They Didn’t Have a Choice

Sometimes I wonder if in today’s world we actually have too many choices. Having too many options to select from can keep us stuck, out of not wanting to make the wrong choice or not knowing how to actually decide.

That is how I came to be writing about the topic of “choice.” One of the cool things I love about living abroad is how small the world seems to be. On a recent road trip back from Spain to Poland we were asked by a friend, that we drop off something to her mom on our journey back to Warsaw.

I love instances like this when I get an opportunity to see how the natives live and hear their stories. The woman we are about to visit is in her mid-seventies and has lived in a small town all of her life and does not speak a lick of English. So, just in case, I make sure to have a note pad and pencil so that I can draw images as my Polish language skills are pretty bad, even by my standards.

Thankfully, I have my husband, (a native Pole) to do some of my translating. I just can’t help myself from wanting to learn about peoples lives, so my husband always has his job cut out for him as I shoot questions left and right. This visit proved to be no different. Pani (older woman in Polish) was so excited to have us visit that she also invited a neighbor. Sometimes being the “token American” can be fun, especially in a country like Poland where they love America and Americans.

As in most Polish households, the food is non-stop. This visit proved to be no different. Only this time the table was full of tomatoes. Brightly colored and served in every way imaginable, I was interested to understand, “why all the tomatoes?” I knew it was summer time but the amount of tomatoes and the many different varities, made me wonder. I began politely asking about the differences.

Both of the ladies chimed in with an immense amount of information, from discussions of the soil, to the type of water and sun. The information was plentiful and non-stop. So, I dug a little deeper. “Why tomatoes,” I ask? The answer, they didn’t have a choice.

Come to find out, tomatoes are one of the worlds heathiest vegetables. The things you learn when you become present and inquisitive about someone else. This is not something that ever came natural to me. I was always too much in a hurry, to focused on the my goal to stop and have a deep conversation about things like tomatoes. If this sounds like you, then you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that with practice, you too, can learn to be present. The pay off is huge!

Back to the ladies…the answer these women gave, almost took my breath away and made me wonder if not having choices could be a good thing? During their time of high school when college decisions were looming, these two women didn’t have a choice. They were told what they would study, and not by their parents. That was life under communism. You didn’t have a choice. The women were sent to school to study tomatoes and both have master’s degrees in horticulture and are professors at the university. These women are beyond brilliant.

I pressed on asking them about choices and what they would have done differently in their life and their careers. They didn’t have an answer. They had never dreamed of anything else. They just did. Now after having written many published articles and being international speakers at horticulture conferences around the globe, these women have become celebrities in their own world, and they didn’t have a choice. Do you day dream too much? What would it take to you to focus on one thing?

It all gets back to the discussion about focus. I find with many of my clients, as well as myself, that we have many facets to our lives and therefore have many different interests. These varying thoughts keep us spinning on the hamster wheel without the ability to stop and get off to head in one direction. We think of this as lack instead of abundance. When in fact, if we do focus, the abundance is astronomical.

Think of this, if you were told. No, let me refrain that, if you were ordered to do one thing (and didn’t fight it); what would it be? Out of all your interests and all the things that you are seemingly good at, what is the one thing that if ordered to do, you would forge ahead, full force and get it done? One thing? What it is?

Full of love and wonder,

Merry Lynch

P.S. Want to take a break from too much daydreaming and learn to stream line your thoughts and ambitions? Then check out the upcoming Group Mastermind by clicking below!

My Failed TV Debut

Have you ever heard the saying, “things happen for a reason?” In my head, what I hear is “blah, blah, blah.” Ugh! Sometimes I just hate all these happy horse shit sayings, trying to keep me happy through disaster, yet, that is just what they do.

My husband and I were asked to be on a segment of International House Hunters. The TV producers heard we were looking for a home in Poland, a place they were looking to do a show in. Excited about this adventure we put together our preliminary video. Check it out below – click on the image.

We had a list of wants for our new home:

  • Historic building
  • Parking
  • Elevator or 1st floor unit
  • Storage
  • Budget 50K

The show was on a schedule, so we hat to find a unit and fast. Several realtors later (a story for another time), we found the perfect spot.

  • Historic building – check.
  • Parking – well…does it count that it was down the street and around the corner?
  • Elevator or 1st floor-nope but maybe my thighs could use the workout…don’t they?
  • Storage-well sort of…with 12-foot ceilings we could build it in…can’t we?
  • Budget-under budget but a total redo inside…are we out of our minds…quite possibly!
  • Click the image to see the final project…to see why we were so in love!!

Deal made, papers signed, architect hired. So far so good, don’t you think? Next up the producers needed a video of the flat, so we brought the architect along to finalize the plans.

My husband and I were like newlyweds. He was ecstatic to have his American wife moving to his home country. A place that he was not sure he would ever return to after defecting to America during the Solidarity movement in 1979.

Arriving at the property we see the outside transition of the building taking place, the elegant return of the façade is beautiful, and our minds are a flurry with excitement.

There are construction workers busy at work both inside and out as we climb the stairs to our new home. I pull the video camera out as we open the door. We’ re thrilled! We enter the small foyer area as the architect tells us of his plan. So far, so good and amazing.

We walk down the small corridor into the area were the bathroom and kitchen will be. My mind is bursting with ideas. The architect and I are in sync and I couldn’t be happier, until we round the corner to the living room.

It’s gone…they’re gone..all of the original hand carved doors – GONE. The original oak parquet floors – TORN UP AND GONE. I want to throw up.

The architect is stunned and tells us he can find replacements – at a cost of course. But my heart has already sunk. The vision is gone.

We phone the agent and the developer who do not see the problem. To them they were old, to us they were part of the story that the unit had to tell. I was excited to live in a place that had stories to share. The building had been through a lot and the people that had previously lived there had left impressions or feelings in the space. I wanted to that.

Oh no…the deadlines. Now what? Everything is off-we have given notice to move out from our current apartment. The TV show deadline will be missed. Where will we live, what will we do, where will we put our things? The down payment?

Freaked out, pissed off, frustrated and the real estate agent and developer offer no solution. This is not America, there is no one to sue, no recourse, we just pray that we can get our deposit back. Devastated we pull out from the contract, thankfully our money was refunded (thanks to the photos and videos I had done throughout the journey – thanks to TVN) and my TV debut is squashed.

This was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. The communication problems with the realtor, not understanding the American. Going from 1400 square feet (130 square meters) to 480 square feet (45 square meters) is emotional and no one could understand that. I felt alone and even though I was excited about the experience I secretly wondered what the hell I was getting myself into.

In the end, “things happen for a reason.” Or I could say, “hind sight is 20/20.” Although our wish list of being in a historic building was met, parking our car outside, around the corner and down the street in the winter time would have been a disaster. And hiking up 3 long flights of stairs several times a day with groceries would not have been any fun, even on a good day. As for the storage, we could have built enough in the unit but would have needed a ladder to access it…not on my list of good ideas as we age. And as far as the budget, we certainly were under our 50K budget but this was a total redo and not like in America where the walls are made of 2 x 4’s and drywall. These were 12-inch cement walls with a bathroom and kitchen that did not currently exist. So, all in all, someone was looking out for us. In other words, “things happen for a reason.”

Where has this happened in your life? When have “things happened for a reason” that you might have been trying to force? When did you need to let go of the wheel and stop being in control? When did you have to believe that there was something else out there for you?

After the devastation passed and we could breathe a sigh of relief, we totally did a 180 and ended up buying a flat in a new development outside of the city that was not historic at all, that has under-ground on-site parking, an elevator, private storage unit and a security guard at the gate. Yup, buyers are liars. Which, this in and of itself is another story for another time. Traveling the globe and trying to bring our traditional ways of doing things definitely does not work, even when buying a new unit. Living like a native…does. But we are thrilled with our final decision even though we have a long way to go to the final product…(a story for another time.)

Where is your silver lining?

Cheers to life lessons,

Merry Lynch

P.S. If you have someone in your life that would enjoy this post or that is thinking or dreaming of living in a foreign country…send this post their way!

You can also check out all the other posts on my life overseas at: How To Be Merry

Are You A Change Agent?

Certainly, by now, you know that you have some gifts that you could share with the world. And for those of you that can’t think of anything you could share, get over yourself and dig deep. Look at the world around you and find a person, place or thing that could use some help and go lend a hand. I look at helping others as the rent that I pay for my time on Earth.

Recently I have been volunteering at the local university in the country I am now residing in which is Poland…and let me say if you don’t know this already, I do not speak the language. The US State Department funds a program called the American Corner around the globe in conjunction with educational facilities. Feeling very blessed in my life, I felt it is the least I could do, and I get to meet people from around the globe who just want to speak English better or meet their first American.

I participate in a workshop called, Conversation Club, that meets once a week and is meant for foreigners that want to improve their English. Pretty much we sit in a circle and begin talking about a specific subject. The idea being is to get each participant to speak, which quite honestly can be challenging depending on the topic. People get all stuck in their heads about their English isn’t good enough, so why open my mouth. Where does that kind of thinking show up in your life?

Through my participation I have also facilitated a program for high school students that are studying English. That was a blast. But for me, it is all about the interaction and connection that I can help facilitate. The high school students were all from Poland and stared at me starry eyed that I had lived in San Diego, a place they dream of seeing someday.

Poland is mainly a Catholic country and has a mostly white population. They government has been declining the entrance of refugees, even though it is mandatory through the European Union. The people that come to the American Corner are from all different races, religions and ethnicities and I might add are from all ages.

The American Corner is free to the public and provides a small library and offers workshops and programs such as the one I attend. Each meeting different people show up, so it is really a mixed bag. Being held in the local university many of those that attend are students from around the world.

It is interesting to have Russians sitting next to Poles or Ukrainians. The history between these countries has been horrific at best and the wounds are still there. I have to say that I was a little nervous about being a room with strangers from opposing countries that are still at odds and at war. And even though this gathering is about getting more comfortable speaking English, I have found it to be an opportunity to have true dialog with people you might not otherwise be in contact with. The Conversation Club is truly about connection.

It is tremendously eye opening, not only for me but I hope for the participants as well. On one such evening we went around the room talking about what they will do and where they would like to live after they graduate or retire. A Ukrainian student spoke up saying that he can not return to his home because it was just destroyed by the Russians last week and his family, some that were killed and others that fled, have no where to live. A young Russian student was sitting straight across from him and their eyes met.

The conversation that pursued was fascinating and you could see how words get misconstrued and how communication gets altered. To keep the conversation friendly, I began to ask others about their homeland and the conflicts that arise. The participants from Turkey, Syria, and Azerbaijan all spoke up about the recent conflicts in their countries.

We were able to talk about problems and possible solutions, as well as the deep seeded conflicts of these different regions around the globe. You know the saying “it takes a village to raise a child?” It’s about people coming together, of all ages. The attendees were not mad at each other, they just wanted to understand why it was necessary to hurt one another or to take away what they had and then destroy it.

How do we then, each of us, place kindness toward one another? How can we put the past aside? Can we learn to trust, after all the desecration? Have we learned anything from history? It seems to me that it just keeps on repeating itself. It’s the bully in the sand box that wants it all. How can we bring up children to be accepting of one another? What role as parents and grand parents can we play a larger part in? The participants at the American Corner wanted to understand one another. How can we get that to play out, outside the doors of this program?

What fears or misunderstandings do you harbor against another race, religion or culture? What will it take to put down your fist and open your hand? Maybe just by volunteering and serving others that are less fortunate, you could begin to see that people are the same everywhere. We all want love, happiness and fulfilment. Our past should not define us. Be the change the wish to see in the world. You might just be surprised who will become your next best friend.

With Love and Gratitude,

Merry Lynch

P.S. What kind of volunteer work do you or want to do? Make a pact to be a change agent this coming year. Use your gifts to help make the world a better place. Share this with a friend and go volunteer together. The world needs people like you to lend a hand.

Set an intention of doing something different this year. What kind of person do you want to show up as? What will you choose to do different? Sign up for my FREE How To Set An Intention self-paced program. Be the Change Agent that the world needs.

Potty Talk or Was It A Conspiracy

How do I get myself into these situations? Is there a secret world plot against me, do I have my head in the clouds, or do these things happen to everyone else and I’m the only one talking about them? Each time I see this photo in my cloud server it makes me laugh, so on this dark dreary day in Poland I thought I would share a laugh with you as well.

The year is 2001, just ten years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and freedom in Poland. It was a time of rapid growth yet the infrastructure struggled to keep pace. I had just expanded my business, opening a second location in Lodz, Poland. I know, sounds kind of crazy, but Lodz is the birthplace of my husband. One of his long time school friends was interested in a joint venture so we agreed and opened a replica of my Portland, Maine store in Poland.

It was pretty exciting, I felt pretty international, and certainly was proud of myself. It was something I had always dreamt of. The timing was perfect. The international trade show was upon us so I was able to fly over to Germany (where the trade show was taking place) and meet up with one of the partners (a husband and wife team).

The show, was of course gorgeous, and it was a lovely few days spent getting to know my counterpart in a foreign country. We decided to take the bus back to Poland as we were able to get a better connection. It was a long distance to go by bus but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I can’t for the life of me figure out what the hell we were thinking but we made it in one piece, well not really.

The bus was full. My partner and I sat together. She spoke no English, nor did anyone else on the bus. Now that I think about, I find my most precious or precarious stories are the ones where I am the “token American.” Everything seemed to be going great. The movie that was playing on the tv screens was Shrek, but it was in Polish and the bus, full of all adults, was in a roar of laughter. The movie screens were real tvs and not video screens, you know the ones, small and fat bodied? Remember it’s 2001.

It was pitch black outside and it was the middle of January. There was snow on the ground and it was bitter cold. The road was filled with pot holes and there was not a light or another car, bus or truck to be seen. At one time the pot hole was so big that my body went flying out of my seat and my head actually touched the ceiling of the bus and one of the tvs fell from the ceiling crashing to the floor.

The passengers got up and started screaming at the bus driver. I was frightened. I thought for sure someone was going to start to throw punches but thankfully everyone contained themselves. It was over a ten hour ride with several stops along the way.

The first of which was at a restaurant. Everyone was told to leave the bus and go inside. My partner and I ordered some food and quickly ate it, not really knowing when we were leaving. Soon after the bus driver motioned us to go to the bus. So off we went, filing in and sitting back down in our seats.

A few miles down the road, one of the passengers started screaming. I had no idea what was going on. Finally, I figured out that at our last stop the bus driver left someone behind. I thought that stuff only happened in the movies, well now I know where they get their ideas from. Mind you we are on a two lane road, pitch black in the middle of absolutley no where. The driver slams on the breaks and proceeds to turn the bus around, screaming his head off.

Half an hour later we arrive back at the restaurant and the passenger gets on the bus and he and the driver have a big arguement. Tension overload. My nerves were shot. But shortly after, everyone settled down and off we went. With full bellies most people fell asleep while others sat chatting like it was two in the afternoon.

Several hours past and the bus begins to slow down and pulls off the road. No lights anywhere. Where are we, what is going on? The door to the bus opens and my partner motions me to get off the bus. I am lead down a path where a brick building sits. It has one light on inside. We all stand outside in the pitch dark. Being the “token American” everyone pushes me to go first. I’m still not sure if they were being polite or they knew what was about to happen.

As I mentioned earlier, it was in the middle of winter. There certainly was no heat in the brick (pardon the expression) shit-house. I enter, freaking scared to death, turn and lock the door behind me. Everything looks good. It’s clean and there is toilet paper. Things are looking up.

I proceed to pull down my pants and have a seat. A full bottom seat, you know the kind where your whole ass is touching the seat. I know many of you won’t sit down in a public restroom but…I did. It was stainless steel. Do I have to go any further?

Have you ever tried to lick an ice cube and your tongue stuck to it? Or maybe you did a dare as a kid to stick your tongue onto a piece of metal and you couldn’t release it? Hmmmmmm…well you get the picture. That was my lovely little bottom. I was stuck. Totally and completely stuck. I couldn’t move. Each time I tried, I ripped off another piece of skin. I couldn’t yell because no one could understand me or even get in through the steel door.

I sat there trying to move my bottom back and forth. Around and around to dislodge myself. It was horrific. What was supposed to be a quick little pee, turned into a ten minute skin mutilating experience. By the time I stood up, there was a layer of skin on the seat that I attempted to remove before the next person arrived. I had to dip my hand in the toilet to be able to wet the seat and scrape off the skin. As I pulled my pants back on I could feel the raw skin brushing up against my underwear and pants. It was excrusiating.

Yet, I pulled my act together, cleaned up by body parts and left the building. Everyone was standing in a line looking as though they were about to rip me to shreds. Afterall, it was freezing outside. I was mortified and now everyone hated me. My ass was sore and ached everytime I made the least little movement. All I wanted to do was cry and was hoping that Scotty (from Starship Enterprise) could just beam me up and make this all go away.

I was never so happy to see the sun rise as the buss pulled into the station in Warsaw, where I knew I would have a nice hotel accommodation to soothe my raw skin. Oh my gosh, I can certainly laugh about this now. And yes, the skin on my derriere has all grown back.

Is there a silver lining to my experience? Sometimes laughter is all you can do. Never sit on a stainless steel toilet seat, ever. Maybe think of flying instead of the overnight bus….

Laughter is the key,

Merry Lynch

P.S. You’ve just got to share this. My ass will thank you!

Want to have these life altering experiences just like me??? I know you do??? Get going on setting your intention of living a joy filled life with my FREE on-line, self-guided program on How To Set An Intention.

Lack vs Abundance and Living in a Foreign Country

So, you know those little pet peeves that drive you crazy like an itch that won’t go away. This is kind of the same thing but different. By the way, this is not a complaint either. It is just something that as I begin to settle into my life in a foreign country that I either learn to deal with or make myself crazy and depressed about. I like to lean toward the “deal with it and move on” mindset rather than wallowing in my frustration, which by the way is my choice. UGH! That makes it even more frustrating. Anyway, getting back to my point…lack vs abundance.

This story may seem trival to you, yet it’s a real thing to me. Cultural differences can really throw us for a loop. This thing I am trying to get used to is “food.” No, not in the cuisine or what people serve when I am traveling or living abroad, it is the food itself…oddly enough.

The refrigerators are small, and the apartments are even smaller. But for today, I want to unload my thoughts of “lack or abundance” around the refrigerator. Mainly, refrigerators are small because most families live in less than fifty square meters, which for you Americans is about the size of your living room and kitchen together. But the refrigerators are also small because the food is fresh and eaten right away and because you shop mostly every day for the food that you are going to eat either that day or the next.

There are farmer stands on many corners throughout Polish villages and cities where you can purchase plucked right out of the garden goods. Which by the way, is by far some of the best fruit and vegetables that I have ever eaten. Poles eat food by season, so fresh is today fresh, not traveled half way around the world begin picked before it’s ready fresh. My favorites are the strawberries, tomatoes and potatoes. Burst in your mouth kind of flavors.

Ok, so getting back to my lack or abundance conversation. The refrigerator is empty, well maybe not really empty but certainly not jammed packed like my refrigerator in the states was. We buy delicious food and eat it. And my problem is??? My mind immediately goes to, are we broke? My oh my, those negative voices come screaming out of knowhere.

I remember back to the days when on Thursday afternoon I would go to the grocery store with my mom and dad. By the time we got to the cash register the shopping cart was brimming with food items. Once home with our goods it became the never ending saga of where to put all the food as the refrigerator was never empty. And…on top of this we had a freezer always full with a cow or pig. Don’t you feel sorry for me?

No, seriously, it’s a head game. Living in a foreign country you come up against all kinds of things you never really gave a second thought to before. Only I get to choose to look at my refrigerator from lack or abundance. But man, oh man, leaning toward abundance when you see lack is tough sometimes.

Yes, I am up for the challenge to be mindful and present of all of my thoughts. To keep the ones I like and get rid of the thoughts that no longer serve me or hold me back. I truly believe that abundance is everywhere. I believe that the world is full of possibility and opportunity, and that it is on my side wanting me to step up and be the best version of myself. So as I open my refrigerator door this morning, seeing more white space than food items, I am reminded that my eggs are from the priest, the fresh butter is from the neighbor down the street with the cows, the jam from the cousins fruit garden, the bread I will eat I made with my hands, and there in lies the abudance. The white space is just that. Which one do you see?

I’d love to hear your comments or stories about lack vs abundance.

Adundantly yours,

Merry Lynch

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It’s Dark There

More than four years ago now my husband and I began a journey. This past June of 2018 we purchased an apartment (condo) in the city of Lodz, Poland. Just in case you’re wondering, I do not speak the language. Well, that is not entirely true. I can say hi, bye, kiss me, I love you and where is the toilet; which gets me pretty much anything I need. If you know anything about Poles these few words will take you a long way.

I have learned many things about myself during this time on the road and have observed where I hold myself back and where I rentlessly bound forward.

The interactions I have had concerning the place in which I call home, at least for now, has been nothing short of fascinating. When people find out that we haved moved to Lodz, Poland from San Diego, California, their eyes widen in wonder. Many Poles are not able to even travel to the United States due to the cost of the Visa they need. The images they have painted in their minds is one of white, wide sandy beaches, palm trees and endless ocean views that keep them dreaming of a time when they would be able to experience it for real. So they look at me with their heads cocked like a cute little puppy and shake their heads in disbelief.

I ask, “what does America look like” in their mind, in one word. Each time the answer is either “bright” or “opportunity.”

It’s my experience that most people feel that way about American. And for Poles having been trampled on for centuries, the words “bright” or “opportunity” is certainly a fair response when looking at America. But today, Poland is an economic power house with a public transportation system second to none (even for EU standards), endless opportunites (although the Poles struggle to see them), great food and yes of course, vodka (afterall the potatoes are the best – which makes the vodka “gluten free” – BONUS!). The grass is always greener, do you think?

Now, let’s reverse this. When they ask me the same question, “give me one word to describe Poland” my initial reaction comes from my childhood and the word “dark” comes blurting out of my mouth. I remember being in school and watching the news about the “iron curtain”. All of the images were black and white, so that is where my thoughts go. To many Americans that have never traveled to Poland, their response is generally the same. It’s dark. The sun doesn’t shine, people are dressed in black, it’s scary, and the people have empty blank stares.

It’s the images from the movie, “Schindler’s List” or the horrific stories of the Holocaust and of families being separated and never heard from again. It’s about loss of life and loss of control. But that isn’t the Poland of today, yet many of us are still plagued by the images or stories we heard as children. How do we go about letting go of these images and prejudices and begin to build new friendships and paths?

Images are saved in our memory to keep us out of harms way, always on the ready in the fight or flight mode. Yet, often times, these images or memories we have held onto for dear life, no longer serve us and actually end up hindering us from doing something different, learning something new, experiencing a new way of life.

As I travel the globe and settle into my new home, I challenge myself and I will do the same to you; to look toward the light. The next time a negative thought crosses your mind-take notice, a new opportunity crosses your path and your turn the other way, or a chance to get into dialogue with a stranger represents itself and you pretend your busy or looking at your smartphone; grab onto it, take the opportunity, make a different choice and say “yes”. Turn the dark into light by changing one thought, one word, one day and interaction at a time.

When the negative images, voices or thoughts creep up, take a moment to pause and intervene with these questions or thoughts:

Acknowledge your negative images, voices or suspicions. Just notice them without judgement.
Take note of your surroundings. Are you in danger or are you just about to experience something new and are a little nervous or unsettled? Thank your negative mind, we all have one, and tell it that you are “ok” and that you are choosing a new experience.

Then LEAP OR RUN torward the chance to do something that scares you. To do something that will begin to replace the negative images that hold each and everyone of us back in some way shape or form.
Because, once you choose to do something different you can never go back to the way you were. It’s never “dark.”

Leaping affectionately toward the light!

Merry Lynch

P.S. Finding it hard to dispel those negative thoughts? Try doing something different by learning about the power of intention with my FREE self-guided, on-line program: Live Life Fearlessly Through the Power of Intention. Take the leap, dare to build the life of your dreams. It’s just a click away.

Less Is More

I had a boss that once said to me, “less is more.” I understood what he was saying but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to implement it. Now, in a totally different space and time in my life his words still ring true about everything. Less is more, in regards to the stuff in our homes and certainly our storage units. Less is more, in our wardrobe. Less is more in office correspondence. Less is more in a confrontation. The list goes on and as far as traveling, I can assure you that less is more, not in the amount of plane tickets you have, but in the amount of stuff you lug around in your suitcase. This lesson has come to bite me in the ass a few times and I hope to have you avoid the same mistakes.

What is it that makes us drag a heavy and often oversized suitcase around with us as we travel? With the Weather Channel and other travel related sites that offer extended forecasts we’re able to view exactly what we’re in for. Still, many of us find it difficult to pack in the first place and definitely bring way too much stuff with us. Who are we doing this for anyway?

As airlines pile on the baggage fees rising upwards of $75 per bag it becomes more and more important to scale down not only the size of our bag but the amount of clothing, shoes and accessories we drag along with us. Sure, I like to look stylish wherever I go but then somewhere along the line, I realized that most likely I was never going to see these people again so WTF. Why was I so compelled to bring a different outfit for every moment of my trip?

This all goes back to what’s in your closet to begin with (but that is a post of another day), capsule wardrobe anyone? General rule of thumb, less is more. Yes, it’s true, in every sense of the word. Trust me on this one. I know you want to bring everything in your closet so that you’re ready for anything. I get it, but it really doesn’t work that way. You won’t wear half the items you bring, and you’ll still have to lug it around. Worst of all you’ll be out of style anyway.

I have experienced being out of style and more than once and in more than one country. Man, is that an uncomfortable feeling. Still, I’m fortunate to be able to travel a lot and have worked hard to perfect my packing skills and pare it down. Now, I can pretty much go anywhere with a carry on, whether for business or personal.

But things were different more than twenty years ago when I attended a trade show in Munich, Germany. I got to experience first hand just how important this packing right stuff is. This was my first trip abroad by myself. I was petrified to say the least and I was attending an international trade show. Thankfully, I was a participant and not a vendor. It took me weeks to figure out what I was going to bring for clothing and I was really excited at what I had packed. Being proud of my belongings, I zipped up my luggage and off I flew.

My first morning at the trade show I walked around observing what was happening. It was very much unlike American trade shows, everyone was sipping on champagne and no one had a clip board full of order forms in their hands waiting for their next victim to enter into their showroom space. I was confused as my past experiences participating in American trade shows was all about taking orders. I spent the morning gathering catalogs of vendors that looked interesting to me and hurried off, being way to afraid to open my mouth and speak. I was in a foreign country after all.

The trade show was the largest stationery show in the world at the time and I was totally blown away by what I was seeing. The products were exquisite and the packaging was so skillfully crafted. There not only was the finest stationery in the world but also writing instruments, briefcases, leather goods, everything beautiful and wonderful for the desk top.

After some time of walking around this huge arena I took my catalogs and headed to the café, in the auditorium, for a cup of coffee. As I sat glancing through the catalogs totally clueless to the words on the pages, Italian, French and German, of which I don’t speak, read or understand, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I was afterall, in a foreign country by myself, and nothing tragic had happened so far. Having gone through the morning without any terrifying experiences, I sat sipping on an espresso with beautiful product catalogs in my hand, feeling very international.

Just then a gentleman approached me and asked if he could share my table, as there were none left. But he asked me in English. I was mortified. Before I answered his question, politely as I could, asked him how he knew that I was American. His response was, “you obviously are, the way you are dressed gave you away” And although he did not mean this in a bad way, my heart sunk and I motioned him to sit down.

I brought my finest professional clothes with me. I thought I was the bomb. I felt confident in how I looked when I left the hotel in the morning and yet, bam, I was outted. After that somewhat horrific experience where my ego totally burst into a million pieces, I get it. Fast forward to today, having spent several years traveling pretty extensively, I get it that people or cultures have different looks, ways of walking, talking or gesturing, their hair color or shape of their eyes or faces, can all point toward a different region of the world. And now that I have had time to scrape my ego off the floor and put it where it belongs, which is in the garbage, I am able to enjoy my personal style and travel much lighter.

So whether I am traveling for a few days or a few months, I pack light and make sure to leave room in the suitcase for the new outfits I will purchase along the way. Because by not having to pay all the added luggage fees I have money left over to pick up a few key items to add to my wardrobe. Like, Espadrilles in Spain, Merino wool sweaters in Italy, leather handbags and shoes from Poland or a custom-made perfume from France; there is always room in my small piece of luggage for a unique piece. So the next time you book a ticket, have a look at what your destination is famous for, then leave that all behind and buy it on your journey. It will mean so much more and oh, what a story you will have to tell.

Becoming aware of and doing some research before you begin packing, will help you to feel more confident as well. I always am filled with anticipation about how my wardrobe will be enhanced on my next venture. So empty out your closet, down size to right size, create seasonal capsule wardrobes that you LOVE and get out and see the world.

By the way, the man that sat with me as we sipped our coffee in the trade show arena, was a buyer for a large department store chain in California who ended up being one of my largest clients. Lesson learned, always be willing to laugh at yourself and stop carrying around all that luggage. You’re already gorgeous. Be confident in your own skin. Less is More.

By the way…have a look at how to pack light here! Hope it helps you along your journey.

With a wink and a kiss,

Merry Lynch

P.S. If you like this post, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear about your journeys. And…as always…sharing is caring. Don’t forget to GET ON THE LIST and download my FREE Success Defined workbook and begin crafting your escape plan today!

The Ugly Ones

They are behind locked gates that only the chosen ones are allowed in. Some are ornate, and others are small handmade structures, but all are gems in their own right. I’m referring the small plot of land called the “dzialka”. Since arriving in Poland in 2014 I have craved to get behind the gates and see what lies beyond.

Poles naturally are drawn to farm the earth. It is something that was taught to them since the late 1800’s when Dr. Jan Jalkowski founded the Society for the Natural Lifestyle. It seems funny to me that back in the 1800’s there was a society for natural living. I thought they already were living naturally but apparently, they experienced the same types of things that we do today only without technology. History certainly does keep repeating itself.

From Dr. Jalkowski’s work and passion for the outdoors, he began programs on these small plots of land that were mostly wetlands or wastelands that were turned into allotments of land to create healthy ways of living, eating and socializing.

Today, there are over 1 million plots of land in the dzialka communities throughout Poland. In September my husband and I were invited to visit a dzialka on the outskirts of Lodz. Instead of being in a community of many dzialka this one was by itself, set back off the street. It was a little gem. A kind of gnome place where I imagined little people to be wandering about tending to the garden. I felt like I was in a fairytale.

The property boasted a cute small two-bedroom cottage with a small bathroom and kitchen area. There were grape vines, raspberries, black berries, multiple kinds of apple trees (Poles love apples), porzeczka-black currents (that is used to make naleweka, a polish alcoholic liqueur made from fruit, nuts or tree bark or pine needles – very healthy for you by the way), flowers and herbs everywhere. I didn’t want to leave.

I love to bake so I couldn’t wait to see what we were going to be sent home with. I walked the property with the owner, who only spoke Polish, and she had me taste everything that was growing. She brought along with her three large empty bags and as we rounded the corner where the row of apple trees began, she motioned me to start filling the bags up.

Poland is the world’s largest exporter of apples, a very proud heritage. Poland boasts eighty-four different varieties of apples, some grown for desserts and other are for processing for food items such as juices, applesauce and other delectable treats.

The trees in the dzialka were covered with big red or yellow apples, a kind of red apple that I had not seen before. The color was like that of a cherry. It was a bit overwhelming. Where do you begin. I started pulling the apples off the tree. She came over and shook her head no. I was so confused. She then picked up an apple from the ground, one of the ugly ones, and told me to eat it. The juice ran down my chin and the taste were bursting in my mouth. It was sweet and sour all at the same time. So, I began picking the apples up from the ground.

I got back to where my husband was sitting and told him of my experience. He asked our hostess, “why not pick the apples from the tree?” She replied, “they are not ready.” BAM! The ripe ones have already fallen and are the sweetest and may have bruises and are often times, the ugly ones.

The same is true for all of the fruits and vegetables. Just like us, they are not always perfect in shape or color, size or proportion, yet just like us, they have something special, something only they can share.

The apple pies, applesauce bread, naleweka and other goodies that I created from our trip to the dzialka proved to be amazing. So, the next time you happen into the grocery store, farm stand or your own garden, be thankful for the ugly ones, the ones with the imperfections, bumps and bruises, for therein lies the richness of life, just like you.

With love and light,

Merry Lynch

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Are you brave enough?

Traveling through Poland a country that has been ravaged by war over and over again makes it seem like there are stories to be told in every corner, town and village. No matter where we go, people share the memories, the losses, the triumphs. This time the story is of one woman’s bravery and the vines.

I often wonder if I would be brave enough to endure such hardship. I wonder if I would risk my life or that of my family for a neighbor, friend or stranger who is be taken away to a concentration camp. I wonder if I would just give in.

These thoughts came flooding in my mind as we (my husband and I) found ourselves driving through the countryside in the village of Dlugiesiodlo. This is horse country. Since the 16th century Poland has been breeding Arabian horses and has used them extensively throughout their cavalry with much success.

We happen across a horse show for young teens and watched as these majestic creatures pass by. Now mainly appreciated and owned for their beauty, the Polish Arabian horse can bring upwards of $100,000 at the Autumn Arabian Auction in Janow Podlaski.

As the horse show comes to an end we follow the horses and their riders to the stable to get a closer look. The horses are handled with kit gloves and well attended. The young female riders busy themselves by braiding the mane and tails of their horses in a loving way. There is a deep connection between the rider and the horse. The Arabian’s are brilliant and very inquisitive, preferring humans over other horses.

We walk around the beautiful property and come across a lovely stone home covered in ivy. In some places the ivy is so thick that it has even covered the windows. I wonder why the owners would not cut the vines back? Maybe they’re too old or simply not bothered by the darkness that lay inside the home.

As I stand and ponder, which I often do, an older gentleman exits the door. He notices me standing there staring. He begins to talk to me, in Polish of course, and I grab my husband to come translate. He tells the story of his aunt who lived in the home during World War II. She was the brave one.

Nazi’s were on the hunt for Jews. The Nazi’s scoured every inch of Poland pulling Jews out of their homes and off to the concentration and extermination camps in Auschwitz and Birkenau where over 1.1 million people died. This home was no exception.

Imagine the terror. You live alone in the country, surrounded only by fields and woods and then comes the knock on the door. A banging really. You rush to see who is there and the Nazi’s, in full uniform, come bursting through your door. Rummaging in every closet, every nook and cranny, opening every door. Your heart pounds. You are overcome with fear. But the vines know. It’s in God’s hands now.

The Nazi’s leave nothing to chance. They ransack everything as the woman stands in silence praying to be spared. They yell and threaten. She is alone and vulnerable. But the vines know.

Finally, the ordeal is over. The Nazi’s have left. She stands still making sure there is silence and that all is safe. She runs up the stairs to the second floor. Quickly opening the door to the bedroom that was pillaged by the army. Everything is in a shambles. She glances at the window, it is closed, the vines know.

Gathering up her strength she runs to the window and opens it. They are safe. The vines knew. The vines that covered the home were so thick that the Jewish neighbors were able to hide behind them as they stood on the edge of the balcony, holding their breath for dear life. They survived this time.

So, as I ask if the vines will be trimmed to allow light in the room, the man just shakes his head “no.” The vines will keep them safe. The vines will remain. The image of this home and the story he told still shakes me to my core. The fear this young woman must have felt overwhelms me. What would I have done? How brave would I be?

To bravery,

Merry Lynch

P.S. If you enjoyed my journey through the Polish countryside you may also enjoy this:

Poland, a place to visit and fall in love

Don’t take offense, it’s a cultural thing

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Health benefits of eating seeds

SEEDS –  good for your health and your life

Hanging out in a foreign country during the summer has many benefits, one being the harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables where the farmers line the streets to share their abundance. Polish farmers, no matter what size their plot of land always have something to share even if it is a bag full of paprika’s or pears picked fresh off the tree and left by roadside for you to enjoy. The honor system is in place here where you take what you want and leave the payment behind. Everyone gets to share in the abundance.

You might think that growing up in a small New England town where the farm stands were plenty, that I might have planted a few tomatoes along the way. But actually, I never really thought about where my food came from or how it grew. It just always seemed to appear on my plate.

My mom, a stay at home mother, was not a gardener. She did have window boxes that she loved to tend to but never planted anything that we could eat and certainly never grew anything from seed. Gardening all seemed very foreign to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to get my hands dirty, I never knew where to begin. As a young girl, when not at school or at the beach you would find me in the closest tree with pine sap all through my long curls and all over my hands and clothing. So, getting dirty never seemed to stop me from doing anything. I just didn’t have a role model or even know of anyone that gardened or grew their own vegetables.

Poland has a history steeped in gardening with a love for the soil. During the centuries of death and destruction, gardening was one way they could keep food on the table and be able to barter with the neighbors who may have milk cows, chickens or pigs, maybe even some honey. We met with a farmer at Hala Mirowska, the Warsaw farmers market, whose family has had a stand there for over 100 years and have no plans of doing anything else. They are farmers to their core.

 

This love for the soil continues and the abundance at the farmers markets is both beautiful to see and mouth-watering to taste. There are many things that surprise me about the food that the Polish farmers produce, the size, the different varieties of the same fruit or vegetable, the taste, the color. They even have farmers that only sell eggs, which are left out in the sun in a basket, and you can purchase the eggs based on the flavor or nutrients you are looking for. The chickens are feed different kinds of food to produce different nutrients and tastes. Food is eaten by season, something that I certainly had to get used to when first moving here. I have heard that eating by season is healthy but never really experienced it. It’s really quite different and was very frustrating at first.

Coming from America where I could get anything I wanted at any time, made it a hard adjustment in my cooking style. The summer harvest is colorful and tasty where the fruit or vegetables seem to burst with flavor in your mouth, while the winter harvest is made up of cabbage, sauerkraut, potatoes, pickles and root vegetables. Quite a different recipe collection and color on your dining plate, especially since the meat selection is generally made up of pork or chicken. So your winter dinner plate can look pretty bland, still tasty, but bland looking.

Summertime in Poland is when you find people of all ages wandering the streets with giant sunflowers (some bigger than the size of my hand), leaving behind a trail of seed hulls wherever they go. I am a big fan of sunflower seeds but had never thought of eating them right out of the flower. Sure, they are messy and maybe your hands get a little dirty, but it is fun to grab a flower and munch wherever you may be heading. It’s a summer thing. You can’t do this any other time of year. That is what makes it so special and silly all at the same time.

What I didn’t realize are the health benefits from eating sunflower seeds. For instance, one quarter cup of sunflower seeds provides your body with over half of the amount of copper that your body needs for the day. For menopausal women, these seeds are packed with vitamin E which helps to reduce hot flashes as well as reduce the risk of colon cancer. They are also packed with magnesium, which helps with your mood and depression. The seeds also provide vitamin B1, B3 and B6 along with selenium, phosphorus and folate providing the body with the nutrients it needs to ward off stress. And don’t let me forget that it’s kind of meditative to sit and pull the seeds out one by one and eat them.

So even if you can only purchase sunflower seeds packaged in a bag, go out and get on the summertime bandwagon of enjoying this nutrient packed powerhouse of what Mother Nature has to offer and leave your own trail of sunflower seed hulls wherever you go.

Enjoy the fruits of summer!

Merry Lynch

P.S. Many people ask me how I did it. How did I pack up everything and move abroad? How did I bust through fears, anxiety, financial implications, and just do it? If that is you, the one thing I can share is that I set an intention. I set an intention on every vision board that I created. I set an intention on my screen saver on my computer. I set an intention and would say it to myself when I looked in the mirror. I felt it, I could smell it, and I could taste it. It takes igniting and aligning each of the senses so that your sub-conscious begins to believe it and places before you the tools and opportunities to make it happen. Then all I had to do was act.

Here is a FREE program I created to teach you how to that. It’s called LIVE LIFE FEARLESSLY THROUGH THE POWER OF INTENTION. It worked for me and I know it can for you as well. Go ahead, it’s FREE. Get your life back and going in the direction that you dream about. There is a great workbook that you can download as well that will take your right through the process as well as videos to keep you on track. Get it today!

 

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