The Real Dangers of Traveling

The list can go on an on, but here’s what I found to be the biggest dangers of traveling, or more precisely, returning from a life-changing trip.

1. Culture: You’ll experience so many different cultures, and at the same time, come to find that societies do have different expectations and values in different places. Therefore, when you choose to settle down, not only will you have to decide between the city you want to live in and its relative environment (rural/urban, etc.), but now you have to think about what country is calling your name. You realize how large the world is and the vast amount of options for how you can design your life.

2. People: You’ll meet people that you click with, but they’ll live thousands of miles away. That means, the next time you want to interact with them face-to-face, you’ll have to book another trip…start saving.

3. Disease: You hear about it all the time, but the travel bug is, in my experience (as a traveler, not a doctor) an incurable thing. It’s kind of like Pringles says it, “once you pop, the fun don’t stop.” You may choose to come home, but if you’re anything like most people who do, you’ll be planning where to go next before the plane even lands.

…on to the next one.

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Illusions & Delusions 

She floats like dust in a dream world 

When the sun sets, it all falls 

Settled 

Down 

Drop to the floor to pray

Not even the strong make it out alive

What is here 

Is what you have 

As silence falls 

What can you hear the loudest?

Calm comes when you realize 

Everything that comes,

goes 

Fall Forward

It’s the first day of fall. It’s my favorite season, and I’m back in Los Angeles. From the months abroad, if I had to pick one word to define how I’ve returned, I’d choose “liberated.” Liberated from material things, liberated from the desire to have anything new, liberated from the suffocation of self-inflicting anxiety, liberated from wanting to be somewhere I’m not, in terms of a job/career or any general “to do” from life.

I can’t count the physical miles I’ve traveled, nor can I guess the hours of podcasts I’ve listened to, conversations I’ve had, people I’ve met, and pages of books I’ve read. But, what I can count on is the positive change I immensely feel. While it too cannot be quantified, it’s of incomparable quality, and I’m continuing with the conviction to make sure that it multiplies. My hope is that everyone gets to experience what this kind of growth feels like, whether they accomplish it through travel or writing, singing, dancing, painting, or whatever else brings them the joy, flow and time for self-recognition and reflection. It’s a never-ending process and with each day, there is new opportunity for self-discovery. Any obstacle can be an opportunity. I’m aware of my thoughts and stop the negative train in motion when I notice it blowing through my mind at full speed. I come back to the breath and realize it’s all we have. What we do here and now will affect what comes next, but as long as we listen and stay true to the moment, we can handle what’s to come.

As the seasons change, the trees will inevitably shed their green shells from the summer’s sun. Like nature, we as humans go through cycles. Unlike nature, we have distractions that can keep us from embracing the change and processes we are supposed to take for our cycles of growth and rebirth. Let the trees and flowers around you be a reminder to care for yourself and take the time to shed the dead leaves that can no longer serve you. And then, grow again.

 

Love Does.

“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” – Bob Goff

If you haven’t heard of the book “Love Does,” here you go. Yesterday, I was sitting in a friend’s loft hanging out under her stairs, and I noticed a pile of three books. All looked intriguing, but this one stood as I was drawn to the title. When it comes to books, if I’m not captivated within the first few pages, I likely won’t finish it, so I don’t begin (tough critic, I know – especially for someone with ambitions to write a novel one day).

But, my intuition was right. I read the first line of this book and was immediately hooked. I actually could not put it down and finished it in 1.5 sittings (given I had to sleep). It’s one of those books that you cannot wait to read, but you also never want it to end. Each chapter represents a story from Bob Goff’s life, from the seemingly mundane to the extraordinary, like becoming the counsel for Uganda even though he thought the whole ordeal was his friend playing a practical joke on him. Each story has a message and lesson that resonate universally. Throughout the pages that I couldn’t turn fast enough, I laughed out loud and teared up, ending on the last page with wet eyes. Like people, I think books come into our lives for reasons and if we are lucky, at just the right time.

Despite some of the religious undertones throughout the book, the gist will mean something different to everyone, regardless of your belief system. For me, at this stage of life, it really illuminated the fact that when you do what you love and shed light unto the world, the possibilities and opportunities continue to open and multiply. Here’s the thing, this past week of doing seemingly “nothing” in Costa Rica have probably been the most life-changing and eye-opening as the time has been introspective. And, it’s been introspective with a purpose – the purpose to find what really calls to my heart and soul so that I can create actions that bring this love to my life and others. Small things become the big things when you have the time and energy to notice them.

I could go on and on about all the moments that have become strung together, like a fragments of glass creating a new lens to see, feel and understand the world.

Suffice it to say that the quote above really hit me hard. Growing up, with both school and jobs, I’ve been the hardest on myself. For example, in both high school and university, if I were to get an A-, I wanted to add an extra line to turn that into an A+. When it came to work, I never knew how to leave it at the desk when I went home (or shut down when I worked from home, because I never did shut down). That’s something that seems oddly unique to America. We talk about “work/life” balance, when it shouldn’t be balanced. There’s the cliche “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” But, sometimes we work jobs that actually don’t matter to us personally because we use them as a means to make ends meet [or to buy things we don’t need], yet they consume us. If you’re lucky enough to love what you do because you do what you love, then that is and should be your life – there’s nothing to balance.

It’s all a case by case basis, definitely not a one size fits all mentality that every person with a job should feel forced to subscribe to. That’s why I’ve decided that whatever I do next will be something I love and care about deeply, so that no matter if I’m “taking it home,” it’s because I want to, not because I feel like I have to be available around the clock to build someone else’s dream.

Read this slowly:

The small things (that we should notice and that do really matter) can become the big things (that do really matter) or  the small things (that don’t matter) can become the big things (that don’t matter) – just depends on what we give focus to and our perspective.

Measures of success growing up were written in stone by outside factors, but as you grow up and away from the constraints and definitions that institutions create, you realize how much they really do not matter. You begin defining what matters for yourself and if you follow that path that brings you joy and, in turn, lights the way for others to learn, grow and prosper, then, success is everywhere. Failure is something most people fear, but like failure, fear is not real.

When I return home, I’m going to have a day job that aligns with causes I care about and that way, there will be no way to succeed at things that don’t matter because everything I do will be set with an intention that really does matter. And, it’s not just about my job – it’ll be everything from the mundane to the extraordinary, because that’s what allows us to live fully, and that’s what love does.

Sand, Se(e) and Shorelines

People say the world is small, and that’s an expression to showcase how the seemingly coincidental moments occur. When you really think about it, the world is large, vast and in a way, can be considered infinite. Often when I’m at the beach, I think about all the grains of sand and how there is no way to walk over every piece of sand. And, that’s just one beach. What about the rest of the world? It’s impossible to traverse every inch of ground around the planet, let alone your own city.

We get so caught up in what we are doing in the place we are doing it, without every thinking about what’s happening all over the world. We make our worlds small because it helps to categorize life in buckets of things to do, people to see, new places to try, etc. etc. But, it also adds to the anxiety of making every small decision seem like it’s bigger than it really is. When we live inside these bubbles, everything we do on the daily is magnified, but when you consider the fact that people are living their lives in all different ways a mile, 10,000 miles, and 100,000 miles away, you realize that the world is large, and you are small. While you’re overthinking about the choice of the moment, the world is still turning and no matter what you decide, life will still happen.

It’s like looking up at the stars on a cloudless night or standing on top of a mountain and looking out at the view. It all gives a really good sense of perspective to know that both the good and the bad are small blimps in the timeline of your life. While you need to appreciate each moment and each day as they come, it’s okay to also realize that if it won’t matter in 5 years, it likely also won’t matter in 5 minutes, and you can stop dwelling on the tiny things that cause unnecessary overthinking. The funny thing is people always look to others for advice, from the mundane like “should I wear this shirt or that one?/”what coffee should I order?” to the more dramatic “should I quit my job?/should I move to this city?” when they really know what they want. That’s why so often, when we ask a question and someone gives the answer, we still end up doing the opposite – it just takes the courage to listen and accept what you already know to be your own truth.

I’m making an effort to consider choices like I do a grain of sand – they are infinite, both small and large, and like the waves that come and go to create new grains of sand, I don’t always (and more often don’t at all) control the decisions that will follow after I decide. But, when all is said and done, we still traverse the shoreline of our lives and have the power to sink or swim.

 

Nomadic Inhabitant

It’s times like these when surroundings weigh heavy on the questions of meaning.

By definition, inhabit means to live or occupy (a place or environment). Right now, I’m inhabiting Costa Rica. This is the seventh country I have inhabited  in the past two and a half months. More importantly, I feel like my headspace has inhabited many different worlds. Everywhere I’ve been, I’m there, taking it all in, but different pieces of me are on display to both others and myself.

Here’s the thing about moving from place to place and not having a permanent home  – you discover things about yourself that only come up because of your surroundings. Especially when time is slowed down.

Costa Rica is very laid back. And, I don’t mean Los Angeles style chilling at Venice Beach laid back. I mean, people say “good morning” at 2:30 PM, they run on “tico time,” which basically just means time is a figment of imagination, there are no street addresses, mail doesn’t really exist, bus schedules are by word of mouth, and shops close when foot traffic is too slow. The weather is fickle – one minute the sun is shining, and the next minute, there’s a torrential downpour with thunder and lightening.

But, it’s here that you can take it all in. You appreciate each moment and nature’s beauty in her purest forms. You notice the clouds cascading in front of the rainforest-laden mountaintop on your way to the local farmer’s market. You smell the scent of asphalt in the morning after the rain has soaked the sand and debris. You hear the sounds of children kicking a soccer ball on a muddy grass patch. You watch the bicycles glide on by as the cars honk their horns. People exchange “holas” on the street, and everyone knows your name because the small community is built on connections.

While wages are low and living costs are relatively high, the important things really matter here, like the environment, art and people. The community cares deeply about recycling and compost. Wherever you see a trash can, there’s a recycling bin right next to it. Beer companies pick up empty bottles from bars, take them to sanitation and reuse them for the next brew. Street art and hand-crafted items are ubiquitous. The art of making coffee is crafted with a passion as strong as its aroma.

But here’s where it gets tricky. The down time and silence becomes loud and powerful. It’s asking me what I want to spend my time doing. It’s telling me to do something meaningful. Maybe it happens when you stop fighting it. That’s when the answers come through like the sunshine after the storm.

Everything about life here is much different than what I’m used to. Like everywhere though, purpose is needed to satiably inhabit the spaces we navigate as humans.

Inspired by: The Daily Post

 

Tiempo Libre y Pura

A coconut falls from a tree. Does anyone hear it? Does it matter?

Like life here in Costa Rica, things happen when they want to and no one cares too much about any one single element of life. Rain or shine, lightening storm or calm skies, surfers fill the ocean tides, people casually stroll the streets, and the town comes alive at night to the sounds of musicians singing and playing the guitar as couples salsa without a worry.

Amidst lush treetops, I sit on the rooftop as the sun beats down and inevitably paints my shoulders bright red. The gentle sound of the ocean waves crashing surrounds me as the tide’s song is disrupted by the sound of construction up ahead. It all comes back to focus. What do you choose to focus your time and energy on?

Yesterday, we bought a plank of wood, a half kilo of nails, and headed to an empty building where friends are starting a school. I grabbed a ruler and hammer and began assembling geoboards for the kids to use to learn fine motor skills and geometry. We spent the day inside, helping to build the school. So many days in my life have been spent working for someone else, valuing my time with a dollar amount that is tied to the hour I put in work, with results measured by superfluous markers of success. Spending time knowing that what I was producing would contribute to the well-being and education of children shows how when you choose to spend time doing things that matter to you and others, it becomes invaluable. When we left at 4PM, we were all shocked at how quickly time had passed.

It’s a much simpler life around these parts. It seems like people prioritize making time for the things they enjoy doing. This makes time move slower. It opens your eyes to realize how many different ways there are to live, and that everything you value and want is simply a choice. Each day grants the opportunity to design the life you want, spending the minutes of each hour filled with purpose, whatever that might mean to you in that very moment.