Hell No, I’m Too Young to be a Cougar

The stories people tell…

In this case, the storyteller was a 25-year-old client service agent at the luxury resort where I am staying. He sat down to chat after I ordered lunch on the beach, to tell me of all the things I should do as a first-time visitor to Barbados: Harrison’s Cave, snorkeling and swimming with turtles, and Bridgetown’s finest fish fry, Oistin.

Looking toward the ocean a father and son cliff dive off Crane Point. My new friend shares a story about how three young men climbed to the cliff to jump and how one friend who was clearly afraid, hesitated.

“He jumped into the wind and then tumbled into a wave filled with sand. We found his body, a floater three days later.”

I blinked.

Next, a love story of sorts.  It seems a regular to the resort, a woman and known multi-millionaire had fallen in love with a male guest. The couple would rendezvous every year at the same time. Except the last time, when the millionaire found the gentleman in bed with another woman. So heartbroken she drowned herself in the pools on the South side of grounds.

Something tells me these are not the stories management is hoping their staff will share with its guests.

Cultural immersion is something of which I have genuine interest, so I ask about Bajan life, where to find local artists and how to experience life on the island as a non-tourist. His eyes light up and subconsciously I understand he is thinking this is a proposition.  Within seconds the conversation turns to questions about why I’m here, the dating life and seemingly innocent inquiries into romance.  He waxes poetic about women on the island and his disbelief as to why so many ladies (unclear of nationality, but I infer that he meant Americans) come to the resort alone. He shared the dating culture and lingo of Barbados, and referred to the Bajan sex addiction—fact or fantasy is anyone’s guess—as if that would be a carrot at the end of a stick.

He continues his monologue, casually mentioning his preference for mature women over the ’young Millennials’ on the island so engrossed in their phones and photos. He boasts showing other lady guests a night on the town at The Gap, a nightlife area with live music and dancing. (For the record, The Gap is known as an unsavory location for female tourists to travel alone and as fellow travel blogger JackieJetsOff notes, is rife with street harassment.) With a conspiratorial glance, perhaps encouraged by my silence, he shares how one lady guest had shown a romantic interest and taken him out for dinner. He then casually drops how he can easily maintain a long-distance relationship. He doesn’t even notice when I #smh

A fool could see where he was going with all the banter and admittedly, I did little to deter the flirtation including sharing my What’s App. So, when he reached out a few hours later I was anything but surprised. The shirtless profile only confirmed just how young he really was. Had I had children he could have easily been my son. I kindly declined and wished him well, having no interest in feeding the the role of cougar in anyone’s fantasy.


Living Your Truth: How to Be Brave

Losing your job can be scary, but it can also be the kick in the ass you need to start living your truth. It certainly offered me a newfound perspective.

By the end of a nearly decade-long tenure at AOL, I had amassed almost 20 years of work experience in media and technology. Mind you I wasn’t entirely surprised by the pink slip, it was AOL, after all. But when I think about all the time I spent in those hallowed halls, it’s accompanied by the sad realization that although I can remember the color of the Ploum couch in our marketing huddle, whole chunks of my life are a complete blur.

    • Truth: The last few years leading up to losing my job had been a personal nightmare.
    • Truth: I had no idea what I wanted to do next.
    • Truth: I desperately needed a reset.

Conscientiously taking a break from your career has the potential to reveal the possibilities and unexpected pathways life has to offer. It takes a moment to decide if you can carve out the time without suffering too much financial hardship, and once you do, the only thing you need is enough bravery for a leap of faith.

The faith I had in myself revealed a courageous heart, one strong enough to book a 2-month solo adventure through Southeast Asia. The plan was to discover new and unfamiliar places, specifically Siem Reap, Cambodia; Vietnam; Bali & Java, Indonesia, while reacquainting myself, well, with myself.

It takes a boatload of chutzpah to travel on your own, and, even more, to willingly spend time alone with your thoughts and feelings, absent of everyday distractions and social obligations. My time abroad helped to uncover my childhood dreams and aspirations, to remember who I wanted to be, and to recognize the person I had become.

Every day was a journey and some days were harder than others but it was all possible once I learned these valuable lessons:

    • Look for the beauty in every day. Every Balinese day begins with offerings for the gods in exchange for protection or prosperity. It’s hard to miss the colorful trays on the sidewalks outside storefronts and hotels, temples and waterfalls filled with saffron and jasmine petals, coconut and banana leaves, incense, rice, and sweets.
    • Take things in stride. On every trip, like every project or job, something is bound to go awry. Enchanted by the idea of overnight train travel, I booked a tour in Vietnam on The Reunification Line. Most cars felt like a prison cell block with metal cots, frigid temperatures, and an occasional roach sighting — a far cry from the superliner. Unpleasantries are temporary, an inevitable part of the travel experience that ought not to affect the overall journey.
    • Practice gratitude. Be positive; be thankful. Cambodians are years behind their contemporaries, after suffering unrest and genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime well into the 20th century. Every person I met exhibited poise and respect, warmly welcoming me to their homeland, sharing their stories and circle of friends. Some of my most precious memories were from consciously receiving their kindness with grace.
    • Take the time to listen. Every morning during my yoga retreat I woke to monks chanting in the distance, the wind rustling through bamboo trees. There is a lesson in every moment if you are brave enough to listen carefully: to yourself, to the people around you, to the sounds of nature, even to the silence.
    • Be present in every moment. I spent countless hours exploring the ancient temples and ruins of Angkor Wat, marveling at its architectural magnificence. That first sunrise, I could feel the souls of every being that had come before me as I walked through its passages. When traveling, or working for yourself, as I would find out later, you can experience life at your own pace.

Everything everyone says about time is true, it waits for no one — something we lose sight of in the busy-ness of our lives. Between school, career, and family we acclimate to the life we’re living and sometimes forget to nurture our dreams. Don’t you think it’s about time you rediscover yours?

Photo Credit: Pixabay

No other country can be like Bhutan

3 October 2018

One of our guides said that “No other country can be like Bhutan,” and the more I learn about this small monarchy (on the verge of democracy) the more I find myself in agreement.

We started our day super early—so early we literally had to jump the fence to gain entry to Buddha Dordenma. The locals refer to the site as Buddha Point and many of them were exercising on our route. Maile guided us on a walking and sitting meditation just as the sun rose over the magnanimous statue glinting in the light.

Cyndi, B, Maile, Maureen, Candace, Yuki, Claudia, Yas & Andrea

I was especially fond of the peacock carving and Yuki, a fellow yogi pointed out seemed, to be channeling Lady Gaga in this photo:


We visit Simtokha Dzong next, the first dzong built in Bhutan. Men entering the dzong must add a sash to their traditional go — there are four colors used: Yellow for the King and Chief Abbot; Orange for Ministers and members of Parliament; Blue for District Heads and white for commoners, as Pasa and Dangspa model for us here:

Pasa and Dangsa white sashes

On our way to Punakha, we stop for lunch at the Dochu La Pass hoping for a clear view of the snow-capped peaks of the Bhutan Himalaya. The hills are covered with a light mist while Dangspa spins the tale of the Divine Madman’s journey through the pass, confronting three ogresses and saving a young boy and his yak. The pass is home to 108 chortens (also known as stupas).

Even on our return to the pass later in the week, we find the hills covered in mist. We stop for a washroom break, and one of our fellow travelers Maureen channels her inner dog whisperer, attracting strays with handfuls of granola.

Maureen aka Dog Whisperer

Stories about the Divine Madman, one of Bhutan’s famous saints, paint an outrageous and salacious character, renowned for his crazy sexual antics as a way to provoke the Bhutanese to discard their preconceptions. We hike to Chimi Lhakhang dzong, built in his honor after subduing the ogress on Dochu La with his “magic thunderbolt of wisdom.” This is represented by the extensive phallic artwork on buildings at the complex as well as in the surrounding village.

Monks are performing a blessing ceremony when we enter the temple, after making a modest offering the monk blesses us with the lama’s wooden and bone phalluses and archery set to protect us on our journey.

We end the evening with yoga and dinner at our riverside retreat, Punatsangchhu Cottages.


Experiencing Bhutan Firsthand

I chose not to read about life in Bhutan outside general tourist information to breathe in all the country has to offer upon arrival. Instead, I wanted to savor the newness of my experience firsthand. And I am ever so grateful for my intuition because, as you might expect, Bhutan has not disappointed, happily providing a proper space for time to fall away.

I went so far as to leave my wristwatch behind so I could be present in each moment. And thus far, every moment has been rich with texture, color, and contemplation. My expectations of what this trip might reveal disappear as I open myself to the quiet retreat.

Maile Walters, yoga instructor.

Tuesday began with daily yoga practice and breakfast, followed by a hike to Tango Monastery, located on the mountainside of northern Thimpu. Our guides at Bhutan Tours and Travel have introduced us to the Himalayan altitude daily, preparing for our hike to Tiger’s Nest. The walk to Tango included a steep trail and wide switchbacks, enveloping us in a canopy of walnut and pine trees, flowers, and fern. All along the way, mantras and Buddhist sayings are painted on guideposts to encourage the traveler.

Yuki hikes to Tango Monastery, Bhutan

Dangspa explains how the circuitous trail represents the spiritual path to enlightenment. One interpretation is depicted in this mural of an elephant on his journey to paradise. With each step closer to purification, the color of his hide turns from gray to white.

Path to Enlightenment Mural, Tango Monastery, Bhutan

About halfway to Tango, we discover a hermitage built into the mountain. We scale a narrow stairway carved out of stone and wood to reach the meditation room. The expansive view is breathtaking. Dangspa leads the group in meditation as mosquitoes hang in the air before us, battling one another, and a ginger cat settles in the sun. (No photography is allowed within the temples, so you’ll have to use your imagination.)

Afterward, we returned to Thimpu for our first official Bhutanese lunch: a spread of local dishes that started with roasted rice and butter tea. Followed by red rice, mushroom soup, pork and chicken specialties, spinach, sautéed vegetables, and the country’s delicacy Ema Tadashi (also known as chili cheese).

Bhutanese Cuisine: Roasted Rice, Fermented Pork, Spinach.

We visit a weaving arts center and observe artisans as they craft fabric for traditional Bhutanese clothing.

Bhutanese Textile Craftsmanship

Later in the evening, we visit the Choden family at their home in downtown Thimpu. It is a whole house with Thinley, Pasa, their mother, sister, niece, and nephew, together with our tour group of nine. They so graciously pose for a family photo.

Contemplating Bhutan: First Impressions

Crisp mountain breeze. The moment the air in Bhutan touches your skin, it’s as if you’ve been reborn. As if you stumbled upon a bottled elixir, untouched by impurities and accessible only when one has traveled far, far away from the Western world.

In recent months I’ve been obsessed with comic book inspired programming (The Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) with mystical storylines that involve parallel existences both supernatural and alien, worlds alight and pristine. I can’t help but compare the reality of Bhutan to the fantasy of Lian Yu; it’s like nothing I’ve ever known, yet everything I could have imagined. And that impression was just from walking across the tarmac at Paro International Airport.

Paro International Airport

The six of us piled into the caravan and began our journey to Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan. On the way we stopped at Tachogang Lhakhang Bridge one of 108 iron suspension bridges built during the 14th century by Lama Chakzampa. The Pachu River gushes beneath the prayer flag cloaked bridge, in torrents of white and crystalline blue. The bridge shaking with delight with every footstep provides passage to a multistory chapel on the other side of the river, the inside decorated with deity murals. At every level, cone-shaped totems dipped in white paint honor the dead and the living.

Totems, Bhutan

This morning we explored Thimpu, starting with the Great Buddha Dordenma, a gigantic golden Buddha commissioned by the King of Bhutan, funded by foreign donations, and made in China. The interior is made of bronze, accented in gold, the ceilings painted with deity murals and over 125,000 Buddha decorate the inside.

Golden Buddha, Thimpu

Dangsa, our guide shares the history of the Buddhist prayer and then leads us through a live demonstration. He explains how the ritual is meant to tamper the negativity of the five emotions: Anger, Pride, Desire, Ignorance, Delusion through a 2-part asana. Performed 3x upon entry to the temple, we follow his lead to purify our spirit in mind, speech and body. We position our hands in lotus prayer, cupping our third eye, then mouth and heart, followed by a kneel bringing our forehead to the ground. The flow is familiar, a cross between an abbreviated sun salutation and the Muslim Salat.

The temples of Bhutan welcome all people but there is one group more popular than others. Seniors. We learn that the reverence for Buddhism is multigenerational, and that it is a common practice for families to drop their children off to school, and their parents off to the The National Memorial Stupa or Golden Buddha while they are at work. The temples act as a Senior Center providing a place to congregate and a purpose for its elder members to contribute prayers for all sentient beings.

The statue also plays an important role in the daily routine of Bhutanese living in Thimpu. At the close of their business day many make the trail to the temple a part of their exercise and meditation practice.

Yogis at Golden Buddha, Thimpu

The city is filled with religious buildings and next on our tour is Changangkha Lhakhang, a temple frequented by parents seeking protection for their children. The building is framed by rows of prayer wheels, and an inconspicuous courtyard with a stupa made of archery bows.

Bhutan’s national animal the takin, is an endangered goat-antelope that roams the mountainside forests 2500m above sea level. We visit the Royal Takin Preserves to see the creatures firsthand, and marvel at the sanctuary nestled in a valley of blue pines.

Takin, Royal Preserves

The young girl I used to be

Sunday, September 30 — 9:00 AM

This day has been 9 months in the making. And as I sit here listening to the waterfall fountain at our Bangkok resort, I can’t help but wonder how did this small town Brooklynite get here.

Small town Brooklyn may sound like an oxymoron to some but I came of age in a time when the only rising star in New York City was the borough of Manhattan. That was way before Brooklyn was hip and cool, and anyone claiming to be a New Yorker from the outerboroughs was decidedly B&T–Bridge and Tunnel (for those too young to know).

Back then the boroughs–Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and The Bronx were ethnically segregated based on where families settled in New York after migrating from their oppressed homelands: Italy, Ireland, Poland, Cuba, Puerto Rico. We lived as our ancestors did, in hamlets and villages organized by dialect, town and tradition.

Bensonhurst, where I grew up, was primarily Sicilian, Northern Italian, Irish and Jewish. We kept to ourselves, congregated after church or synagogue, and through local social activities on our blocks. If it wasn’t for the public school experience, we probably never would have considered that there was anyone outside of our family nucleus.

Public school. I wonder if my parents knew what a gift they had bestowed upon my brother and I. It was the first time I felt my world break open. And I’d like to believe that in some small way it opened my mind to experiencing other cultures whatever way I could: gathering information from books and movies, and through conversations with others.

That young girl who I used to be, would never have imagined traveling halfway around the world to hike a mountain. My brother, in one of our recent conversations, candidly shared that young girl who I used to be would have been too afraid and timid to dream this big, traveling 24 hours by plane to explore a country few had heard of, let alone been.

I guess you could say that this trip has been 46 years and 11 months in the making; and it’s about time for it to begin.

One Day in Bangna, on the outskirts of Bangkok

Like any city with a well-orchestrated train system, Bangkok is easy to navigate. The BTS Skytrain with its colors, words, and numbers, has, as Claudia shared “something for everyone.” The train itself was wide enough to accommodate the throng of people bound for downtown Bangkok on a Saturday morning. I reveled in the courtesy of its passengers, all of whom acted respectfully toward one another and created space for their fellow travelers at each station. And, not so surprisingly everyone abided by the no smoking/drinking/eating instructions made by the automated announcements, which of course meant the subway cars were clean and sparkly–although that last bit was probably from the glitter painted floors.

Our mission for the day included visiting the Jim Thompson House, the home of an American expat who ‘single-handedly’ (with some help from his good friends at Vogue), reinvigorated the Thai silk trade in the 40s and 50s. We had a lovely tour guide with a keen sense of humor who shared Thompson’s history and architectural vision for his homestead. The temperature was balmy so we escaped into the cool environs of the Jim Thompson restaurant for a light lunch and a refreshing dose of Thai iced coffee. Afterward, we set our sights on the most important part of the day: finding a yoga mat. Rather than carrying one transatlantic, we decided to try our hat at buying one locally. And we did, thanks to the surplus of shopping malls along the Sukhumvit train line.

A selection of photos from our day:

Udom Suk train station

Verandah at Jim Thompson House Museum

Silk weaving at Jim Thompson House Museum

Map of Siam, c. 1686

Morning Glory with Chili Peppers, Shrimp Spring Rolls with Spicy Basil Dipping Sauce

King Rama 9, Street Art Mural, Bangkok Art Culture Center

Just two friends on a journey in Asia

Street Art near Udom Suk Station

time enough

I love traveling, but the reentry into your everyday life is like a workout from hell. We arrived in New York City Thursday night after yet another harrowing airport experience, where we barely made our connecting flight in Amsterdam. A cab ride from New Jersey to Brooklyn and I was exhausted by the time I made it home, Finn greeting me with disdain and oh so many stories of his time alone. A few hours later I was finally asleep in my bed.

Up before any inkling of dawn, enjoying a coffee and breakfast muffin, I watched the sunrise flicker its arrival. Waiting for the world to come to life a butterfly floats into view, a reminder to relish this moment.

The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough.


Instagram Credit: @prez13, 2017




Weekend Warrior: Chihuly Nights

There are some places in this city that are pure magic. The New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx is one. And this spring they are hosting “Chihuly Nights,” a twilight evening series with live music and an illumination of Dale Chihuly’s glass exhibition.


Nightfall and the first installation I see is a blue stone glass sculpture in front of the library. The idyllic scene calls to mind the Trevi Fountain in Rome and the Fontaine de l’Observatoire in Paris.

On the main pathway, I come across a starburst sea urchin of blue and white. Against the night sky, suspended in mid-air, the early summer fireflies weave amid the crystal stems, bringing to mind fairies and nymphs.


Nearer to the Visitor’s Center there is a pond of red reeds embedded in an oak tree. To my eye they resemble blood-red pitchforks, or even spears, protecting earthlings in an apocalyptic dystopian land. Although, I think I may be overdoing it on the Supergirl binge watching.


The sunset melts away, and a chill settles in. The last pieces I see are ectoplasmic and alien-like dangling from the ceiling. A vibrant yellow-green sure to give Crayola a run for its money, and a doodle octopus in shades of purple and blue.


Once I get home, I quickly fall asleep, and dream of far-off galaxies deep within the Milky Way.

Roadtrippin’ with Finn

Tonight Finn and I make our way to Jersey City. It’s his first road trip and sleepover.

Chester and I are traveling to visit his family in Western PA, and rather than leave Finn alone with a cat sitter he’s staying at the loft with Andy.

I’ve been harness-training him in anticipation of the big adventure. This is a progressive measure since our last outing when Finn frantically attempted to dig his way out of his plastic carrier.


Since our arrival, he’s been hiding under the bed but I’ve no doubt he and Andy will become fast friends over the next few days.