Gratitude for Awakening & Second Chances

Gratitude is a powerful force for good in our lives. It improves our mindset as we go through life, changes the way we interact with others, and enhances the awareness through which we perceive our ego and personality. As I have progressed on my journey of personal transformation, I find myself transfixed by how increased awareness, and focusing on gratitude may have changed the course of my life, or at least more quickly allowed me to awaken to the impact my actions had on myself and others. 

Gratitude is very much front and center in my thinking today. As I write these words this morning, I reflect back that one year ago today, I was celebrating my 50th birthday in Provence, France. I drank too much Rosé at Club 55 while playing on the beach of Saint Tropez with 12 incredible women, and would later miss my birthday dinner. My wandering had commenced just 6 short weeks before arriving in Provence. My Passport held one lone entry stamp from Madrid, Spain but was blank of any visas from the African countries I would visit in the coming months. I had no idea of the changes that would be unearthed inside me in the coming months of my travels, but I was willing to be vulnerable to letting them find their way to the light. My months of traveling were filled with deep introspection, struggle, a bit of regret, but mostly overflowing gratitude for the opportunity that I had given myself to explore the world and myself. 

What has transpired in my 51st year, has been a rebirth of sorts. The three months after my birthday included falling in love with the Cotê d’Azur, supporting a friend’s first marathon in Berlin, exploring Italy for a month, returning to France for 6 weeks including my 3-week stay in Paris, and then traveling to Africa for two life-changing experiences on Mozambique Island and my safari in Tanzania. I arrived home from my travels a few days before Christmas. Frazzled, numb, emotionally and physically exhausted, but thankful that I was surrounded by the love of my family and dear friends.

As I regained my strength, the clarity of who I had become came into focus. With conviction and awakening, I knew the decisions that I needed to make regarding how I was going to choose to write the next chapter of my life. This included the very hard decision to end my marriage and to allow myself to be cared for by one of my three sets of incredible parents, as I allowed my new life to reveal itself, a second chance to live the life I was meant to live. 

I accepted a contract position in March that allowed me to make a bit of money while I focused on finding a job that would feed my soul. I then moved into a brand new apartment in April back in Denver and began the exciting task of decorating and selecting photographs from my travels to hang on the walls of my new home, allowing me to relive the memories of some of the beautiful places I visited. 

Today, I feel settled in my new life. I started a job in mid-July that truly inspires me. The personal growth I experienced during my travels is put into action every day as I interact with old friends and meet new ones. I have new perspectives about my strength and courage and the fact that they can coexist peacefully with the innocent and vulnerable parts of myself. I have an open mind about what it means to connect with people, and that I can show up without any power motives and see people without judgment. But what is most inspiring to me, is that my heart is open. Open to being loved, being scared, being unsure, and finding happiness. Open to treating myself and others with compassion. Open to connecting with someone at a deeper level than I ever thought possible, and allowing my true self to be seen.

I am spending my 51st birthday in one of my favorite places, my family’s cabin outside of Creede, Colorado. With my loving daughter and my parents by my side. Beautiful blue Colorado skies overhead. The sun, brightly shining outside with Bristol Head mountain standing boldly in front of us. And of course, a bottle of Rosé chilling the refrigerator – I’ll keep it at one this year though. I celebrate this new year filled with gratitude. I am happy, healthy and committed to living in the present moment. Thankful for the love that is ever-present in my life and for the wonder of what lies ahead for me. 

What Women Gain Through Solo Travel

The results of the 2018 United States midterm elections and the army of strong, capable, passionate women elected to offices at the state and federal level, are a powerful message for women, the country and the world. I woke up the day after election day in Paris, France and with the time change, some of the results were still being tabulated. As I saw the explosion of positive messages on social media about these women, I thought about the impact these women have already made in their communities and the future influence they will have in our country and in the world. My perspective on these wins was somewhat narrow because I left the U.S. on July 19, 2018, and made a conscious decision not to follow any political news or really any U.S. related news since leaving. At the time of the election, I had been traveling for a little over 3 months on my sabbatical, and it got me thinking about everything I had learned during my travels. I felt more empowered, confident, surer of who I was, and proud that I had gained some newfound appreciation for myself.

My sabbatical included planned visits to Spain, France, and Italy, but the remainder of the destinations were just ideas, and what ifs. Wishlist countries included Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, India, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. The only firm date and destination in my planning was Provence, France, where I would celebrate my 50th birthday with friends and soon to be friends at a retreat on September 1st. IMG_6118Other than that, I had made a few contacts, done research, and applied for volunteer opportunities with social impact organizations. The journey was purposefully unplanned to let the discovery of the world and myself unfold naturally. My time away would be dictated on the availability of travel funds I had set aside, world events, and my health.

As I prepared for my take-off, the list of to-do’s was quite intimidating. I had to quit my job because they didn’t offer long term sabbaticals outside of FMLA, sell my house, come to an agreement with my husband about a separation, say goodbyes to my 23 year old daughter, friends and family, sell or give away many of my possessions, and prepare mentally for what I was about to do; travel internationally by myself, on a relatively low budget, with a limited plan of where I would go, how I would get there or where I would stay for as many months as my allocated amount of money would last. Thankfully as a middle-aged professional, my travels would be a bit more comfortable than the 21-year-old heading out with a backpack, a Eurail pass, and hostels as the main form of accommodation. But nevertheless, vacations abroad are nothing like what I was about to experience. 

When people hear about my journey, the most common reaction or word they use is how brave I am, also how envious they are for doing what I am doing. I have always thought of myself as a fierce woman, highly resilient to change and challenges, and eager to step into new environments. But I am not a wildly adventurous person. I don’t partake in adrenaline-pumping activities and I would never jump without fully assessing the situation, cost/benefit analyses are my expertise. I think that is why I struggled when people said that I was brave for traveling by myself. Making the decision to undertake this journey was a tough decision, and had a significant impact on many people in my life. It was not a decision that I entered into lightly and I knew it would take strength, perseverance, courage, and resilience to get the most out of my time away. Perhaps bravery didn’t enter into my vocabulary at the time because I knew I had to take this journey and I had to take more than a month or two to really uncover the hidden parts of myself that were holding me back in life.

I had some early learnings during my travels that you typically do not experience on a one or two week vacation. Figuring out your next destination and how you are going to get there are big endeavors in and of themselves, but then when you finally arrive, usually at a train station in an unknown city, you are faced with the task of finding the place where you are staying and in some cases, getting a hold of the host to let you in. After settling in, you have to navigate the city and plan what you are going to see and do. All of the places I visited were new to me, some new countries entirely and some new cities within countries that I had visited multiple times. But for me, it was not just about seeing new things. Before leaving, I set an intention that my time away would not only be focused on exploring new destinations around the world but investing the time, energy and purpose in deep self-observation and discovery about myself. I also intentionally canceled my Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts. I was not going to spend time away only be lured into binge-watching the latest shows. I made a commitment to daily meditation and reflection, and it was in these times I uncovered patterns and obstacles that had not been present in my thoughts during my regular life at home. Sometimes during my travels, my thoughts, fears, emotions overcame me and caused me to sit and reflect right then and there. Oftentimes on a bench in a crowded, hectic square filled with people.

I find peace in journaling but carrying around journals is a bit cumbersome during travel so I have depended on keeping my thoughts in one ongoing document on my computer that I labeled, My WIP Stories. I have been sharing some of these stories through a website that I created before I left, called Wandering in Possibility. I am not blogging about travel per se, such as where I’m staying, what I recommend doing or seeing in my destination, but rather I have shared experiences, life “stuff” that is coming up for me during this time of renewal, or poems that spontaneously emerge through my travels. I abbreviated Wandering in Possibility, WIP, in my writing and digital photo library and one day I noticed that WIP is the abbreviation for Work in Progress or Process in Lean and Agile methodologies. In these settings, you limit WIP to eliminate roadblocks in the development process. My time wandering was a purposeful limiter to the activities that would generally fill my day at home. Running from one thing to another, ensuring that my family was well taken care of, seeing to my professional duties each day, making sure I was eating right and exercising. Like so many women, I had many balls up in the air at once, and for once in my life, I was letting those balls fall right to ground and focusing on one thing – my journey.

I share some of my stories through my WIP digital journal with the hopes of inspiring other women to take a chance and venture out on their own, even if it is only to another state within the United States or a solo trip in their own state. Traveling alone has made me appreciate my strengths like being able to navigate easily through train stations, roads, neighborhoods and crowded attractions.


As great as a navigation tool that Google Maps is, there were many times when looking at the directions made absolutely no sense or caught me off guard. I took this screenshot in Venice as I wandered through the tiny streets trying to find a specific restaurant. I quickly came around a corner and nearly fell into the water. I had not even noticed the boat symbol on the screen. Remember, no app can replace good ol’ common sense. 

I am grateful for my sense of adventure to go places I have never been, stay in people’s homes and neighborhoods that are far different from the comfortable places I am used to in my home state of Colorado. Learning to enjoy eating alone came quickly to me during my travels. I found that sitting in a cafe or restaurant without my face in my phone was a delightful way to watch people, absorb the beautiful scenery around me and mindfully taste the wonderful new flavors I was experiencing.

Traveling alone does not equate to being lonely. Being alone is purely a state of being, whereas loneliness is an emotional response to a specific circumstance. I loved this lone tree growing out of a rock in the Ligurian Sea in Portofino, Italy. 


There were times during my travels that I longed to be experiencing what I was seeing and feeling with someone close to me. I did get lonely on occasion, but thankfully not very often. I found immense comfort in being alone, being still, silent and reflective. What was revealed to me during those times, would have been very hard to unearth with my regular distractions of home. I met so many wonderful people along my travels. Other solo women travelers, families traveling together, couples from far away countries that invited me to visit them and the spectacular hosts I met during more than 20 Airbnbs where I stayed. The greatest gift of my travels was being in charge only of myself. Deciding where I wanted to go, what I wanted to see, what I wanted to eat and where I felt like heading to next. As women, we are natural caretakers and having the opportunity to listen to ourselves, tend to our needs, do something nice for ourselves, is truly a blessing.

I traveled for over four months as a solo traveler with only a few weeks either traveling with people like my week in Provence in September amongst friends and then during my housesitting time in the south of France in October where I had the pleasure of spending time with a delightful family. When I first started traveling, I went at a breakneck pace and only stayed in each city for 3 or 4 days. It was the hottest part of the summer, and the heat, coupled with the stress of planning my destinations took a huge toll on me. By early September, I was burned out and realized that I needed to give myself some room to breathe. This was a turning point in my travels and the point when I decided to take more time for rest, meditation and deep reflection. IMG_6546When I slowed down, I started to really enjoy just being in a new city, sitting in cafes, riding ferries to take in the views from the Mediterranean Sea, packing a picnic and spending the day at a beautiful park like I did in Turin, Italy and digging into my inner thoughts and reflecting on my life. Housesitting was a phenomenal opportunity to put aside the tourist and traveler mentality for a while and visit markets, cook my own meals, ride bicycles and enjoy basking in the sun by a pool. I got caught up on sleep and felt nourished from the inside out.

In mid-November, after spending three weeks in Paris, I left the easy-to-travel confines of Europe and headed to East Africa. During my layover in the Frankfurt airport, I decided to spend part of my 10-hour layout in a yoga/meditation room that was located in another terminal. To get there, I had to pass through a Passport Checkpoint, my first one since arriving in Madrid, Spain on July 20, 2018. The Passport Control agent asked me where I had been since July. As I proceeded to tell her about my travels over the last 4 plus months, she got a very stern look on her face. I couldn’t figure out what the problem was and when I told her I was flying to Mozambique and staying in East Africa for a while, she gently reminded me not to come back for quite a while. I thought  – how rude is that, but then later I realized that I had been in violation of EU visa requirements. U.S. and Canadien citizens can stay in the EU for up to 90 days in a 180 day period without a visa. When I arrived in Frankfurt, I had already been in the EU for more than 130 days. I had completely forgotten about this requirement when I extended my stay in France after confirming my travels in Mozambique and Tanzania. Prior to leaving on my travels, I documented all the visa requirements of the countries I was hoping to visit. Trying to get my visas for Mozambique and Tanzania while I was in France, was overwhelming and definitely clouded my memory of looking at the EU requirements some 5 months earlier. Luckily the agent at the Passport Control desk in Frankfurt didn’t deport me!

I arrived in Mozambique at the end of November and was spending close to 2 weeks on Mozambique Island. Flying to Africa would mark the end of my solo travel for the time being and bring new experiences of being in Africa. The only African country I have previously traveled to is Morocco and arriving in East Africa was a wondrous adventure. I would be spending my time with a friend from Colorado that is a marine archeologist with the National Park Service, a number of his NPS colleagues, and numerous individuals traveling from the U.S., Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania as well as local Mozambiquians all gathering to work on the Slave Wrecks Project. This was an incredible experience for me as someone who has zero knowledge about this work and had just spent the last 4 months traveling independently around Europe. I not only gained knowledge during my time in Mozambique, but I also had the pleasure of watching and interacting with some of the most highly trained, skilled, and passionate people I have ever met. I could have never made something like this happen on my own and it taught me to be open to telling others about your desire to travel and explore the world – who knows what will land on your lap. While in Mozambique my friend Dave taught me a valuable lesson for traveling and for life – “say yes to everything”!

After my time on Mozambique Island, I flew from Nampula, Mozambique to Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania, to begin a 7-day safari. Going on safari was one of the “must do’s” during my journey and this experience did not disappoint. Exploring some of Tanzania’s most treasured parks alongside a treasured soul, my guide Robert, was the perfect climax to my travel story. Oftentimes in a story, the climax occurs when a character finds a treasure or has a major conflict resolved. For me, my safari seemed to be the perfect end to my adventure. I was captivated every day by what I was seeing and learning, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the animals, the landscapes, the sunsets, and the sunrises. I had reached my destination. After traveling nearly 18,000 miles in five months, I had found what I was looking for and I was ready for my 9,000-mile journey home. I had a three-month volunteer opportunity scheduled in Tanzania 2 weeks after the end of my safari, but my heart, gut, and soul were telling me my journey had come to a close. My travels taught me a valuable lesson, I don’t need to be a superwoman, and the mask and possibly the cape that I had been carting around for years was extra baggage that was no longer necessary. I need to respect what I accomplished, relish in the beautiful destinations I experienced and be thankful for what was revealed to me along the way.

And so, I returned home at the end of December 2018, a few days before Christmas, tired and a bit in shock. I have been home for close to six weeks as I finish writing this today. I am preparing for this new life that lies ahead of me. I have started to look for a job and am looking forward to being able to move into a new home soon. I am so grateful for my travels. Thankful for what unfolded. Appreciate of the support I received from friends all over the globe. Hopeful for what I’ll be able to accomplish knowing what I now know. Eager to follow other women’s similar journeys.

Home – Comforting Familiarity, New Perspectives

Home is Denver, Colorado and I love living here. Surrounded by beautiful mountains, bright sunshine, and clear blue skies. As I stood outside at the Denver Airport last Friday, enjoying the cool refreshing air on my face waiting to be picked up, I was buzzing with excitement for being home but at the same time, I had a nervous feeling in my stomach. The uncertainty of what lies ahead weighed heavily on me. I have been home for a little over a week and the adjustment has been more challenging than I thought it would be. Although I’m “home”, technically I don’t have a home because we sold our house in June before leaving on my trip. After sleeping in 38 different beds, in 23 Airbnb’s, five hotels (2 of which were because of missed flights), two lodges, two tented camps and a Maasai mud hut across 8 countries over five months, I was ready for a comfortable and familiar bed. I am so grateful that my home for now is the home of one my three sets of parents in Evergreen, Colorado just a bit west of Denver. Spending Christmas with my parents, my daughter and her amazing boyfriend were the best coming home present I could ask for. 


Adjustments have come in many forms from time zones, altitude, driving in winter mountain weather, the realization that I don’t have a home or a job or any winter clothes, allowing my brain to slow down and adjust to not having to plan and travel from place to place, and the largest adjustment is bringing all my learnings about myself into practice through my interactions with other people. Dealing with all of these things on a less than full mental gas tank has resulted in a number of teary-eyed moments but I am being patient and kind with myself. I acknowledge that I need to take time to decompress and process, take time to reconnect with those close to me and let whatever needs to unfold, the space and mindset to happen.

A few days ago, I met a good friend for breakfast and didn’t want to stop hugging her when I first saw her. It was such a wonderful feeling to know that even after being apart for months, we could be right there for each other as if no time had passed. I had shared with her that it had been difficult for me to drive down to Denver a few days prior, and she drove up to Evergreen so we could spend time together. As we were talking, I felt a bit like I was in slow motion. I felt safe and loved, as I always have around her, but I could tell that I was much more in the present moment than prior conversations before I left. I could tell that I was processing the words with a different perspective because of my time spent in retrospection. 

As I was driving back to my parents’ house, Evergreen Lake was filled with people ice skating and ice fishing. The white frozen lake was a beautiful contrast with the green pine trees surrounding the land around the lake and the bright blue sky. I watched the people moving about on the ice and the bustling activity, laughter, and commotion happening on top of the ice, it seemed like a separate world from what I imagined was taking place below. I knew the lake wasn’t frozen solid since the warm water sits much below the ice in the lake but I couldn’t help think, has the ice disrupted their lives? During these winter months, activity may slow a bit under the surface, but life goes on.

Right now, I feel a bit like this frozen lake and the water below. There’s a whole world of activity going on around me. I’m reconnecting with family and friends, engaging in physical activity that is challenging my mind and my body, sleeping well and eating good food. But there is a slowness, a disruption, a cognizant awareness that life is different. New perspectives. There is loss but also growth. Adaptation to this new environment will take time, an open mind, patience, and honesty. It also requires innocence to believe that whatever needs to unfold will do so and that I am safe letting people I love take care of me. The lake, whether frozen or not, offers a playground of activities, each unique and beautiful in their own way. All of this beauty reveals itself in time. I am thankful to be closing out 2018 surrounded by family that loves and supports me. They will anchor me to face 2019 with a grateful heart and excitement for all the new chapters that lie ahead. 

Embracing the Wild Within You

My wandering journey is coming to close, a bit sooner than originally planned, but at the exact moment that it needs to. My journey has unfolded over five months, 22 intense weeks of exploration and revelations. I have visited 8 countries, some at depth, others just a city for a few days. Some destinations captured my heart, others my respect for their beauty, and still, others transformed me at a deep level. Just a few days ago, I completed a seven-day safari with Sababu Safaris, through Tanzania’s greatest national parks, including Tarangire, Ndutu, the southern part of the Serengeti, Lake Manyara, and Ngorongoro Crater. My safari wasn’t just about seeing wild animals, I also had the opportunity to experience a rescue center for women and abandoned babies, walk through a village and explore a market with a local farmer, and stay in a hut in a Maasai village filled with singing and dancing and the most compassionate, kind people I have ever met. I have dreamed of going on a safari for years and the magic was evident from the first day.  I was dead tired from traveling after missing my flight in Nairobi and getting 3 hours of the sleep the night before, but I was quickly energized as we did a leisurely stroll through Arusha National Park and I saw zebras, giraffes, and baboons up close. “This is just a teaser”, Robert my guide, and co-owner of the safari company said, as we drove through the park. The “real action” starts tomorrow he would go on to say. Real action would indeed reveal itself as the days continued.

Something else was revealed that is not easily detected through photographs or writings, the magic of the wild. Animals behave as nature intended.  They show up every day as their true selves, no improvisation at work, no zebras pretending to be lions. Watching their behavior in groups, stalking prey, or wiggling in the dirt to scratch their backs or clean themselves, you realize that they are doing these things because that is what they are hardwired to do. As humans, we influence that behavior by intruding on their space, but I realized that they really did not seem too concerned about the vehicles stopped with numerous cameras aimed at them. I knew that seeing animals in their natural habitat was going to be powerful, but watching a large group of giraffes parade gracefully in a line across a ridge while the sun quietly receded behind the hills unleashed something in me that I can only describe as pure joy. A zebra lying peacefully in the grass, having died of some other reason than being attacked by prey, and then within two hours, eyeing a hyena and a jackal ravenously digging into the animal for sustenance. Only to have bigger species on the food chain, five lions, chase them away where they stayed at a distance awaiting their turn after the lions took what they needed. Meanwhile, the vultures stayed off to another spot, trying at times to swoop in for a chunk of the action. All of this took place within about 30-45 minutes and occurred with the natural pace of life for animals living in the Ngorongoro Crater. Another time, spotting a leopard in a tree seeking refuge from baboons that had chased him up the tree. I watched through binoculars as the leopard remained perfectly still stretched out over branches as baboons of different sizes moved throughout the tree positioning themselves on various branches, while the male baboons barked loudly with their mouths wide open annoyed that their prey was not cooperating. Just another day at Lake Manyara for those that call it home.

Each of these interactions and all the others I witnessed during my time on safari wasn’t the only time where living in the wild became evident. The act of driving and navigating through the parks takes extreme skill and knowledge. The first evening of our stay in the southern Serengeti, hard rains came down throughout the night. The next morning the roads were filled with water and thick mud, making crossing a swollen creek a very tricky situation. That day, while exploring the vast park, we found ourselves stuck three times. I watched Robert dig into the hard volcanic soil shoveling out mud to get the vehicle unstuck, it was evident that this was part of being in a wild habitat. There are no trail leveling trucks roaming through the Serengeti and you must rely on your own skills and sometimes the help of others in your tribe to come to your rescue to pull you out.

Much time on a safari is spent driving, driving in the parks and driving between locations. These drives while sometimes on a paved road and others through gravel roads across vast landscapes of peaks, sharp turns, and remote Maasai villages visible off the road, are filled with the natural essence of how diverse and rich, wonderous and mystical being on this planet of ours really is. Standing at the entrance of the Ngorongoro Crater and seeing with your own eyes the impact and influence of millions of years of geological changes. Even the awe and wild of a man-made paved road leading out of the crater with its sharp inclines and hairpin turns makes you ponder the reality of what you are experiencing.

My time on safari exceeded my expectations and my imagination. Not only was I seeing so many beautiful things, but I was also learning so much about the animals, their environment and the people of Tanzania. I even got to drive the hefty, right-hand drive Land Cruiser up to one of our lodges where Robert wanted to play a trick on those he knew would be meeting our arrival. There was an emotional component of my experience that has presented itself on only a few other occasions during my extended time traveling. The purpose of my journey has always been to reveal and embrace my true self. The experiences of my African safari tied this true self to embracing the wild within myself. Embracing my wild woman. Stop trying to bend and shape myself to what I think I’m supposed to do or be and just letting my true self be. Stop letting fear rule desires and opportunities. Stop thinking that I can do it all, without help or even the notion that doing it all is really necessary in the first place.

As I sit here in Arusha, Tanzania with all the thoughts, observations, experiences, learnings, struggles, elation, revelations, and magic that I have witnessed over the last five months, swirling through my mind, I have a calmness in my soul that wasn’t present when I left. I know my wild woman, I watched her reveal herself to me. She is capable. She is curious. She is determined. She is loving. She is approachable. She is resilient. She is feisty. She is intelligent. She is vulnerable and she is coming home. Coming home profoundly changed, filled with memories, new friends across the globe, 6,000 photos, and a suitcase full of really dirty clothes. Coming home to love and be loved. Coming home to wander in the possibility of what was right in front of her the whole time.

Welcomed into a Community

In May 2018, a friend in Colorado that works as a marine archeologist for the National Parks Service offered me the opportunity to join him and the Slave Wrecks Project (SWP) team in Mozambique on their planned trip there in November 2018. I had no idea if the trip would come to fruition and knew very little about the project itself, but I knew that I wanted to travel to Africa and why not travel to Mozambique. In August while I was traveling through France, the dates were set and it was confirmed that I could join the team in Mozambique. I had familiarized myself with the SWP work through their website and did a bit of research about Mozambique Island, or Ilha de Moçambique as it is known locally. As the time got closer to arrive in Mozambique, I was included on logistical emails about the travel, packing lists and the different activities that would take place during the 12-day stay on the island. I began to see the names of the people that are part of this global team but I had no context into their roles, and what types of activities they would be doing during the visit.

I and two others traveled on the same flight to Nampula from Johannesburg, South Africa, which included Dave, my friend from Colorado and Vanessa, a marine archeologist from South Africa. I watched in awe as their equipment started to come in on the luggage belt, enormous cases of expensive equipment that would be used to survey the ocean floor for possible dive sites to search for sunken ships and artifacts. We were met by a local husband and wife team, Ricardo and Yolanda that would assist with customs and bringing the gear to the island (I would quickly learn that these two people were vital to this work in Mozambique).  I went through the process of obtaining my Visa, then we set off for the two and a half hour drive to the island. A larger contingent of people arrived two days later and then over the course of the next few days, others arrived from various destinations. This was truly a global team made up of people from the United States, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Zanzibar, all with a shared passion and skills in their respective areas. I was touched by the camaraderie as hugs were exchanged between friends that hadn’t seen other since possibly the last visit to Mozambique Island or Cape Town, or recognition of a name that was now being solidified through a face to face meeting. Introductions were made and I found myself captivated by what I was experiencing. Highly trained and skilled archeologists, historians, scholars, master scuba divers, authors, museum curators and more advanced degrees in one room than you could possibly imagine; all coming together to use their individual skills together with locals to preserve the heritage of the slave trade in Africa.

As a visitor to the project, I was anxiously awaiting the opportunity to learn more about the activities that would unfold throughout the stay and to take in as much as possible. Graciously, a graduate student, Diogo, who has been working in Mozambique for a number of months, took me around the island during my first two days showing me around the historic Fort and church and the new center they are putting together that is used to house the archeology research being done on the island. As we walked around the island, it became apparent that everyone knew Diogo as greetings and conversations in Portuguese erupted.  As other people arrived, I joined the first outing that three divers took to do some initial exploration of sites that were mapped during a visit to the island last August. The next day I trekked around with a larger team exploring sites on the island itself that included a tunnel under a school and ruins in a house close by to the school. I have never had the opportunity to watch or participate in any archeology digs as some of my family have done in the U.S. and Mexico but I have walked through a number of forts, castles, and old ruins, throughout Spain, France, and Italy. But now I found myself doing these activities with people highly trained in this field, which was beyond any guided tour imaginable. The small details they noticed like the varied layers of rock, or recognition of the composition of materials, the remnants of a gate, or minuscule details hidden within the floors and walls. After that initial viewing, a smaller group of people went back to those sites with survey equipment to get more precise measurements and explore the area further.

As the days progressed, I have enjoyed watching the entire process unfold. From the duo that goes out every day at six o’clock in the morning, to survey the ocean floor using a magnetometer to identify possible dive sites. To the scuba divers who go to exact GPS locations to look for possible artifacts picked up through the initial survey. The teams who work on the land seeking to better understand rooms, tunnels, and artifacts found in the soil.  To keep this work going long after these visitors leave, eight locals have been receiving an intensive dive training course this week and will take their final exam and open water dives this weekend. But that is only a slice of the work as scholars, historians, and curators work with local experts to identify how best to tell this story in the local museum here. This project is committed to developing long-term partnerships through the sharing of information, and the creation of local teams to carry-on this work.

There were a number of other visitors to the team. Tara, who ended up being my roommate, is following the work of this project across many avenues and is writing a year worth of stories, one story per week. I would encourage people to follow this through National Geographic’s Open Explorer work. The former director of the Peace Memorial Museum in Zanzibar, Abdul Sheriff, joined us and participated in a three-day workshop with locals from the Maritime Museum here on the island and we were lucky enough to celebrate his 79th birthday with him.

None of this would be possible if it weren’t for Yolanda and Ricardo, a husband and wife team on the island that has dedicated much of their lives to this work. Their passion is contagious and their knowledge beyond vast. Watching the management and organization of all these different lines of work from boats being available, dive equipment is ready and waiting, trucks to haul people and gear to sites, sharing of historical information and knowing how to get things done on this small, isolated island.

The idea of traveling to Mozambique and to this island, was quite daunting as I was sitting in my rented apartment in Paris imagining what lied ahead for me. What I have experienced is unlike anything I could have dreamed of. My eyes have seen an island that has suffered from years of unrest yet whose people are friendly and appreciative of visitors, whose land holds such history and intrigue, and whose waters provide nourishment and commerce to their people. My head has been expanded through new ideas, knowledge, skills, history, and professions carried out with such passion and diligence for good. My heart has been touched by each and every one of these people. The conversations shared, the passion they exude for their work, and their appreciation for each other is profound. I will be forever grateful for being welcomed into this community and for the experiences I have gained. I look forward to watching their work continue to unfold and for the possibility of seeing them again, somewhere in the world.


Decluttering the Mask

For me, getting rid of clutter is invigorating and helps brings balance. I have always been a very organized person, but I was amazed as I was going through my belongings before starting this journey how many things I came across that I was holding on to. One example, how many sample size freebie facial products does one really need to keep on hand? Why do you keep shelves of DVDs when you don’t have a DVD player or even a CD drive in your laptop? Although the process was stressful because of the severity of the decision, it was rewarding and truly necessary. But how do you declutter and clear out those aspects of ourselves that no longer serve us or are restricting our ability to grow? What sort of grand Spring Cleaning exists for our personality traits and habits we’ve picked up along the way?  I deeply connect to the notion that our personalities are masks that we create over time to help us feel protected as we go about living in this harsh world. Persona is greek for mask after all. As I gain experience in life and focus inward on who I truly am, it feels like my mask has become too burdensome to carry around, weighed down with layers of protection that are no longer needed.  

We are born mask free, innocent and completely dependent on our caregivers to do just that…care for us. I am thankful for the care and deep love that I received in my early years and throughout my life as my sphere of caregivers expanded. But as good as that love and care is, we are humans and humans struggle. We are imperfect, we are constantly growing, and we are doing the best we can at that given moment. We develop ways of dealing with the world based on our own individualized hardwiring and personal experiences, and then we develop habits to cope with experiences, positive and otherwise challenging. I have used this time away as a space for deep self-reflection into the layers of my mask and trying to better understand how they became woven into the fabric of my external personality and internal messaging I tell myself. 

As much as we fight going back to our early childhood times when we are considering the best path toward growth in our adult life, who we were as young children is the closest thing we have to a sense of our true self. I became a big sister when I was just a little over 2 years old and from what I have been told, I decided early that it was my job to take care of my baby brother. Let’s not confuse that with an instant love, I did innocently try to kill him by stuffing Rice Krispies into his mouth in an attempt to “feed the baby”. Maybe I needed more time to be a baby myself but whatever it was, it was probably a starting off point for an underlying need to protect and control my environment. Throughout my life, I felt as if my personality conflicted with what I was feeling on the inside. On the outside, I was confident, gutsy, outspoken and willing to jump into new and challenging things. But what was churning inside of me was fear that I wasn’t smart enough, did not possess a strong competence for a specific thing, couldn’t stick with things very long whether they were jobs or friends.

Prior to leaving on my trip, I had spent more than three years deeply committed to self-reflection and personal awareness, more so than at any other time in my life. In early 2015, I had done the Enneagram personality analysis test as part of a team exercise at the company I worked for at the time.  We took the test and then received a robust booklet explaining our dominant personality type in a number from 1 to 9. I was a Type 8, referred to as the Challenger, the Boss, or the Protector under different interpretations of the Enneagram system, which has been used across a number of cultures for hundreds of years. Upon reading the explanation, I found myself cringing because the information I saw on the pages was a spot on account of my personality. Words such as Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational matched with phrases like “eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating” were staring me in the face. I had a major breakdown and a resulting breakthrough that I had the tools and somewhat of a map with the Enneagram to untangle this conflict that has been present within myself for so many years. At that point, I dove into my exploration of the Enneagram like an Eight, with intensity and a robust passion but also a keen awareness of some of the likely causes of that internal uneasiness I was feeling related to the choices I was making in my engagement with others.

I became very self-directed and intent on discovering how I could become a more highly evolved, integrated version of myself. Self-observation became the vehicle for me to self-connect, self-correct, and live more intentionally. Most of this was done on my own through the help of gifted authors, and Enneagram books. I engaged a professional Enneagram coach in late 2017 as I was feeling something take hold of me that I couldn’t explain and I needed professional guidance at that point. Soon after that, I committed to my mid-life gap year. 

My sabbatical has been a time of renewal for me, to renew who I was as that innocent child, before I elaborately created a mask supported in a strong need for control, an intensity that my truth, was THE truth, that I must be defined by what I produce, and rejecting any vulnerability that would make me appear weak, unsure, or afraid. I created this mask from the lens through which I viewed the world and how I thought I needed to show up to be recognized, protected, and loved. No one created this mask for me or forced me to wear it. But before I could truly return to that true self, I had to figure out who the heck that was and that would require a commitment to renewal, a commitment to the process of decluttering my mask.

Something that has been instrumental in this process is the fact that over the last four months now, I spend the vast majority of my time by myself. Yes, I am out and about engaging in the world, stuffed together with people on a train, or waiting in line for something, but it is rare to be involved in a conversation with someone and I am certainly not engaged in meaningful or deep connecting conversation. My solitude has created the ability to unfold at my own pace, without worrying about other commitments I have going on. Additionally, I have had a lot of silence. My phone doesn’t ring, I don’t have a television to escape to, I can’t get on my bike and ride for hours. That’s not to say that I haven’t allowed other distractions to creep in, like wandering aimlessly down little streets, spending time on social media, reading books, and more books. But I have tried to do these things with an awareness and a purpose. I am thankful for the fact that while on my journey, I have established a daily meditation practice. Every day, I allow myself that “doing nothing” is exactly the most important thing for me. The last thing that has been invaluable for me is stillness. Just being with myself. Listening to my body and my mind tell me that I need to stay put for the day. But also making sure that when I’m out that I am purposefully engaging in what I’m doing and seeing. At home my life was filled with ending conference calls just to start another, creating documents that nobody probably looked at, reading and sending emails, logging my workouts with an extensity that would make some think I was training for the Olympics, not just trying to stay healthy. Nearly everything in my life was done for a purpose, to produce something, to hide my fears or my feelings. I am so grateful for a book that I discovered during my travels, The Sacred Enneagram, by Chris Heuertz that explained how to use these three principles of solitude, stillness, and silence as tools for your transformational journey.  And now, here I am. In solitude, stillness, and silence and so grateful for the time to embrace this unraveling, this process of deep renewal. 

As I look back on my life, I see how my mask evolved over time, it got new layers as I had new experiences in life that I wasn’t consciously capable of understanding. I didn’t take the time to reflect on those layers as important events were unfolding to possibly look critically at why they happened and was I feeling good about the outcome. My mask has also served me well in many situations in life. I have tremendous resilience and strength to face tough challenges. I will fight for those I love with an intensity and fierceness that cannot be stopped. In time of crisis, those close to me have been grateful for my ability to take charge and rectify problems. These are areas that will remain, but they do so with an awareness that wasn’t present before. 

I find myself at an intersection of self-observation and self-correction, and I am seeing some of the wreckage that this mask left in its wake of kickassness. I am embracing a transformational path forward, instead of letting the mask define how I show up in this second half of life (if I’m lucky enough to get that much more time on this planet). My time away has allowed me to peel back layers of this mask and examine them carefully, with respect for their journey and their purpose. This process takes time to unfold but it also takes practice. It’s one thing to peel back these layers when the majority of my time is spent in solitude, stillness, and silence. I’m at a crossroads of putting this transformational view into practice as I soon embark on volunteering in Mozambique and Tanzania. These adventures ahead will be stepping stones to making different choices. Responding instead of quickly reacting. Listening with a focus and a level of compassion that I have rarely experienced. An opening for growth, humility, connection, and learning. A magical elevation of what is possible when you listen with your heart and get out of the way.

The Curtain Comes Down on Act I

I am about to finish my second housesitting job in France. I ended my travels in Italy on October 17th and flew from Pisa, Italy to Girona, Spain, an easy drive to the southern part of France. I was selected for an eight day house sit in Montauriol, France through a housesitting organization, Trusted Housesitters. I had signed up with the organization prior to leaving Denver, in hopes that I could pick up a few housesitting jobs to ease the financial burden of traveling. I was selected for my first house sit by a lovely couple that owns a Bed & Breakfast in a small village in southern France. I arrived the day before they left and then proceeded to have an incredible week of no sightseeing, mountain biking along dirt roads with views of the Pyrenees and vineyards, taking care of Frieda their frisky cat, sitting in the sun by the pool and most special of all spending time with the host’s mother, a spunky nonagenarian that lives in a cottage house on their property. The experience was beyond what I ever expected and the graciousness of the hosts combined with getting to know such an extraordinary woman in the process, had a profound impact on me. The hosts were very kind and allowed me to stay a few extra days after they arrived home so that I could immediately travel to the northern part of France for my second house sit in Lille, France. Here in Lille, I am currently roommates with an older cat, Scarlett, who is quite firm in her likes and dislikes, which I can greatly respect. This week, I have the ability to walkabout a new city, and have all the creature comforts of being in my own space, cooking my meals and having a nice place to do yoga, write, and watch a little Grey’s Anatomy, the only English speaking television show I can find.

Having longer stays in one location during these two housesitting opportunities has created a purposeful divide in my journey. On Monday, November 5th, I will travel to Paris and stay there for three weeks before beginning an entirely new segment of my journey. Staying in Paris will mark the only destination that I have previously been to, this will be my fourth visit to a city that I absolutely adore! The opportunity to spend three weeks there makes my heart skip a beat. My planning for my time aboard consisted of listing the countries and cities I would love to visit and a few specific things that I’d be overjoyed with fitting into my travels. I knew the first countries I would visit would be Spain, France and Italy, in that order, but after that I was waiting on final logistics of some destinations to pan out and other opportunities to surface. I was certainly open to anything that presented itself and also figured that the distance between locations would dictate some of the order in which I would visit countries outside of Europe.

So now I find myself in an intermission of sorts. My first Act of this journey was filled with non-stop exploration, three countries and back to the second one, multiple cities, thousands of photos and a lifetime of memories. I only planned my destinations one or maybe two ahead of where I found myself. The openness of Europe easily allows for that kind of spontaneity. As I look through my photos, neatly arranged in albums by country and than city, of course, I am in awe of all the wondrous places I’ve visited. I was watching a cute British romantic comedy during my time in Montauriol and there was a part of the movie where they were on a boat in the Mediterranean and pulled into a harbor and I instantly recognized it as Cannes. A perfume ad in a magazine had a beautiful piazza blurred in the background and I looked closely and knew it was Florence. I am so thankful for witnessing the beauty of these places firsthand and think that traveling alone made the impact of these places richer. When you are traveling with other people, you are more likely to be involved in conversation, talking about where you are, where you are going next, where you should eat dinner. But nearly everywhere I went, with the exception of my birthday retreat and 4 days when I did group activities, I walked the streets by myself, I sat in squares and piazzas and took in everything around me.  I looked at magnificent works of art, I basked in the sun on the beach and I hiked trails along the Mediterranean.

Act I, three months, one quarter of a year, immersed in brand new experiences every single day. I have had great days, okay days, and a handful of really challenging days. There is no mistaking that I am a changed woman. I have more depth and clarity of myself then when I left. I have also learned to have gratitude for my strengths too. My journey isn’t over, both in self-discovery and world travels. Act I was about figuring it out, building skills needed to navigate myself through changing landscapes, drawing on my resilience to embrace the life stuff that was coming up. These last two weeks housesitting and the three weeks ahead of me in Paris, provide a break from figuring out where I’m going next, an intermission to reflect on where I have been and what I have learned but it is also a time to prepare for what lies ahead. Usually during an intermission, you grab a drink, run to the bathroom, mill around talking, but my intermission includes filling out numerous visa applications, buying copious amounts of mosquito repellent, spending a small fortune on my malaria prophylaxis, and wondering how in the world I got so lucky to get these opportunities!

Act II is going to be a whole different animal, lots of animals actually as I travel to a continent filled with wild, majestic animals and mystique that doesn’t exist any other place on the planet. I fly from Paris to Nampula, Mozambique on November 27th, arriving on November 28th, then onto Ilha de Mozambique, an island connected to the mainland by a bridge. I stay in Mozambique until December 10th and am a guest of the American team with the Slave Wrecks Project. Check out the link, it’s an incredible project dedicated to “preserve and protect irreplaceable heritage related to the slave trade”. I am so thankful for the opportunity to volunteer on a project with such significance.  After Mozambique, I travel to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania to embark on a private 7-day safari with Sababu Safaris. Going on safari was one of the experiences that I was trying my hardest to make happen but the only planning I did before departing was to seek out small, independent safari companies on Instagram. During my travels I connected with one of the owners of Sababu Safaris and they were so gracious to work with me to create my dream safari! I am absolutely beside myself that I will be exploring the Southern Serengeti including Ngorongoro Crater, staying in tented camps, and a Maasai lodge overlooking Mount Kilimanjaro. At the close of my safari, I am traveling to Mombasa, Kenya and will be spending Christmas and New Year’s there awaiting my next adventure – plus I had to leave Tanzania to be eligible for a different visa. I found a really inexpensive Airbnb just a block from the beach. On January 2nd, I fly back to Tanzania into Kilimanjaro airport and begin a three month volunteer project with Anza, a Tanzanian non-profit dedicated to helping Tanzanian entrepreneurs succeed in their business endeavors. One of the ways they do that is to have international professionals with various skills and backgrounds come to Tanzania for three months and provide business consulting services across a variety of sectors. As I planned this adventure, I was committed to finding volunteer programs that would provide an opportunity for me to immerse myself in a completely different culture and learn from others and share some of my learnings as well. I could not have asked for a better opportunity that being able to volunteer with an organization like Anza that is making a significant social impact in Tanzania. It just happened to work out that since I was already going to be in Tanzania, they were able to accommodate my start date right after the first of the year. 

My volunteer time with Anza will come to a close at the end of my 90-day business visa. Prior to leaving Paris and heading to Africa, I must purchase a ticket to leave Tanzania in accordance with the visa travel guidelines. I don’t know if I’ll be buying a ticket back to the states, another country in Africa, or somewhere else on the globe. That’s really my last bit of planning for the second act of my adventure.

Once I arrive in Tanzania the second time, the majority of my time will be filled with working, which is an interesting concept to grasp at this moment. But then I think about the people that I’m going to work alongside with, and look at a map and see all the incredible places in that part of the world and can only dream what adventures will fill my weekends during those three months. That will be some really fun planning! Stay tuned for my Paris escapades, and the vastness of Africa that awaits me and if you have any tips how I can make a little money during my travels, please reach out. I am missing my friends and family back home like crazy, but I am certainly loving being a nomad too!

Coming Up For Air

I stood on the rocks overlooking a beautiful bay

I saw the fins of two divers exploring the waters below me

Their heads emerged from deep beneath the dark blue sea

Quickly clearing their snorkels then diving back down to explore the vast ocean below

While under the surface of the water their activities and explorations are unknown to those of us watching from above

They come back up only to clear water and assess for obstacles

Turning downward again with the force to push them deeper

Wind through the kelp, navigate the darkness

How similar this seems to living outside the water

The thoughts in our heads are like the divers deep under the surface

No one around us knows what is churning in our minds

Are we scared of the dark

Of the thoughts of doubt, worry, anxiety

Are we overwhelmed with the beauty we are experiencing with every sight we take in

Is our palate in awe of the savory flavors on our tongue

We have to remember to come up for air

Clear our minds to receive the good and positive thoughts of the universe

Open our hearts to receive the love and acceptance of those close to us

Take notice of where we are on our journey

Are we on the right path

Are we expanding

Are we diving deep enough to grasp what might be a little out of reach, but worth going after

Coming up for air isn’t giving up

It’s living fully

Living mindfully

Living respectfully

Living from and for our heart

Filling our lungs with vital oxygen to push onward

Continue reading “Coming Up For Air”

The Doors of Tuscany

The Cotê d’Azur and the south of France captured my heart but the doors of Tuscany intrigued and enchanted my eyes and my sense of wonder. The ornateness of the wood, the symmetry of the archway tied together with an elaborate brass doorknob placed directly in the center of the door, the thresholds of marble and stone from ancient times, made me curiously wonder what was behind these doors. Early in my journey of self-discovery, it occurred to me that I had gone through much of life focused on the path in front me and figuratively “walked” past many doors throughout my life. Leaving unexplored opportunities and missed adventures should I have had the courage to veer just slightly off my predetermined plan. I walked the streets of Florence, Siena, Monteriggioni, and San Gimignano in the Tuscany region of Italy and stood in awe of these magnificent doors. So much care taken to the outside of a dwelling that would never be seen from the inside. I wanted to knock on many of these doors and see beyond the entry point. Standing straight in the front of me, was the quintessential metaphor of the door as the gateway to reinvention, to something new and undiscovered.


In Florence, it wasn’t surprising that the doors of the main offices and storefronts of the major couture houses such as Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo were grand and ornately decorated. This was the entrance to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum and store in Florence. As I looked down the hallway, the large vases filled with flowers sat on tables that looked as if they had historic pasts in the halls of palaces.  

A few doorways of trattorias in Florence looked as if they belonged in a garden, surrounded by a small pond, with a pergola covered with wisteria.

Most of the doors that captured my attention were private residences, where the doors had intricate carvings within the wood with designs of flowers or animals. Who makes these doors, where do you go to buy them, is this a family tradition that is passed down through generations in which sons and daughters are taught this trade of making these artistic masterpieces? In San Gimignano I could have taken hundreds of pictures of doors. The quaint streets with narrow doorways, planters in windows catching the sunlight and the stonewalls framing up the doors. Some painted bright red lined up in a row along the street.

This small single entrance with an address of Number 1, was in the tiny walled village of Monteriggioni. There couldn’t have been more than 50 residences in this village. As I stood and framed this picture I desperately wanted to know who lived here and what were they like. Did they have a room listed on Airbnb I could rent?


Taking pictures of these doors was inspiring and very symbolic as I thought frequently about how much I am passing from one threshold to the next on this journey. I’m traveling to different places and stepping into new beginnings with every new city I visit. I am opening doors within my own mind and heart as I discover new things about myself and allow myself to open more fully to my experiences, my emotions and tear down the barriers I have created for myself in the past. The archways of these doors convey strength and stability yet also grace and artistic expression. These are not prepackaged, one size fits all doors from a box store. They are custom made, works of art and with care and attention they will last for generations. I am going to take the vision and deeper meaning of these doors with me as a constant reminder to notice the doors in my life, notice those moments when it might be time to step over a threshold, go in a new direction, or start a new opportunity. And recognizing that while function is important, artistic expression plays an important purpose in life. Perhaps when I do come back to the US, I’ll have the only house on the street with an ornate wooden door with a beautiful knob right in the middle of the door. 

My Journey by the Numbers

I took some much needed time during my stay in Naples to reflect, research, plan, network, and organize. My journey up until this point has only been planned about one destination ahead of the place I am currently staying, at the most two places. The only variance to this was the retreat to Provence which was determined well before I ever left Colorado. This caused some minor stress along the way, and not so great decisions, i.e. Ibiza, but for the most part I have allowed the adventure to unfold naturally and go to places that were either calling me or served a greater purpose, like traveling to Berlin to support a dear friend. Europe is a perfect place for that kind of travel, but destinations quickly approaching do not lend themselves to carefree travel.  

I’m planning my time in Italy carefully based on places in the country that I really want to see. I am also making sure that I am balancing the travel aspect with the time for reflection and not running myself ragged trying to experience the immense number of magical places that make Italy a wonderful place to visit. I will always have the opportunity to return to this country and some of my future destinations require me to use this time for some tedious tasks, such as attempting to get my Visa for Mozambique at the Mozambique Embassy in Rome. Retrieving that Visa is much more important that touring the Vatican or the Coliseum. I have also set aside a few weeks for some housesitting opportunities that allow me to save money and spend time caring for someone’s beloved fur babies and looking after their homes. The upcoming expenses associated with traveling to East Africa require me to thoroughly evaluate my expenses and my priorities. My budget was to spend on average $100 a day throughout my trip. Recognizing that Europe in the summer was going to be more expensive and other locations would be less. I also have a few bucket list items that I planned on splurging on and that included Provence for my birthday and the other is a safari in Tanzania. The expenses of not only the safari but the airfare to get from Europe to Africa requires some careful budgeting.

In addition to the safari, I have the opportunity to spend about 12 days in Mozambique volunteering with a team from the U.S. that is working on the Slaves Wreck Project. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and thus the importance of obtaining my Visa. The only Embassies near me are Rome and Paris and I can’t afford to be without my Passport for a number of weeks sending it off to the U.S. for processing. But it may come down to that – we shall see.

As I put together my budget, I decided to track not only all my expenses and in what ways I was spending money, but calculate other things that only a data geek can appreciate. The miles I’ve traveled between locations, the miles I’ve walked each day, how many different places I’ve stayed and such. So here’s my figures for those that appreciate the numbers!

Days Traveling: 70

Countries Visited: 5 (Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Italy)

Cities Visited: 34

Hotels: 3

Airbnbs: 15

Total Miles Traveled: 8,814

Miles Walked: 355

Average Spend/Day: $181 ($88 for lodging)

Number of Flights: 5

Train Stations Arrived or Departed Through: 17

Cathedrals Visited: Too Many to Count Already

Weight of my bag: 20 kg – too damn heavy!

Magical Sunsets: 2 (all the beaches except Ibiza have faced the East)

Times I’ve Been Afraid: Zero


The experiences behind these numbers, what I have learned about myself and the knowledge I have gained about what other parts of the world are like, are exactly why I wanted to set off on this adventure in the first place. I have been very mindful about combining the desire to experience destinations and sights while at the same time making sure that I spend time in reflection to uncover some of the mysteries about myself. I struggled with that in Spain and felt the repercussions. I have seen a profound shift in myself in these 70 days. One that I am most proud of is that I have accepted and recognized that everything doesn’t have to turn out perfectly. Things will unfold as they unfold and reveal themselves to me in whatever shape, form or concept of time that is right for the moment.

A deeply personal trait that arose after my blog post a week ago where I was filled with self-doubt, was that I have been so focused on execution in my life, getting things done and sometimes those things were very difficult, but I have hidden behind this badge of honor or shield of “capable” that I hold very close, literally holding it over my heart. I thought this shield was protecting me from getting hurt, or failing in some way, but the shield became a wall through which I was very protective of letting love in. I am not discounting the positive traits of being capable and frankly those capabilities are getting me through this journey of constant navigation. But softening, and allowing the passion, love and openness to see others has revealed itself to me in a whole new perspective. I have noticed this openness coming into being more through my travels as I sit in the pews of cathedrals and visualize that this beautiful, holy place is a community’s church. People come to services at Sagrada Familia and the Cathedral of Barcelona, and Cappella di San Gennaro in Naples and I think about what those people’s lives are like. Tourists walk through these cathedrals daily and take pictures, but these are real people’s place of worship. I have also noticed a greater appreciation for history and thinking about what people were going through when the walked through the streets hundreds and thousands of years ago. I never gave history any thought while I was young and was so bored in high school history class. But I see now that appreciating history allows the human soul to connect with people, discoveries and outcomes and picture how they relate to human life today.

I am thankful for the opening, the receptiveness to grow and the opportunity to put aside my capable life to let a new part of myself be excavated and brought into the light. I greatly appreciate all the support of my family and wonderful friends while I am away on this adventure. I challenge each of you reading this to look at something you see everyday and try and see if differently today. Now, I’m off to see beautiful things I have never seen before – the Amalfi Coast. 


Buried Stuff: It Hurts But Heals

Our first full day at the Provence retreat on August 30th, we visited Abbey Thoronet, just outside of the town of le Luc. This Cistercian Abbey was founded in the 12th Century by monks who left the Benedictine order that had grown into a “superpower” of a church, where monks were often quite wealthy and preferred to spend their time focusing on the politics of the era. Cistercian order was founded on the desire to adopt the poverty and humility of the first Christians. While we visited the Abbey, our retreat leader, Nicole offered a thought to each of us, to wander through the grounds of the Abbey, find a spot where we could sit and imagine the lives of the monks that lived, worked and so often died on these grounds and reflect on what our “order” is in this world we live in, what “order” do we desire, one we are working towards, or one we are wishing to leave behind. The peaceful and historic grounds of Abbey Thoronet were the perfect place to contemplate my “order”, what surfaced was a rich discovery in my path to personal growth. I’d like to share the words that rolled through me during that time.

What’s my order? I chose to name my year of travel Wandering in Possibility. When I initially decided on wandering it stemmed from the idea that I didn’t plan out my whole year but rather wrote down countries that interested me, times of the year that would be good to visit these countries and if I had any contacts or recommendations. I would plan enough to be safe, but make sure that I was staying curious to other options. A few weeks ago before visiting Provence, I looked more closely at the definition of wander and was curious to find a reference in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, that wander “implies an absence of or an indifference to a fixed course.” This statement is the complete antithesis of how I have approached life. I always had a plan, I chart out a course and I stick to it, even when a better path sometimes shows up. So now, I’m sitting at Abbey Thoronet contemplating my order and what surfaces is my order has been order. I needed order, control, safety and responsibilities. I needed to make a living in Corporate America with a defined salary, a title that displayed where you fit in the hierarchy, a job description with rules about what needed to be done to be considered a “success”, defined parameters around when you work, 8 to 5. But oddly, I fought those boundaries, that authority, and those rules my entire life. Thinking I was somehow above the rules, but needing to live safely within their walls, protected from creativity, vulnerability. I basically fought the order, I was working so hard to create. I wrote this poem at the Abbey after the above thoughts unfolded on paper.

For all of my life, I strived for order

Counting things to feel secure about my surroundings

Connecting lines that did not need to be connected but made me feel part of the solution

Being good at math and science because there is almost always a correct answer

Immersing myself in Corporate America

Protected behind a title, a salary and documented responsibilities

But that order became a bind, a noose around my neck

No room for romance, passion, whimsy or play

My creativity dying to come out

My true order needing the space to be discovered

So now, I wander

Open to possibility

Free to feel


Glide into romance, into loving myself

Feeling safe to let love be my first reaction

Fast forward three weeks to today, September 20th. I have looked through those words I wrote at the Abbey on at least five separate occasions. Processing how to move forward on this personal journey is daunting and today I found myself on the streets of Naples, a city void of any order whatsoever, completely overcome with self-doubt. I’m talking about full blown – what the hell am I doing self-doubt, shame at its worst. I have walked away from every bit of order and definition in my life. I no longer have a job, a house, a husband, my kitchen to make a healthy, delicious meal, the ability to call my daughter and see if she wants to hang out together tomorrow, my bike to jump on and feed my soul through exercise and fitness, my friends, my family and even my neighborhood Trader Joe’s and favorite breweries.

As Brené Brown writes, the ‘shame gremlins’ were out in full force today and they need to be brought to light to start the healing process. Traveling is definitely wearing me down. You have to have your guard up most of the time and perhaps selecting a city where that is true more times than not, was a way of exposing this shame I am feeling. I didn’t have to face it with the comfort of my friends around me in Provence, or traveling easily along the coast of Côte d’Azur. This isn’t the only moment of fear and doubt that has come up in the nine weeks I have been traveling, but the experiences of those nine weeks provided fuel to it today. I think being in Italy is like pouring gasoline on that internal flame. France has always been my love, the place where I dream of living, the place I felt the most free, the place I wanted to celebrate my 50th birthday. I haven’t visited Italy until now, and I always envisioned Italy as a place I would explore with Jeff. Biking through Tuscany, walking the canals of Venice, seeing his favorite sights that he explored in 2010 while Jordan and I visited Paris for the first time. Now I’m here, by myself, and what has unveiled itself is doubt, regret, fear, pain and emptiness. Acknowledging these emotions are healing for me and vitally necessary, but they hurt like hell! While I have done a great deal of journaling during my travels, I have avoided getting into the hard stuff. I think I’m making excuses because I still have places to go, things to see, and I need some stamina to make those things happen. Today was obvious that it doesn’t do any good to push through and see sights, just for the sake of seeing a new place, when my insides are feeling like liquified concrete. And the fact is, this mid-life gap year isn’t just about the travel, it is about discovery of myself, where I fit into this world with a new and more open perspective. But that new perspective requires healing. 

I don’t want to discount all I have learned and accomplished in the last two months. I have gotten around places with really no huge issues, I have seen so many beautiful and new places. I have met people that have taught me how important it is to be open and honest and let people in. I have been put in situations that would cause some people to utterly freak out and stayed in apartments that weren’t nearly up to my standards of cleanliness. But over these last two months, I have learned to slow down. To not get upset over certain things that are completely out of my control and that is really most of the situations I’m in these days. There is very little that is even within my control. As I witnessed today, Naples lives simultaneously with 2,000 year old structures, some just under the surface of the street and others amidst the streets and buildings that make up the fabric of people’s lives today. My stuff isn’t 2,000 years old and while it might take some internal revolutions or at least a change in management, the end result is completely worth it. In light of all that and the emotions that pushed their way to surface today, I am truly wandering in possibility. With more of a focus on the possibility, or as Merriam-Webster would say:

1: the condition or fact of being possible
2: one’s utmost power, capacity, or ability
3: something that is possible
4: potential or prospective value —usually used in plural

“La vita è questa. Niente è facile e niente è impossibile.” This is life. Nothing is easy and nothing is impossible. 

– Giuseppe Donadei


Côte d’Azur Captured My Heart

I first stepped into the Mediterranean Sea on July 28th during my stay in Málaga. I stayed on the beach all day and enjoyed going into the water to cool off from the hot temperatures. I had rented a lounge chair and umbrella for the day for €4, a price that would become a unicorn in my upcoming travels. I then traveled to Ibiza and discovered treasured coves protected by rocks, with beautiful greenish-blue water and soft sand. Throughout Spain’s coast, the sea was an integral part of my adventures. Gazing out into the crystal waters as I traversed by ferry from Ibiza and then a train along the coast to Alicante. Seeking out lazy beaches amongst the chaos of cities like Valencia and Barcelona. Then spending four days on the beaches of Costa Brava in L’Armentera and Cadaqués. Each place in Spain, the rocks a slightly different color, the beaches a mix of sand, pebbles and rocks, the water a bit darker blue as I traveled north.

While in Valencia, I visited the science museum, the Museu de les Ciències located in the City of Arts and Sciences complex and walked through an exhibit on the history of the Mediterranean Sea. It was fascinating to learn about the biodiversity of the sea, the history when the sea was nearly a desert and the way the exhibit depicted the relationship with humans and the impact we are having on the sea. It provided not only knowledge about the Mediterranean but an instant connection with its importance to the people near its coastlines.

I then traveled up the Mediterranean Sea into France, and was lucky enough to visit the Gorges du Verdon. While the gorges are technically fed by a river, the land surrounding the gorges in Provence were at one time flooded by the sea. The limestone cliffs broke off and formed the jagged cliffs around the canyon today. The water in the canyon is a mesmerizing shade of turquoise that when you see pictures of it, you’d think that every photo has used a filter. Swimming and paddle boating down the gorge was one of my favorite parts of the time in Provence.

Gorges du Verdon, France

I then experienced the “Blue Coast” for the first time as we made our way to Saint-Tropez. In English we refer to this area has the French Riviera. The term Côte d’Azur was first used in 1887 in a book written by Stéphen Liégeard. It’s quite obvious why this term has had the staying power it does, the blues are rich, intense and the water clear and inviting. The sand in Saint-Tropez was the whitest I’ve seen during my travels. The elegance and luxury that Saint-Tropez evokes was clearly evident everywhere you turned. Not to mention the €31 cost for our cushion on the ground and umbrella. It didn’t lessen the experience in the least bit.

Saint-Tropez, France

The next excursion in the Mediterranean took us to the island of Porquerolles, in the Îles d’Hyères region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. We ferried to the island, where no cars are allowed and rented bicycles. The first stop was a beach on the northeastern side of the island called Plage de Notre Dame. It had a narrow beach and was fully surrounded by lush trees and a prominent rocky peak on the northern side. There were sailboats anchored in the bay and the water was so shallow you could nearly walk out to the boats. The water was clear blue with darker areas where rocks hugged the coast. I then went to a beach also on the northern side but on the far west end of the island, called Plage d’Argent. It was a smaller cove with a wider beach that butted right against rocks. The water was the same beautiful hue with soft white sand.

Plage de Notre Dame, Porquerolles, France

After departing our retreat in Provence, I was back on my own and decided to stay a bit longer in Côte d’Azur and picked a quiet town just south of Cannes, Mandelieu-La Napoule to call home for a week. From here I had excursions to beaches in Mandelieu, Nice, Villefranche-sur-mer, Monaco and Antibes. For each of these trips, I took the train from Mandelieu which runs directly along the coast and never tired of the views of the sea. The color of the water, the cliffs along the shore, the yachts lining the coves and ports, the colorful houses and buildings lining the streets, the Provençal markets, fresh seafood, and the ancient remnants of rock walls that protected these coastal cities in ancient times. It’s no wonder that great artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall, Renoir, Cezanne to name a few, lived in this area and drew upon its beauty in their works. Many times, as I came over a hill, or out of the trees during a train ride, the picturesque view was like looking at a work of art – but it was real, and it captivated my heart.

While I may be done with my visit to the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France for now, I will most certainly be returning here. There are far too many beautiful coves, bays and beaches that I haven’t yet discovered. Many streets to roam and get lost in. Many cafes in which to sit, sip wine and watch the world meander by.

Girl Cannot Live on Rosé Alone

Today is my 50th birthday. I woke up today at the Bastide Avellanne, a Bed & Breakfast in the Provence region of France, rich in history surrounded on all sides by oak trees and old vine vineyards. I woke a little before seven o’clock after a restful night of sleep, which is not a recurring thing these days. I sat on a quilt and started my morning meditation. Thoughts of my life flowed freely. These first fifty years have been full of so much love and joy, laughter and great memories. I am surrounded by a family, filled with people who were pulled into this crazy circle throughout the years, each serving their own unique and important part of my life. Each of them supporting and loving me in a way that only they could do. As I reflected, I gave thanks for each individual and showered them with appreciation for the part they each played in getting me to this milestone birthday. I also reflected on who I am, and what I need to focus on to make the next 50 years filled with even more passion. What came to me was – –




For both myself and all those I encounter in life. I took in all these beautiful thoughts and memories of my life, grounded in a purpose for the day and unfolding days before me and set off to celebrate my day, the launch of my fifth decade.

I ate a little breakfast with the thirteen incredible women joining me at the Bastide Avellanne for the Nomadic Belonging retreat. They wished me happy birthday and we excitedly awaited our departure to the beaches of St. Tropez. We drank champagne on our way to St. Tropez, through the winding roads of southeast France, singing to songs from Madonna, Bananarama, the B 52’s and others. Climbing hills and dropping into the town during a busy Saturday market in the center of town. We arrived at Le Club 55, and I must point out that fourteen American women do not ascend on a beach club in the French Riviera quietly. We settled into chaises and soaking in the sun of the Mediterranean was an idyllic way to celebrate such an important birthday.

We proceeded to drink rosé, laugh and talk, swim in the surf and drink more rosé. The time approached to head to our vans and start our trek back to the Bastide. I had skipped lunch at the club and the winding roads were not kind to me. I spent the entire one and half plus hours laying down on the lap of a kindest women you could meet, Kathy. We arrived at the Bastide after what seemed like an ungodly amount of time. I stumbled to my room and fell into my bed. It was probably around five o’clock in the evening at this point, but honestly I don’t remember. I woke up after Cheryl and Nicole R. came into into my room on separate occasions to check on me. It was 9:30 pm when I finally focused my eyes in the dark room, a cold compress gently placed on head, and stepped out of bed and made my way to bathroom. I looked down and noticed a basket of bread and butter, placed near my bed. I learned later that Jenn had come into my room after dinner to leave me something to eat. I had completely missed my 50th birthday dinner! I opened my cards, some brought with me from home and others deposited on my countertop as I lay in bed resembling a pathetic college student after a fraternity party. I was saddened at first but then I smiled as I read the cards and thought about my day. I celebrated my 50th birthday in Provence, on a beach in the French Riviera! Surrounded by women who are changing the world, make me laugh, make me ponder life and who support me and protect me after knowing me for only a few days. I may have missed my birthday dinner, but I learned a great lesson. Women will protect me, accept me and be there for me in times of need – but we cannot live on rosé alone!

A New Season of Life Awaits

As I write this, I am sitting in a room in a house in Saint Rémy de Provence that is wrapped in stone on three sides. The beautifully restored houses of this area, the winding streets, shady spots filled with fountains, boutiques, children playing and people enjoying a leisurely coffee sitting in cafes, capture the true essence of Provence. I have spent the last two days in this quaint but vibrant French town with my beautiful friend, Cheryl. After spending the last five weeks as a solo traveler, exploring new towns with someone has been such a joy. We are saddened though because our friend Terri had picked staying in this town and she wasn’t able to join us. Sharing what I have been uncovering and how my adventures have unfolded with a close friend have filled my heart with joy. She has offered great support and insight that has opened new avenues of thinking for me. The essence of a true friend. 

Saint Rémy de Provence is filled with history and is the oldest archeological site in Europe. Vincent Van Gogh spent time here in 1889 and yesterday we walked through the grounds that inspired many of his famous paintings.  As we walked the trails, lined with the same olive trees and wildflowers depicted in Van Gogh’s paintings, we were the only ones there. The peace, serenity and beauty was breathtaking. With one mountain directly in front us during our walk, I was reminded of the glory that surrounded me in Colorado. Being in the mountains brings me peace and grounds me. It helps me realize that even though as humans we go through times of immense pain, struggle, joy and happiness, so does the mountain see changing seasons, rising temperatures, snow collect on its peaks and then melt as the sun warms its surface. Unfazed by these dramatic changes unfolding around them. 

In three days, I will celebrate my 50th birthday in Provence. A dream that I set in motion two years ago. At the time, I had no prior memory of Provence, had never visited this region of France before, but the mystic idea of Provence seemed like the perfect place to celebrate my milestone birthday. Now that I’m sitting in this magnificent region, with vast countrysides, vineyards, the Mediterranean Sea, delicious cuisine, fragrant yet simple soaps and perfumes, the idyllic Provence is a true reality. So today, Cheryl and I set off for drive to Besse-sur-Issole, a bit deeper in the southern part of the Provence region to join a group of women at the Bastide Avellanne. Here we will spend the next 7 days together and I will celebrate entering this new season of life. A season that brings grace, wisdom, discovery. I will picture those mountains that through everything stand in magnificent beauty, emanating strength, and resolve.

Living Small is Not an Option

I woke up this morning in Montpellier just a little after the sun was rising out over the ocean. I can’t see the ocean from my window but as I poked my head through a tiny window in the loft where I’m staying, the morning breeze was cool compared to the warm air the night before and the sun was just visible over the  buildings. It’s very quiet for a Monday morning in this city. I can only hear a few cars in the distance which is vastly different from the circus of activity I was surrounded by in Barcelona each day from the fifth floor apartment balcony. Upon doing my morning reflection, I was thinking about the upcoming visit I am about to have with some friends that are arriving in France that will include celebrating two of them completing Ironman events next Saturday and Sunday and then a week later celebrating my 50th birthday at the beautiful Bastide Avellanne in Provence.

I am so deeply proud to know these women that have dedicated a vast portion of their lives in the last few months to this one day. One day that has already changed their lives. One day that I’m sure is going to be filled with some of the most intense pain and also joy they have experienced. They are making this a reality through commitment, grit, strength, and I have to say a bit of insanity. I haven’t had the pleasure of being around them during their training, their injuries or their milestones, but they have had a profound impact on me from afar. Their commitment to this day, is encouragement for me to dig deeper into myself and while an Ironman event is likely not in the cards for me, I have come to realize that living my safe, controlled, and somewhat small life no longer serves me.

There’s no doubt that a milestone birthday is cause for profound reflection in life. We think deeply about the impact we have had thus far, the things we have done, places we have seen and what kind of legacy, if any, we will be leaving behind. I am very proud of the life I have lived in these first 50 years. But I am taking the time to really process what is important to me, what the consequences have been of some actions or behaviors that have been continually present in my life up to this point. I am beginning to see more clearly that I have been so afraid to give myself fully to this world. Give in a raw, unconditional, filled with passion kind of way. I have shown up as a confident, headstrong, knowledgeable, get shit done kind of girl but always in a guarded, protected, controlling way.

As I wrote about in the Courage/Bravery post, I have made huge strides in recognizing these patterns in myself and changing that internal messaging. But I am feeling stuck about how to break through that smallness and not being afraid to give of myself more freely? Maybe this is my Ironman, except it’s my soft woman. 

My mid-life gap year is my training year for giving, for opening, for honesty, for commitment and for growth.

We have a choice. We can complacently watch life from the sidelines, or we can risk our pride, our ideas, and whatever else we use to separate ourselves from others and leap fully into our life.

Michael Wenger, “Entering the Lotus”

My Daily Dharma email from 20 August 2018