“Who are you?
What do you want for your life in this moment?
And who do you want?
And when will you make the decision to go after it?”
— Shaun T
Shaun shared with us a quote from his husband, Scott’s, family. I can’t remember if it was Scott’s mother or father who says this but I absolutely love this saying:
“Your rear view must never be bigger than your windshield.”
Don’t get stuck in the past, my friends. Keep your eye on the future. And get in touch with your emotions, so you can get an idea of where you are going and whether you are making rational decisions. As Shaun says, “You must get in touch with your old self so you can recognize when your old patterns pop back up. Keep these patterns in your rear view. Acknowledge them for the strength they gave you during your journey, but let the negative energy go. When you see an old pattern resurface, it’s okay to wave and say, ‘Hey, girl!’ and then keep right on driving in your own journey.”
Shaun T has rocked our world again! We joined him in Indianapolis again this year, along with Scott, Julie Voris, Daren and Danielle Natoni, and more. In addition to a butt-kicking workout, Shaun also delivered a powerful message:
What if we had no mirrors? What if they didn’t exist? No bathroom scale. No one to tell us if we look good in that dress. No way to determine if we need to wear makeup today.
What if you couldn’t see how BEAUTIFUL you are?
Close your eyes, stop comparing yourself to others on the Internet, and picture yourself in that world for a moment. How would we make our decisions and form our self esteem if we couldn’t see ourselves?
Simple: We would make our decisions based on how we FEEL.
This was the message (paraphrased, of course) that Shaun T shared with Indianapolis on February 25th. We never expected that we would one day be working out in-person with our favorite celebrity trainer, receiving high-fives and fist bumps during the squats and push-ups. Yet here we are. It is now a recurring annual event for us, something new and nostalgic at the same time. It feels like coming home, back to our roots, and it is something we will always cherish.
Shaun had a powerful reminder for everyone in Indianapolis last week: in our quest to be perfect, we end up as imperfect and unhappy as we can possibly be. We lose connection with our true selves.
We finally made it down to Mexico on our honeymoon. And man, was it an experience. We hopped the border into Tijuana while honeymooning in San Diego – and let’s just say we were very uncertain about whether we were going to make it back. We were detained at the US-Mexico border for a bit, and had to find our way (by foot) through the streets of Tijuana at night as we headed back across the border. We both agreed that we don’t feel the need to ever visit Tijuana again, although Mexico is gorgeous and it really did have an amazing sunset.
Here are a few of our favorite shots:
People always ask us why we got married in Utah, of all places. For those who haven’t experienced the wonders of Utah’s many national parks, I’ll try my best to explain our love for one of our personal favorites: Zion National Park.
Zion – n. – “a place of peace and refuge”
Zion itself is a marriage of light + stone, desert + water, ancient + contemporary, splendor + silence. It inspires awe & requires contemplation. The serenity of the park affects all who take the time to experience wonder amidst the natural beauty of this jewel.
Our original plan was a destination wedding on the beach (we did get engaged in Florida, after all) but we unexpectedly fell in love with Zion National Park, just like we unexpectedly fell in love with each other. No photos will ever do justice to the beauty and magic of this place. There are no words.
Just like you feel small when you stand beside the ocean, you feel connected to something bigger than yourself when you walk through the canyon trails of southern Utah. We still were able to kick off our shoes and walk barefoot in sand and water and sunshine. But we also were surrounded by mountain peaks, canyons, desert, fall foliage, and endangered animals. Our wedding took place beside a waterfall in the Temple of Sinawava, a sacred canyon location named in honor of the Paiute tribe. They believed that the human soul shared characteristics with all things divine and that human beings are tied to nature. Before starting our wedding, we paid our respects by honoring this Native American custom.
Like any other wedding, there are plenty of things that didn’t go according to plan:
I had a fever and bronchitis the day before our flight departed from Kentucky. It was so bad that a doctor actually told me I might have to miss my own wedding (yeah, not an option).
Luckily, my fever broke at the last minute! Here we are the morning of our wedding, watching the sunrise in southern Utah, walking distance from the Sand Hollow Resort:
I was able to make the flight to our own wedding, but I forgot so many things at home – including:
Long story short, just a matter of minutes before the wedding, I realized I’d left EVERYTHING at home in Kentucky. I was also fighting not to lose my voice while guzzling electrolytes and coughing like crazy. Not my most shining moment.
Luckily, we’d brought ribbon wands as gifts for our guests, and those worked perfectly as a fun and whimsical substitute for bouquets.
And by some magical coincidence, there was a wedding at the Temple of Sinawava right before ours, and the bride left behind an entire box of bubbles. We couldn’t let the bubbles go to waste on our wedding day – and they ended up creating some of our favorite photos!
Here are the bubbles and ribbon wands in action:
Luckily, we both remembered to pack our matching red Chucks:
One of the most memorable parts was when our dear friend and wedding officiant, Joshua, included a traditional Native American blessing during the wedding ceremony. We gathered in a circle near the waterfall at the Temple of Sinawava, on what is considered by many to be “holy ground,” and paid honor to the ancient Native American tribes who inhabited the lands of Southern Utah. Joshua skillfully led us through an ancient Blessing to the Four Directions – which draws from the belief that all human souls share elements with all things divine. Each cardinal direction – North, South, East and West – represents a specific virtue of divinity. In this ancient Native American tribal tradition, a blessing is offered to each of the four directions at the start of a wedding or other ceremony. Experiencing this beneath the majestic cliffs of Zion was a truly humbling and beautiful experience, and I am so grateful. We both are… Thank you for being part of our story, and letting us continue to share our love with you.
He asked… I said YES!!
He got down on one knee and popped the question during a romantic stroll through Lake Eola Park while we were on vacation in Orlando for the 4th of July. That evening, we celebrated with a long-time friend by watching the fireworks over the ocean in Siesta Key. Sneaky guy… he had been planning this for months, the ring had been in our bedroom the entire time, and I had NO IDEA…
It was a beautiful weekend, and the start of the rest of our lives together.
Our tour guide said, “Follow me… Don’t be afraid. Now is the time for adventure!”
And we did follow her, across the muddy grass, and some of us even swallowed our fears of heights as we ascended narrow staircases to the tops of ancient temples.
It was October, which is monsoon season in Thailand. We saw plenty of hot, humid days with the sun beating down on us in between heavy rain storms. As a woman, I had to wear clothing that covered my shoulders (and sometimes, also covering my elbows and ankles) despite the heat. Needless to say, generous amounts of sweat were covering what felt like every square inch of my body. My face is red and my hair is messy in all my photos, and tiny beads of sweat are glistening in the Thai sun in a few of the pictures from this trip.
As another batch of storm clouds gathered overhead, we ducked into the dark interior of the top of a cone-shaped structure in the Ayutthaya ruins. And this was the point in the journey when I truly began to channel my inner Indiana Jones. No, wait.. I live in Louisville. Perhaps it was Kentuckiana Jones instead? Anyway, I digress…
Our amazing tour guide, Tajma, invited us to descend the narrow steps leading down to the depths of the ancient tomb where we were hiding from the rain. Not knowing what might be in store, but feeling ready for an adventure, we agreed to give it a try. Rafael is always up for adventure, so he went forward into the darkness with a “Hell yes!” attitude. Me? I’m a little more cautious. With a shrug, I approached the steps, thinking to myself: “When in Thailand…”
I remember seeing the tiny stairs just going down, down, down into the earth with no end in sight. The ancient stairs were so dark and narrow, I had to use my hands to grip them as I baby-stepped my way down, almost on my belly, clinging to the stairs for support. As I carefully climbed down for what felt like an eternity, I reached the claustrophobic chamber at the bottom.
There was a tiny tomb, probably meant for an ancient king, but it was dark and cramped, with a musky smell. There were etchings on the walls, and dirt was everywhere. Even the palms of my hands were covered — and the tiny stairs had sweaty palm prints from where we had guided ourselves down. Only a couple people could fit into the chamber at a time, so after snapping a few pictures, we carefully turned around and started crawling our way back up the stairs — one hand and foot at a time.
I’m very grateful to have taken this tour with Tajma, as I never would have had the chance to experience Ayutthaya (or many other aspects of our Thailand journey) without the experienced guidance of a local. A little background information about Ayutthaya:
Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya is located in the valley of the Chao Phraya River. It is known as Ayutthaya Kingdom or Siam, and was the second Siamese capital. It was once a splendid city with wondrous towers and monasteries, but it was destroyed by the Burmese army in the 1700s. Ruins are still being excavated and many of the statues we saw were beheaded by the Burmese army which conquered the city and led to the fall of the kingdom. Today, Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Who knew one of the most exciting moments of my life would have a soundtrack of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” sung in September beneath the hot Thai sun? Yet there I was, riding on the back of an elephant as it crossed a river in the lush Thailand rainforest. And Rafael was smiling beside me as the elephant trainer serenaded us in broken English.
At this point in our journey, we’d already toured the bustling streets of Bangkok, played Indiana Jones in the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya, stayed in a real life jungle hut, held giant snakes, met monks, had our breath taken away by Buddhist temples, and even taken a boat ride through a famous floating market. All of those moments felt eternal as they happened. They all left us feeling speechless and inspired with awe, and yet this one somehow stole the show.
We captured our entire elephant ride on video here
“Very good, right?” the elephant trainer asked us with a smile. And it was. Everything about Thailand was indeed so very, very good.
The trainer made us hats out of flowers & leaves he plucked from the treetops as we rode by on the elephant’s back. Then he gave us the opportunity to test our comfort zones by riding on the elephant’s neck (no seatbelts or saddles here, folks… just you clinging bareback to the neck of a full-grown elephant).
I’m so glad I took a chance on that elephant, on Thailand, and on our travel company, Friendly Planet. I will never, ever forget these moments. Rafael and I still travel the world together and we’ve stayed in touch with the friends we met during our Friendly Planet tour.
Every time we hear the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” you know what we think of? Christmas. But we also think of elephants. And a jungle. And a river…
To anyone who thinks that travel is just another form of escapism, PLEASE DO YOURSELF A FAVOR and watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The adventures in this movie reminded us of our travel stories, or of the stories friends had told us of their own journeys to the furthest corners of the world. Travel is a phenomenal, spiritual journey that allows us to unplug from the fast-paced world we live in. It takes us away from the internet, away from mobile phones, away from technology itself for days, weeks, even months at a time… and transplants us in the middle of a moment, in the middle of the story that we all share: the story of LIFE itself.
Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States, the most populated in the American Midwest, and a city Brittany has seriously considered moving to. Chicago holds a special significance to us. It was one of the first cities we traveled to together (as a layover stop for our first trip to England). It was also where we decided to celebrate our one month anniversary the year we started dating…
We spent a layover in Taiwan (Republic of China) when traveling to and from Southeast Asia in 2012. Would love to go back for a “real” trip sometime…
Hey, everyone, we spent a layover in Denver en route to Las Vegas for my 30th birthday. It was my second time in Denver and every time I visit, it is sooo gorgeous! I’ll share a few photos with you here. Let’s just say Rafael and I both want to go back so we can spend more time in Colorado. I definitely see the appeal. So beautiful!
Muir Woods National Monument, Mill Valley, California, USA
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated with all things ancient — from the giant redwood trees to dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. At one point, I even considered going into a career as a paleontologist (true story). After seeing Jurassic Park (and reading all the books) as a young girl, I used to dig up what I believed to be “dinosaur fossils” in my parents’ backyard. Yes, they were really just rocks, but I had myself convinced I was discovering the next T-Rex. Luckily, my mother was a patient woman…
So, OF COURSE, when we took our first trip to northern California, Rafael and I both agreed we HAD to visit Muir Woods, an old growth Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) forest, one of only a few such forests remaining in the area. The trees here are related to the Giant Sequoias, and grow nearly 300 feet tall. Most of the trees are between 500 and 800 years old, although the oldest tree is thought to be over 1,200 years old. The canopy created by this old growth is unbelievably stunning.
We spent our first anniversary together as a couple in Napa Valley, in the rolling hills of Northern California on the western coast of the United States. We picked a gorgeous winery, Castella di Amorosa, which is an actual castle located near Calistoga, California. The romantic setting was everything we could have hoped for, and the countryside reminded me of Italy (while reminding Rafael of his hometown).
Originally, we had hoped to share some high-quality and professional photographs with you from our day… but unfortunately, life had other plans. The morning of our anniversary, as we set out for Napa Valley, we were robbed in our San Francisco hotel lobby. Both of our Canon Rebel cameras, which we had just purchased, were stolen… along with our photographs from Las Vegas and California to that point. One helluva way to start our first anniversary together! It definitely dampened the mood.
We tried to keep positive spirits throughout the day, and I even enjoyed several wine and chocolate pairings in Napa Valley. Our lunch was exquisite in Calistoga, too. I definitely recommend the trip to anyone, especially as a romantic getaway (just watch your bags and your belongings VERY closely, folks!)
I’d have to say, with all the traveling we’ve done over the years, we’re very lucky that this has been our first experience with robbery or theft. And although the thieves stole our expensive photography equipment, they couldn’t steal our memories. Luckily, we still had our cell phones and were able to snap some photographs of the remainder of the trip. I’ll share a few with you here.
And as far as our anniversary, despite the rough day, I’ve realized that it was a test… and we passed. I realized that, if we could have such an awful start to what should have been a romantic day of joy and celebration, then we could make it through lots of other obstacles as well (and we have). Rafael has been there for me, even during some of the darkest moments of my life, and I am very grateful to him for that. We worked through this potentially negative situation together, and are still going today. And it didn’t dampen our experience; we were still able to end our trip on a positive note and keep moving forward with our relationship. How many couples would have been able to say that? I am thankful we can.
Why was Thailand one of our favorite adventures ever? Well, I think these highlights pretty much sum it up:
1. Buddhist temples. And Buddhist monks. And lots of them. Everywhere.
2. The people really ARE the friendliest and happiest we’ve ever seen
3. We rode an elephant. Through a river. In a rainforest. While being serenaded by a local who couldn’t speak English. Don’t believe us? Watch the video…
Have you ever had a surreal moment where you feel like you’ve stepped into a movie? Like you’re seeing something through someone else’s eyes, and the images in front of you are far too brilliant to be your own reality? That’s how I’ve felt for the past week. Few people have been to England once. I am lucky enough to have gone TWICE. Europe is every bit as beautiful and romantic in person as it is on the big screen, except it’s even more magnificent. In the movies, you get a taste of worlds you’ve never seen, but there’s no way you can comprehend them through a television screen. You have to see, touch, feel, taste, smell.. and live. I don’t understand why people are obsessed with places like Gatlinburg when there’s an ENTIRE WORLD of beauty out there, and there’s no way any of us will ever experience it all in our lifetimes.
The first time I traveled abroad, I was 16. I’d barely gotten a taste of life but I was already craving more of the world. So I decided to take a European tour. At the time, I’d never flown on a plane. I’d never been out of the country, never had a real job, never been kissed, never been in love, and never really considered my abilities to stand on my own two feet without family and friends to comfort me. And there I was, in lands I’d never even fathomed, with complete strangers, far from home for several weeks – and loving every minute of it. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had this glorious childlike naiveté – this simplicity and peace of mind that was neither forced nor ignorant – and it allowed me to be ecstatic over the tiniest details of my trip.
For anyone with an imagination, I’d say traveling is like returning to childhood, finding adventures around every corner, being amazed by every new sight and sound laid like a platter before you. This time around, I was less naive. I knew what to expect because I’d done some of these things before. I wasn’t alone; I had one of my best friends to share it with. I was better prepared, street smart, and looking at the world with the eyes of a young woman instead of a teenage girl. I saw the romance I’d overlooked before. I slowed down and enjoyed things I’d skipped out on the first trip. And I corrected mistakes I’d made the first trip, too. Although it wasn’t as exciting this time because it wasn’t as new, it was refreshing and inspiring and it lived up to every expectation.
Every day it becomes increasingly obvious to me that the goals I set for myself don’t really match up to the general population. I can’t say I’m above the peer pressure to get married, start a family, and buy a house with a white picket fence. But I have to keep myself in check. The American Dream isn’t MY dream. I’m not driven by the material. I’m driven by intangible feelings, memories of experiences, fresh people, meaningful relationships, things that keep me inspired. See, I have this list of things I want to do before I die, and going back to Europe has always been on that list. Now that I’ve crossed off that bullet point, I feel so… accomplished. Empowered. I’m on the right track and anxious to see what else I can do if I put my mind to it.
Let’s be real here: Getting overseas this time around was a nightmare. Although I have NEVER been so stressed or disappointed planning a vacation, I learned from it. At the end of all this, I’ll be a seasoned pro when it comes to travel. It was as if all the set-backs allowed us to appreciate the trip even more when the loose ends finally did come together.
A lot of people asked me why I chose London.
I’ve been there before. I’ve been all over Europe, so I knew where I DIDN’T want to go. London always held a special place in my heart as the first European city I ever visited. If you’ve never been there, picture the hustle and bustle of New York City. Okay, now take out the roaches, the rats, the filthy streets, and the odor. Make the city so clean that you have to walk for blocks just to find a trash can. Then replace the buildings with magnificent medieval cathedrals and gothic gargoyles that make modern architecture look downright primitive. Replace the NYC accents with “proper” British-English, and then take the melting pot we are so proud of in America and triple it. You’ll hear people speaking German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, English, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and any number of African dialects on the same street, at the same time, multiple times a day, and eventually you won’t even think twice about it. London takes all the positive aspects of younger American cities and it doubles them, then adds its own flair, its own reasons for pride that are much different from our own. It’s both familiar and new, and I think that’s why I was drawn back for more after all these years.
I’ve seen some amazing things. The photographs are posted on MySpace and Facebook. I won’t give a play-by-play of the trip because I feel like I did a pretty good job with my photo-journalism. I can’t find words that are worthy for some of them; you’ll just have to SEE them. Besides, these kinds of things are more exciting to talk about in person 😀
I’m having trouble sleeping as Euro Trip ’08 comes to a close. This will be my last day in England. My 8 hour flight back to the States happens in the morning. To think that this trip ALMOST didn’t even happen!
I just wanted to post a quick blog to let you know that I am alive and I am having a marvelous time, even though the trip got off to a bumpy start. Europe is beautiful. I feel like I’ve walked into a movie scene. I can’t wait to share the photos and some stories with you. Man, I’ve got some stories!
We’ve heard a LOT of Rihanna on this trip. Like, a lot… And I got called a “Yank” (yankee) for the first time in my life. It was in a haunted house, of all places…
I will post more when I can. I have to try to get some sleep now. It’s 6am here and today will be a busy day.
As the Brits say: “Cheers, dahlings!”
I am so happy to be a part of this world right now. The underlying knowledge that I am part of a scheme much bigger than I could ever imagine has been reawakened by the events of the past few months. Tasting other cultures in Europe, and seeing how eagerly they are following the big election happening at home in the United States, turning to us for hope in an uncertain world, and then watching the world rejoice when America set its deep-rooted racism aside to elect a black president – this all just seems surreal, but at the same time, it feels like all the things I fought for as an activist are finally starting to come true.
We returned yesterday from almost two weeks of pure “me time” in Europe. I lovingly refer to our first vacation together as Euro Trip ’08.
There are lots of stories from this trip, both good and bad. The trip there was fine. I listened to the Ting Tings (“That’s Not My Name!”) and “Banquet” by Bloq Party and maybe even some Lily Allen before falling asleep for most of the flight. We landed early in the morning in cloudy (but surprisingly, NOT rainy) London.
1. Mind the Gap!
2. They’re NOT elevators. They’re “lifts.”
3. In big, scary haunted houses, American “Yanks” will always be expected to lead the way into the darkness.
4. If something is crazy, it is “bloody mental.” This can refer to either people or situations. Used in a sentence:
“If you expect ME to lead the way into that big, scary haunted house, you’re bloody mental!”
5. What’s cooler than being cool? Being “wicked.”
6. They love cheese. And all this time I thought it was just a stereotype!
7. There’s nothing wrong with drinking a whole pint of beer with your lunch.
8. The Brits want Obama to win the election. Watch this little gem of adult humor if you don’t believe me.
9. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey is BIG in Europe. I wasn’t expecting that! Kentucky bourbon, however, doesn’t even appear to have made its presence known. I felt like a traitor at the bar we visited… very disappointing 🙁
10. European television is weird. Anything goes. Which makes it WAY more entertaining. While flipping through the channels, we discovered Bill Bailey’s Drum ‘n’ Bush and German Hokey Pokey
We experienced ridiculous turbulence on our flight back home, including the entire six hours we were soaring high above the Atlantic Ocean. Then, during our connecting flight from DC to Kentucky, we were stuck flying through thunderstorm clouds the entire time. At first, Rafael was excited because he wanted to experience what it was like to fly through a stormcloud. After about two seconds, we both looked at each other and agreed: not fun.
This also spawned me to think of a Top Ten List of Songs You’re Most Likely to Hear on a Plane That’s Crashing. (Random? Yes. Wildly inappropriate? Of course. But so am I…) If you’re wondering, the list included “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” by John Denver and “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” by Fall Out Boy, among others.
Brit-and-Rah, Brittany (Solo), Rafael (Solo)
Brit-and-Rah, Brittany (Solo)
Brit-and-Rah, Brittany (Solo)
Brit-and-Rah, Brittany (Solo)
Brit-and-Rah, Brittany (Solo)
Brit-and-Rah, Brittany (Solo)