Let me start this post by saying that traveling does not come easily to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing new places and getting to know new people, new traditions, and I love taking beautiful photos when I travel, but let’s just say that our relationship is, well… complicated. For most of my life I had to travel, often very abruptly, due to my mother’s illness, and it made me feel completely torn up from the roots. I wanted things to be calm and to stay home with my dogs and for things to stay simple, but life always seemed to have a different plan for me, and traveling was always rough on me as a kid. This seems like another life ago, and now as an adult, two things happen to me whenever I travel. The first, is that gut flinching horrible feeling that reminds of how it used to feel like, and the hard times my mom and I went through, not to mention the fact I still hate to leave my dogs behind no matter how amazing our doggie care givers are. The second, is the deep transformational power the trip has on me when I return. Something always seems to happen inside me while I’m going through this. Perhaps it’s the extra time I have, to think and really let go. I can think of several incredible life changing trips I have taken, and a particular bus ride I had to take from Woodstock, New York to New York City in the middle of a blizzard that have really caused incredible effects in my life, but none has changed my life as much as when I went to the Dominican Republic to see the two beautiful people above getting married. This post is going to get a little personal, and it’s one of those winding and intertwining tales, so bare with me!
There’s something about being near the ocean isn’t there? The sound of the waves and feeling the sun on your skin has always had a cleansing and calming effect on me. Probably because I spent most of my childhood by the shore. When two of our best friends decided to get married in this beautiful island, we hopped on a plane to join in the fun. But what happened to me during that trip, I was not prepared for.
Meet our amazing friends Pierina and Alfredo (‘Flea’ to us buddies, due to his uncanny similarity to the Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s bass player!). They had the most incredible wedding, in the most beautiful hotel, and we tagged along for 6 days of all you could eat and drink, fun in the sun. I happen to have the worst holiday curse ever, which is that I simply can’t sleep when I’m on vacation. This meant I was getting up every morning at 4 or 5, while everyone else was sound asleep. You know me, what do I do when everyone else is sleeping? I run. So every morning, instead of tossing and turning, I put on my trainers and headed out to the sand. I watched the sunrise, I ran as I watched hotel employees sweep the sand (yup! they do that!) and organize the beach chairs. I sat on the shore to hear the waves, saw birds diving into the water, and when it was time, I went back inside to have breakfast with the normal sleepers. Something in me was stirring and changing inside, and I was slowly becoming aware of it. Apparently when you slow down enough and spend some time on your own, things start to shift.
As I sunbathed, swam, and spent time with our lovely friends, I realized in a strange way I was mourning a part of myself and I felt something new was bubbling up. I felt I wanted to make changes in my life, I hadn’t been feeling that great physically, and I wanted to have more energy, but at the same time be more calm and relaxed. I wanted to feel physically strong and courageous but take things easier and be kinder to myself and my body. I was also beginning to understand, and even love the relief of accepting that some things were just not in the cards for me. I guess in a strange way I wanted to let go and be myself. I still can’t quite put my finger on it, but I think what I was feeling was release. Release from my past, and from things that weren’t meant to be, and looking at the amazing life I had, feeling free from expectations, and just being able to finally have a simple life, what I had always dreamed of as a kid. Every morning as I ran alone and watched the waves, I vowed to hold on to these feelings upon my return home, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it, but I just kept trusting all this huge relief I was feeling.
There we were, the four of us laughing and eating and talking about the wedding details, and something wonderful was about to happen. As unusual and serendipitous as this is going to sound, it came in the form of a wedding photographer. I have never told Pierina and Alfredo this, but their wedding and this amazing trip with them made such an enormous change in my life.
At one of the most beautiful weddings I have ever been to (these lovebirds prepared such beautiful and personal handmade details, everyone’s jaws kept dropping), there was a wedding photographer who seemed to have on the outside, everything that was going on with me on the inside. Katya Nova, and her husband, who took the four beautiful photos of us below, were photographing the event, but they were much more than hired camera folk. Everyone was in awe of how these two were taking photos and strangely seemed to be a part of the wedding itself. They, and especially she, brought this amazing energy to the room. Everyone was noticing how a simple gathering to take a photo was crazy fun in and of itself, because of the way these two were working. It’s weird how by not even knowing someone, the love and energy they have can just paint a room in a different color. She had, or at least seemed to have, that beautiful freedom and release that I was needing so much in my life. This might all sound ridiculous and downright crazy to most of you, but sometimes seeing in black and white what you can’t quite put a finger on is just the ticket.
The morning after the wedding, Pierina and I were talking all about that night, and about Katya. Pierina mentioned that she was a huge fan of hers, and that she was just as amazing as I had seen at first glance. She was also a yoga teacher, and was a vegetarian (hello!), and had a couple of blogs. When we all returned home after those incredible six days together, Pierina and I became instant fans of her work and her writing. One of her blogs in fact, was all about yoga, ayurveda, and vegetarian cooking. I immediately made the connection. Keeping that stillness and bliss that had bubbled up in Punta Cana, wasn’t going to be done by simply flipping a switch. I had to work on respecting my body, easing the mind and especially (and I was not doing this one bit) feeding my body in a better way.
You’ve probably read the post about how I made the transition of going from a full on meat-eater to a vegan, but I had skipped over this part of the story. When I returned from this trip, I decided to revisit the ‘crazy’ thought I had once had after reading the book that changed my life, Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet. I wasn’t ready when I read it the first time, but now something deep inside had changed. I read it a second time, watched the films I had never wanted to watch involving the treatment of animals in our food industry, had my last turkey on Christmas, and by mid-January I was vegan.
Who knows, maybe I would have reached the same point just by staying home or if a different photographer had taken those photos, but there’s something about those serendipitous encounters, now that I look back.
Here’s the craziest and most wonderful twist and end to this story. Pierina and Alfredo, two of the people I care about most on this planet, are now vegan as well, as is his beautiful mother. Pierina says it was thanks to us, but I like to say that in a very weird way, it was the other way around (just like my – now vegan- sister in-law who planted the first seed and made me get the book in the first place many years ago). I was waiting to publish this post on their upcoming anniversary, but yesterday they sent me the photo you’ll see below, with none other than Alicia Silverstone herself. Talk about things coming full circle, in a magical twist of events. So today I knew what post I was writing, the story about how a book, sleepless nights in a tropical paradise, next to my love, my friends, and a very unique wedding photographer changed everything.
Veganism has been such a gift in my life, and so much more than just a diet. I can’t even tell you how my life has changed since then, and how lucky I feel that I get to share it with beautiful people like these two, my husband and family. Thanksgiving is coming up, but I just feel so damn grateful today.
Links you’ll love!:
Nurturing Nova, her blog about yoga and ayurveda.
(Photos 9 through 12 in this post were taken by, and are property of Katya Nova Photography).