One in a million

Are you sick of my self-aggrandizing introspection yet?  I am a little bit, haha.  But I’m almost done.  I’m finalizing my South America moves and will be on the road again soon enough and I’ll be like ugh, I wish I would have taken the time to flesh out some of my thoughts.  So this 2nd of the 3 part series (ha) of the last 3 months is what are my 5 key learnings from Thailand/Australia/New Zealand/Japan 🙂

One in a million.  Everyday, one million people cross this busiest crosswalk in the world in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan.  I didn’t know that fact until the next day, when I was talking to my new friend from South Korea that I met at cooking class… but for some reason it really resonated with me.  Here I am, on this trip of a lifetime, one of literally the million people who will cross this street on that day and it filled me with a sense of wonder and gratitude.  And Dumb and Dumber quotes.

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  1. Kindness is the universal currency

Up until this trip, I think most of the situations I’ve been in, I was in a position of power.  I was born into the position to have the skin color/sexual orientation/language/dialect/education/citizenship that I can do pretty much what I want, and if I couldn’t get what I wanted, I mostly have been given a fair opportunity.  When you’re in another country whose language, laws, customs are different than yours, all of the sudden I was an outsider.  I couldn’t just go about how I always had, because that’s not the way it works everywhere in the world.  I needed strangers to give me a break, to help me, to be willing to extend me a kindness to help me get by.  When I was stranded unexpectedly for a night in China while trying to get from Bangkok to Auckland, it was the kindness and generosity of the lounge staff member at the Nanning airport to help me understand what was going on, rebook my flight, redirect my luggage, get me on the list for a comped hotel room and keep me posted of all the changes that continued to happen and only be announced in Chinese.  Whether it was trying to order lunch in Japan, get my clothes washed in Koh Tao, figuring out a taxi in Koh Phagnan or understanding the ferries in Auckland it was the kindness and patience and generosity of people who made it all work. It was also the kindness of strangers to extend friendship to me everywhere I traveled.  Most of the acquaintances I made that added fun and depth to my trip – everywhere between yoga class to wine tours to having breakfast to waiting for a show to start – already had their friends and family with them.  They didn’t need my company to enhance their experience, but they extended kindness and made the trip more memorable and rich.  And to the friends I made on the trip – scuba diving, at yoga, in cooking classes, reuniting with in Australia – opening your hearts to share your love with me made this an experience I’ll never forget. We’re all on this journey together and showing kindness costs you nothing but can help everyone.

Two of the best acts of kindness imprinted on me: my adopted family including me in family day in Bangkok – the two wonderful China Southern airline employees who talked me off the ledge and made sure I made it out of China with all of my luggage to New Zealand.

2.       Committing to well-being

As I’ve told many of you, the driver behind this year off was a vision that I wanted to practice yoga in Thailand and Spanish in South America.  I felt like yoga was a tool to help me get back to a place of well-being – physically, mentally and spiritually.  Well hot damn, if it didn’t deliver in spades.  Spending over a month just dedicating to wellness was such an amazing experience.  It wasn’t always easy, even though that’s all I had to do and I was in a beautiful place with wonderful people.  But my body, and my heart and my mind just feel lighter and better from it.  I practiced yoga daily, I ate mostly vegetarian, hardly drank any alcohol or soda, and just hung out with wonderful people who I think I’ll be friends with forever.  I’ve tried to get my shit together before.  I’m sure everyone has.  I’ve tried to lose weight and get fit.  Weight Watchers, Slimgenics, signing up for half marathons or triathalons.  Ok, listing out everything I’ve tried to get my mental and spiritual well-being on track is even longer, but I mean I’ve tried to focus on my job, or focus on a relationship, or go to grad school, or give up alcohol or teach Sunday School or just say fuck it and try to have as much fun as I could.  But I think because I would latch on to this idea that getting that THING right would make me better, I would neglect everything else and thus create a life of imbalance that would inevitably come crashing down.  But like I said, right now, I feel lighter and happier and generally at peace.  As I write this, I realize I can’t put this “learning” into words, which maybe negates the principle of it… except that I feel the best I’ve felt for as long as I can remember and that feeling definitely makes the top 10 list of things gained on this journey.

3.       It’s a small world

In the most obvious sense of this adage, while wine tasting on Waiheki Island I met a couple from Minnesota who knew one of my ex-boyfriends brother and I later ran into them in Queenstown and we had dinner.  I met a mother-daughter pair at the Milford Sound who have family in Edina.  I met a Brit who lives in Taiwan while in Chiang Mai whose coworker I went to college with.  I mean just kind of crazy and makes you say, yeah, it’s a small world.  But even more it’s a small world how we’re all connected.  I want to hate on social media, but it has been amazing.  I am shocked how much facebook has meant to me and helped me stay connected while I’m away.  I can stay connected to the friends I’ve met from around the world and share with my friends from home while I’m away.  The outpouring of support I’ve received from my blog and posts has been amazing and the conversations and exchanges it’s facilitated have been so great.  It’s also just so cool how I’ve been able to get travel tips from so many people who’ve been in my life at the periphery but they’ve had such an impact on my trip!  For instance – a woman I went to a summer basketball camp with for years when I was in middle school gave me the suggestions for hang-gliding and going to see a performance at Sydney Opera House!  And they were some of my favorite things!!!  Two people I worked with at Target came in huge, one with suggestions and one that I spent the day with in Sydney!  Just a small world.  The final thing that comes to mind when I think of this small world, is the need to collectively take care of our planet.  I’ve never been a nature person.  I embraced that saying – I’m outdoorsy.  I like to have a drink on a patio.  But after seeing this beauty and nature that is unique to certain areas of the world, and then seeing how different countries approach things like preserving nature and protecting wildlife and promoting clean air it’s really opened my eyes that we can’t all live in our own bubbles because we share this Earth together.

I’m on a boat cruise on the Milford Sound in Southern New Zealand, and this mother-daughter from Richmond have relatives in Edina, who I would recognize.  Small world.  Also, I seem to meet friends who want to have prosecco.  I’ve popped bottles with new friends in Thailand, Australia and New Zealand 😉

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4.       Beauty is all over

I decided to do my Instagram picture of the day mostly so I could have some sort of memory of my year off.  I know myself enough to know that I struggle to journal consistently and I rarely make those photo albums I always intend to put together.  I think I’ll remember the details and the moments, but they slip away.  So I figured, taking a picture and positing it everyday would give me something to look back on and at least have something to represent my year.  What I didn’t anticipate is how much I’ve grown to enjoy consciously finding something interesting in my day and thinking about what makes things interesting to me.  I stayed at Ananda for 5 and a half weeks.  20% of the time I was only drinking dirt and giving myself colemas.  The other 80% I was in a classroom or a yoga studio being sweaty and wearing the same 4 tank tops with the same 12 people.  But it was a magical and life changing experience, and finding something meaningful to capture with my iphone everyday was kind of eye opening.  When I talk to my friends now that I’m back, they think it was all just amazing… and it really was!  But it didn’t always feel that way when my whole body ached and was sick of the same food and just wanted to take a nap.  Now that I’m back in Edina again, it’s fun to think of what I missed when I was gone or what I appreciate even more.  Getting to see my friends that I have known for years and have been by me in my best and worst times, even if we haven’t always consistently been in each others lives?  Amazing.  Even going to the Galleria.  I lived 4 blocks away from there and my mom and I used to shop there and I have a lot of great memories at the Galleria.  But lately I just feel like, ugh malls.  Consumerism isn’t the answer.  But now after being gone, it’s like oh wow, look how much this place continues to change?!  Always evolving.  And I can get a latte, eat lunch, buy yoga blocks, buy a book, find a new moisturizer all in the same place and it’s warm and clean and I don’t have to worry about my purse getting stolen and everyone speaks my language and I don’t have to negotiate the price and you’ll take my American Express card?!  Such a treat!  So I guess I mean to say, it’s been a blessing to find something special in every day.  Some of the best things in each day aren’t ‘grammable or the ‘gram doesn’t truly capture the magic.  And that’s another cool takeway in that, some magic moments can be capture, but some can’t.  But if I’m looking for magic with my eyes and my heart.  I’ll find it.  Many days don’t feel special and many days are filled with things that are difficult, but every day really is a gift.

Most days at Ananda were like this in some way, shape, or form… fresh coconut water, sun, pool or beach, and being happy!  But I didn’t post this as a pic of the day because I thought it had too much boob (haha so sorry to expose ya now) and I wanted a picture with my yoga bestie Lisa because we had coconuts together everyday.  She took this pic 🙂

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5.       I am more bad ass than I even know

If I think back to the first time I flew to Boston by myself for work, or the first time I rented a car, which was in Texas for work… it makes me so happy to not only see how far I’ve come, but to proud of myself for the journey.  Its hard to see progress within yourself and your heart because I mean, you’re with yourself everyday.  It seems like it takes waking up one day and thinking what have I become?!  In a good or a bad way, to be like, damn I’ve changed.  Last year, it was a what has my life become in a bloated, stressed out, not treating people like they deserved to be treated, drinking too much kind of way… and now it’s like, holy cow who knew you had it in you to travel the world by yourself and put yourself out there to try such amazing new things.  Now that my shoulders are more open and stretched out from my yoga practice, I can pat myself on the back.  My quads and hip flexors are also more flexible, so I can kick myself in the butt and say keep on truckin!

I feel bad ass when I’m swimming with sharks or jumping out of planes.  But I also feel bad ass when I’m navigating new neighborhoods and taking public transportation.  Pictured – I’m chatting with friends on WhatsApp, headed to yoga, listening to music just like it’s any other day.  But wait, I’m in SYDNEY! #badass

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6 thoughts on “One in a million

  1. Vanessa this is amazing! I’m loving the boob co-co photo and yes it’s a shame we didn’t get our photo together. I love your introspection here. You are truly quite amazing! Keep on learning & exploring! Namasté.

    Liked by 1 person

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