Rebellion in its Purest Form

5/26 — Somewhere over India

Travel is rebellion in its purest form. 

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When I first heard this quote, I wasn’t quite sure what to think of it. “Rebellion: an act of violent or open resistance. See also: uprising, revolt, mutiny, unrest.” Yikes… sounds a little too intense if you ask me. It was only when I looked past the negative connotations of the definition and its aggressive synonyms, that I started to fathom the real truth behind these words.

Open resistance.” Now that is something I could get on board with. It was just the other day, that it all started to come together. While gazing out the window as a new and foreign land passed right before my eyes, I began to think of that very moment in the context of my journey, and then in the greater context of my life. Suddenly it made perfect sense.

Travel is rebellion in its purest form. 

In other words, at the heart of travel is the courageous act of going against the norm, choosing the road less travelled, and owning every single bit of it. It’s saying yes — letting go of expectations, judgments, and obligations, and doing instead what your heart and soul yearn for. Travel is about being present, and seeing poetry in everything — from the highest peak of the Himalayas to a single drop of rain in your window seat view. It’s about recognizing how precious our time here is on earth and choosing to live up every moment. It’s tossing out the rulebook and making your own rules for a change. It’s trusting your heart, going in completely blind, and coming out on the other side with an unparalleled appreciation for this thing we call life. Travel is about exploring unchartered paths, learning things you can’t pick up from a book, movie, or someone else’s tale, and writing your own story — highs, lows, and all — so that one day you might inspire someone else to go out and do the same. Travel is electrifying your senses, and awakening the very depths of your soul, allowing it to guide you every step of the way.

They say travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer; and I stand by that wholeheartedly. It makes you richer in knowledge, experience, culture; in adventure, empathy, and character. It dares you to step outside of your comfort zone, and jump into the thrill of the unknown.

This is the kind of rebellion to strive for, the sort of “open resistance” to implement in your own life. For when all is said and done, there’s a certain beauty in reminiscing on a world you once embarked on long ago like it was just yesterday, in remembering a time where wanderlust pumped through your veins and your most prized possessions were your passport, camera, and journal, in knowing that through it all — and I mean all — you lived every moment with everything you could, and can honestly say you had no regrets.

Channeling Our Inner Tigress: Our Hike up to Tiger’s Nest

5/25 — Tiger’s Nest, Paro, Bhutan

Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche, founder of Tibetan Buddhism flew all the way from Eastern Bhutan to the famous site on the back of a tigress. While that sounded pretty epic and easily doable… we decided to be old school and hike it, channeling our own inner tigress. 10,000 feet and 5 hours later, and we think it was well worth the trek!

Here’s our trek through pictures . . .

BEFORE. Excitement is strong and legs are ready. (We think…) See that teeny tiny white blob at the top of the mountain? Yup. That’s our destination: Tiger’s Nest.

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The views were AMAZING on the way up overlooking Paro Valley.

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Halfway there! Bring it on.

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The Everest-like majesty herself:

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Mama we made it! We had a good laugh recruiting some of the locals to make the final steps up to the temple in slow motion to the Chariots of Fire theme song. (Americans…) Here we are (the only picture we were allowed to take at the top). The exhaustion is real, but well worth it!

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Now for the descent. Piece of cake!

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Stepping into a Storybook…

5/23/15 — Punakha, Bhutan

Traveling to a new place is like stepping into a storybook. You’re immediately surrounded by a new plot, new characters, and a brand new world to temporarily play a part in. While you may not be the protagonist of the story, you have a unique role: getting to observe and explore things from the outside in. Lucky for you, what you assimilate in this story will enrich your own narrative in ways you never thought possible.

This certainly has held true for the first few “pages” of a little country called Bhutan. Nicknamed the “Gem of the Himalayas,” this beautiful and little known kingdom is unlike anything I’ver ever experienced. For one thing, as our plane prepared for its descent, the land appeared almost out of thin air, gently emerging from clouds of white mist unveiling the greenest and most elegant mountains decorated in towering firs and juniper trees. After landing in Paro, it was off to the capital city of Thimpu, the only capital in the world without a stoplight. The drive there was stunning, winding above miles and miles of valley with humble villages strewn about.

Our next few days consisted of various sightseeing, visiting the second largest Buddha statue in the world as well as several dzongs, temples, and monasteries home to Buddhist monks of all ages who have devoted their life to prayer. One monastery in particular was perched up high in the foothills of the Himalayas. Here we were fortunate to meet the lama and his 40 students, and be a part of a blessing ceremony by the head monk. After a delicious and spicy meal of traditional Bhutanese foods and tea, we grabbed our hiking poles and shoes and began a 10,000-foot trek to another monastery up the ridge. When we finally reached the top, it was honestly what I imagine walking through the gates of heaven would be like. The building practically floated on the clouds surrounding it, and the only sounds you could hear were chirping birds and a soft wind whistling through the trees below. Peeking through the clouds were the majesties themselves, the Himalayas. Come to think of it, maybe the whole thing was a dream… After a nice tea picnic following our descent, it was off to the charming countryside of Punakha.

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Arriving late at night, we had no idea what to expect. Then in the morning we opened our curtains to this…

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We were absolutely blown away. While we could have stayed in bed all day blissing out to the view, we had a big day of exploring ahead of us. It started at the most beautiful dzong we had seen so far on our trip, where our guide shared various Buddhist teachings and real-life stories of reincarnations that had taken place in recent years. Later on, we took a hike through emerald rice paddies stopping to witness the locals in their day-to-day, and after a visit to Bhutan’s famous fertility temple and a delicious lunch, we began our biggest hike of the day up to a temple that was built to honor the current king. The views were breathtaking, overlooking the entire valley of rice paddies, overlapping mountains, and a large, glowing river meandering at the base of it all. At one point, the sky opened up giving way to the most brilliant rays of gold beaming down. It was then that I had the most overwhelming feeling that it was the work of my favorite, mountain-loving angel. Thanks Jakers.

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All in all this chapter so far has opened my eyes to some amazing things, all in a storybook world I’m still not entirely convinced actually exists here on earth. And to think we haven’t even reached the finale…

I’ve died and gone to Bali…

If I had to describe Bali in one word, it would be magic — beautiful, blissful, and peaceful magic. I knew it the minute we arrived. There was just something in the air, when we took our first step, exchanged our first smile, and every moment after that. Like a strange, but oddly familiar glow, it beamed in and around everything… and everyone…

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The people of Bali are some of the most beautiful humans I’ve ever seen. Not just because of their sun-kissed skin or the unique glimmer in their eyes, but in how they go about their lives. Every second of every day, every word, every thought, every action is infused with the utmost intention. No matter where you go on the island, you can find dozens of “offerings” of various flowers, incense, and Rupia (Indonesian money) strewn about temples, homes, storefronts, hotels, restaurants, bridges and more, placed carefully and respectfully to the spirits in an act of prayer. In addition to this, each home is designed with a family temple as well as statues of various deities in their front entryways for protection from bad spirits. This is part of their Hindu religion, which undoubtedly plays a role in just how grounded and accepting they are in their daily lives. They welcome everyone and everything that crosses their path with such patience and benevolence, even in adversity. This indeed held true for our first experience of Balinese rush hour. As we witnessed hundreds of cars and motorbikes weave in and out of narrow roads, not once did we see a single sign of anger or negativity. They simply went about it like they do all things, with a come-what-may attitude and an unbreakable sense of humanity. This is something we Americans could definitely learn a thing or two from. There’s just such a beautiful contentment to these people that is to be admired — the ease, the lightness — it’s in every breath, around every corner, and rightfully so. Bali is an absolute paradise. With its simple charm stretching from acres of green and yellow rice paddies to its majestic mountains and intricate temples standing tall and proud, all the way to its salty waters crashing upon velvet beaches, the place is heaven.

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All in all, I’ll never forget the experiences we had on this sacred island — exploring village to village with wide eyes and even wider open hearts, indulging in the freshest of fruits and the most delicious and traditional Balinese meals, practicing yoga and receiving a healing session from third generation healer Ketut Arsana, riding an elephant named “Hola” through Indonesian jungles, washing in holy water of some of the world’s most breathtaking temples, and boogie boarding and feeling our toes in the white sands of the Indian Ocean. For all this and more, we say “Terima Kasih” to you Bali, for the light, the love, and for sharing your special heaven with us.

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A Whole New World

5.15.15 — Taipei, Taiwan

We just landed in Taipei — our first stop on the way to Bali, Indonesia — and, boy, is it another world over here. And we haven’t even left the airport! The delicious dim sum in lieu of greasy fast food, the slow, yet, steady pace of passerby’s, and the colorful excitement bursting almost literally from the television and billboard ads. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, the jet lag, or the fact that I couldn’t even tell you what day it is, but I can’t help but feel as if I’ve stepped into another dimension — an entirely new reality that I get to observe from my little fly-on-the-wall perspective, seemingly invisible, but somehow simultaneously blending in (blonde hair and all) with my surroundings. That has to be my favorite part about traveling: perspective. You see things in an almost dream-like way. Things are new and foreign, almost off-limits, but leave you hungry to break free and explore the unchartered world before you. How different our world would be if this was an everyday reality. Hello courage, and goodbye comfort zone.

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As we wait for the start of our final leg into Ubud (and for our feet to un-swell from their current balloon-like state after endless hours in the sky), I grow more and more restless for the excitement yet to come. Perhaps I’m still in shock from somehow managing to fit a month’s worth of stuff into a 30-pound backpack (a feat this lifelong over-packer never dreamed of). Wild 2, starring Kristy Gustafson… Either way, from the core of my being, I can feel something amazing peeking its head up from the horizon ahead. Here’s to the countless adventures it holds, and a whole new world waiting to be explored.

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