Catch the Trade Winds In your Sails | Part I

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

This week, I read a fantastic article this week that discussed the 9 reasons that travel makes you smarter (source citation:  The article resonated with me on every level and I thought of the many ways that travel has increased my mind share, opened my heart and allowed my heart to explode with a great love of life that I had not previously experienced.

This also launched a trip down memory lane for me –  memory is a wonderful thing when you can go back and revisit previous experiences that you created and didn’t realize would have a lasting impact on your life. Thus, I share with you some of the amazing experiences that I encountered when I started traveling.

1. Activates the Mind
The first time you travel to a new country is when you realize that most of your day to day life is lived on autopilot. The routine of your day you normally do not acknowledge like how you communicate, travel from home to work, get ready for work, cook your food, eat your food and go to the bathroom. I can imagine the shock of using a bidet for the first time and not knowing anything about it. The habits you have become used to that no longer require conscious effort to accomplish are gone. In a new place, your mind must be active and ready to learn much like a kid attending his first day in school.

My personal experience of how travel activated my mind. Traveling to a new land for me is exhausting and exhilarating! It is exhausting because it forces one to always keep an open mind – to remain in a state of “going with the flow”. I always return from an “off the grid” travel experience exhausted but filled with the great memories of my time away. In this great place of “flow” – serendipity occurs!

My first solo-travel experience took me to Bali, Indonesia. I was completely and utterly lost – yet, I felt completely at ease with not knowing. This came as a real shock to my control freak nature – the one who always needed to know the next step – the next task – the next to do that would be checked off the list. I carried along a 50 pound pack (looking back I took much shit – something I am still working on whilst traveling) that held my most cherished possessions (i.e. the things that were familiar to me). 

I stayed on the outer edges of Bali during my 2.5 months of solo travel. I would move from place to place as people would recommend that I “go see” something in another area of Bali. I spent no time researching the places people would recommend – I’d simply pack up my bags, grab a taxi (until I figured out the mastery of driving a moped in Bali) and move onto my next destination.  Each morning as I would wake up – I would say the following prayer silently: “Please take me to the places I need to go, allow me to meet the people I need to meed and share the experiences I need to experience whilst I am here”. There was so much freedom in having the ability to move from place to place at the drop of a hat. If I liked a place where I was staying – I could stay over for a few more days. If I didn’t like the place I was staying and playing – I could move onto the next destination. The freedom I found in those moments has NEVER EVER left me – I remain thankful! And, yes, I did learn to use an Asian style toilet during my stay.  

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This photo was taken during lunch with my family in San Francisco as I waited for my mid-night departure to Bali. I remember this moment and this photo as if it were taken yesterday.  I had never in my life experienced fear and excitement in equal parts. I was excited for what awaited me on the other side – yet, terrified to leave the comforts of my life, my family, my friends – MY ROUTINE! But, I pressed through it. Now, I realize when FEAR and EXCITEMENT are conjuring up inside of me in life and I know that I must get on the other side of fear to see what awaits me! 

2. Perspective
Traveling to a new country expands our awareness and introduces us to greater diversity. It’s likely you might help a person pick up their home after a monsoon or help a child fight starvation. There are things happening in the world we can only imagine on our TV screens.

In 2011, I was invited on a humanitarian trip to South America. We were going into a remote village to assist 800+ men, women and children. A medical doctor accompanied us on the trip. Our mission was to build a much needed free standing classroom, vaccinate the children, cook meals and play with the children of the village.  I NEVER in my life could have imagined how much this trip would change my life. 

My life changed the moment we walked into this village. I truly had no idea that people living in third world countries had little to no access to some of the most basic human needs. I felt blessed to be an American and horrified that I lived with so much while others didn’t have the basic needs. The children were infected with intestinal parasites from not having access to clean water.  But, there was something else that amazed and inspired me during this time – I felt a connectedness of the people in the village as we worked and observed their daily life.  They didn’t have televisions or mobile devices – thus, you could find an entire family sitting together enjoying a meal where everyone was present.  My life changed from the time spent in that village. 


This little girl captured my heart the moment we entered the village. She was playful and afraid. She would come and find me every single day and then run the moment our eyes met. Her name is Cynthia. I have never forgotten this little beautiful little girl.

3. Connect to New People
If you are lucky you will meet a few people from different countries who will teach you about their culture. If possible, maybe a few pen pals as well! They can continue to share with you their culture and you can further practice a new language instead of embarrassing yourself at the local Chinese restaurant where you end up talking in a fake Chinese accent thinking they understand you better that way.

I met so many incredible people from every part of the world you can imagine during my solo-travels. Thus, I recommend everyone in this life time take a solo trip. A solo trip forces you to open up and meet new people (honestly, this was one of my favorite parts of traveling – meeting new people). 

I spent equal parts of my time traveling alone and traveling with people from all walks of life. It never failed me – I would walk into a restaurant or coffee shop – sit down to order my coffee and the next thing I knew I was engaged in a conversation. I loved learning and hearing the views of my fellow human travelers. I realized that as different as we think we are – we are much the same – the human experience! 

One of my most favorite encounters was a time I was sitting outside the Circle K in Bali enjoying a tea.  A Balinese woman drove in on her moped.  We exchanged smiles (a smile – the universal human language). She asked me my name. I told her. Then, without hesitation – she invited me to visit her family and her home. I didn’t even remotely hesitate – jumped on my moped, followed her home and shared an entire afternoon with this family. 


I met these two amazing women during my 2012 travels. And, I connected with both of them again in 2013. They have become family. I met both of them in restaurants as I traveled alone. Then, I continued on traveling with each of them. You are truly never alone when you go.

4. Slows Us Down
One of the more obvious reasons to travel is to take a break from your life. Working, caring for a family, caring for a home, socializing, and responsibilities – they all contribute to our fast-paced lifestyle. Traveling offers the opportunity to live slowly and in the present. Enjoy yourself! Here you can see the habits in your life for what they are with a priceless clarity. It’s possible you might discover that 4 hours of gaming a day is not really a priority!

This is perhaps the most important and valuable lesson that travel has taught me. It is OK to SLOW DOWN. It is OK to take a BREAK from life. I somehow missed that MEMO in life.  It is also something that I have to try (really hard) to keep with me upon my return to the U.S. 

This week has been a great example of how quickly I can get caught up in LIFE. I woke up this week and watched the beautiful sunrise over the mountains here in Colorado.  Later that afternoon – I was out for a run and looked up and literally cried when I took in the beauty of the mountains as I was out running (holy shit – holy shit- so beautiful).  The next morning as I was dashing out the door – I noticed a little purple flower that must be native to Colorado and is blooming all around me.  There is so much beauty in the world – And, I cannot tell you how often I forget to STOP and ENJOY it. 

Whilst traveling, sunsets and sunrises are always a top priority for me. I get up to wait for the sun to come up and I sit down to watch the sun escape into the vast ocean.  Watching sunsets and sunrises during my travels was such a beautiful reminder to me that slowing down is important. Yet, I forget this when I get back into the busy life. 

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Sunset in Bali, Indonesia.


“People ask me, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is of no use.’There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron… If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.”
George Mallory, Climbing Everest: The Complete Writings of George Mallory


BrandiBaliBrandi B

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Carpe Diem!

With Great Gratitude, Brandi J.


Used Yoga Mat | Not For Sale


As I crawled onto my yoga mat on Monday – I took a stroll down memory lane. It wasn’t intentional – alas, I started to think about the journey that I have been on with this yoga mat. This mat has become my security blanket – a refuge from life – the calmness and storms of life. A safe place for me to be still while the world spins around.   Oh, the places I have gone on this yoga mat – both in physical form (as I landed on new terrains and explored new countries with my mat handing over my shoulder) to the mental places and feelings I have allowed myself to explore whilst being still on this mat.

Funny, I have crawled onto this very mat throughout the last 10 years of life – alas, on Monday, peering down from a downward dog stance – I noticed the indentions and the worn and tattered areas of my yoga mat. The place where my feet and hands land on the mat are worn almost to the ground.  The corner of my mat is tattered and torn by one of the dogs who have accompanied me throughout life. There is an odor that comes from my mat – its not a good smell or a bad smell – perhaps a smell of all the sweat and at times tears that I have shed throughout the last ten years while being on this mat.

As I peered around at the other mats in the room – a splendor of colors and patterns, I thought – perhaps it is time for me to get a new yoga mat. Instantly, I changed my mind. I love the worn areas, the smells, the memories, the treks around the world – all of it done with this yoga mat hanging over my shoulder or on the floor of wherever I called home for that moment.

This yoga mat has been my security blanket – the place where I allowed myself to feel all the emotions of life – the place where I have allowed myself to dream of what life could be – the place I always yearn for when the world is spinning and spiraling around. I feel safe allowing myself to dream, discover, and explore on my yoga mat.

My world took a new shape in 2007.  It started when I climbed on a yoga mat in a studio.  The world slowed down. For the first time in a long time – I could hear myself think. And, I didn’t run from hearing myself for the first time in my life while on that yoga mat. The world slowed down for that one hour when I crawled on the mat.  I kept going back for more. I allowed all the necessary yearnings to come forward. From that place, I made one of the hardest decisions of my life.

Instead of looking at all the external factors of my life (which is where I tried to find my happiness) – the yoga mat allowed me to really feel and hear the internal factors of my life – which was a place I equally feared and yearned for. I was afraid to look inside and listen to what my heart and soul was searching for.

Intuitively, I knew that I was about to go on a journey of the soul – yet, I had no idea where that journey would take me. Alas, I knew I had to go and explore. I lived at the crossroad whilst I tried to figure out which road to take – always going back to my mat to find refuge from the storm.

In 2007, I embarked upon a journey of healing. I started to heal from years of major and great losses in my life on the heels of the most pressing loss – which was a divorce. My family had lost so many people in our immediate family to tragic and immediate deaths – we walked around numb, shocked, and yet scared to death of who might be next.  I had no idea how those deaths had touched my life. I had no idea how I changed the course of my life to try and find stability, balance, and structure after each of the losses.  My family is strong. We were taught to be strong. To get up and to move on.  In 2007, it all fell apart.

The grief came out like a volcano erupting. I was scared to death – but knew I had to face and go through the process to come out on the other side.  My yoga mat was the place where I allowed myself to feel those feelings. The place where I allowed those feelings to make themselves known. I cried on that mat. I felt the sadness for the loss. And, I also allowed myself to start dreaming on this yoga mat (this is where my first seed of travel was planted).

In the years that followed, I left my corporate job to return to school full-time. I was determined to go back and live the experiences that I missed out on whilst dealing with life and loss.  Again, I found comfort on this yoga mat. Eventually, I sold most of my possessions and boarded a plane to a foreign county.

At each of these twists and turns – when the world was spinning around me – I always went back to my yoga mat.

So, I have decided to keep this warn and tattered yoga mat. It has and will always represent a place of comfort. A place where I can allow myself to dream, slow down, and be where my feet are.

Yes, all this occurred in a 60 minute class! This. This is why I have such a special place for this old yoga mat.

Namaste. B