Scandinavia with My Girls

img_20190308_235425Hola amigos,

Two weekends ago I reunited with my teammates from the University of Portland in Copenhagen. I left UP during the 2nd week of my sophomore year and eventually transferred to Sonoma State University, but these girls were my 1st college teammates, so you can say that they are a little bit special 🙂 Lucy’s friend, Pauli, also joined us on this trip and the five of us had a lot of fun together. I arrived in Copenhagen on Friday night and met the girls at a hostel called Steel House. This was our first time seeing each other in 3.5 years! I can’t tell you how good it felt to lay eyes on them again, hug them, hear their foreign accents again, and just be with them. Best feeling ever! We went to McDonald’s before heading back to our Airbnb, which was located just outside the city center. I mean…what’s a trip without a visit to McDonald’s, right? But seriously, the McDonalds’ in Europe are so much nicer looking than the ones in the U.S. 

The next morning, we took a day trip to Malmö, Sweden. Taking the bus, it took us only about an hour. The weather was pretty rainy and cold during the bus ride over, but fortunately it was sunny once we arrived in Malmö. We walked around downtown, took lots of pictures, went inside a church, walked through a cemetery, saw the tallest building in Sweden, ate at a super cool food market, admired the ocean, then walked some more, and ended at Espresso House for coffee and dessert. Malmö is a small town, so we covered most of it during our visit. It was pretty barren of people and lacking a sense of liveliness, but maybe it was just because of the weather and time of year. The winds were incredibly strong that day and it was difficult to walk at some points. 

Sunday was our last day together and we all had breakfast at our Airbnb, except for Sarah, who had to leave for the airport before we ate. We walked around downtown Copenhagen, visited a castle, saw the Opera House, sat with Hans Christian Andersen, endured a little hail storm, and walked around Nyhavn. Nyhavn was one of my favorite parts because of the beautiful multi-colored buildings along the canal. It was breathtaking and it felt like you were transported into a real-life storybook or fairytale. 

I forgot how much I love and missed these girls. I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. You know when you laugh so hard that you start to cry, and your stomach hurts, and you can barely breathe? Yeah, we did a lot of that. Maybe it’s because we are very similar. We are wanderers and rebels at heart. We love to travel, we crave spontaneity, we run towards adventure, and we welcome new life experiences. We want to explore, experiment, and expand ourselves in every area of our lives. Sometimes it hits me how strange life is…how is it that an American, a Serbian, a Slovakian, and a German can be good friends and have a reunion in Copenhagen, Denmark? The answer is tennis. We are bonded through our love-hate relationship with our sport and first love. The blood, the sweat, and the tears. We have experienced the same thrills of victory and conquering and also the same pain of injuries and losses. This sport is what brought us together, but the glue is not tennis. The glue is love. 

I spent Sunday night on my own at a hostel downtown called Urban House. I booked a dorm room with 5 other girls and got really lucky. Hostel’s are so darn cheap, I only spent 19 euros for 1 night and it is a really nice hostel too! I met two beautiful girls, one was from Stockholm and the other was from Taiwan. This is the beauty of staying at hostels…you never know who you will meet and you often meet very like-minded people who also share your love for travel and adventure. 

I spent my last day with Rhys, the girl from Stockholm, before taking the train to the airport. We got breakfast at Lidl, which consisted of three different kinds of yummy pastries. Pauli introduced me to this pizza pastry thing that is so delicious and I’m curious if they have them in Madrid… So of course Rhys and I got the pizza pastry and LOVED it! We walked around downtown, witnessed a marching/music parade in the streets, went on a lovely boat canal tour, and had ice cream even though it was pretty damn cold outside. It was honestly the BEST gelato I have had in my life. And I have had my fair share of gelato. It even beat the gelato I had in Italy.

I feel so grateful to have met Rhys on this trip. It’s like I knew her in another life or something because we just clicked right away. She also loves to travel and is just one of the coolest girls I’ve met. She’s so free-spirited, funny, kind, easygoing, mature, intelligent, curious, open-minded, and badass. She is one of those rare soul sisters we occasionally cross paths with during our journey and I can’t wait to be reunited with her again soon! Hint hint…;)

A HUGE THANK YOU to Jetso, Sarah, Lucy, Pauli, and Rhys for making this trip one of the best experiences of my life. You all have a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to see your gorgeous faces again soon!

Love,

Manders

“What you seek is seeking you.”

-Rumi

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Video-game Dating and Lust

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Why do we dehumanize each other? 

So I got a Bumble a couple months ago and MY OH MY has that been a portal to a completely new world. It’s honestly been such a deep learning experience for me, but it has come with both joy and pain. I have noticed that too many people treat online dating like its a video game and seem to forget that on the other end of their cell phone is a human being with a beating heart and feelings. Don’t get me wrong, dating should be fun, but its not a game and we should remember to treat others with basic human decency, even if we aren’t interested in moving forward with them romantically.

It is unfortunate that “ghosting” has become the norm and that vague or no communication is rampant in our modern dating era. So what are we to do about this? My man Gandhi says that we must be the change that we wish to see in the world. And so it is. I’ve learned that if someone ghosts me or disrespects me, I simply need to gracefully exit the situation and wish them well. Their poor behavior is a reflection of their character and has nothing to do with my self-worth or character. We can all do ourselves a favor and not put our time or energy into people that don’t value us or support us in our journey in life. The right people will come into our lives and stay. No need to put on a show or perform a circus in order to get someone to like us. 

One more thing…if we are to reject someone who we either don’t want to see anymore or don’t have romantic feelings for, tell them. Please don’t be another person who hops on the ghosting train. Even if they aren’t happy with your sentiment, they will appreciate your honesty, if not right away, sometime in the future. And do it with kindness! This is obviously a different situation if you have been abused emotionally or physically by someone, then do what you need to do to protect yourself and get out. But if its just a matter of you not being on the same page as the other person, communicate with them. 

After all, this is real life and at the end of things is often when our true colors come out.

Empty Promises

Pretty things that excite my soul, but give me nothing in return. Oh how badly I want to give you my heart, but I realize how grand of a mistake that would be since you don’t value me the way I value you. 

Cheap Love

I like you. I want you. But I’m realizing that I want the idea of you—the hope that you’ll be the right man for me. But you aren’t. I desire Real Love, but all you give me is this fake shit. Give me your all or nothing at all. I’d rather wait for a full meal at the dinner table than settle for these measly crumbs that you leave me.

Bewitched in Málaga

 

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Hola amigos,

The text below is an article I recently wrote for a writing scholarship and it captures my experience visiting Málaga for the 1st time with my friend Tasja a couple weeks ago. I finished my application for renewal next year as an auxiliar in Spain, but when I came back from this trip, I changed my location to Málaga as my top choice because I fell in love with the place. 

Close your eyes and imagine a summer getaway paradise—a sparkling turquoise ocean with a curvy coastline bordering a variety of elegant and historical buildings, a charming and vivacious city, streets lined with palm trees and vibrant flowers, ensconced by majestic mountains…Welcome to Málaga.

A couple weekends ago, my friend and I embarked on our first trip to Málaga. We were looking for a place with charisma, warm weather, and a beach. Málaga, an Andalusian city in the south of Spain, seemed like the perfect place for our weekend escape.

From my travel adventures thus far, I have noticed that each place has its own unique rhythm—the culture, language, natural landscape, architecture, history, cuisine, and local people all come together to create a heartbeat that can only be traced to that particular city or town.

Málaga’s heartbeat sings a song of serenity and overflows your senses with a feeling of pure bliss. The sunlight dancing along the ocean, the sparkling and flowing water, the smell of the sea, the cool ocean breeze; you can feel the release of tension in your body and just all at once feel your mind and body relax and switch into a lighter way of being.

In addition to the local people or malagueños, Málaga had many Germans and other international people visiting to enjoy this delightful city. My friend and I were also lucky to be visiting during the time of Carnival, which is a popular festival that takes place before the Lenten season. Carnival is an exuberant celebration that usually consists of parades, dressing up, and partying in the streets. One evening, there were groups of people in costume singing downtown while small crowds gathered around to watch and sing along. There was also a party in the downtown plaza with music, dancing, lights, and people dressed in costume.

One thing that stood out to me about this place was its diversity of elements. No matter where your interests lie, there is something for you in Málaga. The beach and mountains offer a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking and paddleboarding. The downtown area is filled with delicious restaurants, ice cream parlors, shops, museums, and magnificent architecture. Málaga also happens to be the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and is home to one of his famous museums. It truly is a city that honors its history, but also embraces its future and you can clearly see that blend as you immerse yourself in this city.

Another lovely quality about Málaga is that it has beautiful neighboring towns and beach cities that you can easily visit using public transportation. My friend and I were able to take a day trip to Marbella and we absolutely loved it! The rolling hills, lush plant life, white Spanish buildings, and of course the beach completely bewitched us.

One of the highlights of our time in Málaga was visiting the Alcazaba and Castle of Gibralfaro. It was breathtaking to marvel at the architecture of the fortress walls and structure, the panoramic views of the city, and the gardens and flora. We spent about four hours wandering there and you can easily spend half your day walking the castle grounds. I couldn’t help but stare. My eyes were drinking in every inch of this charming city. It seemed like after every corner and down every street, my eyes grew wide with wonder and my jaw dropped in amazement. Never have I ever felt so smitten by a place and I know that this will not be my last time in Málaga.

I hope one day you have the pleasure of experiencing the enchantment of Málaga. Paradise awaits you.

Love,

Manders

An Open Picture- We all have this vision for ourselves, our goals for the future. It could be our dream car, dream job, dream partner, dream anything…I’m not saying it’s bad to have goals or know what you want, but I think it’s important in life to leave some cushion or space for mystery, for the hand of God or the Universe to guide you. Sometimes no matter how much we want something or work towards a specific goal, it doesn’t manifest to reality. I can think of a myriad of occasions in my life where I didn’t get what I wanted and sometimes I would get so caught up in sadness or frustration that I missed the miracle of the other opportunities that came to life because my initial dream didn’t work out. 

My friend Jackie told me this quote that encapsulates this idea…”Rejection is God’s protection”. It can hurt when we don’t get what we want want, especially when we have put so much of our time and energy into achieving it, but that doesn’t mean that we have failed by any means. Abundance, prosperity, success, and joy are available to all of us, but these gifts might come in a form we hadn’t expected and that is A-okay. Sometimes an ending to something or experiencing rejection is life’s way of re-directing you to something greater. 

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Chameleon

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How many of us have fallen prey to doing something to impress someone or to make them feel more comfortable? Probably most of us…

While it is wonderful to do things for others and be kind, this attitude at its extreme can backfire on you and the person you are trying to impress. Throughout my life, I have had this habit of being a chameleon. This can be a positive trait because chameleon’s adjust to their surroundings and adapt well. BUT, being too much of a chameleon is not healthy because you can easily lose yourself while adapting to those around you.

At times I can be so adaptable that I adjust/change who I am to match the energy of other people. I do this partly to relate to people deeply and connect with them, but partly it is for myself to appear like-able and make the other person feel more comfortable. Without realizing, this neutral approach prevents us from revealing our true selves to other people and therefore, we cannot genuinely and fully connect with others. Let’s use dating for an example…what if two people are together, but they’re both trying to put up a front to impress the other person? They may be kindred spirits or they may not be compatible, but they will never find out unless they show their true selves.

When you hide your true colors and pretend to be like everyone else, others who share the same kindred spirit, won’t recognize that you’re a fellow unicorn. No, not everyone will like you or show you the love that you crave and that’s okay…the people who are meant to be in your life will come to you and stay if you remain true to yourself and open yourself up to love. So show them your real stripes, yes, your scars too, wear your colors boldly and with pride, and you will be set free! 

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For my Oma

I see you in the flowers, I feel your presence in the cool breeze across my face, I see you in the trees, I feel your love in the warm rays of sunlight, I hear you in the crunch of dirt below my footsteps…

In the great outdoors is where I feel closest to you. It is here where I feel your loving arms around me and your cheerful gaze with me always.

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

-Dolly Parton

Napoli

 

Hola amigos,

Last weekend I traveled to Naples for the first time with my friend Renee and we LOVED it! I have visited Italy once before with my family, but Naples is definitely unique because I feel like every city has its own rhythm. Renee and I were talking about this and she said that each city has its own heartbeat and I couldn’t agree more. And the heartbeat of Naples…loud, proud, lively, colorful, delicious, and a bit smelly in some areas.

 

We arrived on Saturday and had a true Italian man as our taxi driver to our hotel. It was very entertaining and quite the adventurous ride 🙂 If you think people in L.A. drive crazy, you should see how the Italians drive. After taking a little siesta in our room, we walked around downtown, went to the ocean, and admired the incredible coastline views at sunset. We had our 1st fried pizza, which was delicious. For dinner we went to this place called Gino Sorbillo’s which is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of how famous their Neapolitan pizza is. We waited in line for almost an hour, but it was worth the wait. 

 

On Sunday we took a thirty minute train ride to Pompeii and went on a group tour for a couple hours, exploring the grounds and buildings and learning about the history of the city. In 79 A.D., the eruption of the volcano left the ancient city of Pompeii buried under a thick carpet of volcanic ash. It blew my mind to learn that the volcano erupted for 3 days. Despite this, there were still a lot of archaeological remains and buildings to look at. 

 

On Monday morning, we climbed to the top of Mount Vesuvius, which is the volcano that erupted and buried Pompeii. We took a bus ride from downtown, which was about an hour up the mountain. The climb didn’t take us very long, but it was pretty much straight uphill and at high elevation, so it was no walk in the park, but so worth it! Something about the silence of nature, the crunch of the dirt path from our shoes, and the cool morning air that made it feel so mystical. It was a cool, foggy morning but fortunately there were short bursts of sunlight so that we could have a clearer view of the crater at the top. 

Pompeii, Vesuvius, and the gelato were my top three highlights 😉 The Bed and Breakfast we stayed at was so charming too. Our room was London-themed and the two people working there were so sweet and helpful. There is something so liberating and humbling about getting to travel to a new place and experience a new culture. My favorite part about my trips so far have been the good conversations and good company. Sharing these experiences with a loved one is a beautiful thing. Renee, grazie bella!

Hope you are well and sending you lots of love!

Love,

Manders

P.S.

Possessed by “I”

How many times during the day do we say “I” and think of only ourselves-our goals, our intentions, our needs?

These days we get so far wrapped up in our own agendas that we forget the value of “We”, we forget that life is more than fulfilling “I”…it’s about embracing and taking care of “Us”. All of us.

We forget that we are on this journey of life together. That we have brothers and sisters everywhere we go. Sure, we come in different colors, a range of sizes. Not all of us speak the same language or are born in the same country, but we are all connected through our shared humanity. We may look different, walk different, talk different, but beyond what our physical eyes can see, we are more alike than we are different.

We are living during a time in which it is urgent for us to step outside our own agendas and rise to the call of humanity. May we rise together, standing hand in hand, with the intention of “We”.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”

-Rumi

Abandonment

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Hola amigos,

Happy Chinese New Year! It is the year of the pig and I hope that it brings you lots of prosperity, joy, and love. 

This week I have been thinking a lot about my college tennis coach, Joaquin, and all the wisdom that he has shared with myself and my teammates. One of the pearls of wisdom that he has bestowed upon us is the idea of “Stretching”. What is stretching? Stretching is going beyond ourselves and our self-defined limits. Stretching is cramping in the 3rd set tie-breaker, but choosing to play your heart out and sprint for every ball even when your mind and your body are screaming “No more!” Stretching isn’t comfortable and it doesn’t feel good in the beginning. Choosing to stretch ourselves isn’t necessarily a skill that we are born with, but something we can develop over time with diligence and discipline. I miss those moments of stretching on the tennis court during grueling matches, but there is plenty of stretching to be done in the post grad life too 😉 I will say that tapping into this “Stretching” mindset is a euphoric and satisfying feeling. It shows us that we can always do and be MORE, that we are stronger than we think we are, that we are capable of transcending our own limits and the limits put upon us by others. 

Man, what I would do for one of our team circles right now! I am so grateful for Joaquin and the amazing group of women that I now call my sisters. He truly taught us how to lead and live with love & heart. 

I hope that wherever you’re at in life right now that you find peace and love amidst it all.

Love,

Manders

P.S.

Heart on Fire

Sometimes I get tired of how fiercely I live, how fiercely I feel, how fiercely I love. My goal is inner peace, but sometimes I don’t know how to find that stillness when I’m on fire for life. It’s like someone lit a fire in my heart and in my soul and I just can’t stop. I want to go, I want to explore, I want to create, I want to connect, I want to be of service, I want to experience life in its fullness. My thirst for a life of richness is what gets me out of bed in the morning and is the reason I sometimes can’t sleep at night. Can I have both? How do I rest in stillness and in peace when my insatiate heart is aflame with passion?

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

-Mother Teresa

Burned

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Warning!!! This post contains criticism about modern dating.

Well, I finally know what it feels like to be burned by a guy. There is something fundamentally wrong about the way we date nowadays and this needs to change. I feel like an old toy that was just tossed to the side, like someone surprise attacked me and shoved a knife into my stomach and twisted it around. It stings now because the wound is fresh but I know that I deserve better and I probably dodged a bullet before I went any further with this guy.

Whatever happens when dating, there is no excuse not to be a decent human being. I swear sometimes it’s like some people need to take a class on human decency and respect. Don’t assume you know what the other person wants without checking in with them first. None of us are mind readers and therefore we cannot know the intricate details of what goes on in someone’s head or what they’re feeling in their heart without communicating with them.

I feel like a lot of guys in our culture feel pressured to play it cool around girls, to maintain this façade of masculinity or some crap, but it’s complete baloney and it’s also toxic! Being vulnerable and honestly showing yourself to another person is difficult, yes, but it is the only way to develop a true and meaningful connection with someone. You can run, you can hide, but you also won’t get to enjoy the rewards of vulnerability-genuine human connection. Also, there is nothing sexier than a guy who is honest, emotionally available, and can communicate and express himself and what he wants clearly. Can we please stop playing games with each other and just say what we want to say?

I don’t regret what happened or how I showed up with this guy because I would rather stay true to myself than tip-toe around trying to please everyone. We live and we learn. On to the next one I guess. To all the ladies and guys out there who have been burned, I feel your pain and I salute you. However, there’s a reason why you’re not with that person. It’s hard to believe that when you’ve just been hurt, but good things are coming your way.