Friday, November 29, 2013

Catching a cold

If you're going to get sick, a yoga training is the place to do it. I've never been around a more supportive, helpful, caring bunch of people while I've been sick and they're all full of knowledge of herbal remedies and natural treatments.

In the past 3 days since my cold hit, I've had:

- a shot of oregano oil. this will burn your lips, fire up your insides, and clear your congestion instantly. unfortunately it does wear off after a few hours

- a shot of wheatgrass. this is full of all sorts of good vitamins

- a clove and a half of raw garlic. this is a natural anti-biotic. I was gnawing my way through one, hating the way it tasted when someone suggested I cut it into smaller pieces and take it with water like a pill. that worked much better.

- copious amounts of ginger lime honey tea. they serve it at the organic cafe next to our practice space. Yesterday one of my classmates gave me a big spoonful of powdered greens to stir in, and my teacher gave me cayenne pepper as well.

- grapeseed oil extract. apparently this is some kind of cure all. how did I not know this??

- 2 green juices

- 4+ bowls of soup

- fresh pressed orange juice

- green tea

- a raw chocolate truffle. don't judge.

- a lymphatic drainage massage and cranio sacral therapy. Bali is THE place to come if you've got anything at all wrong with you, physically or emotionally. Somebody WILL help get you balanced in a natural, healthy way. The lymphatic drainage was interesting because the touch was so light it didn't really feel like he was doing anything except gently touching different spots on my face and neck. An hour and a capsule of more oregano oil later, my nose is completely clear.

- an entire 2 hour yoga practice in savasana, aka corpse pose, aka lying flat on my back. I got out of bed and got there by 6:15 this morning but just couldn't sit up straight.

- copious amounts of sympathy and well-wishes from my classmates and teachers

I'm going to bed early tonight.

Goodnight from Ubud,

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Birds, Bugs and Gecko Poop

Navigating daily life in Bali means encountering all kinds of critters. I'm not really a critter person so at first this seemed daunting,  Now I'm starting to get used to the milder of the beasties in my midst and am beginning to really enjoy the animal sounds all around me from first thing in the morning to the dead of night.

One of my favorite creatures is this rooster. He is kept in a pen in the field that's on the walk to my practice space. He crows throughout the day and to me his crow sounds like he's laughing. It's kind of a "rrr rrr RRR cackle guffaw rrr rrr tee hee." Then again for all I know that might be Balinese for shove off, but it's a really welcome sound when I get to hear it.

Monsieur le Rooster in his cage

There are always little geckos and sometimes bigger lizards climbing on every wall. The walls in the hotel restaurant, the walls in other restaurants, the walls in the lounge area, etc. Our practice space is an open air room with only one wall and a thatched roof. I have not seen the geckos that live in the roof but at certain times in the afternoon, tiny bits of gecko poop fall from the ceiling on unsuspecting yogis. Unfortunately it has happened that our meditation was interrupted by the scream of a participant who got beaned in the head with such an offering. Thankfully it hasn't happened to me yet, knock on wood, though since we are all one, maybe it has (yoga humor).

Little ants and big ants crawl all over the place on the practice space. At first I was squashing every one I saw but now I know they are harmless and don't bite. I think our class is fairly divided in the pro- and anti- bug squashing contingents. Some of us believe it's bad karma while others of us choose to let possible karmic implications of bug killing fall where the may. One of my friends finds it amusing that I have no qualms about killing the bug I can see but won't eat the cow, pig, or chicken that I can't see. I think it's funny that she shows non-violence to bugs but is a carnivore.

My practice space is in a huge compound called The Yoga Barn. Hundreds of visitors to Ubud take classes here every week, and we teacher trainers have a big room all to ourselves at the far end of the property. To get there we walk past the Ayurvedic center (where a spider once landed on my head), through the organic cafe, down some wooden stairs and underneath a grove of coconut trees, down more stairs to a huge wooden platform that is built over a gurgling stream, then down a dirt path past the aforementioned rooster. Along this last part of the trail, I have crossed paths with numerous salamanders wiggling their way across the road. It startles me every time.

The dirt path and my practice center in the background. The smaller thatched roof are the restrooms.

There are tall reeds that grow around the three exposed sides of the center that give us a little privacy from everything else going on near the compound. There's a school very close by and in the morning we hear little kids playing outside and they all yell HALLO! HALLO! to us as we walk up the dirt road after our first class. It's really sweet.

In the reeds are little white and black birds with yellow beaks and huge voices. It's not a QUACK, it's a QUOCK sound that they make. I don't know how something so little and cute can make a sound so big. Same goes for the cicadas which were out in full force today. When they're chirping it sounds like a buzz saw right next to your head.

Now I'm on my balcony and night has fallen. The daily rain has come and gone and I'm sipping a green tea feeling the heaviness of the air and listening to the sounds of animals in the rice paddy just beyond the hotel wall. I hear what I think is a frog croaking, insects chirping, and the occasional splash of fish from the hotel pond.

Bye from Bali,
Firefly Girl

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Precious human life

"Today I am fortunate to be alive.

I have a precious human life and I'm not going to waste it.

I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.

I am going to have kind thoughts toward others. I am not going to get angry or think badly about others.

I am going to benefit others as much as I can.

For today, I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life, and I'm not going to waste it."

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Getting out from under the weight of expectation

A funny thing happened this week in class when one of the students used the word "control." The instructor turned into a snarling, yapping impression of a bulldog (that actually looked more like a chihuahua). It was hilarious. His point was, we have this idea that we need to control things but we actually can't control ANYTHING. Not even our minds with meditation. We can "prayerfully manage" as he says, but we can't ever ever ever control our minds.

So if we can't control our own minds, how could we control someone else? And if we can't control someone close to us, how could we control the interactions of other people in the world to try to create a favorable outcome?

The point is, we can't.

Shifting gears slightly, I find that some of the heaviest burdens I carry are the weights of expectation placed on me by myself and by other people. I expected that I should always make A's in high school, college and grad school. I expected that I should have a prestigious career that would allow me to give back, or serve my country, and a certain amount of income. I expected that I should live in a big city, take nice vacations and have a comfortable home. I have all of those things, yet I still felt an emptiness inside. I didn't understand why until something clicked with me this week. It's so simple, but so true.

You can't expect anything outside yourself to fulfill you.

Healthy relationships can bring joy, fun vacations can bring happiness, doing a job well can feel good for a time until that next bad day...but ultimately none of these match the feeling of deep gratitude and contentment that come from having a full heart. The way to get this? Know yourself, know what universal values you want to live by, sit quietly and reflect on how you want to live those values, then ~*~*~follow that path~*~*~*, even if you can't see more than one or two steps in front of you. Even if that involves radical change and letting go of some things you used to think were true. Release that which no longer serves you.

You (me/I) have to do the work of self-examination and self-love to become fulfilled in yourself (myself) and then and only then can you give from a full heart, not expecting any particular outcome and not expecting anything in return. The second part of that is key. My instructor said he knew a lot of people who hide behind professions that involve service to others, such as public service, aid organizations, mental health workers, etc, who think that doing such a profession will feel good because it fills you up. In fact, what can happen when coming to such a job with an expectation of being fulfilled is that you get burned out and disappointed and it's hard to figure out why. The reason is you were expecting others to fulfill your need instead of working on yourself to become full on your own.

Once you are full, love and energy radiates out from you, and THAT's what helps people, not a burned out husk of a person who has no energy and no zest for life.

And now, a plea: I say this with absolute love and a full heart to anyone who may have suggested that my husband and I should go ahead and start a family now that we've been married for 8 whole months: me having a baby will not fulfill you. Please stop asking because it hurts me to feel like I'm responsible for being the vessel for someone else's happiness and that my life isn't good enough just as it is. And a baby, if there is ever to be a baby, deserves to loved for its own unique being and not as a path to someone else's happiness.

This is me being happy:

From my heart to yours,
Firefly Girl

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Follow your intuition

If I had to distill everything I've learned from yoga, it would be this:

Listen to your intuition.

This is not always easy to do. In the modern world there are many distractions that strive to keep us from hearing our intuition and many pressures that strive to keep us from following it. Charting your own course can be unpopular, and when you first start tuning into your intuition you may ignore that little voice in your heart that's trying to talk to you because you don't believe it's actually happening.

Something about the past few days has turned my intuition into overdrive. Maybe it's the things I'm learning, maybe it's the place I'm in (they don't call Bali the island of the Gods for no reason...spirituality is thick here), maybe it's the supportive people I'm around who encourage each other to tune in to their inner voice, or probably it's a combination of all of the above.

Small example: Tonight a big group of fellow students is going out for one of my classmate's birthdays. It's a great group of people and I am enriched by knowing them, but I also know that I am drained by being in a group setting all day. I just need time to myself to recharge and process what I've learned and let my mind wander a little. At first I agreed to join the group for dinner because everyone was going and it seemed like the thing to do, but soon after I agreed I got this nagging feeling that a group dinner was really not what I needed tonight. I needed solitude and time to process some of the things I have experienced this week. (Next time I will try to tune into my intuition before I agree to do something so I don't flake on friends because that's just rude.) Despite pressure to go along with what everyone in the group was doing, I came to a really nice Thai restaurant in my neighborhood, which will heretofore be referred to as my happy place.

I settled in with my laptop, a lychee martini and vegan stir fry and am listening to a live blues band. The first song they played was Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World." My eyes started tearing up because I knew my intuition had led me to right where I needed to be in that moment. It's a beautiful thing.

Want to learn more about how you can start to tune into your own intuition? Good, because you'll probably hear me gush about it for many weeks, months and years to come. Start with bringing conscious awareness to your actions throughout the day. Example: When you're eating, be aware of how the food looks on the plate, how it smells, how it feels in the mouth and how it tastes on the tongue. Chew slowly and deliberately.

Another example: When you're sitting at your desk/in your car/on the bus/wherever, take a minute to just bring your awareness to your breath, take deep inhales and deep exhales and notice how your breath feels as it enters your body and as it leaves. Focusing on the breath is one of the simplest meditations and also a simple way to bring awareness to the present moment. And being present is key to being able to tune into your intuition because you have to be aware of what you are experiencing in the moment to be able to tell how you feel about it and how your heart is telling you to act.

Another powerful (but at times difficult) tool is to cut down on my reliance on electronics and social networking. Everybody knows that Facebook and email bring distractions, clutter and at times unwelcome feelings of the need to compare yourself to others or prove something to others. In my opinion, constantly looking at facebook was crushing my ability to hear my own inner voice because I found myself thinking of things I could post (to try to impress people? and to connect with what was familiar back home instead of embracing the experience of being far away).  I would venture to say that my conscious effort to stay off facebook and to not email anyone except for my husband has really helped me to stay centered in myself.  Yes, I will get back on Facebook periodically because I love looking at pictures of my friends' and cousins' adorable kids and I want to have some way to maintain friendships back home but I don't want the daily intrusion into my rhythm. Blogging is a form of journaling for me and it helps me to write things far more that in helps anyone to read it.

And finally, one last thought:
Wow, blues music is really good! Now I know why people like it so much.

Far from blue,

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Becoming comfortable with discomfort

I’m sitting in the dark as I write this because the power has gone out at my hotel. It’s really hot inside with no a/c or ceiling fan so I came outside to the very dark deck with my computer. It’s an interesting feeling to not be able to see anything but to hear Balinese night noises all around me. There is a symphony of crickets, frogs, the occasional duck, the ubiquitous motorbike and car traffic and the chattering of hotel employees trying to deal with the power outage. This turns out to be an appropriate setting for the post I wanted to write (which will have to wait to go up until the wifi works again).

Our evening yoga class is yin style, meaning the movements are slower, deeper, and held for longer than in a regular vinyasa class. I love practicing yin yoga because I love the gentleness of it, but to do it, you have to be able to become comfortable with discomfort. It’s hard to stay in a posture for three minutes at a time. The natural inclination is to fidget, to think about all sorts of things that distract you from the moment, and the muscles you’re stretching start to complain even though you may have two more minutes to stay still.

In the course of this, thoughts and emotions rise up within you. This has been challenging because thoughts and feelings rising up within me have been rather unpleasant. My natural inclination is to want to fix the unpleasantness or just get rid of it, but unfortunately that’s not how things work. These thoughts are meant to be observed without judgement. They may stick around for awhile till I’m able to release them. I don't know how long that might take. I have to learn to accept that...without judgement.

One of the most beautiful metaphors in the yoga tradition (and also the Hindu and Buddhist traditions) is that of the lotus flower. You should see the kind of swampy, mucky, filthy pond where lotus flowers grow. There’s such a pond right outside our practice space and I would hate to accidentally slip and fall in. It’s gross. But out of that slimy mud grows  the most beautiful, big, pink flowers. The metaphor is that we are all like the lotus flower. We all have muck in our lives that we have to deal with. That’s just part of being human. But out of all that dirtiness, if we let it, comes growth and perhaps eventually the manifestation of beauty.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

6 things about me: the travel edition

We all know that facebook memes are so cheesy, but I am loving the one going around now where everyone writes a certain number of things about themselves. The posts I've seen are so touching and I feel like I've gotten to know people better through reading them and have also realized that even though many of us lead very different lives, we all share many of the same vulnerabilities, likes, and desires.

Having said that, I didn't think I was going to do that meme because I post so much on facebook already that everyone on my friends list has a pretty good idea about my interests, favorite foods, passions and views. Then I thought, what the heck, that would make a nice format for a travel blog entry, so here goes:

1. I get lonely and homesick every time I travel. Every single time. Furthermore, I believe that any traveler who tells you he or she doesn't is lying. The nice thing about having travel experience though is knowing that this feeling is normal and that it will pass. When I first started traveling I would get into crying jags not only at night but in the middle of the day (!) sometimes in public places, like by a telephone booth in the town square of Cuernavaca, Mexico, after talking to my mom on the phone. I've also been so homesick I couldn't eat, like when I was visiting such nice friends in Belgium (hiii Vanessa, if you're reading this!) and almost made myself sick. My first few days in China it was like my whole world flipped upside down and it felt like my stomach was in my feet. I've never felt so lost or disoriented or scared. My first few days in Alexandria, Egypt, were a total nightmare. I was terrified of everything and everyone. But then the things that seem so strange at first start to become familiar, and then I meet new people and make friends and that is the absolute best way to not only survive but thrive in an unfamiliar place. If you give yourself a chance and if you practice enough, the homesickness and loneliness will be short-lived.

2. I LOVE meeting people from other countries. Love it, absolutely love it. I love hearing their backgrounds and hearing their accents and learning how life is the same and different in other parts of the world. I used to have something like 17 penpals when I was younger and this is why. I met some of the nicest people today at the cafe at my new yoga training center today and feel so enriched and blessed just by those chance encounters. Here's what happened:

I set out of my hotel to explore a little on my own and to try to find my training center. I knew it was close but I couldn't find it and kept asking for directions only to have people send me different ways. After walking down two different wrong alleys I finally found the right one, then once I was at the training center I got turned around looking for the cafe. I finally found it and there were no open tables. I was feeling so out of place and exasperated and saw only one person sitting at a big table so I asked if she minded if I sat at the end. She was so open and friendly when she invited me to sit there and we started chatting and all my frustrations melted away. Two other people came up and joined her and I told them I would move if they were part of a group but they said no. Two were from Sweden and one was from Austria. They were all traveling by themselves too and had met at this yoga center. They sat with me while I had my tea and we talked and they were just so nice. The same thing happened later that day at the same cafe when I sat down at a fairly empty table. I had what I think was a 2 hour conversation with someone from Ireland. I will probably never see any of these people again but it was so nice to get to know them even for a short while.

3. I have an irrational (or perhaps rational) phobia of monkeys. I had suspected this for awhile but confirmed it today when I had a near panic attack at the monkey forest. I knew that I was suspicious of monkeys and I knew I didn't like their little claws and I knew I didn't like the way they grab things and I knew I didn't want any of them to touch me...but I went to the monkey forest anyway. At least I tried, until the hyperventilation started.

This was the first group event with a few fellow teacher-trainees in my program and I really wanted to meet them (the teacher trainees, not the monkeys) so I put my fears aside and met up at the designated time to go to the monkey forest. Even as we were walking along the trail to the forest and seeing all the statues of monkeys I started to get a bad feeling. All I could think was of those flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz and the sign saying "I'd turn back now if I were you." I thought, this fear is stupid and something I need to overcome so I pressed on. I bought my ticket, I tucked away all my shiny things as per instructions and I bravely went in. Then I saw all the monkeys. They were everywhere. They were climbing on walls, they were in the path ahead of us, they were in the trees overhead, and they were NOT shy. They will bite. They will grab at your things. They will sit on your shoulder. They have fangs. Some of them even have what looks like mohawks, as if they needed to look more intimidating. Everyone else wanted to get closer to them and take pictures and all I could think was I wanted to stay as far away from them as possible. I'd turn away from one and then there would be another behind me. I saw one rip open a lady's plastic bag that she was holding and everything in it spilled to the ground and the monkey started going through her things. The thing with the monkey forest is, it's their world and we're just living in it. Monkey rules rule.

I was about 50 yards in and I could feel the rising panic. My breaths started becoming short and shallow and my heart rate was accelerating. I froze in place and couldn't move. Everywhere I wanted to move was a monkey. My group kept walking calmly ahead, like normal people. Not me. I turned around and slowly started walking back out of the forest. I know both my group and the monkeys probably all think I'm some kind of lunatic (monkeys know too much) but I just had to get out of there. Fortunately I made it past all the monkeys and the poor lady with the contents of her bag on the ground. When someone in my group turned around I waved and kept backing away. I walked fast and didn't stop walking till I was off that road past all the monkey statues. I still feel slightly panicked just thinking about it. My personal version of hell is that monkey forest.

4. My husband is my hero. Everybody who knows him probably knows this already, because from 50 yards away he even looks like a hero. He's done amazing things in faraway place that probably make him a hero to a lot of people but not everyone really knows what a kind person he is.

Example: It was a HOT day in Cambodia and we went in to a little cafe for something cold to drink. Both of us were so miserable with the heat that we could barely even make conversation. All of a sudden, there was a crash behind us. A man at that table had accidentally knocked over his drink and the glass fell to the floor and shattered. Part of it cut his girlfriend's toe and it was bleeding like crazy. She said it wasn't a deep cut but it was just in a place that bled a lot. Most people would turn around and go back to their business, but not the man I was with. What does he do but pull a first aid kit out of his backpack (who keeps a first aid kit in their backpack??) and help to bandage up this poor woman's toe. I think the man who dropped his glass felt even worse because he was ashamed that he'd accidentally hurt his girlfriend, but my husband put him at ease telling him that the reason he carries a first aid kit is because he's usually the one hurting himself. It was so sweet. :) I was so proud of him.

5. A fellow teacher trainee invited me for Bintang tonight and I thought it was some kind of chant, like kirtan. I agreed to join (once again, I'm trying new things to get to know people) then found out Bintang is the local beer.  Even better.

6. I love eating vegan but I don't always stick to it. I love trying vegan recipes and I love the way my body feels when it's infused with vegetables but I don't want to give everyone the impression that I'm some sort of model foodie. I stress eat and I have a sweet tooth and when there's absolutely no non-dairy milk in sight I put real milk in my coffee (!!!!!!) I struggle with temptations and feelings of failure with food just like everyone else. I keep posting healthy recipes and I keep trying to eat vegan because that's what makes me feel good, not because I'm trying to feel superior to anyone else who might make different choices.

I'm late to my Bintang date so will stop with 6 things.

Bye bye from Bali!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Perspectives from a road trip

The ride from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh yesterday wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be. This is because I was fighting off waves of carsickness the entire time. I usually don't get carsick so this was unusual. I think yesterday's condition was brought on by riding in the back of a late model Nissan that felt like it lost its shocks about 70,000 miles ago over bumpy unpaved roads while constantly accelerating and braking to avoid bicycles, motorbikes, tuk tuks and other vehicular traffic while the driver honked his horn at least every 5 minutes. Not that this had any discernible effect on the traffic pattern, not that this deterred him from laying on the horn every single time he passed somebody or something. Did I mention this ride lasted 5 hours?

Usually I pass the time in a car reading, but since I couldn't look at words on a page for more than 10 seconds without feeling like I was going to lose my breakfast, I looked out the window instead. And promptly felt bad for feeling sorry for myself, because this is what I saw:

These pictures do little to show the scale of abject poverty and grueling manual labor I witnessed on the roadside for the entire 5 hour drive. These are ramshackle houses with ladders for access, with no electricity. I saw people sitting in the shade underneath their homes, I saw little kids chasing each other around the homes, I saw naked children standing outside and I saw men and women doing farmwork using equipment and methods from at least 100 years ago. (I'm not sure farmwork is the right way to describe wading through knee high water with water buffaloes, but it does capture hauling high piles of hay on carts, using scythes to cut some crop I couldn't identify, and putting hay into another machine I couldn't identify and waiting for it to shoot out the other end.) I also saw a lot of kids dressed in uniforms riding their bikes, presumably to school. I saw one such class in session. It was an open air building and it looked like they had very little in the way of classroom supplies. It was swelteringly hot outside and I can only imagine how hot it was in that classroom.

There were other, more captivating scenes than the ones above but I couldn't get good pictures because we were driving by them too fast. The only reason I got the pictures above is because we stopped the car, right in the middle of the highway, to help our driver's "brother" who also stopped his car in the middle of the highway because he had some car trouble. SMH.

There were also lots of nice looking cows:

Unfortunately that is the best picture I could get.

I have seen few animals with the elegance and grace of water buffaloes. I realize as I say that that it sounds odd, especially coming from me, but trust me, they're beautiful and move with such fluidity and ease. I wish I had a picture of them but I don't have a good one.

Instead, I will share with you my view this morning of my lovely breakfast and the beautiful garden right outside my hotel's cafe. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Yoga Class in Siem Reap

Today was one of those great vacation days in which we had nowhere to be and no schedule to keep. We slept late, then spent most of the day drifting from pool chairs to pool to poolside dining, repeat. This cycle continued until about 6 pm when we took a tuk-tuk to the Peace Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant that also has a fair-trade gift shop and yoga classes. {Sidenote:  riding in the back of a tuk-tuk is exhilarating. It feels like you're floating on top of the street with motorcycles, cars, and bicycles swept along in a current with you, and that you might topple over and hit the pavement at any moment. What a rush.}

The Peace Cafe has a dirt floor and lush tropical trees and plants growing throughout the space. I had time for a green juice before my class started. The class was held in an upstairs loft with wooden floors and walls on three sides with the fourth side open air. The yoga blocks were wooden and looked like they were hand made. The teacher was a really good natured man with shaggy curly hair, an infectious laugh and an Elmo t-shirt. I think all of the other students were from the UK and Australia.

The instructor led us through an hour and 20 minutes of hatha yoga, which is a gentle but at times rigorous class.

Here's what I learned from this particular class and this particular teacher: Yoga doesn't have to be so serious. I think I speak for a lot of fellow yoga students when I say we try so hard to get just the right alignment, to push ourselves a little farther each time, to make sure we're doing everything as well as we possibly can, and as a result we hang on to tension unnecessarily. I've heard a dozen yoga teachers tell me it's ok to fall, it's ok to wobble, it's ok to not be able to bend all the way to the floor. But something about this particular class with this teacher really made that lesson hit home. Laughing is good! Falling is good. Learning how to not stress about getting the posture perfect is really good.

One of the reasons I love yoga so much is because the lessons I learn in yoga class carry over to my life off the mat. It took me many years to realize this was even happening. I hope that the next time I'm stressed because I'm trying to hard at something that doesn't need to be forced I'll remember that voice telling me to just relax, lift my head a little more and see if I spot a purple gecko.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Yes you can!

I was 14 the first time I went overseas. It was a family vacation with my parents and brother to Costa Rica. I probably didn't appreciate that trip as much as I should have, as evidenced by the photo of me scowling in a poncho, hair dripping, in front of a rain forest, or the day I spent hours with my nose inside a library book instead of enjoying the black sand beaches.

Ever since then though, traveling has been my passion. Sixteen years after that first trip, I've lived, worked in or traveled to around 30 countries on five continents. Often I hear people tell me that they would love to travel as much as I do, but...(insert excuse here). Today's post is dedicated to debunking excuses and hopefully encouraging you to take that trip you've always dreamed of.

Excuse #1: I don't have the money.

I didn't have the money either when I first started. I was 13 when I decided I wanted to go to Paris. A close family friend told me that she had been a nanny in Paris, and after I heard that I considered going to Paris to be the pinnacle of all earthly achievement. I made a deal with my mom that if I raised the $1000 to fund my part of the trip, she'd take me. {Probably the reason she agreed is because I woke her up from a nap to get her to sign a contract and she was too groggy to realize what I was asking, but whatever.} I had never been able to save more than $20 before this point, so my mom probably figured I'd never come up with the money. I got a job as a janitor at a local gas plant where I cleaned offices every weekend. Fast forward a year and a half, and I pulled a wad of cash from a makeup bag hidden under my bed. I had almost enough money and I was ready to start planning. My mom was stunned, but she held true to her promise. We went to the travel agency and planned a week-long trip to Paris with a day in London and it was absolutely magical.

It took me 2 years to save that money, and this was working as a janitor. This goes to show that if you REALLY prioritize your trip and have patience, you can make it happen.

Excuse #2: I'm older than you (implying I have too many commitments.)

This one drives me nuts. It's not a question of age, it's a question of priorities. I'm 30. That's not exactly young. Twenty-two is young. Thirty is closer to middle age than it is to being a teenager. I have a respectable full-time job, a townhouse, a car payment... you know, commitments. Things I have to manage and pay for. Yet here I am in Cambodia. I made this happen because I prioritized it. It has nothing at ALL to do with my age. Plenty of people my age and younger never leave their state. Plenty of people older than me, many of whom have kids*, move to a different country every few years. Ever hear of the foreign service? Or the military? Or any other expat communities, like foreign oil field workers, teachers, people in the hospitality industry? These people do it all the time and age is not a factor. One time I met a 67 year old Peace Corps volunteer on a night train to Krakow, Poland. She had been living in Macedonia for 2 years in what sounded like pretty primitive conditions. You want to tell her that you have to be "young" to travel?

*About the kids thing. People take kids of all ages, from babies to teenagers, on trips all the time. I would know, I've seen them on planes--including 14-hour, trans-continental flights--in museums, in world heritage sights, and in all kinds of local attractions. It takes extra planning and extra patience but it can be done.

Excuse #3: I wouldn't know how to get around a foreign country.

This is one of those things that you will improve upon with experience, but nobody was born knowing everything so you just have to dive in. There are SO many different travel services for people of all experience levels. For your first overseas trip, it might be a good idea to get a pre-packaged tour or go with a company that will arrange guides. On our first trip to Paris, my mom and I got a package deal from American Airlines vacations. This meant that we had tours and excursions booked in advance which took out the hassle of us having to figure everything out once we got there. For a recent trip to Kenya, I asked a good friend of mine who's a travel agent (Curious Tourist Travel) to book everything for us because I had never been to sub-Saharan Africa before. Now I'm to the point where I can navigate Europe and Asia by myself pretty well, but this didn't happen overnight and asking for extra help is a great idea. Sometimes it's cheaper than trying to do everything on your own.

Related to this point, one of my best friends has traveled all over Europe and Asia and she's in a wheelchair. If she can do it, you absolutely can do it.

Bottom line: If you REALLY want to take your overseas dream trip, DO IT! Enough with the excuses and the fears. Traveling will enrich your life in ways you could never imagine and even the worst experiences eventually turn into the best stories. Start saving, make a plan, and go for it!