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.


  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 😉


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 🙂


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


Oh the places you’ll go

Well, it’s been a month since my last post!  Oops.  Time flies when you’re flying around the globe, living your best life 😊   But damn, it’s daunting to try to put that whole experience into words!  A couple of things happened. I visited another continent, threw myself off planes, cliffs and platforms, turned 33, visited one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, returned back to Minnesota, started to put to practice all that I learned in Thailand… to put it lightly, it’s been a great month.  I think I’ll do 3 posts about my last month, and then trip in general.  Today – the places I visited in the last month; tomorrow – what I learned and then the new years special of what it’s left me thinking about and what’s next.  And more pics with each one 🙂

Ok first off, I shouldn’t be a travel writer or critic, because I really loved all of them (except Taiwan, but as stated in an earlier post, I know I shouldn’t go somewhere for an overnight, but that’s for later).  Every place I went I thought, damn, this is cool.  I could live here.  I don’t think anything would get less than 8 out of 10 stars, and a lot would get 11 out of 10.  So this is not a relative comparison, because I’m going to use a lot of AMAZING and FANTASTIC.  Oh well!

Where I traveled: New Zealand – Auckland and Queenstown.  Australia – Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns.  Taipei, Taiwan (just over night).  Tokyo, Japan.

New Zealand: Auckland and Queenstown

In one line: Mother Earth smiled when She created New Zealand.

High: 16,500 feet high – skydiving on my 33rd birthday in Auckland.  Haha, good pun, right?  But really, the adventure sports were amazing, and the nature was amazing. 😊

Low: There’s so much of the country I didn’t get to see, including visiting the Marlborough reason on the South island, which is one of the reasons I wanted to go to New Zealand hahaha.  Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, I’ll catch ya next time.

If I could do it all again: I would spend more time there.  In reality, I spent over a week there, and up until this whole quit my job to travel thing, I hadn’t taken a vacation longer than I spent in New Zealand, so that’s maybe a little bit of a cop out.  But there isn’t anything I did, that I wouldn’t do again or recommend!

Blah blah blah:  The way New Zealand came about was impulsive.  I booked it one day during detox in Thailand, when I was just hot and felt like crap as I was purging toxins from my body, and was like, I need to go to a Western world on a fluffy mattress and a bathroom that has a shower door/curtain and drink wine!  So it was really researched and thought out 😊  I didn’t know much about New Zealand except that it was far away, but everyone I’ve talked to who has been there has loved it.  So I mean, if I’m on that side of the world and not doing habitat for humanity in Fiji and I have to leave Thailand by the end of December and get towards Australia – then WHY NOT!?

I stayed in Auckland for 4 days.  I hadn’t heard as many great things about Auckland as I had the South Island, but it’s where I booked my flight, so I went with it.  But it was just beautiful.  Mother Earth was smiling when she created New Zealand.  I was immediately struck by how amazing the clouds are.  The sky is just a beautiful blue and then these huge cumulous clouds float in the sky like one of those art projects a little kid does, where they paint the top half of the paper as a horizon with sky blue paint then glue huge clumps of cotton balls.  Then it’s on the ocean, and I just love the sea.  It was another beautiful blue.  One of the days I took a ferry to this amazing island for wine tasting, and I saw a pack (school?  Cluster?  I don’t know the word for group) of dolphins swim by the boat.  It was out of a movie.  And the trees!  I was obsessed with the trees.  One of the days I went for a tour, and there was some mix-ups and blah blah blah, the guy offered to give me a personal tour in the evening… so I got to see a lot of Auckland, and there are all these native species that are only in New Zealand.  I tried to take picture, but it didn’t do it justice.  The leaves, the shapes, the trunks, the bark… so interesting.  I asked around in both New Zealand and Australia, and I started to learn about why I was so amazed… well 1, there are just species that are only on these continents, so I have never seen them before.  Fine, makes sense.  Then the North island where Auckland is, was formed by volcanos and has a warm but temperate climate, so it can grow hibiscus trees and conifers.  Just so much variety.  There’s more, but my writing doesn’t do it justice.  Just, yeah, the trees were super cool.  There’s a lot more about the nature in Queenstown, but the last of Auckland is that I turned 33 while I was there, so I went skydiving on my birthday!  It was so cool – the skydiving itself.  16,500 feet allows you to freefall for a couple of minutes, so I really had a chance to look around at the amazing scenery.  Then, it was a perfect storm of the bartender at the hotel’s birthday was also December 1, and I had met some nice Americans on my wine tour, and a couple of other Kiwis that I actually had a birthday posse?!  Not too bad 😊

So the day after my birthday, I went to Queenstown.  And first off, I didn’t really drink much on my trip, but I somehow ended up getting drunk on the nights before I flew, so I’m hungover on the next flight, haha.  So December 2, I flew to Queenstown.  I had heard great things about the South Island, but again, didn’t really research.  And ah yes, the reason I picked Queenstown is that when I was leaving Bangkok, the man working at the ticket counter for check in was like, you can’t enter New Zealand if you don’t have an onward ticket.  I was like, I have a ticket home from Japan and things booked in Australia, I promise I’m leaving.  This man was Chinese, working for a Chinese airline that mostly deals with Chinese people, so the conversation wasn’t that easy.  But in the end, I booked a ticket from Queenstown to Sydney because it was the best deal I could find and both places I thought I wanted to go.  Again, super well thought out travel planning.  Anyway, Queenstown is the self proclaimed adventure capital of the world and a lovely town nestled between lakes and mountains on about the same latitude as Minnesota in Southern New Zealand.  I went on another wine tour, a hike, visited the Milford Sound – which they like to call the 8th wonder of the world and land of 10,000 waterfalls.  You drive a few hours through lots of sheep, mountains, lakes, and rolling greens, and then take a boat tour.  It was just untouched natural beauty.  I give the Kiwis a lot of credit.  There was no cell signal the last hour of the drive.  It’s one huge projected park.  We stopped at this little creek and drank the water.  It was so clean and pure, you could see the colors of the river rocks on the bottom.  But the sound itself was like nothing I’ve ever seen or experienced.  As you travel through the sound out to the Australian sound, you’re surrounded by mountains that touch the clouds.  We saw penguins and seals on the rocks.  There are waterfalls everywhere you look.  Just beautiful.  The final thing I did in Queenstown was completed my trifecta of adventure sports – paragliding and bungy jumping!  I did paragliding on a facebook recommendation, and it was so cool.  It was maybe my favorite thing.  You drive up a mountain, then strap yourself to an instructor who has a parachute on him, and run and jump off a cliff.  Then you sail around and look at the mountains and lakes for a good 15 minutes.  It was like out of a dream.  The bungy jumping, well that’s what Queenstown is really famous for.  Bungy was “invented” here, and they have one of the top 5 highest jumps in the world.  I was torn if I should do it, it didn’t interest me as much as the others, but I figured WHY NOT.  Well let me tell you, actually jumping off the platform aka throwing yourself towards a rocky ravine, IS NOT NATURAL.  It was thrilling.  I’m glad I did it, but I’m not in a hurry to do it again 😊  The one thing that didn’t work out, is two night I tried to do stargazing on the mountain.  You take a gondola up, and they have telescopes, and I just think stars are cool and I wondered if it was different in the Southern hemisphere.   Does the North star point North?!  Can you see the Big Dipper?  But both nights it was too cloudy, so it was canceled.  However, the stars were cool in Great Barrier Reef (I mean, when you’re in a boat at sea there’s not really any light pollution 🙂  and there was a meteor shower which was awesome, but I digress.)  So all in all – New Zealand treated me well. 

Bungy jumping as seen in a series of nervous smiles: Before, just jumped, bottom, after.

Milford Sound, because as I’m typing this, I think it might be a bucket list activity.  JUST SO BEAUTIFUL.

Australia: Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns

In one line: had two of the most unique and amazing singular experiences of my life all while feeling a sense of comfort and relatability.

High: To piggy back on the previous – seeing the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House and scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef are my two bucket list experiences.  Both things that moved me to tears with the amazingness of them, that can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.

My night at the Sydney Opera House:

Low: I got attacked and bitten by a trigger fish on the last day of scuba diving – only after I had been inadvertently tempting them all trip.  It was pretty funny, after every dive, my dive buddies would be like, did you see that trigger fish?!  I thought you were going to get attacked?!  I never did.  I thought I knew what trigger fish were, but then I would avoid random fish I thought were them and swim right at other trigger fish.  To me, scuba diving is like being on a beautiful alien planet.  Everything is new and just amazing.  It’s like a whole new world.  In school, I wasn’t super interested in science, so we probably learned about these things but I didn’t retain it.  But I digress… good news, now I finally know what trigger fish are! But I mean, it’s a good badge of honor (or maybe honour since it’s Australian) to say I got attacked by while diving with sharks and sting rays and barracudas in the Great Barrier Reef, and survived 😉

If I could do it all again: Like New Zealand, I would spend more time in the places I traveled, and then I’d see more of the country.  But that’s a cop out – so I would wear sunscreen!!  I hadn’t burned all trip.  Then on my last day in Sydney, I went to the beach.  It was beautiful.  I was excited to clean up some tanlines before I went home.  Instead, I fried my back which then ALL peeled and looked like a skin disorder while scuba diving #classy

Look, I’m at the beach getting rid of my tanlines, living blissfully unaware.  Then I scuba dive and then I finally get to Japan and check out my work at my airbnb and DAMN.  PS sorry, these could be used as really sad sexting teasers.  I’m not trying to sext tease.  Unless you like it?  JK.  Look at that peeling!!

Blah blah blah: I’ve wanted to visit the Land Down Under since I had this video as a little kid, where these kids traveled around the world.  I don’t remember the other countries, but I loved the kookaburra song, the koalas, the kangaroos and the accents from Australia.  But as an adult, damn, it’s far away.  I started in Sydney.  When you ask people about their favorite places in Australia, Sydney doesn’t seem to be number 1, but it’s in the top 5.  I went to a performance at the opera house, which was just amazing.  Like the trees in New Zealand, words don’t do it justice.  It sounds SO corny, but the beauty of art and nature has just started to resonate with me.  It’s amazing.  It’s transcendent.  My experience at the opera house was magical 😊  Before I start, I looked for tickets because a friend I used to play basketball with when I was little, replied to one of my facebook posts that going to the opera house was a great experience for her.  Again, it’s so cool how connected we can all be.  The performance when I was in town wasn’t an opera, it was the Sydney Symphony Orchestra performing the music from La La Land, conducted by the Oscar winning composer Justin Hurwitz.  Basically, the movie played on a big screen and the orchestra played the music.  It was so cool.  I think it was even more special to me, because I had seen La La Land once, in the theater.  I was driving home after coaching a basketball game when I lived in Boston, and the roads were super gross and snowy.  It was at the time when I had started seeing my therapist out in Boston, but I hadn’t come anywhere close to getting a handle on my grief let alone my mental health.  So it was cold and snowy and I was in a bad head space, and I went to La La Land and was just charmed.  It’s so whimsical and charming, while also being sad and regretful.  Like life.  You can see what you did wrong and what’s doing you wrong, or you can the beauty and take the opportunity that the present is giving you.  So fast forward about a year to Sydney, the day before my mom’s birthday… and I get to go on this beautiful La La journey with the heightened experience of the music live by some of the best musicians in the world.  Just amazing. The rest of Sydney and Melbourne (my next stop) were great.  I loved it.  I would move to either, which is the point I’m poorly leading to – they were interesting and beautiful but also felt familiar.  The cities are easy to get around.  There is good coffee, lots of great cuisines at the restaurants, beautiful parks.  The cities are big, but clean and easy to get around.  There is sunshine and parks.  The yoga classes I went to felt great.  It also helped the cities causes that my connections to home ran deep.  I had dinner with a great friend from high school that I hadn’t seen in years.   I had lunch and explored the city with old coworkers.  I went to a comedy show that my old coworker’s high school friend was headlining.  It’s a small world.  It felt awesome to experience something new and foreign and connect with old friends and see friends from the Midwest, who had similar life experiences with me at one point in time, thriving on the other side of the world.

Then after Sydney and Melbourne, I went to Cairns to scuba dive.  So if the Sydney Opera House is a one of a kind performance venue, the Great Barrier Reef is definitely a one of a kind diving experience.  I was already smitten with diving from Koh Tao, Thailand.  It’s like a alternative universe.  Explaining it is like speaking a different language because most of what we experience on land is different than what we experience under water.  I knew that in my head, but I didn’t really understand it until the Great Barrier Reef.  So yeah, I went on a liveaboard, which is where you take a boat out to the dive area and float around and basically eat, sleep, and dive.  I read that the Great Barrier Reef is the only living thing that can be seen from outer space, and now I get it.  The reefs – which are the landforms are just so big, and there are so many of them.  Everywhere you look there is something amazing and cool to see.  I loved it.  I just want to keep diving and learning about what makes up this alternative universe.  The Earth really is an amazing place.

Some Great Barrier Reef pics.  They don’t do the magic justice, but hey, I actually have pics from underwater?! 

Tokyo, Japan

In one line: A beautifully unique clash of a very developed and sophisticated country and culture that is soooo different than what I know.

High: The food.  Nearly every meal was a guess.  The English on the menus or that the people at the restaurants used was not descriptive.  But all the meals I had were SO good.  Sushi and ramen, but then just these other mystery dishes that were so rich and flavorful!!  And at my wonderful cooking class, I went to learn to make gyoza (potstickers/dumplings) cos, um, I LOVE THEM, but I also learned how to make okinayamaki which was this savory pancake thing?  SO GOOD.  And the food wasn’t really expensive.  It was cheaper than going out for meals in the United States.  Just go to Japan and eat.  You’ll be happy!

Food experience pictures, clockwise – making okinaymakayi in cooking class – finished product – fun classmates and teacher.  These “vending machines” were in some restaurants and the menus in English weren’t helpful.  So I pushed a button, it prints out a slip that you give to the cook and the bowl under me cooking is what I got! Then, this cute little counter where I got a delicious mystery noodle dish, miso soup, a raw egg and gyoza.  I mixed the noodles, soup and raw egg together.  It was good.  I’m still alive.  Finally, the sushi from some fixed menu that I could choose from but I didn’t understand.  It was good though?

Low: I went to the wrong subway station to go to my Airbnb and then obviously got lost (because I was at the wrong station) but my screen froze, so I was literally out in the cold, lost and lugging my luggage like a chump.  But I went to Starbucks, pulled up my laptop, figured out how to reset my phone, and wrote very explicit directions to get to my Airbnb and how to get in, and two hours later, everything was ok 😊

If I could do it all again: Yes, of course.  More time.  More places.  I’ve heard so many cool things about Osaka and Kyoto.  Mt. Fuji.  Just so much more to see.  But what would I do that I didn’t do?  Stay in a hotel one night instead of an airbnb just so I could have the complete Japanese breakfast.  I heard it’s cool and I do love a good fancy hotel breakfast 🙂  Multiple people said I should try Japanese breakfast, but I would just go to coffee shops, and let’s be honest, every meal I really rolled the dice, so I don’t know if I could order Japanese breakfast if I tried! 🙂

Blah blah blah: If you’ve talked to me about my trip, I’ve probably said – ugh, I hate the terminology “first world” and “third world” countries.  And even if I think about my liberal arts background and use “developing” nations, it still just seems so dismissive and biased from my Western upbringing.  Thailand has a rich cultural heritage, so calling it third world or developing just seems wrong.  I don’t think Thailand “aspires” to “develop” to be like Minnesota.  Nor are they inferior.  But alas these words seem to a bit of the image I’m trying to draw on which is that in Koh Tao, the streets are intermittently paved and not marked.  There aren’t addresses that I could see.  You can’t drink the water from the tap.  There is garbage on the side of the road.  It’s just different than how I’ve lived.  And China, our Great Red Panda World Super Power, you can’t call an uber.  You can’t just go to an ATM and get money.  You can’t navigate the roads.  So I just felt intimated by Asia in that I felt it was SO different that what I am comfortable with and how I grew up and what I knew.  I loved Thailand in the end, but I struggled a bit in the beginning.  I didn’t have a chance to settle into China or Taiwan and I just felt like an outsider.  So I was worried that Japan would be the same.  I would just feel lost in the 4 days I was there.  But I didn’t!!  Yes, Japanese is NOTHING like English.  I can’t look at a road sign and be like, yup, that’s my street!  Or oh yeah, that’s the Japanese word for chicken, I’ll have that.  The building are tall, the spaces are small, and there’s a lot of people.  But google maps work.  I could understand the hand gestures.  It’s clean.  There are parks.  I felt comfortable and safe, but just so intrigued by it all.  I definitely want to go back.  I want to see more than Tokyo.  I really really really liked Japan 😊

My latest life plan?!

Overall, the last month has been amazing.  JUST SO AMAZING! In my last post, I couldn’t even explain how happy and at peace I felt and the feeling is still the same.  I finished my yoga teacher training, completed my advanced open water diving certification, and am now en route to New Zealand (when I was writing this, because I had 11.5 hours of reading and writing after I switched seats so a man could sit next to his wife and then my video player didn’t work whooomp whooomp)!

There are many things that have made this time amazing, but a big part of it is the wonderful people I’ve met.  Its only been 10 days since I finished yoga, but I truly miss everyone.

Being with a group of supportive women is awesome.  I have a lot of women friends in life, but there have also been stretches of times where I’ve mostly surrounded myself with men.  They are very good times, and I still love men… but it’s made me realize how powerful a group of great women can be.  I really hope everyone has experienced what it’s like to be part of a group that is loving and supportive, with diverse experiences and backgrounds that helps you grow and everyone appreciates how special it is if you have it.

And it got me thinking of a potential for my next big venture: Yoga for EVERYbody…. Specifically curvy girls.  As my friend Lisa suggested, Full Bodied Yoga 😊

Before I go into it, I realize the first 2 points could be inflammatory.  It’s just my own personal perspective, and no offense intended!!  But anyway, here’s why I think it would be cool:

1.       I am often the biggest girl in my yoga class.  I’m ok with that!  But it intimidated me.  When I started practicing yoga, I felt like yoga was just for thin women who look good in spandex.  Now that I’ve started considering it, I look around more at yoga.  Again, this is not a slight at the yogis who I have practiced with.  I have nothing but love for my fellow yogis!  I just think we have an opportunity to bring even more people into yoga 😊  In Ko Tao I was the biggest person in the class.  In Bangkok, there was a woman who was maybe in her 40’s and had some hips.  She seemed to gravitate me.  When we started practicing headstands in class, she gave me a look like hahaha yeah right… but then I motioned for her to join me at the wall and even if we couldn’t do handstands we could still practice the steps leading up to it.  Which leads me to…

2.       I’ve only had 1 yoga teacher who was my size.  That’s not to say that you can’t teach people who aren’t like you, but teacher training really opened my eyes to the idea that many (not all) teachers can’t put themselves in my shoes er mat.  My yogi I studied under was phenomenal.  He is a kind and smart man who really is passionate about yoga and taught me so much.  But he’s never realllllllly been overweight or.  He can intellectually teach about how to modify and make things accessible, but it’s not because he knew from experience.  It was pretty funny, the blocks the studio had were actually pretty shitty, and I’m sure it’s because he doesn’t need a block to reach the floor 😊  Maybe this is an n=1 scenario that once I actually do some market research my whole theory will fall apart, but I think having a teacher who isn’t perfect is ok!  I see wellness as a journey, not a destination.  When I’m focused on an outcome – like doing a certain diet, or training for a race, or something like that, I see success in the short term, but if it’s not a part of the life I want to be living, I’m not going to do it.  To me, having a teacher with some physical limitations makes me relate to them more, not less… which takes me to the next point that…

3.       And yoga is a journey, not a destination and is for EVERYbody.  Physically, yeah, it’s a good workout.  Stretching and strength.  It’s no impact.  The equipment needed is minimal.  I think that’s what would draw people in, the physical practice of yoga as a form of exercise.  In practicing everyday, I lost weight and gained strength.  My resting heart rate decreased.  It’s clearly good for the body.  But a big part of the physical benefits are also with the mental benefits.  Focus.  Being present.  One breath at a time.  Practicing letting go of what doesn’t serve you anymore.    Practicing self love and appreciation.  Sharing your practice and energy and light with other yogis… which brings me to…

4.       But actually, the average size for women now in the US is a 14 or I maybe even heard a 16?!  So over half of women in the US might feel what I feel?  And they need to exercise.  And you know what, they probably want a group who understands them to support them.  Like I said at the beginning, being a part of a group of women who can come together from different walks of life and go join you on your journey is an amazing experience.  I was only at Green Mountain for a week last fall, but it was amazing and impactful and I still about the women I was with a lot.  I know my yoga teacher training group will be the same.  I mean, it already has been, I stalked Sue and her family across Thailand hehe 😊

5.       Now when I take off my emotional touchy feel hat and put on my ruthless business hat, I think commercializing those first 4 principles has some legs!!  Women are half the population, and half the women in America are “plus size” or close to it.  Gyms, fitness, wellness, nutrition, etc is a huge business.  Listing off all the areas I’m seeing health and wellness permeating the world would be a huge list.  But without doing much research, it doesn’t seem like it’s catering to all sizes of bodies.  At corepower yoga – which I love and is one of the reasons why I love yoga – most of the clothes they sell are smalls.  I have to hunt for ones that fit me and I’ve never seen anything “plus size.”  It’s rare to see anything bigger than an 8.  At gyms like Lifetime or the YMCA, yes they diverse programming, but are big people reallllllly welcome?  Just look at the towels.  There has been plenty of times in my life that wrapping one of those bad boys around me after a shower is indecent, because it doesn’t actually cover my boobs and butt (and thus lady bits) all at once.  I know clothes and towels are not what makes a health club but in my opinion, they are symbolic of who you really think your customer is.  I know I would need additional resources and experts, but I think there is an opportunity.  This is when it starts to become real, and my rational business mind knows that I need some additional information and expert to determine how viable my Fullbody Yoga empire can be.  But also my heart has a lot of reason to believe.

6.       Finally, as if this whole list hasn’t been personal yet, this one is really personal – honoring the legacy of my mom.  She died of a lung disease.  Her lungs slowly hardened and thus stopped working.  Seeing someone who can’t breathe is awful.  Rationally, I know there are worse things out there, but to me it seems like the worst thing in the world.  Yes, yoga is about breathing and as corny as it sounds, often when I think about breathing intentionally, I think of my mom and am grateful that I have the ability to breath deeply and fill my lungs with air.  Sometimes I even tear up when we work on breathing and really focus on our breath.  It’s a symbol of the gift of life and I can feel connected to her and like I’m honoring her when I focus on my breathing.

The only chance my mom had to prolong her life, was a lung transplant.  There is an algorithm as to how the transplant board determines where a patient sits on the transplant list –  level of sickness, donor match, etc.  But to even get on the list, a patient needs to meet health criteria – blood pressure, age, cholesterol, drinking, smoking, I know there’s more… and weight.  My mom met all the criteria, but she was overweight.  She knew she had to lose weight, actually a lot of weight, to get the transplant.  But I think she was in denial about the severity of her condition, and she was scared.  And she was sick and couldn’t breath and probably just felt like shit because her body was not getting adequate oxygen.  At the time, it was really hard for me to see, what I perceived as her not trying to lose weight and thus not trying to live.  It made really sad and mad, but also helpless.  I couldn’t help her breath.  I couldn’t force her to lose weight.  I couldn’t love her enough to keep her alive.  Now, I can see the situation a bit more clearly and rationally and I think we were all scared.  It was a dire situation.  She eventually did get down to the weight she needed to qualify for the transplant, but it was too late.  She died of kidney failure when she was #1 on the transplant list.

I can’t go back and save her.  And even if I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, it still would have been hard to help her.  My mom was strong and stubborn and nobody could tell her what to do.  To her, the weight loss was probably the icing on the cake, of this insurmountable disease.  But it has helped to shape how I look at things that seem too hard to try or when things start slipping away from your control.  I probably won’t be able to help people who are really sick like her.  But maybe I can help people before they get like her.  Lung disease aside, when you wake up one day and think what the fuck, how did I get here and don’t know how to even go about fixing the damage you’ve spent years doing.  It’s really hard.  It’s a big part of the reason why I just decided to quit my job and go on this adventure because I didn’t love the path and thought God was telling me to take this time and get it together.

When I’m on this holiday-funemployment-living the dream phase, I think I can see how easily I get scared, because I don’t really have any worries or things scaring me on my day to day.  All I have to do is thrive.  I was scared to try crow pose.  There comes a point where you have to trust yourself and shift forward.  You can’t lift your toes and not have your head in a position where you can faceplant.  But you just have to decide, do I trust myself or not?  If I can’t do it, what the worst that will happen?  And that’s become one of my favorite parts of my trip – trying things that scare me.  Being super scared but not giving up and eventually finding things that make me feel more alive and free than I could have imagined.  Scuba diving is like that.  This whole trip is like that.  Because as I wrote “all I have to do is thrive,” I thought, isn’t that what everyday should be like?  The point isn’t to get from one milestone to another. To hit your KPIs.  Because there’s always another milestone, another KPI.  I’m not done with the funemployment adventure.  It started with 2 things – Spanish in South America and yoga in Thailand.  And the one I’ve done has been pretty damn awesome and meaningful, but I just don’t think I’m done yet.  But it’s already taught me a lot about myself, and taken me on some awesome new off shoots… like scuba diving.  I love scuba diving!!!  I just booked a liveaboard for 3 days in the Great Barrier Reef in December!!  But I will admit, this new yogarific vision seems like the perfect summation of business, coaching, living a life of worth and service, making meaningful relationships matter as a part of a career, honoring my mom’s legacy, and putting a commitment to my own health and wellness as a priority.

So as I travel and explore, I’m keeping this at the forefront.  But I’m open to the other lessons along the way.  But in the meantime, if you’re looking for a yoga teacher or an investment opportunity, hit me up! 🙂 But also, I now kind of want to live in Koh Tao and be a scuba teacher or just live in Auckland where it just seems a lovely life… so don’t write the checks yet 😉

Inhale, lengthen. Exhale, twist.

I’m officially half way through my yoga teacher training!!  It’s been great.  Overall, I’m SO happy that I’m here.  But every time I think about writing an update, it ends up being word vomit and just rambles!  So I’m journaling and working through some of my thoughts, so maybe the next time I need a break from the fun, I’ll put it into words concisely.  In the meantime, I’ll use art to speak for me.  (Who am I?!  Using art?!  But yoga is like art and it helps you feel and understand things greater than yourself.  I wasn’t even drinking a mushroom milkshake before writing this!  I’m just happy!)  The pictures help capture the activity and the overall feeling.


Some of these may have already been part of an Instagram update.  Some might reappear as I tell the stories behind them.  But hey, part of learning yoga is repetition 🙂

Doing yoga things:  Monday-Saturday we start the day with 90 minutes of yoga.  But we’re practicing the yoga asanas (poses) more than that – learning asanas, practice teaching, other yoga classes.  Pretty much #yogaeverydamnday


Beautiful Koh Phangan: I mean, I’m on an island paradise.  It’s lovely.  


General debauchery and fun with yoga friends!



And if pictures don’t embody this feeling, I found this poem last winter, when I was starting to get in touch with my feelings a bit.  My grief, my happiness.  But it’s really resonating with me a lot lately!!

So Much Happiness, by Naomi Shihab Nye

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records…

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.


As fabulous as it is here, I do think about the friends and family and life that I’ve left behind and miss you guys.  Thanks for the kind words of support and encouragement.  It means a lot!!



Journey to Ananda: Part 1

2 weeks ago, I arrived in Koh Phangnan, another island in the Gulf of Thailand, part of the archipelago where I flew in (Koh Samui) and where I went scuba diving (Koh Tao).  Geography isn’t important, other than I’m still in remote island tropical paradise 🙂  If I’m living out my own little Eat, Pray, Love, Koh Phangnan represents the segment of health/well-being/regenerating/etc.  I’m here for a cleanse/detox and yoga teacher training.

Last fall after I took off a month after my mom died, I knew I wanted/needed to take some extended time off.  I didn’t have my shit together enough to do it, but it didn’t stop me from planning what I wanted to do with that time.  There were 2 immediate things: immerse myself in yoga in Thailand and immerse my self in Spanish lessons in South America or Spain.  I think within the first 5 minutes of searching, I found Ananda, the resort I’m at right now.  There so many times I close my eyes and thank God and think how lucky I am… and finding this place was one of those times!  There are SO many yoga teacher training and detox programs in Thailand, and without really doing my due diligence, I found this one which is phenomenal AND I was lucky enough that the other people whose journey brought them to Ananada with me are phenomenal too 🙂  In Sanskrit (the language of yoga), ananda means happy or bliss.  For you yogis out there, balasana is child’s pose, and ananda balasana is happy baby.

Part 1: Detox

They call this program detox.  In my mind, I was thinking of it as a nice juice cleanse.  Like, eat some vegetables, have some shakes, have some juices.  Detoxify and cleanse the body.  Looking back, this seems like something I would do.  I love to just hear things and interpret things they way I want to hear them… because this is DEFINATELY not what the detox is.  I signed up for 7.5 days.  Here is the schedule (it varied a little the last 3 days because I did a special liver cleanse, but I’ll get to that later).  Explanation of what each thing means to follow:

7:30 AM – Shake

9:00 AM – Herbs and black walnut drink

10:30 AM – Shake

10:45 AM – Colema

12:00 PM – Herbs, coconut water, grapefruit seed drink

12:15 PM – Massage

1:30 PM – Shake

3:00 PM – Herbs, coconut water, grapefruit seed drink

4:30 PM – Shake

6:00 PM – Herbs, broth soup, grapefruit seed drink

7:15 PM – Shake

7:30 PM – Colema

9:00 PM – Herbs, black walnut drink, fermented probiotic drink

Before bed: Probiotic capsules

The shakes are made of psyllium and bentonite.  Psyllium is a husk.  Like husk from corn.  Ground up.  Yum.  Bentonite is clay.  Yum.  So, my “meals” were water, husks and dirt.  Literally I ate dirt for a week.  Fantastic.  The psyllium made you feel full.  The bentonite sticks to the waste in your colon to help clear it, because really that’s what we’re trying to do here, clean all the old waste from the colon.  Apparently the average person has 20 pounds of waste in their colon.  There is sooooo much to say about the waste and bacteria and literally shit that we’re all carrying around with us and how it makes our bodies and our minds feel but I’m not a scientist and the moment I try to reflect it on here is the moment I misrepresent facts.  And I’m digressing.

The grapefruit seed and black walnut drinks sounded like they could possibly be good?  They weren’t.  I don’t even know how to explain it except that I just had to chug it and chase it with water.

The herbs were 7 capsules.

The highlights were first the massage.  You got an hour massage daily.  And it was soooooo good.  SO GOOD.  Next was the coconut water.  They literally cut open a coconut in front of you and poured the water into a cup.  SO GOOD.  Then third was the broth.  It was a distant third, after the first two, but it was weak vegetable broth that was warm and you could add pepper.  It didn’t make me want to barf hence it made the list.

The colemas… oh boy.  This is going to get graphic.  Skip to the next paragraph if you ever want to look me in the eye again.  A colema is where there is a huge pail (like maybe 10 gallons?  Maybe more?) on top of a pole.  In the morning it was filled with a coffee/water/probably other things mix and at night, replace coffee with garlic.  It has a tube attached to it, so when the valve that you control is opened, the water flows down.  That’s the only non-gross part, so I led with it.  Everyone has a colema in their own room.  It is a little plastic bed, kind of like a gurney maybe?  It has a pad on it that is covered (so it can be washed every time).  Then the bed ends, and there is an opening, and above that opening, the end of the plastic tube from the coffee/water/mix comes out.  Each person has their own hard plastic tube.  It’s probably about a foot, foot and a half long.  You stick your individual hard tube in into the plastic tube.  Then you lay down on the pad.  I’m usually wearing nothing but a bra at this point.  Then you scooch yourself down the pad and slide the hard plastic tube into your butt.  I forgot to add, each person has their own little lube container, that you grease up the hard plastic tube with first.  Classy.  After you get the tip in, you have to go another few inches.  You probably go like 1 inch.  It feels like you go for another foot.  You know when to stop once your butt gets to the edge of the pad.  If you try not to go far enough, the water leaks out.  This is a family friendly blog and nobody really wants to know details anyway, but I’m comfortable with my body.  I didn’t think this process would be scary.  But pretty much every time I was like, ahhhhh this is wrong!  I’m going to poke a hole in my organs with this thing!!  But, I got it to work.  Phew.  Once you’re there, you click the valve open, and it’s basically a little bath for your colon that flows fluid and pressure in, and then you shit it out.  It’s a cycle that goes on for about a half hour.

At first, it was awful.  Sometimes I felt super sick and nauseous afterwards.  Sometimes I felt crampy and gassy.  Sometimes I felt lighter and freer and great 🙂

Before the first day, you have your last dinner and then you take your first round of herbs at night.  By like noon on the first day, I already felt sick.  By the end of the day, I had an awful headache.  I felt like I had the flu – coughing, fever, sore throat, stuffy sinuses.  I ached.  I was tired.  I was hungry.  I went to yoga though.  Thought it would help?  Maybe it did, but I just felt so week.  Don’t worry, I felt the same way on day 2 except my joints hurt too.  It was weird, my knuckles felt like I had jammed all my fingers… strange.  I went for a little walk and found the 7/11.  All I wanted were oreos.  It took everything in me not to eat oreos.  When I think about how much I’ve wanted something in my life, I think the lust I had for the oreos on day 2 was in the top 10 moments of things I’ve wanted sooooooooooooo badly.  But I didn’t have any.  I kept on keeping on.  Day 3, basically the same as day 2 except that my emotions were crazy!  They say detox cleans the body, but it cleans the mind.  I thought it just meant by not eating for a week, I would obviously gain mental strength and by having all day to think and reflect and not have my thoughts revolve around the distracting things a person desires (food cravings, drinking, sex, etc) it would help.  That’s true, but there is also is a release of toxic mental energy.  Again, there are scientific studies, and chakra/alternative medicine/etc theories around the gut holding onto negative energy/emotional baggage.  But again, speaking on this would just be a misrepresentation and digressing even more.  For me, it was very emotional.  A lot of it centered around my mom.  A lot of times I have dreams about her, they are in essentially present day.  We’re doing something (and as I’m writing this, I realize I should write down the dreams the next morning because I don’t remember much about the dreams later) and eventually it hits me, wow, mom you’re not using oxygen!!  You’re getting better!!  And I’m super happy.  Then I get confused, lungs don’t heal and regenerate.  How are you getting better?  Then it hits me, you’re not.  You’re dead.  This is a dream.  It’s awful.  But really, it’s bittersweet.  In the dream, I can hear her voice.  I can smell her.  If we do something like hug in the dream, I can feel the hug.  It’s real.  But then I relive the sadness all over again and the loss again.  But the emotions were more than the dreams.  If I’ve been dealing with my grief and sadness and feeling lost and my mental stability like waves washing over me, I felt like I was in a storm on detox with the waves coming fast and furious and crashing on me hard.

But I also started to connect more with some of the other detoxers.  I had the skills I’ve been working on to accept and feel these painful things and experience them and move on.

And by day 4, I started to feel better.  My headache was gone.  My aches felt better.  I still felt physically exhausted.  The steam room is about 2 stories up, and I had to take a break walking up to it, but I felt good.  And that feeling just continued to grow over the rest of the week.  Like any healing and growing journey, it’s not a straight line.  Some moments were hard – aches, hunger, feeling lost.  But by the end, I truly did feel lighter and better.  I feel like I really did shed a bunch of the old stagnant shit that I had been holding on to, afraid of letting go.

It was perfect timing, because I ended midday on a Saturday, and Sunday night I had dinner with my fellow yoga teacher training students before we kicked off our month of training on Monday.

I think I delayed writing this post because I didn’t feel like writing it in the middle of detox.  It was too emotional and I felt like I needed to know the ending to tell the story.  Knowing the ending of how detox has made me feel in relation to yoga is great.  It made me feel great!!  But some of the most meaningful things I have taken out of detox and the first week of yoga teacher training and just intensive yoga focus is that I don’t need to know the end to tell the story.  It’s the journey that matters.  It’s living in the moment.  The other reason this is delayed, is because yoga is intense!  We start at 8:00 AM with 90 minutes of yoga, and end at 8:00 PM when we wrap up our last classroom session after dinner.

So there is more I want to say about detox, and a lot I want to say about the mind-body connection I’m feeling between detox and yoga, and then TONS about yoga.  But it will come.  Just not tonight.

As my parting thoughts on Ananda part 1, I just want to remember and tell my blog how wonderful and beautiful it is here.  If there is a place where you are going through shit, and suffering and then having 12 hours of learning, this is the place.  They make it so easy and wonderful.

Pictured from the top left corner: my own bungalow with a hammock on the porch, luscious gardens, more luscious gardens, daily massage, about 15 feet from the beach and it is west facing so gorgeous sunsets, my fellow detox buddies who we probably know more about each other’s butt holes than anyone else in the world, the detox bar captain Nor who made being served gross things every hour and a half instead of food bearable, and then my first bites of cucumber after breaking my 7.15 day fast!!



My new boo, Bao

Very early in my trip, maybe the second day(?), I went to an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai.  It was awesome.  I didn’t have a huge interest in elephants before this little excursion.  I mean, I liked them?  In general, I like animals, but I’m not obsessed.  I used to cry too much at the Sarah McLachlan humane society commercial, that now I just change the channel if it comes on and we had a dog growing up that I always loved, but that’s the extent.  I know plenty of animal lovers and they’re a few notches above me.  But, I had heard cool things about visiting the elephants, so I figured why not?

After about 30 seconds of research, you find that there are 2 types of elephant excursions in Thailand – 1 that is for people entertainment primarily.  The elephants play soccer and paint and you get to ride them and they do tricks.  Sounds a bit cheesy but probably cool?  Welllllllll elephants are mistreated in those shows 😦  They are clearly trained and the training and the act of carrying people and doing shows is bad for the elephants 😦  There’s hooks and other things.  I got distracted during the history of the elephants because I was too distracted looking at them… which leads me to the other type.  It’s a sanctuary.  The elephants who were in the other types of show parks and situations where they were at risk go to the park.  Here the elephants roam free.  I realized there are degrees of sanctuary-ness even within this world.  But, I went to the travel agency place by my apartment (there are about a billion of them.  No need to book a thing before you get to Chiang Mai) and said I wanted a sanctuary and I didn’t want to drive like 3 hours to get there.

At the one I went to first you feed the elephants sugar cane.  It’s a treat for them.  Makes sense that it encourages them to come an interact with the visitors, right?  Then you play in the mud with them because well it’s Thailand so it’s f*cking hot.  There’s mosquitos and flies and stuff, so why not cool off and lose the bugs?  Then you play in the river because nobody wants mud stuck on them all day!!

Anyway, first you get there and put on a super sexxxxy outfit of a cotton tunic and pants with the crotch slightly above the knees and tie at the top.  It’s a good look.  Then you chop up the sugar cane.  Then you go and feed the elephants the sugar cane!  You hold it out and they grab it with their trunk 🙂  Makes sense why they voluntarily interact with the visitors; they get treats! There were about 7 elephants with us.  The oldest was 30, but elephants live about a human life, so it wasn’t old.   32 means I have a long way to go, so same with the elephants, right?!  Then there was a baby and a little elephant and then a couple of teenagers.  One of the teenagers turned out to be my friend Bao.

Here is the story of me and Bao’s friendship.  I was going around saying hi and feeding and scratching all the elephants.  I didn’t have a favorite.  To be honest, I was just mesmerized and having fun and didn’t think to differentiate them (sorry Bao).  After I was getting comfortable with the elephants, I started to engage them more.  One of them wanted to wrap his trunk around me, so I gave my phone to one of the other guys to take my picture.  Welllll Bao saw this canoodling and came over and put his trunk right up in my face and wanted in on the action too 🙂

I’m greeting Frenemy while Bao lurks in the background : Frenemy is giving me a lil hug and Bao comes in over the top : Bao and Frenemy doubleteam me with kisses

Next, when we were in the river, the guide took my pic rubbing mud on Bao’s frenemy.  After it was done, Bao came from behind me and sprayed mud in my face!  I mean, what are we in 3rd grade?  Is the way to get a girl’s attention to throw mud at them?  In the Thai Elephant world, apparently so.  I wasn’t ready to commit.  I mean, should I encourage that behavior?  But vacation Vanessa thought why not, and I just scratched and mudded him too.

I’m playing hard to get, petting Frenemy while Bao watches on : After the fact, I have a mud on my face.  Lesson learned.


When we were in the river, I finally learned my lesson and splashed and played with Bao right away.  I kept an eye on his frenemy though, I know what a jealous elephant looks like.  We splashed and sprayed and had a nice time.  Then, when we got out of the river, the guide offered to take my picture with them one more time.  It was with Bao’s frenemy.  So naturally, Bao came over and tapped me on the shoulder and had to say goodbye himself.

Posing with Frenemy while Bao lurks : Boa taps me on the shoulder, startlingly me : OMG, haaaay Bao!  I didn’t see you there! : We hold hands and Frenemy walks away 

My friend Niall and I had a joke that like 5 billion people in the world wanted us.  We’re just that awesome (it’s not true, they don’t want us, we’re not that cool).  Well, I think I can up my number substantially now that I know I have elephant game!  My courtship with Bao (and his frenemy) was quite short, but I mean they say elephants never forget, so I think it’s pretty meaningful 🙂

The other random fun facts about the elephant day is that:

1) Everyone else in my group was Chinese.  Apparently it was a Chinese holiday.  The first interaction I had with an English speaking Western was in cooking class with a Brit who lived in Taiwan.

2) I asked the guide for Bao’s name and his frenemy’s name.  They don’t really have names, but then I was like, come on you have to call them something?  He probably said, “Dumb girl,” or “Stupid American” in Thai, but either way, I couldn’t understand his frenemy’s name and Bao probably isn’t Bao’s name but I’m going with it.

3) That night at the night market, after we got back and I had enjoyed a couple of drinks there was a woman painting a colorful elephant picture and then selling others.  I was still love drunk from Bao and I bought this big bright painting that doesn’t fit in my suitcase.  It’s a huge pain.  I have to carry it in a shopping bag.  I checked my backpack on the flight from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui so I could be sure I could carry my painting on.  When I got to Koh Phangan, the taxi was a moped so I’m riding on the back, wearing my backpack, my suitcase between the driver’s legs, and then holding this shopping bag with a painting in my arm against my body as I held on to the driver.  I took the ferry from Koh Tao to Koh Phangan with my scuba friend and he was like, yeah, that’s not going to make it home… but I mean, for now I still have my delightful oversized bright elephant painting 🙂


Turtle Island

After I left Chiang Mai, I headed down to Ko Tao, and island off the East Coast of Thailand.  I was writing out how I picked this island, but it started to bore me.  Basically, there wasn’t any pressing issue other than I wanted to learn to scuba dive, be close to yoga, and be able to get there relatively easily from Chiang Mai.  Still too long of an explanation, but oh well.

To get to Ko Tao, I flew from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui.  Then I took a bus to the pier and took a ferry to Ko Tao.  Before I get too excited about Ko Toa, let me just say Koh Samui was cool!  It’s an international airport, but I think it only allows one flight at a time.  The “terminal” is open air.  There is one baggage claim.  It’s super cute!

Anyway, on to Ko Toa, or Turtle Island in Thai.  It was awesome and a very unique experience.  It was the least commercial tourist place I have ever been.  Half the island are Thai and half are expats who are living the scuba life.  But many places didn’t speak English.  The roads weren’t marked.  Places didn’t have addresses.  There were chickens and trash all over.  And there was beautiful beaches with a jungle back drop.

There are 2 exciting things about my 5 days there.  One, I rented a moped and crashed.  It was the first time I’d driven on the “other” side of the road (drive on the left like in England, not right like the US).  I was terrified but it was exhilarating at the same time.  In the end, I think that the spirit/angel of my Mom was with me.  She would have had a heart attack if she knew I was renting on moped in a foreign country on hilly dirt roads.  She freaked out when I told her I was thinking of buying a moped in Minnesota and told me how many people she knows that got hurt on them (it was 1 person, but it was impactful).  So anyway, I was going up the steeeeeep gravely road to my air bnb and I moved to the other side to get around a big puddle (because who knows how deep that shit is) and a big sandy patch and then a guy came out of a driveway and I had to veer back, but it was too steep and when I tried to veer I slid down.  The bike landed on me and I landed on my elbow and ankle.  I think my mom was with me because I really only got a bad scratch on my arm, but nothing else wrong.  It was enough to be like THIS IS A DUMB IDEA YOU’RE GOING TO GET HURT AND RUIN YOUR TRIP but not enough for me to actually get hurt?  Apparently a scrape from a moped accident is called a Thai Tattoo.  Mine still hurts and seems to be a ways away from being healed… Anyway I drove it the rest of the day, then decided to just stay at the scuba school for a few nights.  It was free but no air conditioning.  Actually, it was the grossest room I’ve ever stayed in, but the only way to get from my airbnb to scuba was a moped and I figured I shouldn’t drive after drinking… so one night turned to 3.  Then the last night at my beautiful air bnb.  The good story about staying at the scuba school, other than it being 10 feet from where I needed to be in the morning and I could stay out late with my new scuba friends is that I now am more tolerant of staying in shitty places hahaha.

Pictured, the living area of my scuba room and the living area of the airbnb:

Anyway, the BEST part of Ko Tao was scuba diving!!  It was a four day course, with 6 hours in the classroom, 8 hours in the pool and 4 ocean dives!  My class was 2 girls from Germany who are 19 and taking a gap few months before they go to college.  They weren’t friends before the went on their trip!  They just met each other once.  Then my buddy – in scuba diving you always have a buddy.  In a nut shell, your buddy helps you if something goes wrong while you’re under water.  My buddy was a guy from Finland who was great!  We hung out most of the time and were buddies IRL not just scuba haha.  The instructors were a German who had been teaching for years and a guy from New Zealand who had recently finished his certification to be an instructor.  The school had tons of students and divers and it was a really fun community.  I hadn’t really been exposed to the diving world, but all these people had similar stories where they decided to leave their jobs and homelands and scuba.  I can see the appeal of it.  At first, I was actually kinda scared – first time in the pool and in the ocean.  It’s not natural to just be chilling out under water!!  But by the final dive, I was hooked.  At the end of yoga I’m going to go back to Ko Tao and the dive school and get advanced diving certified.  Then I can dive pretty much anywhere (with a dive master leading me).  I’m pumped to try to dive on the rest of my trip in Asia/South Pacific and the rest of my time off.

Here is my scuba group after our first day of ocean diving, on the boat back to shore and then naturally a selfie out at the bar:

I’m trying to figure out albums still.  But there are lots of good beach and jungle pics from Ko Tao that I need someway to immortalize for myself and if this doesn’t work it might have to just be facebook.  But I believe in my millennial ability to figure it out 🙂

In the meantime, I’m on day 3 of my detox before my yoga teacher training starts.  The relaxing part of the journey is taking a break and now we’re at the “let’s get better” phase.  Wish me luck!!


สวัสดี from Thailand!

Hello from beautiful Thailand!!  Hard to believe I’ve been gone almost 2 weeks.  There is so much to say about the highs, lows and new perspectives on life.  Disclosure now, this will be long and rambly, but since I have a week of detox next week where all I have to do is meditate and take vitamins and probably shit a lot, I’ll make better updates of the cool (scary, funny, awesome) moments of the journey.  I’m also working on a photo album.


In one line: I’ve now been to the super power that is the People’s Republic of China.

High: 2 meals in China: dumplings for dinner, dumplings for breakfast.

Low: Never had fun, just trying to transactionally get from one point to the next.

Craziest thing: Nothing really crazy.  TONS of bikes as in pedal yourself bicycle not mopeds, and you can’t get money out of an ATM unless you have a card from the Bank of China.

If I could do it all again, I would do differently: Try to stay longer, or have a least sometime during the day, and come with more cash!

Blah blah blah: I was only there for 18 hours but with customs and flight delays I really was only there for a night.  The big take-away is, I really shouldn’t just go somewhere for a night.  I got lucky when I was just in Amsterdam for a night.  Shanghai wasn’t bad, but I think I need the day to get the lay of the land and getting to and from the airport is usually the hard part.  Once I’m in the city, it’s fun.  If my KPIs were simply to just go to China and eat dumplings, they were met.  But it wasn’t awesome.  It was just ok.  If I go back to China, I need more time and more of a purpose.  But overall, not bad!

Chiang Mai:

In one line: Great place for me to cut my teeth on being in Asia!!

High: The elephant sanctuary.  OMG.  SO GREAT!  I’ll do a whole post on it.  Loved it.

Low: Death by food poisoning.  I tried to be careful, but I drank iced drinks and got fruit from street vendors.  WARNING: GROSS CONTENT… But after my cooking class I started puking and shitting.  I did both at the same time.  It was classy.  I call it shommiting now.  But I haven’t been sick like that in a long time.  I was out for a whole day and down for another 2.  Even better – when I first got sick there was a storm and the power was out for 6 hours.  So I was shommiting in the dark and heat.  GROSS CONTENT DONE.

Craziest thing I saw: Gosh, so much is different in Asia than in the US/Europe/Caribbean.  In America, kids need to sit in car seats in the backseat until they’re like 7 years old.  In Chiang Mai, I saw a family of 4 on a scooter/moped – dad driving, kid in middle, mom holding a baby on the back.  After 2 weeks here, that doesn’t shock me anymore but at first it was like dear Lord.  Also, the market was so crazy!  I have pictures of that too.

If I could do it all again: I would actually read about how long you could can stay in Thailand because I had to spend 4 hours at the immigration office getting a visa that will let me stay through yoga.  I also would not bring anything other than my allergy medicine, bras and underwear.  You can buy everything for so cheap in Thailand and its cool!  I also would not have bought the large elephant painting.  I need to mail it home.  It doesn’t fit in my bag.  WTF.  I was just so smitten with the elephants.

Blah blah blah: My first real landing spot.  I picked it because it seemed easier than Bangkok.  Then I heard about the elephants and that sold me.  One-liner: It was good.  I would go back, but am not in a hurry to go back.  It was easy to get around, felt safe, wasn’t too big, had benefits of being a city but also able to go into the hills/jungle.  My first impression was rough in that, on the flight from Shanghai to Chiang Mai, I sat next to a woman and her son.  I don’t think the woman has ever brushed her teeth.  She smelled like rotten fish too.  It was rough.  Then I found, that smell of rotten fish is a smell common to some places in Thailand.  I now call it the smell of Thailand.  I learned in my cooking class it is the smell of sundried shrimp paste.  In my cooking class, I was with one British man who now lives in Taiwan.  It was the first non-Chinese person I had been with on a tour.  In classic Vanessa luck, I chose to go on a week when China has a holiday so kids are off school and some people have time off work… so it was just tons of Chinese people haha.  Anyway, Michael and I were both excited to know what the smell of Thailand was really from, and agreed any recipe that needed it wasn’t worth learning hahaha.  But, cooking class was super fun.  I will make my recipes.  If I end up in Bangkok on my way out of Thailand, I will maybe try another cooking class again.  It was cool.  I also had like 6 hours of massage.  It was great!  Thai massage is when you put on this little outfit and they beat you up.  I realized after that I need to ask for an oil massage haha.  They still beat you up on that, but it’s less aggressive.

Alright, I’ve been longer than I meant to be, and need to get on my ferry soon to go from Koh To where I have been for the last 5 days, to head to Koh Phanghan for my detox and yoga!  Koh To is AMAZING with many high and lows so that will be a fun update.

Thanks to everyone for the kind words of support and encouragement.  It really does feel amazing that so many people care and are supporting me through this incredible journey 🙂


The least exciting of all of the pics that go along with my story, but the first one in the phone… bikes at 11PM at a busy intersection in downtown Shanghai

bikes of shanghai.jpg

In the words of the Pussycat Dolls…

Be careful what you wish for, cos you must might get it!

So I’ve had my first “set-back.”  I just got a note from my Habitat for Humanity leader that my trip might get canceled because we don’t have high enough participation 😦  We’ll know next week, but he wanted to let me know before I leave the US.

I’m bummed out about this.  I was excited to volunteer and help.  I was excited to see Fiji.  It also was a source of comfort that another leg of my trip had some structure to it.  Combine this with the general sense of panic that I always get at the 11th hour (WHAT IF I CAN’T DO THIS?! WHAT IF I MADE A MISTAKE?! – thought by me before anything I do outside of my comfort zone.)  I’m a little stressed out.

Don’t worry, I do appreciate the sense of humor/irony/Pussycat dolls reference in that – I said last post that I wanted to be more flexible! Haha.  It reminds me of a conversation I had with my friend Anne years ago.  I was desperate to find a job in teaching.  I asked her to pray for me to have more patience in this waiting game.  She wondered if when we pray for patience, we just get more things to test our ability to be patient.  It’s stuck with me… thanks Anne 🙂 haha  But anyway, I wanted to be more flexible… now I have it, and it’s making me a bit anxious.

But, on the flip side, now I have a month to get from Koh Phangan to Tokyo!!  I have way more options to can go to Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia, Bali and New Zealand!  Good thing I have a long flight and a month of yoga reflection to decide!

But um, on that note… at this time tomorrow I’ll be in the AIR!!  ON MY WAY!!  It’s the final countdown!

I’ve only heard good things about Angkor Wat.  I think that’s on the new list…

angkor wat

What’s the plan?!

Most of you probably know that I have the tendency to get 1,000 steps ahead of myself.  Part of what I want to work on during my great adventure is being okay not knowing exactly what is next.  In my heart, I know the fun of the adventure lies in not having every second planned out.  But, let’s be honest, I’m a sheltered white girl from Minnesota.  If I just roll into China/Thailand/etc and am like, “Hey hey hey!  What up? I’m here!” I might be setting myself up for some problems.  Combine that with, there are so many things that I want to see and do!!  I have ended up planning a lot of my trip already…

October 1-2: Fly from Minneapolis to San Francisco to Shanghai!!

October 2-3: In Shanghai.  I’ve never been to China.  Apparently you don’t need a visa if you’re there for less than 72 hours, are in one of the main cities, and have a ticket booked out.  Since this is a basically an 18 hour layover, I think I meet this criteria.  Fingers crossed.  My goal for Shanghai: Leave the airport.  Make it to my flight to Thailand.  Eat dumplings.

October 3-8: Chiang Mai, Thailand.  I have an Airbnb booked.  I think it’s in a good part of town, but the guidebooks stressed me out.  So TBD.  I’ve never researched where I should stay well enough.  In Greece and Paris, winging it went great!  In Rome and Lisbon I was less lucky.  Anyway, in Chiang Mai I’m hoping to take a Thai cooking class, see some temples, pet an elephant (that’s the one thing I did read about – how to find an elephant sanctuary where they actually are nice to the elephants!), maybe do a jungle/river adventure, get some massages, eat a lot of Thai food.  I can get all that packed into a few days and find myself some fun/trouble/relaxation along the way?

October 8-13: Ko Tao, Thailand.  Again, booked the Airbnb.  But really, I’m coming here because it seems like it’s easy enough to get to my yoga training from here and it’s an island that’s known for scuba diving!!  That’s one of the 3 things I was able to figure out from my guide book.  When I was in middle school, I went scuba diving in the Cayman Islands… but I wasn’t scuba certified?  I don’t know how I did it… but anyway, I’m going to do the open water certification here!  It’s 3 days.  Trip Advisor names like a billion places.  My little French airbnb owner has recommended some people.  I’ll post a proud graduate moment when I’m certified so you can all be proud of me.

October 13-November 22: Koh Phangnan, Thailand.  The health/heal/reflect/regenerate segment of my Eat, Pray, Love.  I’m doing a week of detox and then a month of yoga teacher training!  I’m pumped for this.  When I decided last year that I wanted to take a sabbatical/leave I wanted to do yoga in Thailand and Spanish class in South America/Spain.  So really, this is one of the things that inspired me to take the leap!  BUT what my handy dandy Thailand guidebook taught me is this island is known for 1 thing: the full moon parties!  So, even though I try to find peace and calm, I somehow find myself a good party too 🙂

November 22-December 2: The world (or Asia/South Pacific) is my oyster!  I have a couple weeks before my Habitat for Humanity in Fiji starts.  In an ideal world, I want to go to Vietnam, Bangkok, Bali, Australia and New Zealand.  I’ll probably go to Australia, but I’m willing to see what the journey up to that point leads me to.

December 2-December 14: Nadi, Fiji.  Building a house, yo!  Will be hard work, but I’m excited for this part too.  Maybe it’s my Catholic guilt, my St. Olaf Lead a Life of Worth and Service, my empath sensitivity, but I feel like with all of this journey that is just about me, I want to actual try to give back in this time.  With all that’s going on in our relative backyard in Houston, Florida, Mexico City and Puerto Rico it’s hard not to think, damn, I’m off for a year and these people have nothing… why am I not just down there now trying to help these people?!?!  But, I digress… looking forward to serving AND putting my new found skillz of scuba diving and refined skillz of beach bumming to good use in Fiji!

December 14-20: TBD… but ending in Tokyo.  I bought my ticket home for Christmas to be December 20, and I’m flying out of Tokyo because, why not?!  I might spend a week in Japan.  Like in Thailand I think I can eat (sushi in this case) and look at temples and go to crowded markets and just soak in a world that’s seemingly so different to the only one I’ve ever known, and then take a train and see some mountains and more cool things… but I can also go to New Zealand, or stay in Fiji, or check out North Korea (JUST KIDDING ON THAT ONE).

Well in typical Vanessa fashion, that was long and filled with too many details… but that’s the plan for step 1!!  A week from now I’ll be in China?!  So soon it will go from the plan to the reality.  YAY!! 🙂


This is my airbnb in Koh To where I’m going to learn to scuba dive.  It’s a private bungalow in the jungle, but 5 minutes from the beach.  It has electricy (with air conditioning, a water heater and wifi).  A hostel in Ireland in college aside (I was drunk and it was long ago, but I’ll assume it was cheap), it’s the cheapest “hotel” I’ve ever stayed in.  I ALREADY LOVE THAILAND.

koh to airbnb