My Safety Precautions for a Woman Traveling Alone Internationally

I have done a few stupid things traveling around the world. Not that I am a naïve traveler or that trouble necessarily finds me. Some events are unavoidable. And others? Well, they were simply stupid, or not researched thoroughly. There is that old saying that God takes care of fools, drunks, and children (or something like that). I have been a couple of the aforementioned. I suppose for many travelers, like me, being outside your comfort zone can actually make you less cautious.  Maybe because the voyage is a new adventure and you don’t want to miss anything? Or even the fact that you wouldn’t know if a place/situation is actually dangerous?  Ladies, here’s my shortlist of suggestions to help add a little caution to your travels and avoid challenging situations.

Take a self-defense class before you go.  It is always good to know the best technique to gouge out eyes or properly target the vulnerable groin of your potential attacker.  Most every community has classes available – Check with our local community college, gym or YMCA.  It is worth the investment to know a few tactics. Even if you never have to use them it will give you more confidence.

Never, ever, ever, ever, hang your purse at a bar/restaurant on the back of your chair or even set it down at your feet.  This is the oldest trick and one of the easiest feats for purse thieves:  One distracts, one grabs and goes. It happens in milliseconds and you are screwed without your cash, credit card, ID, camera, phone, favorite lipstick….oh, it gives me that sinking sensation in my stomach just thinking of it! Keep every zipper zipped and your hand on your bag when walking, touring, etc. I learned the hard way how easy it is for a seasoned thief to slip a hand into your closed bag in a crowded area and evaporate before you can even turn your head.

Dress appropriately for the culture.  Read up before you go. It might be inappropriate cambodia dress stallto show your shoulders or your legs – or even your hair. And then you could end up in the hands of the authorities while they chase you down and yell at you to put on a pair of long pants. Trust me; it is not a fun way to tour a temple. There are places you might be mistaken for a woman in the sex trade simply for wearing a miniskirt, plunging neckline or high heels. The key is to blend in as best you can. Looking like a tourist always makes you an easier target for assault. I try to carve out a little time early in the trip for buying a couple of native outfits.  Typically, local sales ladies love to dress you in their attire, so make it part of the travel adventure. 

Do not wear flashy jewelry. I have seen women on trips to poverty-stricken areas dripping in jewels worth more than some people make in a LIFETIME. Not only does it make people in that culture uncomfortable about world financial inequalities, it makes you a prime target for a jewelry heist of epic proportions.

Always lock the doors and windows when you are away or sleeping. I know the waves of the ocean sound amazing, but a hearing pirate whispering “surrender your booty” with a knife at your neck might put a damper on your oceanside adventure.

If you are taking a taxi or tuk-tuk alone (not every place has Uber), take a photo of their vehicle license or certification and then take a photo of the driver’s face. Tell them you are sending it to your tour guide or hotel manager or friend back at your room (even if you are not actually doing so – make it appear as if you are). If they do not allow you to take photos, there might be something amiss. Grab another vehicle.

If you are traveling overnight by rail, book the entire sleeper cabin.  This is a fantastic way to avoid old snoring and farting men annoyed at your presence in their domain or any man leering at you waiting for you to slip into some sort of sexy lingerie fantasy.  Trust me, you will not get any sleep as you clutch the covers and your belongings.   

Leave a light or TV/music on if you leave in the evening. It gives the appearance that key card energy saversomeone is “home”. It may not completely avoid a robbery, but it can certainly deter someone. If your hotel/rental has the energy saver key card switch at the door, usually another type of card will fit into it to keep the electricity on.

 

If you are meeting up with a social media or dating site acquaintance, be sure you have done your research and have a real address/phone number for them. Tell a friend or family member about them prior to the meetup. If possible you should plan the place, not them. And watch your drink.  Check in with family or friends frequently also.

Pack as many sanitary supplies as you will need for the trip.  Chances are very likely you are not going to find your brand or even possibly your product. And you know how icky or embarrassing that can be. Enough said.

Make paper copies of your passport and visa and take a photo of it to store in your IMG_20171018_120651478.jpgphone. Tuck one copy in your purse, one in your carry-on bag and one in your checked luggage. If your passport and your phone are lost or stolen or destroyed, this makes life SO much easier when you unexpectedly have to visit your country’s embassy or consulate for an emergency passport.

If drugs are illegal where you are going, do NOT buy them and certainly do not carry them through customs.  You may find yourself in a foreign jail in deplorable conditions for a very long time awaiting a court date. Even if you get out of jail on bond you will not be able to leave the country. No, this one did not happen to me.

Do not let an attractive man on the street with a sexy accent sweep you off your feet and take you someplace with which you are unfamiliar and then abandon you when you do not accept his proposition. Okay, I was young at the time! But seriously, there are plenty of predators out there who are looking to take advantage (either financially or sexually) of a foreign woman traveling alone.  If you just don’t want to miss the Cambodia tourpossibility of an exciting adventure with locals, sign up for a tour. There are so many unique one-on-one or small group tours all over the world which can be booked last minute. Exotic food tours, off the beaten path tours, walking tours, photo tours, you name it!  Search online before you go and know some options. There are definitely ways you can spend some time one on one with a local safely.  Being sure they are licensed and with a reputable company is the way to do it.

Go with your gut. Women are intuitive. If the situation does not feel right, find a way to get out of it or ask someone else around you for help. I have found that most foreigners are quite helpful if you are a guest in their country and ask them for assistance, even with a language barrier.

Happy traveling. Enjoy the adventure safely!

 

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Tips for Finding the Fountain of Youth

Recently I attended a celebration in Chicago for my mother’s milestone birthday. 90 years old! I must add, it was not celebrated in a hospital or a long-term care facility. Nor did Lucy 90 cakeshe enter the party sporting a wheelchair, a walker, or an oxygen tank.  In fact, it appeared as if we were celebrating 70 or even 60. As if the bakery had accidentally placed the “9” upside down on her birthday cake.

I am no health and fitness guru by any stretch of the imagination, although I do believe simple lifestyle changes can be the key to finding the fountain of youth. I see how so many people live longer and healthier lives when they choose little ways to better survive poor health pitfalls.  Here are some of the rules I follow to pretend I have found that magical fountain, having been inspired by my mother’s health and living on the Nicoya Penninsula in Costa Rica. I live near the town of Nicoya, which is considered one of only five “Blue Zones” in the world – special places on earth which boast a higher concentration of centenarians (100+) than anywhere else.  Perhaps we can learn from these old and wise people and take our own journey to the fountain of youth….

Take in fewer (or the same) amount of calories than you expel

This is one of my easy rules for weight loss or maintenance.  I am not saying you need to start counting calories to the Nth degree or anything.  Rounding numbers and having a general idea works too.  For example; 2 cheese enchiladas, rice, and beans: 1200 calories. An hour-long Zumba class: average 350-650 calories burned.  Better skip the second enchilada! But you get a general idea here.  There is also a multitude of apps which can help you count these calories (such as MyFitnessPal), rather than walking around with a notebook.  Side note: a typical sexual encounter for 25 minutes burns less than 100 calories.  You can’t exactly call that a workout. Although, it is good for you!

Sleep 7-8 hours per night

Many times I hear people boasting about how little sleep they ‘need’.  Yet, I have never heard a doctor suggest less sleep. The body needs that time to restore and heal itself from the damage you do to it all day long. Sleep is important to revitalize the mind and body.  If you have trouble falling asleep, there are many natural sleep aids out there. Or try a guided meditation regime.

Drink copious amounts of water

Our body uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate its temperature and maintain all bodily functions. We lose water while breathing, sweating, and digestion. So it is extremely important to rehydrate by drinking water.  I aim for 8 glasses per day.

Have a lover in your life

Loving a mate ranks very high in the Blue Zone studies.  Intimacy and sexual contact are important for the physical aspects of health and well-being.  But long-term love is also proven to keep your body and mind happy and challenged!

Engage in daily physical activity

Do you need to be a cross-fit workout machine? No.  However, daily activity beyond breathing, sex and walking from your car to the office is a must. Take the dog for a long, brisk walk. Join a gym. Don’t like gyms? I don’t either. You can work out at home to YouTube videos. There are tons of them for every level of fitness. Dance. Elevate your heart rate and throw some weights into the mix.   Just 30 minutes a day will get you closer to the fountain of youth.

Have a strong community with family and friends

This is also a big factor in the Blue Zones.  Be social beyond the community at your job. Get out and enjoy doing things with others.  Take in a concert, volunteer, join an art class, help your neighbor rebuild his fence.  Interaction keeps the brain alert and helps you feel a greater sense of belonging.

Stay away from processed and fried foods – focus on fruits, veggies, whole grains

blog fruits veggiesYou have heard it before. You are what you eat. Documentaries and investigative reporting have exposed the horrid modified ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, sugars, etc. which go into our food sources. It is slowly killing us. Eating natural foods keeps things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, and diabetes at bay.  Can’t give up the “bad stuff”? A few tastes of desserts or french fries or red meat are certainly ok to satisfy your cravings once in a while. Just don’t make a steady diet of it. I have found the more healthful your diet, the less you will crave the bad stuff anyway.

Floss and brush your teeth multiple times daily

Nature only gives us 2 sets of teeth. The primary set and then a full set, with your total molars established by the age of 12 or 13. You do the math. You want to live to 100?  You will need these teeth for 9 decades.  They eventually become delicate and prone to cracks, receding gums, and root issues long before you die.  Care for them now and reap the benefits later in life.

Wear sunscreen and moisturize your skin 

Moisturizer cream

Did you realize our skin is the largest organ? It’s the body’s first defense against disease and infection, and it protects your internal organs from injuries. It also helps regulate body temperature.  With all those important functions, why do we constantly abuse it?  Over time environmental exposure takes a toll on our skin’s elasticity.  And overexposure to the sun causes wrinkles and skin pigmentation irregularities. Keep it supple and protected!

React positively to what happens to you

There are times when unpleasant and stressful things happen to all of us. It is impossible to escape this truth. However, you do not have to react angrily or become the victim. These reactions not only make you unpopular amongst others, but they raise your stress level to unhealthy highs.  Being positive is a learned behavior, however, it is absolutely possible to react to issues in the “glass is half full” mode. Turn that obstacle into a win. Attitude is everything.

Color your hair

Okay, you may call me out on this bullet point. This is not a health tip and is completely cosmetic (but hey, I did not suggest botox and lipo). First let me say, there are many known reports of skin issues from hair dye. So use at your own risk! But it takes me back full circle to my mother. When she was 50 she thought about letting her hair go naturally grey. Then it was 60, then 70, and now she tells me if she is ever bedridden I better be sure to find a hairdresser to color her hair bedside!  If we live long enough all of us will go grey. Personally, I do not buy into the “distinguished” look for myself. I have seen hints of mine growing in. It only makes me look and feel OLD.  And finding that proverbial fountain is also about how we look at our reflection in the mirror.

My Top 10 Favorite Places in the World

I’m fortunate and extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to explore a significant amount of the world in my lifetime thus far; having been to all six habitable continents. People will often ask me where my top 10 favorite places are in the world. Anyone who is a traveler would understand it is ultimately an impossible endeavor. In essence, your favorites are a moving target. What you loved backpacking in Thailand 20 years ago might not be what you would put on your top list today. And the more you continue to travel, the more the list will shift. Also, is “favorite” based on nature and natural beauty? Adventure? Art and Architecture? Food? History? The warmth of the locals?

Given that laborious task, I began jotting down places while riding a  4+ hour shuttle in Costa Rica. I had a little time on my hands with no WiFi and painfully slow-moving traffic on the international highway which runs through the country – connecting to Panama in the south and Nicaragua to the north.  The problem was the list kept growing as I thought back fondly of so many incredible memories spanning multiple decades. I managed to cull it down, with a few honorable mentions of which I could not let go.  And may I remind you, this list IS a moving target?

Perth, WA, Australia

 

It has been many years since I have been there, but this city on Australia’s SW coast (and the surrounding region of Freemantle and the Margaret River Valley wine region) has an unmistakable “cool” vibe I have not quite found elsewhere in the country. The year round, near-perfect weather negates the need for heating or air conditioning. Outdoor sports can be found everywhere, from the Australian rules football fields to sailing on the Swan River to snorkeling around the azure waters of Rottnest Island.   Looking for wildlife you just don’t see back home? Black swans roam the parklands by the Swan River and Lake Monger and quokkas fearlessly approach you on Rottnest Island looking for a sip of water from your cup. It is worth the flight to this hip city on Australia’s other coast.

Tamarindo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

 

Up until a few decades ago, Tamarindo was a sleepy village on Costa Rica’s NW Pacific coast where surfers would come for the great breaks.  Since tourism has discovered this gemstone, it has grown up into something international, yet still keeping its exotic roots. Even post-discovery, the population averages only approximately 3,000. The mix of tourists, expats and locals add unique threads of color to the tapestry of this chill beach town. It is the smallest place I know where you can walk down the street (or the broad, beautiful beach) and hear 5 different languages any given day.   And the food? Don’t let the tiny population fool you, there are over 100 area restaurants and bars to satisfy the foodie in you! Plus, you can SUP, surf, golf, fish, horseback ride, ATV, or just photograph wildlife to your heart’s content all within 20 minutes. With the least amount of rain in the country, there is never a bad time to visit.

Goa, India 

 

The small state of Goa on India’s west coast consists of 101 kms of coastline and has a distinctive personality blending east and west, Hindu and Catholic, curry and seafood. It is decidedly India, yet heavily influenced by the Portuguese for almost 450 years.  In my travels to Incredible India, I find myself returning each time to Goa. I cannot put my finger on it. The air is different there.  Perhaps there is just something exotic about swimming in the Arabian Sea and legally being able to wear a bikini in India with no one judging you as you throw back a cold Kingfisher beer! There are dozens of beaches, some boasting crowds of tourists and others are quiet hideaways. Portuguese fortresses dot the shoreline. The food is endless, from beach shacks to upmarket restaurants perched on cliffs watching the sun sink into the sea at the end of the day. And no trip to Goa is complete without a visit to the all-night Saturday hippie market – Arpora.

Austin, Texas, USA

 

The capital of Texas has made a name for itself flaunting its live music-food trailers-high tech-gay pride-hipsters-cowboys-starving artists-tolerant vibe.  A pretty remarkably harmonious blend, given all the ideological differences.  Home to two of the country’s largest music festivals (Austin City Limits, South-by-Southwest) , the only Formula 1 track in the country (Circuit of the Americas),  and a great university (University of Texas) -with a massive amount of football followers, this little powerhouse city had put itself on the international map. But it isn’t all music, cars, and football.  One must visit the prettiest capital building in the country, the only one standing taller than the USA capital. Austin is located where the farmland to the east meets the scenic hill country to the west. There are delightful day trips to central Texas treasures like swimming holes and a massive pink granite dome (called Enchanted Rock) and dozens of wineries.  A weekend is simply not long enough!

Fira, Santorini, Greece 

 

The moment you step onto your whitewashed terrace overlooking the caldera, the “wow factor” will engulf you. This crescent shaped island of Santorini (or Thera) is actually a volcano which erupted thousands of year ago.  The city of Fira is built on the side of the volcano overlooking the sunken rim into the sea. You can take a gondola ride to the bottom, or if you are adventurous take a donkey. From there you can catch a boat to the center where you can swim the ancient volcanic waters. For history buffs, you will not want to miss the Akrotiri Ruins.  And if you like wine there are multiple wineries to tour. There’s nothing like a good Greek wine to accompany that fresh feta cheese and kalamata olive plate. Santorini is beyond charming and a truly iconic Greek island. Foodies will also celebrate the family owned Greek restaurants at every turn.

Cape Town, South Africa

 

This international city sits near the bottom of the African continent on the Western Cape where the frigid, turbulent waters of the Atlantic meet the warm, caressing waters of the Indian ocean. You can occasionally see a line at Cape Point where they meet. The Cape Town area boasts everything from international dining and shopping, to gorgeous beaches, to nearby world renowned wine regions, to beautiful museums, to a fascinating and yet difficult history of apartheid.  Must do’s include going to the top of one of the cities natural symbols, Table Mountain where the views are spectacular. As well as hanging out at Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. You can ride a double-decker city sightseeing bus which is a fantastic way to hop on and hop off seeing all the major sites. The locals are friendly and the natural beauty is unparalleled.

Rome, Italy

 

For anyone interested in the incredible history and architecture of the  Roman Empire, Rome is certainly a fantastic place to commence.  It is an easy city to navigate on foot, just make sure you have good walking shoes! It was my first European city to visit and I can attest to the fact that throwing a coin in Trevi Fountain does actually work, as I returned multiple times. My top historic places to see are The Vatican City,  The Coliseum, The Pantheon, the carnivalesque Piazza Navona, and The Roman Forum. However, there is a multitude of hidden treasures beyond the touristy historic sites. Don’t be afraid to roam the narrow streets of Rome to find little pizzerias and antique shops and neighborhoods still preserved as they were in the Middle Ages. Surprises abound. I once had a waiter kiss me (briefly but passionately) in Piazza Navona whilst leaving his restaurant after dinner. A thrill for a teenage girl! Shhhhh, don’t tell my mother.

Rio de  Janeiro, Brazil 

 

If you like Samba and an easy sexual culture and caipirinhas and beaches and Brazilian steak houses and unique art and a vibrant all-night-party city, this place it for you!  I visited Rio on my honeymoon with my “starter husband” and have found myself returning again each decade.  Since the recent Olympics there, they have cleaned up the beaches and the city to help visitors feel safe (I have never had any safety issues). A day at famous Ipanema Beach is a bucket list item.  And the sights are endless. One must go to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain via cable car to take in the sweeping views of the city. And seeing Christ the Redeemer statue will give you goose bumps, even if you are not Christian. You can hire a driver/tour guide or take the subway with new stops being added. It is a massive city and challenging to navigate, otherwise.  Carnival is not for the faint of heart, but certainly a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

 

Bora Bora earns my title as the most romantic place in the universe. I recommend you take a lover when you travel there.  From the moment you fly into the tiny WWII airstrip to taking a water taxi to your over-the-water bungalow, everything is absolute magic. The landscape is so spectacular it almost looks fake. The azure water is incredibly clear and the sand is soft and blindingly white and the green mountains are a shade of green not found on the color wheel. It is the kind of place that makes you want to swim naked! Be sure to book a room with a see-through floor so you can watch the sea life swim by. And if you can carve out time to leave your love nest, rent bikes to take in the astonishing beauty of this tiny tropical island or book a traditional Tahitian dance show. Join the throngs of rich and famous who have dined at Bloody Mary’s Or simply lose yourself on a hammock.

Honorable Mentions:

Halong Bay, Vietnam

 

A UNESCO national world heritage site in the Gulf of Tonkin, includes some 1,600 islands and islets, forming a spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Godsmack beauty at every vista.  Take the 2-day cruise on a traditional junk boat.

London, England

 

I have always had an affinity for this lovely, historic and vibrant city. After attending school nearby, I desperately wanted to live there. But oh, the weather.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA 

 

The largest national park in the USA  at 5586 square kilometers (3471 square miles) is a stunner with dramatic canyons, bubbling mud pots, shooting geysers and roaming buffalo. Natural and unusual beauty in the wild west.

Luxor, Egypt 

 

History, history, history. No, not American history. No, not European history. ANCIENT history which truly defines “wonders of the world.”

Masai Mara, Kenya 

 

The best place on earth for a safari and glamping.  There is nothing as thrilling as seeing these magnificent animals the way nature intended them to be seen.

And the adventure continues. Stay tuned!

 

Top 10 Tips to Avoid Job Burnout

I worked for “the man” in Corporate America for over a quarter of a century both in commission-only media sales and, for a short time, in middle management.  I eventually left an ample paying position with health care benefits, a nice expense account, and 401k matching to pursue a different dream – releasing myself of the golden handcuffs.

Why wouldn’t someone want to stick it out for the proverbial gold watch and the pension? In my case, there was certainly no pension; or even a gold watch. However, stress was the corporate gift that kept on giving. The stress levels rose each year with every corporate buy out or merger and with each management team’s new “vision”. Eventually, it began to cause health issues.   Funny how your doctor tells you to avoid stress. Like he/she doesn’t know your job, right?work stress

The workplace, to me, had become more stressful and less user-friendly with each passing year. Perhaps due to the immediacy of technology and everyone (outside and inside the organization) expecting results in a nano second. Possibly it is the people sitting at the corporate office in their ivory tower having to massage the numbers to answer to the Wall Street stockholders.  Or maybe greed and the desire for power has overtaken the way we do business on every level.

My purpose today is not to figure out the why, but to help you with a few survival skills to avoid job burnout in this corporate landscape.

1. Use every minute of your vacation time. 

Yes, there actually are people who do not.  I was once interviewed by a manager who was so proud he had not taken a single vacation day for something like 6 years.  I looked at him closely for signs of the inevitable heart attack approaching.  I could not imagine working in an environment which frowned upon taking the vacation time you earned. Needless to say, I didn’t take the job. vacation calendar.jpg

Time off clears your head, allows your internal system to truly relax and gives you time to make cherished memories with family, friends or alone time.  “Vacation” does not mean you have to go somewhere and spend a bunch of money. Perhaps you plant a garden or go fishing on a nearby quiet lake. The point here is to check out.  Unless you’re a rocket scientist, the world won’t end, nor is anyone is going to die without you at your desk for a week or two.

2. Be kind and respectful to all employees at your company (not just the boss).

Most career folks spend 40-50-60 hours a week in the presence of a staff at work. They may be higher or lower on the totem pole, but all of them can make or break your day.  I have found that respecting their positions and working as a team goes a long way to keeping the corporate engine purring along. And takes your stress levels down.

3. Work from home whenever possible.work stress work from home

Many companies are now creating flex time and “work from home” options for employees. Being at home typically reduces stress levels. You are in your safe space. You don’t have road rage from sitting in that morning commute for an hour.  You might be in your comfortable loungewear.  Your sweet dog is at your feet wagging its tail each time you look down.  Since so many people now work with their computers, it is not unrealistic to work from home, even if it is for a couple of days a week. If your company does not offer this option and you have a good relationship with management (see #2), perhaps now is a good time to suggest exploring alternatives.

4. Balance work with family time and hobbies.

The most successful and interesting people I have met in the corporate world also have a passion for life outside of work.  It can be something as simple as date night with your spouse or taking the family to the park on Saturdays. Or a golf group or painting class or a happy hour with old friends.  Whatever your other passion is, do it. Even if you are not that good at it. The key is to take your mind off work,  ignore your smartphone and enjoy a less stressful atmosphere.

5. Do not check your messages after “quiet time”.

We all know these people. Hell, you may even be one of them.  They work all day. Then they work all night as the messages on the phone keep pinging in till bed time. Priding themselves on being available 24/7. Sure sometimes we have a project past deadline and it needs immediate attention. But realistically, how often does it need to be done NOW? Reserve evenings and weekends for your other passions whenever possible.  Most technology allows us to set a “quiet time” to make the pings stop sounding. Your significant other will thank you.  So will your blood pressure.

work stress smartphone.jpg

6. Use “out of office” Messenger when away from your technology.

I mentioned earlier in this article that people seem to want results in a nano second these days. An email is received and then within a couple of hours a second one appears, “Did you get my previous email???”  Some people no longer take into account an employee may be in a meeting, or focusing on a different proposal or are driving and don’t want a $500 texting fine, for Pete’s sake. Who was Pete anyway?

I have found the “out of office” bounce back message to be an effective tool.  Create a response telling the recipient how long you will be away and who to contact for immediate attention.  I found it takes stress levels down when you do not have to worry about the immediacy of emails and voice mails. Obviously, it is handy for vacation time, but you can use it when you have appointments out of the office or if you have long meetings/conferences.

7. Change jobs.

What? You love your _______ (prestige, paycheck, manager, title – fill in the blank).  But the dirty secret in the corporate world is your company ultimately does not care about you.  They care about your production for “the man”.  Will they miss you when you are gone?  Sure, maybe.  Especially if you took care of #2. But the reality is that you are, most likely, replaceable (with the exception of rocket scientists). So why should you be concerned about leaving if you want a different/better opportunity?

When you feel that stress coming on it may be time to make a change. You know what I am talking about. Sunday night rolls around and you are dreading the next day. You have a sinking feeling when you read your email and your manager has called a special meeting. You know it is going to be a sales “beating” not a “meeting”.

There may also be ways to change jobs within the company to a different department. That way you will not lose your accrued vacation time (see #1).

8. Be honest.

It seems we see the honesty quality less frequently these days.  Honesty goes a long way keeping stress levels down. Admit your mistakes and own them upfront.  Don’t try to play the blame game. Most people do not get fired from admitting a screw-up and apologizing. At my last company, I was written up by HR several times (loud music at my desk, posting a seductive photo of myself on social media, blah, blah, blah).  I would love to see that file today. And laugh.  But seriously, when the team knows you are a straight shooter, honest and dependable, and not sneaking around causing drama, your job will be easier to not only survive but to thrive.

9. RUN from office drama and gossip.

work stress water coolerWe have all been in a work situation where you know the one who loves to create drama. Do your best to stay away from these people or least do not get involved. They will ultimately cause undue stress you never anticipated or invited.  Same goes for gossip. It eventually bites you in the ass!

10. Never lose your cool.

During personal time it might feel good to cry or scream. But in the corporate world, you are much safer showing minimal emotions. There are even counselors and corporate mentors who can help you get there if it is a challenge.  The guy who often goes ballistic over some office nonsense is most likely the next one on the chopping block. Unless he is the big boss, of course. Then you are screwed and might want to put #7 into place.

Here’s wishing you the best in today’s corporate world!

 

Top 10 Ways to Reinvent Yourself

Most people, at some point in life, think of reinventing themselves.  Whether it is tweaking your style or a complete life overhaul, we often strive to make ourselves better – or at least different – than before.  But the age-old question is; How does one go about this metamorphosis?  Change is a frightening exercise. When it is forced upon us, we have to go through the steps of re-learning and acceptance.  But what happens when we force it upon ourselves? It can be a magical process once we see the other side.

I was wickedly shy as a child and tween. I was afraid to raise my hand in school, even though I knew the reinvent shyanswer to the questions.  I remember the outgoing, confident kids being awarded the big parts in the school plays and being chosen first on the kickball team. Not necessarily because they were the most talented, but because they were self-assured.  Growing into a dorky teenager with braces added to my awkwardness, pulling me deeper into this introverted self.  The thought of going up to a stranger and introducing myself to them was terrifying.

However, on the inside, I was playful and humorous and even a bit of a rebel.  My circle of friends and family knew about those characteristics.  However, no one on the outside did. At that time, I was desperate to reinvent myself from the geeky duckling into the proverbial confident swan.  But how does one go about doing THAT?reinvent old new

In this particular case, I made a big decision to reinvent myself at approximately age 14. I was tired of being shy and I knew that I had more to offer to the world than being a human taking up space. Rather than loathe myself for not living the existence I desired, I decided to reinvent myself.  My pathway to confidence started in an unusual way….

I had fallen in love with a kiddy band from Scotland called the Bay City Rollers. They were the epitome of sappy sugary teeny-bop music…and I adored them.  Their core fan base of predominantly prepubescent girls came with a pen-pal club of like-minded international fans donning their tartan. 

 

That’s right, before the internet and social media, people actually wrote physical letters to one another on paper and mailed them inside an envelope with a stamp!  At one point I had pen-pals in 30+ US states and a dozen countries.   I tell you this story because it was the beginning of a metamorphosis.  Writing those letters became an outlet where I found my creative self.  The playful, humorous self.

I had a pen-pal in a far-away suburban Chicago location.  Actually, it was not far away at all in the grand scope of distances (an hour drive?). But it seemed FAR away back then. My friend (whom I had never met – sounds a little like Facebook, doesn’t it?) invited me to visit for a weekend slumber party.  My mother, I presume, phoned her mother and everything checked out in Mom-world. 

I sat at my little writing-table before that weekend and I vowed not to be shy. I wanted to be the cool girl from out-of-town. I visualized being the one who would bust into a Bay City Roller tune on cue and the one who instigated a rousing game of “truth or dare”. What did I have to lose? No one knew me. There was no history between us. I did not run the risk of being typecast.  Remarkably, I WAS that girl….and the magic happened.  I loved the energy of the “alternative me” and saw my new gang of friends a few more times that summer.

The metamorphosis happened seemingly overnight. However, I know it was a process. I went back to school in the fall ditching my old ways, looking prettier without my braces, and a sporting a new level of confidence.  And so on and so on, strides were made into adulthood to keep improving.   Do I still feel awkward in a roomful of total strangers? You bet.  Do I power through and leave with new contacts or friends? Often. Of course, a bar on premise does help the situation.

Having tackled reinvention several times in my life, I began to wonder how I could help people with ideas for reinventing themselves. Here are my Top Ten (okay, top nine):

Change careers:  Are you stuck in a dead-end job you thought would be more rewarding? Possibly no room for advancement? A dying industry?  The longer you stay there the more that job becomes a part of you. And if it is a negative influence, it can eventually take over your entire outlook on life. After all, most of us do spend the majority of our awake hours working. Know that even after decades, it is never too late to change your career.  Work for yourself by starting your own company. Get a degree online.  Take the first step. The rest will follow.

Move to a new city or country:  Sounds scary, right?  And often #1 on the list goes hand-in-hand with this one.   But I know of no better way to reinvent yourself.  In this case, no reinvent moving vanone knows you. Can you leave much of your past behind and work on the person you wish to be – revealing only what you wish to reveal from your former self. 

 

Take up a new hobby or sport:  You don’t want to do anything drastic but you always wanted to learn to ____. Fill in the blank.  Paint? Write? Surf? Dance? Act? Skydive? Ski? Speak French? Now is a perfect time to learn. Take a class, join a group. Tap into that creative or competitive side and watch a different kind of metamorphosis emerge. And chances are you will make a whole new group of like-minded friends.

Change your style or your hair:  Go from conservative to wild! Get some ink (just remember that idea is pretty permanent) or try a temporary tattoo to see if you like it. Or tone down your punk rock goth look to the professional you want to be. Dye your hair pink, buy a wig, cut it all off.  When you dress the part, you begin to feel the part. And once you feel the part,  you have replaced the old with the new.

reinvent handshake 2Mend Fences:  We all have fences to mend and messes to clean. Some are tiny and some may consume us.  Whether it is family issues or legal messes or work mate/manager muck, they exist.  Some people hold a grudge for life.  Why? Wouldn’t  it be fantastic if you could reawaken into a new person during your clean up? Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness.  Reaching out to commence the process of clean-up eliminates some of your distractions and emotional stress. And it will most likely change you into a more magnanimous person in the process. 

Take a spiritual journey:  No, you do not even have to be religious to be spiritual.  It is something you can do right in your hometown at a spiritual retreat or something grand and life changing like bathing in the River Ganges in India or walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Regardless, you will discover something new in your inner-self and you will return reinvented in some way.

Volunteer: Some of the most generous, nurturing people I have met in the world have worked to help other humans/animals/our earth/less fortunate. Volunteering can be amazingly easy – in your own community for a couple hours a week.  Anything from delivering meals to the elderly to being a role model for kids or simply walking dogs at your local animal shelter. Or you can go on exotic voluntourism trips anywhere in the world, such as building wells in Kenya, helping orphans in India or working at an animal sanctuary in Costa Rica.  

Spend less – save more:  This really touches on financial reinvention. But hey, let’s face it, that is a big part of life too.  Some people feel they live paycheck to paycheck and simply cannot get ahead. But take a long hard look at your finances.  Do you spend money on things you do not need?  New technology when the old stuff worked just fine? A new car when you could have replaced something in the old one for a lot less? A $1000 pair of shoes??? The list probably goes on. We are simply caught up in the mass consumerism of “keeping up with the Joneses”.  Or drunk buying on Amazon. investmentWhat if you cut a few things out of your monthly budget and put that money away for something to help you make more money? Perhaps a property investment or a fund for your early retirement.  Financial success can certainly be reinvention. 

Some of the most successful people in the world have reinvented themselves time and time again. Don’t be afraid to try it yourself.  It might be the best thing you ever did for yourself!  Enjoy your journey!

reinvent yoga

Yeah, that’s me. Searching for Nirvana in India. It’s a process.

 

Top 10 Bedroom Tips for Ladies

***Disclaimer: I am not a trained psychologist, psychiatrist, sex therapist or any other type of licensed professional health care giver.  Nonetheless, this is not my first rodeo!

Ladies, I have come to find men are basically the less complicated gender of the Homo sapiens.  Simplicities like sports, food, sex, hunting/fishing and building things (not necessarily in any particular order) can often keep them amused for long spans of time.

However, occasions spent in the bedroom (or other places where intimacy happens) may be a wee bit more complex.  This is my somewhat tongue-in-cheek Top 10 List of Bedroom Tips. You may find it helpful for navigating those dangerous sexual waters and keeping harmony in the relationship.

sex gun1. Don’t use sex as a weapon for negative behavior or as a reward for  positive behavior. Sexuality should stand unparalleled.  The relationship tends to become more complicated when your other conduct plays a part in intimacy. For example, “I am furious at you for going out with your friends and getting drunk last night, so NO shooting the meat rocket into the sausage wallet for you this week.” Discuss a different reward/punishment system and make it part of your set of agreements.

2. Stay away from comparisons.  “My ex used to do this.” “Yeah, I would say he was bigger.”  Very few intimate partners want to hear about your previous horizontal playgrounds. However, this is different from telling him what you would like him to do to you. That is highly encouraged.  Merely, don’t reveal how you learned it.

3. Give out fellatio/oral sex/blow jobs/polishing the trailer hitch like candy on Halloween.  That keeps them extremely happy. Not kidding.  If you can’t stomach swallowing high fructose porn syrup, do not fret.  He will still appreciate your gesture.  Simply have a towel handy.

sex going down

4. He wants to go immediately to the main course. You want to enjoy a few appetizers first. Foreplay is fun and sexy. Make him wait. He will ultimately be more explosive.

sex chanelier5. Being slightly tipsy is a splendid way to dissolve inhibitions. However, polluted-hammered-shit faced-wasted sex is most often a waste of time and energy. Not only will you wake up with a hangover, you will most likely, be sore or bruised from some antics you can’t quite remember.

6. Be the initiator and aggressor as often as him.  Regardless of how manly he is in the board room or on the football field, he enjoys kicking back in the bedroom and allowing you to assault his friendly weapon…often!

7. Read books about sex or watch instructional videos to spice up life in the bedroom and be open to experimentation. Role playing and toys can add a new dimension of excitement and pleasure. Nevertheless, be warned: Fulfilling his dreams of a three-some may create some unexpected repercussions down the road. Think: Stalkers, STD’s, etc. There are a lot of weird ones out there. Choose carefully.

8. Be proud of your body and uninhibited displaying it. Men are visual monsters. That is sex peek a boowhy they are the big consumers of porn – not us. He is passionately enthusiastic about your body no matter what size, shape or color. Otherwise you would not have gotten this far (e.g. bedroom) in the first place. Show it off. Make things steamy in the way you present it to him…slowly. Drives ‘em crazy.

9. Don’t make a deal about his sexual dysfunction (unless it is an ongoing issue).  Sure, you may be 25 and he is 26 and you laugh at such a statement. “That will NEVER happen to us.” Trust me….if you live long enough and remain sexually active, you will most likely have a partner who experiences it.  Just move on…and try everything another day. Stay cool and do not frustrate him any further by asking questions in bed.

10. A firm rule is to keep away from urination, defecation, blood and bruising. Shut your gaping mouth! There are actually people who enjoy this stuff. You may too. But, hey, it’s MY list.

Life is short.  Try one idea to improve yourself daily.

Advice to my 19-year-old Self: Monday Musings

As I look down at the skin discoloration and new freckles on my sun-damaged arms and hands, I silently berate myself for not having stayed out of the sun or, at the very least, worn some serious sunscreen when I was younger.  The harsh reality is, once you cross over that proverbial middle-aged number (I like to think of it as a moving target, but I know in my heart of hearts I have long since crossed it), all your old vices and bad habits come back to haunt you.

I remember back in the 1990’s there was a song by Baz Luhrmann called “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen”.  It was actually more of a speech put to music than a song (click here to listen). Nevertheless, it contained copious amounts of good advice given to a graduating class. It got me to musing, what kind of advice would my older-self give today to my younger-self?

The first one would be to wear sunscreen. Seriously!  I remember in the summer months (and spring and fall whenever possible) in my youth going to the beach or the pool daily and absolutely baking every piece of my legally allowable visible skin.  Sunscreen? That was for sissies. I would slather on a greasy mixture of baby oil and iodine (yes iodine to stain the skin darker) and bake front side and back side in 30-minute increments for hours.

I went on a girl’s trip to the Bahamas after high school graduation and proudly compared myself to the many local’s deep coco skin. I was darker than half of them. Hey 19- year-old self: Dark tans on white girls do not make you look sexy (no matter what Hawaiian Tropic tells you), it only helps insure a visit from the melanoma fairy later in life. Not to mention the loss of elasticity and wrinkles. Argh! Wrinkles!

Secondly, your parents are going to give you good advice. But only to a point. That is right, those annoying adult people who kept laying all those rules on you for all your teenage years?  They were giving you good advice.  They are two of the most important people in your life and will always be, even after they are gone. And they have already crossed over to their middle age. They get it. They lived it. Listen to their advice and respect them. However, do not let their advice rule your decisions completelyFor example,  I thought hs Kat w cameraabout a career in The Arts (read starving artist) when we had to declare a major for higher education. My father steered me towards business because he felt I would make more money and have more stability. Their job was to protect and help keep things secure and comfortable. If I wanted to do something completely adventurous or risky, they would not have been especially supportive. Hey 19-year-old self: Go with your gut. If you feel strongly about doing something outside the box, DO IT.

Third, do not be so shy and cautious! Okay, you are doing better these last few years since the painfully shy child you were in grade school. But I see it still holds you back.  Do not be frightened to be bold. Speak up, reach out, take risks. The greater the risks, the greater the rewards. Remember when you were a freshman in high school and you excelled in Spanish class? You had the opportunity to be a year-long exchange student in Bolivia or Chile or some other exotic South American country, but you opted out because of some unfounded fear. That would have been one of the most amazing experiences of your life. And now you would not be struggling to have command of the Spanish language.  Hey 19-year-old self, it is time to become fearless and forget that you were ever shy.

Fourth, do not get caught up with classmates or friends making fun of people or being unkind. We all have our personal handicaps.  We are all trying to find where we fit in and how this world works. You are no more superior than anyone else on this earth. You may have better skills or opportunities or even beauty, but that does not give you license to be unkind or intolerant. Be a uniter not a divider. 

Fifth, do not play with people’s hearts.  Several men will fall in love with yohs kat dallasu in the future. Some relationships will be beautiful and some not so much. Most of them will end in an unpleasant way. You, most likely, will be the one ending it. Once you know the relationship is not working, be honest and up front.  Do not play with his heart. He will love you and he deserves to be treated with respect.  Make an effort to remain friends, if you desire. If you once really loved one another, he will always have a special place in your heart after the dust settles.

Sixth, eat healthy, drink less alcohol and stay fit.  Sounds silly now, right? You look pretty damn good and you don’t have to worry about weight gain or any health issues.  Guess what? Metabolism changes. Health changes. Suddenly you wonder how cholesterol levels can possibly creep up. And where the heck did those 5 extra kilos come from?  Stay fit for life starting now and don’t miss health check ups. Hey 19-year-old self, you will thank me later.

Seventh, never say “That will never happen to me.” in your cocky littler manner. You have no idea what will or will not happen to you until you live your life.

Eighth, learn to be more patient.  In the upcoming decades you are going to see massive changes in the way we communicate, in the way you do your job, in the way the politics shift. Everything that touches your life will change. For the only constant is change (no, it is not a cliché). This is going to require a lot of patience on your part. You are going to have to relearn and reprogram your brain and your lifestyle. Be patient, with not only your learning process, but with others as well.  Learning new things will be fantastic and also frustrating.  Practice patience.

Ninth, spend time around children and elderly. You don’t spend enough time around either. Start now. You will learn some amazing things from the raw truths spoken by both ends of the life-cycle spectrum.  Hey 19-year-old self, you won’t have kids of your own, but you will have plenty to love in India.

Tenth, travel every chance you can. HS kat in FranceGet out there and discover the world. It will expand your mind, make you more tolerant of different beliefs and thankful for what you have. And yes, you are off to a good start.

Eleventh, do not be so hard on yourself. You will meet plenty of people who will do that for you. You are smarter, cooler, prettier than you think. Just be happy in your  own skin. Hey 19-year old self, they are going to call you eccentric. Take it as a compliment. HS kat with mug

Lastly, get involved. Make a difference.  You have the power to make changes which will make our world better. Even if you don’t believe you can. You can.

You probably won’t take all this advice. I know you better by now than you know yourself. And trust me on the sunscreen!

Monday Musings. What woud you tell YOUR younger self?  Have a great week!