Living mindfully with Monica

Monica is the talent behind Mindfully Travel, a site where she discusses her passions for a wide array of art and cultural expressions, including travel, mindfulness, yoga, and fashion. Plus, she offers coaching on what she’s termed “mindful marketing” for those inspired to develop a brand that has real purpose at its core. Check that out here.

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So, to get started I’d love to hear about this mélange of work you do. How do all these aspects play into your life?

It most certainly looks like I’m a “Jane of All Trades” on paper, no? I think I’m drawn to certain areas and walks of life depending on who I meet and where I find myself mentally, emotionally, geographically, and so on.

Can you tell me what inspired you to pursue travel and fashion? And where did your interest in mindfulness come from?

My love for travel is definitely rooted in family. I’m blessed to have parents that opened the windows of the world to my brother and I at a very young age. I’ve always been drawn to learning languages and different cultures; so, traveling to different places has always been appealing. I remember being about 6 years old and taking the Italian pocket dictionary from my grandpa’s bookshelf to try to learn certain words to speak in Italian with him. I used to snatch his newspaper and try to read the ads in Spanish, too.

I became more interested in the fashion world after moving to Europe. I just kind of found myself in the fashion community in my mid-twenties and started connecting with people internationally. My interest in mindfulness was inspired from the beginnings of my yoga journey. I started practicing hot yoga, which rather quickly opened my eyes to this epic way of connecting your mind and body.

FiDi, NYC

From my point of view, you seem to be leading a pretty idyllic life—the type people dream of, with adventure and creativity and passion. How did you go about achieving this? There’s definitely no clear cut how-to path here. There must have been a leap of faith taken at some point, can you tell me about this?

Pretty profound question! As they say, “The grass is greener where you water it.”

As amazing as social media is, it can have a pretty negative impact on the ego: it’s easy to get caught up in everyone else’s business because, well, it’s readily available and right in front of you.

Anyone that knows me knows that family is a priority for me. I attended a commuter college to be closer to my family, and my time in Spain was only supposed to last the 9-month school year, but…life happens. It’s not easy to miss out on the milestones and special occasions of the people you love, and a lot of work goes into maintaining the sufficient funds — not only to travel and see the world — but to be able to spend some time with the people you love.

I’d say a strong support network is important. Support and acceptance from family, friends, employers and coworkers is what has made that leap of faith easier to take.

Do you have a “typical” work day, or does it vary based on your projects?

I usually begin working mid-afternoon, but if I take on other clients, I need to set some time aside in the morning to get things done.

I’m excited to be able to combine all of my years (and different paths) of studies into my mindful marketing venture. I see it as an effective way to able to use social networking and branding to the best of its abilities while acknowledging the human beings behind the avatars.

What’s a piece of advice you wish you had known when you started on this journey of yours?

I say this now in my professional life:

It’s not so much focusing on the win as it is focusing in the race. As an American, competition is ingrained in our culture. We need to be the best, have the best, look the best, etc. Don’t always believe what you see/read (Isn’t it crazy that even Google and Facebook publish fake “trending” news?!). Strive to be the best version of yourself everyday, and don’t stress or put pressure on yourself when the “off” days arise — they happen to everyone!

I think that’s why so many people are burned out by the time they reach their thirties. Take the good with the bad, and always keep moving forward. Life is about the experiences and the people you have them with.

How has yoga and the spirituality of the practice impacted your life?

Yoga has given me a deeper look into my inner self. The best part about it is that even when you’re out of sync or haven’t practiced regularly, yoga will always take you back. You experience the benefits right away. Yoga won’t tell you what to do, but will give you the space to become aware of what you’re doing.

I’d also have to add it has introduced me to a pretty amazing community of people, many of whom I am honored to call my friends.

backyard meditation

Do you engage in other, complimentary spiritual practices? If so, can you explain?

I am a spiritual person and most definitely believe that there is something way, way bigger than us. I was raised Catholic and relate to Catholicism, though I don’t attend mass as often as I probably should. I do enjoy learning about other world religions, and in recent years have been drawn to Buddhist teachings.

What does your morning routine consist of, if you have one? Any must-dos?

I have to admit that the earlier I get up the more accomplished I feel, but if I can sleep and wake up when my body is ready, that’s what I do. I drink water first thing and take my elixir of herbs and spices (turmeric and oil of oregano). This drink is so important because it means I’m starting my day by doing something for myself: replenishing and re-hydrating the body .

Any mantras or quotes you ascribe to?

Yes!! Ready? Okay, so I have a lot of these saved on Stickies so I can read them from time to time:

“You will ‘find’ time for anything. If you want time you must make it.”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
-Nelson Mandela

“Knowing is knowing. Doing is doing. But knowing is not doing.”

And, my personal favorite mantra,

Happiness is essential.

Favourite books/podcasts/other media you recommend?

Hmm, my friend recently recommended Pod Save America, which is great if you want a more entertaining way to know what the heck is even going on in terms of politics and America.

I have a list of books I’m looking to read, two of which were recommended by an international acquaintance: The Culture Map by Erin Meyer and When Cultures Collide by Richard D. Lewis.

Finally, I just wanted to bring up the idea of travel nowadays, I find it’s so easy to get caught up in the documenting of the trip (the selfies, the instagram-ing, etc.) that the actual experience of travel itself can be watered down. It’s as if the capturing of the moment is top priority, taking a backseat to the actual moment in front of us. Given your website is titled Mindfully Travel, how would you suggest we avoid this? Do you have a number one tip for getting the most out of travel?

Of course you’d want to snap a picture to have a memento or tell the world about finally achieving a goal or dream of yours. If you really want to deepen the experience try to check in with yourself, starting from the ground up. Be aware of where your feet are planted, how the ground below feels (or doesn’t!) and work your way up. Stay present, wherever you are.

Finally, on a broader spectrum, do you have a key tip for getting the most out of life? How can we all begin to incorporate mindfulness, right away?

Be nice and stay grateful! Remember that the good and the bad both come and go, but always express gratitude. It’s the attitude, after all!

Want to start mindfulness now? Have you noticed how many breaths you’ve taken while reading this? Most likely not (don’t worry, me neither!). Start by drawing your awareness to your breath.

Grand Canyon, AZ

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