Freedom = Happening

Hello my lovely lovelies! Please pardon my absence, I’ve been a leeeeeetle busy breaking free from my corporate job! What!? What’s that you say? That’s right amigos. FREE! Freedom. Viva la happiness! This girl. Yes. It happened.

I’M LEAVING MY CORPORATE JOB!!!!

I’M STARTING MY DREAM LIFE!!!!

EVERYTHING CHANGES.

I feel like Theoden must have, as Gandalf released him!

BREATHE THE FREE AIR!!

I need to recap the past few months for you guys, because there has been an incredible amount of stuff going on. Hear this:

  • I made the decision to leave my corporate job, and am currently serving out my ‘2 week notice’
  • I got accepted to FIDM school for graphic design, which starts in JULY of this year. Ah!
  • I’m moving to LA, like, right now…to go to school.
  • I’m starting a web design business, making blogs and websites and downloadable goodies! oh my!

I’m currently in freakout mode, trying to sort through all the logistics and details of this transition so that I can set up a positive path forward. But, I’m also screaming and kicking inside!!

WOOOOOOH! Hello, DREAMS!

Oh, and I’m starting a new blog! I’ll point you there soon. Till then, let’s *dance dance dance*! 🙂

Huayna Picchu: Conquering Fears

This is less a story of climbing a mountain and more a story of conquering fears. This post is about facing anxiety and pushing through. You see that mountain behind Machu? Yeah, that really tall one? That’s Huayna Picchu. Guess who climbed to the tippy-top of that yesterday??!? 🙂

You may not know it from this post, but I actually have a fear of heights. It gets bad around ledges without a railing, in small airplanes, and see-thru elevators. When I was planning this trip to Peru, I had zero intention of climbing Huayna. I mean, LOOK AT THAT BEAST! I got shaky legs just looking it at. Then my travel buddy started talking about it and it got me thinking…

How often will I be in Peru?

I may uncover more secrets of the Incas if I continue on the trail…

If they could do it, I could too.

I really want to see the Temple of the Moon and find the arrow stone (if it exists).

It’s one thing to want to climb it, but another to put yourself in the situation. They only allow 400 people up each day. One group of 200 at 7am and another group at 10am. I was secretly hoping that tickets were sold out and I wouldn’t have to make the decision. Nope. We spent the first day at Machu and the whole second day was left to Huayna. From the moment we bought the tickets I had this anxiety pit in my stomach. It was something I desperately wanted to push through and say that I had done. Yet I felt my normal defense mechanisms kicking in: I got extremely short and angry toward my friend. I couldn’t sleep well. I was ‘zoned out’ on the bus up to Machu/the base point for Huayna.

Then came our turn. We had to sign in with our full name, country of residence, show our passports, time in, etc. In the back of my head I was thinking “great…they are accounting for people in case they don’t make it back”. Ay yi yi.

Then we started. We had to cross over a small part of a neighboring mountain before starting the trek. Luckily the Incans left a nice little trail for me:

The climb was very steep and demanding. The stairs were taller than my normal stride. Most of them I had to put both feet on before I could proceed to the next. When the trek got tough and I started getting scared, I literally had to tell myself to put one foot in front of the other. I kept looking up, hugging the side of the mountain, and moving forward.

I wanted to climb this mountain for many reasons. But mostly, I thought if I could conquer this, I could conquer just about ANYTHING. Finding the courage to leave my corporate job? No problem, I climbed Huayna! Needing inner strength to change major life situations? I scaled a f@#$ing mountain!!! I knew it could be done and I was on my way.

This was definitely a case of something that was worse in my head than it was while I was going through it. I think the hardest part was getting through the first entrance and starting. After a while I even began to enjoy myself. The Incans built in several ‘break points’ along the way with astonishing views of Machu:

Don’t mind the heavy breathing in this video… 😉

Some of the most trying moments:

The key was definitely baby steps and forward momentum. It looks terrifying, but when you are there, taking it piece by piece, it’s quite manageable. The fear was more of a temporary rush but I kept reminding myself how far I had come. It was enough to get me to the top! As we got higher, the views kept getting better. The whole time I was thinking…How could the Incans build this in the first place? A trail on a mountain so steep? It blows my mind!

Another view of Machu, with the scary side stairs (The Incans obviously had no fear):

I started getting used to the height after a while and really started enjoying the history of it all. The top of the mountain was not flat but a series of giant rocks at angles…that I was terrified I would slide off of! I had to sit down during this video, but here is proof we were at the very top! (notice the cloud line…)

We rested a bit and I took a few rocks from the top of Huayna for a little souv. On the way down there is a little house with two doorways and windows. Yep, right smack on the side of the mountain. I will explain my theory on this and the entire Machu Picchu site when I have the time to blog about our exploration in more detail. For now, here’s a pic of me in the doorway:

And here is the awesome view looking down from the little house:

The climb down was just as challenging as the way up. There was less a sense of security when you were looking down and seeing how far you could fall. But overall, I already had this amazing sense of accomplishment. I did something major that I didn’t want to do. It’s obviously important to stretch yourself. For someone like me, who is generally risk-averse, I was very proud of myself for doing something uncomfortable and coming out beaming on the other side.

Once we got back we had the BEST celebratory drink and meal ever. It was like when you go camping and food astonishingly tastes better than ever. I had never felt like I earned something so much in my life! Here I am drinking my purple corn sour:

Cheers to a great hike, conquering the deepest of fears, and having grown stronger (and wiser!) because of this whole experience.

Rain and Mountains in Aguas Calientes

I’m sitting here in a little pueblo lounge in Aguas Calientes, sipping coffee, listening to the rain and watching the people go by. Things have been happening a million miles a minute and it’s nice to just sit and write. There is a big ass mountain to my left, and to my right, and well, all around me. I feel small in the world.

I’ve just finished a beautiful lunch of beef empanadas and squash soup:

Ok, and maybe one of these…

Food in Peru has been unexpectedly over-the-top delicious. So far we have tried: Alpaca, Cuy (Guinea Pig), Mate tea, Pisco Sours/Pisco Punch, Maize everything, Andean cheeses and a Quinoa salad to name a few. I’ll post more food pics when I get back because wifi is too slow here.

Last night we went out and enjoyed the nightlife in Cuzco (believe it or not, they DO have a bar/club scene). I would say about 1/3 of the people in the clubs were tourists though. We spent a couple of hours practicing Spanish with the local bartender. He was very curious about los Estados Unidos and seemed to think that Las Vegas was our capital. 🙂 The club started with salsa dancing and about halfway through the night switched to a mix of US pop and randomly, some 80s beats mixed in… ♪ Hold the Line! Love isn’t Always on Time… ♫ We also sampled the local cerveza, of course.

This morning we woke up early to catch the train bus to Ollantaytambo. We’re learning so many little things…like even though our train tickets say “Cuzco to Machu Picchu”, you really have take a 2-hour bus ride up and down the mountainside first (sometimes above cloud level)…and oh, did I mention there are no rails preventing you from dipping down those clips? From Ollantaytambo we took the most beautiful train ride in my entire life to get to Aguas Calientes. To our left was the great and powerful Urubamba river. I felt like I was in the middle of a Lord of the Rings movie. There is so much beauty I honestly can’t keep up.

When we arrived in Aguas Calientes we had a porter from our hotel meet us at the train station and carry our bags for us. It’s tough to say so soon, but I think this little town is going to be my favorite! It’s got that close feel, like the streets of Venice, but very safe. The train tracks are the only way in and out. No cars. Cute little restaurants and cafes all over. I spotted a sign for “inca stone massage and reflexology” that I may have to take up.

Right now it’s siesta time – we have an early wake up call (5am-ish) tomorrow so we can catch Machu Picchu for the sunrise. I have seen so much in this country worth noting already. I have this strange feeling that although Machu is touted as the highlight, there are many undiscovered (or unpublicized) treasures waiting to be found.

Cuzco, so far…

HolyCultureShock! I’m in Peru! It’s incredible! Every time I travel I think “god, I have to find a way to travel more, I can’t believe what I’ve been missing!” This trip is no different. Every minute seems like an eye-opening experience. I’m doing all I can to take it in and not miss a single beat. It’s hard, but I’m up for the challenge.

We’re currently in Cuzco. It was a windy, stormy, and lightning-filled ride in. A little scary, but we made it! At el aeropuerto we were bombarded by locals selling us everything from tours to anti-altitude sickness pills. It was honestly a bit overwhelming and quite an effort to get out of the crowd. We followed a girl who promised us a taxi and she took us through the hoards of people. We arrived at what appeared to be a regular old car, and a very nice gentleman named Hilario took us to our hotel for 10 Soles. This was my first experience where I actually had to speak Spanish, as opposed to everywhere else where everyone seems to know English.

The cab ride was a little crazy. Cars drive fast and there seems to be no real laws for pedestrians. We did some exploring and had a fabulous dinner of alpaca and risotto (the alpaca was a little too smokey and game-y for my taste, but the risotto was a treat!). After a little shopping and a night walk, we slept for 14 HOURS! Call it jet-lag, call it adjusting to the high altitude, but I absolutely needed the sleep.

Today was spent exploring the Plaza de Armas, watching the many parades, going on a hike to the Sacsayhuaman ruins (aka “Sexy Woman” to the locals), and of course, a food crawl! My wifi is incredibly slow here so I cannot post many pictures. I’ll leave you with one on our hike today. I’m a big fan of getting lost and wandering around. Will update more when I can. Xoxo, D

Upcoming Travel

In less than a week I will be embarking on a HUGE adventure…I’m going to PERU!!!! 🙂 This trip has been a long time coming and as the days get closer it’s really starting to sink in. I’ve been busy reading all the things to see and do. Here’s what I’m most excited for:

1) Machu Picchu, duh!

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I spent an entire semester in grad school reverse-engineering this beast to figure out its function (nerd alert!). I studied the waterways, the layout, the stones, the architecture, the land mass and crop growth, all in a giant systems engineering analysis. Time to see this baby in person! I want to touch the soil, feel the stones, breathe the mountain air, stand where my old Incan friends once did and see if I can get an intuitive sense of why this mysterious city was built. Ooooh my body aches with excitement! We’re going to spend a couple of days here so I hope to do some serious meditation/thought cleansing as well. What better place???

2) Ceviche/Pisco Sours/Mate Tea

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’nuff said!

3) Train Rides

I heart old trains (and new ones too)! There is something about the journey, and looking out the window, and…if you’re lucky…sitting in the old dining car. In my fantasy life we would hop on the Hiram Bingham and do all of these things.

However…we will probably settle for the Expedition. Still cool, but on a budget:

(all pics from perurail.com)

Funny thing…when I was searching for train schedules, I forgot to select the route. It gave me a pop-up but instead of saying “choose a destination” it says, “choose a destiny…”. LOL. I much prefer Destiny!

4) Nazca Lines

Pray for me that those little planes get serviced!

5) Keeping an Open Mind and an Open Heart

My dad always used to say: “Travel every chance you get, it will keep your heart open”. There is nothing like international travel to remind you how big the world is and how insignificant your problems are in comparison. I hope to meet the people, observe their lives, just live and be happy. It’s easy to get so entrenched in the day-to-day that my worldview grows narrow. I want this trip to be the shot in my arm to jolt my life force again.

6) TO GET AWAY FROM WORK! PERIOD!

This is a given. But we built in plenty of down time on this trip to actually relax/do yoga/write/all that good stuff. I can’t wait!!!! 🙂

FiDM

Today I took a HUGE step toward Operation: Freedom! I met with an advisor and took a tour at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FiDM). Even though it sounds like it’s all about Fashion, it’s really not, and they have a pretty sweet Graphic Design program. I haven’t disclosed what I’m thinking of doing in terms of future business projects yet…but all of my ideas will benefit from learning some core graphic design concepts and tools. The cool thing about FiDM is that they have a ‘Professional Designation’ series for people who already have a degree (like moi). It’s a fast track 1-year program and you don’t have to deal with any generals. Wham bam, thank you ma’am! Exactly what I’m looking for. Get in, get out, and let the business begin! It’s that easy, right? 😉

Here’s a link to some of the final projects from the students who completed the graphic design program. Would LOVE to learn how to do just about any of these…

On the tour I got to see some “secret” things. They had a catalog of the 2013 fashion trends (kept behind the counter under surveillance). Apparently very exclusive. Did you know that the clothes you are wearing right now were actually designed about 18 months ago? Pretty neat. Also, they had these glamorous vintage Vogue magazines in the library. Some of them you have to wear white gloves with in order to turn the pages because they are so delicate. This would be an AWESOME source of inspiration for vintage fonts/layouts/photography. I enjoyed myself.

Vintage Vogue pics (1,2)

Here are the classes that are REALLY calling me right now:

Although pretty much every class sounds exciting to me. Wish I had done this in the first place!! So I got all the deets and all the swag…there was only one minor issue….

i am so jaded from the corporate world...all I could think was 'how much did that cost to print all that in color'?

The advisor told me that they don’t actually offer the Graphic Design program in San Diego…only in L.A. (and some parts in Orange County). uhhhh, what? But she assured me, as many students can attest, it’s a beautiful train ride up the coast 2-3 times per week.

the pacific surfliner. thar she blows!

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At first I thought…absolutely not! Commuting to LA??!?! no thank you! I went home and started researching other schools and community colleges where I could learn this stuff. But ya know what? Not so many options. There are some, but they have a minimum of 15 months and they actually cost MORE than FiDM. Plus, the course curriculum is not as jazzy. I kept finding myself wanting to figure out how to make it work at FiDM. Once I get my mind set on something it’s really hard to change it.

Here are the options I’m working through:

1) Stay in SD, suck it up and commute for a year. Enjoy the 2 1/2 hour train rides…read a book…bring my laptop and use the free wifi. Get the fun and exposure of LA without having to live there. It sounds like half my time could be split between LA and Orange County…which would also lessen the commute. This wouldn’t be awful if it were only twice a week. But definitely not ideal, and not what I was expecting for le gran send-off!

2) Move to LA for a year. omg I can’t believe I just typed that! I don’t like this option for many reasons. A) I JUST got done moving and I like it in San Diego. B) I don’t really see myself as an LA type of girl and C) what would happen when the year is over? I would feel like a lost puppy without a home. Would I ever move back down to SD? Would I somehow end up staying in LA (nooooo!). From a cost perspective, however, this is the smarter option. Between train tickets and rent LA is less. EEEEEFFF.

3) Try to just teach myself and skip school. Yeah, right. That’s been working out reeeeeeaall well…….

4) Start hookin’ so I can afford a commuter pad in LA. razz

Jesus. So much to think about. I still really want to do this. I have big dreams and I’m not letting go. I’ll have to think on this…but no matter what…big changes are a comin’!

ilikethis

The Dreamer – (discovered on Lisa’s blog)

My High Council of Jedi Knights

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There is a PHENOMENAL book out there for anyone stuck in the corporate world who wants to start exploring their options for getting out. It’s called Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim. I first read this book when a fellow rebel coworker handed it to me about 2 years ago. Little did I know it would serve as my roadmap this whole time, until I could finally make the jump. I’m sure I’ll be talking about this book a lot more, cause it’s fab and it’s been a serious gamechanger for me.

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In one of the chapters Pam talks about forming a High Council of Jedi Knights (her way of saying a support group) before you leave. There’s a lot more to it than I’m explaining but her point is that you need people you can call when you start doubting yourself and everything you’re doing. People who can pull you out of a rut. People you can trust to help you grow your new ideas.

As I’ve been preparing for my own big send-off, I’ve been keeping this thought in the back of my mind. Who is an eternal supporter? Who is a negative nancy? Who is old school and just can’t understand why I would want to leave a cush office job (…DAD!). Lots to think about as I assemble my council. Then tonight a sad thing happened…someone I thought was on my ‘eternal supporter’ list threw me for a loop and I had to remove him from the council (yeah, I’m elitist like that). Here’s what happened…

I was reading before bed when all the sudden GENIUS struck! My mind was racing and one idea starting snowballing into brilliance. It was one of those moments where 10 minutes went by before I realized my eyes were at the bottom of the page, but I had NO idea what I just read because I was in a daydream fog (this happens all the time, btw). I put down my book and started brainstorming. I got up and started googling. It was a moment of clarity and I felt like I had a new (and awesome!) chunk of my future business plan worked out. I was SO beyond excited. I felt like I had the key to success, in my brain and in my plan. I of course couldn’t sleep after this, so I called a friend who I knew would be up.

With a shortness of breath, and extreme enthusiasm, I told him what I had discovered. I was half working through new ideas/half trying to catch him up on my discovery. I couldn’t slow down and I wouldn’t shut up. At the end I said, “I just KNOW this is going to work!” 🙂 🙂 🙂

And you know what he said?

“Well, I hope it works out, you know there are a lot of curveballs that life could throw at you.”

Huh? Wasn’t expecting that! Can’t you just be as excited as me? In zero seconds flat I was heartbroken and deflated. I went from floating in the clouds to being anchored into the cement pavement. This particular person has that effect on me. We talked some more and I started to get the sense that this person not only disliked my idea, but he really didn’t believe in me and my potential as an entrepreneur. Well, if I couldn’t sleep before, I REALLY couldn’t sleep now. I was so heartbroken.

Let me tell you a little backstory here. When I was a freshman in college I was dating a musician. We were starting to go our separate ways and he didn’t understand why I wanted to become a businesswoman and why I was going down a different path. During one tense moment he said, “You know, you have to be smart to become an engineer. It’s HARD. Are you sure you want to do this? You have to be really smart to get through it.” Really smart? um, excuse me! What are you implying here, buddy? He didn’t know it at the time, but he planted a little seed inside me that would serve as FUEL TO THE FIRE over the next 4 years. I’m not kidding. That one comment, unbeknownst to him, set me off on a warpath. I was going to get that f$%ing degree even if it killed me. Smart enough??? It didn’t matter how miserable I was, or how much I hated my classes, I had a point to prove. I didn’t want to fail on this one. Even long after we broke up, I wasn’t about to let him be right.

So I got that degree. I made sure of it. B.S. Computer Engineering. I was proud. And, just so there wasn’t ANY doubt, I went ahead and got a master’s degree too (also in engineering). I’m not trying to brag here, but I am trying to give you a clue into my kooky head and explain how strong my determination is when someone doubts me. I flip the switch, and it becomes a life mission.

(of course I should mention, his comment obviously wasn’t the ONLY reason I got the degree. please. I’m not THAT pathetic.)

Now, that same feeling has resurfaced with business-doubter-man. The second I felt his doubt…the rage started.

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I knew it was coming. At first I was sad, and then I remembered. This is just fuel to the fire. And you know what? When I do achieve success in running my own business, he will be the type of guy to come back and say “Oh, you got lucky. You caught a lucky break.” WRONG. He hopes that I make it and then he says it’s lucky if I do. Hope and luck. As my grad school accounting professor drilled into my head: “HOPE IS NOT A PLAN!”

I do have a plan. And I wanted to tell him I’m not an idiot. I’m getting my ducks in a row. I’ve built a financial cushion for this journey. I’ve written out a plan. I’m taking action every day to change my path but I’m not jumping off a cliff here. I will continue to work my plan and move forward. And when I do achieve my goals, it sure as hell won’t be because of luck. It will be because I’ve earned it, and took risks, and also listened for opportunities. I just got really infuriated by this whole notion!

Anyway. Leaving with a quote this time.

“Believe in yourself, because if you don’t, no one will.”

(I think this was from Marilyn Monroe, but google did not confirm, so I might have just made it up.)

get by with a little help from my friends

This weekend was BUSY! My friend Diana came to visit from San Francisco and we had lots of sightseeing/partying/catching up to do!

I have to say it was REALLY nice to see a familiar face after the big move to SD! Sometimes you don’t know how much you miss someone until you see them in person. Everyone used to call us “the D’s” (and I’m sure obvious boob jokes ensued). Well, the D’s did some exploring this weekend. We started out with an ocean walk at La Jolla cove:

“Herrooo….are you looking at me??”

Next we got all dolled up and went to the Gaslamp for dinner + a little bar crawl of sorts. I didn’t take many pictures…guess we were having too much fun. razz  We did try a new place called Analog. (i know it might seem like I have this weird fetish for mix tapes lately. i can’t explain it. i love me some good mixes!)

The theme was obviously a throwback. They played some techno remixes of Foster the People songs and I felt like Talking Heads could have easily come out of the speakers at any time. When you enter the dancing room there are a million laser-y lights and blinking/flashing sensations going on. I felt like it could have been a very ecstasy-friendly crowd? Just a wild guess. It looked something like this:

Oh, and they had an ENTIRE wall of tapes. We spent a good 10 minutes looking at old bands we forgot about.

There was only one type of guy at Analog: metro, metro and metro 😉 Apparently there is a dress code for men at this place. You have to wear either a) a tight-fitted longsleeve shirt or b) freshly pressed and tailored button down or c) a fitted new-age plaid. Every guy had the same, gelled-up hair like Jake Gyllenhaal (swoon!):

oof! zee eyes! zeh kill me!

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To be honest I really wanted to like Analog cause it seemed like such a good idea. But we weren’t feeling the vibe and ended up leaving after about an hour.

Yesterday after a little sleep-in we drove down to Balboa park and walked around. They have a BEAUTIFUL lily pond area there and I can’t wait to go back when it’s in full bloom!

We walked around and proceeded to take several hundred ‘senior photos’:

The majority of which we cried laughing at later.

Finally, like any good tourists, we had to check out Extraordinary Desserts. This place came highly recommended and it didn’t disappoint.

Let the sampling begin! First we tried the roasted pimento cheddar cheese dip. It had a PUNCH of cheese flavor with a nice balance from the red peppers. YUM!

Next we tried the buffalo mozzie bruschetta with pesto genovese (we fancy huh??):

OOOOOOH it was delish! Party in my mouth! But now it was time to get down to bidness. The real reason we came:

This was a showstopper! A coconut-mango-tart-thingy. (They change their dessert menu every day and therefore don’t post the names). Fun to look at and fun to eat.

This was a warmed chocolate almond croissant. I felt like I was in some sidewalk cafe in Europe!

Last stop on the tour: a cream cheese and chocolate brownie. Heaven sent!

Here’s my (not so official) review:

Food: (5/5) – The apps were yummy and they had a delicious brunch buffet set up with some creative options (like caramelized onions). The menu was unique and fancy. The dessert is obviously their main showcase, and it was pretty extraordinary(!).

Service : (1/5) – HORRIBLE service. This is my only real complaint. The hostess told us it would be about a 25 minute wait, but it was more than an hour. It set us off in a bad mood. Our waitress was slow and inattentive. I feel like they rely heavily on their reputation and really skip on the service here. Disappointed!

Date Approp?: (4/5) – Yes, maybe for a 3rd or 4th date – brunch would be fabulous. Go early to avoid the rush! The setting is cute and it’s always fun to do a sampling of desserts.

Would I go here again?: (4/5) Yes, but not often because it was packed with (presumably) tourists and it took forever to get a table.

Ambiance: (5/5) Clean, open space with pretty artwork on the walls. The tables were high-top and modern. The plates and champagne glasses really completed the perfect brunch atmosphere.

i’ll sass you right out the door

I woke up feeling SASSY this morning and had to roll with it. Here’s a little mix I put together – mostly indie/girly songs with some power behind them. Also, I’m just going to link to youtube until I can find a satisfactory playlist tool to embed. It was too slow when I inserted ALL the vids before.

The last one, Infinity Guitars…well, I was trying to save that for my Woman Power mix but just couldn’t wait. It was too hard. It needed to come out today.

True Affection – The Blow

Trick Pony – Charlotte Gainsbourg

Love is a Deserter – The Kills

Crazy Eights – Tapes n Tapes

Infinity Guitars – Sleigh Bells

PS how hot is she, bustin’ in with that baseball bat???