Do Bad Things Always Happen To You? A Balinese Lesson In Embracing Negativity

How many times have you said, “Why do bad things always happen to me,” or, compare yourself to someone else saying, “Nothing bad ever happens to them”? I’ll admit, I’m guilty of this at times. Many of us believe that in order to live a happy life, there can be no negativity.

But, what if instead of fighting the negative things in our life we embraced them?

That was a lesson I learned during my most recent trip to Bali. Our guide took us to the Tirta Empul (Holy Spring Temple) near Ubud where we watched locals go through a series of ritual baths. As we walked around, the guide explained the significance of the various baths, alters and areas of the spiritual compound. At one point I was asked to tie my hair back so as not to be confused with Rangda, the demon queen who has wild crazy hair. I obviously obliged.

Later, I saw a statue of this demon queen and people leaving offerings the same way they were for Barong, the leader of the hosts of good. Confused, I asked our guide why people were praying to this evil spirit. “It’s important to recognize and praise both the good and evil in our life,” he told us. “Life doesn’t come without negativity and without it, we wouldn’t be able to recognize all the good. If you fight Rangda, she’ll get fiercer. But, if you acknowledge her, she’s not as scary.”

He was so right. So often when bad things happen or negativity comes into our life we try to fight against it through anger and fear. If we instead simply acknowledged that bad is just as much a part of our life as good then it can prevent us from falling into the rabbit hole of “everything bad always happens to me.” There will always be ebbs and flows, highs and lows; none of us are immune. But, rather than make things harder when those lows do happen, simply acknowledge the negativity, pay it some respect, and know positivity is not far behind.  

How To Make Every Day An Adventure

June kicked off a particularly busy summer of travel. In the past month, I was lucky enough to visit London, Amsterdam, Bend, Oregon, take a cruise on board the Queen Victoria, and I’m currently en route to Bali. While I loved each destination for a different reason, it is the layover in Seattle that sticks out in my mind.

Like any traveler, budget is a concern. I try to keep costs down as much as possible and that often means enduring things like long layovers. That was the exact scenario when I flew with my husband to Oregon a couple of weeks ago and we had to kill about 11 hours in Seattle. While we could have looked at it as a delay in getting to our final destination, we instead embraced the time, using it as an opportunity to add to our trip.

In those 11 hours, we had coffee and doughnuts at Pike Place Market, watched the famous flying fish, visited the gum wall, headed up to the top of the Space Needle, and ate at Eater-approved restaurants. And even though it was raining the entire time (obviously, it’s Seattle) and we arrived after midnight in Oregon, we had so much fun visiting a new city.

We continue to seek out long layovers, looking at them as opportunities to explore a new city, meet new people and get a taste of a new culture. We visited the Munch museum in Norway on our way home from Sweden, climbed the Great Wall of China on the way back from Australia, and will explore the temples in Guangzhou returning from Bali.

We tend to look at those “in between moments” as lost hours or wasted time, but they’re just as precious as the final destination itself. That day in Seattle could have been simply looked at as a stop along the way. Instead, it became part of the journey.

Whether at work, home or on the road, the more value you can give to the smaller in-between moments, the more life will feel like an adventure.

My Spa Day At The Worst Airport In The World

LaGuardia Airport hasn’t always gotten the best rep. It’s known for being outdated, impossible to get to and its lack of food (or any amenity for that matter) options. There’s a reason it topped Condé Nast Travelers reader's choice awards 2014 list for the worst airport in the country. So, when someone invited me to enjoy a spa day at the less-than-stellar transport hub I was skeptical.
How would I feel relaxed and pampered in a place that could be described as its “own circle of hell?” Would my spa treatments include an involuntary shower courtesy of the leaky roof? Would my blowout be done in the shoe shine chair? I had to find out.

Checking in at Laguardia Airport.

Checking in at Laguardia Airport.

The day started out just as it would for most trips to the spa, in an Uber, except the driver was confused as to why I was requesting to go to the airport with literally no luggage in hand. Once at the Delta’s terminal C, it started to sink that this was no ordinary spa experience as I had to go through security. (Side note: if you have to go through security at your spa, you might want to reconsider another option).
I handed over my license and non-boarding pass boarding pass to the officer. “Are you picking someone up at the gate,” asked the TSA agent. “No, I’m here for a spa day,” I replied. I’m pretty sure I’m on some crazy watch list now, but nonetheless I was let through.
To kick-off the afternoon of relaxation, I was greeted by servers with sparkling rose and tapas at Wibar. For a restaurant in the middle of terminal, the drinks and food were surprisingly delicious (they have 101 premium wines by the glass by the way). No one wants to chow down on a McDonald’s burger before getting a massage, so the light dishes of baby local beets and gazpacho andalouse were a perfect healthy set up. And just how you’d get fruit infused water at the day spa, so too was I offered fresh pressed watermelon water. Yum!

Who knew this was an airport meal?

Who knew this was an airport meal?

Before lunch I was treated to a tour of Terminal C Food Hall where retail partner OTG has curated a market-like experience instead of your typical grab-n-go situation. I actually found myself enjoying browsing through the variety of unique beauty products and tasting things like vegan beef jerky and chips made from cricket powder. I’m already going to the spa at the airport, why not be adventurous and eat some bugs?

My quick shopping trip was followed by spa-inspired lunch prepared by Cotto's executive chef, where I indulged dishes like tuna carpaccio and olive oil poached halibut (yes, I’m still at LaGuardia). Finally, it was on to the actual pampering treatments at Warren Tricomi Salon (yes, like the famous one in the city) and XpresSpa where I opted for my go-to services: a massage and blow-out.  

Yup, this is happening in an airport.

Yup, this is happening in an airport.

I explained my back problems to the therapist and rather than just giving me the standard chair massage, he actually took me to a back room with a legit massage table to work out the kinks. The only thing that differed between this experience and one at a top-rated spa in the city is the fact that the there was an echo of flight numbers and gate changes being called instead of some Enya track playing.

The blowout was equally delightful in the pop up salon that I found out also does trims, deep conditioning treatments, and scalp massages.

By the end of the three-hour experience, I was amazingly relaxed and refreshed. So much so, it made going through baggage claim and getting on the Grand Central Parkway only mildly irritating instead of downright excruciating.

Moral of the story? Say "yes" to new experiences. You never know how things might turn out.

Bermuda's Secret To A Stress-Free Life

Taking a walk along Horseshoe Bay.

Taking a walk along Horseshoe Bay.

“Everything will happen eventually.” That’s what my driver, Larry, told me when I touched down in Bermuda a little over a week ago frantic that I still had a ton of work on my plate. His words seemed unreasonable in the moment as I was trying to make everything happen immediately despite being on vacation. And that got me thinking: how much of our lives is filled with wanting everything to happen NOW?

I am certainly guilty of that behavior. Living in a city and working in a fast-paced business breeds this idea of getting as much done as possible on the fastest timeline. How many times have you refreshed your phone waiting for an email response to a message you sent five minutes earlier? How many times have you checked your recent date’s Instagram to see what he or she is up to since they haven’t texted in 24 hours? All of these things don’t make us more efficient or fulfilled. If you’re anything like me, they leave you feeling exhausted.

So, when my lovely tour guide in Bermuda casually said those four words, it didn’t resonate at first. I had an interview and an article to write and a deadline…the list could have gone on. I got all of my “stuff” done in my way and by that evening I just wanted to go to bed. You realize that’s nuts considering I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world right? That’s why I started to replay those words over and over in my head: “Everything will happen eventually.”

If you want to know more about Bermuda check this out: The Best Beaches and Things to do in Bermuda 

Checked off a bucket list item of riding a horse to the beach.

Checked off a bucket list item of riding a horse to the beach.

I promised myself for the rest of the trip I wouldn’t do any work and focus on just going with the flow. Everyone in Bermuda was ok with it, so why couldn’t I? As I relaxed and stopped focusing on everything that had to get done, time seemed to do something funny: slow down. While I often find myself saying “there’s not enough hours in the day,” on this tiny 20-square-mile island the days seemed longer and a good night’s sleep took on a new meaning. What would happen if we all slowed down a bit and adopted this Bermudian advice?

I understand we live in a world with actual deadlines and appointments, but what about all of the other “stuff” that can happen eventually? Do you really need to spend your Saturday running errands, or can it wait? Do you need to plan a work dinner multiple nights a week, or can you spread them out a bit more?

I challenge you over the next month to focus on clearing your plate. Keep your must-have deadlines and to-do lists to a minimum, and stop worrying about immediate responses. Instead, start to try and enjoy all of your newfound time and headspace because all of that other “stuff” will happen eventually.

The 5 Most Peaceful Destinations to Decompress in 2017

Between the presidential election, Zika epidemic and losses of both Prince and David Bowie, I think we could all agree that 2016 has been somewhat of a stressful year. To help get everyone off to a fresh start in 2017, CheapAir compiled a list of the five best travel destinations for unplugging, decompressing and relearning relaxation. Check them out!

Tulum, Mexico
This destination truly commits to blissed out minimalism. With most of Tulum’s “eco-resorts” on a strict low tech mandate – no television, no Wi-Fi, no air conditioning – you might think there’s not much to do. But that’s precisely the point. The scenery is stunning, the dining rustic, the drinks are cheap and the vibe is relaxed to the max. Europeans have been flocking to Tulum for decades, but millennial Americans are making Tulum a must-visit spot for the stressed-out young professional. Leave your iPhone at home and stay for a while.

Boulder, Colorado
Boulder’s religion is the great outdoors and nirvana can be found pretty much everywhere. You’ve got state-of-the-art cycling, hiking, and rock climbing to tempt you – it’s the kind of town that people move to precisely because of its laid-back vibes. Visitors find locals so serene, it’s inevitable that they too, will unwind.

Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage makes our list of stress-relieving destinations for the stunning Alaskan wilderness (it’s a brilliant place to center yourself) and to remind yourself just how small and inconsequential your stressors really are. When you’ve got Kodiak bears wandering by your front door and harsh winters to gird yourself for, you’ll find your mind is taken up with much more practical matters than how many likes your latest Facebook post got. As an odd bonus, Alaska has the most yoga studios per capita.

Kaikoura, New Zealand
Kaikoura is famous for its whale and dolphin watching, and what could be more peaceful than watching adorable dolphins frolicking in the ocean blue? Kaikoura is a bit off the beaten path from some of the more major tourist cities in the land of the kiwis. Whether you take a stunning hike on the breathtaking Kaikoura Peninsula pathway or simply visit the beaches where you can lounge about for weeks, there’s nothing but relaxation on the menu.

Missoula, Montana
Missoula rounds out this top 5 for its absolute dedication to wellness. Missoula residents pride themselves on a particularly robust level of physical activity, and you start to understand why when you visit its stunning outdoors. There is fabulous hiking and biking all around Missoula, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t try one of the most meditative and peaceful activities known around these parts – fly fishing. There are a number of outfitters that can hook you up with rental equipment and set you off on your own private fishing adventure.

3 Life Lessons From A Peruvian Shaman

Machu Picchu is one of those destinations that has been on my bucket list likely since birth. Ranking in my top three places I must see ASAP (the others are Antarctica and seeing molten lava), I knew I had to book a trip sooner rather than later. That’s exactly what I did last month, but kicked it up a notch.

For starters, instead of just taking the bus up the mountain to see the incredible ruins, my husband and I opted to hike from kilometer 104. If you’ve ever considered going to the ancient site yourself, I highly recommend this trek. It’s the perfect middle ground if you like a bit of a challenge, but prefer not to sleep at smelly campsites when doing the five-day-long Inca Trail hike. You get the experience of the trail with a comfy hotel bed at the end (my idea of camping). Bonus: you get to see other Inca sites only reachable by foot like Winaywayna.
Next, wanting to fully take advantage of Machu Picchu, we decided to go back up the mountain the next day. This time with a Peruvian shaman. The Sumaq Hotel in Aguas Calientes offered this incredible opportunity to have a mystical tour of the grounds and learn about magical connections with Pachamama (Mother Earth) and the sacred temples. It is called the Sacred Valley after all!

Though we had been there the day before, it was a completely different experience arriving at sunrise with the shaman. He took hours explaining the history and meaning behind the many different parts of Machu Picchu. But, these were the biggest (and most practical) lessons I learned.
1. Big Ideas Start Small

While we were walking around, the shaman stopped at a rather unassuming wall (see picture above). He explained, with the help of an English interpreter, that the wall was built strangely with smaller rocks on the bottom supporting the large rocks on top. This was meant to signify that it’s the smaller ideas that allow our grand ideas to come to life. It’s a reminder to embrace and nurture our everyday thoughts to create support for our bigger, more creative thoughts of the future.
2. Slow Down
With many tour guides, their goal is to get you in and out as quickly as possible. At the end of our tour, the shaman took us to a grassy spot overlooking Machu Picchu and told us just to sit in silence and take in the moment. We could meditate, we could keep our eyes open or closed, we could lay down, we could do whatever we wanted, as long as we just soaked in the moment. How often do we have people instructing us to slow down? Usually it’s quite the opposite. The handful of minutes (I’m not even sure how long we sat there), gave me time to reflect on my goals for the future while appreciating the present.
3. We Can Rid Ourselves of Negativity
While the shaman went through a whole purification ceremony using crystals, coca leaves and other cosmic offerings, it was really the instruction of thinking about the negative energies in my life that left me feeling lighter. Before blessing us and using what looked like a handcrafted wand to whisk away negativity, he instructed that I think about the things bringing me down and how I wanted them to change. It was giving myself this time for some self-reflection that helped me work through some issues causing me stress. We don’t need a healer or magic wand to rid ourselves of negativity. We just need to devote the time to knowing we want a change.