Tag Archives: living the good life

One year here

6 Sep

All of a sudden it was July 31st.

Which meant that I had been here for a year.  Which meant that i made it through my first year of my new job.  And my first year in NYC.  And not just made it through, I had a ton of fun!  I never would have guessed that I would like it this much.

Here are some of the things I did this past year:

Long Island City

Long Island City

  • Found routines – like morning walks by the public housing building near my house and seeing all the Vietnamese residents doing exercises in the backyard – just like I saw in the mornings in vietnam
  • Roller derby in coney island
Coney Island Roller Derby.  We rooted for Brooklyn.  Naturally.

Coney Island Roller Derby. We rooted for Brooklyn. Naturally.

  • Learned the subway system (after some disastrous starts)
  • Biked out to Coney Island
Coney Island's kind of scary

Coney Island’s kind of scary

not sure what this ride was... well, I could imagine, but I don't want to ride it

not sure what this ride was… well, I could imagine, but I don’t want to ride it

  • Ate lots of good food — kind of like when I traveled.  Legit South India, Vietnamese, papusas (my new favorite!), tacos
  • Took a spanish class – and then forgetting a whole lot of it – but making some good friends in the class!
  • Put myself out there to make new friends and try new things (checking out live music, going dancing, joining groups) – which sounds like a small thing – but not being a joiner makes it hard!  But – happy to say, I have a group-ish of friends now, people I can call up to go out with, people I can go ride bikes with, people who will go drink mezcal with me (to read more about my new obsession, see below), people will want to go hiking
  • Discovered the craft beer scene in Brooklyn (luckily one of the really good bars is right near my house)
  • Also discovered that I am a big fan of tequila and mezcal drinks (NYC has no shortage of fancy cocktails — like the night I went to a bar focused on experimental cocktails and had some crazy tequila and mezcal drinks — all for the low low price of $16 each!)
  • Survived my second year of being car-free (last year probably doesn’t fully count) – though I do miss escaping out to the mountains.
  • Found places to get fresh veggies and good bagels and awesome coffee – and all those other things that make routine a good thing

And so much more….


So much fun to be had!

So much fun to be had!


When I was traveling, I was limited by time, but was free without a plan – so I would move on when I felt I was ready, when I wanted a new adventure.  Though there is still a fire inside of me, wanting to see the world, wanting to climb mountains and trek through foreign lands, there is still so much here for me to explore –  I feel like I barely touched the surface.  How fun – to know that I still have so much more to do here?

I am still grounded in knowing I am in the right place, at the right time.

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.

Living whole-hearted

24 Apr

As I approach the one year anniversary of coming back to the states, there is a swirl of emotions and thoughts circling my mind.  I read this quote the other day and it spoke to me – and my need to live full-whole-heartedly.

“Never touch anything with half of your heart. Be present, endlessly loving and compassionate towards others. Confront any challenging situation first with a deep breath. Wander. Remember that your own happiness and comfort comes above all things. Before reacting—understand. Eat breakfast every morning. Find the faces in the flowers. Remember what is important to you. Treat your body kindly. Be honest. Get to know yourself. Take things at your own pace. Don’t feel embarrassed to feel, laugh, cry, sing or love. Remember that what’s right for someone else may not be what is right for you (and that’s okay). Never be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. Do what you love. Remember that you always have a choice. Find joy in what life really is—living.”  (Author unknown)


I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, not fully, but trying to remember, trying to keep it in the forefront of my mind.  Trying to live with a whole heart.

Varkala – aka a time warp

2 Dec

Varkala….  kind of like hotel california — you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave….  here i am – headed out of town finally — several days after I planned on!  Somehow, 3 days turned into 5 or 6….  seems that is how Varkala rolls.  For one thing, it is actually hard to get out of here — not a ton of buses and trains leave from this area – you have to go to a bigger city to get connections and the tourist area is located on the coast – whereas the real town is further away and most tourists have no reason to go down there.

Finally, the other day, I realized I needed to take some action or I would be stuck here for awhile – so I visited one of the many travel agents in town.  What I thought would be a simple plan turned into several hours of frustrating news.  Basically, all trains are booked.  Turns out December is a tough time to get a train around here (I just happen to be on the pathway of most-visited-Indian spots in the winter — Kerala, Karnataka, Goa) — even with the tourist quota, there are not a lot of spots available.  And then, after that whole planning time with the travel agent, I left with nothing becuase I need to go down to the station to try to get tourist quota tickets.

So, train station lady and I spent a while talking and I walked away with a whole slew of tickets — Varkala to Bengalore, Bengalore to Hampi, Hampi to Mumbai, Mumbai to Ajmer.  I am set for the next few weeks (though I still need to get one more ticket to Delhi!) – though, I have to say, none of these trips are super convenient.  For one thing, I am in sleeper class for all of them (remember that dirty, dusty, crowded train ride I took a while back?  Remember when I said I would only take 3AC or 2AC after that first experience?  Yeah — now I am signed up for a whole bunch of those) and for another thing — I have long waits in between.  For instance — tomorrow, I leave for bengalore at 1:30 in the afternoon — i arrive at 7 in the morning (desperate for a shower) and then take a train that evening at 8 that gets in at 7:45 (really really desperate for a shower).  Yes, that is two days after I leave here….  In mumbai, I have a similar situation (though, lucky for me, even a few hours longer of a wait between two trains!)

Not sure how I will manage that time — find a place to stow my luggage?  Get a rickshaw for the day?  A hotel room?  hang out in the train station and stare at people?  Not sure — I guess it is all part of building the epic…. or something.

But — big picture — I have 17 more days in country — I will visit Hampi, which everyone raves about, for a few days and then head up to Rajasthan for a few days (not sure where I will visit — but definitely Pushkar and Jaipur).  It is going to be quick and lots of transportation time — but hopefully worth it.

But — back to Varkala….

As I have said, it is a strip of souvenir stores, restaurants, and travel agents — all up on a cliff side.  I have walked the strip more times than I would like to think (mostly because it is the only place to walk — especially when it gets dark).  Once you get past the strip — there is great beach to the north.  I spent some good time over there watching the most amazing sunset — probably one of my top 5 ever (see pictures below).

This is the first place I have really met a bunch of tourists — though two stand out:  Rob and Norman.  Rob and I met because we were both walking the strip back and forth one night and laughed about it – and from there decided to pick a spot and drink a beer, which turned into a few and then dinner.  Rob is probably in his late 50s/mid-60s and from Australia.  He is retired and spends most of his time driving his camper van up and down the Australian coast, camping and surfing.  (Oh, that sounds terrible).  We had a great time talking about life and travel and love and making lists and spirituality.  We both are traveling alone (he is here for just 5 weeks this time, but once he was here in India traveling for 16 months!) – so we had fun talking about that as well.  It was a great evening and he totally inspired me to add ‘buy van and pimp it out to live out of’ to my life list.

And then there is Norman.  He and I met when we both were stopped to admire a sunset.  I am not sure how old Norman is — but his oldest son is 40 – and he seems like he could be in his 70s.  But — i am not good at guessing ages!  Norman is also traveling alone and has been coming to India for about 13 years.  He always comes to the south and spends a month or so here.  He invited me along for a day on the backwaters (which, Lonely Planet says that floating in a houseboat on the Keralan backwaters is one of the iconic life list things to do).  He told me to think about it and told me where his hotel was if I wanted to go – to just leave a message for him there.  I thought about it and realized that, even though, I did want to leave Varkala —   this was too good an opportunity to pass up (he offered to treat me for the day – but not in a sketchy way – instead he said — ‘i am already paying for all of this, why not have someone come along with me’).  So – Norman and I went to the backwaters.

Long story short, our day was a bit messed up – though it all worked out.  We went to a very beautiful beach in the morning and then floated in a canoe some of the backwaters in the afternoon.  And, true to the hype, it is pretty spectacular.  Our guide was a 23 year old who definitely had a schtick – but was knowledgable, friendly and fun.  We saw a few birds, a water snake, floated past villages, learned about how they make coconut oil and coconut rope (which I have a sample that we made to bring home).  Without seeing a larger map to understand how it all lays out, i have a hard time picturing where we were — but these villages seem to do their travel and life using these small canals.  And, I even got a chance to pole our canoe along.  And norman and I had fun talking about life and his family and travel in India (and elsewhere as he does one or two trips a year and seems to have been all over the place!)

All in all, it was a good adventure in Varkala.  I definitely would not recommend it to someone looking for a quiet, off the beaten track kind of place.  One night, a restaurant down the way, partied late into the night, keeping me up (which, bad on me, I should have moved guest houses — but repacking and moving my backpack is SO unappearling).  Also – the men seem to be over the top forward and aggressive here.  I have walked out of my room to be confronted with staring men who check me out head to toe.  And you cannot walk the strip or near the beach late at night without some new male friends (who do not make me feel very friendly) who do not get the hint that i am not going to go off with them.  But – that is counter-balanced with meeting fun travelers, pick up soccer games at 7 in the morning on the beach with the locals, running on the beach with the locals in the early morning (and even though that is all men too — their staring just seems a lot less aggressive!) and amazing sunsets.

Varkala – where the livin’ is easy

28 Nov

Upon arriving, I got assaulted with requests to stay in various hotels and so it was pretty easy to find a place to stay.  I could have probably even gotten a better deal, but the room is nice enough.  And then I went to walk the strip — basically a long path of restaurants all with their fish out on display.  basically — you can pick out what you want cooked.  There were the usual assortment of crabs, prawns, fish of varying sizes.  One place had a butter fish that was probably 3 feet long and huge!

I tried to find some southern indian food (as I figure I don’t need to have pizza here, since the pizza I can get at home is really good and I can’t get southern indian food at home!) — but I could not find a place that had any.  All of the places have very touristy menus — food from home (Russian, Swedish, Continental, etc.) — which was kind of a bummer for me.  I am going to have to go search out a place — though town (the real town, not the tourist central) is a few km away.

this morning, i got up early and went down to the beach for a run.  There were a few other men running, some swimming and bathing and then some folks playing soccer.  I did my workout (sprints on the beach, barefoot — pretty awesome!) and got schooled by an old guy out there running — he was running back and forth on the short section of beach — and wanted me to join him — i tried to tell him I was doing sprints and then when i sprinted by him, he started to sprint too — and totally kicked my ass.  But, he invited me to come running with him tomorrow morning.  Then I got invited to join in on a pick-up game of soccer — a little 3 on 3.  It was super fun though I actually have no idea how to play soccer…  and i have no aim.  But, I decided that if I can start each day with 45-60 minutes of exercise and playing (preferably on the beach) every day followed by coffee overlooking the ocean….  that would work for me.

Funny enough — when I went for breakfast — the couple next to me asked if I had been trekking up in the everest base camp area.  Turns out Katherine and I spoke to them up there (though, honestly, i have no memory of meeting them!) — but it was fun to talk about our adventures since then.

I went for a walk , got yelled at for taking a picture in a temple (there were no signs and the last temple I was at, I could take pictures!   eek!), and then walked back on the beach — all the euros are wearing super tight and SMALL bathing suits…  including the two girls jogging on the beach in their bikinis….  i guess the whole advice thing to be culturally appropriate in dress doesn’t apply to the euros in their bathing wear….  (though….  i sort of wish it did with some of them! 🙂

My good friend was here for two months and I can see how people would get ‘stuck’ here — the living is easy…  I am sitting at a juice bar,  there is good coffee, i had fresh fruit salad, there is wifi.  All I could think this morning was…. it is a monday morning (sorry to all of you teacher friends — i am not trying to rub it in!)

Ok — i am off — maybe to eat some more, maybe to read, we shall see.

here are a few pictures from kochi (the weather hasn’t been good for photos — lots of rain the past few days!)

coming across on the ferry to Kochi
my watermelon drink!

sunset from Kochi

coming across on the ferry to Kochi

A day in the life….

16 Oct

here are some snippets from my life the past few days…..

  • Going out to the best japanese restaurant in Kathmandu with my friend and some of her friends (one who works for the UN).  While eating sushi, the UN man points out the acting ambassador to Nepal who is sitting down the bar from us.  We drink Japanese liquor as we close the place and then try and go dancing – trying out several of the clubs and fancy bars in kathmandu (we could have been in NYC).  Then, unable to find a good place to go dancing, we head back to the UN official’s house for an impromptu dance party.  His house is beautiful – filled with rugs from Afghanistan, art from ecuador, wine from chile, books on war zones and diplomacy.  I could have spent hours exploring and asking questions!
  • Riding on the back of Yogatara’s moped out to  a beautiful monastery outside of Kathmandu – passing rice paddies, houses with thatched roofs, goats and cows in the road (remember, this is just outside of kathmandu) and beautiful monasteries.  We were hoping to meet with a lama who, from what I understood (trying to follow the conversation in french between Yogatara and her friend Fred) is the lama of compassion.  When we arrived at the monastery, we were greeted by little monklets who opened the gate — one was wearing a spiderman mask and pretended, with the correct hand movements, to send webs up to the walls.

sweet ride…..

  • Visiting another monastery, we climbed up to the top of the hill and bought prayer flags from young boys and they hung them up on the hill for our prayers to be picked up by the wind.
me with the cheesy grin – up where our prayer flags are going
  • spending lots of time with an old friend, catching up on life, learning about how we have grown and changed over the last 15 years, reminiscing about old times and having fun adventures now.

I feel tremendously lucky that YT has taken me in and sharing her space with me.  It is wonderful to be with an old friend and to be learning about her world here (after getting emails over the past 15 years!)  It also is giving me the space to figure out what comes next and recharge for adventuring on my own for the next two+ months.

Hope everyone is well — i miss the fall and apples and leaves and all of the rest of new england falls.

Much love — aurora