Building Connection, not Conflict in Holiday Gatherings

It’s the classic joke, isn’t it.  The relationship dramas that hit the headlines during holiday gatherings?

“There are some things we can change, and some we can’t,” we tell ourselves.  And even if we’re not the praying type, we send up our desperate appeals to all the gods that may be, that this time will be different, will be better.

Outside of actual divine intervention, I’m interested in what we ourselves can do to make our own experience better.  And perhaps even make it better for others.

One of my favorite mantras:  I can’t change others.  But I can change myself.  And if I change, everything changes.

Here’s my Top 10 List for Making Your Holiday Gathering the Best It Can Be!

  1. Give yourself the freedom to not go/not host.
    There’s nothing that undermines our happy place faster than feeling we have to do something we dread or hate.  By giving yourself permission to not go or not host, you have the opportunity to clean out your own emotional blackmailing of yourself, and to let go of what doesn’t work for you.  Then you are freed up to have and do what really brings you joy in your holiday!

    Don’t fill your precious time with “have-to’s!”  Plus, it’s always amazing how everyone else feels a sense of relief when we have the guts to go first, and pull out of the obligation we feel–no more emotional blackmail.

  2. Consider why you’re going/hosting, and only be authentic with yourself.
    If your going/hosting isn’t for reasons of your heart, consider not doing the event.  Or change your heart so you can be sincere and authentic with yourself.

    Even if it is good or important to go/host, you should never do it if you aren’t clear in your own heart about it.  So much drama happens when we do things we aren’t 100% authentic and sincere about.  So your choices are to pull out, or to work on that change of heart and motivation in order to get yourself fully sincere in what you’re going to do.  (See the rest of this list for help)

  3. If you feel you’re stuck with the gathering this late in the game, then don’t be a complainer– If you’re going to do it, Choose All-In.

    In other words:  Don’t be a damn victim crybaby.  I have a motto I put in place for myself many years ago.  If I am going to do something, it is 100% my choice.  Even if I hate it.  I have no one else to blame since it’s my choice.  The up-side of this is that I am never a victim of what I do or don’t do–because it’s my choice.  It is amazing how much better we can feel in nearly anysituation, when we know we made the choice ourselves.  If you’re going to do it, choose it!

  4. Process on your hot-button topics beforethe gathering.
    Are you telling negative stories or positive ones?  Are you setting yourself up for a Mt. Vesuvius-scale family eruption, or are you actively planning for fun and connection?  Though it’s not all in your hands (or on your shoulders, for that matter), you can figure out your own hot-button topics before the event.  Then do some serious processing work on them so they become more neutral to you.

    Ex:  If you know you’re going to get harassed about not being married, breaking up, taking a job, quitting college, etc, find your own clarity and sense of self about it first.  If you’re in a good place with yourself, it’s much harder for someone to make it into an issue!  Then figure out your calm phrase to neutralize whatever is thrown at you, like, “I keep proposing to people but then they find out about you guys, and I never hear from them again!”  Make it humorous if you can.

    On the subject, not taking ourselves so seriously, and making things funny is a fantastic way to travel smoothly through the rapids of any holiday gathering.

  5. Plan your topic detours ahead of time.
    Never talk politics or religion, right?  But then what do we talk about?  The time you spend figuring out how to direct the people you know into conversations you know they will enjoy and be invested in… IS. WORTH. EVERYTHING.  It becomes quickly evident to others when we are deeply interested in them–and we love this.  Try to find avenues of conversation that intersect your interests and theirs.  Find ways to build others up authentically and naturally in your conversations.  When people feel seen, understood and appreciated, they respond well.

    Even with people you agree with on the hot-button topics, discussing these topics doesn’t really engender deep connection in the precious time we spend, and usually ends up leaving us feeling empty.  Wouldn’t it be better to know someone more deeply because we asked about their lives, their past, what they dream about or wish for, what’s been hard for them (as we listen closely), what music they like, or movies/series they saw recently.  Being prepared with how to expertly direct the conversations to what make others feel connected and important is a game-winner!

  6. Let go of the outcomes.  I mean it.  LET GO!
    When you choose to go and you know it is your choice, then you have to let go of whatever the outcomes are from going.  It is amazing how much grief and drama are created because we walk into intimate gatherings with hidden expectations.  When those expectations aren’t met, we begin to have negative feelings of different kinds.  It can be the difference between a neutral conversation about cranberry sauce and the cranberry sauce being the symbol of everything wrong with that person!  Our expectations are the silent ninjas in our interactions, wreaking havoc on our peace of mind until we finally explode and cause real damage.

    Get clear on your expectations long before your gathering.  Then take them apart one-by-one until you have no expectations when you go.  This single step can change your entire experience–and everyone else’s–for the better!

  7. See the child in everyone.
    One of the magic games I play when I’m out in the world is to see the child. Whether it is a homeless person, the cashier, my colleague, the aggravating customer service rep, or the people closest to me at a holiday gathering…  When I see the child, I instantly have a deeper understanding of the person I am looking at.  This understanding can mean everything when we are confronting difficult relationship history, personality clashes, or people’s choices we don’t like.  Seeing the child in another opens our heart.  And from an understanding heart, we can find a way through even the most heartbreaking or frustrating moments in our holiday gatherings–and in life
  8. Connect beforehand.
    If there’s baggage and bad history with others you’re going to see, chances are good they are expecting conflicts.  If you reach out beforehand with simple positive texts, an email or two, or a quick little voice message that says you’re really looking forward to seeing them and hearing what they’ve been up to in their life, it can cause a subtle and crucial shift in expectations.  If you’re not afraid or upset about seeing them, it let’s a lot of pressure off the meeting, right?!

    “But I don’t feel that way, Carmell!  I can’t lie if that’s not how I feel.”  Of course.  So for myself, I have to practice forgiving our differences before I reach out.  When you forgive their differences, you make it ok for each of you to be exactly yourselves.  And a possible pathway forward to have a better experience is opened up.

    An important note:  This does not apply to situations where someone has violated you.  You cannot forgive differences when this has occurred.  A violation of our self is not the same as disagreeing on politics or someone not accepting another’s sexual orientation.  Instead, you should find what your healthiest boundary is–particularly if it is not attending at all–and honor that boundary for yourself.  Your first responsibility is to your own safety and peace.

  9. Plantime for yourself–and hold to it.
    I love this one!  It is a real game-changer.  When you go to a holiday gathering whether a few hours or a few days, plan time for just you.  When you know ahead of time that you are taking time for yourself while you’re in a situation that could be challenging for you, you have automatically given yourself a healthy boundary.  We can stay calmer, centered, clear-headed and good-humored when we pre-plan and then follow through with taking ourselves out of the situation, as planned, for periods of time.  This is a classic self-soothing technique, and it works like freaking magic.

    A lovely little side benefit I’ve found is that by taking that time for me, I automatically become an influence of calm, relaxed presence, fun, and careful listening for others–which makes the whole experience smoother for everyone!

  10. Be helpful where it’s needed!
    There’s a difference between nervous hovering and calm helping. Don’t be helpful to try to avoid conflict.  Rather, be helpful regardless of what the situations are.  When you are showing up to help in real ways, small frustrations can be allayed, allowing everyone to have a smoother experience.  For example, when I continually clean up the kitchen at my family reunions, the cleaner kitchen has a calming effect on all the family who are in and out of the kitchen making meals all day long.

    We can always watch and find ways to be helpful.  Sometimes it is taking the ‘problem person’ into personal conversation so that others can have the wonderful connected conversation they want to have.  Sometimes, it is being behind the scenes organizing so others feel more relaxed.  Sometimes, it’s running errands, or picking people up, or running a load of laundry, or seeing people warmly out the door so whoever’s hosting can do what they need to do.  Being helpful always creates a deeper calm, and opens more possibilities for real connection!

A last thought on this.  Everything I’ve listed in my Top 10 is based in being honest and authentic with ourselves, and practicing showing up from our hearts.  There have been a few times where I show with my best, and it’s just bad.  There’s no shifting the direction of the river.  And further, I’ve felt it undermining my own peace and sense of self.  You don’t need to stay. It’s always alright to quietly leave.  

Some “times” just aren’t our times.  Some groups just aren’t our groups.  Some situations just don’t fit us, and we know we would be better being with ourselves than in that spot.  Being honest and authentic with ourselves means honoring our own gut wisdom when something isn’t right for us, without creating a story around it.

So before everything gets crazy, get clear on what you want your holidays to be for you.  Describe them to yourself.  Then make each decision based on fulfilling that clarity.  Have the holiday moments and spaces that feed your soul in the best ways

“Hati… hati”

| LOCATION: in the garden at my bungalow in Amed, Bali overlooking the Java Sea |

“Slowly… slowly.”

They tell me this in Bahasa with careful caring eyes as I “jalan jalan”–journey.

It is significantly more work to cultivate and practice simplicity than it is to “acquire and fill up” our time and space.

Simplicity requires slowing down.

When I came to Amed last year, I was healing the intensity of a powerhouse year. It worked wonderfully.

I make a practice in my life of “not going back,” though.

So as I came to Amed today, I had wondered all along why I was coming again to where I’d already been.

Met by the staff at my bungalow with the love and greeting of long-missed family, and frangipani flowers arrayed on my bed in a giant fragrant yellow heart with pink blossoms spelling Welcome in the middle. I was awash with joy in their bursting smiles.

It was a few hours later that I felt… what?

Sitting on the crisp white sheets now, careful to not disturb the sweet flower heart that takes up half the bed, I stare out into the garden, sounds of geckos and frogs calling in the early evening. It is the deep quiet that catches me. Without trying, everything has slowed. I’ve slowed. Sitting amidst the simple life not fixated on squaring every corner, fixing every pothole, or enforcing mosquito-free zones.

Even the wifi is down tonight, reassuring me that life is securely beyond my control as always, and it is time to Let Go, Carmell.

I get the clear sense in only a few hours here, that I have not come back, but rather returned after my initiation.

I am ready for a deeper silence this time. A measured clarity of my life as it is now. Being schooled in balance and discipline between the water that flows over and through every part of life here, and the lava running a constant fire beneath my feet from the moment I stepped foot on this island.

I’m right here.



| LOCATION: Lying on a bench in the Starbuck’s in Chiangi Singapore Airport waiting for 7 am |

As I prepared to be out of the country again for several months with the loosest of plans, I kept feeling the pull to stay home.

“Your bed is SO comfortable… It’s the only thing you miss when you’re gone.”

Or the little half-thoughts, “There’s so much to do with your company. So much easier to stay on track if you’re just here instead.”


“How much less stressful will it be–no packing!! Everything you need already right here. No getting ready to sublet. You’re right at the crunch-time of your rebrand, you could just wait–“

“How many hours of flying?!!”

A dear friend said last week, Carmell, you’re living the life so many want to live. And I asked him, Really?!

The truth is, every great kind of life requires sacrifice of some sort. And from what I’ve learned, that ALWAYS includes sacrificing comfort.

From the outside, our life may look like business as usual or it may appear glamorous, but if it is something great, you will find sacrifice in it.

I don’t use this word lightly. I’m not a martyr or a victim.

I choose in.

It took only 7 hours into my 30 hours of flying–I was somewhere over the North Pacific toward Russia–that I felt the shift. The return of my hard-won love affair with Relocation.

Leaving where I am for something new again, struggles and challenges in the simplest daily needs, wonder and creativity off the charts. The anxiety (and exhilaration) of not knowing.

I write this as I made it by minutes onto my Tokyo–Singapore leg, then spent the last 4 hours sleeping on the Starbucks sofa from 1:30-4:30 am waiting to check in for my 7 am flight. Last leg 😉

We all long for home. But that’s not the same as comfort. And confusing those two might keep us comfortably stranded on a tiny familiar island for years or decades, dreaming and never doing.



| LOCATION: My cozy flat in the Lower Avenues, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA |

I just got a voice text from my dear client and friend on the road who hit I-15 closures out of St George, Utah on her way to Thanksgiving the next day. Taking the detour and backtracking, she messaged me with tears running down her face as this literal detour brought her to the very edge of her frustration with the loneliness and detours of her life.

My heart broke because I know this place. I wrote her back:


Be soft and sweet and gentle with yourself. Life is detours.

Maybe we need a different word so that we don’t keep thinking that we are off-track. As painful as it feels, you are exactly where you are supposed to be, and the resistance you feel inside to that–to being exactly where you are right now

–comes from your heart hurting, being heartbroken.

The only thing to do is to go down into that beautiful heart of yours and be soft and gentle and sweet with her.

Listen to her, hold her, and understand her. She knows that you are on the right track. And she knows your desires because your heart is where those desires come from.

It’s in the places of total unknowing, and being with the sadness and loneliness, that you truly trust the path that you’re on and… open in REAL un-resistance to the future that fills all your heart is longing for.

Something in you knows better than what you think you know.

And when that something takes the driver’s seat, it usually looks like detours.

Trust yourself, trust life with your whole heart. Let the tears come and let go and trust. It will be better than you could ever imagine

…surprising and thrilling you just like it has before.


Kindness Never Runs Late

| LOCATION: Sitting in utter relief waiting for United Flight 632 at? |

Arrived just in time at JFK, looking for the United terminal…

There is no United terminal at JFK.

But there is at LaGuardia.

A terrified and frantic taxi ride later, I checked in one minute late to get my bag on the plane… And they said Yes!!

I am thanking God and the universe and all the powers that be for my beautiful, steel – nerved taxi driver with his old big band music playing, and the crisp New York air, and my total trust as he wove us expertly through New York rush hour traffic and pulled up at 5:05 on the dot ❤️🙏🏽😅

I want to mention that as we were stopped at a light waiting, a homeless man with a sign saying he was hungry, was standing to the side. My driver silently rolled down his window, picked up the tied bag of carry-out food ready for his own meal, and waving the man over, handed it to him with a smile and well wishes. My heart was too full for words.

I thought as we waited for light after light to change, I wouldn’t have missed that moment. The same deep effort at life he was putting into getting me to LaGuardia was what he quietly offered to the man on the sidewalk in the midst of our rush.

Thank you to the United check-in duo who got me in and through instantly! I said to her as I ran for security, “That is a ONE-TIME mistake. Period.”

We laughed!


On the Crazy-Making Edge of What You Want

| LOCATION: On the sofa bed in the charming southern Paris flat of Morgane et Pierre-Etienne |

So. You’re on the verge. You’ve set out to create that massive step up–the huge leap in your career, publishing or launching your life’s work or a new business, the jump to leave your safe job and travel the world, or the moment of opening your heart to the relationship that could break it for real.

You’ve been preparing. You took each next step. You thought you were ready. And all of a sudden, you wake up in the middle of a Class-4 tornado. Everything is shifting, and fast. Your every day feels like earthquakes where everything you depended on as solid is suddenly swaying, concrete is rolling in waves–wha–?! Nothing is as it was. You can’t stay here one minute longer–and you can’t see what’s next! Make that jump? Into what?! Where’s the safe landing? Where is ANY landing?!!

Welcome to the external perimeter of your subconscious comfort zone. Like that? No? I’m not surprised. This is where you question everything. I mean everything. Is black, black? Is it raining or sunshine?–I don’t know! Do I love him? Is this really the city I live in? Maybe this is a Vonnegutesque dream where nothing is real…

Even your skin feels foreign.

It’s crucial right now for you to clarify. Ask your heart and intuition WHERE it is you want to go next. What you want is a feeling before it is actual. Tell your head to butt out.

What you want may mean money–a financial feeling. How much do you require as you take the leap, or maybe what you want coming in is the leap. You’re NOT in a place of having to scrap and shift. Let go of the poverty story when you’re on the cusp of what you want. It will screw things up. Let it go now. It takes real bravery to think Big and to hold onto that firmly.

The change you’ve set in motion can work FOR you if you access your deeper presence–use the tornado.

Be the tornado instead of being in the tornado.

You can do this. The feeling of instability, or the constant shift and challenge haranguing you, is part of the shift. Breathe. And keep breathing.

Your focus must be on the feeling and the new reality you are so clear that you want. WANT IT. WANT IT every single moment. This is where your bravery kicks in and you hold bravery in your hand like it’s a fist full of solid gold. 24 karat.

What you’re really confronting is the Imposter Syndrome–your Ego’s hail-mary-go-for-broke play to get you to stay where it’s comfortable.

Remember, you hold all the cards. Don’t suddenly think otherwise. YOU hold all the cards. And they’re your cards.

You are already equipped to do what you want to do on the level you want to do it. Do not sell out now. This is where you practice holding that gravity inside–that gut tightness of what you want. It’s showing up, it’s there. You can feel it even though you can’t see it. You can taste success, fulfillment, happiness, exhilaration. Keep tasting it. That’s all you. You can do it.

Once it’s happened, once you realize that dream or goal, you’ll look back and laugh–it wasn’t so hard or as big as it seemed.

…or maybe it was 😉 But you did it.

Sending my love and hugs and my total belief that “You’ve got this.”

WARNING: Carmell’s 2015

| LOCATION: Looking down at the Black Sea from 36,000 feet, flying from Indonesia back to U.S. after 3 months away. |


I’ve been staying in Amed. A quiet hardly-touristed village on the upper eastern coast of Bali as 2015 ended.

I like to look at my year not in terms of what I’m going to change or better, but in terms of what I want to build, create, experience, support, and grow. The truth is, I really love who I am just as I am. That’s the life I want to experience.

I’d returned in Dec. 2014 from 3 months traveling Europe to open up the next chapter of my life (it’s what I do) and working as I went–a huge leap of faith outside my comfort zone. I had decided for 2015 I would complete my book, launch my international retreats, and begin taking my business global. …I had NO IDEA what was about to happen!


This is what happened. #highlights


Fell in love with a professional community of women entrepreneurs #eWomenNetwork
Decided on one February afternoon to go to India for the 1st time that May
Submitted to TED-x SLC.


With a day’s notice, jumped into Bridget Cook Burch’s Inspired Writers’ treats. (thanks Heather Laughter)
Took on the NY Times Bestselling author Bridget Cook Burch as my book coach.
Began creating my international women’s retreats


Major progress on my BOOK!
Forgiveness and Yoga Retreat
Emily London Miller photoshoot 2 days before leaving for India


Spent my birthday in Frankfurt Germany with my sister Rachel Bessey
Attended the Women’s Economic Forum in Goa India with women from 25 countries.
Traveled alone without a plan in India (which it turns out is hard to do)


Traveled the Rhine Valley in Germany.
Returned to the US and created the India Inner Journey Retreat for October 2015.
Family Reunion, Bear Lake Utah.


Joined the All Ladies League as U.S. Chairperson for Travel and Influence
Performed marriage of Rachel and Mayk in SLC


Had my first booth at the E-Women Network’s International Conference in Dallas where I launched my India Retreat (thank you Patricia Thompson!)
Performed marriage of Kate and Nick in Millcreek Canyon


Worked with so many of my beloved friends and clients at the doTERRA Convention (this year, the largest convention SLC had ever held)
Created the SLC launch of Oprah’s Belief Series with Tia Walker (whom I met in India)
Booked the Rose Wagner Theater for the event I was producing!
Had my name on an ArtTix ticket with Oprah Winfrey!#didnotseethatcoming
Worked with documentary filmmaker Heidi Gress in creating a short doc of local people and their incredible lives for our Beyond Belief event


Participated in the Parliament of the World’s Religions SLC
Interviewed ‘The Grandmothers’
Beyond Belief was an incredible success Oct. 19th. THANK YOU to all the amazing performers and people who worked to make it happen!!
Left 2 days later for 3 months to India and southeast Asia (packed in under 20 hours).
Amazing Success with my India Inner Journey Retreat!! (Thank you Mansi Mahajan and family!!)
Discovered I don’t move like a white girl #Bollywood 😉


Diwali (largest celebration of the year) with my Indian family
Traveled to the Himalayas and to the southern beaches of Goa in India to begin restoring myself.
One night in Bangkok. (which was actually 2 nights)
Arrived in Bali.
Rode a scooter through the backroads of Bali, received the Blessing from the Water Priestess in the mountains, watched the Barong ceremony in Padang Bai.


Bali. Finishing my book. Creating and launching my Bali Retreat. Spiritual adventures. Balinese family. Coaching young female Balinese entrepreneurs. Scuba diving for the first time (faced my fear). Restoring myself.


NONE of this was on my radar a year ago.

If you’re quite serious about living a dream you’ve had, write it down and begin taking 1 action today toward opening the space for it to happen. Be willing to let go of where you are. When you jump, BOTH feet must leave the ground. It’s the only way.

Anything is possible from where I stand now. I just look at my year and decide what I want to create or make happen in it. Then let go of How and start with first steps. One at a time.

I focus instead on living today what I want to experience. Create what thrills me. Make a living at it to support living free, which really just means living from my heart. It truly is more simple than people realize. It’s just where we put our gravity.

If it’s on security, then that determines pretty much everything. The velvet handcuffs of my comfort zone. If it’s on living my heart’s desires, well… then it becomes easier to test the waters of risk and passion and learn how to swim in them.

The worst that could happen is I fail and have to start fresh. I’ve done it already. You’ve done it too. Not the worst situation we’ve been in…

I let go of all the “insurance” mentality because it’s all bull***t anyway. I get on a scooter and ride in Balinese town traffic or along cliffs without guard rails (I’m afraid of heights)! I head out to the other side of the world without a plan, but with a purpose. Start new big projects without having done them before. Ride in India traffic in tuk tuks and cars without seatbelts because there aren’t any.

There’s something in realizing the world doesn’t insure life, it just lives it.

A Sort of Balinese, Zen-Buddhist, American Thanks-Giving Prayer…

| LOCATION: Relaxing at Menari Coffee on the side of the road amidst rice paddies in Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia |

“May you laugh, even with your tears. May you be loved. May your smiles be returned, and the goodness of others flow to you. May your abundance bless even those you will never meet. May your life hold quiet fulfillment, and abounding joy in others’ successes. May you know those who can simply sit with you in your grief. May you see the dawn and remember the feeling of beginning life. May you see others with love, and in them, yourself.

Years past, I read the poem of an aging Japanese Buddhist nun from 4 centuries ago knowing that the autumn that year would likely be her last.  She wove the careful words of her love for having lived 66 autumns, each unique and exquisite to her.  At the last, her quiet anguish broke through at how 66 seasons is so brief.

The memory of her poem has stayed with me. Forty-six autumns seems so few when I think of each autumn of my life. 46. It makes each one, and each day of it, more precious to me when I see it this way.

We celebrate Thanksgiving each fall, but I want instead to celebrate Gratitude. Even in my most terrified or private heart-wrenching moments, gratitude has brought me back to myself and opened my heart to life–magnificent and fleeting as it is.

So as I sit here near the equator tonight, the moon full and bright in the November Balinese sky, I am so thankful for each of you I share life with in one way or another. We are connected–and to me this immense gift both humbles me and utterly delights me.

It has made 46 autumns so rich and blessed.

Meaning of Life

| LOCATION: At the counter in the Kitchen of My Life, asking “What’s for dinner?” |

When people talk about answering the question of why they’re here, it always sounds like we expect it to be one thing.

Like, “I’m here to have dinner. Once I decide on, prepare, and eat that meal, it’s done and that’s all there is. I just want it to be “the RIGHT meal.” We put off grocery shopping or trying new foods, eating the same boring things every day or even fasting until we can decide on that One. Right. Meal.

A friend said to me today, “You seem to really know why you’re here. I’m so glad you figured that out!” with the implication that he was still searching and uncertain. I laughed. No matter how clear I get about why I choose to be here, I’m always still asking.

If we’re really honest, I think we always are.

I want to taste as many simple or gourmet, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ meals as I can fit into this crazy go on the planet. And to share them with a lot of people.

There’s a purpose in there somewhere. 😉

Adventures Are Not For the Faint of Heart

| LOCATION: On a cliff terrace facing the night storm over the Mediterranean, Vernazza, Italy |

I sat out on the quay today writing in the sun, for hours. I knew the storm was coming. The town was only half open–half alive, as though it knew to prepare for something the rest of us were foreigners to. My stomach was in knots–would I be able to show up?

I’d made 3 different backup plans for wifi for my session tonight. The clouds were alternately ominous and majestic as they ran breathless over the top of our little village. As the sun fell, the storms threw the sunset into sharp beauty. And still we all waited, the sky growing dark.

Shops were closing early. I bought wifi time at the only wifi cafe for my mastermind group tonight. And as the cafe closed up, I sat down on the cobbled street outside the door, under an awning, and logged in. The rain started, thunder and wind, as our group came online.

“Where are you?” I panned the webcam down the lonely dark street with lamps lit. “Is that Italy?!” Yes. A small village with NO cars–I can touch the houses on both sides of the streets when I stretch out my arms.

We had an incredible session as the rain pelted sideways and I had to wipe it from my screen. The faithful church bells called the hour, the half hour and the new hour. Looking at me strangely, people scrambled last minute to dry, lit homes behind shuttered windows. My focus was on the seven people on my screen.

I was numb from cold and sitting on cobblestone for nearly 2 hours when I (very) slowly stood up, packed up, and went in search of a last open cafe for a hot drink.

The storm had taken a small intermission.

After being severely warned of power outages, I was thankful to find I had electricity when I arrived at my terraced room on the cliff over the ocean.

I stand alone now in the dark doorway wrapped in a blanket and watching the Mediterranean rage below me as the rain whips across me unrepentently.

And I leave on the early train tomorrow for Florence to prepare myself there for clients, then meeting up with friends I will stay with that I made on my trip 2 years ago.

Immediately, Wednesday morning, I fly to Madrid. The Prado awaits–a dream of many years.

A young woman with her friend on the quay this afternoon, traveling as students, said, “Traveling is really hard. You think you’re going to have this phenomenal time–and you do–but it takes so much to do it. More than you expect or think.” I smiled sympathetically as she said it.

I could relate.

Exquisite moments. Amidst lots of angst and effort and anxiety about where I will sleep tomorrow night… It’s the struggle that makes the journey powerful. It’s the effort to show up and experience everything we can, that opens wide the inner transformation.

Vacation is a reprieve from the daily routine. Traveling literally moves us from where we are to somewhere new–from the person we were to the person we become.

We meet the unexpected. We put ourselves over and over right into the center of the unknown and ask boldly or timidly for what comes next… But we ask.

I love to weave the magical spell with pictures and words of all I am experiencing. And it is all that! And so much more… But the webs that bring the magic together, often quickly dismissed or overlooked, are the struggle and the questioning–the anxiety and stress inherent in not staying in one place longer than a few days, not knowing where we will sleep tomorrow. Trusting life with the next step.

Something incredible will be there.