Go Where the Wind Takes You


One of the fun things about planning a trip someplace far or exotic is the anticipation before the actual journey. Maybe you’ve saved up money for years or you’ve finally gotten the courage to purchase that plane ticket, but once that decision is made the curiosity and wonder have a chance to fully take hold.

Will the people be friendly to you? Are your accommodations close enough to the beach? Will you like the food?

Curiosity is one of the most golden attributes in our universe and there is nothing closer to the feeling of Christmas as a child than getting excited for a trip. But I’m actually here to say stop thinking about it. It’s best not anticipating every detail about your approaching travels, and it’s best not thinking about it much either. Trust me, you’re better off not knowing.

This might sound like some backwards advice from what we are all used to hearing. Aren’t we supposed to be prepared? Yes, of course! If it’s your first time in a country or traveling on your own, you most definitely need to do some research. I’m not saying to skip out on planning for the weather, or researching safe areas to venture, or what type of outlets your electronics will use.


I’m talking about the “what ifs” that will pop into your mind once the essential planning is all complete. I’m talking about the expectations that you most definitely have of the place and of your soon to be experiences there. Get rid of them, cast them aside as they come up in your mind and think of something else. Once your trip is booked and the necessities are planned, don’t let those sugar plums dance in your head.

There is a reason why Buddha said expectations are the root of misery. Well, more accurately “craving” is, but craving creates those misery causing expectations. When you build an image in your mind about a place or experience that you haven’t experienced yet that image is, well.. imaginary! It’s a great set up for a let down. When things don’t quite add up to your imaginary notions, it can be upsetting in both big and subtle ways. The unfortunate reality of this is so spot on even Shakespeare said it.

“Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises.”

Expectations not only fail us, they most often fail us when we have the highest emotional investment. You might recognize this pattern when a movie based on a book comes out. The harshest critics and the most disappointed people are often the biggest fans of the book, the ones with the most expectations. This isn’t to say that your trip wont be fun if you have expectations. After all, you probably wouldn’t have booked the trip in the first place if you expect to have a horrible time. But you will have a richer and more fulfilling trip if you get rid of them.


When you embark to a place without expectations, or without a preconceived story, you are doing more than inviting a good time or avoiding a let down. You become intimate with the experience. Without notions and judgements, you free yourself to be totally and completely surprised. Not just with the place and things around you, but within yourself. If you don’t already claim to know something, you have a chance to be wowed. Perplexity keeps you aware and in the moment.

Most of us have heard the advice to live in the moment and to “be here now” in order to get the most out of life. If you look back at the times where you’ve been wholly present, you’ll find that it’s not done with words. The moment is something felt, it’s a stillness that invokes a deeper realization of yourself. When we live in a moment and trust that stillness, which words can’t reach, we become fully alive in where we are in a way that cannot be done when we stay trapped in our expectations and preconceived stories.

Not knowing and letting yourself not know, makes the words that paint imaginary stories fade away and invite the real and truly wondrous. Many of the best times I’ve had traveling have been when I’ve planned next to nothing, arriving without even knowing where I’d sleep yet. With expectations and over-planning gone, serendipity has a chance to play. With a more keen sense of presence and a more open eye, you’ll be far more likely to approach that local for a drink or explore around that curious looking corner.


When you travel without knowing you rid yourself of expectations that would otherwise blind you of the true place and experience.

When you travel without knowing you open a window into your deeper self. You let an authentic version of yourself shine through when you let the preconceived stories people have of you and you of yourself, fall away.

When you travel without knowing you invite the serendipitous. Which can lead to even greater adventures you couldn’t have even imagined.

Why It’s OK to Have a Creative Block


If you’re like me you might not have painted, played music, written, or felt a hint of what to create lately. You might feel that in the great whole of the world you know little to nothing and that it’s all basically been done before. Between the never ending internet and all of the books there are, is there really anything new to comment on that hasn’t already been said? If we post one more comment or ask for one more petition signature, won’t it only be drowned by the millions of cute animal videos and simply add to the clutter on the web of everyone trying to shout their opinions at any chance they get?The other day I found myself deleting an entire article I had written because of this. At the time I had asked myself, “Why add to the clutter?” and I promptly closed my laptop and carried on with my day.

Three years ago I began traveling and learning so much about myself and the world that I found an absolute need to write. I felt like an overflowing cup of water and that if I didn’t get my stories out, or at least some of them, then I was going to burst like a shaken up soda can in some horrific mental breakdown. The word and the physical sensation that defined me at the time was, “full.” I felt too full of thoughts, too full of experience, and I didn’t know what to do with it all. Like a spoiled fat kid with too many ice cream options I was a bit overwhelmed and overly stuffed. I found myself in an existential crisis asking why I was doing so much aimless exploring. What was the meaning behind all of the ice cream? I found release and purpose in sharing my experiences, even if no one read it, at the time it was something I almost physically needed. Writing became my creative outlet. A way to give back, instead of just consuming.

I eventually stopped traveling in such a carefree fanciful way because expenses caught up, I had to work consistently again, and ultimately my existential crisis lead to a desire for future plans and less aimless floating. Time slipped by (as it does) and I’ve currently found myself working on a cruise ship with still no clear plan for my future. Only now I’m wondering what happened to my creative desires to write, inspire, and wonder at this strange experience that is life. I feel tired most of the time and I feel none of that budding wisdom and inner need to write, or create in general, that I felt so often before.

Home right now

Fortunately, travel is a lot healthier than ice cream. I picked up a trick or two on the road, and one of those tricks was meditation. I got really good at meditating after the Vipassana course I took a couple years back, but I’ve since lost the patience and the mental clarity I had briefly acquired. In an attempt to get it back I’ve started to meditate for half an hour in my little closet of a crew cabin on board the ship I’m working on. It was here, floating somewhere in the Atlantic, that I remembered the all too familiar truth about life. It continues and it is now. I don’t need to be depressed about still not knowing what I want to do with my life, just like I didn’t need to be depressed about it before. It’s OK that I’m a little worried about my current lack of creative flow, just like it was OK when I felt overwhelmed before. I am doing things now, just as I will be doing things later, and that is life.

Perhaps more importantly, I remembered the ebb and flow of things. Though admittedly, watching the ocean so much these days might have helped with that too.  When I was a small girl I realized that I could have what felt like the worst day of my life one day and the very next could seem the most fun and exciting. The highs and lows felt extreme, and maybe because of those extremes I was able to realize the constant change of them. Almost subconsciously I began taking note of all the high points and low points as I believe most people do. Like when we look back at the year on January first and say either, “that was a fantastic year!” or “fucking good riddance! Bring on the next one please.”

Watching the ocean on my downtime, (or when I’m bored and staring off during a shift) I can see  the ebb and flow, the constant little waves creating texture on the surface. If you pay attention, along with the little waves you can see larger rolling swells moving the little waves along within them. In our own lives we’re often swimming in the water experiencing the little waves, getting splashed in the face, and the hard part is to look across the greater span of the ocean and see the high points and low points creating deep swells across a lifetime. After all, aren’t most things in this universe actually made up of waves? Light, sound, and gravity for example.


Just like all waves we must make a kind of penance for the highs by experiencing the lows, but it’s never as simple as up and down. Our lives are textured like the ocean, with splashes, highs, and deep long swells that lift us up and take us down again. Looking back on those years of nomadic travel I am sometimes sad that I am not still there. It was as if I plucked out a magic thread interwoven through the fabric of life and it lead me on a fantastical journey full of serendipity and good fortune. Even when things had gone wrong, they were lining up to go incredibly right. I had started to believe in a kind of magic again and it all felt like it was leading somewhere big and exciting. It really didn’t. The wave peaked and rolled back down. I’ve lost my luck for a time and I’m reminded to find contentment in that fact. As the old saying goes, you can’t have the highs without the lows. I am now trying to remind myself to use the falling momentum to aim and lead somewhere else big and exciting when that time rolls back around.

I stopped writing because I felt I was being repetitive. I felt the internet and the world was being repetitive, but a simple fact of life is that many things are repetitive (just like waves) and we often need reminders of that and to come to peace with it. Life isn’t a story book with one exciting climactic ending and a great moral to be learned.  Life is made up of many stories, with many ups and downs and many great morals and things to be forgotten and learned again. That is why I decided to write this article. Everything might have been said before, and there are still thousands of books and articles with thousands of repeated opinions and views, but we can’t really know when the right words might inspire the right person at any given time. We are all riding our waves, creating, or building up momentum to create something soon. Many of us are wondering what the great purpose of it all is, but whatever it is, it continues and it is now.

The Benifits of Befriending Melancholy


I have an oddly high number of acquaintances who run self-help businesses. All of which I met while I’ve been traveling. This is evidence to my belief that travel is good for the soul – it seems to be obligatory for any sort of authority on happiness. Though I run a travel website that likes to spurt out life advice, I have mixed feelings towards self-help programs. There is a huge part of me that dislikes the idea of charging people money for advice. Is it really self-help if you have to be sold the idea? If a satisfying and fulfilled life is really as simple as steps 1,2,& 3, why couldn’t I have googled my self-help steps for free?

My feelings are mixed, however, because I understand that life’s just easier with someone helping out and giving encouragement and guidance. But I prefer to see a world where encouragement and guidance are freely given. When money is involved, we tend to expect results and clear defined rules, and we get more upset when that’s not the outcome. But my experience of life has taught me that life isn’t always clear and we can’t expect unchanging results.

There are moments in my life when an inexplicable sadness and melancholy come over me. During these times I simultaneously desire to be alone and around people, this causes awkward social interactions which fuels a continual discomfort. When I have no clear excuse for myself to be sad, I disappoint myself and become more so.

By acknowledging this peculiar feeling, however, I realize I often put myself on a pedestal of happiness. I want to be a happy person for myself and for a desire to be liked, a desire to be approachable, and worthy of admiration. So I end up ridiculing myself for not being happy… the funny thing is, that’s what causes the melancholy.

Happiness cannot be constant. With that said, It doesn’t seem right to call this melancholy a problem. By calling it a problem, it becomes heightened. By insisting in continued happiness, we’ve already failed. So is it an issue in it’s own right? Without outside judgement melancholy can become a strange sort of pleasure. Oh, the joys of wallowing in self misery with no rhyme or reason. There it is, self help can’t exist without a desire to help yourself. You can’t help yourself without looking at the problem and realizing its existence.

If you’re funny like me, you’ll find that the melancholy is a created expectation of a false reality. I expect myself to always be happy, that’s not reality. Maybe we shouldn’t be seeking self help so much as an acceptance of our sadness. Solutions are impossible without a problem and sometimes problems are just what we create by calling it a problem.

Unfortunately, not all of sadness comes from self created, looping melancholy. Shit does happen, but I have an optimistic belief that the same approach of acceptance of sadness is the key to overcoming anything. Too often we want the shit to just go away, but solutions are impossible without knowing a problem and it’s hard to know the true nature of a problem without looking at it first. You don’t have to pay for that advice, just look at it yourself.

Seasons Greetings, Spirit Animals, and Other Fluffy Things


It’s a new year, it’s time to reflect on the year’s past; right? This year the holidays snuck up on me. Being too consumed with trying to find work, housing, transportation to my new job, and handling visa papers, I haven’t had much room to reflect on the things we’re meant to reflect on.

The consequence of being a lone traveler relocating to a new town means being alone, and busy. I’ve been telling myself that it’s just any other day really, why hold so much importance to yet another day? As true as this might be, I can’t help but feel a little in denial. Even with all of life’s great distractions, it’s hard to not realize the lack of really close friends in proximity to me this season.

I had a moment of melancholy on Christmas eve, but after going on a walk and having a moment to think, I realized that I was exactly where I wanted to be. All of my actions in the past year have lead up to this moment and I was missing it in self pity for what I didn’t have. There’s great satisfaction in realizing I was living a scenario I had only dreamed of years ago. I realized then, that there will always be something a bit lacking in life. It’s up to us to look at what benefits us.

I also remembered that though I might physically be alone; my friends and family, far away, would be thinking of me as I thought of them. The cheesy cliches win out again in the circular pattern of my thinking. Love, positivity, and rainbows are realities sometimes; and I have become afraid of these bright omens, for they are uncool.

And now, on the eve of the new year, I’m sitting on my new back porch under a gum tree, watching the neighbor’s escaped rabbit run between bushes. I tried catching him this morning, but right now I’m content in knowing he’s having the time of his life right now. The rabbit and I are like kindred spirits- free to go where we please, if only for a now.

 Well, I’m off to go party. Happy new year!

Traveling Was the Goal; Where’s the Goal in Travel?

Watercolor painting by Sarah Larsen

Over a year ago I wrote an article about meaning. You can read it here but to summarize: I got caught in a flood in Laos and ended up aiding a woman in need, which lead me to wonder about fate. I concluded that destiny is just life happening, and we create the meaning behind it. We choose to take action or to not take action, and we choose to see a moment as meaningful or meaningless, thus perpetuating our fate by our chosen meaning and actions.

In this we create mental situations that lead to related situations, and those related situations build the consequences that lead to more related mental and actual situations; We don’t choose our own fate, we create it step by step.

I’ve come to a point in my travels where, once again, I can’t stop wondering about my fate. I’ve become uncomfortable not knowing exactly what to do next. I don’t care to look at a crystal ball to see my future, but I would like to see my purpose. If I used my own advice I’d tell myself to create my purpose, which is easier said than done. The problem I’ve run up against is that if I were to state my desired purpose, it would be a blanketed and vague resume-style answer.

  • Help others
  • Create something beautiful
  • Reach personal success

These things are noble and worthy of effort, but they’re book covers. Packaged to summarize and look good, but by opening them up you’ll find each contains a world of it’s own; full of ups, downs, options, antagonists, landscapes, and time. The action of, “reach personal success” is deeper than the statement and calls for more elaboration. Or in other words, what the hell am I going to do to reach these goals? The bleak but honest answer is that, I don’t know.

When I was a kid, all I wanted was adventure. Adventure movies were always my favorite, and I’m not joking when I say it saddened me to the core realizing there were no real wardrobes with magic portals. What appeals to me in these stories isn’t just the adventure or the travel to far away lands, it’s the purpose. Whether the hero finds the purpose along the way or sets out with it from the start; meaning is what differentiates travel from a vacation.

So why do I write this? Originally I began writing this article as a personal plea to the universe or whatever governs order and fate. Apparently it worked because what I realized halfway through writing is that the articles I write have the potential to be and do each of those three points. I hope that my writings and ramblings are able to help, inspire, and comfort others. I hope my articles are beautiful. And I hope they’ll help me reach personal success. I write for myself, but I publish this as a reminder to whoever is reading to seek meaning and purpose in your own life and travels; create your own fate.

As Steven Pressfield said in his book The War of Art, “The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.” Would you rather be a tourist in your life, or the action hero? Would you rather create your fate, or let life just happen to you? I know my answer. Here’s to remembering to keep on keeping on.

Are We Grown Ups Yet?


Abigail may

Growing up involves developing mental processes to navigate, avoid, and resolve conflict and bumps in the road of life. It’s not just about learning to do taxes or buying your own home; growing up is learning to take responsibility, learning to listen to others, and taking appropriate action. At first glance words such as “responsibility” and “appropriate” can ignite a negative taste on the mouth. But growing up also involves the cognitive understanding that taking the “high road” is far less drama and has a better view.

In my experience I’ve come to find that 98% of potential arguments are simply verbal and emotional misunderstandings. Words only go so far to communicate our feelings and desires, and when strong feelings are involved, it’s easy to get caught up and consumed by our emotions. The thing with overwhelming emotions is that they demand our attention. When all of our attention is on one or two powerful feelings, it can seem impossible to see anything else, which creates a lot of room for misunderstandings. While blinded by hate or sadness we miss the words being said, and often more importantly, we miss the intended meaning of the words being said. In arguments we get tunnel vision when we should be looking at the landscape.

Learning to approach conflict from a lookout point instead of a tunnel is the epitome of maturity. It’s not an easy thing to ignore strong emotions in an attempt to see the full view. It can be exceptionally hard because it forces you to confront your own potential faults and misunderstandings. The upside to leaving the tunnel is that views are often colorful and beautiful, and avoiding or working out a conflict is the best kind of relief.

Nostalgic Revolution


The other night I had a class with one of my advanced adult students. He works as a smart phone app game designer in downtown Hiroshima and loves anything old-school or related to his childhood. I had been looking for an interesting article we could discuss during the lesson and so it was that I stumbled on one from the Wall Street Journal. It was about Lego and the adults who have quit their high-paying jobs to build models for the company. Rest assured though, that they now get paid more for one piece than they would have made at their previous job in a quarter of the year!

After reading the article we started talking about the toys we had played with when we were growing up. The more we talked, the more memories of long-forgotten toys came flooding back. I wasn’t even sure if half of these toys still existed.

We lamented the fact that with so much new technology, kids were more likely to play with a smart phone or an iPad than they were with a physical toy. Toys like Grip-ball or mini or putt putt golf were clearly outside pursuits and we both felt half the kids today barely saw the outside world because they were so focused on the computer screen in front of them. It was sad, we both agreed.

I explained about the spirograph and showed him the wonderful patterns that such a simple tool could make. We sighed about kalidoscopes and the beautiful colours that seemed to magically appear with each twist of the top. Then we moved onto card collecting and the different types of ones that had been popular at some time or another. I suddenly remembered my friends Luke and Shane being obsessed with Garbage Gang cards and how they had spent lunchtimes swapping ones they had in double or sometimes triplicate. And who could forget ant farms? I remembered preparing sand and soil for the narrow plastic containers and then scrambling on the ground trying to catch the poor creatures to fill the ‘city’ I had made for them.

Ah yes and of course, there was the Tamagochi. I was now living in the birthplace of this toy and we both wondered if somewhere in Japan they still existed. Perhaps now they were available as an app instead. I told him how I had tried to ‘feed’ mine during class at school for fear that it would starve to death and I would have to start all over again. I’d been immensely proud when my kitten grew to full size and was approaching the grand old age of 30 when my friend thought it would be funny to kill it by not cleaning up its poop. I was so angry with her that I didn’t talk to her for days. I also cried, but only in the privacy of my own room. How had I become so attached to something that wasn’t even real?!

We finished the lesson with faraway looks in our eyes and dreamy-smiles on our faces. It didn’t matter whether or not these toys still exist or not, they were preserved in our memories and no one could ever take them away from us.

I long for children today to have the chance to play with toys like this, to extract the same simple pleasure that I did. Yes, the technological age that we live in has created some amazing toys: physical, virtual or digital, but I can’t help thinking that these are simply objects, devoid of any type of soul. Do children today feel the same connectedness with their toys that my generation did with ours? Or are they easily abandoned, discarded like rubbish when something new and more advanced comes along? Maybe it’s time to introduce the generation of tomorrow to the childhood toys of generations past. Who knows…perhaps we’ll start a nostalgic revolution.



My year of self (re)discovery


Just when you think you can’t learn anything else about yourself that you don’t already know, BAM! Something happens that challenges you, changes you and shocks you to your core.

Sometimes it happens that you discover it yourself, but more often than not, someone else sees it and points it out for you. These kinds of friends are important as they challenge you to grow and to see that you do change through life. What you never saw before is suddenly apparent and sometimes the actions you’ve put in place to survive a certain time in your life are still being clung to, long after the situation has passed. In other words, the walls we erected to keep ourselves safe, now serve as a cell.

At the age of 31 I thought I knew everything about myself that I was going to learn, but learning is a lifelong process and so is finding out about who you are as a person.

Sometimes it takes a very special set of circumstances to make you realize that you’ve been missing out on life. Maybe you’ve stopped doing something you enjoy simply because you read an article about the apparent health risks that may be a part of it. Perhaps you’ve been channeling your energy into something or someone who is not worthy of the effort or you’ve stopped allowing yourself to love another simply because you’ve been hurt in the past. Whatever the case, these decisions often mean that you aren’t really ‘living’ you’re simply existing in the world.

Last night I did something I haven’t done in a long time; a very long time in fact. Last night I had my first drink in over 13 years. Why did I stop in the first place? What made me decide to finally break the pattern last night? The answer is a very special set of circumstances and of course, the essence of everything in life: timing.

I’d had a bad day, I needed to get some things off my chest and a friend suggested I come over to his place for a drink. I accepted. I told myself, “Jade, it’s time. You need to deal with this and you need to do it now.”

As I pulled the lid on the can and heard it gasp with a satisfying “ah”, I settled back on my friend’s couch and let loose with all my troubles. In between talking I sipped my drink and it was when I was about halfway through the can that I suddenly thought, what’s wrong with my muscles? They feel so relaxed. Ah yes, the wonderful effects of alcohol and how it just relaxes the senses; numbs the senses in some cases. Then again, was it the alcohol, or was it my subconscious that was aware I had let go of things that no longer served me? Perhaps I will never know. In any case, muscles that had been bunched in knots for over three years suddenly loosened and I wondered why I hadn’t done this earlier. I knew the answer to that, that much I did know about myself.

“I used to be fun,” I said to my friend.

He looked at me and said, “Yeah, you used to be.” “

What?!” I retorted. “You don’t think I’m fun?!” I screwed my eyes up at him and looked at him critically.

“I didn’t say that, I’m just saying what you said; ‘used’ as in past tense. Don’t put words into my mouth.”

I considered what I’d just said and even in my alcohol-muddled mind the realization hit me. This was my BAM! moment.

At a time in my life many years ago when I was a student at university, I’d stopped ‘living.’ I felt that many parts of my life were spiraling out of control due to external factors and the only way I could rectify that was by focusing on things that I was directly responsible for. Looking back now and talking or writing about it I can see how ridiculous it was, but at the time it made perfect sense, at least in my mind.

It began with giving up certain items of food and of course, alcohol. Alcohol gave me the ability to be free of all inhibitions and that often meant I was more honest with both others and myself than I would normally be.  I figured if I stopped drinking I would have more control of my feelings and wouldn’t have to face them if I didn’t want to. I deprived myself of everything enjoyable because I knew that they could be taken from me at any time. I figured that if I didn’t have them in the first place I wouldn’t be losing anything.

I erected barriers around myself, walls so high and so thick they could not be penetrated. I distanced myself from anyone that tried to love me because I didn’t want to get hurt like in the past.

There was no joy in the world or in living. In fact it wasn’t living. I was starving myself, both literally and figuratively: for food, for love, for pleasure, for enjoyment. To live a life like that is exhausting.

The truth is that life is a risk. In living we extend ourselves, we face our fears and realize they were never really controlling us in the first place. We are only controlled by ourselves unless we give our power to others. It is up to ourselves to allow or not allow ourselves to feel or experience certain emotions in times of hurt or risk.

I wanted to start living again, in every possible way. I wanted to grab life with both hands and be the person I always was, the one who was locked away from the world, afraid to lose control if I let myself feel anything.

So I had a drink and I realized that I was in control, or at least, as much as anyone can be in life. At the age of 31 I finally understand that trying to control everything in life is not only pointless, it’s impossible. Life is to be lived and not to be bound by our own restrictions or by others we allow to restrict us. Life’s just too short for that.




Sit Down with Cliches

Have you ever repeated a word over and over again only to find that at such a fast pace that particular word loses it’s meaning and simply becomes a strange sound? If not, here’s a fun game to try. Pick a word, any word, and repeat it until you’re blue in the face. Go on, this is a safe space and I am giving you full permission to live in the moment.

A silly game designed to shed some light on the human brain shows us that repetition dulls awareness. Let’s take the word “love” for example and repeat it until it sounds like an alien spacecraft hovering five inches above the ground. One of the most powerful emotions and expressions in our human experience, love, becomes reduced to an obnoxious and meaningless noise. This constant repetition, sending us clear into oblivion, is the problem with cliches. They are wise words that are so overly repeated that they often lose their meaning and pizazz.

Children in Myanmar loving life.

Follow your dreams.
Money doesn’t buy happiness.
Live and let live.
Be yourself.
 Forgive and forget
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Laughter is the best medicine.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Zazz on a ledge on Hua Shan (mountain) in Shaanxi, China.

It has even become a cliche to hear these sayings and, “take them to heart.”

Fisherman showing off in Inle Lake, Myanmar.

We love cliches because they are so often true, but inspiration is fleeting without application. I challenge you to break the spell of the meaningless word sounds, go beyond taking it to heart and take these words to action. After all, “actions do speak louder than words”.

How can we reverse what appears to be obnoxious noise, thus transforming this cloudy clatter into meaningful application? It’s not the repetition alone that dulls cliches, it’s the speed at which we consume them. We read and see Pinterest and Instagram photos with interesting backgrounds and Insta-inspirational quotations posted online; sometimes we share them, or give them a “like” all in order to get our enlightenment fixes for the day. However, these words seem to insta-come and go, in one ear and out the other, as we continue about our day with little internalization of what these words actually mean. Let’s make a collective goal to stop treating our words like fast-food. It’s time to pause, taste, and enjoy our meal.

“Old habits really do die hard” but they can die eventually. Take advantage of the simple insta-reminders throughout your day to help clear the meaningless noise by reflecting. The next time you find yourself reading a beautiful quote on your timeline or newsfeed, remember to sit down with the cliche as if it were a decadent cup of coffee. Taste it, smell it, and let it give you energy to take action. It’s natural to be swept away into the fast-past hustle of life and social media, so don’t get yourself down when you do because there is yet another cliche that just so happens to be true: “The more you try, the more likely you are to succeed.”

Zazz showing off her goods on the Great Wall of China.


Last month I spent 10 days in silence learning an ancient meditation tecnique called Vipassana.

It was one of those types of experiences that are so influential you don’t even know where to begin.

It wasn’t impressive just because of the silence, which suprisingly turned into an odd sort of comfort, but it taught me golden lessons which I can carry with me always.

Vipassana in a nut shell:

Nine full days in silence, only speaking to the managers for technique advice and other necessities. Four a.m. wakeup, 9 p.m. bedtime, ten hours of meditation a day, no electronics, no writing, no music, no distraction. I snuck all photos on the last day before packing.

First 3 days you focus on nothing but your breath, how it is, no altering it. This sharpens the mind to notice the small movements and changes occurring within.

The first three days are the hardest, some people drop out and don’t finish the course.

From there you continue to observe the rest of your body while keeping in mind the reality of change. Everything within us and around us is in constant movement, from our cells to the particles of solid objects.

The cause of all misery is craving and distain.

Distain for anything which is impermanent, which everything is impermanent. Craving for the unknown, the unattainable, the past or the impossible. One or both of these things is at the core of all misery, so in the practice of observing the body you are meant to remind yourself of this constant change.

I cheated on one of the rules, I took notes. This was for you lovely people as well as myself. Because this experience was so life changing and in depth, I’ve decided to simply post my notes. Below are my exact notes as I wrote them in the moment.


Day one:

  • Never fully submit. I want to be a strong person, not a submissive one. It’s impossible to have one or 100 teachers to have everything right. Submitting yourself to complete submission of an idea allows little to no room for your inner and innate wisdom to come out.
  • How is a person to come up with new innovative ideas if they only follow tradition?
  • This is hard.

Day two:

  • Be like Batman.
  • Saved the girls by chasing off a black snake with a broom. Maybe they wouldn’t go near it because they knew how dangerous it was.
  • Remind self, look up snakes of Cambodia.
  • Smuggled a cookie into my room.

Day three:

  • And another girl bites the dust.
  • Can’t focus on meditation, daydreaming too much. I wonder if Batman daydreams.
  • Found forgotten playing cards in my bag. Solitaire anyone?
  • Part of what makes being completely in the present and not in a fantasy daydream so difficult, is because sometimes we don’t like where we currently are.
  • Reality of our location and the reality of our minds can be scary to face.

Day four:

  • I missed breakfast today, slept through both bells. So sad when it’s the most exciting thing about the morning.
  • I had bed bugs last night. The manager didn’t know what they were and didn’t believe they excisted in Cambodia. Awkward insisting to switch mattresses.
  • Sad today, I’m feeling a deep feeling of loneliness. I’m completely alone in Asia, no one here to hold me.
  • I’ve just realized that I miss music more than internet or books.
  • Just got “scolded” for wearing capri pants in the meditation hall. I thought this wasn’t supposed to be dogmatic?

Day Five:

  • Learned today that meditation can make me horny. I might file that away for a rainy day.
  • It’s getting easier to sit in one spot for an hour straight; perfect for future movie watching.
  • Getting a little more excited for the next five days.
  • Broke another rule, killed a bed bug, zero regrets. That sonofabitch will drink my blood no more!
  • Got bored playing solitaire, started playing a two person game against my two feet.
  • Aaand right foot lays down a king for the win ladies and gentleman! That’s the game, left foot loses.
  • … Maybe I should actually use this alone time to meditate…
  • It sounds like there is a little dinosaur outside my room.

Day six:

  • I woke up this morning from a series of bad dreams. The freshest one leaving me too scared to fall back to sleep. Meditation helps with misery, what do you do about fear?
  • Just realized the majority of these Khmer (Cambodian) women are over 50 years old. They lived through genocide. I don’t know fear…
  • With no one else to talk to for 6 days I’ve realized something, I make pretty decent company.
  • Back to solitair.
  • I heard children singing today while letting the sound of rain enter my ears. People walked past me that weren’t there.

Day seven:

  • This morning I watched a little beatle roll a little rat poo around in circles seven times on the pavement. I counted 8 rounds. I wonder if this is how we look to the gods when we go to the gym.
  • My deodorant stick has reached its end. Fuckmylife.
  • Our emotions and physical bodies are connected. When we feel sad we keep asking the mind why we feel sad. Almost never do we ask our bodies where this emotion, this physical and often painful sensation, comes from within us.
  • In a world where a person is encouraged not to talk or even make eye contact with the people around them, it’s fantastic and surprising how a stolen, spontaneous, and knowing flash of a glance can brighten the whole day.
  • My god, I miss Del Taco… Why do I miss Del Taco?

Day eight:

  • A day for some serious meditation.
  • The path of Dhamma, the path of Dhamma, I keep hearing about this great and wonderful path from the Vipassana guy. Yeah, I agree it is great. Yeah I agree that everyone could greatly benefit from knowledge and an experience like this. However, is it THE path? Can there be only one path for everyone? I think not.
  • We are all biochemically different, why wouldn’t our paths be?
  • During lunch they serve this “drink” of which I’ve dubbed, “cup-o-fish eyes.” An uncreative name because it looks like a cup of little fish eyes, which I assume are actually seeds surrounded by a mucussy membrane. These tasteless goodies glop down smoothly like a cup of gelatinous fish eyes. Being tasteless, they are served with spoonfuls of sugar. Ah, what a joy! Goopy fish eyes- an excuse to drink sugar.
  • My addiction to sugar is deep and unsettling.
  • I met a bug today that went around collecting particles to put on its sticky back. I watched it for about a half hour.
  • I believe myself and I are becoming pretty good friends while we work out this ego thing.

Day nine:

  • When did I get so many freckles?
  • I’ve reached enlightenment.
  • Just kidding.
  • One of the men in the meditation hall keeps making this sexual sounding groan in the middle of meditation. In times past I’ve tried ignoring it, but today I looked over to see a group of young guys silently laughing. We made eye contact and the laughter grew to dangerously disruptive levels.
  • No words are needed for sex jokes.
  • I think a woman just thanked me for the snake incident by using a worm as pantomimed representation. She stopped me as I was making my exercise laps around the garden, not unlike the poo bug.
  • Just realized that maybe she was mocking my recent obsession with critters…
  • I disagree with Vipassana’s teachings of ridding oneself of passion. Passion is human, passion is beautiful, raw, and yes, sometimes filled with mistakes and sadness. But passion is liveliness and liveliness is life.
  • If passion is a flaw, it’s one I’d like to have.
  • “Don’t create more sankaras, retain perfect equanimity.” I realized that this advice was making me more upset. I can’t be perfect, I’m upset sometimes, let me be upset!… ah, that’s the teaching. It is what it is.
  • Perfection is a silly illusion.

Day ten:

  • This morning as the sun rose I looked out at the rice fields and was filled with such joy and beauty that it made me sad. I wish I could box it up and ship it to my friends and family.
  • The key to a proper Cambodian toilet flush is to create a swirling vortex of water, only then will the poo go down.
  • Today I get to talk!
  • I had forgotten that these woman around me don’t speak English. A barrier I felt between myself and them has dissolved, we are all in this together.

It was a difficult but extremely rewarding experience.

In the ten days I spent there I learned about an important connection between mind and body. I rid myself of a few pet peeves, including my distain for smacking. I learned to sit still, observe, and how to better focus my mind and attention. I learned techniques on how to better handle sadness and anger, I worked through many emotional problems and learned the skills to continue to do so.

And something I didn’t expect in this course, I found a best friend in myself.

If anyone is curious to learn more about Vipassana, or would like to take a class, check out the official website for more information.


All classes are by donation only. Yay!

Guess who else took a Vipassana course?

Macklemore. Do take a listen.