A Traveler’s Terrene

You only live once. What are you going to remember the most?

Daily Challenge: Push Yourself November 19, 2008

I have now written 15,545 words for my first novel. My target goal is 50,000 by the end of the month, as I am taking part in the National Novel Writing Month , which is a creative writing project through the course of November that challenges you (as in anyone!) to get off your lazy bum, stop making the thousands excuses about “lack of time” and finally sit down to write the book you’ve always talked or dreamed about writing.  This event worked out perfectly in timing as writing a book is one of the top reasons I chose to live in Italy, and has been great motivation.

I have 34,455 more words to go, and am quite far behind as I only have 9 writing days left (I’m going to Switzerland in 2 weeks so that will cut out a few days). But, it is my own state of procrastination (or rather anticipation to spend time exploring Correggio and the surrounding areas) that has left me trailing a few laps in this race.  However, slowly by slowly I am gaining speed–last night I forced myself not to go to bed until I had written 3,000 words. As 4a.m. rolled around, I finally did it…3,011 to be exact…

Will I be able to kick it into gear and sprint to the finish line in time? I will soon find out…

My daily challenge to you is to push yourself to finish a goal, or start it for that matter–one that you’ve always had on your list but never have gotten around to accomplishing.PUSH YOURSELF…little by little…or like me, if you are far behind, kick yourself into high speed and start sprinting towards that finish line!


Daily Challenge: Happy Decorating November 18, 2008

Thanksgiving is less than 2 weeks away…and seriously how amazing is this holiday: a table full of friends and family, fresh slices of roasted turkey with all the trimmings, the roar of football on the television and pumpkin pie and spiced tea for dessert. Oh man…I am missing out on all the goodness…yet again!

Well, there is one good thing about living in a country that doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving (although I think every country should include a “thanksgiving” type day…as everyone has something to be thankful about…even if it is just thanks for a delicious meal) is that Christmas comes early! That’s right, all of you suckers have to wait at least two weeks to decorate the house or listen to Christmas music because with the underlining rule, you just can’tget into the Christmas swing until after Thanksgiving, right? Me on the other hand? I am basking in the glow of twinkling Christmas lights from the tree, bows of holly on every door and candles lit with the smell of cinnamon spice in the air. Oh, man…I am in a state of nirvana, I am in decoration bliss.

It’s amazing how the ambiance of a room can have a significant effect on your state of being…state of happiness. How great do you instantly feel when entering a spa or a room arranged in feng shui?

My challenge to you is to create a room or even a small corner of space that is specifically decorated with things that make you happy, that make you feel that, “wow–I feel great” buzz. Your thing may be Bob Marly posters and a beanbag, bamboo plants and wild flowers or an antique collection of postcards.  Whatever the case may be, don’t forget to surround yourself by things you love.  In life, it’s the small doses of pleasure that truly make a difference.

And if Christmas arrangements are you’re thing, why not! You have the green light…go ahead…decorate early!


Star Jumping and Toyota Kicking the world! November 14, 2008

Yesterday marked my 9 month anniversary of leaving Seattle to travel around the world!  It was an experience of a lifetime, an epic adventure. I freed the explorer inside me that has been restless since my childhood days when I explored the world in my backyard. I finally had the courage to say to that little voice…go on…PLAY! IMAGINE! CREATE! The world is your playground I told myself, it is a Traveler’s Terrene.

So here I am nine months later with some 50 gigs of photos, unforgettable memories, and a global network of new friends.  I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. From the people I travelled with on different legs of the trip: my older brother “Mohawk Mark” (2 months in New Zealand), college friend and dance extraordinaire Brian (3 weeks in Thailand), my childhood next door neighbor and “Sister Zesma” Suzanne (5 months throughout Southeast Asia, Turkey, Croatia and Italy), my adorable Italian former roommate Ilaria (2 weeks in Milan and a long weekend in England) and the countless backpackers I met along the way where we travelled together for a few days before parting ways (you know who you are…I HEART you…and there are too many too name!)  

At some point I’ll upload a wide selection of photos to Picasa and send a link, but for now, here is a snapshot of my trip as I Star Jumped and Toyota Kicked across the world!


Daily Challenge: Everyone Needs a Little Motivation November 11, 2008

I have my short and long term goals, but what about daily goals? Or even better, daily challenges.  I am competitive by nature, not the “I’m going to scratch your eyes out to win competitive”, but the “bring it on” attitude, or the “game on” I always like to say (picture the scene from Wayne’s World…).

Even though I am proactive by nature, there are times when I am lazy. Times when I procrastinate. Times when I just plain don’t care. Then…someone challenges me. “I bet you can’t do…”

 I feel a prickling sensation at the nape of my neck. I sit up straight, back arched in perfect posture, as I listen closely to what is being said…how dare someone suggest that me , a woman of the 21st century, can’t do something. I won’t claim I can do everything or rather, be good at everything, but I have enough courage to accept the challenge and try.

Has anyone heard me sing?  I am absolutely terrible. But, that didn’t keep me years ago from auditioning for a part in a musical and singing on stage in front of hundreds of people. (Mind you, after diligent practice I could sing the song quite well, but I would be your worst nightmare now if you allowed me sing to music in the car!)

Sometimes, all we really need is someone to play devil’s advocate and doubt us, assuming they know what we are and aren’t capable of doing.  Or, by contrast, sometimes, all we need is a little motivation. Someone to suggest we would be good at something or to complement us on our skills.  Whatever the case may be, sometimes we just need something to get us up and moving. To remind you to live an active life rather than a passive one. To propel you to better yourself or your situations.  To make life into a fun game, with new rules each day.  To try new things and explore. To force yourself to take risks even though you may be afraid. To humble yourself with failure, and become more confident with each success. And, the list goes on…

Each day, I will post a new challenge for myself. A mission to accomplish. (<insert mission impossible theme song here Da..da..da…da. Da..da…da..da.  Dada dddddddd….dada ddddddddd…dada.>) It will be anything from learning how to make authentic Italian homemade pasta to making a friend with a complete stranger; from volunteering a few hours at a shelter to taking a painting class. The options are endless.

My challenge to you, is to play this game with me. Write a message on the Daily Challenge post about your accomplishments or failures, stuggles or achievements with each challenge. It will be fun, it will be interactive! Given certain circumstances, you (or I) may not be able to play or achieve each challenge. Maybe you live in a small town and don’t have the ability to take a painting class or you can’t afford a babysitter to watch the children etc. Or, my challenges may not be practical for you or vice versa.  Feel free to use my challenges if you want or create your own as in the end, it’s more important that you make up challenges that fit your lifestyle and your personal desires. Either way, just challenge yourself to do something each day. Motivate yourself to better yourself in someway. It can be big or small, lighthearted or serious; it just needs to a challenge you set for yourself, a goal you try to achieve for the day.

And, don’t forget to let me know how it goes…and, even better, send me challenges to accomplish as well.

Happy brainstorming and…game on!


Making the most of every situation November 10, 2008

I’ve been told my life right now sounds glamourous. It is, in fact, even for me, a girl born in the country, who lived next to a wheatfield, graduated high school with 43 other students, and learned how to shoot a rifle by age 16. (Although, the whole hunters education course was merely for my dad’s sake, I have no idea how a rifle works now!)

But, glamour, or class rather “doesn’t buy the groceries” as my dad always likes to say. He is absolutely right. Furthermore, it is all about your perception of the situation. If a married woman reads my post about the Fashion Week event, she may turn green in the face with envy. She may complain that she could never travel because she has a morgage, and her husband and her rent movies on the weekends because they no longer are excited by the bar scene. “My life is so boring, if only I had your life,” she says, ” you are so lucky.”

Granted, I wouldn’t trade my situation right now as it is the path I chose and want to lead, but if I was to look at her life I could be envious as well.  Let’s see, this woman has a house for starters. She didn’t live out of a backpack for 8 months, sleeping in dodgy hostel beds (sometimes with cockroaches and bedbugs)  or on cold train station floors. She can decorate her house, throw beautiful dinner parties, and each day come back to what she calls “home.”  I’ve been in transition for the past 8 years. During university, studying abroad, travelling, and when I did stay put for 2 years, I didn’t make my apartment feel homey because I was saving my money to leave again. 

“My husband and I rent movies on the weekends because we are no longer excited by the bar scene.” Woah, wait. That sounds like a pretty amazing night to me…cuddled up in the arms of someone you love. Being in love far succeeds some fluffy purple jacket that is “fashionable”. I mean can a fluffy purple jacket talk to you? Laugh with you? Kiss you goodnight? Didn’t think so. But, if you’re tired of the same routine then mix it up! Use your imagination. If you and your lover have always wanted to travel, but can’t because of time, money, house, kids (this list goes on…) then bring culture to you!

Here’s on idea off the top of my head:

Take a hat, put a handful of country names that you have always wanted to visit. Then, with your lover (or kids etc), draw from the hat…..drum roll please…Spain. Great! Spain it is. Now what? For the rest of the month you will be doing work as an “obligated tourist”…no excuses as you “must” take your lover to dinner at the Spanish restaurant for tapas, sign up for a month of Flamenco dancing lessons, drive to the international film store and rent Spanish films with subtitles, buy (or print off pages online) a language book and learn how to say the basic greeting to one another, drink Spanish wine as you cook a Spanish dinner together, decorate a room in the house, or a corner even, with bright colored Spanish flare, like red and orange pillows, where you can curl up and read a book on the history and culture of Spain. The options are endless, and with today’s multimedia technology and international communities right in your own city, you don’t need to go to Spain, to Brazil, to Italy, to go to “Little Italy”.  Within the city, and even your own home, you can explore Spain one month, India the next and so on. You can even invite other friends and couples to participate. You just need to be creative and active in your approach and you can bring culture and fun to your own life.

We are sometimes too quick to change our persceptions about the choices we’ve made in our lives, envying others on the choices they’ve made, what they have, and the amazing life they are living.  It’s not about the things in life that are important, it is about the moments, the memories and the experiences that make you happy. Everyone is different, everyone finds happiness in different ways.  And, moreover, is all about perspective. It’s about living the best you can in the moment or stage you are in. If you are married, enjoy being married. If you are single enjoy being single. If you are bored in both of these, you don’t need to reinvent yourself, just add a little adventure to your everyday life. Explore new things. Take on new challenges. Set more goals. Get creative with life, play with it and have fun. 

Try to live it as if the end of the day were death, forcing you each day to think hard about the way you are living your life. Is your life filled with moments you want to remember? Could you write a book of memories that you would want to read someday, or a film that you would want to watch if your life were a movie? 

Stop making excuses about not being able to live your life the way you’ve dreamed. If you want to do something, set a goal, figure out a plan for how to get from A to B, and persevere.  Not everything will go as planned (which has a peculiar way of working out for the better in the long run) nor you may not achieve every goal, but at least you are trying to proactively create the life you want to lead, and that is all you should ask and expect of yourself. Give your best effort to be the person you want to be and you will be happier, you will feel in control of time, instead of watching time and the years pass by. 

Don’t regret the past. Don’t look forward to the future. Enjoy the moment you are in…and start living the life you want to remember!