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These days, the word 'mindfulness' comes up so much that it seems like more of a buzzword, a word that we should use to feel better somehow. I want to take this moment to share my perspective on what mindfulness means to me, and how I have integrated this concept into my life. Perhaps it will spark some thought about what mindfulness means for you.
There was a time in my life where I coasted through days not fully aware or grateful for all that I had. I never gave too much thought to getting out of bed on my own, or being able to walk down the stairs of my house to make a fresh cup of coffee. I guess I just took it for granted. But those simple things I took for granted are true miracles every day. Walking out of my house to feel the fresh air of a new day, or looking up at the sky to see big fluffy clouds were all things that I never paid attention to because I was too busy going to work or stressed out about life circumstances. My body was more reactive than proactive back then.
It took a major car accident to help me understand the concept of mindfulness. In 2013, my car hydroplaned on I-40 in North Carolina, and was hit by three cars and an 18-wheeler head on. I will never forget seeing the truck driving towards me at 50+ miles per hour while I was sitting in my car, virtually helpless. I scrolled through the rolodex of my life in my mind and thought, "If I have to go today, I'll be okay. I've done everything I could have possibly done for my life up to this moment." My car was an absolute accordion, but I walked out of my car that night in complete and utter shock that I didn't have a scratch on me.
How many moments do we go through life without awareness of our surroundings?
Everyday (since that day) I wake up with enthusiasm for all that I am lucky enough to have in this world. I have a food, clothing, shelter, family and friends. I have the ability to take walks, to look up at the sky with awe and wonder like a little kid, and to taste food that I choose to eat (among many other things). My senses are alive, and I am happy without a doubt.
It's this level of awareness that has sparked passion for what I do. It's this type of mindfulness that has elevated my passion for life, and how I interact with people at home and abroad. I try my best to let go of petty misunderstandings as humanly possible, because it's just not worth it in the end.
Mindfulness has been the first step to making more thoughtful decisions in my life. For me, practicing mindfulness has translated into a healthier way to live, love, and forgive.
The art of mindfulness starts by asking yourself this one question: what is one thing you are grateful for each day? Don't wait for a big circumstance in your life to take place to shift priorities. Make time to appreciate all that you have right now, in this moment.
Each day I am astonished by how much I continue to learn through my experiences with Papilia. I am constantly reminded by how fascinating people are; add culture into the mix, and we are now dealing with another set of special circumstances which need to be acknowledged and understood.
The original concept for Papilia was to provide business and leisure travelers with a customized packing list, culture etiquette tips, and shopping advice. The goal was to help each person feel confident and prepared for their trip prior to departure so they could focus on what actually matters when you travel: to absorb local culture, to develop meaningful relationships, and to create lasting memories. Our original mission was to, "Travel More. Worry Less."
Throughout this journey, I have listened to embarrassing travel-related faux pas, and "I probably shouldn't have done of that" moments from travelers. I spent time thinking about how Papilia's mission could impact the lives of travelers in a more thoughtful way, (in addition to the personalized traveler itinerary). After many months of brainstorming ideas, and reflecting upon global perceptions of culture in the United States and abroad, I came up with a solution that I'm really passionate about.
Papilia now offers customized cross-cultural and international etiquette training and coaching for businesses and individuals who want to improve upon their strategic international relationships or expand their portfolio to develop partnerships internationally. (Detail on these and other trainings are provided on Sophia's personal website and the Papilia website.)
Our new mission, "Maximize the Impact of Your Global Interactions," addresses a greater need many people are facing and want to better understand. Cultural intricacies are complex, but they are key to successful interactions and will also facilitate a deeper appreciation for local culture and surroundings.
These training and coaching sessions will also integrate a component that is near and dear to my heart. Mindfulness. In order to interact with other cultures, you have to be mindful of your own interactions. I will incorporate what I have learned from my yoga teacher training to create an experience that will enhance your professional and personal life if you are receptive to it.
Just an FYI: I have a Papilia site and a personal site. Feel free to contact me on either site. I will typically share professional development, personal lessons learned, and other valuable insights on my personal site. Papilia focuses on training and services with a greater focus on travel preparedness and travel inspiration.
I am so excited for this next phase. My ultimate goal is to empower you with the proper tools needed to succeed in any professional or personal setting.
Culture makes us who we are.
Perception defines how we act.
Knowledge is power.
I look forward to hearing from you wherever you are in the world.
Bali is the Island of the Gods. There is no doubt about it, this is their home on earth.
The first time I learned about Bali was when I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love. “ Cliché as it is, I became obsessed with the allure of Bali. I knew I had to make it here. It took me more than a decade.
Once my ticket was booked, I romanticized ideas of what my time in Bali would be like. Mind-altering yoga. Beauty at every turn. More love.
I had no idea what I was in for. The people were among the most harmonious I had ever met. The food tasted alive. The scenery looked straight out of a dream. The air hot, but fresh. What captured me was the way people lived, providing offerings to the gods multiple times of day. It made me stop to realize that nothing is more important in life than honoring the universe, the greater being that provides life to you. It was on the second day where I realized that Bali was also the home of mindfulness.
Here are four locations to practice being mindful in Bali.
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
A UNESCO World Heritage site, and a little far off the beaten path, Jatiluwih Rice Terraces reach as far as the eye can see. I was captivated driving through the paddies and humbled as I walked the paths. There was a pulse in the land. I felt as if the gods were walking beside me. If I was quiet enough I could hear a soft hum, like a mother calling her children home. I felt the spirits dance around me.
Travel hack: the journey is a little far so make sure you give yourself at least an hour before heading to Tanah Lot for sunset.
Among the most iconic temple in Bali, Tanah Lot is the Temple in the sea. As I walked around the bend, the temple came into view, and my breath was instantly taken away. Separated by the sea, I walked to the edge of the rocks. As the water crashed around me, I now understood why this temple was built for the God of the Sea. Even though non-Balinese people are not allowed to enter the Temple during low tide, I only needed to stand in its presence to feel the blessings of prosperity it can offer.
Travel hack: The grounds can get quite crowded so come early for the temple and stay later for sunset. A little harder to find quiet but the views are not to be missed.
Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple, Tegallalang, Gianyar
The next stop was the Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple, one of the least visited temples in Bali. The waters are believed to be sacred and cannot be touched by human hands unless permitted by the high priest, and after one has bestowed offerings to the gods. Staring at the statue of Sarasvati, in the water gave me chills. (Sarasvati is the the Hindu goddess of knowledge, art, and wisdom. A guide next to me told his group that he wishes to be re-born as a fish in the scared waters. His idea of what the best possible vision of his next life could be took me by surprise. But the more I stared into the water, the clearer it became to me. It wasn’t the life of a fish he aimed for; the honor of living in these waters could only be bestowed upon the best among us. Maybe that is what the concept of the after-life is: honor.
Travel hack: you need to wear a sarong in order to enter and can save a couple dollars by borrowing the sarong from the Temple. If you bring an offering you may be blessed in the scared waters.
The moment that made me feel the essence of mindfulness was climbing up Mount Batur with my Under30Experiences group to watch the sunrise. It was the hardest thing I have ever physically done by far. Reaching the top was an internal spiritual awakening; I proved to myself that I am strong enough to do anything I am asked to do. The reward? It was as if the gods had gifted the sky to me that morning.
Travel hack: You will want to start your hike by 4 am. You can’t hike up without a guide and make sure you have a flashlight. The top of the summit gets cold so ensure you have on pants and at least one warm layer and enjoy a cup of warm tea at the top too.
These experiences all provided me with a sense of mindfulness, of connectedness, one of peace. Throughout my 20’s I struggled with the concept of God, of religion, of there being something greater than myself out there. But here in Bali, there is no question that the gods live among us, that we are connected to the land and the spirits, and that all we need is to surrender ourselves to see it.
This week I custom made some mala beads for myself, complete with rose quartz as a reminder to always lead with love. I will wear my mala beads with the utmost reverence, a reminder to continue to stay connected and remain mindful.
This piece was written by Travel Expert, Jennifer DeSimone. Reach out to Jennifer via Facebook or via email at Jennifer@theartofintentions.com
I lived the single girl dream. I had studied abroad in college, lived in various cities, and traveled on my own. I was – and still am – a HUGE proponent of single girl travel. With the world becoming more connected and easier to travel with apps and wifi almost everywhere, there’s no reason why anyone should deny themselves the gift of solo travel.
But all that changed when in December 2013, while traveling with Under30Experiences in Nicaragua, I met my now husband. Falling in love with another traveler awarded us the opportunity to build our travel lifestyle together. In addition to various one off trips, we’ve lived in Costa Rica, got married in Nicaragua, and are now backpacking our way across Southeast Asia.
To say traveling with your partner is the best thing in the world is an understatement. Here are five reasons why:
1. Breaking Comfort Zones: It’s no secret that travel of any sorts pushes you outside of your comfort zone. But traveling with a partner brings it to a whole new level. When you travel with your partner, you find that you are willing to take steps outside your comfort zone that you may not have been able to do alone. Knowing you’re going to be caught no matter what and celebrating together after one of you conquers a fear? Priceless.
2. Experiencing Moments: Watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean with my husband is one of the most special memories I hold in my heart. Traveling with your partner provides you with experiences you otherwise would never have. You are sharing moments that you simply can’t describe to others, that you two alone own. You understand the impact on the other person without ever having to express one word.
3. Learning About Each Other’s (Not so Wonderful) Qualities: Traveling with a partner teaches you more about one another than just living together does. My husband has learned that I require plans and will read 100 reviews before I settle on something and I have learned that he is content just going with flow. This spills over into other aspects of our relationship. When dealing with differences on the road, you have to face them – together. You only have each other so if you’re mad or annoyed, you better get over it fast.
4. Creating Space Together: Traveling is exhausting – mentally, emotionally, and physically. As such, it’s important for travelers to create space for the mind, body, and spirit to decompress and rest. While we may be sharing a small AirBnb room, giving each other the space we both need to read, write, exercise, and rest is critical to ensure the long stretches on the road. Being able to selflessly give that space to your partner is truly a life skill.
5. Being Home is a State of Mind: Traveling with your parents makes you realize what’s important from the start. For us its actively listening, encouragement, giving each other the space to grow, patience, and always coming from a place of love. It’s the foundation of everything we do. It doesn’t matter if we are traveling or spending a week at home base; home is a state of being with the one you love.
Are you and your partner living a travel lifestyle or are thinking about traveling soon? I’d love to hear your perspective about partner travel.
This piece was written by Travel Expert, Jennifer DeSimone. Reach out to Jennifer via Facebook or via email at Jennifer@theartofintentions
This year has undoubtedly been one of the hardest years I have endured. My mom passed away unexpectedly in February. We were very close, and I have tried to view life through a glass half full. By this, I mean: I hope she passed in a way that was painless for her, and I hope she knows how much I love her with every breath I take.
I have been treating each day as a precious gift, taking it as it comes, but I also needed to get to a place where I felt a sense of solitude again. I channel my inner peace by traveling, one of my favorite things in the world. My Mom's memories will always be in my heart, but I have been able to handle grief through my love of exploration and mindfulness.
Everyone process grief differently. My suggestions for you are guided by what I love:
1. Spend Time At The Beach: The sound of waves, sand covering my feet, and warmth of the sun (under an umbrella, of course) has always put me in my happy place. I have fond memories being near the beach, especially growing up in Santa Barbara. Exploring Playa Del Carmen in May was a new yet familiar experience because the sounds and the smells of the beach made me feel like I was home again.
2. Yoga Retreat: Yoga is a practice where I am truly able to be at peace. Where my mind and body are at one, AND I get an incredible workout. A retreat is on my 'to try' list. If I love every session I have attended, why not make a weekend out of it?
3. Time In The Mountains: A place where the mountains meet the sky. Another spot that completely inspires me to believe in all the wonders of this world. It is serene, absolutely beautiful, and relatively untouched. It is a place for me to breathe fresh air and to simply smile.
4. Visit A Loved One: Seeing a familiar face and sharing a mutual bond brings comfort to my soul. Being able to talk about my Mom with people who knew and love her is always a good thing. It's an awesome reminder about how she is loved around the world.
5. Go To A Place Where You Have Amazing Memories: I recently went back to Charlottesville, Virginia where I went to undergraduate school. I remember how proud my Mom was seeing me graduate. My roommates and I hosted a party in one of the gardens on the University of Virginia grounds, and I could picture her smiling face wherever I went that weekend. Knowing we shared special moments together, even if it was over a decade ago, warmed my heart.
Bonus Moment: My Mom loved magnolia trees. To my recent discovery, not only are they planted all around the UVA grounds, the flowers were in full bloom when I was there.
I want to remind you again that everyone processes grief differently and there are no two situations that are alike. Give yourself time to heal, and celebrate precious moments the best way you know how. I will continue to travel, I will continue to be mindful, and I will always remember her everyday through my experiences.