Why I started Blogging:

The only thing constant in life is change and when I started this blog three years ago, that’s exactly what I wanted to capture: how things in my life were changing. This personal blog started with me standing up to anxiety and tracking how my learnings were helping me further develop into a wiser, less-anxious person. As things naturally changed, I changed. I became mentally stronger and mentally healthier. I finally started to find my groove and became open to all of the possibilities of enjoying life as a result of being brave. Sure, many things in life cause fear and I am fearful of many things; but, when you’re brave, you recognize that you’re afraid and you do it anyway. THAT was what started to help me on my journey.

So imagine all of the amazing things that happened when I started to take care of myself and my mental health? I had new opportunities to travel and collaborate with tourism boards & properties across the U.S., meet new people and build great friendships, be a part of experiences that I didn’t even realize were possible (I’m looking at you 13 New York Fashion Week shows along with the insane beauty-pampering events that revolved around them), getting more into photography (I am a huge iPhoneographer) and getting the balls to finally stand up for myself and speak up for what I wanted in my corporate job. For all of these things and so, so much more, I am forever grateful. They all allowed me to go on some amazing adventures that I didn’t even think were ever possible, while learning some lessons that I needed to learn.

Why I stopped Blogging:

And then one day, my wonderful husband contacted me about an event; it was an event that changed my life and one that I will forever be thankful for. I attended a Tony Robbins event that made me question my role here on earth. It was quite the experience– a very positive one, I should mention– but one that unearthed so many questions. That post (that describes my experience even deeper) is coming within the next 2 weeks and I cannot wait to share it, as if you ever get the chance to attend it, I HIGHLY urge and recommend you to. Yes, that life-changing. But, along with this beautiful event, came roughly 6 months of heavy self-reflection and soul-searching. I knew that I needed to step back from blogging because, at that point in my life, nothing was really calling me to post things. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love fashion, travel and everything in between; however, I felt like some of the things I was doing was just on auto-pilot, with not much intention– I was just doing. And, listen, doing is fantastic! It means movement. But there needs to be a conscious doing. There needs to be a reason why you are doing something and you need to be in that action, be in that moment at 100% attention.  I enjoyed seeing everyone else post and blog away, but I was left not so certain. I, suddenly, wasn’t feeling the same way. So I stopped, because why force things if they weren’t there? I was questioning everything. How could I, so confused and not super passionate about what I was producing, possibly share any clarity on any specific subject matter?

I needed the time for me. And as selfish as that may sound, I’m not sorry because it allowed me to really think about life, re-evaluate my efforts, be a student, observe, relax (in the sense of putting less pressure on myself) and be more in the ‘present’ with family & close friends. All of this made me think about who I was, where I was going and what I wanted to offer. It was a beautiful experience as I got to take my own ‘pause’ and give myself the attention that I so needed. No pressure, just loving me, myself and I. And guess what? I learned so much!! Friends, from this point forward, get ready, because I’ve thought and thought and though, and I’m ready to bring you all some even more awesome, exciting, and inspiring posts than what you’ve seen on here before– fully intentional, fully present, and fully 100%.

Why I will Continue Blogging:

With that said, I want to help continue to inspire anyone who comes across my blog to be their best darn self. Because life is short. Because you don’t need to deal with BS. Because you DO have the power to make your life your own. It’s what I learned even more so from the event I attended and one that helped me continue to unlock my hidden passions. If you’re new to the EBB site, I am so happy to have you here. If you’ve been following for a while, welcome and thank you for coming back; your support throughout these years have been nothing short of amazing. Being able to share my journey has been nothing less of a gift and I appreciate all those who choose to follow and share with in this journey as your support is what makes me keep going! All the time! <3.

EBB promotes positivity, confidence and seeing the positive, learning opportunities in everything we do.

Future of Enlightened By Bravery:

With that said, being your best healthy self for all of your best healthy adventures remains top of mind and the future basis of EBB, which means more posts on:

  • Feeding your mind: thoughtful posts that strive to be of inspiration for a healthier state of mind (most likely through my own personal experiences and things that I see around me, but only posts that I think will help others out there (this won’t turn into a ‘dear-diary’ ;)), just like it was when I first started my blog. Mental health is so important and I want to help keep sharing ways to reduce anxiety and enjoy life to its fullest. Books, meditation, breathing techniques.. it’s all going to be here!

 

  • Feeding your body: more focus on delivering the latest for a stronger, healthier body (inside & out!); this can include my latest health discoveries/obsessions (think adaptogens(!)), recipes, workouts and much more! I have suffered from many digestive issues within the past three years that lead me to being more curious about foods, their medicinal powers, and creating a complete holistic lifestyle. Takes some work, but the benefits are incredible!

 

  • Feeding your soul with curiosities and beyond: I love when my soul feels fulfilled after an amazing experience, especially when it comes from travel. No matter where I travel, a little piece comes back with me and stays with me for life. Experiences like these are exactly what I want to share with you all! Get ready for some more amazing well-curated travel destinations/ideas that aren’t just picturesque, but also leave you inspired. From learning about history, trying a french-and-cheese class, to dancing (just because it just makes you feel so darn good), we will together explore many of life’s bounties that are just waiting to be tried as we continue to feed our soul all the amazing things we ALL yearn for and deserve.

I want to build a community of people who are ready to stand up for that they believe in, ready to have the most amazing experiences in life, ready to live in a positive state, and ready to be their best, authentic self. There is no holding back, just more thoughtful, present, beautiful moments. So let’s do this!! Yes, US!! This new year will be our year– let’s get it!

xx,

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Brooklyn native, Latina, and founder of Enlightened by Bravery, an adventure/travel and wellness blog that focuses on drawing inspiration from adventures around the world back into your life // iPhoneographer // Francophile

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E.

Easy, Healthy Homemade Granola Recipe!

easy healthy homemade granola

To be honest, my love of granola grew from my efforts of trying to make plain, unsweetened greek yogurt seem delicious years ago. Alone, the greek yogurt was tangy as heck (ugh, why). But with granola? Man, that crunch saved me. IT SAVED MY SOUL!

Yet, pacing down the aisles of the supermarket, I was baffled as to why granola wasn’t pure in the sense that it seemed to have to have juices/syrups from concentrate to sweeten it and things like TOCOPHEROLS to keep it fresh. The really good ones I did find (more natural, organic, simple ingredients) were all at least $9/$10 for a little bag. Yikes.

So, I did my research and started making my own at home! I found that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be and having the power to control the ingredients made it everything I ever wanted and more. Throughout the years, I’ve done lots of trial and error, but it has brought me to tune the flavors into the easy, healthy and homemade granola recipe that I share with you today! It also happens to be my husband’s favorite — a big compliment, as he can sometimes be a bit of a food snob. What? I keep it real ;).

I promise that when you’re making these in the oven, your kitchen is going to smell like someone lit up a cinnamon-vanilla candle (best part? you can eat this!). Put it in your favorite yogurt, atop of smoothie bowls, or just have it with your favorite milk/mylk as a cereal! Enjoy!


Healthy Homemade Granola – total prep, cook + cool time: 40 mins
yields 3.5 cups of granola. keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
gluten-free*/vegetarian/dairy-free

* 1 TBSP virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil
* 2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free* oats if making gluten-free)
* 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
* 1/2 cup walnut pieces
* 1/4 cup raw, local honey
* 2 TBSP ground cinnamon
* 1/2 tsp vanilla powder**
* 1/8 tsp (or a pinch) of ground, pink himalayan sea salt

1) Preheat oven to 300ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment baking paper. set aside.
2) In a pan over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. once melted, swirl around the pan and add in your oats + pumpkin seeds. make sure to coat them evenly with the oil. let toast while constantly stirring for about 2-3 minutes (do not burn. if you start to smell popcorn, lower the heat). remove from heat.
3) Place your oats + pumpkin seeds into a large bowl. Add in the walnut pieces, honey, cinnamon, vanilla and pinch of salt.
4) Combine (I love to use my hands for this) ingredients are all well mixed. Reach over for your prepped-ahead baking sheet with parchment paper and pour in mixture, making sure to create a think layer across the whole pan.
5) Pop baking sheet into the oven for 8 minutes and then remove to toss, mix up, relay into thin layer, and pop back in oven for another 8 minutes. Granola should be turning into a nice golden brown color.
6) Remove from oven and let sit to cool down for at least 15 minutes before storing. Enjoy!

*while oats are naturally gluten-free, if your product does not state that it is gluten-free, then it probably has been in contact with other wheat products. if very sensitive to gluten, please ensure you use gluten-free oats.
**vanilla powder does not have the alcohol usually found in liquid vanilla extract and you get a more concentrated taste with it; however, if using vanilla extract, ensure it is 100% pure and substitute the powder above with 1 tsp of extract.

xx,

T.

Two New Zealand Star Experiences That Drove My Love For Astronomy

Bright. Plentiful. Stars are just everywhere. Unfortunately, growing up in New York City meant that I really didn’t get to see all the stars that exist in our night sky. The highest I ever counted was about nine from my dining room window, though I am pretty sure that five of those ‘stars’ were actually airplanes because stars don’t usually blink red and white right near John F. Kennedy Airport, right? No, no they don’t.

Living in New Zealand, though, that number went from “nine” to nine-hundred (and quite possibly to nine-thousand) fairly quickly. I felt comfortable with the first one hundred, but the more they appeared at night, the more scared I started to become. I had, what you would call “astraphobia,” the fear of stars and space. And the feeling was real. It was like I was a cavewoman and someone lit a torch in front of me for the first time. You can’t process it. You feel threatened. You feel like you don’t know what to believe. Camping in the middle of farmlands and mountains and being surrounded by pitch dark and little lights in the sky was just scary.

So what did I do? I ignored them. I prayed to the heavens above for super cloudy days and urged my husband to park under a tree or something so I wouldn’t see them. Basically, I tried to not see them for months. I pushed my feelings to the side and continued onward. Suppression was working.

After three months of traveling around, we found ourselves camping overnight at Lake Pukaki in the South Island. And that’s when I had to face the music. And then some. I was making dinner inside the campervan when my husband called my name in a frantic, excited holler from outside: “Loren! You, MUST SEE THIS!”

I knew that he was looking at the sky. But there was a part of me that really wanted to see what all the fuss was about. So I put my spatula down and slowly crept of out of the van to join him outside. He had a warm smile on his face and, with his index finger, pointed up to the night sky. Staring at him, I shook my head “no.” I didn’t want to see anything; yet, part of me did want to see something. I needed to at least peek. So I clenched my hands over his, took a quick gulp, and slowly gazed my eyes up towards the sky.

And there they were. THOUSANDS of STARS. If not millions.

I freaked out.

I felt absolutely small.

WAIT, is THAT THE MILKY WAY?!

Who am I?

What is life?

I cannot.

I quickly pulled myself away and ran inside the van to cry. It wasn’t necessarily the stars I was crying about this time, but more so the beauty of the night sky. WOW!! The beauty was overwhelming. But then it suddenly made sense: all this time I was avoiding them because, for the first time in my life, I felt outnumbered; it was a feeling I didn’t think was possible to have, let alone brought on by nature.

My hands were shaking, but it was such a beautiful sight that I knew I had to go back out there and accept that I was just this small human on this big, beautiful earth and that we are just floating around in this universe.

That night, I didn’t leave the van, but instead let all the feelings come. I journaled while my husband fell fast asleep. The enormity and beauty left me curious. Now or never. So I opened our window, slipped up on the windowsill and spent the night looking up, becoming friends with the stars.

Twinkling. Plentiful. Bright.

I was never going to be bigger than them. Their presence was overwhelming, but being overwhelmed is a temporary feeling. This was a sign from the universe to learn more. The stars were trying to show me more.

So I went seeking more.

 

1) Tekapo Stargazing and Hot Pools

location: Tekapo, South Island, New Zealand

 

While down in the south island, I found out two things: (1) we were in the Mackenzie Region, near Tekapo, which is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve and (2) there are only eight Dark Sky Reserves in the world and this one just so happens to be the most southern, darkest place on the globe. Crazy!

We researched a bit and came across the Tekapo Star Gazing experience. I was falling more and more in love with the stars every night– they were fascinating to me now!– so, naturally, we booked the tour and my goodness what an awesome time!

You start off by boarding a courtesy van late in the evening (the darker the better!) and they take you to Tekapo Springs. Once you’re off, some hot cocoa/tea is there to warm you up before you head outside to the main deck. Your guides point to the stars above you with a laser (it’s pretty cool that it reaches infinity!) and explain to you the constellations they are a part of. With our own naked eye we were able to see: the milky way, another galaxy (yeah, seriously), venus, jupiter and thousands upon thousands of stars.

My little heart was just so full!

If that wasn’t enough, there were two telescopes that we were able to use! We saw Jupiter up close and its moons, as well as that other galaxy up close– apparently you can only see it from the southern hemisphere. *swoon*

After our tour of the stars outside on deck, we all went into the changing rooms to put on our bathing suits (togs) and entered a 38ºC (100.4ºF) hot pool. Floating beds were handed to us and, as we laid on them, staring up to the night sky, our guides told us stories of constellations, Maori legends, and answered any questions we had about astronomy.

I didn’t want the evening to end. It was peaceful, magical and it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen elsewhere in my travels before!

travel tip: make sure to look at the weather. Stargazing is best when the night is clear (not many clouds) and the moon isn’t visible (less light). I love Accuweather’s ‘Astronomy’ predictor for this!

 

 

2) Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center

location: Mt. Cook, South Island, New Zealand

Don’t know if you know, but Sir Edmund Hillary was from New Zealand and, with Nepalese mountaineer, Tenzing Norgay, they were the first men to climb Mount Everest– ever!

This alpine center is actually located right next to Mt. Cook, the mountain that Sir Edmund Hillary trained on for many years, in order to build up his mountaineering skills and stamina to take on Everest!

Part of the Hermitage Hotel, the Alpine Center is “the world’s only theatre with 2D, 3D and a Digital Dome Planetarium, contained within the same space.” What I fell in love with, though, was their 360º Digital Dome Planetarium. You pay about $20 and you have unlimited entrance to the shows they play in the theatre all day! From the big bang, black holes, to what we are doing today to continue learning more about the stars and planets in our skies, you will learn so much in a fun, educational way. Your entrance ticket also allows you to watch various 2D documentaries, along with a 3D short film giving you the inside scoop of Mount Cook. The best part? When you come out, you are in the mountains and, if you wanted to go hike into the Mt. Cook area you just learned about, the Hooker Valley Track is a beautiful way to bring everything into reality.

I learned so much that day and kept all of the fun facts in mind as we kept traveling through the beautiful night skies of the South Island.

travel tip: make a day out of it! get to the theatre in the morning when it opens, start watching presentations for a few hours, treat yourself to a buffet lunch in the hotel, then go out trekking into the Hooker Valley Track for a view of Mt. Cook!

These experiences have definitely made me much more interested in astronomy and have given me my next little fun thing to learn: how to shoot night sky photography. The world is absolutely beautiful and I learned, yet again, that embracing those curious matters in our minds leads to fascinating observations, discoveries, and, well, new loves.

Astronomy, continue teaching me your ways <3.

xx,