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

 

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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

10 Reasons I Love Nepal

Grandma in Inawura, Nepal

Discover the Secrets of Nepal in Vagabond Mag for your ipad click here

It is said that Nepal is the holiest place on earth. Why?

It’s the rooftop of the world, home of Mount Everest and the Annapurna Mountain range but what keeps me coming back is the people. The kindest people I know live there.

Nepal breaks my heart and makes me cry and laugh within the same minute. How?

Well my favorite Grandma in the world lives in the Terai in Inawura.

Grandma in Inawura, Nepal

She’s 90 years old but never complains. She has a lilting girlish voice that resonates with wisdom even though I don’t know what she’s saying because I haven’t learned Nepali but we understand each other.

One day we found ourselves alone with no others around and we were chatting after I made her a hot drink with peppermint and she would say what she wanted to say in Nepali. I would listen to her then I’d talk to her in English and she carefully listened to me. We understood each other but not so much with language.

My son who has stunned me with his generosity and beauty got me there. I’d never heard of this little town but I found myself flying domestic from Kathmandu to get there.

He discovered this village when his friend brought him here to meet his family and now they are my family too.

Wolf Price inspired American Apparell to make a tee shirt to sell globally to fund education and wifi for the girls who live here so they don’t have to get married as teenagers and live a life of servitude. He’s also making a documentary about it all. Find out more about him click here. You may want to donate to empower girls in Nepal and buy the cool tee-shirt.

wolfinterviewingladiesatEnd

I met many wonderful ladies and taught them yoga in the bamboo grove – they were courageous to try it out after saying they had aches and pains.

Yoga Class Teaching in bamboogrove22

It was a non-stop love fest from morning to night.

Mom would wake me up with chai every day. Her smile made me never want to leave.

And then…

I discovered the Sacred Places in Kathmandu Valley
If you want to invigorate your soul go to Namobuddha Monastery

Namobuddha Monastery in the morning
Then go to Bahktapur just outside of Kathmandu.

Bhaktapur on a Misty Morning 6AM

View from my $10 Room

Bhaktapur Stone StatuesWoman in Bhaktapur Doing Puja

Then go to Kopan Monastery on the edge of Kathmandu.

Kopan Garden

And You Will Fall In Love with Boudha below, the largest Buddhist stupa in the world.

Boudha in Nepal

Incense Infusers Boudha

Be Enchanted by Nepal, Learn All About it in Vagabond

Praying at BoudhaDance Recital Near Boudha

Wolf brought me to a dance recital he was shooting so I took some photos too. I loved the girls expressions and their enthusiasm.

If you have time, go to Lumbini where Buddha was born. He was not born in India as most people think he was born here in Nepal and you’ll be overjoyed to be in the sacred garden  –its far from Kathmandu and if you don’t hire a car you have to take a public bus. Or you could fly.

It’s worth it.

I didn’t feel this love struck after the 14-hour bus ride back from the village of Inawura to Kathmandu but have now realized that driving over rocky dirt roads on a night bus will not feed my sanity or give me easy access to a toilet so I will leave this pass-time to the youngsters who can stomach it as I noticed there were no other people on the bus over age 30.

Perhaps this is a sign.

So if you are going and want to do something other than trek check out the sacred places of Kathmandu, go to the jungle and play with elephants, or just stop and go meet some Nepali women, maybe you can come to the picnic next year on Women’s Day March 8– here is me on the bus to the picnic Wolf Price puts on for the ladies.

Going to the Womens Day Picnic my son Wolf puts on every year for the Ladies

We had a blast and my face hurt from laughing all day.

Women Laughing while their Friends are Playing a Game at the Picnic

Women Laughing while their Friends are Playing a Game at the Picnic

My favorite new friend who busted out some amazing moves while dancing right here.

womandancinggoodmark

Do you want to escape the USA? Or just take a break and feel free?

You can travel all the time on a low budget and a high level of fun and adventure. You can work while you travel so all your costs are covered. Find out how in Vagabond Travel Photography Mag for your ipad here

I’m in India now and am head over heels happy I photographed the Dalai Lama here in Dharamsala where he lives. If you want to see photos click here

If you like, Comment below or Write me at [email protected]

Why I Travel Solo

This is the introduction for my new e-book:

Kitten Heels in Kathmandu, the Adventures of a Female Vagabond on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Kitten-Kathmandu-Adventures-Vagabond-ebook/dp/B005MR4X1I/

And an epub version for ipads and iphones: http://www.bitmenu.com/widget/offer.html?offerId=2633

I was sitting around one day and I noticed there was no one to make dinner for. My son was riding camels in Morocco on his own dime, when suddenly light entered my brain.

I need adventure and the unknown! If he can do it at age 17, I can sure as hell do it – it should be easier for me I’m older than him.

So I went on my first three-week vacation in fifteen years to Italy and Spain. The Italians said I was plumb loco for waiting so long. They checked my head for fever and suggested there may be cellular damage.

But I had an epiphany in Florence walking under an umbrella in the rain. I was ready to leap into life and not look back. I felt utterly at peace and so happy that I didn’t want to ever leave. I felt each hour in a blissful state of not knowing what will happen next so I’ll take my hands off the steering wheel and let the journey take me.

I was happy being hit on by handsome men in Italy. Probably would have married one of them if I’d stayed another week. One man’s dimples were divine. I swam in them with my eyes.

That was just the beginning.

My son then informed me that he was going to Asia for nine months – no problem I said as I cried into my pillow. But I wiped away my tears and decided to take the world by storm and live a life I was excited about.

I always wanted to be a nomad but didn’t know exactly how this was done.

I raised my son to be adventurous and to express his heart’s desires. To reach out to the world and love it. He flew over oceans, continents, and the Himalayas spreading his wings so wide it felt like an umbrella for me and the wind caught me and I floated like Mary Poppins.

It carried me to Nepal to teach photography to the staff of the Nepal Youth Foundation.

Kathmandu felt like third rock from the sun. Everything was different; the light, the food, the faces, the language, the clothes. The way people worshipped God. It changed my life and made me see my purpose.

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

I continued to take 6 to 10 month solo trips every year and after going around the world twice, and teaching and traveling in 27 countries I knew this was not just a trip; it was my life.

So I sold all my stuff: car, furniture, jewelry, my favorite red vintage motorcycle jacket. I gave the rest away. No more stress, insurance, car maintenance or rat race.

Poof – all gone.

It was liberating.

Now I’m a professional vagabond. I teach photography worldwide, shoot for businesses, non-profits, and ex-pats. I teach kundalini yoga and meditation, play with people, and love elephants. My title? I’m an artist and CEO of fun. Projects find me, travelers want to learn photography and yoga, and invitations arrive for me to volunteer my skills. It’s a big wide world full of people who need help and inspiration.

I used to spend over $500 a day on vacations. I drove a new car, bought cashmere and silk clothing, lived in a swank apartment, and regularly went out to eat and drink at posh places. I worked incessantly so I could afford this style of living. Now I spend $500 in a month and live a happier, richer, and simpler life.

I don’t need a car; third world countries are notorious for providing low cost and good transportation. Yes, it can be colorful to sit next to a large box of baby chickens with a fresh caught flounder at my feet in Ecuador. I do sometimes travel in air-conditioned buses; in Thailand where I live like a queen.

Solo travel makes me stronger. It’s a learning eye-opening incredible journey. I would never be growing like this if I stayed at home stuck in the safe and swank suburbs. I’m meeting dynamic people from all over the world and having my eyes pried open and wits sharpened. I’ve learned how to trust my gut with unflappable certainty.

And now I can sleep on a plank with my camera as a pillow or under a table at the airport after a cancelled flight with my backpack bolted to my thigh and just to be certain a table leg as well. Squalling babies and rock-hard mattresses don’t annoy me; air turbulence lulls me to dreamland.

Traveling into the unknown has transformed me on a cellular and spiritual level. I no longer see life as black and white – there are a lot more gray areas and I’m not just talking about my hair. I’m talking about being opened up and deeply changed by new people, foreign money, fresh ideas, and new spirits.

I’m not in a rush anymore. Now I just wait. The answer will come.

Sometimes I want to be alone with my own soul to see what is in there. I never know what I will find so I am just letting it be. Letting the world come to me as I quietly get on a plane and fly to a new country then hit the ground running and travel overland to feel the energy of the place bubble up from the soles of my feet into my heart and explode out the top of my head.  How will I change from it? I never know. That is why I travel not just to take photographs and capture a place on film. It is to know myself through the eyes of a different world; the rarified air of a new culture with new customs, new souls, and new faces. And food I can’t identify but it sure tastes good.

The best places never seem to be in the guidebooks. They just pop up in a friendly face, an accidental discovery, or a change of plans. Nothing is set in granite and that is also why I travel to see that everything is impermanent – this could all be over in an instant. We could die suddenly, get sick, or be annihilated. If the world is going to hell in a hand basket why not see it before the basket breaks?

I live outside the USA to stop thinking about myself all the time – it’s exhausting. And reaching a hand out to someone who needs it is fulfilling.

There are worlds to discover in our own souls. I’m digging with a big shovel to get to those new layers inside me. To change and to keep on changing.

I’m rich with experience, seeing how the world lives out side my former bubble of a life devoted to the almighty buck, cashmere, and comfort. I’ve been stupid, smart, lucky, well off, broke, mocked, and loved. And I’ve learned something from every second of it.

I’ve had an astounding education in life: being a professional photographer, a published author, a hitchhiking hippie, teaching Buddhist nuns kundalini yoga, leading programs at major corporations in the USA, photographing the Dalai Lama, riding elephants bareback in Nepal, learning how to surf, ride a motorcycle, and scuba dive, living in a home for abandoned people in Argentina, exploring the Himalayas and the Andes, teaching and shooting photography in humanitarian foundations, a swank boarding school and ashrams in India, nunneries in Thailand and Nepal and in my own private sessions worldwide.

I am on an open-ended worldwide adventure. I’m grateful for the blessings and every moment of the ride. I didn’t set out to have a nomad life – this life found me. But when it did I was ready to take the leap.

Kitten Heels in Kathmandu, the Adventures of a Female Vagabond  http://www.bitmenu.com/widget/offer.html?offerId=2619

And an epub version for ipads and iphones:

http://www.bitmenu.com/widget/offer.html?offerId=2633

and downloadable from http://www.facebook.com/Bartnikowski

The first reviews are in:

Lisa C., “I just read the introduction and am already crying. Tears of joy and gratitude for your sharing, your courage, your curiosity, your spirit, and YOU!”

Jemie S, “I couldn’t put it down, it spoke to my heart, it paints a beautiful portrait.”

Satya M, “I am inspired how you surrender everyday to the unknown.”

Nancy R, “The photographs are mind-boggling and beautiful.”

Jenn H, “It’s a great read!”