8 things to know if you visit New Zealand

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Kia Ora! New Zealand is now one of my favorite countries in the world. With only having one week to visit, I will definitely be back to visit more sites in the future. Luckily, the country is just a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles and beautiful to visit year around.

  1. Chase Sapphire so you have no credit card fees. Charles Schwab checking if you want to take out cash (everywhere takes credit cards). Priority Pass to comfortably wait for your flight.
  2. American (or written in English) drivers license if you’re renting a car.
  3. An unlocked phone, so you can purchase a SIM card (vodaphone company gives you a free SIM card). A cell phone is handy to have to map to locations and call ahead to places to check if they’re open.
  4. Rent a car! New Zealand's real beauty lies in its inaccessibility and remoteness. Not only is it super affordable averaging $20 a day, but the roads are well maintained. There are also these cars called "Jucy" that you can rent, that you can sleep in. 
  5. Pick up the New Zealand guide from the airport specifically, this has coupons for a lot of the major tourist attractions. There’s a lot of tourist competing attractions, so it’s good to do your research a head of time.
  6. Watch a Maori cultural show. This is a great way to understand the culture of the country.
  7. Bring a reusable mug, if you’re a coffee drinker some establishments will give you up to a 20% discount. The tap water is clean and safe to drink. Bottled water is pricey averaging $3.50 US for an average bottle.
  8. If you go in winter like me, bring winter specific items (snow resistant shoes, hand warmers, warm beanie, etc), such as warm clothes and that includes thermals so you’re able to layer wisely. The winter averages about 45 degrees during the day and about 35 degrees in the evening. It is also easy to buy clothes in New Zealand.

Souvenirs to purchase: Green Jade, Merino Wool, Manduka Honey, and All Black paraphernalia.

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New Zealand: Day 7 & 8 on the North Island (part 2)

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Day 7 - City of Rotorua

We woke up at 7am and had breakfast at the hotel, this was actually quite good. I do recommend staying at the afford Holiday Inn if you visit. The staff even provided us with a congratulatory champagne for our wedding.

After breakfast we journeyed 30 minutes south to Wai-O-Tapu hot pools, the most famous of the viewpoint for the pools. They have the champagne pool, which has a beautiful orange ring and Satan’s pool a bright green pool. They have three paths that take you around the park, however we only had time for the first loop that took 45 minutes. On site they have the Lady Knox Geyser, that they activate at 10:15am daily. This was the first time either of us saw a geyser so this was pretty cool. After this we drove 5 minutes to another part of the pool that had mud pools, this consisted of grey pools of mud, reminiscent of the Labyrinth.

Then we headed to Rainbow Springs Sanctuary to see the kiwi bird. This is the only kiwi zoo where a 100% of the ticket fee goes to the preservation of the bird. The park was relatively small and can be completed in an hour. It had a lot of interesting birds and we were able to see three kiwis. Here’s a few facts about kiwis:

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  1. They are nocturnal.
  2. They cannot fly.
  3. They are endangered due to dogs, cats, and a weasel like animal.
  4. They are the only birds to have nostrils on their beaks.
  5. They are terrible fighters with kicking being their only defense.
  6. The kiwi’s eggs and emu’s eggs are the same size, so they think once kiwis were once large.

After this we headed for the 2:30pm Agrodome farm show, in this one hour show we were able to see 19 different kids of sheep, saw how they were sheared, and were able to pet baby animals (alpacas, lambs, bunnies, and baby cow). Had we had more days in our trip we could’ve easily had another day here, so we could’ve not had such long days in the car.

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Finally we made our long 3 hour drive north to the Coromendel peninsula. The Drive was absolutely beautiful with rolling green hills and the coast line. We stopped on The was and watched as the sun set over the ocean.

The town of Coromendel is tiny and in hindsight we should’ve stayed at the much larger city of Thames. We had dinner at the Red Pepper Inn, I had a seafood chowder and Matt had the local oysters.

We went to the Anchor Lodge Inn a small motel and backpacker hostel. This was a cute and affordable stay, that overlooks the water.

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Day 8 - Coromandel Peninsula

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Our final day in New Zealand exploring the beaches. Coromandel Peninsula has two of the top best beaches to visit, so we squeezed it into our final day. We would’ve definitely loved another day here to just relax on the beach.

The morning started with grabbed our final pies and sandwiches for lunch. On the way to Cathedral Cove we stopped by a waterfall and took a few picture. Then drove another 90 minutes to the cove. The cove was a undulating 45 minute walk from the parking lot. The cove was beautiful and definitely worth the visit.

After this we drove to Hot springs beach, this is where people bring shovels to dig organic hot tubs on the beach. The water was actually freakishly hot and you have to be carful not to burn yourself.

After all this we returned the rental car and headed to Auckland airport to board our flight backwards to Melbourne, before flying home to Los Angeles.

This has been a fulfilling and amazing, but an extremely quick trip to New Zealand. I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful wedding. Originally I was extremely nervous about visiting this country (so close to the South Pole) in winter, however it was beautiful and the climate definitely tolerable. The final day in Auckland was surprisingly warm and in the high 70s, there was no rain or snow on the well maintained roads. Because it’s winter it’s the low season for travel, thus making flights and accommodations more affordable then normal. I highly recommend and would visit again in a heartbeat!

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New Zealand: Day 5 & 6 on the North Island

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Day 5 - A quick evening in Auckland

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I didn’t sleep very well after the excitement of the wedding and woke up around 5:30am, so we headed to town and got some Starbucks. Reheated some meat pies (veggie and steak & cheese) from Fergburger bakery that was purchased the day before. Then we packed up everything and headed back to Glenorchy. We learned that we missed the most exciting part of the town which was 6 miles past the town and was featured in two scenes from Lord of the Rings.

We drove for 40 minutes through a gravel dirt road with many broken areas where we had to drive through water. We stopped at the end where an avalanche covered the road and got out of our car. Hopped a 4 foot wide rushing steam and hiked foranother 40 mins into the middle of Paradise Valley. This is where Isengard was shot in Lord of the Rings. It was pretty breathtaking and a bit ominous being the only ones in this vast valley.

After the valley we headed back to the Glenorchy cafe and had a quick lunch of a sandwich and soup, then drove back to Queenstown. We met up with the rest of the family and flew from Queenstown to Auckland. After getting our rental car, we drove to downtown Auckland  to meet the family for dinner at Mad Samurai in Snickel Lane. For dessert we walked over to the famous Giapo ice cream. It was definitely a fancy assortment of daily fresh-made ice cream, but the flavors were too sweet for my taste. We then headed to the Four Points hotel after saying our goodbyes to the family. 

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Over all Auckland seemed super pricy, it cost us $33nzd to park for two hours and another $25nzd to park at the hotel. The city itself seemed so large and overwhelming after being on the remote South Island. We didn’t feel it was necessary to tour the city and decided one night in Auckland was enough for us.

 

Day 6 - Driving around the North Island

We woke up early and hit the road by 6:00am, so we could get a head start on the busy day. We grabbed a to go coffee from the hotel and an extra cup of hot water for the ramen (my sister had thoughtfully gave to us).

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We drove a little over 2 hours south of Auckland to Waitomo Caves, the most visited spot to see glow worms. Sadly there was a large storm last year and a 1/3 of the glow worms in the cave were wiped out, this will take two lifetimes to regrow this population. The tour we purchased consisted of a 1 hour walking tour of the cave, ending with a 15 minute boat ride. These tours happen every 15 minutes and the earlier you go to the cave, the less crowded it will be.

I highly recommend purchasing a vodaphone SIM card and over 2gb if you’re here for a week, you’ll definitely need this if you’re driving around the island. There were many times that our google maps really came in handy.

We then headed to Matamata where the Hobbiton ser tour is. This was super worth a visit and it was definitely a major highlight. There are 44 hobbit holes, the party tree, and the green dragon pub. Since the insides were created on a set, you can only visit the exteriors. It was neat to see the small and big doors, the big doors to make the hobbits look small and the small doors to make Gandalf look humongous. The surrounding lands were filled with sheep and beautiful green rolling hills. The 2 hour tour ends with complimentary drinks of hobbit ale or ginger beer.

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We drove another hour south to Rotorua, the town known for thermal pools and geysers. As you drive into town you can see the billowing steam from the ground as if there are multiple camp fires alit. The smell of the sulfur gives the town and unmistakable rotting egg smell.

We purchased tickets for the 6pm award winning Traditional Maori show at the  Tamaki village, which included a round trip hotel pickup, haka fighter ceremony, dinner/hangi, and traditional customs (dance, fighting, games, tattooing, etc).

We saw a performance of song and dance both historic and contemporary (with guitar). Dinner included traditional ground steamed meal with vegetables, various meats (lamb, chicken, and fish). The show was definitely worth checking out and I highly recommend it. This ended before 9pm and we went back to the Holiday Inn to pass out from the long day.

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New Zealand: Day 3 & 4 Getting Married

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Day 3 - Queenstown: Day Before the Wedding

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We headed to The Fig, a Lebanese cafe for breakfast. We learned if you grabbed food from the glass case on the counter, usually sandwiches and pies, it was a third of the cost of the food on their menus. We ate a sandwich and a baked tomato dish of shakshuka, so tasty.

We headed back on the road for the hour and half drive to Queenstown. We took a short cut through the mountain pass and on the way, passed by the cutest old hotel called the Coronado. The next time we visit, we are definitely staying there.

We arrived in Queenstown and headed to our gorgeous lake view Airbnb, there we met up with our wedding planner/photographer Warren from Heli Weddings and got the schedule for the next day (our wedding!)

After, we headed down the road five minutes to the Airbnb that my parents, my sister and her family, and my best friend Claudia were all staying in. We grabbed the ladies of the group and headed for a spa day at the Sofitel hotel in downtown. This is where we met up with Matt’s mom and step dad Barry. Matt went off with Barry for lunch and the ladies received a relaxing day-before-massage. After the massage, we went to the Left Bank restaurant in the hotel and had a Parisian lunch.

Matt and I then headed back to our Airbnb to prep for the wedding. Then that evening we met everyone for dinner at a restaurant called Ivy and Lola’s on the waterfront.

Matt’s Mom Patsy brought me a gift of something “old” and “borrowed.” It was Matt’s deceased grandfather’s gold wedding ring with these delicate charms (representing Matt and I attached) tied with lace and made into a bracelet. I heard many stories from Matt that his best friend growing up was his grandfather and on seeing this I was tearing up pretty hard at the dinner table.

 

Day 4 - Queenstown: The Big Day

Oh man today was the day we are getting married! Although I’m a bit older in my life, oddly enough it still feels too young, not sure how others get married straight out of college. Anyway Matt is amazing and I’m a super lucky girl.

The day started with me waking up well before sunrise and us heading to town and getting savory breakfast pastries at a cafe called Bespoke Kitchen. Matt loves coffee, so we grabbed him a grande coffee from the town Starbucks as well (don't judge, drip coffee is hard to come by in NZ). We stopped by a clothing store and picked up duck boots for Matt so his feet wouldn’t freeze in dress shoes at the top of the mountain.

By the time we were back at our place it was time for the whole day to get started. The hairdresser, Tina, arrived at 10:30am and gave me beautiful curls, unfortunately these totally fell out later. Then right as she was finishing, the makeup artist, Yanisa, arrived at 11:30. At this time Matt was all dressed and ready. He left to go buy us a cake to serve at dinner and pick up his parents from the hotel in town.

By 12:30 the whole family, photographer, and film crew arrived at the house and it was complete chaos. We shot our first look on the driveway and grabbed a few family photos at the house. Then we headed to a park near the airport and grabbed more photos of the family. Matt and I got a few moments walking and playing with fall leaves. We realized we forgot our wedding papers and had to go back to the house quickly to pick these up.

After this we headed to the helicopter pad at the airport. The six of us Philippa (celebrant), Matt (pilot), Warren (photographer), Robbie (film), James (slo-mo camera and drone operator) and us boarded the compact 6 person helicopter. We crossed the lake and headed to our first stop on top of the snowy Bayonet Peaks. Although the helicopter was extremely smooth and the view was mesmerizing, the helicopter ride itself was a bit daunting. This was my second time in a helicopter and Matt’s first, I don’t think he was frightened at all. We all received protective headsets with microphones so we could talk to one another, the crew made some ridiculous jokes and it really calmed my nerves.

When we got out of the helicopter at the top it was definitely cold. The snow in some places was up to our knees if we didn't step properly. I was really glad to be wearing sorel snow boots with thermals underneath my dress to keep my bottom half warm. I wanted to avoid wearing a jacket in the pictures, so my top half was freezing. Matt pretty much wore a regular suit with dress pants and no layers, he was shaking throughout. Luckily he bought the duck boots so his feet were dry.

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We found a beautiful lookout on Bayonet Peak and Phillipa started the ceremony portion. She and Matt had worked together to talk about us and our memories, so the ceremony was very fun. After the main ceremony Matt recited his prepared vows. This whole section was a blur for me; I just remember the cold, the tears, and the feels. There was also that daunting yet exciting realization that this was finally it. Then we walked to the other side of the mountain and I said my prepared talk since I didn't want to recite my own vows... this speech made us both cry some more and Matt loved it. We took more photos and videos here then took off for the second peak.

The second peak was on a non snow covered vista called Cecil Peak (we landed on a questionable ridge line). This was an amazing view overlooking the lake below as was setting. We took more photos and videos, popped champagne and signed our wedding papers. Then we descended back down to the airport at 6pm and headed back to our Airbnb.

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I changed out of my constricting wedding dress and we headed to meet everyone for dinner at Josh Emmet’s (New Zealand’s Master Chef) restaurant, Rata. I arranged a pre-fixed feast style dinner that was so incredibly delicious, every dish being unique. Instead of going out after dinner we were both exhausted from the day and headed home to fall asleep.

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New Zealand: Day 1 & 2 on the South Island

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Day 1 - Landing in New Zealand

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Matt and I decided to skip having a formal wedding and “elope” in New Zealand instead. I lightly say the word elope, because 10 of our family members and my best friend decided to join us. I couldn’t bear the thought of going through all the rigorous long term planning that a wedding takes, hearing stories from friend who had to go through couples therapy when they couldn’t be on the same page through joint decision making or the idea spending nearly a 100k on a single day. I completely agree to each their own and I’ve been to spectacular weddings in the past, but it wasn’t for us. We wanted to embrace our traveling spirit by getting married in an exotic location, that also involves us getting married at the top of a 2,000 meter high mountain via helicopter, more on this later. 

We flew Air New Zealand and upgraded our seats to a Sky Couch meaning that we had a row of three seats to ourselves that convert to a mini bed. The flight was 13 hours and we were able to get rest, so the time went by quickly. We landed in Auckland and immediately got onto our next flight to Queenstown.

We landed in Queenstown at 10am and had an hour to kill until our rental car was ready. So in the airport we had some local New Zealand food... a cheese roll and mince meat pie.

We got our little blue Peugeot rental car and headed out onto the streets. The winter weather was clear, cold (higher 40s) and crisp. We drove through Queenstown and headed to Glenorchy which is a small town an hour way. It was beautiful and quaint with a fantastic lake front. We grabbed lunch at the Glenorchy Cafe and had a giant lentil soup, while Matt had a huge pork chop sandwich. We walked to the water to enjoy the serene calm lake and took some great aerial drone footage. After Glenorchy we hopped back on the road and headed to Arrowtown.

Arrowtown is another super small, quaint gold rush town with a few historic buildings, including an early Chinese settlement. Finally we headed toward Wanaka (one-a-kah) and arrived at our ecologically constructed Airbnb at 5pm. The temperature ended up dropping quite a bit and sundown quickly followed at 5:30pm.

We took an hour to relax after our long day on the plane and in the car and then we headed back to town for dinner. We were recommended to go to The White House for dinner but unfortunately it was closed. We stumbled upon Kika, this high end tapas restaurant, which was packed for the night. The food was delicious; beets, fried chicken, salad, and homemade pasta over turnips. We were so exhausted from the long day and delicious dinner and quickly fell asleep after we got home at 9pm.

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Day 2 - Wanaka

We woke up early around, 6:30am, so we had plenty of rest (The sun doesn’t rise in winter until around 8am). We headed to town center for breakfast at Relishes, after two caffeinated beverages each we went out to see the local sites. Today was much colder than yesterday, so we extra bundled up with wool socks, extra layers, and hand warmers. We Followed a tourist pamphlet that took us to a few walking locations plus a few driving ones.

The first interest point was at the dock overlooking lake Wanaka. Then we headed toward the famous #thatwanakatree, Matt wanted to walk and we quickly realized it was very cold and very far away. We walked back to the car and drove to the tree only to find out how beautiful it was. It was relatively close to where we were,  but definitely worth driving.

After that we got in the car again and headed towards waterfall creek on the coast, a local told us that there were better waterfalls up the road because quite clearly, this one was “shit” and he was right.

We got in the car and headed towards where he told us to go only to find ourselves on a dirt road 4 miles into the mountains. We didn’t find what he mentioned but had a beautiful drive nonetheless.

We continued down the road and made our way to the glacier near Mount Aspiring. On the way there we saw deer, elk, reindeer, a herd of sheep in the middle of the road and plenty of cows. We drove until we weren’t able to cross this rushing water with our car and got out to enjoy the view of the mountains here. We later learned that it would’ve been super worth it to hike up by foot for another 15 minutes past this point. 

We were both getting hungry so we booked it back to town and immediately got pies from an award winning bakery (steak + cheese and chicken + leek + cheese) were fantastic. We were still a bit hungry so, we walked down the road to a pub and continued to eat. Matt had a salmon bake and I had a seafood chowder. Matt got a Pilsner and we were finally able to relax. We headed back to the house to take a nap, the jet lag was rough to get over.

We woke two hours later and grabbed a fish and chips dinner at the Lake Bar. We enjoyed Kiwi games of rugby and chariot racing on their sports bar televisions.  

 

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How to be the Ideal "TEDx" Candidate

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Over the weekend I was asked to give a talk on “What it took to become a TEDx speaker” at a “Power Speaker Intensive” conducted by best-selling author Neil Strauss. Since then I’ve been asked to put my speech into a blog so that I could give others these same insights.

 

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Hello Everyone! What an amazing three day workshop this has been, let’s give "The Society" a big round of applause for putting this together. I have reviewed over 800 TEDx applications so that In the next 18 minutes (which is the TED stage standard) I can give you insider tips on how you can be the ideal TEDx red circle candidate.

Like you, I LOVE consuming TEDx talks, I watch them on a regular basis, and I know you do to because there are 1.2 billion videos watched every year, which breaks down roughly to 3.3 million views daily. Which is pretty damn incredible.

Fun fact TED surprisingly isn’t named after a man named “TED.”  It actually stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design which I immediately learned after I was asked to first volunteer. Being a volunteer was not only fun, it was incredibly inspiring to hear so many great speakers. Eventually when I was asked to start hosting the events,  I jumped at the chance, and eventually I ended up being the chapter Lead.

For the past 4 years or 8 events I have been the Lead Organizer of the TEDxCulverCity branch, I’m in charge of finding volunteers, reserving the venue, renting chairs, getting sponsors, selling tickets, getting city permits, managing the website, social media posts.. just to name a few. However my most important and time consuming role, is finding great speakers and working with them to have a successful talk.

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Running TEDx is not my full-time career, I work full-time in advertising coming up with ideas for commercials, I teach yoga, and volunteer at several of different non-profits. So if it’s time consuming, mentally draining, and I’m not getting paid to do it... why do I continue doing this year after year?

For me It is because I love the relationships it creates. It draws a unique crowd of attendees  that yearn to learn more, and I constantly see repeat attendees. I enjoy when people tell me their favorite moments of the evening.

I’ve even built friendships with my speakers and some have even yielded some collaborative projects. I currently work with one of my speakers on a non-profit speaking and performance event called MindshareLA, another I was a guest speaker to her class at Loyala Marymount University, and It was Arthur Samuel Joseph who introduced me to Neil Strauss and that's how I ended up here today. 

What makes TED and TEDx different are the organizers behind the event. TED’s main stage is organized by Chris Anderson who is the head of TED and his team. It features, speakers from around the world, including global change makers, and celebrity speakers. TEDx on the other hand... are community level events and usually features local voices. I'll let Chris tell you more about it...  

We are actually required to show that video at every TEDx event.

Show of hands who here wants to be a TEDx speaker? That’s great. Now let’s talk about talk about how to get you up on stage. This is the meat and potatoes portion, to start, you’ll need to visit this website: https://www.ted.com/tedx/events here you can type in your city and find your local chapter information and even who the host is.

Some chapters may have a speaker form you can submit  on their website while other chapters, you might have to email the hosts directly and tell them what makes you a worthy candidate. Since the chapters work independently of each other,  you can submit to as many as you want. This will help increase your chances of selection. It also doesn’t hurt to follow up with your submissions.

 

What should your submission include:

  • Who are you? Create a bio of yourself, including your list of accomplishments. Do you have a website? Are you in any press articles? This is the time to brag about yourself.

  • What would you like to talk about? Include a short through line about your idea. Do you have multiple ideas that you think you can work? If they’re good feel free to submit multiple.

  • What would you like to perform? Do you have a talent? Many people don’t realize that the TEDx stage can go beyond just speeches. It can be a variety of things... theater, spoken word, music, comedy... the most watched TEDx video is a Beatbox performance

  • Have you spoken before? Do you have prior speaking experience? It’s great to submit a  video of you speaking on a stage, you can even send the one you recorded earlier today. This shows off your stage presence and can be as lo-fi as a home video with an iphone.

You might say “okay sure… I can do the above asks, but what kind of ideas are these organizers really looking for”

The goal for each organizer is to create a great event and to produce good content. We need to find speakers who showcase inspiring ideas that change perspectives.

 

Here are some examples of talks that I have had on my stage:

  • "All Brains on Deck: A new look on Disability" - Dr. Sabine Huemer Cognitive Neuroscientist and her talk wanted us to re-examine how we approach people with Autism. Instead of seeing it as a disability we should see it as a  super ability

  • "Getting the right date" - Ruby Le a professional Dating Coach and Lead Matchmaker at Eharmony. She explains why nowadays people feel like its so hard to find the right date or to be in relationship. She points out that sometimes it's the imperfect person that can make you perfectly happy.

  • "The Art of Human Connection" - Ivan Cash, an interactive artist and film director. His talk explained how he felt that emails were too impersonal… which led him to start a project called Snail Mail my Email. He started asking people to send him their personal emails and the address of who they wanted the email to go to. He would then hand write actual letters and mail them to the recipient. This project took on a life of its own and he ended up using volunteers from around the world to create over 30,000 letters. Needless to say… this project went viral.

  • "Being a Male Cheerleader Changed My Relationship with Women" - Doug Melville, Chief Diversity Officer at TBWA. He uses a personal experience of being told by his college football coach that he would make a better cheerleader than football player, as a hilarious lemons to lemonade story about humility and ultimately recognizing women as teammates. He has taken his learnings off the field and into the work space. 

One thing you may have noticed about all these talks is how they’re pretty different. Most organizers are looking for different topics and perspectives to create a well rounded and balanced event.

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Is your idea TEDx worthy?

Here are some tips on how to filter your idea. First, write your idea down in one or two sentences then ask yourself:

  • Is my idea new?
  • Is it interesting?
  • Who might be interested in it?
  • Is it factual and realistic?

Once you’ve filtered your idea through these questions, bring your idea to someone who you respect and who doesn’t work in your field. If they answer “no” to any of these questions, go back, brainstorm a little, and then refine your idea.

For example Andrew McGregor's talk "How African Rats and Humans are Partnering to Find Landmines." And yes that’s definitely a new idea, yes it is interesting, it passed the people would probably care test, and it’s also 100% factual because he’s actually already manufactured these wearable vests for the rats already.

Who here has that friend that overly brags about their accomplishments (hand in air), ya me too (pointing to myself). It’s pretty tiresome to hear right, well that’s exactly what 50% of TEDx applicants send me. And the other 10% just want to promote their latest book or event, think about how annoying it is for you to hear someone brag about themselves or hock you their latest product.

I completely agree, not only does this make it extremely easier to filter out these applicants, it goes against TED’s house rules. If you google TEDx Rules, you’ll actually find a deeper appendix of additional things you can not talk about. Say you were chosen as a speaker and you did accidently violate some of the rules, the consequences for you is that TED will not post your video. Remember as your create your idea that TED’s vision statement is “Ideas worth spreading.”

I highly recommend not only watching TED videos to see all the different types of ideas, but also attending a local event and meeting the organizers in person.

A quote by Chris...

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I think my talk just proved that smooth talking is not needed. However, I hope it informed you on how to say something worth saying and how to find the right person to say it to. I look forward to seeing you one day on the TEDx red circle. Thank you. 

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Goat Yoga

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Yes! Goat yoga really is a thing. Made extremely popular by Kevin Hart and Khloe Kardashian's video. I don't follow everything the Kardashian's did, but I definitely watched this entire video and wanted to try it myself.  

I signed up for the class at Fauve Yoga Club in Santa Monica for this 2 hour class for $40. This included a 1 hour vinyasa flow class and then follows it up with a 1 hour photo op with the goats. The class was taught by Yogi Maha and it was a challenging both physically and mentally, because all you want to do is pet the ridiculously cute goats. 

The goats were from Party Goats and their names were Spanky and Pippin, 45 pound Nigerian Dwarf Goats, who definitely know their yoga. They run underneath you in downward facing dog, put their hooves on you in child's pose, and will give you a tiny head butt. Of course they're still animals and their could be a poop or pee, but it's good luck. I definitely had a fantastic time with these cuties and got a somewhat decent workout, I was too distracted taking pictures of the goats and being hyper aware where they were in the room. Fauve Yoga will be offering Goat Yoga every other month and their studio facilities are new, clean, great staff, fantastic teachers, with free mats and props to use.

I highly recommend this for yoga and non-yoga fans! 💜

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The California Desert

Over the weekend my fiancé Matt, Milo the dog, and I went on a 3 hour day trip outside of Los Angeles to the spectacular Lone Pine Rocks. This was the first time I had heard this place even existed, after looking a photos we figured why not. Suffice to say we were incredibly impressed with this day and a half weekend trip, it was gorgeous to see all this desert terrain and stop off at fun random stops on the way.

We took off at 6am on Saturday morning and made the drive north. The dog was extremely excited to be included in this adventure and nearly spent the whole drive with his head out the window. After a few pit stops we made it to this gnarly rock filled terrain, that was completely removed from civilization (there is a small town 10 minutes out). Being completely city folks we decided we would try sleeping in car versus the tent and bought some instant food from REI. 

The weather was absolutely perfect when we got there at 11am and we went on an hour walk around where we put our campsite. From about noon to 5pm it was insanely hot and we just took shelter inside our car, watched a movie from the ipad. At 6pm we started to make fire and start cooking our food, which turned out to be surprisingly delicious. Then it wasn't until 9pm did the sun begin to set and we had the most incredible pink sunset. We hoped to see clear stars, but there was too much cloud covering, this will have to be next time.  During the night it was super windy, cold and rained a little bit. 

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We ended up packing up and leaving the next day at 6am and headed into Lone Pine town for a tasty breakfast and coffee. On the way back we stopped by the Red Rocks, Poppy Reserve, Antique Barn, California City, Vasquez Rocks

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Happy Place Interactive Museum

The Happy Museum is the latest place to visit to brighten your Instagram feed. The latest Los Angeles pop-up exhibit is turning the expression "find your happy place" into a reality. The immersive series of themed installations, literally called Happy Place, is comprised of activities designed to make museum-goers smile.

We did a double date at the Happy Museum and had tickets booked for the last showing from 9-10pm on Sunday evening and had the entire museum to ourselves. We were able to take our time at each of the many picture areas, which was a huge contrast from battling others at 23Rooms

 
I want to live and raise my children in a world surrounded by what makes us happy. With the amount of unfortunate events happening recently, I believe that our world as a whole can use more happiness. To make this dream come true, we set out on a journey to create a special place filled with smiles and laughter for all.
— Jared Paul, founder of Happy Place
 
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Experiences include the chance to become a flower in a flower patch, stand upside down, or jump from a rainbow into a giant ball pit. The "Paradise Room" will showcase sculptures designed by artist Steven Harrington, while the "world’s largest confetti dome" will rain 500,000 pieces of confetti down on visitors. An outdoor area will include a lemonade stand (with net proceeds donated to charity), a popsicle truck, lawn games, and a retail store. Even Happy Place's food will be Instagram-bait; an on-site food truck will feature "happy-themed items," including a Rainbow Grilled Cheese.

Read my previous post on the other Interactive Museums of Los Angeles >

What I Learned From My 2 Months Away

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My biggest takeaway from my 2 month trip is I like the person I’m now a lot more. I wasn’t self loathing before I went on my trip and I wasn’t traveling for a soul searching purpose. However I did go with one major unrealized downfall and that is I’m a workaholic, which I kind of cringe typing the word “workaholic,” because the crazy person in me still thinks I could’ve worked harder, even though I filled every waking hour with a to do list. 

At the height of my workaholism last year I had a full-time job, a demanding start-up app job (that I did before and after work), non-profit volunteer work, a product that I did social media for, extra design freelance, and hosted my local TEDx events. This also included the energy needed for my fiancé, my pets, my friends, exercising and own personal sanity. I should’ve taken how many times I was told I was a workaholic as a sign from the universe to just slow the bleep down. 

I now vow to slow myself down which includes, handling work in reason and give people my absolutely undivided attention. Another part of my overworking means I was always on my phone, I would wake up and go to bed checking my email, check social media multiple times a day, and my dreams were filled with the next day’s agenda. Whether I was wake or sleeping I was just constantly distracted.The more we spend time loving oneself instead of overworking ourselves, it will make us more personable and kinder to one another. 

The person I’m now also eats much healthier. The food I ate on my trip were not filled with preservatives, pesticides or from a pre-made box. The grocery stores are about a 1/3 of the size of an average Los Angeles grocery store. I started getting comfortable eating fresh fruits and vegetables. On the way home from the airport I stopped by Whole Foods and bought tons of colorful veggies and fruits. I’ve been everything pretty much raw and I feel like I have a ton more energy.

I want to be constantly submerged in nature. Living in Los Angeles I’ve been completely desensitized by how much concrete that I see on a daily basis. I drive 40 minutes each way to work in traffic on one of the busies freeways and I also work in a high rise in a cubicle that is completely sterile from nature. I didn’t even realize how completely unhealthy it is to be this removed, you need the oxygen boost that the trees give you. You need to be outside to fully appreciate what the universe is filled with. 

At one point of my trip I heard “What if you knew your last day was in a day, an hour, a year, in five years… how would you live differently?” I’m sure I’ve been told this before, but during the trip it really stuck with me differently. At that moment my answer was “I would live completely differently...I would be more honest and genuine to everyone. I would enjoy the present, and not be looking to the future. I would live my authentic self, without worrying about the opinions of others."  

Holy Fire II Reiki Level 1 Certification

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I wanted to write about my experience taking an 8 hour Reiki certification course. Reiki is a healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient's body and restore physical and emotional well-being. Even the words Rei and Ki can be broken into the pieces of meaning (see photo). 

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The type of Reiki we learned is called Holy Fire II, which is an evolved version of Holy Fire I. Holy Fire uses energy is noticeably more refined and comes from a higher level of consciousness. The best way to explain is that they use an energy channelled from a higher power, this can be whichever God or source that you believe in. 

The teacher's name is Julianna Davis aka Jules is an Usui and Karuna Reiki® Master, Master Crystal Healer, Sound Healer, Spiritual Teacher, Psychic Medium and owner of Auralux in Los Angeles. She had a wonderful inviting personality that made a long day go by quickly. She studied under William Lee Rand who is the founder and president of The International Center for Reiki Training (ICRT), The Center for Reiki Research and The Reiki Membership Association. We used William Lee Rand's "Reiki The Healing Touch, First and Second Degree Manual." 

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We learned how to give a step by step Reiki healing. It starts with prayer hands with thumbs at heart (keeping a small space between palms) and doing Gassho meditation. The mediation goes like this "Just for today do not be angry. Do not worry and be filled with gratitude. Devote yourself to your work and kind to people." Then you bring your prayer hands to your third eye called "Reiji-ho" in which you ask a higher power to intuitively guide you in the process. Following this you go through a "Byosen Scanning" in which you scan the body with your hands to find places that have my energy can be heat, vibrational or tingling that you need to go back over during the treatment. "Chiryo" is the name of the treatment portion of the class in which you go over the entire body holding your hands over the troubled spot for at least 3 minutes. The whole treatment can be anywhere 30-90 minutes. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the class, at the end of the day I received a certification for Holy Fire II Reiki Level 1, in June I will be taking the Holy Fire II Reiki Level 2 certification. 

The Day's Schedule:

  • An Overview of Reiki
  • Guided Meditation
  • History of Reiki
  • Lunch Break
  • Attunement and Placement
  • Japanese Reiki Techniques
  • Practice

One Week at an Ashram: Krishna Village

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I spent the final week of my two month trip at the Krishna Village Ashram in the city of Eungella in NSW Australia. The ashram covered a 100 acres in a lush forest within a volcano caldera. The premises had a temple, village, farm, two lakes, school, goats, and cows. 

I signed up to do the Karma Stay meaning I get a 2-up shared room (made from a shipping container, divided into thirds) for AUS$340 for the week and get all three meals a day, plus twice daily yoga classes, daily kirtan, and yogic living class. I was also expected to volunteer 20 hours a week or I’ll lose my AUS $50 deposit. 

The daily schedule is:

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  • 5 - 6am morning vinyasa yoga
  • 6:15am - 8:30 am volunteer session 1
  • 8:30am breakfast at the temple
  • 9:15am - 12pm volunteer session 2
  • 12:30pm kirtan 
  • 1pm yogic living classes 
  • 2pm lunch at the kitchen
  • 4:15pm - 5:15pm evening yoga
  • 6pm dinner at the temple 
  • 7pm wellness talk
  • 9pm lights out

It wasn’t until the week before my stay that I realized it was a Hare Krishna ashram and I didn’t know what exactly that entailed until I got there. It means that the ashram, practices paying respects to the Hindi god Krishna and his wife hare. We did prayers before eating vegetarian sattvic food and sang the Maha Mantra multiple times daily.

"Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare"

The devotees of the temple had mala prayer beads and would recite this mantra  1,728 times (108x16) a day, this would take about 2 hours. 

I had such a great time in my one week at the Krishna Village and can have easily stayed there longer if I wasn’t so homesick after being away for so long. I would definitely recommend Krishna Village to anyone, religious or not it was just a wonderful place in nature surrounded by great people. 

 

DAY 1

We arrived in the evening and Henrike gave us a tour of the grounds. Then we headed to the temple on the hill for dinner. The food is vegetarian here and  so delicious we had a salad, vegetable pasta, rice, sweet rice, cooked vegetables, and Dahl. 

 

DAY 2

My friends drove to Spirit Fest in Byron Bay and I stayed behind at the ashram. It was my first full day here and I wanted to get grounded, settle in, and take classes. 

I woke up at 4:30am and attended the morning vinyasa flow yoga at which was really well led. Then I met for my 6:15 volunteer meet up where I was assigned village kitchen help. I spent the morning chopping fruits and vegetables for the lunch meal. James the kitchen cook showed us different healthy vegan recipes to make at home.

This followed up with breakfast at the temple then a yogic living course about the Values Pendulum. This was followed up with a restorative yoga then dinner. I was so exhausted that I fell asleep by 9pm.  

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DAY 3 & 4 

I signed up for the Balinese massage 22 hour certification course. This was taught by Karen and Dee, this was a wonderfully thorough physical, spiritual, and emotional experience. We learned how to give a 75 minute full body massages with oil.

Intuitive Balinese Massage combines a variety of classic whole body massage techniques with the practitioner's ability to tap into their intuition and create a meditative state of relaxation and healing for their client. The program gave us massage therapist accreditation by the  International Institute for Complementary Therapists (IICT),

The first day we learned how to do the warmup (5 minutes), back of legs (10 minutes each) and the back (30 minutes).

The second day we did the front of the body, legs (2.5 minutes each) front of body (15 minutes), and our final the full 75 minutes. 

This was such a wonderful class where I was able to learn new massage techniques and meet new friends. I’m unsure if I will ever use my new massage license, but it can’t hurt to be certified. This class inspired me to signup for a reiki healing course where I’ll be getting a level 1 & 2 certificate.

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DAY 5

The following days I was so sore from massaging so many hours over the weekend and my head was nauseas due to receiving so many massages. I ended up skipping morning yoga for the rest of my stay at the Krishna village.

The following days I was assigned volunteering duty in the temple kitchen.  Working in the temple was a job only given to volunteers they trusted to follow the temple rules. It was quite an honor to be assigned this position and during breakfast & lunch I served the meals. Guests were not allowed to serve themselves the food, I believe this was to make people take a pause and feel gracious about the food they were receiving. The duties of working in the kitchen is to clean the floor of the dining area (everyone ate seated on the floor), prepped the vegetables for breakfast & dinner, and served breakfast & lunch to the guests (dinner was served by the devotees).

Working in the temple area felt very calming and spirituals, it was quite amazing to be surrounded by the devotees while they were doing their daily rituals. 

After my volunteer shift I attended the “Shedding the layers of identity” yogic living class and it was about the five different levels of koshas. It was about taking care of all five leveled of a persons essence, so one can live their true authentic self.

After this we took the rental car and drove 30 minutes away to Springbrook National forest where there is a natural bridge made by a waterfall that flows into a glow worm cave. 

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DAY 6

After I volunteered at the temple I attended the afternoon kirtan class, followed by a ceremony performed by Reagan. The ceremony he preformed was influenced by the local indigenous tribe and included: 

  • Sage smudging
  • Okra painting
  • Bangala tribe dance: fire, wind, water, okra painting earth, emu, eagle, wallaby, thank you
  • Blue lily Tea ceremony 
  • Digridoo nidra

Later on I attended a relaxing Hatha yoga class and attended the wellness talk by the devotee Sarvi Dashi.

Wellness Talk Notes

  1. Epigenetic (above genes): Change your genes change your life. Only 2% of your genes locked in for preconditions. Expose to outside conditions such as the diet, chemicals, pollution, etc we can trigger our genes. Don’t vaccine kids? Redux biology - what do the molecules do? Improving cell to cell communication. Can take 4 root hairs $100 and tell you what you have been eating the last 90 days and actually read your genes. 
  2. Gut health: We have bacteria living inside and outside our body, more of these cells then our own cells. As long as they all live in balance we stay healthy. You keep it in balance by not stress and eat healthy (fruit and vegetables). 2k species in rural and 200 in the city. Human biom/micro biom. Dr. Susan Humphrey. 
  3. The question of supplementation: magnesium escobat, organic AGM Foods - Whole food fermentation probiotics. A2 cows, stress taken away too early, blood for mechanical.
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DAY 7

The last day at the ashram made me stop and appreciate all the small things of the day. Such as the beautiful morning sunrise, noises of nature, and all the wonderful people at the ashram. 

After volunteering I attended the yogic living class about “Living in Balance” and then attended a challenging vinyasa yoga class. 

We ended the evening watching a movie about permiculture (creation of permanent agriculture) called “Inhabitat.” This was shown by the instructor the 3 week permiculture course by the teacher Damien. 

After the movie I said all my goodbyes and gave lots of hugs, then packed my bags and headed to the Gold Coast airport for the long journey home. 

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