Aged, Aging, Age, Agh. Nudity.

When I was 4 my best friend Timmy Ulbrich took his shirt off on a walk through Como Park. Not to be out shined, I also took my shirt off. After a few minutes, self doubt flooded in and I asked mom to please return my shirt because I was "cold".

where my babiez at? nope.

where my babiez at? nope.

Today I turned 32 and while reflecting on different ages, I feel the same as I did when I was 18, plus some key lessons.

At 18 I had just left Buffalo for college in Boston. College, a place where the small circles of friends from a tiny all girls high school didn't apply. Friends of all shapes and sizes were possible, gay Filipinos, beefy black men and Long Island Jewish princesses. I made them all. And some enemies too - like a douchey hockey player who I told off in the cafeteria (Pat Noonan, hiiiiiiiii), and my bipolar freshman roommate who slept all day on the top bunk, and the "friend" who picked me up in front of a group of friends and held up my skirt so everyone could see (thanks rape-culture!).

So much of that time and my 20s was spent focusing on the next step and appearances. 2 years ago something snapped though, and it started with my foot - in 8 places. Breaking my foot and totaling my dream car was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Insurance wiped out 20k in loans and the accident recovery coincided with my 30th birthday, a milestone that is oft met with panic and expectations (dafuq where my hubby and babiez at?). For me it was a joyful celebration of how lucky I was to be alive.

Just 2 short years later and I'm shocked at how much things have changed and keep changing. Just this week I went to a topless beach and did headstands & cartwheels as my 32 year old boobs sunned themselves.  I didn't even feel "cold" once.

Chocolate Cake

Last night I got 2 wonderful presents. 1 was chocolate cake. 

I'm a few days into a 30 day social media cleanse - removing Insta-gratifications and the pseudo-connected feeling that apps can bring, while adding free time and a considerable amount of mental space. Yesterday was devoted to sightseeing, including a Port wine tour, climbing an ancient church tower with 2 Korean friends, and eating at a vegan co-op with some hippie guys that are obsessed with Rainbow (note: don't call it a festival - also of note, don't let them know you work in marketing, because that's totally like, selling out man). 

Porto, the home of Port wine

Porto, the home of Port wine

At one point I was skipping down a path and taking panoramics of gorgeous Porto, giggling at my good fortune. This moment was in sharp contrast to a meltdown, hours later. Let me explain, I am so grateful to be alone right now and devote a considerable amount of time thinking about what this means. The train of thought led to questions on why we need a partner at all. And if that's the case - why the fuck are we even here on the planet, when all we do is destroy it? Cue the tears - thanks wine. 

And the tears wouldn't stop. And then I was sobbing and leaning on a park fence in the dark, crying into the night when 2 girls stopped. 

They asked me if I was OK. And they cared about my response. And they didn't leave. Because I wasn't OK. Then they insisted I join them for coffee. This gift of kindness was exactly what I needed. My loneliness stemmed not from a lack of people to interact with, but from a lack of loving interactions. This love doesn't need to be a romantic one, and it's defined by special human beings that come and go and sometimes stay. But really, the length of time is irrelevant. 

I spent a few hours with my new friends and they bought me chocolate cake. It was the best cake I've ever tasted. And today I walked to the Atlantic, pranced into the waves and waved to the East Coast and my friends back home. We are looking at the sun at the same time now ♥ 

Badass Guide to Vietnam

And just like that, my 3 months in Vietnam has come to a close. I jumped in over my head to experience as much as possible, and still only scratched the surface of this kickass country. To sum up it up, I've created the Badass Guide to Vietnam. This Guide is in no way recommended and will most likely not workout for others as well as it has for me. 

a canine constellation

a canine constellation

Breakup with Boyfriend, Force Solo Travel Upon Oneself

  • The topic of my breakup is getting old and I'm bored talking about it. Ultimately, I manned up against my fear and decided not to run home after the breakup. This journey will be defined by something greater than a failed relationship.

Tattoo Coverup - Ninja Ink, Hanoi, VN

  • At 21 I thought it was cool to have a bear paw tattooed on my ass. At 31 I want something with more meaning. I have a note in my phone of places people that I meet suggest I visit - low and behold I had a mention of a tattoo shop in Hanoi (recommended on an island tour in the Philippines). I am in LOVE with the watercolor creation Nini made possible. It symbolizes a lot too:
    • ∵Δ∴Δ is a math poem my cousin Natalie has tattooed on herself. "Because Change Therefore Change" - simple, beautiful, geometric.
    • The moon and paws create a *canine constellation*. Dog paws symbolizing my relationship with my dog Olive whose death ultimately gave me the freedom to take off on this journey, as well as the ongoing relationship I have with pups and animals around the world (and my recent decision to be a vegetarian). The moon a nod to Vietnam and the Communist hammer & sickle

Walk the Shit Out of Everywhere

  • Springing $20 per month for a data plan was absolutely worth it. I've found hidden gems up crumbling staircases, seen some weird shit (dog meat alley in Hanoi...), and avoided a sedentary lifestyle without fear of getting too far lost.

Going Vegetarian

  • It will be hard they say. The food is boring they say... LIES.

  • Not going to turn this into a soapbox, but really it's my own blog so yeah I am. I had such an extreme problem with the Vietnamese eating dogs, "How Barbaric!!!" I thought. But then, I've been eating slaughtered animals (preferably bloody, rare steaks) my entire life. Why should it bother me with dogs? And I've loved many a cow, pig, goat that I've met. Then there are concerns like the quality of meat from slaughterhouses and the truth that eating meat creates more carbon emissions aka ruins our fucking planet. Personally, it's been an easy choice, with occasional slip-ups due to language barriers.

Redefine My Career

  • A work in progress for sure, but I have found a part-time role with a yoga brand that pays the bills. The remainder of my time is my own, and I am using it to create the life I've dreamed of. This life will not include a traditional 9-5, it will include animal welfare, and it will include a shitload of autonomy (go ahead, try and manage an INTJ...).

Book Now, Research Later

  • I really like knowing things, but I've noticed that there is a very low level of pre-planning necessary to yield a better experience. Musts include: Visa details, low-cost transport to-from airport, accommodations for first 2 nights in a new place (skim reviews for cleanliness and mattress quality). Also, don't book pricey tours ahead of time - once you're on the ground there is always a better option.
  • For people traveling through places more quickly than me this probably isn't an option, but when applying the principles of slow travel, I find the most joy meandering along and making conversations with strangers.

Also, in no particular order:

  • Pet all the dogs. All.
  • Use the block feature when you know you're about to take a turn down a toxic path.
  • Feel the feels. Bad, good, happy, ecstatic, depressed, confused, lost. 
  • Invest in yourself - I bought a Fujifilm XA-1 before I had a steady income because I believe in myself and what I can do with it.
  • Take risks - like a 54km bicycle ride through the mountains of Da Lat on a shitty mountain bike. Worst case scenario? At the 40km mark it rains, the gears break, you hail a bus. Simple ;)
  • Make friends - say yes when they ask you to hang out and accept their kindness. Realizing I'm not alone but a part of an ever-changing community melts my ice-like heart. 

Saying Yes

The Universe gives back what we put into it - gratitude, love, money, even fear. It is endless in extent. 

After a foot shattering car accident in 2014, I took this to mean that saying yes where others might not would lead to extraordinary things - and it did. It also led to some really shitty things. Let me explain. 

oh Burning Man...

oh Burning Man...

Romance

Thanks to Tinder in 2014, I met an enigmatic, wild-child like myself. Within 2 days we booked Burning Man and Europe. We had so much fun together, but because I said yes to too much up front, it was nearly impossible to end things after I found him in the back of the Bronto-Bot with another girl. So we proceeded to Germany, France and Amsterdam, where this darling asked if I wanted to watch him with one of the Red Light girls. No.

After realizing Tinder might not be my best bet, I joined Match. I met 2 men off the bat. The first was an ex-pro football player. He was hot AF, unmotivated, loud, and totally my type. I ripped myself away from him and went for the sweet, dorky, tech guy. Not one for learning lessons, I accelerated the relationship by suggesting the Love Study (a fun exercise, but give it some time it really speeds up the L word) and then we booked a trip to Colombia. 5 hours into the trip I felt claustrophobic. For the remaining 4 days I drank myself into a stupor and broke up with him on the flight home.

A week after Colombia, I reached out to a friend for Southeast Asia travel advice. She connected me to her brother in the Middle East. You see where this is headed... Yup. After 5 months of talking online he booked me a flight to Bali. My heart was overjoyed. I had taken 5 months to get to know this guy and even though we hadn't talked on the phone that much, our core values seemed to align. After our 3 week vacation he asked me to leave my life in the States, my career, and live the nomadic lifestyle with him. With trepidation and a few glasses of wine I said yes, despite some pretty big red flags that had already come up. We all know how that wound up. Here I type, solo again.

Work

Last year as I paid off my debt, I was also learning how to position myself as a freelance digital marketer (an ongoing learning process). I had an intense deadline at work to launch a new website in time for a major campaign, had said yes to 3 freelance jobs and had just launched my blog. On one day in particular, Maggie came over as a bereft and naked me couldn't even make a decision on what clothing to wear. 

time to make big girl choices

time to make big girl choices

The next month I went to Bali. What a shock that I didn't want to return.

You can change your mind!

I am not suggesting that saying 'No' is the best option. I am the perfect example of how taking risks can have some extraordinarily awesome consequences. However, as a woman and a people-pleaser I need to get better at saying 'No' and changing my mind as soon as things don't feel right.

Here is the problem: When I change my mind I feel like I've failed at the decision in question. This guilt leads to me sticking with bad choices far longer than necessary. 

Traveling solo as a female is the perfect time to employ saying 'No.' It's a matter of survival. No, I will not meet an exes friend, late night at a coffeeshop. Yes, it was a poor decision to take a cab with the 2 men I met at the sushi restaurant.

Ultimately, I have no regrets. But as this journey progresses, I am getting better at pushing back and creating a forcefield around myself of un-fuck-with-ability.

Capitalization

Note: Since this post things have drastically changed. But I am leaving it up for old time's sake.

Fuck. The blog has had quite a facelift over the last month. Completely redone, remapped, and now a shared social footprint with my boyfriend. I hate that word. I have a serious aversion to possessive-relationship terms and although I can see the need for them there is just something so icky about hearing something like, "You know my fiance, ____? Anyway, yeah my fiance and I were..." - JUST SAY THE NAME.

Part of my hangup might be that the love of my 20s insisted on stating that we were non-exclusively dating, and would only tell me that he loved me when I would break-up with him. Also, we were living together. Also, we dated on and off from 2006-2011. Oh baggage you silly little buddy.

motorbike-vietnam-blog-couple-hcmc-saigon

Anyway, yeah. My boyfriend (T) now is half of Lulakilla. This was a really hard step for me. Maybe harder than quitting my job and leaving my apartment in Boston because I think I was all set with them anyway. Sharing this blog and telling our story on it (not just mine) is kinda like getting a dog together. Or moving in - funny because we technically have lived together since Day 1 just given the nature of travel. Also funny because T is pushing hard for us to adopt a dog (look at the PUPPEEZZZ).

So now I am turning this blog into something that can tell our bad-ass travel tales and share the magic we get to see on a daily basis, also you can vote on the future of the beard from the homepage. I think I am having a love affair with Vietnam - the coffee, the French infusion, the street food, the harmonious chaos of the motorbike traffic - this place is next level. Also? The epic wifi. I'm back on the grid.

And now that I am a grown-up I am taking mom's feedback as productive and not criticism and introducing Capitalization into my life.

All In

partner-yoga-acro-yoga-beach

23 days ago i met a man. Since then we hopped around Indonesia as i became his (first!) girlfriend, he broke up with me (the breakup only lasted 3 days, I'm irresistible, let's face it) and he asked me the gravity-filled, yet simple question... Do you want to go back?

I didn't. after weeks of travel and a year and a half of life altering and dramatic events (broken foot, olive's death, best friend moving, 2 career moves that panned out to be less than expected, debt payoff, burning man, hit by 2 cars, my pilot's death...) my perspective on what a complete and fulfilling life had been turned on its side. And so, this mysterious and wild man is here. In front of me. In the pool in Bali and our flights leave in 2 hours. Fuck.

I am a fully established 31 year old woman, with a wonderful apartment and loving landlord (oh Frank, 87 years old and just as fiery as me), pulling in >80k each year, with a great network of friends and family all over the states. So i answered what any logical insane + in love woman would... I said no. Then we proceeded to cancel our flights, quit our jobs, text a couple friends and get schmammered in the pool bar with a bunch of 20-something Aussies. #lifegoals

acro-yoga-beach-couple-inversion

Now what in the fuck is next? Next... Such a strange idea once you completely throw normal out the window. For starters, money does not in fact grow on trees here in Bangkok (home for 3 nights) as i had hoped, so we need to make money. I have a few digital marketing gigs that will help float me for a while (bought a laptop yesterday!) and in a few weeks we enroll in a divemaster course on some magical island. 

Additionally, my brain is starting to normalize to this idea, but I generally have a mini-panic-attack at least once / day. Luckily there's meditation, someone to hold me, and the general realization that I escaped death numerous times over the last year and so every fucking second is a blessing and I should just stop taking my life so seriously. So now deep breaths + full speed ahead.

Forever Alone

"If a girl is in her 30s and still single there's a reason."

Yes. She chose to be that way. 

This is a real-life quote from pest* (and so many other men and women, and fuck it, even me a few years ago). Pest and I have attempted to date about 26 times in the last 2 years and I finally pulled the plug for good this week by choosing a female date over him for a wedding. Lackluster just doesn't even begin to describe his history of dating me, but maybe some of our texts through the years can help to paint the picture:

Back to the topic at hand. Marriage. "You know I'm going to marry you" has been the rallying cry I have heard from 5 or so of my exes, not counting many instances where the conversation has been broached with other fellas. I am so grateful I did not get married yet. Thank. Fucking. GOD. I have changed so much since I was 21 that any of those relationships would have been doomed. At this point I am a frugal mustachian who doesn't drink that often, isn't sure about kids, and am gearing up for a month in Southeast Asia next March (from which I may not return). NONE of my exes shared that vision and I didn't even have an inkling of it as recent as 1 year ago. 

Even more interestingly, the person I am becoming is a very acquired taste. I do not appeal to most men anymore and that's in fact a pretty awesome thing... Just last night a hot guy was hitting on me at a wedding and when I started talking about mustachian life and early retirement he told me it sounded like a cult... NEXT. As an aside, personal finances isn't light first conversation talk (oh wineeeee) but it certainly weeded him out quickly enough.

I was lamenting these facts a bit today (how my dating pool has shrunk so exponentially with my new roadmap + goals) and mom told me a quote she heard from Aunt Linda. It's just perfect:

"I no longer care about if someone likes me. more importantly, do i like them?"

*name changed for confidentiality

gettin bendy + giving zero fucks

gettin bendy + giving zero fucks