If a stranger approached me last summer and told me that I would end up packing my bags and moving to another country across the world right before starting university, I would think they had mistaken me for another girl. When I received my acceptance letter to study abroad in China, I was at a loss for words. Not only had I already packed my bags to leave for University of Florida, I also had only one day to make the biggest decision of my teenage years.
My name is Kate and I’m originally from Philadelphia. It’s that time of year and a lot of you are probably getting ready to start university or applying to them. I’m here to tell you my story and how Yes Theory single handedly chucked my college plans (that I have been working on since I was 12 years old) out the window.
Last August I was stuck in a serious predicament and miraculously, a few weeks before, I came across a Youtube channel called the Yes Theory. These friends make it their mission to travel around the world to seek discomfort in their everyday lives by simply saying “yes” to spontaneous situations that allow them to be more open minded. I have always been a person that prefers to feel at ease and comfortable rather than deal with anything that seems unfamiliar. But little did I know that these guys from Yes Theory were about to change everything.
Before I knew it, I was boarding the plane by myself about to start a new chapter of my life in Beijing with no idea how to speak the language and oh was it a challenge. Let’s just say I got really good at charades. It didn’t take me long to make friends and soon everyday became a brand new adventure. I immediately started a travel journal so I could always look back at these amazing memories with all the unforgettable people I have met so far from around the world (I suggest you guys to do the same). 3 months flew by and my GAP semester was soon coming to an end. But something didn’t feel quite right. I was not done here. Can you figure out what I did next?
Yep I emailed University of Florida and told them something along the lines of “heyyy so guess who extended their gap semester…” At this point, I was now taking 20+ hours a week of Mandarin so bye bye charades. A new semester meant new people and more unique experiences. Just to give you a small taste of some of the interesting experiences I had during my gap year:
1) Joined a dragon boat team and flew to other provinces in China to go compete against local and foreign teams
2) Marched straight into the security room of the Pearl Market and took over the security cameras to help my friend track down the people that stole her bag
3) Learned that it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, the clubs were always lively and for my going away party, we partied to see the sunrise at Tiananmen Square (imagine the tourists’ faces when they saw us coming out of the taxi)
4) Rode camels and went sledding in the desert in Inner Mongolia only to almost freeze to death at night when the electricity went out and our heater broke
5) Ran a 5K at a DJ Run to the Beat party at the Ming Tombs
6) Cartwheeled across the Great Wall
However, there were also instances that made this whole living across the world by myself challenging. For example, I accidentally booked my flight home a month after my courses for the year ended so I had a month to kill before going back to the states. All of my friends were leaving and I was soon going to stuck in Beijing alone. So, what did I do?
I booked a bunch of one way flights to go explore the world by myself. Crazy thing is, it wasn’t the first time I did this either. After midterms, I flew to Singapore, Hong Kong, Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo in only oNe WeEK. I got accustomed to traveling by myself because it’s so much more faster and efficient. As soon as finals ended, I traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Bangkok, Auckland, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, and Helsinki.
The coolest thing about studying abroad is now that I have friends all over the world. At every location, I met up with my friends as they gave me tours around their cities. If it weren’t for them I would have been stuck only seeing the typical touristy places but they took me to their favorite spots and introduced me to their favorite local foods (which is the most important to me lmao). Along the way, I also somehow met some Yes Theory viewers which was crazy.
Without Yes Theory, I would not have had the courage to say “yes” to this insane mind-boggling opportunity to study abroad. This three letter word has changed my life and I am forever thankful for the impact the guys had on me and I’m sure the same applies for whoever is reading this right now.
I have always loved art and creating content that people can enjoy. It has always been a dream of mine to be able to make people from all over the world happy or smile when they see my art. Below, you can find a piece that I designed awhile back I never got to share so better late than never.
As well as the fanart, I also decided to design a baseball cap with a saying that has changed my outlook on life. It’s basically a reminder to live a little and that not everything has to be so serious all the time. “Just Say Yes”. A percentage of the profits will go towards my non profit I have been working tirelessly on.
If any of you have questions regarding taking GAP years, studying abroad, living in China, traveling alone, tips for planning trips, etc. all of my social media is listed under the "Contact" tab.
My name is Kate and this is my Yes Theory story.
So I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my experiences traveling, especially because I usually backpack solo and that can be daunting for a lot of people, especially other females.
There are endless topics I can write about to help any of you looking to travel soon about planning for an inexpensive trip, how to get around without knowing the language, finding dirt cheap flights (I’m talking around $10 and under flights), staying in hostels, etc. so I might be posting more on my blog that’s listed on kateyeungdesigns.com (link to my website in bio).
BUT for this particular blog post, I want to cover how I manage with traveling around by myself while simultaneously never being alone.
“How does that even make sense?” you might be asking yourself but grab a snack because I am about to explain how I ended up leaving every city with a new group of friends.
So let’s backtrack to this past exams season where I am half dead camping in the library with some friends cramming for finals. At this point, I could not read another sentence about microeconomics or memorize another simplified character for my Chinese essay and I was casually “browsing” on my all time favorite flight website, kayak.com (the only website I use to find my cheap flights other than google flights). By the way, let me know below in the comments or DM me on social media if you guys want me to write another blog post on how exactly I find the best flights on kayak because kid you not, it would change your life.
Anyways, here I am studying for my finals, blasting JOYRYDE in my headphones to stay awake, and booking flights left and right because ya girl saw some unbelievable deals. So by the time I left the library at 2am, I had my trip halfway booked and I was leaving as soon as I finished my last exam in a couple days. Just so you guys can get an idea of my crazy typical 2 week itinerary, Gainesville -> London -> Malta -> Toulouse -> Naples -> Copenhagen -> ? (to be determined at the time) -> Manchester -> New York City on Christmas day. The trick to being the most efficient with the short amount of time you have is book all one way flights and be open to flexible routes/layovers/times/alternative airports etc.
At this point I could not wait to see some of my friends again that I made on my gap year while studying abroad in Beijing (I wrote my previous blog post about this insane last minute decision if you wanted to read about it) but even then, I was about to try something I have never done before and that was meeting up with a bunch of random strangers.
The following day I logged onto the Yes Theory Fam Facebook group (which you guys should join if you are interested in becoming friends with 74,000 from around the world) and posted something along the lines of “hey I’m coming here, here, and here during this time, would anyone be down to meet up to either show me around or hang out?” Next thing I knew, I now had plans to hang out with a bunch of strangers in every city. I definitely also recommend joining these other following groups if you plan on traveling anytime soon: Girls Who Travel and Yes Theory UK Fam.
Anyways, I definitely threw the idea of “stranger danger” out the window BUT hold up, this does not mean I did not do my research and background checks before agreeing to everything. I definitely encourage others to be more open minded when it comes to meeting new people because everyone’s backgrounds and stories are so unique. You never know what either of you will take away from it like a new outlook on life, inspiration, etc.. HOWEVER, please use your common sense and basic rules that you have heard probably a million times by now like obviously do not go over someone’s house without meeting them in public first, meeting at night in a deserted area, etc.
With that being said, I absolutely loved everyone I got to meet on my Europe backpacking trip (you know who you guys are if you are currently reading this right now). I am thankful to say that I did not have any negative experiences what so ever. To the people I met along the way, the trip would not have been the same without any of you. I am so glad I got to meet all of you and that we had a fun time hanging out.
I pretty much captured my entire backpacking trip for the most part through my Instagram story so it’s available for you to watch if you have not already as one of my highlights on my profile (@kathren561) as well as my other summer backpacking trip.
So I guess that covers how I went about scheduling to meet a bunch of strangers during my backpacking trip but if you want to get an idea of some of the activities I did with the strangers and my old gap year friends, feel free to keep reading.
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To the people I hung out with in Europe, you know who you are and I wanted to leave each one of you a short special note that kind of wraps up the most memorable part of us hanging out to look back at in the future.
SO let’s begin:
My London fam, I still can’t believe I flew back to London again at the end of my trip to see you guys again oh lord ahaha. Harry, LMAO at how we met each other and the fact you decided to be spontaneous and join me and a group of strangers for a night out. Thanks for taking me pub crawling, definitely felt like I experienced a typical night out in London. Raul, I am not sure I will encounter another person that could eat almost 2 pizzas, ice cream, 2 cheeseburgers, and drink idk how many glasses of cokes and still be hungry. Lucka, I am glad you did not get kidnapped by “Raul” or arrested by the police because we would have never gotten the chance to ride that crazy ride at Winter Wonderland. Yasmin, girl how did we never meet at 北大 when we were both studying there at the same time?! I can’t believe you were able to recognize me in your friend’s random photo because that picture actually turned out to be from one of my going away parties. The world really is a small place because what are the chances. Tom, what a crazy day ahaha from museums to markets to clubbing (that music tho…) to us taking a bus back to the hostel lmaoo thanks for showing me around and putting up with all those wifi struggles.
Mike, boiiiiiiiii I don’t even know where to begin with you. Thanks for showing me around Malta on your bike because that was insane to watch the sunset on the edge of a cliff and then shortly end up in a fortress eating fancy dinner right after. Hope my blunt life advice helped you out because Bill Burr’s jokes will be ingrained in my brain forever. Now I know how to surprise attack a guy so thanks for that. I can’t believe I saw you shortly after when you came to visit in NYC. I hope you had fun here and that my dad did not tell you any of my embarrassing childhood stories during your guys’ business meeting. I’m glad we got to hang out again and that you come back soon!! I still gotta show you around Philly so till then, we gotta hit up the others to have a full reunion.
Nicla, you literally saved my trip to Naples. I really was not feeling the place and you came in clutch by driving us an hour to get the best pizza I have ever had in my life. Throwback to us stalking the American army base camp before heading to get gelato and then playing with the cute animals at the pet store. Thanks so much for making my trip 10x better and dropping me off at my hotel after everything. I hope you get to move to New York soon so I can show you around!
Andreas, andreas, andreas. How many times have I seen you this past year? Surfing in San Fran, hiking in Lake Tahoe, that sketchy bus ride from New York City, Bon Chon in Philly, thanksgiving dinner at my house, black friday shopping for your shoes, cycling around Copenhagen in the rain, grocery shopping for your pizza competition that ended up being in a draw (hehehe did it on purpose to keep things more interesting aka you guys need to do a round 2 for dessert), and last but not least that whole Gatwick drone mess smh.
Xinyue, bruh if only you came back home to London. Thank your parents for me, they were the besttttt. It was so weird to be staying in your childhood bedroom ahaha Xinyue for the weekend. But anyways, girl I'll be back soon enough so you better stay put and not move anywhere. Also if you haven't seen I'm gonna hide one of you childhood pictures on my most Instagram post so enjoy. Can't wait to reunite, it's been too long already (even though it hasn't even been a year since I've seen you, still too long). Miss ya sister from another mother.
John and Andrei, you guys had me cracking up the entire time omg. Yes John it’s a thing to put sauce on your burgers so they’re not dry af. Andrei, what happened to your brilliant plan of not getting any drinks for the day lmao we all know it was gonna continue after that cup of wine from the “winter wonderland’ ice skating rink. Too bad we couldn’t go axe throwing but ayeee haven’t played mini golf in awhile. That rooftop bar was insane but catch me one day going back there just to hire tHaT bartender so he could work for me smh the audacity of that man, he’s lucky I didn’t roast him anymore than I did in front of more people. Thanks for adding me to the Yes Theory fam snapchat group btw, you guys are a funny bunch.
wHaT a TrIp
So that concludes this blog post, DM me on my social medias (listed under the contact page) if you want me to cover a specific topic or have any questions :)
Believe it or not, this all started off with me just drawing celebrities that I saw in the TV shows and movies I watched. At the time, I didn't think too much about it. If you scroll all the way down on my personal Instagram (@kathren561), they're still posted if you want to have a good laugh because wow are they are horrific. Now looking back at those drawings, I can definitely see a huge improvement.
Then along came Youtube. The youtubers I watched back then obviously weren't as well known as they are today so every time I drew them, they acknowledged / liked / commented / reposted on social media (unlike the more famous celebrities that I drew from T.V). For that reason, it made me want to draw more of these youtubers and before I realized, drawing and fanart became one of the hobbies I enjoyed during my free time.
2014 - 2015
For these two years, I drew at every chance I got in between balancing my time with school, clubs, after school activities, sports, etc.. My drawings were now starting to look more realistic and every time I practiced, it slowly got better. They were still bad, don't get me wrong but at least they were resembling an actual human being and not an alien.
Towards the end of 2016, I began started practicing a more cartoon art style. Usually it's learned the other way around since cartoons are much easier to draw than realistic portraits but this only made the transition easier for me. It was definitely a drastic change in terms of details, shapes, and coloring but I think I adapted pretty quickly.
In July, I posted a new drawing I had just finished of these youtubers named Kian & Jc along with their pets. To this day, I still don't know why but a lot of people really liked this drawing and on my personal Instagram (@kathren561) there's around 2,500 likes and 1,000 comments. This was after I just created an account on Redbubble. For those that aren't familiar with Redbubble, it's basically an online store where artists upload their artwork to a variety of products for their followers to purchase. I uploaded it on the store and immediately, sales started to roll in from all around the world and I was honestly in shock. Never in a million years would I have thought people would appreciate my art, let alone spend money on it and wear it around or display it in their houses for people to see. This was a crazy moment for me and I think this is what encouraged me to continue.
Later that July, I saw that Kian & Jc were coming near where I lived for their tour and so I went online and purchased myself a shirt with the Kian & Jc drawing on it and a couple stickers. Long story short, Ryan Abe (a youtuber and friend of Kian & Jc) was also on tour with them, I met him outside and gave him the stickers, and the next thing I know, Ryan posts a snapchat and Jc is wearing the sticker on his shirt. I think a piece of my soul left my body when I opened that Snapchat. That day was such a mess by the way but it was all worth it at the end. Let me know on my social media accounts if you want to hear the whole story of that day because it's another eventful story for another blog post that you don't want to miss out on.
Oh yeah, and I can't forget about Kylie. The girl I met from Instagram/Twitter that's been there from the very start of this whole cartoon art adventure. To sum up some of our crazy stories, she met Kian & Jc wearing my design on the shirt she bought from my store, we both found out someone duplicated my Kian & Jc artwork and tried to sell it on tshirts on Amazon, and she flew from halfway across the country to come to Jc's show with me (I'll explain that in a little bit). I'm sure I'm forgetting some other good story times but feel free to ask if you want to hear about how our "internet friendship" came to be, I guess that's what you call it? I don't know. Go follow her on Instagram/Twitter (@kyliewidseth)!
And to end the year (probably another story for another blog post), I went to Drop The Mic Tour and gave youtubers, Jack Baran and Ricky Dillon, pillows of the designs I drew of them in December.
All I can say is, what a crazy year. Like all the other previous years, I kept drawing and practicing like usual. People continued buying from my store but at this point I was looking for other ways to start my own website with my own store. The prices for my customers on Redbubble were so expensive but I couldn't really change that to what I wanted. Besides, Redbubble at the time was a good starting point for me because they handle literally everything. I upload the designs, they handle all the orders (the manufacturing, shipping, customer service, etc.).
Side note, I also wrote and illustrated my own book for a non-profit I started ? Let me know if you want me to talk about that in another blog post as well !
Then July rolled around and I got the opportunity to work with Jc on his new merch for his NJ show at iPlayAmerica. If you want to see the design, it's up on both my store Instagram (@kateyeungdesigns) and my personal Instagram (@kathren561). I also talk more about it in the caption under that photo. That day was surreal and this is the show Kylie flew to come with me to see so if you want to also hear more about our day, let me know :)
And now look where I am. Writing this super long post. I can't thank you guys enough whether you've been here since the very very beginning or whether this is the first time coming across my name and face. Practice and patience is key to achieving what you want. Don't give up no matter what people tell you, it will all work out in the end if you put in your 110%. I believe that everything happens for a reason no matter what. I'm super excited to see what's in store for me in the near future and I can't wait for you guys to join me ♡
I'm terrible at writing but a lot of people have been curious about my store, designs, experiences, etc. so I hope this long blog post helps. If you have any questions for me or topics I should talk about on my next blog post, leave them down below/ask me on social media/email you know the drill.
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