A gust of wind, a flash of light and it’s gone….

When I’m in Los Angeles my schedule is bananas. Straight up insanity. I wake up early and get going and don’t stop until the suns nearly up again. I start around 8 a.m. being active- hiking, pilates, yoga, dance classes, teaching private lessons, teaching weekly classes, creating choreography, editing videos, blogs, vlogs plus an entire personal life full of regular, mundane demands like laundry PLUS a group of friends that I love to the ends of the earth and love to spend time with. I feel so ridiculously blessed at the fullness of my life and I am never as joyful as I am when I’m productive. 
Long story short, I can move for 18-20 hour days in LA and I know it sounds crazy but I LOVE it. I don’t just love it, I thrive that way. The more I do the more I want to do, the more I create the more I’m inspired to create. I am a mover, a New Yorker deep down in my soul and busy-ness is the life blood that lights me up. It turns out I love being busy so much that just me being busy wasn’t satisfying enough so I hired an assistant, so I could make someone else busy too. 
Fast forward.
I’m writing this to you from Africa. I’m somewhere in Tanzania- I don’t know exactly where because I’m in about hour 6 of a 16 hour bus ride from Arusha to Bagamoyo. Let me repeat that one more time: a 16 hour bus ride. 
16 hours of sitting still on a bus with no wifi, no work, no nothing. Now that would probably be a struggle for even the most sedentary human, especially since it’s about 90 degrees here and this bus has no AC- but for ME!? Holy crap. This is like a next level type challenge. 100 to zero, real quick.
I boarded the bus, took a window seat -and felt restless within about 2.6 seconds. I figured I had two choices- run off the bus screaming and return immediately to Los Angeles OR sit still in this seat and learn this lesson that God has placed in my lap. I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so of course I stayed put.
 At first I thought the lesson was in patience. It’s no secret that my lack of patience is my Achilles heel. My dad always said I was like a Tasmanian devil. That you’d just feel a gust of wind and see a flash of light before I was gone. 
So I sat in my seat, boiling hot, staring silently at the seat back in front of me and without busying myself with any tasks at all I tried to stay calm and quiet. I didn’t fidget and I vowed not to complain. After about 3 minutes of that, I turned my head when something out the window caught my eye. 
It was a young boy, running from his home (a poorly constructed shack with dirt floors and no electricity or water supply.) He was running towards me with the biggest smile I have ever seen. He was calling to me and waving. I smiled and waved back and he literally jumped for joy and screamed with laughter. 
That’s when it hit me- this lesson was not only in patience but in presence. By being present in the moment and being still I noticed that young boy- I made his day by seeing him, and he made mine by greeting me that way. Had I been busy with something else or distracted with something outside the present moment, I would have missed him. That thought alone could almost bring me to tears. I saw him for just a brief moment, but I’ll never forget him.
The challenge now is to find that stillness in the craziness of my everyday life- to stay connected and present in each moment as it passes and not fret over moments gone or ones that have yet to come. I will find that balance, the quiet in the chaos and I know you can too. 
This lesson was also in empathy and in gratitude. You cannot be in Africa and not feel the utmost gratitude for all the worldly luxuries home waiting for you. Most of the people here live on the bare minimum, about $100 US a month if they’re lucky. They don’t have AC or heat or even running water… but my God they are JOYFUL. They always say hello with a smile and laugh and dance, they sit outside with their children and bathe them and hug them and watch them play. There is real happiness and life here. It’s not squeaky clean or dressed up in designer clothes- but it’s breathtakingly beautiful. 
We visited a Maasai village where a Maasai leader took us into his home. A very small shack built with cow dung, no windows, and a cow hide on the floor for a bed. I asked the Maasai leader if he enjoyed living there in the home he showed us. His answer was simple: “I would be happy anywhere.” 
The simplest, most poignant thing I’ve ever heard. Happiness is not dependent on one single external factor. It’s a choice. One you can make whether you’re surrounded by cow manure or Italian marble. 
That young boy has every excuse to be miserable. He doesn’t have money or any of the material things people tend to value, he wasn’t even wearing shoes. Still, he had one of the happiest faces I have ever seen. Just beaming- utter and profound joy… to see a stranger through a window on a passing bus. He is creating joy in small things and spreading it around like wild fire. After a $100,000 college education I learned one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever been taught from an 8 year old African boy I saw in a blink. A gust of wind and a flash of light, and he was gone.
So now, I choose to be happy; right now, on this endlessly long bus ride. I will continue to choose to be happy whether I’m home going a million miles a minute or sitting completely still on this bus in Africa or wherever my next adventure leads me- I will choose happiness, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad…I’ll think of that boy and choose happiness every single time and every once in a while I’ll make sure to stop (or at least pause for a second) and smell the roses. Please don’t forget that the time is now, we aren’t promised tomorrow. Life is funny that way. A gust of wind, a flash of light and it’s gone. 

The Yes Effect

I’m writing this from inside a tent in the Serengeti. It’s already been 3 days without a shower, wifi or any contact with anyone outside this group I’m traveling with. It’s my first time camping- it’s my first time on safari- it’s the first time in about 8 years that I’m on a trip with a girl friend and not a significant other. I have been having a lot of firsts lately; Throwing caution to the wind and instead of having a list of things I want to do, I’m writing my list of things I’ve done. 
How did I get here, is a question you might be asking yourself. Well, I don’t know if you’re asking it but I sure as hell am. How did I get here? I guess the real answer to that is in every choice I’ve made, large and small, over the last thirty years- that has somehow culminated in me lying in a tent in the Serengeti, single at 30, next to my other single female friend- trading war stories about relationships past, soul searching and finding peace in this great unknown. 
We came here to disconnect from the physical and reconnect to the spiritual. I needed to get in touch with my soul and what’s deep in my heart at this new point in my life and I knew that meant needing to lose touch with my daily life and regular routine. So here I am. I’m not sure I could be any further from my daily routine- I just had to hide my sneakers from a baboon for Gods Sake. 
They say that time heals all- and I like to think travel heals all too. Coming here I was close to feeling like my old self again..and then I asked – why would I want to feel like my old self? I don’t want old anything- and I guess that desire for newness is one of the many ways I got here. 
After Matt left I decided I was going to become a “yes man” – yep, just like the movie. I felt I had said “no” to a lot of opportunities and passed on too many personal goals. So naturally, I decided that in order to make up for lost time, I ought to start saying yes. To everything. Immediately. I’m not much of a take things slow kind of girl- if I’m in, I’m all in. This was no exception.
This wasn’t a situation where I would arbitrarily say yes to any and all things- but rather say yes to things that struck a cord in me, things I wanted to do but hadn’t, things that excited me. 
One of the first questions anyone asked me just hours after my Yes Man conversion – was “do you wanna go to Africa?” And here I am. I shit you not. Even though I’ve never really understood that expression. Yes. I do want to go to Africa… and here I am. In Africa, in a tent with a friggen hyena outside, talking to you. 
This yes commitment for me is about living my life in every possible way. I don’t want to die with shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I want to experience the world and understand people in a way that only comes with travel. You can only truly relate to people when you’ve walked in their shoes and seen life through their eyes. The world is a vast, crazy place with adventure after adventure waiting for you, calling to you. It’d be a shame to hit ignore.
Travel will challenge you, and it will change you. I come back from every trip refreshed, renewed and a different version of myself; a better, more empathetic, more patient version of myself. So far my yes journey is wonderful. It’s led me to so many new people and experiences that have affected me so deeply- and this trip is no exception. It has also led me to reconnect with old friends and become closer to the people around me. 
As I lay in this tent in Tanzania, looking up at the stars, I feel a peace that I haven’t felt maybe ever before. I feel completely confident that I am exactly where I’m meant to be in this moment. I truly believe there are no accidents- the universe is bringing me exactly where I’m meant to be. Every day, I wake up and ask the universe to guide me to my highest path and help me live in accordance with my highest purpose. In saying YES and trusting the little nudges I’m being given, I trust that I’m being led toward my destiny. I don’t know exactly how I got here, or why I’m here- I’m also not sure exactly where I’m going- but I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. 
For now, I’m learning to trust the process, have faith in myself and in others and to relinquish some of my precious “control” to go with the flow. I don’t need to know all the hows and whys. I just need to say yes and let go. I need to be present and prepare myself for the journey that lies ahead. I need to live in this completely perfect, very wild moment. 

My Relationship catch 22

This year I gained a lot of things, but I lost a lot too. It got me started thinking about balance and the way that things come and go. I came into more money and professional success then I ever have this year, said hello to more travel, excitement, adventure and generally have felt the best I have in a long time. I have returned to myself and to my focus on my own well being and happiness. Yet, I also lost a lot of faith in people, the ability to trust openly said goodbye to a lot of friends and my fiancé after a 5 year long engagement. 

I read a lot about how success often leads to the loss of people in your life- but in my case I don’t think success caused it, I think it was merely correlated. If anything, losing people led to the increased success, not the other way around.    This realization has made me a little bitter, to say the least. Why is it that when I have people I love and value I have trouble finding time to love and value myself? 

I came to the realization that I am a giver. I have a personality that wants to do for others. Sure, this sounds like a good thing and a lot of the time it is. It has made me active in every charitable organization from soup kitchens to animal rescue. However, what makes it a bad thing is that I put too much pressure on the outcomes and the happiness of the people I do for. I want them to be happy, satisfied and deep down, I want a pat on the back as assurance that I did the right thing by them. I often will sacrifice my own well being, needs and even happiness to see to it that someone I love is happy and fulfilled. Once I said that last sentence out loud to myself I realized the fatal flaw in that set up. How could the people around me be happy, if I am unhappy? 

So now I have finally found the root problem in a lot of my failed relationships and have begun the search for an answer. What is the balance between fulfilling my need to give and do for others but no do so much that I compromise myself and my sanity in the process. How can I elevate others and myself, at the same time? At this point, I am no where near the solution to that question. I am, however, knee deep in failures, which makes me hopeful that I am getting close.

I constantly wonder whether there is a magic formula for me that would help my relationships with all people be easier, and more mutual, so I don’t constantly feel like I am having the life drained out of me… or if there is just a certain type of person I need to find, that fits well with me and would help me to find the balance? It is no coincidence that I gravitate toward people that need some help. I like to help people. The trouble with it is that I find the more I give to people, the more they take. Not just financially but energetically too. I spend a lot of energy and time trying to help people, work with them, understand them, and that energy never seems to come back around.

I’ve heard these people referred to as “Energy Vampires” and it’s a perfect term. I have found very few relationships where energy flows freely in both directions. I have also found that you can create an energy vampire in someone who has a predisposition for it by doing too much for them. At the beginning I believe in the best in people. I give and give and tell myself “ Hey, this will turn around and this person will show up for you when you need it. It’s good to invest in people.” Then a couple months or even years in I find myself saying “huhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh?” while the person I invested in walks off without even a nod in my direction.

Obviously, since this is an ongoing problem for me, it’s something that I am doing that is not working. As I stated earlier I do believe a good part of the root problem is that I do too much. Period. Once my own happiness is compromised it’s too much and its destined to blow up in my face, so I need to recognize that limit BEFORE it blows up, not after. The other part of the problem is that I invest in the wrong individuals. People with selfish streaks and people who don’t follow through with their word. This last part is really the hard part. HOW DO YOU KNOW? You don’t. I have gotten better at recognizing red flags and carrying garlic to ward off obvious energy vampires— but people still find a way to bamboozle me.

The final part of this problem is me and my desire for others to be happy with me and my effort. Wanting other people to be happy sounds like a good thing- but I have come to find that it can be really detrimental. Want is a frivolous, light word and that’s the only way it works. To casually hope someone has a good time, hope that they like and appreciate you and to truly be OK if they don’t. I’m just not OK if they don’t. Im not OK if they don’t like me or are unhappy…that’s the problem. I say I don’t care- but I do. I care too much. I want people to leave feeling better for having known me or taken my class or sitting next to me on the airplane. The latter is why I am letting this elderly man rest his huge elbow on me and crush me in this middle seat. I want them to leave happier, with something they didn’t have before- I want to give. When I don’t feel I have done that I feel badly about myself and about situations.— and that bad feeling of some kind of failure on my part further pollutes the energy in the situation and the relationship. That’s my catch 22.

I have found myself in a lose lose situation that I need to work through. The positive side is that I believe all  my failures and shortcomings come from a genuinely good heart. A heart that wants to help people find comfort, success, joy, laughter, ambition, adventure and inspiration. My motives are pure and I want to form real, honest connections with people- where energy moves in BOTH directions and both parties can elevate together. I want what’s best for others and I want to believe in the best in others. I am thankful for that and I pray that it will lead me to individuals with similar hearts and minds. I don’t want to deal with anymore individuals who live in the small bubbles of their own world and obsess over only their own needs and wants. I want people who look out and want to  connect- to move forward with other people, alongside them, not by stepping on their throats to get to the top.

I’ll search tirelessly til I cultivate this tribe, I believe they’re out there and I will continue to work to better myself in the process. I am learning to be alone and can feel myself learning and growing into a better human being every day. I hope that I can find the balance I seek and I hope you find it too. I hope you find yourself in relationships that build you up, excite you and elevate you- and if you don’t, I hope you find the courage to walk away, reassess and start over again. Let’s all treat each other with a little more kindness this coming year. Let’s reach out to each other. Let’s find solutions instead of writing each other off, let’s grow up and grow forward in the way we interact with one another. Say your I’m sorry’s, face your own demons and smooth over the cracks in your personality that might be leading you to failures in your relationships. Most importantly, keep moving forward; Keep focused on what’s ahead- That’s where your life is waiting.

Our 10 day Italian Adventure: Tips for having the trip of a lifetime in Italia| PART 1: SORRENTO, CAPRI & POMPEII | Days 1-3

As most of you know Matt and I just WON THE AMAZING RACE… (still hasn’t sunk in) and we used some of the money to  take my parents and one of our best friends on a 10 day vacation to Italy. My parents have gone through a lot in their lives. My father had diabetes and Alopecia Totalis his whole life. Six years ago his one remaining kidney started to fail and he was on dialysis for 6 months before receiving a life changing double transplant (kidney & pancreas.) My mother stood by his side and was his nightly nurse through the whole process. Shortly after he began recovering from his transplant his eyesight started to fail and he’s been going blind ever since. A year ago my mother was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. She had ovarian cancer when I was in 3rd grade and had a full hysterectomy so she has lost a lot. Through all these trials they have been the greatest parents to me. They taught me to be strong, independent and always chase my dreams. They gave me the world and made me believe in my ability to actually achieve my goals by loving and supporting me unconditionally. Once we won, I immediately wanted to repay them in some way, to give something back to them. They have always dreamt of seeing Italy, I actually remember my father leaning into my mother right before her surgery last year and promising to take her when she was well again. They always helped me live my dreams and I wanted to help them live one of theirs, so I planned a ten day trip that would satisfy anyone’s need to see the sights, explore Italy and have the trip of a lifetime in one of my favorite places on earth.

Disclaimer: The trip was tight.. It would have been easier/more relaxing with an extra day in each city but we did not have the availability in our schedule to extend it any longer…instead we ran around like crazed, wild, luggage wielding lunatics and still had a blast doing it. Below is our itinerary and links to all the things we loved and enjoyed.

 

I booked the trip through http://www.virgin-vacations.com. I used their 8 day Rome, Florence and Venice vacation air and land package and I extended it by three days so that I could add in Sorrento  and the Amalfi Coast. They helped me book the extended airfare but I had to book my own travel from Rome to Sorrento and back to Rome (just bought this at the airport) and my own hotel in Sorrento (hotels.com) . Get this.. for all 5 of us it only cost about $8,000.00. $2,000.00 each for all airfare, hotels, first class train tickets… pretty incredible.

Day 1: Arrive in Rome, Naples, Sorrento
After everyone arrived at Rome Fiumicino Airport we hired a driver through welcomepickups.com to take us to Roma termini train station. This service was flawless. I downloaded the app before I left the country and then I got the name and phone number of my specific driver and he showed up holding a sign with our name on it- Easy Peasy. The trip cost about 100 Euro for the 5 of us and all of our luggage. There is an option to take the train from Rome airport to Roma Termini train station. This train is cheaper for sure and since we didn’t take it, I don’t know how easy it is, but I am told pretty easy. Keep in mind we did this trip with my father who is legally blind, so we made some choices based on ease and comfort and not always on budget.

We traveled from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale train station on a high speed train. The trip was 1 hour and 8 mins and cost about 100 euro per person for a round trip ticket. We could have hopped right on the Circumvesuviana and finished the trip to Sorrento but by this point we had all worked up an appetite and I am a pizza FANATIC. So there was no way I was passing through the birthplace of pizza without stopping for a slice and I can’t tell you how worth it it was. I highly recommend making this pit stop.

We left our luggage in the storage room at Napoli Centrale so that we didn’t have to drag it through Naples to the pizzeria. (To Find the luggage hold: after you get off the train and are facing the exit walk all the way down to the right6 euro per bag or 9 bags for 40 euro). There are two incredible pizza spots in Naples http://damichele.net and http://www.dalpresidentepizzeria.it. We arrived on a  Sunday when Da Michele is closed so our choice was made for us and we hopped in a Taxi toward Dal Presidente.

The pizza at Dal Presidente was out of this world. We were seated outside in the most incredible little courtyard, in front of a beautiful church. It was so old world Italy and we were in love with the whole experience. Every single pie we ordered was the best pizza any of us had ever tasted. We ordered the margherita, con prosciutto and a specialty white pie, we also got some draught beers and had a ball. I highly recommend it!

Grabbing a taxi  in Naples isn’t the easiest so ask for a card from the taxi that drops you off and hold on to it to call another taxi to return to the train station. We took the taxi back to Napoli Centrale to retrieve our bags and then headed downstairs into the circumvesuviana train station. Circumvesuviana means “Around Vesuvius” and its the special train that takes you down to the south of Italy and circles the incredible volcano.

We had absolutely no idea what we were getting ourselves into with this train… literally none. This train is insane. Its packed, its rickety, rocky, wild and at some point I am pretty sure we traveled at light speed. In retrospect it was not the best idea for us with my disabled dad and 7 pieces of massive luggage but it was definitely unforgettable and we made it. The train is by far the cheapest way, we paid under 5 Euro per person. The other option would have been a taxi which would have run us upwards of 150 Euro. The train took about an hour and was a lot of fun, it’s the method I would recommend.

circumve2circumvesu1

Once we arrived in Sorrento we walked out of the circumvesuviana and I didn’t have any idea what to do. I didn’t look into how to get from the train station to the hotel, which was a rookie mistake- but hey, it happens lol. We were able to take a taxi but it was ridiculously expensive; It cost us 50 Euro to go about 15 minutes up a hill. Most of the hotels have shuttles that go to the hotel from the main square so its worth it to look that up with your hotel and be aware of the best and cheapest way to get to your hotel before you arrive. (my bad)

After a beautiful ride up a very large hill we arrived at our gorgeous hotel, Le Terrazzehttp://residenceleterrazze.it/. I cant rave about this hotel enough. It was breathtaking, with panoramic vistas from every angle that you almost cant believe are real. On top of that the staff took the most exceptional care of us, especially Vincenzo.  The breakfast buffet was delicious and included!

We arrived late at night after many of the local restaurants had closed and he made a call to his friend Pasquale who owns the most unreal restaurant up the street called Le Grotelle http://www.agriturismo.it/en/farmhouse/campania/naples/LeGrottelleSorrento-7280558/index.html. He picked us up in his car and drove us over there after they had closed. They grow 90 % of their ingredients on the premises and the food was probably the best I have every eaten anywhere on earth. The restaurant had such a fun old world vibe too- a must if you visit Sorrento.

TIP: Le Terrazze has a LOT of stairs. It’s carved into the side of a cliff which is why it is so incredible and has such beautiful views- but make sure to let the desk know if you are traveling with anyone disabled or elderly. The steps are treacherous.

Day 2: Capri by private boat

This was everyone’s favorite day of the whole trip, by far. We rented a private boat through Capitano Ago boat rental http://www.capitanoago.com/ and it was flawless. It was 800 Euro for the whole day up to 8 people and it included soda, beer, wine and limoncello and caprese sandwiches (pretty cutesy since we were in Capri). They also picked us up at our hotel in the morning and dropped us off at the end of the day.

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We had Capitano Agostino and he was so much fun! He started the day by bringing us to an ancient roman aqueduct and driving the boat right underneath it. It was soooo cold! He took us to see all the grottoes, the Faraglioni rocks and then brought us to a beautiful spot to jump off the boat and swim and snorkel. He played music for us and we had the time of our lives relaxing on the boat, drinking wine and swimming in the Mediterranean.

To  visit the Blue Grotto you must wait in line, when you have a private boat the line is considerably shorter. We waited about 10 minutes while others waited upwards of an hour. We were transferred from our boat into a small rowboat (pictured below), taken to the ticket booth to pay and then brought into the grotto. It really is a spectacular sight unlike anything I have ever seen. The cave is pitch black and the water literally glows. The trip into the grotto is short, maybe 5 minutes long and your rowboat driver will pester you beyond belief about being tipped- that’s just the way it is so don’t get upset. Make sure you have cash to pay the entrance fee which I believe is 13 euro per person and some tip for your rowboat driver.

blue grottorowboat

Once we finally arrived in Capri we were let off the boat to explore for a few hours. We took a Funicular (old school cable car) up to the top of the hill and had lunch at a charming little restaurant nearby the square called Isidoro. I had the pasta with clams and that was a hit with everyone lol. We shopped, grabbed some gelato and headed  back down to our boat. We went for another swim and then finished the trip back to our hotel.

We had dinner in Sorrento in Piazza Tasso (pictured below) at Bar Faunohttp://www.faunobar.it/en/index.php. I ordered the ravioli sorrentina, which was fabulous.

piazza tasso

 

Day 3 Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius

We took our hotel shuttle down to the square and caught the Circumvesuviana to  the Pompeii Scavi stop, which takes about 30 minutes. I opted to buy tickets outside the train station in Sorrento before we departed, from tiempo travel, which is in an office to the right hand side if you are facing the train station. I purchased train tickets(2.20 per person), bus tickets to the top of Vesuvius( 22 per person) , and skip the line tickets and guided tour for Pompeii (12 euro per person- not including 13 euro pp entrance fee which we paid at the gate).

The tour we purchased for Pompeii was picked up outside the Pompeii Scavi train station. They walk you over to the entrance and help you purchase your tickets and then walk you through the whole area of Pompeii. This could be a good option because Pompeii is expansive and very confusing. However, due to my dads blindness we were a slower group. In all honesty though we were way happier to walk around on our own and really only bought tickets so we could “skip the line.” The tours are very in depth, even at our slow pace we blew passed them- long windedness is just not really our style. We did a short loop, started by turning right after the entrance square, through piccolo teatro and then  turned left up the ramp. We then made the first left, checked out the bath house, forum and hall with the pottery – I was really most interested to see the plaster casts of the bodies so we asked around and made a bee line for that. We followed that around past the basilica of justice and out the exit toward the Circumvesuviana. That exit brought us right back to the train station– which is where you pick up the bus for mount Vesuvius.

This took us about an hour and was plenty of Pompeii for us but depending on your level of history buffness, you might opt to follow a tour for a longer (2.5 hour) more in depth look at the ancient city.

pompeiipompeii bodypompeii body 2

Because of the weather (it was raining and lightening) we ended up not being able to take the tour we purchased to Mount Vesuvius. The busses were not driving up because of the rain and at first we were super bummed. Then the same company we purchased the bus tickets from sold us a private tour in a taxi for 25 euro per person (10 euro per person entrance fee not included.) It turned out this was a way superior option and we got so lucky. The taxi was going up even when the busses weren’t, we had no one else with us (we would have been with a group of 20 or so if we had gone with the bus group) and we got to be on our own time. The cab ride took about 30 minutes.

Mount Vesuvius was so bad ass, excuse my french, but theres no other way to say it. We were all stunned and beyond obsessed. It was pretty much one of the coolest things I have ever seen and definitely was worth the hike. The hike was moderate intensity on a well worn path and took us about 20 minutes. The rain made it so creepy and epic- most blogs say don’t go up to the top in bad weather because it does compromise the view outward, but it made the volcano so much cooler to us. Make sure to bring a sweater no matter what the weather because of the altitude it does get colder at the top.

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We ended up taking a taxi back from Pompeii to our hotel in Sorrento. It cost about 80 Euro. We could have returned on the train but we were all tired and it was raining and we knew my dad needed a break lol.

We had dinner that evening at a restaurant called Fattoria Terranova- Fattoria means farm in italian, but it may as well mean place that makes you fat. The ambience at this restaurant is to die for and the food is excellent. We hear the bread is a stone wheat (inside joke…) http://fattoriaterranova.it/ but seriously, definitely a spot to check out- just be careful for the per person appetizer because that can get pricey 🙂

 

Seriously though… what are the odds?

I want to share a thought I have been having over the last couple of months since Matt and I won the Amazing Race. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a CBS reality show where eleven teams of two race around the world and take part in the ultimate international scavenger hunt. At the end, one team wins it all and a one million dollar prize. I was 28 when we won season 28…

What I really can’t stop thinking is: “What are the odds?” To date there have been 28 teams who have won the American version of the show, including Matt and I, out of a little over 300 who have played…those odds are pretty impressive- but what about when you factor in the thousands and thousands who have auditioned?

To audition, get cast and then play to the end and WIN? thats pretty incredible/unlikely.

A lot of you may even be thinking, “that’s lucky.” At first, that thought crossed my mind too and then I wondered… is it? I started to think through the process that led us to that moment on the winner’s mat and I began to see a divine plan unfold. (Disclaimer: I am not religious and I am not a believer in “fate” or “destiny.” I firmly believe our thoughts create our life.) 

Many people don’t know this but Matt and I began auditioning as a team for the show about 5 years ago. I also applied for 3 years before that with a different partner. Each time it was always the same thing, someone would call us and express interest but we never made it all the way. Something was always offNow I recognize that “Something” to be timing. 

In all the years of visualization we never, ever pictured just competing on the race… we ALWAYS pictured winning. Winning would take readiness- it would take physical and mental preparation that 8 years ago and even 3 or 4 years ago- I didn’t have. I had to learn things and be ready to accept something like winning half a million dollars. I had to battle anxiety and learn to trust in the Universe’s timing. I had to learn to trust myself.

Eventually, after countless audition tapes and even a live audition (we drove through the night to San Fransisco and slept outside to be seen by producers)– we put it on the back burner. It remained part of our bucket list, so to speak, and I always found myself thinking about it, wondering about it and picturing us running to that mat as winners before I fell asleep at night. Here is a photo of my vision board that I looked at for the year before we were chosen to run the race….

Vision Board.jpg

Kind of scary huh? Not only did I visualize the race and the prize… but do you see that helicopter? I had never ridden in one before and it turns out the first time I did, it was to the final destination where we would go on to win. Coincidence? Could be…But what if it isn’t. What if I created, anticipated, almost willed some of it to happen?

I think about the choices we made when we were preparing…we didn’t do much out of the ordinary, but one thing we did focus on was rock climbing… one of the key tasks in the final challenge.

I think back even further to when I was younger and my grandpa would sit with me for hours in awe of my memory. He always praised me for having a mind like a steel trap and would play the memory game with me for days on end, even though he could never beat me- he always wanted to play. He wanted to cultivate that skill in me, the skill that would go on to win me a half a million dollars a couple of decades later.

After Matt and I were not taken through the casting for the race after our numerous audition attempts we didn’t do much else, aside from putting it on our vision board and watching old episodes religiously, not that there was much we could do lol. We just went on with our regular lives and followed our paths in dance. It turns out our path led us down the road of social media. We began to do what dancers had never done before and acquire a social media following and a youtube channel that would go on to become the largest dance channel in the world. We weren’t seeking that necessarily, it just kind of found us. It was very organic the way we fell into social media- it was something we were doing because we enjoyed it… and then it caught fire.

And then… we got the call.

A casting director told us that they were organizing a new season of the Amazing Race, a never been done before “Social Media Themed” season. He said he was browsing Youtube and recognized one of the photos on Matt’s channel from one of our previous applications. Odds? …. 

If that doesn’t get you, how about this? In the first leg we were paired with a cameraman and sound guy (Alan and Steve) that we really loved. Since the race left from our houses, Alan, our camera guy was in our house taking some shots for B roll or what have you. He went into the bathroom and came to notice a piece of paper we had taped to the bathroom mirror. It said “ We are going to WIN the Amazing Race Season 28 #BlackTeam.” It was where we would see it every morning and repeat it to ourselves as soon as we woke up. Alan noticed it and commented on it and at first, I felt a little embarrassed and silly. Someone who didn’t get visualization might think we were crazy or cocky lol We thought we would win and we hadn’t even left the house. 

TAR visualization.jpg

This is a picture of that sign- it’s still taped behind our bathroom mirror.

We won that first leg and then alternated camera/sound crews throughout the show. We never had Alan and Steve again… until the final leg. Matt and I said after the first leg that if were lucky enough to get them back in the last leg that we could win it all, so when we saw them waiting for us in the lobby for that last leg, we were over the top excited. I never would have expected Alan to remember such a small moment in my bathroom that happened a month ago- but on the way to the final challenge he turned to me in the car and asked me about that posted sign on our bathroom mirror. The sign I scribbled on an old piece of paper on the way out the door to teach a private lesson. I explained to him that we used it to visualize our winning every day. Alan could have laughed, but he didn’t- he didn’t day anything at all. After we won, there was a farewell dinner for all the cast members and Alan came over to me and said, “I use visualization too.” He opened his phone and showed me his note in his calendar for that date- he had written it before the leg began… it said “Dana and Matt win the Amazing race.”

I guess the point of this post is that even though it was unlikely, I don’t think it was random, accidental or even lucky. This didn’t just happen- it was years in the making; A whole lifetime in creation. Years of visualizing, planning, picturing what it would like like, how it would feel. I’m not trying to say I am that powerful of a person and  I can make things happen just by imagining they will… but yea actually, I kind of am saying that— and I think you are that powerful too. A long time ago someone explained visualization to me and said, “you don’t need the how, you just need to know what.” You don’t need to think of how it will happen or come to be- you just need to know what your desire is. For example, say you want to make $100,000 – you don’t need to picture how you will make it, just imagine receiving the check and how it would feel to see that money in your bank account, how you’ll spend it, etc. Let the universe handle the how. You just need to picture it, believe in it with every ounce of your being, live each day like you are waiting on the universe to deliver that desire to you- whatever it is. In retrospect I can see all the hints, all the warnings, all the signs the universe sent me to prepare me to complete this mission and live out this life long dream. I didn’t recognize them at the time but as they say, hindsight is 20/20. I felt compelled to learn to drive stick shift before we were even called, to sign us up for rock climbing, to drag us to San Fransisco in the middle of the night, I even booked us a trip to Santa Barbara for New Years a couple years ago never realizing the race would lead us back there. We began to travel a lot and that experience sure came in handy too.

I mean, what the hell do I know really…? Maybe I’m way off and life is a series of serendipitous moments that culminate in grand victories or earth shattering defeats. Maybe there’s no preparation or rhyme or reason- sometimes I feel that way too. Every once in a while though, moments like winning the race trigger an “A-Ha!” moment for me and I begin to feel like maybe it’s not so arbitrary. I would like to believe we have some control and ability to create our lives and so I continue to put my hopes and dreams out into the world… then I wait patiently for signs from the universe. Sometimes even the heartbreaks can be preparing you, readying you for what lie ahead. To me there’s so much hope in believing that, that the darkness is only preparing us to receive the light. How will you know when you get a sign? Sometimes it’s just a little nudge, a feeling in the pit of your stomach that urges you to do something in a moment. Sometimes its thoughts and urgings so powerful they keep you up at night- just pay attention to your feelings, trust your gut and get used to accepting “coincidences” as signals sent by the universe, ushering you forward on your path toward your true hearts desire. I’m really grateful that I did.

P.S My best friend watched our “time capsule” which was a cute little message that CBS had us leave to ourselves before we left for the race that we were meant to watch after we returned home. She made a funny observation that we were the only team that spoke in our time capsule as though we had already won… we never even realized we were doing that.

The Burden of the Un-Bubbly, Only-Child, introvert

 

I am an only child. I was often left to my own devices as a kid when it came to entertainment. I didn’t have a sibling to cry to when a boy broke my heart or to help me remain entertained on snow days trapped at home. I talked to myself, read books, watched the Wizard of Oz an unhealthy amount of times and tried to get my cat to wear people clothes… I believe that may be the source of my reserved, self sufficient personality.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind being reserved, self-reliant or quiet. I like to think and listen and watch. However, my personality type is rarely understood and rarely well received. I am not the type of girl thats going to giggle and jump up and down every time something good happens. I don’t giggle and I rarely jump. People seem to love girls that giggle. I am happy, extremely happy, despite my giggless persona; Most people also don’t seem to understand that. I don’t feel genuine to walk around with a smile plastered to my face 24/7, I don’t know why! I love to see people smile and to make people smile- I obsess over the perfect christmas gift because I love to see someone’s face when they receive the perfect gift.. but I don’t care to smile myself too much. I  don’t ever fake emotion- I WISH I could but I just don’t have that gene. Unfortunately though, my reserved demeanor is off-putting to so many people.
Please don’t get me wrong-this is not to say that people who are outwardly happy, giggly and outgoing are being fake. I am not saying I am this way because I am authentic and others who smile and laugh aren’t authentic. Just that this is what feels real to me, this is how I am comfortable and I wish that was’t offensive or off-putting to people.
My personality type does seem to be a draw to some people and I know there are more people out there like me- every once in a while I come across one and we click right away. My best friend Payton is one of my tribe. Independent, sarcastic, slow to warm up and misunderstood. All in all though, I think we are a dying breed, especially in LA. I think Matt likes those introverted qualities in me and its part of what drew him to me- but its definitely not for everyone. I guess its kind of like the difference between cats and dogs. I’m more of a cat.. I’m not gonna run up wagging my tail like a dog would, ill wait patiently for you to come to me… but that doesn’t mean I’m not nice.
Now I don’t want to get hyper-feminist on you guys, but I also feel like I am judged so much differently than my male counterparts. I am expected to be smiling and always brimming with excitement and if I’m not, I’m a bitch.
If you have a shy, reserved personality as a female and you are even remotely attractive, you are automatically labeled a bitch or asked if you are unhappy. Men love to come up to me and say “ you should smile more..”. I’m sorry but it feels unnatural to me to be smiling from ear to ear while I’m standing alone mixing sugar into my coffee. If you are quiet and a man on the other hand, you’re thoughtful and powerful. People expect me to be outgoing and if I’m not I’m automatically judged. The issue is I grew up with anxiety, at a point it became so crippling I could barely leave the house without having a full scale panic attack.
The source of my panic was always feeling like people were looking at me and that I was failing in some way- failing to live up to an expectation or to entertain them or make them feel comfortable. It took me a long time to realize that in trying to live up to everyones expectations that I wasn’t living at all. I wasn’t even functioning. Unfortunately, I still deal with this struggle on a constant basis even though I have managed to get over my anxiety for the most part.
I am really friendly, I’m just not always one to initiate a conversation. I don’t like feeling like maybe I am infringing on someone’s space or putting someone on the spot that doesn’t want to talk to me. If you start to talk to me you’ll see in a matter of seconds that I will be warm and interested in talking to you. Is it so horrible that I don’t love to begin a conversation if I am happy to be part of one and will gladly chat if someone talks to me?
The issue is that I like people- I don’t want my demeanor to make people uncomfortable.. but I don’t know how to be expressive and to look happy enough to make everyone feel comfortable without compromising my authenticity. I don’t know why I am quiet and slow to warm up- it’s just who I am, who I have always been. As a friend and as a partner I am viciously loyal, I will show up for my friends any way I can, I am dependable and honest. I am a good friend, teacher and person- but unfortunately so many people are put off my outward persona that they don’t get to know that side of me.
I hope that people can learn to give us a chance— the shy ones, the introverts, the quiet ones. A quiet personality doesn’t always mean that someone is upset, mad or mean. We are all created differently and that is the beauty of life. This is what is true to me and honest for me and I hope it doesn’t continue to make people uncomfortable, because thats the last thing I would want. Give us a chance, come say hello to us grumpy looking introverts, we don’t giggle but we don’t bite either…. well..unless we’re hungry.

The New Yorker | if you make it there, can you make it anywhere?

 

NYC- The city of opportunity, ambition and cold, hard reality. The place where people tell it like it is, are honest (maybe to a fault) and will shove you in the subway if you’re walking too slow. So, is it true that if you can make it in NY you can make it anywhere?

I don’t know. But the more I travel and encounter people all over the world the more I realize that 99% of the population is made of 0% hustle. Literally people have no sense of urgency. Almost every situation I am in, whether it’s boarding a plane or the checkout lane at the supermarket- I’m working at my max capacity to move as quickly and efficiently as possible. I am hyper aware of how my presence is affecting someone’s day. Is my “let me take my sweet time” attitude making someone late for an important meeting? I want to be thoughtful!

When I look around, I’m the only one that seems to be acting this way. I’m constantly surrounded by people who seem to be moving at their slowest possible pace. I like to keep it moving and I believe that’s the New Yorker in me. Other people seem so content to just move as slowly and inefficiently as possible- even in high pressure situations people look sleepy and aloof. I had to board my last flight behind a man who could easily have been part of the cast of the Walking Dead– I wanted to shake him and scream “come on man theres 100 people behind you- WALK, load your luggage and sit the hell down”… Of course I didn’t. But it was hard to resist. Is that rude? Maybe… but isn’t it also rude to not take into account a time sensitive situation and focus on doing things quickly so the other 100 passengers don’t have to stand on the jetway in misery and have their flight delayed because you can’t put your luggage into the bin and sit down in a timely manner? I think so.
A lot of people see this “hustle” as a problem with New Yorkers. Always saying things like ” everyone’s always in such a rush” ” you don’t enjoy the moment” blah blah blah. I would argue that this hustle is an asset and it’s the asset that’s kept me ahead of the curve thus far in my life. I have a desire to get things done- to do them quickly and efficiently. The harder I work, the faster I work- the better I get. I compare it to a physical activity like running- if you just jog, the same speed and distance every day, you’ll never advance to running or make it to a marathon. It’s fine to be content to be a jogger- but if you want to get better you need to run faster and farther each time you run… That’s the New Yorker.

Aside from moving at a glacial pace, a lot of people are just detached- not connected to their surroundings- not aware. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to pick something up and return to someone who dropped it without noticing. People don’t seem to notice when they are being rude and getting dirty looks from those around them… This is important. You should know the impression you’re making. The guy on airplane next to me as we speak is yelling like he’s at a football match. On an airplane, when you are trapped in a closed capsule with strangers, USE YOUR INSIDE VOICE. I should NOT be able to hear you talking to the person next to you. He has not once noticed the 3000+ leering looks I’ve shot him in the past 2 hours. This is not trivial- it’s likely he doesn’t realize how he makes people feel in general in his life- and that’s a nasty quality.

I think NYC (and maybe this can be argued for most major cities, but NYC is the roughest I’ve ever been to) can teach you to do things in a way that doesn’t waste time, and that time is precious. If you move slowly, you’ll be the last one to arrive at an opportunity and that’s never a good thing. I am very grateful to my School Of Hard Knocks training from growing up in Brooklyn. I learned to take tough criticism and still love myself, to not miss a train (be on time), to keep it moving and look for the opportunities in life- not always expect them to be handed to me. Sometimes people paint New Yorkers as people who would run an old lady over on the sidewalk just to make a dime.. but thats not true.

Any New Yorker can tell you that as cut throat as we are we are kind of like a large pack of animals- and we don’t like when people bully our own. There’s a difference between expecting a young, able bodied person to be able to take their head up from their phone and act quickly in a  crowded, tense situation and expecting an elderly person to.  I think by and large New Yorkers are the most empathetic people I’ve ever met. We are tough to a point, but if an old lady needs help crossing the street we got her back. There’s almost a sense of camaraderie even though its a no BS, tell-it-like-it-is kinda town.

I think we should stop and smell the roses, definitely. But I also think we should hurry up and mow the lawn. I highly recommend that you spend some time in NYC and get a feel for the rhythm of it, see the way people with huge dreams and tight schedules juggle everything in the greatest city on earth. I think it will help to inspire you, motivate you and maybe help you realize that you are capable of more than you think and at least every once in a while, you should hurry up.