Sailing the Danube

We continue to stop in really interesting towns that look like they were out of some fairy tale illustrations. The cool thing about the trip is that you stop in a lot of remote towns on the Danube, so you see places that you might otherwise not get a chance to visit.

Regensberg, Germany
Regensberg, Germany

The weather has not been great since we left Prague. It’s been raining pretty much off and on the last 3 days and it’s in the 50’s and windy. I am definitely underprepared for the weather. Today we sailed from Melk to Krems in the middle of the day and so we were able to see the scenic view. I stayed up on the deck for about twenty minutes to take pictures but then couldn’t take it any more and had to come back in. The sun seems to be peeking through and it is supposed to be mid-60’s tomorrow when we’re in Vienna so that’s and improvement. I’m really looking forward to visiting a Viennese coffee house!
View as we sailed down the Danube
View as we sailed down the Danube

Last night I had a super vivid dream about work. I’ve been pretty disconnected since sabbatical started and besides one conversation with my dad that brought up all the feelings I was having prior to leaving, I haven’t thought too much about it. The dream wasn’t really about work, but about the place of work. We just finished building a new office building in Santa Cruz that I’ve been working on for the past 2-3 years. The week after my sabbatical is over, I’m supposed to be heading there for a board meeting. In the dream, I was there and someone had planned a professional picture be taken of the whole company on the stairwell that is like the center piece of the building. For some reason this was coordinated by one of the employees to happen early before official office hours, but everyone was told except for me.

It brought up all these frustrations that I had been feeling with my job. It really could be interpreted in a couple of ways. One could be that everyone forgot about me during the sabbatical or that I’m not essential/integral any more. Or it could mean that certain people have either not respected me or purposefully wanted to leave me out of the loop of certain decisions. The frustrations I was feeling stem from the latter option. When I woke up, I was still a little frustrated, but thankfully I woke up to beautiful sites and could shove those feelings back down to be explored once I’m back at home. But soon I am going to get down to the core of what my next steps might be.

Introversion and Travel

Those of you who know me, which quite frankly is all of you reading this blog at the moment, know that I’m a true introvert. In fact during orientation for my MBA, they had us all take the Meyer Briggs test. There’s a scale in terms of introversion and extroversion. I was so far towards the introversion side, I could have fallen off the ledge.

I tend to be quiet, I like my “me” time and can get anxious when there’s too much stimuli. If there’s too much social interaction going on without a break, I get exhausted. I honestly don’t know how people that are extroverts do it.

Through the years, I’ve done a lot of work to pull myself out of introversion when needed. I have my days where I still get annoyed when someone chit chats with me in line at the store. Why don’t they want to be just one with their thoughts? But then I also have my days where I find myself commenting to someone next to me or actually having a conversation with the cashier without irritation. It’s not as hard as I once thought.

All of this to say that this trip has been showing me the lengths to which I can go in both extremes. The first few days in Prague were a pre cruise program, so there were morning tours arranged, but other than that it was free time which essentially meant alone time. Up until we got on the ship yesterday evening, I had eaten every meal by myself since I had left the US. It was pretty lonely.

I talked to people while on the tours and a few couples started looking out for me to make sure I was back on the bus, etc. But once we made it back to the hotel everyone went their separate ways. I don’t know that I would have gone with them if they had asked for me to join them explore the city. I liked exploring on my own, but it was the meals like dinner that made it hard.

Now on the cruise, meals are surrounded by people. Unless you’re in your room, you’re surrounded by people. I’ve surprised myself at how much I can have small talk with people and how open I’ve been to engaging with them. At lunch today, I had a moment of panic because it was buffet and then seat yourself. There are no tables for two and by the time I got my food, there were no completely empty tables. It was like watching a movie where someone starts a new school and is standing in the cafeteria holding their tray and scanning the crowd to see who might accept them. Of course, these are all adults (very “mature” adults) and no one would have turned me away, but there was that moment of panic. I sat with this woman and her mom who had sat near me yesterday and it ended up being very pleasant.

Don’t get me wrong, after the lunch and talking to them for an hour, I was more than ready to take a little break alone with my book.

The travel continues and I am looking forward to the balance of solo exploration in different cities and then sharing my meals with strangers.

So Much History

It’s been awhile since I’ve been in Europe and I’ve forgotten just how much history exists here. I have to say that I also don’t remember as many tourists in other European trips as I’ve seen today in Prague. It’s so crowded with people and their cameras and tour guides that I kept feeling sorry for the actual residents of Prague.

Anyway, back to the history. One of the things I love about going to New York is just imagining all of the history that exists there: how the city was built and how it’s evolved. You can see it in the architecture, visiting the tenement museum, and walking through SOHO and picturing all the “sweatshops” that existing on the top floors of those buildings that now house multi million dollar lofts. But that NYC history is nothing compared to what you see in Europe. As the driver brought us from the airport to the hotel last night, someone asked him when Prague was founded. He said it was the 6th or 7th century. That’s pretty remarkable.

This morning we had a guided tour where they drove us to Prague Castle and then proceeded with the walking portion through the castle and ending in Old Town Square. Besides a girl that is traveling with her grandparents and appears to be in her early 20’s, I’m the youngest by a long shot. My parents would probably bring the age average way down too if they were here. I had to laugh internally when the tour guide kept repeating to be careful walking on the cobble stone streets. She apparently has had several accidents with past groups.

Lunch and the rest of the day was at our leisure. I made my way back across the Charles Bridge and found a nice shaded spot for lunch which of course included a Czech beer. After lunch I walked back toward the Jewish Quarter. It was a very impactful visit, which I’ll touch more specifically on in my next post after I’ve visited Terezin as well. I will say that it was amazing how much was preserved through the centuries and how many synagogues existed in such a small area.

After that I walked through Old Town Square again and ate a sweet bread I kept seeing people eating all day. There was a huge crowd, along with police and ambulances on stand by, watching a hockey game on a big screen. I made my way through some of the smaller streets taking it all in.

As I came back to the hotel for a rest, I turned on CNN to hear that there was a shooting today at a Jewish museum in Belgium. While I know I’m not in Belgium, it still feels a little too close for comfort just a few countries a way while I was also visiting the museum of my ancestors. Stay tuned in the next couple of days for more on the Jewish Quarter and Terezin, a concentration camp where they took all the Jews from Prague.

View of Prague
View of Prague

John Lennon Wall
John Lennon Wall
Prague Castle
Prague Castle

On My Way

In about an hour I head out to the airport and my adventure will begin! My bags are packed and I’ve double and triple checked the list in my head. I probably overpacked like I always do, but it is what it is at this point. It’s been at least 5 years since I’ve been over seas (other than Colombia where my family is from) and I’m getting giddy with excitement for the experience to come.

I’ll be posting during the trip. It’s likely I won’t be able to do so every day, especially during these initial travel days, but I’ll try to as much as possible.

I’ve also added a subscription feature to the site, so you can enter your email and sign up for posts to be sent to you automatically. Thanks to everyone who has been following and giving me words of encouragement.

Bon Voyage to Me!

In two days I depart on my Eastern European vacation!

I’m actually more nervous right now than excited, although I know that as soon as I arrive at the hotel the excitement will take over. The nerves are really just anxiousness from not knowing what to expect. Will every thing go well with my connections? Will they actually be there to pick me up at the airport and will I find them easily? What will everyone else be like?

I’m going on this trip alone. Alone is a relative term as it’s a tour group and river cruise so I’ll be surrounded by people, but you get what I mean.

This isn’t my first vacation alone, but the last one was to a spa which seemed a much more common or acceptable trip to make solo. There are lots of single travelers at destinations spas and it fits in with the idea of meditation and finding yourself usually linked to those locales. But a European trip seems different to take alone.

There’s the mixed reactions I get from people when I tell them I’m going alone. Some are genuinely excited for me, some in awe and some with pity because I don’t have a partner in crime.

As I was planning my sabbatical, I knew I wanted to take one big trip during those two months. At first I wavered because of the solo part of the travel, but at the end of the day I didn’t want to not go away just because I didn’t have anyone to travel with. So I thought about places I’d never been to before and have wanted to go and settled on Eastern Europe: Prague, Vienna, and Budapest.

I consider myself independent and don’t have issues exploring by myself, but I also don’t talk to random strangers or really enjoy sitting alone at restaurants even if it’s the counter or bar. That’s when I decided that finding a tour group could add some security to my trip. There would be people around and I could choose whether to talk to them or not.

When I called my friend, who is a travel agent, to help me find the right tour I told him, “I don’t want it to be all old people, but I don’t want a bunch of 18 year olds on a Contiki type tour.” So when I came across a river cruise as an option with one of the tour companies he sent me, I told him that’s what I wanted. He said “It’s all old people.” To which I replied that I didn’t care at that point. I’m not even a big cruise lover, but something about sailing (I know we won’t actually be sailing) down the Danube seemed idyllic. The majority will probably all be over 65, but they could be really interesting people or be bringing their whole family on some sort of trip. I decided I just wanted to go for it.

Now here I am about to leave in a couple of days. Writing about the trip has actually broken through some of the nerves and brought up more of the excitement. I’m looking forward to getting out of the country for a little while, to experiencing new cultures and getting inspired by seeing new places and people.

What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

Adults always ask kids “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as if they would already know and as if there is only one thing you can be. As adults we know it’s a ridiculous question, in its own way, and perhaps find satisfaction to having an innocent child answer “firefighter” or “teacher” or “super hero.”

Maybe we should also be asking “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s equally as vast and difficult a question to answer when you’re 5, 15 or even 25 years old. Finding out who we want to be, what kind of person we want to be, is linked to what we want to be as well. Through life we’re always evolving, so it’s unrealistic for us to believe that the answer to either of those questions shouldn’t shift with time.

What I’ve learned, that I didn’t understand when I was younger, is that we don’t have to choose just one career or profession. The (hopefully) long life we live, affords us the ability to try out a few. The issue is that as we get older, it becomes more difficult to make those changes. Starting your own business and/or shifting careers implies a pay cut and possibly an output of cash when we already have more responsibilities that make that move a higher risk and burden. There are mortgages or children or college loans or spouses. There’s much more reason to hesitate before taking a leap.

For someone like me that overanalyzes and over thinks everything, it makes it that much harder. I have become an expert at talking myself out of something before I even begin. I’m very convincing to myself.

There have been few times in my life where I haven’t over thought and have gone with my gut (most notably my academic choices), and I haven’t regretted them for a second. They’ve been some of the best decisions of my life, but that still doesn’t push me to do it more often.

Part of what I have been doing over the last couple of years has been to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. It’s baby steps and sometimes a few steps back, but I have been taking the steps. What I have allowed myself to do is to get closer to the core of who I want to be. And I am happy with who that person is.

Really taking the time to try and listen to myself on my next career move (if it ends up being a move) is the next one. I hope I come out of it with a decision or closer to what I want to be. And then I can be happy with the who and the what. There’s still so much more growing up to do.

Commencement Speaker Drama – Smith vs. Lagarde

Earlier this week I received an email from Smith College announcing that Ruth Simmons, who was president of Smith when I attended, was to speak at commencement. Having been out of the loop, I at first thought that this was the plan all along and I had just been oblivious. Since then there have been posts on Facebook about what actually happened to the previous speaker, which I’ve been taking in without really forming an opinion. But this morning someone posted a link to this Bloomberg article ( and it got me a little riled up.

Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was selected as this year’s commencement speaker. Some Smith College students felt strongly against the IMF and signed a petition to have Smith disinvite her. What ended up happening was that Lagarde withdrew earlier this week. I’m not going to pretend to have an opinion on the IMF. Embarrassingly, I don’t know enough to form an intelligent opinion for or against the IMF and Lagarde. What I do have an opinion about is how the students acted and how Lagarde reacted.

I believe that it’s part of our right in a democracy to protest and sign petitions. I sometimes feel shameful about not standing up or fighting for certain causes because it’s easier to sit on the sidelines and let someone else fight the battle. I hope that these students had enough of the facts to truly understand what and why they were fighting. If they did, then all the power to them for standing behind their convictions.

The aforementioned article from Bloomberg started off with what I thought was a great point about the reality of the world outside the college bubble. However, where I disagree is that it then doesn’t speak to Lagarde making the choice to withdraw. The students have their right to protest, but as adults they need to start understanding that they are going to cross paths with many people that they don’t agree with. In some cases we have the choice to hear them speak or not. Listening to Lagarde would have been an opportunity to be exposed to a differing point of view. Listening doesn’t mean that your view would necessarily be swayed. In some cases it might actually strengthen your conviction.

Lagarde’s choice to withdraw as the commencement speaker comes off just as naive or childish as the article is making the students seem. As far as I can tell there was no expectation of violent protest. Lagarde could have come in and chosen to touch on the topic in question or simply focus on parting words of encouragement and advice as par for the course with commencement speeches. She ended up conceding to what some people say is an entitled generation by letting them win. They might currently feel a victory, but it’s not the reality of how these things will always play out.

I’m not sure if this is true or not, but while a student at Smith, I heard that Nixon didn’t attend his daughter’s Smith graduation because he knew that there would be many protestors and he didn’t want to detract from the graduates’ day. That I can understand. It would likely have been more than students protesting and it would definitely have created a large scene. This weekend’s ceremony with Lagarde would not have been as distracting.

Lagarde had the opportunity to be heard and she chose silence. The silver lining, I suppose, is that the class of 2014 now has the honor of hearing Ruth Summons send them out into the world.

It’s All in the Family

People make a lot of assumptions when you say you work for the family business. Many times I hesitate when someone asks what I do, not sure if I want to own up to the company being my family’s. Even writing “own up to it” sounds ridiculous, like if it were this shameful thing.

If we look back at history, there was a time when the majority of people worked in the family business and stayed within the same line as work as the family. From farmers to blacksmiths to royalty…you did what your father did. I’m all for progress and finding your own path (it’s part of what I think about doing too), but there’s also something reputable in keeping something going that your grandfather started.

Nowadays “I work for the family business” is seen as synonymous with “I just coast through, work as many hours as I want, and basically can never get fired.” I think this feeling is more prevalent in the US. I have nothing to back that sentiment up; it’s just a feeling. People tend to think we get cushy office jobs or are put straight into executive positions without having worked our way there. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen because I’ve seen it happen, but there’s also the other reality.

I didn’t start or end college ever thinking that I’d work with my dad. I didn’t really completely understand what went into the business, but I knew I didn’t want that job. This from someone who had never had an office job, so didn’t even know what that meant. I wanted to write. I wanted to do something creative.

So when I first started working there it was temporary, while I figured out what I really wanted to do. Then it lead to a job in customer service and slowly evolved to where I am today. It took me years to get to where I am today.

I went into the customer service job knowing that everyone was thinking “Oh, here’s Jose’s daughter. Let’s tread lightly.” I always made it a point to work harder than everyone else. I was out to prove that I deserved the job and any promotion that came along with it. Did my last name get me in the door? Of course, but not any more than any other recent college grad with connections or networking would have. I was just as qualified credential wise for a Customer Service Representative position than any one else who would have applied. It was entry level and that was the smart thing that my dad did for me. He made me start at the bottom.

Through the 12 years that I’ve worked there, I’ve had different bosses (only shortly reporting directly to my dad) and I’ve proven to them that I have the work ethic and capability to get the job done. I play by the same rules as everyone else and have very rarely used my last name as leverage. By nature, I am not a slacker, so I’d be working this hard at any job at any company, but it’s different in this position. Not only am I giving it 200% to prove myself to everyone else, but there’s also an added responsibility because at the end of the day it’s my company too. It’s hard not to take things personally when it is personal.

Any time a new peer comes on board, I can see them thinking again that the only reason I’m VP is because my father put me there. I then have to start proving myself all over again. Respect is earned, right? So it always feels like I’m running uphill without the ability to slow down. This sabbatical is the first real “perk” that I’ve taken from it being my family business. I know I have had this break as an option that others in the company don’t have, but I finally had to say screw it. I deserve it whether other people think I do or not.

That’s the whole point isn’t it? To stop caring so much what everyone else thinks. This was step 1. Step 2 continues to be finally figuring out if I want to branch out on my own.

Shedding the Guilt

Week 1 was a trip to New York, which really felt more like a regular week off for vacation. Week 2 has been my first work free (non vacation) experience in about 7-8 years. It sounds crazy to say, but it’s been hard to get used to. Please don’t think that I’m complaining. I am very happy not to be in at least 4 meetings a day and getting email after email; it’s just that I feel guilty. It’s weird. I always day dreamt at work about having the whole day to do whatever I wanted, but this cloud of guilt surrounded me Monday as I went to a 9:30 am yoga class.

I was always jealous of the women who could go to a 9 am exercise class instead of a morning workout meaning 6 am. But after yoga, I had no idea what to do next. I could go to the grocery store, I could have a leisurely breakfast at home or even take a nap, but that seemed wrong. I couldn’t seem to relax.

Yesterday was a little bit easier. I went to Zumbini with my sister in law and niece and nephew, which was quite an experience. Spending quality time with them is definitely what I’m relishing in. Today I feel even more relaxed and definitely getting used to just going with the flow or as going with the flow as my personality will allow.

I’m a planner by nature, so I’m always making lists in my head. I plan my day in my head checking things off as they get done. At work, I always grounded myself by going through my Outlook calendar each morning and preparing myself for what the day had in store for me. Even a meeting cancellation, which should have made me happy because it was new found time, irritated me because it changed the direction of my day. I know it’s silly. The irritation was short lived, I swear!

Without the Outlook calendar, my brain calendar now outlines the (planned) events of the day. Although, now deviations from the plan are usually a welcome change rather than an annoyance. I’m still learning to go with the flow to take the time and enjoy the freedom to do whatever I want. What is there to feel guilty about? Here in South Florida when you’re out and about in the middle of the day it seems like no one is working!

I can be a lady who lunches at least temporarily.

Adult Growth Spurt – The Beginning

Perhaps a little late in the internet age to start a blog, but I’m finally giving into at least trying everything on my to do list instead of just thinking about it. The over analyzing, trepidation, and lack of action is what helped me come up with the name “Adult Growth Spurt” for the blog. Instead of spending my 20’s acting carelessly or finding the love of my life or even following any passions, I kept myself in my mind thinking of all the things I wanted to do, but almost never taking action. I was stunted.

Turning 30 excited me and I looked forward to all that lay before me, yet that wasn’t enough to change me into action. I still wasn’t growing. It isn’t as if I wasn’t acting like an adult; I have been for working full time for quite some time, building a career and even getting my MBA in the process. But that’s really as far as it got. People around me were getting married, starting families, buying homes and starting businesses. I was merely floating with time letting it take me wherever it would.

Over the last 1-2 years, things began to shift for me. It wasn’t a conscious shift and it’s definitely still in process, but it was a move towards taking things into my own hands. It started with cooking, which seems like a strange first step and perhaps unfeminist, but it was fulfilling. I never thought I could cook more than just basics. I also felt that cooking for one person was depressing…it takes longer to cook and clean than to actually eat the meal, but I started with just one meal a week. Not only did I enjoy it, but I also felt better because I was eating a more complete dinner and not store bought food. Now don’t think I’m Martha Stewart or anything. I go through phases still where I cook regularly and then don’t cook more than quesadillas for weeks. But it was the first step in me more consciously taking care of myself.

The cooking evolved into yoga, which I had always proclaimed I hated. The kind of cliche thing to say about your 30’s is that you start caring less what people think of you and this is definitely what happened to me. The few times I had tried yoga before, I couldn’t relax. As people sat cross legged and breathing with their eyes closed, I kept blinking mine opening thinking that I was the only idiot listening to the teacher. My mind would race picturing everyone else in the class doing other things while I sat alone with my eyes closed. Now I could care less what anyone else is doing. My teacher says that yoga is about leaving ego at the door and it couldn’t be more true. Some days it’s easier than others, but for the most part I manage to approach my practice without paying attention to any one else. I am by no means a master yogi…I wish, but the reality is that I still can’t do a headstand and my backbend lasts like 3 seconds on a good day. The thing is that the peace of mind it brings regardless of the poses is incredible.

In January 2013, I finally decided it was time to take home ownership seriously. I had looked on and off for 5 years, but whenever I got close to finding something with potential, I talked myself out of it. It felt like this huge responsibility that I wasn’t sure I should take. It was also something that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go into alone. I had always pictured owning a first home with my husband and he had yet to make an appearance. But as 2013 started, I knew I had to keep evolving and that it no longer made sense to keep my life on hold waiting to see if maybe some man would come into my life. As soon as I walked into the house that is now mine, I knew it was meant to be. It was what I had been waiting for and there was no turning back; I had to have it.

So moving into my home was my big step in 2013 and as it wound down, I kept thinking about what would be next. Now that I had started making moves in this adult growth, I needed to keep the momentum.

Day after day it had been getting harder to get up for work. It no longer excited me and some days while there I felt like my head was going to pop off with smoke like you see in some cartoons. I knew that I had to make a change, but what that change would be I had no idea. Was I burnt out and just needed some space from it for awhile? Is it a career change that I need to make? Those were just some of the questions that kept going through my mind and frankly still are. I ended up with taking a 2 month sabbatical. I am currently in week 2 and trying to find my way to an answer. I invite you to join me on my journey as I continue to evolve and grow into the adult I’d like to be and possibly the one I don’t even know yet.