Thursday, June 30, 2011

In the Silence, I Notice

I used to run with music. I'd spend hours choosing songs for race playlists, making them exactly XX minutes long to match my goal time and placing the most motivational songs where I knew I'd need them most.

But I haven't run with music at all in 2011. And now, instead of having XX minutes of empty airspace to fill, I have one or two hours of silence to endure.

What changed?

I first ditched music when I ran the Resolution Run 5K and Polar Bear Plunge on New Years Day. The course dipped into Lake Washington just before the finish line, and I couldn't really submerge my iPod in the 40-degree water, so I went without it. Since then, I've run completely music-free.

While out on my final half-marathon training run last week, I realized why I like to run without music: Because in the silence, I notice.

I notice how the rhythm of my breath settles in with the cadence of my footsteps. I notice if my body is struggling to keep up or if it wants to push harder. I notice what my thoughts are, if I'm angry or stressed or pleased about my workday.

I'm really good at burying inconvenient feelings and distracting myself by keeping busy. When I ran with music, I'd anticipate that running would be unpleasant, so I went in armed with a distraction to keep my mind occupied and deflect the unpleasantness.

But then I forgot how nice it is to feel, even if the feeling isn't good.

Running is my time to notice. Even if my body runs quickly, my mind slows down. It takes a good look around — at the trail I'm running on and at myself — and sees more in 30 minutes that it has all day.

I'm still plenty guilty of distracting myself. I'm always glued to my smartphone when I ride the bus, and I often surf the Web while watching TV (essentially distracting myself from a distraction).

But I have running, and I sometimes go to yoga — not because I love sun salutations, but because the instructor always starts by asking us to relax, close our eyes and notice our thoughts.

I recently ran an 8:16 mile (which is fast for me) from the gym back to my house after an intense 75-minute power-yoga class. Even though I was tired, I felt ridiculously light and relaxed. I flew.

I had just lost a loved one the previous day and my mind had been backed up with sadness and worry. Yoga will never fix everything or bring a person back, but that night, it helped me acknowledge those feelings and then clear them out a bit.

Sadness and worry that go unnoticed don't go anywhere.

It's always nice to be noticed. Don't you appreciate it when someone compliments your new haircut or sends an email to thank you for something small that you did? They noticed. It feels good to matter to someone, even just a little bit.

Do you notice what you're thinking or how you're really feeling very often? How much do you matter to yourself?

It may sound selfish to focus on yourself like that, but I know what it's like to let buried feelings build up until they explode. It's not good. The last time I let that happen, I was unable to sit at my desk at work without crying. I found it impossible to look in the mirror and muster a genuine smile. I couldn't answer "yes" to the question, "Are you OK?"

It was all so unlike me, and it was scary as hell.

The worst part was that I had no idea why I felt that way. My "everything's fine" attitude had pushed every inconvenient thought and feeling straight to the back of my mind, where they all piled up and festered for months. I failed to notice how stressed, anxious and overwhelmed I had become until it all boiled over.

It's easy to be distracted and let some of the most important stuff go unnoticed. I'm no psychologist or anything, but I've been doing better. Here's what works for me.

Turn something off — whatever it is that distracts you the most.

Pay attention to your thoughts. Go for a walk, close your eyes for a few minutes at your desk or just stare out the window for a while.

Acknowledge the inconvenient stuff. Let your fear, anxiety, self-doubt or whatever come to the surface.

Clear it out when you're ready. What can you change? What must you accept? What can you stop worrying about today? Sometimes just thinking about it is enough; other times, you may need to write it down, confide in a friend or talk to a professional.

And make room for more good stuff. My stomach and my mind agree: It's always worth it to make some room for good stuff.

It all starts with noticing.


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Monday, June 27, 2011

Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Recap

I trained for three months with the American Cancer Society's DetermiNation team for my first half-marathon — Rock 'n' Roll Seattle on June 25!

Official time: 2:03:15
Average pace: 9:25

My goal was to hit 2:05 or under, so I am THRILLED with my time! Especially considering what happened to me at mile 8.5... I think my splits do a great job of telling THAT story.

You'll notice that mile 1 was my fastest. I felt GREAT starting out, and really had to force myself to slow down and conserve energy. You'll also notice that mile 13 was my second fastest — suck it, mile 13!

And then there's mile 9. Ohhh, mile 9. You were like death. But I'll get to you in a little bit.

(Can we pause for a moment to acknowledge my mad Garmin skillz, as my Garmin time exactly matched my official chip time? Also, I only ran .01 over the official race distance!)

I woke up at the unholy time of 3:10 a.m. for this race. I ate plain oatmeal with chia seeds and an apple with almond butter as I got ready, then left the house at 4:00 a.m. Aaron and I got to the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Seattle at 4:15, where I met up with the DetermiNation folks to take a 4:30 shuttle to the start line in Tukwila. We got to the start line just before 5:00 — plenty early, which calmed me down, since I think just getting there was what made me the most anxious about this race!

The American Cancer Society had a very sweet setup waiting for us: a tent filled with bananas, bagels, bottled water and private porta-potties. There were ridiculously long lines for the main porta-potties (as anyone who's run one of these 26,000-person races knows), so the VIP potties were invaluable!!

I wrapped myself in a hot-pink fleece blanket that I'd brought and sat down to rest my legs while chatting with a veteran half and full marathoner. The blanket was the best idea ever, as I would have been freezing for a good hour and a half without it! I ate a whole bagel, half of a banana and a chocolate-chip Clif bar to fuel up for the race, plus drank plenty of water.

The DetermiNation group trekked to the start line at 6:15 for a photo op with our "celeb motivators" — Jason and Molly Mesnick from The Bachelor, and Andrea Powell, an actress who plays Sasha in the upcoming Twilight movie. (Yes, random, I know.) Aaron was tapped to be the ACS videographer, so we did smiles for the still photos and cheers for the video — a great way to pump up for the race!

I hurried back to the ACS tent to pee one last time, then to the gear check to get rid of my stuff. By the time I was ready to head to corral 12, the race had already started! But it took some time to release my corral, so I was able to jog to it and line up with about 5 minutes to spare.

And then we were off! I ran the first mile in 8:52, which was faster than I wanted, but I was going with the flow of the other runners and felt great. I wasn't even breathing hard, so I didn't stress about it. I just kept thinking, "This is it! I'm finally running my first half!"

The first few miles were uneventful. I concentrated on trying to slow down, and was really happy with my splits for miles 2 through 7 (9:13, 9:24, 9:23, 9:28, 9:11, 9:15). Around mile 6, the course dipped down to Lake Washington Boulevard, which is a beautiful stretch of road along Lake Washington. The weather was cloudy, but not nearly threatening rain, and the coolness was even nicer with a little breeze coming off the lake.

Mile 7 was unexpectedly emotional. It was dedicated to Wear Blue: Run to Remember, a running community that serves as a living memorial for fallen soldiers. There were photos of soldiers who had been killed, along with their names and ages (so young...), and people lined up along the course holding American flags. It was really incredible. I fought back tears as I clapped for all the flag-holders, along with many of the other runners. (Here's a great video about this portion of the race from KOMO News.)

I took in my first fuel during mile 8 — a Shot Blok just after the 7-mile marker and another at mile 7.5 (you'll see that this mile was a little slower, at 9:29, because I haven't mastered the whole eating-and-running thing.)  I had also been grabbing water and Cytomax at every station to stay hydrated.

So I blame what happened during mile 9 on my lack of eating-and-running preparation. Around mile 8.5, I got a wicked stitch in my right side, right in the rib area. I tried to run through it at first, but it became clear that it wouldn't go away unless I walked a bit. I pulled off to the side and walked quickly, trying all the tricks — holding my right arm up in the air, breathing deeply in and out, massaging the area. I didn't want to walk too much, so I started running again, and then it hurt worse.

I couldn't believe this was happening. My legs felt fine and I wanted to run — but this stupid side stitch felt like I was being stabbed, and I couldn't get rid of it!

So. Mile 9 took me 10:30, which I was actually amazed by — it felt like it had cost me much more time. I kept alternately running and walking through mile 10, which went through a tunnel on the I-90 express lane. It was kind of depressing. I was in this dark tunnel, trying my hardest to get rid of the stabbing feeling, and had lost satellite reception on my Garmin, so I had no idea of my pace. When I did run, I tried to run fast to make up for the walking, and I completed mile 10 in 9:52. I was getting back on track.

I'm not gonna lie: the side stitch really pissed me off and made me kind of a grumpypants for the rest of the race. Even when I felt better, I never made it back to 100%, and miles 11 through 13 were a struggle. The splits don't show it because my anger made me really want to kick the shit out of those miles. So I did (9:23, 9:22, 9:10).

I'm amazed by those splits because I did a little walking during each of those miles — yeah, I even walked during the last mile, even though I really hated doing it so close to the finish. But when I wasn't walking, I was hauling.

By the end of any race, I'm usually so overjoyed to be finished that I smile and laugh across the finish line. Oh no, not this time. I was still in shit-kicking mode and busted out the last .1 at a 7:12 pace, crossing the finish line with what I'm sure was a Grumpy McGrumperson face. DONE.

I immediately walked over to the fence lining the finish chute and leaned over onto it, resting my head on the railing. I had planned to eat more Shot Bloks throughout the race, but I didn't want to take any chances after the side-stitch debacle. I felt really weak and just wanted to lie down.

A volunteer next to me was all like, "Hey, don't you wanna keep walking?" clearly trying to get me to move along, but I said, "Nope, I'm good here for a second." She tried a different tactic: "You'll feel better if you walk a little bit, and you can go get your medal! Don't you want your medal?"

Ughhh. Fine. Smart move, lady. If you'd ordered me to move instead of tempting me with hardware, I would have punched. you. in. the. face. Grumpypants!

I got my medal and posed for a photo with it, then tried to get through the "secure zone" as fast as I could so that I could go to the DetermiNation tent and lie down. It was super crowded and hard to get through, but I finally made my way to the tent — which had all kinds of food, more private potties and couches — and promptly plopped down on one. Ahhhh.

It took me a little time to recover from my grumpiness and feel really proud of what I'd accomplished. The side stitch was a bummer, but there was nothing I could have done and I now realize that I made kind of an awesome comeback from it.

My secret dream was to break 2:00, but that goal was destroyed by the stitch. In the depths of the pain, I was worried that I wouldn't even break 2:05, but I decided I wouldn't let that happen. And I didn't.

I feel like next time I could definitely break 2:00... and this is why people get addicted to racing...

I hung out in the wonderful ACS tent, drank like six bottles of water and Cytomax (not an exaggeration) and ate pizza while swapping congrats with my DetermiNation teammates. It was great to share the experience with the people I've been training with for the last three months, including my wonderful coaches!

A few of us also got to meet and take photos with Everclear after they finished their set at the finish-line festival.

Yes, random again, but this was just one of the many perks that came along with training with and fundraising for the American Cancer Society!


When I registered for this race on November 30, 2010 (!!!), I distinctly remember checking the "no" box next to the question, "Would you like to fundraise for The American Cancer Society?" I figured I'd have enough to deal with training for this race, and that I'd be uncomfortable asking people for money.

But since last fall, I've made calculated efforts to do things that are uncomfortable and scary. And in March, I received a postcard inviting me to join the DetermiNation team. I was still nervous about meeting new people and intimidated by the minimum $1,250 fundraising requirement, but this time I said YES.

The day after I joined, I discovered a family member had been diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer.

Since that day in March, I've met new friends, had the privilege of training with incredible coaches, dealt with a shin injury, ran my first 10K, ran my first 15K, made a fun video that was a big hit with Brooks, held an online raffle that raised nearly $1,000, received an incredible show of support all the way from Switzerland, and raised more than $2,000 total for the American Cancer Society. Oh, and I ran my first half-marathon.

It'd be an understatement to say that my YES was worth it.


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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fremont Solstice Parade 2011

Today was a wet, dreary, 50-something-degree Seattle day. So what? We celebrated the upcoming Summer Solstice anyway!

(Can someone remind me again what summer is?)

Aaron and I took over my garage for two hours of painting prior to the Fremont Solstice Parade. We used inexpensive foam brushes to apply five colors of non-toxic textile acrylic paint, which we got from Artist & Craftsman Supply in the U District. I wanted to be really bright and colorful — mission accomplished!

We finished painting with about 15 minutes to spare before we had to meet up with the painted Solstice Cyclists at the head of the parade. It was freezing outside, but we zoomed over to Fremont and made it just in time!

Although most painted cyclists in the parade were partially or fully nude, we covered up all the parts you'd normally cover, and I was perfectly comfortable that way. The point of the parade — which is put on by the Fremont Arts Council — is to be artistic and have fun. We did both!

I expected to feel pretty awkward riding my bike next to completely naked people, but I was surprised to find that it wasn't awkward at all! The parade atmosphere was incredibly open and fun, and although it was a little shocking to see so many taboo body parts at first, I quickly got over it. I probably would have felt more awkward as a spectator, to be honest.

Even though my lady-parts were covered, my bright paint attracted a lot of attention, and I noticed a lot of photographers taking my picture. I'm very glad those pictures are G-rated!

It was such a blast to ride through downtown Fremont with all the crazy painted cyclists. The sidewalks were incredibly packed with smiling and cheering spectators, and it was fun to see the amazing effort put into many of the cyclists' paint designs and costumes. For example, here's a fairly tame photo of women painted as bees. Cute!

We circled through downtown twice before Aaron and I decided to head home. It was so, so chilly!! The adventure was well worth it, though... as long as I don't catch a cold right before my half-marathon!

Why watch the parade when you can be in it? I'm not sure I'll be able to spectate this parade now that I know how much fun it is to participate.

Here's hoping for better weather next year!


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Friday, June 17, 2011

Why Watch the (Naked) Parade When You Can Be In It?

I’ve never really liked parades. I always see people camping out along parade routes with folding chairs and coolers hours ahead of time, waiting excitedly for the floats and dancers and clowns to arrive. I just don’t get it.

I thought it was because clowns scare the crap out of me.

While that’s true, I realized the real reason last summer, when I was invited to participate in a parade. I had a blast riding on a float, waving to spectators, handing out balloons to children and throwing candy into the crowd. I was all like, hey, I LOVE parades!

What I realized is that I don’t like standing on the sidelines watching others have all the fun; I want to be a part of the action!

So a week ago, when Aaron suggested we watch the Fremont Solstice Parade this weekend, I responded with, “Nope – we’re gonna be in the parade.”

The main draw of the Fremont Solstice Parade is the Solstice Cyclists, a group of folks who lead the parade on bicycles sporting full body paint. Many of them, famously, are completely naked.

Sounds like fun, right??

It took some convincing, but Aaron finally agreed to ride in the parade. We’ll sport full body paint along with subtle undergarments that’ll show nothing more than what you’d see at any public beach.

(Two reasons: There’s a very high chance that co-workers will be among the spectators – awkwaaard!; I want to post pictures on this blog, and I’m not in the business of naked photos!)

Even though we won’t be showing the “full monty,” it still takes some courage to sport body paint and little clothing in a very popular parade. And not everyone appreciates the tradition; some online commenters describe the painted cyclists as “a bunch of narcissists attempting to draw attention to themselves,” and the parade itself as “public perversion in a Christian nation.”

Other commenters who enjoy the parade say, “The murmur in the crowd [last year] was, ‘I need to lose weight and enter next year,’” and, “It’s a Seattle tradition that’s fun, colorful and popular... Don’t like it? Don’t come.”

I agree with the latter folks. Plus, this little adventure has all the right answers to the questions I typically ask myself when I decide whether to participate in anything new:

Would I have been too afraid to do this a year or two ago? Will it be fun and exciting? Will it be scary? Will I come out of this experience with more confidence after conquering a fear? Will I regret it if I just stand on the sidelines and watch it pass me by?

Fremont Solstice Parade, here I come!

Do you participate in most things, or do you like to watch instead? What fun events have you watched that you’d like to be a part of next time?


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Thursday, June 16, 2011

My favorite posts

I've added a few new pages to the blog recently, in case you've missed 'em!

  • The Photography page explains how I started getting into photography and how I bought my camera, and it also features some of my favorite photos.

  • And finally, the Favorite posts page is one I've been meaning to add for quite some time. I always love perusing this type of page on other blogs, since it really helps me get to know the bloggers and more of their stories.

I've also put all the links to my favorite posts in this post as well, so you don't have to click all the way over to the new page if you don't want to. I don't always write really descriptive post titles, so you'll notice that I've added brief explanations to some of them so you'll know what they're about.


Most popular posts

An unhurried life
WDS: People who've changed my life
Halloween 2010: The lobster costume — you wanna click this one, trust me
Hawaii video & what to do on Oahu
For Aaron — my boyfriend's motorcycle accident and recovery

Money posts

Money troubles, and why I love my mom — how I got started with paying off my debt
Back to the beginning — how I got into debt in the first place
For the win — finally paying off my credit card
Before and after — finally paying off my student loan and becoming 100% debt-free
Patience. Passion. A plan. — the three keys to my debt-paying success
The reasons — why personal finance is so important to me

G.O.O.D. (Getting Out of Debt) tips

Tip #1: Get organized — write everything down
Tip #2: Get angry — raise a little hell
Tip #3: Get thee to an ATM — start paying with cash

Adventures and vacations

Hurtling through the air toward certain death — my first skydive
Tequila shots that don't kill you will only make you stronger — my first 5K
"When a great adventure is offered, you don't refuse it" — free Caribbean cruise!
Notes from the Caribbean and beyond — cruise photos and my third 5K
1/1/11 in photos, plus 2011 goals — New Year's Day 5K and polar bear dive
Race day — my favorite parts of every race
The batting cage — trying not to die
A soul trip — off to Hawaii
Oahu in photos and Oahu through Aaron's lens
Do Life: Seattle and my DetermiNation

Wisdom and life-changing things (aka "Things I've learned from Chris Guillebeau")

Doing it all
On family
The next trapeze bar — meeting Jenny Blake on her book tour
Grabbing the bananas — meeting Chris Guillebeau on his Unconventional Book Tour
On perfectionism and failure
Talent, passion and love, love, love
Start taking your dreams very, very seriously
You don't have to live your life the way other people expect you to

Reflective posts

Will it be scary?
2010: The year in review
What a difference a year makes
A sense of possibilities — reflecting on my first year of real-world employment


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Self-Doubt and the Running Groove

I love running, but when I slack on it for even a few days, I progressively lose motivation to return to it. Self-doubt starts to creep in, and I weirdly think that I've lost too much of my fitness to jump right back into a running routine.

I really need to stop underestimating myself.

I just went nine days without running (and spent the past three of those days being sick) and was very hesitant to go for my first run last night.

Would I struggle through the whole thing? Would I be super slow? Would I hate it?

I'm happy to report the answer was "no" on all counts.

I actually did a really fast run (for me), averaging an 8:42 pace over 3 miles. And I'm not even exaggerating when I say that by the second step of this run, I remembered why I love running so much.

Despite my lack of training and my recent sickness, my body was instantly happy to be running again. My legs just kinda carried me along. I did get side cramps that I wouldn't normally get on such a short run, and that's a sign that I have lost a little fitness — but it wasn't the end of the world.

I constantly doubt myself and worry about unnecessary things, especially when I can easily compare myself to others. With running, I can compare times and feel slow despite having run a new personal best. With photography, I can think I've taken a great photo, but then look at someone else's photo and feel inadequate.

Karen Walrond, an absolutely stunning photographer, said at WDS that comparing yourself to others is a colossal waste of time. When you make comparisons, she said, you judge your insides against others' outsides. I have no idea how many years that super-fast runner has spent training, or how long that photographer has carefully practiced shooting. The comparison isn't fair at all, so why bother?

This shirt helps remind me that my efforts are worthy, even if they aren't the "best." They're the best for me, and that's what counts. I'm glad that I overcame my self-doubt and completed a run that I'm really proud of.

Here's another one to be proud of: This morning, I did my longest run ever — 11 miles, 1:48:13, 9:50 pace.

I felt great through mile 9, and then was kinda like, "Eff this!" for the last two miles. They were rough. My mind and body were breaking down. But I pushed myself and finished, and two weeks from today, I'll throw 2.1 more miles on top of that as I run my first half-marathon.

I'll try to stay in the running groove for the next two weeks by sticking to the DetermiNation training plan, which includes running, strength training and cross-training (I do yoga — my gym has free classes), and also by eating healthy and getting enough sleep!

Here's today's small-but-delicious haul from Whole Foods. A lot of people refer to that store as "Whole Paycheck," which I can agree with, but I think the fresh, organic produce is worth the cost. You only get one body! God knows I've put enough crap into mine that I could stand to make up for it.

I've only recently started really enjoying and craving cereal. I've eaten cereal dry my whole life because I hate the taste of cow's milk, so I never really got what all the fuss was about cereal.

In the last few months, I've realized I love cereal with soy milk. Hurrah! A whole new world has opened up for me.

My stomach was a bit off after the run, and this was the only thing I felt like eating. Yum, yum, yum. Let the food porn continue.

That brings an end to this extremely random running post. If you're interested in keeping up with my training, I blog almost daily at Dev On Running. Otherwise, I'll post an occasional running update here — the next one will be about the ass-kicking I give the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.

No self-doubt, remember? : D


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Friday, June 10, 2011

WDS: Food porn

Thank you, everyone, for all the kind feedback about An unhurried life. It was a tough post to write in that I wasn't sure I'd quite be able to translate the experience into words, but I'm so glad it was able to touch some of you.

Now, how about a lighter topic for today? : D

I tried to come up with a different title for this post, I really did. But then I Googled it and found this Web site (ahhhh! yum) named after it and didn't feel bad.

I love reading cooking blogs, but not because I like to actually make the food they feature — I just like to drool over the gorgeous photos, also known as "food porn" in the blogosphere.

Here's my first attempt at taking those types of photos of the food and beverages I enjoyed at the World Domination Summit. I hope the search engine gods will overlook the fact that I've used the P-word twice so far, and weird creepers will stay off this innocent little blog. Move along, guys — nothing to see here! : D

At the opening-night cocktail party, I enjoyed a few pork tacos from the Koi Fusion food cart —"an innovative and funky fusion of Mexican and Korean cuisine served up with a twist." Delish!

On Saturday morning, I took advantage of my first solo hotel stay and ordered room service — an unnecessary indulgence, yes, but one that was completely worth it.

I've eaten plain Quaker Oats from Costco every morning for the last year or so, which amounts to about $0.07 a serving — no joke — and fluffy room-service pancakes were a wonderful treat!

With an extra side of fruit for good measure.

I killed everything except 1/3 of a pancake. Yum.

I usually stay away from coffee, but Starbucks was a necessity each morning...

...because Portland has plenty of fun places to hang out and enjoy some beers each night!

Our first stop on the Saturday-night brewery tour was the BridgePort BrewPub.

I enjoyed a delicious Summer Squeeze — so refreshing after trekking around in the (rare) Portland sun.

This random, friendly Portlander had some incredible-looking BridgePort mac 'n' cheese, and he let me try a bite. Don't worry, I used a clean fork supplied by the bartender and sampled from the untouched side!

It was as delicious as it looks. Breadcrumbs for the win!

We skipped Deschutes Brewery and headed straight to the Rogue Distillery and Public House, where I enjoyed a chocolate stout (front middle). I don't usually go for stouts, but something drew me to this one. Hmm, what was it again? Oh, yeah — CHOCOLATE!

It was one of my top four favorite beers of all time.

Mr. Nerd Fitness ordered pizza for a few of us, but the sausage was way too spicy for me. It sure looked good, though!

I made TartBerry my home-away-from-home with two visits in two days. : D This self-serve frozen yogurt haven was just a few blocks away from the conference, and I wanted nothing more than something delicious to cool me down each afternoon!

There was an amazing selection of toppings, including cereal, fruit and candy.

I went with original tart, raspberry, chocolate and red velvet cake frozen yogurt with various fruit toppings. So, so good.

And last but not least, I ordered room service one last time on Monday morning. I was exhausted from the weekend and busy packing up to leave, so I decided to indulge. Once again, it was so worth it!

I had smoked salmon hash with a poached egg and avocado creme, plus a grapefruit half topped with caramelized sugar.

I love anything with salmon, so that was a no-brainer, but the caramelized-sugar grapefruit was a standout — definitely a winning combination.

Sorry that I've made you all hungry now. I've gone and made myself hungry!

Happy Friday!


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Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Unhurried Life

I came to the World Domination Summit wanting to learn more about traveling. I knew I wanted to see the world, and for the first time actually believed I could. I grew up thinking it would never be possible for me to wander because money was tight growing up, and I’ve always had my sights simply set on getting into a good college so I could land a good job.

I went to a good college. I have that good job. Now I realize I owe more to myself.

The trouble I had with the idea of traveling was that I wouldn’t know what to do with myself once I landed somewhere on the other side of the world.

I move quickly. I tend to find the fastest route and hurry along, focusing on the task of getting to wherever it is I need to be. I’m one of those people who gets really, really frustrated when caught behind a pack of slow walkers.

So would my travels just be a blur of landmarks and food carts between destinations? What’s the point of that?

On Sunday morning, I awoke in my hotel room with a massive slight hangover. My new group of WDS friends had a fabulous, rowdy, laughter-filled Saturday night out on the town, and it had been a very long time since I’d had one of those.

Despite the fact that I had to be at the Portland Art Museum at 9:00 for the first talk of the day, I moved slowly, ordering room service and otherwise dilly-dallying around.

What’s unusual about this for me is that I acknowledged that I had somewhere to be, yet I didn’t feel anxious about getting there. I wasn’t rushed. I decided that I would get there when I got there, and that would be it.

There was such a stillness in the streets of Portland that morning. I set out on my several-block walk to the museum and for the first few minutes saw… nobody. It was just me, the quiet brick sidewalks and the morning sunlight filtering gently through tree-lined streets.

It was stunningly peaceful and beautiful. I took my time, enjoying the atmosphere and stopping to take pictures of whatever I felt like. Once I took a few shots of some metal barricades left over from the previous night’s parade, then continued walking. I realized about five steps away that I’d like to go back and try shooting a different angle. I would usually keep walking, but this morning, I turned back.

I had time.

I was utterly happy on this walk. Sure, I’d had a great time meeting new friends and enjoying delicious food the whole weekend, but this was something different. This was me really being alone with myself for the first time in a very, very long time. This was me feeling like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

I realized that this was what I wanted for myself: An unhurried life. A life in which I could go at my own pace and give myself permission to take time for small pleasures. A life in which I wasn’t anxious about always moving from place to place, but rather was content with this place – wherever that may be at any moment.

My job dictates deadlines as often as every 15 minutes. My beloved running hobby drives me to push for ever-faster times, ever more satisfying PRs. My most cringe-worthy attitude flaw, I think, is my impatience, both with myself and with other people. I’m always, always, always rushing. No wonder I had a panic attack in April that left me flattened for two days.

When I reached the museum, I was so overwhelmed with the idea of living a joyful, unhurried life that I couldn’t go in. I ended up being just a few minutes late, and I wouldn’t have missed much of the first presentation, but I realized that nothing that was said in that museum could have possibly meant more to me at that moment than just sitting quietly by myself in the small park across the street.

I spent about 20 minutes in that park, alternately shooting photos and dabbing at tears – the good kind. I spent at least 5 minutes taking photos of a single tree, following an ant with my zoom lens.

A man not affiliated with the conference approached me and said, in a friendly, curious way, “What is so interesting about that tree?”

Nothing or everything, depending on how hard you’re looking. I had just opened my eyes.

When I finally entered the museum, I sat on the floor in the back of the full room. Somehow I ended up saying hi to the man sitting next to me, and I talked with him through the entire Mondo Beyondo presentation about what I’d just experienced.

That man, as it happens, was Leo Babauta. Although I was a complete stranger to him, he hugged me at least three times as I told my story.

Photo by Armosa Studios
Chatting with Leo Babauta about such a life revelation is like being able to discuss cookie-decorating ideas with Martha Stewart. Talk about feeling like you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.

I wrote "unhurried" on my wrist as part of a conference exercise, and the word remained with me Sunday and Monday. (Leo was my partner in this exercise, and he wrote Joyfear on his arm.)

The emotional intensity of the conference magnified this experience for me, and I saw it as a critical shift in my attitude.

Sunday night at the WDS afterparty, hundreds of "thirsty" partygoers far exceeded the capacity of the small bar and single bartender, yet I didn't mind one bit waiting in the 20-minute line. Instead of becoming impatient and fiddling with my phone, I spent the time getting to know two new people I would have otherwise never met that weekend. We shared our favorite moments of the conference, as well as our goals for the next few years.

In a short period of idleness during which I would normally have shut down, I was able to connect on a deep level with two perfect strangers. What have I been missing all this time due to my impatience and hurriedness?

When I returned to Seattle, exhausted and happy, I had to catch a bus from downtown to head home. I checked my favorite app to see when the next bus would come, and actually smiled when I saw that it was 15 minutes away. Normally any wait longer than 10 minutes frustrates me, but I was grateful for this opportunity to sit, think and soak in my city.

Jonathan Fields spoke about reframing your situation and how it can make all the difference in your attitude. After my experience in Portland, I realized just how important it is to consider inconveniences as opportunities, and to use them to my advantage instead of letting them slowly chip away at my vitality.

Thank you, Portland, and everyone I met at WDS, for helping me realize that what I want is an unhurried life.

I can think of nothing I'd like to do more than to wander through the streets of new cities, sampling food, saying hi to strangers and taking photos of whatever I feel like along the way.

And maybe find a bench, like this one, to soak everything in and reflect on where it all started.


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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

WDS: People Who've Changed My Life

I didn't know what to expect going into the World Domination Summit. I knew I would probably meet some awesome people, but I was also a bit anxious because I really hate small talk.

The conventional first conversation — "Hi. How are you. What do you do?" — makes me uncomfortable to the point that I'd rather avoid meeting new people so I won't have to suffer through it. Sad, huh?

But it quickly became clear that this conference was a No Bullshit Zone. There was no small talk. There was big talk.

Instead of polite, surface-skimming questions, we asked soul-diving questions of each other. "What do you do?" was replaced by, "What are your dreams? What is your greatest fear? What kind of life do you want for yourself?" and more.

My goal for WDS was to learn more about travel. I dream of taking off to see the world, but I'm by nature a stay-at-homer, a curl-up-and-reader, a call-me-when-you're-done-and-tell-me-how-it-was... er. A big reason for that is because I'm afraid of the unknown.

But check out who I met on the train ride from Seattle to Portland:

I could not have met a more knowledgeable, kind, eloquent and funny first friend at WDS than Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads. She sat right across the aisle from me on the train, and we chatted for much of the trip. I was able to pick her brain about all my burning travel questions, particularly those about traveling safely as a woman. What an incredible start to the weekend!

Of course, Jodi quickly became a rockstar of the conference with her captivating keynote speech and friendly, informative breakout sessions. Plus, everyone seems to know and love her! What a pleasure to begin my WDS experience by hanging out with her — and on top of all that, the resource-packed WDS page she's since posted on her Web site is exactly what I needed to calm my lingering fears of the unknown.

Thanks to her, my hunger for adventure is stronger than ever, and I know I'm capable of fulfilling my travel dreams.

What I didn't expect from WDS was to have such fascinating, mind-expanding, in-depth conversations with so many people about all the major areas of interest in my life: travel, personal finance, photography, running and fitness.

I felt like the conference was practically tailored specifically for me, but I think everyone felt like that! It's amazing how so many different people could feel so connected to one weekend of awesomeness.

Here are some of those people.

Since Caleb Wojcik and I met at Jenny Blake's book tour stop in Seattle just prior to WDS, he was my buddy from the start. As the blogger behind Pocket Changed, Caleb's goal is to educate twentysomethings about personal finance and help them become free from debt. And he's my age — just 24 years old.

I spent 2010 paying off all my debt (nearly $9,000) and learning everything I could about personal finance, including how to stay debt-free, save money for travel and adventures, and plan for retirement. Caleb is the first person my age that I've met who feels as strongly as I do about personal finance, and we had some great conversations — plus, we've already made plans to work together a bit.

This very smart man has big things in store for his life.

I met Eugene (second from left) at the Bridgeport Brewery, the first stop of the WDS brewery tour. We connected over photography and later had a lengthy discussion about it at the WDS afterparty. Eugene is incredibly talented (just check out his photoblog), and it was so valuable for me to chat with him as a newbie photographer.

So many people at WDS assumed I was a pro (or at least seasoned) photographer judging by the size of the camera I had hanging around my neck, but I just got it in February and have been slowly learning how to use it since.

Between talking with Eugene and learning tips from the incredible Karen Walrond, whose breakout session I had the pleasure of attending, I was in photography heaven!

Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete and Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness were the running and fitness gurus I connected with. Matt told me all about qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon as a vegetarian, while Steve shared his experiences in keeping in shape while hopping from country to country with an around-the-world plane ticket. Matt is kind of Steve's hero, so this photo is for him. : D

And on top of  the people I met who shared my major interests, I found tons of new friends who do incredible things that most people only dream of doing.

Here's Nate Damm, who's in the middle of a journey to walk from Delaware to San Francisco, all the way across America. His friend Joel picked him up in Missouri to travel to WDS, and will drop him off back in Missouri to resume the walk.

Nate gave up a lot to take this trip of a lifetime, but he told me something I'll never forget: "If you feel called to do something and don't do it, it'll haunt you for the rest of your life."

Speaking of Nate's friend, here's Joel Runyon. He writes the Blog of Impossible Things, where he chronicles his adventures doing things like competing in triathlons and traveling the world. He led a group of 40+ people in a skydiving adventure at WDS, then went bungee jumping a few days later. Joel also managed to get pretty sweaty running around Portland for a scavenger hunt, as you can see.

Benny of Fluent in 3 Months travels to other countries to learn the language and become... fluent in three months. He also does a mean rendition of the Juanes hit "Tengo la Camisa Negra."

This is Roger Lawson, who I didn't really talk with, but I had to get a photo of the "mischief" he had written on his forehead during one of the conference exercises. I heard lots of, "Oh, I love Rog!" though, and his Web site, Rog Law Fitness, looks like a blast — the tagline is, "Committed to Sexification on a Global Scale."

Mark Lawrence was my lunch buddy one day, and he also saved my life from the one slightly sketchy person I came across in Portland. He's co-founder of SpotHero, a new company that will rent out Chicago parking spaces. Genius!
Kimberly Edger is a physical therapist, runner and world adventurer who gave me lots of encouragement and laughs. We connected on Twitter prior to WDS and I thought she was a "he," since I misread her handle as "Edgar." Sorry, Edger!!

Josh Schwartzman is a photographer and world traveler who gave me some precious advice on how not to have your camera stolen at a hostel, including this pro tip: Don't leave it sitting out on a table. : D

And then there's Chris Guillebeau. What more is there to say about Chris?

How about this: I've only discovered my passions for travel, personal finance, photography and running in the past few years, but I believe they've always been somewhere inside of me. This incredible path was already laid out ahead of me — Chris Guillebeau just helped light the way.

He holds a very mighty torch.


I have tons more photos and stories from WDS — be sure to check back in the next few days!


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