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. I also keep myself updated on traveling tips from blogs like Traxplorio | Start your next adventure, which is half the reason I’m able to travel alone.

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 with the fishing sunglasses I recently bought(which you can click here to find), 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 (Plus I never trusted a taxi’s taxi dispatch software). (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.

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 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 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 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.

The Paradox of Settling

settledown - 1“When are you going to settle down?” As a wander of more than 20 years, this is the question I’ve learned to field at least once a week. Friends, family, people I date, random acquaintances, and readers of the internet inquire about my ability to “settle” all of the time.

“Settle down?” It’s a simple question, and most often  curious and well-meaning. Yet, on most occasions whenever these words enter my ears this question triggers my inner world into a mild state of panic.

Part of my brain screams “YES!”. Part of my brain screams “NO!”. It’s paralyzing.

What does settling down even mean for goodness sake? As a traveler who has built much of her existence on the premise of not being long-term geographically committed to one place, this question instantaneously triggers my self doubt to the very core.

For a long time I thought this inner struggle was a sign I must be broken, but eventually I realized that this is a trick question.

You see, there is no right answer to the “When will you settle down?” question, because, my friend, there’s a paradox in the very concept of settling.

In the strange universe of the English language, the word “settle” has multiple and very different—perhaps even contradictory–meanings.

Settle: verb

1) To stop, let something rest, to build a place to dwell
2) To accept or agree to something less than the best, less than satisfactory, or below what you want or deserve

When I hear, “When will you settle down,” my panicked brain translates these mystery words into a variety of other things like:

Why can’t you to commit to anything?” or “When are you going to stop chasing your dreams and start doing stuff like regular people?” or “Will you ever grow up?”

After 20 years of breaking out in a sweat trying to make sense of this question I’ve finally learned a couple important things:

1. The Question is Actually Not About ME

If you’re a traveler, most people actually don’t care, beyond a mild curiosity, where you go or how long you stay there. The asker is usually just wondering “Are you going to stick around for awhile?” This usually isn’t a question that comes from a place of judgment, rather people want to know where they fit into your life.

When you don’t see the people you love very often, “when will you settle” is often an indirect way of stating “I really hope you’re going to be around more.”

2. The Real Question is for All of Us

While wanderers commonly gets asked this question most often, the real question is a little different, and it applies to all of us:

Can you be settled without settling?

Maybe the question for you is, “Can you be in a fixed location without taking less then you deserve”, or perhaps, “Can you be at a place of contentment and stillness without being in a fixed location?”

I’ve lived a very non-traditional life for most of the last 20+ years. Although it seems to some on the outside that I’ve been wandering aimlessly, I have been very “settled” into a global community and cause. I have been at home in my purpose-driven wandering. I have been settled without settling for years.

Three years ago I chose to move to a place where I could build a more sustainable geographically-based home and community. While I’ve unpacked and settled into Portland for now, I’m less about “settling down” and more about extraordinary living from a fixed address. It’s less settling and more striving for the new things that I want–making decisions for important things that are bigger than me—community, home, relationships, roots, etc.

A permanent address or our drive to be location interdependent doesn’t determine a settled or un-settled life.

Perhaps you’ve lived in the same home for 20 years, yet have given up on your dreams to be a painter or a writer or a supreme court justice (I hear there’s a job vacancy). If where you live makes you happy, great, but perhaps it’s time to choose to change something if life circumstances have driven you to settle for something less than what you were born to be.

We only have one chance in this life after all.

Stop settling. Start living your dreams.

When What You Have Isn’t What You Want

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We’ve all been there. In situations we’ve made from our own doing, or in situations dictated by circumstances we haven’t chosen–We desperately want something different than what we’ve been dealt. Or at minimum would like to alter our circumstances a bit to make life a little more comfortable.

I’ve been here myself, and it sucks. If you’ve waded into or treaded these waters, I’m sure you’ll agree. But, there is some good news: You don’t have to be miserable.

In most* situations, what you have isn’t what you want, you’ve got 3 choices:

1) Change Something.

If you don’t like something, Don’t sit around and complain about it. There’s a lot of stuff in our lives that we can change. Big stuff and small stuff.

If you aren’t good at changing things, start with the little things and get some experience. Anytime you find yourself complaining about something. Do whatever you can to change it.

  • Noisy neighbors in the hotel room you’ve been assigned?Ask to move.
  • Hate your job? Polish your resume .
  • Afraid to leave a relationship you should have gotten out of a long time ago? Start the conversation.
  • Don’t like the way your kids act since they turned into teenagers? Well, you probably shouldn’t give them away. (Keep Reading)

Even a small step in the direction of change, has the power to propel you into forward motion.

2) Choose Contentment

Unfortunately, we can’t change everything we don’t like. Sometimes we just have to live with it. But what can you do with the things you cannot dismiss or give away?

Enter contentment. You must change the way you think about it and experience it.

Now, I realize to most people “choosing contentment” sounds like an awful option—it seems like a fancy way to say, learn to live with it, pretend you’re happy, and stop hoping things could be different.

I’d be lying if I didn’t agree with this a little bit, but the trick to contentment is recognizing that is it a practice, not a solution. Contentment is like yoga or meditation–you will suck at it some days, probably most days, and that’s okay. It’s not about fixing yourself or fixing anything. It’s about learning to be at ease in your situation.

3) Wallow in Complacency

Option three when what you have isn’t what you want, is to do nothing. Seriously, people, this really shouldn’t ever be a choice. But I put it here because it is the default that I choose so often (and perhaps you too).

When you really should change something but you just don’t have the chutzpah, time, energy, or [insert your own excuse here], this is what you are actually choosing. If it’s a circumstance that isn’t exactly changeable, but you’d rather be miserable and let everyone else know it than work on your contentment practice, you have picked door number three. Woe is you.

This stuff isn’t easy my friend. We all have baggage and we must choose wisely basing our decisions on our own motives, circumstances, and options we are presented.

What’s it going to be? The choice is yours.


** Note: I say most situations here, because life sometime throws us really big stuff like death, tragedy, abuse, disaster, and long-term stuff that we can’t change as much as we’d like more than anything to have a magic wand to reverse. Please know that I’m not suggesting changing your attitude as a fix to any of these situations. If these types of scenarios are what you’re experiencing check out the work of Megan Devine at Refuge in Grief.