2015 was the first year I traveled to 0 new countries, first time since half my life ago! Yet revisiting many, and deciding to move back to one, brought me so many new adventures and insights. Strangely (or not!) throughout 2015, I kept encountering the same repeating learnings in different countries and scenarios, with different people!

As with every single year in my life, last year was my best year yet :) So while it’s well into 2016, below are the 2015 trending lessons I reflected on before the New Year in Thailand on the most isolated island I’ve stayed on, dove deeper into while flying back to Malaysia from Hong Kong after Chinese New Year with family, and finished drafting on the leap day in Australia…

(1) “Trust the timing of your life.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Trust your decisions. Trust the course of action you took. Trust all that you knew and felt. Trust the tools you equipped yourself with. Above all, trust your intuition and heartstrings that’s led you to where you are today. No course is ever permanent. And always always, honor yourself and your effort.

When you do, you’ll look around and realize there’s a reason for where you are and who you’ve surrounded yourself with. You chose your circle, your teachers and students, and they choose you.

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” ~ Buddhist proverb (thank you Emma of ePilatesOnline.com for sharing this! :)

San Francisco Sutra Baths

Exploring Land’s End and Sutra Baths in San Francisco, Jan 2015

#2) Everything lies in balance.
Strive to live in the balance of the yin and the yang, the masculine and the feminine, the light and the dark.

Don’t know if I’ve read it more eloquently put than by my friend Matej Valtr of Video Bumper Factory on a fellow traveler Sam Clitheroe’s vlog post:

Yin and Yang basically represent principles (especially in the nature) that are contrary but NOT in opposition. And so even though they are exact opposite, they complement each other. The crucial part is that there is no moral bias in it. The most common example (but not the only one) is ‘dark’ (lack of light) and ‘light’ (lack of dark). You can’t say that one of them is right and correct where the other one is bad and wrong. Both are part of the circle of change.

To keep it simple: imagine Yin & Yang as two football teams you don’t care about, but you are glad they are there in the field. It is only because of both of them, the game itself – which you love so much – is possible.”

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.

Chasing sunset shadows with my parents in Mesquite Sand Dunes in Death Valley, California, Feb 2015

#3) Nature is all around us, tune into it.

Whenever I’m around nature, I find it crazy that a) it’s just so simply beautiful, and b) it’s always there, but we just don’t see it or barely create time/space for it!

My bedroom balcony faces the sunrise. When I wake up earlier to enjoy or practice yoga with the sunrise and soft morning light (and before I feel like I’m tanning and melting!), I find my day to be fresher, calmer, and lighter. I love ending my nights soaking in the soft city lights and the expansive sky to make my dreams sweeter 😉

Open your bedroom window, soak in the sky, get plants, work next to a window, walk through a park… however you can, make your day more beautiful with a sight, a feel, a taste, a touch of nature.

If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night

First time camping with my parents in a while, and first time I was able to take a picture of the stars! Here’s our tent sleeping (with my parents in it) underneath the stars glistening over Death Valley, California, Feb 2015 (more pics)

#4) Follow your truth

2015 was a year I met many (more!) extraordinary women who took bold moves to follow their truth.

When it comes down to it, we’re always so caught up in who we will disappoint, or perceive we’ll disappoint. Usually, it’s never as big of deal we build up our fear to be, and/or everyone was ok in the end, perhaps even better in the end for you stepping up to what you just gotta do.

For these women I got to know, they knew in the long run continuing the path they started on, and not honoring themselves, would be more harmful to them, their soul and spirit, and their loved ones. So they bravely followed the truth they knew in their heart and gut, and are happier, more radiant and giving because of it. 2015 was a year I started to as practice this as well. Can’t thank my boss and friend Xinch for telling me when I knew I had to do my yoga instructor course, “Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do!”

Learn to listen to what your heart and spirit are telling you. Something as strong as who you are and what you deeply desire won’t go away. So why wait?

Now I know what success is: living your truth, and sharing it.

All the women (and 2 men!) I did my RYT200 yoga instructor course with were or are pursuing their truths. Here’s a special pic captured by one of them Katja during the sunset after a fun and hilarious day (our 1 break day a week, and on International Yoga Day!) in Bali, Indonesia, June 2015 (more pics)

#5) Keep it simple, sweet, and fun!

Life is easier, simpler, and better when you make a decision, trust it, stick to it, and forge ahead.

We’ve all heard it – life is short. Why spend excess time, mind, and energy wavering on a decision? Learn to listen and follow what your heart and gut tell you. Acknowledge your brain and logic, factor it in, and make the decision you truly want and won’t regret looking back.

Changing course doesn’t mean you didn’t give the previous path all your heart and dedication. Practice deciding, practice tuning into your instinct, then trusting yourself. From picking your shirt for the day or your food of choice off the menu, to moving cities or transitioning into/out of relationships and careers. No regrets, no wondering if it would’ve been a better outcome.Why spend days, months, years acting on a decision you knew from the first minute? Practice trusting in yourself and your decision. I promise it will become a habit once you do repeat this. And always, honor your true efforts.

The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.

Can this dude can look back? Nope! Pick your wave and go for it with everything you have. Finally relaxing on Bingin beach, Bali, Indonesia after our RYT Hatha Vinyasa & RYT20 SUP Yoga Teacher trainings, July 2015

#6) Your closest friends won’t judge you.

Let yourself be open and vulnerable with those you feel safe with.

Let your friends help you. And no, you’re not inconveniencing them. Your friends actually want to be there for you! It’s a lesson I first learned the first time I lived abroad, 9 years ago in Morocco, a lesson I’m still trying to practice! Only last year did I realize what being vulnerable can mean, to truly reveal your hidden sides to friends, and that it’s not a negative nor weak thing – what I’ve somehow believed before.

Let yourself receive friendship, kindness, compassion, and the gift of giving from others. Doing so doesn’t make you any less independent, but only makes you stronger. Keep those around you who you can just be carefreely you!

A friend is someone who can see the truth and pain in you even when you are fooling everyone else.

After friends’ cross-cultural wedding that brought heaps of friends from across the world together in Da Nang, Vietnam, Aug 2015 (more pics)

#7) Energy and willpower are finite.

Thank you to my friend Alla for introducing me to this concept after reading the Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg. If you spend an hour or two snoozing or changing outfits 10 times in the morning, you’ll find yourself starting work already exhausted.

Creating habits will open up more of your time, energy, and willpower as if you suddenly created more of each! Then you can put more of yourself, energy and talent towards what you care about. Only you can determine how much that time is and what effort you put it towards.

Make it worthwhile, and make it count.

7 w quote - Energy & willpower are finite - Perry Poppins1

Habits can help set you free! Burning Man, Black Rock Desert, Nevada, Sept 2015

#8) No mud, no blossoming and radiant lotus!

Big thanks to Gail, a friend through the years through our living in numerous countries/continents, for sharing something so universal: “Everyone has their baggage, and it’s ok if yours is lighter or heavier than others.”

Bottling up never works. Share what you’re going through. Let others be there for you. Most likely, others have gone through something similar, or know of someone who has. Help yourself, help others, and everyone wins. Remember, we’re all in this life together.

8 w quote - wake up and chase your dream

Sunrise handstanding in a word art installation at Burning Man, Sept 2015 (iPhone)

#9) Get over your fear already

Sometimes your fears aren’t as bad as you build it up to be. Getting over it can happen as soon as you try. You’ve waited too long already, so create the opportunity to take the first step to overcome a fear!

Do what you scares you, take a deep breath to remind yourself you got this, and take that first bold step. Then celebrate it!

“Every time you let go of a fear you live *that* much more each day,” Bex, a Yoga Barn teacher in Bali.

9 w quote - Get over your fear already

15 years ago, I belly flopped from the low diving board during pool time at summer day camp after someone taught me how to dive from the side of the pool. It hurt, and I never tried again… until a really fun junk boating day in Sai Kung, Hong Kong! A new friend and great dive teacher taught me how, and I tried it from the boat’s rooftop. Now I get creative jumping in and try flips all the time since the fear’s gone! Oct 2015 (GoPro)

#10) We all need our own sanctuary, a home to lay our foundation.

I spent 1.5 years traveling, freelancing from my laptop while settling into temporary homes across the world (yes, it is possible!). It was absolutely incredible and sooo much fun. Traveling and connecting the dots between events, celebrations, places, and people you love is the best thing ever. You learn so much about yourself and the world, meet the most incredible people, while living the best times of your life one after the other.

Many people ask why I’d give up location independence. Well when you move around often – syncing calendars with friends, seeking well reviewed homes, chasing wifi, calculating time zones – you eventually lose your grounding. Before, my foundation was in the exploring new places and homes. Now, it’s in a beautiful home of my own I rent. Eventually, it’ll be something and somewhere else.

A foundation sets roots to your day and grounds your current place in life. It lays groundwork for your effort and your energy. So you can then channel it to create more, give more, and be more of everything you want to be.

10 w quote - roots and branches

#11) Breathe in, let go. Don’t wait to forgive.

2015 was my first experience seeing death, how cancer can take over, and how fast it can take away those who matter deeply. Our life, time, wealth, health, happiness, energy, choices… these things are never guaranteed in this life. Never assume what we take for granted are our rights.

Even if you ignore something important or bottle it up, time will likely help heal. But it may feel like forever or you may continue facing the same issues, letting bitterness take the best of you. What can really heal and move on faster:

1) Take it easy on yourself.
2) Remember life is too short for anyone to hold grudges and prolong pain or discomfort.
3) Trust and love yourself, tell yourself you made the best decisions you could with what you knew and all that you felt – tell yourself over and over until it really sinks in.
4) Practice love, patience, compassion, and mindfulness to forgive yourself.
5) Extend that love, gentleness, and compassion to others, and know they too might be suffering from something, and forgive them.

Don’t wait until the end of your life to shed old grudges and forgive yourself or others. Do it now, and live lighter and happier. Radiate, be an inspiration and an example for others. Spread light and love, not darkness and resentment. Remember that life is not all about us. Appreciate yourself and all that you have, and show your deep gratitude for those who matter.

11 w quote - Breathe in Let go

The annual breathtaking, tearjerking Loy Krathong lantern festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Nov 2015

#12) Do what makes you come alive. Live the full expression of you.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Anne Dillard

Another day you’re not being you, doing what you truly want to do, around people you align with, is a disservice to yourself.

This past year’s Burning Man was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. A week with such a special group of people, we were truly right where we were meant to be in the middle of a stunning dessert at a beautiful art, music, and transformational festival surrounded by so many enchanting people. So many people have asked me what’s the point? Well, why should any of us chase the crazy experiences that linger in our minds and nag our heartstrings?

We define what crazy is for ourselves. Another’s crazy is my easy. Another’s habit is my crazy. There’s no absolute truth to crazy, it’s all relative. But we must explore this ‘crazy’.

What I realized after this year’s trip is that:

– if we don’t live experiences our soul longs for, the life our being deeply craves,
– if we don’t contribute our time and efforts to something that deeply matters to us, knowing that it makes some difference,
– if we don’t embody the person we truly want to be, and surround ourselves with people we meaningfully connect with and who uplift us…

…then we are not honoring ourselves and our efforts. (Perhaps that explains the number of resignations, role shifts, and globetrotting post-BM?! O.O ?)

Until we live our life to our fullest expression, on our terms, we cannot contribute to others, to the world, or live our lives in the fullest capacity we know we can.

Life can be simpler and sweeter. Decisions, events, spontaneity can be a black and white, a binary yes or no. Pick what you truly want to do, what you won’t regret if you skipped, and move forward. Or set a deadline when you want to do it and follow through.

The only one who can hold you accountable to your dreams is you.

Be who you love, do what you love, with who you love, and meet even more people you’ll also love! Curiosity leads us down new and grand paths.

And while you’re at it, why wait to catch up with yourself to continue living it? Carry on!

Break through the blocks and bottlenecks that tip you to say no, when your heart and intuition scream yes. Get over your fears. They’re really not that big as we build them up to be in our minds.

The first few times can take a lot of effort, but step by step, practice. Soon enough, I promise, you’ll live a life that makes you come alive every day like it’s a habit and you’ll radiate inside and out.

No words, pictures, social media or lengthy blog posts will ever be able to capture what that life will feel like.

Trust the timing of your life. We have one life to live. Live it fully. every. single. day.

Then, at the end of your life career years months weeks day, you’ll see you’ve created a life on no one else’s terms but yours. A life with no regrets, mistakes, or missed chances. Just fun, good work, genuine authenticity, solid learnings to be better, do better, and find out who you really want to become and the life you want to live. 

Trust yourself, trust the decisions you’ve made. Trust your gut. Trust your heart.

Trust the timing of your life.

12b - Do what makes you come alive

First sunset of 2016, wrapping up a holiday trip with my bffs in Koh Lanta, Thailand!

Thank you to everyone who was a part of my 2015, and a part of my past, present, and future. We all have so much to learn from each other. These moments and pics are not comprehensive, there’s just too many highlights in life – places, people, sights, sounds, laughs, tastes, moments and experiences…

Here’s to part 2 of living in Malaysia, and sharing random thoughts (thank you Ofla for the new logo and Tristan for helping me move my blog to CynthiaTravels.life!!)

Thanks for reading and would love to hear if any of these resonate with you!

post cover pic @Burning Man, sunrise behind in the Metaheart art installation (iPhone)