Travel adventures have occupied my mind quite a bit most of my life and there are many destinations that have set up camp in my brain. I keep them tucked away and keep researching and being open to opportunities and the gut feeling when my intuition tells me it’s the right time and the right place to take action. I experienced this strong, overwhelming feeling of urgency in my gut lately that I just HAD to get to Cuba as soon as possible.
The feeling has been getting stronger and stronger with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in the past couple years. I wanted to see the island before it was changed by too many outsiders. I wanted to experience the authenticity of the people, the culture, the colors and the cars. I do love great cars – that comes from my dad who always had quite a collection and he was also a former race car driver in the 40’s. Cars are in my blood.
It was two distinct experiences a couple months apart that drove me to take action. The first was when I was watching the movie Fate of the Furious – the one we had seen them setting up for in Iceland when my college roommate and I were up in Lake Myvatn in the northern reaches of Iceland on the frozen lakes. I just had to see what they were going to do in the movie on that frozen lake. They did A LOT with it – very cool. Anyway… the beginning of the movie begins in Havana, Cuba with all those glorious, colorful 1950’s cars. The next incident was President Trump announcing he was clamping down on some of the openings that former President Obama had negotiated. As soon as I heard that, I started researching trips to Cuba to get over there before the bureaucracy but the kibosh on any travel for Americans.
I found a cruise that circumnavigated the island and made many stops along with sanctioned people-to-people cultural excursions for Americans. I decided to stay in Jamaica before and after the trip to luxuriate in the amazing resorts to soak in the ocean breezes and beaches and allow the trip to imprint on me. Just being in a place where JFK took Jackie on their honeymoon, where he wrote his inauguration speech and where Stella got her groove back in the movie of the same name; so I could feel taken care of in a most luxurious way.
So the first resort was a complete disappointment and I ended up getting a full refund due to the comedy or errors, the terrible food and the lack of service. Fortunately, the new General Manager was Swiss, who know how to do hospitality well. He had been brought in to shake things up and evidently, I was the unpaid consultant that helped him make his point to his managers about what has run them downhill from their heyday. The last resort was purely heaven, gracious hospitality, and sumptuousness to the nth degree. It was just what I had imagined with the spa, the cliffside walking paths, the organic food grown on the property and the Ralph Lauren-designed rooms overlooking the lush gardens and beach. I was pampered to within an inch of my life and I loved every single leisurely minute of it as I tried to drink in every ounce of luxury.
The cruise ship only had 200 guests instead of their usual 1200, so we were very well cared for by the staff. It was a delight to actually have time to get to know them and the other passengers as we soaked in the long-hidden culture of Cuba…at least hidden from Americans. We stopped in several ports around the island, but the jewel is Havanna….at least the few blocks that were renovated for tourist eyes to see.
I was taken aback by the oppression, falling buildings, and poverty. I had only seen the Havana that the news and the movies had wanted you to see. But there were those amazing cars – beautiful, restored 1940’s and 50’s relics that had to have magicians as owners to keep them so pristine. A weird reality is that the old car taxi drivers make $50/hour from the tourists to drive around and doctors only make $60-$100/month while the average income is around $10/month. The economic pyramid is being turned upside down. Air BnB’s are popping up as residents are now able to own a business. It was a little strange rambling around the old city taking in the culture at the same time feeling communist eyes and ears upon you. It was uneasy. Signs of Castro were still everywhere. Very strange to pull into the harbor and not see any yachts or boats…nothing except another cruise ship and the dilapidated terminals with nothing but timbers from many decades ago. The irony of the culture clash was not lost on me — pulling up to the rickety pier perched upon the deck of my Royal Suite. Disconcerting…. The whole place is falling apart. I’m certain many buildings came down after the hurricane as report were that the spray of the waves reached above the lighthouse at Havana Harbor.
The best part of the cruise was the ship’s officers offering me the Royal Suite – the largest suite on the ship because a few of my shower tiles had come up and they didn’t want me to be disturbed by the repair. The place was palatial as far as ship cabins go – you could easily fit 50 people on the deck along with its own outdoor shower, hot tub, lounge chairs and dining suite. One of the perks of having a mostly-empty ship and I’ll gladly take it. If this was part of the Cuban cultural experience, I’m in! I’m forever grateful that I listened to my intuition and took the trip….a lifetime of memories from all my senses.
It’s that old balance thing again. Get your priorities sorted out according to what is truly important: people first and then things, people first and then things. It is good for the soul to feed it what it wants, or it will always be hungry no matter what else you give it. Work with your personal energy cycles to be the most productive. For some, this means intermittently switching off between personal and professional tasks throughout the day and inserting personal energy breaks in-between stretches of intense concentration.
For others, it could mean working a night shift if they are night owls and sleeping during the day. For another group it might mean both spouses working part time so they can split the child care and still have time for work, family, and couple time. The advent of flex schedules and compressed workweeks are a great invention to help workers equalize their time by working four days and having three days off. It sure seems more equal than the old five on and two off.
It takes constant attention to how you are balancing your personal or family time with your professional or school time. Whatever your balancing act entails, it takes vigilance and attention to ensure you are in sync and in balance for optimum energy and peak performance.
When we are out of balance and have unequal amounts of time spread between the different areas in our lives, we feel overwhelmed, under great stress, out of focus, out of sorts, and irritated with others. We tend to lose our sense of humor and our sense of control over our time and our lives. When we feel out of control, we feel stress and fear and frazzled. Recognize the signals of being unbalanced and make a plan to equalize your life in the future.
Take note of what circumstances brought you to this unequal place and create steps to get yourself out of there. Sometimes we cannot attain the proper balance over one day; we need to take a look at the week, or even the month. Sometimes circumstances warrant that we need to plow through a project or moment in time with intense focus and only after that time can we opt for better balance. Plan some down time as your reward for getting through this period so you have time to recoup your energies.
Become aware of your natural biorhythms for optimal performance and equalize your time between personal and professional responsibilities. Balance keeps things in perspective and helps you do most things in moderation to keep your energy in check. It’s a constant, conscientious effort to keep all the areas of your life in balance. Awareness is the first step to creating boundaries for your time and energy.
Pre-set your boundaries and know your limits. When demands stretch you towards your ends, you know when to pull back to maintain your balance, your sanity and your energy. Let others know of your boundaries and when they have crossed the line in order to keep your stress levels and your energy in check. n a USA Today survey, 75% of CEOs and 88% of middle managers listed balancing work and family as a major concern. How’s your balance? What are you doing to create more balance in your life? Do you know the signs your body tells you when you are unbalanced?
I know from my experience and the research on humor and healing, that we need to laugh through a hard time to help us get through it – known as the Biology of Hope (when we anticipate an enjoyable event and laugh at a situation, our good stress, eustress, hormones beta endorphins and growth hormones kick in and help our immune system.)
Here are some proven ways to reduce stress with everything else going on around us:
Wake up 15-30 minutes earlier and get your day started at a more leisurely pace with enough time to have a proper breakfast. You can get much done while it is quiet such as exercising, yoga, meditating, getting your day organized. It also helps to have clothing selected and lunches prepared the night prior so you don’t have to think too much.
Write down everything (and do back-ups) – as we get older, our brains can’t hold all the info it once used to. Give your brain a break and keep all your notes in one place – either electronic, paper, or both so you won’t stress over what will happen to your info if your batteries die. We now know that stress kills our brain – as it also does our heart. Stress affects the hippocampus, the memory and retrieval system of our brains. You know you have brain cells dying from stress when you’re in a grocery store aisle and you have no idea why you are there…stress.
Do it today – stop procrastinating and make a decision. Procrastination and clutter are just postponed decisions. Figure out why you don’t want to make that decision and go about it in a different way, just do it.
The Law of Entropy states that everything without work or force applied to it will break down over time. That includes cars, gardens, our health, communication, or relationships. Focusing on prevention will help alleviate the stress caused by things breaking down. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Get rid of as many irritations, aggravations or energy drains that you can. It’s the culmination of all those little sniggly things that add up to big stress. So fix the broken towel bar, the squeaky door, the rip in your couch, or throw out the pitcher that is too heavy to lift. All those little drains add up to an empty energy tank.
Plan ahead – live for today and plan for tomorrow’s events or emergencies. Have contingency plans in place for the probable causes that may affect you. Living in Germany for 10 years, we had to have a NEO plan in place – a Non-combatants Evacuation Plan. We were supposed to always have at least a half a tank of gas in our car, our medical information and family info easily accessible and important documents within reach in case we had to evacuate in a conflict situation. Friends in California tell me they have an emergency kit in case of fire or Earthquake with all their important items in it near the door. Make sure all your documentation is in order and look towards the future.
Taking some time out for dancing, singing, and playing or listening to music can help you reclaim your zip. Test-drive new kinds of music and movement from foreign cultures, from another genre, another time period, or from another region. Discovering a new twist to an old favorite is invigorating. Expand your horizons and become acquainted to new types of art, music, theater, and dance to rev up your creative juices.
Besides being great exercise, using large and small muscles and displaying large and fine motor movements, dancing moves the blood carrying much needed oxygen to all parts of the body, helping us think clearer and also get more in tune with our body and our dance partner. Put on some music and let it move your body, turn up the volume and feel the beat resonate through your bones.
I recently took my mom to see The Blue Man Group perform in Las Vegas. This very unique performance involves lots of drumming from huge drums and other percussion instruments played at a very high decibel level. It gets so loud, that the theatre provides earplugs for the audience. The beat of the drums is so intense that you can feel the beat in your heart and it is a truly moving experience.
Music is a terrific energizer or “calmer-downer”. Your heart and your body react to the rhythmic tonality of music with either a strengthening or weakening affect regardless of your opinion and taste in the music. Since our bodies are made up mostly of water, the vibrations of music can affect our moods.
The more strengthening physiological reactions come from classical music from the Baroque period with soothing, flowing instrumentals such as Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and Handel. Studies on this “Mozart Effect” have found that students score better on tests after listening to this music and their spatial reasoning performance greatly exceeded similar students who were not either listening or playing Baroque music.
Our brains respond to music of that era because it was created in such an orderly way and our brains respond to order. This music causes the brain to use both of its sides simultaneously because of the symmetry, key relationships, rhythmic pastern contrasts, highs and lows, light and dark, and the way that it was arranged with such organization. Listening to, playing, or singing helps us integrate the left side and the right side of our brains more effectively and thus create more positive energy upon which we can draw. Mental alertness and creativity have been associated with listening to this type of music.
Weakening music includes heavy metal, jazz fusion, or music that has been digitally recorded, because the rhythms are not in alignment with our body’s natural rhythms. It feels more like a machine gun hitting our body than a stroke of a feather. If music soothes the savage beast, just think what it could do to your frazzled nerves, co-workers, kids, angry customers, or pets.
Whether you are listening to it or making it, music affects your entire essence, so choose your music wisely according to your mood, energy level, or need for energy or calmness. Music can be your jumpstart to your new mood. Music on your stereo or in your car with the top down is great, live music is even better. Don’t forget to cut loose once in a while, put on your boogie shoes and cut the rug.
In order to feel refreshed and recharged; I need to travel and surround myself with new discoveries, recreation and experiences. I need a vacation to regroup and put things into perspective so I can come back renewed and able to give my all. How about you – what do you do to reconnect, re-create and reconvene better than when you started?
On a recent trip to Moorea, French Polynesia; I felt I was in heaven. Everything was just perfect. The over-water bungalows were just as they were shown in the travel mags. Just as beautiful and the water and view looked like a screen saver. I had sent some photos back home to friends and they demanded I send some photos with me in them to prove that I didn’t swipe them off some internet photo gallery. The staff could not have been any nicer and accommodating. I thought to myself, THIS is why I like travelling five stars. You get treated much better from people in places that sport more stars. You feel better about yourself, even. The room was fabulous with a glass-bottom floor where you could see the fish and eel swimming below. You could have your breakfast brought to your deck by outrigger canoe, and the atmosphere was one of tropical elegance and ease.
I thought it couldn’t get any better and just then a knock at the door and a chilled bottle of champagne and sweets were brought to the hut. As I relaxed on the deck with the water lapping beneath me sipping champagne and eating chocolate crumpets; I thought to myself, “This just can’t get any better, I’m at the point of exploding with joy, contentment and happiness.”
I was about to take another sip and there before my very eyes, a full rainbow appears over the lush, green mountains -big as life. There was no rain around the vicinity, but there must have been some droplets someplace. I captured that moment to share with you and to remind myself that things can always get better than you’d ever imagined. I remember Oprah saying that there is no way she could have dreamed as big a dream as she is living in this moment, but God had a bigger dream for her. She just needed to listen and follow her path, follow her inner guidance.
Look for things to get better, keep an open mind that things can and will get better. Be grateful for what has come to you as it was done for you and not to you, and always be open for more and better to come into your life. When you live with an open heart and open mind, all kinds of rainbows can come into your life. Watch for the signs, be on the lookout for what falls in your path and keep your eyes open for rainbows of all kinds to bless you. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better….cue the rainbow…or a double rainbow!
Most of us are guilty of creating loooong lists of things to do and not managing to put much of a dent in the compilation of busy-ness. Then some of us even do something that wasn’t on said list and end up wanting credit for it (not that anybody is keeping track or watching), so we add whatever it is we did that wasn’t on our list to our list just so we can cross it off. I’m talking about another type of To Do list. A fun one. A list of trips and adventures I want to do during my lifetime. I don’t call it a Bucket List because that seems negative to me. I call it a Life List because I want to do it living Hartfully, vitally, and fully alive.
So, on our most recent trip to Tahiti and Bora Bora, my BFF Barb and I decided it would be apropos to use the stationery aboard the M.S. Paul Gauguin while we were sailing around French Polynesia and brainstorm our To Do list of adventure travel trips we want to experience. The ideas were flying fast and furious and I could hardly keep up with the trips that were spewing forth from our lips. Later that day one of our travel buddies had spotted us on the deck during our writing drill and asked us what we were consumed with and intent on writing. We showed them our list and they asked if they could join us on some of our future explorations.
Barb’s philosophy is that you always need something to look forward to and she grew up always planning the next trip while her family was still on their current trip. It was something they always did and something she/I now carry forth. One of the maxims I’ve heard throughout the years is that happiness is having something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to. It keeps you young, vital, excited, and exciting. Sometimes we don’t have it all figured out immediately on our trip, but the mindset is there and we usually come up with something within a few days to a few weeks after our return. We are both good problem solvers and we find that travelling to far-away lands is always chalk-full of opportunities to solve some problems. Issues always come up, missed connections, bags not showing up, wrong bed configuration in the room, mixed-up meals, and communication disconnects. It gives you a chance to test your creative thinking skills and ingenuity. I also find it’s better to have the luxury of two or more brains working on the solution than just me. If it’s just me, then it gets a little weirdly nerve-wracking, and if it’s with my buddies, then it becomes an adventure.
What do you have to look forward to in your life? How are you living Hartfully and doing the things you want to do? How are your dreams playing out? Who are you inviting along for the ride? How do you make your ride enjoyable? I’ll share more Tahiti tales in future posts. There were so many amazing experiences to share that just lit me up. Once again it was one of those lifetime trips I’d been dreaming of for decades and it truly was a dream come true. What are you doing to make your dreams come true? Do you have a strategy in place, a visual, an accountability partner? I’ve uploaded our list – maybe it will spark some ideas in you.
The contented cow syndrome – how to keep a happy herd and keep them from wandering off:
- We know that contented cows give more milk and it’s the same with workers – contented workers produce more.
- Identify realistic expectations about the job, responsibilities, and the organization.
- Ensure there is a fundamental match between the job and the person hired to do it – personality styles, work styles, communication and conflict management styles as well as team vs. individual focus. When there is an alignment between personal and organizational values and goals, there is a better fit and longer retention and less stress for the worker.
- Offer frequent feedback and open communication about the person and their work – let them know how they’re doing and acknowledge their efforts. Generation X and Y, in particular have been used to getting feedback every 60 seconds on how they were doing with computer games. A once per year evaluation isn’t going to cut it.
- Focus on flexibility for family and work and ensure there is a good work-life balance program so workers don’t feel overwhelmed, stressed out, burnt-out and rusted out trying to juggle personal and professional responsibilities.
- Cultivate trust, confidence, and honest, open communication between all levels – show you genuinely care for people and combine the heart and the head level in people to bring out the best in them.
Blah –buster tips for beating depression in the workforce:
- Recent labor studies found that depression costs companies nearly $12 billion in lost work each year and more than $11 billion in other costs accrued from decreased productivity. Here are some tips to improve on those statistics.
- Exercise and a healthy diet combined with vitamins.
- Expressing emotions verbally with a therapist or a friend or through journaling.
- Fresh air and sunshine, or at least full-spectrum lighting that mimics the sun’s rays. Studies have found that people are 25% more productive when using full-spectrum lighting and natural light as compared to fluorescent lighting.
Satisfaction with your work, feeling successful and that you are doing something that matters. Find out what you’re good at, what ignites your passion, and what can combine your preferences with a good income.
All the Financial Planners tell you to have at least 6-12 months of liquid emergency money stashed aside to take care of life’s little moments that sneak up on you such as car repairs or the furnace giving up its last breath during a polar vortex. In addition to that advice; I’d like to offer up another form of stash called the Fun Fund to use any way you wish as long as it’s fun. In the Millionaire Mindset book and in his workshops; T. Harv Eker suggests 10% of your income should be stashed away to use any way you wish so you feel like you have control over your money and you’re using it to enjoy your life.
Enter the Fun Fund. After my BFF and I returned from one of the millionaire bootcamps over a decade ago; we took that advice and have been stashing away a percentage of earnings into our Fun Funds ever since so that we have a pot of money with no particular plan, but the plan is to use it when the mood or a great adventure strikes. With our financial foundation in check and our Fun Fund fully stocked; we are ready to pounce when something so juicy comes along that we just can’t resist.
I’ve learned from my guides and coaches throughout the years and from my personal experience that I need to fully trust my intuition and just flow with it. As a very old soul who has been around many lifetimes; I’m told that my intuition has a very clear path showing me my path; so I usually go with it when I feel the strong urge. My BFF is the same way and when both of us have the gut feeling; we are helpless to defend against it. We just have to go with it and that’s how our latest adventure came about one low-key, loungey kind of Saturday.
I was in the middle of trying out a new lunch recipe when I got the call with Barb on the other end saying “Now don’t say no right away, just hear me out. I have an idea for a cruise into Canada during peak leaf peeping season. I know you will have just returned from your trip to Cuba, but this is a great deal.” As she was explaining the trip complete with sailing on a vintage four-masted schooner and high tea at the Chateau Fontenac in Quebec City – one of my to-do lists for 20 years; I knew I was a gonner.
Two days later I get a text from Barb in the middle of doing a seminar which said we have to “Do the Dragon”. What the hell did that mean. She texted “google it”. I did and I’m in. So in a matter of a few days, we have a few vacations already planned, booked and paid for. Something I never imagined the week prior. It seems that the Dragon’s Tail is one of the most notorious roads in America with 318 curves in 11 miles of mountain road and there was going to be a car rally with all kinds of festivities focused on the “Doing the Dragon”. With my father being a former race car driver, he also raced boats and motorcycle side cars. It’s in my blood. I love cars, boats and planes. Once again I was sucked into the thrill of the adventure and the unknown. Toss in an amazing log cabin with phenomenal mountain views and I can’t say no.
When it comes to people waiving great travel deals and amazing adventures in front of my face, I’m very weak. I cannot say no to such temptation. Try as I might to be prudent and rational; I just lose my mind thinking that an opportunity of a lifetime may pass me by and I might miss out on some life-altering experience, discovery, and good times. I’m a sucker for a good adventure with good friends. I caved.
Luckily, we both plan for such spontaneous times by continually adding to our Fun Funds. By planning for something we don’t know about in our futures, we can take advantage of an opportunity when it does come our way and be ready to pounce. Of course, we also sock away and invest much more into our Retirement Fund than our Fun Fund; but having a fund for frivolity feels good and brings out the kid in us after our adult has already set aside something for our retirement, our emergencies, our heirs, and other adult stuff.
What can you set aside for yourself, just yourself to do whatever you want that is meaningful and memorable to you. Vacations don’t just last a week or two, or three or whatever. They last a lifetime in our memory and our beings. It fulfills us and refuels us to keep going at a higher vibrational level than before we left. How can you better plan for spontaneity so that you can strike when the opportunity presents itself? What can you stash away and invest each month or week? What can you cut out of your life in order to have something more meaningful? What are you frittering away on a daily or weekly basis that could go into your Fun Fund for something more fabulous? I’ll be sure to report on our fabulous Canadian adventure later this fall and how we fared on the Dragon later in the Spring upon our return from our adventures.