slept on the 14-hour since my flight took off a little before sunrise in Brisbane, Australia and landed in Vancouver at sunrise, 12 hours later.

 

I WAS AT MY GATE with about six hours to spare until my next flight home and I was watching a fascinating documentary series called, “Human.” I paused the documentary to grab a selfie to send to my sister and just as I snapped it, I noticed someone photobombing me. I turned around and the girl laughed, “Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.” She introduced herself and we began talking. She was coming from Sydney, where she had spent a month on holiday. I had my earbuds up until meeting her, so I hadn’t heard the conversation that the lady behind me was having with this girl before we started talking. But my new friend confided, “That lady was trying to convince me to become a christian!” I listened to her talk and tried to ease into spiritual topics without coming across in the same way that the other lady had, since I could pick up that this girl had hesitations. “Wait, where are you from again?” She asked me at one point. “North Carolina” I said. “Oh, you’re from the Bible belt. Wait, are you a christian?” She asked, wide eyed. “I am, but I’ll admit, I haven’t always had strong faith. I lost my dad when I was very young and then about 10 years later, I lost my brother. It sent me through years of depression. I remember thinking that if God had allowed to me, surely He didn’t love me. But now I see it differently. He created the world and put us here to live immortally but because we sinned, now we suffer the consequence of death. I think that’s why we struggle so hard to face it, because we weren’t meant to die.” She seemed to soften as I spoke and then she opened up about her own losses. “I haven’t found anyone else who understands losing people that are close to you like you do. I don’t even know why I ended up at this gate, I was just going to sit here for a few minutes and charge my phone.” She said. We talked for two hours and when it was time for her to find her own gate to catch her flight, she said, “I feel like I’ve known you for so much longer than just these few hours.” She slung her backpack over her shoulder and disappeared in the crowd of people.

I sat there, stunned. In the past, I’ve had a difficult time talking about faith with strangers. But as a follower of Jesus, we are called to spread His love. I don’t think that means that we need to try to convert everybody that we meet. But I think it is so important to be in tune with what the Holy Spirit is speaking because He knows the intricacies of each person’s journey and whether they just need a smile and a listening ear or if they need to hear truth so that they too can be set free. 

I love the ebb and flow of the crowds of people and cultures surging through airports. Airports are my place for deep thoughts. For looking around with eyes wide and saying, “Wow, God. You are so creative.”

Traveling and living overseas has certainly opened me up to explore worlds that are bigger than my own and I’m excited to see where God will take me in life and how He will keep taking me outside of my comfort zone in the future. Now it’s your turn. Tell me in the comments what you’ve learned that helps to make travel as effortless as possible?

“I go before you.”

As I prepared to return to Australia, I kept expecting that there would be an obstacle in the way that would prevent me from going. I know, I know – “Oh ye of little faith,” right?! I didn’t vocalize my doubt until about a week before I left when still, no obstacle had emerged.

It took a hurricane for me to stop and realize what God was really up to. The doors for me to go kept flying open and not just because of the hurricane!

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I got an email less than 24 hours before I was scheduled to fly, stating that my flight was bumped up 12 hours because of Hurricane Florence. I hadn’t packed my bags yet and the next few hours were a haze of emptying out my closet and dresser into my plaid suitcase, while my nieces watched with wide eyes. Suddenly my plans had been rearranged but not in the way that I was expecting. I had been watching the news regarding the hurricane and had even called the airline earlier in the day to make sure things were still on schedule. At the time, they were.

But when that email came, I stared back in amazement.

God had gone ahead of me, knowing that the storm would cause flight cancelations and He paved the way for me to leave early so that I could make it to Australia in time to start orientation and training on schedule!

My 12-hour layover in Houston turned into an 18 hour layover as a result. But that ended up being a bonus because my Aunt Nancy dropped everything to come and pick me up, giving me the chance to spend all of my layover with my Aunt and Uncle and cousins. It was wonderful!

The Pink Drink keeping me energized even while traveling for 57 hours! Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

When my Aunt dropped me back off at the airport, I found the Air New Zealand ticket counters empty. ‘That’s odd.’ I thought. I walked over to the screen to see look for the flight status and I got nervous when it said, “Flight canceled.” I got on the phone and talked to an airline agent and was put on hold for two hours until I had my flight completely redirected and rescheduled for 5:30 the next morning and a voucher for a hotel stay and free dinner for that night! 

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I set my alarm for 3AM and fell into a deep sleep. A little too deep perhaps because wouldn’t you know it?! I didn’t hear my alarm! I woke up 4:13 and leapt out of bed, struggled into clothes and grabbed my suitcases and ran, praying desperately all the way that I would make it to the gate in time. This was my last domestic flight (IAH to LAX) but still, I knew that I needed 60-minutes prior to departure time to get my suitcase checked to my final destination – Brisbane!

It was at 65 minutes before my flight when I was stood at the delta desk and I wouldn’t be exaggerating at all if I said that I had been fast asleep 8 minutes prior to that. A boarding assistant who looked almost as sleepy as me printed my boarding pass and lugged my suitcase onto the conveyer belt and wished me well on my trip.

The security line was nearly empty and I weaved my way up to the officer standing at the security station. He glanced down at my suitcase as I placed it on the conveyer belt and then up at me, “Gretta!” He said, without missing a beat. “It’s been so long. How are you doing?” I stared back. Did he know me? “Great!” I answered feebly, still searching his face to find familiarity. My family and I used to live in Houston, so it was possible he might’ve known us from way back then? But I couldn’t place him. “Is Hurricane Florence affecting you in North Carolina?” He asked as I struggled to take my shoes off and extract my laptop from the case to send through the scanner. “Well, not at the moment” I said, and then I realized how stupid that sounded. Of course it wasn’t affecting me; I was in Houston! I stumbled on in my early morning delirium, “Thankfully, my family won’t experience much more than strong winds and rain.” I said. Just before I walked through the monitor, he threw back his head and laughed and said, “I’m just playing with you. I read your name and address on your baggage tag.” “You got me.” I said with a laugh. His humor was just what I needed to ease the stress of the moment, as I frantically gathered my things and ran to my departure gate. I arrived at the gate at 4:38AM. Just in time for the first boarding call!

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Ever since the email that I received about my flight leaving earlier than planned, I’ve been mulling over this misconception that I have carried with me for most of my adult life. I’ve expected obstacles to block me from doing the things that I feel called by God to do! All of a sudden it became clear that so many times in the past, the enemy had rigged me with disbelief to keep me from accomplishing the very things that God was calling me to do!

But as I have begun to recognize these lies, I’ve started to stand in opposition to them. And that’s when I can hear God speaking! 

One thing that God spoke to me was, “Gretta, I want you to start expecting Me to do good things for you!”

I never had any trouble believing that God wanted to do good things for other people but I did have a hard time believing that He had good things in store for me too! Until recently…

I began to carry that expectation of good things to come and to my delight, it eased the weight that I had carried on my shoulders for so long. I started to see that expectation being met because I was constantly looking around and thinking, “I wonder what good thing God will do next?”

#VirginAustralia’s healthy airplane food. Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Returning to Australia wasn’t an easy decision for me. It took from last November until early March to even tell anyone other than my Mom that I felt like God wanted me to come back.

In November, God had spoken directly,

“You’ll be back here in Australia at this time next year.”

And I responded with an adamant, “No, I won’t!” Because that wasn’t my plan. But immediately afterwards, I had a moment of curiosity where I thought, “How would it be to come back?!” All of a sudden it looked less impossible and more appealing that it had previously. I started to pray for peace if that was the right decision.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Australia and I loved my YWAM family. But I knew that coming back would mean giving up my own personal time and space and resources and that looked really hard. I knew that I would need to grow and learn new things and in that moment when I was right in the thick of learning and growing, it looked scary. In retrospect, I think that God spoke to me right then because He knows me well enough to know that I process things slowly. 

The peace that I prayed for has been so real to me as I’ve prepared to come back to Australia. 

These verses have become especially precious to me,

“Be strong and courageous…The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut. 31:7-8

As I write this, I’m jetting over the Pacific ocean, headed to Brisbane Australia. I have no doubt in my mind that it is God who has gone before me. And God was right! I would be back in Australia, “At this time next year!”

On that note, if you haven’t yet claimed your COURAGE T-shirt, you can do so now! 

The LOVED T-shirts were such a big hit that the campaign automatically relaunched! So if you haven’t claimed yours yet or if you are needing ideas for Christmas or birthday gifts, go check it out!

A huge thank you to all who have supported and encouraged me to continue to follow God by returning to Australia to do mission work! It means so much to have you along on this journey!

You are loved.

Have you ever struggled to grasp that you are loved? I have.

My struggle to grasp love wasn’t as difficult in my human relationships and friendships; people that I could see with my human eyes. But I struggled to grasp the fact that an unseen Creator loved me unconditionally. For most of my growing up years, God felt distant to me. And so although I wanted a relationship with Him, I didn’t know how to go about it!

I remember praying one time that God would give me spiritual eyes to see, thinking that I would get some sort of perception of what other people were going through. But instead, God started showing me how He saw me. I was loved. I was worthy. I was accepted. And that’s what started me on this journey to go deeper with God.

God revealed the lies that I had believed to blind me from the fact that He not only loved me but He adored me and was so proud to call me His daughter. I’m learning that when we know that we are loved, it transforms the way that we live.

Now that I know that I am loved, I want everyone else that I come in contact with to know this LOVE as well!

So I’ve designed this T-shirt to remind you and me of the fact that we are loved. Click on the link below to go get yours!

LOVED TSHIRT

What’s Next?

When I went to Australia in October of 2017, I never dreamed that less than one year later, I would be going back! But here I am, with a two year visa and a heart full of anticipation.

Why Australia?

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane Australia.

I realize that some of you are new here and aren’t familiar with why I went to Australia in the first place! So let me explain… I wanted to attend a Discipleship Training School (DTS) with “Youth With a Mission” (YWAM) ever since one of my friends, Joy, attended one in Europe. I watched her life change in beautiful ways and I wanted to have the same passion for Jesus that I saw in her when she returned.

In early 2017, I found out about “Art Focused Discipleship Training Schools” and I began doing research to figure out which one would be a good fit for me. I narrowed it down to two different schools that both had a  photography focus. One was in Mexico and one in Australia. I had already been to Mexico before and really wanted to go someplace new and so I opted for Australia!

What is a D.T.S.? 

It stands for “Discipleship Training School.” Essentially I learned to know God on a deeper level and then I learned how to make Him known among the nations by going out and telling people about Him! It’s like a spiritual greenhouse and I grew so much!

I went with no idea of what God would do in me or through me. I simply wanted a more solid foundation for my faith. Over the course of the six months, as I learned about God, healed from my past, and continued to ask God to reveal more about His individual calling on my life, it became clear to me that this D.T.S. was a stepping stone into the future! God began to call me back to Australia. It was a process of unraveling as my own plans (and stubbornness) dissolved and God patiently waited for me to say, “Yes!” with all of my heart to His plan for this next season in my life. 

What will I be doing in Australia for two years? 

I will be a staff member at Y.W.A.M. Brisbane, which essentially means that I will be coming alongside of people who will be attending the next D.T.S. schools, just like the one I graduated from this Spring!

My time in Brisbane will be broken up into three phases starting in mid-September, 2018!

  1. Training and prep for School #1 (1 month), School #1 (6 months)
  2. Logistical Phase (5 months), Visit home (approx. 1 month).
  3. Training and prep for School #2 (1 month), School #2 (6 months), Wrap up (approx. 1 month). 

The school that I’ll be helping to staff is “Art Focused” so we’ll have all sorts of creative people there using their gifts in: music, art, dance, photography, film, coffee and communications! In short, we call it the “M.A.D. school” which is short for “Music, Art and Dance” even though it has since expanded to include the other arts that I mentioned above.

In less than a month, I’ll be going “down under” to join in on what God is doing through YWAM Brisbane.

I want to invite you to come along and share in this time with me, as I share stories and pictures on this blog, but also through my newsletter, where I will share more personally about what God is doing in my life. You can subscribe to both on the sidebar of this page.

It means so much to have you along on this journey!

-Gretta