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It's no secret that I've found a daily mindfulness practice to be a key ingredient in my ability to manage the ups and downs of our international life.

Despite common misunderstandings about mindfulness practice, it's really not all that complicated. Mindfulness is quite simply the practice of paying attention and seeing clearly what's happening while it's happening.

Perhaps it's not surprising then that, in the unpredictability of expat life where pretty much everything can feel strange and unfamiliar, becoming more mindful can help us navigate our experiences with increased ease and resilience.

Here are just a few of the ways that's played out for me.

Mindfulness allows me to practice feeling homesick...and also not homesick.

I make a point of reminding the people in both my personal and professional life that there are no “good” and “bad” emotions. Emotions are neither positive nor negative. Sure – some feel better than others, but ultimately, everything we feel comes from somewhere and serves a purpose in helping us navigate our experiences.

Mindfulness practice enables us to pay attention to what we’re feeling without trying to:

  • change it (what we often try to do when we’re feeling emotions we don’t like),
  • chase it (what we like to do when an emotion feels good) or
  • judge it (what we do when we feel our emotions don’t align with how we’re “supposed” to feel).

When it comes to living life around the world, practicing mindfulness by developing a more reflective and compassionate relationship with our emotions can support us in learning how to deal with whatever comes our way.

Mindfulness helps me see home as a state of being created in my own mind.

Another key element of mindfulness practice, is learning to see things as they really are, not simply as we want them to be. Mindfulness inspires us to ask questions about what we’re witnessing and examine what we find there. While this isn’t always easy, being able to tune in to life as it truly is is a huge benefit of mindfulness practice.

What does this mean practically speaking?

Imagine I’m telling myself, “I hate it here! I’m never going to fit in. There are no work opportunities. This is a disaster!” Mindfulness doesn’t eliminate our ability to feel lost or overwhelmed, but it does enable us to stop and examine our perceptions. I can then start to ask questions like:

  • How much of this is really true and how much of this is a story I’m telling myself?
  • Is there anything that is working right now?
  • What can I learn here?
  • Are there things that I don’t hate?
  • What previously unnoticed options do I have in this situation?

Now, that doesn’t mean you suddenly start loving a place that just isn’t working for you, but it does help you get more creative, offering you the opportunity to make decisions based on a clearer, more thoughtful way of seeing.

Mindfulness reminds me to notice the details.

One of my most treasured benefits of maintaining a daily mindfulness practice is the way in which it has deepened my ability to pay attention to the “small” things.

When we move from place to place, it’s so easy to think that we should be unfazed. It becomes common, I think, to feel that we’re able to adapt at a moments notice and that our unbelievable flexibility means we can make these shifts with little or no disruption to our body or our mental state.

When we develop basic, everyday mindfulness skills, we engage the practice of slowing down and seeing the little bumps in the road. Sometimes small disruptions – the noise outside your new apartment that causes you to sleep poorly, the times you spend hungry because you’ve yet to stock your pantry, the frustration of slow internet connection that means your calls to your best friend are mess of static, feedback and silence – can actually have a huge impact.

When we take a moment to be still and really pay attention, we may notice the physical sensations, the emotions, or the discomfort of uncertainty that live in that space. We learn from seeing those places of unease and becoming mindful of them enables us to make much-needed adjustments.

Mindfulness encourages me to practice ritual.

Before we started our international life, I wasn’t really someone who stuck to a routine. Sure, I attempted to create positive habits (going for a run, reading before bed, etc.), but I never felt much pressure to really keep up with them.

Moving from place to place has made my healthy habits all the more important and my mindfulness practice supports me in staying awake to their significance in my life.

Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation inspire me to establish rituals and routines because the habits themselves (whether seated meditation or simply performing tasks with attention and care) foster dedication. In other words – by committing myself to being more mindful in my choices, actions, observations and interactions, I’m laying the foundation for commitment to other positive health habits as well.

Morning meditation, a daily jog, cooking healthy meals, taking frequent work breaks throughout the day and reading before bed are habits that I rely on during transition to create a sense of inner balance during upheaval. Additionally, when I notice these habits slipping, it’s my commitment to everyday mindfulness practice that helps me return to these supportive rituals.

Mindfulness supports me in building relationships.

A great deal of mindfulness practice is about developing an awareness of our inner dialogue – our thoughts, emotions, and judgments. However, it’s important in mindfulness practice to recognize the way in which our relationship with ourselves (and this internal dialogue) relates to how we connect with others.

Mindfulness helps me to take time with people. It supports me in active listening so that I can better understand how the moving experience affects my husband and children. It enables me to slow down and see better the ways in which those around me may be suffering or the ways in which they’re brought to life by something new in our world.

Moving is almost always a time of great stress. It’s a time when our tempers are short and we’re more likely to lash out at those around us. Mindfulness doesn’t always prevent that from happening (we’re all human after all!), but it can give us the skills to turn back to generosity and kindness when we realize we've behaved poorly towards others.

And, mindfulness helps us make friends. Research says that our ability to understand our own emotional experiences makes us better at understanding the experiences of others. That, in turn, makes us better friends – and that goes for the friends we’ve left behind and those we’ll make in our new home.

What about you?

Do you have an informal mindfulness, meditation, or spiritual practice or other ritual that supports you in practical ways as you move? If not, what would it take for you to start something like this?

Share with me in the comments what’s worked for you or what’s sparked your interest in reading this post.

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Just over 48 hours back in Tokyo after having attended in Families in Global Transition Conference in The Hague and I’m wearing jet lag like a heavy, rain-soaked coat that I can’t take off. Oddly, it feels like the best way to write this blog post of reflections on FIGT is to write it through the jet lag. I don’t know if that’s irony or simply the fact that the post is calling me and won’t let me rest until these things are said.

This was my second time to attend the Families in Global Transition Conference. When I went the first time in 2015 in Northern Virginia – I felt like I’d found family I never knew I had. It was such an emotional experience. It was one of the first places where I didn’t feel like I had to constantly be explaining, shrugging or simply giving up in trying to help people see what I saw. However, I didn’t really know anyone there and since I was living in Northern Virginia at the time, I went home each night to my normal life. As amazing as FIGT was, I knew I wanted to go back – that there would be more to learn from a more immersive experience.

This year I traveled almost 6,000 miles and went into the conference much more connected professionally and personally to the other attendees. My work through World Tree Coaching in the past four years has enabled me to meet and work with more expats, many of whom are also FIGT members. As a result, this year felt even more like coming home. It was an incredible gift to meet face-to-face for the first time with people I had come to call friends. I loved the deep conversations that resulted from time spent over a meal or coffee. This feels like the very, very best gift of FIGT.

In these photos - Amel Derregui of Tandem Nomads, Dana Nelson from Mindful Expat Podcast, Carolyn Parse Rizzo of Interval Coaching and Consulting, Meg Fenn of Shake It Up Creative, Melissa Parks of Intentional Expat, Nicole Blyth of Relocate Guru and Stephanie Ward of Firefly Coaching.

As a participant I felt more engaged in the experience because I know personally, had heard about or had been following so many of the presenters and their work. This created a larger context for my experience – like having read the text before going to class. This wasn’t just true with presenters. On more than one occasion, I started talking to someone, only to realize that through something like Tandem Nomads or I Am a Triangle, I knew who they were already. Just writing that puts such a smile on my face. It’s one of the craziest, and happiest, things about this lifestyle

And as a presenter I loved the opportunity to share on a deeper level with a group of participants. So often our work is done in isolation – miles and time zones away from other colleagues. For coaches, even though we get to see our clients on the other side of a screen, it’s never quite the same as meeting someone in real life. Sitting down with a group of people in-person is always such a rewarding experience. It was an absolute honor to participate in this way.

Presenting at a Kitchen Table Conversation on Engaging Ambiguity: How Learning to "Not-Know" Brings Us Closer to Understanding Others (and Ourselves) in a Diverse World

I spent much of the conference scribbling notes, taking photos and hoping to catch entire quotes to share here. In the end, as I look back over my notes, what strikes me is less the specific statements, and more the themes that emerge over and over again. FIGT gives you some incredible take-aways. The conference gets you thinking about the deeper meaning of living a globally mobile life. It’s a place to ask questions, ask again and then turn towards whatever answers you find. Here are some of the themes that most stood out to me…

  

You may feel lonely sometimes in this life, but you’re never alone.

Again and again at every turn I found that people were saying – we’re here for each other. It can be so easy in this life to feel that you’re alone, that once again you’re having to start over, that no one can really feel what you’re experiencing. But, as many presenters reminded us, as a community, the globally-mobile counted all together would make up the 5th largest country in the world! The world is becoming more like us. We no longer float along on our individual islands…or at least we don’t have to.

Turn towards what you’re experiencing.

The presenters repeatedly focused on the importance of turning towards what we’re experiencing instead of running from it. This year seemed to have a deeper, more thoughtful and more engaging discussion of mental health (even in the presentations that weren’t specifically mental health focused). Several presenters talked about the importance of normalizing our experiences (even the stuff that hurts) and not over-pathologizing the ways in which we adapt, recover and move through. We were reminded repeatedly why we should engage with our emotions, name them, learn from them and grow into the next stages of our life between worlds by paying attention to what we find when we turn towards our experiences.

Say yes!

I’m a big proponent of helping people say “no” to the things that aren’t working well for them. I think this is an important part of creating boundaries. However, what sometimes gets lost in this way of thinking is recognizing all that we gain by tuning in to the places where we’re drawn to say yes. It stood out to me that FIGT is full of really brave people. There were so many valiant voices, that when faced with barriers, said “yes” to moving forward with what they knew to be right and true. There were so many presentations where, when faced with challenges, the artist, writer, business owner or leader said – “I’m gonna’ go ahead and give this a go.” It makes me realize how much this strange life, in the way in which it breaks down the barriers of nationality, language, religion, race, and other labels that divide us, makes us believe (rightly so) that we’re unstoppable.

Find the threads that tie your story together.

This was a beautiful reminder that was present throughout and especially strong in a few of the workshops and keynote presentations. It’s natural in this lifestyle to feel like we’re particles floating free, with little to tie us to one place or time. But, when we take time to truly see, we notice that the way we live and the choices we make are often tied to our deepest values. This is the thread that runs deep through our whole story. When we find that thread, we add a clearer meaning and understanding to how we got where we are…no matter where that is.

Do new things.

Okay, so we like to think we’re already pretty good at this, right? But – the truth is, even when we love change…even if we’re a bit addicted to it…it’s not always easy to branch out and do something new. All over FIGT I was meeting people who were showing up to the conference for the first time! And there were people who were writing for the first time, starting a globally mobile business for the first time, creating a Facebook live video for the first time, and so, so much more. See – this is what community does! It gives you the guts to try new things. I scribbled at one point in my notebook (and I didn’t write down who said it), “FIGT is full of people quietly doing their thing – people willing to be in the spaces.” I love that! Willing to be in the spaces – even when the spaces are new and unfamiliar - is the true heart of change.

It’s so hard to stop there. The experience is so wonderful I could go on and on. If you’ve never heard of Families in Global Transition please, please go to the website and learn more. I cannot recommend enough that you become a member and consider attending the yearly conference. It’s by far one of the best personal and professional decisions I’ve made since we began living around the world.

I look forward to seeing you there next year! In the meantime, please like my Facebook page, join my mailing list (by registering in the right hand tool bar) or follow me on Instagram to stay up-to-date on my programs for the globally mobile.

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I remember when we were heading to our first overseas assignment as a family. It was 2009, my husband and I had both lived abroad before, but this was our first time exposing our children (ages 3 and 1 at the time) to the world outside the United States.

I was so incredibly excited to be moving to the Dominican Republic. I’d done a school report on the DR for my high school Spanish class and had been friends with a Dominican exchange student at our school.

It felt like a dream come true. It was our first choice of assignments, I speak Spanish and had high hopes of finding meaningful work and all of our family members are beach-lovers so I knew we would happily bask in the surf and sand.

I felt like it was one of those places that called me, that I was destined to go. It was all meant to be.

And then I remember riding from the airport to our new home. “This is it?” I thought. Old Nissan pick-up trucks held together with duct tape, piled ten feet high with mattresses rumbled past unscathed, perfectly spotless Lamborghinis. Donkey carts full of piña competed for space against motos carrying five or more members of a family, oftentimes the baby dangling happily to the side. Black spilling exhaust, the thumping of merengue behind blasting car horns and screeching tires, potholes and stray dogs and precarious power lines, open sewers all under a blanket of sun and humidity that burned my face and saturated my nose.

Nothing was as I had expected.

And in it’s shocking imperfection, it was perfect. Somehow it already felt like home. Like “a” home.

As with anything – this awareness is not a uniquely expat experience. It’s not something that only those of us living between cultures can see. But, because we live between places we’re made deeply aware of the shades of gray that makeup the world.

It’s the reason that a place with human rights violations can also be a place where we fall in love.

It’s the reason that walking among soaring skyscrapers and pulling up a chair to endless dishes of perfectly crafted foods, doesn’t remove from our brains the knowledge that women are being made to shut up and pour tea in the hallways of those same buildings.

It’s why witnessing staggering poverty breaks our hearts and leaves us feeling helpless, but also enables us to see laughter and happiness on the faces of people who’s lives we know could be much better. And then we ask, "Well, who’s really to say what’s better?"

Of course, it’s also the reason we never fully go back to our passport countries. Because now we see them in all of their never-ending gray. And then we start to see ourselves as part of that. Perhaps we’re gray too. Nothing’s all good. Nothing’s all bad. It simply gets complicated.

The truth is – the only real sign of perfection, is imperfection. Imperfection is the norm (whether we like it or not). Imperfection is what’s real – in the places we love and the people we are.

So why does this sit so deep in the awareness of those of us who move?

Because that dichotomy – of seeing all the imperfections in the places that bring us so much joy and of finding the perfection in the places we never expected to love – gets us closer to the truth about the world.

Living with the truth is so much more fulfilling. It’s what makes a life lived around the world so compelling. We can love somewhere and see its pain. We can recognize how drawn we feel to freedom and mobility, while also acknowledging the deep loneliness that comes from being so far away.

We stop seeing in black and white. We live right smack in the middle. We live both places. We are both places. Maybe it’s not even really gray in there. Perhaps it’s where all the color really lies.

We can never un-seen that...ever.

No wonder we can’t go “home.”

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This past week I had so much fun creating a series of Facebook live videos where I answered the question, "What does it take to practice mindfulness?"

This is such an important topic to me and I love to support people as the learn simple, easy-to-access skills to engage more fully, live more deeply and connect more authentically to themselves and the world around them.

Mindfulness can be an everyday practice - something we do throughout our day in small ways that can lead to big change. These skills take commitment and patience, but they're actually quite simple and completely doable within your daily life.

Everyone can practice mindfulness!

Below you'll find the entire Facebook live video series. Day One is an introduction to the concept of mindfulness and the subsequent videos outline the 6 mindfulness practices offered through the Personal Leadership model.

Heads-up: If the videos are muted when you click on them, simply right click to unmute.

If you'd like to learn more about what you see here and get support in putting these skills to work in your own life, here are some ways we can work together:

  • My one-on-one 12-week program Finding Your Way: Everyday Mindfulness for Critical Moments is currently in the beta-testing phase. Early Bird Registration begins February 1, 2018. 
  • Combined coaching and facilitation programs in Mindfulness and Personal Leadership for businesses, non-profits and schools.
  • Individual Coaching - Mindfulness provides a significant framework for my one-on-one coaching programs. Learn more about my life coaching services for expats and individuals in transition here. I am currently accepting new clients for February and March 2018.

Day One: What does it take to practice mindfulness? Intro.

A couple of notes for this video: Here is the book I mention - 10% Happier by Dan Harris (ooops, I say Dan Brown in the video). Also, this video cuts a bit short - apologies, but nothing missed other than me signing off.

What does it take to practice mindfulness?

What does it take to practice mindfulness? *The first video of a 7 part Facebook live series. Join me over the next 7 days to learn about the 6 mindfulness practices I use in my coaching and mindfulness programs.

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Tuesday, January 23, 2018

 

Day Two: Attending to Judgment

Be sure to check out the book Personal Leadership: Making a World of Difference.

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 2 - Attending to Judgment

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Wednesday, January 24, 2018

 

Day Three: Attending to Emotion

This is the resource I mention for expanding your emotional vocabulary.

What Does it Take to Practice Mindfulness? Part 3 - Attending to Emotion

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 3 - Attending to Emotion.

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Thursday, January 25, 2018

 

Day Four: Attending to Physical Sensation

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 4 - Attending to Physical Sensation

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 4 - Attending to Physical Sensation

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Friday, January 26, 2018

 

Day Five: Cultivating Stillness

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 5 - Cultivating Stillness

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 5 - Cultivating Stillness

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Saturday, January 27, 2018

 

Day Six: Engaging Ambiguity

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 6 - Engaging Ambiguity

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 6 - Engaging Ambiguity

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Sunday, January 28, 2018

 

Day Seven: Aligning with Vision

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 7 - Aligning with Vision

What does it take to practice mindfulness? Part 7 - Aligning with Vision

Posted by World Tree Coaching on Monday, January 29, 2018

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I’m sitting here with a quickly cooling cup of tea and hoping to bust out the tiniest bit of work tasks before my children come home early due to snow and my husband (likely) comes home early having been furloughed from his job until…well…Congress.

It’s days like this when I often start thinking I need to throw in the towel and just call this day a wash. As anyone who works from home (and I’m including ALL expat spouses whether their job pays them or not because it is work!), one little wrench in the plan can leave you scrambling to rework your schedule. Alternatively, you simply curl up and watch movies.

But – it doesn’t have to be that way. Disruptions big (a serious illness in the family) and small (snow days) – can actually be perfect opportunities to learn. When we’re breezing through and everything seems easy – we may find ourselves on autopilot. That feels good for a while, but sometimes having our environment a little disrupted gives us the opportunity to stop and re-evaluate.

What sorts of lessons is disruption trying to teach you today?

There’s more than one way to do things.

I go to a semi-regular networking coffee in Shibuya. The walk is about 40 minutes from my house. I always walk because it’s pleasant and I enjoy the time to think. But today – with snow threatening and an early release from school pending – I knew I needed to think again about the timing of my day. A couple of shifts (namely taking the train and committing myself to leaving the coffee by 11:00AM) means I’m home in time to get a bit of work in.

Disruption breeds creativity.

Okay, so this is kind of similar to the one above, but it’s really a layer deeper. When we’re out of our regular routine, we may notice things we hadn’t seen before. Take a different route, rework a familiar pattern, see a different angle. Disruption helps us notice new things and that gets our creative juices flowing. Take this blog post for example - definitely the outcome of an unexpected disruption!

Pay attention to your emotions.

The natural feeling of frustration that comes from being interrupted in our planned activities is a cue for us to tune in and pay attention to how we’re feeling. Instead of forcing ourselves into a preconceived box (“I was going to do this. It was going to be this way and I was going to feel like X.”), we now have to ask, “How am I really feeling here?” We may even find the disruption was exactly what we needed to slow down and really see what’s going on inside our hearts.

It’s easier to be mindful when things look different.

Think about all those places you drive without thinking or the tasks you mindlessly complete because you’ve done them a thousand times. When our plans shift because of unexpected circumstances – we have to stand back and pay attention. Problem-solving mode requires us to really focus and to evaluate the whole scene. We can then ask ourselves – Do I scrap this or simply make a small adjustment?

You’re really good at disruption!

Do I need to tell you this? You may hate it, but you’re amazing at it because (assuming you’re an expat) you do it all the time. So, while you may not always feel like a breezy-go-with-the-flow sort of person – it’s in you. Maybe today you don’t need to sweat the disruption all that much. Maybe you could even lay back and put on a little Netflix. No matter what, past experience confirms that it’s within your power to plug along or make a change.

What else can disruption teach you? Are you awake and listening? Are you staying curious, asking questions, coming back again and again to see a different angle?

Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear how you handle disruption.

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Happy New Year Friends!!

I'm a total New Year's lover! I love the clean slate. I relish taking the time to reflect and think about what's past and what's up ahead on the horizon. It's one of my favorite times of the year.

I also love it because it's the perfect time to realign with my values and ask myself the important questions about who I want to be - especially when it feels like I'm constantly having to reinvent myself with every move! For me, as you can guess, this is about becoming more mindful. It's about taking the time to turn inward so that I can be my most engaged self as a reach outward to the world and people around me.

One mindfulness practice that is central to the Personal Leadership® model is Aligning with Vision. This practice is about learning to stop in the moment and ask ourselves, "Who do I want to be in this space?"

I love it because, contrary to simply paying attention, it enables us to see the choices we create by being more mindful in the world. It taps into the idea that we can pay attention to who we are and then choose how we want to connect with the world around us. We've just wrapped up the vision crafting section in the beta-test of my Finding Your Way program and it's been really moving to see how the participants have found their voices in their respective visions.

Part of learning to align with vision is crafting a vision that speaks to you. While there is always a place for goal setting as we enter a new year, this vision is not about the goals you want to reach or the things you want to have. It's not a bunch of fancy magazine images on a poster board.

Rather, it's about understanding who you want to be so that your intentions are driven from that place and not from some outside criteria. It's the kind of stuff we almost never take the time to think about, but when we do - we see things from a whole new perspective. It's the deep down stuff.

I love it!

I'm excited to share that throughout the month of January I'll be taking this short little section of my Finding Your Way program and offering it to clients who want to craft a vision for 2018. This is super fun, super deep work that can make all the difference as you move into the new year.

What happens when you join me:

  • We start with a single one-hour coaching session to begin crafting your vision. Think of it brainstorming with a sounding board and lots of questions.
  • After that, you take a week to work on the vision on your own. Think it over. What makes sense? What moves you? Where does your heart feel drawn? I'll be available via email.
  • Then, we come back for a 45-minute wrap-up session to talk about how you can begin to Align with Vision as you enter 2018.
  • You finish with a vision that is from the heart, connects to who you are at your highest and best and deeply aligns with the way you want to be in the world. Your vision will be the answer you turn to when you find yourself asking, "What now?"

Program Logistics:

Send me an email to register. I'll send you a little bit of paperwork, your payment invoice and a link to schedule your sessions (we'll meet online via Zoom or by phone).

Program Fee:

$150 includes both sessions. No additional discounts are applicable.

See you soon and Happy New Year!

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I'm so happy to share my latest article for I Am a Triangle.

Click here to read about how turning your New Year's resolutions into New Year's questions can be a great way to tune in and reflect on where you find yourself during this important transition.

And, as always, consider joining the I Am a Triangle online community through Mighty Networks! It's a great way to meet like-minded, internationally mobile people doing great things. Click here to join.

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A parent in a Foreign Service Facebook group recently shared this video that her daughter made about being a Third Culture Kid. It's so well done and does a wonderful job of capturing the emotions of this lifestyle. I even teared up a bit watching it with my oldest son.

Being able to name and identify our emotions is key to successfully navigating the expatriate lifestyle. If you're interested in learning how to better understand your own thought and emotional patterns, consider checking out this free downloadable exercise from my book - The Expat Activity Book: 20 Personal Development Exercises for Gaining Insight and Maximizing Your Potential Wherever You Are. Or, click here to find out more about the book and purchase your copy.

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In the past two days I’ve had the incredible pleasure to conduct “get-to-know-you” sessions with the participants in the beta-test of my Finding Your Way: Everyday Mindfulness for Critical Moments program. This 12-week mindfulness skills program will support clients in learning the practical, accessible mindfulness skills offered through the Personal Leadership framework and provide coaching support as the participants implement these skills into their daily lives.

It has been so fun to engage in these conversations! Each of the participants is coming to the program from their own unique desire to live more engaged and more connected with the world around them. I have loved sharing with them the details of how we’re going to be talking about real world skills, actual day-to-day practices and ideas that they’ll be able to implement not just in times of balance, but in times of upheaval.

Please stay-tuned for updates (by liking the World Tree Coaching Facebook page or by joining my email mailing list if you haven't already). I’m hoping to have completed the beta phase and to begin accepting clients for the program in late-April 2018.

I’m also happy to announce that I’m now booking individual coaching clients for 2018. After some time off for the holidays (and to get my beta-testers moving through their program), I’ll begin seeing new individual coaching clients in mid-January.

If you’ve thought about coaching before, but aren’t sure it’s the right fit for you, please click here and schedule a time for us to talk more. This no-obligation session is a great way to see how coaching could support you in reaching your goals, managing transition, gaining clarity and maintaining (or regaining) balance as you enter a new year. Coaching is a true gift to yourself. There’s nothing quite like it!

As a special offer, all new clients who register between now and December 18, 2017, will receive a free copy of my book The Expat Activity Book: 20 Personal Development Exercises for Gaining Insight and Maximizing Your Potential Wherever You Are (a $20 value) along with a voucher for $25 off the coaching program of her or his choice.

Click here to learn more about how we can work together to make 2018 the year you get moving where you want to go!

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After so many moves from country to country, my adventurous heart sometimes gets a little lost. Let’s face it – while I’d love to be traveling to new places each month – most of my days are like any other day. My husband and I get the kids off to school, we do laundry, we go to work, we help with homework, do dinner, bedtime, rinse, repeat. And on the weekends maybe we see a new part of town or go out to dinner.

But, every once in a while, I see the way in which my true spirit – one that needs newness, adventure and exploration – comes shining through. And I’m reminded that just because most of our days are like any other day, doesn’t mean that my adventurous side can’t be fulfilled. I just have to embrace it when it pops up in unlikely places.

Like last Friday – on an unanticipated adventure to find Tokyo’s best bagels.

We had heard about this bagel place before, but had never tried to find it because it’s pretty far from our house. My husband had the day off and we were at Tokyo Station buying shinkansen tickets for an upcoming trip. This put us closer to the bagel shop than we typically go. It was a completely last minute decision, but we decided it was worth trying to find it. As we came up the escalator, I noticed I felt this exciting sense of anticipation. I love the feeling of getting to the top of a train station escalator in a part of Tokyo I’ve never been to before. I’m moved by the sudden swish of air coming from above and the sense that I don’t know what we’ll find once we reach the top. It holds the same place in my heart as landing in a new country.

We had our phones, so this is completely unlike the old days when we’d tear the map page out of our Lonely Planet and meanderingly make our way to our destination. But – we still found ourselves twisting and turning around office buildings and corners. Where was this place!?

That sense of deciphering a puzzle is one of my favorite parts of international adventure. When we were younger (and without kids) I loved most of all the days when we just started walking in the direction of the site we wanted to see and figured we’d end up there eventually. It’s a strange mix of confidence that you'll succeed and acceptance of uncertainty. I love the balance between those two sensations.

And then, standing in the middle of the road, thinking the place must have closed down, we just had this gut feeling. There were some women dressed in matching striped shirts and white pants outside a small shop. They were laughing and had aprons on. The door to the shop was open. There was no sign and we couldn’t see through the front window because of the angle of the sun, but something told us this was the place – set back from the road, nothing to designate it Tokyo’s best bagels. We tentatively walked closer (something we’ve done for so many meals in so many countries). And there it was, written on a piece of 2-inch, white athletic tape stuck to the front window – Maruichi Bagels. We were there!

Our smiles could not be contained – we breathed in the fabulous smell, our eyes popping at rows and rows of crunchy, round crusts and containers of toppings and salads, a pile of paper bags just waiting to receive our selections. This is the heart of adventure! Arriving! Having made it!

Then we made our purchases. And doesn’t this always happen when you’re traveling – wanting to take it all with you? Don’t leave anything behind! You never know when you’ll be back. What’s a few extra yen? It’s worth it! Stock up! Don’t let the adventure die too soon. Not even for one moment did we consider we were buying too many. A dozen bagels later, we were on our way.

But - it gets better! As we were leaving one of the employees outside said that on the third floor they were doing a one-day chocolate mousse taste-test. How strange, we thought. Chocolate mousse, why? We made our way up a somewhat rickety, nondescript staircase (because on international adventures you ALWAYS make your way up the somewhat-rickety, nondescript staircase) and opened the door. There, in a big room was an older French couple - the woman, a dessert chef, and her husband had decided to try their hand at selling her chocolate mousse in Japan. Their son lives here. The wife spoke only French and what a wonderful nomad moment - the mix of languages and flavors and people trying new things! We sampled our mousse...and, sadly, in our excitement didn't buy any!

This is truly the heart of the international life - taking steps in directions you hadn't anticipated, only to find things there you never expected to see. The overlap of language and curiosity, food and strange twists in the road - it's what joins us to this life...even when we know most days just seem rather average.

And how inspiring it all is! When you see new things. When you travel and open your eyes to adventure – even in a place that has started to feel like you’ve figured it all out – you become more creative. You begin to realize that you can choose to do something different, or better, or more fully than you’ve been doing it for a while. Or you can stop all together with the things that don't work for you anymore. You realize there are so many options. And so that night we had a beautiful, bagel-inspired feast!

I tell people all the time that this life around the world is, most of the time, just normal life. And then I realize that that’s not really true. Our lives are lived from seeing adventure in the every day and I find that to be a truly unique gift of moving from place to place around the world. Even if we temporarily lose our sense of adventure – we find it again, just around the corner.

 

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