“Happy People are Initiators…”

A moment of true happiness while visiting Croatia. Photo by: Hassan Ali

I read the following quote in an ivillage article I read on Yahoo called “11 Secrets of Happy People.”

“Happy people are initiators…

Don’t wait for life to happen. You have to make it happen.”

I used to be the girl in the cubicle, complaining about not having the money to make myself happy.  I’m sure I drove my co-workers crazy with my constant desire and rambling about wanting to get out.  I’d be reading National Geographic at my desk (because my job was not inspiring to me and I couldn’t bring myself to do it for 8 hours a day) and wishing I could be one of those people who traveled and really saw things.  I was – correction am – in thousands of dollars of debt due to student loans and felt as though the world of travel was out of my reach.  I couldn’t afford to live in Spain on minimum wages, or volunteer in South America.  I couldn’t even afford language classes in my own hometown.  A bitterness began to overtake me as day after day, year after year I went back to the same type of job, always knowing there was something more for me, but not feeling as though it was within my grasp.  I was waiting for someone to show me the way – for life to bring me something fun and exciting to do.

Then, one day I decided I had had enough.  My 20s had been lost to the land of the cubicles and damn it I was going to find some way out of this rut no matter what it took.

And what it took was me moving to Asia, something I never thought I would’ve done before.  It was a little scary at first, moving across the world, signing a one year contract, not sure if me and my set ways were going to like it here, but it was the best decision I could’ve made.  I am much happier in life since I’ve been here for several reasons:  although not out of debt, I no longer use credit cards (except to purchase flights which I then pay off) and am not living paycheck to paycheck; I now have the means to travel more often and have seen 8 new countries since arriving 2 years ago; I broke out of my daily routine, made new friends, found a whole new lifestyle and a career that keeps me on my feet and more active.

None of this happiness would have occurred had I not decided to be an initiator.  I realized that many of the people I read about in travel magazines were not simply lucky, they found a way to make it happen and they created their own happiness.

And so did I.

Don’t wait for life to hand you a goodie bag of opportunity and dreams.  If you long for something better no matter how big or small, go out and get it.  Be willing to step out of your comfort zone if needed.  You may need to get creative to make things happen, so think outside the box.  No idea is too crazy – trust me!  Be an initiator.  Be your own reason for happiness.


The Northern Winds of Change…

Deutsch: Macchu Picchu, ein UNESCO-Weltkulture...

Image via Wikipedia

There are many times when I feel like Juliet Binoche’s character in Chocolat.  The pull of the winds tells me when it is time to move on.  One day I am amusing myself with thoughts of staying in the current city/state/country for a few years, and the next day I’m itching for a change and ready to take flight instantly.  It is so easy to get into a routine and forget that there is better out there for you.  So I am thankful for these demanding winds that remind me of all the places I have yet to see.

At times my desire to travel and see the sights is so strong that it is akin to the longing that can be felt for a distant love.  Today, for example, I was teaching a lesson on vacations (standard chapter in many ESL books) and looking at the pictures of Easter Island, Taj Mahal, Macchu Picchu, Grand Canyon, etc., I actually felt an ache in my body.  I felt sadness because there are so many places I have yet to see and my current job does not offer enough vacation time to accommodate them all.

However, I am hopeful, optimistic and quite determined to make my traveling desires become a reality.  I just need to find the right combination of income vs. travel opportunity in my next job to make it happen.  That is my priority.  I have always said that I do not care to climb the corporate ladder nor be rich.  It’s not about money for me.  It’s not about status either.  If I become a well-known magazine writer, awesome.  If I become a little-known waitress or barista, equally as awesome.  It’s about happiness.  I only want enough money to travel comfortably without worrying about the budget.  I spent too long daydreaming; now it’s time to MAKE IT HAPPEN.

On that note, I have posted my list of places I want to see (which grows every time I glance at it).  I posted this a few months ago elsewhere, but thought it was a good list to put on here as well so we can all share our traveling dreams together.

I ask you, where do YOU want to go and how are YOU going to make it happen?

Here are the Countries/Cities/Sights I want to visit, by region:


  1. Argentina – tango classes, the southernmost tip of the continent
  2. Brazil – rainforest
  3. Bolivia – suggestions?
  4. Chile – las montanas, el hielo
  5. Colombia – Santa Marta, Cali, Andres Cepeda concert/restaurant and perhaps volunteer with one of the Pies Descalzos schools for awhile
  6. Costa Rica
  7. Cuba – a country without American influence for 50 years!, the music
  8. Dominican Republic – beaches
  9. Guatemala
  10. Mexico – saw Cancun, want to see the ruins and the less touristy beaches
  11. Panama
  12. Peru – obviously Macchu Picchu amongst other things
  13. Puerto Rico – el Yunque
  14. Venezuela – Angel Falls


  1. Egypt
  2. Israel – Dead Sea
  3. Jordan
  4. Madagascar – biodiversity
  5. Morocco
  6. Turkey – saw Izmir, want to see Istanbul
  7. UAE – Dubai – architecture and salsa


  1. Austria
  2. Croatia – AGAIN!
  3. Czech Republic – Prague
  4. France – southern France
  5. Greece – Santorini
  6. Iceland – beautiful geology
  7. Ireland – castles
  8. Italy – AGAIN!  Florence, Tuscany, Roma, Milano
  9. Monaco – to see what the big deal is
  10. Poland
  11. Portugal
  12. Russia – St Petersburg, Moscow, Siberia and maybe Trans-Siberian railroad trip
  13. Spain – AGAIN!  Miss it immensely and have yet to see Barcelona or Malaga, and visit my Aunt/Uncle
  14. Scotland – highlands and castles
  15. England/Wales – AGAIN!  more castles and visit family


  1. China – pandas, great wall, architecture
  2. India – Goa
  3. Indonesia – Bali
  4. Japan – salsa, style and food
  5. Macau
  6. Malaysia
  7. Philippines – swimming with whale sharks!
  8. Singapore – the zoo, the cleanliness
  9. Sri Lanka – resort vaca
  10. Taiwan – waterfalls and hot springs
  11. Thailand – elephants
  12. Vietnam – culture

ANTARCTICA – For the penguins of course, and to see a continent of ice


  1. Australia – salsa, animals
  2. Fiji
  3. New Zealand


  1. Alaska – animals, cruise
  2. Quebec – for the French influence
  3. US – 4 corners – more red rock, Grand Canyon
  4. US – SF – hills, bridges and liberal culture

P.S.  Got my renewed passport today (which btw is processed sooo much faster when outside the US) and they are actually much nicer and more interesting than those from the last decade.  I’m determined to need more pages added to my passport before this one expires!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I was emailing my teenage niece tonight and I asked her this:

If you could be any career without thinking about the salary or talent or education needed or anything like that – ie no obstacles – what would you be?

It got me thinking.  Then I thought some more.  And I realized that I wasn’t sure I could even answer that question for myself.  At least I didn’t have an immediate answer.  I’m sure there are many of you out there who don’t have an immediate answer either.

So that is your project.  Take a few minutes out of your day today and think about what you truly want to be.  Don’t give me the practical answer – you know, the career that you want to be because it will make you enough money or because that is what you know you can get a job in.  Give me your inner child’s answer.  That’s right, pretend you are 7.  Like back in the days when all kids wanted to be firemen, astronauts, models, actors and rock stars.  And don’t give me your parent’s answer either (I can’t tell you how many Korean children have told me they want to be lawyers and diplomats when they don’t even know what lawyers and diplomats do).  Give me YOUR answer.  Like the question above says, don’t think about talent or degrees, just what you would do if you had the choice.

To be fair, I will give you my answer to get things going.  I would be…well, a couple things actually.  Here they are in all their random glory:

If I'm going to be a librarian, you bet I'd be a hot one!

  • Librarian.  Odd right?  But I love books.  Not just reading them.  I love to see them lined up and organized all pretty.  Really old books and really new books are especially smile-worthy.  Why am I not a library you ask?  Because it requires a master’s degree and then the salaries are not worthy of the debt that the master’s degree would put me further into.


I want to learn how to make this perfect combo of caffeine and art.

  • Barista.  No, I don’t have a love of coffee or a desire to work with scalding liquids all day at a fast pace (which opens the imagination to visualize all kinds of dangerous spillage).  I just love the feel of a coffee shop, especially the non-franchisey ones.  The ones with the Goodwill couches, Thursday night local guitarist and no uniforms.  And I love the idea of a non-professional job where I can be my goofy self all day.  I’d get to listen to mood music all day and people watch during the non-rush hour.  Once I get out of debt, this is part of my plan.  Don’t cha just love it?  😉


  • Writer.  Can’t decide what kind of writer.  Novelist.  Travel writer.  Magazine writer.  Any of the above would be great.  And this is something I’m currently working on.  Being a language learner, I am very passionate about words and using them as a form of expression.  And I am a big advocate of sharing information.  I like the idea that it can be part-time or full-time and I can write from anywhere in the world thanks to the inventors of the computer and the internet.  Fingers crossed this one pans out.


Great shot of Keira Knightley from the movie the Edge of Love

  • Lounge singer.  I have no desire to be a big pop star or anything like (despite my 7 year old aspirations to be Debbie Gibson or Tiffany).  I don’t think my paranoid side would deal well with the fame and being in the public eye.  I want to be the woman at a dark, sophisticated piano bar with the sultry voice singing Diana Krall songs like Peel Me a Grape, Temptation and Cry Me a River.  (Those who have heard me at noraebang, stop snickering…I do much better with real music, less beer and no cheesy video distractions.  HA!  😀 ).  I’m Jessica Rabbit biotches.  Accept it.

When I was 7 I wanted to be a teacher and a dancer.  Without even realizing it, I ended up becoming both.  So I truly believe that if you tap into what you truly want and where you truly want to go in life, your raw passion for it will make sure you get there.