Do the crazy thing.

If I there is a sentence I’ve heard more than any other in my life it would be: “You are totally crazy.” I used to think crazy was a bad thing. As it turns out, crazy is a courage thing.

After leaving university, and still sometimes now, I found myself battling against the stress of the unknown. School provided a safe and reliable way of measuring success, of measuring progress. Success had a formula to follow. In many ways, this programmed me to build a life that followed suit. If you stay on this track, you’ll get this job, make this money, get this car…you get the gist. It’s not really so abnormal, “everyone” is doing it. It’s not so crazy. What does seem to be crazy, to most people at least, is to stray off that track. To define success in a different way and to measure it according to new standards. To me, this doesn’t sound crazy at all. It sounds like courage.

We have countless opportunities to define the rules of the game. The game, after all, is yours and yours alone. It’s yours to play and it’s yours to live. Whether big steps off the track or small, these steps are your own and little by little, they will create a clear path to your success. Maybe this means getting the haircut you’ve been thinking of but were to scared to try. Perhaps it’s applying for that job you feel unqualified for. It could be buying that promo plane ticket, or even falling in love when you least expect it.

Take the step. Do the crazy thing. Have the courage to define your own success….and then look back to see how far you’ve come. 

Continue Reading

Knowing when to quit.

I am my biggest enemy. I’m guessing you might be yours, too? Since I can remember, I’ve always been competitive. I have always pushed myself to be the best I can be at whatever I’m doing. Dancer, student, ice cream sandwich maker…you name it. Some people miiiight call it perfectionism. I just always assumed perfect was the only right way.

I’m happy to announce I was wrong.

I’ve got a lot to say about giving your all, but that will come later. This post is about knowing when it’s okay to quit.

The ugly truth is, lots of things we do are hard. Lots of things we do are things we don’t actually want to be doing but we have to. But then, there are those things we do simply for pleasure…and those things don’t have to be so hard.

I have always wanted to surf. Watching surfers play in the waves, I always likened surfing to dancing on water. Last year, I took a hiatus from the boat to finally take the plunge and dive into surfing. I spent two months in Indonesia learning how to navigate my way around a wave in a completely different way. Along the way, a dear friend, knowing my perfectionist nature, gave me advice that has actually changed my life. “Gina, the second you start getting frustrated, get out of the water. Your only goal in surfing is to have fun. When you’re not, get out. Stop before you stop loving it.”

Simple, but true. It’s against my nature. All my life, I’ve followed the same pattern. Go hard or go home, sort of thing. If I failed, I got up again and again and again, pushing myself to my limits until I “got it.” I used to practically live in the library in college. Pillow and all. I just wanted to be the best, I just wanted to “get it.” Well, the end result was a beat-up, exhausted, ironically less confident and less happy version of myself. Yeah, I finally got it. But it didn’t FEEL GOOD getting there.

Have you been in my shoes? Aching for perfection until it actually kind of hurts? Do yourself a favor and take this advice: stop before you stop having fun. In whatever your thing is. Just enjoy the ride!

I’m far from being the surfer I dream of being. I get my ass handed to me regularly. But I love it. I smile until my face hurts. Sometimes I stay in the water for hours, sometimes I bail after 10 minutes. If I’m frustrated, I get out. I stop before it stops feeling good, because, after all, the only reason I’m doing it is to have fun. If it’s not fun, what’s the point?

Continue Reading

Lessons learned from two years at sea.

Have you ever time-traveled? Well, I have. This morning. I woke up to a notification on my phone that took me back to October 20th, 2015. Two years ago. On the dot. It was a photo of my sailboat, just after having sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge. Two years ago today I cut the dock lines and set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

Seeing this photo, I was instantly pulled back into this very moment. I remembered perfectly the nervous excitement that filled the air, the slightly nauseous feeling of sea sickness and homesickness, wrapped into one big ball that nestled comfortably in my stomach. Without verbalizing our thoughts, we wore our feelings on our faces. “What the hell are we doing?” “Are we really doing this?” “I miss my mom already…”

The weather got heavy fast, some of the biggest seas we had seen to date, and there wasn’t anything we could do other than push aside our nagging nerves and sail. So that’s what we did. We sailed, and sailed and sailed. We went farther than we ever had, we spent our first night at sea, we dove head first into the rhythm of life at sea.

These past two years have moved slow and fast, usually at the same time. The lows have dug deeper than I ever imagined, but the highs have reached heights I didn’t know I could reach. Sure, I’ve learned to sail. I’ve learned to navigate. I’ve learned to weather the storms. But more than anything, I’ve learned about myself.

“For whatever we lose, like a you or a me, it’s always ourselves we find at sea.” -e.e. cummings

Lessons learned from two years off the dock:

1. Trust yourself. “Your gut knows more than you do.” I usually think of this when my lactose-intolerant stomach is angry because I’ve eaten ice cream, but it applies to more than food 😉 On the boat, I am not the strongest sailor. But I’ve spent so long preaching this narrative to myself that I started believing that I was, in fact, incapable of making a decision concerning sailing. That eventually seeped into everything else. It’s an ugly place to be. You are capable of more than you think you are. Have faith in your own abilities and strengths.

2. …and trust others. You don’t know everything. Period. The second you catch yourself thinking you do, take a long hard look in the mirror. You’re looking at a liar. There is something to be said about “grown ups”. Those salty sailors. Those gray hairs. They come from experience. Listen to them. Chances are, they do know more than you. This goes for sailors and non-sailors alike. As for those less salty – perhaps our peers, our kids – they come to the table with their own life experiences that are valuable, too. We all see things through a slightly different lens and bring new ideas to the table.

3. Perspective is everything. I can’t drive this lesson home enough. Everything, everything, is about perspective. Our first year at sea was, I’ll admit it, often times a complete disaster. We screamed, we cried, we yelled. Everything felt SO serious, so stressful, so dramatic. When something breaks, (and it always does – it’s a boat) it feels like the end of the world. Really. Ripping your hair out would honestly feel better. Going into year two, we spent a bit more time observing said “grown ups”. They got stressed, sure. But they also knew that the world wasn’t over. That shit happens and that’s just the nature of the game. Changing perspective allows you to let more things roll off your shoulders, it encourages you to laugh when you’d rather cry. Perspective has the power to change the entire mood…and in turn, an entire year at sea.

4. Your privilege does not make you entitled. To live a life that allows you to travel as we do is a privilege. Yes, I worked hard for it, yes, I made sacrifices for it, but it is still a privilege. I have spent much of the past two years in places without the same resources we are used to in the “western” world. These countries are without the same access to education, technology…electricity. The contrast can be enormous. This is where perspective also plays a role. This contrast provides an opportunity to feel gratitude, but instead, I often see fellow travelers behaving as if they are entitled because of their privileges. We are lucky to be accepted into worlds unlike our own, to get a glimpse of a different life. And that’s the key: different. People are people. Treat each other accordingly.

5. You are who you are…and not always who you think you are. Long-term travel, especially by boat, will present several, if not endless, challenging moments. Situations that put even the most even-keeled characters to the test. Things are breaking, you’re tired, your entire world is literally moving…your best and worst qualities come shining through like never before. That reality check can be hard to deal with. “What do you mean I’m not actually perfect?!” But even without the bad days, anyone who has spent time in an isolated environment (like crossing an ocean) will tell you: you have a LOT of time to reflect on who you are, who you have been and who you’d like to be.

Despite having sailed over 15,000 miles, I can safely say that sailing is not the hardest part of living the boat life. The human component is. Learning about yourself, how you navigate through life, how you weather the storms, how you ride the big waves and how quickly you get back up…that’s really what you learn at sea.

Continue Reading

Positive reinforcement: why you need a dream team

We have all heard it before, the sacred vow of self-acceptance: to find true love you must first learn to love yourself.

But what happens when you’re struggling to find that self-love? When you’ve had a no good, very bad day…or week…or month? When you’re feeling down on yourself and your self-esteem is low? The moment when you just don’t feel like you’re good enough or good at anything. I mean, we have all been there. I know I have. I am a professional beat-myself-upper, remember?

We’re told that our strength comes from within, that our value is something that only we can define. I believe wholeheartedly in both of these statements. But sometimes you need a quick shot of self-esteem and you can’t be your own cheerleader when you’re also being your own enemy. That’s where the dream team comes in.

As much as we work to accept and love ourselves, sometimes a little positive reinforcement from an external source goes a long way. Sometimes, that’s all we really need…and that’s okay. You’re no less of a person because you need to hear a little something encouraging. You’re human.

Be it your sister, your best friend, the girl from your yoga class, your dream team is a valuable asset on your path to self-love. They are the people that possess the power to remind you how awesome you are…and they do it. Your dream team, whoever they are, recognizes good in you when you can’t see it and they help you fill your self-love shot glass. Surround yourself with these people. Accept the shots they pour and pour them right back. I mean, who doesn’t want to get drunk in love?!

Continue Reading

Funkbusters: 5 ways to get out of a bad mood

This morning I woke up with a huge cloud over my head. One of those bright-white, reflective, migraine-inducing clouds. I was in a funk. A real funky funk. The kind that like to stick around as if they have no one else to go and bother. You know the kind of mood I’m talking about?

I took to Instagram to get some new ideas on how to break free from this prison of blah and these are a few takeaways.

5 funkbusters to get you out of a bad mood:

1. Dig in. I do not mean dig into a bag of TJs sweet potato chips. Food hangovers suck. I mean dig into what you’re feeling. Grab a pen and paper and write down all the thoughts that come to mind. Don’t think before you write. Just write. Let the word vomit flow. When you’re all out of thoughts, read what you’ve jotted down and connect the dots. Get to the bottom of what is actually bothering you.

2. Sweat it out. On the other hand, give yourself the gift of not thinking. That’s what happens when I exercise. There simply isn’t time to think about anything else other than what I’m doing…or I’ll get hurt. Seriously. I mean, have you ever tried reformer pilates and dared thinking about anything else? Hell no. You’ll fly right off that carriage. Besides avoiding injury, having some time to not think gives your big bad brain a moment to chill out and take in the endorphins that are pumping through your system. In the wise words of Elle Woods, “Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t just shoot their husbands.”

3. Give a hug, get a hug. In a time where we spend more time in front of screens than real people, we lose out on the big wins of physical touch. Physical touch (and that doesn’t mean getting frisky) reduces cortisol (stress hormones) levels in the body. Real talk. Fight the funk with a hug. Don’t be afraid to ask for one if you need it. Everyone likes a good hug 🙂

4. Clean up. A cluttered life is a cluttered mind. I find serious stress relief in organizing, decluttering and a good old fashion clean up. In my house, I call them Power 20’s. Pick a spot in your room or home that you’re going to dedicate 20 minutes to and get after it. Pull out a few things you don’t need, rearrange the spices, dust under the TV. Whatever it might be, give your physical environment a visual boost. By the time you’re done, you’ll not only have cleaned house, you’ll have given your mood a boost, too.

5. Let it be. Sometimes the best way to funkbust is to just let it be. We don’t always need to fight the funk and there’s nothing wrong with sitting with whatever it is we’re feeling. Just remember that everything is temporary and even the worst of moods won’t stick around forever.

Do you have any funkbusting tips to add to the list? I’d love to know! Comment below!

Continue Reading

Do something you love…everyday.

It’s Tuesday.
I woke up in my bed with a steady flow of droplets of water landing on my forehead.
At 6am.
After 4 hours of sleep.
Because my whole home was literally clanking and shaking.
And this is supposed to be paradise?

As you know, I live on a sailboat. What you might not know is that mornings like this are (unfortunately) not so uncommon. Leaky windows, ocean swell, sleepless nights…some mornings work to put you in a foul mood. But boat or no boat, you know what I’m talking about. Those days that just don’t start off on the right foot. The thing that gets me through those mornings? Knowing that I am going to do something that I love before the day is over.

We spent the majority of our waking hours doing things we’d rather not be doing. Working, studying, running errands, sitting in traffic. Yeah, life has to-do lists and those things aren’t always fun. But life also has love-to-do lists…and those are maybe more important.

Make time, even a teeny tiny little bit of time, to do something, just one thing, you love every single day. Maybe it’s knitting, reading in bed, practicing photography or, in my case, going to the market (yes, I love, love, love shopping for food!). When most of your day is dedicated to getting s**t done for someone/something else, don’t you think you deserve a bit of time to enjoy the day for YOURSELF?

Today’s action item for a feel good life: next to your to-do list, make a love-to-do list with 7 things you love to do.

Note: This does not mean scrolling through Instagram or finding a dress online for that party. Think bigger and smaller. Think about what big, and little, things you love to do. And do them!

 

Continue Reading

Loving what you’ve got.

In the not so distant past, I wouldn’t have ever posted this picture. Instead, my head would’ve gone here: I haven’t worked out, I just ate lunch and my baguette is making an appearance just below my belly button. I would’ve thought a million thoughts that would have deterred me from showing my body in a way I thought was less than perfect.

But then something magic happened. I learned to love. I learned to love what I’ve got because it’s all I’ve got. It’s mine and always will be. I started learning to love what I’ve been given and began truly appreciating all the things this body has done for me, does for me and, if I’m lucky, will keep doing for me.

In the past 30 years, I have climbed mountains, danced for hours on my tip toes, swam to the bottom of the sea and fallen more times than is probably normal. This body has been there for me. In the past 30 years, I have eaten more than my fair share of ice cream (if there is such thing as too much ice cream) and I’ve certainly enjoyed bottomless mimosa brunches. This body has been there for me. She’s got my back and I owe it to her to give her a little more credit.

At the end of last year I decided I wanted to start teaching barre fitness classes. I had been a dancer for ten years and used barre as part of my 3 year rehabilitation after a bad injury. Barre made moving my body fun again. It made it laugh again. It made it okay for me to laugh at myself again. Teaching meant giving that gift to other women just like myself. After getting my certification, I started teaching and got hooked.

The motivation, the drive and the full on #girlbossness my students gave in each class made me take a second look at how I viewed myself. There I was encouraging them to treat their bodies with respect and motivating them to love themselves for their strength, but was I doing the same thing? I left each class feeling empowered not by the words coming out of my own mouth but at seeing the reactions to what I had to say. My lady bosses squatted deeper and pushed harder than they thought they could. I would ask them to look in the mirror, give me their all…and then give 20% more. They left an hour later exhausted, with sweat dripping down their face and smiles that spanned ear to ear. They gave me a deeper squat but they gave themselves a big dose of love.

Writing this now, I am on my boat far from the magic of those studio walls. I don’t have my lady bosses around me and I don’t have a room full of women to motivate. What I do have, however, is me. Me and the little body I call my own. So I am going to start practicing a bit more of what I preach. I’m going to love what I’ve got, be thankful for how hard I push her and be thankful she’s there for me even when I don’t give her the attention she needs.

 

Continue Reading

What would you do if you could do anything?

This question often solicits more eye rolls than answers. It sucks, really. It’s got that huge two letter word that seems to be the barrier between day dreams and reality. IF.

To give my own eyeballs a break, I prefer to reframe the question like this: with the cards in my hands, what can I do that will elicit the most happiness? Happiness, of course, is up for interpretation. Define as you will!

Reframing the question and removing the big IF in the room makes the gap between dreams and reality much, much smaller. You’re working, instead, with what you already have and opening yourself up to achievements within your reach.

After writing my last post, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my own ability to accomplish goals and dreams. Reassessing where I’m at, where I want to be and what it’s going to take me to get there. 2017 has been a year of immense growth and I’m pretty convinced the momentum is stopping anytime soon. With the remaining six months of the year, I’ve got a hodgepodge list of things I want to accomplish that I’m confident will contribute to my feel good life:

  • Be my own boss. More on that soon…
  • Learn to surf well enough that I can catch all my own waves…
  • Cut loose some of the excess baggage of my emotional life (it’s okay to admit it, we’ve all got it!)…
  • Master a headstand!

However big or small, there’s nothing quite like the confidence we build when we accomplish something we’ve set out to do. I’m motivated to play the cards I have in hand, see what works, what doesn’t, and close the gap between my dreams and my realities.

What’s on your list for 2017?

Continue Reading

6 things I learned traveling solo.

After one year and 10,000 nautical miles, I decided to leave the sailboat behind for a solo adventure. Though I had acquired quite a few stamps in my passport, I never created the opportunity to explore a foreign country on my own. I enjoy sharing experiences with someone special and, hey, there is safety in numbers. Yet, as my sailing adventure hit the year mark, a desire arose to strike out on my own and test my limits in a new way. So, after trembling through my nerves and conducting next to no research on my destination, I took off for Indonesia.

Little did I know, I was embarking on the biggest growth spurt of my life. 

The six most important things I learned while traveling solo:

1. I am capable. Don’t get me wrong, I am a tough cookie. Life has thrown me lots of lemons and with them, I have made a shitload of lemonade. But when it came to taking off into a world unknown, alone, I was nervous that maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t do it. Turns out, I can. I can carry my own bag, I can find my way around town, I can barter, I can achieve my goals.

2. My wants are important, too. Traveling with others requires obvious compromises. Usually, it’s a plus. You get to experience things you might not otherwise have sought out on your own. I’ve come to realize, however, that I am a people pleaser and I tend to let my own wants get pushed way down the list. Alone, I was empowered to make my own choices. One month, I spent every single day practicing yoga and meditation, fasting or eating “weird” health foods. The next month, I drove jungle roads to surf at sunrise and drank homemade rice wine with locals at sunset. I finally got to dictate how and where I spent my day…and in the end, I spent them smiling.

3. Alone and lonely aren’t the same thing. I genuinely enjoy the company of others and can talk to just about anyone (or anything), but during this trip, I chose to pass on finding “fillers” for all my extra hours. I needed to learn to enjoy my own company, to sit with my own thoughts and just be in my own skin.

4. The weight of the world is about 50 pounds. I was so proud when I left the boat that I had downsized my life into one 40L backpack and one small daypack. Two days later I was the crazy girl talking to herself, “You really had to bring 5 shirts didn’t you?!” Okay, so really, I didn’t pack all that much, but it was still more than I needed. Every travel list will tell you that you need less than you think, but really, you. need. less. than. you. think.

5. Change is something that happens on the inside. Every single day during this solo adventure I felt myself evolve. I allowed myself to explore thoughts and ideas I hadn’t give time to before. As if I was on the outside looking in, I could see myself grow. That is a radical feeling. However, in coming home, I realized that this “new me” was wearing an invisibility cloak to everyone else around me. No one seemed to notice the profound changes I had experienced. But that’s the thing about change. It’s got to come from you…for you

6. No one can be your everything. When it comes to companionship, I feel like we’re often misguided in believing that there is someone who can be our everything. No single person can check off all of your boxes, and honestly, we can’t expect them to. That’s a huge responsibility. That job is up to you. You have to be enough for yourself and traveling alone taught me that. I needed to learn to be my own shoulder to cry on, my own cheerleader. I needed to learn that I was enough for me.

 

Continue Reading

How traveling made me want to become a morning person.

Gina and morning person do not often find each other in the same sentence. Unless that sentence reads: Gina is not a morning person.

There is not a single early riser in my family. Minus my grandmother. She used to get up before the sun came out, silently sipping her black coffee in the dark kitchen. We all thought she was nuts. Like, who actually wants to be awake that early? It turns out she was onto something…

On a boat, the two best parts of the day are directly connected to the sun: when it rises and when it sets. Twice a day, if you’re lucky enough to see both, the sun commands your attention. Hey you, yeah you, pause. Enjoy. (Insert a sort of diva face here).

On the road, I realized that there are a multitude of reasons as to why cultures have always governed themselves around the sun and I, an avowed night owl, have started sipping the Kool-aid. Many of the places I visited in the past year were extremely remote. When there were inhabitants on these islands, many of them did not have electricity. Work needs to get done and life needs to be lived during the hours of daylight. Makes sense. One point for practicality! My grandmother, however, had electricity and I think her allure to the morning hours was more inline with mine…

Allow me to digress.

Unlike other kinds of travel, sailing requires that someone always be awake during the night. We organize our “watches” in three hour shifts starting after sunset, ending after sunrise. Watching the sun come up after 10 hours of blanketed darkness is like seeing the finish line at the end of a marathon. It couldn’t come sooner. Yet, in that transition to the “end” there is a new beginning. A new notch in your belt, another day accomplished, the intrigue of what you can accomplish next. What lies in store for me now? It happens quickly, that transition, but to an active mind, it can also feel really slow. It’s a time to pause, to set the tone for what’s about to come. When you get to the finish line, are you going to complain about your achy muscles? Or are you going to ride a runners high? What tone are you going to set? The rest of the day is indeed governed by the intentions you make at sunrise.

 

 

On and off the boat, I started making new morning routines to get me excited about being Gina the Day Chaser. I began to enjoy the calm silence of the early morning left to me by the other night owls of the world. Alone, I drank my tea, jotted down my intention for the day – who did I want to be, what energy did I want to give off -, had a look at the to-do list I made the night before and usually took off for a bit of exercise. There is really nothing like kayaking around a blue lagoon at sunrise, doing yoga to the sound of chirping tropical birds or running the streets of Paris as the smell of butter seeps from bakeries opening their doors. Cliche? Yes. Seriously f’ing awesome? Double yes.

I am still a work in progress and have yet to permanently cancel my membership to the Night Owl’s Association, but I am making the transition. For a type-A, tornado-like thinker such as myself, there is immeasurable value in having time to stop…pause…and just be. The good news is, sunrises and early mornings aren’t just for when you’re away. They’re for when you’re awake. Learning to love the mornings has given me an edge on finding joy, finding adventure and finding that feel good, travel happy high right here at home. 

 

Continue Reading