How To Love One’s Demons

Demons. Monkey chatter, the ego, fears, self-doubt, that voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough– we all have them.

It wasn’t until an honest conversation with a best-friend-mirror last night in which I realized my demons were paralyzing me from writing.

I am well-versed in embracing the light. In loving it, channeling it and sharing it. I am much less comfortable and fluent in loving the dark. I knew deep down that an error in a recently published article of mine was instilling such fear in my mind that I had been avoiding Good & Grateful and neglecting the addressing of these deep-rooted emotions, and everything I had been trying to write in recent weeks felt inauthentic because of it.

It felt inauthentic because it wasn’t the piece that needed to surface; they weren’t the words of love and acceptance that my very demons needed more than anything, and anything else was neglect. And healing holds no space for neglect.

This morning, I embraced a healing first: I have journaled my demons in tangible written form for my eyes to see. I acknowledged them instead of neglecting them. And I went through each demon-fear and without judging it or trying to change it, I thanked it for being present, and I told it that I love it. Holding my heart, I went through each fear and thanked it for being here, because each of them have taught me exactly what I need to heal. I spent generous time with each demon until the flutter in my heart ceased upon reading it and instead transformed into hosted contentment, and I thanked them again.

I share this with you all because it was a powerful experience for me in working alongside my demons in the process of healing. It was an expression of love and light to the places that need them the most; the icky, messy, uncomfortable places to reach and hold onto. I also chose to embrace a further layer of vulnerability by sharing my particular demons, the ones preventing me from writing.

We are not strong, admirable or beautiful for the light we give alone. We are magic because of the way we light-work alongside our darknesses. The mind is incredibly powerful, and often times we forget that we are our toughest critics. Thank you to an inspirational, talented best-friend-mirror who helped me see this by sharing her own demons with me.  I encourage us all to explore the heart space in offering love and gratitude instead of avoidance next time our demons surface, for they will– and I know that my heart and I will be waiting.

My demons:

  • I’m terribly insecure about the title error in my elephant journal article
  • I’m embarrassed
  • It makes me feel like:
    • I’m really not a good writer
    • I shouldn’t have been and don’t deserve to be published
    • My writing is emotional fluff and I have nothing substantial to write about
    • All I do is share my feelings like an over-emotional little girl who’s trying to make up for 24 years of silence, misunderstanding and repressed expression 
    • My followers, the editors at the journal, and I think I’m not credible and that I have lost my credibility as a writer
    • My blog and Good & Grateful Instagram are now tainted with the error and they are no longer “clean” and attaining to be perfect 
    • I have nothing to write and I know nothing worth sharing that brings value to other people

And after it all, with love for the darkness and the light that makes it so,

XO, my Good’s & Grateful’s

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@Goodgrateful: Journaling + making vision boards with a soul sister = a solid Friday.

Forgive To Fly

Let’s talk about forgiveness. Not too long ago, I was in a darker place. I was not surrounding myself with kind, insightful, loving thoughts, and that reflected in the life I led, my notion of self-worth, my dreams and the low-vibrating, also struggling, like-minded company that I kept. I was stuck. And I knew the health of my well-being and spirit desperately needed to spread their wings to fly and soar into a space of love.

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@Goodgrateful: With self-love, I found forgiveness. And now, I am soaring.

Fast-forward to my present, and Good & Grateful‘s blossoming in the beautiful San Diego. I found that space of love, but I did not find it in California. I found it in myself, though distance from the negative associations of my prior helped allow for my discovery.

There is an important distinction here in running from problems that are within, and removing oneself from an external environment that no longer serves us. I am sure, as I continue on this learning-journey, I will find that my environmental struggles were only mirroring my unhealed internal, as everything comes back to the self. I am sure, as I continue on this learning-journey, I will be able to return to those once-places of pain, and lend enough love to them in order to rewrite their scripts. That, I believe, is true growth.

But back to forgiveness. In this current life-chapter, I have focused intensely and intimately on self-love. I am, like many, often too hard on myself. I hold myself to unrealistic standards of perfection that only perpetuate a mindset of not being, and never being enough.

Intensifying healthy, loving scripts and positive mantras have helped me to shift my thought-patterns. Meditation, exercise and conscious eating have aided me in a newfound understanding of self-care. Treating myself magnificently, and humbly, remembering that I am the full moon as I am the mud that hosts the lotus, has taught my new company to honor, respect and love me in the same ways.

But at the core of it all, I am relearning that we are all and only human. If we are the universe and the earth, then we are every piece of it. We are the full moon and the sun, as we are black holes and vast emptiness. We are the flowers and the trees and the ocean, as we are tornadoes and dirt and the tectonic plates that crack and shift. We are everything while we are nothing. We are light and dark.

A flower isn’t perfect with its curved stem or curling petals, but it is beautiful. The sunset is only as spectacular and special as the clouds that blur and shape it. We humans were not made to be perfect. We are breathtaking and magnificent only because we are not so.

In this space of love, within myself, I have come to forgive myself for my shortcomings, my mistakes and my pain of the past and current. I am freed from the suffering that I clung to for so many years. And remembering that I’m trying my best and that our best is all we can do has helped me to heal painful relationships of the past. I am able to forgive others and accept that they are on their own journey– one that I may never understand– and they are learning and trying, too.

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Self-love has permitted me and encouraged me to break free from the past. I am ever-growing with deeper learning and loving, and I am ever-releasing myself as pain’s prisoner.

With forgiveness, I have tasted unwavering joy and contentment. My relationships with my self, and others, have peacefully heightened and become more enriching.

We are much less defined by the outcomes as we are the way we handled things in getting there, for it is never the destination: it is the journey.

And I plan to continue making this joyous journey beautiful: to be ever-learning, ever making mistakes, ever-falling and ever-getting-the-heck-back-up, gently and lovingly. And now, once again, I am soaring.

And now that I am here within myself, I can finally say:

I forgive you. I forgive me. I love you, and I love you, me.

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@Goodgrateful: Sunset over Pacific Beach in San Diego, California.

The Magic of Living: Part 2

Part 2: How I’m Embracing, and Remaining My Inner “Yes Woman”

The waves were small and the water was chilly. The air was 50 degrees when my alarm went off at 7:20 a.m. I wanted so badly to snooze a little more until waking up to spend my day typing cover letters. But my surf partner and I went out into the ocean anyway.

And the universe rewarded us. Also playing in the small, friendly waves were none other than a pod of dolphins. After a solid five minutes of me slapping the water in disbelief, cupping my jaw-dropped face, paddling out closer to them, inquiring if their presence indicated that sharks were also around, whispering, “oh my god,” incessantly, and wondering why these so-called-waves had to be in my viewing way, I decided to do like my finned-friends and try and catch one, only to paddle back out and repeat the process.

I continued on this way for another 10 minutes. My poor surfing partner was probably experiencing his own disbelief in that someone could have such a reaction to a wild animal, but he tolerated it all the same.

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Post-surf photo from March 3, 2017 shred session.

There were few others in the water to witness my enamor and accept the sea’s smaller feat, but after the dolphins left, one nearby surfer caught my eye. He was seasoned, with a white beard, turquoise eyes and tan, weathered skin. He paddled on his long board only on his knees and pursued each small but promising curl in the same manner he would have as if it was the biggest wave he’d ever seen. He reminded me of my father.

After a few catches and misses, I called over to him.

“That’s quite the paddle, I’m not sure I’m there just yet.”

The man laughed and told me it took years of practice. “You should turn next time,” he told me, in regards to my last attempted ride.

I learned that while a self-proclaimed surf-bum now, he was also an avid skier and climber in his years, and had worked as a guide in Switzerland, set rock-problems all around the U.S. while living out of a van for two years, has his Masters in Chemistry, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and now has it under control and spends his time living in San Diego funded by his work as a researcher and online course professor at Vanderbilt University.

I looked at my new friend in awe. “Well, I’m 23, I just moved here, I have a degree and no job at the moment. What advice do you have for me?”

Darrel looked back at me and though beginning with, “I’m not sure I’m good for dishing out advice…,” he continued, letting the gentle ocean-waves wash over his surfboard and nostalgia-waves wash over his memories.

“Don’t get into debt,” he said after a moment. “Don’t fall for the illusion of things. Don’t spend your money on a big, fancy car… You don’t need stuff. I had a fancy home and things all back in Nashville. I even have a closet of fancy things here that I never look in. I don’t miss it.”

A wave rolls by.

“Do it while you’re young. Be good to your body. Don’t drink hard alcohol, it takes a toll. If you want to have a beer every once in a while, all right. If you want to get high, smoke weed. But don’t smoke it, bake it. Bad carcinogens.”

We float over another set of baby ocean-movements.

“Get a lot of skin.”

“As in tough skin?” I interjected, in due parts because I’m soft as a flower petal and because I wasn’t sure that’s really what he meant.

“No. You know,” patting his wetsuitted-arms, “affection, touch, love. That’s science…

And if you don’t like something, don’t do it.

“And this.” He looked at the water around him and ahead of him. “Do more of this.”

And whether he had more to share or felt he was done, I’ll never know. Because my transfixed state broke when Darrell spun around faster than I might ever be able to to catch the wave that was upon us. I made it over and looked back to see if he had caught it. He must’ve, I thought, going after it with the same energy of a pro at Maverick’s.

But he hadn’t. And it didn’t make a difference to him, because he was already on his knees paddling back out to catch another.

He didn’t need to put that last lesson into words after all: go after life like you want it badly. Go after it with full force. Pursue it and lean into it wildly. And if you miss? Get up and try again.

So living my new life in San Diego, I will go outside. I will walk around alone. I’ll look up. Smile at people. Make eye contact. Engage in conversation. Say “hi” to strangers. Accept invitations. Invite people.

I will say yes. Say yes to life. Because when you start saying yes to life, life starts saying yes to you.

And just like that: magic had happened.

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San Diego sunset March 1, 2017.
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San Diego sunset March 2, 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be sure to check out the prequel to this piece– Part 1: How I Found My Inner Yes Woman.

Surf, Sunshine & Sisterhood

Three weeks ago, I went, slightly impulsively, on a women’s surf, fitness, yoga and adventure retreat in Lagos, Portugal.

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Surfing on Portugal’s West Coast. Hannah Edy Photography

Envision: 7 a.m. beach circuits, learning how to surf in warm, green waves, the most delicious, locally sourced meals thrice a day every day, bottles of Portugal’s famous vinho verde, and the most amazing, encouraging group of women all living together for one week.

 

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Day 1 began with a sunrise run on the beach.

 

Read: the healthiest, most inspiring and well-intentioned week of my life to date.

 

 

 

It was a food critic’s most delicious dish yet, and an artist’s palate of all things brilliant and beautiful: green wine, 50-shades-of-turquoise blue water and fearless red energies of first-times mountain biking, horseback riding and jumping off a 30-foot dam. Add in constant sunshine, orange sunsets and purple zinc painting the faces of every unstoppable surf-chick-warrior in our tribe.

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Purple zinc became our chosen markings.
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Paella! Photo courtesy of Courtney Brokaw

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the divine meals and wine, we got a taste of the life of the unmatchable Sophie Everard, (who actually oozes radness) and was the chief-organizer of the Mad To Live Women’s Retreat in partnership with Lagos’ very own, The Surf Experience.

Fearlessly fit: featuring iconic Portuguese hand-painted tiles.
Fearlessly fit: featuring iconic Portuguese hand-painted tiles.
Sophie treating me with all of Portugal's delicacies.
Sophie treating me with all of Portugal’s delicacies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophie is a traveling, writing and endlessly-exploring fitness blogger, sponsored by great organizations and companies for her own drive and very greatness. She alone was an inspiration in embracing unconventionality in part of one’s pursuit of truth. How can I ever thank you for providing a space that turned into the best week ever for so many of us?!

Photo by brilliant, Hannah Edy Photography
Photo by brilliant, Hannah Edy Photography

There is something to be said about the power and brilliance of a group of women who have come together as a team. I have experienced it before within my own group of girlfriends, and even more so on athletic teams in high school or college.

Women are intuitive and capable, instinctually maternal and because of this (evolutionarily speaking) created to take care and to love. We women are vessels with complex depths, and it is this empathetic intelligence that is both the essence of our magnificence and at times, the root of our aching.

Thus being, there is a special type of community, companionship and comfort in a group of women that has chosen to support and encourage each other’s depths. There is a wholeness in feeling understood by one of your own.

Hannah Edy Photography
Hannah Edy Photography

It is the understanding that you are not alone. You are not crazy or small in this world; rather in your safest space, surrounded by reassuring people who understand and appreciate your depths, you are grand. You are undoubtedly the very best being for everything your heart dreams of doing.

Yet we live in a world, swarming with distorted representations in mass media, that aim to keep us women apart.

It is oppression stemming from fear, and the imbalance of energy and the suppression of the Sacred Feminine over centuries that now requires many years of healthy, perpetual restoration from both male and female counterparts.

Humans have a less-than-grand history of making certain groups of people feel small out of fear of their potential to be great; perhaps even greater than the fearful themselves. But a true partnership in this life is bringing the other up to their fullest potential, understanding that they could never fill your particular role in this life-web; only you can do that. Lifting someone up to their greatness could never take away from your own, for they could never succeed in your role; it is not, nor can be for them, just as their role is for them alone, and could never be for you.

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The surfing, dancing, jumping, purple-zinc tribe. Hannah Edy Photography

I’m learning that it is not a man’s role to understand those depths of a woman, or to mirror them. The Chinese principle, yin and yang, the union and dance of opposites, honors exactly that: the differences between the two energies.

 

And I believe that a true man is not threatened by equality of the sexes; rather, he finds discomfort in the privileges he experiences in a system without it.

First-time mountain biking was exciting, especially when it led us to this view of the Algarve.
First-time mountain biking was exciting, especially when it led us to this view of the Algarve.

There was divine energy among the group of women collaborating with intentions of being healthy, driven, open-minded and full-spirited that week in Lagos.

In the very most, this is a prayer for the rejuvenation of feminine sacredness and a restoration of male-female balance. In the very least, it is my whole-hearted hope for all women to experience the community that a women’s retreat offers, as a stepping stone to a life system where all of us have each other’s best interests and spirits in mind and heart.

A wise friend of mine recently said to me, “there is perhaps nothing more powerful than a group of women dancing together– so long as they have each other’s backs.”

And during our time in Lagos, Portugal, we danced. And we laughed and explored and cheered each other on and saluted the sun and ran and fell and stood up once more every time. And it was not until the very end of the day when it was time to rest that we finally stopped– only until the sun came out again the very next morning, and we were ready to take on the world all over again.

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Magnificent sunset after a beach yoga session.
Hannah Edy Photography
Hannah Edy Photography

 

Check out below for Sophie’s video compilation of all of our fun activities during the week! Disclaimer: there is a clip of me being dragged on stage from the bathroom and free-style singing in front of a crowd before a DJ was to come on. My hands were wet. Enjoy! 😉

 

 

 

Tears Dry On Their Own

The legendary, soulful sound of Amy Winehouse first delighted the world on this day, September 14, in 1983. She would have been 33 years old today.

My appreciation for Amy’s work began at a young age and stemmed from my magical, fiery Auntie Denise who lived in Switzerland.

While other kids grew up listening to their parents’ old Beatles CD’s, I would spend summers reading Harry Potter in the backseat listening to ‘Back To Black’ with my mother and my visiting auntie.

Like many of her fans, I credit Amy Winehouse for my fondness of jazz, r&b and soul music– but I also credit her for being a lyrical and vocal role model in finding my own voice.

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20-year-old me having found sanctuary in a jazz café in Florence, Italy, during a semester abroad.

To me, Amy is a legacy of passion, feminine empowerment, deep-rooted pain and emptiness, and then, manifesting one’s own identity and truth. She was a torn, beautiful being who exuded emotion and talent. But then again, aren’t we all?

From shower sessions and solo car rides to the 8th grade talent show and humming at work, singing became the simplest and most soothing practice for my throat chakra to find it’s use. Sometimes they were my own words, sometimes they were Amy’s, or Frank Sinatra’s, or Taylor Swift’s. But every time, a heaviness deep inside of me found release.

So as this summer draws to a beautiful close, and New England weather reminds me just how sweet and sunny September can be, I knew I had some things to say in achieving my final goal of the hot season: singing at an open mic night.

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Perks and Corks has a book of house-made martinis… the cucumber one was delicious!

This past Monday night, I gathered with support from some dear, clear-eyed, independent queens at Perks and Corks in Westerly. We got martinis, grilled cheeses and girl time, and I got excitedly nervous. I was the last performer to go.

It was a small crowd, but seeing my friends (when I actually opened my eyes) and hearing the strength and feeling in my own voice as I got comfortable under the light was all that I needed.

At the end of the first song, the event manager gave me a verbal pat on the back. I hardly remember saying, “can I go again?!”, like a child on an amusement park ride, but he granted my wish.

Exposing my vulnerable voice and emotions to the outside world was the right kind of terrifying. Allowing myself to share my secret passion with the world was an act of self-love. Holding myself accountable to this fear-facing goal was a form of self-care, and great practice in putting myself first.

It was listening to my very soul, the essences of me that were screaming to be let out, and acknowledging that I deserve to be heard, in the way that each of us do. And in doing so I felt that same rush of adrenaline that I got from skydiving, and the best high I could ever feel in this life.

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Facing more fears and skydiving this past March in Santiago, Chile!

I’m no professional, but singing is something that I absolutely love to do. I’ll leave the rest to the videos. Thank you to all of my family and friends who have shown endless love and support!

‘I Heard Love Is Blind,’ by Amy Winehouse.

 

‘Stay,’ by Sugarland.

Full Circle

It’s been two months since I’ve returned home from a four-month backpacking adventure in South America. I flew home to surprise both my mother and father on their birthday on May 6 (yes: same year, same hospital, no: not related) despite serving a spoonful of white lies in the weeks prior about inexpensive flights at the end of the month, when I could probably come home.

Surprising my inquisitive, detail-oriented mother was the imminent task at hand and my absolute victory was reason for a full weekend of birthday-turned-Mother’s Day celebrations, only to be continued with the return of my father from his California surf trip later that week. And my 23rd birthday. Needless to say, returning home and being home came at me nothing less than full force.

I’ve been bummed about this unwritten “conclusion” blog post regarding my travels, and a good friend said to me recently, “maybe you’re just not done concluding.” Maybe he was right.

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The sun sets over sand dunes of oasis village, Huacachina, in Ica, Peru. Awesome sand boarding!

Reverse culture shock was instantaneous upon my touchdown in Orlando, Fla., for my connecting flight.

I could fill my filter water bottle from– and what’s more, drink right out of– the water bubbler without concern for sanity or cleanliness? I could call or text anyone without having to search or beg for access to Wi-Fi? I am expected to put this toilet paper– wait, there’s toilet paper, and soap, and paper towels in every bathroom– in the toilet instead of a trash can? Can the pipes really handle that waste?

My most shocking observation was the contrast and complete social and cultural opposition of South Americans and North Americans regarding technology and electronics, and children. The two categories of precious cargo are at polar ends of sociocultural spectrums on both continents.

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A young schoolgirl waits for tourists and passersby in the Sacred Valley of Cusco, Peru, in hopes to sell knit goods and souvenirs to.
In South America, particularly in less industrialized and more traditional areas of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Chile, I noticed an overwhelming
unsuspecting demeanor in parents. Children were running around at all ages and all hours of the day and night, often times alone without any
supervision.

Kids are plentiful; particularly in highly religious countries like Ecuador and Peru that have strict abortion laws. And they are costly.

Less prevalent and in higher demand are technology and electronics. Unfortunately, pickpocketing is still an issue in many parts of South America and my boyfriend and I had heard our fair share of travel horror stories. Constant awareness and overprotectiveness of cell phones, laptops, tablets, music devices etc. were drilled into our young, blonde, English-speaking minds.

Some of my first instincts in the Orlando International Airport were to tell people that their bags were open. “Do you know your iPhone is hanging right out of your unzipped backpack?!”, I would think anxiously. The number of electronics exceeded the amount of people around me, and they were all being used or lying nonchalantly near their owners.

I refrained from revealing my rusty knowledge of United States of America norms and entered the fully stocked bathroom, only to see a mother shuffling her probably 8-year-old daughter through the three-person-throng from the stall to the sink with a fearful look on her face.

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White and pink flamingos graze in the lakes of Bolivia’s salt and desert-scapes in Uyuni.
Following days and weeks brought more observations. I didn’t realize how accustomed I was to the beautiful, ever-dynamic landscapes of South America. Bolivia still offered the most spectacular starry sky I have
ever seen in my life. The Amazonian jungle of Ecuador, endless, looming peaks and valleys of Peru, Bolivia’s salt flats and deserts, the entire Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina, the rolling hills and waters of Brazil and the Andes mountain range that accompanied us for
much of it all; our planet had never been so utterly magnificent to me.

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Snorkeling in the magical waters of Puerto López, Ecuador.
It was easy to find myself in awe each day. It was easy and convenient to shop at local outdoor markets full of traditional farmers and vendors, not to mention the economical and social impact it made. It was impressing to cover so much distance and explore so many places on foot, and not via car.

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Avocados, tomatoes and gatos for sale at Santiago, Chile’s central market.

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Fish market in Santiago.
 

 

 

 

 

 

It was humbling to hear people speaking a different language than I did. It was beautiful mind practice every single day to pick up new words, listen for words that I had already learned or try to figure out what strangers were saying.

It was special and soul-opening to meet people chasing after the same dreams and adventures as me: the spirit of being alive.

It is seeing these changes around me and feeling these changes inside of me that required all of this time to process. It is returning to the same place with the same people and a similar routine and knowing that I am very different now, though it’s not easy to communicate or show.

“So, what’s next?”

It is summer-after-each-year-of-college inquiries multiplied by Thanksgiving and Christmas family small talk. It is a common question, born of human curiosity. It is intrigue that seems to grow exponentially in face of unconventionality. What does one do after backpacking for four months? There’s no chapter for that in the rat race handbook, and hey, I’m dying to know, too.

But at some point along the way, if even subconsciously, I determined the conventional life was not for me. I knew I wanted to travel after college and that I had many life lessons to encounter before I could share my gifts with the world. I know that South America was just the start of this winding and unsystematic path of mine, and that excites, though scares me at times.

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A Brazilian rainbow chases dark clouds over Argentina in Iguassu Falls.
The mind, soul and spirit I was created with and the life decisions I have made thus far have demonstrated and called for a different route. It is unknown and self-manifested, in the same way that they all are. I do not have the answers. And I’m coming to accept the terrifying and freeing truth that I never will. No one will. But I have dreams and strengths and ideas and gifts to bring to the world, and I’m the best possible version of me that I’ll ever be for what’s coming next.

And it’s already here, happening everyday. It’s now, it’s present, it’s ever-flowing and ever-growing. And my eyes, heart and arms are open for it.

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Cristo Redentor in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Patagonian Present

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A rainbow welcomes us into Patagonia on a bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales.

Humans have long recalled the healing effects time spent in nature has on the mind, body and soul. It is a concept that has been explored by classic novelists, poets and more recently, scientists and neurologists.

While perhaps still unexplainable, the refreshing, rejuvenating qualities of spending time disconnected from the real world and connected to our real roots is undeniable.

Though I believed I had loved and appreciated and felt nature’s healing properties before in my existence, it wasn’t until I spent a week fully plugged into the wonders of camping in the Torres del Paine National Park of Chile that I finally understood.

Seven days without a shower. Six mornings of oatmeal for breakfast. An average of 20 kilometers of trekking per day. Living in tents, permanent dirt under fingernails, glaciers, wild horses, guanacos, sore knees, friends, turquoise lakes, golden fields, autumn foliage and blistering, snow-crested, looming dark grey mountains.

And the whole time, I was present.

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A guanaco lounges in the grass before looming dark skies and mountains.
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Campers’ tents at Refugio Grey on April 7.

I wasn’t thinking about who did this or achieved that; who landed a new job or started a business, who got engaged, started dating or went to the raging party last night.

I was disconnected from this “real world,” and these thoughts that had nothing to do with me nor affected my truth or being. It was just me and nature and my own, honest thoughts. And no one, especially not nature, was there to judge me.

We are not naturally programmed to concern ourselves with what others are saying and doing. It is a social construction taught to us, induced and reinforced by the media in commercials, movies, songs and advertisements. It is a concept that has found its most influential platform, today, through social media in particular.

We are living in a world and culture that is driven by consumerism and monetary gains- gains that flourish from honing in on human fears and egos.

These all-surrounding, mass-broadcast thoughts, are distractions in the simplest form. They are the fears and concerns that we consume and allow to pull us away from the truths that we know about ourselves, our wants, dreams and needs.

They are the elements of seeming complexity that we inhale and tack on to our self-knowledge, making it deceivingly difficult to decipher what it is we really want to do and how we want to live our lives.

These distractions are the ones that take our dedication and desire to travel the world or pursue our dream career and mix them with Johnny getting accepted into a rigorous graduate program and Jane opening a school for civil war refugees. Shouldn’t we be doing something like that instead?

“I should travel right after I finish university because I won’t have the time or money or health to do so later on. I should get into the workforce right away or I’ll fall behind my peers. I should be in a relationship, be engaged and pregnant, I should make that career change, move cross-country, volunteer abroad and exercise more so I can look like him or her.”

Distractions, fears, comparing ourselves to others- they are merely thoughts of negativity that prevent us from listening to the honesty of our hearts and souls; the parts of us that know the answers deep down inside. (They also create a market for corporate consumerism to feed and profit off of).

And they are not natural. When disconnected from these thoughts, nature is an honest, healthy, kind old teacher and friend. She will listen and demonstrate the lessons and knowledge that you are seeking. Nature is the truest and most beautiful reflection of our very selves.

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The glorious Grey Glacier, observed from a suspension bridge in the park.

In that week, I was free of all the layers of distractions that wouldn’t ever naturally infiltrate my mind. I knew only my own, unadulterated thoughts and my only concern was the best version of me that I could be.

Through hail, snow, sun and winds, I was stripped down of these negative distortions, being reset back to the truths I knew about me in the first place- a clearer understanding of myself and my life.

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A. marching into our week-long trek on day 1.

I’ve deleted the Facebook application from my phone. I engaged in deep self-reflection in those hours of walking that have guided me to the next steps in living my life truthfully after this trip. I’ve addressed feelings that I’ve avoided for longer than I can remember, and I know how to shine light on them now. I’ve kept these lessons from my Patagonian experience and enlightenment close to heart, and I don’t plan on going another 22 years without the clarity that only nature can bring me back to. On top of it all, it was the most beautiful place I’ve seen on Earth. What could ever compete with that?

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The famous Torres, glowing at sunrise on our final morning in the park.

 

Easter in Santiago

Some of my favorite experiences on this trip so far have been the unplanned, yet calculated series of yes’s that lead to outings and interactions with locals. They are the deep, authentic moments of culture immersion that are near impossible to feel on the surface level that is being a tourist. They are the tastes, after all, that are the true makings of travel. They are the experiences that remind us to accept the interconnectedness of life using a broader perspective. The night before Easter was one of those times.

Part 1

A. and my intentions for that Saturday were to be productive: accomplish some reading, some writing and some financial planning. We had been in Santiago, Chile, for nearly two weeks- the longest we had been in a single place- and we were getting antsy. Though our Airbnb landlord, R., had invited us to a daytime electronic park party in the morning, he found us, hands grasping the barred gates, open-mouthed and wide-eyed, staring at the overly stimulating, yet very over, park darty at 9:30 p.m. that evening.

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Getting writing inspiration via coffee at Cafe Forestal in the Bellas Artes district in Santiago.
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A glowing bench display at the Lollapalooza Music Festival in Santiago on March 19-20.

Laughing, R. followed up his first invite with a second: did we want to join him and his friend at a house party in the “Beverly Hills” of Santiago? Eager not to miss a second shot at fun- whyyeswedid.

The Chilean hillside house was stunning. It was equipped with an in-ground pool and lounge area, a living tree growing through the ceiling in the shower, Buddha statues galore and other sprinkles of modern design.

A local couple approached us shortly after our arrival, offering a kind welcome and intriguing conversation. We hit it off instantly, discussing deep relationships and closeness with others, connectivity and mindfulness. The Chilean man told me that at once point in his life he felt anger and dislike toward certain individuals. How could I love a rapist or a thief?, he asked aloud. We concurred together an answer to be something like this: it is morally difficult, but possible when looking at the pixels that are the sameness in each of us.

Instead of getting caught up in the differences, dive into the deeper, shared qualities. It doesn’t mean malicious and unkind acts should be overlooked or justified. It does not make them right or change wrongdoing that has already happened. But remembering the oneness of humanity aids in the relief that is forgiveness and even further, love. At the end of the day, we are all human. It is much easier and deeper to find love for another person remembering that than it is to love, accept or evaluate someone solely for their actions.

It is both the tiny pixilations that compose us, and the magnificent web of oneness that encompasses us all. It is not the insignificant differences that lie in between. We humans share all of the same most magnificent and significant qualities: the universe inside.

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Venus visible in the night sky from Amantani Island on Lake Titicaca in Peru, March 6.

Before leaving the party of Chileans, swaying to the dj and having lounge chair conversations under the night sky, our friend left me with one more piece of wisdom: family is the most important.

“At the end of it all, they gave you life. They are humans just like the rest of us. They don’t know what they’re doing. But they brought you here. And without them, you are nothing.”

Part 2

I woke up feeling homesick on Easter morning, in part due to last night’s conversation with the stranger and to a dream I had about my grandparents and my aunt. But after calling my parents and speaking with some loved ones, and a short moment of condolence from the person who has spent the last 75 straight days with me, I was feeling better and was ready to celebrate Easter the way that I best knew how- like my family.

I pulled an Easter outfit out of my backpack to get me in the spirit: cue pink floral romper and pink lipstick. I compiled three Easter “bags” out of the $10 thousand Chilean pesos’ worth of chocolate I had bought the day before (not included in the backpacker budget): one for my favorite sweet-toothed partner, one for R. and the last for our roommate, T.

I let the three adult men search the house excitedly as I cooked Easter brunch for A. and me, smiling at how much I reminded myself of my mother.

A. helped set the backyard table, munching on his remaining peanut-butter-filled chocolate eggs while we waited for my frittata to finish (I really do need to stop eyeballing measurements- how do you do it, dad?!).

In some time, we moved outside to enjoy a delicious brunch of eggs, home fries, fruit salad and avocado, accompanied by the South American touches of fresh maracuya juice and Chilean red wine.

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A. and I enjoying Chilean wine at a park after brunch.

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We sat outside laughing and talking long after the food was finished. If the neighboring cat made an appearance, I might’ve thought I really was home. Or better yet, that my family was all here with me celebrating like we always do. I smiled again at A., feeling loved and full of love.

The stranger was right. I am human, just like him and our families, and just like every other stranger besides him. What’s more, my family did give me this life. They have given me everything. And they are always a part of me.

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Easter brunch 2016: a product of having channeled my family members.

Bailando, Bailando

I am 100% a proponent of getting out of one’s comfort zone. I believe in the truth that is humbling oneself, and growing pains and expressing oneself and taking actions in ways that may be unfamiliar, but honorable to the higher self that is calling.

That being said, I have not always been the first in a group to do something outlandish, and I am, in my most natural state, a creature of comfort.

 

Malécon of Lima, Peru

 

The magic and at times, exhaust of traveling is that it pushes you endlessly further outside of your circle of “known.”

And on this continent of South America where I speak little of the official language(s) and dance even less of the local movements, there have been times where I’ve found myself feeling a bit out of place!

To counter these feelings of discomfort (paired with the mysterious, nearly constant feelings of light nausea- from brushing my teeth with faucet water?), I decided it was time to do something that really made me feel like me again. For any of you who have read this past post, you shan’t be surprised… I set my eye and heart on checking out the botanical gardens on my handy city map of Lima, Peru.

I grabbed my journal and a cold botella de agua and headed to my park, only to find that with my limited Spanish speaking skills, I could not confirm with the man at the information desk whether or not the gardens were still open and if they were indeed worth the 20-minute taxi ride.

Alas, my next move was simple: set up in Kennedy Square, a park full of bright scarlet sages and orange zinnias and- to my pleasure- stray cats and kittens!

Cats in Kennedy Square in the Miraflores District, Lima

 

Upon approaching the park I found a circle of people and some Latin music sounding. I was hoping to stumble upon a live concert, only to see pairs of elderly couples dancing salsa and meringue in a small rounded pit surrounded by the crowd! Feeling warmth in my heart, I decided to watch a few songs.

 

At the start of the third song, I was startled by a Spanish offer.

Granted, Spanish-speakers communicate ridiculously fast and my comprehension skills are below the average first grader’s, I could only assume that this man was asking me to willingly volunteer myself as token gringa in this dance party of wiser, older, more coordinated Latino hip-swingers.

While my own dear gringo man and world-adventure partner has been so kindly coaching me in meringue movements whenever we’re out (he’s a much better dancer than I am; I told him once and he’ll never let me forget it), I was by no means feeling confident enough to showcase my skills amongst these naturals.

“No, no, no,” I said in my best Spanish accent, shaking my head and gesturing at my full hands.

But whether it was my already existing cultural discomfort (what more do I have to lose!), the young Peruvian man’s incessant requests, the middle-aged woman grabbing the water bottle and journal out of my hands and waving me to go, or a combination of the three, what finally came out of my mouth was an exhaled, “Ok… Vamos!”

Into the pit I went, where I discovered the song required Cubana dance skills (which I also didn’t have) and I giggled half-nervously, half-without-inhibition for the next three and a half minutes, making smiley eye contact with other dancers and older folk who were sitting on the surrounding stairs.

Whether they thought I was crossing barriers of age, skin tone or dancing skills, or imposing on cultural traditions or merely a Sunday evening routine, we were all laughing.

Because, when honest with yourself, it is impossible to see someone throwing themselves humbly outside their comfort zone without it affecting you as well.

The good-natured heart in us all knows deep down the courage and strength that vulnerability takes, and the beauty of that alone is infectious.

I found that that song alone was enough to fuel me in my pursuit of comfort, which was really after all a need to feel the greatness that I have, and have had in me all along.

In doing something that felt a lot less of me, I felt a lot more of me, because I was feeding the parts of expansion, the parts of myself I didn’t yet know were there.

I thanked my partner and the kind woman who guarded my belongings and I walked across the park. I sat myself beside a bed of scarlet sages and cats, opened up my journal, and I smiled. Because I realized that no matter where I am in the world, I can find a little bit of me, and I can fall a little bit more in love with it every day.

Parque del Amor, Lima