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Category Archives: travel

Stargazing

Sometimes the best things in life emerge from our biggest disappointments. Last month I took my nieces on our 1st annual vacation, which we decided to call The Barongan Girls Take D.C. This trip would not have been possible if the trip to Germany that my niece Paloma and I were supposed to go on hadn’t been canceled due to the craziness in Europe. A friend suggested that I take a trip with her and go somewhere else, but I wasn’t sure a trip with me would be as appealing as a trip to Germany. Fortunately for me, it was, and since my other niece Sadie was there when I brought it up, I figured I’d invite her, too.

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A Monumentous occasion

I have found that in life it is rare for things to turn out exactly as you expect them to. When I imagine the worst, things often turn out better than I expected. And when I think something is going to be great, I often end up feeling disappointed. But this was one of those rare times when everything was as perfect as I imagined it would be. We enjoyed some great meals…

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Sadie and Paloma enjoying a light dinner

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Anxiously awaiting our cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory

and took in the sights of the city….

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Sadie enjoying some high end window shopping

But surprisingly, the best moments were the ones between the museums, the monuments, and the meals. They were the times when we were hanging out in the room, and Sadie and Paloma were building a fortress with the couch cushions. (Remember how fun that used to be?) The times when they sang, danced, talked about friends and boys, and discussed how many children they wanted. They were the unspoken ways they expressed their desire to be together all the time–like the fact that they wouldn’t put their luggage in their bedroom, preferring┬áthat we all get dressed in the living room instead.

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Sadie’s fortress of solitude. And my bed.

As a fitting end to a perfect trip, on the drive home I saw a falling star. And then a few hours later I saw a shooting star. In my entire life, I’ve seen one other falling star and shooting star, so this seemed significant to me. My nieces were asleep at the time but when I told them about it later, they assured me it was lucky.

And truthfully, I was going to need some luck. All of the problems and decisions I had left behind were awaiting me. Frantic phone calls and intense email discussions were about to ensue. I was going to be expected to perform miracles. The magic of the trip was fading, and feelings of helplessness and hopeless were returning.

I was telling a friend about the shooting star and falling star, and he asked if I had made a wish. Which I totally forgot to do. He thought it still counted if I made the wish a week later. I’m not sure what the rules are on wishing upon stars, but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to capitalize on the possibility of miraculous solutions.

But then the scientist in me wanted to know what the difference was between shooting stars and falling stars, so I looked it up and found out that they weren’t stars at all. They’re meteors! And even though it’s all make-believe anyway, I was disappointed, because I was pretty sure that wishing on meteors didn’t count.

But then I saw my niece Sadie last weekend for my dad’s birthday and broke the bad news about how I saw 2 meteors instead of stars and now my wishes weren’t going to come true. She assured me that my wishes still counted. And then she asked me if I had wished I could meet Federer. Damn! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that myself!

But perhaps the point of seeing the shooting star and falling star at the end of our trip wasn’t about meteors and wishes and luck. Perhaps it was meant to be appreciated as is, in the moment, as something rare and wondrous. Which still made it a perfect end to a perfect trip. Because my nieces are like stars to me–beautiful, brilliant, and awe-inspiring. Whatever the next moment may bring, in this moment, I am thankful for my time with them.

But I still hope my wishes come true.

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Beginnings and Endings, Part 3

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Interlaken, Switzerland

You know how I said I’m not good with beginnings and endings? Well I think I’m getting better at it!

After obsessing about it for seven months, I finally decided to go on a trip to Germany and Switzerland because I wanted to stop worrying about money and start living with no regrets. But I was still wasn’t excited about the trip until the day we left because, as with the meditation retreat in California, I was consumed by seemingly insignificant details. Things like:

What kind of clothes should I pack? Will I be able to wear anything other than tennis shoes? How cold do I need to dress for the glacier?

Which luggage should I bring? Is there any way I can weigh my luggage without having to get on a scale? Because that might depress me.

What should I do about my snoring? I can’t pack my GERD pillow. Should I go to my dentist and get one of those mouth guards?

Should I try to get cell service? Would that make me obsess about my tennis teams the whole time? Can I go 10 days without texting?

Will I get along with my roommate? Will I feel like an outsider, since everyone else has some kind of German connection? Will I go crazy without having any alone time?

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My fearless travel companions

While my travel companions were excitedly researching our hotels and itinerary, I could barely name two cities we were visiting. Which my friends thought was weird. Which brought up those feelings of not being normal. But I tried to practice self-acceptance and reminded myself that this is who I am. I obsess about all of the things I have to do before I can look forward to any trip. At some point, I would know what city I was in. Hopefully.

And luckily, once I was there, I was fully present. I got a few emails about tennis but didn’t try to fix everything as I normally would. I didn’t obsess about my sleep cycle, even though I got very little sleep. I wasn’t anxious at all on the trip–which is astounding. I didn’t worry about how much I was eating or whether I looked fat in pictures. I just enjoyed the experience of being in another country.

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Mountains and Glaciers

The trip exceeded my expectations in so many ways. Switzerland was breathtaking. The scenery was so beautiful it almost hurt to look at it. No wonder Federer lives there! I tried to take in every detail and store it in memory for future reference. So that when I need an image to make me feel calm, I can close my eyes and remember how it felt to be in the presence of so much beauty.

I got to feel like I was in my early 20’s again, which was an unexpected gift. I sang and danced in the rain, stalked band members, and took hundreds of pictures of stuffed animals. Sometimes when I look at happy family pictures on Facebook, I feel this envy and uncertainty about how I live my life. It doesn’t seem very adult-like. But the feeling of euphoria I had on this trip would not have been possible unless my life were exactly as it is.

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Even riding on the train was fun!

Even though I only knew one person in the group, I felt at home with my travel companions. No moments of insecurity about being accepted. About saying the wrong thing or embarrassing myself. I even blew out all of the power in our hotel with my hairdryer and no one held it against me!

And on my way home I wasn’t sad, even though I would never be able to repeat this experience again. And I wasn’t anxious about returning to the stress of tennis drama, boredom, and loneliness. Today, four days after the trip, I still feel happy when I remember how much fun I had. But I also feel happy about returning to my life of playing tennis and eating out with my friends.

I’m sure at some point this dream-like state will fade, but for now I will allow myself to enjoy this feeling for as long as it lasts.

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Waddles, our trip mascot, getting shot from a cannon at Hohenzollern Castle