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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Food hangover + lots of R’s.

I don’t like chips. Not really. I mean, they’re okay but there are about 5,000 other things I’d eat first. Coconut anything takes the first 1,000 slots or so.

Well, two weeks ago, wandering around Trader Joe’s with a cart full of produce, a bag of sweet potato tortilla chips made their way into my cart. Not an outward sign of crisis by any means. An hour later, standing in my kitchen, purusing the internet, I pulled out the giant bag (this was no single serving packet, mind you) and I downed the entire thing without even noticing. Seriously. It wasn’t until I reached in and realized it was EMPTY that I paused to actually breathe.

Standing there, empty bag in my hand, I am pretty sure my jaw touched the floor as I tried to remember the last ten minutes of my life. What the hell just happened? Did I actually eat this whole thing unconsciously? I looked left, I looked right, and carefully tucked the empty bag deep into the garbage and walked away to pretend like it never happened.

The next day, I was back at the grocery store picking up some basil for a super clean, plant-based “lasagna” I had planned for dinner and that same damn bag of chips managed to hitch a ride back to the apartment with me. I got home, put my goodies in the fridge and…what happened next? You guessed it. Total food blackout. A second bag. Done. Gone. Finito.

This time, I sat there, staring at the empty bag completely stumped. Two months ago, I was happier than I have honestly ever been, treating my mind and body right and reaping all of the joyous rewards that come with actually caring about yourself. What the hell had gotten into me? Well, okay, I know now what had gotten into me. I was stressed. I am stressed…and I’m not putting myself first. Second. Or third.

Over the past two weeks I can safely, and sadly, say that I have woken up with a legitimate food hangover more than 70% of the time. If you don’t know what a food hangover is, let me tell you. It’s when your body feels, not necessarily looks, soooooo icky inside from treating it like shit, that you might as well be nursing yourself back to life from a freshman-sized tequila-enduced misery. Sounds like I’m exaggerating? Consider yourself lucky that you don’t know what I’m talking about. It sucks.

Out of all the things I was feeling, I didn’t dare let myself go down the road of regret, remorse or (self) reproach. In the past, I would’ve dove head first into some serious hate talk. But this time, I’m not beating myself up about these lapses in self-care. Nothing productive comes from talking negatively to yourself. Instead, figure out what is going on, why you (or in this case, me) are making choices that are not in your best interest and how to refocus and push reset.

At the end of the day, it’s not a question of the way the inhalation of bags of chips will make me look. It’s really not even about being healthy or achieving “goals”. It’s about feeling good and doing what will make me feel my best.

Along with the bag of chips, I’ve decided to put regret, remorse and self-reproach into the trash. When this happens again, and I’m sure it will happen again – not the Houdini-ing sweet potato chips, the self-care slip up, I will remind myself to do exactly this: take a step back, a deep breathe, remember to refocus on my intention of feeling good and reset.

You’re the boss and you can always decide to give yourself another chance. 

 

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It’s just one of them days.

I’ve been sitting at my computer trying to decide exactly how to say what I want to say, without much luck. Alas, I’ll let the wise words of Monica speak for me:

“It’s just one of them days, when I wanna be all alone
It’s just one of them days, when I’m angry inside
It’s just one of them days, don’t take it personal…”

Yeah. It’s exactly that.

Today is just one of them days where everything goes wrong. I’ve got some heavy life things on my mind and a whole lot of stupid little inconveniences that are managing to add up to an enormous weight. (So Virgin America, could you please get me off hold? I’ve been sitting here patiently for 75 minutes now. Love, Gina) 

Lately I have put a lot of pressure on myself to get my shit together (yeah yeah, I know what I said in my last post) and I’m paying for it now. I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off and I can hardly breathe. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted but I can’t sleep. My brain is wired. Strung out. I’m not saying that it’s okay to sit around like a slob all day, but there is a balance, a middle ground. Somewhere. I just have to find it.

This morning I was in the middle of a 5.6 sized meltdown when I screamed out to the universe, in my head of course, (can’t scare the Airbnb guests!) what the f*** are you trying to tell me?!

Well, after a few bowls of cereal, two waffles and a serious stomach age, I think I’ve got it figured out.

The universe is trying to tell me to woosah. Take a breather. Step back. I’m pretty sure she is trying to get my wandering feet to sit still (it’s storming out, like dumping), get me to quiet my brain (the wifi isn’t working) and push the reset button.

So fine. I’ll listen. Why? Because I know deep down that taking the time to acknowledge frustrations, sadness and well, feelings, gives you the power to understand them, digest them and then do something with them. They’re actually a gift, these mini (or not so mini) meltdowns. They force us to take a look at what is really going on. 

So go on girl! Be alone, be angry. Then breathe, move forward and grow on.

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I [don’t] have my shit together.

I’ve waited a very long time to turn 30.

30 years to be exact.

Turning 30 for me always signified a momentous life shift. One in which I would either a) have my shit together or b) not have my shit together and not give a shit.

Well, as the page on 29 has turned and 30 is a blank slate (can I write out t h i r t y instead? Seems classier), I can now say with confidence that an answer was missing from the multiple choice list.

I am option c: that little in-between of not entirely having my shit together and not entirely not caring about it. Guess what? It feels damn good.

30 has certainly brought about a life shift and it’s one I’m reveling in. I can see a little more clearly now what I want in life, though the exact parameters are still a little blurry. I understand a little more clearly now what I value and what I don’t. I can map out a little more clearly now how to achieve my goals even if the route isn’t entirely evident.

As I look around at my friends, some are younger, some are older, I could easily say they have their shit together. They have strong careers, they’re building families…I respect and adore these women so sometimes it’s hard not to compare myself in the face of their successes.

It’s important to remember that we all have our own path to get to our dreams, some might off-road a little more than others. I’m enjoying every moment of this ambiguity and trusting in myself that, shit together or not, I’m doing my best to create the life I want…and that feels damn good. 

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Freedom to fail.

I am highly critical of myself. I am actively trying not to be, but as it stands, I am. I’m a work in progress.

I oscillate between being defensive of that critical nature (“How can you grow without self-critique? Huh?”) and being ashamed of my own hypocrisy. I truly believe that we need to allow others, and ourselves, the freedom to fail. Failing means you’re pushing boundaries, you’re testing new limits and you’re trying new things.

When we allow ourselves the freedom to fail, we are enabled to take greater risks…which in turn means we risk earning greater rewards. Feeling safe around potential failure gives us the opportunity to get know ourselves better and allows us to expand our minds in ways we might not otherwise have.

In a professional setting, I’ve appreciated former bosses for allowing me creative liberties and, of course, a freedom to fail. Their support allowed me to throw all sorts of shit at the wall and the stuff that actually stuck was really good stuff. In my personal life, I encourage others to fail hard. Failing hard means trying hard. Whatever it might be.

So why can’t I apply this to myself?

Because I’m scared. I’m currently in a period of transition. I’m trying to do something different with my life, something I haven’t done before and it’s scary. I don’t like failing. I really don’t. No one does. But this moment is a test for me to see if I can apply the things I believe…to myself. Because when I’ve given myself the freedom to fail, the success has been sweet.

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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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