Suddenly 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.
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.
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,
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
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.
There’s no way to not fall head over heels in love with Mount Shasta!
It has gorgeous lakes, pristine air, and the freshest water I’ve ever tasted.
Lake Siskiyou, www.bartnikowski.com
And another thing I loved was Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist not for profit, Abbey that rocked my world and made me see that I need a sangha, a group of masters who study, live, and teach Zen Buddhism, meditation, and how to deal with everyday life, that is the best part of the practice.
Shasta Abbey, www.bartnikowski.com
Seeing Mount Shasta every morning, noon, and night soothed my soul and the sweeping and meditation helped too. They don’t have leaf blowers so one day I swept around the temple for 2 hours. That is called work meditation.
And boy did I see work differently after sweeping so long. And it felt good.
I was contributing by doing a simple task that I enjoyed. And I paid attention to each brush of the broom so it leads you into a meditative state. And there’s no sitting.
And I re-connected with my dear friend Jim.
He’s a pure mountain man. Love him.
Stewart Hot Springs, www.bartnikowski.com
I will go back to Stewart Hot Springs, the oldest hot springs in California as soon as I can, dunking into the river was invigorating after sweating in the hot steam room stoked with a giant wood stove inside the bath house.
Mount Shasta is not an easy place to leave. It’s slow, snowy, and sensual with the change of seasons, and the smaller population, only 4500 residents.
Shasta Abbey, www.bartnikowski.com
My favorite job other than walking at the lake was dusting the golden boxes of ashes of the dearly departed at the Abbey.
The temple was my favorite place to be other than staring at Mount Shasta.
We weren’t supposed to talk so I did a lot of staring.
Shasta Abbey Temple, www.bartnikowski.com
Another cool thing was re-connecting with my wonderful friends and clients. My clients became my friends so I am eternally grateful for the strong the connections and love that I feel here in California.
Mary and Lisa, www.bartnikowski.com
One of my favorite moments was surprising Lisa at her house when she didn’t know I was visiting.
Showing up on a dear friend’s doorstep, highly recommend it.
I did manage to eat a lot more than I usually do and will get right back into swimming and eating barrels of fruit as soon as I return to Kauai.
I feel heavy.
Eggs Benedict, St. Helena
But these eggs were yummy, thank you Dan!
Loved Dan’s living room that looks out onto a sweet fountain to greet you when you arrive.
St. Helena, www.bartnikowski.com
Didn’t think I’d see a castle in California but here it is just north of St. Helena.
Winery in St Helena, www.bartnikowski.com
And a poetic looking fire engine in Calistoga.
Indian Springs has the oldest pool in California but it was closed for renovation. They spiffed up the grounds and added a new restaurant, Sam’s Social Club. Great wine and food, check it out.
Indian Springs, CA, www.bartnikowski.com
Whole Foods, www.bartnikowski.com
One thing Kauai doesn’t have is a Whole Foods store. But here in California Whole Foods is everywhere. Love the flowers, the food, and the people watching.
Tomorrow I go back to Hawaii! I’m ready to get back in my bikini and get to work.
Shooting, writing, and teaching. Yes!
Grateful for my life, friends, and family. Blessings to the world, all of us, and new ventures on the horizon.
Suddenly I crashed my motorbike in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
What to do?
Here’s the thing: an accident forces you in a new direction.
I didn’t have much to do, sitting there with my stitches, sprain, and what looked like a disfigured face so I googled Best Beach in the World.
Lanikai Beach, in the video above, popped up. My heart surged.
And it said, go live there. Loud and clear.
This was my first walk to the beach to see the sunrise from my new place.
I was stunned. And it was the first magazine issue I wrote and photographed in Hawaii.
Vagabond, Hawaii Issue
I’d been on Oahu for only 2 weeks. I landed from Thailand and drove straight to the north shore of Oahu, where the Triple Crown Surfing competition was happening in full force. I’d never seen so many thong bikinis in my life.
And the air was so pure that I knew I was home.
I hadn’t been to Hawaii in 9 years. And I’d never been to Oahu, I had been to Maui for my 5 vacations.
My soul said, this is what you’ve been searching for! Fresh air and pristine water.
Hawaii, Kailua Beach, Oahu
It felt like heaven. I hadn’t seen the ocean since Cambodia, 11 months before.
If you go to Oahu you must visit Lanikai Beach, 12 miles west of Honolulu. You’ll be mesmerized by the divine turquoise water and the sugar white beach. It makes you calm and puts a smile on your face for the entire day.
Just thinking about it makes me sigh in gratitude.
Feeling blessed and happy I followed my inner nudges to the heavenly water. You can do it too. The no 72 bus leaves from Honolulu and brings you right to Lanikai Beach, you don’t even have to drive.
Kailua Beach, near Lanikai, Hawaii
Often times the more you re-visit a platiunum place in your stellar journal of world wanderings the more you fall in love with it.
Don’t let yourself be held back by fear and worry.
Here are exotic places to go where you will feel safe and happy being solo.
There are so many benefits to being on your own:
1. You control the time you have. If you want to volunteer or go to the largest religious monument in the world to take photos and soak up the serenity there’s no one to disagree with you. I went to Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Yangon Myanmar 5 times and each visit was a spectacular gift. I didn’t feel the need to rush as I knew I would return again, just like a local.
2. You meet more people when you are solo. You aren’t solo for long unless you want to be. A solo woman is a magnet. You just have to decide who is coming into your private bubble and who is not. Not everyone gets the gift of your attention. Trust your gut.
3. You can decide to travel forever or for a month, there is no discussion. You just do it.
4. Gearing up for a big life-changing trip? Get advice, research plane tickets, and look at travel books but then trust your intuition and go for it.
5. An amazing way to do it is to volunteer your services in a place you would like to be. But don’t pay a lot of money to volunteer. What I do is show up in a town and start talking to people about my skills for volunteering. It always works. You just have to take a chance and leave without plans.
6. If you want some advice, I consult with travelers on their plans.
I’m an author of 4 books, award-winning photographer for 27 years, and educator in Silicon Valley and worldwide.
I’ve led programs at Stanford University, Apple Computer, Intel, and globally.
You’ll get the benefits of the photography business I founded in Palo Alto, California in 1985 shooting for $500 per hour, down the street from Steve Jobs. I worked with clients from Apple, Intel, Yahoo, Google, and the lawyers, angel investors, doctors, CEO’s and realtors who lead and inspire Silicon Valley.
All my secrets are revealed in my private sessions.
It’s guaranteed you’ll see improved results in your own photos, learning my tips from photographing people and nature in 32 countries. And it’s fun!
Your deluxe room is included in your private retreat. You don’t have to hassle with searching for the perfect spot to stay, this is it!
Here is the view from your private lanai, above.
In the afternoon/morning we’ll be visiting potent power places on Kauai.
Secret Beach in Kilauea,
Ke’e Beach on the spectacular North Shore,
Poipu, on the south side…
Does this appeal to your sense of adventure? Join me!
You’ll get the benefits of living life here as a local. But with deluxe accommodations by the ocean in a stunning setting.
After your heart-expanding yoga session, we’ll discover remarkable, secluded places and learn how to mindfully capture the incredible nature here with any camera you have. Angle, Light, Composition and Timing are the focus, not Photoshop or fancy digital trickery. Nope!
You can shoot with a digital or film camera, point and shoot, or DSLR with all the bells and whistles.
It’s guaranteed you will return home with amazing photographs.
You’ll be visiting Ke’e beach, a sacred Hawaiian (Hay-ow) where we’ll swim, snorkel, and enjoy the Bali Hai cliffs around us. And Polihale State Park, the longest pristine beach in Hawaii.
Allerton Garden, www.bartnikowski.com
We are all flowers on this earth and we need open space around us.
You’ll get that here. And smiles are plentiful on this island.
Come with me to catch the seductive effervescence of ocean, sky, and emerald green cliffs. Serene places, stunning nature, waterfalls, and art walks in picture perfect tiny towns, Hanapepe Art Walk, and dinner at Hanapepe Cafe which is only open Friday night.
Yoga and meditation every morning under swaying palm trees on an emerald green lawn.
Or you can sleep in.
Easy photo walks every day and I do mean easy of Kauai’s incredible and stunning power places.
April to October private retreats are available
3-Day or 5 Day personal retreat
Your private retreat on Kauai includes
Oceanside deluxe lodging. 3 nights.
All yoga/meditation, photography, and guidance
Bon Voyage drinks and pupus for a divine sunset at the St. Regis on Kauai photo below
5 Day Retreat
Testimony from the last private retreat I led here on Kauai:
“It was the best vacation we’ve ever had and I never would have gotten the amazing photos I got without you.”
Being the founder of a thriving photography business for 27 years you’ll get the benefit of my expertise of shooting in Silicon Valley, secrets I learned photographing angel investors, family portraits, babies, 722 weddings in Palo Alto down the street from Steve Jobs, and in my 7 years of global travel in 32 countries.
And 11 one-woman exhibitions in the Bay Area.
I’ve led programs at Apple, Stanford, Intel, University of Hawaii, and worldwide.
Here is how to claim your spot before it’s gone. Simply use this contact form to apply.
This will be the only 3-day session in 2015 of Wild Dolphins and Photography I lead here on the Big Island so come on down and bring your bathing suit and camera.
Doesn’t matter what kind of camera: high end model, point and shoot or phone camera.
Spring is the best season for the dolphins as they like to birth their babies here in Kealakekaua Bay,
play and mate. It’s the best show you’ll ever see!
$995 for the 3 days of Wild Dolphin swimming, and one-on-one photo guidance with 3 nights lodging
or $500 without lodging.
Rooms are $75 to $200 per night, if you want to book your own room.
Only 6 amazing participants.
There is also camping available at Hookena Beach Park for an ultra low cost sleeping solution.
You need to get a camping permit on the Big Island. Manago Hotel has rooms for $40 to $75 per night, basic lodging in Captain Cook above Kealakekua Bay and outstanding pork chops in their restaurant.
You can travel all the time, only problem is you have to pack when you move from one country to the next. Yes it takes me many hours to sort thru all my receipts, and prepare for liftoff, here’s what I do.
How to Pack
We are just trimming fat here.
But lets get to the meat of this, how to pack everything.
Well, you can’t take everything. You have to decide to leave things behind. I travel all the time so this is challenging. I can’t fit the blender in my luggage so it stays.
What to do with all the papers?
Photograph each pesky piece of paper if you have no time to transcribe. Yes you can do it. I just did and got to throw out more paper. So instead of a big piece of paper you have a digital file.
Remember you have to carry it all, don’t rely on people to help you. And you have to move fast sometimes even if you have to go to the bathroom right now. No it is not fun to move mountains of luggage when you have a popping full bladder. But your flight is being called right now.
My carry-on is heavy with media equipment.
Get rid of clothes you don’t wear.Be brutal.
Can you really lift that pack? I fell over in Bolivia when I bent down to pet a puppy. My pack took the wind out of me and I was on the sidewalk. Stayed down there a while laughing. And I was sober.
If you have things you can’t fit in your luggage, just ship it, I’m on the way to the post office now. It only has to go to the Big Island of Hawaii, and I’m on Oahu. Shouldn’t cost too much.
Tell me your packing nightmares or tips on how you cope with it all. Would love to know, we can all learn new advice on getting luggage to the airport, train, bus, boat, or rickshaw.
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.
1. Never forget your lunch. You will not find fresh fruit or fresh anything on board so plan ahead. Your pastrami sandwich (I only did this once) may annoy others with its fragrant aroma but you won’t have to wonder if you’ll get sick from the scary Styrofoam contents of an in-flight meal. Singapore Airlines and Japan airlines are the exceptions. I have never eaten better food on an airplane in my life.
Food items that travel well: nuts, cheese, apples, and dark chocolate
I always get hungry when I arrive at the airport as I’m finally relaxed after frantically packing. I usually eat my lunch in the waiting area before boarding.
2. Be warm enough – dress in layers. Wear your heavy clothes, and strip down if it’s too hot. It’s always too cold for me.
3. Do not get irate when they try to take your hand luggage away, ask to talk to he manager as you have sensitive video/photo equipment and don’t want anything damaged. He may ask to inspect your bag and then you smile engagingly, and produce your professional photography card. If you don’t have one invent one. This is a secret and I shouldn’t even be telling you this.
4. Earplugs. I don’t mind squalling babies at all. I mind hearing someone else’s idea of good music, plane sounds, loud talkers engaging in annoying conversations when you are trying to sleep in the middle of the night on a 20-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean. Loudmouths in any nationality take heed. Just close your lips and let us sleep.
5. Never feel you are bothering the person sitting on the aisle when you ask if you can get up every hour. Too bad. Sitting in coach is ultimate confinement. Get up, chat, move around and have some fun. I always end up meeting some kind people at the toilets in the back of the plane.
6. Never forget your reading material. Your computer, Kindle, and iphone will run out of juice and you’ll need a real magazine to get thru the hours. Pony up the cash and just do it. Its fun to see real photographs printed on paper that you can touch.
7. Never look at the clock. It’s just like being in labor to have a baby. My midwife covered up all the clocks in my house with infant size pampers when I was in labor and it helped enormously. If you don’t know what time it is you can’t complain how long it’s taking.
There are many things you can do on a 19-hour flight. Eat, read, chat, rest, meditate, watch films, walk around, write, or make a new friend.
What ways have you endured, I mean managed long flights?
I never knew Nathaniel Hawthorne could be so enlightening.
Mr. Galuska was my teacher in advanced placement tenth grade English class. Our first book to read was The Scarlet Letter. I had all ready read it on my own before the class and was curious to see how he might give me a new perspective on it.
In his excitement and passion, he made the book come alive for me.
We had spirited discussions about the content and I felt a new awareness about the book.
He made me realize that one reading was not always enough. I now read a book I like twice. He taught me that a fresh reading of a book would bring new thoughts and ideas, things you hadn’t noticed before in the text.
He would ask compelling questions about the books we read that provoked a deeper and more thoughtful response from me. I loved discussing the opinions and perceptions of my fellow classmates and offering my own insight about the books we read as a group.
Readers have many different responses to writing!
I was also excited that Mr. Galuska was giving me A’s for my essays and class participation because what I was doing in his class didn’t seem like work.
Maybe one day I could be an author I dared to think. I didn’t know how this would happen but I felt a spark in my soul that ignited my purpose in life and I knew that one day I would have to fulfill it no matter how afraid I was to share my own writing with people.
Thirty years later I had my first book published, Everyday Nakedand I want to credit Mr. Galuska, who was the teacher who encouraged me the most in my writing.
He encouraged me to look at a book I was reading and discover parts of myself in it. To see the book in new ways that reflected my own realizations, yearnings, and questions.
And he did it with such eloquence that deep inside I began to feel how important literature was to the world. How diverse and poetic its voices. He made me realize that brewing inside me was a powerful feeling and motivation to write.
It was not something I chose – writing chose me.
The next year Mr. Galuska was in a near fatal motorcycle accident. He was the only person I knew who rode a motorcycle in Syracuse, New York. He was paralyzed by the accident and could no longer move his arms and legs.
I prayed for his young children and wife who would never have him the way he was before. Standing at the head of the class almost dancing on his toes in excitement, professing his thoughts and feelings about what we had read and how we could look at it with fresh eyes and ask ourselves insightful questions to prod out our own wisdom.
Thank you Mr. Galuska, from the bottom of my heart, for igniting my spirit so deeply.
You changed my life for the better.
*Photograph by Eva Adalba, from Spain, In Caye Caulker, Belize