I read the usual deluge of 2018 kiss off posts streaming across my screens recently with a great sense of envy. Not because of the exotic places my friends were writing them from, or the amazing achievements they listed… but because of the sense of finality they all seemed to share. Whether 2018 was kind or brutal to them, they were putting a pin in it, and looking to 2019 with hearts full of hope.

My life, on the other hand, has never felt more suspended.

Now, this post won’t be all doom and gloom, I promise. In fact, for much of it, my heart is full of something quite like hope. But to show you where I’m going, I have to show you where I’ve been, and it’s been a long hard road, these past six months.

The second half of 2018, while sprinkled with poignant and even joyful moments, is pretty safely categorized as the most devastating stretch of my life so far — and it’s hard not to imagine 2019 will bring even more heartbreak. We were overcome by grief at my mother’s shocking diagnosis of advanced terminal brain cancer, a tragedy of a magnitude I’ve never experienced, and it changed my day to day life in ways I never could have dreamed.

Time with my mom
Time with my mom

The statistics, the looks on her doctors’ faces, and the mind-numbingly quick progression of her disease gave us little hope she would live to even see 2019. I spent three months bouncing between home and wrapping up whatever commitments I couldn’t cancel, and then three months at home permanently; my mother’s full time caretaker in the wake of her rapid onset paralysis, her tumors’ resistance to traditional chemo and radiation, and our inability to find reliable home health care.

There was a point when it was almost unbearable to watch her suffer the way she was – she could barely speak, could barely sit up, and the vibrant woman I knew all my life seemed to be all but extinguished. Then her doctor suggested another treatment: Avastin. It was impossible to know if it would be effective.

It was. Suddenly, slowly, I was writing down things my mom was saying and texting them, shocked, to her fiancé while he was at work. She was able to hold her head up and sit comfortable again. Her doctor marveled at her results. Yet while the Avastin has been the first thing (other than her initial craniotomy) that has improved her symptoms rather than deteriorate them further, she is still paralyzed outside the use of a non-dominant hand, unable to fully communicate, and operating at a fraction of the brain capacity her brilliant mind once held.

So you can understand why I hesitate to share she’s “doing better,” and listen to people cheerily congratulate us on it. Before her diagnosis, my mom was writing a historical fiction novel, president of the board of and a regular volunteer at a local charity she’s been involved with my entire life, helping run a progressive political action committee she founded, playing in a tennis league, renovating a cottage, and at the center of a vibrant social circle. Today, she is capable of and interested in little outside watching TV and resting.

I work hard to make her days as fulfilling as they can be – cooking special food, doing at home spa days, finding fun movies and shows, getting cozy in front of the fireplace, having my mom’s close friends visit, and when weather allows, getting out for walks around the neighborhood or even occasional trips to the movies. Yet my heart is heavy every day with my mother’s emotional pain and physical limitations, and I grapple constantly with internal questions about what truly makes up quality of life.

Decluttering the house in 2019
Decluttering the house in 2019

I found the holiday season a welcome distraction, and threw myself into making it as magical as possible for my mom, myself, and our family. But it was while watching It’s A Wonderful Life twice over the season that I found myself overwhelmed with sadness, finding the story of George Bailey’s sacrifice of his own wanderlust and dreams hitting a little too close to home.

With all my mom is going through I feel enormous guilt complaining about my circumstances, and I take conscious steps every day to keep my chin up and stay positive. But the facts are that my career is on hold, I’m back in a city I cherish but never planned to move back to, I gave up my apartment to move back to my childhood home, I’m in a different country from my partner, and my truest lifelong passion is at bay. If one more person tells me I’m exactly where I need to be, I’ll lose my mind. None of this is how it’s supposed to be.

With my mom’s diagnosis a terminal one, there is no happy ending to this story. If I’m here, my life is on pause. If I’m back to my life, it means my mom, my rock, is gone – a future reality I can’t even begin to wrap my head around.

Black and white portrait

All these rivers of emotion converged into a flood in the final days of 2018 – feeling anxious and feeling sad and feeling trapped and then feeling guilty and then feeling confused and endlessly analyzing was George Bailey really happy though, after all? (Apologies to anyone who isn’t brushed up on It’s a Wonderful Life trivia). I knew that I needed to use this new year as a fresh start; to take time to evaluate what I felt good about and what I needed to set new intentions on.

People kept warning me about caretaker burnout, and I brushed them off. I didn’t have time to worry about that! My needs and my wants had to be put aside, the same way my mom put her needs and wants on hold a million times to give me the life I’ve always had. It was and is a privilege to take care of her. But then wham, it hit me. Suddenly it felt like I couldn’t get through the day without crying, bursting into tears whenever I took Prada out for a walk.

You know what they say about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first, and not being able to pour from an empty cup, and all those other clichés about self care when you’re someone else’s caretaker? I don’t regret my decisions in 2018 – I did the best with the knowledge and resources we had at the time and I cherish the memories of this time with my mom, even if it’s not how we would have planned to spend it. But we are six months into this new reality now, and with the recent improvements in my mom’s prognosis, we are at a point where we need to start thinking about what’s sustainable longer term, rather than operating in crisis mode.

With all that in mind – sorry, there was a lot to catch you guys up on – here are some of the intentions I’ve set for 2019, in categories you’ve maybe never seen before on Alex in Wanderland.

On the caretaking front

Our search for home aides has been a long and complicated one – I could literally write an entire blog post on it. (In fact, I ran out the word count on Instagram when I tried to give even a brief summary.)

After reaching a breaking point and letting our (really terrible) third attempt at an agency go in early December, we decided to just do without help until the holidays were over – we were missing our privacy, anyway. But the second the holidays were over, we restarted our search all over again, this time looking for private hire care. I spent the last week settling in a new team of two aides and their overseeing nurse. It’s always a bit of a process, but I have high hopes.

I’m also experimenting with a volunteer calendar for my mom’s friends who want to come over and spend quality time with her while I get back to regular work and writing. (In the past months, I primarily got work done when my mom’s fiancé took time off work, when my sister came home, or while my mom was sleeping.) We also set up monitors so that occasionally I can be upstairs working while my mom is downstairs – previously, especially with her seizures flaring up, we needed to be in the same room constantly.

And while there are forever going to be insurance issues and prescriptions that need refilled and appointments that need to be made, we have slowly sank into a system and routine and I feel less like I’m trying to put out constant fires.

Movies at the Spectrum Albany
Time with my mom

Now, I have a full roster of outstanding tasks I need to do for my mom in 2019, and it is a fairly daunting list. I want to consult with a neuro-oncology specialized nutritionist about holistic treatments we could be doing to make my mom more comfortable. I need to gather the research for the book she was working on to turn over to her editor. I need to wrap up a few other legal and logistical projects regarding her affairs. And I need to resume better communication with her circle of loved ones.

Finally, I just need to find a weekly house cleaner – and let’s just say I would be thrilled if a neighborhood kid appeared who wanted to start a dog walking business until this brutal winter is over, you know?

It sounds like a lot, but we are in the best place we’ve ever been. We begin 2019 with what I hope will be our final home aide solution, a system for friends to visit with my mom throughout the week, her partner and I more evenly dividing work time, and finally, a sense of organization and calm on the horizon when it comes to coordinating my mom’s health care.

On the business side

Top entrepreneurial #girlboss tip! Taking two months off writing on your blog, answering your email, or behaving in any way like you spent the last ten years of your life growing your own business is not ideal. Womp womp.

I wish I was the kind of person that could spend the day taking care of my mom and her house and calling insurance companies or whatever logistical task needed to be done that day and then as soon as her fiancé got home from work, have the determination to go lock myself to my desk and work for a few hours. But by that time I was so zonked mentally, all I could do was flee the house and blow off steam at a workout class or something else mindless.

In 2019, I’m vowing to get back to work – in a way that makes sense for me right now. No, I can’t leave on any far flung adventures. But I can write about past ones I never got around to blogging – and perhaps finally catch up to real time. No, I can’t launch any retreats. But I can plan them. No, I can’t really take on travel-involved campaigns. But I can work on upping my affiliate game and marketing my ebook.

Next #hustlehustlehustle digital nomad life lesson! If you don’t work, people don’t give you money. So weird, right! I did a number on my savings recently, and so looking toward 2019 I humbled myself to do something I didn’t expect to be doing at this point in my life: I took out a loan so I could experiment with throwing some money at my business.

I hired an incredible new virtual assistant, I enlisted a Pinterest manager, I upgraded my hosting and put a developer on retainer, and I’m working with a designer to work on a bunch of projects.

2019 Blogging Goals

And so, with the time I’ll be getting back thanks to the caretaking and outsourcing solutions above, I hope to get back to what I love – storytelling about travel. Coming up I’ve got a couple different timelines I’ll be sharing – getting into backlogged Thailand content that warms my heart, digging back into my more recent Israel travel, and sharing some real time stuff from here in Albany. I’ve had some writer’s block lately, but fear not – I’ve been editing photos, preparing posts, and otherwise planting seeds of things to come.

One thing that’s a total mess? My accounting. Getting that on track as well is a big priority for 2019.

I also have two very exciting new business adventures in 2019. One, I’m going to start consulting with DiscoverAlbany about working with influencers (so hey, if you’re an influencer in or around Albany or a nearby city, hit me up!), which I’m thrilled by. Two, I’m going to start putting out feelers for using my certifications to teach some yoga classes. Both terrify and excite me. Bring it on.

On the health and fitness side

This is where the clichéd weight loss resolutions fit in, right? This year, my only goal is to get stronger – both to continue to safely be able to care for my mom, and to further pursue my new passion for aerial arts.

Through the darkest stretches of 2018, fitness has been a happy place for me. Even on days when I couldn’t leave the house, I often did a workout video at home. Moving my body, feeling it grow stronger, and connecting to the fitness community here in Albany have been very powerful tools for staying sane. Since getting back from my New Year’s break (more on that below), I’ve worked out in some form every single day.

After experimenting with a couple different local studios (shoutout to the free events at Lululemon Albany, which have been great ways to meet local fitness instructors and business owners) I’ve found homes at Anatomie, where I do yoga, spin, and weight training similar to what I used to do at the local crossfit gym on Koh Tao, and Good Karma, which I joke I should pay rent to and where I’ve had fun trying classes like bungee cardio and fallen in love with aerial cirque, aerial silks, and now lyra hoop. I even have found the very occasional buti yoga pop up at various studios.

Anatomie Troy
Working Out in Albany NY

Yoga at Good Karma Albany

I want to keep things fresh, and so in 2019 I’m experimenting with adding in gymnastics and ballet classes, which align nicely with what I’ve already been practicing. I love that gymnastics feels like play, and that ballet provides this opportunity to find beauty in your body that has nothing to do with your body fat percentage and everything to do with the way you move it.

The thing I miss the most? Swimming! I’m never happier than when I’m submerged in water, so it’s sad that I live in a house with an indoor pool and can’t use it – a few years ago, my mom drained it and put a solid platform over it to use the room as a community organizing space. Looking forward, I want to pursue filling it back up again. I can’t believe how much a daily swim would mean to me.

I probably learned more about cooking in the second half of 2018 than all previous years combined. In a situation where I had absolutely no control, I found it calming to be able to do this one simple thing; provide a nutritious and healthy meal for my mom. We do the ketogenic or paleo GreenChef delivery service (it’s like a healthier Blue Apron) and I’ve learned so much about cooking from it! (Try it out free using this link.)

Like a lot of people, my eating got totally binge-like over the holidays and I started to get pretty stressed and depressed about it. In general, it’s easy for me to feel out of control of my diet here — my mom has so many generous friends who want to bring us meals, and often it is comfort food and sweets. I don’t want to deny her anything but I also struggle to stop myself from just eating whatever she’s eating, too. It’s tough! In 2019 I’m vowing to be a little more proactive, and am actually excited to take some local cooking classes so I feel more comfortable creating a wider variety of healthy meals.

Eating healthy in 2019
Eating healthy in 2019

On the beauty and wellness side

I saw a friend of mine back in the fall and she asked me how I was coping and I replied with a straight face, “minor cosmetic and beauty procedures are my anti-drug.” I’ve been taking full advantage of being in the United States to do a bunch of little personal care projects I’ve been interested in for years, but couldn’t tick off while I was either always on the move or planted on a teeny island in Thailand.

First, I microbladed my non-existent eyebrows with my new friend Ashley at UrbaneBrow (full review of the experience coming soon) and now am in the process of getting laser hair removal on my underarms, legs and bikini line as well as laser chicken pock scar removal on my face with my new friend Jaclyn of Smooth Reflections. It sounds like a lot of work but actually it’s because I’m lazy — I love the idea that someday I could literally say, “I woke up like this.” I’ve loved connecting with these two local female entrepreneurs and am excited to do some work for both of them in 2019.

I also took the plunge to finally straighten my slightly crooked teeth. I’m three weeks into SmileDirectClub and WOW I’m so sold. Already the overlap between my two front teeth has opened enough for even my sister to comment on it. I am so excited to have straight white teeth and for such a good price – get a free scan and whitening session using this link. (The only thing I’m kicking myself for? Not taking better before and after photos of all of these procedures – I’ll definitely do a SmileDirectClub review someday.)

I also went Groupon hopping and did a monthly facial for the last couple months, experimenting with peels, microdermabrasion and dermaplanning along the way. I’ve heard so many beautiful women say that monthly facials are their secret that I wanted to try it out, but I’m not sure if I’ve seen enough results to keep going. I keep feeling like I could get the same results from drinking eight glasses of water a day, ha.

UrbaneBrows Albany

The truth is, and its sad to write, is that I really barely recognize myself anymore when I look in the mirror. My stress levels are up and my rest levels are down. Without my usual daily dose of sand and sea my skin has gone paler and my hair darker than I’ve seen it in over a decade. Not that there’s anything wrong with dark hair and pale skin, of course — I just don’t quite feel like me. (I can’t bring myself to go tanning or color my hair, though, two things I gave up when I left New York in 2011.)

So while it seems flippant to focus on all these cosmetic things while we are going through something so real with my family, it really is some of the things I get most jazzed about these days.

On the sustainability front

I am always trying to tackle the next “green-ifying”project in my own life and a new year is a great time to reflect on some big ones. My vows for 2019 are to go plastic free with hair removal, dental care, and with my period. In 2018 I experimented with plastic-free deodorant and lotion (basically, bar versions of each) neither of which was super successful.

Since I have an IUD, I rarely get a period at all, which has made it an easy category to neglect. But I have vowed – no more tampons, even if I was only using a handful a year. I’ve used up every one that I had, and I’m finally using the silicone cup that I’ve had around for years. I’ll blog in more detail once I get the hang of it.

I’m now officially plastic free with my tooth care — now that I’m in the US I’m using Bite Toothpaste Bits (get 10% off with the code Wanderland) as well as my bamboo toothbrushes and steel tongue scraper. I’m experimenting with some plastic free floss too — I’ll share it all, of course.

My Intuition razor addiction was a hard one to break. I LOVE THAT THING. So this was not an easy sacrifice. While laser hair removal is a big part of going plastic-free that I feel good about, I realize I’m always going to have some hair that I want to remove, hence, I’m finally buying a straight razor! I’m currently researching companies while I use up the rest of the razor heads I found around the house.

Bite Toothpaste Bits

Which brings me to a final point – I am currently living in a house that is overflowing with various bath and beauty products, stuffed into every shelf and cabinet. Gifts, random samples, things that someone bought two of without realizing, etc. Well. I have put myself on a 100% buying ban until I use up every single drop of what’s already in the house. Don’t love that deodorant I bought in desperation on a trip last year? Too bad, gotta use it. Craving my favorite face lotion but have a billion little sample ones clogging up the cabinet? Suck it up, use those first. It’s oddly therapeutic and I can’t wait to get down to “toiletry zero” (my sad equivalent of inbox zero – ha) and only consume things I consciously and carefully chose.

I’m one of several people living in and out of this house so I don’t get to make all the decisions, but I am trying to green-ify our house bit by bit as well, swapping disposable products for reusable ones wherever possible.

On the home front

So, who is watching Tidying Up With Marie Kondo on Netflix?! My mom and I are, and it’s just the motivation I need to restart our own decluttering and organizing journey now that the holidays are over.

My mom has lived in this house for thirty years, and let’s just say that I got some of my hoarding-adjacent tendencies from her. I love that my mom is so sentimental and waste-loathing, and always thinking of a future craft project idea – though it does make for a dwelling that would make KonMarie Method devotees faint on sight. The idea of going through this enormous, rambling house all at once was crippling, so since I moved back in permanently on October first I have been slowly tackling closet by closet, carefully organizing, recycling, and donating. To give you an idea of how long it’s been since some of these storage areas have been closely examined, I’ve shipped two enormous boxes out to my dad in California – and my parents separated over fifteen years ago!

Sometimes working on the house can feel positive and productive, and sometimes it leaves me in a puddle of tears. I know that someday I will have to be, but so far I’m not pushing myself to be too harsh. If it hurts to get rid of something for any reason, I just don’t. Life is hard enough at the moment and there’s enough that we pick up and laugh at the fact that we have to begin with, I’m just focusing on getting rid of that stuff, and organizing what we keep for now.

Martha's Vineyard House

The one room I’ve really been avoiding is my own. I shipped back whatever I didn’t get rid of or sell from my apartment in Thailand, and my dad brought out the entire closet full of stuff I’d accumulated at his house in Los Angeles over the years, so now everything I physically own is in one place for the first time in a long time – and it’s overwhelming. I’ve barely spent time in my own room since moving back in, since I’m always downstairs with my mom, but I’d like to make it a liveable space again. I’m overwhelmed at the prospect but I think downloading Kondo’s book will help. You know. As soon as I can find my Kindle charger in my overflowing electronics drawer.

And this isn’t the only house that’s on my mind. I have been putting off diving into this because it’s so overwhelming, but my sister and I are taking over as official guardians of our family home on Martha’s Vineyard. Not only do I have a lot of legal stuff to tackle to finalize that, but I have to wrap my head around organizing our rentals, paying taxes, getting a handle on the home maintenance, um, ya know, all the ins and outs of home ownership… for a girl who has lived in a two room apartment for the last several years. I’ve got a lot to learn but I know I can handle it. I sense a new binder in my future.

On the relationship front

It’s safe to say that outside of my relationship with my mom, which is more thoughtful than ever, I’ve neglected most if not all of the relationships in my life (though, as the one who was constantly giving her medication, making her to do physical therapy and causing her discomfort by transferring her in and out of her wheelchair, I’m not sure I was my mom’s favorite person in 2018 either.) In 2019, I want to take more time to touch base with the people I love.

I have missed my friends terribly and felt the strain this has put on my romantic relationship through distance and stress – though, it must be noted, not in any way the fault of Ian, who is a living breathing angel. But as someone who has a hard time leaning on a romantic partner for emotional support, this experience has been a challenge.

The solution to all of the above, however, is easy, thanks to modern technology – putting more time and energy to connecting with my loved ones, even those who are half a world away.

Long Island Wedding

On the travel side

Man, is this different from the travel announcement post I imagined I’d write for 2019. After Banyan closed in January of 2018, I finally accepted, after years of waffling between my love of travel and my love of having a home base, that I was ready to move on from Koh Tao. I knew it would always be a part of my life, but I was ready to spend some time as a nomad again before trying to find my next paradise.

I still loved Koh Tao deeply, which is why it took me so many years leave, but there was a restlessness in my heart. And so after years of kind of pulling back on my travels, I kicked my planning into mega high gear again. And did I ever – I went on an amazing vacation in Indonesia and Singapore in February, and in April I traveled to Kuwait, Egypt, and Israel. In June, I spent the month doing my yoga teacher training in New York City. Then July came, and my world turned inside out.

I pulled up the breaks at the end of September 2018, when I was meant to run a retreat and then spend the month in Bali and Indonesia. I’d then planned to head back to Koh Tao to pack up my apartment and officially move out before heading back to New York for the holidays.

And then, dang, 2019 was going to be crazy! I had planned to spend January in Mexico, kicking off the year with my girlfriend Zo’s 30th birthday in Merida followed by Isla Holbox with the Brooklyn crew. When they left for New York I was going to crawl along the coast scuba diving and checking out future possible bases before heading to Tulum for a SUP Yoga Teacher Training. February through March I was kicking off a festival hop for the ages… Gasparilla in Tampa, Carnival in Trinidad, and Tomorowland Winter in France.

New Year's Eve in Merida, Mexico

And then retreat season – My second Koh Tao retreat followed by my first Egypt one, both of which I was going to launch last August. And then a typical crazy summer of hopping around the US for weddings and work campaigns, festivals and family time. I vowed to nab tickets to Burning Man and Midburn, and head to my first Tel Aviv Pride.

It was crazy plan but after a few years of going dormant, it was like I was high on the idea of travel again. I couldn’t stop thinking about Easter Island, Mozambique, Jamaica – all these dream trips I was going to finally make happen.

And then all that got wiped off the table.

For a long time my mom’s disease was progressing so rapidly, travel was the last thing on my mind. We were in crisis mode and the idea of leaving Albany was just inconceivable. With my mom’s fiancé Miller and I essentially being the only two people in the world capable of getting my mom in and out of her wheelchair, I couldn’t even leave the house unless he was home from work or skiing.

But, as I shared above, I really was reaching a breaking point towards the end of the holidays. I had gotten into a position where I had no freedom or flexibility, and I needed to break that pattern up and start fresh with something more sustainable for the long term, before I burned out for good. And so, on Christmas night, realizing that due to the New Year, Miller would be home for three days straight and that my mom’s health was relatively stable, I booked a trip for three days later to Mexico.

New Year's Eve in Merida, Mexico

Crazy, right? It was a much-abbreviated version of the trip I’d planned to go one – spending New Year’s Eve in Merida with my Brooklyn college crew. I nixed going to Holbox with them after so that I’d be gone just four days. I didn’t really tell anyone I was going, because I think until the last second I thought something would come up and I’d cancel. I hired a dog walker, arranged for friends of my mom to come over when Miller had things scheduled, and filled the fridge with food. I was filled with anxiety, but both Miller and my dad, from afar, pretty much pushed me out the door, for which I am grateful.

I didn’t post about the trip on social media because I worried it might be emotional, and it was. I needed some privacy to register my feelings about being away from home without sharing lighthearted boomerangs of tacos (which I probably do owe the world someday, right? Right.)

It was a very enlightening trip for a lot of reasons, mainly that travel is different for me right now (duh.) No more planning ahead – with my mom’s health the way it is, everything is going to be pretty spontaneous from here on out. No more long, exotic, open-ended getaways – I have responsibilities now, and I don’t feel comfortable going too far. And the anything-goes-adventure that I once would have cherished? It felt, well, a little overwhelming.

I was startled to realize that as wonderful as it was seeing my friends and as much as aspects of the trip would never have even made me blink twice in the past (trying to organize logistics with a huge group, insane travel delays, staying in a dorm since I booked so late everything in the city was sold out) were actually pretty stressful given how frazzled I was to start with. For one of the first times in my life I thought to myself, damn, I need not a trip but a vacation. I started to understand the appeal of all-inclusive resorts on a level I never have before.

But in the end, the trip gave me an incredible gift: a bit of distance to clear my head, and a big ‘ol reset button to hit for the year ahead.

New Year's Eve in Merida, Mexico
New Year's Eve in Merida, Mexico

So, anyway. It’s hard to promise much travel in 2019 when my future is so up in the air. This month, my sister is coming for a week, and while I’ve fantasized about using that time to go somewhere warm, in reality I will probably go to New York for a fitness training I’ve been eyeing, some quality work time, some much-needed hugs from my friends, and showing my face at some industry events.

In February, my friend Amanda invited me to the Dominican Republic with her for a weekend. I would love to make that happen – one, I’d like to do some retreat research, two, Amanda has been a dear friend to me through this experience, and three, it sounds like just the dose of sunshine and sea that I need. My mom used to tell me that I’ve hated winter since I was a child. The 4:30 sunset time, the below freezing temperatures, the days without seeing blue sky… I have done my best to make the absolute most of winter given my circumstances, but I won’t pretend it’s been easy. (Also? I’ve got two fillings that have cracked – and I’m assuming Dominican Republic dental pricing is much friendlier than the New York version.)

I’ll also head to Montreal whenever possible now to visit Ian, who just started a new chef position there.

It’s pretty hard to plan anything beyond that, but just as I slowly got over my anxiety over leaving the house, I also want to slowly get over my anxiety about leaving Albany, and take whatever opportunities I can to keep this side of me alive.

On loving where you live 

One interesting aspect of this experience of kind of doing a 180 with my life has been the rare ability to truly examine what really brings me joy, and what I was doing out of routine. Even living in paradise, there were times I asked myself, is this 100% what I’m supposed to be doing with my life? Or did I just kind of meander down this road when I was nineteen and whoops, a decade passed and here I still am!

I have learned that no, it wasn’t a fluke – I was living much the way I needed to. I have loved being back in a city and having access to all the culture, arts, education and opportunities it comes with. But I miss the sea with every part of my soul. And I miss being, well, far away – I realize now how much I enjoyed the adventure of being a transplant, and that much of my restlessness in Koh Tao in recent years came from it becoming too familiar. I love being lost.

Going hiking in Thatcher State Park

Going hiking in Thatcher State Park

That said, I have always had a fondness for my hometown and loved coming home. And so I am making an enormous effort to dwell not on what I miss about living abroad, though sometimes it is inevitable, and focus instead on what I can enjoy about this lovely city I was lucky enough to be raised in.

Because, I’m discovering more than ever, Albany is a great city. There’s so much going on here and I’ve really enjoyed slowly starting to discover its hidden gems. It’s just the right size – big enough that there’s almost always something going on and you can find an outlet for almost any passion, but manageable enough that you aren’t living in a constant state of FOMO.

I can’t wait for the weather to warm up a bit so I can start checking out the local hiking trails! But fear not, there’s been plenty to explore in the meantime – stay tuned for plenty of blog content coming your way from Albany.

Liza's in Troy

On the soul searching side

I have learned that being a caretaker is an experience that many go through at some point in their lives, and it can be an incredibly lonely experience. While it feels vulnerable in a way I’ve never known before to share this part of my life here, it’s something that makes me feel closer to my mom, a talented writer who always found peace from putting virtual pen to paper.

Putting these intentions in place has eased the sense of burnout and desperation I felt at the end of 2018, but they also come with a side of guilt: time I spend on myself is time I’m not spending with or focused on my mom; something I always feel the pressure of the timer running out on.

Things are suspended right now. I can’t plan for the future. But I can plan for the day, and I know what steps I need to do right now to make every day positive: make sure my mom is comfortable and we spend quality time together; be productive in work; get outside when possible; connect with a friend, even if it’s a quick text; and find some way to move my body every day. I am tied to this place for this moment, and I don’t know how long this moment will last. But even if I can’t move my location, I can find new ways to move forward, and I need to focus on that.

Already, 2019 has thrown me some curve balls. Believe me, I have my days that are so full of heartache I’m certain something inside me is going to break. But I’ve always prided myself on my ability to find gratitude and happiness in even the most trying situations – something my mom taught me. And so in 2019, I’m leaning into that.

Corning Tower Observation Deck

With love and gratitude for all your patience and support,


  • Riley
    January 16 2019

    As always I commend you on being so personal. I too find writing as therapy, but can only imagine how vulnerable it would feel to write about an experience like this one and allow the world to see it. Thank you for sharing!

    • Alex
      January 21 2019

      Thanks for reading, Riley <3

  • Megan
    January 16 2019

    Alex, your reflections on all of these areas of your life right now are so very real and poignant. Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable. I think one of my favorite things about reading in general, whether it’s fact or fiction, is the way it allows a person to experience things so outside of their actual life experience, which in turn creates a deeper capacity for empathy. You have always done that so well, no matter what you’re writing about. It’s really what has kept me enthralled all these years– because whether you’re writing about big things or small things, you have a talent for making me think and feel deeply.

    My dad was sick for ten months before he passed away. I remember how it felt to wish so desperately that it would be over– and take it back immediately since that would mean his death. It was an awful state of mind. The burnout is so real and so horrible. It’s hard to remember even now several years later– but I am so appreciating your very real depiction of what this kind of thing feels like. You and your family continue to be in my prayers.

    (Side note- you mentioned nutrition & oncology– when my dad had cancer he had significant results from the Budwig Protocol. Might be worth looking into if you’re interested in that kind of thing.)

    On a lighter note– menstrual cups rock! They have made my life so much better. I hope they work well for you once you have adjusted 🙂

    • Alex
      January 21 2019

      This is such an interesting observation about reading and the potential power of blogger — it really resonates with me. Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment, and opening up in return.

  • Blayne
    January 16 2019

    I don’t know you in real life, but I feel a kinship with you through your blog posts. You voice a lot of questions that I find myself asking while I do my own soul-searching. I am now a teacher, married, and just bought a house that I plan to live in for many years, but the wanderer in me is reminded of a time when I did my own exploring around the globe whenever I return to your blog. Nearing 30 myself, I made a decision a few years back to plant my feet rather than keep moving or blogging, and while I know it was right for me, it still makes me smile to read about the life you have been living, almost a parallel reality that I can imagine I would have loved too. It doesn’t make me sad though – instead it makes me immensely joyful that people can find meaning in so many different ways, and that our paths can ebb and flow throughout our lives as our priorities change.

    I don’t know why I feel compelled to share this, other than to thank you for your vulnerability. It is very impactful to read about both the successes and the hardships you have faced in choosing to follow your wanderlust. I know the coming months will be hard for you but I hope you can find some peace and comfort.

    • Alex
      January 21 2019

      I know exactly how you feel, Blayne — sometimes I used to see people buying houses and getting settled and I would have that same feeling of, “oh, that could be me in a parallel universe.” Now I know I’m not the only one! Thank you for your empathetic words and for being here while I find my footing in this next step in my journey.

  • Janice
    January 16 2019

    I am so sorry to hear about your mum, but it sounds like you’re doing a stellar job.
    My mum died of cancer when I was 29 – just after I’d had my second child.
    My thoughts..
    Love, live and laugh. In between the tears, troubles and stressful bit.
    That’s all I can say – every day-even if only a tiny way.
    Your readers are still here.
    A quiet silent support-weaving its way to you on the interweb 🙂
    Take care.
    Your family are in my prayers.

    • Alex
      January 21 2019

      Thank you for the words of wisdom and the support, Janice. I’m so sorry about your mother. That must have been brutal, welcome a child while saying goodbye to a parent.

  • Alicia Stamford
    January 16 2019

    You are getting all my support here in Mexico. So beautifully written and raw. We need to see these sides of people in the public eye to know that they are not invincible either.
    Your mum is a lucky to have a caretaker like you. I wish you all the best for her care and your projects in 2019.

    • Alex
      January 21 2019

      Thank you so much Alicia. I think you make an important point; no one is invincible or in a bubble from life’s cruelest twists and turns. We are all only human, and should treat each other accordingly — with kindness, and off a pedestal.

  • Shelby
    January 16 2019

    I’m blown away. Speechless. The way you write has always been special, but this was captivating. I wish I were capable of such eloquence with a keyboard, but just know you’re loved. And know that sharing your story, as vulnerable as it is, is providing your readers with a sense of gratitude, inspiration and much needed perspective. Thanks, Alex.

    • Alex
      January 21 2019

      Thank you Shelby. This means a lot. I appreciate you. I’ve never had a greater sense of perspective than I do now. I wish I’d earned it a different way, but alas.

  • Caroline Peters
    January 16 2019

    Such a wonderful post Alex. Wishing you and your family a happy new year, and all the best for everything you have planned. You are doing such a fantastic job, and just know you have so many readers here to support you <3

    • Alex
      January 21 2019

      Thank you Caroline. It feels really nice to hear that <3

  • Lisa W
    January 16 2019

    The degree of openness and vulnerability you have in your writing and your eloquence in sharing your experiences is incredible. Having quietly read your blog for years, your writing allowed me a peek into your family and I was saddened to hear of your mom’s diagnosis. I’m happy to hear that her new medication has improved her quality of life a bit and hope that will continue. You and your family are in my thoughts and I am rooting for all of you from Colorado.

    • Alex
      January 21 2019

      Thank you so much Lisa. This can be a lonely journey and it truly does lift my spirit knowing I have such a loving and supportive community here.

  • Emily
    January 16 2019

    I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting you in person, but I’ve been reading your blog for about 6 years now. My heart is breaking for you and your family. You are a beautiful and resilient soul, Alex. Thank you for sharing your stories with us.

    • Alex
      January 21 2019

      Thank you for being with me all these years, Emily.

  • Diane
    January 17 2019

    Alex, I’m so sorry for everything you and your family are going through and I appreciate your willingness to share something so personal with your readers. My thoughts are with you.

    • Alex
      January 22 2019

      Thank you Diane. I’ve always felt a strong desire to be authentic in my writing and now moreso than ever. It would just be absolutely bizarre to post smiling family photos or Instagram stories from my aerial classes without showing the other side of the scale those moments are an attempt to balance out from.

  • LC
    January 17 2019

    Wishing you all the best, Alex.

  • Amanda
    January 17 2019

    Sorry to hear about all the challenges you have faced this year. It sounds like you are handling it with grace, and what a blessing to be able to be with your mom in her time of need.

    • Alex
      January 22 2019

      It is indeed. I am so grateful for the flexibility I had to come home.

  • becky hutner
    January 17 2019

    Alex, you gifted, soulful human. Never was there a New Year’s post so thoughtfully crafted and heartrending. Not that’s passed these eyes! Your work is such a gift. Thank you for continuing to share. I think your whole community can agree you’ve done a wonderful job of bringing your mother to life for us and she seems nothing short of an exemplary human being.

    I wish you all the strength and love and aerial therapy and BEAUTY TREATMENTS in the months ahead.

    • Alex
      January 22 2019

      I love the term aerial therapy — consider it borrowed <3 Thank you for the kind words and fabulously specific well wishes.

  • Laura
    January 18 2019

    Thank you for sharing this Alex, I felt privileged to read this post. As a silent reader for many years I came for the travel content but have stayed for your honest and wonderful writing.
    Wishing you and your family all the best at this tough time x

    • Alex
      January 22 2019

      Laura, that is so kind thank you. I hope there will be a mix of both — travel content and honest writing — in these upcoming months.

  • Kelly
    January 18 2019

    Alex, our hearts are with you. I’ve been reading your blog from the very beginning and as silly as it sounds, I feel like I know you… which is a testament to your heartfelt, poignant, and personal writing. Wishing strength and peace for you and your family.

    • Alex
      January 22 2019

      Kelly, thank you. I feel the warmth of this community so strongly and it has helped me feel less alone in a very isolating time.

  • Sarah
    January 19 2019

    this may be my first comment, although I have enjoyed your blog for years. What a beautiful post- I think of you often (I hope that doesn’t sound creepy) and always look forward to your updates. I hope you can continue to make memories with your mom- she is very lucky to have you.

    • Alex
      January 22 2019

      Never creepy, Sarah <3 Thank you for commenting and for reading all these years. I appreciate it so much.

  • Dominique
    January 20 2019

    What a hard-hitting beautifully written post. It’s brave how open you are about your life, thoughts and feelings. I wish you all the best during these difficult times!

    • Alex
      January 22 2019

      Thank you Dominique — for reading, for commenting, for your kindness, all of it xo

  • Nathan
    January 21 2019

    So sorry to hear about your mom. My mom unfortunately passed away last July.

    It was one of my biggest fears and the reason why I didn’t travel before. But she was the one who told me that if I never left to travel, that she would be fine and I’ll never get out travelling because life is like that…

    So I left on my world journey and even though it did happen, I know she would have been so happy for everything I’ve done the past few years, as she was a small town country woman who never got to experience things like this.

    I spent 6 weeks with my dad afterwards to help him along the way. I couldn’t imagine how that would feel, when your wife of 47 years is now gone.

    After that I left back travelling, but ever since I’ve never been the same, and I’m planning on going back in April to stay with my family.

    Happy thoughts for you and your family and everything else!

    • Alex
      January 22 2019

      I’m so sorry Nathan. I love what a gift your mom you in telling you that. I’m sure your family cherishes the time you all spent together.

  • Katie
    January 21 2019

    Thanks so much for sharing Alex. You are handling things with such grace – I can’t imagine how hard it must be. Keep focusing on the good stuff, that’s a great super power to have.

    • Alex
      January 22 2019

      I love thinking of it as a superpower <3

  • Mary B
    January 22 2019

    “I’ve always prided myself on my ability to find gratitude and happiness in even the most trying situations – something my mom taught me.”

    A beautiful gift, and one that she taught you well – your ability to remain both vulnerable and realistic but also hopeful and grateful is extraordinary, and continues to amaze me in every new post that comes out. Sending love and light and strength for whatever lies ahead in 2019.

    • Alex
      January 24 2019

      Thank you so much Mary. You see me, and I appreciate that <3

  • Rachel
    January 22 2019

    Wow, thank you so much for sharing this journey with us Alex. I honestly cannot imagine what you are going through. Therefore, all I can do is offer well wishes and hope you manage through this rough time. Sending lots of support x

    • Alex
      January 24 2019

      Thank you Rachel — well wishes warmly received x

  • Erica
    January 22 2019

    Your openness is so inspiring. Thanks for sharing ????

    • Alex
      January 24 2019

      Thank you for being you, my dear <3

  • Marni
    January 24 2019

    Your strength through this continues to shine through and – as always – I so value your openness. Continuing to send you and your family well wishes and support from afar.

    • Alex
      January 24 2019

      Thank you Marni, we appreciate it so much.

  • Ari-An Teo Watkins
    January 24 2019

    Thank you so much for sharing your life with us. Your heartache and pain, and struggles are not lost upon me. I can’t even begin to imagine the strength it’s taken to patch yourself up together and find balance during this time. I’m sending all the good vibes of strength I can to you.

    • Alex
      January 24 2019

      This is a lovely comment. Thank you, Ari.

  • Kim
    January 26 2019


    Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. What you are experiencing is dreadful, and I am sorry for your struggles. I do, however, appreciate your openness, strength, and selflessness, as it is inspiring. You seem to be a wonderful daughter as well and I wish you all the best for 2019 and on.

    • Alex
      January 28 2019

      Thank you Kim — I feel the warmth in your words!

  • Holly
    January 27 2019

    When I first read your blog, I was a senior in high school. I kept up on a couple travel blogs. Yours was and is one of my favorites! I remember going back through the archives each day after school. Feels like such a long time ago and I feel like such a different person now. I haven’t been following your blog as closely the past year and today I felt called to check up on this site. I resonate with so much of what you said in this post. Thank you for sharing your story so honestly. I feel less alone and more connected after reading this post.

    There are lessons to be found in every season in those that are painful. Even those which completely turn the game board of our life upside down. Even when we thought we had such beautiful dreams, so in control. Sometimes what we are meant to experience is different. What’s special too is that we still get that choice. How we look at something. As a loss or an opportunity.

    I’m inspired to move my body more after reading this. I went on a hike today for the first time in a while and felt such alignment. I love the earth. I love exploring.

    Another thing I’d like to share with you is a holistic healing option for your mom called Kangen Water. It is structured Hydrogen water generated from a certified medical device. There is one in every Japanese hospital. I know of people with miraculous healing stories drinking this water. If you’d like to ask more questions or anything, you can reach out to me or google Kangen Water 10 Minute Demo.

    Endless love, wonder, and patience on your journey,

    • Alex
      January 28 2019

      Holly, I love your perspective on the choice of how to look at something. It’s something I agree with in theory and work on in practice every day. Thanks for being on this ride with me for so long!

  • Alicia
    January 31 2019

    My heart aches for you. I admire your strength and willingness to be open, honest, and raw during such a difficult and heart wrenching time in your life. I wish you nothing but love, warmth, and sunny days in 2019.

    • Alex
      February 3 2019

      Thank you, Alicia. That means so much.

  • Jennifer Mauney
    February 20 2019


    You are so brave for sharing all of this. It is really comforting to read something so open and sincere about the difficult time you are going through. My heart goes out to you.

    Sending all the light and love your way.

    • Alex
      February 22 2019

      Thank you so much Jennifer. I so appreciate all the love and support.

  • Caitlyn
    February 21 2019


    As with so many of your posts; I cried, smiled and laughed while reading this (and had an overwhelming urge to lean into my screen and hug you!). Your words are so brutally honest and heartfelt and I appreciate how real you always are in your reflections.

    What you have been through, and accomplished in the last year has been nothing short of superhuman. The way you face adversity and struggle with motivation and positivity is a truly unique and special skill. I’m sure there are others out there going through something similar to you, and having access to your words and reflections on it all would mean the world to them in a time when they probably feel quite alone and confused.

    All of your goals and aspirations for this year sound incredible, and achievable. I hope that your business goals pan out for you, and that you find balance and some level of both normality and adventure in the coming months.

    Keep on keeping on, hurry slowly, and continue to live with passion!

    Lots of love,
    Caity x

    • Alex
      February 22 2019

      Thank you, Caitlyn — I’d take the screen hug 🙂 Reading your comment was honestly such a wonderful way to start the day — thank you for that.

  • Hafeez Merani
    May 23 2019

    Thank you Alex for being so open, that is definitely not easy. Hopefully everything goes well for you and best wishes to you and your family and your future adventures. Great blog by the way, I’ve see a few of your posts so far.

    • Alex
      May 25 2019

      Thanks so much for reading and for the kind words.

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