Life changing magic of not driving.

Turning 16 was supposed to be the ultimate. The key to freedom was just on the other side of 16. My 16th birthday was the day I would have the right to go where I wanted, when I wanted, without having to ask. I envisioned long, lazy drives with my girlfriends, singing Britney Spears with the wind in our hair…I dreamt of stretches of land without a car in sight…I imagined Disneyland, always within my reach! Hey, I was a kid after all ūüėČ

What I didn’t conjure up in my mind was the day to day of getting from place to place, the traffic, the chores, the responsibilities and the stress. Now, this is not a plea against driving, because truth be told, I absolutely love driving. It can be relaxing, therapeutic almost. But something big happened when I decided to use my own two legs instead.

After that fateful 16th birthday, I got a car and along with it the freedom I had imagined. I could go anywhere (sort of) and do anything (sort of). What happened? I tried. I over-committed, I said yes to everything, no to nothing, and I tried to fit in all my errands in impractical amounts of time. Because why? Because I could get around faster!

Fast forward a few years later, I got a scooter to zip around San Francisco.¬†No more wasting time looking for parking, no traffic…now I could really do everything! Plus, what isn’t awesome about a cute little scoot?! What happened? I over-committed even more, I made several plans within an hour, thinking I could do it all because, hey, I thought I could! I was late all the time. That’s the irony, right? I knew it would only take me 5 minutes to drive to spin class so I left 6 minutes before it started. This might sound dramatic, but I sucked as a friend because of my desire to fit it all in. I was late for this party, then late for that dinner, then a no-show at that concert because I was too late to the dinner to leave right away! Even though I genuinely wanted to make everyone happy by being a YES friend, I made no one happy by being a flaky friend.

Then, I went sailing. For a year, I traveled at a max speed of 5 miles an hour. I moved slow and there was nothing I could do to go any faster. I had to learn to appreciate slowing down. Seeing as how most places I visited were the definition of remote, my own two legs were the only method of transportation…and I loved it. I explored, I experienced, I felt like I was part of my environment. Now that, my friends, was the ultimate.

Readjusting to life¬†in San Francisco, I have decided to take a slower approach to the fast pace of city living. I walk. Everywhere.¬†With the hills of San Francisco being as steep as they are famous, the temptation of hopping in a $4 Lyft can be pretty strong, but I have realized that in forcing myself to slow down, I am¬†actually a lot happier…and my friends are, too.

When I commit to less, I can really give and get the most out of what I do decide to do. I can be present. My mind isn’t stressed about the next thing or feeling guilty about the last. I take new routes to familiar places, I see the details in the streets that used to be a blur as I zipped by. I get to soak in this city as if I were a visitor. And if you know anything about San Francisco, you know that there is always a sight to see.

So sure, maybe it takes me an hour to walk to a Sunday picnic, maybe I have to leave the house earlier or just wait to go to the post office tomorrow. So what? I do less but I experience more. That, my friends, is what travel happy is all about.

I dare you to give it a go! Even for a week. Enjoy your own two legs, take your time and explore a place you think you already know.

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Send someone your good vibes.

It has been a long time since I’ve felt a real Monday morning. The dreaded, please don’t make me leave my bed, Monday morning. But here we are…and I’m running late.

While I must admit that I never had a case of the Monday’s during my two months in Indonesia, there were some days that demanded a lot more of my mental (and physical) energy than others. On these very days, as if reading my mind, my meditation teacher would ask us to dedicate our practice to someone else. If you’ve ever done yoga or taken a meditation class, you are familiar with setting your intentions for your practice. Why are you there? What motivates you to get in the zone today? Typically, intention setting is about YOU. Or in my case, me. But something awesome happened when I dedicated my effort to someone else: I worked a lot…happier.

I smiled more, I had more positive thoughts and I worked harder to send that person my good vibes. Of course, your recipient doesn’t know they’re on your mind, and quite frankly, that might be the best part about it. Giving is about the act of giving, not the validation of your gift. It feels good to devote your energy to someone or something else, even if you get nothing in return. But in case you’re worried, don’t. Karma is real ūüėČ

To pull me out of bed and through the front door, I’m channeling my intentions outward instead of inward. Look out, good vibes might just be on your way!

 

 

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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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The pursuit of happiness.

This morning, during my typical routine of drinking tea, opening emails and listening to NPR’s 5 minute news update, I came across an article that caught my eye. Written by Berkeley professor, Tania Lombrozo (haaay), the author asks the question: Is Happiness a Universal Right?

Today is International Happiness Day – a day that the United Nations created in order to practice support for the belief that happiness is a birthright. But is it? Lombrozo provides numerous studies that challenge us to ask ourselves some important questions. Should we all have the right to happiness? To pursue happiness? She asks if the act of finding happiness is actually making us less happy. Considering my recent blog post on finding happiness, this really got me thinking.

Is the pursuit of happiness creating the illusion that we have less of it than we think? Perhaps, in chasing this feeling, we’re not able to give attention to the happiness we already have? Hmm. It begs me to ask myself, and you since you’re here: how do you define happiness?

In the article she provides a study that argues that Americans define happiness in more individualistic ways but that in cultures that define it as something tied to social wellbeing and connectedness, the pursuit of happiness indeed does make us happier.

I can’t even count how many times I have gone down a rabbit hole of angst¬†even in the midst of doing something I’m proud of. College is a great example of this. If I do say so myself, I crushed it in¬†college. I maintained good grades, I enjoyed my classes, I was proud of what I was accomplishing…but the second I paused to compare my success to others, I felt worse. There will always be somebody doing¬†“better”. Work is the same way. Should I even bring up¬†the gym? If I can honestly admit it, I sometimes felt this while traveling! Ooh that boat is sooo much more awesome. Oh wow, they got to go to that island?! I don’t even want to admit that I was thinking this¬†while drying off from snorkeling tropical waters. Uh, hello?! Perspective, Gina!

As the saying goes, you’re happiest when you want what you already have. So, to bring it full circle, that travel happy I talked about yesterday? Yeah, you already have it. You already possess loads of experiences that you lived and that you loved. Not to say you shouldn’t continue seeking them out, (because of course you should!) but perhaps finding a way to relive that collection of moments will create a deeper gratitude for… you guessed it, the happiness you already have.

Check out the article on NPR and let me know what you think!

What questions does it make you ask yourself and how do you define happiness?

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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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Quotes don’t work if you don’t.

This morning, while getting lost in the Instagram rabbit hole, I came across a page of motivational quotes and saw one that was not like the others: Quotes Don’t Work If You Don’t.¬†

Huh. Well, that’s a little different…but isn’t that the truth?

I believe in luck and I believe that we’re not all born under the same lucky stars. Now, that might come across as quite contradictory to any sort of “chase your dreams” motivation but I do believe that there are certain elements outside of our control. As for the rest of it, like 92% of it, I know that luck isn’t everything. We all have dreams, goals, things to cross off our bucket list but they won’t happen unless you make them happen.

So, how do you get there? Start small!

  1. Identify the goal. Is it to sail around the world? Hike the PCT? Do a solo road trip?
  2. Create a deadline. I don’t know about you, but I work best under pressure. Without a deadline, I can honestly say the project may never start.
  3. Make a list of the things you need¬†to obtain your goal.¬†Do your research and formulate concrete needs, i.e.: not “I need money”, instead “I need $2,000 for a one month road trip down the West Coast”.
  4. Break down those needs into sustainable micro¬†changes. Okay, so you need to save up for a big trip? Take a look at your expenses and see where you have room to cut back. Sure, canceling your calendar of social events will certainly save you some moolah, but do you really want to live like a hermit crab? Probably not. When I was saving to go sailing, I made micro changes that added up in a big way: I made coffee at home instead of going out for $5.50 almond milk lattes, I started shopping at BevMo and inviting my girlfriends over for wine night instead of going out for $14 glasses of champagne in San Francisco bars. You’d be surprised how these small things add up to huge savings and how fun it can be to get to know your city without breaking the bank.
  5. Apply a change a week. Again, completely modifying your life to meet a goal could certainly work to get what you want, but it could also remove some of the joy of getting there. At least it does for me. But I’m a “want my cake and eat it, too” kind of girl. Picking one micro goal each week makes me feel more in control of my end goal because I’ve already proven to myself that I can stick ¬†to a goal. At the end of the week, add on a new one and congratulate yourself for getting one step closer : )
  6. Write it down. I find that documenting every step of the way keeps me accountable, if even only to myself. Congratulate yourself on the small steps your making, no matter how silly or insignificant they might seem at first, because each one of these small steps is your way of putting your dreams first. There is nothing small or insignificant about that!
  7. Stick with it!¬†Don’t forget that the work you’re putting in is for you. Change is hard, but regretting not living a dream is even harder.

Quotes don’t work if you don’t, so get to work! You’ll be so glad you did!

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Cleaning up, letting go.

My mother has always told me that there are points in your life where you must clean house. She often says¬†this after I make some ridiculously huge mess in the kitchen, but in other, less anger-driven moments, she means that there is a time to let go of the things that are no longer serving you…and the things you are no longer serving. Because that’s the interesting thing, right? Giving is a two way street and sometimes that’s a hard lesson to learn.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have some cleaning up to do and it has caught me by surprise. This time around, it’s people, not things, that I have to let go of and I can’t begin to explain how painful that is. But I’m going to assume you’ve been in my shoes before.

Relationships – friends, lovers, colleagues – are not always eternal, and some simply aren’t meant to be. I can say with confidence that I have had some of the most incredible people enter my life and they have left such a huge imprint that they will never be forgotten…even though some were in my life for just a few hours.

Traveling does this weird thing to you. When you’re alone or far from the comfort of people you know, you can find yourself sharing the deepest, most precious moments with a stranger. In no time at all, that person is the farthest thing from a stranger. They know you like, quite literally, no one else knows you, they know¬†you in a very specific moment in time. Sometimes those moments¬†don’t translate in postcards but these new friends were there to live¬†the moment with you.¬†Then suddenly, because you’re all on your own agenda, they, or you, move on. But you knew from the beginning that that would be the case, and perhaps, maybe, subconsciously, that’s why it’s easy to go so deep.

On the other hand, you have the relationships you swear are lifelong and everlasting. Those are ones you never expect to go. When they do, it hurts like fucking hell. These are the people that have carved a space so deep in your heart, they become a part of you. You can’t even imagine living without a part of your heart, can you? Maybe you didn’t share a mountain top¬†sunrise together, but you have been by each others side for years, when shit has been really bad, and when shit has been really good. The “end” doesn’t always include an epic drama but maybe is just a slow fading…it hurts nonetheless. But, my mother was right. Sometimes even those relationships that you’ve grown so accustomed to having, aren’t giving you what you need…and maybe you aren’t giving them what they need.

This part, this last part, is the first question I always ask myself. Where did I let you down? What signs did I not see? The fact that I am even in this place¬†leaves¬†feeling somewhat of a fool – how did I not see that some people I loved most maybe didn’t love me the same way in return? Though,¬†this is really a vicious rabbit hole that leads nowhere positive. Being the two way streets they are, it’s important to give a relationship a look from all angles. Maybe I was deceived, but not only by that person, but by myself. Maybe, I didn’t realize that this thing I had held onto so dearly wasn’t serving me anymore, either.

My mom says that these are growing pains and I have a feeling that these pains don’t ever fully stop. As we grow, we accumulate, and every once in awhile we have to set things…and people…free, to make room for the giving we can give to another.

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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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