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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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,

B.

Brave Series: Exploring New Zealand’s ‘White Island’– an ACTIVE marine volcano

According to Maori legend, White Island was formed when Maui first came in contact with fire, holding it in his hand, feeling the intense burn, diving deep into the sea and letting it go. What resulted was ‘White Island,’ New Zealand’s active marine volcano.

James Cook first saw it in 1769, it last erupted in 2001, and it rises about 1600 meters from the seafloor.  As scary as it sounds, there are actually tours that take you out there for the opportunity to experience it yourself. In an effort to overcome fear and give in to my curiosity and intrigue, we booked a tour to the mighty, natural formation. That’s right, we voluntarily went on an active volcano and into its inner crater– and it was cray.

I can honestly say that I’m not the same person I was when I last left New York City earlier this year, already. We all grow and development is natural, sure. But, I can tell you this: New Zealand has put my love of nature and understanding/intrigue natural disasters on a whole different different level.

Volcanoes are scary, yeah? Especially if they are active. But that fear inside of me, is a fire of its own, driven by a cloud of bravery that peeks over, dodging the flames and wanting to experience and understand more of the world’s offerings.

We booked a trip with White Island Tours and I honestly couldn’t sleep the two days beforehand; I was shaking in my bed sheets, worried that I was surely going to die.

I remember eating my last meal the night before: pad thai. And I remember putting on my shoes one last time that morning: hiking boots. Sure, it seems silly to some, but don’t we all go through things like this?

We checked-in around 9am that morning and departed Whakatane on a boat; destination: White Island. We passed rivers, islands, marine wildlife and, 80 minutes later, we saw her. I turned for a quick photo, thinking: “Gosh, I’m okay with just cruising, do we really need to land?” Fear was present, but there was no turning back.

We were handed life vests, hard hats and a gas mask. Anchored just a few meters away from the volcano, we got into a little inflatable raft and landed on the beach.

It was like we landed on another planet. Rocks, rubble, gas. It was all there. And the risk of disaster? Well, I appreciate that our tour guide brought up the obvious point and said that in the case of an emergency, either if the volcano were to erupt or a landslide should occur, that we should run and seek shelter behind a rock formation on the other side. Ouf!!!

My mind just couldn’t comprehend what was around me, what was happening. It was like an out-of-body experience. The only thing I knew, though, was that I was there. I was finally there.

With our tour guides leading the way, we safely walked on the volcano, avoiding ‘soft spots’ that were ready to burst should we have stepped on them and learned about all the minerals present: sulphur, iron, among others. We even learned about a mine that existed there and ceased its operation in the early 1900’s for sulphur & gypsum (a mineral you’ll find on the head of matches!), due to it being super hazardous, leading to an unfortunate event that took the lives of ten men and a few cats. One cat did, however, make it out alive and became somewhat famous in the nearby city after being rescued!

Our gas masks did come into play when we approached high levels of sulphur gases. When mixed with the saliva in your throat, it caused an irritation, causing you to cough. It dawned upon me, as my group all coughed together in a manner equal to that of an unsynchronized choir that we, as humans, are fragile. A natural gas can have this effect on us. It was honestly, pretty darn humbling.

As we approached the inner crater and saw the pool of super acidic water (a.k.a., where the eruption would occur), I wasn’t so scared anymore. Being vis-à-vis to the thing that caused me so much grief the nights prior was humbling. I let my guards down. I experienced a sense of calm. It was actually pretty darn cool.

Our tour ended shortly after and I was so bummed! I secretly wanted more. We boarded our rafts back to the boat. They gave us a light lunch and we spotted whales on the way back to Whakatane.

I was so proud that I conquered a fear and decided to go on such an excursion that led me to understand and experience more of Earth’s natural beauty; I would highly recommend the tour!!

I bought this Paua shell ring down in the South Island. Paua is native to New Zealand and it’s beautiful. The shell’s pattern in my ring below reminded me of a mountain. I feared mountains when I first arrived, but then I climbed a few. I also feared volcanoes, but I’ve now hiked on one and visited the inner crater of another. My ring will now represent mountains and volcanoes and the bravery to climb/visit them, head-on.

I love you, New Zealand.

xx,