Sink or swim and avoid getting eaten by sharks!

I am a firm believer in doing what makes you happy, but sometimes it’s much easier said than done. What we do for a living is a huge contributor to our level of happiness considering most of our time is spent working. Believe it or not, I began working at 11 years old. Yes 11, and I have been working my butt off ever since.

Shortly after graduating college, I was filling out a profile on one of those job websites. I was eager to start my career, but I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to do. When I came to a question regarding my willingness to travel, my answer was Yes! Absolutely! 100% of the time! After completing the profile, I began searching for available jobs. I remember only applying to jobs that had a lot of travel, even though I was nowhere near qualified. Then I moved onto the airline websites. After all, my back up plan was becoming an airline attendant and traveling the world. My heart was absolutely crushed when I learned I didn’t meet the height requirement. Somehow, I even ended up on the US Air Force website, and I honestly considered joining, but that’s a whole other story.

Looking back, even though I thought I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, it’s quite clear to me now that I knew I always wanted to do something with travel.  Meanwhile, it took me basically my entire life to realize that. Why couldn’t I see this then? Sometimes we are so focused on trying to figure things out that we are completely blind to what is literally right there in front of us. Sometimes, you’ll never see it unless something forces you to look at things a bit differently. For me, it was like the universe picked me up and threw me into the middle of the ocean and said sink or swim and avoid getting eaten by sharks! I’m grateful for the universe forcing me to find my path. That said, I think if I would have spent more time back then being true to myself and figuring out what I really wanted out of life, then maybe I would have found my path much sooner. If I could go back to that day I spent applying for jobs, I would have asked myself one and only one question:

WILL THIS MAKE ME HAPPY?

Life isn’t easy kid...

When I was younger, I would often wonder if it hurt more to lose a parent you never knew or a parent you knew your entire life. Yeah, I know it’s a bit dark, but the loss of my father at 5 kinda made me dark in my teenage years. To be honest, I never actually thought I would get the answer to that question until I was at least 65. I mean in my mind, my mother was going to live forever. Unfortunately, I was completely wrong, and when I was 24 years old my entire world came crashing down.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was driving home from a reunion weekend with college friends. My sister called to tell me it was time, and I needed to say my goodbyes. I pulled the car over as I gathered the strength to say my final goodbye to my mother who was everything to me, including my best friend and my rock. That was by far the most difficult thing I ever had to do. I remember clipping the phone shut and throwing it. I screamed and banged on the steering wheel like a two-year-old having a tantrum as the tears poured from my eyes. I cried myself into a choking fit, and I literally couldn’t breathe. I got out of my car and paced on the side of the highway gasping for air as I screamed and cursed at God. Then I kicked my tired which really hurt my knee so I screamed and cursed some more. Eventually, I calmed down and drove the rest of my way home.

When I arrived at my apartment, there were 2 peacocks (one male and one female) waiting for me. I have absolutely no idea where they came from, but they were absolutely beautiful. I didn’t realize it right away, but they were without a doubt a sign from my mom letting me know that she was in heaven reunited with my father. It was the most comforting thing she could have done for me, and I am forever grateful.

Losing my mom was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. The pain and heartbreak I felt was so unbearable, and it left me completely devastated and hardly functioning. To say I was depressed is certainly an understatement. I was more or less numb to everything, and a huge part of me was missing. I had never felt so lost and helpless in all of my life.

Eventually I came to the realization that I needed to find a way to be happy again, and I began searching for the old me. This mission to find myself lasted many years, and to be honest I’m still searching. I know I’m not 100% back to the old me and maybe I’ll never be. That’s ok because I have never been happier. I have endured more than enough pain and I have evolved. I have made choices that have affected my life in both good and bad ways. I have celebrated the good, and I have learned from the bad. I have made a lot of mistakes, and I will continue to make a lot more I’m sure. I have fallen on my face, probably more literally than figuratively, but I always get right back up and laugh it off. I have taken chances, and I’m always ready to risk it all for something I believe in. I am fearless and I go after what I want. I chose to live and truly be in the moment. I believe in love, which is probably the scariest thing in my opinion. I wear my heart on my sleeve and it often gets crushed, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because at the very least I know I’m being true to myself.

Do I have it all together? Absolutely not! Far from it! When my mom was alive and I would talk to her about whatever I was going through, she would always say, “Life isn’t easy kid.” I try to remember that especially when I’m having a moment. So, if you are ever at your lowest low or going through a difficult time or simply having a moment, then just do what I do and say my little mantra using your name of course… I’m Kelly fucking Bates! I got this!

Who are you? Feel free to share your “I got this” moments in the comments below.

I was robbed!!!

Thankfully, not at point-blank or knife point, but it still left me feeling violated, and I didn’t even see it coming! I seriously had no reason to be on high alert. It was broad daylight, and I was in my own neighborhood. I walked into a bank ATM location, and there were other people there so it wasn’t like I was alone. I walked passed a guy who was talking loudly on the phone. I overheard him say that he tried making a withdrawal, but his money didn’t come out. After I put in my pin number, he told me the ATM was broken. Without even thinking about it, I quickly pressed cancel, grabbed my card, and thanked him as I walked over to a different ATM. He continued his conversation, and left before I had even finished my transaction. To be completely honest, I really didn’t think anything of it until I noticed $300 missing from my account. WTF?

I filed a claim, and it turns out the camera footage showed that guy walking right up to the ATM immediately after I walked away. Somehow, he managed to take money right from my account, and I didn’t even know he stole it. My mind was completely blown!

How could I have possibly fallen for such a scam? Looking back, there were at least 2 major red flags:

  • Random person lingering & pretending to be on the phone

  • He waited until after I entered my pin number to tell me that the ATM was broken

At first, I was so disappointed in myself. Usually, I spot these sorts of things a mile away. There was one thing that he did a little differently than most scammers. He made me think he was helping me out by telling me the ATM was broken. So instead of questioning his actions, I thanked him. I believed this guy so much that when I filed the claim I actually told the bank that there must have been some sort of glitch in the system because another customer had an issue withdrawing money right before me. This made me realize that these scammers are getting better and better with each passing day. So, I decided to share a few simple tips to help keep your money safe, especially while traveling. I know I know, tips from the girl who just got robbed????

  • Keep all of your valuables and your passport (unless you need it for some reason) inside the safe at the hotel.

  • Do not carry a lot of cash on you, and be discreet when paying for things with cash.

  • If you choose to carry a bag, then opt for one you can carry in your hand. If you choose a crossbody bag, then be sure to keep it in front of your body at all times.

  • When traveling in places known for pick pocketing, do not hang your bag on the chair or place it under your seat or on the table. Keep it on your lap.

  • Avoid wearing jewelry. Even fake jewelry can look real to the uneducated eye, and it can make you a target.

  • If you are alone, it’s better to stay near crowds especially when waiting for a train or a bus.

  • Avoid walking in unfamiliar areas by yourself especially at night, and avoid dimly lit unpopulated areas altogether.

  • Always be aware of your surroundings. If you hear someone walking behind you, turn and look at them confidently as you keep walking. If you feel uncomfortable, then cross the street. If the person follows, then it’s time to run, scream, and make a lot of noise. If you know you will be in an unsafe area, then maybe carry a whistle or a little horn, and have it in your hand ready to use. If you know you are going to be in a dangerous place, then carry mace with you.

  • If someone tries to stop you to ask for the time, directions, or whatever… keep walking. If you feel the need to answer, then you can tell them from a distance as you keep it moving.

  • Do not listen to your music on headphones while you are walking. If you must listen to music, then use normal headphones and keep the volume low. Avoid using noise cancelling headphones.

  • Do not talk on the phone while you are walking. The more distracted you are the more of a target you become.

  • Book all ground transportation in advance either with a company you trust or through the hotel concierge.

  • Try to avoid using ATMs that are not inside an actual bank with tellers. If you need to take cash out after business hours, then try going to a grocery store and doing the cash back option.

We already know how the ATM situation can turn out. Ugh, I still can’t believe I fell for it.

Do you have any other tips? Please feel free to share in the comments.

When things get a little freaky...

I filled my diffuser with some water, thew in a few eucalyptus drops, and I turned it on. All of a sudden, I heard random voices coming from the diffuser. WTF? I tried to pick it up to make out what the voices were saying, but as soon as I touched it they stopped. That freaked me out even more, and I dropped the diffuser spilling the water everywhere. I immediately turned it off and thought to myself, “I am losing my mind!”

The next morning, the diffuser wasn’t even on, and some guy started yelling through it like a sports announcer saying something about a guy in the crowd. I unplugged it, and basically ran out of my apartment. I was telling a few co-workers about it and one said, “Bates, you should really lay off the shrooms.” At that moment, I was fully aware of how ridiculous I sounded, and I kinda wished I did drugs so I could have a logical explanation.

Regardless, the whole thing got me thinking and here is what I took away from this little experience…

  • Expect the unexpected.

  • When things don’t go as planned, accept it and move on.

  • Perception is everything and you are responsible for how others perceive you.

  • Always know your audience and present yourself accordingly.

  • There will always be judgement.

  • When people judge, laugh it off. You know who you are.

  • There might not be a reasonable or logical explanation for everything that happens.

  • Don’t waste your time trying to figure out why things happen, just know you’ll be ok.

  • Sometimes things can get a little freaky, and that’s totally fine.

  • Understand most people don’t have an open mind.

Yup, I got all of this from a couple of random voices and some spilled eucalyptus water. My brain is bananas!

BTW, turns out that there was kind of sort of an explanation. There is a blue tooth option on the diffuser. That said, I never set it up and it’s definitely not registered to my phone. Regardless, the most important thing I’m taking away from this is I have to go find this guy in the crowd. Obviously, he’s very important! haha ;)

A Father's Love...

What happens to you during your childhood will without a doubt have an effect on who you become as an adult. When I was 5 years old, my simple joyous love-filled life was completely shattered. My father passed away from a rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma leaving my family absolutely devastated. I honestly couldn’t tell you much about that period of time in my life, which I may have blocked it out. I have zero memory of my father from when he was alive. I couldn’t tell you if I was ever at the hospital during his 2-year long battle with cancer. I couldn’t tell you if I was there when he passed away, or if I even had a chance to hug him and say goodbye. The only clear memory I have of my father is touching his ice cold face while he laid lifelessly in his casket, and that vision has haunted me for most of my life. 

I had to become an adult overnight and I basically raised myself, which is a responsibility no child should ever be given especially at such a young age. I hardly understood what was happening or how to process what I was feeling, yet I was fully aware that my life would never again be the same. Somehow, I knew I needed to be strong, but no one taught me how to actually be strong. So I put a smile on my face and pretended I was fine and everything was ok. This became my shield of strength, which protected me and helped me get through all of the difficult times throughout my life. Unfortunately, it took me 34 years to realize that shield of strength wasn’t actually protecting me. In fact, all it was doing was allowing me to run and hide.

I began thinking about the relationship you have with your father, and how it has an effect on who you are especially when it comes to romantic relationships. According to everyone who knew my father, he was one of the greatest men to have ever lived, which absolutely kills me since I never even had the chance to get to know him. I was truly deprived of a love so ultimately pure. My father figure was an empty void in my heart, and I didn’t have a father’s love making me feel beautiful, confident, and protected. I didn’t have that male role model to look up to and show me the way. In fact, the reality of my relationship with my father consisted of me going to the cemetery, and crying uncontrollably as I approached his grave. I’d say whatever was on my mind, and I would ask him to help me find my way. I’d tell him how much I loved and missed him, and I would walk away feeling that void grow even deeper. That void is the only father’s love I have ever known.

I know my parents had that true love that everyone only dreams of finding, but unfortunately, I never actually witnessed it. I was never around a happy, loving, healthy relationship. My father was gone and my mother was left brokenhearted, and I don’t think she ever really recovered. I started to think that this may be how my whole self-sabotage issue came into play. I began to wonder if I would unintentionally but purposefully ruined relationships simply because I wanted to feel loved, yet the only real love I had ever known was a void in my heart. That thought may not make sense to a lot of people, but it is completely eye opening for me. The truth of the matter is, the love from my parents that I was deprived of as a child was truly the only love I actually ever known and trusted.

So, what does this mean for me and my personal life? Well to be honest, I have absolutely no clue. I am figuring out my issues and I am making the necessary changes, which I believe will be an on-going process. Truthfully, no one has it all figured out and even when you think you do, something will happen that will prove you wrong. I am fully aware that I am nowhere near perfect, but I can strive to be the best version of myself on a daily basis, and that’s my goal. As for a relationship, I know that I do not want to be single forever. That said, I will not settle for anything less than being in a mutually loving, respectful, and happy relationship.

SELF-SABOTAGE…

Over the years, I have been asked time and time again, “How are you still single?” Usually I respond with something along the lines of not wanting to settle. A few years ago, I was out for a dinner with a few couples, and of course the conversation turned into my dating life. One of the husbands blurted out, “Well then, there must be something wrong with you!” I was quickly offended. In my mind, it wasn’t me. I wasn’t the reason I was still single. Then a few weeks ago, a guy I was dating asked, “Do you have baggage?” I quickly replied, “Baggage? Me? No! I’ve never been married, and I don’t have kids.” He said, “I meant emotional baggage.”

For some reason, that really struck a nerve inside me. Maybe it was because he was smart enough to know that there was an underlying reason for the way I was acting. Maybe it was because his question felt more like him telling me I have emotional baggage. Maybe it was because I knew I had already ruined things with him. Regardless, I went home and began questioning everything I had ever been through in life, which is A LOT unfortunately. I reflected on the impact each event had on me, how I dealt with my feelings, and what I had learned. I dove down so far into this emotional abyss that I truly didn’t even know existed inside of me. I realized that I never once processed any of my feelings, and in turn I didn’t learn anything from these events, or the impact they had on me. Instead, I pushed my emotions so deep down to the point of almost no existence basically making me emotionless. In an attempt to be strong, I pretended that I was ok, and ignored the fact that I wasn’t ok at all. I put a smile on my face, and I buried all of these raw emotions, or so I thought. The truth is, these emotions were overflowing at the surface, and they would completely consume me once there was a trigger.

As I reflected on dating and relationships, I came to the realization that I am guilty of self-sabotage when it comes to matters of the heart, and there is a very clear pattern.

-       We would meet, hit it off, and decide to continue dating.

-       I would think he is someone special simply because I actually liked him. (It’s not often that I like a guy enough to date.)

-       I would put him on the highest pedestal in my mind, which meant I immediately set him up to fail.

-       The moment he did or said something wrong… I would shut down, put up a wall, and go into defense mode.

-       I would call him out on whatever it was that he said or did, which would take him completely off guard and immediately turned the vibe negative.

-       I would walk away telling myself he’s a jerk, and I deserve better.

-       I would put a smile on my face, and I pretended I wasn’t upset.

-       I would throw myself back into the dating pool.

-       Eventually, I would meet another man I actually liked, and then the self-sabotage would begin all over again.

It was a vicious cycle I was unintentionally creating, and I have completely self-sabotaged the possibility of having a meaningful relationship with every man I truly liked. Truthfully, these men never actually stood a chance.

Now that I am aware of what I was doing, I can honestly say I am already a changed woman. I now understand why certain things men have said or did triggered my reactions. I have processed my raw emotions, and I have let go of the reasons for these triggers. I am continuously doing the work to ensure that I will not self-sabotage any potential relationships going forward. I will allow myself to think things through, and I will be more mindful of my reactions.

I’m not going to lie, this was a very difficult journey within, and to say I was an emotional mess is a serious understatement. I am a true believer in there being a reason for everything, and sometimes you just have to do the work to figure it out. In this case, I am the reason, and changes within myself needed to be made.

 Be the reason… what does that mean to you?

Buying time...

I began talking with my doctor about freezing my eggs when I was in my late 20s. Year after year, she told me I had more than enough time and I needed to stop worrying. I listened to her even though I felt that biological clock ticking like a freaking time bomb. I did not enjoy the pressure of feeling rushed to jump into a relationship simply because I was getting older. I felt like I was running out of time, and I began making excuses for all of the red flags I saw in the men I dated. In some cases I was even lowering my standards, and I put up with non-sense I wouldn’t have otherwise tolerated. The thought of freezing my eggs continuously popped into my mind, but I would always manage to talk myself out of it. Then one night I was having drinks with a dear friend, and she told me she had started early menopause. My heart broke for her as tears fell from my eyes. In that very moment, my decision was made. I knew I never wanted to be told that I didn’t have the option of having children.

That week I went to RMA for a consultation, but it didn’t go as smoothly as I had anticipated. My doctor found 6 massive fibroid tumors that had completely taken over my entire reproductive system. I needed to have surgery to remove them before I could even move forward with freezing my eggs. Had I not gone in for the consultation, then I never would have found the tumors, and I would have had to have a full hysterectomy. God certainly does work in mysterious ways, that’s for sure!

When it was time to move forward, I learned that my health insurance did not cover one penny towards egg freezing. (Which is absolutely ridiculous!) Therefore, I had researched all of my options and decided to go through a 3rd party called WINFertility. I highly recommend them as they made everything so incredibly easy, and they even saved me $6K! :) Before starting the process, I had a video call with a nurse provided by WinFertility, and she walked me step by step through everything. She answered all of my questions, and gave me a lot of useful tips. I’m not going to lie, it was VERY overwhelming, but she certainly put my nerves at ease.

Freezing your eggs is a personal journey which every woman handles very differently. There may be some emotional, uncomfortable, or even painful moments. There may be some positive, serene, or even powerful moments. There may be a mixture of all of those moments plus more along with a little bit of crazy. After all, you are injecting yourself with a massive amount of hormones twice a day for 2 weeks straight. That in itself is crazy! Personally, I felt a sense of empowerment. I was less stressed and more at peace, simply because I was taking control over something that would otherwise control me. The most difficult part of my journey was actually getting passed the initial injection. I nearly had a panic attack leading up to it. Once I gave myself the injection (which was quick and painless) I realized I was just being a baby, and literally laughed out loud at myself. It was truly nothing to fear! 

I am very lucky and happy to say I have 16 eggs frozen. The weight of the world was instantly lifted off my shoulders, and I feel like I can breathe easily again. I no longer feel the pressure of jumping into a relationship for the wrong reasons. Also, I am really glad that I listened to my doctor and waited. The advancements in technology, and the changes to the retrieval/freezing process has only increased the survival rates resulting in a much greater chance of actually having children when it’s time to move passed the freezing stage.

If you are toying with the idea of freezing your eggs and would like to talk with someone who has already been through it, then please feel free to reach out. I will try my best to answer any questions you may have. Obviously I’m not a doctor, but I can certainly share more about my experience, and hopefully shed some light on the entire process.  

Secrets to Success...

What are the secrets to success? There aren’t any! Success is not something handed to you on a silver platter, nor does it happen overnight. Success is earned! It’s that simple!

Here are a few things that have helped me and continue to help me on this journey…

FAILING and FAILURE are not the same thing. In the beginning, everything is trial and error, and you will continuously fail. Simply use that as motivation to figure out a better way, and never give up! Failure is not an option!

Be willing to surrender to yourself completely. You need to be willing to motivate and discipline yourself, while putting everything else in your life on hold as you focus all of your energy on succeeding. Only make time for people, and things that truly matter in your life.

Hustle hard! The work never ends and you need to manage your time properly to ensure you are focusing on what matters most at that moment in time.

Love yourself unconditionally. You will be spending a lot of time with yourself. Be happy, stay positive, and build yourself up. Never knock yourself down. Zero tolerance for any negativity.

Live it, don’t just dream it! Totally immerse yourself. Visualize what you are building to the point where you actually see everything you are setting out to accomplish. Then make it happen!

Keep it real! Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, especially financially. The biggest mistake you can make is taking a risk that doesn’t pay off. Then instead of having the money to invest in yourself to get to the next level, you are stuck paying off that mistake, which can take a lot of valuable time.

Perception is everything! Don’t say yes to everyone who reaches out to collaborate. Make sure they are a good fit and you will not be negatively affected by their brand and messaging. Be your true authentic self at all times.

Be patient and trust that it’s all slowly coming together. When you question whether or not it will happen, take a little walk down memory lane and look at everything you have already accomplished. Then stop questioning yourself, and get back to doing what you do best… grind!

Appreciate the game changing moments! You will know these moments because they will bring uncontrollable tears of joy. Celebrate those moments when they become accomplishments, and not a moment before. You don’t want to jinx it.

You know nothing! Do not think for one second that you know it all. You don’t! Listen, observe, and learn. Take what you need, and throw away what you don’t.

Believe in yourself! No one else will believe in you until you actually succeed. Prove them wrong!

I recently read a quote that said, “At first they will ask you why you’re doing it. Later they will ask you how you did it.” When I first began talking about TRAVEL SOULY, I was surprised by the reactions of the people who mattered most to me. They did not believe in me at all. I could see the doubt in their eyes as they grilled me with question after question. I could hear their voice filled with a “she will never succeed” tone. You know the one, the high pitched “okaaaay” followed by the eye roll that completely shuts down the conversation. It’s funny to see how the tone of those conversations have shifted. I no longer see the doubt in their eyes. I have even received a few “I’m proud of you” comments, and that in itself makes the blood, sweat, and tears completely worth it!

My first ever solo trip...

It was 2011, and I had just gone through one hell of a tumultuous year. Rewind to a year prior… I was living in Los Angeles with my boyfriend of a year and a half. Shortly after we moved in together, I realized there was no way I could spend the rest of my life with him. Even though I truly loved him, I knew I had to leave him, and I was completely heartbroken. Obviously, there’s much more to that story, but this isn’t about him. Against my better judgement, I decided it was a perfect time to break up with LA as well. I put in my two weeks at work, and bought a one-way ticket back home to New York. I arrived two weeks and a day later with the remains of my LA life… 2 suitcases and 17 boxes. I don’t know if that was good or bad, but it made me feel very sad. I mean, I was 31 and that was all I had  to show for myself. Truthfully, it was all junk. This wasn’t like just starting a new chapter. It was like closing the book, tossing it in the trash and setting it on fire. I was devastated and completely lost.

The months that followed were extremely difficult. I didn't have a job, and I hardly had any cash to my name. Instead, I had a couple of credit cards that weren’t yet maxed out, and approximately $15K of debt weighing on my shoulders. I was living in my best friend’s basement on a blow-up air mattress. (Still BEYOND grateful for you, Michelle! Love you!) I began interviewing like a crazy woman, and finally landed a job after 3 exhausting months. A month later, I moved to the Upper East Side. I finally had my own place again and it was a large one bedroom apartment on the 5th floor of a walk-up. As the months lingered on, everything seemed to be falling into place. I had a great job with people I truly enjoyed being around. I had paid off almost all of my debt. I could pay my rent without being stressed, and I still had money left over. For the first time in my adult life, I could afford to actually live.  Was I happy? Not at all!

I continued to deal with the roller coaster of emotions generated by the feelings I still had for the x, and I constantly wondered if I had made the right decision. At one point, I was convinced that I had made a mistake, and I would cry myself to sleep every night. (I don’t know if I ever told anyone that, btw.) I felt like a big part of me was missing. Basically, I was just going through the mundane motions of life. I went to work, went to the gym, went home, cooked dinner, woke up and did it all over again. Don’t get me wrong, I went out with my friends, and I even tried to put myself out there. I went on a dates here and there, but I wasn’t really ready to let anyone in. Plus, to be honest, the men I was meeting were subpar. I was in an emotional rut, and I didn’t really know how to get myself out of it, but I knew I needed to try. I have always been a firm believer that only you can make yourself truly happy. You can’t rely on anyone else to make you happy, and anyone who comes into your life can only add to the happiness you create. If you aren’t happy, then no one else can make you happy. It’s as simple as that, and I needed to figure out how to make myself happy again.

I was desperately in need of a vacation. I wanted to go explore another country, but somewhere I had never been before. The options were endless considering at that point, I had only been to Mexico and Fiji. I began researching destinations, and then I had a moment of realization… all my friends are married with kids. They can’t just join me on a vacation for a week or two. For the first time in my life, I felt this whole other level of being alone. I mean, I was finally ok with being the last one standing, but this was making me freak out a little. I thought to myself, what if I end up single for the rest of my life? Does that mean that I can’t travel because I’m alone? Then of course that pesky little question popped into my head once again… “Did I make a mistake leaving him?” In that very moment, I said F this, and booked my first ever solo trip. Costa Rica, here I come!!!

Why Costa Rica? I have absolutely no clue! As I mentioned, I was beginning to research destinations, and Samasati Nature Reserve happened to be on my computer screen. It was a now or never moment, and I without hesitation I just clicked reserve. Complete insanity, I know! Shortly after, I headed over to the good old travel doctor to see if I needed any vaccines. She pointed out that this area of Costa Rica is much more rural, and off the beaten path. Not a tourist spot at all. Fabulous! I had to get vaccines for all the Heps and Typhoid. I was also given Malaria pills, and those bad boys come with the warning that there could be some serious side effects like severe uncontrollable diarrhea and vomiting, or having crazy scary hallucinogenic nightmares. Sweet! That’s exactly the kind of night I was looking forward to having while staying by myself in a cabin in the middle of a rainforest.

As the trip approached, I began to feel afraid. That’s a feeling I don’t get very often, and it’s quite overwhelming. I started questioning myself and wondering if traveling to this faraway land all by myself was a wise decision. I began to feel anxious and nervous, yet I was also very excited. Honestly, if it weren’t for the excitement, I probably would have cancelled. I’m so glad I didn’t, because this was the trip that ultimately changed my life forever.  

Finally, I arrived! I took a deep breath and said to myself, “I’m back!” Just like that, I was happy again. I mean, I still had some serious soul searching to do, but for first time in a long time I felt like me again. I had really missed that girl, and I was truly happy to be reacquainted. It’s amazing what traveling can do for you especially if you’re in need of some healing. Up until that point in my life, I had never felt so free. It was absolutely delightful!

On the first night in the rainforest, I laid in bed in complete darkness listening to the eerie silence, which was enough to freak this city girl. Then out of nowhere, I heard the most unbelievably loud roar, and I instantly catapulted myself through the mosquito net and across the room onto a chair. I’m not really sure why I jumped onto the chair. I mean it’s not like that sound came out of a mouse, but I stood there shaking in the dark. Then I thought, what if this thing has night vision and could see me? So, I immediately froze, and pretended to be a statue. About 10 minutes had passed, and I figured it was gone. I quietly stepped down from the chair and tiptoed over to the light switch. As soon as I turned it on, it roared again. I immediately shut off the light and jumped back up onto the chair, because that is what you do when you hear a beastly animal roar, right? After what felt like an hour had passed, and I didn’t hear the roar again, I figured the coast was clear. So, I tiptoed back to the bed and fought the mosquito net to let me back in. Then I laid there anxiously awaiting my battle with the beast. Eventually, I drifted off into a very deep sleep. As strange as it sounds, it was actually one of the best sleeps of my life. No malaria pill nightmares, and I woke up feeling completely refreshed. As I got out of bed, I noticed a book on the bedside table. I grabbed it and began flipping through and there it was, the beast… The Howler Monkey! I still can’t believe that noise came out of a little monkey! Absolutely bananas!

I spent the rest of the week enjoying the exotic sounds of the rainforest. I watched the most beautiful sun rise every morning from the comfort of my bed. I went on little adventures like waterfall trekking, and I actually swam under the waterfalls. So powerful! I tapped into my inner Tarzan and zip lined through the jungle. I even swung on a rope from one platform to another. That was exhilarating! I did sunrise and sunset yoga each day. Magically, it rained every evening during Shavasana, and that just added to the beauty of the moment. One evening, I was literally moved to tears. The soul searching was working, and I was certainly releasing some seriously built up emotional baggage. I felt like I was back to normal again, and I was genuinely happy. I no longer felt like a piece of me was missing. I was confident that I was exactly where I needed to be at that moment of my life. There was no more fear, no more anxiety, and no more nervousness.  Actually, there was one other moment…

I decided to go horseback riding on the beach. It was just me and the non-English speaking guide. I had never ridden a horse before, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. We began making our way to the beach, and my horse started acting up. I thought it was normal for the horse to jolt about, but the guide was yelling at the horse and trying to tell me to switch horses. It was all very confusing, and a bit nerve racking. Finally, the guide jumped off of his horse, and he stopped my horse. We switched horses, and his horse was much larger and very intimidating. I was absolutely petrified. We continued slowly down the street and then entered a forest. Immediately, I asked myself "Why are we going into a forest?" Moments later, the guide whipped out a machete, and I let out a silent scream. This was it…death by machete! I quickly said my last prayer, which was “Jesus!” Then the guide started swinging the machete at the low hanging branches, so they wouldn’t hit me in the head. Yup, I’m an A-hole! We finally arrived at the black sand beach, and we took a break before the ride. The guide used that same machete to chop a coconut down from a tree, and he sliced it open for me. We sat there for a good 20 minutes enjoying the coconut and some lovely conversation filled with a lot of hand gestures. Then he helped me back onto my enormous horse, and together we galloped down the beach. I actually rode a horse for real, and it was an absolutely amazing experience!

Right after that trip, I made a promise to myself that I would never stop traveling, and I would go on at least one solo trip a year. Happy to say, I have kept that promise!

Kelly Bates

 

From EA to Founder...

I had spent a little over two years working like a crazy person at a tech start-up in NYC. It was the most insane time of my life. I was (or at least I thought I was) the happiest girl in the world. I loved my company. My CEO was by far the best boss ever. It was definitely the first time in my life I had actually uttered the words “I love my job.” I was respected for the work I did, and I was trusted with responsibilities that didn’t necessarily fall under the EA umbrella. I was treated like a team member, and not a servant. Like most EA jobs, my hours were basically 24/7, but I came and went as I pleased. After all, I was treated like a responsible adult.

Then I had a moment of realization when I saw myself in the mirror, and I looked like I had aged 10 years. I was stressed and overworked and angry and depressed and simply not happy. I even gained 20 lbs. Ugh! All I had going for myself was a job I loved. I hardly had any social life, and zero potential for anything romantic. How did this become my reality? I completely neglected myself. All of my needs and desires became almost non-existent. Thank god for that nagging voice in my head that kept telling me, “You need to focus more on you.”  I needed to make some serious changes, but I had absolutely no idea where to begin. The only thing I knew for sure was that if I kept going at that pace, I was going to have a mental breakdown. Luckily, my solo trip to Bali was quickly approaching, and that would give me ample time to think. I told my boss I that I needed to completely detach in order to recharge, which he understood. Then I said, that means I’m shutting off email and not checking it until I return to the office in 20 days. WHAT? Who says that to their boss? I do! That could have completely backfired, but frankly, I didn’t care. Did I mention I was on the verge of a mental breakdown? BTW, I do not recommend ever saying that to your boss, unless you really don’t give F, then go for it!

I arrived in Bali without a care in the world. I never felt so free in all of my life. I spent the first four days at a five-star hotel laying in the sun, surfing, swimming in the pool, and reading a book. Saying I was relaxed was an understatement. Then I made my way to a women’s sanctuary, where I had 3 hours of treatment daily. Massages, facials, head scrubs, etc. Ok, I was seriously in heaven, and ready to open myself up to all things Bali. I watched mother nature beautifully paint the sky every night at sunset. I visited the temples, and fully immersed myself into a long-lived tradition of making my big wish at Tirta Empul Temple. I spent time walking through the Monkey Forest in Ubud, which was unbelievable especially because I’m obsessed with monkeys. A few little guys jumped on me as I fed them bananas. It was absolutely bananas! I climbed an active volcano in the middle of the night just so I could watch the sun rise from the top, and then I relaxed in a hot spring. I met with all sorts of healers from a light & crystal healer to a massage healer and everything in between.

Bali is a very spiritual place. All you need to do is open up your ears, and actually listen to the messages being sent. For me, it completely changed my life. The Bali gods were sending me a message loud and clear… career change. Immediately, I said no way! I’m too old for a career change. Plus, I love my job. I met with a tarot card healer, and he basically predicted the next year of my life. Everything he was telling me did not make any sense at the time, and most of it was based on this career change I wasn’t going to make. All I could think was that he and the Bali gods had the wrong girl. I made a mental note of a few things that stood out, and then I pretty much forgot about the session.

I came back to NYC feeling like a new woman who could rule the world. I enjoyed a relaxing New Year’s Eve with friends and family, and then it was back to the grind. I walked into the office, and I immediately felt like I couldn’t breathe. Almost like I was being suffocated by stress and anxiety. There was so much going on, and my plate was completely over-flowing. I was juggling a thousand balls at once, and trying my hardest not to let any of them drop. It was absolute insanity, but I still loved my job! Before I knew it, it was March and I still hadn’t come up for air. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders, because I’m only one person and I am only human. For some strange reason, as an EA you’re expected to be magician and make the impossible happen. There are so many “Are you FN kidding me” moments that I would have throughout each and every day. Instead, I bit my tongue and smiled, because I loved my job.

One day, my boss took me to lunch and delivered some really difficult news. While he was speaking, I remembered a few things the tarot card healer said, and I realized it’s all starting to happen. I went home and immediately played the recording of our session. My mind was blown! How could he know all of this? Everything he said was making complete sense. I had no intention of leaving my job, but unfortunately, I didn’t have a choice. I was laid off, and it was time for me to figure out my next move, and all I could hear in my mind was career change. I respected my boss and his opinion, so I asked him what he thought I should do. He said, “Kelly, don’t take this the wrong way as I think you are an amazing EA, but maybe it’s time for you to do something else. Honestly, you hate being an assistant.” I never really realized it until I heard him say those words, and couldn’t have agreed more. I hated being an assistant. So, what’s next? The wheels began turning…

I needed to find something I loved. Something that warmed my heart. Something that made me feel fulfilled at the end of the day. Something that would have impact on other people’s lives. Something that has a healing element to it. Something that would make me feel like the woman I was when I returned from Bali. I spent a few days in my head thinking, and shortly after Travel Souly was born. I couldn’t be prouder of myself for creating this company from nothing. I have already come so far, and this is only the beginning! I am beyond excited to see where this journey leads, and how women all over the world will be positively impacted by Travel Souly.

It’s certainly not the most traditional career path, but I would say being an EA has more than prepared me for this role as Founder. Finally, I can honestly say I love my job, and I truly mean it!

Kelly Bates