Minimal Networking

I did a 1 day meditation retreat at a monastery in Chiang Mai on Friday. It was really wonderful to learn a few new meditation techniques (Dynamic meditation and Walking meditation). Normally, being in a group of about 50 people with a common interest would be my time to shine. During lunch I would usually ask a group of strangers to eat together, make meaningful connections, and collect their contact information for my shiny digital database. But this time, I found myself staying solo.

Minimal travel has meant minimal networking. I love making new ephemeral friends, sharing experiences, and appreciating the spontaneous connection. However, unless there is spectacular magic, I am trying to not connect digitally with every single human I encounter on this trip. It makes me grateful for the time I am sharing with them in this single moment.

Less Competition

My whole life has been a competition. I have been trying to beat everything and everyone that surrounds me. From my best friend to my mom, no human can be my equal. I must be smarter, better, faster, stronger. This is something I have always accepted and made part of my identity. I laugh when my best friend refuses to tell me how many steps she has taken in a day upon my request because she jokingly knows that I will make it a contest. I have always thrived in this world.

But recently, I have noticed this isn’t working for me. My fierce, competitive nature is not suiting me like it used to. It served as a way of protecting myself and become a stronger, less naive version of myself. And it served its purpose, but now it is time to pause.

I am deciding to play a new game. A game where if you win, I win. We are all winners together, rather than me vs. the world. I get a point when you get a point. In this game, I can stop being excited when “I’m right” and “You’re wrong.” I am going to embrace less competition, making space for more love and joy.

Staying Grounded

After my assault, I developed massive sharp pains in my right foot. I went to the doctor and they told me my right leg was shorter than my left leg, so they gave me a ¼ inch lift. But the pain got worse, especially when I was traveling through Southeast Asia and walking a ton. I tried not to limp, but the pain was incredibly frustrating. I felt like I couldn’t walk more than 10 minutes without major discomfort. Then I went to a physical therapist who told me to take out the lift, and do a specific stretch. That helped tremendously, but after walking long distances it would still flare up.

This year I solved the mystery of this sharp pain. While doing a combination of Alexander Technique and Reiki, I realized that I had started a ballroom dance class the month after I was assaulted. I was being touched by strangers 20 times an hour, 3 times a week. My body freaked out. I started tensing in my pelvis, which carried down to my leg, which then manifested the full pain in my foot.  Through doing Alexander Technique, I have learned how to release all the tension in my body, especially my legs and feet.

Now I know how to stay grounded without being triggered. Every step I take feels like a victory and a reminder of how far I’ve walked to be where I am today.  

Finally, I trusted my gut.

I’m sitting in the backyard patio of a beautiful hostel in Chiang Mai writing this. We left Luang Prabang 2 days early and impulsively booked a flight here. And we are so glad we did. Luang Prabang was a super tiny town, filled with French tourists. While writing that sentence, I expect myself to fall in love with a place like that. However, I didn’t. Despite getting to speak more French than I have in 2 months in 2 days, we felt out of place. I battled with this feeling. Feeling torn between whether I couldn’t slow down in this place and what was my gut feeling saying we needed to leave this place.

Finally, I trusted my gut. And we flew 12 hours later to one of my favorite cities in the world. Chiang Mai was my happy place in the months after being sexually assaulted. To my mouth it brought the best food I’ve ever tasted (Khao Soi). To my eyes, a beautiful sunset over a panorama of mountains every evening. To my body, salsa dancing 4 times a week. To my mind peace.

And I’m back 3 years later. With Ethan. Without shame seeping out of every single step I take. Without guilt wanting to burst out of my mouth like confetti. Without the flinching of my body from new touch like a mouse caught in a trap.

However, my body is confused. It’s back in this place of recovery, yet I am not recovering like I was then. It is taking some adjustments to stay present, but I make it a priority to do Alexander Technique and a Metta mantra as soon as possible to relax my body from the tension. I fill my body with love and kindness, I fill the room with love and kindness, and I fill this world with love and kindness. I am enough, I have enough.

The 4 Day Rule

So far and I’ve noticed myself applying lessons from my No Spend month here already. There are night markets filled with cheap, beautiful dresses, bags, and handmade goods everywhere. As I walk through the street, I find myself naturally gravitating towards these gorgeous prints. I want to impulsively purchase a $5 dress. But then I pause and think about if this is a dress I could see myself wearing 4 days a week. That is my new litmus test for purchasing an item. Would I want to wear this half the week? If yes, think about it and maybe come back tomorrow to get it. If no, great!

This trip has been an awesome way to experiment with a uniform. I have a day outfit, and a night outfit. I wear athletic shorts and a white tank top during the day and a black dress at night so the day outfit can dry after handwashing. It’s been amazing, I feel great in what I wear each day and I spend no time considering an alternative. I am very excited to downsize my wardrobe even further upon returning home.

Minimal Travel: Update 1

First Minimalist Travel update! We just had our first night in Luang Prabang, Laos after our stay in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This trip has been amazing and easy and hard in ways that feel so good. The 30 hours of travel to get here were shockingly smooth. Especially compared to my previous trip where I got stuck in China for 12 hours alone on Valentine’s day with no money or means to communicate. When we landed I felt awake and present. My body wasn’t in pain because I had been doing the Alexander Technique, including doing constructive rest  (aka lying down) on the floor next to the bathroom 30,000 feet in the air.

The days before leaving, I heard great reviews about Penang, a coastal city in Malaysia and upon arriving I wanted to see if we could squish in a short trip their from KL. I was obsessing over this idea rather than appreciating KL. Then I caught myself. I noticed that I was trying to have more. More travel, more adventure, more beaches, more beauty, more stories. And I stopped. I froze in time. And I stayed. I stayed present, stayed in KL, and we had a fantastic time.


We went to a local design studio and made amazing new friends from Malaysia and Scotland. We had dinner my friend Gwen who facilitated a Tribleless dinner. We shared an incredible conversation that left me thinking deeply about boundaries and self esteem in ways I have never used those words. She recommended this article by Mark Mason and explains “healthy boundaries means taking responsibility for your own actions and emotions, while not taking responsibility for the actions or emotions of others.” Having strong boundaries has always been something I’ve struggled with so after this conversation I felt very excited to start defining clear boundaries for maybe the first time in my life. Traveling is the perfect playground for this too for Ethan and I to experiment with what daily schedules work best (aka when I need alone time). She also recommended the book The 6 Pillars of Self Esteem, which weaves together psychological health, achievement, personal happiness, and positive relationships. I am so grateful for the people who we have met and the experience so far, and we are just a few days in!

Prepare for Takeoff

The feeling of getting ready for a big trip has always brought me major anxiety. I go into a frenzy of "what if's" and can't seem to stay in the moment. This morning, that feeling sunk in. I started to time travel back to the last time I went to Asia, when I was working for Hacker Paradise, just months after being sexually assaulted. That trip was an escape. I was running away from endless pain, fear, and depression. 

That trip is my delta, a way for me to benchmark how much my mind and body have evolved since then. But part of me is terrified that something will shift and I will morph back into that depression and miserable version of myself. I was talking to Ethan about this morning and he helped me stay present. To flesh out all my "what ifs" and let go of the past. I want to go through and think about all the things I've done to heal in the past 3 years since I embarked on a similar round the world journey. Here are a sampling of them (in attempted order of most healing)

  1. Started doing the Alexander Technique 
  2. Did Landmark
  3. Started a wonderful and supportive relationship with Ethan
  4. Published a blog post called Yes means Yes, No means Rape
  5. Read a ton of books about healing trauma, mental health and personal development
    1. Healing Sex
    2. Come as You Are
    3. Girls and Sex
    4. Furiously Happy
    5. The Body Keeps Score
    6. Let's Pretend This Never Happened
    7. Year of Yes
    8. 5 Second Rule
  6. Dancing 5 Rhythms
  7. Used Calm to meditate on a regular basis
  8. Did 3 sessions of reiki
  9. Used Habitica to gamify my life
  10. Built my own bathtub so I can have my favorite form of self care in my tiny apartment
  11. Donated clothes/belongings that remind me of a negative mindset
  12. Went to art therapy on a weekly basis (and now monthly basis)
  13. Moved to New York and started The Coding Space and GirlCode
  14. Told my parents about the assault
  15. Grew Lemonaid.io to over 600 women around the world
  16. Hosted Vulnerability Party's at my apartment with strangers
  17. Joined a sexual assault support group
  18. Messaged the man who assaulted me to explain it was rape

These just a fraction of the things I have done over the period of time since it happened. But it is helpful to see them in reality and remember that I am a completely different person than I was 3 years ago. This trip is going to be an opportunity to practice all that I have learned about mindfulness and minimalism. To feel that I have freedom to express myself creatively and not live in the past. To be present and prepare for takeoff.

    February- Minimal Travel

    Here is a look inside my backpack to see everything that I'll be carrying for the next 3 weeks.

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    I also have an Eagle Creak fanny pack which I will be wearing instead of a purse. Switching to a fanny pack is the best decision ever. I never thought I would fall out of love with purses, considering I used to design them, but alas here I am. I find myself prioritizing bags that allow my body to be in equilibrium rather than slanting toward one direction. 

    Packing for this trip was the easiest packing experience of my life. Growing up, I would dread packing. I never knew what to pack and would beg my mom to help me play tetris with my suitcase. There were usually many a meltdowns. Bottom line: it was not pretty. This time, I just grabbed a few of my favorite and lightest things. The things I wear the most in my wardrobe and that are so simple I can't get tired of them. There is extra room for a few treasures along the way. However, my mindset regarding these souveniers has shifted along with my packing style.

    I have a treasure list. I have been to Asia before so I know myself and my love of necklaces, accessories, little trinkets. Carrying over some of my wisdom from my No Spend month, I am the hunt for 2 items for my wardrobe: 

    1. Harem Pants
    2. A dress

    That's it. No souvenirs or gifts. I may mail friends or family postcards or take a beautiful photo that could be framed. For this trip, my gifts will be in memory. 

    Minimal Year Outline

    So far this is what my year is going to look like:

    1. January - No spending
    2. February- Minimal travel
    3. March- Zero waste 
    4. April- Minimal internet
    5. May- No subways/driving
    6. June- Minimalist cooking  
    7. July- Minimal indoor time 

    These are not finalized other than the first 3 months, so feel free to suggest any ideas for the remaining months (or edits). If you have an idea for a Minimal Month challenge, let me know! It's highly likely I'll make it happen :)

    My goal in doing this is to be intentional about each day. To be mindful and connected to nature and my surroundings as much as possible. When I was a little girl I used to love playing outside with worms after it rained. I felt at home in nature. Now I live in New York City, and I have grown to love it here. But I often feel disconnected from nature. Through each of these challenges, I am not only decreasing my environmental impact tremendously, but I am feeling more connected to natural parts of the world. Less plastic, less toxins, less screen time. More time, more nature, more love, more freedom.

    P.S. If you would like to join me in any of these month long challenges, I would love to have a buddy! Just shoot me an email at minimalistyear@gmail.com 

    Minimal Writing

    I have 2 promises to you when starting this blog.

    1. Photos will be minimal too. If I post a photo here, it will be the first take- no editing, no retakes. The year before starting this, I stopped using social media almost entirely. I loved not obsessing over taking the perfect photo. I felt myself no longer being extrinsically validated by Facebook or Instagram likes, and really shifting towards what makes me joyful.
    2. There will be spelling errors. I am promising myself I will not edit these posts a million times before publishing. I am not a writer, I am a doer. My personal philosophy is done is better than perfect (or at least I'm going to start practicing that here as a recovering perfectionist).

    January- No Spend Month

    This is a scary thing to do. To start a blog and put my raw real thoughts loose on the interwebs. But it is the kind of scary that makes me feel like it is a good thing. As my hands grow clammy typing these words for any human to read, it is a letting go. A letting go of all these thoughts trapped in my noggin for months, ready to fly free.

    The reason I am writing this today, is because I have begun on a Minimalist Year. A full 12 months of challenges, each month new. They are not all set yet, but it is January 27th and I have almost completed my first month. My No Spend Month! And boy did I love it. I spent no money on anything other than consumables, experiences and learning. I looked at my bank account and I effectively cut my spending in half. All this space feels way too good. Space in my bank, my mind, my heart, my closet. I donated at least 20 trader joe sized bags of clothes, decorations, shoes, and more to Goodwill. I had friends over to take things that I don't need. I borrowed important items that I knew I would only need temporarily instead of purchasing them. 

    Shockingly, of all the things I found challenging, what I missed most was perusing Duane Reade. Duane Reade. What's funny is most of the things in Duane Reade technically fall into consumables so I probably could purchase them, but I no longer had the appeal to buy a new color of nail polish or some junk food that normally would tempt me. 

    Next month, I will be embarking on Minimalist Traveling. I am going to Southeast Asia with my boyfriend for about 3 weeks and I'm bringing only 1 small backpack and a tote. I have 2 shirts, 1 pair of leggings, 1 dress, 2 shoes, 1 computer, 2 bathing suits, 1 pair of swimming goggles, 1 sarong, 3 pairs of socks, 5 pairs of underwear, 2 sports bras, tooth powder, and a shampoo bar packed. I didn't even have to look inside my backpack to make that list, that's how small it is. I can already feel the lightness from this style. I know my No Spend habit will permeate into this month, and I am perfectly happy about that. 

    Upon returning, I will be doing a Zero Waste month in March. I am extremely excited about this. I find myself spending free time reading about tips, watching videos on how to meal prep with zero waste, and reading recipes for making my own shampoo. It brings together my craftiness with my desire to make a positive impact on the world.

    This year has been a challenge already, but more than a challenge it has been a gift. I feel more free and alive and present than I ever have. I am grateful for every object in my apartment. Every person in my life. Every breath I take. I can't wait to share the year with you.