Random People

On a recent trip to Death Valley, hiking in heat of over 100 degrees and having survived, I arrived at the visitors center and wanted to take a photo of the outside thermometer. Because Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the USA, several other people were trying to get pictures as well, so I decided to snap this photo of a random family.

When traveling, it’s common to capture people and strangers in our photographs.  I find it interesting to ponder about their lives.  Are they happy?  Are they having fun? Do they like each other?  Did someone force them to go on this trip?  I like having random people in my photos and often wonder how many pictures I have ended up in myself.  Do they wonder about me or my life?

Our lives are often entwined, although we may not even realize it.  In Death Valley for a brief moment, I was witness to a happy family on their journey through the desert, although I didn’t know where they came from or where they were going, our paths crossed briefly, and I was left with memories of my own trip and a photograph of theirs.



Brutal & Beautiful Death Valley

If you want to explore a magical place of gemstone mountains, waterfalls, narrow slot canyons, salt flats and majestic sand dunes, take a journey into the remote world of Death Valley.  This journey is for the adventurous spirit, one who is seeking a new experience of endurance and solitude in a world where the average temperature rises above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

I had no idea when I decided to go hiking and camping in Death Valley that I was traveling deeply into an unknown world, a land so uniquely different and beautiful that it often left me breathless as I hiked up mountain peaks, practiced yoga watching the sunrise in the barren desert, rock scrambled through narrow slot canyons, hiked to a beautiful green waterfall and ran laughing down giant sand dunes.

I will never forget the sound of silence I experienced in Death Valley.  A silence that I have never known before that created a stillness deep within my soul; a remote world where only the sound of your heartbeat and the whispering winds can be heard.

If you are not into camping, there is a lodge in Death Valley where you can stay that has a swimming pool and hotel amenities where you don’t have to rough it, but either way, it’s a place to experience if you are seeking a journey off the beaten path.


Mexican Sleeping Pods

Mexico City
If you are traveling through Mexico City and need a nap or want a new sleeping experience, try one of their new sleeping pods located in Terminal 1 at Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez airport. The pods cost approximately $35.a night and include WiFi, TV, and air conditioning. Showers and lockers are also included along with complimentary socks and earplugs.

The pods are comfortable and clean and the mattresses and pillows are made of memory foam. Although the hotel provides earplugs, I did not use them and was kept awake all night due to people coming and going, opening and sliding doors all night long.  Other than that, I really enjoyed the new experience and felt safe, comfortable and cozy in the space like sleeping pod.

Izzzleep Aeropuerto Terminal 1


24 Hours in Asheville

Traveling solo, I recently spent 24 hours in Asheville, NC.  Not sure what to do alone, I contemplated several options, but then came across, “Asheville Wellness Tours”, and thought that would be an interesting way to spend an afternoon.

Asheville Wellness Tours provided several alternative experiences including the art of tea drinking, essential oil and herb making, meditation in a beautiful salt cave, sound therapy with gongs and Tibetan bowls, and honey tasting at a local specialized shop.

The tour began with a 45-minute session at Asheville Salt Cave, a golden womb-like cave filled with beautiful pure pink salt crystals.  We were lead into meditation as we rested on pillows and bolsters on the salt covered floor, listening to sounds of the waterfall, breathing in negatively charged ions, turning inward and away from the chaos of the external world around us.

Following the salt cave, we walked to Skinny Beats Sound Shop and was lead into a sound healing session with gongs and Tibetan bowls that took us on a vibrational journey that was beyond words to describe. I was given a “taster” of sound healing that I knew I would have to return to.

Next, we were given an introductory explanation of herbs and essential oils at herbiary, which offers natural remedies for every kind of alignment imaginable, including emotional and psychological disorders.

From the herbiary, we walked to Asheville Bee Charmer, for honey tasting, where I was given several different types of honey to try, including sage honey, a favorite of mine.

Lastly, we ended the tour at Dobra Tea, where we shared in Japanese style, “Clear Communication Tea.”  This tea was reported to promote clear communication with our inner self, exactly what I needed! The Wellness Guide explained that the tea ceremony involved inhaling the aroma, before tasting the tea, and encouraged us to share an authentic wellness intention that we wanted to incorporate into our daily lives.

The tea ceremony was a perfect ending to an adventurous day in self-exploration and holistic wellness.  My guide was an inspirational and enthusiastic yoga instructor who did a wonderful job guiding me through the city and sharing all that Asheville has to offer.

When the tour finished, we parted ways, and I decided to explore the streets of Asheville on my own.  Quite unexpectedly, I came across an interesting young man sitting on the street writing poetry.

Ben was plucking away on his vintage typewriter.  A sign, “NAME A WORD or TOPIC.  GET A POEM”, hung from his table. Being a creative writer myself, I couldn’t resist. I contemplated what word to select, and finally decided on the word “therapy.”

Ben sat in silence for a few moments, and then inserted a piece of paper into his old typewriter and began typing.  Once in awhile, he would stop to ponder, rubbing his head in contemplation. Ben was oblivious to the ongoing foot traffic of people that were walking past him as he pounded away on his typewriter, lost in a world of words.  After about 10 minutes, Ben completed my poem and asked if he could read, “Therapy” to me.

I was amazed at how insightful and creative the poem was, especially considering that it had been written on the spot. Ben’s poem touched upon the heaviness we can carry in life, referring to our emotional pains, and “to unpack the boxes long locked-up.” (poem below)

After reading my poem, Ben told me that he had been in San Francisco years ago, and had traded a book for a Lynn Gentry poem. Ben was busking for his upcoming wedding, which explained another sign he had, “Wedding Funds”.  I thanked Ben for his creative, insightful poem, and thought how clever he was, using his gifts and talents in a way that inspired other people.

Asheville has a lot to offer in terms of the unique, alternative, or creative. If you’re looking to explore Asheville, check out Asheville Wellness Tours, who offers several options including hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains, followed by Yoga, and if you have a love for words or poetry, don’t forget to look for Ben, who can be found in front of Woolworths, on Haywood Street.


Asheville Wellness Tours


Ben is starting his own upcoming blog:

Strangers Poems Project



Sit within a circle

& spin a thread of narrative–


we are here to help you

with the heavy lifting—


to unpack boxes long locked-up,

to turn & turn each artifact


over in our hands, to examine

without judgment each dog-earned page


within the books that weigh

so much. trust is a rope ladder


which we are still building,

you hold it from the top & choose


when it’s to be lowered. but human

help comes with limitations. take


the next train west & sit among

the redwoods. five hundred years


of listening unmarred by loose lips.

we wait & learn the craft of patience

by example.

Adventures in Community Service

Community Service?  What’s in it for me?

On a recent Yoga retreat trip in Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to do many fun-filled activities including, white water rafting, zip lining above the rainforest canopy, soaking in hot springs, hiking up a volcano and exploring an organic echo farm.  Costa Rica also offered me a different experience, a community service opportunity, that at first, I decided to decline.  My immediate thought was that I wanted to have fun and not work on vacation.  After several days of contemplation, I slowly changed my mind and that decision changed my views about life and the importance of giving back.

After several days of fun-filled adventures and relaxing yoga, my group was given the opportunity to paint a local’s house in exchange for a homemade Costa Rican meal, made and prepared by the owner of the home. Although I have painted the inside of my own home on several occasions, I had never painted the exterior of a house and immediately felt overwhelmed.  I’m not a professional house painter and the thought of painting an entire house presented as a huge job.  I wasn’t in Costa Rica to work, I was there for rest and relaxation, but part of me felt that if I didn’t go and participate that I would be missing out on an opportunity of a new kind, so I reluctantly agreed to go.

Our group of Yogis piled into a minivan and traveled for miles on rugged dirt covered roads to a nearby village, where we parked outside of our destination, a dilapidated blue house desperately in need of new paint.  We had traveled to Costa Rica at the end of the rainy season.  The skies were gray and it rained the entire week we were there, giving me a new understanding of the term, “Rainforest.”

We jumped out of the van and covered ourselves with plastic raincoats as we split into groups as the interpreter explained the process with the homeowner standing nearby attempting to guide and direct us to old worn out trays and buckets of paint.  I grabbed a tray of paint and chose the side of the house that had a large termite nest on it, although at the time, I had no idea as to what it was.  The paint was watery, thin and runny and ran down the sides of the house.  We painted all day in the moist humid rain.  The homeowner had tarps hung around the sides trying to shelter us from the rain.  When we got to the termite’s nest at the end of the house, we were instructed to paint around it, which I found very amusing.  Having little knowledge of termites or their nests, I assumed that having one stuck to the side of your house, was probably not a good thing!.

At the end of the day, when we had finished painting the house, the owners invited us inside for a wonderful, tasty meal of rice and beans, followed by freshly brewed Costa Rican coffee.  They were very grateful for our help and we, in turn, were very grateful for their hospitality and wonderful Costa Rican meal.  During the meal, we heard their personal story through the Interpreter.  The man whose house that we had painted, had been severely injured one day as he walked along the roadside and a large metal rod fell from a passing truck, causing him significant injuries.  Since then, he had been unable to work.  I was so grateful that I was able to help someone in need, a complete stranger, who had no health insurance and no means of providing for himself or his family anymore and had to rely on friends, family, neighbors and complete strangers.

With full bellies and heartfelt goodbye’s, we piled back into the minivan and took the long, rugged journey back to our Echo Farm.  I sat in quiet contemplation as I thought about how I had almost missed out on an opportunity to help someone in need, and if I had, I would have never had known how gratifying it was to give back in a way that I had never experienced before.  I gained insight into how by helping others gave me a greater purpose in my own life.  Although the paint job that we did on the house, was really poor, as none of us were professional painters, the owner was very happy with the end result and although he couldn’t speak English, his smile alone was worth more than a day of self-centered adventures or excursions but provided me with an opportunity to connect with others in a way I had never experienced before.