We Die All The Time

I used to be terrified of death.

Absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, undeniably.

Now I realize that we actually die all. the. time.

I have been through so many phases, and have been so many people in this lifetime. There are versions of myself that I do not recognize, versions I have loved + lost, and there’s versions of me that I’m going to become in the future…versions I can’t wait to meet one day.

And I wouldn’t want it any other way. Can you imagine if I was still the 16 year old version of me who skipped math tutoring all the time and had no clue what news outside of her little Californian town was?

Or what if I was junior year in college me, who worked 2 jobs, 6 classes and a habit of drinking too much wine? It’s crazy that sometimes I feel a version of me dying. I see certain parts of her dwindle into nonexistence, or I see other parts of her slowly growing like dandelions.

I feel like I am on the edge of another personal death. And that’s not a bad thing. We grow as long as we are willing to, and I am very excited for the change that is coming up ahead.

Each new level in life shakes, stirs and spins me around-preparing me for the next level up. I know that as much as I’ve grown(especially in the last few years), I still have much, much to learn and grow from.

The version of me that I am currently walking in is a sweet one that I will think of fondly. I wonder what version I am going to become next? Stay tuned.

Travel Thailand: Hopping Islands

Thailand is a place I think about a lot.

It was my first venture into the great continent of Asia. It’s so easy to think that the whole world operates as it does in your hometown. But boy, does it not.

I used the Couchsurfing app for the first time in Thailand. My friend and I met up with two boys at a coffeeshop—one from Russia and one from Lithuania. Sounds very shady, I know, but it turned out to be the greatest adventure. We had lunch, visited the outside of temples(we were definitely too underdressed to go inside), and took a ride on a tuk tuk. The driver knew very little english but with hand gestures and very slow speaking we got him to understand that we wanted to be taken to the ocean edge, to a place where we could see the sunset. We told him to take us to where there was a camera icon on the GPS which means it’s a scenic spot. We all piled into the back of his tuk tuk and hoped we would get to a nice view.

And we did!

It was cloudy so there was no sunset that day but hiking through narrow dirt trails framed by green foliage, standing at the edge of the cliff and watching the ocean splash onto the edges of the land, wind breezing and solo cups in hand was so freeing. Lenur screamed into the wind and we all reveled in our adventure. That night we went to the craziest road I have ever been on—Bangla Road in Patong. There was so much live music, alcohol, and travellers everywhere. My favorite place there was a karoake bar that played American covers. We rode home on a moped, our hair casually blowing in the wind as we drove the curvy roads in the dark.

Other highlights of the 10 day trip:

-Visiting Maya Bay. We rode a boat to the edge of a cliff. Then, we had to swim to the edge and climb the jagged cliff using a fishnet covered in slippery seeweed(Most exhilerating moment of the whole trip. Maybe because of the waves that kept crashing on us that made it a strong possibility for us to fall)(We were OK). We scrambled out way to the top, walked through a tropical forest with our bodies still buzzing, and made it to the setting for the movie The Beach. It was absolutely incredible. Mountains enclosed a small clear beach and longtail boats were in the distance, with other travellers swimming to the shore. Swimming anywhere for me is delicious but especially here.

-Giving an elephant, Lu Lu, a bath(if you ever have a chance to bathe an elephant, BATHE THAT ELEPHANT!)

-Riding a scooter with three people and trying not to fall off/die

-Kayaking on a triple kayak in the ocean on Railey Beach

-Watching rock climbers climb insane heights above the roaring water

-Finding a ”penis cave” that was filled with different sized and colorful wooden penises

-Visiting the Big Buddah temple in Karon

-Swimming in the pool as it rains, surrounded by trees

-Taking a local bus(so colorful and vibrant) to Krabi

-Traveling on a longtail boat to the nearby little islands and swimming with tiny bright yellow and blue fishes

-Tom Yum Soup and ALL the food the whole time

-Thai massage that made by sunburned, tired body feel amazing

-The kindest customer service from everyone

Be A Forever Student

Student.

It’s a word I always want to define me.

I have a couple degrees and a couple certifications under my belt but even if one day I get a doctorate’s degree-I know that one life is not enough to learn everything there is to learn. I used to think that as an adult I would finally have everything figured out. I would no longer question everything.

With time I’ve learned that I will never stop learning. I never want to lose my curiosity for other people’s perspectives, for new landscapes, for endless facts about this crazy world.

I think it’s important to keep that student point of view so that you are open to the world and all it can teach you. Education is evolving and once you learn one discipline, it’s not over. You need to keep up with the constant new techniques and information that emerge from your career.

Your eyes need to keep the wonder they had when you were a baby; curious of what everything is. Be humble like a student might be on their first day of quantum physics class.

Life is a professor that has so much to teach you, I promise.

If You Don’t Experience Gratitude, You Can’t Experience Forgiveness

I’ve been meditating a lot on gratitude lately.

When I get on my mat, my teachers love to have us set an intention for our practice. If nothing else or nobody else comes to mind, then focus on gratitude. During ying yoga yesterday I thanked God for the opportunity to experience life on this spinning rock. I thanked him repeatedly. Thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. Especially when my mind starts to drift or I forget that I have to breathe(sounds silly but it is super common to do this during yoga, even after years of practice). I keep giving thanks for having found a deeper yoga practice this year. My word for 2019 is root, and I definitely feel grateful for the mental, spiritual and physical effects I’ve drawn from practicing 4-5 times a week at a studio vs my tiny room. I’m placing roots in this practice that has been an on and off thing for me for so many years.

I heard somebody talk about gratitude and forgiveness being linked, and I agree. If you foresake something and don’t see the value it used to bring you, it will be hard to forgive. Another example of needing gratitude to forgive actually came into my life last night. A portuguese woman around my age and her daughter rearended my mother and I. I was at a roundabout that I absolutely dread yet use almost daily. I yielded to another car, and she crashed into me from behind. I was really calm about it while it was happening. I was reflecting on how bad the crash could have been. A truck could’ve hit me on the side, I could’ve gone spinning into the other lane, my mother could have been severely injured or died.

So rather than feel angry or sad that I was in an accident, I’m incredibly thankful that it was as it was, and not something much bigger. Gratefulness is such a buzzword lately but it truly enriches your life when you can let go, forgive, and give thanks.

It’s OK If The Road Is Your Home

Even when everyone else is settling down and focusing on something completely different like marriage and babymaking.

It’s a little bit hard to think that you are doing the wrong thing because you are not doing the “right” thing. You know the script—graduate college, find a job that is OK(in your field, that pays the bills), find the love of your life in a coffeeshop, get married, get a mortgage, have kids, go to soccer practice..sound familiar?

I’ll admit, sometimes, when I’m passing by a small child on the sidewalk with his mom and dad I definitely have the urge to have the same thing. But when I really think about it, that’s not the life I want at all. I am proud of myself for not following the crowd; no matter how sweet it may seem. I feel comfort in the road, and the constant moving. I actually start to feel itchy if I stay in one place for too long. That may be why I left to volunteer in California, drove down then moved to Florida, and travelled throughout Europe for two months.

I like the constant movement. My best memories have been on the road, on a trail, or simply on my feet. I know that one day I may look back on this period of my life and think of how crazy I was(like when you look at old photos from 10 years ago and realize those pink bangs were not quite as cute as you thought they were) but for now I’m pretty happy with my lifestyle choices thusfar.

48 HR+ Roadtrip to Banff National Park

On a whim in the summer, we decided to drive to Banff National Park. Now that sounds like a nice plan. However…we are in Northern New Jersey which happens to be 48 hours away from that park.

Well, traveling across the whole United States of America is a big challenge but one we were willing to take in order to see that gatorade colored lake.

We packed our bags, shopped for all the snacks in the world, mentally prepared by researching long road trip tips(this is the longest roadtrip I’ve EVER done), and filled the gas tank to the brim.

The landscape changed every few hours. There were mysterious mountains and windy roads in Tennesee, followed by a pink and yellow sunrise we obviously stopped the car to watch. There were weird hills and giant fields of tiny yellow flowers in Canada. In North Dakota there was the longest, neverending road with ´middle of nowheré vibes. The sunrise on that road brought bright bright yellows and oranges to the horizon. The nightime on that road was scary though. At 1am we took a random exit in attempts to find a motel. We arrived at a town that only seemed to be inhabited by one small bar and a handful of half drunk men. We went into the motel and found noone except taxidermied animal heads on the walls. Although it was probably more dangerous than we realized, we slept in the weird motel’s parking lot.

We met a group on the Couchsurfer app to go hiking next to Moraine lake with. They were all either avid travelers or hikers, so I loved hearing their stories from around the globe. They wanted to climb an unmarked hiking trail that seemed much more vertical than we were experienced. It was full of tiny rocks that slid very very easily which made the hike dangerous but I couldn’t resist the challenge. We proceeded with the hike and were absolutely amazed by the view. The mountains looked like they were very skillfully drawn by the world’s greatest painter, the smell of the pine trees was enough to make it seem like Christmas in July, and the incredible color of the lake shined in the distance.

We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and apples on the middle of the mountain sitting on rocks. There was a moment when we had almost reached the top when my friend had a panic attack because we kept sliding and rocks kept falling. We were extremely vertical, and I began thinking about what branches to grasp onto if I fall. I was sliding on my butt and I made a mess of my yoga pants with the rocks. It was the most adrenaline and sweat I had ever produced on a hike. I loved every minute and do not regret it— even though it was definitely almost fatal(lol).

We drove to Seattle to meet our Russian friend who was visiting. With him, we hiked a steep and narrow path to a waterfall called Bridal Veils. The falls really did look like a part of a wedding day. The forest was different here, and a refreshing change of pace from the east coast foliage i’ve grown accostumed to.

Even with all the crazy moments we had, I don’t regret the trip and I would do it a million times over. The weird, scary stuff is what makes any trip better in my opinion. I wouldn’t want things to go perfect.

Weird Sleeping Situations

As a traveller, sometimes you gotta get used to sleeping wherever you can for the night. For me it’s not about beautiful, fluffy white comforters(although those were nice in Montreal) or the best sleep I have ever slept. It’s about the adventures you’ll have during your waking hours.

During my longest roadtrip ever(48+ hours to Banff National Park in Canada), one of my safe havens when it was late and impossible to find a hotel was actually Walmart. Walmart actually lets you park your car or RV in their parking lot overnight and for free. On that same roadtrip, there was a night when we could not find a hotel, airbnb, couchsurfer, or walmart.

So, we fell asleep parked in the car next to a sold out hotel. Covered in blankets, car seat laying down, and the sun coming up I heard a knock on the car window. It was a lady who mistaked us for being homeless, and wanted to give us a 10 dollar bill. I cried thinking of how sweet I thought it was that she cared for random strangers. I also cried because in that moment I felt a little homeless.

After that occurrence though, we headed for the mountains and hiked with the most incredible views. We saw lakes that looked like gatorade ready for someone to drink, mountain peaks so high and snowy that they seemed like they were digital paintings, and trees that smelled like Christmas in July. The nature there is one of the most amazing that my eyes have had the pleasure to witness in my entire life.

In Spring of 2018 I travelled to Europe for two months and reached a variety of countries thanks to Ryan Air and Vueling(Cheap airlines—I flew for about $18 dollars to Spain). When I was in Germany, I decided to go on a roadtrip to Paris at the last minute with a friend, her cousins and her cousins’ baby. We hit the road without even looking for a hotel. We figured we’d just find one when we arrived(big mistake). Of course, we found no vacant hotels.

After spending hours looking for a vacancy, we gave up and coincidentially drove to a street with an empty parking space with the Eiffel tower shining right in front of us just about a block or two away. It was cold but I’ll never forget all four of us peeing behind the car, one by one, the Eiffel tower as our only witness. It sparkled in the background as if to say, Welcome, Darling. Our Paris trip was quite hectic to say the least but I loved walking in the rain in such a romantic city.

So, where you sleep doesn’t matter as much as the sights you see and the things you get to experience in new countries. You can sleep comfortably when you’re at home. A good night’s sleep is nice when you are abroad but I’ll trade some good ZZZ’s for a good experience any day.

Learning A New Language Equals A New Life

Languages amaze me.

I’m the person who, while on a busy street, will be listening to conversations in languages I don’t understand. Especially when travelling or living in the NY tristate area(where there’s such big diversity), knowing more than one language is essential to communicating with a wider range of people.

When there is a language barrier in either of the people, the conversation is usually a little bit fumbly, a little bit guarded, and much more focused on simply understanding instead of having good conversation.

I remember being in a taxi cab from 1945 in Cuba and casually asking the driver how his day was. After a few minutes we realized that he is from Guyana which is the neighboring country to where I was born. Apart from that, he spoke portuguese! I was so excited when he said that so that we could stop struggling through an English conversation. I speak basic portuguese but I love practicing it with strangers. We got along so well that he charged us a lower fare for bringing us to the airport. Had I not known Portuguese, the conversation would not have been the same.

Another instance was when I was working at a daycare in the 3-4 year old room. There was a very small, very shy indian boy. While everyone was playing in their different stations, I went up to him and started helping him put together a puzzle. When I was putting in the red puzzle piece, he said, “Rojo”. I cannot tell you how happy that made me. I immediately asked him how to say the other colors, which he said perfectly, and asked him how he knew spanish. He said him and his sister have a private spanish tutor. Obviously he became one of my favorite students in class.

Life and how you interact with it really opens up when you learn that your native language is not the one that everybody necessarily speaks. It is hard to stay focused on learning a language, especially when virtually nobody around you speaks it…but the benefits are endless.

I think the key to really learning is repetition and practice. You need to keep seeing a word out in the world in different contexts before you can remember it enough to use it yourself. Ways I am doing that with Portuguese and French are listening to music, watching movies,using a textbook from college and using DuoLingo.

Are you learning English? Email me for remote private lessons or via facetime/skype sessions! I teach my students how to succeed; not stuck behind a textbook but during real conversations, important interviews, at the workplace, when meeting a new partner’s family or when moving to an English speaking country.

I love my students and teach around the world thanks to the magic that is working remotely. Looking forward to meeting you!

Eat The Frog First

I’ve never forgotten what a keynote speaker said during freshman orientation at Montclair State.

I don’t remember his face. Or what he was wearing. Or what he said in the whole rest of the 25 minutes he spoke to us at that amphiteathre. But I do remember part of a story that he told, that made me feel like I finally had the key to procrastination. He said that whenever you have a list to do, whether it be homework or work work work work work work(*Rihanna reference*), you have to eat the frog first.

This of course, is not literal.

The frog is the hardest thing on your list, that thing that you really, really don’t want to do. Finish that thing first, and the relief you’ll feel after that will help you finish the rest of your to do list. Plus, you will get practice doing the hardest thing so the easier thing is a million times easier to swallow.

In yoga, it is very tempting to skip the poses that you hate. But those poses that you hate are probably the poses that you need the most in your practice. The conversation that you are so scared to have with someone you love is probably a pretty big conversation that needs to happen before you can move forward in your relationship with eachother. That healthy food that you keep avoiding because it doesn’t taste like chocolate is probably the one your body needs most.

This goes to show that it doesn’t matter how you look or sound. It’s about how you make people feel.

Eat the frog first.

…the rest is a piece of cake.

Use Your Yoga

Admit it.

Saying the word yoga conjures up bendy white women in spandex twisting themselves into human pretzels.

Part of yoga is that. But there’s so many other ways to do yoga, and to use your yoga.

To me, yoga is a way of BEing. It’s the deep breaths, the calm focus, the trusting of your own body.

This is true more than just on the mat. What you learn on your yoga mat needs to translate into your daily life, in order for yoga to be yoga. Because the presence of God you felt on your mat or the asana that you finally broke through because of that laser focus on the sweat drip in front of you won’t really matter if you are still foaming at the mouth with road rage and getting angry at your coworker for that annoying thing she always does with her mouth.

I remember rock climbing a few years back and hesitating when I got 3/4 of the way to the top. I wasn’t sure of where to put my foot next and I guess it was evident in my body language that I was internally freaking out. A fellow yoga instructor yelled out,

“USE YOUR YOGA!!”

I looked down and smiled, suddenly knowing what to do with myself. I took a deep breath and confidently continued to the top, actually believing that I could, with no doubts in my mind. My problem was internal; a fight my brain was having because I wasn’t remembering the principles I learned during my 200 hour teacher training and the years of asana practice I had under my belt. Since then I always try to use my yoga off the mat—though not always successful, it’s a good thing to strive for.

Here are some ways you can incorporate yoga into your life without actually getting barefoot on a mat:

  1. Be conscious about what you eat. Make sure you are not disrespecting your body and eating only because you are bored or because others are eating. Also try not to eat like a child at a birthday party.
  2. When something about somebody bothers you, ask yourself if maybe that quality bothers you about yourself.
  3. Honor mama Earth. She’s our only one. Don’t throw your trash on the ground. Walk instead of driving or taking public trans whenever you can.
  4. Love. Let your life be the proof of God’s Love. You are bankrupt without love. Love on your loved ones but also love on people at work, people at the farmer’s market…anyone you come across. You never know the bad day you could turn around by simply smiling.
  5. Whole ass whatever you do. Never half ass anything.