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Place of Dreams

Within five minutes of being in the Defender, Ronnie pipes up to tell me that the truck is running on oil from all those fried milanesas that are near and dear to the tastebuds of Argentinos. A local restaurant serving minutas (fast food) would serve as our “gas” station and we made a small detour to get a barrel of the used oil.

He hands me a rock as he jumps out of the car. Upon returning he tells me that it is from a meteor that hit the earth in Moldova and that it changed his fortune over night when he came in contact with it. I close my fingers around it, smiling at the idea and thinking, “Porqué no? why not? …could work just as much as anything” and I hope for fortune to melt out of it into my palm.

By the time we’re bumping along the road and flying through the turns around Lago Gutierrez, we are trading stories about the healthy and healing powers of plants. He pulls over to the side of the road to pick a tiny, bitter branch for me to taste, supposedly it helps with digestion or something.

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The final few miles took us down a gritty side road and into Nahuel Huapi National Park. We drove through the wooden gate, through a corridor of trees and into a panoramic view of my new home. Horses wandered around freely, chased by the border collies. A wall of mountains with a skirt of trees that sprouted a waterfall stood guard over the glacial lake.

No explanation was needed for how this place got its name, Peuma Hue (pey-oo-mah, wey), Mapuche for Place of Dreams.

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Having looked through the webpages of this high end, rustic resort before coming, I had been hypnotized by the views, the luxurious log cabins, the descriptions of the healthy organic food and the focus on yoga, mindfulness and magic that immersion in nature brings.

For the guests, yes, the reality is this fairytale. But for me, this would be different. I was coming here as a cultural exchange…swapping work in the gardens and kitchen in return for food and a shared room in the staff house.

As I was introduced to the reality of what this would be like, the perfect panorama I had driven into began to unravel. Anxiety and fear stirred inside of me. My chest tightened and the heat of the emotions boiled up through my body, rising to my face and creating a frenzy of activity in my rattled brain.

I worried about my health, which is always a struggle for me. Would they give us healthy food? Argentina and vegetables…especially of the green variety…don’t always tango together.

What would the other people be like? Nine of us in a tiny house? How would I balance myself among being social, the expected workload and writing my book?

Would I be able to write my book? Would I have the time and space to do that?

What if it didn’t work out? What were my other options? I didn’t have time or money to look for something new.

The uneasy feelings churned inside me as I realized how far we were from town and the nearest place to buy a bottle of wine, which I was wanting right about then. I then took a deep breath and walked in on myself having this reaction. I knew I needed to get some time alone outside in nature to wander, write and work through this.

I spent the afternoon exploring, walking along the rocky shores of the immaculate lake and through the gardens that were still asleep for the winter. I gazed up at the mountains, adorned with snow and stood there admiring their rugged beauty. I walked along the gravel path that wound through the property around the log cabins, crossing the fallen tree bridge over the creek and to the stone temple on the hill.

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I had been independent for a year and a half, answering to no one but the call to adventure. I would now be at the mercy of my new circumstances, losing my autonomy. I would be accountable to someone else’s dream and expectations. I would now have to write in between my work shifts, hoping inspiration and energy would meet me on demand.

I hadn’t thought about this and felt blindsided by it. It was like watching the movie of a book you have read and loved, only to find out that they had gotten it all wrong when translating it for the screen.

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I sat on the steps of the temple and journaled…about what I was feeling, about what I wanted for my time there. I realized that this was a familiar reaction to being thrown into unknowns, fear that it won’t work out. I’ve learned that the best thing to do is to notice what you can control and take positive action towards that, let go of expectations, seek to learn and be surprised. I listed my intentions and started a list of ideas for falling deeply into my life there and committed myself to doing just that.

The negativity and fear wilted away. My heart was now exploding with gratitude for having this opportunity arise for me, allowing me to continue my journey. I felt full of peace, grace, awe and devotion for the wilderness around me, as if these mountains had been calling me and I had finally found them.

This is the serendipity that I had hoped for when setting out to show up in the world and see what happens. I was living in the mountains for the first time and would be there for six months.

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How Did You Know?

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

~ Anais Nin

I was recently honored to receive an email from an old colleague who had seen my profile on LinkedIn and reached out about my adventures in South America and my book. She asked a question that I’ve been asked before and one that I have been on the asking end of, so I thought I’d answer it here…

The question: “How did you know ‘enough was enough’ to follow this path?” I’m going to draw the conclusion here that “this path” is in reference to my decision to leave the corporate world and to go wander in South America…to make a big change and do something different.

I love hearing stories of people’s adventures. My favorite question might be “What’s your story?” and then to wait eagerly to see what they’ll say and what they’ll highlight. While it’s natural to focus on the outcomes and the “highs” of a journey, I am constantly fascinated by the spark that ignites the chain reaction in someone’s decisions, priorities and path in life…like asking someone how they met their true love. Did you know right away? What did it feel like? How did it happen? Tell me everything!!

When I trace back my own story, the starting point could be in any number of places really. My memory, which is often selective, tells me that the final trigger came most strongly after returning from the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. My close friend and I had gone there for a month to celebrate our 30th birthdays after planning for four years and it was like a sneak preview into what could be.

We came back from South Africa changed. It is not an exaggeration to say that everything felt possible after that. Having that dream for four years had kept us exploring and growing and learning through the challenges and barriers we had both encountered during that time. There was a goal and a dream, and it was undebatable.

There’s a quote from The Alchemist where Pablo Coelho writes, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” and we had directly experienced this. We had tasted what it felt like to be whoever we wanted to be, laughing, dancing, singing, exploring, embracing every present moment and we were rewarded tenfold.

With this came a big responsibility. How would we keep this alive?

When I went back to work in a tiny office that we were not so affectionately calling “The Cave”, I knew that I had to decide to live differently. I didn’t know what career I wanted to move to and so I decided I needed to go figure that out. I started with what I did know…I love to travel and I learn a lot from getting out of my comfort zone.

That is how I knew. And once I knew, I didn’t really have the option to turn back and ignore the feeling. In full disclosure, it took two more years of preparation before making the leap, but I always knew I would and I was working towards it that whole time.

Anyone else out there have stories of big life changes and how you knew when “enough was enough”?


If you like this post and want to talk about this topic together, I am now offering sessions in 30 minute chunks of time to do just that. Think of it as targeted coaching. 

The same goes for other topics addressed in previous blogs. Sessions are $20/30 min and can be scheduled by filling out the form on my website.

Please consider following the blog and checking out the rest of my website. You will find photography, writing focused on travel, transformation and gratitude, as well as updates on my upcoming book.

The Return

<from September 2014>

I feel like I’m on my third or fourth life of this dream as I’m arriving back in Argentina once again to make a go at writing my book here. Each time I’ve been able to come back I’ve learned so much in the process and have had new challenges and surprises awaiting me…what will it be this time?

I walk out of the airport to find my friend Jose waiting there for me with a cab and it feels more like home every time I come back. We talk excitedly, firing questions back and forth, filling each other in on what’s been going on in our lives lately. We’ve both been navigating a transition from Corporate America to trying to start new careers around our passions. I have this satisfied feeling in me, a deep longing has been quenched, to be back to my passion project.

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Carolina, Jose’s roommate, practically knocks me over with a hug and smiles and I feel a connection as if we’ve already had the inspiring conversations we proceed to have over the next week, the three of us holed up in the tiny kitchen, sitting on the counters, passing around maté and sharing stories and ideas about living a meaningful life. It feels good, no, priceless to have a tiny community of like-minded people to interact with and exchange support.

I quickly get to know the people at the fruit and vegetable shop around the corner and can never resist going into the bakery next door to get some hot chipá (little balls of chewy cheesy bread, made from tapioca flour and naturally gluten free). I love shopping for food in this way, each little shop specializing in their one thing; the conversations and relationships formed with the locals; everything whole, fresh, in season and homemade.

We turned the living room into a board room (a very cute boardroom), having brainstorming sessions and building websites. The brainstorming…I love, ping ponging questions and ideas back and forth and I’m reminded of my skill set and the parts of consulting that I loved. It feels so energizing to generate ideas and get creative, to help someone get clearer on their vision and be one step closer to manifesting it. The hardest part of building a personal business for me though is the business and technology part…hoping the challenge and frustrations will pay off if I can stick to it. Pretty soon my 5 year old nephew will likely be better at this than I am.

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We take a break to meet up with Lucho and head over to the feria de matadores…a traditional market where you are a minority as a tourist. I stand out with my blond hair and light skin, but I feel at home with the melodic castellano being spoken around me, the scents of choripan (a chorizo sausage and chimichurri sandwich) and locals strolling around the art stalls with their thermos of agua caliente (hot water) tucked under their arms.

We follow the crowds to the main stage where folkloric music is being played and everyone is dancing. Couples are circling each other, hands in the air, snapping their fingers to the rhythm of the music. Lucho and I try to join in which provides a great laugh to each other and everyone around us as we do.

photo credit - Jose Gastaldi
photo credit – Jose Gastaldi

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I get waves of feeling like we had been at the market a while, feeling it is surely time to leave, until I’m reminded of a quality I love about Argentina…busy-ness and rushing about just isn’t glorified in the least. It is the exact opposite. We won’t eat dinner till midnight anyway, we have loads of time. We end up staying for hours watching as the dance progressed to one where they twirl scarves about and caress each other with them.

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I stand there watching and smiling and feeling in my whole body that it was the right decision to come back to Argentina. It just feels so right to be here and I feel energized and motivated to accomplish what I came here to do.

**If you enjoyed this blog, please consider making a donation that will go directly towards helping me finish writing and publishing my book. Also, check out my website for writing, photography and transformation practices. Muchas gracias!**

What I Learned from Leaving

I struggle to leave places. I don’t like it at all. To look at the stars one last time before closing my eyes or to stand at the shore looking out on the water before turning my back on it or to say “I love you” one more time before hanging up…it is torture. Even if I want to go where I am going, it is hard for me to leave and I really feel it intensely. So why ever leave? Especially if you are happy and content and love where you are? I don’t like it, but I have gotten better at it because I have realized some things. I leave because sometimes this is exactly what you need to shake things up and to appreciate where you have been.

It is exactly what you need to draw your attention and your senses to what it is that you love about where you are and to give yourself focused time to love it in the special way that you can only love something that is fleeting…longing as if it has already been taken from you or as if it is something you yearn for and have not yet found, while having an intense presence and focus in order to capture the well of emotion such that you can store its essence deep in the memory of your heart and body forever to recall at will and go back there.

It takes the Truth in the journey of life that everything is always changing, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, and it makes you conscious of that. Well, it does for me. I am not talking about running away from anything. It is exactly the opposite. I notice what exactly it is that I am sad to leave and it makes me run towards more of that in my life, both while I have it and in new situations.

A lot can happen when you leave. You realize where you came from and you wonder about where you are going. You maybe have fears. You maybe have hopes. You maybe have decisions to make. You have an approach, whether conscious or not, for letting go of what was and embracing what is and opening yourself to what could be. You have the opportunity to take what you learned, what you loved and to apply it in a different context and in doing so, integrate it into your life more fully.

Leaving does not have to be moving cities or countries. It can happen even when you go to travel for a holiday. It can happen when you move from one house to another, one neighborhood to another. It can happen when you leave your bed in the morning. It can happen when you get totally immersed into nature for a day and then cross the threshold back into civilization. It can happen in a relationship with someone you love deeply who is just not the one.

How would you live your life for the next month if you knew you were leaving to a new place at the end of it? Would your senses be on higher alert? What would your priorities be? Who would you want to spend time with and how? Where would you wander? What new things would you do that you’ve been wanting to do and haven’t gotten around to? Where are your favorite places you would go and what would you realize about why you appreciate them? What would you feel grateful for? What would you realize about what you have learned and experienced there?

I just left a magical place, where I have had six months living on a lake in the mountains of Patagonia, surrounded by stunning, pristine nature and warm, fun, authentic people. I feel that I lived more consciously during my time at the lake, as I was so aware that I was only there temporarily and wanted to take advantage of that. I think I am leaving there living my life more in this fashion, understanding more about the nature of a full and consciously lived life. Life too, is temporary.

I am so sad to leave, but it is sadness that is grounded in the deep happiness and gratitude for having been there and knowing that although I am leaving, it is forever a part of me.

I’ve arrived

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I arrived back in the United States earlier than planned and felt devastated by this. Before leaving for Argentina the first time in December 2012, I had worked with my fears by trying to picture the worst case scenario for my journey so that I could consider how I would react. My “worst case scenario” had included being robbed and failure to discover my passions or finish my book.

So here I was in the early summer of Chicago, safe at home in my parents’ house having been robbed and not so much a published author yet. I felt like I was trapped at the bottom of a desolate well. How on earth did this fantastic journey of mine land me here? Now what will I do? I had this tremendous feeling of “I’m not supposed to be here” even though that is the opposite feeling being home always provokes for me. Everything felt upside down.

In my “worst case scenario” I had thought about how lucky I was that I did have supportive parents and a home to come to if I needed it. And here I was. Only, I hadn’t considered the emotional blow I’d take. I didn’t call friends or family (and I’m so sorry about that to everyone now!). I didn’t talk about the robbery at first. I was afraid to get an “I told ya so” reaction from anyone who hadn’t thought it the brightest idea to go traveling alone.

It actually was a bright idea, a brilliant one. I still felt that and knew I had to get back to it. So I started to dig into my journals and take long bike rides, looking for clues from what I had experienced and learned as to what to do next. I knew that my writing and time in nature were going to crucial in deciding my next steps. I also started to dream up big and little adventures that would not have occurred to me before I had gone traveling long term. I also knew to embrace what was good about this situation, getting bonus time with my family that I would never have had otherwise.

I flew out to LA to see my sister, brother-in-law and nephew. I watched the World Cup games with my brother. I got to connect with my Uncle Rich who I hadn’t seen in a long time and he told me so many new stories! I got to have 1:1 time with my aunts and to attend my cousin Caitlin’s engagement party. I took a road trip with my Dad and brother, crashing their annual camping trip. We backpacked through Porcupine National Park and it was so cool to experience Lake Superior and stunning nature on my home turf. My mom and I took a 4 day canoe trip, camping on sandbars, doing dream work, yoga and cooking over fire. These microadventures made me feel whole again, such special time and surprisingly close to home.

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These may seem like small things, but these are the things that I have missed out on living in another city. This introduced me to a new element in the life I am going after. I knew I wanted a flexible and unconventional life and realized that if I can succeed at that then I will get more moments like these, to be with family without having to give up my wanderlust.

I found a fantastic coffee shop in town that became my daily office. I have always loved working in coffee shops. The symbiotic comfort of sipping a cup of that dark goodness while slowly breathing in the aromas puts me at peace and also awakens my creativity. I love the watching the flow of people and the dynamics of those meeting up with each other or going solo, engrossed in some work. I’ve always had the romantic idea that people are focused on creating, doing of-the-soul kind of work when in cafes…engrossed in novels, meeting to discuss an idea, immersing in studies, launching a new business, writing a book.

I became a devotee to my writing and journaling. I researched all sorts of opportunities and possibilities for grants and scholarships, crowdfunding and artist residencies. I started to build a website, print business cards and work on a personal brand. I sat down to journal one day and was checking in with the intentions for my journey as I would do on occasion, asking myself “What would my ideal life look like?” And then I wrote down a full page of a life vision, including my passions and just enough detail to have something to work towards with enough room for it to manifest in ways I could only imagine. Oh. My.

I had done it. I had done what I set out to do and had not realized it until then. I had discovered what I was passionate about and I instantly wanted to go start it all. And I really wanted to write it all down in a book, the book that had been tip-toeing out of me this whole time.

When Argentina lost the World Cup final, I cried. Not that I have an over-stated attachment to sports, although I am known to get a bit competitive. It felt personal. Warning, this will sound ridiculous, but it almost felt as if I should never have left Argentina and in doing so I took away all the wonderful energy and lessons it had given me and cursed their chances of winning.

I realized that I was longing to be back in South America, to write my book where I had started it and where my journey had taken place. I was not done there and I would not be chased out by three desperate, sad thieves from Colombia.

I have found that when you take actions and put yourself out there, that energy goes to do some reconnaissance  for you, finds the right opportunity and makes its way back somehow. At this time, I received a message from a friend of a friend in Argentina who had read one of my blogs. She asked me where I was and what I was doing. I told her I was looking for a place in the mountains of Argentina to finish writing my book and that I was out of money. She told me her mother owns a place on a lake in northern Patagonia where I could volunteer while I write. It’s called Peuma Hue, meaning Place of Dreams.

I booked a plane ticket, packed my bags and arrived two weeks later, back to Argentina.

Dream a Little Dream with Me

I want to focus specifically on dream work because it is something I am doing more frequently. I find it fascinating and extremely insightful. And, well, we all dream. Everyone dreams and that includes animals. Carl Jung proposes that this would not be the case if it did not serve an evolutionary purpose. (fun fact, if you google “how do we know that…” one of the top things google will guess that you are searching for is “how do we know that dogs dream”) For now, I’m asking you to trust me that they do. Our dreams must give us something to learn, to keep us alive and safe and to grow.

So they help us grow and they also help us discover new things. Every dream has some new information coming from the depths of our unconscious, trying to make itself known. In a recurring dream or a nightmare, it may be that the lesson is of deeper importance or greater urgency and the unconscious is trying that much harder to get your attention. This is what I have discovered to be true about dreams as I’ve learned more about how to work with them. I would be weary of any person or book that declares they will interpret your dreams. Rather, it is a process and a practice and there are ways to be in relationship with your dreams, to treat them as guides and teachers.

When you are in the sacred space of sleep, your ego is on break and your unconscious comes out to play in the dark. The unconscious is a world of symbols and archetypes, of emotions and questions and longings and infinite potential. This energy of the less tangible and less logic-based things in life uses people and symbols that we attach meaning to in our waking life, to create stories that we can use. These stories are our dreams.

Anyone with a broken heart or goal or desire that has not yet come to fruition can tell you that the internal, intangible world is very real and the brain, soul and heart aren’t always on the same page. So dreams can be a bridge between our unconscious and conscious selves that can keep us moving forward when we cross them.

In our waking life, we can look at the themes, the symbols, the archetypes, the emotions and the questions present in the dream to learn something and grow. Jung proposes that everything in the dream is a symbol that holds information about yourself. Each person in a dream is representing a facet of yourself…a quality you want to garner, a shadow quality you need to work with, a quality that will help you with your current life circumstances and so on.

It is common for people to have a dream about someone they just randomly saw the other day and say, “Well, obviously that person was in my dream as a coincidence of seeing them the other day.” Jung would argue otherwise on behalf of your unconscious. We potentially see hundreds, maybe thousands of people a day. Your unconscious seeks opportunities in the real world for synchronicity because those things can then grab your attention and be studied as symbols. It’s as if your unconscious is scanning your experiences for the right symbol to use and when it finds it, boom it edits it into your dreams so you have the opportunity to work with it.

So here are some primary things you can start doing:

Before you go to sleep, focus on your desire to remember your dreams.

When you do remember them, lay in bed and go over the dream again before moving.

Write the dream down and give it a title.

Describe the themes that you see in the dream.

Record the emotions and energy you felt.

Think about the questions that the dream is posing to you.

Identify the symbols in the dream and record what you associate with them.

Keep a journal of dreams and look at them in a series of 10 for patterns that occur.

In certain cases, you may want to draw your dream or move and act it out to dig deeper into the sensations and messages.

Keep asking yourself how this relates to your life experiences…What is familiar? When have you felt this before? How does this make you feel now? What new perspective is being introduced? What is the invitation from this dream?

This is plenty to start with. Other practices for getting in touch with your emotional and unconscious world within can also help.

First, acknowledging that this part of you is alive and working on your behalf all of the time. Focus intention, perhaps in meditation, through writing or wandering in nature, on your desire to notice and nurture your unconscious world. Also, while I don’t rely on dream dictionaries, there are a myriad of books out there that can help you to learn to work with your dreams.

Here are a few recommendations of books that have been helpful to me:

Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill: Using Dreams to Tap the Wisdom of the Unconscious, by Jeremy Taylor

Dream Symbol Work: Unlocking the Energy from Dreams and Spiritual Experiences, by Patricia H Berne and Louis M. Savary

Man and His Symbols, by Carl Jung

I also recommend seeking out dream groups, a dream practitioner or a therapist who offers dream work or deep imagery work, retreats and workshops. I learned so much about dreams from my vision quest and the month-long transformation retreat I did in the Amazon, in addition to my personal practice.

Dreams are personal. It can be so helpful to have someone guide you through the process and dream work in a group setting can be extremely powerful as well. I have made major life decisions based on dreams and gained many insights. I occasionally have lucid dreams and even literal dreams that have come true the next day. There is a whole world of possibility for those courageous enough to explore. Happy Dreaming!

Celebrating Life in Paradise

I left Taganga. Eventually when we had locals escort us to the police to tell them about being robbed, they said they had no way of knowing if it actually happened. Uh huh. So that’s how it is.

I moved on 6 hours via bus up the coast to the colorful Cartagena that looks like it inspired many a fairytale with its charming facades and flowering trees framing the thresholds of shops and guesthouses. It is an old, colonial city on the sea and it still has its stone wall wrapped around it that now serves less for defense and more for history and holding its gem of a town the way a child holds the glow of a lightening bug in her hands at dusk. It could be a quite inspiring place to write if the words hadn’t been scared so far out of me when my life was threatened in Taganga. I ached for my camera like a missing limb.

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I was physically safe and knew I’d be able to get through the emotional trauma after my highly sensitive self had time to process it. I was walking around feeling bitter that this awful thing had happened to us and begrudging the happy people smiling and laughing and loving on Colombia in the streets. Didn’t they know what I had just been through? I know this is unrealistic. I was just in a bad place.

I had a ticket home to the USA in a month’s time and decided that I wanted to be even more remote until then.

It was time to celebrate life. One way to do that…go to tropical island you’ve never heard of, breathe in the salty air, bury your feet in the perfect white sand, play in the turquoise waters, chill out with the sunsets and have a birthday.

I hopped a plane to San Andres, which technically is still Colombia, but closer to Nicaragua with a distinct Caribbean feel. I cannot even tell you what language they speak…some sort of mix mon, of Spanish, English, and Creole, ya mon, ya ya yaaaaaa, sometimes even in the same sentence. (My written accent is clearly as bad as my spoken accent mimicry.)

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But I wanted to be even more remote and there was another island nearby.

I tell you who is most likely not celebrating life…the poor guy on the catamaran that goes to Isla Providencia, whose job it is to collect puke bags and mop up after seasick passengers for the 3 hour passage. It felt more like an extended mechanical bull ride than a fluid journey over water. Insert headphones, blast music, stare at horizon and try not to count the minutes.

You have to earn this trip to paradise. I was one of the few survivors.

This was one of the more untouched places I have been…and by that I mean no gringo/expat businesses. This made for some interesting interactions. When disembarking, there were two guys writing details from your passport by hand, getting half of the information wrong. I can’t imagine where they are storing the paperwork. Need a ride? Just flag down a passing truck or hop on back of a moto.

Complete contradictions were often given during a single conversation…all with the intention of being agreeable and the path to least resistance. There’s probably a mathematical equation to compare the relationship of the heat of the sun to the laziness of the people, but math isn’t exactly the strong suit here…while sitting in a plastic chair in the sun is much more so.

A group of us from the hostel took a boat ride around the island doing a snorkel version of a drift dive and stopping at an archipelago national park. We headed to the national park early to avoid paying fees, we were told. It wasn’t early enough and we were told it would be an additional 12,000 pesos each. We calmly communicated that we didn’t have money as we had not been told about the fee when negotiating the price of the trip. Some more conversation occurred as we waited and time ticked away. Finally I was told we could pay 12,000 total. Perfect. Someone pulled out a 10,000 peso bill and I presented this to them, emphasizing this was all we had. I was told to wait while they got me 2,000 pesos in change. I love math in the Caribbean!

The snorkeling was wonderful and worth the 12,000…er, 8,000 pesos. I saw a sting ray seconds after diving into the water, then a turtle and a beautiful shark. Then I saw the most interesting fish I’ve ever seen diving. It looked like a thin flag fluttering in the wind, but in slow motion and more fluid as its edges rippled with the water. It had tentacles coming out the back that I didn’t notice until it gave a little flutter kick. Cool!! I thought it was a squid, but was later told it was a cuttlefish. I was mesmerized and followed it along and as it moved from the white sand to swim over some seaweed it changed colors before my eyes. Seriously cool, I shrieked through my snorkel and snorted a bit of salt water. Then I realized I had been following the baby and there was a whole school of them. I could’ve stayed for hours.

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Luckily I didn’t though because there was a party to be had and Roland was having it. Roland is a strung out, rasta man hippy, who, when not hungover, is very enthusiastic about driving his truck around the island and bringing people to his place. His place, creatively named Roland’s Beach Bar, is everything you want a Caribbean beach bar to be. It’s right on the water, with a rope swing into the sea if you care to take a late night dip. There are some hammocks, in fact the bar tender chills in one when not serving you. Thatched roof huts cover tables, other tables are built in beached, wooden sail boats, the perfect chilled out sound track plays, the gorgeous Colombian women who can move their bodies in ways that I can’t even do in my dreams and a fire pit crackles away in the center of it all.

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Paradise turned out to be quite the dose of dreamy. It was wonderful and yet made it quite cruel to board a flight back to the United States, parting ways with my dear friend who was a part of the better portion of my experiences and head home…well, to one of my homes. That word has become quite confusing. And that is how I felt…drained and confused.

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Countdown to 2015 – 1 – Oh Darling, Let’s Be Adventurers!

It’s the final countdown or rather the final blog in this series of personal development practices for an inspired and adventurous 2015. Thank you for following along and I hope it has been a fun and interesting mini-journey.

Here is where we’ve been:

10 – Setting Intentions

9 – Expressing Gratitude

8 – Wandering in Nature

7 – Playing with our Passions

6 – Letting to go Excuses

5 – Law of Attraction and Ritual

4 – Self Care

3 – Finding your People

2 – Into the Depths of Our Unconscious

drumroll for number 1….

Well, it has to be adventure of course…getting out of our comfort zone and diving into the unknowns.

If you’ve been following along, you are likely aware that I have my own little adventure going in the form of a kickstarter campaign called: Let’s Go on an Adventure!

It is a two-part project that includes writing and publishing a book telling the story of my transformative adventure and also an interactive guidebook with practices and exercises such as those presented in these blogs that are intended to help someone on their own personal journey of self-discovery or change.

Tomorrow is the last day of my campaign where I will either be fully funded or go back to the drawing board. Whatever happens, I’m humbled by the support and grateful for the opportunity and courage to put myself out there and be vulnerable. It’s been challenging for me. Thank you and if you are so inspired, please check out the campaign.

So adventure…why am I so addicted to it and why do I think it is so important?

Well nature and adventure have been the two most significant transformation tools in my life in the way they challenge me, teach me and inspire me.

One of the most defining characteristics of adventure, in my opinion, is that it involves unknowns….maybe surprises, an element of spontaneity, a willingness to explore and get out of your comfort zone and away from what is familiar.

I think it is important to get out of our comfort zones because that is where the growth happens. Our brains strain to keep us safe and protected and do so by clinging to what is familiar and efficient, while our souls long to explore and discover and learn and grow.

Maybe I am suggesting that we trick our brains into seeing change and growth as an adventure, so that we acknowledge the unknowns and we get excited about them instead of triggering fear responses.

They have a lot in common actually ‘adventure’ and ‘change’….unknowns, a goal, no guaranteed outcome, tools/practices that can help, something to be learned; a physical, mental, emotional and often spiritual element. And yet even just focusing on each of those words seems to bring up different feelings, emotions and thoughts.

Adventure is often treated like a choice and like a luxury for those who have the courage and resources, whereas change is inevitable, hard and sometimes even dreaded. “Change” often gets a bad rap and yet changes are happening all the time; it is one of the guarantees, the truths of life.

So what if we approach our life changes, goals and intentions like adventures? I believe it can shift our perspective and ultimately influence the outcome.

When something is an adventure, we often look for ways through…ways around obstacles, people to help.

We dream big and we share our experience with others.

We tend to focus on the positive, the new and the exciting with childlike wonder.

We tend to assume that it’ll be a success and that even if we don’t know the outcome, it will be fun and we may learn something along the way.

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

~ Ernest Hemingway

So what would it look like if we treated changes in our lives as adventures? How would our approach evolve if we set intentions for where we want to go with our lives with curiosity, excitement and determination?

When I decided that I was going to head off to Argentina to do some wandering, I started with practicing a bit close to home. I started going to movies, cafes, restaurants, and bars by myself. I had earned a short sabbatical at work and used it to take myself on a road trip in my home state of Colorado. I traveled to Costa Rica by myself for a week. I went on a vision quest in the mountains of Colorado. I started trying new things that I had never done before.

By going into the unknowns, especially when going alone, you are automatically rewarded with the opportunity to learn about yourself. What turns you on? What turns you off? Where are your limits? What are your fears? How will you face your fears? Just how resourceful are you? How do you handle challenges? Are you curious? What thoughts or questions are sparked? What surprises you?

Being surrounded by unknowns heightens your focus on what makes you, you. When things are unfamiliar, they draw your attention and maybe beckon a new approach or response or perspective and so there is this expansive, growth quality inherent in going into the great unknown.

I acknowledge that certain fears are rational and are there to keep us alive. I get it. That’s pretty important. I’d dare to say that most of our fears are irrational though and it is incredibly freeing when we can dig into them, understand them and set them free.

We can do this by choosing differently….by saying, “Hey there fear, I see you and I raise you some courage and a new perspective. I’m going to befriend you and we’re going to do great things together…but I’m in charge.”

We can do this by asking what the fear is really about. Where did it originate? What triggers it? What are the emotions and feelings behind it? Where/when else have I experienced those feelings being triggered? What is my process for attending to those feelings? What do I notice about my energy when confronted with one of my fears? How are my fears taking away my power? How are they helping me and how are they keeping me small? What is my fear response? Does it influence the source of the fear when this response is activated? What are some other responses I could have instead?

To be clear, I am not suggesting repressing fears, pushing them aside and pretending they don’t exist. Yikes, no. They are there as tools to tease us and maybe even torment us, but then to teach us. Often our fears and our shadows hold the keys to our greatest desires and our greatest gifts. When we get to the other side of them it is absolutely glorious.

The more I spend time confronting fears and the more I spend time trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone, the more I enjoy life. Truth.

I learn, I grow, the new experiences beget still newer ones…new connections and relationships, opportunities, lessons, insights, growth, transformation, fun and adventures.

It’s like the universe is there to reward the brave and courageous and when that becomes you, you feel like, whoa….that’s cool, now I have more energy and space for being alive.

“Be alive your whole life.” ~ Bumper sticker anonymous

…and let’s make it an adventurous one, yeah? Who’s with me?

Thanks again for coming along for this ride. Now go do something new today.

Countdown to 2015 – 2 – Into the Dreamy Depths

I think it’s time to specifically call out the unconscious part of ourselves too and why we have it and what we can do with it. So as the countdown to 2015 nears its end, let’s take a look at what’s going on inside.

“Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakens.” ~ Carl Jung

I think this is true and I think both are important as well as integrated. The unconscious is the part of the iceberg immersed in the ocean…the unseen, the feelings and emotions, the intangible. If you’ve ever had a gut feeling, woke up from a dream or had butterflies in your chest from falling in love, you’ve experienced the unconscious.

I’m going to write from a Jungian perspective because it is familiar territory and it resonates with me deeply. Jung identified both the collective unconscious and the personal unconscious.

The collective unconscious refers to the human template basically, what are the things the characteristics that all of us receive when we’re born, share with each other and contribute to in how we live our lives. The ability to think, feel, to breathe, our unique ability to analyze and be aware of ourselves as individuals and aware of our thoughts.

The personal unconscious refers to our unique experience of the collective unconscious. It is the culmination of our experiences, the influence of various cultures and communities we are born into, the season and time of day we first experience and the impact of all of this and more on how we individually express and manifest it all.

I think we can all agree that we are not just these static bodies made up of all this physical, tangible stuff and nothing more. Where does the change take place…not physical changes, but how we change as people over time? Where do our experiences go as we accumulate more of them? Where does the growth we experience in our lives occur, the learning? How do we evolve and apply ourselves and express ourselves? Where does creativity live? What does our conscience look like and how does it operate? Why do we seek new experiences and goals and dreams?

And so there is much we can learn if we are willing to dive into the depths of the intangible world within…we might call it our souls. What would it look like to acknowledge this and engage with this energy?

How do we do that? A number of ways.

The realm of the unconscious is that of symbols, where it plays around with ways to express itself and work its way into our consciousness. Symbols are containers for energy, meaning, information, values, emotions. They give us something physical and tangible to identify with so that we can then process all these unknowns with what we do know.

This is why storytelling is important and why we have cultural myths. This is what we experience in dreams. This is one way that nature is a mirror for us. This is something we can find in our own writing and art if we commit to a practice and then experience ourselves through our own creations.

Initially I wrote a whole section on dream work for this post, but there is just too much information there and if you’re like me, you get a bit antsy when a blog post just won’t end even if it is interesting. So expect a post on dream work sometime soon. (Follow this blog and you’ll get an email when it comes.)

For now, my recommendation would be to get curious about your unconscious world and search for some practices that most appeal to you for getting to know it.

Maybe it is sitting with some of the questions above. Maybe it is starting to journal, take nature walks, meditate, record dreams, read poetry or philosophy or a book about Carl Jung. If at all possible I think a long term, solo journey in nature is the most ideal way to dive into this stuff.

Might I suggest some topics to consider:

“Who am I?” ok maybe that is a bit intense. But what makes me, me? My values, qualities, talents, passions, personality?

How do I process information?

How do I express myself?

How do I want others to approach me?

What are my shadow qualities?

What triggers challenging emotions in me? How do I handle that when it happens?

When do I feel the happiest and most alive?

What was my childhood like?…both the things I loved to do for hours and also my defense mechanisms and strategies that I used as I discovered I was my own person?

What do I need to let go of in my life that doesn’t serve me anymore to make space for new?

What new things do I want to invite into that space?

..all territory of the unconscious and the soul.

To me, not befriending your unconscious is like not celebrating your birthday. Your unconscious is there and it is active whether you like it or not and it has a critical role to play. We all have the opportunity to get on board with that and have a conscious approach towards it and actually be grateful for the gifts that lie there. When we don’t, what resides there can often arise in ways that aren’t so comfortable.

“You can close your eyes to the things you don’t want to see, but you can’t close your heart to the things you don’t want to feel.” ~ Johnny Depp

With our birthdays, we’re turning older whether we like it or not. Aging is a reality. Celebrating your birthday is an opportunity to celebrate your life…holy shit, we’re alive! That’s pretty cool. To me, a birthday is a symbol of our life and an opportunity to check in with what we’re doing with it.

Ok, off my soap box. Happy birthday to everyone and happy exploring of your unconscious. This is just the tiniest of introductions to all things unconscious, but my hope is it was interesting in the least and a call to curiosity and action at the most.

Thank you for tuning in to this series of ten blogs posts on personal development practices for a fulfilling 2015. If you’re just arriving, welcome! Here’s where we’ve been:

10 – Setting Intentions

9 – Expressing Gratitude

8 – Wandering in Nature

7 – Playing with our Passions

6 – Letting to go Excuses

5 – Law of Attraction and Ritual

4 – Self Care

3 – Finding your People

If you like what you are reading, please consider backing my kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! and please share too. The campaign is focused on writing and publishing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to a life designed around passions and also includes an interactive guidebook to help those wishing to make their own personal changes.

I have 2 days left in my campaign, all or nothing! I will beg. I will. Please.

You can read more about my story at erinkmac.com and continue to receive this blogs by clicking the ‘follow’ button.

Thank so very much for coming along on this adventure.

It’s a Great Day to be Alive

I like to explore a town by running through the streets and checking out places that way, but as much as I’ve described my writer’s haven as an ideal respite, not all was paradise in paradise. Taganga itself wasn’t the loveliest place I’ve been outside of my sweet writing villa.

It’s quite hilly and the “streets” are bumpy dirt roads, but not in a charming, untouched way…rather in a the-street-is-our-garbage-can sort of way. They also run out of water frequently. Stare at the ocean as long as you like while contemplating that one, the town is just out of water. The majority of our experiences were such that people seemed very eager to take our money and very irritated when they had to do something in order to make that happen. (That is not meant to be a stereotype, but was my true experience). There’s a strip with some restaurants and shops and you can walk along a trail over the ridge to get to another bay with another little beach. That’s about it.

There’s a trail you shouldn’t walk however, and I found that out the hard way…

You could see from town that it went up to the ridge at the top of the mountains overlooking the bay. A friend and I picked our way through the small town to take a break from writing and go for an afternoon hike. It was pretty rocky and steep, not necessarily beautiful, but a challenge. Some locals must have been more used to it then we were because they practically sprinted past us. I moved to the side to let them go and they stopped around us waiting for their chubby friend to bring up the rear, asking us where we were going. “Up to the top!” we said honestly and innocently.

I then felt a jerk from behind as my friend yanked me backwards in response to the guy to my right stepping towards me. Startled, I looked up to see that knives had been drawn. I took my camera strap from around my neck and gently handed it over, submitting to what was out of my control before it would be handled with force.

My friend was calmly talking to them while taking off his backpack. They weren’t too pleased with making conversation and hit him at the base of his neck. They yanked his shoes off, nearly knocking him to the ground before they forced him to the ground at knifepoint anyway. I took my shoes off and was told to get on the ground next to him. We lay there as they went through our stuff.

“Where are your cell phones?”

“Where is the rest of your money?”

“Don’t talk or we’ll kill you.”

“Don’t open your eyes or we’ll kill you.”

“Don’t go to the police or we’ll kill you.”

“Lay here for 15 minutes after we leave or we’ll kill you.”

I almost wish I hadn’t understood Spanish at that point.

We did as we were told, not wishing to call their bluff. I checked out and tried to visualize being back in a safe place as I felt hands at the back of my neck taking off my necklace and then digging in my pockets. (My necklace had the “Om” symbol on it. I can’t imagine it’s the best karma to steal that.) I trusted that all they wanted was our stuff and if we cooperated, we’d be safe.

This did turn out to be the case. My biggest fear was that they would hurt us, that they would take advantage of me or that my friend would get hurt or killed trying to protect me. After helping themselves to our cameras, shoes, cash, my watch and necklace, they took off and every breath after that felt like a gift.

After 15 or 20 minutes we started our descent down the rocky, thorny path in our socks. We saw another man approaching. I was terrified it was one of them coming back for us. As we came closer, we saw it was an older man with a machete. What could we do? We had nothing.

He said through his rotting teeth, “You shouldn’t be up here. It is dangerous.” “Um yeah, look at us. That would’ve been excellent information 45 minutes ago.”

So there are no pictures to go with this blog. That luxury was robbed from me, along with a sense of peace and happiness. Likely and sadly, I will be able to replace my camera before they will change their ways and earn money in honest ways.

It’s been a long process of fear and anger and discernment and forgiveness since then. I will not stereotype an entire country as unsafe. I would even like to return to Colombia some day.

As for the walk itself…in beautiful hindsight it still isn’t 100% clear if we should have taken it or not. Especially as a woman traveling alone, I take extra precaution to keep myself safe, although sometimes it really pisses me off when I want to do something and feel I can’t because of this. My best experiences have come from taking risks and understanding when the advice giver (Don’t go there! Don’t do that!) is being paranoid or if there is a genuine danger…often the former.

It is unfortunate this happened and it did change my course. I am still responding to what showed up that day. My hope is that some day, the sooner the better, the guys who did this will realize that it was wrong and seek to make their lives right. It is so sad to me that people feel so desperate and are so misguided and unsupported in their lives that they resort to violence and a lack of respect for human life. I am grateful for the life I was born into, my family, my morals, my circumstances and I hope to do a whole lot of good with the blessings in that.

I’m grateful that I was not alone in this particular experience and it did bring my friend and I closer together. It really does give you laser focus as to who and what you care about in life.

***Many thanks to those of you who have been following me with this journey. I’ll speed up the posts a bit to get caught up to present time. This event took place at the very end of May. It did change some things for me, but all is good.

If you like what you are reading here, please consider backing my kickstarter.com called: Let’s Go on an Adventure! and please share too. The campaign is focused on writing and publishing a book about my transformative adventure from Corporate America to a life designed around passions and also includes an interactive guidebook to help those wishing to make their own personal changes.

I have 3 days left in my campaign, all or nothing!

You can read more about my story at erinkmac.com and continue to receive this blogs by clicking the ‘follow’ button.

Thank so very much for coming along on this adventure.***