Tag Archives: courage

Here is my ‘Dear Life’

28 Aug

This is a reprint from my friend Kim’s blog.  

Tuesday, 7:30 pm

Dear Life –

I’ve been hesitant to write you because I wasn’t sure how I felt about you.  I knew believed you were giving me “gifts” – but they sure didn’t feel like gifts – all that struggle and messiness?!  Come on now – what kind of gifts are those?!

But now… now I think I’m getting it.  And I think that I’m ready to say thank you.

Thank you for travel – a solo journey that I thought would be the answer – but instead was only the opening of the door.  And that door being my heart, naturally.  And the opening of that door just prepared me to do the really hard work of this past year – which meant more opening and naming all that I want and all that I am worth.

And thank you for courage.  The courage to be vulnerable.  The courage to believe I’m worthy of everything I want.  The courage to push open the door to my heart even further.  And what hard work it is – so thank you again for the courage to take it on.

Finding the beauty in each day

Finding the beauty in each day

But life, I know that you are pragmatic (since you’re my life – of course you’re pragmatic!) – so thank you for deep lungs and big strong muscular thighs.  So, I can’t find pants to fit right (it’s way more fun to wear cute dresses anyway), but I can climb mountains and pedal my bike for hours and be active and outside, which feeds my soul and heart in countless ways.

And thank you for watermelon and hoppy ipas.  And bachata and cumbia.  And friends new and old to keep me laughing and celebrating and exploring and pushing myself.

And thank you life – for filling me with more dreams than I will ever accomplish in this life time and filling me with the dissonance of loving my work and loving this world – what a great dilemma to have!

And just…. Thank you.  With all my heart.

Advertisements

Live it like you mean it.

3 Jun

‘Wow, that’s so brave’, she remarked to me, after I told her I moved here only knowing one or two people.  I chuckled to myself, thinking – ‘oh, if only you knew!’  I decided to not share all those times that I felt scared, felt less than courageous, in the last 10 months.

But what happened?  Was I the same person who arrived at a bus station in India and picked where I was going next by getting on the next departing bus?  Was I the same person who learned to venture out and trust myself?  It was hard to believe, sitting at home, on my couch, feeling…. well, frankly, pretty far from brave.

For some reason, things feel different here.  Perhaps, it is that I am not a traveler anymore.  This is my country, and now, my home.  Perhaps it is that NYC is not known as one of the friendlier places in the world (though, full disclosure, I don’t find it that rough either – people have the capacity to be friendly.  They just choose not to be most of the time).

But, whatever that difference is, the fact remains that I don’t feel as brave as I did when I was traveling the world.  And when you don’t have friends in a new place, getting yourself out there is very effortful.  Tiring, even.  And so, I found, over the months since I moved here – I lost that courage.  It was sometimes easier to stay in with a good book, watch House of Cards on netflix.

Yet, I remember what it felt like to be out there, to explore, and have that freedom.  So, I am going to dedicate the next few months/time to making that effort.  To re-aquatinting myself with that freedom and joy and exploration.  To being the traveler – but this time with a home (that no one is puking in) and way more clothes and shoes.

more than just a pair of hiking boots and chacos

more than just a pair of hiking boots and chacos

So, here is to learning to be a travler in my own home, wherever that home is – and finding courage.

chinese new year in flushing

chinese new year in flushing

Precious Life

5 Aug

As most of you know, I have taken a job in New York City as an School Designer, working for NYC Outward Bound Schools.  Which basically means that I will be supporting schools in NYC that are implementing the Expeditionary Learning Schools model.  Does it sound like the dream job for me?  Yep, pretty much.

But, 4 months ago — if you had asked me if I was gong to move to NYC – I would have told you a resounding ‘hell no‘ and told you about opportunities in India.  Or even 3 months ago, I would have told you about how I needed to be in Peru.

In fact, those who have known me longest have laughed – OUT LOUD (usually followed by a ‘no fucking way!?’) – when I tell them I am moving to NYC.

So – what happened and how did I end up here?

sunset in Southern India

During my last month of travel, in Peru, I kept coming back to the Mary Oliver quote:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do/ with your one wild and precious life?

So much had happened during my travels — so much in my thoughts and outlook on life.  I knew I wasn’t going to go back to Renaissance, but what was the next step?  Where to go next?

During my travels, I sat and thought a lot.  I mean, to the point of it being a little ridiculous.  What did you do while traveling?  Um, I thought.  I wrote.  I thought some more.  And of course, I went out and lived.  I climbed, I trekked, I sat in plazas, I tried new food.  I practiced my spanish, I got stared at a lot.  I met some amazing people.  I rode trains and buses and rickshaws.  I was scared and lonely.  I smiled at strangers.  I gradually let down my walls and opened up to the world.

And as time went on, I could feel myself change.  I could sense the openness and courage – when I wasn’t so scared to try new things.  When I became comfortable in my own skin and started to love traveling by myself.  When I loved sharing a laugh with a stranger.  When I was so authentically and truly myself with other people.  And it was beautiful and wonderful and made me laugh and smile at the world.

As I sensed this change, I cherished it.  And became terrified to loose it.  So, I started to name the kind of life I wanted to live.  Like a sculptor working with clay, I took the amorphous blob of stuff and started to give it form and shape, dimensions and depth.  And slowly, out of the jumble of ideas, I started to give shape to the exact life I wanted to live.  And on of the biggest ideas that I kept coming back to was this:  I do not want to live a mediocre life.  I do not want to sacrifice my happiness.

In this one ‘wild and precious life’, I want greatness and beauty and adventure and love.

Adventure.  It kept coming back to that – how alive I felt staring out to the train as I traveled down the Indian coast.  How alive I felt trekking through Patagonia.  How alive I felt sitting in the plaza at sunset in Cusco.  And so I knew, there was no other way for me to live my life from now on – adventure had to be part of it.

So, when the opportunity for New York City came up – though it not the wilderness I crave – it is certainly the wildnessI crave.  As I started to think about it, I realized that this, too, would be an adventure.

Ho Chi Minh City at night

And so, having a new-found courage in my ability to take on adventures and figure out how to navigate the world — I am ready to try this new adventure.  So, here I am – figuring it out, learning how to get around.

My travels will be limited from now on — getting from Brooklyn to Staten Island.  Manhattan to Queens.  But, I think that the adventures will be just as rich and just as important in my journey.

3-headed monster

12 Mar

I am used to being stared at.  Being a lone female traveling in Asia solicits stares like you wouldn’t believe.  There is no way for me to not stand out.  I look different.  Or when you are negotiating a busy street in Kathmandu with your friend and you are both carrying big backpacks.  You get stared at.  Or when you are the only white person, not to mention woman, on a bus in a rural area in India.  You get stared at.

I am pretty used to it at this point.

At first it bothered me.  Made me feel self-conscious and very aware of my actions.  But then I started to smile when they stared.  Or I said hello (or whatever the culturally appropriate greeting was).  But mostly I started to smile at the stare-ers.  And usually, it caught them off guard.  But, for the most part, I got a smile back.  Sometimes that smile started a conversation, sometimes it got me offers for food, got me a cup of chai, sometimes it got me invites to join their family.  But most frequently, I got a smile back.

South America is different.  Here, I get stared at, though I don’t think I look all that different (especially when I get asked if I am Argentine or Spanish).  Here, I get stared at, though I dress fairly conservatively (especially compared to the teenage girls).  Here, I get stared at, and I don’t get a smile in return.

I have been surprised.  I do not find the people here (so far in Bolivia and Argentina) to be all that warm and friendly.  They do not return smiles, instead, quickly averting their eyes (‘what, me?  No, I wasn’t looking at you.  no, not me.’).  Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, my smiles fall on cold faces.

local women, who tend to look through me

And it is hard.  It is hard to not take it personally.  It is hard to still feel open.  It is hard to feel compassionate and warmth towards the people here.  It is hard to keep smiling.

One of my goals on this journey was to open myself up to the world – to not let fear stop me from new experiences and new people.  To build bridges and not walls, something I sometimes struggle with.  I have been forced to build bridges along the way – to trust strangers and new friends.  To make allies where I can and to smile at strangers.  To laugh at myself and believe in the inherent goodness of others.

South America is testing me.  It is hard to remain open, to want to build bridges, to keep my guard down (and not build walls) and not cocoon myself.  The looks I get sometimes, the unfriendly, cold stares — sometimes I feel myself retreating back in — and I want to fight it, but at the same time, I want to protect myself.  Sometimes all I want is to go back to where I look different from everyone else – because at least there I got smiles.

and that is not to say that there were not cold looks in asia and there are people here who smile….

So, perhaps this is my test – to learn to stay open to the world, even if they are not open to me….  to remember that it is about me and how I present myself to the world – not about how others react to me.

I get scared each time

23 Feb

I get scared each time I do something new.

I get scared when I change countries or take a bus for the first time in a country or when I have to communicate with people and we don’t share the same language or sometimes even when I change towns.

church in Jujuy

But once I do that new thing, once I take that first bus ride or figure out directions on my own, it as all ok again.  Until the next new adventure, of course.

hiking in the rain

So, the other day when I left Mike and Beth and took a 21 hour bus ride north to Jujuy, I was really nervous.  This was my first solo experience in Argentina.  My first solo bus trip.  My first foray into Spanish.  I had been hiding behind Beth big time, on the Spanish front — having her do all my communicating!  But now, it was all up to me….

It is the little things – the little steps that feel like big accomplishments.  For instance, I had to make a transfer on my bus to get here (Jujuy).  I was not sure of what the bus guy said (they speak so damn fast) and so I asked my bus neighbor.  I found out I had to transfer buses at that moment.

Another accomplishment:  I took the public bus to Lagunas de Yala — these three lakes that I hiked up to.  I found the bus, took the bus, asked for directions and caught the bus back.  All by myself.

one of the three lakes

I have gotten food in the market, ordered coffee and translated a whole newspaper article (that took me a long time and had to look up a lot of the words!).

main building of the plaza in jujuy

These might not sound like a big deal, but with each success I feel more comfortable and confident.  Sometimes traveling by myself, I spend a lot of time by myself and in my own head (especially with the language barrier).  It is hard to not psyche myself out sometimes.

So — now I am feeling like I can make it on my own again (of course I knew that I could but….  like I said, sometimes I get scared….).

Tomorrow, I head north to Tilcara which is on the way to Bolivia.  It is suppose to be a beautiful area that is just an hour and a halj north of here.  I am not sure how long I will stay there, though I imagine that I will make my way into Bolivia around the first of the month.  And I am sure that I will get scared once again.  But until then, I think I am ready to tackle the challenges in front of me.

the view from lagunas de yala

Oh, and did I mention that I am here during rainy season?

Rainy days

25 Nov

Every once in awhile, I have a crisis of faith, of wondering what am I doing, being on permanent vacation (is that really what I am doing — being on vacation for 9 months?!)?  What am I doing – but going from coffee shop to restaurant to reading my books to eating food?  To not having a purpose?  To just sight-seeing day after day?

Today is one of those days…

It is raining today.  which makes it harder to figure out what to do.  Do I sit in my room and read?  Do I try and go to a festival that is at a temple somewhere near-ish?  Do I just keep eating and spending money as I wander from place to place?

I like having purpose (for evidence, see the past five years of my life) — and sometimes I just am not sure what my purpose is right now…  as you might imagine, I am not one of those people who are really good at just sitting on the beach!  So, maybe that is my purpose – to learn to just sit.  To be here, without a purpose and wait for that purpose to come to me.  Or for me to find it.  Or to figure out that purpose can mean lots of different things — that it is not all about goals and checkpoints.

But, please, don’t get me wrong — in the grand scheme of things – i feel tremendously blessed and lucky to be here — to witness the world and expand my horizons.  But, sometimes when I get caught up in the details of every day life and miss the comfort of home and friends – it is those moments that i wonder what i am doing out here.

Or maybe it was just all the pictures and stories of turkey and thanksgiving food all over facebook that did me in….

I am trying to figure out if I should head out of Kochi, or if I should stay another day and go to the festival, or if I should go elsewhere in Kerala, or if I should go to Hampi, or if I should….  you see the problem?  There are so many options… how do I pick the best one?  or to not be paralyzed by the multitude of options and just do nothing?

I guess I will go drink a cup of chai and try and figure it all out.  or maybe just read my book.

be well friends.  thanks for being part of my pupose — to be able to share my thoughts and observations with you all.

hope you can avoid black friday!  🙂  i am doing my part and just shopping locally.

Frequently Asked Questions

21 Jul

When I tell people about my plans, I usually get one of three responses:

1.  Aren’t you scared?

2.  Are you traveling by yourself?  (which is followed by question number 1)

3.  Is this an Eat-Pray-Love thing?

Yes.  Yes.  No.

Of course I am scared.  The list of what-ifs goes on and on….

what if i get malaria?  what if i run into a huge snake in southern india?  what if i get lonely?  what if I get really sick?  what if I get abducted?  what if I run out of money?  what if I get hurt and have to come home early?  what if I miss my mommy?  what if I get my head chopped off?  what if it turns out I don’t like traveling?

as you can see…..  the mind can run rampant with these what-if questions (and all of a sudden I am transported to my classroom and how my students love the what if questions and I can understand the 10th grade brain in a whole new way…..)

But, at the same time, I guess I don’t know what I would be missing if I don’t go.  I don’t know how lonely or how scary it will be — since right now, I am just imagining the possibilities.  But to live it and see it and experience it….  then I will know.  And sometimes, the idea of just staying is as scary and lonely as anything else I can imagine….

5 days until I move out of my apartment.  Just ask me if I am ready…. come on, just ask!  ok, I’ll tell you.  um, not ready.  nope, not packed.

and as for the eat-pray-love thing….  i mean, i guess because she traveled – there is that similarity.  But i am not a writer, not getting paid to travel and not-getting-a-divorce-rebounding-and-breaking-up.  So there is that.  Nor am I julia roberts.  just sayin’