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Don’t be a Dreamer. Be Unstoppable

Don’t be a Dreamer. Be Unstoppable

Time to stop living and start dreaming?

Time to stop dreaming and start living?

I never thought I’d hear those words coming out of anyone’s mouth. Let alone hers.

“I wish I’d killed you when you were born.”

Her disdain echoed in my head. It was like we’d moved from the living room of my mother’s house to a valley deep in New Zealand, and she’d just screamed the words out loud. Her voice bounced off every surrounding surface. Startled birds screeched and flew away in the distance.

Anyone who’s ever watched a Bollywood movie knows exactly what I mean. (Walking along the street one minute, dancing in a field in Sweden the next, right?).

What are you thinking after reading what she said to me?

That those words from my mother were unacceptable?

That a parent should never say anything like that to their child? That I should have walked out and never spoken to her again?

Or are you thinking – your mother has her own story, Raz. Her own struggles. And those words? Are a result of both of those things.

They’re less about you, and more about her.

If you’re thinking the latter, you’re practicing forgiveness. Just as I’ve learned. From Vishnu himself, no less.

But this post isn’t about forgiveness.

It’s about pushing boundaries.

Because pushing boundaries not only makes you grow, it changes the entire social environment for the next generation.

When people witness you taking steps to move your life away from the norm, they’re encouraged to do the same themselves. It’s how new communities are built.

And that’s a movement that’s starting. Today.

My generation of women – born in the West, to families who migrated from the East -, are experiencing an awakening. It’s happening one woman at a time. With small actions, and major show stopping ones.

They’re looking back at their childhood, when they were told that they weren’t good enough to compete with the boys, and realising that they are. Only it isn’t a competition. It’s expansion through unity.

They’re replaying those messages that conditioned them to believe that they were only bound for a life of marriage and children, and they’re redefining it in their psyche.

They’ve learned that they’re bound for whatever they choose to be. Not what their social circle expects of them.

They’re witness to the limitations of their communities, finding ways of challenging the standard, and making tiny changes. It’s creating its own butterfly effect.

And the same is happening within me.

Because when I heard those words from my mother, I decided to uproot my entire life. And I started something new.

I stopped thinking what if I:

Moved out of my home town

Moved into the capital city

Made new friends and turned my hand to a new life

And the thing I started? Is thinking why not?

Why not:

See the stagnation in my current life and build something new?

Live in the city I’d admired from afar for so long?

Get out of my comfort zone and into new circles?

And so it began. An adventure. An EatPrayLovin’ exploration. And my very own awakening.

Because when you stop dreaming of what if…, and start living why not? Your entire life begins to slowly shift. And it moves you to the direction that was previously possible in your mind alone.

And the most beautiful thing? Is that it can begin with very small movements.

My small movements took me all the way from the North of England to luscious Paris.

Where are yours going to take you?

Changing your thought patterns like this can raise a preposterous amount of resistance (I’m English. Using words like ‘preposterous’ is mandatory). And there’s a hellova lot that you can do about it:

Know that it’s temporary because it’s in your control. Resistance is a result of fear. And fear in your mind can be changed. Read this gem and learn the best way to do it.

And what’s more? It’s a chemical reaction in your body.  Did you know that when positive change happens, your body starts to receive Seratonin, the feel-good chemical? But because your body was previously content with receiving Cortisol, the stress hormone, it starts to resist it.

Wanting more of what it’s accustomed to (Cortisol), your body decides to tell you to give up, only start and not finish, or tell you that you’re failing. All this leads you to abandon the change, and give up.


Carry on down the path you started. Feed your body with feel-good Seratonin. Because that’s what it’ll eventually start being accustomed to. Y’see folks? Science.

Resolve to see your bigger picture. What experiences do you want in your life, and how do you want to feel? Take time to flesh this out and write it down. This itself will drip-feed the drive you need to start with limited hesitation.

Once it’s written, read it whenever you feel resistance. It’ll be your personal cheerleader. And who doesn’t need one of those?

And the final thing to do is to simply start small. Baby up those steps. Because Practice makes persistence. And persistence makes you unstoppable.

Today may not be the day you quit your job to do nothing but retire to the Himalayas and monk-out ‘til eternity. The job you have took investment. So perhaps today you simply book yourself onto a meditation retreat, and build from there.

And so it starts. The movement that takes your what if.. and makes it an unstoppable why not?

And today? Is your opportunity to share your story with our community here. What times in your life did you decide to challenge yourself and do something different? What change did you create, big or small? When did you turn your what if… into a why not?

And if you’re feeling like sharing some more, join the campaign. We want you on our team. It would be an honour to have you.

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Razwana Wahid is the founder of Your Work is Your Life. A copywriting and online business strategy service dedicated to coaches, consultants, healers and service providers. The ‘what if …. why not?’ movement has started. Are you in? Join us. Right here.


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12 Advantages of an Arranged Marriage: Allow Love to Bloom

12 Advantages of an Arranged Marriage: Allow Love to Bloom

There are advantages of an arranged marriage.

I didn’t realize there were advantages of an arranged marriage until after I got married.

My marriage wasn’t quite arranged. By parents. Or family.

Maybe it was arranged by the Gods. Or the Internet. Or the Internet Gods.

Sure, my former wife and I shared the same cultural traditions, spoke the same language and came from the same community in South India.

Although it felt a whole lot like an arranged marriage because we had so much in common, ultimately it was one of our choosing.

We had met each other from across the globe thanks to the power of an online community.

We talked, romanced and wooed each other. We thought we had outsmarted the traditional Indian marriage and found true love.

We married and lived happily ever…

Well, we lived happily. For some time.

Marriage didn’t turn out as we had imagined. Unlike the passionate world-wide initial romance which catapulted us to our wedding day, our relationship fizzled to a melodramatic and sad end.

The separation was fast. The divorce was straightforward.

Although the paperwork was easy, the emotional pain of divorce was probably more painful than having a truck run over me a few times. Greater than through a field of thorny roses.

If I had written this post ten years ago, I would have argued vigorously against an arranged marriage and advised anyone who was considering one to visit a shrink. A really good one.

But eight years of married life plus two years of post-divorce life plus observations about marital success in several cultures are factors that lead me to question if there are benefits to arranged marriages and if they are the way to go.

What is an arranged marriage?

Arranged marriages are essentially fixed or set-up marriages by parents and family of the bride and groom. Practiced throughout the east, arranged marriages can range from formal arrangements by family members of the bride and groom to informal introductions.

Generations ago, brides and grooms would be arranged to be married by their families with little or no say. Sometimes the bride and groom would not even see each other until the wedding day!

But the arranged marriage of today allows for a brief courting period and hell, even input and approval by the boy and girl!

Today’s brides and grooms can either give a thumbs up or down to their future mate, similar to a Facebook “like”.

While this post isn’t for everyone, there are probably many of you out there (in or originally from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and other parts of Asia and Africa) who will face the prospects of an arranged marriage.

If you’re a white dude in the United States, U.K or Australia, please do not email me asking how to have your nuptials arranged. Instead read my earlier post on why you’re likely not a suitable match for an arranged marriage.

For the rest of you, here are the 12 advantages of having an arranged marriage: 

1)    A family affair. You don’t have to worry about how your spouse is going to turn out. You’ll know he’s compatible because your family does a thorough police-worthy background check on his family, their personalities, their mental health issues and how they interact with other families.

Your family also hires a financial detective also check out his family’s stock portfolios and real estate holdings! J

2)    Shared values. Families tend to pick spouses based on shared values. So you can bet your roti, the guy you’re marrying cares about education, financial stability and maintaining religious and cultural traditions.

He, ok fine – his family, also values gold and diamonds which they intend to shower you with for the rest of your life. Score!

3)    Love blooms. You may not fall madly in love, but you can be ready to love a life that’s comfortable, stable and enduring.

There’s something endearing about a love that lasts. I’ve noticed the longer arranged marriage couples are married, the stronger their love and affection for each other tends to be.

Also, it is likely this relationship is the first real relationship both parties have had. When you don’t have anyone else to compare to, the person you’re marrying can seem like an exquisite Rugosa rose.

4)    No need to wait forever for that perfect suitor who may never materialize.

As Tracy Macmillan has mentioned in the case of love marriages, many women don’t get married because they’re looking for all kinds of shallow qualities in men.

She says that the only quality that should matter is character. Because men of character commit to marriages, and often, for the long-term!

In arranged marriages, the character research is done early and extensively. Once a potential bride or groom passes the character test, families are usually pretty flexible on most other issues.

(And it goes without saying of course, people of good character live in palatial homes and sport Versace exclusively)

5)    Parents screen for deal-breakers.

Having your parental units make early decisions, they can see what the potential pitfalls and problems maybe with your future partner, as this New York Times article points out.

“They’re trying to figure out whether something could go wrong that could drive people apart,” Dr. Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavior Research and Technology in Vista, California says.

Your parents essentially become troubleshooters before the match is made knowing innately if your personalities, lifestyles and families would suit each other.

6)    Parent approved and endorsed. Your parents intend to spend a significant amount of time with your soon-to-be spouse which only means additional consideration, reflection and improved selection.

If they can’t stand being around him for hours (months) at a time, you are definitely not going to enjoy spending time with your parents and husband.

Since he’s going to spend family holidays and gatherings with you, might as well find someone who is family approved and endorsed.

7)    A solid foundation. Families look out for those things that will stick in the long run – earning capacity and professional and career potential. Sure this may be on the duller side of things to young people but if you’re being practical, money matters.

The more you have of it and the more your future husband earns, the better off you are.

Oh, and let’s just say your in-laws want to move in with you in their old age, they’d like to know you’re going to be able to financially support them.

8)    Takes the guesswork out of dating. Online browsing. Lunch dates. Whacky set-up by friends and blind dates. Who needs it?

You don’t have to ask too many questions or guess what matters to your future partner.

With similar cultural backgrounds and values, YOU KNOW you’re going to get married, have a couple of kids, raise a family and send your kids to professional medical school where they can earn well and take care of you in your old age.

Simple. No blood needs to be shed if everyone does their part.

9)    Spend more time wedding planning. It goes without saying, but if you don’t have to spend all of your time dating and working on your relationship, you can spend all your time planning your elaborate three to seven-day wedding.

Don’t worry about the small details about your future love and relationship. The research on your future spouse is more solid than research done by Consumer Reports or Harvard research labs.

Focus on what really matters in life: sending out hundreds of wedding invitations to people you don’t know and have never heard of, selecting the bedazzling jewelry and foraging the sari shops for the overly-priced silk wedding wear you’ll be dazzling everyone with on your wedding day.

10) Family gets in your business. You may hate the thought of your family in your business, but if you’re of South Asian or Indian descent, it’s a fact of life.

If you haven’t accepted it, you’re probably spending time in a far away ashram or have lost all communication and contact with your family. You’re probably in the family witness protection program.

Along with family comes accountability and support.

When your parents are involved in your dating life, they’ll be there as a backup support system in case you need counseling, unwanted advice or a kick in the rear.

If one of you is acting silly or foolish, your family can put you in a headlock and emotionally blackmail you to your senses.

They’re most likely your neighbors or live just down the block from you for unwanted and intrusive visits.

11) Your parents pick up the wedding tab. Yes, the wedding is stressful, doesn’t feel like your own and will be as chaotic as a three ring circus but what are family occasions for after all?

You’ll want to choke your parents and lock up your relatives but your big day will only be filled with hugs, kisses and lot of good cheer.

Usually, regardless of how horrible, chaotic or dangerous the wedding is, the wedding tab will be picked up by one or both sets of parents.

You can save up for that big 60th birthday party your parents plan to have down the road where you can gift your Mom with a Debeers diamond necklace or your Dad with a  Porsche Carrera. (or, more likely, a Toyota Camry).

12) Less confusion for your children. With such strong cultural and traditional values in place, you will usually get free baby-sitting which will allow your parents to inculcate your children with eastern values and traditions.

With that free babysitting and brainwashing, your children come to think all this arranged marriage rituals are normal. They’ll be heirs to two parents who speak the same language, practice the same religion and follow all the same traditions.

You won’t have to spend much time explaining different holidays to your kids or spending money for gifts for two different sets of holidays.

Traditions, culture, religion, practices, marriages, rituals, career and professional expectations are all in place for them.

You just sit back to collect the big bucks. And harass them as they’re growing up when and if bizarre thoughts like ‘love’ marriages starts entering their minds.

Hmmm. Love marriages. Who could possibly ever think of such a far-fetched cockamamie idea?

And of course, my views may be a little skewed. There are horrible stories out there of arranged marriages gone wrong.

In fact, if my marriage had been more of an arranged affair, I’d probably be writing to you to run for your life from arranged marriages. Simply, because it didn’t work out.

But I’m going to give it you straight. There are many advantages of an arranged marriage. There’s probably 1001 reasons you shouldn’t have one either and that’s for a future post.

If you’re still unsure about the advantages of an arranged marriage, pick up Arranged Marriage: Run to the Altar or Run for Your Life, click here on Amazon.


How to Confront Hate.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I recall one year when I was close to Yuba City, California, I journeyed to an event called, Nagar Kirtan. Imagine the most colorful carnival-like event in your life with the most delicious home-cooked Indian delicacies. Yes, free food!

I kept waiting for a cashier to pop up from nowhere with the lunch tab or security to hall me away to wash dishes for the next 12 years of my life.

Instead, I received hot chapathis, paneer, dahl, and other mouth-watering Indian sweets and delicacies. There were dozens of booths set up and each and every one of them were filled with joyous Sikhs distributing better food than most Indian restaurants I’ve eaten at.

“Am I still alive?” I asked myself. “Is this heaven?”

The fact the Sikhs have mastered the art of Bhangra dancing and the free food at their holy events made me want to convert to this religion on the spot.

Are you suggesting I’m a counterfeit for wanting to jump religions for music and food? How dare you!

Now, what the hell does this have to do with hate?

Nothing really.

It’s one reason that I LOVE this religion, its people and everything Sikh. Scrumptious food and dancing aside, Sikhs live their faith everyday of their lives, serve generously in every community they live in and are committed to the equality of all people.

Imagine now, being a Sikh man taking a leisurely walk in your Harlem neighborhood after dropping off your wife and 1 year old son at home. Imagine being surrounded by a group of rowdy and misguided youth attacking you for believing you were Muslim, Osama bin Ladin, or a terrorist, simply because you were wearing a turban and had a beard.

This is the violence that was perpetrated upon Columbia professor and physician, Prabhjot Singh, last week.

This case isn’t far from the norm. Sikhs in the United States continue to suffer the misplaced hatred aimed at Osama bin Laden.  Incidences like the one which impacted Dr. Prabhjot Singh are much too common all over the United States. Sikhs continue to be harassed, racially profiled, bullied and physically attacked all over the country.

For simply practicing their faith; not cutting their hair, wearing a turban, carrying the kirpan (a small ceremonial sword).

Each one of these incidents towards people practicing their faith disturbs me to the very core. While those who devoutly follow their path seek the highest ideals of their faith, worship God and embrace love, they are bullied and harmed for no reason other than ignorance.

How do we stop the violence and hate against people practicing their faith?

Here are 10 ways to reduce hate in the world.

1) We can continue to educate ourselves and the general public more about the principles of faith of other religions, including religious diversity training when talking about bullying in schools. Please take a few minutes to learn more about the Sikh faith in the video I share above. (A follow up video is here)

2) Continue to monitor, track and compile statistics of hate crimes so policy makers can make informed decisions about the allocation of resources and priorities.

3) Love more. Much of the threats posed by racism stem from hatred and fear. We can each individually continue to live our own lives from a place of love, than fear.  You can give more of yourself to others in service. When you radiate love in the world, it is harder for hate to thrive.

4) Practice your own religious traditions more faithfully. It doesn’t matter what faith you are but practicing your faith more will help you practice more kindness, compassion and generosity towards all.  You can be the light that radiates acceptance and peace.

5) Gratitude. Dr. Prabhjot Singh, now a victim of a hate-crime, finds reasons to be thankful even under the horrific attack – thankful to bystanders who helped, thankful the injuries weren’t more severe and to his supportive Harlem community.

6) Confront and acknowledge your personal biases and prejudices towards other races, religions and faiths. Once you become more conscious of our hidden fears and prejudice, you’re better able to transform your thoughts of judgment to compassion.

7) Stand together with others when confronting hate. One way you can stand with Dr. Prabhjot Singh is to send a note of support or prayer to him and his family. Many supporters of Dr. Singh have rallied around him during this challenging time and have called for more tolerance and education so events like this don’t happen again.

8) Organize your community to stand up to injustices and hate. The best kind of education starts with you engaging your family, friends and neighbors about issues of racism, stereotypes and hate. What collective action are you willing to take to promote peace?

9) Chardhi Kala – The Sikh concept of staying positive, optimistic and joyful. Even when facing racism and hate crimes, the Sikh community inspires all of us to stay positive and constructive. How can you use tragedy and acts of hate and transform it into good?

10) Forgiveness. The Sikh faith promotes forgiveness. “Where there is Forgiveness, God Himself is there,” states the Sikh Holy Scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Slok 155, p. 1372 Can forgiving hate-mongers sow the seeds of love in you and in them? Are you able to forgive those who commit acts of hate against others?

When confronted by hate, it’s easy to feel like fighting back with equal and greater hate. Our own anger can propel militancy and violence, or simply judgment and bitterness.

Have you confronted hate in your own life because of your race, gender, religion or your beliefs? How did you handle it? How can others? I look forward to seeing your comments below.

Malaysia Visit: Kota Bharu Temples

Malaysia Visit: Kota Bharu Temples

My life will forever be tied to Kota Bharu, Malaysia.

Yes, it’s officially the name I see on my birth certificate under birthplace.

But this also feels like the town of my spiritual birthplace.

Growing up, visits to Kota Bharu were always filled with audible Muslim prayers around town throughout the day, visits to the Hindu Sri Muthumarrian temple and plenty of 4 a.m. prayer time with my grandparents. Well, they prayed. I tried to stay awake.

I’m back once again visiting this northeastern Malaysian town that has so much family and spiritual significance to me. It’s also the place my great-grandfather moved to from India nearly 100 years ago.

Here are some photos of the Sri Muthumariamman temple from the Thai-border town of Tumpat. The South Indian Mother Goddess Mariamman, believed to have been found in the sands along the beach of the coastal town of Tumpat 100 years ago, resides here.

Like my friend Vidya who shares beautiful visits of temples in South India, I hope you enjoy a few photos below from my recent travels and temple visits.

Lord Ganesha

Lord Ganesha


Lakshmi- the Hindu Goddess of wealth

The 100+ year old Tumpat temple

The 100+ year old Tumpat temple

Decorative tower, gopuram, above the temple entrance.

Decorative tower, or gopuram, above the temple entrance

So many memories of Tumpat temple visits, which is about 30 km away from the main town of Kota Bharu. The last years in Kota Bharu have brought forth a more centrally-located temple, the Siva Subramaniyar temple. The temple opened in 2004 and serves the local Indian Hindu communities in the central part of town.  A few more pics:

The newest Kota Bharu addition.

The newest Kota Bharu addition


Hindu Gods welcoming visitors


Say What!?!

As I’m visiting temples and family in Kota Bharu, I hope you’re having a good summer too. Going anywhere interesting? Let me know in the comments below.

* Did you know that I post inspirational message and travel photos on Facebook. Add me and keep in touch:)

Oh, the Things You’ll Know from the Places You Go: 5 Lessons I’ve Learned in 5 Months of Travel

Oh, the Things You’ll Know from the Places You Go: 5 Lessons I’ve Learned in 5 Months of Travel


Jammie Karlman is married to a man I refer to as the James Bond of blogging and travel, Bjorn. This international couple of mystery, salsa-dancing and helping others are chronicling their travels on both their blogs which are updated  regularly.

This international duo quit their jobs in California to travel around the world for a year doing service projects. Their plan is to spend 3 months in 4 world cities: Bangkok, Thailand; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Berlin, Germany; and Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India. (They call it the B Tour.) This trip has been a dream of theirs for five years. It’s really an experiment in lifestyle redesign. An international life of do-gooding and adventure is what they want for the long-term. (That, and tasty food.)

Take it away, Jammie!

Right now, we are in Buenos Aires and have just come to the end of our fifth month of travel. The food, so far, has indeed been mind-numbingly delicious. Other experiences (e.g. humidity, taxi drivers that scam you) have been decidedly less so.

But that’s travel for ya — constantly surprising.

Through the ups-and-downs of our experiences, here are 5 things I discovered that (usually) hold true:

1.) You can live with half the stuff you have now. Take the remainder, halve it again and you’re left with what you actually use.

You need less than you think. When my husband and I decided to go on this trip, we got rid of 80-90% of our stuff. And now I can’t remember what most of that stuff was. What does remain is the memory that it was heart- and back-breaking work. A LOT of work.

And here’s the kicker: As we travel, I find I still packed too much. I actually have clothes and shoes sitting in the closet right now that I barely use. This is some kind of craziness to me, especially as I was that girl who had so many clothes she could go a month without wearing the same item twice.

But this is not a rant against consumerism and materialism. I still like pretty clothes, shoes and tchotchkes. But the experience of throwing out nearly everything we owned has made me leery of having too many possessions.

2.) Starting a new life doesn’t mean old problems disappear.

I can honestly say that I am living the life that I want and that I am happy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have pangs of insecurity and doubt about what I am doing or encounter difficulties with my character development. Just because I am traveling the world does not mean I left my baggage behind.

I had thought that by going on this trip, certain problems would resolve themselves. After all, I would no longer have to deal with particular annoying people. I would have more time to keep in contact with family and friends.

But halfway around the world from where I was, I am still having problems with people and keeping connected. How is it possible that almost all of the taxi drivers I encounter have cheated me or tried? I would like to blame all taxi drivers as being fraudulent, but I know that can not be true. If a problem is that recurrent and pervasive, it must mean that there is something I am doing that contributes to the problem. (Perhaps I lack assertiveness? Or is it self-fulfilling prophecy — I expect to be scammed and therefore I am?)

And I am STILL missing and forgetting people’s birthdays!

My real problem, I realize, is that I had wrongly ascribed the origins of my troubles to external sources (e.g. other people, overbearing schedule, etc.) when really they were internal. It’s always easier to blame “the other guy” when really you need to take a long, hard look at yourself.

3.) Traveling makes it easier to take a long, hard look at yourself.

Aside from questions of how much time I will spend on service projects and devote to sleep, I have a pretty open schedule (I ain’t gonna lie: It’s pretty awesome.) I have found that the break from the rigors and structures of a normal 8-10 hour job has created more space for me; space that I fill dissecting events/experiences that disturbed me. I can’t as easily push these thoughts away; I don’t have the same distractions.

Usually, these events are so disturbing because they reveal something disturbing about me. For example, I recently blamed a taxi driver for a fast meter. I forced him to stop and made my husband and friends jump out of the cab. Turns out that all meters in Buenos Aires cabs go faster at night and that my accusations were unfounded.

Aside from feeling embarrassed, I was mystified about why I had such a violent reaction. Instead of dismissing it with the rationalization that “most cab drivers are jerks anyway” and/or avoiding dealing with it, I thought about the experience which eventually led to the conclusions mentioned in #2 about taxi drivers, and some strategies that I will employ next time.

4.) Traveling makes it easier to change

Aside from occasional visits from family and friends, Bjorn and I have been on our own. I am freed from the expectations of others who “know” me and how they think I should deal with problems or act. I no longer have to deal with what others think I should do or perceptions of what “Jammie would do” by what I have done in the past.

I can reinvent myself.

That makes it easier to attack character flaws from a new direction, to do things that you normally wouldn’t have. Just like a kid moving to a new school can reinvent themselves from shy to fly (yes, I did just use dated slang from the ‘90s) the same holds true with traveling.

Plus, I don’t feel “rushed.” I don’t feel the need to have changed and improved myself by the next time I meet with someone. It’s been a more forgiving process.

5.) You should just do it.

No, not just travel. What I’m getting at (besides possibly incurring the wrath of Nike) is that I have found it is better to take action toward a goal. As mentioned above, my husband and I had been dreaming about this trip for 5 years.

Five years of thwarted longing is not only torturous to the soul, but also enough time to build up insecurity, doubt and fear as obstacles to this trip for another 5 years (10? 15? 20…you get my point). It is better to take charge and take action for what you want. Now.

And here’s the crucially important (at least for me) part: You don’t have to be without fear to do it.

I found a definition of courage that I really like: “the ability to do something that frightens one.”

Notice it does not say that you stop being frightened— but you can do it, nonetheless. I freaked out (read: ran around a room screaming while wind-milling my arms — many times) before we even began this trip. But not even two weeks into our trip, I realized it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made — aside from choosing Bjorn as my husband, of course (Awwww! Hugs, kisses, sweetness, gags. :D)

Now when I get tingles of anxiety about doing something, it’s usually a sure sign that I should do it. Even if mistakes are made. Actually, that should just read: Mistakes will be made. The journey toward the life you want is not a straight line but a series of readjustments.

In a way, that makes change comforting, instead of frightening to me. Even if the actions you take don’t lead exactly where you want, you can always stop and correct course (unless those previous actions lead to death. Please plan your actions carefully and wisely and avoid most things that are illegal, immoral and fattening.)

Who can know what the future will hold? But as for me, I’m looking forward to what I’ll learn in the next five months.

What exciting places you been to? And what have you learned from your travel experiences?

You can read Jammie’s entertaining and informative travel blog here: Go Karlmans.

5 Challenges When Returning to the Homeland [Portland –> Philippines]

5 Challenges When Returning to the Homeland [Portland –> Philippines]


Janet Brent - sooooo Pinoy!!

I’m a first generation Filipino immigrant to the United States and I’ve got a legit American passport to prove it.

In our first-time plane journey, Mom and I flew to the U.S. from the Philippines to begin our new lives. It all started from one of those pen-pal services that my mom joined pre-online dating sites. Sounds like a ‘Mail Order Brides’ kind of operation to me but who am I to judge?

Mom did what she had to do. All she selflessly wanted was a better life for me.

I spent my whole life growing up in the States; from pre-school through college.

I even worked my first two “professional jobs” in the U.S. We’d visit the Philippines every couple years if money allowed it and when I had those long summer vacations. My last visit was at the age of twenty with Mom. By that time, I was already telling my Tita (aunt) that I wanted to visit on my own next time and really travel the Philippines.

I forgot about this prophetic comment until my next visit six years later. I was twenty-five going on twenty-six.

Newly emerged from a self-proclaimed “quarterlife crisis” in which I had let go of a 5 year long relationship complete with house, mortgage and a dog.  That was slowly killing that fire within, that frees-spirit, that wanderlust that I always had. I knew I had to make big changes and so I walked away.

I uprooted my entire life just to reverse all the opportunities I’d known to embrace my Filipino culture and living with my own people.

I thought returning home would be ‘a spiritual coming home’ experience – a return to my roots. I was going back to the homeland. I’m still here now, but it ain’t all bed and roses. Sometimes, it’s wooden floors and coconuts. It’s a strange sort of culture clash, when you’ve all but lost your own culture.

5 Challenges of Returning Home

1. IDENTITY or “Being Told I’m not Pinoy.”

The term ‘Pinoy’ is used to describe a person from the Philippines; a Filipino.

Pinoy can also refer to the native culture of the Philippines. e.g. “Woke up to bad karaoke blasting from the neighbors singing Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’. That’s so Pinoy!”   

I have had many times, especially during when I first landed, where people have told me to my face that I am ‘not Pinoy’.

Who am I if I’m not even Filipino?

Are Filipino-Americans, particularly the Filipino-Americans who don’t know their own language fluently (guilty), such aliens?

Am I a freak?

Do I not belong in my country of birth?

Who am I if I’m not Pinoy?

The comments stung as I grasped for a sense of my own ever-changing identity.

Who am I if I’m not Pinoy and these aren’t my people? Identity is a real bitch. Each devaluation, regardless of the cultural context (OK, so I know I’m not as “Pinoy” as I am “American”), is a kick in the gut. It hurts.

2. ICE COLD SHOWERS or “Going Native.”

Joel Runyon, who runs the popular Impossible HQ, thought it would be weird and crazy to take cold showers for a month just because he can.

I mean, who does that!?


And probably a big chunk of the world population not in the top 8% we call America. Cold showers are a reality for developing countries and “going native”.

Filling buckets of cold water and using little “dippers” to dump water over my head is a reality for most, especially in the province (Bonus points if you can do this outside with your clothes on. DOUBLE bonus if you can do this outside in your birthday suit. Context is everything. And if you’re wondering, heck yeah, I’ve done both.).

Despite the humid, hot environment, cold showers still take some getting used to.

My technique?

Grabbing my boobs with both hands to cover them while simultaneously jumping up and down with flip-flops (it’s weird to shower barefoot) under the shower. Once I get used to the temperature I let go of my boobs and hang loose, baby! So who’s the crazy one now?

3. CULTURE SHOCK or ‘You’re so yuppy!’

Culture shock is a broad category that can cover a myriad of situations and examples.

But the opposite of ‘Pinoy’ and not being culturally “native” is being ‘sosyal’ (think “social” with an accent). This term refers to the higher-class, often “yuppy” groups of Westernized socialites and urbanites out of touch with their native culture. These social elites live in high rises and not the bahay kubo (“high rise” house on stilts made out of bamboo that the provincial poor dwell in).

I am the LEAST poshy least social person ever and I live in the slums but I still get labeled ‘yuppy’ because it also refers to the mindset, if not the lifestyle, of a Westernized person. 

(By the way, things like using utensils to eat instead of a fork and spoon gets you marked a sosyal!?!)

4. GIMME A KISS AND YO’ US DOLLARS or “Family Obligation.”

Money is a real bitch here, and family members are expected to help out collectively, for the greater good of the family. That’s all fine and dandy but it also means you can get taken advantage of as the “rich” Westerner. This was completely new to me having gone back for the first time by myself.

This is a huge culture shock for someone trying to travel and live on a budget!

Add to this the passive-aggressive communication style. How my aunts would call my mom on the phone to talk about how I wasn’t paying and my mom would call me to tell me I needed to pay. Big turn off.

To this day, I still hesitate visiting knowing that I’m expected to shell out money, and being guilt tripped if I don’t.

Now that’s so Pinoy!

At my current rate, trying to build my web/blog design business (www.byjanet.net), I’m just trying to survive like the rest of the ‘Pinoys’, with very little money to spare.

5. SLUMS or “I’m a Survivor.”

My life is so much different than it was a few years ago. I am now living in the Manila slums when I found my money run dry and was faced with living in the cheapest rent of the city that I could find.

This is like a season of “Survivor” but I guarantee you there’s no million dollar grand prize if I survive.

Not surviving means not making rent or having dinner!

My ‘coming home’ path wasn’t the path I had imagined but I’m certain it is the path that will ultimately make me succeed as a person.

Coming home does have it’s plusses – I am with my people (like it or not) I speak Tagalog daily (so Pinoy!).

I eat with my hands (more often at least) I’ve learnt persistence, survival skills and become more of a local than when I first landed here.

You know what? It feels good to be home.

Did you enjoy Janet’s story? Have you had to ‘go home’? Was your return home anything like Janet’s experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below

Janet Brent is a straight-up Pinoy, still living in the Phillipines and chasing her entrepreneurial dreams. She works with creative and holistic writers and authors to build web platforms, design ebooks and assists with product launches over at the Purple Panda. She’s also living on $2 U.S. dollars a day this month.