Friday Featurette: Discovering Beauty While Discovering the World

A couple Fridays a month I will be featuring another blogger, photographer or up-and-coming writer on my site. Stories range from expat life to travel/adventure. If you are interested in possibly being featured, please read the info here and get in touch!  You may notice differences in terminology, vocabulary and spellings here but I think keeping it authentic to the author’s voice and background makes for a richer reading. If you are a visual artist, text isn’t always as important so still feel free to pitch an idea to me!

Discovering Beauty While Discovering the World
By: Larissa Rolley
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Traveling allows us to see beauty often overlooked in our everyday lives.  As we perceive the world around us with fresh eyes, we are able to reveal to others the beauty that was hidden in plain sight all the time.  Take for example, the hibiscus flower in the image – ubiquitous in many tropical climes, and more specifically in Tahiti where it is known as the ‘purau’ flower.  As a visitor to the South Pacific island, the first thing I noticed at sunset on the water of the lagoon were these marvellous flowers floating along. The purau flower, it turns out, is unique among the hibiscus in its ephemeral nature, as it only lasts one day, changing color several times and finally falls from its tree.
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To me, its short-lived life is really a heart-throb of beauty with the sun in the language of color and light. A soft hue of pale yellow emerges while still connected to its tree to welcome the pale early morning colors at dawn. As the day begins to break, the purau boasts a bright yellow to greet the rising sun.  As the sun rises, the flowers open and spread their petals to fully partake in the day. With the afternoon, the flowers become salmon-colored. When the sun begins to descent in the sky,  the sun-kissed breeze carries the flowers to the ground, to the black sand, to the lagoon. Some flowers float along like butterflies on the water – floating poems.  The light from the setting sun glows through the translucent petals. As the sky flames orange and red, the flowers turn deep crimson in response.
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My heart captures these moments with my camera to share with you, fellow beauty-lovers, the color, magic, and light.  It is my hope that you are inspired by these flowers, to see beauty around you and in your travels and this informs your creative pursuits, your art, your writing, your music, your life.  Maybe you will be inspired to visit Tahiti.
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Larissa Rolley inspires people to their wanderlust through her own travels, through photography and connecting cultures.  She believes in the transformational power of travel and wants to encourage people to get out and live their adventures.  If you aren’t traveling, travel more, if you are traveling, travel deeper. You can get monthly downloads of the 2017 hibiscus calendar which includes some of the images shown here, and her travel planner wheel on her website: www.LarissaRolley.com . She would love to hear about your travels! 
Follow her inspiration online:  
Instagram www.instagram.com/LarissaRolley
Twitter www.twitter.com/LarissaRolley

Photo credit: Larissa Rolley

Friday Featurette: An American Journey into the French “Tough Love” Mentality

A couple Fridays a month I will be featuring another blogger or up-and-coming writer on my site. Stories range from expat life to travel/adventure. If you are interested in possibly being featured, please read the info hereand get in touch!  You may notice differences in terminology, vocabulary and spellings here but I think keeping it authentic to the author’s voice and background makes for a richer reading. 

An American Journey into the French “Tough Love” Mentality
By: Heather Javault

After finishing university in 1998, I arrived in France young and eager to travel. While my friends were off getting their first “real” jobs, I was riding the Metro to meet up with new friends from all over the world. I was keen to learn and to see new things and I didn’t worry much about my ability to fit in or start a career a bit later. My goal was just to see the world and be happy.

Happy is such a simple goal, though. During my first year, I didn’t realize that little things were eating away at the person I was. I found it difficult working for the French school system as an English teacher but thought it was normal as it was not my culture. I reminded myself of this, asking ‘why should they adapt to me?’ but it began to affect my confidence. Maybe I just wasn’t good at being a teacher. The other teachers were always correcting everything that I did just as other people constantly corrected my French. When asked about it, they all said that they are trying to help me; that’s how they do things here. All these good intentions weren’t helping me though. They were not pushing me to do better. I felt stupid. I kept wondering ‘why I am still here?’ It didn’t matter that I eventually learned to speak near-native French. The success I achieved was never good enough. When I got a job as an office assistant later, I constantly had someone behind me correcting me or asking if I was sure of myself. My confidence was gone. The bubbly person I once was was gone. I saw my friends overseas move forward with their careers while I just stood still, doubting myself in another culture.

Shortly thereafter I convinced my new husband to move back to the United States. He was eager to try out the “American Dream” and I was just as eager to get back to family and friends. I found a job pretty quickly through a friend and it didn’t matter that I had absolutely no prior experience in Payroll and Human Resources because they said would train me! I was not stuck in an office assistant job just because I had to pay the bills, I could change and be whomever I wanted. My confidence slowly started creeping back and I felt like a whole new person. I was able to go out with friends and even attend their weddings without spending money on plane tickets. I had everything to be happy, but there was still something missing. There was no denying that I had two homes now and more importantly, two cultures. I realized quickly that my having two cultures had changed me and my friends did not want to hear me say things such as “Back in France, they do things this way…” I could almost feel their eyes rolling. I was going out and doing things as I had before I moved to France, but I always felt like I didn’t fit in anymore. I had new opinions and I didn’t agree with everyone as I might have done easily before. Some friendships stayed the same and embraced my new quirkiness, but other relationships grew more superficial. A large part of that friendship shift was a direct result of that fact that I had changed while others stayed the same. I didn’t share anything other than a past with those old friends. My outsider experience saw me increasingly annoyed with U.S. political elections. (Don’t even get me started on that topic!)

After 3 years of being back home but not entirely feeling ‘home’, my husband’s career choice brought us back to France. I had an 18-month-old son and I knew that I didn’t want to move back into our tiny apartment in the city of Paris, so we decided to settle down in the suburbs. I didn’t have a car right away and as I didn’t know anyone in my area so loneliness quickly settled in. My husband worked extremely hard at his job, which left us feeling like he didn’t even notice us most of the time. I had a hard time finding a job. The Payroll experience that I had in the US did not apply to French regulations and I was starting over. Again. I tried teaching English, but I always felt like I wasn’t very good at it. When I tried getting jobs, I never had enough experience in the field or I was too young or too old. There was always something that I didn’t have enough of. I went back to feeling like a big fat loser and in this time I gained lots of weight and I drank lots of wine.

I eventually had two more babies. It is true; the French health care system is great. Yet for me, I didn’t feel like a client to the hospital or to the doctor. Once again, I felt like everything I did was wrong. I gained too much weight according to the doctor. My veins were too small for the lab technician. I didn’t get up and walk around enough after childbirth. My baby was too big, too yellow, and too ‘baby’.

Going back to work after children was awful. The job I had was unnecessarily stressful due to a difficult manager and further aggravated by a very long commute. I spent nearly 4 hours a day on the train. Although I did my job well, it was never good enough.

At this point, I tried to get myself into shape. Years of abusing my own body were showing and it was clear I wasn’t taking care of myself. I always saw people running and I wished I had the running power as well. So, one day I got myself out and started. I ran a little bit more every day. I signed up for races. I earned finisher medals. I had one thing in my life that made me proud and that gave me back some of the confidence that I had lost after years of negative thoughts. A friend challenged me to sign up for the Paris half marathon. I thought she was crazy, but I said yes. She totally flaked on me, but I kept training. I ran a 10k in December in 1 hour. That is not fast but record time for me. I could totally pull off 21k! And I did! I walked some of it, prayed to every god I could think of for it to be over, but I did it. It took me three hours. My feet were burning, I had chafing in spots that I don’t want to mention, but I did it. My kids greeted me at the end and cheered for me. They were proud of me and I was too. But, when I got to the medal stand, I got a medal that looked like it came out of a cereal box. Other runners had these glorious, gorgeous medals. Mine was practically plastic and half the size. They explained that they had “run out” of the other medals and because I was too slow, there weren’t any left. The email that I received from organizer after questioning what happened confirmed this. He said that I should be happy that they “let” me finish at all. Once again, I wasn’t good enough. Over the year that I trained for those races, I met incredible people that told me that it didn’t matter how slow I run. I was still a runner. This guy’s email brought me down a whole lot of pegs. I felt sick. I wasn’t a runner; I was just some fatty that wanted some shiny bling. During the race, I had people pass me and give me “high fives” and “thumbs up” I thought they were cheering me on, but maybe they were just laughing at me. That sounds extreme and dark, but that is what I started to feel. In the year since the race, I might have started to run about 5 times. I just can’t seem to get back out there. The running shoes only recently came out again when my 11 year old tried to steal them from me.

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Why do I let so much get to me? Everything I have just written makes France sound like an awful place. The thing is that while all of these experiences were happening, I never realized that it wasn’t because of me. I have spent most of my adult life doubting myself.

I am recently (and happily) unemployed. I have an idea for a new project and it is going to be really hard to pull off in France. A career coach at the unemployment office even suggested that I move back to the U.S. to fulfill my dream. It is actually this same career coach that brought on this whole enlightenment. She said that the French from a very young age are taught negativity. In school they are not taught that they could do better but that they are not doing good enough. I didn’t understand before she said this why my kids hated school so much. I loved primary school but my kids say they feel stupid. They don’t think they will do good enough. They are always anxious about how the day will go. With my North American upbringing of positive encouragement, I can see why the opposite would have such heavy effects on me.

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The French mean well. They see correcting as way to help. They think that negative remarks will push people to try harder. They are the Jillian Michaels of the education system. Tough love encourages good results. I mean, it worked for them, right? They are immune to feeling bad about themselves because they have built themselves armor against it. When I think about the administrator that emailed me from the half marathon, maybe he was just trying to push me to train harder for next year. My kids’ teachers are just trying to push them to strive to do better. Not everyone can come in first place. The North American way of giving everyone an award just for participating isn’t building fighters.

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Look at me. I cried over a medal.

 

Heather Javault came to Paris from Massachusetts nearly 19 years ago with a dream to travel. She fell for a cheesy pickup line for a “real French kiss” and never really left. She now putters around the suburbs of Paris with her husband and 3 children and constantly plans new projects and vacations. You can follow her latest project on her blog So Full of Crêpe or catch up with her on her facebook page.

Friday Featurette: Top 5 Expat Locations

A couple Fridays a month I will be featuring another blogger or up-and-coming writer on my site. Stories range from expat life to travel/adventure. If you are interested in possibly being featured, please read the info hereand get in touch!  You may notice differences in terminology, vocabulary and spellings here but I think keeping it authentic to the author’s voice and background makes for a richer reading. 

 

Top 5 Expat Locations
By: Jason Mueller

Moving to a foreign location can be a frightening thought for many people thinking about making a big move that will change their life drastically but if you choose the right country this frustrating process can be very rewarding making all the hassles well worth the pain. For those looking for change, you will not find a better way to mix things up by re-locating to a strange country. There are so many great countries to ship all your goods to and call home. It is hard to narrow it down to just 5, and your perfect country is going to vary from the next persons, but here are 5 great countries for you to consider calling yourself a local expat to.

Switzerland

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There is so much that Switzerland has to offer for expats searching tirelessly for a better life abroad. For starters the food is to die for and places like Lausanne have amazing street food festivals, wash all the great food down with a delightful glass of wine or some on the cleanest drinking water on the planet.   Switzerland is very stable, in fact it has the sixth highest GDP per capita out of all the countries in the world. Great public transportation will get you around on time, if you don’t like to drive then this is a tremendous country to take advantage of and if you do enjoy to drive the roads are in good condition and fun to explore. Immaculate hospitals, brilliant doctors and great benefits make the health care top notch, in fact the Swiss are said to have among the highest quality of life on the planet. The central location will make a great home base to go out and enjoy the rest of Europe. This incredibly safe country makes the list for so many good reason.

Costa Rica

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This is also known as the land of pura vida which translates to pure life, on a typical day you will hear this saying at least 3 times a day, it can be used as hello, goodbye, thanks, have a good day, take it easy or just about anything else, but is really a way of life for the locals and expats living in the Rich Coast. The country has been toted the happiest country in the world due to high wellbeing, high life expectancy and not to mention the tranquil laid back vibe you can’t help but to enjoy when chilling on the beaches, walking in the lush rain forest vibrant with flora and fauna or enjoying the views in the pristine mountains. The locals are welcoming and you won’t have to travel far to meet up with a fellow expat. People re-locate here from all over the world opening B&B’s, hotels, restaurants, tours, vacation rental companies or anything to take advantage of the high numbers of visitors that come as tourists. Of course Costa Rica has a tropical climate keeping you nice and toasty on the beach but is also known for having some of the most moderate weather in the world up in the mountains.

Chile

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People may not know it but Chile is a rapid developing country, South Americas most prosperous and stable country. The emerging economy has the highest state of peace with great economic freedom to keep your soul happy. Chile has a low percentage of corruption and crime making the country very safe and secure so you can save money by not having to worry about security in your office or business. Also the cost of delicious food and other living expenses such as rent is lower than North America giving you a better bang for your buck. Obtaining a visa, work permit or residency is pretty hassle free compared to many other countries. Come enjoy one of the bustling cities or some views of the breath taking Andes.

Mexico

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If you are planning a move from North America this may be your best option because of the close proximity, offering cheap and fast flights back home to visit relatives. The immigration process to get accepted in the country is fairly easy with minimal money needed to get your residency. Sure Mexico has gotten a bad rap from the war on drugs and the other reported crimes but the truth is that in most locations it is very safe and there is a lot of expats to mingle with. But you won’t have a problem making friends because locals are very happy to invite you for a meal of seemingly endless food and tequilas. The cost of living is pretty low for the frugal people out there looking to make their dollar stretch a little further. Mexican food is a desired taste bursting with flavour, if you aren’t a lover of “picante” food then don’t let that detour you as there is a huge selection of restaurants from all over the world.

New Zealand

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The landscape alone is enough to make you want to move to this unique country that offers volcanic terrain on the North Island and snow-capped mountainous peaks on the South Island. Outdoor adventures will keep you active with anything from skiing to surfing, you will never get bored in this adrenaline filled country. Although the average income is a little low the high quality of life will keep you healthy and after all some people forget just how important health is in life. Approximately one fifth of the population are expats, with that being said, it’s clear that the proof is in the pudding. The state sponsored health care is some of the best around with modern health facilities. All the amenities that you are used to will keep you very comfortable, soon you may be calling yourself a Kiwi (what locals are called)

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Jason Mueller is an entrepreneur living in Costa Rica with family from Canada. Since graduating from high school and getting his pilot’s licence, he has lived to travel the world looking for adventure. You can find him onFacebook and Instagram.

 

 

 

Photo credits: Jason Mueller, Jennifer Hart, Fotolia – Vege

Friday Featurette: Becoming an Expat

A couple Fridays a month I will be featuring another blogger or up-and-coming writer on my site. Stories range from expat life to travel/adventure. If you are interested in possibly being featured, please read the info hereand get in touch!  You may notice differences in terminology, vocabulary and spellings here but I think keeping it authentic to the author’s voice and background makes for a richer reading. 

Becoming an Expat
By: Jason Mueller

“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination.”  Roman Payne

Many people don’t even get a chance to travel outside of their own country of origin or even their home state or province so the thought of becoming an expat in a completely strange country may seem overwhelming and scary. For me I think I was destined to become an expat, I got addicted to traveling when I was a kid I believe, I was privileged to be in a family that took family vacations to some pretty cool places like Disneyland and Reno. It was only natural that I turn in to a wanderlust when I was all gown up. I couldn’t imagine having an anxiety order like agoraphobia, in fact I am the complete opposite, if I stay in the same place for too long then I get anxious and look for change. This seems to be a trait that you seem to have or don’t have.

Becoming an expat is not easy, probably the hardest part is not knowing what the outcome may be, for me I was conditioned to take risks. When I was living a life that I didn’t necessarily enjoy in my early 20’s I made a life changing decision to follow a dream I had and quit a decent paying job and become a full time poker player. I made this decision shortly after watching The Secret, thankfully a friend frantically introduced me to the life of conscious thinking and the law of attraction. It was through taking a big leap of faith and having everything work out that I realized I could do anything I wanted.

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After winning some money from playing poker I decided to go an epic backpacking trip for 3.5 months to Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. It was in Australia that I almost became an expat for the first time, I was contemplating moving there but decided not to. For anyone that thinks expat life is for them I would highly recommend going traveling for extended periods of time. It is good to get to know other countries cultures, there are many differences in the world and chances are you have it way better than you could ever imagine.

If you are thinking about moving to another country it is best to spend some time getting to know the specific country and city or town that you plan on moving to. I would recommend at least 6 months, now I pretty much jumped in and decided that I was moving to Costa Rica after taking a 1 month vacation there but remember I am known for making decisions very fast, I can’t say I have any regrets but I have watched many Youtube videos warning people not to move to Costa Rica or other Latin American countries.

One character attribute that expats must have is the ability to make adaptations and be willing to accept changes. For instance the original business plan that I had intended to do when I first moved here fell through because I had a falling out with a business partner/friend but I opened up another business named Jaco Ropes which ended up being totally different than the original plan. Of course things starting out with a business are usually slow but we had a really slow year for tourism in Central America so I had to make the decision to pick up some online work for A-1 Auto Transport. I also started a separate business to try and help bring in some extra income and tourism to my existing business named Costa Rica Vacation Rentals. The point is that you have to do what it takes to survive and most often things do not always go as planned.

Expat Life in Costa Rica
Life in Costa is hard to beat when you are on vacation but living here as an expat can be challenging at times. For instance the fast passed life of living in Canada that I had become accustom to came to an almost drastic halt. The pace of life is very slow around here and if you are looking to get something done fast then this is the wrong place, for instance if you are planning on going to the bank or running an errand chance are it will take you way longer than you had hoped. The locals are referred to as ticos and they are notorious for operating on “tico time” They are basically never on time and projects can be delayed for months, sometimes years.

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Of course Costa Rica’s native language is Spanish so it is best to learn if you are planning to live here. Although in Jaco, where I live and much like in other tourist parts of the country, lots locals speak English but it is always going to be natural for them to speak Spanish when socializing in groups.

Are you ready to Become an Expat?

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Jason Mueller is an entrepreneur living in Costa Rica with family from Canada. Since graduating from high school and getting his pilot’s licence, he has lived to travel the world looking for adventure. You can find him on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Friday Featurette: Jet-lagged Emotions

A couple Fridays a month I will be featuring another blogger or up-and-coming writer on my site. Stories range from expat life to travel/adventure. If you are interested in possibly being featured, please read the info here and get in touch!  You may notice differences in terminology, vocabulary and spellings here but I think keeping it authentic to the author’s voice and background makes for a richer reading. 

Jet-Lagged Emotions
By: Katherine Wilson

People say the world is getting smaller, and I agree. When I moved to Italy from the USA twenty years ago, the transatlantic flights seemed endless: there was one movie that you didn’t choose, the old headphones barely worked making it hard to hear, and you had to crane your neck to see the communal screen. Talking to my family in the USA meant buying a phone card once a week and closing myself in a tiny, hot, smoke-filled booth.

‘What a whiner’, my mother chided me, ‘when I came to Bologna in 1967 we travelled on a boat, and I didn’t dream of talking to my family.’

Today, I can talk for free, any time of day or night. I can see my sister’s face in New York as she works out on the elliptical; can show her the piece of parmiggiano reggiano I’m about to buy at the market. The flight is direct, with great, individual movies that I can choose. The world is getting smaller, or at least becoming more efficient at feeling that way.

Smaller, except for one little thing. If only we could eliminate the six hour time difference between us. I understand this is unlikely, given that the Earth revolves around the sun and that might not change for my convenience. But in terms of communication, it creates a gulf. I am a mother of two and the morning is when I find myself having some time to talk – when it would be a pleasure to chat with my sister. By the time New York wakes up, I’m revving up for an afternoon of school pickups, shuttling kids and attacking Italian homework.

“Let’s talk at 11 my time?” my sister suggests via text. Unfortunately, her 11 am (my 5pm), is when I’m deep in Italian subjunctives and dinner preparation. It is also a point in the day when I tend to be tired. I no longer have it in me to tell her about whatever I had in mind this morning, when the day spread out before me and I was optimistic about the future: work, family, plans, etc.

“OK. 11’s good,” I text her back. I call her because she’s my sister and I want to hear her voice, even if it means perilous multitasking and leaving my kids to their own devices. I hear in her voice that it’s 11 am. She’s freshly caffeinated and wants to tell me about a date she had and ask about what are we planning for this summer.

“Um… yeah… I’m not sure yet… sorry just a second Anthony can you stop doing that, please?”. Sadly, this is about all my sister gets from me.

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Look familiar? Long-distance communication often happens when we can fit it in instead of when it is most convenient!

I realize, it’s not because I’m an ocean away, it’s because I’m six hours ahead. Her day has just started to hit its stride while mine peaks into the stressful hours of parenting, cooking and checking homework. She is Morning Anna and I am Afternoon Katherine. As a result, we are very much out of sync.

A friend of mine who had been an expat for years when I arrived in Italy gave me wise advice when she told me that when you fly transatlantic, it takes your soul a few days to catch up with your body. She told me, Katherine, with this experience, you shouldn’t expect too much of yourself those first few days, because it’s just your body. Your soul hasn’t quite arrived yet.

I think of that when I’m Afternoon Katherine talking to Morning Anna. Our souls are not in the same dimension. I give her my voice and my ear, detached from my emotions. That’s all I’ve got in the early evening.

I tell her before I hang up that I can’t wait to see her this summer, when we will be in the same place at the same time.

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Katherine Wilson is an American actress and writer living in Italy. Her memoir, Only in Naples: Lessons in Food and Famiglia From My Italian Mother-in-Law is an ode to her adopted city and family, as well as a hilarious look at expat life. It was out from Random House this spring and is being published in seven countries.
Click here to purchase in the USA and her to purchase in the UK/Europe.
Click here to follow Katherine on Facebook
Click here to follow Katherine on Instagram

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Friday Featurette: Have A Story To Share?

Are you an expat? Traveller? World Citizen? International? Do you have a story or photo journal to share about your experiences living life on the road less travelled? Would you like to be featured on this blog as a guest writer? If so we’d love to hear from you!

Starting in June 2016 I will be posting Friday Featurette featuring, well, YOU! The longer I live abroad (in my 11th year now) the more I know how much we need to share our stories with each other. Help each other to know we aren’t alone and gain experience from those that have been there before!

Topics can include:
-expat life/experiences
-family relocations
-long-term travel (i.e. not just a weekend spent somewhere, you must really have a feel for a local culture and impressions about how it changed you)
-multilingual experiences
-Foodie-inspired international topics
-original recipe and culinary/cultural explanation (i.e. your take on a traditional dish where you are currently residing)

Your idea pitch only needs to be a few sentences long. As an option, you may include a photo added to help me visualise how the post might look. The final text needs to be between 500 -800 words and include hi-resolution photos. You must also include a bio and any social media links (i.e. twitter, Facebook page, instagram). Your material will be credited and owned by you and hosted by Domestic Bliss Abroad.

If interested, send me an email at jennifer@domesticblissabroad.com

If you have previously syndicated/published an article elsewhere and want to reuse it, we can still discuss this. Changes may need to be made to fit different audiences but I’m willing to hear what you have to offer!! 🙂

Photo credit: Fotolia