30 April 2012

Cinco de Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day

This weekend is Cinco de Mayo - and let me clear something up for you,

This weekend, gringos far and wide dress in ponchos and fake-mustaches to celebrate all things they love Mexican.  Let's face it: Cinco de Mayo has become a tequila and nachos holiday.

So who cares? Why does this matter?

Because you will have more friends if you know this
Because it's easy to know this
Because you shouldn't need a reason to dispel a stereotype

Stereotypes can do a lot of harm, provide good material for comedy, but ultimately they divide us in our relationships with each other.

Cinco de Mayo represents a battle won against the French in 1862 - READ THIS: 40 years AFTER Mexican Independence.  The two events are significantly NOT related. Independence day for Mexico is September 16th.

Therefore Cinco de Mayo is like 4th of July

Whats it about?
It symbolizes unity and pride amongst the States of Mexico that resulted in the victory of the Battle of Puebla (Note: yes, they also have states in Mexico - check out a Mexican coin it says "The United States of Mexico"- And just like in the good old US of A state-pride is a very strong cultural element - kind of like when people say "I'm Texan first, American second" - same idea here people)

<--- Estados Unidos Mexicanos

So, this year celebrate ¡MÉXICO!
Drink your tequila, eat your burrito* and celebrate STATE PRIDE and UNITY of a NATION and how we can be better neighbors and friends to our vecinos del sur.

*burritos are more a gringo thing - not traditional Mexican

Check out this blog for more Cinco de Mayo revelations!

29 April 2012

My own personal Bikram Bootcamp, Part 1

I'm putting myself through 14 days of personal Bikram Bootcamp!  I got a 2 week unlimited pass from Bikram Walnut Creek for only $30 and so I'm going to maximize my savings and go 14 days consecutively... here's whats going on in the first five days...

Day 1
OMG... I can't breathe and lifting my pinky feels like 100lbs

Day 2
It doesnt feel as hot, I can do this... uhhh OW... my knee just... popped, not in a good way

Day 3
Day off due to knee injury (see above)

Day 4
Am I sweating? I can't even notice anymore. This is not so bad...

Day 5
I do not want to go to class. Bleh.  Ok, I'm going. Wow this is so hard, I cannot make it! ugh, get me out of here. Ok, I did it. I'm a warrior.  YES.

I didnt realize... 
That every Bikram class is exactly the same routine, in the same order. The same series of the same poses. There is no beginner or advanced, there is all the same.  The benefits of this is that you can know how much longer the class will be depending on what pose you are in... This is a Bikram routine:

Other personal Observations thus far... 

I had daily headaches the first 4 days.  You might say "dehydration" but believe me, I was hydrating A LOTand drinking 16 oz of Coconut water daily to get the electrolytes.  I can only guess that it was the process of cleansing out toxins, which brings me to...

The first day I sweat like it was nobodies business. It was insane.  And I'm not a person who sweats easily, I never have been.  Therefore the amount of liquids pouring out of me was impressive! Now, I'm sweating less and...

The first three classes afterwards my workout clothes were pretty stinky, but this is going away now (perhaps more toxins being reduced).

From my perspective Bikram is not a strength-building workout at all.  I never got sore like after a good weighlifting session.  For strength building other exercise will be added to my regular routine.

It didnt take long for the OM/happy/joy/yay effects to really ramp up.  I felt totally happy most days and an effortless happy.  My mind was less of a war zone and more like a playground of fun.  This alone, is a reason to do Bikram. After class (and a shower) I usually felt like a new born baby, totally refreshed. GREAT STUFF.

25 April 2012

The Non-Conformity Club (You're Invited!)

I'm in the process of reneweing my passport.  I've had it nearly 10 years.  A few days after I got this passport I flew to London as a study abroad program... and that's when everything changed.  My naiveness evolved from not thinking Belgium had automobiles to a global traveler and lifelong adventurer

"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." 
-Helen Keller-

Those close to me have a hard time keeping track of where I am and where I'm going... In the last 6 years I've lived in 7 cities and traveled to 5 countries.  I keep on thinking, eventually I'll stop, or slow down.  But then... I realized...

I'm not alone...

In fact, I'm actually quite tame in comparison to the others out there.  And I'm feeling inspired.  I thought I'd put together what I've found because maybe  you are looking for this also.

I really believe that my lifestyle is a choice..  If you have the slightest interest to see a bit more of the planet or just stop working from 8:30am - 6:30pm everyday... check out some of THESE OPTIONS!

Become a Professional Hobo, A Full Time Traveler, a Suitcase Entrepreneur - build your own Location Independent career.

Discover a whole world in the Art of Non-Conformity with this guy Chris who is traveling to every country in the world before he turns 30 and is inspiring a movement of nonconformists (not to mention a very lucrative business....) He teaches you how to be a Travel Hacker (get enough frequent flyer miles to travel for free, often), Find Freedom out of the 9 - 5...  and Why You Should Quit Your Job and Travel Around the World.

Learn how to turn your Briefcase into a Backpack and Earn Money, While You Travel, be a globe trotter with a Successful Travel Blog, be a Photopreneur or Illustrator Anywhere (and get paid!)

Good luck! and be sure to report back with any other non-conformity tips you come across...

Countdown to Summer

June 1st is just around the corner and I'm using it as my own personal marker for countdown to summer (When is Solstice anyway...?)  And that is also a good excuse to use these next 5 weeks really focusing on my health inside and out. After a few weeks of regular wine and cookie consumption, I'm turning things around!  I'm going to create some mini-goals for the next 5 weeks and see how I can lead into summer feeling fabulous.


Kickstarting first 2 weeks (April 25 - May 9th) 

  • Daily 90 minutes of Bikram yoga
  • No wine
  • Daily cleanse supplements for liver & digestion

As well as... 
  • 40 Days of Daily food Journaling
  • 3 Meditation (non-yoga) classes
  • Go Gluten free for a 5 day period
  • Daily multi-vitamin and calcium pills

The Goals
  • Accomplishing all of the above listed lifestyle changes and observe how I feel and what changes for me, that's it. 
  • My goal is not to lose a specified amount of weight, or inches.  I just want to feel cleansed, healthy, and renewed.  I love the summer and I want to start it feeling great.  This is my organized master plan.  I think weight loss will be inevitable - but more as a side effect of the other goals

Wish me luck... 

24 April 2012

There's No Shame in a being a Girly Globetrotter

The friends in my life would give you a mixture of telling you that I'm either a girly or that I'm totally not.  Basically, I'm both.  I like to get my girl on, and also mostly can't be bothered to care.  Doing my hair is far too much work than its worth.  However, I do like a nice barbie pink polish for my pedicure, I love a nice perfume or blingy watch, jewelry is a prerequisite for the day, but converse and good walking boots are far preferred than Manolos.  When I travel though... I will be damned if I wear fisherman pants and Tom's.

I promise you I will smell nice, have on some makeup and at least one cute accessory.  And this is less a statement of my girliness and more a statement of I'm not a hippy or privelaged person from the US that dresses like and smells like compost.  For some reason, there is a demographic (fairly large) of US global-travelers who decide to wear their most casual, crappy, stained-on, holes-in and stinky clothes when they travel.

My international friends have had a fair amount of fun commenting on this.  It's like there is this idea of going out into the wild, where utilitarian clothing is needed and fashion, esthetic goes out the window.   I try to do my best to blend and adopt the local appropriate fashion.   I don't wear running shoes all day and I am sure to bring a fashionable belt and a scarf to at least try accessorize and not be burdened with extra luggage.  It doesnt take much effort, and it helps a lot in not being typed as... well being the ugly hippy from United States.  I look pretty gringa-as-they-come but have been confused for European, Argentinian and even Mexican which I account to these small and fairly effortless fashion adjustments.

Here is a picture of me climbing the archeology site of Edzna in the sweltering Yucatan. A simple belt, vest, and very functional hat don't add anything bothersome and stop me from looking homely and like a back-packing hippy.

I heavily rely on sundresses which are uber-comfortable and effortlessly cute.

I just recently discovered a new, soon-to-be-favorite, fashion item that is cheap, easy, won't add space to your luggage, its fun... and yes, totally girly.

Check out these BLING NAIL Stickers... I know I sound totally rediculous, however its actually a great financial option.  For only $5 these easy-to-apply stickers look great and last about ten days.  Considering most manicures cost about $10 and last only a few days before they start to chip, I'm totally excited about this find.  It's easy to apply, doesnt smudge, no dry-time and really great design and color options.  Everyone is loving them too. I've gotten stopped by men, women, old and young being curious about my fabulous $5 manicure.  There's a great selection at Sephora.

20 April 2012

3 Ways to be Happy Anywhere, All the time, That you probably already are doing!

There are so many "top ten" lists and "5 tips for success", and I realized I usually click on those, because lets face it I don't have time to read long articles. So... I wanted to make one of my own!

If you travel and relocate frequently, you can understand the unsettling feeling of sleeping in a new place, AGAIN and waking up with no idea what you're doing next (sounds great, but can also be a bit freaky!)

So here it is, my 3 Ways to Be Happy - ANYWHERE

1) Coffee
2) Calendar
3) Gym

Allow me to elaborate.

1) Start your day with coffee

Yes, its cliché, but coffee does wonders for my day.  It doesn't have to be coffee though, think of it as your "way to start the day".  Create your own personal version of how you start your day, whether it is a cup of tea, orange juice or wheatgrass shot.  Having a way to start your engine, begin your day with something consistent that fuels you for the next step.  Having something consistent in the beginning of your day will keep you balanced.

2) Use a calendar - daily.

Having a calendar that I use daily, is the best way to keep me focused. I look at the week and month ahead, to keep on point, and I look at what I've done - to remind myself of what I have accomplished.  I personally use a small pocket calendar, the process of writing with pencil is very effective for me. I've tried many times to use my iPhone calendar, it doesnt work for me - but use whatever works for you.  Having a plan for the day (even if that plan is to REST or catch up on a favorite book) being concious about how you spend your time will pay off.  So those lazy days are very calculated moments to recharge instead of a "day wasted".  Use your calendar daily, and be sure to have a plan for each day.

3) Give yourself some exercise.

I know, I know... like you haven't heard this before?  But its true, regular gym visits or fitness activity of any kind is the key to staying healthy phyically, mentally, emotionally.  The fastest way to my own self-ruin is to not have an active lifestyle where my body is being used just as much as my mind and heart.  Keep yourself active with a walk, a gym, try out a yoga studio (first time students usually get a great deal!), try something new like Tai-Chi or just turn the music on for 5 minutes and dance alone for a few minutes.

Keep these 3 things in your life on a daily basis, and you'll get more out of your day and your life.

** BONUS **

4) Watch the Ellen Degeneres Show, or whatever...

When these three simple things fail, have a go-to thing that makes you cheer up.  For me, it's the Ellen Degeneres show.  I don't have cable so I just turn to YouTube for a few minutes and watch a 3 minute clip of Ellen, just being joyful.  She oozes energy, positivity and fun.  I recommend you find your own "zen-fun" pick me up to get you back on track of positive attitude.  Maybe its a silly animal, something cute, motivational quotes - or Ellen.

19 April 2012

How to Renounce US Citizenship, just in case you wondered...

Weird topic, right?

Even weirder, is I never had thought about it, and then twice in the same day it came into my life.  The Huffington Post reported that 1,800 US Citizens living abroad have renounced their citizenship this year... the reason they claim is because of taxes (not really sure how they gathered the information, but I'll go with it.)

It got me thinking, so "WAIT? US CITIZENS dont want to be citizens anymore??!!"  With the very constant topic of immigration reform, the increase in deportations, the tragic stories of families ripped apart, and here we have a case of US Citizens saying "no thanks, don't want that anymore."  Why is this happening?  I'm perplexed.  From the articles I read, it seems that its primarily financially motivated.  I suppose these US Citizens living abroad are content with their life where they are and financially would prefer not to be paying additional taxes that they can't collect on. So... how exactly would one go about, getting rid of US Citizenship?

A friend of mine mentioned to me that its actually REALLY hard to get rid of US Citizenship, like practically impossible! So, I turned to my trusty research companion - Google.  And apparently there is an eHow article on exactly this... How to Get Rid of US Citizenship.  There are "6 simple steps," Great! Let's see...  here we go...

  1. Leave the country - cool fair enough, that makes sense. 
  2. Make an appointment with the US Embassy - got it, seems fair
  3. Sign and Oath of Renunciation freely and voluntarily - ok, this sounds very government-y, sounds reasonable
  4. Join the military of another country - WHAT?  The only listed way to "perform an expatriating act" EXCUSE ME? Are there other options? I don't like choice A, what else is there? 
  5. Take an oath of allegiance to a foreign country - Right, that makes sense, but wait... do I still have to do #4?!?
  6. Commit an act of treason. - Um... did I hear this right?  As if this is not already rediculous enough, here is the ever-so-comforting-clarification: "even though treason is punishable by death: before a traitor is executed, he is formally stripped of U.S. citizenship."  Oh, how convenient. 
There you have it.  In "Six Simple Steps" you can renounce your citizenship... by way of joining the military and committing treason.  Beyond this... one can still be obligated to pay taxes for up to TEN YEARS after completing this process. 

It gets worse, the United States is the ONLY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD that does this to its citizens. Excuse me?  The Business Insider reports here... 
"The USA is the only country on the planet that taxes your entire worldwide income, regardless of where you live.  If you’re a US citizen who has lived in Australia for 20 years, you will still have to file taxes and probably pay taxes to the good old USA every year. Japan used to have this policy as well. But they got rid of it several years ago due to the burden it caused its citizens." More here

Re-Entry... NOW WHAT?

I've traveled a fair bit to know that coming home is a major part of the experience of travel.  I generally think of the re-entry process as two part

1) The time when a lot of learning and realizations happen and
2) It's depressing

Yep, there, I said it.

Nobody wants to say it, and it sounds terrible. But its true.  There's a very strong potential to get depressed when coming home and having the adventure be, well, over.  The new adventure is figuring out what you learned, how you grew or changed and what you will do next.

Wow, isn't that fun?  What am I supposed to be doing with my life?  Gee... I think I have been here before.

Isn't that the whole reason I went abroad in the first place... because I wanted TO DO something new with my life, to help me figure out... well... what am I going to do after that...  When I'm living, you know, in my comfort zone at home- but hey it doesn't really feel that comfortable anymore... now that I think about it, being abroad wasn't exactly comfortable either... so, um... NOW WHAT?

I've heard friends who just got back recently get to the same dilemma... It's almost a question of "What was the point of that?"  Because now I feel like I'm neither here... (home) nor... there... (abroad) and so what do I do about THAT? And who do I reach out to? What books are there? websites? Specifically for the RE-ENTERING to my home country.

There's tons of books that are easy to track down when one makes the decision to GO someplace. The travel section in any bookstore has a bounty of exciting, exhilirating, fun and useful reads on travel, adventure, packing up, leaving home, how to do it best, ways to create a budget, even how to deal with a potential intercultural relationship you might pick up along the way.  And if you are lucky some of those travel books will have an anecdote or a chapter at the end on "re-entry".  A few pages, and THAT'S IT. When re-entry is quite possibly the largest part of the whole experience all together.

I was recently chatting with someone at an InterNations networking event, who is preparing to return home to Mexico City after living abroad for the last five years.  I gave her these tips

1) Get involved with global-thinkers when you get home, maybe expats or internationals living locally who "get it" and can offer support
2) Be patient with yourself, and when the thoughts and feelings challenge you, take time to write them down or reflect on what valuable learning you can extract from the unpleasant parts of the process
3) Be sure to bring your experience home with you, find ways to keep the abroad experience real **CAUTION**: There are many ways to do this well and many ways to put yourself through more hell!  Nobody wants to hear you talk about what it was like all day long, be careful to put a filter on yourself, and integrate your new life at home with your old life abroad.

There are some other good resources on Re-Entry, Cate Brubaker of Small Planet Studio wrote a nice article on Meet, Plan, Go! read it here.   Melibee Global Education Consulting also shared some good YouTube videos from study abroad students, these youngsters actually have some pretty good words of advice... check it out here.