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What does it take to stay in a relationship? What makes it really work?

What does it take to stay in a relationship? What makes it really work?

Here’s my thoughts on the short version:
1. A strong initial spark,
2. a willingness from both people to explore and see if you respect and care for eachother
3. The desire to consciously work on it and be completely honest and vulnerable in the process of healing the subconscious,
4. Do that, and become new people together.
5. Dedication to nurturing your love,
6. A strong shared vision to keep your paths aligned and moving forward together towards a shared future.

Beyond that… I’ve never been in a conscious romantic relationship long enough to know… lol

But I would guess that it involves repeating 3-6 over and over again and continuing to choose each other.

I’d like to say that as a conscious being, with conscious communication tools everything is peachy and pollyanna in relationships. But in reality, it can be hard. Especially when you’re dealing with romance, travel and social survivability.

Of course, all relationships have challenges, ups and downs, joys and sorrows. The relationship experts tell us that the more “in love” we fall at the beginning, the more resonance of our deep subconscious pain/trauma there is underneath it all. They call it Imago Love.

When I work with couples, you can sense this Imago love immediately. Even if they are experiencing challenge, you can feel the connection deep underneath it all, the underlying love. In some couples, it’s obvious it’s not there, and probably never was. Although learning conscious communication tools can be helpful to any couple, and there are hacks to ease communication and rekindle passion, to be totally honest, for those couples who don’t have that Imago love, it’s really hard to rekindle that spark, when it wasn’t there in the first place.

I had a real-life experience of how important it is to have ALL of those things in place when Max and I were in the process of dating and splitting up. Looking back on it, we had 2, 3, and 4 down pat, and both became much more awesome people from the process but by the time we hit Spain around this time last fall, things were on the decline…

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Here’s a story from the soon to be released JoyGasm Book (Go to JoyGasm.me/book to get the first 15 chapters, and updates on when it’s being printed)

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“Traveling together had been difficult for a few months, and it was seeming like our desires and dreams for where we wanted to be were very different. He wanted to be in a big city, dancing, going to chic cafes and fancy restaurants, adventuring to a new city every month. I wanted to see more of the world for sure, but I also wanted to hang out in small beach towns, preferably speak Spanish, and explore local culture in a deep way, getting in with the locals, eating cheap and dirty, and exploring what life was like in that place. I wanted to be able to get to know people, and after a few months of a new place every month, I had realized that more than anything I wanted to stay someplace for 6 months or more.

Obviously, we had a massive clash in future/present vision going on.

So with that challenge hitting the fan, what do we do? Well, as two people fluent in non-violent communication, and committed to working on our relationship we both look at each other and try and state our needs, find a compromise, work it out. Easier said than done.

Using the statement “I feel” is meant to turn the communication back towards you, your feelings your needs, and keep that projection in check. But with my sense of freedom being curtailed by our shared travel plans, my emotions were flying high. Both of our basic needs and desires are not being met for how we wanted to live, and more often than not we find ourselves slipping into “I feel like YOU…” insert subconscious pain based accusation here.

After a few weeks of this, we realize this is bigger than we could handle ourselves and seek help from a friend and facilitator of communication. He calls us both out on the improper use of the NVC format and we move deeper into being as conscious with our communication and projections as we can. We commit, again, to owning our crap, and moving through it together. Both of us have been feeling stuck, and frustrated, but we are willing to work it through, together.

Newly committed we drive back into the work, a few weeks of this go back and forth, and I’m exasperated.

It’s so challenging to speak with him. I get SO angry. We’re working together, and we spend days and days (it seems) trying to find peace in our interpersonal/romantic so that we can actually have a working conversation in our work lives. On top of that, the work isn’t working either (aka providing revenue) so it seems pointless… deep to the core of my pain.

One day after a particularly frustrating conversation, I sit down with myself to figure out why this all so challenging, and why the heck this is happening.

As my thoughts wander around, I realize that I’ve been trying to leave the relationship for a month or so now, and every time I start to have the conversation he says “But you can’t threaten the relationship, we have to work on it together.” I hear you Max, and if I wanted to work on it…fine. If I don’t then fuck it. Well.. okay. Not fuck it.

Because I’ve been through this “relationships transition with a boyfriend” a half dozen times or so in the last few years, and I know what it takes to get closure and release someone in a loving and healthy way now. I’ve had lots of practice. There’s no need to be as uncomfortable in this as we are, if we just get clear on what’s happening and be honest with each other about what’s next.

I had thought when we started this thing that since Max was a spitting image of my “list of things I want in a partner” that I might not have to go through this whole relationship transition thing again… But now it looks like it’s staring me in the face. Fuck…

So I start to ponder. What does it really take to stay in a relationship, if this isn’t it?

Here’s my thoughts:
1. A strong initial spark, (nope)
2. a willingness from both people to explore and see if you respect and care for each other (yes, except I don’t respect him sometimes)
3. The desire to consciously work on it and be completely honest and vulnerable in the process of healing the subconscious, (got that one)
4. Do that, and become new people together. (Been doing that)
5. Dedication to nurturing your love, (sort of)
6. A strong shared vision to keep your paths aligned and moving forward together towards a shared future. (I don’t want to live like he wants to live)

I think back to when we met. Co-Boat in Thailand. I remember meeting him and feeling he was interesting. Well… “at least, more interesting than everyone else in that small boat.” We’ve laughed our way through telling that story a dozen times to people, and I remember what he said about me.. “I saw her and thought, who is this crazy woman with a kid, she’s weird.”

Not much of a spark there… in fact, if it wasn’t for the wild adventure of capsizing, bailing out a dingy and almost dying on a day trip, I’m not sure that we would have ended up in a relationship. If we hadn’t “happened” to be going to the same island and co-working space afterwards, he would have disappeared from my life without a look back, and I from his.

Not much of a spark then.

I think back to the times that I’ve fallen madly in love…. That Imago Love the Guy and Katie Hendrix speak of. The sparkling fire within our bodies, the certainty that this was something special. The feeling of being drawn, and inescapably desiring that person. I remember feeling that with Derek, Rafiq and Daniel… I know from the memory of the feeling with the other men, that this time, that spark just wasn’t there…

In fact, after the whirlwind drama and pain, I’d just had with Daniel in Bali, I’d specifically asked the universe for something calmer next boyfriend around. Got it!

So the core of our relationship is “happenstance, similar visions, mutual support, and a willingness to give it a go” and having run with that for a while, we now had “entanglement of emotions, logistics and ‘cuz we said we would” added into the mix.

I think wistfully of falling in love with Daniel, the kind of love that swept me off my feet, how I couldn’t help but walk over to his house, the poetry that had spewed forth from my heart, and the magic and love permeated the field of our moments together. The start of this relationship had none of that.

If I am completely honest with myself, it is a relationship of social survivability. Having moved from Bali to Thailand, and new to a place, Max was the most willing and interested person there, he wanted to hang out with me. When Alex called him Dad 3 weeks in (something he’d never done with any of my other boyfriends), and we’d both blushed and hoped for love that ended in like that, it had anchored it in, and made it more real than it maybe was at that point. On top of that, Max was willing to be loving and kind to me when many of the other Digital Nomads around me looked at the fact that I had a kid and excluded me.

Not really the foundation of a long-term love relationship.

In that moment I know we are over, and I know that moving forward I will make better decisions for relationships. No more dating men I’m lukewarm about.

I know from him and other lovers, that by 6 to 8 to 9 months in, the love and connection, the novelties of getting laid regularly most often have worn thin and the challenge begins in earnest. The challenges are all there to be seen, right from the get go, but the love and oxytocin high blinds you for a few months. Max and I had even named this from the start of our relationship, we knew exactly what we were getting into, and here we are in the middle of the challenges.

I realize deeply that I have been contemptuous of him from the start, I’ve been learning to accept and love the aspects I find challenging about him, but the contempt lingers and underlays everything that we do together. No wonder it doesn’t work.”

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I can’t take back or change the time Max and I spent together, nor would I want to. The love we shared, though not Imago love, was a deep and committed friendship and romance that we supported through strength and determination. I became a much clearer and more loving person through the dedication we had to working out our stuff together. It’s beautiful to see now that Max and I were able to transition our relationship, still maintain a friendship, and co-support each other in understanding our challenges as we work towards moving closer to our vision for what our dream lives look like, even though we aren’t romantically together anymore.

I decided that in the future to merge my life on that level with someone, I would really need to care at the core about who they were, what they wanted, and how we could be together.

When Dan and I met up again this spring and sparked like crazy, again. I thought. “This is what is needed at the core of it, this is the feeling to come back to, to try and find again if shit hits the fan.” A part of me relaxed and loved deeper. We still are. I could tell you stories for days, and…. Dan and I are still navigating how much and what I share about our life with the world through FB. I’ll share more when we get clearer.

What I didn’t realize at the time of the insight with Max was that I needed to apply this to my friends too. To all the people in my world, the ones I was dreaming and creating and visioning with as well. To be meticulous about the quality of the connection. This is strange for a woman who is used to figuring out who to hang out with by “social survivability standards”

1. do they look/feel dangerous, no.
2. Do they look/feel reasonably like-minded. Yes.
3. Are they leaving the country tomorrow or in the next week? No.
4.Do we like each other enough to spend time together for a couple of hours because we have nothing better to do as travelers. Yes.
Okay now we are friends!!!

It’s a new ball game for me to figure out what long term friendships can look like.

When I arrived back in Calgary, I connected with the people around me. I reached out to the people I remembered being helpful, kind and supportive in my life. The people I really liked last time I was here. Some of them replied, some of them had moved on. Great. Got support network. Whew. Social Survivability is taken care of.

As the new year comes closer, there’s a feeling of checking in, how is this whole “having longer-term friends thing going Elena?” Add in some recent relationship challenges, and it seems more important than ever to ask the question…. is the core, the spark, the feeling of it all strong enough to maintain the love through the times of challenge?

Questions I’m asking myself about my relationships…

Is the spark there at the core?
Even if our shared vision never happened, would I still want to be around this person?
Do they demonstrate the skills needed to work on the challenges that may arise?
Do our dreams for the future align?

Six months later, the community has expanded, At the potlucks I see others connecting together, friends forming, connections moving deeper. It’s beautiful, heartwarming, and loving. I notice that I feel the spark with some people, it’s got that Imago feeling, that feeling that it’s amazing just to lay in their arms and be warm and silent, or talkative, or whatever together. The feeling that my heart sparks when they walk into the room. I’ve noticed that I don’t have that with others. Some are interesting to me even without the spark, and some are in between, and some people I’m happy to see, but may never really get to know. Only time will tell. I’m learning that’s okay.

I see people I spark with connecting deeply with others. I watch them go super deep into conversation or cuddles, and that’s great. My heart is warm for their love, whatever brings them joy. I want them to follow their hearts and explore where seems most interesting. I see new faces, and I’m curious about them, wondering who they are and what they be. Some of them spark with me more than others. I’m learning that’s okay.

Maybe we see each other once a month, once a week, never outside of potlucks. Each relationship is different… With a new awareness for some of the projections I’ve been putting on others, and some of the ones I’m finding have been put on me, I find it more and more important to get clear what are the expectations around the friendships I have. Do we want to get together more? Do we have the time? Is it enough to see each other in passing once a month, share some cuddle puddle, and food, and know that we’re still around and still showing up to the same places? I also want to check in, are there places/people with whom I may have miscommunicated, or have I been unclear on what I could give, or needed to receive?

I’m committing to sitting down and checking in on who and how I want to nurture in friendship, love, and collaboration. I’d encourage you to do it too.

Your thoughts, questions, comments, clarifications are always welcome.

<3 E

Bargain like a Berber

How to hold your own, and not feel like you’re getting scammed every day you’re in Morocco.   Your guide to the psychology of the bargain and the mutual win in Barter.

Story: The Fatima Henna

The streets of Marrakesh are teeming with people. the experience is maddening, especially trying to keep hold of a 6 year old boy who has just had ice cream.  Imagine his small blonde head, amongst a sea of brunet adults, in the darkness of New Years Eve.  There are thousands more here than usual, and the space throngs with people.  I don’t know how much of this I can handle, but we’re here and I couldn’t NOT come see it, so we’ll see how long it lasts.

All of a sudeen, a dark shape intent on our little group materializes into a woman.  Fatima, her eyes are smiling, the rest of her facing hiding behind a hijab. “Hello” she says and takes my hand firmly in hers… she holds it poised, as if to kiss it, and then deftly pulls out a needle.. I start to freak out! WTF….but it’s a henna pen, and she deftly starts to etch beautiful arcs of flowers onto my hand. 


She pauses and I go to pull my hand away.. she holds it, firmly, and definitely clear that she is NOT letting go of my hand.. “Excuse me..  Give me my hand back” I say to her. 

Max looks at me.  “She’s GOING to ask for money..” Is written all over his face.  We’ve done this already before.  She hurriedly says .. “for free, for free” meaning she’s doing this for free. yah right.

She finishes the drawing on my hand in less than 40 seconds, and turns to face my small son.  She grabs his hand and starts drawing a scorpion on his arm.  I ask her to stop but she doesn’t stop until she is done with the drawing.   When she’s done, she turns around, and says “Selfie! Take a selfie” and poses, with the needle right next to her face and my hand.  She’s done this before, and we both know it.  She looks up at me, her eyes are no longer smiling, but have a questing, victim tinge to them, she’s about to ask me for money, I know it.

“I usually charge 600 dirhams just for the scorpion,” she holds Alex’s arm up towards me, and he squacks a complaint, because she’s almost lifting him off the ground. “But for you I ask only 300”

I look at her square in the face.  “You said it was free.”

“You just give me 300, no problems.”  300 dirhams is 27 euros.  No fucking way is that happening.

I can tell she’s done this hundreds of times today already.  Two blonde haired tourists and a child are an easy mark, and she pegged us minutes ago.

“You said it was free, and I’m sorry, but you chose the wrong people to get money out of tonight.” I lay it all out on the table, made it clear she’s not getting anything.

“Just a little bit of money, for my children, my family.” Her eyes glaze, but it’s so fake I almost puke.

We go back and forth a few more times, and I’m tempted to just give her cash, but it’s tottal bullshit, and I’m not going to, just on the principle that it’s bad to teach the locals that their shit scams actually work.  I decide to hold firm.  “I’m not paying you, you said it was a gift, otherwise I would have taken my hand back.  But you wouldn’t let me”

She glares at me. She’s realized it’s not going to work, and she’s wasted 4 minutes of her time for no money.  “Fine!” she half yells, and grabs my hand, scooping the still wet henna back into her device.  She reaches for Alex’s arm and does the same and then walks off without a word.

I feel like my hand has been raped, and for some reason the person who did is mad at me, even though they lied.  My heart is confused, and my trust in the goodness of humanity just died a little.

 

Understanding What Went Wrong in the Psychology of it All

To win at the bargain, you need to know how to make fun.  That is completely the point of the barter.  Of course you are also choosing a price and an exchange of money, but it is primarily an interaction based in humour and building of relationship.  So without further ado, here’s a step by step to stay in your power, and have FUN while bargaining. 

When you greet your merchant, be friendly and cordial.  Identify what you want to purchase.  Preferably having scoped out prices elsewhere or from friends beforehand so you have a range for a fair price.

Looking at the item, smile, look at them, and ask for the price.  Keep eye contact.

Wait for the response.  Whatever they say, look at them like what they said was crazy while they say it. 

You can say something like “really? are you sure sir?” and look at him again in the eyes and laugh a little.

Whatever he says, laugh in response, and maintain a happy vibe.

Offer you hand forward to hold whatever item you’re discussing. 
Now holding the item, say to him, come on now, let’s not muck about, what’s your LAST/Best price?  Smile and laugh.

Wait to see what he says.  Don’t do anything but ask the same question or laugh if he tries to ask you for your price. 

***Exchanging Hands****

Whatever he ends up saying.. Your final deal is going to be 1/4 to 1/2 of this number depending on how well you push back.

Laugh and offer the item back to him.  “No really sir, that’s not fair at all (that’s too much)” and laugh. keep eye contact.

  • If he objects and stays the same price, put it back in his hand.
  • If he drops his price a little bit, frown and offer it to him again.

“Well I did like it, I like it in this colour, no not the other colours, this one, but its just a little to much” point out the flaws of the item, and also what you liked about it, like you’re thinking it over.

“What was your lowest price sir?” wink and laugh like you have forgotten what he said before (Or ask in seriousness, but with a smile in your eyes looking at him)

Keep laughing and asking for a best price until you have hit 1/2 of the original asking price. Do not make a counter offer yet! 

Avoid making a counter offer as long as possible, because once you’ve done this, you’ve basically agreed to pay half the difference between your two prices, and he’s got more leverage to raise the price a bit by not budging (which they can be very good at)

“Well it’s (not very good quality, not as nice as the other one we saw, but I’m here, and I want it now.  I was only thinking to pay less than that”

At which point they will say “how much do you want to pay?”

“Well I was hoping to spend XXX (low ball your price to 10-20% of his asking offer) yes it will feel ridiculous, but if you do it smiling and looking at him, KNOWING and letting him know that you know that you are playing a game together.  He’s going to act shocked, offended, and repulsed by your offer.  He has to be, that’s his gig, especially since you’ve already shown him you know how to play the game.  If he doesn’t play hard now he’s going to give you the item for too cheep..

This is often where real respect and admiration and friendship can happen, because you are now laughing together both acknowledging playing the game together, so you can laugh your way through the rest of it.  By making it past this hurdle, you’ve gained “not just another tourist” status, and they will love you for it, maybe even invite you to have tea.

He’s going to say “that’s too little, give me X” which may be a little bit less than his previous asking price.  If it’s the same price, use the “exchanging hands” trick to shift the power dynamic again.

Depending on how much he drops from his original price tells you how much it’s marked up. 

If the item is 300 originally, and he drops to 250, and then to 220.  You know that he has at least a margin of 200, and probably he paid 30 for the item.  So you can laugh in a friendly way, lowball him at 30, naming the price, and barter back and for to 60-160 for the item..

Or pay 300 for it. Your choice!

The funny thing about Morococo, is that although people are constantly trying to bully you, if you overpay for something.  (Say he asks for 300, and you give it to him without haggling, he’s just as likely to give you 50 in change anyways, and smile at you)  But also with a sad look in his eyes, like you missed the point of the interaction. 

Using Cash, Power Games and the little lie

I’ve got 20 minutes to find a shop, choose my loot, and bargain a price for the small cash I actually have on me.  It’s the worst situation to bargain in, but I’m leaving tomorrow and it’s now or never to get my trinkets.

I choose my Fatima hands (a symbol of good luck and protection in Morocco), we package them up and I know I’ve fudged the order for my best bargain.  My package wrapped up gives me no leeway to haggle with physical objects.  And I’ve got a time limit coming up soon.

I ask him how much he wants, and he asks me for 600 dirham. Almost $80 Cad, and I truly balk.  I’ve chosen 15 hands, of various quality, none of it guaranteed silver, though they always say it is, and it’s just way too much.  I had planned to spend $5 and I have $30 in my wallet.

So I pull out all the stops, asking him for less, etc etc.  Saying I only have 200 in my wallet, knowing I have a little bit more.  He knows as a tourist I can always go get more money, so it’s an accepted lie.  We open the package and take away a few of the trinkets, pairing it down to the few and required ones. 

I have 5 minutes before Alex looses it, and we miss our ride to Paradise Valley.  We’re stuck at 400, and I just don’t have it.  I reach into my wallet pull out $200 and motion to the older man.  I’ll pay this much for it right now, you’ll make the cash up on the next person, and I’ll thank you. 

I don’t know if this will work.  I’ve never tried such a lowball with just cash, but I can see his eyes flicker across the cash.  He may not have made any sales yet today, or not enough to cover his expenses.  He doesn’t know what will happen after this, and he’s come a long way to sell.  He wants the cash, and I know it.

“You can take this now, or we can sit and have tea if you want.”  (I say this to him, in reality I have less than 3 minutes to meet our ride. I almost have to walk away, but I can’t let him know that, because I need to appear to be able to continue the battle.  Time is not on my side!)

I laugh as I offer tea.  By saying this I’ve singled that this is my last offer, I will sit and drink tea for 30 minutes with him before I we would even talk about another price.  I am set in my price and not moving and he knows it.  This is what the offer of tea brings.

So, I hold the money out, my arm outstretch towards him, 200 at the end of my arm reaching out for him to claim as his.

The old man looks at me with a new respect.  He stands there.  He’s holding my Fatima hands, I want them. Ke knows I want them, which he can always hold over me.   I want this price.  He looks at my cash, then at his younger shopkeeper friend. 

They say something back and forth in Arabic, and the younger man shakes his head.  “Really, this is a crazy price, it’s not a good price for me, but I see you are a good woman, and my friend says we should say yes to you.  But really it’s a crazy price.”

I smile broadly as I thank him profusely, and he hands me the package.  I hand his older friend the cash, and we smile at each other with a wink.  Our hearts hug, though the culture forbids us to do anything but shake hands.  A camaraderie of having made it through the battle unscathed, and both slightly richer makes me feel happy and accomplished.

I feel I just got a steal of a deal.  He has more money to feed his family tonight. We both win, and the experience was fun and funny all the way through.  I head to the car, and arrive in perfect timing to hop in and head to our next adventure.

When road is home, where is the road?

Today it’s been 21 months, 9 countries, 26 homes, 3 boyfriends, and well over 60,000km since I last set foot in my home country. It’s been more than a year since I started to hear her call me to go back. And finally.. FINALLY here I am, in my last 15 days on the road. Tickets booked. Lets go.

There is the unmistakable feeling in the air..

I am going home.

But funny enough, I’m not going home to the country of my birth. That country Canada hasn’t felt like home since I came back from my first trip and didn’t understand how people could live like they do.  I couldn’t understand their suburbs, with their 9-5 jobs and 2 hour commutes, and always living indoors, and so far away from each other.  The culture I came from shocked and appalled me after my first trip, and as soon as I could I got my butt out of the “first world” back to the “developing world”.  After that first trip I spent the next 5 years traveling back and forth between Mexico and Canada, with a gap year for the birth of my son.  He and I had our first trip to when he was 10 months old.  It’s a time of celebration. I am returning to my beloved home in Mexico.  A space where the worst and best days of my life have happened, and where I have more history as an adult than other single place in the world. I am excited beyond excited.  Today as I booked the flights, I had to jump up and scream because it just bubbled through me so much.  Back to this town that made me feel like I was home the moment I walked into it the first time and I said “hmm, I like it here, lets stay.”

Yet If i knew it as my home, why have I wandered away?

It’s a good question, and one I’ve asked myself often while I continued to travel after feeling the call to return about a year ago.

Love has something to do with it.  I went to Bali in search of “a person or a place to call home” thinking that I would either settle in Bali for some time, or find a world traveling hottie to parent and travel with me.  Turns out I actually did both.  Staying in Bali for 6 months, was long enough to fall in love with the all day cuddle puddles, ecstatic dance, and vegan super food for days, and also long enough to feel like my “conscious uniqueness” made me one of the pack, to realize I didn’t want to learn Indonesian, which would forever make me “that jerk who’s lived here for years and doesn’t speak the local language” and for the hyper-monetized and eratic visa and work permit system of $75-300/month to start to agrevate me.  As I sat waiting to have my fingerprints taken for my not so cheep “social visa” in Bali, I yearned for Mexico’s free 6 month visa, renewable at your local airport for a $25 bribe or a quick flight home for Christmas. 

I also realized that Bali was not a place where many people stayed for long. I heard enough stories of deportation, massive crisis, or simply up and packing up from people who had planned to stay longer to know that Bali has a consciousness (as a magical islands often do) that will choose for you, whether you stay or not.  When I got evicted from my apartment 1 week before my 6 month visa expired, I knew it was time to go, and although I loved my time there, I knew I wouldn’t be coming back to live.

Onwards to Thailand, and I found a person to call home. 5 days into my adventure in Thailand, I met Maxim, who I came to admire, love, despise, and love again.  Who I traveled with for the next 9 months.  Experiencing deeply, (finally!) what it is to be a collaborative co-parent with someone who gives a shit about us and is committed to conscious relationship and to creating life together.  What a journey and a blessing our relationship was to me.  Showing me that I can have everything I asked for, and that in fact, once I get it, I might want something completely different. 

Together we made a home of the road, and learned to love where we were in Thailand, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Lightning in a Bottle, Seattle, the airports of the world, Calgary, the JoyGasmobile (my car), Inshala, Edmonton, Astral Harvest, Vancouver Island, Seattle, Moab, Denver, before leaving the car in Denver for a complete stranger to pick up the next day, while we headed across the ocean to Rykiavik, Paris, Nantes, Angles, Toulouse, Barcelona (my love!), and Benicasim, before heading to Morocco, visiting Essaouira, Casablanca, Fez, Marrakesh and Taghazout.  Phew, while it is definitely a life of adventure and travel, in 9 months we had 26 homes.  Many times not knowing where we would be sleeping, living or staying next week, or if we had the cash to rent a place in the city we were moving to next.

On a psychologists list of the list of major stressors of life, “moving house” is in the top 5, along with getting divorced, having new children, loosing a job or a family member.

Wanting something more has something to do with it..  While I’ve traveled to Mexico and back with Alex since before he was born, I’d always wanted to travel differently.  I wanted to see the world, adventure, visit foreign beaches, travel more, more often and in more luxury than I was used to.  Stay in the AirBNB in the centre of town for a few nights, and see the sights, instead of renting a cheep place on the edge of town for a month because it’s what I can afford.  I wanted to skip through France and Spain like it was a hopscotch, the way other people do. Travel like that requires more stamina and endurance than my single mom self could save up.  Being in small town France 1000’s of km away from anyone english speaking while your kid has a meltdown in the grocery store, is 100x easier, when your boyfriend comes around the corner and tells you “I’ll watch him, you go find the cheese.”   That moment is a luxury you don’t have as a single mom traveling, and moments like that that (where I would want to walk off and take a breather, but in a foreign town where no one knows us, that makes me a negligent parent) has stoped me from the kind of wild travel I’ve done in the last year.  The kind of travel that that require more bandwidth and capacity than I had alone.  And I did it. The last year has been a revelation and a dream come true for me.  I now know what it feels like to travel like that.

Now I’ve had a chance to do all of those things and I’ve come to a surprising conclusion.  I don’t want to travel anymore, at least not right now.

But I also want something very specific.  I started traveling for three reasons, Climate, Lifestyle and Cost of Living.  Mexico fit the hat, but so does Thailand, Malaysia, Morocco, Greece, all of Central America, and probably about 30 other countries around the world. 

At this point I’ve seen dozens of countries, cultures, lifestyles, and judged it all as to my liking or not. But you know what they all have? Food. Language. Social dynamics. Also climate, grocery stores, restaurants, toilets, streets, lamp posts, cars, cats and dogs, buildings, views, sunsets, nature, too much city in the cities, commercialization, consumerism, dirt, plastic wrappers everywhere, I could go on.  They all have it, in varying degrees. Thailand has only dogs, and Malaysia has only cats.  Fez’s Medina has less cars, and more scam artists than Marrakesh, but is also sweeter in a way. Essaouira is a whirlwind of garbage on a bad day, but it’s got the best rooftop cafe I’ve ever loved.

I know what kind of dynamic I like, on each and every one of those spectrums. 

Social Dynamics=Not too fucking patriarchal, with a solid expat community,

Climate=daytime temp between 25-28 +- 4 degrees, 300+ days of sun, tropical on the ocean.

Grocery Stores=within a 3 minute walk, fresh and local, organic market once a week, and cheep

Restaurants=meals under $5, and a wide spectrum within the town.  Smoothie bar a must.

So when I’m thinking about where I want to live in the world, based on my specific travel experience, that looks something like like… hmmmm well Bali is cleaner with more flowers and incense on the streets than anywhere in the world which I LOVE. They give Ubudian hugs, but Ubud is in the mountains and I never go to the ocean there, and actually the oceans so dirty in Bali that I don’t want to swim in them, the beaches aren’t as nice as Mexico, and smoking a joint will get me arrested or hanged.  Visas are expensive, changing constantly, and I could get deported for advertising my business.  Scratch that one off the list.

But it’s not REALLY about the stuff, or the things I’ve seen, it’s about the people. I mean, I know I’m not willing to compromise on some things.  Like climate, I don’t do the cold anymore. After experiencing 3 consecutive years of summer there’s no going back.  But I’m like the rest of us, if you ask any long term traveler what they love about travel, they will invariably say “the people you meet along the way.”  It’s true, meeting new people is fascinating.

Along the way, I have met 1000’s of fellow travellers.  People I have loved, and still love.

People who when I look at it objectively, are undoubtably more comfortable with discomfort than they are with comfort. 

I’ve met people who would rather sleep under a tree in the rain, than have a real job.  Who can pack their whole lives into a backpack in less than 20 minutes, because they never really unpack all the way.  People who would rather not know where or how they will get to their next destination than have a plan and stick to it. I’ve also met entrepreneurs, creatives, Tantrikas, kids on gap years, and seasoned travellers who have been on the road longer than I’ve been alive.  Each with their own fascinating stories to tell, and each with their own journey ahead and behind them.

When you’re on the road, your learn that there is always SOMEONE to be your friend for the moment.

You want company for a meal you introduce yourself to the people you want to sit with at the restaurant, you need a good cry, you meet someone at the hostel who looks just like your sister, and love each other instantly, and cry for and hour together about the things that are going on in your life, without even sharing what those things are..  Or maybe just someone who understands what it’s like to travel the way you do.. slow or fast, cheep or expensive, long or short term… There is always someone.

There is always someone, but the someones come and go. It gives you a sort of quirked view of the world.  “Oh, I guess I’m leaving this town, and I’ll miss Sarah SO MUCH.. but I also know there will be a new “best friend character” in the next place I land so… No problem.. By Sarah! 🙂  It creates a kind of loving detachment that I honestly think the rest of the world could use to learn some from.  Then there’s the repetition of SOMEBODY… There are only so many times you can answer the questions “Where are you from? How long have you been traveling, “oh my god that’s a long time” where are you going next? How old is your son, where is his dad?  etc etc.  Then I turn it around and ask them back.. oh joy!  Some days it’s magical, and I’m fascinated by their answers.  On an average day my threshold for this is 2-4 encounters of people asking me these questions.  Some days I answer happily, enjoying the chance to feel their envy and curiosity at the length and breadth of my travels.  But some days I’m yearning for home, and I couldn’t care less where they are from or where they are going.. and my answer to their “Oh, where are you from?” is “I don’t feel like answering that question right now. I just want to sit here in silence.”  in varying degrees of politeness depending on my mood.

Recently traveling has become a ugly, because my heart wants to go home, and wants my friends to be there.

I yearn for people I can talk about the substance of life with, the way I feel about what’s happening in my life, people who I don’t have to fill in on my dirty relationship history, so that they can help me understand the bigger patterns. People who I legitimately care about, not just because they are the only other white person in the airport lobby who might speak English, or because they happen to (have a smoke, get to chatting, take a selfie, get asked on a date, and then get little emoji’s on Facebook for weeks on end afterwards), or because they have lots of patience to play with Alex and I really need a break from him, or maybe it’s someone I actually really enjoy the company of, but who I know is leaving in 5 days so don’t get too invested.  I want relationships that mean something to me, that have depth and width and length.  That have time, and years, and stories, and memories, and laughter, and tears and Ubudian hugs, because that’s just how they love.

When I first started to travel the world, it struck me how intimately interconnected the families and communities in the “developing world” are, compared to how I grew up.  I wanted that interconnectedness for myself.

I saw 4 generations living together in a family compound in Bali.  Yes partially because they are poor and they can’t afford more.  But they laugh together, they spend days, weeks, years sitting together staring out into the rice paddies, and eating the meagre food they have.  They smile a lot, they laugh a lot, and there are lots of them.  Families are large sprawling things, and the friends in town are too many to count. And I want that! Because let’s face it, my family is 5 people.  Mom, dad, sister, me and my kid.  Yes, technically we have aunts and cousins and uncles and grandparents (well, grandma, the one I’ve got left) … But they all lived over 3000km away when I was a child, and are still 1200km from my parents now. The experience of extended family for me was a long long long drive away and something that only happened once a year. So I’m homesick for family.

Along the way, people who wished they could travel more but didn’t, invariably asked me “But, don’t you miss your friends?” to which I would usually shrug, and say “nah”.  Being on the road for 6 years, you get used to the “somebody” factor, and just keep moving on.  But it’s a scam, I’ve never been okay with it.  If someone asked me on a rough day the same question, I’d end up in tears from the pain of missing “friends”.  I’m realizing slowly just how deep that wound goes, how much I’m really just used to not having anyone who cares around. Realizing that part of the reason I traveled in the first place was because I didn’t really feel like I had friends, no one there to hold me back, not since I was 10 and we moved away.

It’s an old story, abandonment.  Almost a better friend than any friend I’ve ever had. It’s always been there.

My own personal friend trauma runs deep, and brings tears to my eyes just writing this. When my best friend left for collage, the pain of being left behind was something I buried really really really deep, with alcoholl and drugs and sleepless sex filled nights, and it tries to come back up every time I leave, or even meet someone I really click with. I often wonder when I meet my traveling folks, how many of them have unresolved trauma from being moved as a kid, from feeling abandoned by parents, who feel unworthy and that they don’t belong in the world.  See you have the power when you travel, you always leave first, move on, be the adventurous soul, look forwards not backwards, keep moving, keep moving, get lost in an endless stream of planning the next move.  No one can hurt you if you have no fixed home and you always leave first.  You get used to the dance of abandonment.

But things are changing inside of me. I feel the place that used to know what friendship looks like growing bigger.  When I left Bali I had let myself grow into my friends, and I realized that as I left I was shutting my emotions down, I didn’t want to feel sad they were going.  This time I made a choice to actually let myself FEEL how much it hurt to leave people who I had grown to love, and I cried for days.  I felt each of them as they left and I cried when I left, for the ones I had left behind, even though they too were traveling onwards in the next few days.

Realizing that every single time I left this next country, my heart broke a little deeper, as I pushed them away, and said I was fine.

So in Morocco I find myself looking at the locals and envying them.  Tonight as I walked through the square, a man gripped another mans forearm, leaned into him and kissed him on the cheek as he said goodnight.  A friend, an acquaintance, I can’t know.  But the story I told about them is that they’ve know each other for years. I’ll see you tomorrow he says, before he walks way.  A blessing so deep I can’t even fathom, and one he takes for granted. That he will see this man tomorrow, and has years to get to know him. Tonight a stranger joined Alex and I at our fire and saw a friend and invited him over.  The friend, an older man, with 4 children of his own, tells stories of how he watched this man next to me run around when he was the same age as my son.  Tears flow to my eyes, as my heart yearns for people who have known me my whole life, who have seen me grow.  Yearn for the moment when I have my second child, and the same people watch them grow, as they watched the first.  Not strangers, not thousands of different cities.  The same people. 

I yearn for friends, and connections that sustain and endure, beyond an hour, or a week, or a month. For people I adore who I see more than once every 2 years. To live someplace my family of origin can also call home, and get to easily.  This is now important to me, and I wasn’t before. I also realize that it’s a hell of a lot more challenging to do that when all the people you like are traveling people and they pop around on their own whims and schedules all the time.  It’s a lot easier when you sit still in one place, with some others who sit in one place, and let all of life move around you.  I see the people here, all around me, I am surrounded by people who have friends, who have connection, who have love in their lives, continuity, relationship.  Yes dysfunction too I’m sure (after all we’re in Morocco, bastion of patriarchy), but friendships and camaraderie they have for sure. Thousands of little moments of friendship all around me.

Traveling lets you meet a thousand people,
but you only get a day with each of them.

Okay, some you have more time with, but with all the meeting and leaving, and repetition, and shallowness it can be an incredibly lonely journey. I am realizing now that I want a thousand days (2.739 years) with two or three or seven people or maybe more!  I’m realizing that I’m finally ready to let that wound heal even further, to do what it takes to let people in, to explore their lives, and spend time with people I really find fascinating and care about, and let myself stick around, or come back again and again, to find out they are really kind of boring and so am I, but I love the feeling of the silence we share, or the laugh we have when we both realize we love upside down jam sandwiches.  Because.. if I do that, if I let that in… Friendship, and sisterhood, and love for myself and for others, then.. then I get to be the kind of person who can actually spend years living in a community of women and men that are powerhouse crazy god{desses, and happen to also have lots of coo-ing mama love to share and help with changing that second baby’s nappies, while we get together and someone remembered my favourite dish, and it just got delivered so I can sit and eat with my besties, while breastfeeding topless in warm summer air, with the sound of the cicadas in the jungle, watching the epic sunset into the perfect ocean. Okay, so maybe it won’t be quite like that, but I bet you it’ll actually be 100x more beautiful in other ways, and I’m finally open to it.

So I’m willing to settle on some things, (like letting go of my last relationship) and win at many others, to find a spot that feels like the perfect spot for me, and hang my hat, and my backpacks up for a while, and see who I am when I do life this way.  Grounded, rooted, home.  To see who I am when I let people in, when I actually make a point to get to know the people around me over and over again, and let myself relax out of always planning the next trip across the world, and just plan a weekly gathering, (or a bi-yearly retreat.. cmon, when have I ever been simple)

I’m feel like I’m finally ready say, I’ve found my perfect piece of paradise and let myself live in it. Mexico, I’m coming home.

Hubud Killed my Design Business, (and gifted me my life)

I remember the day I first heard about Hubud. I was sitting in a cubicle I shared with 2 other people in a co-working space in a cute surfing tourist town, Sayulita, Mexico. It was the first time in 3 years I had worked with other people around me. The first time since becoming an entrepreneur, I hadn’t been alone in my home office day after day, and I thought it was great. Someone to tap on the shoulder and ask a quick questions to, someone to enjoy moments with, conversations and sales pitches I get to overhear across the room. Most of all, people who became my friends.

One day as I was expressing this, a friend of mine said to me. “You think this is great, you should checkout Hubud.” “What’s a Hubud?” I said. He laughed. My web browser opened, and the famous first words tumbled across my page. “Our Work Is Changing”.  I had no idea how prophetic and funny these words would become to me. 

I did know that I was hooked, I knew I would go there and work. It had dream life bucket list written all over it.

I planned for October of that year, and things came true even faster. By mid August I was flying to Bali, and solo, without Alex in tow (a major miracle in and of itself!) The very first thing I did when I landed was go to Hubud for social hour. I met people. I laughed so hard I cried and had to step away from the vortex of hilariousness. The next night was Invasion X. As a single mom, recently escaped into a few months of single 29 year old nomad freedom, it was mindboggling awesome! I danced, I partied, I stayed up way late, and slept in until no one woke me up.

Then Bali did what Bali does. It asked me to grow.

In those first weeks of being here, not only did I quickly decide that I was going to make Bali my home. But I got a glimpse into other nomad’s worlds. I got to sit in a Tribe Wanted meeting, and hear someone else who REALLY understood UX/UI design speak to someone’s question. I got to hear someone who was PASSIONATE about plugin design (seriously? I don’t get it, but he was stoked!) I got to listen to someone who really knew marketing hash out ideas and give advice in 5 min flat. I got to listen to so many people who are experts in their fields. My field. For the first few days I was awestruck, overwhelmed at my incompetence, and their brilliance, and in a space of shock at the difference between the two.

It was hard for me to even show up at Hubud,
because I felt like a fraud.

See as someone who was self trained, and had never officially attended marketing school, design school, business school or anything of the sort,  I had very early on niched early on into “graphics and websites for new age, healer types who know nothing about such things and desperately need help.”  I was automatically an expert. I mean, I was working with people who couldn’t set up their own paypal accounts, and sometimes struggled with signing into their FaceBook accounts. NO ONE in that world knew any better than I did.

When I came to Hubud. That all changed. Suddenly I was at the bottom of the knowledge pool. In theory you think that would have made me super keen to learn, expand and find out more about what there was to know about UX/UI/Amazon Selling/Marketing/Graphics etc. That was part of why I had come here! To learn from amazing people, and to grow my skills!

In fact it did exactly the opposite. It catalyzed something that had been deep inside my business and myself for a long time. Which was that I wasn’t really that passionate about marketing others. I had kind of fallen into it, out of necessity, and requests from others, and built myself up as the “go to person” in my own little very niche community. (as you should do in any business, and especially the marketing world) and although I’d studied some courses, and watched others peoples marketing campaigns, I really had no idea or interest into delving really deep into any of it. The idea of A/B testing other people’s products made my skin crawl. Not a good sign.

So within a few short weeks at Hubud, I had finished up my last few projects. Bailed completely on one that was a project from hell that had been lagging and vamping my energy for months and quit it all. Giving myself a new sense of freedom in the world.

So what do I want to do NOW? Now that I’m not lying to myself every day about liking my work.

The answer became clear and obvious, as I talked to people about what I was doing here and what my journey had entailed. This long standing lover and project of mine, JoyGasm, wanted to be born, here. Now. As I looked around at Hubud, I saw some applications for it here, I saw some people talking about the ideas of Orgasmic Writing, The Art of Adventure, Killer Morning Routines, and Mindfulness to change your life. There was some potential for my message to be heard here. Then I began to open my eyes to the world outside Hubud.

When I looked outside those bamboo walls, to the streets and restaurants, and yoga studios and healing centers of Ubud. I realized that my potential in this place, that I had come 1/3 of the way around the world to work at Hubud for, was much bigger than what I had imagined. It was in fact that most fertile place in the entire world for me to bring my true self into the world, to bring my true self’s calling. To step into my JoyGasmic leadership, and my true vocation as healer (why do you think I resonated with them so much as clients? Hmmm?) and take the knowledge, experience, and yes, technical skills, I had learned for the last 4 years of marketing holistic types, and launch my own project, finally and beautifully in to the world.

So thank you Hubud. It’s been an unexpected and beautiful journey, I now love many of you as friends. I’m so appreciative for the moments we’ve shared. I look forward to Invasion X+1 and I’ll be back to give you kisses, hugs, and JoyGasm’s soon. Because beyond a place to work, a place to connect with people who I now love you’ve helped me see who I really am, you killed my design business, and in the process helped me find my passion for life again.

The Reverse Gap

It’s 2:22. Some day in July 2015. I’m sitting lounging on green silk, propped up on pillows, in a hammok, on the 3rd floor of a cabana type house on the coast of Mexico.  I'm surrounded on 4 sides by native jungle, and on 1.5 sides there is ocean, with islands that I love to paddle around. The sounds of crickets is so present you don’t even hear it, nature is all around, the birds call out from time to time and laugh with me.

I’m on a business call, listening to a client talk about their business, how they are helping people live happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives. We’re talking about big visions, and the vastness of possibility, and also about how I can help take the minutia of business off their hands. There’s a sense of synergy in the air, and it’s palpable. I feel alive, and vibrant, and on purpose. I’ve had soul raising goosebumps at least 3 times in the conversation already, and now it’s 2:22. Joy fills my soul.

How do I know it’s 2:22? There is a beautiful chime echoing through the space of my outdoor office, it's coming from my phone and my mind knows exactly what this means. One of my favorite daily celebrations has arrived.

The client is talking about something, telling a story about their business experiences. So part of my mind wanders back to the trigger memory I created. It's about a year ago, my best friends face fills my mind, she's beautiful. I’m at her house, we’re celebrating together. Dancing like crazy fools in her living room because it’s the 1 year anniversary of “last day of bus”. 

Last Day!!!

The Last Day!!! Thank God! 

Along with that joyful memory, comes the year before. It’s a peak memory of sorrow. In 2013, this alarm at 2:22 meant I had to put my laptop down, let go of my precious  business space, and go drive a fucking school bus. I hated it.  There is a memory of sobbing with my head in her lap. I was so upset, my soul tortured by the monotony of useless tasks, and the abject terror of “what if I never escape this bus job. What if this is my life?”

And then I look back, and where I’m at RIGHT NOW. On the rooftop, with an awesome client call. I breathe in the perfection of it all.

Today, I’m not doing any of those things, but I’m thinking about them. Why? Because of something called the Reverse Gap. Let me tell you a little bit more about it, and how you can use it yourself. 

I’m greatful for the entirety of the moment, the current moment, the celebration, the distant past, the knowledge of that the power of that shift is being projected into the future and creating powerful change for my current self. I am so happy, and I am so proud, and I am so READY to share.

The Forward Gap Visionary Entrepreneur 


· You know where you are.

· You know where you want to be.

· There’s a GAP between these two things.

· Sometimes the the gap inspires you.  You know you're on a path to greatness.

Sometimes the gap makes you miserable, because you’re not there yet.

· On bad days, the HUGENESS of the gap makes you lose motivation and cry for a week.

Or... you could look at it like this. 

The Reverse Gap Visionary Entrepreneur 


· You know where you are.

· You know where you want to be.

· You know where you were a year ago.

· You’re able to see how much progress you’ve made (aka your bus story!)

· On good AND bad days, the gap fuels your fire, and pushes you forward into your vision.

And this is why I celebrate the cursed bus, every single day of my life. Because it was just over a two years ago that I claimed my “last day of a job job EVER” and had the best month in my business yet.  The bus showed me what my life could look like as a single mom if I didn’t put my nose to the vision board and get MOVING on my dream. It gave me the fear and the fuel to create the growth I’ve created in my life!

A modern celebration version of this is my little celebration that you're getting THIS particular peice of content, because I'm processing big stuff right now and I can't share what's going on in real time. This is a reminder for me, becuase it wasn't so long ago that I was completely unable to share book chapters or blog posts through my newsletter AT ALL, I was paralyzed by the fear of what you might think, and that I was too much in my honest expression.  

The blessing of that, is that now I have a backlog of things I haven't shared, so I have the room to keep sharing the whole journey authentically, and be scared at the same time. This is the first time in the history of my writing, that I've kept writing, even when I was scared, instead of clamming up and not talking. This is a historic moment in the history of me.  A new benchmark for my reverse gap.  

What is YOUR reverse gap memory?
Where were you at 1 year ago?

Homework:  
Leave a comment about what YOUR reverse gap is.  
Put a Reverse Gap reminder into your phone, and spend moments celebrating how far you've come! 

How to Be A Free Spirit

A while back someone said to me “I see what you’re doing, and I’d love for my daughter to go travel, but how do you be a free spirit? Is it safe? How do you meet people?”

I wanted to answer this, becuase I think the biggest misconception people have about traveling is that people who travel are just like the people at home. Boy is this wrong.  Because in general, in cities and suburbs, people are busy, pre-occupied by their lives, caught up in their routines, and there is a lot of space between everyone.

When you’re traveling, everyone is in nomad land, plans are up in the air, and you’re in flow with the space of adventure. Time after time I am blown away by the generosity of the human spirit, and how total strangers become friends in less than 2 minutes. How others welcome you not only to a meal, but sometimes to a bed and breakfast in the morning, an adventure around town, or getting invited to a gem of a local restaurant, simply because you hit it off in a bus terminal.

I believe we all have a free spirit within us. Over years of being raised in a society of schools and jobs, we often forget this, the adventure of life gets lost amongst the hum drum of daily living. There is truly nothing to re-kindle the adventurous human spirit like booking a one way ticket, packing a backpack, and heading to the road to remind you what it truly is to be human.

You only need a few things to be to be a Free Spirit

A Willingness to Explore

We all have an innate curiosity. Before my first international trip, I had no idea how people in other countries lived. I basically thought that the entire world looked like the suburb I had grown up in. Boy was I in for a surprise. My first trip was a working holiday to Australia at 20, and I chose it because it was close enough culturally to my home in Canada that I figured I would stretch, but not have to learn a new language, and work if I needed to. I never looked back.

Get your Bag and Ditch the Stuff
You’re going to need a backpack, although you’re going to want to bring a ton of stuff, if you’re truly going on an ADVENTURE, the less you bring, the more freedom you’ll have, and the deeper you’ll move into realizing you can find anything you need wherever you are, and that you don’t need very much at all to travel in the world.

The Very Basics
3-6 outfits of tropical weather clothes, a light sweater, a pair of tights, 5 bikini’s and 2 pairs of underwear, toothbrush, toothpaste, bar of soap, hairbrush and a couple of elastics, tweezers, nail clippers, medical tape, a band aid or two, tea tree, lavender and ceaderwood essential oils, Tylenol and an antihistamine. Laptop/phone/chargers/travel adapter, a favorite crystals, journal and pen, a sarong/light blanket. That’s truly all you need.

Because I’m a creative type, I also bring my flute, a couple of sharpies/pens for drawing with, and index cards to make thank you notes/drawings when I feel like it. I also have a small bag with a few crystals/rocks/coins/mementos that have been traveling with me for decades they each have a memory along with them. I also have a decorative sarong I got from a friend, these things get setup whenever I’m in one place for more than 3 days. It’s part of what makes anywhere feel like home instantly.

But I need more stuff than that!!

You might think so, at first. But a lot of time that’s just a comfort of “I have this stuff it makes me feel safe” or “I have this need to super self express myself by wearing different clothes every day”. That’s cool, my first trip my bag was 80L and 50lbs. Within a few weeks, I had seen what I was carrying around and never used, and got rid of it. The longer you travel, the more you will value the freedom that a light bag brings you, and most people who have been traveling for a while have moved to something around the size of a 32L bag, which as a bonus, is carry on size. That means you don’t have to wait for baggage to off load off planes, and never have to worry about connections missing your bags.

Once you’re on the road, you’re going to have to master a few traits

Be Friendly

Remember, strangers are only friends you haven’t met yet. So how do you know who to talk to? I always say “follow the shiny people” That means anyone who catches your eye, or you just can’t stop looking at, is probably someone who has something valuable to share with you. How do you start a conversation? A compliment or a question about something you notice about someone is enough to start a connection and, once you’ve done that, extend your hand, or as if you can give them a hug. Introduce yourself, and ask their name. It’s really simple, and that act of touch builds trust and connection. Remember to be friendly with locals too, not just other travelers.

Ask Questions About Others

People LOVE to talk about themselves (it’s true). When you meet someone new there are a ton of “standard” questions that people always ask when traveling. Where are you from, how long have you been here? Where are you going? What’s it like where you’re from? What’s your favorite part about being here? Where have you traveled to? Oh! I’ve been there what did you like about it? Etc. Before long you’re just off on a conversation about all the things you have in common. Conversation is one of the best ways to pass 15 hours on a flight or a train, or waiting for a connection. These connections can be as deep, meaningful and profound as some of the longest friendships you’ve had. There is much to be learned.

Ask Questions About Yourself

Traveling is a never ending exercise in your own growth. Why am I scared of that? What would be the most fun for me? How can I have that happen? How do I want to grow as a person? What kind of experiences do I want to have? What do I need to feel safe? What is it that defines home for me? What biases and limitations do I have that I didn’t even know about? Do I trust people? Am I racist? Do I have judgments about how other people live? Can it be okay for people to be different then me? Who do I connect with? How do I want to spend my life?

All of these questions and more will be raised by your travels. Look forward to it with an open mind and heart. Growth is a part of life, and self exploration is as important to a Free Spirit as the next tropical adventure.

Know That Plans Will Change

On my first trip, I planned out exactly how long I was going to be in 15 different cities in Australia. I’ll be here for 3 months working, here for 2 days, here for 4 weeks exploring, here for… etc. Within 3 days of landing, that entire plan had been scrapped, and replaced with a 72 hour train ride across the entire country to Western Australia, where I had never even planned to go. From there, things just unfolded as inspiration, desire and the opportunity to work led me.

While some people like to make travel plans, the true Free Spirit knows that the coolest connections, and the best magic happens when you follow the impulse that says “Go this way, now.” You’ll get used to it.

Help is only ever a phone call or a question away.

There’s always someone around to help. You’ll get comfortable approaching total strangers asking for help with things, or calling for help from a friend. From our smart devices, a wifi connection and a skype account can make mom, dad, best friends and family easily accessible in case of homesickness, loneliness or emergency.

Traveling solo is WAY different than traveling with a friend. By and far, traveling solo you will meet more people, and have some wilder adventures than you will traveling with a friend.

The dyad is a secure and stable space of 2 people who are there to support each other, and you’ll have the opportunity to create memories together that only you share. This is a special space as well.

Know You Are Always Safe

As non travelers, there is sometimes this idea that if you leave your home nest, you won’t be able to organize what you need. Truly traveling shows you the basics of human necessity, food, shelter, clothing, and companionship. You can be safe in the knowledge that everywhere you go, the local people also need these things. You may not always recognize the food when you travel but you can rest assured that you will have access to 1000’s of restaurants, small shops, grocery stores, hotels, hostels, campgrounds, B&B’s and other stores that serve the people of wherever you are, and they will be happy to supply your needs in exchange for their local currency.

Most travelers have at least one scare story of an adventure that didn’t go as planned. These experiences can’t be predicted, and are something that can only be dealt with in the present moment. They often teach you about yourself, change you for the better, and make GREAT stories.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from traveling, is the warm heart of the human soul. Traveling has shown me the true goodness of the stranger, and helped me understand that whatever happens in the world, I am always safe. Reading about it will only get you so far, your first real trip will teach you more than I ever could through words.

So what are you waiting for?