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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It’s about time, Greece

How funny that I’ve been thinking this week ‘gosh; I’m 2 countries behind on blogging.’ Behind. Timelines. Pressure. For what?

And then, just as I’m sitting down to write, here comes Greece in the news. Timing is funny, huh? I bet Greece could use a little love today, and so against my initial concern with timeliness, timing is perfect.

I recently spent some time in Mykonos, Greece with an old friend. And oh, how precious that time was.

My Le and I ferried over to Mykonos from Athens and four hours on the loveliest of ferries flew by as we caught up on life…the new career moves, the heart growth, the travels and the postcard love.

We grabbed our little Smart Car [[aka golf cart, aka no car I will EVER own]], finagled our luggage in to the nonexistent trunk and clunked off to our Greek Villa.

We were met with a strange, albeit rather stereotypical vision of Greece. Fiery, booming, passionate words, lots of hand gestures and an accusatory exchange between our host, Sotiris, and a couple of patrons about a little mishap… It was big and loud and very well could have uprooted our entire plan, had we not fallen in love with the charming blue shutters, the stone masoned walls, the sweeping sea view and the never-ending salty breeze that made the flowers dance around our front patio.

Greek Villa

And so we came to love Sotiris and the quiet little island of Mykonos just as such.

My Le and I slowed down in Mykonos. Something I’m proud of us former DC PR gals for knowing how to do. For a quick story within a story: once upon a time My Le was my boss. She, like our new Greek friend, is a fiery, passionate boss. No time for excuses or poor quality work is what makes her a rockstar professional. We’re the kind of Type-A’ers who need to schedule in ‘slow down time.’ It’s clearly something I’ve been studying up on for months, so was in awe of how easily My Le slid into island life right along with me.IMG_0620

We spent our days sleeping in; eating Greek yogurt and muesli in the soft morning glow on the porch; driving windows-down on the Smart Car through winding dirt road switch-backs; and tanning ourselves silly at our favorite little beach suite—Panormos.

And then there’s the food….ohhh, that Greek food. Tzatziki and gyros and salads and baklava and moussaka. I mean, it’s a garlic-lover’s dream.

And the shopping…yall know it’s not my love-language, but I did absolutely love wandering the windy blue and white streets admiring the precious local gems and people watching. And so we did it on repeat each evening before dinner.

My Le scored big time, with white flowy dresses and the softest silks. And I even treated myself to a rare souvenir….it’s something I’ve been wanting for months, since before I even left home…something small and delicate and beautiful. But I think the timing just hadn’t been right yet. I hadn’t found the right one and perhaps I wasn’t ready to slide anything back on to that bruised ring finger… But I found it in Mykonos. It’s something that will remind me of Greece every time I look down at my left hand. And something to remind me that while I don’t wear that one ring anymore, I have a new one that I love. It’s rose gold…and so maybe a light reminder that it’s ok to see the world first through a rose lens. It’s hopeful. I like hopeful.

So Greece, if you’re listening. Thank you for bringing me the gift of slowed down, quiet time with a friend. Thank you for bringing me the gift of rose-colored hope. Thank you for reminding me that while timing often feels cruel, we’re always, always, right where we’re supposed to be, when we’re supposed to be there, with the right gifts right at our finger tips. Here’s wishing the same for you, Greek friends.

Greek Windmills