WCW: Hollie Azzopardi

WCW Series: Hollie Azzopardi 

I am bursting with joy to announce my new blog series- Women Crush Wednesday. Every month I am going to feature a woman who I know personally who inspires me and lights up my world. The Women Crush Wednesday hashtag and social media trend is nothing new. But I am trying to reclaim that title not just for half naked celebrities or women you actually know nothing about. The women I crush over are using their womenhood, their voice and their passions to make our world brighter. I have some incredible women in my life so I am honored to share them with you. I hope you find them as inspiring as I do.

Meet Hollie.

19832400_10209312077703734_1184517282_n.jpg

She came into my life by pure chance when I made a desperate semi-joking Facebook status when I moved to Sydney and needed to make friends. A mutual friend (she only met because she stayed in his place as an Air BnB) digitally introduced us and Hollie instantly was super welcoming and friendly as a native Sydneysider. We connected with our mutual passion for health and wellness. It took us a while to meet in real life but once we did it felt like we’d known each other for years.

Continue reading

The 2016 Collection: Travel

Travel

DCIM167GOPRO

 

“My biggest takeaway from all of my adventures living abroad in two radically different countries and returning back home to America in between, has been that the world is an absolutely captivating and magical place, if you allow it to be. Being open minded is the key to happiness, success, relationships and quite honestly, life.  I truly believe that for the most part people are their own worst enemies and let their fears hold them back from the life they deserve.”

“Traveling has forced me to be okay with not being in control(which if you know me was a VERY hard lesson for me to learn.) Traveling has forced me to see how taking risks is worth the reward. Traveling has forced me to savor the moments as they pass because you may only have a few nights with these new friends who you feel like you’ve known a lifetime. Traveling has made me realize that you don’t need a lot of money to travel you need a lot of GUTS. You need a lot of resilience. You need the willingness to get out of your OWN way and take some risks.”

“You have to be open minded in your approach to your traveling or you could circle the whole globe and not change a thing.”

“You are someone who decides that the desire to see the world is stronger than any other guiding factor.”

“Every traveler holds those stories in their memory, some to share and some to keep, but no two people will see the same world twice.”

“You can see a big and beautiful world or you can see a world full of pain and darkness. That is totally up to you.”

“Good and evil have existed since the beginning of time and will continue to exist. Traveling has reminded me to be open to the magic that this universe has to offer. Not just when you feel like it. Not just for a week or a stage in life. Be open to what the world has to offer you and see the magic in everyday life. Don’t ever stop seeing life as an adventure and that mindset will manifest your reality.  Leaving home does not mean that I never look back, I look back all the time. But my eyes have changed, my mind has expanded, my heart has opened.  I take life as it comes and I take people for what they are. I control myself (this is without a pitcher of sangria in my blood) because I know that’s the only thing I can control. I EMBRACE uncertainty because instead of holding myself back or being afraid of it, I am learning to celebrate the fact that I have no clue what’s next. None of us do. The more authentically you open your mind and your heart to the world around you the more the world around you opens. Allow the world to be the magical and captivating place that it is. Get out of your own way. I’m not saying everyone should quit their job to travel the world but DAMN, I am glad that I did.”

“The travel bug isn’t a creature you want to take lightly.”

“Traveling pushes me to my limits and pushed me out of my comfort zone to allow me the room to blossom into who I want to be. Or at least put me on the road to who I want to be. Traveling gave me the reason to start sharing my writing and the confidence to believe I had something to say.”

“When I lived in Syracuse last year for a short time, I might have taken for granted a nice dinner with Mom, an afternoon with my niece and nephew or getting ready with one of my best friends, but now, these moments feel like memories as they are happening. I cherish them with the sense of fragility and preciousness they deserve. Because I can’t see everyone I love as often as I want, I am able to invest fully in those moments and give my full self.”

“Wherever you are, and however you celebrate, remember to make this holiday season about love, celebration and admiration for life and the many blessings you have been given. It’s not wrong to miss what you’ve left behind, but don’t let it stop you from experiencing what is right in front of you.”

 

“Home will always be home for me. But the greatest feat of all, is feeling at home within yourself. I can be alone on the other side of the world but I am confident enough in who I am and where I’m going to feel at home.”

Dear Sydney…

Dear Sydney,

The past week has been overflowing with more reflection than usual for me. If I gave you an hour inside of my brain I assume you would be quite exhausted and possibly terrified. I am celebrating a year of living here in Sydney. I moved to Australia at the end of July 2015 but I went backpacking for two months up the East coast and I landed in Sydney at the end of September 2015, for what I thought was a few weeks. When I moved to Australia it was my intention to live in Melbourne. My teacher besties I met in Thailand moved there and when I visited the fall before I fell in love. I came to Australia not knowing exactly where I would end up, but I had an open mind and an open heart. After a few weeks in the hostel I was running out of money, so I knew it was time to get another job. My job search began and I made the Library of New South Wales my go-to spot. Something about being in a library makes me feel safe and at home.  It was while I was living in this cheap hostel, searching for a job, checking my bank account after every purchase, exploring the city on my own, that I began stressing about the future and if I really made the right decision. I struggled with loneliness and intense anxiety.  I wrote in my blog a year ago how I took myself out to dinner for the first time at a fancy restaurant and forced myself to enjoy my own company, without my phone or any hesitation. It felt weird and uncomfortable but overall, it was liberating.

A year ago I had no idea that at this hostel I would meet the man that I am now in love and happily living with. I had no idea that my passion for health and wellness, helping others, and sharing my journey would turn into such a huge driving force in my career and my life. For all my travelers out there, I know you can understand why traveling makes you so reflective but if you don’t travel much, I would love to explain why. When you travel or live abroad, especially for long periods of time, your life goes into a time warp and months seem like years and days seem like minutes. It feels like you just left home but it also feels as if you have existed in this universe forever. You develop a routine in your new turf because despite the need for freedom and adventure, human beings are all creatures of habits. When you move away from everything you’ve ever known, you are left with yourself. You are left to define yourself, in whatever manner you desire. The people you meet may learn about your past from stories, photographs and Facebook stalking, but a traveler meets everyone at face value, as the person they are today. It’s a beautiful way to approach life and a particularly comforting way to approach people.

The whole concept of the travel bug sounded silly to me at first. It sounded cliche and overused and quite frankly, trite. But a harsh reality you face in this world, is that cliches only construct meaning in your life when they are relevant to you. The travel bug isn’t a creature you want to take lightly. Now that I have lived abroad for 2 out of the last 3 years of my 20’s, I am heavily addicted. I am in love with the way it feels to explore new cities and look at every minute moment as something special and worth remembering. I am in love with the feeling of coming and going because it constantly reminds you how good you have it. When I travel home, I see the same city I grew up in with fresh eyes. All my favorites of home become that much more divine and sacred. Even though I have lived in Sydney for a year now, it still feels fresh and exciting to me. When I got my teaching job, experienced a few weeks of summer in Sydney and met my handsome Englishman, I felt an overwhelming feeling of contentment. I felt satisfied, grounded and “home” in a way that is difficult to verbalize. I asked myself out-loud, and many of my friends, “Why would you ever choose to leave this?”

14513701_10207078253059514_1304929781_o

Continue reading

Your Story Matters

Understanding people is one of my top priorities in growing my relationships and perspective on life. I always want to know why they are the way they are and what matters to them. In friends, students, family members and quite honestly strangers I meet traveling or out at the bar, I am insatiably curious to know their story. Storytellers also love hearing great stories. In my coaching business, we are often asked what our “why” is for being a part of this business. The question is asked when we begin the journey as coaches and then it is asked many times as our personal business evolves, naturally the “why” evolves. My mission not only in my new career but as a human being is to use my story, my struggles and my triumphs to lift others up and inspire them. I am surrounded by a team full of incredible people who share their deepest struggles with their body image, mental health, financial trouble, self-confidence issues, relationship problems, (the list goes on) with their followers, friends, family and anyone on the internet to see. As I evolve as a person, a writer, a business woman and a human being I realize that the story that I know so well, my own story, is not something I have put in the spotlight lately.

Now I am living on the other side of the planet with people who haven’t known me longer than 6 months at most. The funny thing about constantly meeting new people is they can only meet you where you are. We can share stories about our past but people tend to judge us by our present. I notice this when I walk down the crowded streets in Sydney. If I’m on my way to work in my “teacher dresses” I give off a much different persona then if I’m in my activewear going to the gym or my casual beach clothes. People deal with me in a much different manner as well. We subconsciously put strangers in boxes and molds and sharing our stories about the inside are the best way to break those. Sometimes I would like a sign on my forehead at the bar, “More than just a pretty face”. Not because I am looking to meet anyone, I am currently the happiest I’ve ever been in a relationship. I just want people to stop judging the shell of me and start being interested in what is underneath. Due to the overwhelming response from my friends, old and new, of how happy I look and seem, I want to go a bit deeper than that shell. Right now, I am happy. But the struggle it took to get here can not be forgotten.

Social media is terrifying when it is used to magnify the good and stifle the bad. I will always be an optimistic individual but I refuse to discount or discredit the struggle and the pain that have been such a real catalyst in shaping me into the woman I am today. I accidently became involved with an Australian organization called One Wave, which raises awareness for mental health. I found out about a free Sunrise Bender yoga class on Bondi Beach when I first moved to Sydney and decided I had to try it out. The first time I went I was sold and have been going back nearly every Friday since. One Wave is a surfing community raising awareness for mental health and every Friday they celebrate Fluro Friday, where everyone dresses in bright, neon, wacky, rave-esque outfits and comes together to surf (or do free yoga for those of us who don’t surf). They kick off the morning with someone sharing their story about mental health and how it has affected their life, either their own battle with a mental illness or someone close to them. It is incredible to hear their stories and see the courage and refuge they have found in having a positive community to support them. We all deeply crave to feel love and acceptance. Why not help eachother get that satisfaction? I decided one early morning on the beach that I wanted to share my story. Not that morning. But some morning in the future. I will keep that promise to myself. For now, I am choosing to share it with you. My family, friends, and followers. Many of you know parts of this story, some of you know most of it, none of you know it all. I often exhaust all my energy on helping others because right now I am strong enough to do so. But it has not always been that way. It is pretty terrifying to be so vulnerable but at this point in my life and my journey, I know that I am ready.

Continue reading

Cheers to you, Corinne Marie

579661_4239636401966_1119501913_n

October is a month that many people look forward to. It is associated with fall weather and the start of the holiday season with Halloween. For the past decade, October has had a different aura attached to it. Nine years ago October 30, 2006 changed my life forever. To this day, I can not think of a single day that has impacted me more. Unfortunately, the whole month still puts a pain in my heart and an empty feeling in my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I have slowly grown to appreciate pumpkin picking and carving, dressing up and fall decorations once again but there is a sadness attached to October I simply can’t shake. A huge part of my coaching business is personal development. The leaders on our team constantly demand and remind us how important it is to have a strong WHY for why we are in the business and why we decided to dedicate ourselves to helping others. Personally, as a writer, blogger, teacher, and self diagnosed over thinker I have always had a driving “why” in my life long before it became something I was asked to do for my career. The further I develop as a professional, a business owner, and a person; the more I realize how deeply intertwined my “why” really is with my life choices. If you know me well, you probably already know about my friend Corey and how deeply her life and friendship has impacted me. As time goes on and I continue to explore new countries, new horizons and add people to my ever growing network of humans I care about; I realize that Corey’s story is not something that is always at the forefront of conversation. October 30th and this time of the year is and always will be a reminder of her death but more importantly her life, her friendship and how her words are still a driving force and why in my life.

For those of you who don’t know Corey’s story I will give you a glimpse into who she was and what she taught not only me, but a whole community. Corey was an absolutely gorgeous girl from the inside out. She would befriend anyone and had an incredible talent at making everyone feel important. She gravitated towards people who needed an open ear or a shoulder to cry on, despite the fact that she was battling so much of her own pain. She was a talented cheerleader, a dedicated friend and student but deep down a huge goof ball. She was outgoing (once she got to know you) but extremely self-conscious and worried about her appearance and how others perceived her. She would randomly belt out singing as loud she could (usually Mariah Carey or a 90s boy band), eat tubs of raw cookie dough and spend hours listening to music or talking on the phone to her crushes or girlfriends. I had the honor of being her best friend for three years and have struggled to find a more loyal or supportive companion since. She sincerely wanted the BEST for everyone around her. She struggled deeply with depression and even in our tender teenage years she could verbalize a sadness that was hard for my mind to fathom. On October 30, 2006 Corey lost her struggle with depression and took her own life. The ripple she created is far more powerful today than any of us could have realized at the time.

Continue reading

Alice in Wonderland

This post is dated October 7, 2014. I just realized I never posted it and it was only saved as a draft. To keep the chronological story pieced together I decided to post it anyway. Plus, these pictures are too amazing to miss out on! Enjoy & look for a lot of retroactive posts to come in the next week!

This is my last full week living and working in Thailand. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by. This week we have to work Monday- Sunday judging our students final projects and helping them practice for their presentations for the competition this weekend. We also have to pack ALL of our lives in two suitcases and a backpack BUT the week culminates with a month long trip to Bali, Australia and Ko Phi Phi so it is hard to complain.
Our last weekend living in Thailand was one of the best yet. We were invited by our coworkers and Thai friends to go on a trip to the Central/Northern province of Petchabun. We stayed at our coworkers family resort nestled in the picturesque mountains. We had an amazing weekend full of TONS of Thai food, incredible views, lots of laughs and tons of photos. On Sunday we visited arguably the most beautiful place I have ever seen…anywhere. A massive temple called Wat Pha Sorn Kaew nestled in the mountains. We hired a van for the weekend and he took us up and down winding roads for about an hour.
When we finally reached the destination Jackie & I had to put on canvas wraps because our shorts/dresses were too short. Once we reached the steps of the temple, our jaws were dropped for the remainder of the visit. Every square inch of the steps, walls and temple was covered in gorgeous mosaic glass that was so vibrant and colorful. Every nook and cranny was covered and so intricate. We climbed each stair case snapping photos and “ohing and ahing”. Not only was the temple magnificent but the views were even more stunning. The mountains looked as if they lasted forever. The temple was built 10 years ago but it is very much a part of the “Unseen Thailand” category because it’s not often visited by foreign tourists or travelers. The architecture and design of the temple was very Gaudy-esque and definitely not the traditional Thai style.

Continue reading

Little Frames of Life

IMG_6918

IMG_7111

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

IMG_6945OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIMG_6981 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_6972 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_7007 IMG_7008 IMG_7102 IMG_7131 IMG_7169 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_7226 IMG_7270 IMG_7452 IMG_7349 IMG_7373 IMG_7403 IMG_7420 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_7481 IMG_7496 IMG_7498

IMG_7506

 

Today we had off from school in the middle of week for “Constitution Day”. We don’t have classes on Friday because of the Mini-Marathon(5K)  happening that all of the students and some staff (including me) will participate in.  Last week we had off on Thursday for the King’s birthday. The following week we have Thursday and Friday off for “English Program Camp”. If you are catching my drift, Thailand loves holidays, and so does this girl! I am not sure how someone could complain about having paid time off. Sometimes (especially now) it makes it hard to get through all of the material and review for midterms. But Mai Pen Rai (No worries) has truly become my mantra since moving here. I have two extremes to my personality, and one part of me wants to be in control and is super high strung but I am learning to love and embrace my more relaxed carefree persona since I am surrounded by an environment that not only expects that attitude but demands it. Thanksgiving was a huge success although vastly different than anything I would experience in America. Since Thanksgiving I have had so many wonderful trips. These include: a Chinese temple and Celestial Dragon village, humungous Sunflower fields and ancient temples in U thong, my first authentic Muay Thai match, and another amazing weekend in Kanchanaburi revisiting Erawan Falls and experiencing my favorite day so far in Thailand at Wat Pa Luangta Bua Yannasampanno Forest Monastery (Tiger Temple for short). I made a conscious effort to try to take more video footage of my trip from now on.  I have many I would like to share but being new to the blogging universe I am not sure how to upload them into my blog.  Advice would be greatly appreciated! They say “A picture is worth a thousand words” but I personally adore both. It’s so fun to capture little frames of life. But sometimes I think words paint a picture for each individual reader. On the other hand, I definitely agree, “ Variety is the spice of life”, hence the  peek at my last few weeks through my camera lens. As my journey continues, everyday does not provide excitement and joy and somedays the excitement and joy is on OVERLOAD. Overall, the juice continues to be worth the squeeze. I hope you like what you see! RAWRRRRRR!