US Road Trip Week 2: Joshua Tree, Sedona, Petrified Forest & Santa Fe

Bidding LA farewell, I first made my way to Joshua Tree National Park. But as it would turn out, I barely got to see much of it at all.

This being my first stop on an already-too-aggressive trip schedule, I’d not yet learned how much extra breathing room I’d need for food stops, bathroom breaks, navigating the more confusing routes, and (most annoyingly) the surprisingly long line of cars trying to get into the same national park at the same damn time.IMG_20190422_125141743-PANO.jpgBy the time I drove up to the Joshua Tree National Park entrance, I only had a mere hour and half left to drive in, see the park, and leave. If I took much longer, I wouldn’t make it to my next stop by nightfall and the whole schedule would be thrown off by a day. It was not a promising start.

I’d barely driven into the park itself when I had to turn around and drive back out. But I did manage to stop at one lookout point and take some photos. And it was enough to know that I definitely want to come back someday, with a lot more time to spare.

So with that in mind, I drove onward into Arizona for a quick Tucson visit to see an old friend. IMG_20190423_183453_128.jpg

Then then left Tucson like Ed Dunkel left Galatea, and drove through Saguaro National Park (71,000-acres of the country’s biggest Saguaro cacti)…IMG_20190423_122337492_HDR.jpgon my way out and up I-10 and I-17 to the stunning red rocks of Sedona.IMG_20190423_171503670_HDR.jpg

Spent a restorative night in a wonderfully peaceful and picturesque wild camping spot on Deer Pass Trail road, “with nothing in my hands but a handful of crazy stars.” Grabbed tea at a Sedona cafe, and then continued up and east along I-40 to the Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Desert to see 50,000 acres of rainbow colored petrified wood and fossils, hundreds of millions of years old. So much unique beauty in just a few days!IMG_20190424_152719189_HDR.jpgIMG_20190424_162228853_HDR.jpg

My week ended in New Mexico, finishing the drive along Route 66 (aka I-40) and up I-25 with “huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, ‘Pass here and go on, you’re on the road to heaven.'”

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That road led to Santa Fe and my dearest oldest friends Becky, Max and their wonderfully crazy old kitty Ruckus. IMG_20190425_113214696-ANIMATION.gifDefinitely one of the mad ones. And I’m mad about her.IMG_20190426_100848698.jpg

At 7,200 feet, my altitude sickness wasn’t terribly happy. But it was worth it, after an exhilarating day of chopping wood and a gorgeous Grasshopper Canyon hike, ending in a gorgeous sunset like “purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon field; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red.”Grasshopper Canyon sunset.png

The greatest highlight of Santa Fe though was without a doubt Meow Wolf. Spent four solid hours in there unraveling its intricate, mysterious narrative that echoed of a “complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiancies shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotuslands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven.” That, or aliens.

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Either way, it was a most magical wondrous experience. Can’t wait till Becky and Max help launch the next iterations in Las Vegas and Denver.

Until then, I have plenty more to occupy me as I continue on this epic journey. As Kerouac says, “the road is life.”

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US Road Trip Week 1: Los Angeles

Spent the first week of my massive cross-country road trip in a city I know and love pretty well already – Los Angeles. The perfect launching off point for a whirlwind excursion of the unknown.

I’ve been here in LA many times before, but I never feel like I get enough time to see everyone and do everything I love here. So it’s been nice to spend a full week packed with fun, good food, fitness, and a super fantastic (super belated) birthday celebration.

Dinner at Musso & Frank. After drinks at Black Rabbit Rose. Burlesque show at No Vacancy. And back to Black Rabbit Rose for a great live jazz show. Not a bad night.

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Now it’s time to head off toward the first new destination of my road trip adventure – Joshua Tree! (Can you believe I’ve never been there?!)

Farewell Los Angeles, you “ragged promised land” (that Kerouac). See you in about two months.

On the road I go!

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Anniversary of a Dream… 7 Years Later

Seven years ago today, I reflected another year back to March 2011 and the day my dream came true – or at least the dream I had at the time.

I’d been drowning a horrible nightmare of anxiety and depression after losing my mind in the corporate hamster wheel, trying to leave that world behind and find a new path. And I’d finally found it, my true purpose: turning my passions for action and films into a new career in action filmmaking. I’d forged a new partnership with an incredibly talented director & fight choreographer, become part of a stunt team, and been offered the most incredible role of a lifetime: producer and lead stunt actress in a new independent feature film.

One year later, the dream had fully become reality. A real-life live-action independent action film called Death Grip. We released it to decent acclaim, a few awards, one packed Comic-Con panel room full of laughs, and plenty of international sales. We then went on to make several brilliant short films, got hired to design the action for others’, and began planning our next feature. We were killing it!

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But as with all good things, it cannot last forever and eventually must come to an end. As my partner and I grew in our own individual creative journeys, we found our vision and goals didn’t align as much as they once did. So by March 2013 (six years ago now), we had very amicably and mutually parted ways and Action Pact Entertainment was no more.Comic Con with Darren Shahlavi3.jpg

I will be forever grateful for that experience, and how much it helped me grow and find myself. But for the next six years, I felt a little lost without that clear direction and partnership. I’ve tried to find it in so many other places, positions, and partnerships to little avail. I’ve dabbled in entirely new fields like fin-tech (aka digital currency aka the wonderful world of Bitcoin) and women’s menstrual health (Flex. Check it out. Srsly revolutionary). But nothing gave me the same surge of passion or purpose. Nothing has clicked.

Eight years ago, when I last felt that lost and decided to leave the Google corporate machine, I first took a 3-month sabbatical to clear my head and do lots of deep soul-searching. I cleared my schedule of all commitments except a whole lot of journaling – right here on The Writes Of Passage. (In fact, that was the impetus for starting this blog in the first place.) It was the best decision I could’ve made and gave me the space to discover that new freelance path ahead.

Now I’ve once again hit that serious rut, only in a new shape (same dog, different tricks). You could say it’s been a while coming, but I guess I’ve just finally reached my breaking point. So I’ve decided it’s time to rinse and repeat.

If the mountain won’t come to Mohammed… I’ll just have to go out there and find that new purpose. I have no idea where it is, so I’ll just have to look everywhere.

I bought a Honda Element and just finished a pretty sweet buildout (I’ll post more details and photos of that soon). So now the plan is to take this new home-on-wheels and van-life it across America the beautiful. 3 months. Over 9,000 miles. Nearly every state. And just about every national park I can manage.IMG_20190416_122108312_HDR.jpg IMG_20190416_122057086_HDR.jpg

It’s going to be one heck of a road trip adventure. With plenty of time driving alone for lots of reflecting and soul-searching.

So here’s to taking another 3-month sabbatical, much like I did eight years ago. And like eight years ago, I’ll once again be journaling and posting about my journey as I go right here on The Writes Of Passage (and on Instagram, coz I’m a sucker for social pressure).

So wish me luck, and stay tuned!

The Superheroes in Us

At this year’s World Domination Summit (which I’ve still yet to actually attend, but someday), Chris Brogan said “When we look up to superheroes, it’s because there are aspects of us that we see in them that we want to bring out in ourselves.”

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I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I think that’s true of any successful, powerful character we see on the big screen (or our personal television screen, laptop, tablet, whatever). The “superheroes” we see in the movies need to be reflections of us, as complex and flawed as we are, or else you lose the connection to them and to the movie itself.

All too often, this point is missed in the development of powerful female “superhero” characters. They lack the depth, vulnerability, and will to overcome that which we real-life women experience everyday.

But what can better motivate a character and create drama and add suspense than giving that character great obstacles both externally and internally.

It’s been uplifting to see improvement in the development and depth of strong male characters in film. They are starting to realize that a man’s character doesn’t have to be all brawn and no brains or suffering from inner demons. But we’ve yet to see it embraced in the leading female form.

And quite frankly, I’m getting tired of it.

It’s always more of the same. She’s the scantily-clad trained assassin who never loses, until she falls in love. Or the scantily-clad spoiled damsel in distress who suddenly becomes an amazing fighter who takes down everyone. Or the scantily-clad mysterious enchantress with magical powers which you have no idea how she got, who always seems to know the right thing to do. Or she’s the scantily-clad girlfriend, or best friend, or reluctant sidekick bookworm (librarian fantasy anyone?). And we haven’t even begun to talk about the scantily-clad femme fatale.

Are you tired of these same old tropes?

If we can’t see ourselves in the heroes portrayed in media, how can we know what we can become? How are we to aspire to anything greater? How can we have the courage to work through our own pain and overcome our own demons to achieve greatness?

And on the flipside: If we can do the work and embrace the presence of flaws and kryptonite within ourselves, then why can’t we embrace it in the fictional characters that are supposed to connect with us on screen?

Movies and TV shows should be a reflection of real life, no matter how far-fetched or fantastical the plot. Even the most outlandish stories can resonate the deepest because they reflect truths we see within ourselves and the world around us.

So it’s about time we saw that reflected in some stronger, more complex female superheroes. Wouldn’t you say?

Where Are The Women Directors at Cannes?

I attended the Cannes Film Market & Festival last month and was astonished at the complete lack of official festival competition films directed by women. It was a shock felt around the world by many in the industry – women AND men alike. And in response, Change.Org created a petition to the Jurors of the Cannes Film Festival, calling them to commit to more transparency and equality in their selection process.

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You can check out the petition here, signed by a very long list of prominent industry names: http://www.change.org/petitions/cannes-film-festival-where-are-the-women-directors

Would you add your name to this list?

Who Run The World?

Girls! Or should I say, Tough Cookies!

Introducing my newest baddest project, Tough Cookie Says. Your inspiration destination to embrace both your strength and sweetness, their powers combined which make us the ultimate weapons for good. The best of both worlds, in this world that we run.

Hell yeah that’s right! Girls and Tough Cookies unite!

The Semi-Telecommuter

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of travel hacking and working from the road, which is a very nice dream to fantasize about. But in reality, I don’t think I’d actually enjoy that life. The problem is I’m too much of an extrovert, and I need the consistent company of trusted people to sustain my sanity. So if I were to move that often and not having any stable place to call home, I would find that too unnerving. Even though I would be happy to meet new people and create new communities everywhere I went, none of them would last long enough to be sufficiently fulfilling for me.

At the same time, I’ve also learned that I hate staying in one place for too long. So the common practice of keeping one permanent home and then taking frequent trips from there while working remotely is also an unattractive prospect for me. After a while, I would get tired of always coming back to the same place time after time. And in the same vein as above, I’d also get tired of constantly traveling and being on the go, on the road, that frequently.

On the other hand, I am also aware that I do still tend to move fairly often. Looking at my housing pattern over the last 5 years, I’ve moved 10 times and on average about every 6 months. So it would seem that my ideal term of residence is about 6 months, and then I feel the inexplicable urge to move on and start anew somewhere else. It doesn’t even have to be that far away. Despite moving 10 times in the last 5 years, I stayed entirely situated in the California Bay Area. So clearly I don’t need to move far to feel that sense of starting fresh.

So if I were to take both of these into consideration, I imagine I’d like to create a new kind of mobile working lifestyle. I don’t want to be constantly on the go, but I do want to be able to change my surroundings every 4-8 months. So I’m not sure yet what that will entail exactly, but I’m excited to explore how I can construct this ideal lifestyle of mine. How can I maintain a life of moving every 4-8 months, without disrupting the nature and flow of my work, or my work-life balance?

The life of a semi-transient worker. The somewhat location independent businesswoman. The occasional telecommuter. The periodic nomad.

Do you think this concept already exists, and if so, what do you think of it? Or if not, do you have any ideas how you imagine this might work? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to Leave a Comment!

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