Beginning of a Journey

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Champuhan Ridge, Bali

My biggest fear is regret from inaction, falling short of excellence due to not trying. I am not special, most people fear this. However, excellence is different for everyone. To me excellence is creating and building something — a brand that represents living a life full of experiences and joy. I want to work tirelessly on something that I am passionate about and have a stake in, and I want these experiences to take place on different continents. I want travel to be a part of my life, a part of the brand I create. I want to ride segments of the Tour d’Afrique’s Bamboo Road Bicycle Expedition as a part of my life, not an escape from it.

This is just the beginning. There is a long, exciting journey ahead.

Springtime 2012

Spring  has really felt awesome this year. I love the colors, the breeze, the warmth of the sun and the new life growing around me. I don’t remember noticing the beauty last spring. Last year I was consumed with the unknowns in my life, at a standstill, staring down at the fork in my road. I was too busy focusing on the possible paths ahead of me to notice the beauty around me. What a difference a year can make! Not that there aren’t unknowns in my life today, because there are, but my head is not down this year, it is up, and I literally feel myself moving forward. The gritty, end-of-the-rope times in my life, like last year’s standstill, only make the paths walked after them shine brighter!

Here are a few photos captured from Springtime 2012.

Wild berry snack!

Enjoying the breeze and springtime flowers on my porch.

Honeymoon Island in Tampa with Reno-man!

Refreshment

I have been struggling to get past the day-to-day duties of life over the past few weeks. I was consumed with what the next step in my life should be. Afraid of pausing, I searched for things to add to my to-do list. My fear stems from the perception that if I stop moving the train will leave the station before I get there. While there is part of me that needs to keep moving, keep improving in order to achieve the next step in life, there is also a part of me that keeps moving so I can avoid thinking about the change awaiting me. It is always easy to stay busy, it is not always easy to truly embrace  the world around us.

While the next step is still unclear, this weekend I finally embraced.

I ran a crazy, fun, muddy, empowering 5k called the Warrior Dash with one of my best friends. While running, crawling through mud, and climbing over walls with her it hit me — I am so thankful  that the sparks iginited in my past led me to such a great friend.

Warrior Dash Beauties!

That evening we went to Bradfordville Blues Club (BBC). Man if I have a spot in Tallahassee that is not on the nature trails, this is the place. BBC is a quaint venue located on a dirt road, playing live jazz/blues inside and has a bonfire going outside. This country girl with a heart filled with NOLA love was feelin’ it!

Joey Gilmore at BBC.

 

Sunday morning I went for a bike ride with my neighbor, who has become a staple my book of life, and one of her friends who I met for the first time. The three of us rode out by the Miccosukkee Greenway for almost two hours.  I have not been on a ride in more than three months and this one was well worth the wait. We conquered up hills, flew down hills and weaved through the trees.  I am new at bike riding, but this was my favorite ride yet. Great company, great weather and great vibes. I felt more refreshed after that ride than I had in quite sometime.

Today is Monday and it provided me many challenges –both at work and with family. Most of which was life’s camouflage. However, because of weekends like the last, camouflaged days will remain just that — hidden behind the moments that really matter, the ones that make us sparkle.

Living Underneath the Surface of Life

I recently returned from a last minute trip to New Orleans for the celebration of my grandmother’s 85th and aunt’s 60th birthday. I wasn’t going to make the trip because of all the time I had off from my trip to Bali, but was able to remain connected to work during the day and spend quality time with my family at night. Boy, I am glad I made the trip. I am truly lucky to have such a diverse and connected family. We are not perfect and all have our intricate issues, but when we are together, I can see the memories and stories of the past connecting us.

A simple moment of my aunt rubbing my dad’s back during the birthday dinner showed more than her support for him during the most difficult time in his life. That action was the vivid representation of the memories they have shared together from early childhood to El Salvador, living together in the 17th Street Canal area of New Orleans, to California and to Tampa where they each raised their families. It showed the bond between an older sister and younger brother that doesn’t fade with age, but grows stronger with each year and life story told.

My Uncle Scott is the one of the three siblings that never left Louisiana, and he wears it well. He is the funniest person to have around at a party and the best to watch or join on the dance floor. He has season tickets to the New Orleans Saints and was the first person to call me when one of my favorite players, Jeremy Shockey left the team. Every time I visit my uncle, we always find a moment during the visit to spend quality time together. This time we found our moment as we walked back to the apartment from two hours on Bourbon Street with three of our family friends. We had time to talk about the year past, moments in our childhoods that are less favored and the relationship we have with our siblings. I can always count on Uncle Scott to speak about life on a level far beyond the surface, and I value the time spent with him.

Uncle Scott and me during the Superbowl 2010

My grandmother was ecstatic about all of the family and friends in town for her party. She has always been a  social butterfly and values her family  more than anything. She is still the lone Republican, clinging to her love for Ronald Reagan. I have to admit, I respect her for her strong hold to her beliefs, especially in a family where being a Republican is not easy. She has always been strong and innovative. Her children call her their rock growing up. When she got divorced at a late age, she started her own business, Chevere. It is still open today, under a new name, Rollick, and managed by her granddaughter, Anika, in Atlanta.

Grandma blowing out her candles

The day after the birthday dinner was held, Aunt Kris, Anika, my dad and I went up to the jacuzzi on the roof of the apartment building. It was probably 60 degrees outside and we just dangled our lower legs in the water. It was so amazing. I find a similar peace being above the noise of a city and being on top of a quiet mountain. What I found during this moment was a pause in the lives my family has lived and embraced the moment we were in. My dad had a look of clarity in his eyes that I have not seen in a while. It was as if he was above more than the noise of the city, but above the weight of life. I cherish that moment of clarity, that spark.

My dad above the noise of the city

New Orleans will always be one of the largest sparks in my life, ignited by more than the sounds of the street car, the French Quarter, live music and the Who Dat Nation. My spark is also ignited by what was already created before I was born, through the lives of my family.

525,600 Minutes

After the Holidays end there are certain things that are not acceptable anymore like evergreen and cinnamon scents, egg nog, pumpkin pie, weight gain and loudly jamming out to one’s RENT soundtrack. For me the thing I miss the most about accepted Holiday season delights is playing “Seasons of Love” over and over.

I think the song captures the essence of many of our lives. We go through the days each year we are alive like there will always be a next. It is not until the New Year that we realize another year has flown by and take the time to measure the year that past.

  • Would we do it over again or just redo a few decisions?
  • What have learned?
  • How have we loved?
  • What is next?

The past year becomes a collection of moments, memories and cups of coffee. With each passing year we evolve and the story we write for ourselves has another chapter. We all have seasons of love. Some of us may be perceived to have had too many seasons. But that is okay, that makes everyone’s book a good read, never one in the same. The books of our lives are composed of the collection of years past and moments we spend jamming out to our favorite music, cheering for our favorite team, sitting through staff meetings and brainstorming sessions, times that we cry, times that we laugh and moments when we love.

There are momentousness moments that catapult us into a new chapter and influence the person we will become. Although, the collective moments of sipping Cafe Lattes,walking with our favorite pets and hugging our friends should not be overlooked, these small moments are the bulk of our story.

Walking with my favorite pet

Make every minute sparkle, even when the only sparkle you can find are tears and curse words.

Goodbye Bali, for now

My trip to Bali was exceptional. I tried to blog as much as possible during my trip, highlighting how the experiences, events and moments have shaped me. However, it has been impossible to post about everything and still have time to live it. Here are the highlights of my Bali sparkle that has not been mentioned in my blog thus far.

Jogging Campuhan Ridge

Campuhan Ridge Path

I finally was able to go for a good jog two days in a row, which was proven difficult because of the rain. My body felt it for sure, especially since jogging the Champuhan Ridge is comparable to running stadium steps at Doak Campbell in August. The heat will beat you down and the steep inclines will leave your calves and gluteus burning. Except Doak Campbell doesn’t leave you feeling like you are jogging in a tropical paradise surrounded by Alang Alang and palm trees. Champuhan Ridge allows you to get your head above the noise, literally and figuratively. I am so glad I had a chance to experience endorphins in such a beautiful spot on the planet.

Blurry vision jogging up one of the hills

Business (and Personal) Shopping Denpasar

The main clothing manufacturer, my family has used for more than a decade gave us a ride to Denpasar and Seminyak from Ubud to finish up shopping for the spring line of clothing at Rollick. We visited Double Six Street where I found a new purse and my cousin found some great items for the store.  The main attraction in Denpasar was a fabric store in the Denpasar market where my aunt and cousin regularly obtain the fabric for their clothing. It was so much fun! I think we spent more than an hour searching for fabric and developing ideas for the fabric. My creative side was enhanced during this expedition.

Fabrics at the Denpasar Market

Night out with Anika

My cousin and I went out in Ubud on Saturday night. After searching the city for a place that fit our taste, we found the Laughing Buddha Bar. On Saturday night it offered a Balinese Latino band called Buena Tierra. They were awesome and the vibe was great. We made friends with the bartender and one of the servers as well. They are both locals and I look forward to visiting them when I visit Bali again. It is always refreshing when you meet new people who are warm and make your night better as a result of relationships cultivated.

Love for Obama

President Barack Obama is a very popular man in Bali. Three times while I was there, the U.S. President received a shout out. As a child the president lived in Jakarta, so Balinese feel a connection with the well-traveled President.  When asked by a Balinese person where I was from I would respond with “America,” of course. Three times Obama received a shout out. The shout outs I heard were:

  • “Obama is Bagus” (Bagus = Indonesian for good)
  • “Yay, Obama!”
  • “Obama good man”

Drink Menu at Laughing Buddha

He even made the drink menu at Laughing Buddha Bar in Ubud. Arak is an East Asian liquor that is considered the local liquor of the island, like moonshine is considered the local liquor of the Carolina boonies. Arak Obama was a mixture of honey, cranberry juice and sugar. It was pretty good, but I like the real Obama better.

Fruit in Bali

I ate more fruit during my 12 days in Bali than I eat in one month at home, and I eat a lot of fruit. I ate fruit everyday for breakfast, along with a main course and usually had two fruit drinks throughout the day, such as the watermelon juice below, Yum!!

Watermelon Juice

I tried two different types of fruit while I was there. One was Mangosteen and one was Rambutan. They both were delicious. Fruit is like candy that is good for you.

Rambutan

Trip to Padang Bi and Bloo Lagoon

On my last night in Bali, we drove an hour on motorbike to Bloo Lagoon Villas in Padang Bi. Arriving stressed and soaked from the hard core rain and traffic, we realized this was worth the journey when we saw the view.

One view from Bloo Lagoon Villas

Another view from Bloo Lagoon Villas

Our villa was amazing. Often times as humans, we walk on the earth and not among it. We take animals and resources for granted and assume them for our needs and wants. In a place like Bloo Lagoon, it is impossible to feel unconnected to the earth as you here all the little animals (and bugs) during the night. We went for a walk, soaked up the sun (with SPF 50) and relaxed to the sounds of island. It was the perfect way to end my trip to this amazing island.

Villa bedroom

Patio at the Villa

Journey with my Soul Sista

There are people in our lives that we connect with on a soulful level. Sometimes the person is only in our lives for a short time and sometimes they are with us for the long haul. These people spark us into turning new leaves and allow us to connect with life on a deeper level.  My cousin and I have had many soulful moments during our trip to Bali. I think the atmosphere of being so far away from our day-to-day lives in the States and the current stages our lives are in have allowed us to reconnect.  We are soul sistas!

A couple of days ago we set out to find a few resort type hotels we researched in the countryside of the Ubud area. We are staying in a great location, but wanted to spoil ourselves with a kick ass view for a night or two. We set out on our motor bikes, which is freeing in of itself. We cruised past seas of green, consisting of rice fields, Alang Alang (the grass thatched roofs are made out of) and palm trees. We traveled down back roads in search of the resorts on our list, but Google maps aren’t very accurate here. When we couldn’t find one of the resorts on our list, we stopped at Kupu Kupu Barong Villas and Tree Spa. When we arrived we were taken back by the beauty of this place.

Entrance to Spa at Kupu Kupu


We immediately saw the spa was by L’occitane and knew we were out of our league with price as we walked into the lobby to confirm our suspicion. We were correct. Kupu Kupu was about $350.00 USD above our budget. However, the view from the lobby was the most breath taking view I have ever seen. A table for two was surrounded by water encompassed in dark tile, placed on the edge of a ridge overlooking the Ayung River Valley. The staff let us stay for 15 minutes as we took in the beauty of the location.

Picture does not do this view at Kupu Kupu justice


We set off to find Bali Rich Villas, but found them with no luck. As we were driving back toward the center of Ubud, the sky opened up. We pulled over and put our ponchos on. We wanted to get off of the road, so we followed signs to Rijasa Agung. When we entered the lobby we were giddy with excitement as we saw the view.

Pool View at Rijsa


It was breath taking even though it was raining. The price of the room was in our budget too! We decided to stay for a late lunch at their restaurant, Sayong Ayung. Our pasta was delicious. We talked for over an hour about the events in our lives and what may be to come. As the rain died down we headed back to our hotel, Panorama. We hope to stay at Rijasa one night before I leave, but it depends on business activities for Rollick that need completion. Even if we do not end up staying there during this trip, the memories of the journey with my soul sister that day will last a lifetime.