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.

 

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Destination: Palmerston. Population: 57.

 

Some call it “The End of the Earth”, others call it home. Well, only 57 people call it home. Plus man friend and I…for two days. Palmerston Island is just about as remote as is gets.

Sailors like to say that plans are things written in the sand at low tide. That couldn’t be more true. By the time we had sailed to the Cook Islands, we had changed our minds about a million times. Do we go to New Zealand? What about to Hawaii? Should we just stay in Tahiti another year? The life changing magic of a one way ticket! While visiting other parts of the Cook Islands (more to come on that later), we met some locals that told us stories about the tiny island of Palmerston. As the stories grew, my curiosity grew along with it.

With less than 40 sailboats visiting the island each year, Palmerston is off the beaten path for just about everyone traveling through the South Pacific. In fact, a cargo supply ship brings goods to the island twice a year. Maybe. Less than a mile wide, the island is a mere dot on any map and the massive reef enclosing the island makes navigating a heart-thumping undertaking. So why did we ever decide to go there? Palmerston has a past so rich that we wanted to live it in the present.

In the mid-1800’s, William Marster, a British seamen working aboard a whaler ship, claimed the island as his home along with three Polynesian brides. He used the islands dense tamanu tree forest to make a village out of the mahogany wood we covet today. As of our visit, the island was inhabited by three families – 57 descendants of the three wives. According to the locals, there are over 350 Marsters worldwide.

As we pulled closer to the island after a three day sail in heavy weather, we were welcomed by a man who introduced himself as Joe and his young daughter. He helped us set our anchor and told us that he would be back in an hour to bring us to his home for lunch. Before we had the chance to decline, he was already waiving goodbye.

We spent the day with Joe’s family, feasting on traditional dishes made by Grandma Marster, as we came to call her, playing with the kids and touring the island. The kids brought us to their school and proudly pulled out the books they had been studying from. We had the opportunity to meet their school teacher, a young South African woman stationed on the island with her husband, who explained some of the cultural challenges of working with the Marster crew. The teaching materials are written for children homeschooled in the US, so when words like “elevator” or “escalator” come up, she admitted to being stumped as to how to explain such foreign concepts.

The weekend with the Marsters was unlike any other. It had all the makings of a blockbuster film, or at least a truly amazing adventure. If this is what it meant to be at the end of the earth, I would’ve been happy to have stayed right there.

If you’re keen, check out a video journal I made here.

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Finding Magic in Mexico.

Can I admit something possibly bratty sounding? I was not excited about spending five months in Mexico. If you read this post, you know that I was “stuck” in Mexico at the end of 2015 waiting for the weather to clear in the South Pacific so I could sail across the ocean to French Polynesia. For those who might not know, and I’m assuming that’s most everyone because I certainly did not know, when traveling by boat, your schedule is 100% determined by weather seasons.

So there we were, man friend and I, heading to Mexico where we would wait out the storm season until April. Up until this point, the only Mexico we had experienced was one of tequila shots, whistles, beads and nightclubs. We certainly felt too old for that shit now. To our pleasant surprise, what we found instead couldn’t have been farer from the wild nights of years past.

For five months, we explored all corners of Baja California and discovered that there was true magic to be found. Leaving the big cities, we found ourselves sometimes alone for weeks at a time, our only company being dolphins, tuna ready for eating and cacti. Huge, gigantic forests of cacti. The remoteness of Baja California lent itself to the feeling that we might have been the first people to have ever set foot on the land. It was so surreal. How could we be so lucky to see this beauty…and have it all to ourselves?

We learned to be self-sufficient, fishing for our food, making our own water and power. We learned what it meant to be alone and to truly appreciate silence. We learned, first hand, that nature is it’s own reality show and if you just sit back and watch, you’ll be amazed at what you see. No, really. Manta rays during mating season jump out of the water and the louder the flapping sound they make as they hit the water, the sexier they are to their potential mate. Boy, did these rays flap. For hours. And the sunsets? We pulled out cocktails and popcorn for this nightly event. Best sunsets ever…and we saw a lot.

When we did interact with the community, we were met with such a warm welcome. We were introduced to a culture so vibrant and rich, people were genuine and engaged. We hung out with local kids who showed us fishing spots and we taught them how to sail. We met strangers on a beach, days away from any town, and shared our stories with whatever words we knew from each others’ languages. I mean, talk about engaged.

What an amazing thing it is to be so totally wrong in your assumptions. It’s really hard to wrap up five months into one post, but I will say that Mexico brought out a magic I had never felt before.

 

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What is “Travel Happy”?

Storytime!

When I was 17, my parents’ divorce was dragging our family through hell on earth. I grew up faster than my friends and I spent my days taking care of “adult things” instead of causing trouble doing “teenage things”. My head was constantly somewhere else. I dreamt incessantly of some other place where I could just be…free.

Then came my first trip to Paris. That summer, my aunt decided my spirit needed a bit of lifting and she invited me to spend the summer with her family in France. That summer was the first time I fell in love. I fell in love with liberty, with freedom…with the lightness of being just me. Paris brought out the absolute best in me. I smiled and laughed and stressed only about which ice cream flavor to order that afternoon. (Pistachio. Duh.)

To be honest, I probably could’ve gone anywhere that summer and I would’ve fallen in love the same way. It just happened to be that I found me in Par-ee.

From that summer on, I have adopted a tendency of running away when sadness strikes. I have associated my happiness with being elsewhere and for a very long time, I thought I could only truly be happy when I was away. That’s not to say I didn’t love my friends or my family, it’s not about that. It’s about a profound feeling of just…feeling…free.

So, I spent years running. Running back to Paris, chasing adventure around the world and eventually sailed a boat across an ocean. In all of my time away, I have finally realized that I want to stop running.

Happiness should be portable and we should be able to bring it with us wherever we go.

Now, I know I’m not alone. If you ever find yourself sitting at your desk, scrolling through pictures of tropical islands or thinking of  margaritas on the beach, you know what that travel happy is.

Travel happy is the pure joy you have when the noise of life melts away and the delight of a new experience takes its place.

I am on a quest to find my travel happy while staying put and I want to help you do that, too. A beautiful experience doesn’t end because your trip does. On this blog, I will aim to bring those experiences home with me and relive them over and over again so that I can find the best version of me, with me.

If you want to find your travel happy, stick around. These things are always easier together ; )

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A sailor’s worst nightmare (almost) come true.

In October 2015, I left San Francisco with the enormous ambition of sailing around the world with my boyfriend…or at least as far around as we could go. I wanted to step foot on the most remote places in the world, to meet people from all walks of life and I really, really wanted to see the underwater worlds that, up until then, had only existed in Planet Earth. In embarking on this adventure, there was also something much deeper I wanted to accomplish: I wanted to know what I was really made of, with the world as my backdrop. 

We have these ideas of who we think we are, what we like, what we don’t, what values are important to us, and often times, we are wrong. I’m sure at one point or another, our teenage-selves retorted to our parents, “You have no idea who I am!” Well, the funny part is, we, as in you, me, many of us, really have no idea either. That is not to say that we’re roaming around the world lost. I simply mean that moments that test our true character are rare.

Nearly sinking your sailboat is one of those rare moments.

Yeah.

That almost happened.

After an ultra-rushed sail through crappy weather from San Francisco to San Diego (and when I say rushed, I mean it took us 6 days…yeah, for context, we move about 5 miles an hour), we made our way to Baja California. We would be spending the next 4 or 5 months in Mexico waiting for the storms to pass in the South Pacific so we could cross the big blue to French Polynesia. During this time, we had really no idea what to expect. The only Mexico we knew were the party capitals of Cabo and Cancun and the vague memories of Spring Break’s of yesteryear. That was certainly not what we were after now.

The Mexico that welcomed us this time, however, was so far from what we remembered.

We spent that winter exploring ghost towns along the Sea of Cortez, hiking mountain tops that maybe no one had touched before and swimming with sea lions and whale sharks in the open water. We had found magic in Mexico. But I’ll tell you alllll about that another time.

After a sunny Christmas on Isla Coronado, eating fresh clams and watching humpback whales breach from our boat, the weather changed and a nasty storm was brewing. It was time to move on and find a safe shelter. Unfortunately for us, the safest spot was 3 hours away…straight into the storm. Now, let me take a moment to go over the last few sentences I just wrote. Clams, whales, safe shelter? These are most certainly not a string of words I had used prior to this event in my life.

On we went, severely hungover from a margarita Christmas, and freezing cold in the changing climate. We had made it about 45 minutes towards our destination when we realized that the bathroom was filling up with water. Then the bedroom. Then, like a scene from Titanic, the water flowed from under the bedroom door to the living room (or saloon, in sailor-speak). Within a matter of ten minutes the floorboards were floating around, all of my dry clothes along with them, in knee-high water.

HOLY FUCK.

This is the number one worst nightmare of any sailor. Sinking your ship. And we found ourselves living, no longer the dream, but the nightmare.

As man-friend starts preparing our emergency life raft in a full-fledged panic, I distinctly remember myself pausing, looking around at the pure hell I was in, and deciding that this was not the way I was going to end any part of my life. I realized that, though in matters at sea, I revert to him as captain, sometimes everyone needs someone else to be boss. My name had been called.

I put my big girl pants on and decided that we were not going down without a fight. When all three pumps we had failed, we got down in the thick of it and bailed out the water by hand, using little buckets and my favorite mixing bowls. Mind you, shit is going crazy outside. Let’s not forget we are headed towards a storm.

We finally made it to safety, anchored, and stopped to actually take awareness of the situation we had just faced. At this point, we still didn’t know why the boat was filling up with water and we had no idea if it was done filling up with water. What we did know was that we needed to put our two, or four, feet on land and breathe.

I hiked up the steep, slippery mountainside to see my little home from a different point of view. That little home that had already carried me through so many miles, so many adventures, that made me feel safe…until it didn’t.

I stood there, between a towering, proud cactus and the mighty, powerful waves that could have killed me, and I became acutely aware of the strength that lived in each of us. I started to cry, tears of pride, that I had not gone down so quickly, but that, instead, I fought. I fought for what I loved, what I cherished, and for the first time in a long time, I fought for myself.

In this moment, I learned the undeniable strength of things greater than myself, and I learned the greatness within myself. 

 

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That time I decided to sail around the world.

I’ve made many mentions about traveling but haven’t yet talked about the fact that I’ve been living the past year and a half of my life as a sort of nomad. You might say that that is sort of a big thing to share, and I guess I’d say you’re right. I just haven’t really known where to start. I’ll try to make a long story….short(er).

A little timeline might help:

2010: I moved from California to Paris, France to live, work and, of course, drink a lot of wine.

2013: I moved back to California, started working at an awesome tech company in San Francisco (because, well, if you live in SF, there’s a 99.8% chance you also work in tech). Not long after, I got an offer for my dream job in Paris. I was very ready to pack my bags and head back to the place I preferred to call home. But my boyfriend had another idea for me. “What would you say to…I don’t know….sailing around the world?”

Insert sound of brakes screeching. Whaaaaat? He grew up sailing and had a small boat in the Bay that we sailed nearly every day after work. Sailing was already such a huge part of our lives, I guess he just wanted to make it an even bigger part.

I balanced my options – move to Paris and achieve a dream, or take a mega risk and….sail around the world. Was this even real life? It sure didn’t feel like it. I can tell you now that for a solid three months I felt like I was walking through a cloud. Not on a cloud. Through one. Everything was foggy and I really didn’t feel like I was living in, well, my life.

We traveled to Spain to test out life at sea on his grandfathers’ boat. I will tell you this with complete honesty: it is very, very different chillin’ out in the Balearic Islands on someone else’s boat, than it is busting your ass around on your own boat. My boyfriend had one goal and that was to make me want to go sailing instead of moving back to France and he made damn sure that my only taste of life as a sailor was a good one. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy sailing around Mallorca? Puhlease.

2014: We buy our first boat in California and immediately get to work planning for our trip around the world. We were still working and struggled balancing our excitement for the trip and maintaining secrecy. Our closest friends were also our colleagues and it was really hard to keep such a big secret from the people we valued most.

2015: We quit our jobs, sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, and didn’t look back. As you’ll see on my travel log, we sailed from San Francisco to Mexico and stayed there the rest of the year until we crossed the Pacific Ocean in 2016.

Fast forward to today. I have sailed over 10,000 nautical miles, crossed an ocean and even rescued fishermen from a stranded island (no, really). I have spent the past 14 months visiting the most remote corners of the world and meeting true kindness in the faces of the people that live there. From here on out, each week I’ll share a story from my adventures around the world.

I hope these stories will ignite a fire in you to get out there and chase your own adventure!

**Please excuse the crappy photo quality. Pictures were taken back in the day before I realized that I just might maybe want to learn how to use a camera.

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Travel state of mind.

As I write this, I am sitting on my couch in San Francisco, drinking a cup of tea and wearing pajamas. It is 11:35am on a Tuesday and I feel like I am on an adventure at this very moment.

As cliché as it seems, traveling is truly a state of mind. You don’t need a plane, train or automobile to travel.  The only thing between you and an adventure is, well, you. You have the power to dictate what experiences you open yourself up to, what opportunities you create and when you say YES.

The collection of new experiences we gather while away is the very reason traveling leaves such an impression on us. What we forget is that we don’t actually need to be away to try something new. We just need to be open, to say yes. Here are a few smalls steps that will help you get into the travel state of mind:

  1. Go on a walkabout. Step out your front door and walk. Just walk. Take a turn you haven’t taken before. Explore a neighborhood you don’t know much about. As adventurous as I like to think I am, I have to admit that sometimes leaving my little few blocks feels so hard. But whenever I do, I’m always happy I did. Maybe you’ll find an awesome mural, a new coffee shop or a park featuring a feast-full of people watching opportunities. Hey, this is San Francisco.
  2. Take the bus. Now, I know what you’re thinking. But trust me on this. When I first moved to Paris I had absolutely no money, no job (hence the no money) and a lot of time on my hands. So, I got on the bus. I rode the bus for hours. I didn’t look up the route on a map, I just rode. When I saw something that looked interesting, I hopped off and wandered around on foot. This is the best way to get to know a city…and the people in it. You’ll encounter all sorts of characters on the bus.
  3. Change up your routine. If your afterwork ritual involves popping open a beer and sitting in front of the TV, maybe tonight do something different. Research a local hike, a walking tour…chances are your city has more to offer than you think. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money but my mom wasn’t going to let that get in the way of our adventurous inclinations. Instead, we played tourist. She found a deck of cards called “101 Things to Do in San Francisco” and on the weekends, I was allowed to pick three cards. We would dress up as tourists from whatever far alway land we wanted to be from that day and take off into the city for an adventure.
  4. Eat. This is my personal favorite. My priority in any new place I visit is to understand the local culture. What better way to do that than through cuisine? Try a restaurant with food you’ve never tried. Have a potluck with friends with a country theme. I love using recipes from Tasting Table to organize a “travel” dinner.
  5. Relive your travels. I don’t just mean #tbt posts on Instagram. Integrate memories of your travels into your daily life. Sitting here on my couch, the tea I’m drinking is one I learned to prepare in Bali. My pj’s are from my best friend from Paris. The blanket I’m wrapped up in was my grandmothers in the Philippines. An experience is meant to stay with you forever. Help it do just that by reliving it over and over again.

Hopefully one or some of these little steps will get you on your way to a travel state of mind. Just remember that the only thing stopping you is…you.

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