The 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.

My outdoor living room in Ubud

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).

My bed inside the yurt

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.

Sammy the snail

Freda the frog who slept in my frying pan

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.

Offering I made to give the shaman

Bali Swing

Nusa Penida

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.

Titra Empul

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!


Do Your BestJust For Today

The alarm goes off; you crawl out of bed (hopefully take a shower) and begin your day. The hamster wheel of life” continuesbringing with it more to do with each moment. Do you ever feel totally consumed with all there is to do? I dont know about you but to me it feels as if just when I seem to get caught up with my to-do list, more things get piled on. It is as if there is an evil fairy cackling in the background saying, You thought you were done…ha ha hajust wait until you see this!”

Many have found themselves caught up in the web of life this summerbusy beyond belief and not knowing what to do first. I know life can be overwhelming at times. It is when life seems to be running us instead of us running our lives that we need to step back and take a look at two things: our priorities and our why?

The only thing that is asked of us is to do our best every day. What defines your best? That depends. Your best will vary depending on the circumstances you find yourself in and where your energy is that day. Are you feeling sick vs. healthy? Energized vs. fatigued? Joyful vs. sad? Sometimes universal energies are moving through and you just feel off center” for a day. However you feel learn to listen to your body and honor what it is telling you. If you are tired, rest or take a break. If you are at work and it is 2pm when you are at your lowest energy, do those things that take less energy, such as answering emails or filing. Save the high energy tasks for the times of day you feel good.

Your best action is the answer to your productivity issues. Doing your best at any given moment entails knowing how you feel in that moment. Depending on how you feel, give the best you can in that moment with no judgment. Any action is better than no action (and action sometimes includes taking a nap!). If you keep a daily to-do” list, prioritize that list. Make the #1 thing on your list the most important thing you have to do that day, #2 the second most important thing you need to do that day, etc. Start your day working on #1 and do not move to #2 until #1 is finished (if you are working on a project, allot a certain amount of time to work on #1, such as 2 hours instead of working until it is finished). Even if the day ends and you have only finished #1, you can rest assured you at least finished the most important thing that day; your #1 priority.

Speaking of priorities, what are yours personally? Family, career, money? Take a moment to define them. Balance, my friends, is not a 50/50 split of work and home timebalance is knowing what is important to you in your life right now (your priorities) and putting your energy toward those things on a regular basis. The only time you feel off” is when you know down deep that you are not putting your time and energy toward those things you feel are important. There is no right or wrong answers when you list your priorities. They are for you and you alone.

When my father was dying of cancer, he lived in Cleveland and I lived in Baltimore. Upon finding out that his cancer was terminal, I made a choice. I decided that I did not want him to pass away and say to myself, I wish I would have” So, I made him and my family in Cleveland my priority. I discussed with my husband at the time and my daughters that when grandpa needed me, I would need to go to Cleveland but I loved them very much and it would not be like this forever. I also discussed with my clients that I had a family emergency happening at any time and I may need to call in a replacement speaker if I was not available. I communicated to those whom I had responsibilities. So, when I got a call that my father was in the hospital again, it took me 2 flat seconds to decide what to do. I was in the car or on a plane pronto!

Knowing your priorities also makes decision making so much easier. There is no more going back and forth between, should I do this or that?”

All we are asked to do is our best. Refrain from being so hard on yourself. You judge yourself harder than anyone around you. Please stop. You are doing the best you can at this moment in your life, with what you know and where you are in your self/spiritual development. There is no one watching you and comparing how you did today vs. yesterday. Only you are doing that. Be kind to yourself today, listen to what those inner nudges are telling you and just do what you know to be your best. Who cares what others thinkthey are not you nor do they see with your eyes. Love yourself today!

Do not be concerned about the future; keep your attention on today, and stay in the present moment. Just live one day at a time. Always do your best. Today is the beginning of a new dream!
~Don Miguel Ruiz

(For more information of doing your best,” pick up The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz).

Loving you for who you are today,


Chris Sopa is founder and owner of Chris Sopa International, Inc. You can learn more about her at Find her at, Twitter @ChrisSopa, LinkedIn, and .