Story #26: Those shorts make you look fat.

Story #26: “Those shorts make you look fat.” They announced in front of everyone.

I asked for feedback from people reading this blog, asking what you might like to read more about. Someone requested that I write about an embarrassing experience and how it has informed who I am today. I did a brainstorming session and came up with several ideas, but I don’t find them very satisfying. I thought about crying in middle school, messing up at a volley ball game, losing my virginity (who doesn’t want to hear that one?), being rejected when I asked someone to make out, laughing inappropriately, and this one time, when someone announced that my shorts made me look fat.

I guess I’ll have a slough of 3 body blog posts. Yesterday’s was about eating my feelings. Today will be about being called fat. Tomorrow will be about naked counseling. This was not an intentional theme. It’s simply panning out that way, so I’m gonna roll with it.

I will tell this story in a brief and basic format because I’m still connected to some of these people and I don’t want to call anyone out right now. Here’s the story in a nutshell –

I was participating in a fitness event, so we were all gathering together to talk about logistics or stretching or whatever. There I was, in a big group of friends and strangers alike and the group captain is giving some kind of announcement. I wasn’t really paying attention, I was sorting something out over in my corner, so MAYBE it was to get my attention, but who knows – all of a sudden I can hear this man’s booming voice declaring to everyone that my shorts make me look fat. I turned and across the sea of people saw his arm outstretched, pointing at me.

Honestly, I missed the context so I don’t know if I might have just been the victim of a joke. Regardless, there I was, in front of 30 plus people being told that my bright pink shorts made me look fat. I was so stunned and dumbfounded that I just laughed nervously (which I do often enough anyway). I stood flushed and embarrassed and the meeting went on.

Personally, fat jokes have never resonated with me. I find them cruel, unusual, and really passive aggressive. This happened a few years back and sticks out in my memory as a classic teen magazine story. So how has this informed who I am today?

Because I spend only spend 20-60 minutes writing these posts, I won’t launch into girls, women, and feminist issues around body image and fat shaming. I will share that it deeply hurt my feelings to see and hear this person say that I looked fat, especially in front of so many people. He probably was making some kind of joke, at my expense. I think all of us humans have enough damage and shame around our bodies. If you know me, know this: I am hugely ANTI BODY SHAMING.

You and your body are here to be loved. As fully loved as possible.

Despite considering myself liberal, open, and probably much more body-loving than many – I think my trend has become more conservative over the years. Yes, as a direct result of experiences such as this one. I’m not bullet proof and doing body confidence work takes a lot of practice.

I don’t want to become more conservative. I want to be more confident. I want to wear sexy clothes and feel good about it. I want to wear hot pink shorts and say “fuck you” to people who make stupid comments about how I look.

In recent times,  this experience has informed me of the work that remains to be done. How can I prepare myself for situations such as this one? How can I be an ally when it happens to someone else? How can I prepare myself to call others out on their shit? I would love love love to be ready and confident to stand up for myself and others. This is the most important message for me at the moment. How can I stand up for myself and for you? How can I be the change that I want to see in this world?

What’s one of your embarrassing moments? What did you learn?

Yours in hot pink shorts giving zero fucks, XO ❤ LB

 

Story #25: I eat my feelings.

Story #25: I eat my feelings. Because they are so delicious!

I wish that were the case. I am a long time feeling eater. I’ve gained and lost around 20 pounds a few times over the last 15 years. I am happy to say that I’ve learned a lot about myself and my body (and continue to do so). For example, I know that starving myself doesn’t work for me. Not even a little bit. The consequences are frightening, actually (think cookie monster with pizza). However, allowing myself to get hungry and really experiencing the sensation of hunger is very important. I get hangry, so I like eating on a regularly basis or at least when I feel real hunger. I won’t skip meals if I’m hungry. But if I’m feeling full or satisfied without appetite, why force it?

I have come to realize that if I am not allowing myself to get to the point of hunger and if I haven’t heard the growl of my belly in a few days, chances are I’m not feeling good about myself. This goes hand in hand with wanting to feel satisfied when I am done eating, but if I’ve over done it and feel stuffed then it’s no bueno.

I am a sensitive person who experiences a wide range of emotions fairly intensely. While I have people in my family who run the eating gamut (everything from anorexics to overeaters), I tend to fall more on the over-eating side. I really love food. I am susceptible to seasonal depression, so if it’s cold and cloudy, call me for tea and plenty of cookies.

Anyway, I’ve tried almost everything that most women have for weight loss. I have been gluten free, dairy free, paleo, starved myself in high school, I tried the 5:2 diet, work out more, work out less, tried to not eat sweets, etc. Here’s something else I have learned: not eating any sweets takes the joy out of my life. So that’s not a viable solution for me. Though these days I have a better grip on moderation.

While diet changes give you more information about your body and relationship to food, I personally have found that I have to figure out a better relationship to my feelings to sort out the diet part. One of the greatest contributors to understanding my body has been my mindfulness practice. Meditation has helped me identify my feelings versus physical sensations and how the two influence each other. This practice has also helped me flex my patience muscle, which in turn helps me slow down and relax around meals.

I can be very territorial around my food. I blame part of this on my birth order (third kid out of four, middle of the girls). Slowing down and chilling the f**k out is therefore a great practice for me. I tell myself: “Remember! There’s enough for everyone. Sharing is caring. And maybe if you share, they’ll be willing to give you some of their dessert!”

If you like reading self help-y stuff or are looking for a fresh angle on weight management that doesn’t involve dieting per se, I would recommend reading Danielle LaPort‘s Desire Map and Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth. Those two spring to mind when I think about emotional eating. I spent a lot of time with both books while I read them. They helped me change my mind set around my emotional needs and around eating.

I’d also like to recommend following my friend and former co-worker, Kristen Newman (this is her on twitter). She is a master of fitness and strength, plus women’s empowerment in the funkiest of ways. She’s wicked smart and shares lots of good cat videos.

I have to say that I am currently quite satisfied with my weight and am enjoying my body. Life goals!!! Check. But I know that the only constant with my body is change. My weight rarely feels stable, while my appetite rages on. 😉

What’s the worst dieting experience you’ve ever had? Have you had any great dieting experiences? Share with me!

XOXO ❤ LB

P.S. I love pizza.

Story #24: I am becoming a certified coach.

Story #24: I have signed up for a ten month training program called iPEC to become a fully certified life and business coach.

I have only shared this with my family and a handful of friends. This is the second coaching program I have undertaken over the past four years. Back in 2012 a friend recommended Interchange Counseling Institute in San Francisco as program for me to check out. She had done work with Interchange through a company and found it informative at work and in her personal life. Knowing what a self help nerd I am, she thought it was potentially a good fit for me.

After attending an information session, I eagerly signed on to the Interchange program. At that point in my life I was asking myself for the first time if I should pursue a graduate degree and if yes, in what. I hoped that Interchange would help me answer that question. I was considering becoming a coach and looking into counseling or psychology masters programs. While Interchange helped me do an incredible amount of work on myself and to flex my counseling muscle, it didn’t quite satisfy my business interests. When I finished the program, I knew that I would not pursue a psychology degree and did not feel prepared to set up a coaching business. I stepped away from this area to transition into a few other jobs I was juggling at the time and to move into San Francisco.

/// Please write to me if you would like to discuss Interchange in more detail. It’s an excellent program that I have recommended to others. If you want more details on that experience, I am happy to share. ///

I was not expecting to re-enter the coaching arena as a business prospect. You could have asked me in January and I would not have been talking about setting up my own life and business coaching practice. However, the pieces were in place and the seeds have long been planted. I have been working with a coach on my art and business since October of 2016 and a good friend of mine recently started a coaching program and has been discussing it with me at great length.

Our conversations around coaching and hearing about his experiences have re-ignited old possibilities. And perhaps my art endeavors have allowed me to imagine all that is possible in life. Over a period of about two or three weeks, all of these aspects came together and lead me to registering for the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). After in depth online research and several phone calls, I found out that if I signed up, I could get started just a few days later. My excitement at this possibility had me bouncing off the walls (eyes shut, fists pumping the air, “yes yes yes!”)

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I made the leap.

The first weekend was challenging for me and I questioned my decision. I am an incredibly impulsive person, which I like to think means I’m highly intuitive and I know what I like. So when I’m excited about something, I’m a YES woman. However, we all know that this doesn’t always lead to desirable results and sometimes it’s better to be a bit more calculated. But this ain’t my first rodeo. Now with a month under my belt with iPEC, I’m fully committed to the program and incredibly pleased with their business resources.

I am looking forward to balancing my coaching practice and my art practice –> the art continues! I am excited to work with guinea pigs (friends/acquaintances) for my coaching biz. And I’m curious to see how my art transforms as I do my coaching work over the next several months. I am already unearthing juicy emotional ammo that is eager to find its place on the canvas. Keep those eyeballs peeled!

What’s your experience with life and business coaches? Ever had one? Are you one? If you had someones undivided attention for one hour what would you want to talk about?

XOXO ❤ LB

Story #23: Time to Face Fear.

Story #23: Time to Face Fear.

I have come up with long lists of things to write about for my month of story. With 7 days left, I am having a hard time choosing topics that I am excited about. So I am thinking about my funniest experiences, things that I am proud of, and things that I would be the most scared of posting. This list makes me very nervous.

And because it terrifies me so, I am challenging myself to write at least 5 posts that make me uncomfortable. At the end of April, I will wrap up my month of story with a posting schedule for the future and what I’ve learned over the past 30 days. Between now and then, I want to face some of my fear and publish some things that make me feel vulnerable (Ack!)

This is kind of a gup post because I’m not really sharing anything that scary, just warning you that it’s coming! 😉 Though the mere mention of it is making my palms sweat. I have found over and over again that sharing my writing is much scarier for me than it is to share my artwork. If I find an artwork and a written piece of work of equal value (I don’t know what scales of comparison I’m talking about here, just my feelings), then I am still much more nervous to share the written piece than the visual piece.

Reading and judging someone’s writing seems to me to be a judgement of intellect and perhaps more of an objective call (not exactly, though). While looking at and judging a painting seems more personal and subjective. I don’t think I am right in these thoughts, it’s simply what I have observed inside my self. And this is why writing a blog can prove quite challenging to me, but may also lend to the feeling of accomplishment that it brings.

My dream is to hear from those of you who have been following along or who are reading this now to tell me what you get out of reading my blog and what you would like me to write about. Please let me know if you have any thoughts, questions, or ideas for a post in the remaining week. You can email me at lara at larabuelow dot come. Or maybe you have some thoughts on sharing writing versus art? Let me know!

XOXO

Story #22: I am terrible at surfing. But I love it.

Story #21: I am terrible at surfing. But I love it.

I learned how to surf when I was living in Perth, Western Australia. I attended high school there for 6 months and surfing was an option for PE. Pretty cool!!! Even the kids there assumed that I already knew how to surf because I lived in California. “Don’t you surf to school?” they would ask. How crazy would that be, to surf your way to school?

I signed up for the surf class. It began once or twice a week at 6am at a beach on the other side of town from where I lived. Because I had a drivers license, I was allowed to drive in Australia. Their driving age is 18, so this was very unusual and made me quite popular. You also drive on the other side of the road, which made me nervous and definitely took some getting used to.

I would drive myself to the surfing class and then drive to school. This may have been the only time I seriously screwed up which side of the road I was driving on. I remember some car passing me and honking like mad. I guess my brain was still sleeping because it took me a moment to figure out why they were freaking out. Lucky for me that it was so early in the morning and there were practically no cars on the road (or maybe that’s why it happened? It’s much easier to follow traffic…)

Learning to surf in Australia was beautiful and fun. I was in a group of awesome girls and we all got to play in the most perfect baby waves on a white sand beach. It solidified my love for surfing immediately.

After leaving Australia, I barely surfed at all. Every once and and a while I would surf in Santa Cruz or when I happened to be traveling through a beach town. I didn’t have any friends who surfed and didn’t want to commit to buying the equipment. It wasn’t until I had been living in San Francisco for two whole years (about 10 years after living in AU) that I finally bit the bullet and fully committed to surfing.

My wonderful friend of many years was living and surfing in San Francisco regularly. She invited me out to Pacifica and I rented gear. We spent several hours surfing and it was the best! Why did I wait so long to get back to surfing!? I purchased a suit and eventually found a used board. We had surf dates every Thursday morning regardless of the weather. Sometimes if the surf was too big or insane, we would just go have coffee and breakfast. We would stare at the ocean and give each other high five’s for getting up at 5am to come surf.

The first time I took my own board out we went to Ocean Beach. It was the most beautiful clear sunrise over the city with the most calm 3-4 foot waves. I have only seen Ocean Beach with these conditions a hand full of times. We were having a blast in the water, when a fin caught my eye. “Maria! Dolphins!” I yelled. She looked at me and said “How do you know they’re dolphins?” My heart skipped a beat.

They were dolphins.

A whole pod of dolphins surrounded us, some even had babies. They swirled around us, catching waves and darting around. They made multiple loops, leaving and returning to our spot. It was exhilarating. I was scared, but felt that I was in exactly the right spot at the right time. That was one of the best surf sessions ever.

My love affair with surfing continues. It helped me start making art again after 2 years of inconsistent drawing. It became the inspiration for the Mtn Series, allowing me to explore imagery from past experiences, as well as present ones, and to meditate on human’s relationship to time. Surfing is something that I am not particularly good at, but is an activity that brings me so much joy. I want to cultivate this attitude of joy and acceptance of the process simply as it is. That is what surfing is to me.

Surfing is permission to be awful. And have fun anyway. It’s permission to have complete beginners mind and body. It’s accepting showing up exactly as you are. Surfing can be calm and relaxing and it can be wild and terrifying. It has faced me with all sides of my self.

Surfing is also the perfect excuse to be somewhere without a cellphone. There’s nothing quite like bobbing around in the ocean, seeing the land from the perspective of the sea, watching time go by…

What’s an activity that you’re awful at but enjoy anyway? Or what’s something you would love to learn? Write to me about it, I would love to hear from you.

XOXO ❤ LB

Story #21: My boyfriend and I met when I hired him.

Story #21: My boyfriend (JAC) and I met when I hired him.

It’s his birthday today, so this post is a way for me to celebrate him. He’s celebrating at his best friends bachelor party today. I’ll only get to celebrate him in spirit for now.

I didn’t actually meet him when I hired him. We met when he came into the gym (SFCF) to get additional information about becoming a member. I was having a bad day and struggling to maintain a “happy face” for clients. Our gym is in an old beautiful warehouse style building in the Presidio, so we always have the doors open. This means that I was always freezing and ended up wearing multiple layers everyday, which lead to me looking like a homeless person. I adopted a pair of large men’s sweatpants that I could wear on top of what whatever pants I was already wearing. Then I would put on my yellow down sweatshirt and pull the hood up. I looked like a giant puffy burrito.

I was answering emails and dealing with administrative work between classes on the schedule. I could hear someone come in looking for help. My boss was sitting on the couch near the entrance and sent him in my direction. We had already exchanged several emails, though I did not know this initially. I was cringing already when I heard my boss send him my way. I didn’t feel like playing nice and was being interrupted for the millionth time.

He walked over and asked “are you Lara?”

I, begrudgingly, approached the front desk, trying to claw my way out of whatever dark hole I was stewing in. I would like to attribute burn out and customer service overload to my foul mood. We entered a familiar conversation (to me) that included the potential for discounts or work opportunities in exchange for membership. This was a bad day for this initial meeting – I was fed up with the number of hand-outs people were requesting and the lack of due diligence of those approaching small businesses. This is no excuse for my rudeness or curt responses, simply an explanation and way to illustrate the scene.

JAC likes to tell the version of the story where I blatantly demand “did you read the website?” after his request for more information about potential discounts or work opportunities. Who knows what words were truly exchanged, we’ve re-told the story enough times now that I’m sure we’ve rewritten history. It’s likely those words did leave my lips at some point – this was a way for me to gauge what information the person was already familiar with and what they might still want to know. So if I did say this in a cold way, it was unintentional, as my mood clearly got the best of me and I was trying to figure out where JAC was at.

Turns out this was the right question to ask regardless of my tone. Why? Because he then revealed that he had read the entire website and brought up that we had already exchanged multiple emails. Well, why didn’t you say so!?

I believe we’re on the same page about the change in tone and body language with this new information brought to light. I recalled our emails and reassured him that while there were not currently any opportunities available, I would contact him if and when they did. His polite and friendly demeanor did not go unnoticed – I tipped him off that we were potentially creating some new front desk positions in the new future and I would try to keep him notified about the job. I even noted to adopt his positive energy and spread it around.

Two months later we were hiring for the position and invited JAC to interview. My boss and I were getting comfortable on the couch when JAC waltzed through the door wearing a suit! Working in a gym, we all lived in our workout clothes. Like I said, I basically dressed in layers of old sweatpants (so sexy, I know!) So I was floored to see someone in pressed attire. Enjoying the professional enthusiasm JAC was bringing to the table, I shouted “You’re Hired!”

Needless to say, he was hired shortly after. We worked side by side for a full year. JAC put in his two week notice when he got a job working as a tissue recovery technician in Southern California. He had acquired tickets to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for free from a friend and when I heard about it I told him he had to go because it’s an awesome, magical place. Then he asked me if I wanted to go. “Uhhh, YEA.”

We spent the day in Monterey and have been together ever since. Turns out our initial meeting did not ruin his impression of me. He did moved to Long Beach for his job, so we did long distance for nine months. Now we live together, just celebrated our 2 year anniversary and are waiting to hear where he–>WE are going to medical school. The adventure continues!!!

How did you meet your best friend or partner? Tell me! I love these creation stories.

❤ ❤ ❤ Happy Birthday to the BIGGEST #BABEATTACK of my life! ❤ ❤ ❤

Story #20: I have seen Gossip Girl in its entirety.

Story #20: I have seen Gossip Girl in its entirety.

Ugh, am I really writing about this? Yes, it’s true. I have seen the entire Gossip Girl TV show. Every. single. episode. My sister and I OWN the whole season on DVD. Yep, DVD. When Maya (outing you, sorry!) and I used to live together in NYC, we became obsessed with this show. We had this small silver television for a while that we would watch the show on. I think it had an antenna. I don’t know where we got that thing from. It may have still had the VHS slot. We got rid of it eventually and continued watching the show on our laptops.

It was fun to watch and recognize the filming locations. We knew what trash this show was and felt like we could fully indulge in its awfulness. It was also a strange voyeurism that provided us with a window into a life of private east coast prep schools on the upper east side. With an insanely wild dramatic flair of course. Who knows what happens at east coast prep schools!

I was lucky enough to attend a good public school in Palo Alto, CA. But perhaps there are a few too many freakish parallels??? We had plenty of our own problems with cliques, mean girls, substance abuse, expectations, and suicides (attempted and successful), kids driving their own Mercedes on their 16th birthdays and shit. Thinking about Gossip Girl in its entirety, I can’t really justify spending all those hours watching it. Mindless entertainment at its finest. The title says it all, it’s like a glossy gossip magazine where every story has a hyperbole headline. You’re just gobbling up all the juicy gossip, reveling in the suffering of others.

So we shamelessly enjoyed our time living in small apartments in a big city together, occasionally watching terribly TV shows. And then sometimes we reminisce about some ridiculous episode and the madness it represents in the world.

And that’s pretty much it.

What do we learn from TV shows like Gossip Girl? Is there a valuable add to life here? Someone help me see the lesson. Or is it purely an indulgence? A way for us to feel better about ourselves?

If you’ve seen the show –> XOXO ❤ GG, I mean LB ;D

Story #19: I drive a mini van.

Story #19: I drive a mini van.

The Honda Odyssey is a dope vehicle. You can’t tell me any different.

Everything has its pro’s and con’s, so let’s review them here.

Cons of driving a mini van: it is not aesthetically sexy, and it can be difficult to park in cities at times.

OK, not too bad for the shadow side of owning a van!

Now let’s look at the pros: It’s like a truck, but covered and secure. It can hold a huge amount of stuff. I have locked up both of my surfboards and my bicycle in this van overnight before and nothing was stolen (lucky, I know). It is reliable and safe! The seats fold down so you basically have a space large enough to live out of in the back. I can pack myself and six of my best friends into the car and drive around. I have moved all of my belongings in this car no less than three times. Surfboards slide right in! No straps or complications. Parking is not that hard. People trust you. You do not get pulled over ever or at least not often. You do badass things like haul trees and dirt in the back. You can be proud to own a secret adventure vehicle. Used mini vans are inexpensive and super useful.

I could go on, but I won’t. I’ve told you what you need to know. If you need a hauling and/or adventure vehicle, then you should consider a mini van. It is the most utilitarian vehicle that I can think of that has reasonable gas mileage and is still super easy to park, even in the city. We could discuss alternatives or the fact that it is not sexy looking, but the pros simply far out weight the cons.

I myself have hated the “soccer mom” look for as long as I can remember. However these judgements and concerns about image are bullshit because mini vans are amazing. I prefer the look of a VW, but the old ones are not so safe and can be pricey to fix up. They are fairly expensive vans to buy. The Honda is affordable, safe, and super reliable.

My Honda has a limited life span remaining. I am grateful for the time I’ve spent with this Odyssey. It has facilitated so many adventures (even back when I was in high school)! We’ve had a good run and it will forever be what I compare future vehicles to.

That is all.

Do you own a motorized vehicle? Which one? Do you have a dream vehicle? Mine is a new Mercedes Sprinter camper van. Let me know in the comments below.

XOXO ❤ LB

Story #18: Be Car Free on Race Day

Story #18: I was part of a car free relay race team.

That’s right. I participated in the Ski 2 Sea relay in Bellingham in 2011. I raced a hand-made canoe 8 miles down a river. I didn’t (and still don’t realy) have any canoeing experience.

There are the eight different legs: cross country ski, down hill ski, downhill run, road bike, canoe, cyclo-cross, and kayak. This is an awesome beast of a relay race. They say it is the largest relay race in the country. I know that people travel far and wide to participate. And I can see why.

Simon (pictured above) was my canoe partner. Simon hand crafted our canoe in his wood shop at home. He’s an engineer and makes all kinds of fancy things at home. And since he’s an inspired kind of guy, he’s always coming up with something. In our case, he was really pumped on us racing a canoe that he made himself.

We only practiced once, maybe twice, to make sure we wouldn’t sink. Smart, I know.

As a car free team, a group of cyclists goes up to Mt. Baker with the mountain leg racers and all their gear. And because the ride up highway 542 is so beautiful, everyone who can go up, does. We hauled our cross country skier, the down hill skier, the cyclist, the downhill runner, and the road bike racer up the hill with their ski’s and their bikes. The canoe was transported and dropped where we would have to meet it the next day.

We all enjoyed a nice old fashioned camp out in the damp woods below Mt. Baker. Then in the early morning, we hauled ass down the mountain to our stations. There Simon and I would wait until Stax, our road cyclist, handed off the relay chip. While everyone was racing the down hill sections, Simon and I enjoyed the sunshine on a patch of grass with the rest of the crowd.

It was exhilarating to watch Stax zoom across his finish line straight into our open loving arms! We had a big group hug before running to find our boat. We dragged our big blue canoe into the river and off we went! Our team mates cheering us on from behind.

The adrenaline in the beginning got us off to a great start. Our team was strong and we had made good head way. However, the heaviness of our canoe and perhaps our lack of training left us in the dust of many of the paddlers. Even unexperienced paddlers were passing us in the end with their speedy lightweight canoes. I was good natured at first, but as time labored on, I became miserable. It was not until the end was in sight that my spirits lifted.

Every part of this experience was worth it. If you like races, I highly recommend Ski to Sea. You can even find teams to join through their website. If possible, I encourage you to join a CAR FREE team. 😉

So, how hardcore are you?

Can’t imagine biking up a mountain with gear to race back down?? Well, here’s a video of my team before race day doing just that!

BONUS MATERIAL!!! VIDEO of when I did Ski to Sea. !!!!

(CREDIT: STAX @ POSITIVE/NEGATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY)

Big love to the Kiss Army and all you adventurers out there. XOXO ❤ LB

 

Story #17: I tried to start a hostel and failed.

Story #17: I tried to start a hostel and failed.

In 2004 I backpacked through Europe with one of my best friends. We made the Euro Trip happen. We spent 6 weeks traveling through Germany, over to Paris and Amsterdam, then up to Denmark for a music festival, back through Berlin to see family and then looping around to the Czech Republic and down to Italy before returning to Frankfurt to fly home. We had the time of our lives making all kinds of rookie travel mistakes, staying up way too late/long, seeing beautiful things and meeting great people along the way.

Some of the mistakes (in case you’re dying to know) include getting terribly sick in the middle of the music festival, being covered in mud, getting robbed, booking the wrong train tickets but getting on the right train, arguing with people even though we didn’t speak the same language, showing up in a city with no where to stay, and not having a back up credit card.

Back to the original story: Hostels. When we were in Amsterdam we stayed at The Flying Pig Hostel. This is a famous place and you may have even heard of it before. I LOL at myself thinking about this experience today, but at the time it was perfect. It is the quintessential hostel. We stayed in a cave-like co-ed dorm with over 30 people staying in it. There was shit everywhere. The bunkbeds were double-wide in some cases, which made it cheaper to stay there if you were willing to share a bed with your buddy. Of course we were up for that!

There were people everywhere, too. We quickly made 7 new best friends and spent several days running amok with worldly travelers. Despite an intoxicated girl vomiting in the bunk above us the first night we stayed over, we thought the whole experience was great.

I had already begun entertaining the notion of hospitality as a career path for myself from previous travels. The Flying Pig, at the time, really solidified my interest in hostels as a business. I loved the wildly painted walls, the curated bohemian space, the friendly and knowledgable staff, and the feeling of camaraderie amongst the travelers. To this day, the idea of developing connections with people of all walks of life from all corners of the globe is very attractive to me. Coupled with the idea of designing a space that could house local art and be a venue for cultural exchange gets me very excited.

I held on to this idea from 2003 to 2010. Similarly to my cross-country bicycle dreams, the idea that I would some day open my own hostel was a seed that grew slowly over those 7 years. From my Euro-trip, I would move to Boston and New York while traveling in between. In all of those cities I explored hostels and couchsurfing, cherry-picking my experiences and thinking of ways to start my own business.

When I moved to Bellingham, WA and found that their eight bed hostel had closed a few years prior, I knew my opportunity had arrived. Hostelling International had an ad in the local paper that they were hosting a meeting to gage local interest in starting a hostel. Coincidence?! I think not. I went to the meeting and got on board with the project immediately. The next 6-9 months were spent setting up meetings, looking at real estate, and getting to know other hostel owners.

These activities, particularly the real estate hunt, stretched over two years. During my low points, I considered becoming a real estate agent, as I began to tip my friends off to available houses and talk to other business owners about the commercial real estate on the market. I saw every available building in downtown Bellingham. I considered the most creative solutions for weird old buildings. However, all potential sites at the time were either too expensive to build out or required rules and regulations to be changed – any and all processes would likely take years and years before breaking serious ground and opening doors.

Ultimately, it was a bit much for my 22 year old brain to wrap itself around. After I graduated from college and my boyfriend at the time and I broke up, the hostel lost most of its significance. I was burnt out and depressed.

So I dropped the project, moved home and went on a bike trip to New Mexico to build Earthships for 3 months. Because that’s how you solve all of life’s problems. Isn’t that why you have been reading this blog? To figure out how to live a bigger, better, stronger life? Bicycle trips accomplish 99% of that.

Ultimately, this project is a testimony to my strength and perseverance when I am excited about something. I consider myself fairly ADD and following through on details of a project that I am not excited about often feels impossible. However, the support and possibility of making the hostel a reality put a healthy fire under my ass. I proved to myself that I was able to rally and organize a community, plus do the menial tasks involved in business development.

Though I never actually opened the doors to my own hostel, I did write a detailed business plan, became more familiar with commercial building codes than I ever thought I would, and met a lot of amazing business owners. I am happy to say that I bring the same level of enthusiasm and grit to my current business ventures.

What’s your craziest travel story? If you were starting a business, what would it be? I would love to hear from you!

Adventure abounds! XOXO ❤ Lara