I’m taken with the idea of traveling– the places you’ll visit, the sights you’ll see, the sounds and experiences to be felt. I spent time on the phone with my sister, chatting for an hour or two late into the night on a weekday about plans to volunteer in Costa Rica. I’ve been craving for another adventures outside of the country outside of Paris, while also looking for opportunities to do good. I dream of a time when I can spend time in abroad, immersing myself in a different culture that I’m eager to learn, faced with people I’m intrigued to understand, and placed in situations that will both challenge and strengthen me. We learned of this volunteer placement program called IVHQ, which offers affordable programs for anyone interested in volunteering. Volunteering abroad can be expensive, and so many people shy away from it because of this reason. So we looked for an organization that would allow us to connect to a non-profit abroad and would be affordable at the same time. We were almost a quarter of the way into the process, reached out to the coordinators for accommodation questions, marked the potential dates in our calendar… then learned that my sister can’t go on vacation on the optimal two weeks we were hoping to do this trip. We just need to plan another date, but hopefully I won’t have to wait until labor day for that. Ideally, I would like a trip every quarter, and this year I’d like to have one at least in the first half of the year.

I subscribe to travel magazines and read travel blogs frequently, vicariously living through the adventures of others and outlining goals and a plan for my next travel adventure. Many of these travel bloggers are young and carefree, whose first priority is to travel. They’ve either just graduated from college or worked for a few years when they’ve decided to leave everything behind and move some place else. Some of them have traveled abroad before. While others seemed like their previous travels were more domestic. Yet one thread was common among them: travel is a way to escape. Most of their blog intros talk about feeling burnt out, stressed and tired from the drudgery that all they wanted to do was to ship out to see what is out there.

I don’t blame them for this, in fact, I understand where they’re coming from. As much as I love my job, sometimes it can get a bit too much staying at your desk, sending out emails after another, creating reports, hopping on calls, scheduling meetings, etc. But I think there’s more to travel than a means to escape one’s current situation.

If you were to ask me, I think this idea of escaping has more to do with an issue at a personal level than external factors. It’s probably not the work, the location nor the hours that is so burdening– it’s how you are willing to tolerate these. Some people, especially colleagues who have not left already, are fine with this at some level, while others are less tolerant that they want to find other things that would tolerate, with the end goal of being happy.

I like to see travel not just an opportunity to escape, but as both a means and destination to a bigger goal. Travel is not about getting on a path to find happiness, or finding oneself. It’s strength training. It’s challenging and scary. At times it will destroy you, it will bring you back up, and push you toward the brink of wanting to go home. It is infuriating, with the injustices around the world that you will encounter. It’s annoying, especially when you can’t seem to get what you need to get done. It’s inconvenient especially when you don’t speak the language. Travelling has in store more possibilities for discovery when it’s purposeful.

When all I want is to escape the flat, uneventful days of work, that’s the least I want to travel. When I am immersed in my work and understand my place in my industry and ponder what experiences to explore, that’s when I want to travel. The world is big, filled with so many stories. There’s a constant stream of activity in some places; other areas are pretty tranquil. I want to see both. I want to feel that the world is so big, that it wouldn’t be possible to encompass it in a lifetime. I want to understand that no matter how huge the world is, how complex the associations, how multi-layered the situations, I want to feel that at least I’m a part of it, always thinking of ways on how to make an even bigger impact.


The monotony of routine

How do we make each day new? This is a question I always wonder everyday. I used to have a highly developed writer’s senses– I observe things that are not readily apparent to people, think through ideas that most only encounter in textbooks or in the classroom, and feel compelled to write as if it’s a demanding physical condition that needed attention. I worry about days that blur into each other, each minute that the clock ticks a signal of passing moments, the weeping of the future and the disbelief of the past, a background noise, unnoticeable. Every evening I try to summon into my mind activities of the day, conversations exchanged and moments of significance that have transpired. But nothing. All I can think about is my exhaustion, my fatigued muscles bemoaning the long hours hunched over the computer, perfecting the deliverable, composing the impeccable email masterpiece, in tune and wholeheartedly insisting that all of these are of such importance that make our time worthwhile. At the end of the day, I can’t remember what I did earlier in the day– the emails I sent, for what ever important answer I had to an impending business question, the dialogues I had to exchange what we were convinced were the most important ideas in our space.

It’s nice to observe again. To take the time and see the messy salt on the floor to melt snow, not as a mess but as spilled crystals that glisten amid the dim lights of the street lamp, fine glinting pieces of white that tell the story of the street, the tale of a city that snows that it takes truckloads of salt to melt the soft, deceitful fall of ice on the ground.

After work, I went to my Toastmasters class at the Seneca Hotel, where we meet every Tuesdays. For table topics, which is this regular these 30-min session about topics of interest to the Toastmaster, I was asked to speak infront of the group and answer the question— “If somebody were to give you $20,000 to speak infront of the public would you do it?”

Through rambles and mumbles, I delivered an answer that seemed satisfying to others: a resounding yes to challenge, to opportunity. I said a few hellos and commented on the meeting at the end. During the class, I listened to the speakers deliver their speeches, and also took the time to give them constructive feedback. In between the listening and the evaluating, I snuck in a few moments to think about writing and the task of blogging, and came upon a realization that I want to blog because I want to write because I want to remember my days and the unique activities that live in them and mostly, I want to write about my days from my perspective. I want to show the novel of my life— if my life were told in chapters, I would like to be the author– these are experiences that are mine. As the meeting ended, some of the members continued their discussions in the saloon downstairs, while I rushed past shivering passersby amid the plummeting temperature in order to purchase a pair of tights that will save me the next day when outside conditions remain consistent with the freezing, foggy, dark morning.

I had some time to study Spanish so I did, in between eating a sandwich and snacking on some fruit, a while later, I complemented by Spanish comprehension exercises with some audio materials, and paired my food with a glass of water and orange juice.

Practica de Espanol ahora

Yo comenzara mi clase de Espanol en el 8 de Februero. Ahora, necessito practicar porque hace dos or tres anos que yo estudie Espanol en mi collegio. Me gusta la idioma hermosa, y necessito practicar la grammatica y aprendo nuevas palabras en la gran colleccion vocabulario. Entonces, se beneficial por mi que you aprender nueva frases de Espanol. Hay muchas cosas aprender pero me gusta cada minuto!

Grace and fortitude in yoga practice

I discovered yoga when I was 18, when I attended a group fitness class at the Wooden Center during my junior year in college. It has always been a constant in my life– I find that it nourishes me in aspects that are spiritual, physical, mental and personal. It connects me not only to the current moment, but also to my inner self. It helps me pinpoint areas in my body that are strained and feel uncomfortable, and presses me to explore further why my shoulders or lower back feel a certain way. How it connects me to my breathing– it taught me how to breathe from somewhere deeper, and to use breath as a tool for renewing the spirit. Breathe in positivity, breathe out negativity.

The NYT published an article recently that examines how yoga can be a bad thing for your body. It argues that through demanding poses and the stamina it requires, yoga can do harm to the body, which conflicts with the widely held belief that it is a method of healing. It looks at the demographic of its avid devotees, particularly in the U.S., where city people flock to studios and attempt to do inversions and challenging twists even after a series of days when they are mostly sedentary in corporate confines. The article goes into detail about specific cases where yoga students were hospitalized, along with exemplifications of damage to physiological processes that they experienced. I think the key lesson to takeaway is not necessarily to give up yoga entirely even there is proof that it can do harm, because it does have many benefits as well. To find a practice and a guru that can help you start, consistently commit to, and a class to progress with will help in understanding your body one series of pose at a time. The problem with many yoga classes is they’re offered to anyone,l without restrictions to level and intensity, even if the class schedule states the recommended level. Most people just drop in, either weekly or every few weeks, but I think to get most out of the experience, one has to increase the intensity of the poses gradually and attain progress in the practice for longer stretches of time.

When I moved to Chicago in late 2010, one of the things high up in my to-do list is to look for a yoga studio. I regularly went to yoga practice at my gym back in L.A., and found it difficult to be away from it for so long. I felt stress and tension can compound so easily, and yoga was the solution to my spiritual and physical problems. Encumbered by jobs that were physically and mentally straining, working long hours and enduring my first experience with winter, I kept on putting it off until I got back to it again, this time through a different method– bikram. Bikram was intense and through it I found that I enjoyed vinyasa yoga more.

Yoga is about unity and alignment in more ways than just physical. A tree pose helps you  look for balance in your footing, and an eagle pose could help you look for strength in your innermost core. It helps regulate your breathing and aid in calming down your inner emotions. It is also about the unity of sound, the dichotomy of om— how it is at once the sound of nothing and the sound of everything. A deep sound that is hummed at the beginning and end of practice; it is a mechanism that can audibly validates your existence and associate you with the rest of a class as a piece of something bigger. As with most things, too much of something and too fast too soon can lead to bad outcomes. Yoga is a luxury not just financially but also physically, and when the ability to practice it regularly is one of the greatest experiences in life– just be careful not to over do it.