a test case for ruthless intentionality. by Kat Burns

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the topic of my next blog post, but have been unable to pinpoint just what it is that I’ve wanted to share lately. You see, I’m well into the second half of Remote year now, and life has significantly changed. 

I’m still me of course, and I’m still traveling with the majority of my tramily, i.e. traveling family, as we’ve come to coin it, (even though life happens and we’ve unfortunately lost a few souls along the way), but things have definitely changed. I’m on a new continent, once again, my first time in South America, and for starters, its been quite an adjustment from my beloved, cushy Europe. 

When I say adjustment, I don’t mean it in a negative way, whatsoever, it’s just very distinct from the magical European lifestyle I’ve come to know and love in the past few months. In fact, if I am being honest, I have every intention of going right back there when RY is over, for who knows how long, because like I’ve mentioned before, I feel a bit like I belong there. Europe fits on me, for a variety of reasons, and there’s just so much more of it that I’ve yet to explore... but I digress.

While that’s certainly in my future, let’s get back to the present. I began writing this blog in the back of a van, returning to my home city this month of Córdoba, Argentina. 

Last weekend, some of my group decided to embark on a 10 mile hike up a mountain called Cerro Uritorco, which is located about 2 hours outside of Córdoba in the Sierras Chicas range. Now in addition to painful, because let’s be honest, my feet were KILLIN me afterwards, this hike was absolutely magical. The trek is 6493ft above sea level, (that’s 1979 meters to the rest of you in the world), and from the base we climbed about 3000ft of that. It was such an incredible challenge given that my last real hike was in Valencia (6 months ago... holy crap), so needless to say, it took about 30 minutes for my legs to stop shaking once we returned to the base. 

The way I described this mountain to my business partner is, and I apologize to any non-LA people reading this, as you may not get the reference, but this hike was like the hard side of Runyon Canyon on CRACK (not the stairs, not the road, but the OTHER trail… that is a miserable bitch), stacked 6 times on top of itself, on a sunny, 80 degree day, with lots of twists, turns and loose rock. It took me 3 hours and 10 minutes to summit, 2 hours and 40 minutes to descend, about 20,000 steps, and 240 “flights of stairs” according to Tim’s phone (because of course this was the one day I forgot to wear my fancy watch... grrr). But anyway, you get it, it was a friggin challenge, and it took almost everything I had to finish. 

But as I think of challenges, I can’t help but realize that this hike is a mere pimple on the face of my RY journey. Facing challenges on this trip has become part of my norm. In fact, it’s unlikely there is a day when I DON'T face something that challenges me in some way. Whether it be hiking up a mountain or attempting to order off a menu I understand 3 words of, I am constantly confronted with the uncomfortable and unknown.

What I’ve noticed though, is that by wedging myself into these daily uncomfortable encounters, I have discovered an incredible amount about myself. Things are clearer than they’ve ever been before, and I’ve had an enormous amount of insight into my patterns, ethics, courage, resilience, value, commitment, and worth. It’s amazing how much I’ve discovered.

And I think what has made these discoveries so impactful, is that they likely wouldn’t have happened in this concentrated manner had I not gone temporarily insane and signed on the dotted line for March 2018, Remote Year Ohana. In LA, I was constantly working on my personal development, and I loved that. I have my awesome Landmark community that I love dearly, and I would always work things out with them. But the challenge was every day life in my LA world; a disagreement with my boss, a measly parking ticket, being late for a class... annoying things that would confront me, and then l’d go back to my ordinary day to day. 

On Remote year, though, there is no such thing as an “ordinary” day. Now yes, there are some times where I see familiar patterns, as we are 8 months in and I have managed to establish a bit of a routine for myself, despite the unknown... but even with these familiar pieces, my life is still full of surprises at every turn. What’s crazier though, to steal one of my lovely friend Theresa’s most favorite phrases: “We chose this life.” And we did. We created it. I... CREATED it, despite all the fear, uncertainty, pushback, and objection. I created it, and now I’m here living it.

I’ve been talking a lot lately about what it means to create your life. In fact, last Friday I was interviewed on a podcast and I spoke a lot about this (I will post the link in December when it airs, btw), because I think it’s probably one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned and continue to learn. My journey on Remote Year is a very integral part of my created life. And, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think I FULLY grasped the concept of what it means to create your life until my time in Portugal. I’ve known about the concept for years, that the words you say create the world you live in, but in Portugal something clicked, like never before, and I broke through the invisible shackles I had placed on myself when it came to actualizing the exact life that I want. 

Now I could go on about this breakthrough for hours, but I will spare you the gory details because this blog is already long enough. If you’re curious to know more though, please don’t hesitate to reach out, because with this came an enormous amount of freedom and power, and I want to share that with everyone I can. I want to point out though, that this breakthrough came about because I made the decision to LEAN IN to the experience of discomfort in my life. This freedom didn’t just fall out of the sky… I’m not lucky, and I didn’t win the feel good lottery. Instead, I made a decision that I will not settle for a life that I don't love, and I have been ruthless with my intentionality and commitment to create one that exudes happiness and fulfillment in all areas.

That said, it has come at a cost. I had to do the damn work to get to this place. I went to therapy, I took COUNTLESS hours of personal development courses, and I sought out answers to WHY I wasn’t happy in my life. I got in the trenches and did the work needed to resolve the issues I had, despite all my cynicism, to get me to the place where I could clearly see that my life is a creation and I can create it however the hell I want. I did not stop when I was in the derailed, I cried through the breakdowns, the resignation, the debt, the failures, the heartbreaks, and the disappointments. I continued to seek out the answers to “fixing what was broken” with me, and what I ended up discovering is that I was actually never broken in the first place. No matter what, I kept at it, I was ruthless. Just like I was getting up that friggin mountain. 

I remember dreaming about my life 10 years ago... thinking about travel, success, and love, like they might be possible, but they often times seemed like a pipe dream. What I think made the difference though, is that I held on to a glimmer of hope that someday things would be different than they currently were. Had that hope disappeared, I would not have carried on looking for an answer. I would not have been open to discovering that it’s possible to find happiness. But the undying commitment to "it’s possible to find happiness" held me up through my darkest times. 

I don’t want to end this post with a cliché "you can do it” statement, but what I will say is this. No matter how hard it gets, I urge you to keep your head up, be ruthless, and trudge on. If you believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, then you will eventually find that light. You may have a million breakdowns before you find it, and once you think you’ve found it, you will still have more… but my point is, if you say that light exists, then it WILL exist. 

I will leave you now, with this one question. If our words create the world we live in, what do you choose to say? Thank you for your support and continued reading. 

6 months in numbers. by Kat Burns

I can’t believe I haven’t written a post almost 3 months. Where did the time go?!!

I’m finishing month 6 of Remote Year today, and I'm honestly just blown away that this journey has flown by as quickly as it has. The Afro-European side of this adventure is over and we’re moments away from beginning the South American leg of this year long tour. I am very sad to be leaving Europe, but I know that I’ll be back, and our tribe has grown into a true Ohana, ready to conquer the rest of the journey ahead, and I couldn’t be more excited.

So, I started writing this post from a cafe in Lisbon, Portugal, and thank goodness that one of our Program Leaders decided that we should carve out some time every week to write in our blogs. If she hadn’t started this, I may have just continued to neglect this poor thing, and my journey would remain undocumented.

It hasn’t been pure neglect though. I’m not out galavanting through the streets and bars like a reckless teenager ALL of the time. (Based off my Instagram stories though, I’m afraid my Dad would disagree with this statement.)  

Truth be told, work has in fact been very busy, which is the best problem to have when you freelance and have NO idea where your next paycheck is coming from. I started out Remote Year newly unemployed, after coming off a year long digital project, so my future regarding whether or not I could actually sustain this new nomadic lifestyle was uncertain, to say the least. 

There’s nothing quite like diving head first into shark infested waters, right? (Which, I’ll admit, I chickened out doing in Cape Town), ...but hey, the whole, "let’s uproot your entire life and try living around the world with a group of complete strangers in a new city every month” thing, seemed like a risk I was willing to take. 

That said, I’m actually making it work, and I’ve been designing more in the last 6 months than I have in the past 6 years. And it's actually a nice change of pace from the grueling production life I’ve become accustomed to. I’m actually putting that insanely expensive Bachelor’s Degree to work, in the field that I graduated in… what a concept! (Which is something I'm sure my Mom is thrilled about.)

But anyway, in effort to not overwhelm myself with the pressure of writing something profound (yes, the looking good still shows up and I have a tendency to hesitate writing on my blog because I don’t feel like I have something ‘important’ to say…) I am going to instead recap a little on the last few months so you can actually get a little sense of what I’ve been up to. 

I started writing this recap 2 months ago when I got stuck on a sweaty, broken down train in Tuscany.  I only got about a quarter of the way through these ‘statistics’ because I realized, I have done A LOT of traveling, and it’s A LOT to try and keep track of. I actually wish I had done a better job at this, but here’s my best efforts, in summary, for the time being..

Since leaving the US in March, I have done the following: 

Visited 12 countries, not including the US, 11 of which I visited for the first time. (14 if you count airport transfer, but I don’t, so let’s go with 12).

I have flown 33,707 miles, give or take a few. This doesn’t include any driving or transport by boat or train. (A perfect example of something I wish I had kept better track of… but it is what it is. Please insert ::eyeroll:: emoji here.)

I’ve had 8 roommates and 6 apartments in 6 cities.
I have rented 6 Airbnb’s and I have slept in 18 different beds. I have called 62 Ubers. That number does not include rides from the MyTaxi’s, CarGo’s or other equivalent app in the cities where Uber doesn’t exist.

I’ve tried to speak and understand 11 different Languages,  
I’ve used 10 new currencies and I have purchased 9 different SIM cards.

I’ve been on 19 dates, 8 of which have been bad (2 of those, very bad), and 6 of which have been very GOOD. (Oh I hope some of you dudes read this and take a guess as to where I categorized you.) That said, I’ve fallen in love, even if only for a moment, 3 times… some people really know how to leave their mark on my wandering soul. 

I’ve designed 5 logos (gotta fit work in there somewhere, right?), helped brand 2 client advocacy programs and worked for some of the biggest companies that I’ve ever worked for. 

I’ve had several breakdowns that have spawned incredible breakthroughs in finance, value and relationships. I have visited 5 hospitals, and have been a patient in 2 of them.

And lastly, I’ve visited 22 UNESCO heritage sites, wandered through 2 beautiful medinas and at least 10 medieval castles, witnessed countless sunrises, conquered a fear of riding camels, and I even pet a cheetah.

Needless to say… my heart is full, and as I leave Europe, I am very sad but also extremely grateful for my experience here for the last 4 months, and for the last 6 of RY. A new friend actually paid me a great compliment the other day, maybe without knowing it. He said “you’re a closeteuropean” and of course I asked him to clarify because I had never heard the term before. He described it as “Enjoying the social life a bit too much without DOING SHAWTS TO GET HAMMERED BROH, walking up and down old streets, loving what needs lovin.” 

Now while this is Remote Year, and there have DEFINITELY been shots to get hammered at one point or another, I really got what he meant, and I think it fits nicely on me. The vibe of Europe is so distinct, and I feel very connected to it. I’ll definitely be back here soon.

But all in all, I am so present to that being able to experience life like this is such a privilege. And, more importantly, I am so grateful every day knowing that saying yes to the scariest thing I’ve ever said yes to was the best decision I’ve ever made. I said that yes exactly a year ago this week.

I leave Europe today feeling complete. I will look back on my life and know that this experience has gone so far beyond my wildest dreams and expectations, and I’m only halfway through. There’s still 100% of this journey left, and I couldn’t be more excited. Thank you for reading, and we’ll talk again soon. 

Photo by the amazingly talented Bram Van Oost.

distracted in Valencia, the new normal. by Kat Burns

So, I started writing this post on the flight from Valencia, Spain to Belgrade, Serbia, and as we flew I did everything in my power to hide my disappointment. Why would I be disappointed, you ask? Going from one awesome Remote Year city to the next? That sounds ridiculous!  But the truth is, the Valencia bug bit me, and it's now probably my MOST favorite place on earth, to date. Haha. And that may sound extreme, but I absolutely loved every second of being there, and to sum things up, spending just a month there CERTAINLY wasn't enough, and I'll be back as soon as I possibly can.

I feel like it might be tough to give an accurate description of Valencia because it's so distinct. It's a small city, but it still feels like a city. The pace is on the slower side, yet it's certainly bustling with people. It's clean, friendly, and beautiful. There is history on every corner, yet it feels fresh and new at the same time. I've never experienced a city quite like this before. Valencia is special... and I almost don't want to tell people how amazing it is because I don't want it to lose it's charm. I want to keep it for myself…haha, but, exclusively for you, here are some highlights from my time in Valencia.

More importantly than the beauty and charm though, I got reconnected to what I’m really up to in life during my time in Valencia. I say that because I think these first couple months of Remote Year have been such a culture shock (literally and figuratively) that it's taken me a moment to remember my purpose. Anyone that willingly uproots their entire life and starts something completely unknown is going to experience this type of discomfort, I'd imagine. There have been SO MANY CHANGES in such a short period of time... it's taken me a bit of time to adjust to my "new normal". 

That said, I unlocked some gems of discovery in Valencia. 

More than ever, this month, I realized that I will chase the carrot of opportunity instead of focusing on what really matters to me. I have always been distracted by the “next big thing” that *might* bring me to where I want to be, because what it will really take for me to follow my OWN dream occurs as REALLY HARD. 

And, in the past, I have latched onto someone else’s dream so I don’t have to be responsible for my own. I can see several examples of this throughout my life, and it’s had a big impact on me. But, this month I actually noticed myself approaching that point, and I actually broke the cycle. KB FOR THE WIN.

But speaking of distracted…yeah, I get distracted VERY easily. And, in another self-sabotaging move, I constantly fill my time up with things that give me temporary entertainment instead of focusing on what really matters to me. I guess I am calling myself out on this blog to hold myself to account, but it’s probably one of the biggest battles in life, right?

Now, I don’t want to place blame on things, because ultimately I am 100% responsible for how things are and how they aren’t, but TECHNOLOGY man… that has really taken it’s toll on me. The instant gratification of seeing my phone light up when I get a message or an alert, it’s a friggin' ADDICTION. 

And you may laugh and think it’s silly for me to call it an addiction. It’s like, “get a grip, Kath… just control yourself” but I’ve noticed it now more than ever being far away from my friends and loved ones. Basically, every single ounce of attention that I get from my phone absolutely LIGHTS ME UP. 

And there’s been research done about this stuff. In fact, check out this video sometime that I recently watched about it… it's actually a bit scary... but I am downright addicted to seeing that little (1) pop up in the corner of EVERY SINGLE APP that facilitates interaction between me, and people. It’s like I can FEEL the little dopamine spikes every time I see it. WhatsApp, Facebook, Tinder (yes, I’m Tindering abroad… that’s a whole other SERIES of posts for another day), Slack, Skype, YOU NAME IT. I don’t even have my alerts turned ON for my Instagram account but just the anticipation of opening that app to SEE if I have notifications GIVES ME A THRILL. 

And, being a slave to these notifications actually consumes SO much more of my time than I am willing to admit. I will spend an HOUR sometimes, crafting the most perfect message to send to someone, if it’s something I really “care” about. And I will send it to my girlfriends and have them check to make sure I say what I want to say. That practice, I’ll admit, is absolutely RIDICULOUS. (Talk about looking good…. hahaha. I was supposed to be giving that up this year! Note to self: KNOCK IT OFF!)

Or, I will scroll back to the last post I saw on instagram or Facebook, and sometimes that takes 20 minutes, because I don’t want to miss anything. And that can happen multiple times a day. Can you all relate to this? It makes me CRAZY to think about the amount of time I waste on my phone instead of being present. I mean, it would probably add up to years at this point if I calculated all my time wasted between joining Facebook in 2009 until now, and that is just GROSS.

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE reading everyone’s updates… I think that’s why it’s so tough to consider parting ways with social media. It keeps me connected to the people that I love, especially while being so far away. Because ultimately, I miss y’all like crazy… and the one GOOD feature of social media is that it does allow you to be connected even though we’re literally across the world from each other. And that, I am very grateful for.

But, I guess what I’m trying to say is, noticing how distracted I have become is definitely a plus, but it’s not a win yet because I’m not *actually* doing something about it. To combat it, this month I told myself that I would get into a monogamous relationship with my business, and try to eliminate distraction in many of it’s forms. 

Now how I’m going to do this is still a mystery, haha… so I am totally open to suggestions. 

Maybe I’ll schedule hours when I put down my phone everyday, or perhaps I turn all my notifications off for a bit so I’m less tempted to check the second I see the (1)… but I am actively searching for solutions to this issue. I don’t think a social media “detox” would work because I LOVE that this is one of my main connections to people back home, but the attachment to the stimulation of it all has GOT to go.  

Because basically, it’s time to focus on what’s important. And that’s growing my business, making enough money to stay on Remote Year, paying off my debt, and enjoying this crazy life that I’ve created for myself. If being present is the key, I’m now looking for what it’s going to take to unlock the lock.

i made it through month one and only ended up in the hospital twice.  by Kat Burns

I’m going to start by saying this... I hate being sick.

It really puts a damper on everything. You have to cancel plans, suffer through your day, rearrange your schedule, and quarantine yourself from the people you love. It sucks.

Being sick while traveling is even worse, because you are not in your element and you have to adapt to whatever circumstances you’re in, in order to deal with the sickness. In my case, I had 3 good days in Cape Town before getting sick, and basically, I made it through month one and only ended up in the hospital twice. 

I laugh when I say this now, but about 3 weeks ago I was NOT laughing, AT ALL. 

And it’s true… I was sick for almost the ENTIRE time I was in South Africa. I was so sick that I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to travel with my group to Morocco until about 9:45pm the night before leaving. It was touch and go up until that point because I couldn’t hold anything down for about 3 days prior, and my ear was so clogged that the doctors were afraid my ear drum might burst if I couldn’t equalize the pressure during the 18+ hours of flying.

Now, I was planning to give you the breakdown of how this sickness transpired, but I’ve decided to spare you the details. In a nutshell though, I am able to recollect my Cape Town trip by day according to what ailment was plaguing me when. Out of my 23 solid days in Cape Town, I spent about 18 of them sick, with illnesses including but not limited to: diarrhea, flu, ear infection & gastritis. I can honestly say that I do not remember the last time in my life where I was this sick, and I certainly have discovered a new appreciation for how much I take my health for granted. From that, I also have a massive surge of empathy for anyone who's had to battle a compromised immune system or chronic disease, because let’s face it… it SUCKS being sick.

That said… it also sucks when you are used to healing yourself with natural remedies (as I have been for the last 5 years), but the pain is so bad that you have to be prescribed antibiotics to remove the infection from your ear. This was the case for me in Cape Town. It started with a cold that decided to linger for about 2 weeks. This was annoying, but didn’t bother me TOO much because I was using my essential oils and upping my vitamin C to about 6000-8000mg a day. I thought I had kicked it by the day of our safari (Saturday, 3/24), but there was still a bunch of guck in my sinuses that I assumed would clear up on it’s own now that I had gotten over the hump. BOY WAS I WRONG. 

By the end of that evening, after the safari and seeing my friend Mary’s one woman show at a local playhouse (she was fantastic, by the way), I noticed that my ear was relatively clogged on the left side, and it was ringing pretty loudly (something that happens in that ear from time to time), but I shrugged it off and tried to sleep! Hours later though, I woke up to the most INTENSE pain on the entire left side of my face, and after several hot compresses and blowing my nose a million times, nothing could relieve the pressure. It got to the point where I was in tears from the pain, so I knew I had to go see a doctor. The problem was, it was Sunday, so going to the doctor was out of the question, but going to the Emergency Room wasn't. 

Now, you can imagine my fear… as most people reading this have had an experience with the ER in the US in one way or another. There are always 2 questions that come right to mind. First thought is "how the hell much is this going to cost?" And the second is "how the hell long am I going to have to wait to be seen?" 

Now while I do have travelers insurance (which costs pennies in comparison to my $370/mon premium I was paying as a 34yr old healthy adult female on standard American health insurance, by the way...), it's normally done as a reimbursement, and we all know the horror stories of people that have gone to the ER in the states with and without insurance. It's an absolute nightmare. 

And even people WITH insurance still have at least one if not both of these questions come up, because even with the BEST insurance, it doesn't give you a pass to skip to the front of the line. I remember when I was 15, I cracked my head open slightly while I was babysitting (long story), and it STILL took 4 to 5 hours to be seen by a doctor even though the entire left side of my head was covered in red. I will never forget one of the nurses actually asking if I'd dyed my hair with kool-aid… and even AFTER she discovered it was blood, the process was NOT expedited. I could only imagine that an ER in South Africa would be the equivalent, or even worse.

Well, I was 100% wrong about that assumption. Another life lesson in ignorance where I am continually learning that my judgements and preconceived notions are just that, and that when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me (just like my teachers taught me). This place was clean, quiet, very well organized, and SUPER fast. After I was evaluated in triage (moments after my arrival), a woman came out to me in the waiting room and told me there was going to be a wait to be seen because they were so busy. I of course was expecting this, so I smiled through the pain, but was shocked to discover that her definition of wait was 5 minutes, not 5 hours. 

pathetic hospital selfie.

pathetic hospital selfie.

I feel as though I could really go into details about my ER experience, but I’d rather sum it up by saying it was ironically one of the least painful hospital experiences I’ve ever encountered. The doctor confirmed I had a terrible ear infection, and even warned me that my ear drum still might burst (it didn’t, thank goodness), then prescribed me some meds. I told her I was apprehensive about taking antibiotics because I know they destroy your gut, but she had already prescribed me a probiotic to take alongside my antibiotic, which also surprised me because I had never seen that done before in the US. 

She handed me my illegible prescription (apparently shitty handwriting is a universal trait of doctors) and sent me on my way. Now came the other part I was dreading even more than the wait… the checkout. I had to mentally prepare myself as I sat down, because I was already so frustrated and miserable with the pain in my ear, and I assumed this hospital price tag was going to take me out. 2086 South African Rand, they said… and my head sprung up. I whipped out my handy currency converter on google and was shocked to realize that for the whole visit they were only requesting $172.88. $172.88 TOTAL… to get treatment in the ER, AND I was in and out in less than 2 hours. Needless to say, I was shocked.

Now the downside to this is that I had a bad reaction to the the antibiotics I was prescribed, but that was definitely my body rejecting modern medicine. By day 3 I had completely lost my appetite, had to force food down just to take my meds, and by day 4 everything including water was coming back up. Apparently my stomach was not pleased that I was killing off all the good bacteria I’d been curating since going naturopathic… and although the infection was clearing up, the side effects were unbearable and ended me up in the hospital again the night before leaving Cape Town. 

I went back to the hospital at the insistence of my mother, which although she can be a bit of a worrywart sometimes (sorry Mom), this was warranted, and appreciated because it confirmed that it was indeed a bad reaction to the meds, and not that I picked up something else that was going to drop me dead in another day or two. So, this time they pumped me full of fluids and anti-nausea meds and again sent my on my way… in and out in about 3 hours this time including an hour on an IV bag, and only an extra $50 of cost to boot. 

This time I was prescribed steroids, anti-nausea meds and Nexium for my stomach, only some of which I took, because I knew my stomach would heal on it’s own if I just waited it out, and after seeing an ear specialist here in Morocco (for 40 USD, no less, in and out) I confirmed that I did in fact need steroids to clear up the congestion in my ear, and in 6 days time I was pretty much back to normal. 

Needless to say, this experience really opened my eyes about healthcare in America vs healthcare around the world. We see the constant battles about universal vs private healthcare on the news, and we pay these insane insurance premiums to cover us IF something happens, while there are SO many other countries out there that have a completely different philosophy on healthcare as a whole. It has me wonder… is healthcare a human right? And if it isn’t, is it fair to charge astronomical prices just so people can maintain their wellbeing? 

I know I could go down the rabbit hole on this debate for hours, but in summary, I know now more than ever that my heart is in the right place in my mission with Vitality Rising. I want to be part of the solution, no matter how big or small, in providing people with wellbeing from a holistic standpoint. Because yes, we catch colds, and yes, they sometimes become infections that require modern medicine to alleviate, but so much of our health can be maintained by simply making informed choices about the food that we eat. And wouldn’t we rather prevent the state of dis-ease wherever possible and leave the hospital visits for when they’re absolutely necessary? I'd like to think so... because let’s face it, being sick sucks. 

South Africa... i am humbled by you. by Kat Burns

Wow, it’s already my last week in Cape Town and I haven’t posted a damn thing on my blog. I have several drafts started, and I’ve failed to complete any of them. These last 3 weeks have absolutely flown by, and the only word I can use to describe it is ‘overstimulation’. 

I mean, it makes sense right? Not only have I been thrown into a completely new culture, but also a new lifestyle, new community, new job, and new germs. haha… for real. So really, overstimulation may even be an understatement, and ‘shock’ may be more appropriate. 

I don’t even really know where to begin in describing my journey, so I guess I will start by saying this. South Africa… I am absolutely humbled by you.

I will admit it, I came into this journey knowing very little about South Africa. I knew that apartheid was a thing, and it was bad, but I had no idea when it actually happened, or of the major cultural impact it had on the South African people. I was ignorant to it, honestly, because it had nothing to do with me or my life, and I hadn’t taken the time to learn. 

So, I will preface this by saying that I am a white girl from Connecticut who grew up in a small, primarily white town. I had never really witnessed crime or poverty growing up… it was something that we only saw on the news. It wasn’t until I went to New York City on a 7th grade field trip that I first saw black people hustling fake Oakley’s out of briefcases on the street. I remember my classmates being fascinated by the chance to buy Tommy Hilfiger t-shirts for only $10, only to be disappointed when they lifted the tags up to see the cut off “Fruit of the Loom” tag underneath. This was the first time that I realized people hustle, and that people rip people off.

Since then of course, I’ve been fortunate enough to live in 2 of the biggest cities in the United States, New York and LA, and have even had the opportunity to live aboard in Turkey in my early 20’s. It was my time in Turkey however, that had me first realize just how ignorant and entitled I felt as an American. 

To see the Turkish people living their lives day to day, with different laws, different religions, different food and a completely different culture, I was shocked then to realize that life outside of the US wasn’t as primitive as I feared it might be. Like, not everyone outside of the US was totally fucked, because they weren’t from the US. 

I was so grateful for that time abroad when I was younger, because I believe it humbled me exactly how it needed to at the time, and it set me up for my path moving forward. I knew that signing up for Remote Year would have a similar effect, but I didn’t think I would be so present to it this early on in my journey. 

I think Trevor Noah put it best in his new comedy special on Netflix when he said "Traveling is the antidote to ignorance”. In my opinion, this couldn’t be more true. That time in Turkey opened my eyes to that life could be another way than I knew it to be, and I actually fell in love with a completely different culture than the one I grew up in. I think that a lot of the time we just get so caught up in the intricacies of our own lives, that we forget that there are other ways of life out there, and there will always be struggles that we’ll never understand, and it’s important to be reminded of that.

I have very much been reminded of that during my time here in South Africa. As part of our “tracks” on Remote Year (which are basically a grouping of curated local experiences provided to us so we can get a better sense of the culture we’re living in), we were given the opportunity to visit a couple townships here in Cape Town. 

Now, up until this point I did not even know what a township was, but the best way to describe it is basically an underdeveloped government designated area where Black, Coloured and Indian people were relocated to during apartheid, when they were forcibly removed from their homes in the city. It’s a shanty town, essentially, or a ghetto, of whatever term is used best to describe it, depending on what you identify with. They are impoverished, run down, and piecemealed together… truly a night and day comparison to what you see in the business parts of town. 

So, going back to Trevor Noah actually… I found that he did an incredible job of describing what these townships are like in his book “Born a Crime”. I started listening to his audiobook at the suggestion of someone in our group, and I am really glad that I did. The book is all about his life, growing up in and out of the townships in Johannesburg, as a Coloured person (i.e. of mixed race) who struggled to define his identity in a post-apartheid world. Now, being Coloured is not a derogatory term here, it just means your parents had interracial sex and you are neither black, nor white… you are actually just, Coloured, but I’ll admit that when I first heard the term, it caught me off guard. 

Anyway, I mention this because he paints a pretty vivid picture of these townships, stating that "the color scheme was cinder block and corrugated iron. Gray and dark gray, punctuated by bright splashes of color.” He goes on after that, to describe the signs, the streets, the sanitation, and the smells. Well, It’s one thing to listen to him to describe it, and it’s another thing to listen to him describe it while actually walking through it. This experience was visceral, to say the least. 

So, back to our track. We were lead on a bike ride through the Khayelitsha township by a man named Skeezo. Skeezo is a teacher at Velokhaya, a cycling non profit that is dedicated to providing the youth of the Khayelitsha with a positive after-school experience, giving them an opportunity to learn cycling as a means improve their self esteem and keeps them off the streets. Skeezo has dedicated his life to building up Velokhaya and is extremely passionate about the difference they are making in the township. 

Now, we made several stops as we rode through the township, and at each stop, Skeezo gave us an incredible history lesson. This man was not from Khayelitsha, but he now resides there, he calls it home, and his love for the township is evident. At one point, we stopped along the route at the home of a resident doctor, or more of the township's medicine man I should say.

I will never forget my experience standing outside of this doctor’s home, because I received a text from my business partner Andrea regarding some time sensitive marketing materials that I needed to review. As I read through the documents, and eventually hopped on a call with her to discuss things, I actually realized that I was taking a work call completely surrounded by barbed wire fences separating property lines, cinder block homes with no actual front doors, roofs made of sheet metal scraps with giant boulders on top to hold the pieces down, and chickens roaming through the dirt streets. 

It was that moment that I was instantly humbled. It was that moment that I was present to the fact that my life is incredibly privileged. And I say this with no intention of devaluing my own struggle, and story in life, because it’s mine, and I’m entitled to it, but at that moment I realized that I am so fucking privileged to have been born where I was born, into the family I was born into, and into the life that I have. I am privileged, and grateful, and so full of empathy for those who have seen struggle like I will never understand.  And this moment was one of several that I’ve had in my 3 weeks here, even with a nasty head cold, a terrible ear infection, navigating a new community, a completely new environment, and struggling to find the work life balance. This is what I will take away from South Africa, and this is what I will never forget. 

Now I ask you… what have you been humbled by?

Here is a short video I made that showcases our time in the Khayelitsha township. 

the scariest YES I've ever given. by Kat Burns

Well, it's been a couple crazy weeks. I have thought to stop and write something 1000 times since my last post, and instead I just steamrolled through leaving California and preparing for this trip without documenting a thing on my blog. I took to Facebook Live instead to make sure I got down some thoughts though, and actually find that I'm enjoying the ability to share my journey visually with people, so I think there will be a lot more of that to come as well! 

Anyway, I'm excited to be writing this post from Turkey. TURKEY. Yes, everyone knows I love Turkey... and if you don't... I'm clearly a bad communicator! Haha. I will always have a love affair with this country because of my time spent here in what seems like a previous life, and a really defining time for me. More on that later though... let's recap on life leading up to now.

First of all, exactly 2 weeks ago I packed up my stuff in LA and drove it allllllll the way across the United States, in what turned out to be basically just over 3 days of storm chasing. It snowed and rained A LOT, and I'm actually surprised it didn't set me back further than it did, and am now VERY grateful for the years of New England driver training, which included a crash course (literally) in blizzard conditions (remember that Carissa?? I am sure you do.) Anyway, I made it safely (thanks Blaise), and got to see some friends along the trip, which was certainly fun.

Fast forward a couple days and I began the best part yet, the nightmare of packing for a year long trip. Please note my sarcasm on this one. I'll get into the details of what's in my bag in another post, but honestly, I am already regretting some of my luggage choices and will be changing things up when I come back to the states in April for my brother's wedding. 

So, for any of you that don't know, (although if you're reading this I'm sure we've talked about it), but I'm about to embark on a year long travel program called Remote Year. You can learn all the details and how to apply HERE if you are interested in learning more about how it works.

I found out about Remote Year back in August on Instagram (how millennial of me), and on a whim decided to apply, with absolutely no intention of actually doing it. The concept of living abroad and working remote for a year seemed absolutely amazing, yet totally impractical and a little bit insane. But, of course, I thought to myself "what the hell, can't hurt to apply, right?" and as it turns out, I'm a perfect candidate for the program. I whizzed through the interview process and was quickly accepted, then suddenly had one hell of a decision to make. 

I was already considering leaving LA for a bit because I was working remotely and was unsure of my next move in life, but when it came to changing things up, this is NOT what I had in mind. Needless to say, after 2 weeks of serious deliberation and plenty of doubt, worry and concern, I decided to take the plunge and gave maybe the scariest YES I've ever given. 

What really sealed the deal for me was the fact that I had a MILLION reasons to say no to doing this program. How can I afford it? Will all my friends forget about me? I'm going to be even FARTHER from my family than I already am? What if I lose my job? The questions were (and still are) endless. 

Maybe I'm an adrenaline junkie or something, but everything about this trip truly scared the crap out of me, and that's why I knew that I had to say yes. Because, if we don't challenge ourselves in life, how can we grow, right? I'm curious to know your thoughts on this. What was the scariest YES you've ever given, and why did you give it? Please share in the comments below.

Anyway, it's crazy to think that it's already been 6 months since I gave that fateful yes, and I've actually embarked on my journey. I am so grateful that I was able to see so many friends and family in both LA and on the East Coast before I left, and I am thrilled that everyone has been SO supportive and excited for me to be taking this on. I feel like I have SO much more to say, but I'll save it for later, because now it's time for Turkish Breakfast (insert heart-eyed smiley emoji here). Looking forward to sharing more soon. Cheers! 

my sacred time. by Kat Burns

I'm going to start this post by saying... I love flying in an airplane. 

Now that statement may seem a bit off to some of you, for a variety of reasons. I'm sure many of you reading this will think "ugh, I hate flying, it's tedious and uncomfortable", which can certainly be true. Or perhaps some of you think, "of course you like flying... you get to go from one place to another", which is also true. But that's not why I love flying.

I love flying because it's the only time I've really found that I get to myself. Like right now, I have 6 hours on this plane from NYC to LA, and I get to sit, without wifi enabled stimulation, and just have uninterrupted time to myself, to do whatever I want. 

I can watch a movie, I can make a puzzle on my iPad, I can sleep, I can work... but most importantly, I get to say what I can do with that time. Now that might seem weird to some of you, because you're thinking "well, you really can do whatever the fuck you want at any time, you weirdo... you have free will." But often in my day to day I don't feel like I actually have ownership over my time. And I mostly feel this way because my time is often spread incredibly thin between so many different things, and my brain is ALWAYS full of thoughts about those things. 

Now that's not to say I don't love the stimulation of the outside world. Without it, life would be incredibly boring, right? Like I live for getting text messages from my friends, I work very hard at my jobs so I can keep my bank account from rolling into the negative, and even when I'm stuck in traffic there is still that experience of moving from one place to another as cars honk and drive by, right? But when I'm on solid ground, all of that stimulation comes with a cost, and my time often seems like it doesn't actually belong to me. 

But for some reason it DOES belong to me when I'm up in the sky. Up here, I get to pause for a minute and not worry about my bank account, my never ending todo list and whether or not I'm following my diet as instructed. Up here, I just get to sit still and choose what I want to do with my time, instead of decide my next move depending on my never ending circumstances. 

Up here, there's just a freedom I look forward to, that I don't really experience anywhere else in my life. Like even when I meditate, it's often decided upon as a relief from my circumstances, like forcing myself to chill for a minute when I'm stressed, or implemented as a practice that I think should do because it's good for me. I could consider it a choice, and I often try to, but when I really think about it, most of what I do is in reaction to something, almost 100% of the time. 

But it feels so different up here. Maybe it's because the only way I can escape the time in this seat is if I jump out of the window to my inevitable death. Maybe because up here I can try to connect to the plane's wifi but I am not tech savvy enough to understand how to bypass the security precautions on my phone. Maybe it's because I can actually choose to NOT take my laptop out of my bag and catch up on my invoices, and instead tell myself that they can wait until I'm back on earth. But either way... it's all choice up here, and it's all mine.

Now I suppose this is all perspective, and by suppose I mean I know it is... but the real question is, how can I shift my perspective so I can experience this in my day to day on the ground? What kind of magic trick to I have to perform to claim some daily time on an airplane, without getting strapped in at 30,000 feet?

I think the answer may be as simple as... I have to choose it, just like I do up here. My life is still happening right now while I'm in the air, and I'm choosing to give myself that pause, for no other reason than choosing to pause. And it's like magic. It's real freedom, and it's so peaceful. So if that can happen here, can't it happen anywhere? I actually think it can.

For now though, I have 2 more hours on this plane, and I'm going to soak up every minute. Until next time..

well, January flew by... by Kat Burns

Oh man, I already broke the word I gave that I would post once a week. I really wanted to be able to keep that promise. New Year, new me... hmm?! hah!

Anyway, I have to admit that I found myself hesitating on what my next post would be, now that I've looked at the analytics of the blog. The sirens immediately went off in my head, and I said to myself "well, you've set the president, now you have to keep being clever or people will stop reading."

And BAM, right there... stopped in my own tracks by my looking good. The reaction actually felt involuntary, it seemed like that's just what was supposed to be said. But at least I caught myself this time, right?

The truth is, I've had so many things happen since my return to LA after Christmas that I can barely keep my head on straight. 

In the last 3 weeks alone I... 

...solidified my itinerary for Remote Year, and I officially leave for the first stop, South Africa, on March 3rd with a short layover in Turkey first to visit some old friends. If any of you don't know what I'm talking about when I say Remote Year, don't worry, I'll be posting PLENTY about it soon, but in the mean time you can check out my itinerary HERE and get excited with me. =)

...wrapped up my full time gig with Deltree on the digital platform we've been building for the last year... we're still in the post phase and I am assisting with wrap, but the main product has launched and I'm very proud of our team's hard work. The site and trailer can be viewed HERE, and although you need to be linked to a student program to login and create an account, we'll have a demo version available in a couple weeks that showcases a bit of how the product works, so standby for that and I'll be posting a link to it soon.  

...decided to take a leap of faith with my business partner Andrea and put ALL my efforts into launching Vitality Rising as a full time business. Basically, instead of having a job lined up now that Deltree is complete, we've decided to just dive in and launch our first official 6 week wellness program LIVE on February 19th.

Now this is amazing news because a) we're solidifying one kick ASS program that we've been working on for the past 2 years, and b) it's seriously SUCH a good program, I just want to run to the rooftops and share it with EVERYONE i know. 

As some of my friends know, working with Andrea for the past 3 years has seriously changed my life and my relationship with food beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I've lost 40lbs working with her and I'm on track to lose the other 30-40 in the coming year. 

More importantly than that though, I absolutely can't imagine how lost I'd still be if I hadn't met her. Listening to her wealth of knowledge on the topic of wellbeing was legitimately the answer to my prayers after 20+ years of struggling with my weight, value, and love for myself. And now that I've had the opportunity to learn so much, we packaged the highlights of what I discovered into an INCREDIBLE program with a formula of what it takes to transform health, and we're finally ready to share it with EVERYBODY. I can't friggin wait, so if you're interested in learning more, PLEASE email me ASAP and we can start a more intimate conversation about it!!

And that's just a bit of what I've been up to... it doesn't include the craziness in the weeks ahead. I still have my agreements at Landmark to fulfill, to continue discovering my practice of intermittent fasting, and the fact that I have to pack up and move out of LA in like 3 weeks so I can drive my shit across the country to my parents house, then of course, start this trip around the world.   

So, to be blunt, I've been fucking busy. And it's seriously perfect, even with the loaded to do list, and a trip back East to celebrate the passing of my 2nd mama this weekend. I have never felt more grateful about what lies ahead than I do now, and I'm excited to continue to share it with you, so again, thank you for reading.

the thing i hate most in life. by Kat Burns

In the effort of being self expressed, I am committing to post something on this new fancy blog of mine at least once a week. I have a tendency to say that I am committing to this kind of thing, but then tell no one about it and eventually stop doing it. So instead, to try and keep myself accountable, I am putting it on here for all to read, and I really hope that I am called out if I do not follow through.

Anyhow, I'm sitting on an airplane right now flying back to Los Angeles after a 3 week trip on the east coast for Christmas. It was definitely one of the better, more mellow trips that I've had, and I'm happy that I was able to spend the time with friends and family, although I definitely missed catching up with several people I wanted to see (Tim, Vic, Kyle, Caley & Adrienne to name a few). 

It started off with my mom having hip surgery the day I came home, so I did spend as much time with her as I could, helping her while she recovered and I'm happy to report that she got her staples out today and is on the mend. It's a really scary thing seeing a person you love so much in such a vulnerable state, and it just reminds me that as I get older, I am going to witness these types of things more and more often, and figure out how to deal with them.

So back to this plane. I just finished watching a film called "Me, Earl & The Dying Girl", and I have learned the following lesson: Any film that mentions dying in the title I should not watch on a plane, because I was a blubbering mess by the beverage service. Don't get me wrong, the film was pretty awesome, and if you haven't seen it, you should, but the subject matter I think hit extra close to home this time. 

The synopsis for this film, categorized as a "comedy" in JetBlue's movie section reads "An awkward high school senior's mom forces him to spend time with a girl in his class with whom he hasn't spoken to since kindergarten and was just diagnosed with cancer." And while it did have some comedic moments, I think they missed the mark a little bit on the category, if you ask me. Now why anyone's mother would force them to befriend someone just because they were diagnosed with cancer is beyond me, however, it made for an interesting plot, and I wound up relating to it in more ways than I thought.

I really liked the way the film was written, I loved the quirky moments, the cinematography, the colors and the storytelling. The performance of the lead protagonist was also pretty great, because I feel like we all know what it's like to be an awkward teenager, or at least I do, anyway. 

The point I wanted to make, that spawned from just watching this movie is: I think that the thing I hate the most in life, is watching people suffer without being able to do anything to ease their pain. I use the word suffer to cover a lot of ground here, because suffering to me can be physical, emotional, psychological, etc. and I know that people process issues they're dealing with in their own way and in their own time. But to me it's absolutely painful to see people, especially those whom I love so much, suffer in this way.

The constant question that pops up for me immediately when I witness said "suffering" is: "how can i fix it for you and make it all better?" Like in that moment I feel as if I would sacrifice my right arm to remove that pain from them so they are not experiencing it anymore, if that's what it would take. 

The worst part about it though, is that I know that I can't fix any of these problems for people, so instead I am stuck with this sense of helplessness instead of empathy. Well maybe it is empathy, and how it presents itself to me is a feeling of helplessness, because deep down I just wish there was something I could do to relieve the pain. 

I share this because I feel like I have seen a lot of suffering lately, in many forms, so I find myself confronted by that helplessness more than I'd like to admit. 

Whether it be my mom recovering from surgery, my best friend processing the death of her mother, a friend suffering a bout of depression, or even the awkward teen in this movie dealing with his friend having cancer, what remains is that sense of helplessness, every time. But maybe that is my form of suffering, and that's mine to have, too.

a life of looking good. by Kat Burns

Something I have become more aware of recently is my constant need to look good. I mean, I guess it's always been there for me, but I am noticing it more and more, and have started to look into the "why" of it. The truth is, everything I do is planned with something attached to it.

I stand in the mirror and assess my waistline from the front, and side, to see if I'm losing weight, which decides whether or not I feel attractive that day.

I analyze every text message I receive from the people, especially those I am vulnerable to, to make sure i have the perfect response, or to make sure I don't say the wrong thing that will either upset them or have them not like me anymore. 

I resist posting my thoughts on sites like Facebook because A. I fear that no one will care about what I have to say, and B. That someone will read what I say and think I am a complete idiot or asshole of some sort.

And those are just a few small examples.

The worst part is, most of the time, I am not even conscious that I am doing this. It's automatic, it's constant, and if I really think about it, it's exhausting. All that analyzing and judging, most of which is not based in reality... but instead all wrapped up in these crazy stories I have about myself and how my life is? Who wants to be stuck with all that crap, constantly?

And whats funny about the whole this is that it's obvious, right? Like I am NOT alone in this... we all do it. And for some reason I think that it's unique to me, and because of that I try to present myself in a certain way where it makes sense that I do the things I do, and I am the way that I am.

But the crazy thing is that I walk around in my life thinking that I am actually self expressed. In fact, I pride myself on being able to speak my mind, and I try to present myself as a relatively strong woman, for the most part. So basically, I'm trying to live up to a viewpoint that I think other people have of me. But the truth is, I have no friggin clue what any of you think of me, so why am I sitting here pretending that I do?

The reason I am bringing this up is because it's been holding me back from what I really want in my life, and it's time to give it up. I guess I have come to some sort of realization that it just doesn't work anymore to listen to that little pain in my ass that lives upstairs in my brain telling me that in order to share my life with people, I have to do it in a calculated way. Like the only way people will respect me is if I share my weight loss struggles AFTER I've lost the weight, or that I can only sporadically post my "important" thoughts on Facebook because no one wants to see the crap of my every day life. 

And all that's just fear. Fear that people will figure out the truth about me; that I'm not nearly as successful as I could or should be at this point in my life; that I definitely don't look the way that I want to or think I should (because if I did look that way, you would love me, right?); and worst of all, that i'm not perfect, not even close, and I don't really have all my shit together. 

So, I'm making a new promise, as we ring in the new year. And people that know me know that I normally give something up at the beginning of each year, most of the time it being a vice, something I find myself dependent on, or an indulgence of some sort.

So this year, I'm giving up looking good. Why? Because that's ultimately my biggest vice and I am super dependent on it.  

And because, well, fuck it. I turn 35 this year, I'm about to travel around the world, and I'm starting a business (or actually COMMITTING to running a business that's already started), and I'm ready to share the journey, struggles and triumphs that come along with living this crazy life. I don't want to ever look back and say that I wish I had done something differently, and it order to do that, this shit has gotta go.  

So, thank you for taking the time to actually read this; it truly means a lot to me that you stuck it out until the end. I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts, and ready for any judgements, assessments, support, criticism and love, whichever is thrown my way. Till next time, cheers, y'all, and Happy New Year.