Thursday, December 6, 2012

55 hours later and counting ...

"All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination." - Earl Nightingale

After 55 hours of travel, I had finally arrived in Bali ... and man was it sweaty!

Like all other international and domestic flights that come through Bali, I landed at Ngurah Rai Airport. The airport was small and frenzied, but smelled like burning incense, which I liked. Even the airport is considered a place of worship. The smell of incense also reminded me of my Dad. I remember when I was a teenager, he went through an incense burning phase and our whole house smelled of it - often. It was totally bizarre at the time, but in that moment that familiar smell became a comforting memory.

Despite a slight ATM snafu and quick anxiety attack, the airport entry was rather quick and painless. I purchased my $23 (approx. 250,000 Rupiah) entrance visa and made it through immigration in no time. Actually, the man who cleared me was probably one of the nicest people I've ever met. He greeted me with a warm smile, proudly showing off his crooked teeth, and kept welcoming me to Bali. Not your run-of-the-mill immigration experience, no doubt. Regardless, it was comforting and he put a much needed smile on my face. After collecting my luggage, which also survived the journey, I headed to the exit.

When I exited, there was a mob of airport porters and Taksi drivers. It was quite overwhelming at first, so I was thankfully greeted by Peter, the Volunteer Solutions Bali program manager. He's Indonesian, nice, thankfully spoke English and humored me in responding to my barrage of unfocused questions. 

The Taksi ride to the Volunteer house took us about 90 minutes to central Denpasar. Clearly the Balinese infrastructure is not much to be desired. In fact, everything looked as if it was under construction with no plans of ever being finished. My guess is that many projects are started and lack of proper planning and funding quickly becomes an issue. In addition, driving is totally unorganized and overwhelming. There are no real traffic laws, thousands of motor bikes swerved recklessly through each lane, and the air was humid and filled with exhaust. It all made driving through the Lincoln Tunnel look like child's play. Not the best first impression, unfortunately, and it was a challenge for me to initially see the beauty that hid behind a thick wall of commotion.

I have to admit, while driving through I had a lapse of real self-doubt come over me. My emotions got the best of me and I thought I had made a huge mistake. After coming all this way, I was ready to turn around and head home. Being alone in such a foreign place became such a harsh reality, that let's call it what it was ... I experienced a total freak out. What the hell was I doing? Why would I leave everything that was so familiar to experience such discomfort? Why did I need to come all this way? What was I trying to prove? How can I find peace of mind in this utter chaos? Why would I chose to come to a place where I had no friends, no connections, no phone, no grasp of the language, and the 'icing on the cake' ... no idea where I was going. 

The unknown made me feel totally helpless, out of control and vulnerable. Feelings that I spend most of my life trying to avoid. It was clear that I was faced with yet another one of life's little tests. How badly did I want this experience? How determined was I to stay and face the unknown? How resilient would I be in this state of weakness? How strong and courageous was I really? 

It was also clear in that moment, that I was faced with one of life's little jokes. As I looked out the Taksi window, I saw it. A family of 4 piled on to a small little Honda scooter, that was clearly only made for two. The eldest was on the back, then the mother, then the two little ones in front. Regardless of what you think of her parenting skills, I mean no doubt that this would not fly in the States, here it was totally the norm. What came to mind, after the unsolicited snap-judgement, was the thought that if this little kid could look forward, brave the traffic, and have fun in the process ... well, then I was certainly capable of doing the same. 

So just like that, with a few deep breaths and the beginnings of a smile, I faced forward. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Layover in Hong Kong

"My favorite thing to do is go where I've never been" - Diane Arbus

Sleeping in the airport was not as bad as I thought it would be, not that I want to do it regularly, but it could have been a lot worse. I only caught a few hours of sleep, but with writing and a little "50 Shades" to distract me, the night went by quickly. My one take away from the night is ... I'm not as high maintenance as I thought. I can tough it out with the best of 'em. Ha!

I made it out of NYC at 8am on 11/8 on a Cathay Pacific flight with a stopover in Vancouver and due to the delay, I had an overnight in Hong Kong. Although I was anxious to arrive in Bali, the overnight was a welcomed stop. The airline was kind enough to put me up in a hotel for the night at the Regal Hotel at the Hong Kong airport, which was incredibly convenient.
When and if you find yourself traveling to Asia and beyond, I would recommend Cathay Pacific. The planes are nice and spacious, flight crew are all gorgeously coifed, food's not all that bad, and they were incredibly accommodating throughout the trip. Nice, yes ... cheap, no.
The Hong Kong airport is large and modern, which was expected given the bustling metropolis. It was truly easy to navigate, and for $100HK (about $13USD) I bought myself a round trip train ticket that took me right to Kowloon station. I then hopped on the K2 bus right to the Penninsula hotel to a trendy spot called Felix for a skyline view of Hong Kong island. The skyscrapers were really a site. I never get tired of looking at the NYC skyline from Hoboken. The view always amazes me, and this moment was no different. Building after building, all bright and colorful. For the first time on this trip I stopped to just take in my surroundings with overwhelming awe and wonder.  
I only had a few hours, so after Felix I continued to walk up Nathan Road - or Tsim Sha Tsui. A main road straight through the center of the city, and considering I was slightly intimated and on my own, this was a nice 'first timer' kind of walk. The street was packed with people and lined with shops. I quickly made my way to Jordan and Kansun street which was so worthwhile. The surrounding blocks encompass a night market filled with street vendors and Sichuan street food. Truly authentic and I felt completely immersed in the culture. I could have walked around for hours. The smell and looks of all the spicey food was amazing but despite my temptation, I did not partake. It was just a bit too risky for the first night of travel. But man, everything looked so delicious.
I made it back to my hotel in one piece just by reversing my original route and depsite my initial apprehension to venture out on my own, I am so glad that I did. Definitely a little fear was holding me back at first, as I hestiated leaving my comfy hotel room. It would have been easy to stay in, avoid any confusion and potentially get lost. But, I wasn't going to let the fear stop me just yet. I ultimately made it one piece, realized the city is manageable to navigate, and saw what I wanted to see in a few short hours.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sleepless in South Jersey ... post Thanksgiving gratitude.

"Once you stop learning, you start dying."  - Albert Einstein

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, I have been thinking a lot about gratitude. Plus, I've also been battling a mean case of jet lag that just won't quite. I recently returned from my trip from Bali, and I've been so inspired that I can't help but fill the nighttime silence with the sounds of my own thoughts and clicking keyboard. It just seems more productive to share it all with you, rather than stew in my own frustration over the fact that I can't sleep.

Anyway, I digress, back to gratitude …

I'm grateful for many things in life … my supportive family, fun and trusting friends, a loving boyfriend, coaching and the path it led me down, NYC in all its resilience when most vulnerable … the list goes on and on. But one thing that became really clear to me over the holiday break is how grateful I am for our capacity as human beings to learn. No doubt my 30's have provided me with a lot of learning. So much, I feel like a bag of microwave popcorn. Every kernel that pops represents something new that I've learned about myself and life ... and at the same popping velocity to boot. The capacity to learn enables us to grow, which is a real gift.

All of life's experiences provide us with something to learn, whether we judge the experience to be good or bad. Whether we experience joy or pain, love or hate, happiness or sadness … there's always something to discover. Even when we feel the most stuck, fearful, or even hopeless, there's always a breakthrough waiting to happen. Our minds are truly powerful and reward us with this ability. Developing self awareness and higher levels of consciousness can be a profound life-long journey. It's a gift, though a personal choice as to whether or not we accept the offering.

Regardless of what is chosen, there are a few things that I have learned to be true from my experiences …

Being open to the learning is essential. That means … being vulnerable and allowing ourselves the time to heal and receive support from others, despite how hard it might be to ask … being authentic in our expression and confident in who we are, no matter what … trusting in our intuition since the answer always comes from within … loving ourselves first and foremost, so we can share a whole and healthy heart with others … being present and in the moment, so we can observe and take it all in … and finally, believing that we have the capacity for all of this as well.

That, to me, is a gift worthy of gratitude. 

xoxo, B

Why Bali?

When I first learned about the trip, I was so excited to go. My friend (in order to protect the innocent, let's just call her ...) Sonia, initially told me about the Yoga retreat, led by Jennifer Pastiloff. We had just finished our coaching certification program with IPEC (Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching) and the timing couldn't be more perfect. With some initial supportive coaching and a minimal down-payment a day later, I committed. The more I talked about it, one week soon turned into a month away from work and loved ones, as a  sabbatical of sorts. In addition to the yoga, I also decided to volunteer at an orphanage. Also referred through friends and with much additional research, I signed up with Volunteering Solutions for a 2 week program in Bali. Fortunately, the timing coincided nicely with the retreat. Planning was easy and therefore meant to be.

As I started to talk more and more about my adventure, I was often asked why I was going. To be clear about my intentions, just in case you're curious, I thought I would share them here ... 

To immerse. One thing has become clear to me over the past few years, is that I love immersion experiences. Experiences that will challenge me to grow and learn. Experiences that are so far out of my comfort zone, that I have no choice but to embrace them. Although it may have always been the case for me, it first became clear through my experience at Landmark Education. For better or worse, the experience transformed my life and my way of being. Among many other things, I found a sense of courage and confidence - that again, may have always been there - but wasn't realized until that time. Next, came running the NYC marathon which took months of focus and training to run 26.2 miles through my beloved city. With that, I realized my humility and ability to commit. And most recently, IPEC, a coaching certification program. Throughout the course, I learned to embrace people fully, love openly and to be vulnerable. A tall order for this type-A, tough and feisty New York'er. Regardless of the experience, there are always lessons to learn when you immerse yourself in something new and different. You never know what it will be ... 

To give back. This is an obvious one. Life in the big city can get pretty selfish sometimes. I have done some volunteering in the past, but not like this. I always thought about it, but never really had the courage until now. This would be an opportunity to give my full time, attention and focus to others. Time that can be better spent than caring about myself,  what I am wearing, how my hair looks, or if my toes are perfectly pedicured. This would be an opportunity to embrace, support and love others selflessly.  

To love and nurture. If there is one thing that I've learned over the years is that there are many sources of love that can be experienced and expressed ... first and foremost the love that comes from within. I was never really sure if having children was in the cards for me. I have always wanted a family and children to love on, but I'm 36 - inevitably rounding the corner to 37 - and up until recently, very single. I do of course believe it's still possible and I will never give up on wanting a family of my own, however, this is an opportunity to explore the lover and nurturer from within. A chance to embrace that side of me that seldom gets to be expressed in this 'cut-throat world'. 

To embrace spirituality. I'm no expert ... but from what I know ... Bali is dominantly Hindu, and being home to thousands of temples and holy shrines, is a spiritual place. The Balinese embrace tradition, are constantly praying, believe in karma and focus their whole existence on worshiping their ancestors through rituals and offerings. Families stick together through thick and thin - love, support and accept each other. Although I believe in God, I never truly embraced my religion and I want to define for myself what spirituality means to me. I want to embrace the act of prayer and really get what it's like to give of yourself in blind faith.     

To heal. There is nothing like a good stretch and some meditation to heal the mind, body and soul. After a few years of some hard running, I realized I needed to take a break. I need a form a exercise that has less impact on the body. Additionally, it's great to be a able to take time everyday to focus on your health to kick off some new good habits into your daily routine back home.

So, there they are ... without judgement and without needing to prove anything, those are my reasons.

xoxo B

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

11/17/2012 - Riding out the Nor'easter in JFK

"One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." - Henry Miller

For some time now, I've been thinking about starting a blog. I've always admired a blogger's ability to utilize social media by sharing in their creative voice ... no matter how profound or rudimentary. They have a topic, learn something in the process and somehow find the time and words to document it all. Some write with pure purpose to find a deeper meaning and other's just write to share in their self expression. Or, neither or both.

Additionally, I admire the seemingly fearless attitude about putting oneself out there to share with all of cyber space. It takes a strength in one's own vulnerability to publicly express the authentic self. Regardless of who it will appeal to ... regardless of what other's may think ... regardless of who will follow ... or so it all seems as if. Writing in the hopes of reaching that one curious 'Google junkie' who just might stumble upon their blog.

For me, what to write about that would be worthwhile sharing was always the big question. What big life event would I need to experience in order to inspire my creative voice that so desperately wants to be heard? Or, am I just free to write? It seems really obvious though, at this point, that my long anticipated trip to Bali, Indonesia would be just the source of inspiration that I needed to get started.

I chose to head to Bali on a month long excursion to volunteer at an orphanage (through Volunteering Solutions - and to practice yoga. A friend told me about a yoga retreat, located at Soulshine Bali - a villa in Ubud built by Michael Franti. The yoga retreat was being led by Jennifer Pastiloff - the manifestin', karaoke singin', travelin' yogi extraordinaire. Despite my initial ignorance, my friend, (who I trust deeply) raved about her Manifestation workshops, so I signed on without hesitation. In essence, this was going to be a time for giving back, total immersion, meeting new people and focusing on restoring my aging muscles.

An experience of a lifetime, right?!? Well, one thing that became a reality prior to my departure, was that Mother Nature was not quite on my side and delayed my trip. Despite the tragic event that occurred, some positive did result from the delay, and on some level, I feel as if I was meant to be delayed. So maybe she was on my side after all, however, her winds blew me in a slightly different direction than I originally intended. That direction just happens to be towards Philly, but more on that another day.

Additionally, compared to the damage Hurricane Sandy caused us here on the east coast this past week, my delayed trip to Bali was a minor blip. But nevertheless, it's my experience and being in limbo is never really comfortable. As a result, I just sat back and also delayed writing, despite my verbal commitment to start. I was doing a whole lot of talking and not much doing. I found myself making the excuse that I needed to wait for my trip to begin in order for my story to begin. Something needed to happen in order for my creativity to happen.

So here I am, one week later, still delayed and now stranded in JFK, with nothing but time. My flight has been delayed until morning and I am honestly beginning to wonder if I will ever make it. However, what became very clear to me during this fortuitous all-night'er (ok, so I'm trying to see the silver lining in this cloudy sky), is that my adventure can start no matter where I am. In fact, each moment starting right now, my life begins, even if it's not exactly how I intended it to be. Believe me, spending a night in JFK was not part of my master plan. So, whatever it was that I was waiting for to happen ... to be in that quintessential right place at just the right time ... might not ever happen at all. A little doom and gloom? Maybe. But there is also a bright side and that is the notion that life is filled with possibility if you remain open to it. Open to being vulnerable. Open to taking risks. Open to challenging yourself. Open to expressing yourself. So, why wait?

With that sentiment, I am stranded in the most uninspiring location, yet somehow found the inspiration to write. And, as I try to keep my eyes open, eagerly awaiting my early am flight, my story begins ...