Travel as Experiential Expansion


My guest today is Lois Joy Hofmann who, like me, has rejoiced in her decision to step out of her comfort zone and live on board a sailboat as she and her husband ventured to foreign climes. Unlike me, Lois and her husband actually made it all the way around the around the world.


Travel as Experiential Expansion

travel -varanasiTravel requires a conscious effort to step outside our comfort zones. Not only do we challenge our physical comfort when we travel; we also challenge our psychological comfort.

My husband and I spent eight years circumnavigating the world on our 43-foot catamaran, Pacific Bliss. We flew back to San Diego between voyages. Our friends would ask: When are you leaving on vacation again?

“You don’t get it,” I’d reply. “Living in our condo for a while is coming back to comfort. This is our break, our holiday. Sailing, touring, and understanding the differing cultures of 62 countries—this is like work.”

Why did we choose to live like that?

Travel to us is not about staying in five-star hotels and enjoying a beach holiday. It’s a way of life. And even though we’ve completed our mission and sold our beloved Pacific Bliss, we’ll continue to travel as long as our health permits. Travel is how we learn and expand our minds. It’s as much a part of our lives as the books we read and the food we eat.

Think about it.

You can repeat the same life experience every day, year after year. Or you can travel for five, ten or twenty years and have perhaps fifty life-changing encounters during each one of those years! The more you travel, the more you expand your life and grow your soul.

What if you’re still working and can’t take off for a big chunk of time?

During the weeks that you can get away, I advise you to put a different emphasis on time. In the business world, everything needs to have happened yesterday, while at the same time, you must prepare for the future lest you fall behind. You’re never in the moment.

You can make travel happen on your time. I call it “slow travel.” As soon as you arrive at your destination, take your foot off that accelerator and slow down to a snail’s pace. Those ruins you wanted to see are not going anywhere soon! Leave those tight schedules and to-do lists back at the office. It’s only when you slow down, engage with your surroundings, and absorb the moment that you truly feel a sense of place. Sit down for a coffee with the locals. Spend time people watching. Sample strange food.

My husband and I implemented the technique of “slow travel” during a three-week trip to India We used Enchanting-India, a travel company specializing in tailor-made travel experiences using local guides. We selected a standard two-week, six-city round-trip tour from Delhi, then expanded it to three weeks to make time for photography and journaling at each destination.

Even so, we made changes to our itinerary on the fly. For example, when our next stop was to be the Raj Ghat Memorial, we could see from the car that the site was basically a black marble platform marking Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation. Long lines extended around block. We decided that getting there was not worth fighting traffic and jet-lag in the heat of the day. This is the advantage of independent travel! The plan is ours to make or break.

On the way to Sarnath to see Buddhist sites in India, we asked our driver to stop and allow us to “walk the village.” While we interacted with the locals, he waited for us on the other side. This link gives you a taste of the village and the people we met.

I urge you to let travel transform your life. Vow today to make a change outside your comfort zone. You won’t regret it!


Lois Joy Hofmann - travelLois Joy Hofmann is the author of Maiden Voyage and Sailing the South Pacific, the first and second book in a trilogy called In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss. Both books won first place in the Travel category of the San Diego Book Awards (2011 and 2013 respectively).

Her stories have appeared in magazines such as Latitudes and AttitudesCruising World and Living Aboard. Lois has contributed to online magazines and blogs such as: Multihull MagazineYacht BlogsMultihull newsletterTop Dekk and The Log. Lois has been a keynote speaker for various organizations including: yacht clubs, optimist clubs, book stores and libraries. She is currently working on the third book in her trilogy, to be called The Long Way Back.

When she’s not writing, Lois enjoys travel with her husband Günter to those countries they did not visit during their 8-year, 62-country sailing circumnavigation.

You can read about Lois’s travels on her website, Sailor’s Tales.


On Not Being Perfect



The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.                                    ~Anna Quindlen

Being PerfectThe notion that we grow the most—personally, professionally, and spiritually—when we step outside our comfort zone has been central to my life and central to what I have chosen to write about over the last decade.

Quindlen’s message is that much of the heavy lifting in the matter of personal growth comes through the often exhausting, sometimes frightening effort, step by small step, to find a new approach to getting through the day. It requires a conscious effort to step outside our psychological comfort zone as well as our external or environmental one.

. . .

To read more,  check out my blog on Becoming Yourself, a guest post of Gwen Plano’s lovely website “From Sorrow to Joy — Perfect Love.”


The Confidence Gap


For most of her life, the heroine of my forthcoming novel has had difficulty speaking up for herself. In a recent blog, I wondered how many women, like Lindsey, experience failure in their personal and/or professional lives because they “wait to be asked” rather than asserting themselves? It’s hard, after all, to be successful if no one knows what you can do or what you think.

confidence gap - edmon de Haro

credit: Edmon de Haro

An article in the May issue of The Atlantic, The Confidence Gap, offered a very robust answer to my question. Based on an array of sociological and scientific studies, the article posits the existence of  “a vast confidence gap that separates the sexes. Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities.” The authors, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, themselves highly respected and successful journalists, attributed this confidence gap to “factors ranging from upbringing to biology.”

The impressive data they marshal includes:

  • A Manchester Business School survey in which women consistently assess their value at 20% less than men with comparable skills and education.
  • A joint study with Cornell University and Washington State University in which women who underperformed men in a test on scientific reasoning also skipped many of the questions. When required to answer all questions — to guess if necessary—their scores were comparable to the men.
  • A personnel study at Hewlett-Packard that indicated that women applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100% of the qualifications while men typically applied when they thought they could meet 60% of the requirements.
  • Differences in the brain chemistry of men and women with respect to making choices, dealing with stress, and emotional memory.
  • Differences in the impact of testosterone and estrogen on social skills vs. competitive activities.
  • Differences in the impact of socialization—early schooling and sports in particular—on the need for approval and/or the ability to bounce back from criticism or failure.
  • Startling examples of a confidence gap as experienced by several of America’s most successful women.

But what ultimately makes this article so compelling is the authors’ ability to frame the confidence gap in a way that any woman, regardless of biology, upbringing, or gender norms, can recognize and address in every day life.

Quoting Richard Petty of Ohio State University, the authors note that “Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.” In the authors’ view, confidence “is the factor that turns thoughts into judgments about what we are capable of, and then transforms those judgments into action.

The authors recognize that taking action isn’t always easy and it isn’t always enough.  Sometimes courage or anger or creativity or the willingness to take a risk is also required. They also believe that, whatever your level of confidence, action reinforces it and inaction erodes it.

I was struck by how powerful this simple concept is. Virtually every example, every survey conclusion, every statistical study had, at its core, a disconnect between a woman’s desire or ability, and the action she took in response to it. Confidence may make it easier to act, but it is not the same as a decision to act. By the same token, a decision to act can build confidence.

In my novel, Lindsey’s challenge is to learn to act and to speak up even if she is unsure?  Can you do that … can you bridge the confidence gap?

The Feminine – What is it?


56a0438218f0434a9d1c639b47ec41f3The series on issues relevant to my novel, A Fitting Place, continues this week with a guest blog from Sara Stibitz, who offers a millenial’s perspective on “doing gender.” 


In the summer of 2013, I traveled through South America solo and completely unplugged from my life as I knew it. Several months into my return from the five-month-long trip, I commented to a friend that I still felt out of sorts, and I wasn’t quite sure why. 

Part of it had to do with my, shall we say, relaxed personal norms on dress and appearance which tend to go along with life in dorm-style hostels. I’d grown accustomed to putting little to no effort into hair, makeup, or clothes, and it was hard to slip back into the cultural norms expected of women in our society. I struggled with the feel and look of a bare face because I knew it wasn’t what was expected of me. I struggled with clothing because the most comfortable clothes were baggier and hid my shape. I felt frustrated at my lack of ability to be feminine. 

My friend listened to me relate my frustration. In response, she asked me a series of questions, beginning with, “How do you walk?” 

I looked at her, wondering at her meaning. 

“Do you walk like a man, or do you walk like a woman?” she pressed. 

I took a moment to consider the question. The truth, I conceded, was that I likely walked like a man; I tend to power-walk, heels digging into the ground as I launch myself forward step by step. She asked a few more questions which led me to see how I went about my day. “I guess I’m just more manly,” ready to accede that I had no womanly wiles. 

“No,” she said. “You have both masculine and feminine energy. It’s just that you operate from your masculine side more often. How do you let your feminine express itself?” 

I noticed she used feminine as a noun as opposed to an adjective. I also noticed I had no answer. 

The conversation lingered in my mind for the rest of the day, and quite some time after that. Over the next few weeks, as I asked the same questions of several female friends, I realized that I’d surrounded myself with women who identify with masculine energy more than feminine energy. It dawned on me that I allowed little to no room for femininity in my life. 

We like to differentiate and exaggerate the separateness of the feminine and masculine, claiming they are entirely separate entities. The truth is, the masculine and feminine energies are two sides of the same coin. One does not exist without the other. More importantly, we are each masculine and feminine in varying degrees, at varying times. 

To be clear, this is not about sex or sexual orientation. This is about questioning the way we allow masculinity and femininity to play out in our lives. We have a choice over how these energies affect us day-to-day, but it requires us to first tune our awareness to them. 

Feminine power is in being; masculine power is in doing. I was struggling after my return because I was power-walking my way through life, focused on activity and outcome. I had no comfortable outlet for feminine energy; I kept trying to resort to the typical means our culture furnishes for women—clothing, hair and make-up—and felt no connection. Awareness was half the battle; once aware, I could seek out the things that put me in touch with the feminine. Or more precisely, my feminine.  

How do the masculine and feminine show up in your life? How do the people around you change the way your feminine and masculine are expressed? 


IMG_3903In 2013, after a seven-year career as an investigator and mediator, Sara left to follow a life-long dream, traveling solo through South America. As she blogged about her adventure, she discovered the creative possibilities of writing, and it has become her passion. Since returning, Sara has written for the Des Moines Register, YogaIowa, Spoilage Literary Magazine, and works regularly as a freelance writer and editor. 

You can contact Sara through her website or through Facebook.