Monday, January 20, 2014

We Shall Overcome.... ( a post written April, 2009)


 Martin Luther King would have been 80 years old if he was still alive today.





He was shot 41 years ago this week...and I was reminded of this day only by accident as I walked into the den where my dad was watching the evening news tonight. King's face was flashed on the screen along with his accused killer, James Earl Ray. And then there continued a series of quick cuts to several horrific shots of his bloodied body on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel..(I have also been on this very same balcony and it still brings a wave of deep sorrow as I recount how I felt standing on this profoundly sad spot.)




instant flashback...


I am so glad I finally had this opportunity to share this memory with my dad:

For years, I have told people that the first time I saw my father cry was when he found out Martin Luther King was assassinated. We were all gathered around our little black and white TV in our humble little apartment in Stamford, CT . I believe it was Walter Cronkite who broke the tragic news to us that night.



My mom, sister ,brother and I had just returned from living in Brazil for 6 months ( My father chose to stay behind to keep a good paying job he had in New York City at the time). We probably weren't home in the US for more than a couple of weeks. I remember still relearning my English at this time and was so happy I remembered the word "refrigerator" as it sounded so much like the Portuguese word "refrigerador".


So when I told my dad last night my memory of his tears and the assasination Martin Luther King in 1968, he was visibly surprised and moved...Surprised , I sense , by my keen memory at age 5, and moved that I had remembered such a moment and have shared this with literally hundreds of students over the years....



My Dad even confirmed that I was accurate with my memory as we only lived in this apartment for a couple of months . And he also remembers being so angered by the priest at our Stamford church that Sunday for never mentioning a thing about the assasination.

We never returned to that Greek church after that.




amazing how certain experiences in your life just stay with you forever..

yet, if you asked me what I learned from my teachers in my 4 years at Syracuse University, I couldnt even count the lessons on one hand.

funny, that is...

or not..


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix

So here we are- September 21, 2011 and it is a day we are supposed to be celebrating "International Peace" . Instead, I am sitting here in a swirl of various emotions, far from any emotion being close to peaceful; I am grateful, of course, for the fact that such a day has even been set up but am still sickened by the notion that we have oh so very far to go to truly live in a world of that we can call "peaceful".



Today an innocent man was executed in the State of Georgia and most of the Western world is still caught up the silliness of Facebook changing their news feed. One man dies and another one is frustrated over the way he receives his friends’ news. The absurdity of it all is just too much for me to bear right now so thus I write- to try and make sense of it all, if that even is possible.




It also just hit me today that I know in my heart of hearts that one of the main reasons I travel so much is that I truly believe that the more we all get out of our own cultural comfort zone and travel away from “home”, the more we can truly understand, love, and be compassionate with all those who are living around us-in every corner of the world. We can be ambassadors of peace everywhere we go, sharing a smile, a story, a meal, a conversation and remaining humble and open to truly get to know people from every walk of life…



Of course, there are the luxuries of swimming in the deep blue seas of Greece, marveling at the awe-inspiring temples of Bali, trekking in the jungles of South America and enjoying blissful massages on the beaches of Thailand , but in my heart of hearts, I know that the most profound moments I have had when I am living and traveling overseas are those irreplicable moments of connecting with the local people-there is no souvenir that even comes close. None.




To be able to share and connect and celebrate in both the differences and similarities of each other’s cultures is truly the way we will slowly have peace become a place in our world. We must put down our guns at last and speak, love,and understand each other first. Egos must be left at the front door as well as hundreds of years of battling for pieces of land that have only become pieces of scarred tissue on Mother Nature’s womb. We must forgive, let go, and move on. Now.



So on this day of “International Peace”, I would like to say to each and every one of you who has taken the time to read this: “You CAN make a difference. Peace begins with you. Be compassionate- moment to moment. Care about your neighbors, care about your friends, be good to your family and all those around you. Pick up the phone to say “thank you”,” I forgive you”, “I am sorry”. And take time to travel to parts of the world that might scare you or intrigue you. That's right, take the "road less travelled"... I swear you won’t be sorry you did.



Peace.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

40,000 miles and a little bit wiser...

(Southeast Asia)

In the past 4 months, I have traveled over 40,000 miles, flown on 26 different airplanes, slept in 18 different hotel/bungalow locations, visited 6 countries, lived on 8 islands (walked around one), taken 16 ferry boat rides, and traveled 100’s of kilometers on a motorbike.



And yes, to a few people, it might have seemed a bit crazy for me to hop on yet another a plane a week later after returning from Indonesia and travel yet another 8,000 miles to  Miami, Florida to do a triathlon just a week after running a 2-week tour hosting 21 people in Thailand and Bali ....



And yes, even in the ridiculous hot and humid 90-degree Florida heat and being completely sleep deprived and jetlagged, I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face, not because I broke any records, but just because-I finished. And that was good enough for me. For now.



Nor do I think it is crazy that in 4 weeks time, I get on yet another plane for Greece to host another 2-week tour there before coming home to teaching creative writing to 40 eager middle-schoolers while working on a CD of original piano music...




And yup, you guessed it , I am yet on another plane in August  when I travel back to Greece to run another 2 week tour of the islands in hopes of continuing on to travel to Africa after that,.,,




Am I a bit crazy? perhaps ...

Does this all sound  glamorous ? maybe….

All the traveling a bit tiresome ? Absolutely….

Any regrets for any of these experiences ? Absolutely not…



This is just my life, plain and simple, and I feel a bit silly to even think of any of this info I just shared as any sort of "accomplishment" or that what I am sharing is of any interest to anyone....

But I do feel compelled to share.

And this is why...

All too often, friends either write or tell me in person why they are so inspired by how I am living my life. And while I am truly grateful and humbled by these these kind words and compliments, I am writing this little entry here to remind anyone who is reading this (and who may want "my life")
to please "love your life" first and foremost....

All I really have been doing thus far in my life is listening to what dreams I want to accomplish, what places in the world I want to see, and what sort of tests I want to put my mind, spirit and body through .....all the usual “stuff” that many of us often stop and think about, write about, and even sometimes manifest in our life…




You see,  I have always wanted to live a life of “no regrets” and this mantra stays with me almost daily as I make choices, often moment-to-moment, of what I want to do, where I want to go, and who I want to be with.

I say what I need to say , do what I say I am going to do, and try and make sure my “bucket list” continues to get “checked off” as often as I can.

We really don't have a lot of time to waste sweating the “small stuff”;  life is incredibly  short and transient and when one loses close friends and family, that phase of realizing mortality knocking at your door truly kicks in....

So after another 4 months of traveling throughout Southeast Asia and across the US and back, here are a few life lessons I would humbly like to pass on to anyone who is reading this :

-You will never find the "perfect place" or the "perfect life" until you find peace in yourself. Paradise is a state of mind; you can be living in a state of hell, even in the most beautiful part of the world.

“You can run, but you can’t hide” so take time to look inside and take care of what needs to be taken care of. Lord knows, I have had some pretty “dark” moments while being in some of the most beautiful idyllic places in the world. Nothing like having a good cry while watching a most beautiful sunset somewhere in the south of Thailand to remind you of how lonely life can feel sometimes when  you may be longing for someone  or some "thing" that is not there with you.



-Life is short- make your dreams happen now ; don’t wait till tomorrow, or next month or next year to start making them happen. Get the ball rolling now and do everything you possibly can to write “that list” and start checking it off as soon as possible

-Follow your bliss, the money will come…Do what you love and become the very best at whatever you do…integrate this passion into your daily life….and if you are loving what you do, I swear the money will come…

I am forever grateful that I still get to do things I love ( teach, play music, travel) and still get paid for it. I think this is what success is all about:  not how much you make with what you do, but how much you enjoy what you do while making it ...



-Simplify your life... "Less is more"....  truly it is…

I have found that living out of a simple carry-on bag for months at a time has proven to me that I am happiest when I have the least amount of “stuff” around me. This frees us all to be open to all the wonders of the world around us, including being able to take the time to meet some of the many amazing people that walk this planet with you.



-Continue to evaluate what is important in your life and make them your priority….

For me, the “biggies” in my life are: Family, friends, my health, the ocean, surrounding myself with children and animals,  exploring new and peaceful environments where I can rest and retreat, and continuing to nurture my creative spirit through music, theater, and the arts.

These “biggies’ have been pretty consistently around me throughout much of my life but as I travel more and more over the years, the concept of home, peace, close friends/family, and being close to the ocean have become more paramount.This is what fuels my soul, this is what fuels my creative fire.



-Life is all a choice. Never underestimate the power you have to create your destiny. It can all change overnight by you saying “yes, I will - and can..”  just do it...

-Last, but certainly not least:

 Live your life with as much daily gratitude and awareness as possible. Life is so much more "full" and fulfilling this way. Your eyes become open to so much more beauty and your heart becomes so much more ‘filled’ when you can appreciate the gifts in every moment in this “thing” we are given called “life”…



So, as I end this entry and yet another 4-month journey, I want to say thank you- plain and simple-to every single person who has crossed my path these past few months and put a smile on my face and in my heart. No souvenir can ever replace the gift of experience and friendships and for this reason alone, I feel like the richest person alive…



Until we all meet again….

Monday, February 14, 2011

Looking for love in all the right places- Happy Valentine's day...

So today is Valentine’s day..that dreaded day for so many who feel alone and are alone on this day of supposed romance and chocolate…



It is almost impossible to ignore all those romantic messages everywhere you look; roses and champagne here, sunset kisses there, scenes of romantic dinners and walks everywhere you turn…I even see scenes like this on my little remote island here in the south of thailand…go figure..



Hallmark Cards has a monopoly on this day and my hats off to every single marketing exec who had a part in this so-called “holiday” that claims to celebrate love and romance…


But for the majority of the planet, this is just another day-and another day spent with the same stresses of yesterday and with the hopes of a perhaps better tomorrow…

And for someone like me , here on a tiny island in the south of Thailand, this was just another day but made more full and alive because I made a choice….



That’s right. I made a choice not to get sucked up in this whole notion that if you are “alone" , there is something wrong with you or something to be sad about. No siree-I woke up this morning refusing to go “down” in any way whatsoever…Hallmark was not going to trap me nor was any kissing couple on the beach or champagne bottle I heard popping in the distance.

Today was going to be a day about giving love back to me, something I know I forget to do quite often. And I sense I am not alone on this one..



So today became a day of remembering a great lesson-and I was inspired by a Buddhist quote that I came across just a few days ago :

‎"You can explore the universe looking for somebody who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, 
and you will not find that person anywhere..."



As hard as that is for me (and I suspect a few others)to swallow, this quote is correct in every way…

I think most of us going through so much of our lives searching for love, truth , and happiness in every way and every place and person possible. We want to believe that “this place” or “that person” or “that thing” is going to complete us, make us whole, make us feel love like we have never experienced before…


It is all for naught.

Really, it is . I feel like I could write a book at this point ( and maybe I will) about the dozens of times I felt like I found “it” in my life through a person, place, or experience I had…but it is all transient;

everything comes and goes in life- even love , even life…

And the only thing I have found that is constant is the love you can give yourself-that inner “best friend” that can make you laugh, pick you up, cradle you when you need it most and when you feel no one else is around…



So to all of you who have taken the time to read this, I say to you 3 words:
“Love yourself first"-it is not selfish, wrong, or hurtful..it sounds clich├ęd, used too frequently in new age tapes and books, but it is a truth that cannot be overlooked…pain and suffering will just ensue otherwise…

And as I pop open my bottle of “valentine” champagne tonight, I will make a toast to all of you…



And to me-for just taking the time to try and “get it”…..

Happy valentines day- may you always feel the love within you shining and smiling upon your soul.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

"all Americans are fat and carry guns" and other ' grand conclusions' I hear on the road...



I am always wary of people who make sweeping generalizations of a country, its people, and its culture based on a visit that consisted of only a few days or even a week or two…

I don’t know why but I think this may be one of my biggest pet peeves of all time. Perhaps I hear “ego” screaming when I come across these people in my travels or when I read travel blogs where the author claims to “know it all” about a country based on his or her stay in a 4-star hotel for the weekend in Delhi or a in a well-run family resort on some nice secluded island in the south of Thailand..




Please don’t tell me India is “all this way or that” based on your one- week trip to Delhi or that Thailand is “just like this...” based on your fun weekend getaway to Phuket or that your 3-day visit to Saigon made you think ALL Vientamese people are a certain way and that they all think “this way” about Americans and the war…”



Say what you feel and feel what you say, of course, but for godsakes, please don’t speak for an entire nation and it people….



What “gets my goat” even more is when I hear that these so-called “seasoned” travelers often never have one conversation with a local person while they were away – not one. And even if they did, how on earth can one darn conversation give anyone insight into an entire country after just a few minutes of a conversation? (If someone can tell me how this is truly possible, please write me asap so I can rid myself of this pet peeve – please, I would be forever indebted…)




For to make sweeping generalizations about any place or people (even your own..) is incredibly ridiculous and absurd to me- it always has been. It is like someone telling me “All Americans are fat and love fast food and carry guns” or “I hate American Airlines and they suck and I will never fly them again because the one flight I took with them was 2 hours late and I missed my connection to LA and my stomach got a bug after I ate their meal and I couldn’t sleep because of the baby sitting next to me, and I didn’t like the color of their seats and my finger nail broke when I turned the bathroom door
( okay, I diverge a bit here but you get my drift..)




So what would I love to hear from you travelers instead ? How ‘bout some truth and honesty about what YOUR day or week was like in India, Thailand, Vietnam, or wherever…Just tell me what YOU saw, who you spoke with, what your learned, what insight you may have gained about a cultural practice….I really don’t want to hear about your conclusion of an entire people and their nation based on some made-up bullshit you overheard from the drunken guy in the back seat of the bus you took from the airport to your Westin hotel in Hong Kong. Makes for a fun story, for sure, but don’t go telling me you know the Chinese people based on this 20-minute escapade.



Please- tell me instead about the beautiful wide-eyed child you took the time to play ball with in the schoolyard or the old lady at the street corner in Bangkok who you finally stopped to speak with after passing her and her noodle-shop for over a week.



or tell me about the dinner you had with the Muslim family who invited you over to their house for dinner and played cards with you till dawn …




or the Balinese taxi driver who drove you to his personal family temple where you got to sit and pray to side-by –side as Buddha smiled above you both…



Tell me about the shy Thai man who had the courage to open his heart to you and share his deep joy that his girlfriend finally called and “wants him back”…



… or the story about the humble and hard-working owner of the local Vietnamese supermarket whose wife just gave birth to a baby boy today but he still has to be there to run the shop because he couldn’t afford to pay for extra help..





Or how bout this heart-wrenching moment that literally just occurred as I took a break moments ago to pay for my room here in Bali. I was saying good bye to one of my favorite Balinese receptionists, and was giving her a big hug, thanking her for all her help . I then started to ask her about her family..She mentioned she had 2 young boys but said she had a daughter who “left a long time ago” and then I went silent…Seconds later I find out her daughter died during birth and that she only had a few moments to see her alive before she passed…and then she adds “She was very beautiful with big brown eyes.. and she even had your nose”…



These are the sort of moments that just stop me dead in my tracks..for they become moments where all “veils of differences” between cultures and people are dropped- instantly….




...for It really doesn’t matter to me what god you pray to, or what side of the street you choose to drive on or how you dress or what you eat…



I want to know what makes you tick, what breaks your heart, what makes you want to get up in the morning, what would you risk your life for, who you would jump in the fire with…



And the only conclusion I dare to make from all the many years I have been traveling is that we as humans are all so much more connected in similarities than we are in differences- We are humans first, afterall…and with this amazing commonality brings yet an even more amazing possibility to focus on the spirit that connects us all…




And if I ever come across to others as a “know it all” about travel or anything else for that matter. , I will stop dead in my tracks and just go home. And stay there.

Happy trails….