Game changer

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You each came here for a reason tonight”, she said. That Thursday night yoga class struck again. “This class might fit into your schedule best“, she continued, after recognizing that everyone’s reasons for taking time on their mat tonight was different. Cassandra continued class with a story of a book she’s reading that changed her way of looking at the world. She continued with “behave the way you want to feel”,  expressing that this is the mantra of the book. I instantly became an active listener. Amidst other descriptors, she went on to share bits of the book’s ‘truthbombs’ she has found helpful and how embracing this outlook as opposed to seeking life’s accomplishments has changed her thought process. As she glanced around the room, I’m sure she saw my brain churning.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Amidst bands of travelers with whom we’ve crossed paths, this way of thinking is often a topic of conversation. Not necessarily in those particular terms or about this particular book, but the idea that achievements, the way society describes, are not the only ones by which we can measure success. Many times it’s more along the lines of ‘I work to travel’ and travel makes me happy – thereby making happiness the achievement in lieu of the work or any promotions associated with it. It’s not about standing in queues for airports, filling out visa forms or hoping you don’t forget to pack Immodium in your kit – it’s about the feelings that travel provides. Some say it’s a rush, others discuss the freedom they feel, some find their true self and many use words like joy, happiness, and the desire to be a part of a bigger world. Their goal often is to find a way to build a life that puts those feelings front and center and the rest doesn’t quite matter.

an upside down view of the world - Emerge Yoga and Wellness, Bellmore, NY

Seeing the world another way (courtesy of Lauren and my hammock) at Emerge Yoga and Wellness in Bellmore, NY

It’s often those feelings that wind up discussed around a campfire, in a hostel, on a Facebook ® page, or in the midst of a roadtrip. It’s the moments we revisit after the experience has passed and the emotions that fly to the surface – that’s how we want to feel. Recalling the feelings emitted when we jumped into Victoria Falls, walked through a Costa Rican coffee plantation, visited a Royal Airforce base, held a koala for the first time or the day we walked with lions. It could be as simple as referring to the feelings crashing to the surface when chatting with friends, finding a new perspective, thriving outside of our comfort zones or laughing for hours about childhood adventures. Capturing those feelings from those moments, figuring out what binds them and behaving in a way that moves that goal to the forefront – could you do it? Would you want to? Do you think it’s worth it?

Happiness in the Maldives

Happiness in the Maldives

The message from Thursday night’s yoga class (or the book) – tap into those feelings and let them be the guide. Plot a journey and follow the necessary steps you believe will get you to that space more of the time. It’s a conversation we have often. Sadly, to me, it’s a method dichotomous with that of our society. Through so much of our young lives we’re taught success equals accomplishments. House, cars, promotions, the newest technological gadget or the bigger whatever – so much is made of having these things and associating them with greatness. Thriving for these things is wonderful and if it works for you, that’s the only thing that matters. This other approach, however, is one that could work for many and change the way we view ourselves, our successes, our goals and our lives. Wouldn’t it be great if no matter which method you chose, we are all viewed as having goals that matter?

Sand Dunes in Dubai

Soaking up the happy at Dubai’s sand dunes

When I asked her at the end of the class for the name of the book, she told me. Desire Map, by Danielle LaPorte was the culprit for the talk at the start of class. “I saw your face when I talked about it” she said, “I knew you would like it”. She said she waited nine months for it to come in from the library (she now has that one copy), so, I guess that means I’m waiting for her to finish to get my hands on the same one. For now, I’ll check out those online ‘truthbombs’ myself and see what it’s all about. At the outset, it sounds as if she enforces what the husband and I already believe. It sounds as if some of the reasons we traveled around the world, quit our jobs, left a comfortable environment and came in search of more agrees with her thoughts. It sounds as if there’s a movement afoot (not only of travelers, nomads and world-schoolers) to put the happy first – this is a movement on which I can jump aboard.

Channeling our inner explorers

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at Cabrillo National Monument.2

My dad sometimes calls me Carmen San Diego. He’s been doing it for years, but it seems even more fitting these days. On those long-term travel trips, sometimes, even the traveler doesn’t know what or where comes next. The act of exploring or finding one’s way is pivotal in the journey. The explorer in me has been speaking louder and louder since we began this cross-country jaunt. I always knew she was there – she always did have things to say and she’s never been quiet. I imagine it was that same little explorer who helped me step on the plane for my first overseas flight, who helped me sit in the infectious disease doctor’s office to get that unpleasant Yellow Fever vaccination, and to convince me that no matter the anti-malarial meds necessary-travel is worthwhile. She’s always been a fan of water and sand, but more recently, that little voice has grown louder when it comes to hiking on land. Who knew there was a National Park in San Diego? Read the rest of this entry

Stories from a special Segway spin

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“An adventure doesn’t have to be dangerous…just try something new” – Michael Watson

I can’t stand the term ‘bucket list’! I understand lists, I’m the personality type who loves them. I comprehend A lists, B lists, C lists and so on and even the when I’m over 65 list, but ‘bucket list’ makes me crazy! No matter. I am a girl who makes lists and regardless of title, significance, importance or number, I think riding a Segway was on one of mine. And, if you’re anything like me, the satisfaction that comes from ticking something off the list is almost as exhilarating as the list item itself. Segway ridden…check! Read the rest of this entry

Pickles, growth and friendship

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Can you grow where you are? It’s a question about which I’ve been thinking a lot. Can growth happen if you stay where you are, or are changes in geography necessary? I imagine the answer is different for everyone depending on more variables than I can count. I guess, the first part is about wanting the growth, right?

“Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” – Unknown

Yoga in the Maldives - the gift of travel

A pose I didn’t think I could recapture since my gymnastics days (in the Maldives)

With time on the sand, on the hiking trail and across the over 5,000 miles we trekked from coast to coast, there has been a lot of time to chat, think and of course, wonder. I think wondering is on my list of favourite things to do. I often wonder what a typical Tuesday looks like in other people’s homes. I wonder about how much money we ‘really’ need to live. I wonder about those who change direction and location in various stages of life and how it affects their relationships with friends and family. I wonder if everyone wonders and if growth is as much a topic of conversation in others’ homes as it is in ours. Do you wonder? Read the rest of this entry

Passing the travel torch

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Courtesy of Sarah - the gift of travel

Photo Credit: Sarah Hecht

“Went elephant riding today. It was amazing. Yesterday I also took a Dancemandala yoga class…it was so cool. I love this country so much. Such beautiful people, and a beautiful culture!!!”

The other morning I woke up to a fabulous text message from a former student. Read the rest of this entry

Six months in San Diego

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Mat's birthday - on the bridge near Petco Park - the gift of travel

Mat’s birthday – on the bridge near Petco Park

We’ve been in San Diego for six months now. What we thought might be a refuge from the frost has become a haven for more than just vitamin D. We like it here. There’s freedom and flexibility, year ‘round sunshine and sand, access and ease and a relaxed atmosphere. I know, sometimes it’s as if we’re a record on repeat, but it’s what we’ve found. In six months we’ve: Read the rest of this entry

With the world as her teacher…

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For years, I was a teacher in both formal and informal education. Camp, youth group, swim, school, and clubs-I worked with children, teenagers and young adults in various facets. Although I physically left the classroom and the world of traditional education in 2014, I’ve continued to learn and work with those on their own journey of education. Through writing, travel, perspective changing growth and school all their own, I’ve connected and reconnected. I’ve reaffirmed my belief that there’s no ‘one right way’ to learn and that we ALL have something to offer. I was introduced to Reka through an acquaintance’s post and subsequent article. This young Australian teenager (who hails from the same city as my husband) has been traveling the world with her family for over three years. Ditching the traditional for the non-traditional and learning along the way, she continues to inspire. In a world where all too often teenagers are spoken to, forced to learn and rarely given the opportunity to have their voices heard, Reka is doing the exact opposite. As a self-proclaimed ‘life learner’, she is traveling and learning, exploring and absorbing, writing and sharing her experiences with the world. For any teacher, watching your students fly is extraordinary. Although not her teacher, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to interview this world schooler and help share her story.

Reka at ULURU Australia 2011

1. When did you get started traveling? We recently celebrated our 3-year anniversary this current journey together without a return ticket or end date. My twin brother and I were two & half years old on our first airplane trip. I remember surprise road trips camping by the lakes as the sun set in a spectacular spray of colour. I remember exploring my home country of Australia in a depth that many don’t get to experience and I am extremely grateful for this connection to the land where I was born. I have come to realise that so many set out to explore the world around them but never actually discover the treasures that reside right in their “backyard”.

2. What made your family decide to make the jump to a location independent/travel-based existence? One morning my parents woke up with an idea. The idea was that for every need out there in the world there is a corresponding offering, ready, willing and waiting to be met. Together they started the project of EnergeticXChange, dedicated to the actualisation of this very dream, by the development of an online tool that matched people together, all around the world, according to their needs and offerings. We left Australia and landed in Los Angeles with our main focus to promote this project. But of course there were many other reasons, one of the most prominent: to be together as a family. We were all occupied with either work or school – there were many times I wouldn’t see my Dad for days at a time and we were all living in the same house. Another reason was the fact that my parents wanted to provide us with a different, less traditional way of learning by opening our eyes and minds to the people, places, cultures, and languages of the world. So in June of 2012, with just 2 suitcases and a couple of backpacks, we took the leap of faith and set out into the world.

3. What benefits do you feel you get from this mobile life? How do you and your family handle the nay-sayers? Traveling so much at this stage of my life has taught me many lessons that I don’t think many people get to experience until perhaps a little bit later in life. I’ve had to learn how to be quick on my feet, how to adapt and be flexible, how to ‘go with the flow’ and be accepting and endure when things get tough. We have come across quite a few hair-raising situations throughout our travels, one being only having a few pesos left in our pocket in Chile and having to get through the next two days on only a couple of empanadas and the kindness of others. I’ve learned the meaning of resilience and trust and I think that in a world that is constantly evolving and changing, these are incredibly important life lessons to learn.

Thankfully we haven’t come into contact with many naysayers. What I have become aware of, I think most importantly from these travels, is that fear is one of the greatest weapons used against people – human against human and human being against themselves. Most of the comments that we have encountered have come from people paralysed by their own fears who, I feel, are really mirroring their own insecurities about their lives. I am someone who is learning everyday that there are a million and one excuses we can assign as to why we cannot achieve something in this life and it doesn’t take much to justify them to ourselves. It takes a lot more effort to take that first step into the unknown though and I am much more interested in exploring these possibilities than contemplating what is not possible.

Reka with twin brother Lalika

4. On any given day, what does ‘school’ now look like to you? There is not a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new. School to my family and I now means unlimited learning through an unlimited spectrum. Just the other day we were exploring Madrid and it was here that I learned about Minimalist Art, as well as the Hassaniya Arabic dialect of the African Bidan. Then, walking further, I learned more about the mountains of the world through a spectacular photo shoot sequence available to the public and this was all in the matter of one and a half hours. I learn from the world around me with every step that I take. Many now call this world schooling but I prefer to call myself a Life Learner – learning naturally to fulfill my curiosity. I interact with the locals around me, I learn about their history, their culture, their language, their way of life and when it is time to move on, I take with me the stories and dreams that they have shared with me – these experiences shape and mould me into the person that I am. I also get the chance to learn the more traditional subjects through online learning systems. What I know my ‘school’ is teaching me is that there is no need to fear each other, that compassion towards everybody and meaningful communication with one another is vital to have a happy life and that understanding our connection with all living things helps us to know the purpose of life and our place in this universe.

5. How does your family choose destinations and for how long you’ll stay? What type of accommodations do you typically choose? What place have you enjoyed the most? We go where the wind blows. It might happen through a conversation we are having and we find a synergy on a topic, like we were all thinking about that place and then, out of nowhere, without researching the internet or otherwise, we start to see the signs in-front of us, like a billboard advertising travel to the destination we were thinking of, a cheap airfare for that particular destination popping up in our inbox, or someone talking to us about their experience of traveling to this location. Our most recent encounter, our decision to walk the Camino de Santiago del Norte, came about exactly like this. We were tossing up about RV-ing in the north of Europe, but the logistics just weren’t coming together. My Mum had read something about the Camino in a book and then at the local market. we spoke to a vendor (to whom we regularly speak to) who asked us about our travels and whether or not we had plans to walk the Camino de Santiago. And there it was, as out of the blue as this seems, it happens this way for us quite often and from there, all the details just fall into place.

As for the accommodations we typically choose, most are left to my brother – our own designated travel agent. We call him ‘the Destinator’ as he always finds the most cost effective yet cozy, comfortable places for us to stay. Many times we’ll arrive in a new city and it will be my brother guiding us to our abode for the night, be it hotel, hostel or apartment. One of the options we often use is the website Airbnb. The use of a kitchen is mostly necessary, as we love to cook dinner together instead of going out to eat every night. Staying with friends and family along our adventures rate as some of the places I have enjoyed the most. Being invited to a farm in Pennsylvania with 14 new friends in our age group, staying with family friends in the suburbs of Toronto, Canada & visiting family that we hadn’t seen in 7 years in my mother’s birthplace of Transylvania are just a few examples. However, if you are asking what was my favourite place along our travels – I have to answer: England, Ecuador and Spain.

Réka in Transylvania 2014

6. How has traveling changed your relationship with friends in Melbourne, Australia? I feel like the friendships I have in Melbourne have morphed with some people but have stayed the same with others. Setting off on a world trip was a really good way of finding out which friendships endure and why. Generally, I am still close to friends who, like me, wanted to keep the connection alive. With others, I understand that in today’s world we have so many influences that draw us in different directions. Sometimes this mean that we travel a path together for a time and then our paths diverge. This cannot take anything away from the experiences that we shared and there is always the opportunity to reconnect somewhere down the track. With the people with whom I do keep in contact, while I don’t see them in 3D, we still connect all the time through Skype, social media and email.

7. How has your view of education changed since you’ve experienced traditional and non-traditional schooling? What I have learned is that there is no one right way to learn. I have taken part in many forms of learning including traditional, cultural, indigenous and innovative. Each is valid. You are able to learn and discover things in different ways through all of them. I’ve learned the subjects of maths and English through traditional schooling; languages, geography and history through cultural learning; the telling of stories, community, friendships and connections through indigenous learning and science, chemistry and physics through innovative learning. All these compiled together have made me the person I am today. Learning is incredibly diverse and fulfilling. I know I’ll never stop learning. The key difference is that I am seeking meaning in everything that I learn and how it is and will be relevant for my life. This is something I don’t think I would have become aware of if I hadn’t had the opportunity to travel, explore and learn in this non-conventional way.

8. Where are your top three destinations you’d most like to visit? We have now visited 25 countries (France being number 25). We just stayed the one night in the border town of Hendaye before we commenced the Camino de Santiago. For me however, I would really like to explore France. There seems to be something magical in the frame of the Eiffel Tower or the breathtaking mountain village of Chamonix surrounding Mont Blanc. Recently I saw a spectacular photo of Mt Kirkjufell in Iceland. The picture captivated my mind, body and soul and now I can’t wait until I get the chance to explore the astounding countryside and meet some of the people who live there! This last answer may surprise some people but I would like to go back to Australia. At this stage not for good, but simply a visit to see friends and family, and reconnect with my homeland. It’s been over three years and yes, I have a teensy bit of “home” longing. But the thing is, I simply can’t stay still for too long. I know that after a couple of months or so in Australia I’ll be ready to spread my wings once again!

Reka exploring in Madrid

9. How do you think continuous travel has changed your upbringing? This is a great question and hard to answer with certainty. Flexibility, adaptation, improvisation – these are all qualities that have had the opportunity to be acutely developed throughout our travels, which I am not certain would have developed this soon had we stayed in Australia. I think also a sense of awareness of what it is that we really need in our lives. We realise that we need very little to live a happy and meaningful life. Out of this opportunity of travel, has come a great sense of gratitude for simple moments. When we were living in suburbia, even though we were already being schooled from home, the simple routine of our daily lives often prevented us from seeing this. Overall, I think continuous travel has taught me how to be more patient, understanding and giving, particularly when I look at the people I come face to face with in my travels. Understanding and accepting of all people, from different walks of life, has helped me to see the human in front of me and for this I am sincerely grateful.

10. How has this location-independent lifestyle changed your family dynamics? We’ve definitely grown much closer. We spent a year traveling through the United Sates visiting 31 of the 50 States! We did all of this in a 24 Foot (7.3 Meter) RV! Then we backpacked through South America for 6 months, staying usually in one room. We’ve had the chance to form a really tight bond as a family. We’ve become a unit of four, not four individuals living together.

11. For your future, what do you find to be the benefits of world schooling? World-schooling has given my brother and me a chance to break the mould. I haven’t been thrust into someone else’s painting but I have had the chance to become the artist myself. For my future, I realise that I won’t be knocked down and told what I can and can’t do. I have learned resilience and flexibility and this will be a key aspect in helping me continue living the life of my dreams. Many people will end up compromising their values and beliefs to get a good job or even make friends. The main benefit that world schooling has given me for my future is reminding me that I do not need to settle for something less – that what I truly need is always waiting for me at just the right moment.

12. What do you believe to be two of travel’s greatest gifts? To see the world in a different light, to experience all that it has to offer first hand and through this, to transcend the culture of fear that I feel is holding most people back from actually living their dreams. Travel makes this possible because it opens not only your eyes to a greater world out there, but, also gives you an appreciation for how simply we could solve vexing problems if we just applied that intuition of ours and acted in concert with each other. Travel gives many gifts, but one of the greatest is to look into the eyes of your fellow human being and see the reflection of yourself.

Reka living in Spain

 

 

 

 

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The magic of camp and travel

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I’ve been a camper for as long as I can remember. I started at day camp while still in single digits and then made my way to sleep away. I was a counselor, lifeguard, and Aquatics Director. I learned to swim, write calligraphy, get dressed in the dark, create silk screens and not to be afraid of spiders – all at camp. I made some of my best friends, have some of my fondest memories and still look forward to when the blue ices turn my tongue that iridescent shade of turquoise – all from camp. It’s that time of year again.

My social media feeds are flooded with photos of all things camp. The children of friends are spending their first summers at sleep away. Some little ones are headed to a day camp they love and many of my friends spend their summers (and some, their winters) working at camp. I’m in contact with former campers and counselors now living life to the fullest. I contribute articles to the American Camping Association’s publications. I still write the newsletters for the day camp at which I spent over a decade as Aquatics Director. I LOVE CAMP! Read the rest of this entry

Writing and blogging and a Liebster…oh my!

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liebster

Just the other day I watched a video on an Oregon conference, The Economics of Happiness, where according to their website, ‘we need to focus instead on meeting real human and ecological needs through awakening to our spiritual ties to community and nature – through an ‘economics of happiness’’. The presenter, Carol Black, best known for producing such television works as Growing Pains, has been an active education analyst for years. Ms. Black spoke at a the conference about the detriment of one-way traditional public education in the US and the benefits that so many local tribal cultures know about raising children around the world. After it was finished, I rushed to email Ms. Black and share how much I enjoyed her speech.

On the same day, I read an article in the London Daily Mail about a world-schooling family and a thirteen year old from Melbourne, Australia. Reka speaks more than one language, has a twin brother and is a world-schooler who has trouble envisioning herself returning to the traditional way of learning in Australia any time soon. We connected, she agreed to do an interview on my blog and a few short days later, she nominated me for a Liebster Award. I’m honoured, but I had no idea what it was. Read the rest of this entry

Did you ever want to ride in an RV?

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In December, we drove across the country in our Honda CRV. On our travels, we shared the country’s highways with cars, trucks, motorcyclists, RVs and everything in between. I don’t think I’d ever seen as many different types of motor homes, caravans or campers as I did in those four weeks. We saw the most in the parks in southern Utah and each time we passed one, I longed to see the inside. Would it ever be possible? Is this a pipe dream or something we’d want to consider one day? I don’t know, but I was curious!

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