Remarkable Nepal

 

Nepal_bhaktapur_flowersSuddenly after 33 hours of plane travel I’ve arrived in the lap of the Himalayas, Kathmandu Valley.

I’m staying in Bhaktapur the most ancient place in the country surrounded by intricately carved wooden temples. One of the best parts?

Walking in the square buying flowers to do love offerings with all the other Hindus, at 6AM.

I love the people here. They are the kindest people I know. Their smiles come in spades.

Truth.

How to act like a local? Smile a lot and pretend you aren’t from half a world away. It usually works.

But I tried a different tactic on the pack of dogs outside my window rabble-rousing last night. I shouted from the 2nd story window where I sleep for them to cut their shit and shut up. They listened. The howling stopped.

This New York girl is not going to lose sleep.The temple bells start ringing 10 feet from my window at 5:30AM there is no sleeping after that.

But there is a cacophony of local color outside my pad at the Shiva Guesthouse, the oldest guesthouse in Bhaktapur where the management knows me and allows me to put my yogurt in the refrigerator with the Cokes for sale.

But don’t tell anyone.

Bhaktapur_www.bartnikowski.

Bhaktapur_www.bartnikowski.

After walking around Bhaktapur getting my “curd” which is yogurt, and there is no better curd made worldwide, you’ll drop your Greek Fage and never eat it again if you get to taste King Curd.

Pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top and that’s breakfast.

Yesterday and today will be helping out over at the women’s shelter, check it out here,

www.bartnikowski.com

www.bartnikowski.com

This lovely girl has been living at the shelter for a year. I met her in 2013, in her village, a 13-hour drive from Kathmandu. She was in a domestic abuse situation and is now free. I’ve never seen her happier. She’s going to school and helping at the shelter. She learns at lightening speed and I’m standing in her glow watching it all.

Wow, this is how to change lives, one person at a time.

$700 a year is all it takes to feed, educate, and house one girl in Nepal. This is what Beyond the Four Walls is doing now.

Do you want to come and stay with us?

You’ll have a Nepali immersion adventure and a low cost amazing place to stay.

Your small room fee pays for the costs associated with running Beyond the Four Walls, a foundation that empowers women, providing employment, housing, and education for women who want to change their lives after being abused and neglected.

Girls and women learn to make empowered choices and not fall prey to sex slavery and early marriage.

Wolf Price, Founder of Beyond the Four Walls

Wolf Price, Founder of Beyond the Four Walls

Yesterday we cleaned up rooms and got the kitchen in order for the cafe that will re-open soon. It’s a garden cafe at this location, before it was on a busy street so this new place will be more serene and provide smoothies, premium coffee, lasis, and hamburgers. Stop by and see us. It will be up and running after we get the water system fully installed.

Namaste!

Make a donation, no amount too small, even $10 helps. http://til.tt/8qrA

cleaning up and organizing at www.b4wnepal.com

cleaning up and organizing at www.b4wnepal.com

How to Change Your Life

 

marykidsarnikoRoll002036www.bartnikowski.com 

Living out loud and laughing is the prescription to life’s monsoons. If you don’t laugh every day your enthusiasm gene dries up. It’s that simple. But it took me decades to figure out. What happened?

I got out of my comfort zone, left my leather couch and plump pillows, and started traveling. And not the way I used to travel; spending $500 a day for trips to Maui, staying in luxury resorts, skiing at Squaw Valley sipping cocktails, jetting off to Bora Bora and scuba diving in the Caribbean.

So there I was in the heart of Palo Alto, California, down the street from Steve Jobs, home of all things silicon chipped, 25 years of a successful photography career: great clients, author of a book, what was missing?

I didn’t know the name of it yet but when my 18-year-old son, Wolf, asked me to visit him in Nepal while he was volunteer teaching I said hell, yes!

Kathmandu. It sounded mystical. A dream destination. So I took 2 months off and left California with 50 rolls of film, my Nikon F-3, and a heart full of wonder and awe on Christmas Day 2005.

Suddenly, the unknown snatched me in its jaws.

It was that exact moment after flying over the Himalayas and seeing my son waiting for me in the tiny Kathmandu airport that my heart leaped into overdrive – this was it! The life of being a vagabond I had always wanted but didn’t know what it was called. The air sparkled with possibility and luminescent light. The atmosphere shown with a prism quality that shivered my nerve endings and made me wake up.

Yes, being on the rooftop of the world made me see the light.

Kathmandu felt like 3rd rock from the sun – everything was different – the food, the light, the people, clothes, statuary, and religion. I’d never been in a tuktuk, or eaten Tibetan momos, never seen such gorgeous people before. Nepal was on the US embassy’s unsafe-don’t-visit list but my son was there. I’d walk through fire to see him.

So I was getting my Nepal visa at the airport paying with US dollars not knowing what I was spending until he told me the exchange rate. I could get a hotel room for $12 a night not $200? And it was clean and quiet too.

I was off and running. Drunk on my own freedom.

In Kathmandu, I taught photography to the staff of the Nepal Youth Foundation. Olga Murray, the charismatic and brilliant founder of NYF invited me to teach after I asked her if I could help and it made my trip to Nepal an experiential dream. But it was real and they even gave me taxi money, instant friendship, and wildly delicious meals.

I fell in love with the staff and it fueled me onwards to lead more projects in other countries; many times receiving room and board to do photography, teach, write or all three.

And I discovered it was fun to work without a thought of money; to be liked for doing what I love to do. Taking photographs, teaching, writing, playing with people, babies, elephants, and laughing. And that’s how I became the CEO of fun.

I’m getting rich with experience on seeing how the world lives outside my former bubble of a life devoted to the almighty buck, cashmere, and comfort.

I’ve had an astounding education in life: being a professional photographer, a published author, a hitchhiking hippie, leading programs at major corporations in the USA, photographing the Dalai Lama, riding elephants bareback in Nepal, and learning how to fall off a surfboard, not to mention all the other crazy capers.

But when people tell you you are nuts that usually means you are on to something wonderful.

The thing is…

There’s no better way to learn how the world works than to roll up your sleeves and get filthy with experience like this. I’ve been stupid, smart, lucky, well-off, broke, mocked, and loved and I’ve learned something from every second of it.

People with more money than I have, ask me how I do it. But it doesn’t take a lot of money to do what I do. Doesn’t take much planning either. I just go where my heart calls me to go. And I discovered after teaching photography and yoga in foreign countries worldwide that I could make a living at it. How?

I started teaching travelers and ex-pats in Dharamsala and boom! I had a pocket full of Indian rupees and noticed I didn’t need to visit the ATM.

That’s when it hit me: I don’t have to go back to the USA to earn money. Scotty, beam me up into the ethers of my greatest dream – being free and discovering the world!

So I went back to the USA sold all my stuff and gave the rest away – no more stress, furniture, insurance, car maintenance or rat race. Poof! All gone.

I’m a permanent traveler now on an open-ended worldwide adventure.

Take the leap and do it now before you think about it too much. Grab the time off for yourself and don’t wait until its been 15 years since you had 3 weeks off in a row like I did.

Start with an easy country like Bali or Thailand, you’ll be safe in an exotic world spending very little money if you enjoy homey guesthouses for $10 to $15 a night. You won’t be inside much anyway.

Spread your wings and take off – you know you want to!

Stay in touch, find out where I am now on the planet, and get seriously kick-ass advice on being a location independent entrepreneur. Go to Vagabond Travel Mag now and subscribe in the itunes store.

 

What I’ve Learned After 7 Years of Full-time Travel

 

bartnikowski.com

How did I get here in Chiang Mai, Thailand drinking smoothies every morning being happy and grateful to be alive?

I didn’t listen to people telling me I was nuts. Who said, “You shouldn’t go to that country because you can’t be sure of being safe.”

30 countries later I’m still going strong!

My eyes have been opened so wide it almost hurts to see the world without sunglasses. The light is so brilliant — its hard for me to see that at one time I didn’t have this life.

 You can have it too. I know what you’re thinking. Actually we think too much. And you can think yourself right out of doing anything if you give it too much of your attention.

1. Attention is a gift.

That’s the first thing I learned. Whatever you set your mind on blossoms and takes off.

Works the same with negativity and voices in your head telling you can’t do something. If you listen then you can’t do it. Put your attention on what you want to happen. Act as if it all ready is happening. 

Say you signed up for a Women’s Only coach on a train in India and you get on the train at 2AM and find out your coach is full of only men. You either leave or accept it.

They didn’t listen when I told them to stop smoking and cut the chatter crap so I could sleep but thats another story.

2. Time is not the hours on the clock face.

Time is your life span from birth to dying. What do you want to do with your time?

I want to travel and see the world. Work and play all over the globe.

Take the first baby step and the universe opens up to you. I didn’t believe this either at first but it miraculously happens when you decide to walk towards your Big Dream.

3. Money is attracted to boldness and magic.

Yes you can be a location independent entrepreneur. You can do your job on the road, you can teach English in almost any country on earth and get paid for it, you can have an online business, and you can teach belly dancing. I teach photography all over the world and write books.

And I have a magazine in the itunes store Vagabond Travel Photography Mag. Discover the world and learn how to take Amazing photographs Go see it here.

4. The Unknown is Your Friend

I used to plan too much. “Honey why can’t you meet me in Colombia in February – how come you don’t know when you’ll be there?” I said to my son who has been to 50 countries. I’ve only been to 30, I gotta catch up.

Now I know why, because I’m not planning either.

Less planning is more fun.

5. You never know what is around the next corner or who you’ll  meet today changing your life instantly. Today you might decide you gotta go to Bali to work on your surfing skills. I don’t stay on the board too long so I need practice.

Or I need to photograph Ladakhi people high in the Himalayas and how they live life, or teach yoga to women in Nepal living in mud huts. Or go live in an igloo, ashram, temple, seaside bungalow, or tent.

esheybaby22

And you can do it!

 

Your mind is malleable. It may be more flexible than your body. Get inspired by people who are living the life you want to live and open the ethers in your soul.

Queen.Dancer.bartnikowski

How do you do that?

 

You stay fresh, eat fruits and veggies, relax and be like a kid. Open to everything but if it feels off you walk away.

 

Being Happy Inside my Skin. This may be the title of my next book.

 

And then being so happy and grateful that you can give things, time, love to others.

That’s the secret to success. It’s not money or big achievements and awards.

I’ve done a lot of things I set out to do, but with many more I want to discover, I expand every day and want to leap into the fresh waters of the unknown; I see that time is this — it’s what our spirit loves doing and being. It could be meditation, travel, teaching but whatever it is the message is live today like you will die today. Because we will die. And it could be today so lets live at a higher exalted octave than we ever have before.

1. Be inspired by the birds singing. I hear them right now off my terrace in Thailand. They know how to fly. So can we.

2. Sleep enough – then your skin looks better and you have energy.

3. Move that amazing body of yours – yoga, walking, surfing, swimming, skateboarding just do it. You don’t have to motorbike across 4 lines of roaring traffic praying today like I did. Go walk around a lake with no cars intruding.

4. Take steps towards your dreams. Don’t give up.

Your new mantra: You can do it, you can do it, and you can do it.

Thank you for your enthusiasm, attention, and beauty, I am grateful to all you darling hearts – you have been there for me, and I couldn’t have done it without you.

Love, Dream, Discover,

Mary

Tulum, Mexico, Simply Being

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMPsKuZnGt8]

Life has been so juicy that I have not had time to write. I’ve been too busy eating fish tacos, guacamole, and growing another rear end. I’m teaching private photo crash courses, walking around with a look of wonder on my face, eating, reading in a hammock, dreaming about my next adventure in Belize and seeing my son in Guatemala, and trying to stay warm in the soft rain but mostly just being content.

I moved off of Isla Mujeres and now I am in a tiny town by the sea living in a hostel where I finally have a kitchen to make a darn cup of tea. I had my water heating coil from Thailand with me but those prongs don’t ignite in Mexican electrical outlets.

So I was camping at the sea and got tired of sand in every crevice of my body, spartan accommodations (meaning no sofas or cushions) and living on sand. But now that I am in a crowded hostel I appreciate seaside camping.

Nature rocks! Nothing comes close to its beauty. As I laid in my tent trying to sleep while the rain pelted my tent I thought warm thoughts of Belize and being in the sun – being safe in Guatemala with my son and daughter and eating healthy food. Just appreciating that we are alive in this moment and not elsewhere.

I am experiencing the good karma of simply being. I am shedding anxiety and just being. I don’t feel in a rush.

Today I felt happy just walking my laundry to the cleaners for them to do and having my teeth cleaned. I felt I had achieved something. The dentist told me I have a bunch of cavities – I don’t believe him – I think he wanted more money. But I paid him only $60 to clean my teeth – the other dentist wanted $80 but I didn’t want to pay $20 more than I pay in Thailand. I know I am not in Thailand but I also do not have health insurance – my health insurance is traveling to third world countries and hoping to never get ill or injured in the USA as I can easily afford paying for my medical maintenance out of pocket when it is in rupees, Thai baht, or pesos. My teeth feel yummy and smooth now. The dentist was a lot younger; I am now old enough to have my doctors be a decade or two younger than me. I just told the girl in the other bunk here in the dorm what my age was and I’m even older than her parents who are 48. She was lying on her bed when I told her and looked like she’d lose her lunch in a New York second.

She said, “You are NOT 54.” I usually don‘t tell people but I sometimes like the shock as it is a comic moment.

These youngsters here are partying non-stop and won’t shut up until 1AM but usually it’s later. I don’t know if I can take 2 more nights of this stupidity. A bunch of twenty-nothings getting drunk and listening to moronic music that will not be remembered in 10 years. Push my ear plugs in way deeper. I still heard them.

But these young ones are in some ways wiser than I was at their age. Some of them even get married and are responsible like my own son. And they know to travel and not get tied down to a job right away.

Some of these sweet youngsters are able to sleep in all this noise – astounding.

But after a few days I am learning how to do it too.  I always wanted to be able to fall asleep on a plank at the center of the universe, on an airplane, bus, or boat, in the middle of a rock concert.

Oh dear maybe I should not have had that pork taco right before bed preceded by the sugar doughnut slash croissant – it was not a proper croissant but a puffed up piece of bread with sugar sprinkled all over it.

I feel actual bliss and freedom. I can roam where I want to. I feel less and less anxiety. I left the western world only 10 days ago but it takes time to wash off the west.

When I made more money I was less happy. I didn’t know this until I left my life behind, filled with expensive clothing, ritzy furniture, top dollar restaurants and deep debt. I owed so much money living like that but now that I live simply I don’t owe anyone anything.

I was at the bank the day before I left the USA and was getting my finances in order with one of the bank clerks and she said, “You can sign up for online bill payment” and I said oh I don’t need that and she said, “Well how do you pay your bills?”

I said, “I don’t have any bills.”

She was stupefied.

She said, “Many people would want to be in that position.” And she smiled through her gasping. I felt so grateful that I had no debt. I am free and clear and can live my life the way I like. That is a grace and a beauty. It took a lot of work to be debt-free. Keebler cookie elves did not arrive and give me a full bank account in the middle of the night.

Courage takes practice.

Living the high debt life made me sleep less peacefully. I was nervous and stressed trying to earn more money to pay everything off.

But I can travel because I have no debt – that is bliss – I could not do it before because I had to pay for my ultra lux life; I owed on my cashmere sweaters and all the toys we used to buy. I can live life more richly without that stuff. I feel rich now but I did not feel rich when I made more money.

Interesting how more stress isn’t worth more money.

Major insight revealed.

Piling up stacks of money isn’t that fun. It is stressful and I like being relaxed. It costs a lot more money to be in the States working than it does to be here having a wonderful time.

for now kindly go to http://www.youtube.com/user/zestyzippy

to see the latest videos from Mexico – Fun in Tulum and Simply Being.