20 September 2020

Life, Lately

Hey, play this song while you read. :)

Hello. It's been a while. I just wanted to let you know that things have been well since the last time I was here. Things have changed. Things have been better. Things have grown, ungrown, tangled and untangled  but for the most part, and perhaps most importantly, I am still here. Still striving to show up.

I know not a lot of people visit this little quiet corner of mine in this vast world of the interwebs, but for those who do, thank you. You are the reason I am back here.

It's weird in a fascinating kind of way because when I stopped writing a couple of years ago (a decline that happened slowly), I took out my blog link from my Instagram account  where I am most active. But one day, recently, I decided to put it back up again. Just like that I started receiving messages from people saying they found their way to my blog, and thanking me for my writing. Because my words resonated. My words helped. My words inspired. It didn't matter that my last entries were years old  it only mattered that they saw themselves in my stories. And I know discovering stories you resonate with always provides a little strength. I feel the same way. So those words mean a lot to me. 

When I receive messages like that from people, I always cry a little. I am reminded of the reason why I write  to share my truth. In a world where life can appear to be so curated, I stand with the people who strive for honesty and authenticity. Who remind us that tenderness is a strength.

And so, here I am again. 

I guess life is just like that  when you exhaust yourself you retreat for a while, but then, eventually, you find yourself coming alive again. Like trees that slowly bloom again in the spring. You know the saying. 

That awakening has been happening to me. I know it because I have been feeling restless. Uncentered. A little bit melancholy, even, on some days. And I know that when this happens it is the soul telling me to pay attention. To reconnect, reground, and re-center. To find my wild again.

And as always, I feel these things the most when I am writing. Writing, as well as traveling, have always been so meditative for me. And today, I spare some time for meditation. 

At the end of 2017, I met Alex. On Christmas Day, no less. My best Christmas present to date. It's ironic because I've traveled everywhere, and I always thought my love for the road was the path that would lead me to the love of my life. Instead, I met him through an app. This happened after weeks of pestering from my friends to give dating apps a chance. My friends who were tired of my constant singleness. And I kid you not, Alex was my first match ever, and then my last. Because after talking to him, I just happened to never use the app again. This all happened in about a span of two weeks.

It makes me think now that perhaps that was just a little detour orchestrated by the universe. Perhaps one of us was taking time to get where we needed to be, and required a little nudge. 

This is perhaps why they say we should always leave a little room for serendipity. After all, no matter what happens, it seems that what is yours will always find its way to you. 

I can't explain, but it all happened so slowly but also so quickly. I can't say that it was love at first sight (or love at first connection), but when I realized that it was indeed love, I knew right away that it was the love that I've been looking for all my life.

Do you believe in alchemy?

Alex would joke that I conjured him up. A few months before I met him, under the light of a new moon, I prayed for him. I set up a little self-invented ritual in my room, wrote him down on a piece of paper, and said a prayer to the universe. I remember writing down everything I wanted — everything I thought I deserved. I remember noting those things down because, I wrote, I wanted to recognize him when I see him.

November that year, in a little crafty shop in South Korea, a shopkeeper offered to read tarot cards for me. How much? I asked. She said, no, no payment. Shaking her head and signaling with her hands. For free, she said. She didn't speak much English and I can't speak Korean, but I remember her telling me something about love. The card she showed me had a man and a woman on it. "Oppa? Oppa?" My friends teasingly asked her. She smiled and nodded. "Oppa!" She said.

It was in the height of fall, a few days before the first snow fell in Seoul. This is how I'll always remember Korea — in a beautiful shade of warmth and hope.

A month after, I met Alex. I recognized him from my piece of paper scribbled under the new moon.

It's been almost three years together. As I'm writing this, I am sitting on a couch, Alex right next to me, on this cozy Sunday afternoon in our little home by the beach. 

I swear this is a life that I'd only once imagined, and I can't believe that I'm actually living it. Life is such a surprise.

Little specks of gold are dancing around on my knees right now — light peeking through the leaves from the trees outside our window. Light and shadow on my skin. They have a term for this in Japanese. Komorebi. "Sunshine filtering through leaves of a tree."

I have komorebi in my life right now.


Chiang Mai, Thailand. November 2016

The past years I have devoted myself to work  and even though I often miss my previous carefree life, I must admit that on some days when I look back at my evolution, I can't help but feel a little bit proud of myself. And I don't regret choosing to go down this path.

When I was younger I fought so hard not to be the person I am today  limited by a job, a commitment, by a bank account you're trying to grow and protect. I thought the only way to be happy was to be unattached to anything. Unanchored. To be broke, even. I didn't understand people who worked so hard for money. I remember my lolo (grandfather) once told me, after hearing about my non-stop adventures, "A rolling stone gathers no moss." I must admit that although I love him dearly for being the sweetest grandparent, he and I are not really that close. So that moment when he said this has just stayed with me since. 

But now I see what he meant. I have a job that I love. A partner. I have stability and security. Even some people who depend on me. And you know what? It's not bad at all. Contrary to what I thought when I was younger, having things attached to you, when coming from a place of love, doesn't weigh you down. Instead they become pillars — strong foundations lifting you up. Keeping you sturdy.  

It took me a while to accept that I was no longer that young twentysomething having all those adventures. I stopped writing because the extremes of being young, the highs and the lows, were all I knew to write about. Those iridescent moments running to the ocean, intoxicated with laughter, drinks, and bliss, and then dropping to the sand hand in hand with your best friends after a night of dancing. The despair on days you can't escape the darkness  almost immobile. The longing for those fleeting moments of fateful encounters. All the beautiful strangers I met along the way.

Somehow I think I had this belief that life was only significant if you were living in the extreme highs and lows, persistently avoiding the in-between. It was a love for wild things. 

But with age comes a little bit more stillness. I am more grounded now. I have grown roots. My suitcase heart has learned to unpack, and I am no longer fleeting. 

I still miss the high of traveling. The freedom. I think the love for the road, understanding the world around us through travel, is just deeply ingrained in me. It is part of who I am. I have so much respect for the world  I witness people's different ways of life and I always feel so moved. I want to run my fingers across the whole world. To see and understand them all. It would be such a privilege.

But for now I just have to trust that things are right where they should be. They always are.


I have discovered, that at the core of it all, I have no desire in life greater than just to be free.

When I was younger I thought that meant freedom from responsibilities  a wayfaring life, or a life untethered to anyone or anything. All my life, that was all I ever wanted.

But I see now that freedom can be found in the little things, too. Like in the way we seek peace or happiness, freedom is something you discover within and sometimes even create for yourself.

So here I am.

I hope in my return to this tiny space, whether through writing, through travel, or even through the mundanities of daily life, I find that freedom that I've been looking for  and perhaps along the way, help you find yours, too.


  1. Nicole, welcome back. I’ve missed you so much. And I’m happy-crying from reading this. I can’t help but feel that our lives parallel each other. So much of sentiments here echo my own. And so I would like to say that I’m so proud of you. And so happy for you. And I love you. And I’m glad you’re back.