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  • Writer's pictureZanny Merullo Steffgen


The time has come to resurrect this blog!

What began as Zan Takes the World (a place for me to process my gap year experiences and share them with loved ones and interested readers) is now Zan Tackles the Mind, a space to share stories, musings, and ideas with the goal of developing resilience to life’s ups and downs.

If you are interested in what I’ve been up to since my last posts, you can find more about my  first months in Cambodia here, and feel free read a little more about what’s been on my mind in my posts for Medium.

 Here is a quick update, both on my life and what the future holds for this blog. 

Since my last posts, I’ve learned more than just the fact that room and board includes food…   Soon after my life-changing trip to Svay Rieng, a nasty sinus infection I’d developed during a flooded rice paddy swim came out of hiding and took over my body. After daily trips to the local clinic for IV antibiotics, flights to Bangkok to visit a real hospital, and even a journey home to Massachusetts for sinus surgery, I finally had to admit defeat. I left Siem Reap in April of 2019, and my heart is still cracked in many places from this move.

That time in my life, and the year after it, was incredible difficult. Thanks to my unconventional life experiences, however, I was able to maintain some semblance of peace of mind throughout it all, something I am proud of. This is a topic I would like to explore in this blog, through my own posts and back-and-forths with others.

In August of 2019, after a few months in the Northeast (where I hopped from a motel, to housesitting, to my grandmother’s couch in order to avoid mold in my childhood home that made me sick), I moved to Telluride, Colorado. I’ve been living in this ski town in the mountains ever since, with my boyfriend turned fiancé. While this place doesn’t feel like home to either of us, our home is in ourselves and each other, meaning we can create a happy life in this beautiful place despite its flaws. Here I bartended in a busy tavern on the ski slopes until I broke my leg and was unable to work, then went into lockdown when COVID swept through the country. I was lucky enough to stay healthy during that time and live in a place where I could escape the prison of my studio apartment with walks by the river.

Just over a month ago, I took on another bartending job at a fine dining restaurant in town, after losing my old job due to COVID closure. During my free time away from the restaurant, I am pursuing the eventual publication of my first memoir, as well as writing as much as I can about everything I find fascinating in life.

As I dedicate myself to writing (what I like to think of as “feeding my soul”), I am looking for ways to bow out from the restaurant world and make words my whole life. Part of that process is developing a stronger online presence, sharing my thoughts and essays and ideas with a greater community. Here, on this blog, I hope to expand upon some of my most urgent musings, writing not only about my life and experiences, but about the challenge of managing the mind. I hope to engage in dialogue with those who are open to discussing this challenge, and share stories, experiences, and ideas.

Although I have no true authority on the subject of mental health, I do know that as a person who has made significant steps forward in her own battle with mood swings and resilience during tough times, that the topic interests me and I want to talk about it.

Conversations with human beings around the world — from taxi drivers and bouncers, to travelers and friends — have been my greatest source of joy and growth. That is something I want to pursue in writing on this blog, now that in-person conversations have become more difficult. Through these open conversations and posts, I hope to foster connections with fellow human beings, and find common ground through our struggles and battles. The world is hurting right now, and while suffering has always existed and always will, now we have more resources to deal with our suffering than ever before.

Let’s talk about it. Let’s tackle the mind.

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Update: My Adult Gap Year

When I was a fresh high school graduate at the age of 18, I took a gap year, spending six months living with my parents, working in a restaurant, and volunteering before traveling solo through Europe.


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