Happy Earth Day, all! To celebrate, I am throwing it back to my South American journey this time last April, and the most breath-taking natural experience I’ve ever had. Almost one year ago to date, I spent a week camping and trekking through Torres del Paine, a national park in Chile’s region of Patagonia. It was the most rejuvenating and testing (both physically and mentally) 7 days I had ever experienced, and each day brought even more beauty than the previous.
My travel teammate and I traded in our late-nights for early mornings, our cell phone screens for glaciers, the weight and distraction of social media for our 85-liter backpacks and our own thoughts and, perhaps begrudgingly, our showers in order to bathe in nature’s silence and acceptance. The magnificent ability of our natural planet to heal mind, spirit and overall wellbeing journeys far beyond words. Alas, here is my attempt at capturing the majesty of this park, and our astonishing planet Earth, in a visual post. Enjoy!
Day 1: April 5, 2016
Entering the Torres del Paine National Park at the tail of the ‘Q’ route. On this path we saw guanacos (relative of the alpaca) and wild horses, though I searched for mountain lions all week.
Day 2: April 6, 2016
The most vibrant and saturated blues and golds I’ve ever seen; this shot is of Lago Pehoé. This part of the trek offered unbelievably strong winds as we marched north into the park.
Day 3: April 7, 2016
Despite our sore knees, we hiked a little extra one afternoon to catch a glimpse of the beautiful Glacier Grey. By the time a gentle snow flurry began, I was in awe and in tears.
Day 4: April 8, 2016
In beautiful irony, the soundtrack to this pale and delicate sunset were the thunderous sounds of avalanches tumbling down mountainsides above our camp.
Day 5: April 9, 2016
One of my favorite days of the week was this one spent in the French Valley. It was also the most strenuous– think trekking 25 kilometers in one day with 85-liter packs on. Bless hiking poles!
Day 6: April 10, 2016
April meant autumn in the southern hemisphere, and we caught just the start of changing foliage in the park, despite celebrating Easter in the coming week.
Day 7: April 11, 2016
Watching the sun rise on the Torres del Paine is the ultimate reward and grand finale for the strenuous and breathtaking weeklong experience in the park. Kicking off day 7 at 6 a.m., we hike-raced uphill in darkness to watch Patagonia’s famous glowing sensation.
I will never forget my experience in Chilean Patagonia. My week fully immersed in nature reminded me of our planet’s magnificent healing properties, among returning me to my true self. This Earth Day, let us marvel in all that our planet offers us and remain mindful that it deserves the same healing and protection in return, today and every day. This year, I vow to create some healthier and more eco-conscious habits. What sustainable changes can you make today?
My Earth Day 2017 vows for healthier & sustainable habits:
This week’s #humpdaypoetry goes out to all of the brilliant flowers in my life, and in the world. To you flowers, who have learned to seek your own light, nourish your own soul-soils and cultivate your own safe spaces of self-love. Happy #InternationalWomensDay! May we always be blooming.
Part 2: How I’m Embracing, and Remaining My Inner “Yes Woman”
The waves were small and the water was chilly. The air was 50 degrees when my alarm went off at 7:20 a.m. I wanted so badly to snooze a little more until waking up to spend my day typing cover letters. But my surf partner and I went out into the ocean anyway.
And the universe rewarded us. Also playing in the small, friendly waves were none other than a pod of dolphins. After a solid five minutes of me slapping the water in disbelief, cupping my jaw-dropped face, paddling out closer to them, inquiring if their presence indicated that sharks were also around, whispering, “oh my god,” incessantly, and wondering why these so-called-waves had to be in my viewing way, I decided to do like my finned-friends and try and catch one, only to paddle back out and repeat the process.
I continued on this way for another 10 minutes. My poor surfing partner was probably experiencing his own disbelief in that someone could have such a reaction to a wild animal, but he tolerated it all the same.
There were few others in the water to witness my enamor and accept the sea’s smaller feat, but after the dolphins left, one nearby surfer caught my eye. He was seasoned, with a white beard, turquoise eyes and tan, weathered skin. He paddled on his long board only on his knees and pursued each small but promising curl in the same manner he would have as if it was the biggest wave he’d ever seen. He reminded me of my father.
After a few catches and misses, I called over to him.
“That’s quite the paddle, I’m not sure I’m there just yet.”
The man laughed and told me it took years of practice. “You should turn next time,” he told me, in regards to my last attempted ride.
I learned that while a self-proclaimed surf-bum now, he was also an avid skier and climber in his years, and had worked as a guide in Switzerland, set rock-problems all around the U.S. while living out of a van for two years, has his Masters in Chemistry, was diagnosed with prostate cancer and now has it under control and spends his time living in San Diego funded by his work as a researcher and online course professor at Vanderbilt University.
I looked at my new friend in awe. “Well, I’m 23, I just moved here, I have a degree and no job at the moment. What advice do you have for me?”
Darrel looked back at me and though beginning with, “I’m not sure I’m good for dishing out advice…,” he continued, letting the gentle ocean-waves wash over his surfboard and nostalgia-waves wash over his memories.
“Don’t get into debt,” he said after a moment. “Don’t fall for the illusion of things. Don’t spend your money on a big, fancy car… You don’t need stuff. I had a fancy home and things all back in Nashville. I even have a closet of fancy things here that I never look in. I don’t miss it.”
A wave rolls by.
“Do it while you’re young. Be good to your body. Don’t drink hard alcohol, it takes a toll. If you want to have a beer every once in a while, all right. If you want to get high, smoke weed. But don’t smoke it, bake it. Bad carcinogens.”
We float over another set of baby ocean-movements.
“Get a lot of skin.”
“As in tough skin?” I interjected, in due parts because I’m soft as a flower petal and because I wasn’t sure that’s really what he meant.
“No. You know,” patting his wetsuitted-arms, “affection, touch, love. That’s science…
And if you don’t like something, don’t do it.
“And this.” He looked at the water around him and ahead of him. “Do more of this.”
And whether he had more to share or felt he was done, I’ll never know. Because my transfixed state broke when Darrell spun around faster than I might ever be able to to catch the wave that was upon us. I made it over and looked back to see if he had caught it. He must’ve, I thought, going after it with the same energy of a pro at Maverick’s.
But he hadn’t. And it didn’t make a difference to him, because he was already on his knees paddling back out to catch another.
He didn’t need to put that last lesson into words after all: go after life like you want it badly. Go after it with full force. Pursue it and lean into it wildly. And if you miss? Get up and try again.
So living my new life in San Diego, I will go outside. I will walk around alone. I’ll look up. Smile at people. Make eye contact. Engage in conversation. Say “hi” to strangers. Accept invitations. Invite people.
I will say yes. Say yes to life. Because when you start saying yes to life, life starts saying yes to you.
And just like that: magic had happened.
Be sure to check out the prequel to this piece– Part 1: How I Found My Inner Yes Woman.
Three weeks ago, I went, slightly impulsively, on a women’s surf, fitness, yoga and adventure retreat in Lagos, Portugal.
Envision: 7 a.m. beach circuits, learning how to surf in warm, green waves, the most delicious, locally sourced meals thrice a day every day, bottles of Portugal’s famous vinho verde, and the most amazing, encouraging group of women all living together for one week.
Read: the healthiest, most inspiring and well-intentioned week of my life to date.
It was a food critic’s most delicious dish yet, and an artist’s palate of all things brilliant and beautiful: green wine, 50-shades-of-turquoise blue water and fearless red energies of first-times mountain biking, horseback riding and jumping off a 30-foot dam. Add in constant sunshine, orange sunsets and purple zinc painting the faces of every unstoppable surf-chick-warrior in our tribe.
Beyond the divine meals and wine, we got a taste of the life of the unmatchable Sophie Everard, (who actually oozes radness) and was the chief-organizer of the Mad To Live Women’s Retreat in partnership with Lagos’ very own, The Surf Experience.
Sophie is a traveling, writing and endlessly-exploring fitness blogger, sponsored by great organizations and companies for her own drive and very greatness. She alone was an inspiration in embracing unconventionality in part of one’s pursuit of truth. How can I ever thank you for providing a space that turned into the best week ever for so many of us?!
There is something to be said about the power and brilliance of a group of women who have come together as a team. I have experienced it before within my own group of girlfriends, and even more so on athletic teams in high school or college.
Women are intuitive and capable, instinctually maternal and because of this (evolutionarily speaking) created to take care and to love. We women are vessels with complex depths, and it is this empathetic intelligence that is both the essence of our magnificence and at times, the root of our aching.
Thus being, there is a special type of community, companionship and comfort in a group of women that has chosen to support and encourage each other’s depths. There is a wholeness in feeling understood by one of your own.
It is the understanding that you are not alone. You are not crazy or small in this world; rather in your safest space, surrounded by reassuring people who understand and appreciate your depths, you are grand. You are undoubtedly the very best being for everything your heart dreams of doing.
Yet we live in a world, swarming with distorted representations in mass media, that aim to keep us women apart.
It is oppression stemming from fear, and the imbalance of energy and the suppression of the Sacred Feminine over centuries that now requires many years of healthy, perpetual restoration from both male and female counterparts.
Humans have a less-than-grand history of making certain groups of people feel small out of fear of their potential to be great; perhaps even greater than the fearful themselves. But a true partnership in this life is bringing the other up to their fullest potential, understanding that they could never fill your particular role in this life-web; only you can do that. Lifting someone up to their greatness could never take away from your own, for they could never succeed in your role; it is not, nor can be for them, just as their role is for them alone, and could never be for you.
I’m learning that it is not a man’s role to understand those depths of a woman, or to mirror them. The Chinese principle, yin and yang, the union and dance of opposites, honors exactly that: the differences between the two energies.
And I believe that a true man is not threatened by equality of the sexes; rather, he finds discomfort in the privileges he experiences in a system without it.
There was divine energy among the group of women collaborating with intentions of being healthy, driven, open-minded and full-spirited that week in Lagos.
In the very most, this is a prayer for the rejuvenation of feminine sacredness and a restoration of male-female balance. In the very least, it is my whole-hearted hope for all women to experience the community that a women’s retreat offers, as a stepping stone to a life system where all of us have each other’s best interests and spirits in mind and heart.
A wise friend of mine recently said to me, “there is perhaps nothing more powerful than a group of women dancing together– so long as they have each other’s backs.”
And during our time in Lagos, Portugal, we danced. And we laughed and explored and cheered each other on and saluted the sun and ran and fell and stood up once more every time. And it was not until the very end of the day when it was time to rest that we finally stopped– only until the sun came out again the very next morning, and we were ready to take on the world all over again.
Check out below for Sophie’s video compilation of all of our fun activities during the week! Disclaimer: there is a clip of me being dragged on stage from the bathroom and free-style singing in front of a crowd before a DJ was to come on. My hands were wet. Enjoy! 😉
Ironically enough, the final semester of my undergraduate experience has been leaving me feeling unfulfilled. I’ve fallen into a routine: a combination of draining schoolwork I don’t entirely love, and weekends attending the same campus bars we’ve all been attending since we were at least 18.
This isn’t about my dull day routine or meaningless nights at bars, however. Feeling empty from both, I decided Saturday was a great opportunity to take a personal night. I say personal night with a few connotations in mind. First, as in taking a personal day off from the robotic work that constitutes my passing weeks, and second, personal as in concerning the intimate needs of my mind, body and soul.
My roommate and I had already slept in, feng shui-ed our kitchen (by washing dishes) and rid ourselves of some toxins at the sauna earlier that day, so I was feeling wonderful about a night to myself.
Light on toxins, I decided to make some chocolate chip banana bread for dinner. Yes, you read correctly. We had four bad bananas and I was in the mood to test my creativity and face my domestic fears, so I went all in. And by all in, I mean substituting nearly everything that this recipe called for with other items- like avocado for butter- and the result was something SUPERB.
Boom! Another kitchen experience down. It felt great to challenge myself in something that lies beyond my comfort zone. It seems silly to feel insecure about following a recipe (there are high cooking standards in my family- it’s deliciously overwhelming) but it’s a fear of mine that I’m tackling bit(e) by bit(e).
But by identifying and confronting a fear of mine, I exercised my mind and my soul.
Just like the body and the brain, the soul needs exercise to stay fresh, healthy and ever-growing, too. When you acknowledge and address the things that make you uncomfortable, you keep your mind and soul flexible and in progression. If you don’t “practice,” the body, mind and soul all get stuck in their ways and become incapable of growth. So practice I did.
Part two of my personal night actually involved my cell phone, which I had turned off earlier as part of my me time. I had discovered a meditation app called, Stop, Breathe & Think, last week and it’s actually very lovely. The app asks you to assess your mental, physical and emotional well-being and then offers you various applicable podcast meditations. I don’t believe technology can ever supersede true meditation or mindfulness, but I do think this is an example of technology used in a beautiful way. You all should give it a try!
I spent the rest of my night in the company of a good friend, who showed me this wonderful site, Soul Pancake. It’s right up my alley, I’m surprised I had never explored it before. Anyway, another friend of mine, e.r., had actually sent me this video from the site over the winter and it’s a perfect fit for good & grateful 🙂
Whether it was an overdose of banana bread and soulpancakes or just the night’s happy energy, I remembered my positive affirmation cards for the first time in a while. (Lousie Hay, the creator, calls them power thought cards. They are fabulous).
A dear friend of mine introduced them to me a few years ago, and I loved them so much that she gave me her deck. I’ve been trying to pay her kindness forward since then, sharing my cards with others and letting them have one or two that they resonate most with.
All in all, it was just the night I needed. I had to take a break from that which was leaving me unfulfilled and spend my time doing the things that filled me up and made my life feel meaningful.
The takeaway: do that which nourishes your individual soul. Do what feels good, what has value, what makes you feel like you have a purpose.
These days, it’s all too easy to get lost in the things that need to be done, the things we should do or have to do. What about the things that serve no purpose other than making you feel good?
Check in with yourself every once in a while. Part of being grateful and appreciative is being aware: aware of your own feelings and well-being; aware of other’s emotions and health, and aware of the environment and surroundings that encompass us all.
We all suffer from FOMO to an extent, and sometimes I feel that applies to me more than anyone. But I’m learning that taking care of myself and doing the things that are most fulfilling to my mind, body and soul is essential to any rewarding experience I can share with another person.