I am blessed to know and have met – face-to-face or online – some inspiring, truly extraordinary women. Just by being who they are and doing what they do, they show or remind me not only about risks and adventures worth taking, but also how I can travel happily on the greatest adventure ever – life.
A day after celebrating Women’s Day and still celebrating this month for women, I am sharing the insights these lovely women live.
1) Pursue your passions. Live your dreams.
When I first heard Lois Yasay speak, I could not help admiring her almost palpable energy and passion. Lois quit her job, backpacked for six months around Southeast Asia, and has not looked back since. She is now living a location-independent lifestyle, traveling, surfing, and doing work she loves, one of which is speaking to crowds and small groups about following one’s passion.
Photo from Lois Yasay
One thing that really struck me was what Lois wrote in an open letter to her dad before her six-month epic trip. Her dad was worried that “something might happen to her.” To which Lois answered, “I’m more afraid of a life where nothing extraordinary ever happens. Nothing noteworthy or exciting or breathtaking.”
If there is one person I’ve met who faithfully follows her dreams no matter what, it is Lois.
2) Yes, you can have it all, but be prepared to do what it takes.
For many women, having it all usually means having a happy family and a successful career. To me and to some women I know, it means being able to do what you love AND having a happy family.
Gay Mitra-Emami showed me and other women that this is possible. An explorer at heart even when she was single, she refused to settle into domesticity when she tied the knot. She became a “housewife without a house” when she traveled around the world with her husband and then nine-month old daughter, Luna.
Photo from Gay Mitra-Emami
While traveling around the world sounds dreamy, parenting on the road was tough, as Gay experienced firsthand. Diaper changes in places with no toilets, and struggling to find a hospital for Luna’s medical emergency in an area where no one speaks English were just among the challenges.
But Gay would not exchange the round-the-world experience for anything else, especially the moments when Luna walked by herself for the first time, and said her first word – firsts made richer with their trip to Peru.
3) You may not be able to change the world, but you can change yourself, and, in the process, make a difference in the world.
Changing the world for the better was a secret childhood dream of mine. I carried that idealism up to college until reality dealt me major blows that made me re-think that dream.
Regina Dee, whose presence is quiet and peaceful yet powerful, imparts wisdom that offers part of the solution: “Make a better world by making a better you.” Sounds cheesy but it’s true.
And, in Regina’s case, it is indeed true. Just being around her makes me and other people feel calmer and relaxed. It is almost impossible to imagine that she had once been in the depths of despair as she went through several life-changing personal and family crises. And, through her work with people, she helps them turn their lives around, starting from within.
4) You have to give and keep on giving.
While I may not be able to change the world, I know I can make a difference to the people around me if I choose.
Which is what Remi Santiago-Bautista does. She gives and helps her community without a second thought. With her own money, she helped turn gangsters’ and petty criminals’ lives by giving them a small business – and responsibility. When she has the resources, she also feeds around 100 children (their parents are the gangsters, the criminals, and the financially troubled in the community) nutritious meals she prepared herself.
Remi is also an organic farmer and intuitive healer. Through research and intuition, she prepared her own natural cure and healed herself from a host of debilitating diseases and post-stroke symptoms that almost paralyzed her. She shares her natural healing knowledge freely, among friends and sometimes as a volunteer in workshops for indigent communities. I had the pleasure of volunteering with her once.
And, even as Remi gives a lot, she receives a lot too – sometimes even more. On days when she lends or gives money to help other people and she is worried if she will be able to pay for her own expenses, help would always come in the form of other people. Even though I am blessed to be her friend and occasional travel buddy, I still sometimes find myself amazed whenever she shares her next project.
If you would like to support any of her causes, message her on Facebook.
5) Find that space of well-being within you. Go there often.
In order to have the energy to follow my dreams and make a difference, I realized I need to continually replenish my inner reserves too.
As an NGO worker-turned wellness facilitator, Leah Tolentino knows this well, when she responded to the call of ginhawa (well-being), as she lived with and eventually healed herself of illnesses which initially prompted her to stop working for two years.
Through her well-being workshops and compassionate presence, she listens, facilitates, and invites me and others to connect again with the ginhawa within. More than a teacher or facilitator, she has patiently listened to my joys and woes and even facilitated a simple yet powerful ritual for my safety before I went on the seven-week backpacking adventure that later changed my life.
6) It doesn’t always have to be hard. Try easy.
Danielle LaPorte’s beautifully written prose pierces straight through my heart and soul. This woman is continents away and I have not had yet the pleasure of meeting her, but her writing speaks to me, and challenges the beliefs I’ve long held close to my heart – and I suspect, beliefs long-held by others too.
Photo from Danielle LaPorte
One belief which held its appeal to me for so long is the value of hard work and struggle to achieve what is good. While this belief has its place, I now realize that life does not always have to be that way. Sometimes ease and flow are the way. Danielle shows, through her writing, and her own life, what is possible if people were to try what is easy and natural for a change.
7) It’s ok to be who you are.
In a world where motivational gurus are telling you to be more positive, happier, to attract this house, or attract this car, Heather Plett’s words are a fresh and welcome respite. Through her writing, she shows that it is ok to feel what you feel and to be where you are right now. She writes candid and courageous accounts about dealing with losses – recently on her mother’s death from cancer. She admits to her weaknesses, to her humanity, but in that lies her strength and her gift to connect with others.
Photo from Heather Plett
I have also not yet met this seemingly simple yet remarkable woman, but briefly connecting with her through a friend and regularly seeing her honest, straight-from-the heart updates online are food for my soul.
8) Fall down seven times, get up eight.
If anyone is the picture of resilience, it is my mother. Born the eldest among seven children, she took responsibility for her brothers and sisters at a young age. She persisted as a scholar in her studies because of her family’s limited financial resources. From childhood onwards, she has dealt with trials – financial troubles, an early pregnancy, her son’s death while she was working as a nurse overseas to make ends meet, her youngest son’s cancer, losing her father, and more crises in our immediate family. She would cry and grieve, but through it all, she would pick herself up again.
My relationship with my mother is not exactly hearts and roses, but her resilience is a quality that amazes me. I would like to think that I have inherited some from her to aid me through life’s trials.