Insight on Packing.

To pack.

A necessary verb, though one that many of us loathe.  There you are…excited by the imminent adventure ahead.  The journey awaits, as do the people you will meet and the unsolvable mysteries that will greet you upon arrival.  But first…What will you bring?

People always say to me, “You must have this packing thing down by now.”  That is an absolute fallacy.  I wish I did.  I wish I could say that over the almost 20 years I’ve travelled internationally and over a lifespan of traveling domestically via plane, train, car and by foot, that I have a “system,” that preparing for each destination is a cinch because I do it so frequently.  But alas, without question, I find myself awake in the wee hours the night before every departure packing according to a very non-efficient method of “process of elimination”.  Everything that might come with me starts in a pile on the floor.  From there, I tediously determine the value of said item: Definitely.  Definitely not.  Maybe. 

The most difficult? 

The shoes.  The bags.  The jackets.  And the hardest of all:  When traveling to vastly different climates.

Allow me to impart some gentle wisdom around items I now never leave home without:

  • Green powder – Roughage for those destinations that don’t deviate from starch-heavy fare.
  • Hand-held mirror – For contacts and the occasional lipgloss.
  • Lavender oil –  For planes, trains and headaches.
  • Two tennis balls in a sock – For sore muscles, tight shoulders and a ball game at-the-ready.
  • Yoga mat – For creating a space for stretching and inverting anywhere.
  • Extra bags – They’re always handy.
  • Toms/vans/slip-ons – Perfect for taking on and off before entering your tent, someones home, a temple or mosque. (Laces are a hassle.)

As far as the other stuff?  Well, usually you can find what you need wherever you go.  I mean it.  I used a tree branch in Kenya for a toothbrush, bought organic face products from a street vendor in Mumbai, and even managed to find a great pair of super fly high tops in Peru.  Wherever your destination and wherever your origin, do your best to remove stress.  Roll stuff up.  Pack light.  Shift your definition of “clean,” and go for it! The journey is about the people anyway.  Not your stuff.

Travel alone. It’s a party!

Traveling alone to a new destination is like arriving to a party stag…

The crux:

You knock on the door.  This act takes the most effort and commitment and energy.  To your chagrin, the door opens.

You purchase your plane ticket, click the button and feel that rush of excitement, apprehension and pride for choosing to go for it.  You show up.

The decision:

You are certain they are all staring at you.  You want to leave. To call mom.  But for some reason you stay.  You realize you’ll never meet these people for the first time ever again. 

You will never see this place for the first time ever again. You know there is potential and opportunity awaiting you.  You know there is more to learn and discover and apprehend.  You start walking.

The action:

You pour a drink.  You meet others pouring drinks.  You find the snacks.  You meet others masticating empathetically. 

You walk to the nearest cafe, wishing that giant appendage on your back wasn’t bright yellow with the words “North Face” splayed across it zippers.  You sit and try your hand at the few coin phrases you learned on the plane.  

They laugh at you.  With you.

The transition:

You pretend with all of your might that you’re “in”, despite your own expertise in knowing you’re all playing the same game.  You start to acclimate.  The portal you entered through seems to change slowly, like a polaroid appearing more clearly.  You begin to see anew and remember first impressions only happen once and that is all and everything they are.  The initial angst you felt already seems like a foreign land.

When you finally kiss the host adieu, when you click that button again, you realize you’d rather not leave.  You’d rather stay.  To learn. To engage. To change and shift and see it all for the first time.  But you can’t.  Your time has arrived.  

You take a picture.  You press the shutter.  You hold on to what you can, and know, intrinsically, that all of it will not last forever.  But you can be sure your life has changed.  You are a better version of you.

So do it.  Go for it.  You will grow and learn and make mistakes.   And if you want support and suggestions and encouragement, we’re here for you.  Heck, we can even plan your adventure for you and connect you with some of the most wonderful people and places in the world.

You have our permission.  Now go!

Fear of Transformation

This is our favorite piece on transformation and transition. We can all identify with change. It is constant and will forever be a part of our lives. May we welcome all aspects of what it means to change and embrace even the discomfort it elicits whether at home or abroad, fall or spring.

Fear of Transformation

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar or swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars. Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar- of-the-moment. It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. I know

most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in a while, as I’m merrily (or not so merrily) swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty, and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart-of-hearts, I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on the present, well-know bar to move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me, I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing, I have always made it. Each time I am afraid I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantee, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.” Its called transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.

I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as “nothing”, a no-place between places. Sure the old trapeze-bar was real, and that new coming towards me, I hope, that’s real, too. But the void in between? That’s just a scary, confusing, disorienting “nowhere” that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible. What a waste! I have a sneaking suspicion that the

transition zone is the only real thing, and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void, where the real change, the real growth occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out-of-control that can (but necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to hang out” in the transition between the trapeze bars. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can be enlightening, in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly.

*From the Essene Book of Days

 

 

6 of the World’s Most Peaceful Places to Travel.

The Cliffs of Moher—(From Doolin), Ireland

Approach the Cliffs of Moher from the trailhead in Doolin. You must do this. Ireland itself is home to some of the most spectacular vistas I have ever seen, but this particular journey surpassed the rest. I arrived to Doolin via ferry from the Aran Islands one sunny afternoon in late May. After vacillating between a pint at the pub and a trail run to see these oft-mentioned cliffs, I chose the latter. To the East, castle ruins, grazing sheep and stone walls as far as the eye can see. To the West, the Atlantic, with glimpses of the extremely tranquil and beautiful Aran Islands. Ocean waves crash below. A puffin pauses in the tall grass. I ran and marveled. And then I found this magical spot. There was a place just for me. The overwhelming beauty filled my heart until my eyes leaked. I sat there for minutes or hours. Try it. You’ll be happy you did.

IMG_7924

Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua

These waters have healing powers. Really! It’s a magical place. La Laguna de Apoyo, 48 square kilometers, is a thermally-vented volcanic lagoon 45 minutes from Managua. To arrive, you will descend down a steep road, feeling as though you’re traveling beneath the earth to a place unlike any other. The San Simian Hotel is a bit off the backpacker-trodden path and is a welcome retreat laden with hammocks and monkeys swinging in the trees. (During a morning yoga session by the shore I looked up and monkeys were doing their own yoga moves above me!) The food is spectacular and Daniel will be sure to tell you stories of how it all came to be. Go for a moonlight swim or a morning dip. You will feel at peace no matter what you do.

  laguna

Backwater Tour—Kochi, India

From Kochi, reserve an all day backwater tour. I’m the type who likes to wander, explore, see what’s around each and every corner and this relaxing meander through the backwaters of India, let me slow down a bit. I did something else rather uncanny as I soaked in the views and the cool breeze: I napped and read on the boat! Some were inclined to chat, but the mood was calm, relaxing and most certainly peaceful.

backwater

Kabak Beach—Turkey

While other tourists on the bus South from Fethiye will decide to get off at Olundeniz, you, my friend, will choose to go a bit further. To a beach that will remind you of “The Beach”. The last stop on the bus line, Kabak Beach is worth the extra distance. You may choose to take the steep trail about 30 minutes down to the relatively secluded beach you can see from above, or ride along the bumpy, dusty road in a local jeep for hire. Whatever you decide, you will be thrilled to be on Kabak Beach. There’s a “hippy vibe” and a certain camaraderie between you and others who have discovered this gem. Stay at Sea Valley Bungalows, small wooden cabins that are a great deal for the location (and the Turkish breakfast is divine). Hike 90 minutes to Paradise Beach on a trail that parallels the Mediterranean Sea. Or sit and eat. And drink. And soak in your great fortune.

kabak II

Loukas Taverna—Samos Island, Greece

It may seem strange to put a restaurant on this list, but in this place, atop a mountain accessed by a winding road through a white village, I couldn’t take the smile off my face. The view was stunning. The staff welcomed us as family. The food, delicious. Order the grape leaves. And the french fries. Stay awhile. Be Greek.

greece grape leaves

My parent’s house—Vermont

I’d love to tell you more, but this one will have to remain my private gem. There are some spots we have to keep to ourselves.

From a far to Afar

This is a letter written in Mumbai this summer to Afar Magazine, another company who seems to have the tools and the vision to make meaningful travel possible for those who desire it.  (Response pending.)

Dear Afar magazine,

This is the current scene: A rooftop restaurant post-sunset.  The yellow, red and blue boat hulls in the harbor have that perfect, saturated glow as if to kiss this day adieu.  Incessant horns seem far away now, resonating stories below and hoping to ease their tired voices soon.  Birds squawk.  Heads nod.  This is Mumbai.

I am writing you simply to say, thank you. You embrace all that is this world in a few matte pages filled with colors and words and stories authentically portraying the beauty and the veracity of the variety that abounds on this planet.  You show us the elaborate and engage with the socially conscious.  You encourage travel, not through a window, but through fresh eyes, new perspective and meaningful interactions.

The first thing friends ask me when I return to the US is, “When are you leaving?”  The sincere inquiry enables me to reflect on a life I have stumbled into; one of wonderment and “wanderment” and one whose great fortune cannot be denied. 

In seventeen years of international travel, I have been welcomed into Maasai bomas in Kenya and ventured on Hedzabe bush hunts in Tanzania.  I was embraced by Rwandans, shared tea with the Turkish, ate roti and masala on the floor of Indian homes and stared back at the cui on my plate as I celebrated the earth in Peru.  Nicaragua has become a home for me and Spain will always have a piece of my heart.  My travels have been vast and intimate, adventurous and soulful, alone and surrounded by others, chaotic and tranquil, spontaneous and purposeful.  And one certainty prevails: benevolence exists no matter where I wander.  Around the world, requited smiles shatter walls built with the mortar of language and fear.

I founded a small business, Away2Be.  We facilitate innovative education, and interpersonal and intercultural connection through local and global relationships.  First and foremost, we encourage the connection with self through yoga and reflection.  Secondly, we engage in meaningful conversations with educators, students, local leaders and corporate clients alike about global issues, leadership, interpersonal relationships and effective communication.  We travel abroad and walk with and learn from the people of the world. We believe sustainable, global change depends on the power of these relationships and personal stories are the pathway to peace.

Because our values align and because I so appreciate all you do, I write you this message.  I would love to collaborate and communicate with you further.  I am based in Denver, though probably spent about 8 months away last year!

Let’s continue this work of traveling deeper together! 

Namaste!

Susan Lambert

Owner, Away 2 Be

www.away2be.com

Birds fly as a young traveler walks home in Mumbai, India. Meaningful travel abroad brings us closer to home.

Gateway of India

Dear Human,

As we travel around the world, the need for effective communication and empathy becomes more and more apparent.  Often there is an overwhelming desire to “change the world” quickly and urgently. However, it is the small things we do, the connections we make that will inevitably create sustainable, positive shifts in the world.  This is a letter I wrote in India to those with whom I may never be able to connect, but will always remember.

Dear Human,

Dear man with the drums and man with the large balloon, dear child asking for shampoo and woman with baby asking for a bit of rice, dear man on the street without legs, dear human on the sidewalk, too forlorn and forgotten to know your strength as you lay nearly naked, dear old, wrinkled woman bringing your hand to your mouth, the universal symbol for food, dear youth, pretending you, too are a tourist, trying to coax conversation, dear one, running after me for a chance to maybe, just maybe take hold of my water bottle for your future use, or maybe my hand to hold.

I see you.

I hear you.

I feel you.

I’m sorry if you think I don’t.  I’m sorry if I walk by without making eye contact, without smiling or greeting you, or embracing you, or asking your name and your passion in life.  I want to.  I wish you knew that.  I wish you could know that I care.  My intent is never to ignore the humanity, the humanness of you.  For you I hope for a better life, a better situation.  It is because of you I will continue to do this work, to focus on sustainable, long-lasting change.  I know it is impossible for you to see.

Maybe I am wrong.  Maybe if I hugged you and bought you rice and gave you the shirt I wear, things would be different.

But I know they wouldn’t.

I see you.

I hear you.

I feel you.

Could I listen to your story?

Dreaming of Utopia

“We are not handing out gifts, but we are brining forth the gifts inside the people themselves.”

—Jacqueline Novogratz

A persistent conversation and conundrum in the international travel and education field is with regard to “service” and “helping”.  We are beginning to see shifts in our practices and our values, recognizing sustainable, global change depends our commitment to simultaneously learn from one another.  We dream of a utopia where poverty, malice and war cease to exist.  I wrote this in India recently, while pondering this great value transition I am witnessing around the world.

My utopia is to relinquish the word “help” under the pretext of superiority.  Can we change this word to “support,” “facilitate,” “learn from,” “be with”?  It is difficult to understand, especially as this paradigm of “service” (a word often utilized and brutalized to the precipice of our benevolent demise), gains popularity.  Intentions are pure, clean, just, positive and good.  Yet rarely are we privy to witnessing how often our good intentions are undone and redone only to one day cut the ribbon, exposing the facade of what wasn’t needed, but extremely well-intended.

Rarely do we know the whole story, the real story.  We can’t.  We never will.  What we have to do is continue to ask and listen.

Listen.

There is momentum in our shifting perspective, a shift of questioning who is served, who the desired recipients of “service” are. 

So let us absolve “help” and “service” and “doing for,” and embrace “join” and “togetherness” and “walking with” as we build relationships and sustainably innovate to allow communication and creativity to be the driving forces of impactful change.

 

The Experience of a Lifetime

In December of 2104, three women, Molly, Nancy and Ruthie visited Nicaragua with Away 2 Be.  This is what they had to say about their experience:

It was a dark day on December 1, 2014 when three women (three friends) from Vermont gathered their carefully packed bags and their courage to begin a ten day adventure in the warmth and beauty of Nicaragua. We would meet our trip leader, Susan Lambert, when we landed in Managua International Airport. And, so the adventure of a lifetime began.

The hugs, tears and laughter that were exchanged with Susan upon our landing were followed by loving messages of welcome she had created and left on our pillows.   She gently and skillfully oriented us to our surroundings and prepared us for the days ahead. We were like sponges – willing and anxious to absorb whatever lay ahead.

Our itinerary, full of beauty, wonder and time for reflection, was beginning to unfold. We were immersed in the remarkable geography and history of the country.   For two days, we stayed at a resort bordering a volcanic lagoon and explored the surrounding villages. During the next several days, we toured a family-owned coffee farm, a weavers’ coop, a chocolate factory and a children’s library built in one of the barrios. We shared time with local potters and restaurateurs and spent four days at the Casa Materna MaryAnn Jackman in Matagulpa.   Through Susan’s interpretation skills, we were quickly able to understand the roles of those we met and they learned a little about us as well.

All of our experiences were exhilarating but the time at the Casa Materna absolutely filled our souls. The staff, each and every one, was so genuine in their welcome. Though we did not share a language, we were able to communicate heart to heart very quickly. Eight mothers-to-be were in residence on the day we arrived and by the next afternoon, there were thirteen. The women were, of course, shy but curious about us. During the next four days, we were assimilated into their lives and those of the staff with extraordinary generosity and graciousness.   Our Susan, a long time board member and liaison for the Casa, facilitated those interactions with such grace and joy. We soon felt like we were part of the fabric of this incredible organization and the lives of the women they were serving. We were sharing meals, dabbling in crafts, making tortillas, taking walks, trading family pictures, exchanging gifts, celebrating festivals, laughing and communicating as if we had known each other for months not days.

How did this happen?   How did differences dissolve and get replaced by kinship in such a short time?

So much of the bond we established during our time at the Casa was based on sharing the privilege of motherhood – the anxiety, challenge and wonder of it all spanned our cultural differences. Ruth, Nancy and I took time to think about our own journey as mothers, as we reflected on the experiences we shared with the women at the Casa. During our group yoga exercises filled with laughter and some tears, we learned of each other’s hopes and fears related to family and parenting.

As Susan’s Mom, I reveled in the woman she had become. My heart was bursting as I watched her interactions with her Nicaraguan family and the skill with which she wove Nancy, Ruth and me into this life. She lit up the room with her joy, spirit of adventure, compassion and caring.   She has chosen to be a “giver” to our world, who has already made an enormous difference in the lives she has touched. What a privilege to be her Mother!

The lives of the mothers-to-be at the Casa, are enriched by the love and caring of the staff members who have given their hearts and talents to ensure that the journey of motherhood gets off to a good start for those who come through their doors. They share the most intimate days and hours before new life begins. They laugh, cry, learn and love during the short time that they spend in each other’s company.   Each clearly considers it a privilege to be present to one another during this momentous time.

We left the Casa with tears, hugs and the memories of a lifetime tucked into our hearts. In the kindness that surrounded us during our time there are lessons for our planet. Nancy, Ruth and I experienced the hope and optimism of people who know the importance of treating people as they would like to be treated.   We watched in awe, as one person after another, welcomed us into their lives with open arms and huge smiles, rather than fear and misunderstanding. Imagine an international community where such behaviors were commonplace!

Our best wishes and Happy Mothers Day to our new Nicaraguan friends and soulmates!   Many thanks to all of you for who you are and the work you do that makes this world a much better place.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

People are Gifts

Written by Molly, Nancy and Ruthie, 2014 visitors to Nicaragua

This morning we packed our bags (in order to be able to fully enjoy our day), did yoga, read a poem on transition and our chose our daily angel cards.  (Ruthie-Adventure, Nancy-Beauty, Molly-Harmony, Susan-Intention). After our serene beginning, the wind blew and locked us out of our place.  Not to worry, Socorro came to our rescue (literally)!

The mothers-to-be seemed tired from the previous evening’s events.  What a fun adventure and opportunity we had last night!  We essentially “trick-or-treated” for the first time in our adult lives in order to enjoy “La Purisima”, a celebration on the eve of the feast day of the Immaculate Conception honoring the Virgin Mary.  It was strange to be surrounded by hordes of people singing to the Virgin, holding out bags to be filled with candies and fruits.  We had VIP entrance to the houses since we accompanied 9 pregnant women.  They were shy and reserved, yet excited to spend this special night in Matagalpa while donning their best duds and new jewelry from their own Purisima celebration.

Today, after another lovely breakfast of eggs and gallo pinto at the Casa, we again walked with the mothers.  We noticed an enhanced connection and ease of communication among the women, many of whom have been together for a number of days.  Maria, the first woman we met when we arrived to Matagalpa, who had been on bed rest, is now leading the group op the hill.  Today’s exercises had us all in stitches as we acted out our favorite animal and did stretches accordingly.  There were tears too, as we called loved ones present to our circle.  (You were all present).  Of course, as we shared pieces of our stories, we wondered about the longer life-story of these young women.

We strolled the city, today much quieter than the rest of the week, to find special things for special people.  Our friend, Nohelia joined us again this afternoon for a visit to Molino Norte, a women’s weaving cooperative.  For Ruthie it was a dream come true to try her hand (and use her muscles) weaving with a giant loom.   (We all tried!)  The weavers explained to us the life-changing benefits of the jobs that were created for them in order to make a living out of their art.  Purchases made!

Fifteen minutes up the road, we found ourselves in yet another paradise, Selva Negra, a coffee farm with stunning vistas, a cool breeze and mountains enveloping the grounds.  We dined in the sun with friends, old and young, from near and far, as if our paths had always been intertwined.