Travel Experiences

Travel Lessons Learned: Less & More

In less than a month I'll be off again exploring new countries and cultures around the world, and I couldn't be more excited! This year has been a bit of a whirlwind - I moved back to LA after spending a few months abroad, traveled for a month in Central America, decided to move to North County San Diego and am about to embark on a summer of travel with Europe being the first stop! I'll be visiting London, Greece, Italy, France, Germany, Luxembourg and maybe more! 

As travel becomes a regular part of my life, I am becoming more intentional about how I plan and experience this beautiful world of ours. This is not a week break from my routine, but rather my every day, with a few more passport stamps involved. 

First of all, there are some things I'd like to do LESS of:

  • Pack Less - I'd much rather wear the same tank top twice in a row than have to lug an extra bag around Europe. Bye Bye unneeded items! 
  • Plan Less - I have my flights to Europe and home from Europe planned, the rest I have either a loose itinerary or just an idea in mind about where I might want to go. I am excited to see where the experiences take me, knowing busses, train rides and even flights between European countries are cheap enough that I don't have to overthink.
  • Worry Less - I've now been in enough hostels, coffee shops, etc. to realize that people are generally GOOD. I still carry my little travel locks for valuables and am smart and safe about who i trust, but in general, being aware is plenty, there's no reason to stress about the unknown.

And there are some things which I would like to do MORE of:

  • Connect More: Living in 3 cities for a month each gave me the opportunity to truly connect with the people and the culture which made all the difference. Even if I'm in a city for a day or two, I aim to connect more with the local culture. 
  • As I'm writing this, I realize it align's perfectly with The Greatness Foundation's Goal to Be More. Do More. Give More. and I intend to do just that while traveling:
    • Be More: Continue to work on me - start the day with gratitude, take care of my body and my mind, know when I need some me-time to journal or just sit in a park and take in the experience. 
    • Do More: Stay connected and accountable to my friends and support back home on my health goals, business goals, and contribution goals. Have meaningful conversations with new friends and old along the way to motivate each other to not only set high goals but reach them, no matter where we are in the world. (Side note: I'm part of The Greatness Foundation's Inner Circle and encourage you to check it out or find a mastermind that you connect with! I've found it helpful to set goals with intention, have witnesses and accountability to those goals, and celebrate wins - big and small!) I'll also be continuing to build and launch The Nomad Scout as I roam! 
    • Give More: We're starting our time in Greece by working with a Syrian Refugee Camp in Athens and my goal is to find ways to give in the various cities and countries I'll be exploring. If anyone has recommendations or organizations they can introduce me to, that would be fabulous!

What do your summer plans hold? It doesn't have to be a big trip or major life change, but I encourage you to set some goals of your own for this month or perhaps the next 90 days.

Big changes can be scary. Believe me, there are plenty of days that are not all rainbows and sunshine, but following your heart and your intuition and making small changes to your routine or mindset can make a big difference in your happiness. 

Love you all and thank you for your continued support on this adventure called Life! 

Nicaragua in a Nutshell

A short recap of our time spent in Central America connecting with organizations, learning about their projects and supporting them through The Nomad Scout and The Greatness Foundation.

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 Our cool suits and the board used to go down Cerro Negro - the only Active Volcano you can board down!

Our cool suits and the board used to go down Cerro Negro - the only Active Volcano you can board down!

Life is an adventure, and so was each day during our trip in Central America. We boarded down an active volcano in Nicaragua, white-water rafted through the jungle of Costa Rica, was dropped off by boat in the middle of the ocean to surf for hours with nothing but a board in Panama. We released baby sea turtles into the waves, ate the local cuisine, rented dirtbikes and found hidden beaches and walked local farmland. We rented a car and went off-roading through mountains, across a few small rivers and through towns with no gas stations but with a lovely lady named Mary who saved us from being stranded by selling gas out of her shed (poured through an old Coke bottle). 

The most exciting, the most exhilarating part of the three weeks, the times we were truly on Cloud Nine, were during the conversations with incredible people doing their part to improve their communities through education and our ability to take part in their projects. 

We started in Granada, Nicaragua by staying at the Hotel con Corazon, an organization I had reached out to while researching hotels and learning that 100% of their profits go towards education in their rural community. We had the ability to sit down with their managers and their impact assessment researcher to learn more about their business model and the impact they have made in the community over the past eight years. Their desire to employ, education and support the local community was inspiring - more to come on their projects!  

 Monty (right) sharing his story during a workshop led by Mike (left) on finding and pursuing your passion during the Journey Retreat.

Monty (right) sharing his story during a workshop led by Mike (left) on finding and pursuing your passion during the Journey Retreat.

We then headed north to Managua where we synced up with the rest of the crew participating in the Journey Wellness Retreat - a blend of impact through service and integration through yoga and wellness classes to take place up north in Jiquilillo. We boarded the bus the next morning to head north to our home for the next few days, having no idea we'd fall in love with Monty's Surf Lodge, the place, the projects, and the owners. 

Monty is a Canadian who moved down to Nicaragua with the original intent run a surf lodge and also give back to the community. As a former teacher, education was his top priority. Monty's big heart and dedication to helping others coupled with his business partner Jerry's knowledge of the needs (and the language) of his fellow Nicaraguan's has made the Surf Lodge an integral part in providing food, homes, and education in northern Nicaragua. 

 The school Monty built using Plastic Bottles filled with sand. Each star is the back end of a plastic bottle.

The school Monty built using Plastic Bottles filled with sand. Each star is the back end of a plastic bottle.

Visitors at Monty's Surf Lodge have the opportunity to participate in the programs that he runs. During our time there we worked on the foundation for a new set of homes, hand-mixing concrete and evening rock. We made dinner and fed a community in El Limonal, a village living on the town garbage dump. We also had the privilege of touring a school that Monty built using plastic bottles packed with beach sand. This school, complete with jungle gym shipped down from Canada, will provide children and adults with traditional education, computer skills, and job-training.  To say that Monty is an inspiration would be an understatement. 

Back at the surf lodge, we had the opportunity to get to know Monty and our fellow Journey tribe better through yoga classes, family-style meals, hammock time and wellness workshops on health, wellness and pursuing our passions. The blend of impact + integration was a balance I hadn't seen before on service-oriented trips. Having participated home-build and empowerment travel before, we had planned a few days of relaxing/regroup time after the Journey portion and were ready to fill the days entirely with work and service to the community. However, for many, this was their first time in a developing region, and they were returning to work the day after they landed back home in the United States. This format allowed them to give of themselves completely during service days and then have a few days to reflect, take some workshops to work on themselves and return home whole. It was a great model, and Monty's was the perfect setting. 

 The sunset at NomadLife in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua 

The sunset at NomadLife in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua 

After leaving Monty's with the promise to continue to do our part to open his school, we ventured down to San Juan del Sur to NomadLife. NomadLife is a CoWorking & CoLiving House that I came across, and it seemed like the perfect place to relax, but also reconnect after our time up north. We were welcomed by friendly faces, gorgeous views of the bay and fast wi-fi, we felt right at home. We explored the town, caught up on work, connected to the outside world, had conversations with our fellow housemates who were all doing pretty amazing things with their lives and even had a family night style potluck followed by a game of mafia. The day we were supposed to leave to go to Costa Rica ended up being one of those surprise best-day-evers. Over coffee that morning one of the veteran houseguests Alex asked Mike what he was up to that day, and he responded probably working then heading down to Costa Rica. Alex kindly reminded him that work could wait, and instead, why don't we rent dirt bikes, go to his favorite surf spot then he would show us his property that he was developing into local farmland. We were in. Needless to say, the day did not disappoint as we swam and surfed the clearest, warmest water we had come across and witnessed Alex's beautiful piece of property and his vision for it firsthand, all while zipping through the countryside on a dirt bike. We extended our stay and wondered if we would ever be able to leave NomadLife and make it down to Costa Rica.

Be on the lookout - A full scouting report on NomadLife coming soon over at The Nomad Scout!

PS - We did end up leaving Nicaragua, walking across the border to Costa Rica and continuing our journey down to Panama, that part of the trip coming soon :) 

 

A Glimpse of Privilege: How Morocco Pushed Me Out of My Comfort Zone into a New Awareness

Arriving at our new home in Marrakech was exhilarating. We were dropped off in Bab Mellah (also know as the Jewish Quarter) and directed down one of the many narrow streets of the Medina to our Riad, a traditional Moroccan House that would be home to myself and seven other roommates. We quickly explored the many wings, chose our rooms and had a toast to our month in our newly named "Real World House of Morocco." 

Inside our Riad, we created our haven, complete with rooftop sunset sessions, game nights around the fireplace and engaging conversations about life and newly forming businesses. We would connect with others in our group daily for lunches, sightseeing or organized yoga sessions at the community Riad which was across town. Getting to this Riad meant learning our way through the maze of vendors in the Medina - enter by taking a left at the man selling pipes, continue along the row of spices and teas, take a slight left past the leather goods and a quick right at the corner spice shop. Once you pass the row of carpets, take a left towards the men selling pieces of leather and a slight right towards the row of Hammams. Once you hit the end and the man trying to sell you food, take a right and then a left at the "internet here" sign and the Riad will be on your left. If you've hit the restaurant we went to on the first night, you've gone too far. 

We'd test each other to see who could remember the way without relying on the blue dot on Google Maps and even more impressive, who could do it in reverse to get home. 

The sights and sounds filled our senses, and I delighted in the newness of it all. I expected to be hassled a bit, selling things in the Medina is their business, and I was after all a tourist and their intended customer. Looking back, I also expected (naively) that after some time, I'd be hassled less and be able just to wave as I walked by as this would be my route multiple times a day, week after week. In our months spent in Spain and Portugal, it didn't take long for the local vendors and restauranteurs to get used to us and give us a little wave, ask about our day. We quickly became part of the community, and I expected Marrakech to be no different. 

As the days turned to weeks, what was once an exhilarating experience was quickly wearing me down. The verbal invitations to buy their products was now coupled with physical contact - grabbing my hand to try and bring me into their store, holding my shoulder to direct me to their products day after day. With vendors side-by-side for miles, I was on constant alert not knowing who would reach out and when. I tried many approaches, smiling and nodding no, looking at the ground and confidently walking before they had a chance to make eye contact which led to eventually covering my blonde hair, wearing baggy clothes, often with a hood up. Walking the Medina in this way saved me at least 10 minutes each direction as I was getting stopped and grabbed less and therefore became my preferred method, especially when I was in a rush to get to yoga or meet up with friends on the other side.

My energy was slowly depleting, I felt like a balloon that had lost it's air. I was coming home exhausted, wanting to hide away in my room which felt like the only place in the city that I could be alone for even just a few minutes. I wasn't writing, I wasn't sharing, I was simply trying my best just to be. I started to wonder what had changed so drastically between being high-on-life in Spain just weeks before to now feeling so lost and drained. 

I realized that each day before stepping outside of my Riad, I was mentally preparing and putting energy into simple things that I never had to think of before. I had never thought twice about stepping outside of my door or walking down the street in all of the areas that I've lived previously. I had never had to think about my clothing in a way that I was now considering what could draw me the least attention to quickly and safely get me from A to B. I had never had to cover my hair or hide my smile and friendly personality to fend off continual unwanted advances.

I was in an extended defense mode, protection mode, for the first time in my entire life. Of course, I had gone through fleeting moments of fear, the thought that someone might be following me or walking down a dark alley alone, but that was a different feeling, a feeling that passed quickly and I knew would soon be over. This fear was subtle, but without an end in sight that didn't involve getting on an airplane. At that moment, I received a glimpse of my privilege, and my heart opened to the millions of people around the world that operate, perhaps unknowingly, in a similar environment every, single day. 

My mindset immediately switched from one of selfishness to one of empathy. Here I was focusing on why I wasn't shining as bright and living my highest potential after feeling an energy shift throughout a few weeks when others have lived their entire lives in continual defense mode and led beautiful lives despite it. I received a glimpse of what it must be like to walk down a street where you aren't accepted by those around you, where you aren't considered "one of them" and therefore feel uneasy and perhaps in danger, when people don't care to understand who you are because of what you may look like. Not just around the world, but in cities all across the United States as judgment is passed, specifically when it comes to race and gender. 

Individuals that have to worry about something as basic as their wellbeing, who exert energy into simply existing in the world outside their walls every single day, have a hurdle to personal happiness and success that  I had previously been blind to. That hurdle had never been in my path before, and while I heard it existed for others and thought I understood, I was wrong. 

Morocco pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it forced me into a larger awareness of the world around me and provided me a glimpse of my privileged place within it. I say glimpse because my experience was temporary, it was a peek into a world I will never truly know like those that live it. I have a new respect for those who continue to fly over hurdles, a yearning to understand more about the obstacles I have yet to discover and a passion for removing them whenever possible. 

Finding Comfort out of my Comfort Zone

“Not all who wander are lost”

I am not lost. I’m quite the opposite actually, for the first time in a long time I am living my life with intention. I may not have a firm plan, and that scares a lot of people, but what I do have is the ability to learn and grow and create a life that is beautifully my own.

I could not have asked for a better program or place to be at this point in my life. When signing up for GlobeKick I knew it offered yoga classes, personal and professional development opportunities and a community that was all choosing to say yes to a brand new experience (even more so that this is GlobeKick’s first program). That was enough for me. I knew I needed a change and if I stayed in Southern California the chance of me taking the time I needed to rediscover who I am and what I want was slim to none. I would be in the same routine, with the same job offers tempting me to continue down that path.

Traveling overseas was intended to take me out of my comfort zone, but a funny thing happened. I’m in a new city, with a new language, with new food of course, but within this community, I am more comfortable than I’ve been in quite some time. 

I’m surrounded by authentic, motivated, intelligent, adventurous souls all here to learn and grow. We are in an environment that is allowing us to unapologetically be our true selves. 

The program is designed to intentionally foster this type of community. We’re asked the tough questions about ourselves, our intentions, our hopes and our dreams and challenged to give authentic answers. These conversations have traveled out of our co-work space and yoga dojo to restaurants and bars, living rooms and river walks. We’re challenging ourselves and each other personally and professionally and it’s a beautiful thing. 

I’ve been here just over two weeks and I’ve had more meaningful conversations than I can count. I’ve been held accountable to honestly think and speak about who I am and what I want my future to look like. Oh, and I just happen to be living in a beautiful country experiencing new adventures daily.

Many have asked me why I chose to travel with GlobeKick rather than travel on my own. At first, I didn’t have an answer other than it was way easier - they set up housing, co-work space, yoga classes, some sightseeing etc. I saw it as a soft-launch to solo travel.

What I now know is that I came here for the community, both the wonderful community of GlobeKick founders and staff that have intentionally formed a program to help others become the best versions of themselves and the community of GlobeKickers who said yes to this wonderful adventure and have reignited positivity and light to my journey.

Thank you all for the love and the continued support to follow my shine. 

Loving Lisboa - First Reflections of GlobeKick Taurus 2016

We have arrived in Lisboa! As excited as I was to join the GlobeKick program, after meeting the people who lead the team, those taking this journey alongside me and the orientation into why we're all here and what we hope to gain - I know without a doubt that I am exactly where I meant to be. 

The values and goals of GlobeKick perfectly align with where I am in my life right now - having open eyes, open heart, and open mind as we approach this experience with enthusiasm and curiosity. We're all getting out of our comfort zones in order to see the world from a new perspective and to learn more about ourselves. 

To risk is to grow, to grow is to learn, to learn is to know yourself, to truly know yourself is to be happy

We're being challenged to spend time focusing inward - through yoga, meditation, and heartwork (questions and themes to personally ponder each week). 

Being with a group of 20 other people who are all focusing on bettering themselves and the world around them has already led to some great conversations and newly-formed friendships. It definitely takes a certain kind of person to pack up and move across the world and I feel honored to be among them, to learn from them, and to surround myself with creativity and positivity.

Now, more about the city and our setup here - 

Lisbon is the oldest city in western Europe - even predating Rome! It fully engulfs you - the arches, the castles, the cobblestone streets, I step out of my doorway and I'm transported back in time. It's breathtaking! It reminds us a bit of San Francisco being on the water, lots of hills and steps and even has a very similar bridge.

We all live in different apartments throughout the city that we share with 1 or 2 other people, I have an adorable apartment that I am in love with in the Alfama district - the oldest district in Lisbon. There are 2 other apartments in the area and the 6 of us have formed a little Alfama family - figuring out how to navigate to and from and the best restaurants in town.

We have a coworking space within the LX Factory called CoWork Lisboa. We have a dedicated room where we have 24/7 wi-fi, printer access, espresso and more. I'm excited to learn more about what everyone does - so far we have everything from working with BitCoins, grad school students, healthcare workings, many entrepreneurs running their own various businesses, freelance photographers, video editors, and bloggers. The CoWork space is in an artsy, reconstructed warehouse part of town - it reminds me a bit of Durham! There are shops and restaurants close by and we intend to try every one.

There's so much to learn, about this city and about myself. This is just the beginning of something truly great.

Some pictures of the apartment and strolls through the neighborhood below (many more to come!) and I'd like to leave you with this week's heartwork. These are the questions  we're reflecting on this week and I invite you to take some time to apply them to your own, personal journey, wherever you may be:

  • What is your intention for the next 3 months?
  • What does transformation look like for you?
  • What are you wanting to grow in yourself?
  • What are you willing to commit to and/or let go of in order to get there?

Love & Light to all and I look forward to sharing this journey with you!

Halong Bay - A MUST when in Vietnam

When researching the different places we'd be visiting in Vietnam I stumbled upon some pictures of Halong Bay and instantly knew - I NEED to see this. So much so that I scheduled my flight a few days after our trip was going to end to make 110% sure I got to this beautiful oasis.

We had taken the train from Hoi An to Hanoi which took 5 hours longer than we expected (17 hours total) and so we did not get into Hanoi until around 8pm.

Travel Tip: Unless you have plenty of time and enjoy the rolling scenery of a train ride, pay the extra money and take a quick flight from Hoi An to Hanoi to maximize your time in Vietnam.

Our guide in Hoi An said the cheapest thing to do was to get to Hanoi mid-afternoon and walk through the backpackers neighborhoods to find a good deal on spending the night in Halong Bay on one of their Junk Boats (yes, that's what they are called!). We also thought we could always book online on the train.

Well...the train most certainly did not have WiFi, we didn't get into Hanoi until after dark, and there was a mix-up with our hotel. Needless to say, we were a bit scattered but knew if we were going to spend the night in Halong Bay, we needed to book something that left that next morning. Talk about pressure!

Through a few calls and emails, we managed to secure 4 spots on the Halong Lemon Cruise which left that next morning at 8am. At that moment, all we wanted to do was sleep on something that wasn't moving, but we all agreed we needed to see Halong Bay and we wanted to do it right

Travel Tip: DEFINITELY book a night on a Junk Boat in Halong Bay. There are day trips as well, but it takes ~4 hours to travel from Hanoi to Halong Bay which takes up much of the time. If you are going in high travel season, book in advance!

I am forever grateful to the one tour guide who happened to be awake, online, and that there were 4 last-minute spots on the boat for the next morning. We also learned that you can pay varying amounts for these cruises as we were given a few different quotes. Do some research, shop around, but definitely BOOK it!

The cruise we ended up taking was called Lemon Cruise - between the Junk Boat and the Lemon Cruise, we weren't quite sure what to expect but we were up for the adventure.

The van picked us up as promised bright and early and we set off towards Halong Bay. Half way through the ride they drop you off at a giant tourist trap filled with food, beverages and literally anything that you can think of buying including a dining room table set....because that's convenient to bring home?!

Once we arrived we were shuttled 100 feet onto what would be our home for the next 24 hours, where we were pleasantly surprised with our room for the night (remember, we had low expectations!).

With a door on one side and a large window on the other, we were continually surrounded by nature's beauty. Our portal to the world was unlike anything I'd ever seen.

We were treated to lunch (food was included but not drinks - including water - so everyone started a bar tab) and set off to explore our vessel. There was a sundeck on top, minimal but beautiful. We got to know our fellow travelers, watched the scenery, played cards, and Mike even ended up sleeping up there. We found him when we went up to watch the sunrise the next morning.

The boat did not have wifi which was a welcome chance to disconnect from it all, although we were sad that we couldn't instantly share the splendor with our friends via snapchat.

We explored, we kayaked, we swam in the sea and hiked in the caves, we made our own spring rolls and I did not take near enough pictures. We spent a night with strangers who became friends through karaoke, some interpretive dancing and squid fishing - hey, when you have a boat to yourself, you do what you want!

Overall, I HIGHLY recommend spending at least one night in Halong Bay. If there's anything to not miss - it's waking up to the sunrise in the middle of Vietnam feeling like you're in a dream.

 

Beauty in the Beads

Everything about Vietnam was perfect from the very beginning. We entered the country by boat, at sunset - anyone who knows me knows this is pretty much my heaven. Growing up on the water, the 5-hour boat ride down the Mekong was a welcome departure from the hot city of Phnom Penh. I was so far away, yet cruising down the river felt like home.

I also discovered my new favorite way to enter a country - how cool to have to walk up a dock to get your passport stamped both to exit Cambodia and then a half mile later to enter Vietnam. I'll take that over a busy airport any day!

We arrived in Chau Doc at dusk, taking in the homes and people living along the river. We were quickly taken to our hotel up the mountain in the hopes of also catching the sunset over the rice fields which was a wild success. The hotel in Chau Doc was hands down our favorite. Individual terraced rooms overlooking the rice fields and the city below with the best view around. I loved my room - and so did my little gecko friend that would end up staying with me during my time there.

Our project in Chau Doc was to deliver a few more water filters and to supply materials and instructions to the women of the floating village to make and sell bracelets to earn extra income. A bit of background - when the projects first came in from Simla and Hands on Journeys she asked that I take the lead in learning the unique bracelet knots to teach the ladies. I'm not the most crafty person but how hard can knots be, right? HARD, well for me at least. I practiced and practiced and just could not seem to get it! So I made everyone else practice and luckily Shara and Natalie were able to get a few and Mick and Mike each made their own version of the knots with varying techniques. When I finally got my knot to stay during our training session I was overjoyed - you would have thought I won the lottery! Lucky for me, the ladies of the floating village have much more skill at knot tying than I do and they started whipping out bracelets right and left.

Sitting on the front porch of Nam's floating home, surrounded by friends that had become my traveling family and the ladies of the local village was much more than the craft time I had envisioned. These women had extra time and a yearning to provide for their family.

All it took was a few beads, a piece of string and a helping hand to empower this community.
 

Simla had told us that during the last trip, the materials provided $1,940 in profit from sales at the market. For comparison, most make $1-$2 a day in this village. The true pride came from creating and selling the product themselves which was much more powerful than anything we could give.

Chau Doc was where we had our first authentic Pho experience, and it didn't disappoint. We climbed mountains to watch the sun rising from the Pagoda and mountaintops, we toured the town and explored caves and local landmarks. We had a welcome break from the heat and enjoyed the infinity pool and also learned that little geckos can make a lot of noise. We learned new card games, and the losers did a few more pushups.

From there we ventured north and had a stop along the Mekong Delta, which was much more touristy than most our stops, but it was fun to see the gimmicks! Coconut Island which made delicious candies, a horse and buggy ride, authentic lunch and a boat ride down the river where poor Holden got stuck with the girls, and we sang everything from Spice Girls to Hakuna Matata. 

Chau Doc was the perfect introduction to Vietnam. From sunrise, to sunset we took in every bit of the beauty as we continued our journey.

Siem Reap: Teah, Temples and a Tad Bit of Dehydration

Siem Reap: Teah, Temples and a Tad Bit of Dehydration

There's just no possible way to sum up our entire trip in one post, so I'm starting from the beginning, city by city, with pictures and stories to hopefully do it some justice.

First just let me say, this is the absolute BEST way to travel! Simla and her team at Hands on Journeys tapped into something truly special - pairing travel with empowerment projects for the local communities gave us unique experiences that I will forever hold in my heart.

Up Before the Sun in Siem Reap

Up Before the Sun in Siem Reap

It's currently 5:35am in Siem Reap, Cambodia and I'm SO excited that the sun is rising so I can go outside and explore! Between changing time zones and the eager anticipation of being here, I would say I took more of a nap than got a good night's rest, but today should provide the perfect amount of relaxation so I can get myself on the right schedule.

The flights were easy...