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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The Gold Coast

The gorgeous Gold Coast with multiple fine sand beaches filled with warm blue ocean water. We stayed at Paradise Island Resort, which was conveniently located to the beach. We also rented a car, so we can do a day trip to Tamborín Mountain and Byron Bay.

 

DAY 1

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We arrived in Surfer’s Paradise on the last day of the Commonwealth games, so there was a lot of art exhibitions and performances happening from artists around the world. For example we played on musical see-saws and sang in a giant sing along. We saw performances from Holoscenes with actors inside a water tank and Blocks an acroyoga troop.

The Australian government scared the locals about the amount of traffic that would happen in town, most locals went on vacation and the town was unusually quiet. We were told that local businesses were actually suffering during the 3 weeks of commonwealth games.

The food in Australia has been incredibly delicious, it seems that most of the restaurants serve locally grown food. We had an açaí bowl and poke bowl and not only was it tasty, we had great ocean views.

 

DAY 2

On the second day we drove 15 minutes south down the coast to Burleigh Heads Beach to surf. However since we didn’t get there until 11am, we didn’t see any surfers and chickened out. We heard reports of shark attacks and felt unsure to have just the two of us go. Also later on that day we learned that Burleigh Heads is where the sewer run off is, so it’s good we didn’t go.

For lunch we went to California Tacos for some fresh and delicious fish tacos. The owner was from San Diego and his tacos were award winning, they also had a deal for Taco Tuesday. Afterwards we wandered the town and did some window shopping. On the way back to our Airbnb we stopped by Mermaid Beach to catch magic sunset hour at the beach.

We then met up our friend from the states Charles, who’s been traveling and teaching yoga for dinner at You Japanese. He brought his friend Clarence to dinner as well, afterwards we visited Clarence’s apartment in the Q1 high rise which used to be the tallest building until the Dubai building and is now the 4th largest building

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DAY 3

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Our final day was a relaxing one, we initially wanted to spend the day surfing, however it rained the night before and didn’t want to be in the dirty run off.

Instead we decided to make this a chill day and had delicious vegetarian brunch at Cardmom Pod. I highly recommend this place even if you aren’t vegetarian, every dish was extremely colorful and full of flavor.

We spent the afternoon watching Netflix and washing all our laundry. Then finished the day with a trip to Lord of the Fries a vegetarian/vegan fast food chain a local friend told us we had to try.

 

DAY 4

We packed up early and headed off on the road for a nature day. We headed back to our favorite restaurant Cardmom Pod for their breakfast menu and was not disappointed. The food here is so ridiculously good!

Then we drove to Tamborine Mountain, which was an hour away from Gold Coast. This beautiful outdoor area that we thought we could see everything in a few hours, but turns out is huge and you need about 2 days to see everything. We stopped to see Cedar Creek Waterfalls: a beautiful short hike that takes you to see 6 waterfalls.

After this we headed to our yoga ashram as Krishna Village where we will be spending the next 7 days practicing yoga and working on a farm.

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One Day in Brisbane

Brisbane is the third largest city in Australia and is often skipped by those visiting the country. One of the things I wanted to do was to hold a koala and wanted to do it in an environment healthy for the animal. The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the first and largest sanctuary with a 130 koalas and other Australian animals. 

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The sanctuary is a hour and a half from the Gold Coast airport and it was an easy drive. I recommend purchasing the tickets on the Lone Pine website directly to save $4 on admission of AUS$36, The holding a koala pictures are an additional AUS$25. The sanctuary also has an actual coffee stand outside and makes delicious brew. This is also the perfect time to bring the selfie stick.

The koala holding is a very quick few minutes, because koalas are fussy creatures. They also need 20 hours of sleep today and I’m sure being constantly moved from person to person is quite annoying.

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The other main attraction at the sanctuary is the kangaroo feeding area. Visitors get unlimited amount of time in this area and these kangaroos are use to visitors petting and taking selfies with them. In the general store you are able to purchase kangaroo food for $2, however the kangaroos seemed uninterested in the food because they’ve been fed all morning by other visitors.  

We attended the sheep dog show and learned about the Kelpi breed. This dog was bread from a border collie and a dingo, to help with sheep sheering. The border collie is the dog to herd the sheep, but then a kelpie gets into the sheering pen and makes sure the sheep is behaving. They were bred to ride the sheep, so they don’t get trampled. The Kelpi was still a puppy and was full of licks. The sanctuary also had viewings of other animals such as wombats, dingos, Tasmanian devils, cockatoos, bats, lorikeets, and owls.  

After the full 6 hour afternoon at the zoo, we headed to Brisbane city. Monday’s are an off day for Australians and it was difficult to find places that were open. We had dinner at the busy and popular restuarant called the Charming Squire. Then we were met up by local friends Martin and Tim for a walk by the river, with a tour through the gardens and drinks at a heritage home called The Little Big House. 

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Sydney “Harbor City”

Sydney is a beautiful city surrounding the harbor and definitely worth visiting. We were told that it was a super busy city, with tons of people, traffic and therefore not fun to visit, however we found plenty of fun things to do. We had 4.5 days in Sydney and easily could’ve stayed here for a few days. During our time in Sydney I was battling a cold, so the heat wave was very welcomed, the average of each day was high 80s.

DAY 1

The first day we arrived we decided to do the free Walking Tour (http://www.imfree.com.au/sydney/sights/) to get better acquainted with the city. They have the city tour twice a day at 10:30am and at 2:00pm, they’re 2.5 - 3 hours long.

We started at the Town Hall, walked through Macquire Street, Hyde Park, the Rock’s district, and ended up at a scenic overlook at the Harbour. Our guide covered Sydney’s beginnings and development from it’s early days as a convict colony right up to the major developments that have made Sydney the world city that it is today. We learned that the Australians coat of arms include a kangaroo and emu because those are two animals who can’t walk backwards, symbolizing the forward movement of the country.

Then at 6pm we joined their second free walking tour at The Rocks. This was a short 1.5 hour tour where they delved deeper into the history of The Rocks, the site of Australia’s first European settlement. We explored its lane ways, pubs, and historical buildings and learned about murders, muggings and mysteries.

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DAY 2

The next day we visited the Taronga Zoo across the bay. We purchased the Captain Cook combo pass and we found an Optus customer discount, so it was only $50 for the adult pass to the zoom and a 48 hour ferry access (adult zoo entry alone is $49). The zoo had so many animals that we ended up staying for 5 hours. I highly recommend this zoo to see all the different types of Australian marsupials.

We ended up taking the last ferry back at 4:30am and did the full ferry experience seeing all 10 harbor stops with the audio tour commentary. We finished the day at the Sydney opera house, watching the free projected light show at 7pm, and caught a symphony at 8:30pm. If you have a student ID card you’re able to have a tremendous discount on the shows. I highly recommend a show for the full Opera house experience.

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DAY 3

We started the morning with a free 10:30am tour of the Royal Botanical Gardens. Our tour guide Lynn covered so much in 1.5 hour tour. I highly recommend this tour, because she covered more then what was on the informational plaques. The park is also so large and I wouldn’t have known to visit the things she pointed out. There is also a helpful brochure that points out notable interesting plants.

After this we took an Uber to Bondi (bond-ai) Beach which was less then 30 minutes away. We stopped off and had a deliciously healthy poke bowl lunch at Speedo Cafe. Then we spend the next few hours relaxing on the beach, watching some locals volleying a soccer ball. Then we started the beautifully scenic walk from Bondi to Coogee, but the walk was so beautiful we ended up taking lots of pictures and only made it halfway to Bronte Beach.

On the way we passed by the Bondi Iceberg sea bath, this has to be the coolest pool in the world. I really should’ve taken a swim here, but I wasn’t prepared for a really Olympic distance pool. I recommend you to pack goggles and a swim cap and trying out the pool.

We finished the evening at a restaurant called the Three Blue Ducks and had a delicious candlelight meal.

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DAY 4

On this day we visited the Blue Mountains, we purchased the sunset tour from Wildlife Tours which was $89 and included lunch. The Blue mountains are about 2.5 hours away and I highly recommend paying for the tour instead of doing it yourself. There are a lot of things to see, different trails and I don’t know how we would’ve found our way around by ourselves.

We learned that the abundant Eucalyptus trees release an oil into the air and with light refraction from the sun, it makes the mountains look like a hazy blue. We took a  1.5 hike to see a few scenic vistas, two beautiful waterfalls and stopped off at a cave to hear about the aboriginal origins.

We returned back right before 8pm and had dinner in Chinatown then strolled through the night market. We walked to Darling Harbor where all the night life was. There were kids playing in the fountains, acrobatic street performers, lots of night club, and a giant Ferris wheel.

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DAY 5

The last half day in Sydney we visited the harbor one last time to soak in the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge. Then we visited the Museum or Contemporary Art of Australia which is free to visit. They had fantastic exhibits and if you’re a museum fan I recommend a visit. At 2pm we headed to the airport for our flight to the Gold Coast.

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Melbourne "The Most Livable City"

Melbourne is definitely justly named the world’s most “livable” city, it’s clean and modern with the most gracious people. The few days we spent in Melbourne went the quickest of any of our travel days and spent it with old friends and with new ones (The Melbourne locals are known as Melbournians).

The trip started after 30 hours of traveling on four leg flights. We arrived early in Melbourne at 5:15am and we were exhausted. The time difference from Africa and the multitude of flights and layover was intense. At the airport we purchased a 24g sim card for 30AUS ($24 US). Then we uber-ed to a friends house, who graciously let us stay over in the Brunswick area. If you have two people traveling it’s cheaper in an uber, then taking public transportation.

Then we took the train into the city centre for the Free Melbourne Walking Tour. We spent three hours walking around the city learning about important buildings and the history of the city. We saw various laneways, graffiti art, the old jail, Carlton gardens, world’s fair building, the library, the river, and the city skyline.

Melbourne’s History:

  • 4000 years ago the aborigine tribes walked over from Papa New Guinea when water the levels were low.
  • 1835 John Batman from Tasmania bought land from aboriginals
  • 1836 British asked for lands back from Batman and claimed it for Britain
  • 1880 Melbourne was the richest city in the world, due to its gold resource
  • 1901 Federation happened
  • 1951 Area named after Queen Victoria and separated from South Wales
  • 1956 Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games first country to host outside Europe and North America
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Later that evening we met up with a friend named Jeanette and 2 of her friends for drinks at the Cabinet Bar. Afterwards our walking tour guide Desmond met us up and we had dinner at a street cafe called RMB. We then met up some other Aussie locals and went bar hopping: Rooftop Bar, 1806, and pizza pizza pizza. A notable aspect of Australia is that everything is fairly expensive, most notable is the price of food even with the included tip and tax in the price.

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The next day we taught vinyasa yoga at Princes Park and then we had an acroyoga class taught by one of the students named Ceasar. We learned a lot of new acro moves and met some more nice locals. Then we headed off to another local friends (Nicole and John) going away party at Edinburgh Castle.

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For dinner, we ate at Etta with local friends Jeanette and Kylie. Afterwards we had a ladies night with cocktails and pool, at Atticus Finch Bar and Amelia Shaw Bar.

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The next morning took an uber to St. Kilda beach and had brunch at Republique with another local friend named Nina.  We walked around Luna Park and saw their crafts. We then spent the afternoon watching  local breakdancing competition called Mortal Kombreak that we were invited to by one of our yoga students named Linx. Another one of our yoga students named Lyndsay came with us to dinner at a delicious Moroccan restaurant called Moroccan soup, each person pays 25AUS and gets a complete vegetarian meal.

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The next morning we hit Sydney Road and spend the entire day wedding dress shopping. This street has about 15 bridal shops most allowing you to purchase straight off the rack. The dresses in Australia are quite beautiful, but the prices are similar to US amounts, however at the airport you can get the tax back. This was an exhausting ordeal considering the multitude of shops. I ended up purchasing a dress that I’m happy with that needs quite a bit of alterations to fit properly. We finished the day with a final meal at Vegie Bar, a trendy vegetarian restaurant that had good food. We were also able to treat our hosts to dinner.

Overall Melbourne was a fantastic city and I could definitely see myself living here!

10 Travel Tips for Africa

Africa is pretty incredible and easy to get around. Everyone here speaks English and there are plenty of ATMs.

The two main things I wish I had knew before coming was...first there are so many different places you can visit wildlife that I hadn’t considered (such a Botswana and Kenya) and most people while visiting Africa will visit multiple countries to see different wildlife. There’s also the great migration in Kenya that happens twice a year that sounded quite interesting.

Second the time of year makes a huge impact on not just the weather, but what you will see. We went in March where the plant life is green and lush, making it harder to see animals at a distance, however the trade off is you see baby animals. Victoria Falls in March has high water levels and it created white outs while viewing, it would’ve been nice to see it slightly dryer which is later in the year, however it was still wonderful.

I would recommend anyone visiting to check on conditions before coming, so you know what to expect. We were extremely lucky to have randomly stumbled on a pretty good time of year. Below are some additional tips to help

  1. Give yourself time for this trip, there’s lots to see, most visitors visit at least 2 weeks.
  2. Bring Malaria Pills and get a TB shot, are very important this is an extremely high risk area.
  3. Open a Charles Schwab (http://www.schwab.com/referred) checking account to withdraw from cash from foreign ATM. 
  4. Have a Chase Sapphire (get 50k points) to use as a credit card to have no extra foreign transactions, it also comes with $300 yearly travel reimbursement, and priority pass for access to lounges for free.
  5. Purchase SIM cards from the Vodacom store for $12 for 1gb data from the airport or a neighborhood store.
  6. Mosquito repellent
  7. Binoculars to see wildlife
  8. Bring a zoom lens for your camera
  9. Kruger specific - Get a map/animal chart from the park store for $12. It has many roads that the signs don’t show you and you will lose GPS server in the park.
  10. Victoria Falls specific - Waterproof clothing, ziplock bags for your money & passport, and camera protection for the waterfalls.
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