“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” ~Henry Ford
It was inevitable. So far, I have taken a total of 8 flights in the last 4 months and only one of them has been a “quick, domestic” flight. When you travel as much as I do, you have a plan. When you are a control freak (or “recovering control freak” as I like to call myself) you have a plan A, B, C, D, and sometimes E. When you travel as much as I do, you tend to sometimes get too comfortable and become lax on your plans. This was the scene…
I was ending my amazing two weeks in Melbourne, Australia and was headed for a short stay in Sydney. My flight was leaving at 7:00 am because I only had 3 full days in Sydney and the day I was leaving was day #1. I had tickets to a Christmas show at the Sydney Opera House at 5:00 pm (this is important to know for later) and I had planned to do some sightseeing near the harbor around lunchtime.
Normally, I pack an extra set of clothes in my backpack “just in case” I need them and on the off chance my luggage does not make it to my destination with me. On this sunny Melbourne morning, I decided I did not need to pack an extra set of clothes since my flight was only a short one to Sydney. Mistake #1. I arrive at the airport early, as usual, because for me early is on time and on time is late. I settled into the Qantas lounge, had my long black coffee, and headed to my gate. I boarded my flight, took my seat, and started reading my book. After awhile, I noticed that it was 7:15 and we had not taken off yet. At 7:30 the captain announced that they had found an issue on the “outside of the plane” (which sounded very eerie to me) and it was going to take the mechanics about 45 minutes to fix the issue. Forty-five minutes came and went. The captain then announced that it was going to take longer than expected and we all had to exit the plane and they would rebook us on another flight. There was a mass exodus off the plane and we all waited patiently for them to announce what gate we would be shuffled to for our next flight. As I was waiting, I met a couple that was headed to Las Vegas for the holidays and were worried about missing their connecting flight. I met a young man who was carrying a tuxedo because he was the best man at his friend’s wedding in Sydney that was taking place in just a few hours (it still blows my mind that he waited until that morning to fly to Sydney! LOL!).
An hour later, we all boarded flight #2. Once we were all on board, we again were waiting. The captain (a different one this time) announced that there was a weird smell in the back of the plane and he was not comfortable flying the plane so we all had to get off and re-book AGAIN. It was now 10:30 am. This time, we were all on our own to re-book our flights. It is times like these when it is a major benefit to be solo because I can squeeze into any extra seat…just me, myself, and I. I ended up getting the last seat on the 12:00 flight to Sydney. At this point, I wanted a drink!
I boarded this flight, settled in and prayed that 3 times was a charm…until the captain came over the loudspeaker and told us there was an issue with the belt that was used to put the luggage on the plane. We needed to wait for them to fix the belt before we could take off. At this point, I know it sounds like I am making this up but trust me, you CANNOT make this shit up! After an hour and a half, we did finally take off and half the plane let out a cheer!
With all the commotion of changing planes I had not even given my luggage a thought. After 3 plane changes I knew it would be a miracle if my luggage ended up on the plane. If I could give you only one travel tip, I would tell you to put an Apple air tag in every piece of luggage you take with you. I have an air tag in both of my suitcases, my wallet, and my backpack. If you are not familiar with air tags, they are like tracking devices. I can see on my phone where each piece of luggage is at any time and my phone will also tell me if I left a piece of luggage behind.
When we landed in Sydney, the first thing I did was check my air tags and just as I suspected, both of my bags were still sitting in Terminal 1 in Melbourne. Great. At this point, it is after 2:00 pm and I began thinking about the event I had at the opera house…with nothing to wear but the jeans and t-shirt that were on my body. And of course, this one time, I did not pack a change of clothes. Ugh! When I arrived at the counter to file a claim for my lost luggage, the man that worked for Qantas could not even locate where my bags were with his technology (this was a bit unsettling). I was able to show him on my phone where they were and he put the information into the system so my bags could be located and put on the next flight to Sydney.
When you have been traveling for almost 4 months and everything you own and need are packed into 2 suitcases and you lose those items, it is a bit unnerving. But here is the thing…I was not unnerved. During the entire “changing planes multiple times fiasco,” I was calm and just went with the flow. I focused on what I could control rather than what I could not control. I have found over the years that losing my inner peace for things I cannot control is not worth it. When we allow ourselves to go with the flow and breathe through the things that are happening around us, things always work out the way they are supposed to.
Over the years I have learned that one of the key elements to inner peace is to know yourself well. We must know what we need to feel centered and comfortable at the moment. Here is what I knew about myself…I did not really care too much about what I was going to wear to the opera house (it was a casual event anyway) but I did know I wanted to wash my face and have something comfortable to sleep in that night. I had to work off of the assumption that my luggage was not going to make it and put my comfort first. I took an Uber to my hotel and high-tailed it to the H&M store which was a 10-minute walk from my hotel. I bought underwear, socks, yoga pants, a pair of shorts, and a t-shirt to sleep in. Check. Then I stopped at Sephora and bought eye makeup remover and cleanser. Check. I practically ran back to the hotel to freshen up because now I only had 30 minutes until the show started at the opera house. During this time, I was consistently checking my phone to see where my luggage was…and it was still over 400 miles away which told me it had not moved from Melbourne.
I went to the Christmas show and had to consciously practice present-moment awareness. I did not want to be distracted by my luggage…I wanted to enjoy this amazing show that I was sitting in the Sydney Opera House for! Every time I began to worry about my luggage and what I would do if it got stolen or never showed up, I took a deep breath and focused my attention on the show. (I had to do this about 100 times in an hour and a half, by the way!) After the show, I checked my phone and my luggage was on the move! By the time I got back to my hotel, my luggage had made it to Sydney but it was still sitting at the airport. When I got to my room, I changed into my comfy clothes and immediately felt better. Bag #1 appeared at 11:30 pm and of course, that was the bag that had mostly souvenirs in it. Bag #2, which had all my clothes and toiletries, was MIA. After several calls to Qantas customer service with no luck, I decided to go to bed. At 1:45 am the front desk called to let me know my second bag arrived. I have never been so happy to see my torn up, red, heavy suitcase that I have been lugging around for the last 4 months!
The amazing thing about experiences like this is that they give us a chance to evaluate how far we have come. The Chris of the past would have panicked, not gone to the show at the Opera House, and possibly bailed on my trip altogether. When my luggage was in hand and I was able to look back on that crazy day, I was extremely proud of how I kept my composure, was still kind to people around me, stayed present enough to enjoy where I was and what I was experiencing, and most of all trusted that everything happens for a reason. If my luggage was lost, so be it. That would give me an excuse to shop! Luckily, this wasn’t the case but I got a much bigger gift in the process…the gift of knowing that no matter what challenge life throws at me, I have the inner resources to handle it.
I have been through a lot of life experiences on this trip…my “near-death” experience at the lantern festival in Thailand, being harassed in Bali, losing my luggage in Sydney, and many smaller ones in between. During it all, I have allowed myself to fully experience what was in front of me, good or bad, and have learned to take the lesson the experience was meant to teach me and leave the emotions of the experience behind. When we carry an experience with us in our minds, it is like we live it over and over again. We are truly the cause of our own suffering.
With only two weeks left of my amazing journey, I plan to get the most out of it that I can…good or bad, luggage or no luggage.
See you in New Zealand!
ChrisWhat is Your Story?
“When we share our stories, we are reminded of the humanity in each other. And when we take the time to understand each other’s stories, we become more forgiving, more empathetic, and more inclusive.” ~Michelle Obama
One of the things I absolutely love to do when I travel is tour cathedrals and churches. I not only LOVE history, but I love the peaceful feeling and the pure silence that we experience when we are in ancient religious buildings. The absolute quiet is unlike any other silence I have experienced.
There are two amazing cathedrals in Melbourne…St. Paul’s Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I visited them both and I had an amazing experience when I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral. I walked in and did what my Catholic upbringing taught me to do…bless myself with holy water and make the sign of the cross. As I began to walk toward the back of the cathedral a woman stopped me.
This woman had a name tag that said “Storyteller.” Her name was Holly. Holly approached me and simply asked, “Would you like to hear a story?” Holly’s job was to tell visitors the stories behind the beautiful stained-glass windows. I said “yes” and was immediately thrown back to my childhood! I listened to Holly tell me the story of the three wise men and I was enthralled by her unique storytelling abilities. She was animated, excited, and knowledgeable and told the story with such passion. Before I walked on, I asked Holly what made her want to volunteer to tell these stories in the cathedral and she said, “Stories make us curious and allow us to learn things about each other we may have never known. It is the element that binds us. Stories are part of our everyday life and I love sharing these stories with people. It reminds them of things they may have forgotten.”
Listening to Holly tell me a story made me begin to think about my own story. What is my story? Is it a story I would want others to tell? How do I want people to feel when they hear my story? Is there anything in my story I want to change? How do I want my story to end?
Before I left on this trip, I was not feeling good about my story. I felt like someone had hit the “pause” button on my story and it suddenly wasn’t going anywhere. The thing that we forget about our story is that we can create whatever story we want. We forget this because our lives move so fast. We are all moving at 100 miles per hour with so many things on our plate that we inadvertently put our stories on autopilot and just allow the story to run on its own, forgetting that we are behind the creative wheel. We sometimes feel stuck in our story. Maybe our lives are in a place where we feel as if we have no choice and have to play out a scene in our story because of obligation or because it is what others want and we are afraid to speak up and hurt someone’s feelings. Sometimes fear or money drives our story. Sometimes shame and feelings of low self-worth make us choose elements of our story that are not what we really want but what we feel we deserve.
As a Christmas gift to yourself, I want you to sit down and answer these questions. There is one rule to this exercise. You have to answer the questions with no “reality filter.” You are only allowed to write what you ideally want regardless of whether you think it can be a reality based on where you now are in your story. Got it?
Some of you may not know the answers to these questions and that is OK. When it comes to what we want in our own lives, our creative muscles sometimes need flexing. One way I have found that helps me answer questions like these when I don’t know the answer is by watching other people. I watch how others are living their lives and ask myself if that is something I want. I also keep an ongoing bucket list of the things I want and I add to this list regularly. You can even ask others who know you well what they notice about what you like and don’t like. Start to become more aware of your life. Turn off the autopilot button and make each decision consciously and check to see how it makes you feel. You deserve to feel good!
As I head off to Sydney and we all enter a holiday week and the beginning of a new year, please take some time for yourself. Do what you love, be with the people you love, and above all, do something to love yourself. Make your story an amazing one!
Here’s to a great story!
ChrisLearning to Be with Yourself
“Learn to be alone and to like it. There is nothing more empowering or freeing than learning to like your own company.” ~Mandy Hale
I was recently sitting at the airport in Chiang Mai, Thailand waiting to board my flight and across from me were 3 young Australian men (probably in their mid-twenties) traveling together. As we sat there waiting for our flight to board, I could not help but notice that these 3 young men were doing something unheard of…they were all reading a book. An actual hardcover book! You don’t have to be traveling the world like I am to just look around and notice that 99.9% of the people in public, anywhere you go, have their faces in their phones. This has been something I have really become conscious of during my travels. I have seen couples, groups of friends, and employees with their noses in their phones, not talking, not interacting with each other, but rather interacting with their media devices.
I recently read an article in Psychology Today about the decline in emotional intelligence in the younger generations. A total of 70 studies were done on 17,000 college-age participants between 2001 and 2019. The results of the studies showed that access to technology was associated with a decrease in overall well-being, emotionality, and self-control (Fugere, M.A., 2021). There are many benefits to technology such as the ability to be connected to family far away, access to information at our fingertips, and for someone like me who is missing the “direction gene,” a beautiful app called “Waze” that tells me where to go when my internal compass fails me (which is often!). But these benefits come with a flip side. We have learned to use our phones to distract ourselves from reality. We have learned to create an alternate reality which we live through our phones on social media and other platforms. This has kept us from the human/human and heart/heart interactions that when experienced face to face, have a far different feel and outcome than when experienced through direct messaging on Instagram.
I have a theory. My theory is that we have become uncomfortable and unsure of how to be with ourselves. In other words, how to be alone with no distractions and no one else around. Just you. Alone. Just reading that sent some people into a panic. I remember when I first realized that my marriage of 16 years was over. I knew I had to leave but what kept me from leaving was terror, and I mean I was terrified of being alone. The fear of being alone drives many behaviors and keeps us from doing things that are for our highest good.
Traveling alone brings up some interesting “stuff” … the kind of stuff that makes you squirm and want to distract yourself. This “stuff” can range from a fear of being by yourself with no one else around to memories of experiences we would rather forget that creep up into our consciousness when we are not distracted by daily life. I have had 14 years of practice being alone but traveling alone is a whole different ball game. This has been one of my biggest struggles on my journey. I do not have the same distractions around me as when I am in my own home. There is nothing to clean, no shopping to do, and no errands to run…it is just me, myself, the local tourist attractions, Netflix, and books to read. And I have to say, even in the amazing places I have been, these all get old after a while on the road.
I was forced to sit down with myself and really look at why I become so anxious about being alone. This sounds easy but it is not! We have been conditioned to NOT feel and bury our feelings deep down with food, alcohol, social media, sex, and many other coping mechanisms that temporarily keep us from facing the inevitable. I put my coaching hat on and asked myself, “If a coaching client were to have this anxiety, how would I help that client?” I often encourage my clients to do two main things…identify and name the exact feeling they are feeling at the moment and look for patterns in their behavior. We have to know where we are starting from before we can get to where we want to go. So that is what I did. I realized I wasn’t feeling anxious per se, but I was actually scared. Scared of what? I didn’t know. So, I tried to see if I could identify any patterns. Did I feel scared in certain places, with certain people, in certain situations, at the same time or day every week, at night in bed, etc? When we can identify the feeling and the pattern, then we have the beginning of a road map to the solution.
What I have found so far (and, by the way, this is still an ongoing journey for me) is that I become anxious about the unknowns. I also become anxious when I think too far ahead and I play the “what if” game with myself. I realized that we will never have the answers to the “what if” questions no matter how hard we think about them so the exercise of being anxious about them is futile.
Now when I start to feel anxious about being alone, instead of distracting myself with my phone and scrolling through social media, I have learned to feed my brain and soul with the things that make me feel good. Everything is about how you feel! Going for a walk, writing, reading quotes I have saved over the years, calling a friend whose thinking I trust to talk to, and listening to my favorite music (I actually made a ‘traveling playlist before I left on this trip!”). I have also been practicing just sitting and staring at the beautiful sunset or sunrise, meditating, or feeding my body with nourishing fresh foods from the local market.
Learning to be alone with only yourself is a work in progress and it is not easy. One day it will feel easy and the next day it will be very hard. I have learned to practice “radical acceptance.” Instead of pushing against how I feel on a bad day, I just let myself feel the feeling. I cry if I need to, scream if I need to, and sleep it off if I need to. And I don’t beat myself up for doing these things. I consider it the highest form of self-care.
As I sit here in Melbourne, Australia looking at the beautiful lights outside my apartment window on the 18th floor, I do not have the TV on or music playing…I am just writing in silence and appreciating the quiet, beautiful gift of being alive.
All by myself,
Why Emotional Intelligence is on the Decline: https://www-psychologytoday-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dating-and-mating/202111/why-emotional-intelligence-is-in-decline?ampSometimes You Have to Leave “Home Base”
“Humans cannot exist if everything that is unpleasant is eliminated instead of understood. When the unwelcome comes, surrender.”
~Marlo Morgan, ?Mutant Message Down Under?
I grew up playing softball. I loved it too! I started when I was about 7 years old and I have to say, I was pretty good at it. I tried my hand at first base, third base, catcher, and then finally ended up as a pitcher. When I came up to bat, the outfield took a few steps back. Softball is an interesting game?a ball gets thrown at you and you have to try to hit that ball with a skinny bat. Once the ball is hit, you have to leave home base and run! The hope is that you don?t get called out before you make it back home.
As I embark on my travels overseas, I cannot help but compare my life at the moment to a softball game. I know that sounds weird but I have thought about the parallels several times. My game began when I ?ran? from my home base to experience an adventure that required faith and for me to put fear aside, much like when you are up to bat and excitement and fear are running through your body at the same time. My equipment is two suitcases and a backpack instead of a bat, ball, and glove. My ?game plan? for my trip is very similar to the strategy ball players go over in their heads right before they are up for bat. My strategy included where I wanted to go (much like deciding where to hit the ball in the field when you are up to bat), how far I wanted to go (do I want to hit a home run or just hit a double??or maybe purposely allow myself to get called out to help another player advance?), and moving from country to country (running from base to base).
It is scary to leave ?home base.? Home base is where you are comfortable and surrounded by the people and things you know. As humans, we like to feel comfortable. We tend to dismiss and even try to eliminate the uncomfortable hoping to hold on to the last bit of control over our lives that we perceive we have. There is one problem with comfortableness?it does not allow us to grow.
I would be lying if I told you that my trip so far has been all candy and roses. Honestly, I have really been struggling. Trust me, I know how blessed I am that I have the means and the opportunity to travel but blessed does not coincide with easy. There are times in our lives when the lessons that we are ready to learn cannot be learned in the place we reside?this can mean your home base, your job, your relationship, etc. This I knew, which is why I decided to embark on this journey. I was feeling unsettled and way too comfortable for too long and knew I was not growing. Frankly, I was bored with my life. My yearning to venture away was my soul trying to communicate to me that it was time for the next chapter. This yearning came in the form of emotions. So, I did what most of us do and questioned what I was feeling and tried to justify it so I did not have to change and feel uncomfortable. First, I thought I was crazy, then I thought I was menopausal, then I questioned whether I was running from something I did not want to face, and finally, I realized that I was being called to do something different that could not be done from where I was sitting. How we feel is everything and the actions we take are our way of expressing the intent of our emotions. Faith and fear cannot exist together. When one is present the other one cannot express itself. So, I decided to choose faith in the unknown rather than give into the fear I was feeling.
As I end my time in Thailand and head ?down under? to Australia, here are some things I have realized so far:
I truly feel as if we have many lives in our one lifetime. We have chapters that are amazing and ones that are tragic. We have ones where we learn lessons and others where we get to use the lessons we learned. I believe our life on Earth is a school and we learn and are tested along the way. The only way we can pass any test while we are here is to take it. As I continue on my Earth school journey and head to Australia next, I can?t help but think of the kangaroo, the snake, and the dolphin. I have made these animals my spirit animals?
The kangaroo is incapable of stepping backward. It can only go forward.
The snake frequently removes its outer skin (the old self being replaced by the new self).
The dolphin sees all life as a fun adventure.
As I round third base during the world series game of my travels, I remain open to whatever this chapter wants to teach me and I am committed to being fully present as I am called to bat on whatever adventure is presented to me along the way.
See you down under,
“I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart.” ~Rumi
One of my rituals upon arriving in a new location is to check out my surroundings by taking a walk. Walking down the busy street of Nimman Rd. in Chiang Mai, Thailand I could not help but notice there was a temple every two blocks. Literally, there was a temple every two blocks! (I later learned that there are hundreds of temples throughout the city). Of course, since this was my first “temple rodeo” in Thailand I stopped at the first two or three to take in the beauty and awe of my surroundings. It was during my third temple visit that I met Mr. Noi. Mr. Noi was an elderly gentleman who was a retired tour operator and offered to take me on a tour of a couple of other temples in the area. One of the benefits of traveling alone is that people are not afraid to talk to you. I meet so many wonderful people on my solo travels! It was Mr. Noi who told me about the lantern festival. The lantern festival in Thailand is a yearly tradition that happens every November (the 12th month of their calendar year). Flaming lanterns are sent soaring into the sky and others are sent floating in the sea. The burning and releasing of the lanterns symbolize letting go of all the old pains, challenges, obstacles, etc. of this last year and welcoming new abundance, prosperity, and happiness. This is something I have seen in pictures and would have kicked myself if I had missed it. So grateful for Mr. Noi!
Needless to say, I immediately bought a ticket for the first night of the festival. For the first couple of hours, I gorged on endless amounts of Thai food, watched beautiful traditional dances, and listened to the monks chanting in preparation for the lantern ritual. As I sat in the crowd of 3600 people, I found it odd that no one was giving instructions on how to light the lanterns. These lanterns were a good 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide and made entirely of paper mache with a ring the size of a grapefruit at the bottom that is supposed to be set on fire. I guess I thought that the ring would be easy to catch on fire and once it was lit, the lantern would magically take off. Nope. Apparently, there is a trick to the trade that many of us non-locals did not know. The lanterns work like a hot air balloon. Heat must build up in the lantern before it is able to float. To build up this heat, once the ring is lit, you are supposed to bring the lantern slowly to the ground until enough heat builds and the lantern floats away.
There were many factors that played into the tragedy of that night. One, many people did not know how to light the lanterns correctly so lanterns were catching fire before they were ready to take off into the sky. Two, it was an extremely windy night. Three, every decoration was made up of flammable material. And fourth, hay barrels were everywhere for people to sit on as chairs.
It was when my friend Jen who was lighting her lanterns on the other side of the crowd texted me saying, “So, we may die!” that I noticed it. As everyone was busy trying to figure out how to light their lanterns, no one noticed that a lantern hit the beautifully constructed temple in the middle of the crowd and set it on fire (Click the link below to watch the video and you will see the beautiful lanterns going off into the sky and then as I pan over the temple, you will see it on fire – and you will hear me repeatedly yelling “Oh shit!” – LOL!).
What was interesting about that moment was the first thing I thought was that it was done as part of the ritual. I remember thinking to myself, “Huh, wow, they even set the temple on fire. I wonder what that is all about?” Then I realized it wasn’t part of the ritual and my life flashed before my eyes. I immediately high-tailed it to the very small parking lot anticipating that very soon the 3600 people at the event with me would realize what was going on and there would be a stampede. As I quickly walked out of the circle of fire, I noticed that the beautiful tree that was filled with colorful paper lanterns was also going up in flames. My pace quickened.
I made it out OK and to my knowledge, so did everyone else and no one was hurt. On the shuttle ride home, I remember thinking that I was so glad I bought a ticket for the first night because obviously there was not going to be a second night due to the fire. Not only did the second night go off without a hitch but they rebuilt the temple in a day! THEY REBUILT THE TEMPLE IN A DAY! And, apparently on the second night, they continually gave instructions on how to correctly light the lanterns to the crowd (yes, we learn from our mistakes!).
The formal definition of a temple is a “building” devoted to worship or a place gods or objects of religious reverence reside. Temples are not something that is a common site if you grew up in the United States. We may see the occasionally mosque, but there is not a temple every two blocks. I grew up Catholic and remember always hearing that our body is our temple. Our body houses a very precious gift…our soul. It also houses our emotions, wisdom, thoughts, and memories. These are our sacred “gifts” that must be protected at all costs.
There are times in our lives when some of our gifts get accidentally “burned down”…we get hurt by someone we love, we find out we are ill, or a horrible memory haunts us. Sometimes, like in my case, we set fire to our own temples. We realize that we may have been paying reverence to something or someone that no longer serves us…this may be a job, a relationship, or even the place we live. I did not literally burn my apartment down in Scottsdale, but I “burned down” my life there in hope of finding another flicker or flame that would guide me to where I was supposed to be next. All I knew was that I did not belong there anymore. I could feel it. The Phoenix bird rebirths itself from the flames. The Thai monks rebuild temples in a day to give reverence to their gods on a holy day. They do whatever it takes to make this happen.
One of the reasons I travel so much is that I am on a quest for being awed. I love being awed by life and people! During my time in Malaysia, Bali, and Thailand I have been in absolute awe at the reverence and loyalty the people of these cultures show to their religion and the beautiful temples I have seen. In Malaysia, which is primarily Muslim, you hear their prayers 5-6 times a day over a loudspeaker. In Bali, which is primarily Hindu, you hear their prayers religiously at 6:00 am, noon, and 6:00 pm. Not to mention the time they spend daily making offerings that they leave at their temples, places of work, and homes. And in Thailand, which is primarily Buddhist, watching these amazing people stop what they are doing, walk into one of the many temples, bow, and sit silently in prayer in the middle of their day leaves me in awe.
My witnessing of these awe-inspiring moments in Thailand has made me realize that at any moment there can be a death and an instantaneous rebirth. It is all part of the cycle of life. We may not have control over what departs our lives all the time, but we do have the power to rebirth our lives whenever we choose. It is simply a choice. I am not saying that choice is easy, but it is there for us when we are ready to step into it. It just takes a little courage, a lot of faith, and sometimes a flame to get us moving. (wink-wink)
Kop Kun Ka,
ChrisThe Girl in the Villa Across the Room from the Gecko in the Closet
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. ~Helen Keller
Bali. It was the first stop on my journey. I have been excited to go to Bali for so long. My visions of Bali were like the scenes from the movie Eat, Pray, Love. I pictured myself riding a bike, much like Julia Roberts did in the movie, along the roads by the rice fields, staying in a beautiful villa that is outdoors, and finding an amazingly handsome man to have a love affair with. What I have come to find in my 52 years of living is that when we are looking forward to something, we create scenarios in our heads of what we think the experience will be like. If we replay that said scenario in our head enough times, it becomes our reality. We do this with relationships, jobs, where we want to live, and almost every experience that has yet to exist in our future. This practice, which is a very natural occurrence for most people, has one drawback. It keeps us from appreciating the actual experience because we are comparing it to the made-up experience we created in our head. My actual experience in Bali was somewhat different than my vision…
It all started with checking into my beautiful outdoor villa in Ubud. This is where I was supposed to stay for a month and live in bliss. It was when the owner of the villa dropped me off in a parking lot and his wife was waiting to take me to the villa on a scooter (notice I did not say bike like I had in my vision!) that I realized my vision may have been a tad bit off. After the uphill mile-and-a-half ride from hell to my villa, I began to settle in.
Now, if you have never stayed in an outdoor villa, it is NOT like what you see on social media (unless you are staying in a 5-star resort).
When it rains, you get wet…along with everything else that is outside. You even cook outside… with the snails, ants, frogs, and geckos. I did sleep indoors (in a yurt) on a beautiful bed with a mosquito net and had a companion…but it wasn’t the amazingly handsome man I imagined. It was Gary the gecko (see the picture of Gary at the top of the blog).
Gary was the gecko who lived in my closet. He was unlike other men I have befriended in that he was very vocal and had a lot to say. He seemed to be most talkative at 3:00 in the morning when Rodney the rooster (the rooster in the villa next door) also began crowing very loudly. (Side note…since I encountered so many “creatures” during my stay in Ubud, I decided to name them all since we became so “close.”) Gary hid behind my t-shirts in the closet. He thought I could not see him (much like a small child who does not understand that when they cover their eyes to play peek a boo you can still see them) when I opened the closet door because he was only half hiding behind my shirts with his long tail sticking out. He never left. He was a bit sensitive and became upset and very vocal if I did not talk to him when I opened the closet to get my clothes, which he often pooped on.
Although I grew fond of Gary, the final straw for me was the massive thunderstorm that sent me flying under my covers like a 5-year-old little girl, with loud thunder and lightning that I swear touched down right next to my bed. I stayed a total of 6-days in Ubud and then threw in the towel. I said my good-byes to Gary the gecko, Rodney the rooster, Sammy the snail, Freda the frog (who liked to sleep in my only frying pan in the kitchen), and the many ants that paraded on my kitchen counter and headed to a new place in Seminyak which was all indoors…or so I thought.
My place in Seminyak was a combo of a hotel and an apartment. There was just one problem. When I checked in, the place looked nothing like the picture on the website. I came to find out the place had flooded the day before and they had no other rooms to put me in. At this point, I was sure that the water from all the storms in Ubud were chasing me! Five days later, I moved to a different room in the same hotel. Not great, but better. At this point, I was counting down the days until I left Bali.
I did some amazing things in Bali and some parts were very beautiful. But with all the traveling I have done over the years, I have come to find that there are some places we just do not jive with. Bali was one of those places for me. And believe me, I tried. I ate at some great restaurants, I saw a Balinese shaman, I visited beautiful islands (like Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan), I sat on a wooden swing and swung over the rice fields in Ubud, I drank Kopi Luwak, I visited the Garuda Visnu Kencana statue, and I took part in a beautiful ceremony with water fountains at Tirta Empul. These experiences were wonderful but no matter what I did, I still had an unsettled feeling inside. I could not “nest” and settle into Bali like I have in other places.
Sometimes we think our feelings have to do with our surroundings, which at times, they do. But other times we blame our surroundings (or people in those surroundings) for our feelings. I was thousands of miles away from where I called home and this time, I had no place to run to and no one to blame. I had no apartment anymore because all my things were sitting in storage. I was forced to sit in Bali and face how I was feeling without running for comfort and cover.
Sometimes, we need to be taken out of our ordinary in order to see the extraordinary about ourselves and our life. I began to really become present where I was. Not wishing I was someplace else or wishing it was different. I radically accepted my present circumstances. What is interesting about radically accepting “what is” is that miracles occur when we do this. My bum knee began to not hurt anymore, friends began texting me to check in and see how I was doing and they all offered me encouraging words that helped keep me going, and time seemed to move a little quicker.
I can’t say that I will ever go back to Bali but what I will say is that I am grateful for the gecko in the closet, the thunderstorms, the harassing taxi drivers, the so-so hotel room, and the scooter rides from hell. The uncomfortableness of all these things helped me find the place inside me where I can be comfortable no matter what my external circumstances may be. Not everything in life can always be perfect but the secret to life is that we can make any situation perfect by shifting our mindset. Perception is reality and my “reality” of Bali now is a place of wonder, lessons, water, and let’s not forget….geckos!
Terima Kasih Bali!
ChrisWhat to Pack or Not to Pack…That is the Question
Making the decision to travel for several months and live out of a suitcase is not easy. My decision was several months in the making. For those of you that may be wondering if this was an easy decision for me…it wasn’t. Watching my photos on social media and reading my blogs may lead you to think, “Wow, this girl knows what she wants and is going for it.” As much as that may be true now, as with any success story, the details, pain, struggle, and work leading up to that decision are rarely seen or talked about. And, for your information, the struggles and challenges do continue. Changing location does not magically make the internal challenges that we battle disappear.
Oddly enough the main question people asked me when I began letting people in on my little “travel secret” wasn’t, “Where are you going?” “Who is going with you?” or even “How long will you be gone?” People wanted to know what I was going to pack! That question was as crazy to me as watching people flock to the store to buy toilet paper during the pandemic! Admit it, you thought about it too when you heard what I was doing. Those who know me well know I LOVE clothes and shoes and they definitely had this question floating through their minds. I am sure of it!
In the months leading up to my departure, (in true Chris form!) I researched the heck out of what and how to pack. I followed groups on Facebook and Instagram, I read blogs, I Googled items galore, I made multiple lists, and as the date came closer and closer, I did at least 12 practice packs before I left.
It is extremely challenging to pack for a year. What do you take? What do you leave behind? What are the items you think you need, but don’t really…you just want to take them because you think you cannot live without them? Not to mention that there is a specific weight limit to your checked and carry-on luggage when you travel abroad. Unless you want to pay upwards of a couple hundred dollars for an overweight bag, it is best to stay within this weight limit.
At the end of the day, I knew a couple of things. One, I knew I needed to pack things that would fulfill me not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. Two, I knew I was NOT one of those people who could travel around the world for a year with only a backpack (NO WAY!). In case you are wondering, I have two suitcases and a backpack. I wanted to have things with me that reminded me of home and that would comfort me on days I felt off while l was in the faraway places I would be going.
Below are the items I have found invaluable on my journey (where appropriate, I included links to the brands I purchased – I am not getting kickbacks for any of these mentions BTW…these are just amazing products that have been lifesavers for me!):
Some other items that I have found essential that I am SO glad I packed:
At the end of the day, we all have different needs when we travel. The key is to know what your needs are, what items will be cathartic for you when you feel homesick and realize that some things we think we “need,” we can get along just fine without. So far, there hasn’t been anything I wished I would have packed that I didn’t. Not bad for a first-time world traveler!
FOMO is a common term used by frequent travelers. Many travelers suffer from it. It can be brutal. It hits you mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. What is FOMO you ask? No, it’s not a disease or God-forbid another virus to cause a worldwide pandemic. FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out.
The more I have traveled the more I find I am leaning into JOMO rather than FOMO…the Joy of Missing Out. This term was first introduced to me in Cape Town by one of the amazing guides I met there. JOMO can be as challenging as FOMO. The difference is JOMO entails a bit of honoring yourself, your body, your mental wellness, and your spirit. NOT taking part in an experience can be just as rewarding as the experience itself. I found in Malaysia that JOMO was going to be a crucial practice I needed to master to travel the world for the next year.
To set the stage for you as to why this is such an important practice for me, I need to let you in on a little secret. For the last two years, not only have I been questioning every part of my life, from my relationships to my career (and everything in between!), but many of these stressors felt the need to manifest physically for me. Mostly in my extremities. In the last two years, my left foot had to be completely reconstructed which left me unable to walk for a few months. Then, my right knee got jealous because of all the attention the left side of my body was receiving and I tore my medial meniscus and had to have yet another surgery. For those of you who travel, you know traveling usually entails quite a bit of walking, which has been a struggle for me since my knee surgery in April. Being a person who does not let little things get in their way (like, ya know, walking!), I decided to practice what a friend of mine calls “radical acceptance”. I radically accepted that my knee was going to hurt at times and that it may limit some activities I wanted to participate in on my travels. This mindset shifts your thinking from resisting what is, to accepting what is. Everything starts in your mind!
So, with my new attitude of radical acceptance, I headed out for the first leg of my trip…Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was a group trip organized by my friend Fliss who owns Odyssey World (https://www.odyssey-world.co.uk/). Our motley crew consisted of a blend of British, Canadian, Dutch, Australian, New Zealanders, Swedish, Italian, Malaysian, and me holding up the one and only American flag! Since this was a culinary tour, we started by touring the Chow Kit Market which is the most amazing farm market I have ever been to in my life (puts Pike Place Market in Seattle to shame!).
Besides having a roasted chestnut explode in my face, I learned about all of the amazing foods of Malaysia…mangosteen, dukong, and the infamous durian (the horribly tasting and smelling fruit). I drank mapa kucing (cat eye) and teh tarik (sweet tea)! I also quickly realized that Malaysian cooking uses palm sugar…and I mean A LOT of it! Talk about sweet. A favorite dessert of the locals is DoDo. Just look at the picture here and tell me if you thought I liked it (big NO!).
Our journey then took us to the top of the Petronas Towers (the second-tallest building in the world),
the Batu Caves,
and the amazing island of Pangkor Laut. In Pangkor Laut, we stayed at the most beautiful resort with bungalows on stilts in the water, which sat by the “bat tree.” No, this is not where batman lives…but where almost 1000 bats dwell during the day.
We visited an amazing tropical spice garden where I learned that ground cinnamon and powdered turmeric are actually bad for you (the raw versions are extremely good for you!).
We learned how to cook amazing Malaysian dishes from our travel companion and famous chef, Norman Musa (check out the episode of Top Chef he was on a few years ago, and be sure to follow him on Instagram @chefnormanmusa!).
We ended our trip in the town of Penang where Norman’s family invited us all to their house for an array of deliciously cooked Malaysian dishes. As if things couldn’t get any better, I swear I met Tatoo from Fantasy Island (those of you too young to know what Fantasy Island is or who Tatoo is, Google the TV show “Fantasy Island”)!
There were many amazing group walking tours where I had to use my JOMO pass because of my knee… I couldn’t walk up the 272 steps to the top of the Batu Caves, I could not take part in a couple of the city walking tours, nor could I stand for long periods of time without my knee giving out. My JOMO moments allowed me to reflect on my journey in Malaysia and become aware of what I was feeling and why. As much as I love to be included, I have realized over the years that being included, but not being present, in mind and spirit because of aches, pains, or something on my mind, actually takes away from the experience and sometimes even drips into my attitude the following day.
As I continue my journey alone, I continue to use the practice of JOMO even with myself. I do not feel the need to see and do everything. Rather, I allow my spirit to guide me to the things and experiences that resonate with me that day and guide me to the exact places I need to be in that moment. Pure bliss! And a great practice for everyday life! 🙂
See you in Bali!
Dr. ChrisAnd So It Begins…
It all started about 6 months ago…March of 2022 to be exact. I was living a blessed life. I had a very nice apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona, I lived right by my only grandson and got to see him anytime I pleased, I had a thriving business and was an overall healthy 52-year-old woman (minus the menopause!). There was just one problem…I was bored. I know that may sound trite given that I just said I was living a blessed life. But it’s true…I was bored.
Since the pandemic, I spent most of my time in my apartment alone. I had friends, of course, that I saw occasionally for dinner or a drink but I was beginning to feel as if I did not even vibe with my friends anymore. I know this may sound mean, but everyone seemed to be getting on my nerves.
I tried many things to remedy this ailment of mine. I signed up for a co-working space that I could work from just to get out of my apartment a couple of times per week, I began taking Tai Chi, and I even took a few road trips with friends. I was trying to fill what I call a “soul void.” A soul void is when you feel as if something is missing from your life but you cannot quite put your finger on what it is. The only thing that made me feel somewhat satisfied and a bit “fuller” was when I traveled.
Traveling has always been my jam! When I travel everything seems to flow so much easier. I meet the exact people I need to meet who have the information or knowledge I have been seeking, my soul feels as if it is alive again, and the nagging fears that seem to plague me when I sleep do not seem as scary.
It’s funny how when you look back at events in your life after they have happened that you realize how those exact events were preparing you for something about to happen in your life in the future. At the end of 2021, I decided I wanted to try and work remotely from another country to see if it was doable for not only my business but for my psyche. I signed up with a company that manages trips such as these for remote workers and booked two trips…one to Cape Town in November and one to Colombia in December.
My time in Cape Town was interesting, to say the least. Although I realized I indeed could work from another country successfully, different time zone and all, I ended up having a roommate that let’s just say I didn’t jive with so much. The situation with this roommate was so toxic that by the time I got to Colombia in December, I was spent emotionally and mentally. I ended up only staying in Colombia for a week and cut my trip short and came home. This situation I experienced was so toxic, I became frightened to travel again. Now I felt like the one thing that usually brought me solace was taken away from me. The song by Alanis Morsette “Ironic” seems to sum up perfectly how I was feeling.
Fast forward to June of 2022 when I am in the car with my younger daughter driving back from Flagstaff. I began telling her how I felt as if I was in a rut that I could not get myself out of and she said something at that moment that changed everything. She said, “Mom, you are always your best self when you are traveling. Why don’t you just put your stuff in storage and travel around for a little bit… Maybe then you will find whatever it is you are looking for.” Now, my first reaction to this was terror. Mainly because a friend I had met in Cape Town told me the same thing back in November and it sent waves of fear up my spine. I remember thinking, “I am a 52-year-old woman who has an established career. I can’t just make myself homeless and travel around the world. Who does that!” Well, despite the fear, this time the thought stuck. You know when that happens…someone says something to you and then you cannot get it out of your mind. Once you finally do get it out of you mind, you hear something on TV or overhear a conversation and it is there all over again. I interpret events like that as signs from the Universe, nudging you in a direction that is for your highest good.
Speaking of signs, while all of this was transpiring in my head, a friend of mine that owns a travel agency in England called me up one day and asked me if I wanted to go on a two-week culinary adventure in September to Malaysia. My first response was no. When you have an aversion to spicy food, a culinary trip to Malaysia where everything is spicy and cooked with chilies is not usually on the top of your list. And then I began to think…in all of my travels I had never been to Southeast Asia. I had heard great things about Kuala Lumpur too. Then the thought that changed everything hit me. What if I go on that trip and then just stay out there for a while? What if that is the beginning of my trip around the world…my “journey back to self” tour?
So, I thought I would play with the idea. I decided that the two main obstacles for me to actually do this were my apartment and my car. My lease on my apartment did not run out until January and it was now June. Breaking a lease is never easy nor is it cheap. My car was the other challenge. I had just leased a brand-new Honda CRV the year before and did not want my car to just sit for a year while I made monthly payments on it. That felt like a waste. This prompted me to make a couple of phone calls. Come to find out the cost to break the lease on my apartment was less than a month’s rent payment. Considering my rent had been raised 23% the year before and was slotted to be raised another 15% when my lease was renewed, this was a no-brainer. My car was a bit more challenging. It would cost $10,000 to get out of my lease, which was not happening. Then I had a thought. My daughter who lived near me in Arizona did a lot of driving taking my grandson to and from school and she could use a nicer vehicle. I asked her if she would be willing to sell her car and take over my car payments while I was gone. After doing some research and finding out that Carvana would give her $15,000 for her car, that was a no-brainer as well.
Now I had to make a decision. The two main obstacles had solutions. So now what? I don’t know if it’s because I am a Ph.D. and prone to research things endlessly or it was just me procrastinating making a decision…maybe a little bit of both. I kept doing research. I researched places I wanted to go, I read blogs and social media posts written by people who were crazy enough to do what I was thinking about doing, I researched storage units, and other places I could live if I decided not to go. You name it, I researched it. Then something happened. I began to get excited. I have studied self-development long enough to know that feelings are everything. Our feelings are the signpost that let us know if we are on the right path. The path that is in alignment with our highest good. The better the feelings, the more in alignment we are. My feelings were beginning to change.
Usually, when I am stuck making a decision, I use a tactic I call “the death bed test.” Sounds morbid, I know. The death bed test is simply this. I pretend that I am laying on my death bed about to die and ask myself this question, “When I am taking my last breath and I think about taking a trip around the world and if I decide not to do it, will I regret it”? If the answer is yes, regardless of the fear, I do it. If the answer is no, simple. It is either not meant for me or it is not time. The answer this time was a quick and resounding YES!
In July 2022, I signed the papers to break the lease on my apartment. I had a plan. Movers were coming to pack up all of my belongings and put them in storage on September 17 and on September 20 I was leaving for Malaysia. After Malaysia, I would drive to Singapore for a couple of days with my friend and from there begin my journey back to self in Bali.
As I sit here in a Starbucks, of all places, in Bali looking out at 1000 scooters on the street and a diverse array of travelers, I find myself still feeling a bit lost but at least on a path. I have no idea where this path will lead and if I will even last a year, but what I do know is that I am here. Moving forward, putting one foot in front of another, and taking an active part in living my life to the fullest. In the end, I will at least know I gave it a shot.
Stay tuned for more adventures and lessons from my journey back to self!
Salamat tinggal for now!