How to Pack for a Two-Week Vacation with Only a Carry-On

A carry-on-size suitcase, tote bag, and water bottle - all you need for your vacation

In response to my last post, several people expressed surprise at my ability to pack for an international vacation with only a carry-on suitcase. As a follow-up, I thought I’d share some details about how I pack. Most of my longer trips have been in the summer, and some of these tips apply best to warm-weather travel, but others are useful year-round.

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The Unexpected Benefits of International Travel

Sun setting next to an Ancient Greek temple to Poseidon
Poseidon Temple, Sounio, Greece

I’ve been lucky to have had a number of opportunities to travel abroad, starting with a school trip to Europe when I was 15.  So far, I’ve traveled to locations in North, Central, and South America; Western Europe; and Australia.  There are many, many more places I hope to go.  Travel is expensive, but to me, the experiences are well worth making sacrifices in other areas.  The world is a big place, full of beauty and adventures waiting to be had.  In addition to the obvious, here are a few less expected benefits of traveling.

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Ask Alexis: How Can I Improve My Self-Esteem?

Charcoal portrait sketch of a young woman
Erika, 2004.

Caroline wrote to me with the following question:

I struggle with my self-confidence. Do you have any suggestions for building self-esteem? I love your confidence. Do you remember any lessons your parents taught you that helped your self-esteem/confidence?

Thanks for the question, Caroline!  First, let me say this:  You have just as much right to be on this planet as everyone else.  You are a unique, worthy person who has many gifts to give: gifts of perspective, kindness, creativity, and more.  We are all works in process, learning and growing as we move through life.  Though it may at times seem like others have everything figured out while you’re still struggling to feel comfortable in your own skin, rest assured that everyone has moments of self-doubt.

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Ask Alexis, Ads, Art and More

Two adirondack chairs in a cottage garden

Hello!  I’m foregoing my usual weekend post to address a few administrative matters:

  1. Ask Alexis.  I’d love to start an advice column of sorts on this site: a weekly or monthly post in which I answer reader questions.  To do that, though, I need to hear from you!  Please send me your questions through the comment form in the menu bar.  Sign them with whatever name or alias you’d like me to use when I respond in a post — it does not have to be your real name if you’d like to remain anonymous.  Questions can relate to interpersonal struggles, creative pursuits, dating, time management, balance, or other life issues.  Remember, I can’t give you legal advice, though I may be able to answer very general questions about the law or legal procedures.  And of course I’m not a licensed counselor, financial advisor, or anything else.  I’ll just be offering my thoughts based on my own life experience.  With that in mind, ask away!
  2. Ad blockers.  I know many of you have ad blockers installed on your browsers or devices, and I completely understand why.  Ads are annoying, particularly when a site is covered with them.  But I’d like to make a small request:  if you use an ad blocker, would you consider whitelisting this website?  You should only see a maximum of three ads on any of my pages, and you will not be subjected to pop-ups or auto-play video ads, so any interruption should be minimal.  (If you do see an obnoxious ad, let me know and I’ll see what I can do about it.)  I do not make any money from this site, but ad revenue helps to offset the cost of hosting and other administrative costs.  Unlike many blogs, I’ve chosen not to do a bunch of sponsored posts and affiliate-linked product promotions because I don’t want this site to be yet another blog that’s trying to sell you stuff.  In the rare instance that I reference a specific product, it’s because I actually use and love that product.  If you want to keep it that way, please ensure that you can see the ads on the site so that I can get credit for them.  Thanks so much for your help with this!
  3. Artwork.  Most of the paintings and drawings on this site are for sale.  If you’d like to purchase something, contact me and I’ll tell you the dimensions, medium, frame details, price, and shipping options.  Pieces are one-of-a-kind, so if you see something you want, don’t wait!  If you’d like me to donate a piece to a charity art auction, please send me a request and I’ll be happy to consider it.
  4. The Groller Family.  Tim Groller is a police officer and father of three from my hometown who was recently diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.  He is only 34 years old, and his youngest child was born just a couple of weeks before he received his diagnosis.  I don’t know Tim personally, but I went to middle school and high school with his wife Gabrielle.  You can learn more about Tim and his family here.  If you’d like to help this family with their expenses and relieve their burden as they bravely face this illness, you can donate to their GoFundMe campaign.

Have a lovely weekend!

Summer Slow-Down: Learning to Relax

A beach with two people relaxing under a pair of palm trees

As my mom will tell you, I’ve never very been good at relaxing.  Since about sixth grade, I’ve been involved in all sorts of things.  As an adult, you will rarely find me sitting down when I’m at home.  I tend to spend my evenings and weekends working out, doing yard work, doing laundry or other chores around the house, attending a meeting or event, visiting friends, or working on some kind of project.  I pretty much never sit in front of a television, and my relaxation time is usually scheduled (e.g., yoga class, meditation group, occasional massage or mani/pedi).

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Why I Write Pieces I’ll Never Publish

Sun setting over a Tennessee lake

The writing I do falls into three broad categories:  (1) blog posts; (2) pieces that might someday be published (personal essays, poems, fiction); and (3) things I write only for myself (and I suppose the writing I do for work is a fourth category, but that’s a whole different animal).  Today, I’d like to talk about the third category.  What’s the point of writing things that no one else will ever read?

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The Bar Exam: Perspective and Self-Care

A stack of law books

Across the United States, recent law school graduates have begun studying for the bar exam, a two-day (sometimes three-day) test offered during the last week of July and also in February).  Each state gives its own version of the exam, which usually includes a day of tricky multiple choice questions and a day consisting of some combination of essay questions, short answer questions, and a closed-universe performance test.  Intensive test-prep courses usually begin in late May, and many test-takers study full-time and then some.

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