How I Can Afford To Travel!

My most REVEALING post to date! If you've been wondering how the hell I've been able to last traveling this long, well here it is! All secrets are out in the open! This post tells you how I do it, and how YOU can do it too!

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Working On A Cruise Ship

I somehow managed to get myself a job working at a Cruise Ship. This post is an inside look on what it's really like to live and work below deck. You never know... You might be enticed to work for one too, and travel the whole world like me! Read on to find out more...

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Scotland: My Favorite Country In The World

I've been to many places in several different continents, and have seen spectacular beauty... But every time I visit Scotland, every other country pales in comparison. Read this post to find out why at this point, Scotland was and still is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on Earth...

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On Finding My Bliss In Italy

When you go on big trips like this, however cheesy it sounds, you always do end up 'finding yourself'. And there are moments... difinitive moments when you achieve clarity, contentment, and pure happiness. This all happened to me in Italy. Read my most soulful post to date, inspired by the full moon in Italia...

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On Being Featured In A Documentary

I somehow managed to get myself featured in an upcoming documentary about "Voluntourism". This may be the big break I've been waiting for! The trailer is out - and I'm in it! It looks so good, I'm so excited! See for yourself... watch it here!

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An Epiphany At Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places in Italy. We hiked 5 villages in one day, and it was breathtaking! But something completely unexpected happened on the hike... An encounter with a complete stranger made me realize possibly one of the most important things I need to do with my life...

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My Ayahuasca Experience

Ayahuasca, is by far, the most INTENSE thing I have ever experienced in my life. I died and was reborn. It is both horrific and beautiful at the same time... I can't explain it in a few words. You HAVE to read my story to believe... I promise it will be worth your while...

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

21 of 30: Tribal Belly Dancing - Finding my Inner Gypsy

I've tried “normal” or traditional belly dancing a few years ago, and I really enjoyed it. My teacher used to say I was a natural, and even asked if I would consider choreographing their “children’s belly dance class.” (insert blush here)
I dunno… I’ve always been pretty rhythmic, but I guess when you’re holding a bit of fat in your belly, it makes the movements you make in belly dancing look really good. Haha!

Okay, so I found this deal on living social (or groupon, or one of those websites) that featured this place called Live Arts LA. Take 3 classes for 15 bucks or something… And they had a pretty wide array of classes to choose from. One in particular that stood out was their Tribal Belly Dancing class. It sounded cool, so I went and tried it.

It was brand new – I think the day that I came was their first EVER tribal class. And there were only 2 students. Me, and one of their Zumba choreographers. I loved it. More personal attention! It was like a one on one lesson for 5 bucks!

Doesn't she look like a cool gypsy?
I asked Heather, the instructor, what the difference was between Tribal Belly Dance and traditional belly dancing. She said Tribal is more like American Tribal Fusion… It’s a mix of different styles, from African to Middle Eastern to Spanish to Indian dancing. People refer to it as ATS or African Tribal Style or California Tribal, since the whole ‘movement’ started here in California. At least the bulk of it did…
They also improvised their use of costumes, by using more earthy materials… headwraps/turbans, coins, ethnic textile, many layers, etc.

I don’t have any pictures or videos of me doing the class (thank goodness), but from what I remember about the lesson, it felt like tribal belly dance was more controlled. The movements are shorter and more abrupt (compared to traditional) and your feet are planted firmly on the ground instead of having your heels up a little. I liked it, because it was like belly dancing and popping and locking at the same time! Haha!

I found a video of my teacher dancing Tribal Belly Fusion. See what you think.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

20 of 30 - I'd Rather Be Snowboarding

Nothing to say. I'll just show.

19 of 30 - Learning Meditation From Buddhists

Do you say, "I can’t meditate"? Just do this … sit comfortably, eyes closed. Notice your breathing. Notice your inbreath, notice the end of your inbreath, notice your outbreath, notice the end of your outbreath. Your breathing will naturally become deeper. Remain gently focused on your breathing. If your mind wanders, return to your breath.
Now you are meditating – no books, no courses, no stress.

- Andrew Matthews

A few months ago while I was training for the triathlon, I got a speeding ticket while driving back from Malibu. I had a few other things I had to do that day; have lunch with a friend in LB, volunteer at this event in Silverlake, and go back to LA to get ready to take a few out of towners on a night tour of the city. So that ticket definitely got me depressed. It’s draining having to think about paying 500 dollars for something like that. I went home pretty beat up and exhausted.
So I took a nap.

Then… I had a dream.

In my dream, I was going to be late for something. I was running to my car. As I was about to get in, our maid said she found a few “loose screws” on the headlights. (Weird) I said I’d deal with it later.
Once inside about to start the ignition, I found my cousin eating something savory in the back seat! I panicked, thinking he might spill something! Then my younger sister started climbing into the passenger seat, wanting to talk to me about her life.

I felt overwhelmed.  I don’t have time for this right now, I thought to myself. I’m going to be late!
I just wasn’t sure what I was going to be late for!

So I yelled for both of them to get out of the car… I started driving before they even got the chance to hop out.  I felt annoyed at them for stalling me.

Then all of a sudden, after moving for just a few meters, a big wave started to wash down my entire street.  It looked like a dam has broken somewhere and the water came rushing down to us… or to ME. The car was hit! The windows were open. Water filled the car. There were bubbles. Bubbles everywhere! Everything happened so fast, I didn’t have a chance to properly react. All I remember thinking was that I thought I was going to drown.

Then just like that, the water subsided… Just as quickly as it started, the waves disappeared. 
I got out of the car, and yelled – WHAT THE HELL was that?? 

And then I woke up.

First thing I did was check my phone. I had a few messages. One from a friend who asked if I could still drive her somewhere, the other confirming lunch, the other asking if I could still go with him to do this game show thingie.
After reading the messages, I got overwhelmed, and I felt the same panic I felt in my dream.
And that’s when it hit me.
The speeding ticket that I got was probably the Universe’s way of telling me to slow down. I was spreading myself too thin, overwhelmed by all the commitments I’ve been making. I needed to calm down.
So I went back to sleep.

When I told my friend, L, about my 30by30 project, she got a little concerned for me. She said she thought I might be overworking myself, and that one day I might crack. Her advise for me to figure out what I really want to do was to bask in silence for a change. She said that only when my mind is still will my heart start talking to me. She suggested that I tried meditation.

I never really thought of it again till that day with the speeding ticket. L was right. I needed a little bit of peace.

So I went out in search of a place where I could meditate, with people who could TEACH me how.
I found this Buddhist place in Glendale called Shambhala Meditation Center. They had “public sittings” that allowed anyone to come in and meditate with them for free.
Excellent! I love Buddhists, and I love freebies!

When I got there, a very nice lady took me to a little private room (or more like a closet, really) to show me the basics of what I needed to do in the public sitting. She sat me down and asked me a couple questions. Why did I go there? What made me decide to meditate? Etc…

After I told her my story, she nodded, as if to say she understood.
Then she told me a little bit about what they do in Shambhala. She said that contrary to what people think, meditation is not necessarily about clearing one’s mind. She said for them, it’s about concentrating on your breath, and your breath alone. Being conscious of how the air travels through your nose to your lungs, giving you life. They also meditate with their eyes open, because they want you to be awake and be aware.
She explained that it’s normal for your mind to travel elsewhere while you’re meditating. It happens, even to the seasoned buddhists. But we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it, because we could always just go back to focusing on our breath. Apparently, this kind of meditation also practices gentleness for ones self. Kindness. (And honestly, that’s probably something that I really need work on!)

She suggested that we try it out for a few minutes, meditating together… 5 minutes of concentrating on your breath…
But before we started, I asked her what our goal was… What I should be aiming for, etc…
Then she looked at me and smiled. She said – “try not to think of doing it for an end result… and remember that like everything else, this takes time and practice too.”
I liked that. :)

But man, she wasn’t kidding. It was pretty hard to stare and focus just on your breath. My chaotic mind kept interrupting my state with random images, thoughts and stupid ideas. I was about to get really frustrated with myself when I remembered what she said about being gentle and kind to myself.
Deep breaths. Then go back… Deep breaths… then go back.

After 5 minutes with her, she put me in the public sitting room so I could meditate with the others. We had about an hour to go.
I only lasted 20 minutes.

But it’s okay. Because I am being gentle and kind to myself. It’s really difficult if your mind is not used to focusing on just one thing for an hour. And 20 minutes is a great accomplishment!

Fast forward to a few months later, I’ve actually meditated on my own a few times. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s life changing and that I’ve found my center or whatever… But I know I feel physically calmer after I do it. And I think it’s a good thing that I can always meditate every time I feel like I need to slow myself down.

So… Am I going to be a Buddhist Guru or a Meditating Monk? I doubt it.  

But I’m slowly learning to pace myself though. And maybe with practice, who knows? I might just find my path to enlightenment!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

18 of 30: The Gorilla Challenge - A Sneak Peek Of The Amazing Race

My friend, N, is a passionate Amazing Race fan.
One day, he asked if I would apply to join the race with him – and I happily agreed! He said he’s tried out several times before with different partners, but he never got a callback. I said maybe he was just with the wrong partners! Maybe this time, with me in the picture – it’ll work! He loved my optimism! We both had a good feeling about this!

I’ve only ever seen a few episodes of The Amazing race… N is the diehard fan. But I’m pretty headstrong, active, and fearless. I think I could do anything that show would throw at me… except maybe cut my hair.
N ordered me to DVR all the episodes of the current season so I could catch up, and I did! Piece of CAKE.

A few weeks later, N and I had the opportunity to test our skills, AND our partnership through The Gorilla Challenge! It’s basically a short local version of The Amazing Race in Long Beach. They ask for contestants to run around town finding clues, completing challenges, and the first team to finish 10 out of 12 of them wins! It was PERFECT!

I’ll let the Gorilla Challenge peeps explain this thing for you…

Gorilla Challenge is an “Amazing Race” style event, combined with “Fear Factor’” and the  ”American Idol” where you and your team race to solve clues around the city, taking pictures in silly to crazy poses, completing fun/difficult/gross activities, hoping you either get the grand prize or at least mini prizes along the way, and having loads of fun!

You’re given a card filled with clues pointing in different directions within a 3 to 5 mile radius. Once you get to a location, you’ll find an additional slip with instructions on what to do next with your camera. It could be anything ranging from taking a simple picture with the object, singing for someone, putting together a mini-puzzle, dipping your hand in something disgusting to look for a clue or just making funny faces.
You’ll have as much time as you need to get to 10 out of the 12 clues, with a couple of clues containing tickets to redeem for an Amazon Gift Certificate, and other gift certificates to local restaurants and retailers.
Once you’ve picked up your 10 clues, you head back to the start location to win the finishing prize, redeem a ticket, or get a nice pat on the back and enjoy the live entertainment and food and beverage specials!
Gorilla Challenge is open to persons of all ages, with the exception of Goa’uld, members of the Dark Side, Borg’s, and Zombies. Jedi Knights are welcome.

Doesn’t that sound really cool and awesome? I was pumped! Oh, and did I mention that "Costumes are Encouraged?" :)

We had a slight advantage because N is from Long Beach, so he knew all the locations. Plus there were only two of us – and a group is easier to manage with less people. There were other teams with about 8 to 10 people… I could only imagine the kind of drama they had to put up with. Haha!

Anyway, we headed out to the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery on Pine St bright and early. We registered, and found out we were one of 70 teams joining that day. Pretty hard core.
I’m competitive. We all know this about me. BUT… on this particular occasion where N and I were just ‘warming up’ for the real thing, we decided not to put too much pressure on ourselves and just have fun and do the best we can. We both agreed he should be the team leader since he’s done this sort of race before. Team leaders get handed the first 6 clues. Completing one of those challenges (it didn’t say which one) will lead us to the next set of clues – 6 to 12! Since the challenges/clues didn’t have to be completed in any sort of order, we had to be smart about which ones to accomplish first.

And before we knew it, the gun went off and the race had started!

We just went with a black and orange theme.

N was very methodical about these things, so while the rest of the world started sprinting around Long Beach going stircrazy over the clues, N and I found a nice comfortable place to sit down and analyze the clues one by one. The clues were riddles that pointed us to the location where we were to accomplish our challenges. Riddles that took us about 5 to 10 minutes to crack… they were actually pretty good! One of them said something like – “The first word is a President that dealt with logs and the emancipation proclamation...” Pretty funny, eh?

So there we were, solving the riddles, figuring out what to do first with the help of our Long Beach Map. It was a really good method, considering the fact that we were dealing with a 5 mile radius, and running back and forth not knowing where to go first would’ve been a nightmare.

I don’t remember everything that we did, but I’ll enumerate the ones I do…

1. At Lincoln Park, the challenge was to jumprope together, while singing the Star Spangled Banner. (After we did this, we unlocked clues 6 – 8! YES!)
2. Find an out of towner who comes from a State that starts with the letter “N” --- so Nevada, Nebrasca, North Dakota, etc… Take a picture of them holding out their ID as proof, and pose like Charlie’s Angels!(We found a tourist from Nevada!!)
3. The Fear Factor Challenge – spray blood on your partner’s mouth, and they in turn would spit it into this small cup. Fill it up to the brim and you complete the challenge! (I sprayed, he spit!)
4. Pose in the most dramatic and theatrical fashion in front of the Long Beach Theater
5. Take a photo with police officers, shaking their hand, thanking them for what they do for the city.
6. Solve a Riddle that will lead you to an Elementary School, and take a photo of yourselves pretending to be a teacher and a group of kids taking  a class picture.

The Dramatic Pose

Our Good Samaritan from Nevada

The Class Picture!

My favorite was the last challenge we did. We were to pick one person in the team to assemble a jigsaw puzzle – blindfolded! And the other guides them by telling them what to do, hands tied behind their back. I was the blindfolded one, and N was “the voice”. This was the true test of our partnership, I thought. N knew exactly what to say to make me reach for the exact puzzle piece, to put exactly in its place. I thought he gave GREAT direction, and he said he was amazed at how awesome I was at doing exactly what he said.
We finished the puzzle first, and the gorilla people were amazed! So were we!!

We were pretty happy with what we had accomplished, especially since we weren’t really “in it to win it” at that point. We just wanted to get our feet wet and have fun!
Which is why when we found out that we finished 7th out of 70 teams – we were over the moon! 7th out of 70 --- and we weren’t even trying? That was freakin awesome!

We gathered back at the restaurant and got something to eat while waiting for the rest to finish the challenges. Our legs were sore, but our hearts were soaring! We did a really good job and we both could not wait for The Amazing Race!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

17 of 30: Piloxing - Because Boxing Isn't Graceful Enough

Pilates + Boxing = Piloxing.

I swear it cracks me up what people come up with. 

I have to say though, that Piloxing is probably one of the better ‘inventions’ in aerobic fitness! When you first think about it – the juxtaposition of these two don’t make too much sense. I haven’t really done Pilates yet but I know it’s similar to Yoga. Stretchy, breathy, and limber. 

We all know I do boxing. And boxing is aggressive, loud and brutal. 

Putting these two together is probably the last thing anyone should ever do --- but for some reason, it works!

How do I describe it properly… Hmmm…

I guess, it’s like Taebo with ballet moves? You punch, kick and then plie!

The ballet part threw me off… We literally did the five ballet positions in the middle of the work out, including plie’s and leg raises and stuff. So technically, this should be called – Pil-lallet-xing! Pilates – Ballet – Boxing! SERIOUSLY!


The Pilates part didn’t come till towards the end of the work out when the instructor asked us to bring out the mats. The ‘poses’ she asked us to do were very yoga-like, and very intense – especially for someone like me, who is not at all dainty like a yogi.

I did have fun though – and I went for about a month. 

One of the takeaways I got from this experience is meeting Jordan, the Piloxing instructor. We got to talking, and I found out she was an actor/singer, performing in a small musical called, “Dear John Mayer” – written by AND starring Shoshana Bean --- only one of my faaaaaavorite broadway leading ladies evaaar! She was probably the BEST Elphaba in Wicked… and as much as it pains me to admit it – yes, she was better than Idina Menzel, another one of my all time favorites.

Of course I saw the musical – and of course, because of my Jordan connection, I got to meet Miss Sho herself! And in the audience was another broadway superstar, Karen Olivo – a Tony award winner! She won for playing Anita in West Side Story, but I remember her more for playing Vanessa in In The Heights.

Yes, I met her too. :)

And yes, I realize this really isn’t about Piloxing anymore. I just wanted to present the facts, that had it not been for Piloxing, I wouldn’t have met two of my idols… So… therefore… in conclusion… Piloxing is AWESOME!

Me and Karen Olivo

Me and Shoshana