Hello Again: The Art of Getting my Words Unstuck

I’ve always believed that new beginnings are more powerful when they are grounded in vulnerability rather than sheer resolve. So I’ll start my return to the internet with a confession: I’ve been stuck.

The self-protecting part of me would like to pretend I’ve been gone a long while from here because I’ve been off creating amazing things, discovering more of the world, and just haven’t had time for life on the internet. While some of this is accurate, the bigger truth is that I’ve been quiet because I’ve been stuck in that horrible place of letting the culture of ‘who I should be’ silence who I am.

I didn’t leave you on purpose. Six months ago, I accidentally crashed Wandering for Good when I was building the website for The Honeymoon Hack (a travel hacking tool for couples which is, in fact, an amazing thing I did create while I was absent). And I crashed it in style–losing years of words that I’d collected while wandering around the world.

Had I been sensible I’d have straightaway paid a developer to fix the mess I’d created, but sense is not the strong-suit of a DIY girl with serious resolve (and minimal coding skills). After a small success in recovering some of my work, my inner-bohemian rose up and got me wondering if it all didn’t happen for a reason. I was completely unsure, so I responded by doing what internet hustlers do–I pretended it was on purpose. I threw up an under construction page promising that my site was coming back soon–and better than ever before.

Lesson: Two lies never make a truth.

That “coming back soon” page stayed up a really long time. Only behind it, I wasn’t working on making my site better, and I certainly wasn’t in any hurry. I kept ‘rebuild website’ on my very long to do list– but at the heart I was paralyzed in not knowing how I wanted to re-invent my online brand, grow my audience, and all of the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah the digital-business world tells us we have to do to be successful.

Weeks turned into months, and the longer I went not having a website, the less pressure I felt to be an internet rockstar. Part of this separation was liberating, yet there was one thing that I missed. I missed the words. And I missed this place I’d carved out to gather with you over these stories and lessons.

I wanted those words back, but every time I’d come here to write them, I’d get stuck again. I’d take my eyes off my own paper looking for inspiration of how to create that new and improved page I promised to house them on, and then I’d spiral into overwhelm. My words were lost. I wasn’t only stuck, I was silenced by comparison.

Then  I ran into someone else’s words, and they moved me:

“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” – Tom Stoppard

I finally realized, my words don’t have to look pretty to change a life. To nudge the world. I was stuck on something that didn’t matter while all the while I was holding captive something that did.

And so here are my words. Delivered to you today on the most un-improved and un-inspiring wordpress template that exists. Maybe it will get prettier over time, but that isn’t a promise. If you want to see pretty pictures of my color-coated life you can look at my carefully curated presence on Instagram.

For now, my promise here is to show up here regularly to bring you words. Messy words, joyful words, words colored in black and white.

But most importantly words bathed in a prayer that by reading them together that we shall all nudge the world a little.

 

February Roundup: Giving Matters

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February, my favorite short month flew by, and we’ve already completed a whole month of the #Give10 Reboot.To be completely honest, February didn’t feel short or easy. A lot of things happening around the world have made my heart feel sad. Some days it’s easiest to bury my head in the sand–or more realistically–in my case–search for plane tickets to escape to a tropical island far far away with no internet or CNN reception

Giving has been one small thing to make me feel empowered, and the positive response to #give10 is a great reminder that I’m not alone. Thanks to everyone who has offered suggestion for organizations that are committed to fighting the good fight against injustices of all forms. Thanks to those of you who’ve joined me in protesting inequality with your wallets, and thanks to each of you who’ve offered dialogue and conversation in both support and disagreement in an effort to cross bridges and come to places of mutual understanding.

Here’s a list of the organizations we’ve supported this month. Which ones do you support? Which ones are we missing? Be sure to follow us @Give10 on Facebook and let us know which organizations you’d like to see us support and why.

  1. Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization Portland – IRCO
  2. World Relief Refugee Resettlement
  3. International Rescue Committee
  4. Committee to Protect Journalists
  5. Polaris Project
  6. Lutheran Immigration & Refugee Services
  7. Church World Service
  8. Immigration Counseling Service
  9. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops- USCCB
  10. US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
  11. EuroRelief
  12. Catholic Relief Services
  13. Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDCUS)
  14. Giving Cards Challenge
  15. Episcopal Migration Ministries
  16. HIAS
  17. ACLU
  18. PBS
  19. Oregon Symphony
  20. Portland Art Museum
  21. National Parks Conservation Association
  22. Alzheimer’s Association
  23. Raphael House of Portland
  24. Artists for Humanity Boston
  25. Boston Center for Refugee Health & Human Rights
  26. Maternity Africa
  27. Embark Passion Sri Lanka
  28. Trail SL

Onward into March giving!

Flying Solo on Honeymoon Island: Lessons Learned in Traveling Alone

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I mostly travel alone. Sometimes it is by choice, and sometimes it is simply because I’m not one to let my perpetually single status stop me from doing anything I dream of doing.

To be honest, most times I travel solo, I don’t even notice. I’m pretty awesome company (I think), and there are always people to talk to on the road. Plus with modern capabilities to connect from the remotest places, I’m never further than a Facetime away from my mother when I get tired of talking to myself. She always likes to see what I’m seeing.

Yet, even as independent as I can be, there are times that I choose to not go somewhere because I’m solo. And it isn’t just about safety. There are lots of reasons that cause the unaccompanied to press pause on their travel plans.

For years I’d wanted to travel to the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora and sleep in an overwater bungalow with tropical fish below me. But I put it off, and I put it off. Pushing pause on my dream time and time again.

You see, the entire tourism structure of Bora Bora is designed to cater to couples—destination weddings, honeymooners, and 25th anniversary celebrators. The airlines might as well sell tickets by the pair. Part of me was waiting for +1 to present to Air Tahiti to validate my worthiness to see this Polynesian paradise.

It wasn’t until recently that I said, F*%& it. My +1 is apparently lost in the Bermuda Triangle or undertaking a very extended journey across the Sahara. And so I went to Bora Bora by myself. Honeymoon island, party of one.

In all of my alone time watching the fish swim in the crystal clear lagoon from the perch of my over-the-water bungalow dock I spent some time reflecting on what really stops many of us from solo travel—and why we should do it anyway.

If you’re struggling with any of these reasons of why you shouldn’t travel alone, here’s some real reasons you should ignore them.

Reason not to go #1: It isn’t a solo-traveler kind of place.
Like Bora Bora, many of the most beautiful destinations in the world have been turned into “honeymoon hot-spots” and “romantic getaways”. Some places are tagged “family destinations”. Other places just have reputations for being more difficult to see solo. Most of this is a marketing ploy. At honeymoon resorts, tables are for two–but who cares. You have just as much right to take up space in your dream destination as any one else- and you don’t have to share the bread basket.

Lesson: If you want to go somewhere solo do your own research and don’t let the reputation of the place stop you from going. There are single people everywhere in the world (therefore there is no destination that isn’t solo-appropriate with a little bit of creativity). There are also ways that you can connect up with other solo travelers if you feel more confident being part of a group.

Reason not to go #2: Other people question why you’d go there alone

When I checked into the Intercontinental in Bora Bora, the woman working at reception asked me three times where my husband was. Her disbelief that I was in Bora Bora by myself was palpable. “Just one? Are you sure? No husband?”
I replied with a question- “Do you not have many guests with single bookings?”
“Well, we’ve had one other this week—a man,” she said. “Maybe you should meet.”
(sidenote: I wasn’t aware that the IHG hotel group was now offering matchmaking as part of its benefits for elite members.)

Lesson: When it comes to travel (and, well, a lot of other things) the lesson that I’ve learned is that it really doesn’t matter what other people think about where you want to go and if you want to be there by yourself. Sure, you may have to explain your situation, but why not make it fun and be true to what you want? Most of the travelers I talked to were intrigued about why I was there alone. I used this opportunity to talk to them about a new travel guide I’m writing (stay tuned) and handed out more business cards in Bora Bora than I do at a typical networking event.

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The wedding chapel at the Intercontinental in Bora Bora (convenient for when that elite matchmaking works out)

Reason not to go #3: You won’t be safe
Most people assume that safety is the primary concern of solo travelers—and solo female travelers in particular. However, as I’ve talked to more and more female travelers I’ve learned that safety isn’t often their biggest fear—they are much more afraid of being lonely and not having anyone to share their trip with. While safety isn’t always at the top of the list for what holds people back—or at the top of your worries in a pretty peaceful place like Bora Bora staying safe on the road is still important.

Lesson: The thing I’ve learned from years of solo globetrotting and my own run-ins with danger, is that staying safe on the road is very much like staying safe at home. Know where you’re going, be intentional when you’re wandering around alone in the dark, stick to areas with people, make local connections and ask if there are places that you should stay away from.

I always opt for situations that make me feel safe—even when they cost a few dollars extra. When I booked my ticket to Tahiti, the only flight available arrived late at night, so I booked the hotel’s shared shuttle. Normally I’d hop outside and hail a taxi to save a few bucks, but for my own security, an extra 10$ ensured that I’d be with other people and not looking for an ATM in the dark and negotiating with a taxi driver in bad French at midnight. (Note – doing things that aren’t safe alone when you’re at home are also not safe to do when you’re traveling–make a friend to do things that require a safety buddy)

Reason not to go #4: You’ll be lonely
Being alone does not always equal being lonely. By the time I left Bora Bora and Tahiti, I’d made a dozen new and very interesting friends: My over-the-water bungalow neighbor who had patented an inflatable tent and was celebrating his 25th anniversary, an American sailor who’d just finished a 31 day crossing of the Pacific Ocean from Mexico in his 26 foot sailboat, two Belgian grandfathers on a dive trip who wanted to buy me beer and talk about pre-election U.S. politics, and a dozen honeymooning and anniversary-ing couples who were really thrilled to have an unusual person to talk to after a week on an island with only their significant other.

Lesson: Being lonely and being alone are not the same thing (It’s worth repeating). The world is full of amazing people and amazing stories and people worth talking to. You don’t have to be that chatty person on the airplane who talks for the whole flight to make friends (please, don’t be him/her)—just be friendly. Just do you.

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Reason not to go #5: You’ve never traveled alone before

Maybe you aren’t single, maybe you just wonder what having a solo adventure would be like, or you want to go somewhere that your partner doesn’t want to go–but you’ve never traveled alone before and aren’t sure if you’ll like it. Well, one thing is for certain, you’ll never know unless you try it. When I was preparing to take my first solo backpacking trip around Indonesia I confess I was a little nervous (even though I was already living alone in Thailand) so I faced my fear and took myself on a practice weekend trip to a Thai island all by myself–and I was totally fine!

Lesson: Think about what makes you afraid of traveling solo and figure out a way to practice so you can reassure yourself you’ll be okay on the road. Worried about being alone? Get in your car by yourself and go on a weekend road trip. Worried about flying alone? Practice with some domestic flights by yourself.

I’m guessing you’re stronger, braver, and more prepared than you believe. I definitely learned that I was.

Happy Solo Travels!

 

Practical Activism: The #Give10 Comeback

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Here at wanderingforgood we talk a lot about travel (because it’s awesome), yet we care equally about the “good” part of our name and the “change the world” part of our mission.

As someone who loves the world, and has a strong passion for social justice, I’ve been experiencing a lot of overwhelm lately. Over the last weeks I’ve lost a lot of sleep at all the division, injustice, anger, and uncertainty that seems to be happening all around and watching things that I’m used to seeing in fragile nations happening in my own neighborhood. My heart hurts.

If you’re anything like me perhaps you waiver between putting your congressman on speed dial and wanting to escape to a tropical beach to bury your head in the sand and pretend that everything is okay. While a tropical beach does sound good right about now that the calendar is about to turn to February, I’ve been around the block and around the world to know that  ignoring and escaping doesn’t change anything.

So instead of escaping, I’ve been challenging myself to sit with this question:

How can I best use my own skills, knowledge and resources at this moment to make a difference in the things that matter to me? 

As I pondered what I care about and what I can uniquely contribute, I dawned on me that exactly six years ago at a time when I felt similarly overwhelmed, I created a project called #GIVE10 to use my skills, social platforms and professional do-gooding networks together in an effort to rally people to care about causes in the world.

Give10 worked like this: Each day we’d find someone doing good to make the world better, vett this organization through a network of individuals working in these issues on the ground, and invest in their work with a small $10 donation. Then we’d share about this organization, why we support their work, and encourage others to check them out and contribute their own 10$ is they saw fit. It was pretty awesome.

While the #GIVE10 community still exists (and yes you can join it for free at that link right now!), I have to admit that I haven’t been paying much attention to it in awhile. But all that’s about to change. Starting February 1, I’m committed to rebooting #GIVE10. I’m doing it because the world needs us to be active participants in spreading good right now more than ever. And I need it so I can sleep at night–knowing I’m doing my small part with the skills and resources I have.
I’ll begin with looking at organizations that are working on issues that are heavy on my heart right now: refugees, access to healthcare, climate, and racial and religious reconciliation.

Now, I recognize that the issues that I care about may not necessarily be the issues that are making you count sheep–and that’s why #Give10 is a community movement, not just a one person show giving away a bunch of $10 bills. For Give10 to be successful it relies on others to contribute and share their knowledge and passion about the organizations they care about.
The aim is that #Give10 will once again inspire others to take personal action in the way that only they can

Want to join in with #Give10? Here’s 3 simple things you can do:

  1.  Follow #Give10 now. (we promise to add some positive giving energy to your Facebook feed)
  2.  If you see a cause that resonates with you join us by giving your own $10 (or more) and/or by sharing it with others (#give10 on Twitter)
  3. Tell us about the causes you care about and why. We’re always looking for new organizations doing good work to highlight and give to.

Most importantly, recognize that it takes all of us to make a difference. I challenge you to take time today to sit with this question yourself and then make your own plan to address the issues that are important to you:

How can I best use my own skills, knowledge and resources at this moment to make my voice heard in the things that matter to me? 

In love and goodness.
Stephanie

PS. February is the perfect month to start something new! What are you going to do?

Bora Bora or Bust: Why aren’t you getting on the plane?

BOB - 3For several years I’ve been helping people learn how to travel for nearly free using points and miles. There’s something amazing about encouraging people to dream about a place they’ve never visited—one that would most likely never be accessible to them if they had to save the money to get there—and then show a few practical tools to make this a reality.

As I challenge people to learn to travel hack by working towards a goal of a dream destination, I’ve always shared my own dream of sleeping in an over-the-water bungalow in Bora Bora–falling asleep to the sound of the surf, waking up to the fish under my feet, and morning coffee with my toes in the brilliant blue water.

The funny thing was, however, after years of teaching people how to hack their way to Bora Bora, I’d still never actually been there myself.

I had the points, I’d done all the research. If there ever was anyone qualified to hack their way to Bora Bora, I was she. What was I waiting for?

In October I flew to New Zealand. As my plane crossed the Pacific on it’s 17 hour journey I watched as we flew directly over Tahiti and the rest of French Polynesia on the inflight entertainment system flight tracker. Then it struck me. Was this the closest I was ever going to get to Bora Bora? A mile above it in the sky?

The wheels in my brain started turning. What was keeping me from going there if it wasn’t time or money? Why wasn’t I getting on the plane bound for Bora Bora? Was I subconsciously waiting for a significant moment. For my perfect traveling companion. For all the stars in the southern cross to align?

As I watched the sun rise at 37,000 feet, it literally dawned on me that I was waiting for no real reason. I was just putting it off because later felt easier than now. And then I thought some more. What other things was I putting off in my life like Bora Bora with no reason whatsoever?

Why is it that we put off our dreams and desires while waiting for the perfect time or circumstance to magically present itself? Aren’t we old enough to know that the magical present is the actual PRESENT? I made a pledge to myself to make it happen. And since I had to fly over Bora Bora again to get home from New Zealand —I decided that I would just do it now.

And as I typed the draft of this post from the deck of my over-the-water bungalow of my dreams, I can ensure you that NOW was the exact right time.

Whether you’re putting off a dream trip, calling your long lost family, waiting to pick up your pen to write your best-seller (points finger at self),  the lesson is this: The perfect time is now. If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it. 

I guess next time I teach this lesson I’ll be using my own photos and telling my own Bora Bora stories—and perhaps I’ll have to find another travel dream to share!

What are you waiting for?

Wonder how I actually hacked my way to Bora Bora? I knew you’d ask. Keep reading the bonus section below if you want to know how to plan this kind of trip.

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How’d I get there?

Here’s how my travel to Bora Bora worked, how I booked it, and what it cost. The route I took was a little bit different than the one I’ve laid out in my lesson plans, since I traveled via New Zealand rather than direct to Tahiti from my home base of Portland, OR. (Don’t worry, you can easily do this as a return trip originating in the US with flights on Hawaiian, AirFrance or AirTahiti Nui.)

PDX-LAX-SYD-AKL: 72,500 AA miles (or $11,000)

My first ticket was from Portland (PDX) to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) on American Airlines with a stop in Los Angeles (LAX) and an intentional one day layover in Sydney, Australia (SYD). This ticket was First Class and cost a total of 72,500 American Airlines points with a dollar value of $11,000! As this ticket was on American and Qantas flights, I was able to search for and book the ticket online at aa.com. I booked this flight 10 months in advance as a one way award. (This ticket was purchased prior to American’s devaluation in early 2016- the current ticket cost for this same route one way is 90,000 AA Miles on a First Class saver award). Most of my miles on AA are earned from AA domestic flights and from my Citi AAdvantage credit card.

While the first half of my trip was booked very far in advance, all of the remaining flights were booked at the very last minute since I didn’t decide to fly home via Bora Bora until I was already in New Zealand.

AKL-PPT: 30,000 Miles (or $1,400)

Starting in New Zealand, I booked a flight from Auckland (AKL) to Papaetee, Tahiti (PPT) on Air Tahiti Nui using American Airlines Miles. The cost was 30,000 miles for a one way business class ticket at a cash value of $1,400 (or 15,000 for economy class). Booking this ticket required making a call to AA reservations as the tickets are not searchable online. It’s the only airline I’ve ever flown that gives you flowers for your hair and serves pre-flight mai-tai’s. (Also, I think I was also the only person on the flight traveling alone)

PPT-BOB-PPT: $220 each way in Travel Credits

Air Tahiti (not to be confused with Air Tahiti Nui) has a monopoly of the French Polynesian skies and is the only way to get to Bora Bora once you’ve made it as far as Tahiti. I flew PPT to BOB and came back to Tahiti via Moorea—another island that connected to Papaetee by ferry. The only way to hack this leg is with lots of points on a credit card with a “travel eraser” or cash back travel credits like my Chase Sapphire Reserve. The cost of the flight is about $220 each way and doesn’t fluctuate much. I booked the flight directly through airtahiti.com to receive travel credits on my credit card. The most important thing to know about this flight is that you want a seat on the left side on the way out and right side on the way back. Catching a view of Bora Bora from the sky is worth the cost of the flight alone.

* Note: if you make it this far, and are hoping to use points to stay at hotels in Tahiti and Bora Bora, you’ll want to stock up on Starwood, Hilton or IHG points. These are the chains that operate properties around French Polynesia. I used points from my IHG and SPG Amex Credit cards to cover my hotel nights.

 PPT-HNL-KON: 27,500 Hawaiian Miles (or $950)

To get from Tahiti back across the Pacific to the US, there are very limited choices of Airlines: Air Tahiti Nui, Air France, and Hawaiian Airlines–and not all of these airlines fly to the island every day. Since I had a stash of Hawaiian airlines miles that I’d never used after signing up for a Hawaiian airlines credit card, I decided to take the once a week Hawaiian flight to Honolulu (HNL) and then connect onward to Kona (KON) for no additional cost. An economy class ticket for the 5 hour overnight flight was 27,500 (at a cash value of $950) and bookable online at Hawaiian Airlines. The same flight was also bookable online via AA.com using American Advantage points, but cost more at 37,500 points.

KOA-PHX-PDX :$220 (or 20,000 miles)

Since I had to fly through Hawaii anyway, I took the opportunity to explore the big island for a few days before heading the rest of the way home via American Airlines. There were dozens of flights to choose at all times of day from on an assortment of airlines for about $220 or 20,000 miles on American. I went with a paid AA flight so the redemption value was low. Buying the ticket allowed me to earn qualifying miles and a paid flight allowed me to request a complimentary upgrade with my status..

All together, I saved more than $14,010 on flights by using points and miles!  But more importantly than getting something of high value for a fraction of the cost. I finally got to see Bora Bora for myself!

Roots and Regrets: Travel Lessons from Italy

255770_10200641354510145_265673010_nMy first trip to Italy was in 1993. I was a young and hip backpacker, too cool for the universe—as most teenagers are—and especially too cool for my family. Or so I thought.

Now that I’m much older and a little wiser I’ve come to realize that this whole time my family is awesome.

My family has deep Italian roots. My father is Italian. His parents were Italian. My great grandparents were Italians straight off the boat. (See above, those were the immigration papers of my Grandmother’s mother).

I don’t know enough stories about that boat and why the patriarchs and matriarchs of my “Italian-American” family came to the “new” world of their time. Perhaps they were “explorers” rather than “settlers”. Maybe this is where my genes of adventure come from. If I am cool now, it is only because it is hereditary.

There is one story that I do remember well about my learning my family history. Sadly, it is both my own story and a story of regret.

In 1993 when I took my very first trip to Europe, my Italian grandparents were alive. They religiously hand wrote me letters nearly every week during the duration of my first study abroad semester in London. I’ll never forget my Grammy’s perfect cursive penmanship or the way she and Pappy always tucked 20$ bills into their tri-folded drugstore notepad letters.

As the end of my time in the U.K. neared, I prepared for my first backpacking trip through Italy–Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Venice were on the list. I was excited, and in advance of the trip received one of Grammy and Pappy’s letters with a 20$ travel bonus! This time, however, the letter wasn’t the ordinary update with the regular news of their local Italian choir and spaghetti dinner club they hosted. In preparation for my first trip to Italy, they had carefully created a list of the names and telephone numbers of all of my relatives in the cities I would be visiting so I could connect with my roots. It was a treasure map.

Unfortunately, the thing about teenagers and treasure maps, was that I wasn’t smart enough to know the value of this letter at the time. It was just a piece of the same old drug-store notepad paper from my grandparents with the names of people I didn’t know on it. I put the 20$ in my wallet, tucked the address list into my Let’s Go guide, and hit the road!

As a teenager I thought of my relatives as the people who I saw at family reunions and funerals. They were the ones who brought funny Italian dishes like cold pizza with no cheese they called tomato pie, and pinched my cheeks, and always asked me if I remembered their names. (And of course I didn’t.)

One day in Florence, where some of the relatives on the list lived, I pulled out the piece of paper from my guidebook, admired Grammy’s perfect cursive, and picked up a hostel payphone. And then I got scared and put the receiver down. I didn’t know who these people were. Maybe they were somehow related to my ‘old’ grandparents, but I didn’t know them, I didn’t know what to say to them, AND they didn’t speak English. Game over.

I never made that call. I put the list back in my book and never looked at it again. I had assumed that I was living my once in a lifetime chance to visit Italy and I didn’t want to waste it with cheek pinching strangers who might serve me funny food and not be able to talk to me in 18 year old English. I had no inkling that I’d spend the next 20+ years traveling.

I’ve been back to Italy at least ten times since, and I’ve thought about this moment dozens of times. I’d give anything to be able to pick up the phone, dial into the past, and get to know the family on that list. I’d call them all and mumble in my best incoherent Duo-Lingo Italian.

Sadly, I lost that paper, and within a few years after that trip I also lost both of my grandparents who were my connections to these living stories. For some reason, however, I’ve never lost that memory of putting down the receiver and making that choice not to call.

Sure, it was just a phone call in the past that I didn’t make, but moments like these also go by another name. We call them regret, and regret strangely has a way of sticking around—even longer than estranged relatives and cold cheese-less pizza.

Perhaps regret sticks and stings because it so badly doesn’t want us to forget the lesson it teaches. She stays with us to remind us to run the other way from our fears and failures. Not to condemn, but to condition us for the better and to prepare us for the future. To make us stronger and more willing to pick up the phone the next time we get the chance.

I’m headed back to Italy next week, making my own mission to chase my roots into the village where my great grandparents came from. I’m not sure what I’ll discover, but I know one thing that won’t be hanging out there: Regret.

You may never get a rewrite of that moment from your past, but you do get to write the end of your story.

###

 

 

The Art of Taking Up Space

CoverStory-Liniers-Eustace-Manspreading-879x1200-1454103357You’ve probably heard of the “manspread” – the cultural phenomenon that has taken the New York City subway by storm. If you haven’t, it may be time to Google it.

The topic of manspreading been laughed about on comedy shows and trending across social media networks. In fact, a “manspreading” illustration of the famed New Yorker caricature Eustace Tilley is currently gracing the coveted cover of the magazine’s 90th anniversary edition.

While the jokes are funny, I haven’t quite been able to understand this phenomenon, or the bigger question of why people, both women and men, put up with this.

While I don’t live in NYC, and don’t even pass through the big apple that often, I often see this same phenomenon happen in the skies where I tend to hang out quite a bit as a master travel hacker. Why is it that the man sitting next to me thinks his elbow, his knees or his side beer belly is welcome to take up half of my seat? And why do I naturally scoot over in my own seat to make room rather than say excuse me, but get the F#&* out of my space?

A rockstar friend of mine shared this poetry slam video with me this week, and it got me thinking about this topic. (It’s a few years old, but it’s good. You should watch it.)

While I consider myself to be a pretty independent and empowered woman, so many of these words resonated with a silenced voice deep inside me.

Sure, I’ve been told that I can do anything I want and be anything I want—and I fully believe this. But I’ve have also spent decades taking in the silent lessons that politeness trumps truth, soft is better than strong, presence requires apology, and pretty precedes professional. While our hearts desire big lives and success of epic proportions, our poorly-calibrated inner compass directs us with these misguided truths.

Ironically, the same figures in my life who applaud my opportunity and success, are the same who hint that I’m not ‘settled down’ because perhaps I’m too independent, too strong, and too smart to be a suitable partner. “Live large they say, but maybe not too big because no man wants to be with that.” I call bullshit on this.

We are all meant to live largely and to love others. That’s how the world works.

Isn’t it interesting that women are said to glow when they are pregnant? Perhaps this is the one time in their lives they are finally as an act of nature, un-apologetically taking up space, and people make room for it without question.

Perhaps we should all live like we’re expecting.

Though it’s easy to file this under “gender issues” this isn’t solely about women. The “manspreader” is symbolic of a much bigger cultural, and even global problem we face:

We must stop living in false belief that one person or any group of people has more right to take up more space than another.

Let me say that again:

We must stop living in false belief that one person or any group of people has more right to take up more space than another.

Male, Female, Red, Yellow, Black White—the challenge is for all of us:

Live in your fullness
Break your invisible boundaries

Show up more, Shut up less
Open up when you’d rather give up

Make space for others, but most importantly, fill the space that’s yours

And if this is just too philosophical for you, please remember this one simple thing:
Keep your knees off my seat and your elbow off my armrest.