A cup of coffee one year later…

So it’s a Sunday morning and I’m savoring my iced coffee and banana protein pancakes, listening to EastLake music. Seems like a pretty normal Sunday morning in the book of Anne. Except it’s not. Because I’m in a stranger’s home [I rented it, for the record, not just squatting]. In the middle of Oakland, California [say, WHAT?!]. Because I’m about to go have family SuperBowl party with my Aussies. But most of all, because it’s my trip-a-versary.

One year ago today, I got off an airplane in Nadi, Fiji. A little bit nervous, anxious and excited. A lotta bit exhausted. I was hopeful. That this trip would do it for me. That the time away would heal my fractured heart and give life back to my weary limbs. One year ago today, I needed to be invigorated like nobody’s business.

And while I can’t claim even HALF of this was my doing [for there are a million people to this puzzle], I can confidently look back on this year of growth n grace and know that I invigorated…

I’ve spent time in 21 countries and been on 36 major flights this year and covered 90 major cities and towns…not including multi leg trips or the hundreds of additional sweet baby neighborhoods I explored along the way.

I felt spiritually connected to myself and my experiences and my God in the most surprising of places–in a mosque in Casa Blanca, Morocco and on a vineyard in Northern Italy and during my morning runs on a golf course in Ireland and on top of a mountain in Norway and watching fire-dancers in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand, and wine pairing in Tuscany and watching sunsets from every nook and cranny of the world.

I spent the funnest, sweetest, most hilarious, terrifying, sickening, challenging, life-cementing moments with a crazy gal from California, with Fijian backpacker hosts, with each of my dear 4 HelpX hosts, with Mairi from Scotland, with my favorite Australian cousins, with my favorite American cousins, with a London taxi driver and with a Tuscany limo driver, with mom and sister and dad, with a bearded Arkansan, with 2 Seattle gals, with a Vietnamese boat captain, with my old boss from DC, with Rabat tour-guides-turned-friends, with a motorbike driver in Bali, with my favorite elephant-loving college bestie, with the boy I had a crush on in 7th grade, with my Kara.

This year, I para-glided in Spain and bathed an elephant in Thailand. I tasted wine in Australia and Italy. I motorbiked with no helmet on in every South East Asian country I could find. I lost my money, phone and sanity on the Cambodian border. I snorkeled with a shark in the Great Barrier Reef and shopped Saville Row in style. I saw the sunrise over Angkor Wat and watched the sunset over Mykonos, Greece. I watched a bull fight in Portugal and took selfies with kangaroos in Brisbane. I hiked in New Zealand and Norway and slept in hammocks in Vietnam and Fiji. I traveled in style with the Kulls and on a Greek cruise. And I rode on disgusting Vietnamese sleeper-trains and peed through the hole in the floor right onto the tracks. I had the drunkest night of my entire life with my dad [and then without my dad, cause I lost him] on opening night of Oktoberfest in Munich. I closed a club down in Stavangar and I took cooking classes with people from around the world. I got sick. Very sick. And I grew stronger. Way stronger.

I’ve been home for a few months now and I often think back on this year as if it was a dream. Frankly, I’ve been ‘on-the-go’ more at the tail end of 2015 than I was one year ago today when  ‘slow, steady, be present’ in Fiji was my greatest focus. I’m definitely back home. Ratrace and 9-5 included. And definitely hoping to find my balance in 2016.

The whirlwind of home brings lots of folks to ask me ‘did it work?’ Did your trip do what you wanted it to do for you?

The answer is yes. And no.

The time and space gave me a couple of very concrete things, that I prayed for. For one, it gave me peace with the fact that I will NEVER understand. Never tie a rational bow around the bullshit uninvited presents life’s thrown my way. And I now feel so comforted by the fact that I no.longer.need.to. It doesn’t have to make sense. And that’s ok. It’s way easier to just trust that God has the plan.

But it also proved that going on a trip isn’t the answer to anything. I knew it wasn’t when I set out. I was doing this trip for tangential hopes and goals. Not running away to find myself. But what I DIDN’T anticipate was how ‘letting go’ of all fears and Type-A and ‘normality’ would shift my heart in a big way. It gave me confidence. To plan when I want to and let the rest unfold like a beautifully nuanced storybook. It gave me confidence to go after what I want and not put my eggs in baskets that don’t deserve my eggs. I think it gave me some patience and understanding. And I definitely learned how to be present. Presence…a gift for sure.

One year later, from a stranger’s kitchen, I raise my perfectly clean coffee cup to myself who raised a not-so-clean coffee cup to the Fijian sea. And I cheers to the success of that ‘growth n grace’ prayer one year ago this morning.

And I take it one step further…Here’s to keeping memories and life lessons alive and well. Here’s to folding in that ‘me’ with ‘normal life.’ Here’s to balance. And a ceaseless quench for adventure and the good life.

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5 reasons why every broken-hearted gal should visit Bali

So I’m standing at the edge of a Titanic shaped dock at dusk, looking out over cascading rice paddy meets tropical forest, the smell of coffee beans roasting wafts through the air, when I actually catch myself mutter the words:

‘Maybe this is why it all happened…so I could be in Bali today.’

Bali

Me. The girl who wrote this.

The girl who, not three days ago, cried herself to sleep because of all she misses.

Me. A young, broken-hearted American gal, for a moment in time, felt dots connecting, worlds colliding, God healing, smile cementing, soul affirming. And it’s all because of Bali…

Every time I tell my dad, ‘oh, I love this place’ or ‘this might be my new favorite’ or ‘you have to add this to your bucket list’ he asks me ‘Why?’ ‘What makes it so special?’ Usually, I have some non-specific, but sensible answer.

When he asks me about Bali, I will have five answers, that all add up to one big answer.

So here we go, the easiest post I’ve yet to write…here are the top 5 reasons that every broken-hearted gal must visit Bali:

  1. It will let you eat your heart out. Let’s face it. I love food even when my heart is intact. But there’s some unwritten law in the book of heartbreak that states that food = necessary, couch-devouring guilty pleasure. We’ve all been there. And it usually sucks because nine times out of ten it’s a gallon of cheap grocery store ice cream and a tub of empty calories. Not in Bali. In Bali, you can eat to your little heart’s desire and not feel one ounce of guilt or stomach rot. The food is so real, so pure, so raw and organic, you can very literally taste the difference. From Kafe to Taco Casa, there are a million fresh food and juice options to blow a health-nut’s [[or broken heart’s]] mind. Never have I seen so many menus I want to devour. Raw cheesecakes, honey-roasted beet salads, almond-cacao-coconut smoothie galore. It’s foodie #InstaHeaven, yall. If a happy belly were ever to happy a heart, then Bali’s it.
  2. It will help you pamper yourself silly. As if it weren’t compelling enough to know that Balinese hands give the best massage I’ve ever known [[I swear, they get down so deep, they massage your heart and soul]]– a 60 minute massage here in Ubud will set you back less than a machine chair massage at the Airport. Maybe a slight exaggeration, but not by much. For 250,000 Indonesian Rupia [[approximately $20 U.S. Dollars]], I bought myself a ‘welcome to the Spa shower,’ a 60 minute Balinese massage [[this ain’t no Massage Envy massage either—though I love that place—this is a get-on-top-of-the-table-to-really-get-in-there / no-place-for-bashful-butt-and-chest-kneeding / scalp-gripping-hair-yanking kind of 60 minute sesh]], and the longest, most detailed pedicure of my life. Note to all broken hearts: when someone wants to send you to an overpriced-over-stuffy spa to help you feel good, kindly request that they reallocate that spend for a one-way-ticket to Bali + under-priced-stuffy-doesn’t-translate-Balinese spa [[it’s probably a wallet wash, anyway]]. Indulging never felt so good. Spoiling yourself never felt so guilt-free. In fact, I think I’ll opt in again today. Probably tomorrow too. When in Bali, right?
  3. It’ll turn you into a proper yogi. Now, I’ve said it before, yoga is good for me. I love yoga and weird as it may sound, yoga loves me too. It makes me feel good and think good. Though I’m certainly no Antonella, I try. And I grow. And it is a physical reminder [[demand, rather]] to give myself grace. Bali is the yoga capital of the world. And for good reason. Yoga Barn. I don’t even know how to describe it. I think Yoga Barn is the kind of place that could convert a linebacker into a downward-facing-dogger. At the end of a small [[slightly chlaustrophobic, even]] alley tucked into the heart of Ubud, you’ll find the quaint little Yoga Barn welcome desk. The beautiful Balinese gals will invite you in and show you the way. You’ll wind through a palm-tree-draped stair case, cut through a sweet little café [[serving mouth-watering-things found on point 1, above]] where yogis are lounging out on the big day-bed-looking benches, and then down one more flight of earthy stairs. Then you will subconsciously let out an audible ‘ommmm’ [[mygosh]] as the quaint opens up into a vast and proper yoga retreat. There is a huge, cabana-covered deck. And bungalows off to the side, where yoga teachers in training can hang their bolsters for weeks on end. And there is the yoga barn. A big barn looking structure with a dual staircase that leads up to the most awe-inspiring studio I’ve ever stepped foot in. The dark wooded beams and soft lights and British gal invite a room full of travelers to practice. To mediate and find yin. I cannot say enough things about yoga here, so I’ll just beg you broken-hearted gals to come treat your soul to yoga in Bali.
  4. It’ll make you wanna straddle a Balinese boy. No, no, no, not like that. But I’ve maybe never felt so grounded but free; so wreckless but solid; so wild but beautiful, as I did on the back of Jo’s motorbike. Kara and Paul warned me how utterly wonderful it feels to ride helmet-less through foreign streets with a foreigner [[who, if you pick a good one, will become a friend in no time]]. They were right. We found Jo at the Mini Mart on the main Ubud drag, rented a motorbike for the two pros and then rented Jo for me. I hopped on the back of that bike, with a Balinese boy between my legs, and felt every pent up inhibition melt away with each spin of the tire. As we tore through town [[only to be stopped by a funeral procession in which the entire village escorts the casket, in full traditional Hindu garb down the streets…sad as it was, it was absolutely beautiful]], throttled through the rice fields bordered by palm trees and pointed at every temple [[and every stunning home, so pretty it could have been a temple]], I felt myself smiling the hardest I’ve smiled in so, so long. I physically felt God touch my heart on the back of that motorbike. I smiled so hard, in fact, that a lone happy-tear fell on my cheek. Broken-hearted gals, straddle a Balinese boy and letter-rip. Just leave enough room for God.
  5. It’ll fill the crevices of your broken heart with relationship. In the absence of your relationship, you will find the new and treasure it forever. If you come alone [[which you can totally do. Lots of gals traveled here alone]], you will find relationship with the handsome British boy sitting in the café next to you [[hellooooo, Harry]]. Or you’ll find relationship with your Jo. Or sweet Pia and her sister Mar, and Mar’s boyfriend. You’ll meet people like Pia and Mar in a hotel and bond over breakfast and then send ‘see you later’s to later find out you’ll see them later that same afternoon in the middle of a rice paddy. I didn’t come to Bali alone, though. Yesterday afternoon, after a motorbike ride for the books, a rice paddy hike and a coffee farm tour that I will savour for life, Paul and Kara and I defined relationship. Not by words, but by our actions. We ate food together and drank two pitchers of margaritas together. We listened to Paul strum his guitar [[live, acoustic guitar, by the way, is without a doubt, the most broken-heart-steadying thing you can do. I know this because of Robbie]]. We played cards and talked about drugs and religion. We sat in our wall-less private villa family room [[when you come here, stay at Michael’s Modern Eco Villa. It makes me swoon]], watching the fish swim laps in our moat [[there is literally a moat]]. Three friends became family last night. Relationship, no matter what form it takes, will find you in Bali.Family

Put simply, Bali is the place where, for the first time since my heartbreak, I longed for absolutely nothingRice Paddies

 

‘Growth and Grace’ takes flight

I hope to use this place to document my ‘goods’ and reflect on my ‘painful’…not for any reason other than, I believe in the power of storytelling–that it might resonate, that it might encourage, that it might bring peace. So, while I know I’ll have plenty of ‘goods’ to look forward to and have a memory box FULL of ‘amazing’s’ [reminiscent blog posts on which to come]…for context’s sake, let me just admit a few of not-so-beautiful things…

If you read this or this, you might have picked up on the fact that I’ve done some hurting lately. This past year has challenged me like none before. Sure, I’m only 26 [or am I 27? For the life of me, I cannot remember….a ridiculously perfect demonstration of my chaos these days]. But I’d bet money that I’ve lived a lot more life than most 90-year-olds. In some very good ways, and in some very painful ways.

While I’m no stranger to tear-inspiring moments, I’ve cried a lot in 2014. I’ve had cancer and been cheated on and had my family broken and watched not one, but two parents fight cancer–all in the last 5 years, mind you. But nothing, not one of those life-altering experiences holds a flame to this past year. The sparkle that once dazzled my heart and ring finger all the same, was put to rest. Not in a mutual kind of way either…the way that feels so surreal and paralyzing that one whole calendar year later and I still think it must be a dream. A dream that I’d still like to wake up from…I just know I won’t.

So I’m forced to make new dreams, I guess.

Here’s where ‘growth and grace’ really takes flight–literally.

My new dream is to learn to be okay. To be alone and quiet and still and calm. To have nobody and nothing and realize I’m still somebody who has everything. To breathe. To rest. To cry. To give myself grace when I cry too long. But to grow with each inhale and steady my heart with each exhale. I want to do yoga with the sunrise and walk along the beach at sunset. I want to fuel my body with new and interesting foods and sip wine from grapes grown on foreign soil. I want to grow closer to God and feel him guide my movements. I want to smile and know that it’s radiating from the inside. I just want to heal.

My dream for this year, this new year, is very simple. I want to feel like me again.

So, I’m going on a trip. For 6 months or 9 months or somewhere in between.

No, I don’t have every bit of it planned…probably not even half of it. I’m not sure when I’ll run out of money or how long this will feel fun. I’m not sure where I’ll stay in Bali or how to read a menu in Vietnam. I don’t know how long I’ll stay in Italy or if Germany will still feel nostalgic. I don’t know how I’ll get from Norway to Spain. But I do know that I feel more at peace over this decision than I’ve felt in a whole year. Maybe a whole 26 years..[maybe a whole 27?]. I’m doing this.

The way I figure, I know how to do the things I know how to do. I know how to make friends and find good deals. I know to dream big, but keep my safety net. I know that I want to see the Christmas Markets in Austria, but if I need to come home early for some momma time, then that’s okay too.

For the other things, I suppose I’ll just figure it out. No hostel mishap or losing my camera or flight delays compare to the confusion I’ve already felt. That, I’m certain of. So in that way, I’m guaranteed to win–already guaranteed growth.

I’m going on a trip around the world, not to run away or ‘find myself.’ In fact, I very much know who I am. I’m going on a trip around the world to bring perspective to my pain and solitude for my questions. I don’t have all the answers. But by God’s grace, I hope I’ll have a few more when I come home.

And yes. I’m smiling right now just thinking about how long I’ll stay in Italy and how I’ll figure out how to read a menu in Vietnamese.

Here’s to small wins, big gains and huge travels.

Here’s to ‘growth and grace.’