I Turn 40 Today and I’m in Prague

Do you every look at your life and think “This is NOT how I imagined it?”.

I do. I sometimes think to myself “What if THIS wouldn’t have happened?” Or “Where would I be if I would have______ (Insert dream here)”.

Right now it’s 7am in Prague, The Czech Republic and I’m sipping coffee while Jason sleeps in the other room. It’s quiet and I’m reflecting on the fact that my Great Grandmother, Mary, came over to America from what was then Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. She knew no English and was put on a boat at the age of 14 to go and find a new life in America.

I can’t imagine the will power it took to leave her family when she was so young. It must’ve been terrifying and thrilling at the same time. And because of her bravery, here I am. Sipping coffee in the land she left behind.

I think of the people who came before me in my family. My mom, a single mom with 5 kids making ends meet. A woman who woke up day after day unsure how we’d get bread of milk on the table. My stepdad, an entrepreneur who married my mom when he was 55 to spend the next 20 years providing for us. My aunts, who have given me endless hugs, birthday cards and supportive messages to push me through tough times. My older sister (by 18 months) who learned all the algebra just to be my tutor and teach it to me a year later. My Great Grandfather, who came over from Hungary and worked in the steel mills in Pittsburgh. My Grandfather on my dad’s side, who fought in WWII in Strausburg France and was given the Purple Heart for being shot in the head (and surviving!!!) as he tried to rescue his friends while in combat. My Grandmother on my dad’s side who year after year sent my mom checks for our birthdays. My Uncle Rob (8 or so years my senior) who came to every single graduation ceremony with big hugs and smiles, so proud of me.

This is the day my mom brought me home from the hospital to meet my big sister, Vanessa:

My stepdad, Tony, took us to cut down a Christmas tree every year. I’m thinking this is around 1994:

Here we are in 1997 with our matching turtlenecks and chins resting on our hands. Very casual:

And just a few years ago:

My amazing aunts:

I’ll never, ever take for granted the path that was laid out before me so that I can sip coffee on the couch. I’m so grateful for the people in my life who believed in me. My friends all over the world.

Friends from my teens in Pittsburgh who make me belly laugh to this day (Jerzie!). Friends from college who supported me as I found my own voice for the first time (Fox, Lerd, Ham and Drey). Friends from my years working in Pittsburgh who worked by my side during my first career days as an early 20-something as we navigated being young and being professional – which can be a tough combo in your early 20s (Bekah, Corinne, Julia, David). Friends from dog parks. Friends from online meetup groups (LB!). Friends from work in California who gave me pep talk after pep talk as I often felt like an imposter in Silicon Valley (CrayRay, Tells, WhitBiz, Bre). Friends who curled up on the floor with me as I wept and dried my tears as I stood up tall (Kimmie). Friends who got me through tough times by sharing their own truths (KLove, Madelion, Mitch, Mike, Param, Holly, Joe, Sichy). My bosses who believed in me and understand that my personality has its benefits in corporate America.

Me and my friend since I was 16, Jess, dancing at a club on stage in our 20s:

My college girlfriends in Andrea’s wedding:

My friend, Laura, who was my first friend in CA:My friend Rebekah on her wedding day: My dear friend, Corinne, who I met in 2002 at work:My West Coast sister, Kim:

So many friends, I can’t put them all on this post! 🙂My sister, Larissa, for always always being on the other end of the line – no matter what. For welcoming me into her world of motherhood as I created a bond with my little nieces. My brother, Adam, for understanding so much of my own pain. My brother, Garrett, for making me laugh and for listening as I lecture him. 😉

Here we are being awkward in the late 80s:

My nieces (Ezra, Rori, Callie and Evie):

(Shout out to my 11th grade guidance counselor who said to me “Have you ever thought about going to college?”. She knew I could do it, which made me believe I could do it too).

So many people who have believed in me and trusted me. I could write this list for days and it’d be HUNDREDS of people.

Normally, I would have a big party with all my friends and family around me as I celebrate the last 40 years. But, somehow it worked out for me to be on this couch in Prague. Life has a funny way of turning out exactly how its meant to, despite our best efforts at trying to control its direction.

We were walking around with these views yesterday and its all I could ever want at this point in my life.

Cheers to turning 40. Cheers to the twists and turns that life brings. Life isn’t at all what I thought it’d be, it’s better.

What Words Do Others Use to Describe You?

Strong. Strong personality, strong willed, strong physical body, etc…I took this pic yesterday during my gorgeous hike. I was feeling strong and very grateful.

That’s the adjective that most people would use to describe me. Strong. It’s been happening my whole life. I remember sitting in the principal’s office and her telling me that my stubbornness (strength) was a terrible trait. Little did she know that my stubbornness would equate to always making my own path. Here I am traveling around the world for a year because of it.

What’s the adjective that others would use to describe you?

I love that people consider me to be a person who fights for myself, my loved ones, and for my own physical health. And like most character traits, our best trait is often the trait that can hold us back in life.

As I’m traveling the world, I’m learning that I tend to internalize SO MUCH of what’s happening in my mind and heart. I think that with my strong personality, I’ve found a way to pretty much think through everything on my own. In recent years, when tough things have happened (like my dear stepfather, Tony, passing away 2.5 years ago) I tend to retreat into the quiet of my own strength and hibernate.

My close friends and boyfriend have pointed out that sometimes they have no idea how intense a situation is for me until it’s over. I don’t often reach out to people to say, “I’m having a tough time right now”.

Why? Because I’m a strong person, right?! And strong people aren’t victims of their circumstances.

I think of people in my life who despite having so much, are often complaining. I’m not talking about serious mental health concerns like depression or addiction. I’m talking about people who have been given incredible opportunities and squander them because of their own victim mentality. Other words used to describe these people could be: laziness, blaming everyone else, or just plain selfish.

However, I’m learning that there’s a fine line for us “strong” people. If we never ask for help, accept help or seek help, then we take on life alone. As I shared in my previous post about yoga, I hurt my back and for 2 days afterwards I had to lay flat to let my body recuperate. Jason had to go get us food, make us dinner and clean up the dishes after me. I hated it. I kept wanting to jump up to help. God forbid I relax and let someone take good care of me.

I want to be a human who is strong and independent but also someone who can soften to the support and love of friends and family.

One of my favorite things about my boyfriend, Jason, is what a kind human he is. He’s softened my edges. He’s helped me see that strength doesn’t mean I need to do things alone.

My sister has called me day after day on this trip just to say hi. I pick up when I can.

My close girlfriends have been sending me video messages every day to update me on their lives as I respond with updates about mine.

Notes from family cheering me on as I’m on this journey.

As I continue to be the strong person that I’ve always known myself as, I’ll also allow space for the support and love.

After all, no woman is an island.

Yoga Everywhere

When I first moved to CA, I remember thinking that everyone sounded like rich hippies. Everyone was drinking their $8 green juice, paying $25 (or more) for yoga classes, and using essential oils that smelled pungent to me at the time.

Turns out, all that stuff is AMAZING. In case I haven’t told you yet, I’m reallllly into yoga right now. I figured out I’ve done over 300 hours of yoga in the last year or so. And I’m just scratching the surface!

I’ve found a yoga studio in all the places we’ve stayed thus far while traveling. And every time I walk into a studio, it’s the same experience. It’s peaceful, people are friendly and I feel immediately at home. Turns out, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are, yogis are yogis. They’re patient people who are open to learning together. I plan on doing yoga for the rest of my life.

Practicing my handstand in Puerto Rico:

The view from Baja Zen yoga near Todos Santos, Mexico:

Yoga is all about focus. In yoga, we often hear the word “drishti”, which means “focused gaze”. It’s a means for developing concentrated attention. It’s when we become withdrawn from our senses in a way and we’re able to concentrate on our breath. We also focus our eyes on a physical drishti to keep our balance. Sometimes it’s a tiny dot in the wood floor or sometimes a speck on my yoga mat. So far, in my life, it’s been the most life changing experience to develop my own peaceful concentration by focusing on my drishti.

This morning during class at Ericeira Yoga, I was flowing through the regular poses and I felt an unpleasant twist in my back. It was pretty bad. It was one of the ones that took my breath away. I started panicking in my mind, “Omg what if I have to go to the ER? What if I need back surgery? What if this whole trips ends now?” PANIC.

Before I started practicing yoga, I would’ve walked away from class and limped home to ice/heat or rest. What I’ve learned, though, is that if I focus on my drishti, my mind and body can do way more than I thought they could. I decided to VERY slowly and VERY gently proceed with class. I was able to breathe through some intense moments and my back started to loosen. And at the end of class, I experienced something new: I was doing a forearm headstand and I was able to use my own breathe and abs/lower back/feet, to not only lift myself into the pose, but stay in the pose for a while. If you haven’t practiced yoga yet, it’s VERY humbling when you realize it’s not about accomplishing anything, but slowly, gently allowing your body to try new things. And when it does new things and it all clicks into place, it’s an incredibly satisfying experience. It can take weeks, months, years. And sometimes it’s just about the teacher coming to your mat and showing you one tiny change in my pose and everything just clicks.

This is very different from the typical workouts/sports we’re taught: “JUST DO IT”, or push yourself until you feel ready to puke or “no pain, no gain”!

I find it fascinating that yogis are such healthy people who instead of pushing themselves to extremes, they mentally allow their bodies to do more – gently but with strength.

As I continue this worldwide journey, I will continue to focus on my drishti. Both physically in yoga and mentally as I sort through the many, many thoughts that come through my mind each day. Have you ever paid attention to just how many thoughts go through your mind each day? I learned long ago to observe them. Let them pass. Focus on the breath, the peace. It’s where all the growth happens. I used to be so controlled by my own thoughts, I could barely rest. Now I understand that if I maintain my focus, I can control my own reaction to those thoughts.

Here’s a picture of the ariel yoga setup here in Ericeria, where you use the fabrics hanging from the ceiling to do all sorts of poses. Should I try it sometime?

The Benefits of Nature

As my life goes on, I am learning the power of being in nature.

I remember being in nature as a kid. Things like running through the woods behind our home outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We would spend days building forts where the trees were our walls and the sky was our roof. I remember seeing the ocean for the first time when I was maybe 8 years old. We watched a thunderstorm roll in over the ocean. I remember feeling slightly scared but totally awed. I remember sled riding with my 4 siblings, bundled up so tight with winter layers we could barely move our joints. We’d stand in feet of snow as we opened our mouths to the sky to catch the snowflakes on our tongues.

In my 20s, I fell in love with nature. I decided to work at summer camps during college. Little did I know that that camp Director would take me under his wing and teach me the beauty of getting along with nature. He showed me and the other camp counselors how important it was not to fight nature. When we went kayaking on the Potomac River, we would guide the kayaks to flow with the river’s current. When we camped in the Presidential Mountain Range up the Northeast of the U.S, we would leave no sign that we can set up camp. We would leave nature as we found it. I remember hunkering down during a torrential downpour while hiking part of the Appalachian Trail in PA. The lightning and thunder were directly over our heads as we curled up like roly polies* to wait out the storm.

*(remember the Roly Poly? The little grey beetle that would curl up when you picked it up? When it’s the multiple of roly poly…is it polies?).

In my 30s, I moved to California and for the first began to crave nature. I would spend the weeks within the walls of a tech company, loving all the perks but missing time with fresh air. The weekends started to become an escape into nature.

It started by getting my first dog, Masha. A Sharpei/Lab mix who was my sidekick. She would wake me up with her cute snout by my face, nudging me to walk her through the misty, cool morning. In the evenings after work, her excitement to GET OUTSIDE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO RUN brought me the same joy! We’d rush around the house to bound out the door and breathe the fresh air.

Being in California changed everything because I could be outside pretty much anytime. I could plan outdoor get togethers or hikes because the sun was shining so much more than anywhere I had lived to date. I used to hate hiking. I found it boring and unadventurous. As I did it more and more in CA, it became a refuge. It became my happy place.

Now here I am, traveling the world for a year. From airport to airport, Airbnb to Airbnb, new bed to new bed. We are changing locations every week or so right now. I’m loving the new sites, sounds and opportunities each location brings. But I’ve noticed that one thing hasn’t changed: Nature still calls. When I take the time out of my day to be outside by the ocean, I start to breathe differently. I start taking deep inhalations and I notice the smells in the air: the salt, the fish, the sand. Once again, Nature is soothing me.

My dear friend, Kim, sends me videos often of the tiny miracles she sees during her morning walks with her pup in Northern California. Beautifully colored mosses, perfectly set up nooks and crannies for fairies to live in, and stunning views of the redwoods. I find myself often wanting to share the nature that I’m seeing where I am in the world.

So far, these are the highlights:

Todos Santos, Baja Peninsula, Mexico: The sunsets. We sat every night and watched Nature paint rich, sweeping colors. This unedited photo below shows some of the color. But, as usual, the photos don’t do it justice. The desert landscape with the ocean right behind it is captivating, to say the least.
Rincon, Puerto Rico: We spent SO much time outside when we were in Rincon, it’s tough to choose a specific moment. The ocean colors were stunning. It was the first time I hiked through a rainforest. I was blown away by how much green there was. I found myself hunting for other colors in the green, like a game. One day we saw this orange-flowered hibiscus tree among the green. Every day, I’d comb the beach for natural treasures. I’d find colors in nature that simply blew my mind. In Lisbon, Portugal we loved how the gorgeous parks incorporated nature into the bustling city skyline. There are wide, sweeping parks throughout Lisbon where there are inviting spots to sit with an espresso and people watch as the sun shines through the old, leafy trees.

We spent the day at the Pena Palace. The castle was amazing but the park around the castle was dreamy. The king and queen had plants brought from all four corners of the world to create this park. We spent about 5 hours walking through just the park.
One area of the park was covered in one of my favorite flowers, the pansy. Look at the colors and the detail in these very tiny flowers.

I’m grateful that no matter where I am in the world, I can go back to the calm and peace I find simply in being outside. I was once told, many years ago, that if you go outside without any shoes or socks on and just stand on the earth, it will bring peace. I find that to be very true. Walk in your bare feet on the grass or the dirt and see if it doesn’t bring a smile to your face.

Finally, this is a beautiful poem I saw while walking the coastline in Portugal:

Have a great weekend everyone!

Traveling Isn’t Peaceful

Everyone knows this, I’m sure. The stress of packing, unpacking, getting to the airport or driving through traffic. Traveling isn’t peaceful. It IS, however, very revealing. It reveals things to you that you would never pay attention to otherwise. One of those things for me is how social I truly am at this point in my life.

When people hear that I’m traveling the world for a year, they usually respond with “No WAY! That is my DREAM! HOW did you pull that off?”. There’s SO much excitement around doing something as drastic as this.

What most people don’t realize is that doing something like this gets into the layers of who we really are as individuals. Travel reveals our insecurities and fears. Travel enables us to take time to do what makes us happiest (like blogging with a cup of tea nearby). It opens up new conversations with strangers and creates perspective around our world view.

Most people consider themselves to be an extrovert or introvert, right? There’s a new term out there called an “ambivert” – someone who is a little bit of both. You enjoy time alone and you enjoy striking up conversations with strangers. Whenever I tell anyone about that word they always say, “I think I’M an ambivert too!!”. In other words, maybe we all can identify with being an ambivert. I’ve learned while traveling that I definitely sway back and forth between the two. Sometimes I want to be at a bar having casual conversation with total strangers and sometimes I don’t want to talk to anyone.

On Tuesday of this week we packed our bags to head to the coastline of Portugal to an adorable surf town called Ericeira. Our apartment is ridiculously comfortable with a gorgeous ocean view. And guess what? I’ve barely wanted to leave! Yesterday I spent 2 hours reading on the couch and then I took a luxurious nap. Sometimes I start to feel guilty, like I should be exploring! I should be out there! Seeing the sights and talking to strangers when really all I want is to curl up on the couch and stare at the ocean blues (this is our view below!).

This year off, for me, is a deeper dive into what makes me truly happy. I have so much to be grateful for in so many areas of my life. But, I’ve spent the last 10 years daydreaming about having nothing to do but travel. And here I am! I made that dream come true. So, now what? Now, time for rest. Time to allow my mind and my heart to be still. I’m so used to having an agenda, a checklist, a busy calendar. Now it’s time for reflection, for daydreaming about how I want to spend the second half of my life. And during this time, I plan on having no plans. What does the day bring?

When traveling for an extended period of time, it doesn’t always feel like vacation. It feels like real life – you have ups and downs, highs and lows. Days where you’re “on” and days when you’re totally exhausted. I’m learning to just accept those days for what they are and enjoy them. It’s good practice for the “real world”. When I don’t feel AMAZING and INSPIRED and OVERJOYED about everything, I’ll just allow the energy to come and go. Relaxing into the ebb and flow of life.

Imperfect

I’m already overthinking this whole thing. Will I write the correct words? Will it irritate people? Will the world think I’m a total narcissist? Raise your hand if you care just a bit too much what everyone else thinks about you.

(My hand is raised).

I’m not a writer. I’ve never blogged. Well, let me clarify. I’ve been keeping a journal since I was 14 years old. (Still don’t care?). No worries, I get it. We’re all busy with work and kids and life. So, let me cut to the chase.

Why am I blogging? Because I have a story to tell. I’m 5 days into this year-long journey around the world and I’m feeling slightly uncomfortable with the fact that this isn’t a vacation ending in a few days, but a journey to listen to my heart. When was the last time you let your heart do the talking?

Back to the blogging. I’m not here to please anyone, I’m here to talk about my truths. Including sharing my own imperfections. Why? Because in our world of social media, I’m tired of everyone trying to appear perfect. We aren’t perfect. We’re IMperfect. So, cheers to me laying it out on the table.

My goal in this blog is to share a few things:

  • stories from our travels
  • truths from my heart about what all of this actually FEELS like
  • and how all of this comes together to point me in the right direction for the next stage of my life (see? I’m already planning!)

Join me on my adventure. There’s going to be lots of ups and downs. There will absolutely be angry posts, crying posts and laughter posts. Hopefully, through my journey, you’ll peel back the layers in your own life to better understand your heart’s calling.

Peace and Love (I wanted to insert emojis here, but it didn’t work. DAMNIT! How am I going to get my emotions across without emojis?!!?).

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me on my journey! I’ve taken a year off from corporate America to travel the world with my (adorable) boyfriend, Jason. We were living and working in San Francisco and needed some heart and mind space to figure out what we want from the second half of our lives. I know, I know – unheard of, right?! Who has the privilege of taking an entire year off? Due to the incredible support of coworkers, mentors, friends and family we saw some success and now we want to reap the benefits of our hard work.

It didn’t come easy. It was 25 years of nonstop effort to get to where we are at today. The longest amount I’ve taken off from work since I was 15 years old is 2 weeks.

It’s time. For a mental break. An opportunity to listen to that small voice in my heart that’s pushing me to SLOWWWWW DOOOOWWWWWN. I’m not sure how this will go, considering that the adjectives used to describe me would be: efficient, strong willed (a nice way of saying bossy, I prefer bossy) and independent. This stage of my life will be about peace, play and generally just doing whatever I want to do at any point.

Maybe our journey can be a fun distraction from your current moment or a way to help you follow your own heart. Join me as I write about going the the intensity of corporate America to the reality of what it’s like to truly slow down.