Tales from the train: Feeling lost in Europe and finding my way to my destination.

I look at this photo and remember the smile behind this face. That was me at age 22 after practically getting lost in Europe and using my INNER compass to find my way to my destination. It still amazes me that I was only late by 1 hour. I made it from Italy to Amsterdam after getting lost and routed on the wrong trains. I had just completed a month long Art Excursion based in Florence, Italy. I was traveling alone during that part of the trip until meeting up with my boarding school friend/roomie. I look at this photo and remind myself that I can survive so much more than the world has taught me to BElieve. I look at this photo and remember to have FAITH in everything. I’m thankful for my inner compass that kept me awake & aware through those 24 hours of anxiety. This was all without cellphones. Just a journal in tow and lots of stream of consciousness writing. I look at my face here and sometimes don’t recognize her because that was the day I learned to truly set her FREE. I wrote a private blog about it years ago and for some reason I haven’t shared it publicly. I knew something wasn’t working in my life back then. I knew i needed to make a change. Reading it reminds me that this experience woke me up at a young age to have faith, make changes and live better. Reading my thoughts now, I know I would’ve thought and written differently now than I did then. It’s amazing how experiences shape us. Read it below if you’d like.

I’m going to share something vulnerable with you today. A piece of me that I recently reconnected with. In the summer of 1998, when I was 22 yrs young I studied abroad in Italy studying art and art history. I kept a journal the whole time I was there. After the program ended I went on to travel with one of my boarding school roommates. At that time in my life I was extremely vulnerable while at the same time grieving the loss of my dad. I had just started practicing yoga in the winter semester. Something happened to me while on my way to meet Florie. I remember the experience so well. I remember sitting on the train and in the stations writing my fingers off about what I was dealing with. Reading my thoughts now, I can see where I was guided by both human angels & my own inner faith. As I look back now, I see that this was an awakening for me and I recall in my heart remembering that this yoga stuff was working for me. This was my shift and awakening to knowing that yoga was needed in my life. So thankful that I recorded this and didn’t burn it in a campfire like I have other stories.


It’s been over 10 days since I have written. We went to Venezia and the experience was magical. The boat rides, the food, the art, the glass gallery and the time spent with new friends. Venezia is old and kinda dirty (I thought) but it’s truly an Italian fairy tale not only painted in pictures, but in real life too.

Today is the first day that I start my travels around Europe! Time flies! It feels like yesterday I was sitting in the JFK airport starting my journal to Firenze! I can’t believe its all over. It felt pretty weird saying goodbye to everyone today and watching them leave on the bus to the airport. I feel sad. I enjoyed the time we spent together and all that we learned. It feels like all the summers that I would say goodbye to my summer camp friends. It also feels similar to when the school year would end at boarding school. Everyone packs up, gets on the airport or train bus and heads back to their lives at home. I love meeting new people and making new friends. I really hope that I see them again.

Sue and Claire helped me with my luggage and they also helped me get a taxi to the train station. I am currently sitting on the train in Rome and heading back to Firenze for a couple of hours. I wish that I could stay one more day there, but I am now heading to Amsterdam to meet up with my boarding school roommate, Florie. We haven’t seen each other in 3 years and I am looking forward to seeing her again!

Speaking of boarding school. When I was in Rome I ran into one of my old buddies from boarding school. It was so cool! And of course everyone in my Art group laughed because I keep running into people who I know from the states.

We were standing in the middle of the Vatican where everyone is asked to be silent. You can’t talk in there. Oh but, I blurted out ‘Jessica!’ Jessica and I had been eyeing each other with that look like ‘I know I know you.’ It was a moment of awkwardness because we were staring at each other and then being busted for talking (quite loudly) in one of the Worlds most sacred places.

We ended up seeing each other again that night at the Trevi Fountain and took a bunch of pictures to capture us seeing each other in Rome.

I personally like Firenze better than Rome. It’s smaller and not so crazy. Rome is great though. It’s old and there is a lot of history. Between the Coliseum, the museums and the Vatican there’s a lot to take in. I also almost got hit by a moped (for real) when crossing the street. Motor bikes and cars navigate through this old ancient city while tourists try to cross over to the other side of the street. The incident reminded me of when I was in high school and visiting my older sister in Boston. I was irresponsibly crossing the street when a car came speeding down a major road. My older sister reached out and grabbed me tight as she breathed hard from the anxiety of watching me almost get hit. This time I was in one of the oldest cities in the world that has been taken over by modern living and although I was crossing a cross walk, a moped came quickly past me and swooped nearby. Sue grabbed my arm tight and pulled me to her direction. My heart beat and I felt fear making its way into my body. I thought to myself ‘Did I almost die?’

****a few hours later****

I am really freaked out and pissed off right now at Eurorail. They totally screwed me over with my reservation. When I made my reservation, I specifically called them for a reservation for a first class seat going to Amsterdam. They gave me the unimportant one train rides and left out the most important one. They didn’t give me my train reservation going from Zürich to Amsterdam.

This experience that I am having is totally insane and is making me a bit of a mental mess.

I had a breakdown on the train from Firenze to Milan because I reserved a couchette for the long train rides and they gave me one for the short rides. I ended up meeting a nice German lady who spoke english. She spoke to me and gave me the advice I needed to hear. My main concern is whether or not I am going to make it to Amsterdam on time. If I don’t, I am going to complain so bad that they’ll be forced to go out of business.

And so the moments have passed and this Eurorail experience is becoming a total train wreck!!!!!!!!! I am loosing my mind and feel totally disconnected from everyone because I pretty much only speak english and know a little bit of spanish. I am a foreigner who is starting to literally feel like I am getting lost in Europe. I have no way of calling anyone and I am afraid that I might get hurt or taken advantage of. I am literally on the brink of a total mental breakdown!!!!!

It’s 11 o’clock and I still haven’t left Italy. I have 13 hours and 45 minutes until I am supposed to meet up with Florie. I need to get to Switzerland so that I can get the train to Amsterdam.

I hope that someday I can look back at this experience and laugh, but right now all I can do is cry. I am tired, I am worn out and I am PISSED OFF at the service I received from Eurorail. I hope that nothing worse will happen. I feel pretty hopeless and really hope that I can get on a train to Switzerland.

I feel so hopeless that I want to die. I feel like I have no direction in my life and I am so sick of how I live my life. If I lived a different way then this wouldn’t have happened.

I feel stuck.

***later on****

I am now writing from somewhere else. I met a couple of people at one of the train stations that I stopped at and they offered me their help. I am having trust issues right now so I don’t even know if I should listen to their advice. I could write a book about what I have been dealing with here.


And Now I am writing from another place I think that everything is FINALLY working out. I am on the train to Brussels and it will hopefully lead me to Amsterdam. I have been on this train since Chiasso, which it then stopped in Basel and now it’s going to Brussels. It must have been midnight when I finally got on the train and it is now 8:30 am. So that’s 8 hours. I am grateful that I am finally getting somewhere and that I am safe.

I think I definitely need to write a book about this experience. Luckily, I spoke up in Chiasso and asked a girl and her boyfriend for advice. It turns out they were on their way to Basel and the train that we were getting on is the right one for me too.

I really need a shower……..

I am in Amsterdam! I made it! I never thought that I would. I just persevered through one of the toughest moments of my traveling life (and life in general).

I ended up taking the train from Brussels to Amsterdam, which only put me in an hour late. At first, I couldn’t find Flo and I got really scared. I went back to feeling hopeless, afraid and unsafe. It turned out ok though. After wandering around aimlessly and totally freaked out, I ended up having her paged over the speaker at the train station. Once she was paged, she showed up near me. It turns out that when she originally came to meet me and she noticed I hadn’t arrived, she went back to the hostel to shower. She intuitively knew to come back and it turns out her timing was pretty much on point.

Let’s let each other talk when needed.

This week has been filled with emotions all around the globe. For me, my week started out losing my boyfriend of 10 years father to a very quick and sudden illness. That same day Kate Spade passed, I also learned of the passing of an elementary school classmate. Today we lost Anthony Bourdain. These deaths, especially the heavier ones have had me evaluating the storms from my past that took me down rocky tides that at times left me feeling helpless. They all began in my teens and got worse when my dad died. Thankfully, I had the support that I needed and more. My choices of therapy haven’t been mainstream, but they’ve taken me out of the rocky tides and into calmer waters. Truth is I am filled with so much water. I ebb and flow like the ocean. I feel my pains and let them heal. I once had an ache in my body that came out of nowhere. It lasted 6 months. It finally went away after I stated out loud to the universe ‘you’ve got to feel it to heal it.’ Literally, within a week of me stating that to the universe, my physical pain was gone. It’s never returned. I am convinced it’s because I finally gave myself permission to feel. To let my emotions move through me rather than let them stay dormant.

I’ve got countless stories of my own past struggles with depression and anxiety. I have been reflecting on some of them and hope to someday write them to share. And to share because I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I’ve been broken into pieces many times in my life. I’m open to someday share them in hopes they will inspire others to receive the help that I got.

Let’s let each other talk when needed. Don’t get annoyed if you think someone talks too much or has a story to share.

If someone needs to just talk, hold space for them. Don’t judge.

Some people don’t open up only because they feel misunderstood and Sometimes people need someone to sit by them to just cry. None of us fully have our stuff together. It’s just that some of us can hide it better.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline


Help is just a phone call


Your body is a map to the stars & planets

Your body is a map to the stars & planets. Today’s energies can be accessed through your low back or sacrum (moon in Libra) & your ankles & calves (sun in Aquarius) I’ll be teaching more on this at next months inspired Yogastrology ® class up at

The Meditation Room in Cornelius, NC

Join me March 3, 2018


at the Meditation Room

19900 S Main St, Ste 5

Cornelius, North Carolina 28031


‘Hidden deep in the secrets of natural healing, an elegant tradition aligns areas of the body with monthly zodiac signs.’ This is the practice of Yogastrology®, a blend of both yoga & astrology. Certified inspired Yogastrology® teacher, Mary Beth Bender will lead you through a discussion of astrology and how this connects to both the physical and subtle bodies. Following this discussion she will guide you through an asana practice that will align the seasonal lunar energy with the current astrological transits in the sky.

$30.00 early bird special until February 23rd

$40.00 after.

Pre-registration is required:


Have you ever experienced this kind of discomfort in a class?

As teachers it is our job to support and guide our students while also creating a safe space for them to practice. Have you ever felt unsafe or not seen by your teacher? I think most people are going to yoga classes because they seek connection to something greater than them self.

We never know what people are going through so we must be prepared to see our students and make them feel comfortable.

I walked into a studio for the first time and I was thinking that I would be acknowledged by the teacher. I was new to the area and I was seeking connection with others. I was going through a transition in my life and I was looking for a place that I would feel supported. I had been doing yoga for 10 years and I had moved away from my favorite teachers. I was hoping to find a new teacher that could help guide me along the path.

I walked into the studio and I checked into the class, got myself settled and made my way into the practice space.

As I was walking in, I noticed the teacher. I said hello and spoke up. I told her I was new to the area and I was excited to take her class. I noticed she wasn’t looking at me in the eyes. I saw her looking at my pants. I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t think my pants mattered, but I must’ve missed something. After all they were on properly and there wasn’t anything unusual about them. I bought them at Target. So what, they were $19.99

I took the class, breathed my way through the power vinyasa class and broke a sweat. My mat was covered with sweat and during savasana I laid there and felt my body cool down. My eyes were open and I noticed the teacher was handing out wet lavender cloths. I noticed her put one by everyone’s head.

I saw her walk by me and I felt her feet near mine.

I looked over to see if she left me a towel, but she didn’t. I was confused and a little bit emotional that she’d overlooked me.

As we said are Namaste, rolled up the sweaty mats and made are way out to the lobby, I noticed extra wet towels laying in a bucket.

I walked up to the bucket, grabbed a towel and walked by the teacher. She noticed me with the towel and gave me a petty smirk.

I thought to myself ‘what was that all about?’

My sense was that she intentionally skipped me.

I felt like an insecure middle school girl.

I felt like she was acting like the mean girl who wanted to give the new girl in town a hard time.

I was confused.

‘This is yoga?’ I thought.

Then I remembered that everyone approaches the practice differently.

I left the studio and still felt so confused.

Was I overthinking?

Probably so.

But I felt her stare at my pants from Target and I felt her skip over me in savasana.

What was this all about?

Still confused, I let it go.

I found out later that she was a competitive person and she was known for making others feel small.

How could this be Yoga?

I struggled with going back to that studio. I wanted to find a place where I would feel welcomed. A place I could connect with others and be seen for who I am.

Have you ever experienced this kind of discomfort in a class?

As a teacher, I feel it’s my responsibility to make my students feel comfortable. I feel it’s my job to nurture the space so that everyone is included and everyone feels safe.

Although everyone approaches Yoga differently, we are all searching for some kind of connection. After all Yoga means to ‘unite.’

In the Universe

I contemplated enough to earn a wisdom wrinkle in the center of my brow.

The wisdom wrinkle rests on my third eye. I have to massage it often because Jupiter downloads wisdom and Neptune allows me to dream and create visions. They are in harmony with one another. They work together to create mystical experiences with life beyond the world that we know. It moves through like gypsy ‘soulspiration’ moving through the time and space realm of the Mayan day signs that were written in stones many many moons ago here on planet earth. In the universe.

photo: a colorful life journal

The Earth needs to shed its skin to reveal its bones.

Capricorn’s ruler is Saturn and Saturn rules the bones. To me, it’s no coincidence that Capricorn and winter begin on the same day. Capricorn is an earth sign and is ruled by Saturn. And Capricorn, Saturn and winter are all prone to depression (well at least that’s how I perceive it).

Saturn is the master teacher and through depression, there is great learning and awakening, which leads to mastership.

This time of year in the Northern Hemisphere is a difficult time for some of us. Some of us begin to feel sadness, depression and anxiety kick in. If this is something that you deal with, remember it’s seasonal. The earth needs to shed its skin to reveal its bones. The lack of light may have you feeling extra tired and drained. Take this as an opportunity to slow down and rest. This is the season to dream. To go on an inner vision quest and dream up everything you want to manifest in 2018. Underneath all of the snow and ice lays fresh new life waiting to be born.

Also, there is a gift awaiting us all at the Winter Solstice. That gift is LIGHT. Once 12/21 comes around each day we will receive a little bit of light. Don’t just look for the light to shine outside, go inward and access your own inner light.

When will we stop the madness?

We might not all think the same, but we can learn from each other.

We might not all look the same, but we all came from the same source; whatever you choose to call that, whether it be God or Universe.

We are all one…


We are living on this Earth together.

This is our home.

Nature is our guide.

Together we must protect this home that we share.

Protect the animals, the water, the forests, the land.

We didn’t inherit this land from our ancestors , we are borrowing it from the children.

Do we really want the children to clean up this mess?

I want my niece and nephew & all the other children to enjoy the parks, the forests and the majestic views that I have been able to witness.

I don’t want them to have to look out at skylines and listen to horns and sirens.

I want them to witness sunrises & sunsets.

I want them to listen to hawks, owls and all of the other animal sounds.

I want them to look up at the sky and connect with that source that we came from.

I want them to learn about the nature of cycles.

I want them to see the green luscious jungle.

Not a concrete jungle.

And lastly,

When will we wake up and stop the madness?

The hate, the finger pointing, the divided ness. When?

I’m feeling this pulse shaking saying ‘Slow down! Wake Up! We are the ones that we’ve been waiting for….’

Photo credit: Tours 4 Fun

Life is a mystical mystery.

Pisces rising on the horizon of my year ahead.

Oceans surround my soul with a flow of spiritual and mystical possibilities.

Dreams clouded with deception.

Family is everything.

Distortions heal and pieces of the soul puzzle come together.

Life is a mystical mystery.

Intuition heightens and guides me towards purpose.

-Mary Beth Bender