The newspaper this past week officially deemed Chateau Gontier (the small town 3 hours outside of Paris that I am training at) to be the most beautiful city in all of France. Sounds like a hokey, tourist slogan...but having visited Oxford University and seeing where Lewis Carroll wrote his famous novel about Alice and her notorious looking glass and her ventures to wonderland, I am daily convinced that the wonderland she fell into...was here.
Every day is like a surreal, breathe-taking, magic land here.
If Alice Through the Looking Glass wasn't in your library as a dorky kid like myself, imagine Beauty and the Beast in real life. This is where Belle grew up.
I just want to bottle up this fresh grass smell. As I wander the roads and traverse the side streets of the French countryside, I can feel myself taking in deeper breathes. It is like I am trying to swallow the deep scent of fresh cut grass, blooming flowers, and sunshine so that my body won't forget its magic and pureness.
I realize that "the grass is always greener" but here it seems like the grass is also taller and flowing more magestically than anywhere else! People spend time trimming perfect hedges and the lands seem to flow endlessly with uncut grass blowing in the winds.
Realizing that my visit to this wonderland is soon coming to an end, I am doing my best to be truly grateful for each moment. Being thankful for the fact that I have time during the day to go for an hour long walk. Basking in the sunshine as I meditate in the middle of the afternoon. Watching the bright blue skies endlessly span over the bright green landscape is making each step of my daily run easy. It is becoming evident that I either never took enough time to really breathe in all that was around me before. Maybe this was due to stresses from "real life" - always having a work project or looming home "to-do" list cluttering my mind. In this new reality, where I can just wander outdoors, basking in its beauty, without any unbearable tasks distracting me- I am feeling really at peace. I am able to take the time daily to reflect on all the good in my life - all my loved ones, daydreaming about goals, all the joy in the world, and how wonderful life is.
I realize it will be a challenge to return home, where the grass is not so green, or tall, or vast- to step away from the daily stresses and take the time to breathe it all in. Maybe if I make the effort to do this, I will realize that life at home is just a lovely- just as green - and that I just was not opening my eyes enough.
Sometimes you get inspiration from the most random places. I am completely obsessed with this French pop song...only understanding the chorus and video, but when you google the lyrics in English- it is still inspiring! Sharing the international happiness, in case it gets you motivated too!
Along our injuries and our flippancies,
It’s when we completely lose our faith,
That we find a lost paradise inside ourselves,
You're the one that's making me strong
I'll be looking looking for
Like the melody of my song
Like the melody of my song
As an avid believer in the idea that you will not commit to goals unless you clearly lay them out- I figured that I would share my goals for this 6 month travel/judo venture. Hopefully it will keep me focused and it will be interesting in 3 months to see how these have altered and shifted!
What are your goals? Are you laying them out?
I've found that when I keep them bottled up, they are easier to ignore.
Here is to stop ignoring and fully embracing ALL that I hope to get out of this trip!
One of the magnificent things about being abroad is trying new foods. In an effort to recreate them once I return home, I am planning to cliff note some of my favorite recipes here.
The Turkish Salad
Hard Boiled eggs, avocado, corn, tomatoes, tiny sliced cucumber, tiny sliced orange peppers, feta cheese, some marinaded black olives, and some butterhead lettuce. Delish!
The Cuban "poor mans" dish
This was presented to me with the explanation that it is a standard dish for poor people in Cuba. Those people, are eating well!
Make red rice and beans via your favorite recipe. It can be with or without pork and onions. Our host used a bag from the freezer section of the grocery store and added rice, so keep it as simple as you want! Here is the magic part- serve it with slices of avocado and bananas on top. They add a nice texture and counterbalance of sweetness to the slight spice often apparent with rice n beans. A soft boiled egg served on the side that you can mix in...was another killer addition! These minor alterations on standard rice n beans blew my mind and made is me love the dish more than ever. Plus PROTEIN CENTRAL :)
Excited to get home and add these to my standard dinner rotations!
I have spent the last 9 years of my life behind a desk, planning work for years out & analyzing potential risks for my team members. A week ago, I quit and boarded a plane with my husband on an adventure to travel the world, training judo. For the first time in 9 years I have had to let go of my instinctive desire to plan for everything. On the road (especially in foreign countries) as I am quickly learning, trying to project manage life is fruitless. There are too many unknowns, too many variables...and maybe as I am starting to wonder, that is for the best.
I am finding that life, unpredictable, is perhaps how it should be.
We booked the cheapest flight possible to Paris and upon reading reviews of the airline I had overly prepared for excess additional charges at the gate, delayed flights, poor customer service, and terrible food. None of those things happened. Other than seats being a little skinny the biggest headache faced was the stress I gave myself expecting to face problems. Instead of being able to comfortably enjoy the journey, I was too busy filling my mind with anticipated issues that relaxing was only possible for a small portion of what should have been an exhilarating start.
Upon arriving in Paris I was filled with excitement as we were planning to train with the National team one day and on another night I was slated to train with the French Olympian in my category! As we packed up for or first practice, I made a third run to the bathroom. Since landing in France my stomach had been nothing but a swollen mess. I felt like a new mom, everywhere we visited I had to keep my eyes peeled for Toilette signs in case an emergency arose. As it turned out there were issues with at the National site so we were unable to train. My husband was shattered but my stomach was relieved. I'd hate to have to run off of the mat due to another bathroom attack while training there! We instead spent the time with friends getting a lovely tour of the city. The next day I was beaming with anticipation of training with the Olympian, but despite medicine and lots of water my belly was still not agreeing. We walked the city all day so that I would avoid whining in bed all day. It was magical. The cities beauty and attractions were overwhelming. However when we left for practice, traffic held us up and we missed training! I was furious. Once again my stomach, being a jerk, was relieved to not have to deal with judo while still a mess. As it turned out, the Olympian missed training that night too!
It took my belly 5 days to return to normal. We missed 2 sessions that were planned and both my husband and I were heartbroken. But instead we saw lovely parts of Paris, got some quality time with loved ones, and my stomach wasn't an embarrassment in front of National team members. As I reflected, maybe we weren't meant to make those practices. Perhaps, despite our planning, everything happened as it should.
My hope is that as our adventure continues I learn to embrace the idea of 'going with the flow' more. I am hoping to reflect more on the wonderful parts of my day than on the aspects that don't fall into my anticipated plans. It will take some effort to let go of the habit of predicting risks and expecting to follow a perfect plan but maybe life is meant to feel more fluid and the "bumps" in the road are really for the best.
So here is to more flowing, more of the unexpected, more relaxing, and less stress.
I am so excited for whatever comes next!
K-12, Student of the Month.....All As, All the time. Check.
Ivy League education. Check.
Dream Job Making Toys after Graduation. Check.
I did it. Living the american dream. Everything you are supposed to do. Promotions came, a loving husband, a house...all of the stepping stones to pure happiness were laid out in front of me. But a void laid within.
I felt haunted by the nag that there was an adventure out there. That life was more than meetings, emails, and expectations of kids. My childhood curiosity about what else is out there remained strong. My happiness surged during training sessions and judo workouts. My heart felt a bigger calling, that I was meant for more than a standard life.
I ignored the sadness.
I pushed aside the voids.
Happy Hour cured a lot. Distractions filled my time. But after years of soul squashing, I had committed myself to a cleaner lifestyle and in doing so, the voices of escape and freedom rang loudly.
So two weeks ago, I laid out my escape plan to my boss. My crazy reason for leaving a phenomenal team and fun company. Two weeks later I sit in the back of a dojo, officially homeless- with two bags, a computer, and a loving husband excited to train judo as we travel all across the globe.
The leap away from standard society was nothing but challenging. Leading up to the quit day I had been overwhelmed with self doubt, apprehension of the unknown, fear to leave the expected. Anxiety about failure seized my soul. I felt alone and horrified. Would people think I am nuts? What if I am nuts? Why don't people do this? Am I the only one who feels unfulfilled at work? The idea of leaving society's norm to chase an indescribable adventure horrified me.
But I leapt.
I had to.
I no longer wanted sadness in my soul.
You only live once. You need to be true to your heart.
And mine screamed ADVENTURE. LOVE. JUDO.
I realize now, that all of my fear and anxiety was of other opinions. Fear of not sticking to that "american dream path" of the expected. What I learned though, was that once I made the Leap, once I let the cat out of the bag, I have been surrounded by nothing but love and support. Turns out, I am nuts- but people are only excited about it.
As I head off to France for the start of my venture I urge you to be brave. If you are stricken by fear to follow what is in your heart, LEAP. Fear is natural. Fear is normal. Leaping is difficult. Surround yourself with people that lift you up and support what it best for you. Follow your heart. Be strong. Others want to see you follow your truths. It may take years to make your leap...but as soon as you do, your heart and soul will feel lightened immediately.
Believer that everyone is special.