– – part 1/3 – –

Tony who? Maybe you’ve heard about him, maybe not. I never knew who he was but, at the time of writing this post, I can tell you that he helped change my life.

With a brief introduction (you can read a better description of him here), Tony is a “life/peak-performance coach” that is highly admired by so many people around the world. He’s worked with Presidents of the United States, Olympic athletes and has been working on his craft for over forty years. He started from nothing and is a successful multi-millionaire today. Oprah’s interviewed him for Super Soul Sunday and you can find him in many Forbes articles– Warren Buffett being a close friend of his. If you want a one-on-one session with him, prepare to get on a three-year waitlist. And, while you’re at it, get that one million dollar fee ready.

Yes, it sounds like a big deal and the fact that I got to go to one of his seminars was absolutely a blessing– in total disguise. It is something I am eternally grateful for and have decided to dedicate the next three posts to this life-changing event as part of a series.

Tony Robbins UPW (Unleash the Power Within) is a four-day, fully immersive seminar that shows you how to overcome your fears so that you can live a beautiful, brave and purposeful life.

The Tony Robbins Unleash the Power Within seminar was one that I will forever remember in my life. It opened my eyes and gave me many tears of joy, release, love and optimism. It’s probably one of the best events I have ever been to, coming in to a close tie right there with my wedding day. I remember it like it was yesterday and I cannot wait until I get there again. It was the seminar that gave me the strength to leave my fears behind and move abroad. Yeah, it was that amazing.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a *very* long time now, but I believe that the universe guides you to its proper moment in time and, well, it finally brought me here. Today is the day I start to share with you my experience at the Tony Robbins Unleash the Power Within seminar, which, from this point forward, I will describe as UPW (’cause that’s what we use anyway ;)). It only happens at most four times a year, around the world, and it came into my life at the perfect time.

I’m sharing this story because it comes full circle.

It all started on a gloomy Tuesday morning; I remember it so well because, outside of my NYC office building, the sun seemed to have looked like it took a PTO itself the day after I took mine. I picked up my phone and texted my husband:

I’m struggling and need some inspiration.”

“Look at this seminar link I came across,” he wrote. “It’s Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within and it’s $1,000 a ticket for general admission, am I losing it? So expensive!”

“Who is this guy? And WOW, that is one expensive ticket for sure.” I answered. “The conferences I’ve wanted to go to are around the $500 mark.”

“What kind of conferences are you looking for?” he wrote.

“Something travel or writing related, I just need to be inspired,” I wrote back.

I quickly looked online for some conferences. There was one happening in the middle of America in a few months related to travel and writing. There was a Create & Cultivate one I’ve been eyeing for a while. And another one happening in Boston the following week related to women making change.

“I’m thinking about one of these,” I texted.

“You should go to the Tony Robbins’ UPW seminar I just sent you,” he answered.

“You’re crazy,” I replied.

I mean, here was the opportunity for me to finally get to go to a conference I really wanted to go to and he was proposing I go to this random one? I mean, Tony who? I never heard of this man. The website he sent me seemed very put together, but what in the world was this thing? It stated it was over a few days, that ‘your life would change,’ and it had a bunch of celebrity testimonials at the bottom with their experiences. I was very skeptical. I know celebrities get paid money for their testimonials sometimes, how was I sure that this just wasn’t one of them?

I researched the heck out of this seminar and, honestly, the more research I did the more scared I became. It was meant to tap into the depths of your soul. It was meant to, well, “unleash the power within.” I remember reading on their site something about needing to wear “loose fitting clothing” for the first day and to “eat a light meal before the fire walk.” Um, excuse me? The fire what? You better believe I googled “fire walk” because I needed to know if it was the new “electric slide” or something. News flash: it was not. The fire walk, I soon learned, was exactly what it sounded like: hot coals, roasted overnight, and laid out for you to walk on.

What. The. Heck.
It sounded like a recipe for getting me to the emergency room STAT.

I kept digging and found some videos, along with more testimonials explaining what a difference this seminar made in people’s lives and how they finally “saw.” I mean, was I blind or something? Maybe.

The more research I did the more all of this just sounded very cult-like, too. This man has a following. A MASSIVE one. At four days straight in length, I didn’t want to lose control of myself and be brainwashed! I mean, not that they brainwashed you, but how else was everyone just so in love with Tony and what he preached?! I honestly couldn’t really understand what this seminar was all about and just didn’t really want any part of it anymore, especially knowing that it was $1,000 for a ticket– for general admission.

“Woah, Buddy. Thanks, but no thanks,” I texted him. “It is absolutely out of the question; we are not spending this much money on me. You know where we can travel with $1k?! I would feel so guilty. Plus, I don’t think this will work. Thanks, but not for me.”

“Too late, it’s done,” he responded, “the seminar starts next week and you’re going.”


“Just transfer the name to yours. Say I got sick or something!!” I pleaded.

How could he do that? How could we spend this much money on me? I didn’t feel it was worth it. I didn’t feel that I was worth it. After getting out of my head, I could see the very unselfish gesture my husband made and I thanked him for it. I also expressed how I didn’t want to let him down and have $1,000 of our hard-earned money go to waste. If I was eating ramen for the next three months to make me feel better about this purchase, I needed it to be so worth it. I really wanted him to go, not me.

“Just keep an open mind; that is all you can do for me,” is what he responded to all of this.

After accepting the fact that I was going, I counted my blessings and started to feel pretty blessed for this opportunity; I started to kind of get excited for what was to come– whatever that was.

It seemed like I was somehow destined to go. My husband was the carrier of this experience sent by the universe. I was never searching for it and, somehow, it all happened so quickly and it found me.  And so, unaware of what the future held, unaware of what Tony would do for me, unaware of what was going to happen, I made my way to New Jersey the following week for an experience like no other.


Read part II of this series: Tony Robbins UPW: I Walked On Fire– Literally


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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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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.


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.



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.