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:


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:


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!”

Van Halen Made Me Cry

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

Van Halen Made Me Cry

I was sitting on a chicken bus in Guatemala over the 2nd set of tires, the only white girl on the bus again. My fellow passengers: real Guatemalans, the ones who were born here and may not know Van Halen personally but he was blasting out of the bus speakers, “Go ahead and jump!”

I hadn’t heard Western music for 5 months and here I was on a local bus on my way to Antigua to do a photo shoot; happy and free with a deep sense of well being. Crying and laughing at the same time. I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

Now I didn’t feel that way on the following 3 buses when I was crammed into a seat with 2 other people – one butt cheek kept slipping off into the aisle.

This is my life and it is a happy and simple life. Van Halen may never know how profoundly he affected me. I wanted to dance in the aisles but I didn’t and next thing you know Thriller by Michael Jackson came on and I thought what a gift there has been no Western music in my life until now not since January, 6 months ago, when I left the USA.

This was no ipod moment this was a universal beauty shouting out of the bus speakers. Loud unadulterated rock music – maybe the only thing about the West I miss is the music; rather than this endless too loud Spanish patter that folk here listen to at 6AM on horrible speakers as they have never had Bose in their lives. Every song sounds exactly the same as the one before it.

I believe I am officially tired of Spanish.

Maybe some day I will learn it but for now Van Halen can sing to me and I will relish his fierce passion and smoky voice. Bring it on David Lee Roth.

It was liberating to feel the waves of music in my heart and enjoy each time Van Halen yelled, “Jump!”

I took it to mean something more profound than taking drugs and having sex with all and

It took it to mean:

Leap into life and don’t look back.

Don’t plan too much it won’t happen like you think anyway. It will all be different.

Van Halen will be there to help you. If not in person he will help you by singing Jump! When you want to take that first big leap but are thinking too much about it. Just jump.

Guatemala is mystical – that is why I am still here. It is misty with profound happenings: meeting shamans in my own town and experiencing the portal to the divine here on the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen in my life. More on that later, in my new book.

And I have a drop dead gorgeous view of the volcanoes and lake from every window and deck on my house. When I wake up in the morning the lake greets me, the volcanoes say hello and I am out on the patio drinking my tea happy to be alive.

My New Book: Kitten Heels in Kathmandu, the Adventures of a Female Vagabond (Friends and Family Version)  http://www.bitmenu.com/widget/offer.html?offerId=2619