THIS IS MY WHY.

Dayka Robinson This Is Why 2016

When I was 22 I was in a relationship with someone who told me my hands looked like "slave hands".

It was said as a "joke" but he didn't mean this as a term of endearment...and I certainly didn't receive it as one. It was many years later before I was able to call it what it really was--a comment meant to be funny at the expense of my self esteem. Keep in mind this was someone I'd known for a very long time. Someone who said he loved me. Someone I shared a bed & my body with. Someone who wanted to be my husband. Can you imagine what it's like to be in relationship with someone who helps you dislike parts of your body that you didn't even know were up for critique?? I pray to God you never have to find out.

It was easy to walk away pointing the finger at all of his faults but many years later it hit me--he was never my real issue. It was me all along. My issue was that I wasn't appalled enough to leave at the first signs of bad behavior. That I didn't throw him the deuces when he casually mentioned that an ex-girlfriend (whom we both had restraining orders against) was prettier than me. And that I didn't bounce when he squeezed his hands around my neck in a fit of rage one summer afternoon. Did he have his own issues? Absolutely. But they were his to uncover & heal--his and his alone. But what makes still makes me cry for that young woman is that she didn't KNOW BETTER. That no one specifically taught her about the depth of her worth but instead, like most young women, assumed she knew because she fit a few superficial social markers: she came from an educated family with "good jobs". She went to GATE schools and took AP classes. She was exposed to different cultures and experienced the luxury of traveling to new horizons. But those things didn't automatically translate into knowledge of self because, as I can now confirm with all certainty, job titles, social classifications & educational degrees don't mean shit when it comes to  recognizing your own worth. So she made up her own rules as she went along. She thought holding onto her virginity, getting a Spelman degree & having the courage to speak her mind made her someone special...someone of value. She didn't understand that we don't BECOME special--that there is nothing we can do to BE special because every single one of us is special by sheer virtue of being alive. The only thing "specialness" requires is breath in your body. It would take her many, many years to understand that...and to learn to let go of the things she'd been holding onto that were never hers to carry in the first place.

When I talk about Personal Empowerment, it comes a deeply personal place. It's not just a rallying cry for me--it's how I've made sense of my life experiences and it's the gift that's enabled me to take painful stories & transform them into teachable lessons...both for myself and for others. It's helped me heal and tell a different story about so many situations I've experienced. But do not be fooled--the Dayka you see now is someone I've had to intentionally GROW INTO over the years. I was the girl who never really felt like she fit in with the other kids. I was the girl who was never "chosen" by the popular guys. I wasn't having sex, didn't cut class (mama did NOT play that) and didn't drink or smoke weed. I was just there, in plain sight, desperately wanting to be seen. So I spent the early part of my life trying to be different than who I naturally was because I didn't feel like I was good enough with my brown skin, "weird" name, "broken" family, assertive personality and borderline "acceptable" address (being one of only a few black girls in my classes throughout elementary, middle & high school didn't help, either). And because I didn't feel like I fit in, I tried to find ways to make myself smaller than I was because...well, that's just what we do when we think there's something wrong with who we are--we try to find ways to blend in & disappear. Why? Because I didn't know my own worth. I thought my success lie in trying to shave down my edges & round off my corners instead of uncovering new ways to accentuate those unique features. Eventually--and luckily--I found my way though.

And here's why I'm sharing all of this with you:

The early part of my life had to be exactly what it was so that it could prepare me to become who I am today (and who I'm yet growing into). Yes, I'm a designer but I'm also a woman who's incredibly passionate about personal responsibility and self empowerment, especially as it pertains to women.  Why? Because we are often taught--and even encouraged--to shrink. Don't be too confident. Don't talk too much. Don't curse. Pull your skirt down. Be nice. Keep the kids well dressed. Make a fresh meal every night. Look like you did at 17. Polish your nails. Be agreeable. Don't intimidate a man. Don't talk too much about your accomplishments. Put some earrings on. Keep the house clean. Take pride in "keeping your man". Be sweet. Don't ask for too much. Be a freak in bed. Make sure your pedicure is on point. Keep a Brazilian. Be humble. Wait your turn. Don't sleep with too many men. Get along with the group. Don't be so assertive. Be grateful you have a man. Look pretty. Don't be a know-it-all. And be quiet. OMG, it's straight up exhausting! And when we grow up being bombarded with these messages, it dulls our ability to trust in ourselves & our natural instincts. And let me tell you, a lack of trust never, ever turns out well. In any situation.

We learn to shrink at home, we learn it in school, we learn it from our fathers, brothers & boyfriends, we learn it from our mothers, colleagues at work & women in our social circles. But it's time to start unlearning some of that stuff if you truly intend on embodying your highest vision of yourself. And here's the catch: only you can do this unlearning for yourself. It is not your parent's job, your best friend's job or your spouse's responsibility to make you feel good about who you really are. That is purely an inside job, my little sugar muffin. Making someone responsible for your wholeness is too much power to give any one person (or group of people) over your life. And once I really understood this--realizing that I didn't have to wait for other people to change because I could change MYSELF, a whole new world opened up to me. There may have been certain things I feel like I didn't learn in childhood but those very things have become my platform NOW (Looka Gawd!). To remember that at ALL times, it is not only my right but my responsibility to EMPOWER MYSELF. To make choices that are soul affirming. To stand in my power at all times and not hand it over to someone else. To fill in my own gaps and not expect someone else to do it for me. And to remember that the only things I really need are the things that come from within.

So back to him. If I had truly known my worth from the beginning, we wouldn't have been together in the first place. And that's the real truth--it's the responsibility that I OWN about my involvement in that relationship. And once I had the courage to be honest with myself & acknowledge that I simply PUT UP with too much for too long because I didn't know better, something just shifted. I was able to release him from the story I'd been telling (his fault! his fault! his fault!) and start to do the work that really mattered--my own. Is it easier--and more socially acceptable--to blame him for the negative parts of our experience? Of course--because society tends to love a "he done me wrong" narrative. But taking responsibility does not look like me regurgitating all of the ways I thought he fell short or pointing out all of the ways I thought he should have shown up better. Instead, it means asking one simple question:

What was it about you that made you decide that kind of behavior was okay in the first place??

And answering that question, my friends, is where the real work starts.

There was a time many years ago when I didn't know better but now I do. And I want you to know better, too.

This is my Why.

I'M COMING CLEAN: THE TRUTH ABOUT MY WORK.

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I’ve been hiding something I need to be honest about.

For the past 10 months I haven’t really been telling the full, unadulterated truth.

Partly because I thought I needed to ease myself into it.

Partly because I was waiting for more answers.

Mostly because it’s another turning point in my life…and turning points can feel scary.

It’s just so much easier to keep going forward when you think you know exactly what the road ahead holds.

But of course, that's some straight up bullshit 'cause

we NEVER really know about the journey ahead with absolute certainty.

And now I've come to the point where

the thought of

staying still right where I am is more uncomfortable than the thought of just saying what needs to be said.

So here's my truth:

I love interior design.

I believe the real impact of design is much deeper than beautiful drapery & rich pillows & imported rugs & handmade tiles...

but I love those aspects of it too.

I love how it feels to create spaces that make people say,

"This is exactly what I wanted, I just didn't know how to tell you."

I love that I've made a space for myself out of thin air. I didn't fill someone's job description and what I'm doing--

who I am + HOW I'm doing it

-

-didn't exist until I was born.

I'm pretty damn proud of that.

Hear me again: MY BUSINESS LITERALLY DIDN'T EXIST UNTIL I CREATED IT.

I love that I've been able to make a name for myself as a designer--that

people have found value in the service I provide and that I've created work I can take pride in.

I've designed amazing things with great companies and been exposed to some opportunities that I never, ever imagined myself having.

I like design a lot. I'll even say that I love design. 

But I'm not obsessed with it. 

I don't think about the blind spots to my design approach while I'm driving around.

I don't obsessively read every design book by every famous designer that's ever been published because I don't even own most of them.

Matter of fact, I really 

couldn't 

care less.

My design magazines come in the mail and pile up for months because I don't immediately devour them to make style notebooks like I used to in the early days.

I no longer aim to fill my calendar with every 

single design event

 in Atlanta.

I don't stay 

in the know

 on all of the design blogger news and professional industry "scuttlebutt".

Something indeed, has shifted.

I like design. I even love design. But I'm just not 

there

 anymore.

I've grown.

I know without a doubt that my greatest work is 

the work that is yet ahead of me

--the work that's been waiting ever so patiently to be created. It revolves around

Personal Empowerment, Personal Responsibility, Honesty, Authenticity and specifically, the Empowerment of Women

(it's some serious work--it needs to be capitalized).

I think about it all of the time. 

I read about it all of the time.

I talk about it all of the time.

 (if you've ever had more than a 30 minute conversation with me, you can vouch for this!)

I write about it.

I post on social media about it.

I unpack it endlessly with my closest friends.

We could be talking about a combination of

your medical history, a 1964 Mustang, the weather in Istanbul & the benefits of Kale as a super green

and I promise you--somehow, someway, I will bring that conversation back to

Personal Empowerment.

It's just how my mind makes sense of the world.

Telling the truth. Owning your own shit. Self care. Making empowering decisions. Personal responsibility. THESE are the things I want to spend my life working on.

I want to speak to groups, conferences & students to remind them that Personal Power is a Personal Job.

Coach women on uncovering & staying in alignment with their deepest values.

Write books on how & the why.

Host retreats for women fostering authentic connections & empowered living.

Author articles.

And boldly explore the corners of this world both on my own & with groups of courageous women.

 Annnnnndddddd....you know what??

I want to design some beautiful spaces here & there, too.

A few super cool projects every year for

wonderful, bad ass clients with great budgets who love me, love my approach and TRUST me to do my thing.

Wait--did you expect me to say I was quitting design?? 

No--that's not exactly where I was going with this.

It's more about

being radically honest with myself AND with you.

And to serve as your personal reminder that

life WILL change...and when it does it's so much easier to go where it is taking you than to fight against it.

Nine times out of ten it will lead you to the place you most want to be anyhow, you just don't know it in this moment. 

So just relax & go with the flow.

Trust me on this.

Yes, I still want to take on some design projects, but I'm looking for

the RIGHT people

and

the RIGHT projects.

Cool projects, good budgets, funny, fun, quirky, interesting people...

the kind of folks that carry their own pixie dust and know it.

The kind I wrote about in this post.

And since I'm being so honest, let me just keep it 1000:

It takes courage to turn business away when a glance at your bank statement reminds you that the easy way out is to betray yourself & just take the money anyway.

It's one thing to 

talk

 about taking a stand for yourself & ONLY doing work you really love with people you really want to work with but....

actually doing it??

This is a completely different ballgame, my friends.

It's scary and empowering. Crazy and commendable. The kinda work that will put a bit of hair on your chest.

There's no husband, partner, or sugar daddy over here to share the load--just me by myself (and God!) doing the very best I can to make it happen. Every.single.day.

Me & my

ballsy self.

Getting clear about your values, about who you are and then living in a way that conveys 

personal integrity

 is at the very core of sharing this publicly.

Showing up for MYSELF. Making sure that

who I ACTUALLY AM and who I SAY I AM are the exact same woman.

This is some boss work, my friends, and while it may not be for everybody.....

IT IS FOR ME.

THIS IS MY JOURNEY.

So here's what I'm looking for:

If you're in need of design services--residential design, commercial design or brand -- you've got a few dollars to spend and *you're super cool, I'd love to hear from you.

It could be a small project, a big project, a production project--but it must be interesting. Let's do something bold and have fun! Y

ou should be ready & willing to hire a designer and most importantly, you should want to work with ME, specifically.

If you fit the bill, send me an email at

dayka@daykarobinsondesigns.com

or leave your info below and let's see how we can create magic together.

If you are a woman who could use a little bit of my Personal Empowerment pixie dust--who's ready to evolve to the next level but isn't quite sure how to do it, who knows you've got some blind spots & you're ready face them head on, I'd LOVE to hear from you.

I'd love to work with you and help you learn how to empower YOURSELF in a way that feels right for you.

No more stories about him.

About her.

About what happened. About why it sucked. About why the business isn't working. About why you can't do whatever it is that you know you're supposed to be doing right now.

Just you

--

right where you are, right here & right now

--

and me together, working together to move you forward into who you KNOW you're destined to be.

If I'm talking to you, please drop me a line.

Or if you're comfortable, leave your info below & I'll send you an email.

I would LOVE to work with you.

L.O.V.E. And if you're not sure that I'm talking to you, here's how to know:

if you're reading this and getting a tingle then yeah, I'm talking to you.

When you know that you know, you KNOW.

In the meantime,

thank you for your support.

For reading my words & sharing them with your friends, for hiring me to design your most intimate spaces & for always, aways ALWAYS cheering me on.

It means more than I could ever adequately express.

Trust me when I say this is only the beginning.

**

And FYI, you cannot vouch for your own cool factor--someone must have actually TOLD YOU that you were cool. Folk need to be vetted!! ;-) 

**

MASTER P SAID TO GET YOUR MIND RIGHT. HERE ARE 10 BOOKS THAT WILL HELP.

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There aren't many opportunities to walk around quoting Master P but as a woman who spent much of her Spelman matriculation wanting to be the California version of a "No Limit Soldier", when an opportunity presents itself--I'm gonna take it. And if you don't know who he is that's okay--I promise you'll still get something out of this. 

P wasn't lying when he said to "get your mind" right. HOW you think and WHAT you think about will literally determine the entire course of your life--it's a proven scientific fact. And I know that sounds all hellfire & brimstone-ish but...it kinda is. As Oprah & I like to stress, you are responsible for your life. And your thoughts? They really do become things. If you think it's impossible or too hard, if you think you're not good enough, not pretty enough, too dark, too pale, too chunky or too...whatever, then your life is gonna reflect exactly that. 'Cause like the old folks used to say, you can't get sugar outta shit. You just can't.

I wasn't born to parents who pushed me to defy convention. Instead they were both traditionally educated & traditionally employed so what they knew to teach me was what THEY knew---the traditional route. Get a degree.Be an employee. Start a 401K. Play it safe. Color inside the lines. And there's nothing specifically wrong with those things...except that that route wasn't actually MY calling. Yes, I did what I was told--got the degree, did my bid in corporate America, stashed some money in a 401K--but when I started to spread my wings it quickly became clear that the wind was taking me in a different direction--one in which they hadn't been & that, to a certain extent, they couldn't help me with.  At some point I had to start taking responsibility for the dreams that were calling but between some limiting beliefs I'd learned at home and other falsehoods I'd picked up from old friends &  loves, I was definitely carrying some stuff that didn't belong to me. The day finally came, though, when I was ready to choose better thoughts. So I put my beloved fiction novels aside & started to read more non-fiction, practical books that could help bridge the gap between where I was & where I wanted to be. Books that would give me an empowering new outlook on the things I DID know & to help me learn the things I didn't yet know. And this was not a one-time move, mind you. Like, you can't just read a few books & think "Ok, now I'm good!!" Nah, boo. It takes time, effort & consistency to rewrite those old stories & change the negative loop that invariably says I never get picked.Success won't happen for me. I need to be different than who/what I am to be accepted. Renewing your mind is a DAILY process--not something you can quickly do while on vacation or in between commercial breaks of your favorite show. 

The number one question I get from people is HOW??How can I be more confident in my work? How do I find the right clients? How do I charge what I'm worth? How do I take the first step to do what what is calling me? And my answer is alllllllllways the same: Read. Read. And read some more.  Because Yeah, sometimes you'll need the practical know-how to get from point A to point B but most of the time...what we really need to learn are the basics: to believe in ourselves more, be comfortable in making mistakes, have the courage to tell the truth. And no amount of money or accolades can make those things happen.

So here's a list of 10 of the books I always recommend to people--the ones that helped me get MY mind right. I like to read them again every few years or will revisit a specific title depending on what's going on in my life so these are also the ones I never lend out! Each time I read I write the date inside the cover & all of my notes/underlines in each book help me act like a journal of my life . FYI, this list isn't in order of importance & it is by no means an exhaustive--just a few of the ones that come up most frequently!  

  1. Tiny Beautiful things: Advice on love & life from Dear Sugar, Cheryl Strayed.It's not thekinda book that normally makes a top 10 list but I LOVE this one. I didn't read Wild & didn't know much about her before I saw the movie but her her advice & feedback in this book is so spot on. It's direct, it's funny & but most importantly, it's honest & thoughtful. The exact kind of advice that resonates with me most. Everyone should have a friend like this who owns her own shit & will also call you on yours.
  2. A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson. I refer to this like a Bible! A great book about shifting your thoughts & perceptions from fear-based thinking to love-based thinking....wherein, we each find the miracles.
  3. The Motivation Manifesto, Brendon Burchard. As the intro begs, Why, having been endowed with the courageous heart of a lion, do we live as mice? Thoughtful read on what it REALLY takes to govern your own life.
  4. The Game of Life & How to Play It, Florence Scovel Shinn. The best way to describe the premise of this book is, "change what you see and what you see will change." It's an attitude-shifter & has been a popular title since it's original 1925 publication.
  5. The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz. Ruiz asks us to make 4 agreements to ourselves as a means of experiencing the greatest level of personal freedom. 2 of them, Don't take anything personal and Don't make assumptions have definitely changed my life and have been pivital in teaching me that what other people do is never, ever ever about me. Not to be missed.
  6. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho. The phrases It is written and The Universe always conspires in your favor are each written almost 10 times throughout this book. A great story about the importance of following your heart & paying attention to omens in your life. And dare I say...an essential book to read.
  7. Peace From Broken Pieces, Iyanla Vanzant. There couldn't have been a better title for this book! I loved reading Iyanla retell the major stories of her life as she unpacked her own unconscious pathologies--around her relationships with her family, men, her children, the evolution of her work & how things went so wrong in her partnership with Oprah. If you're honest with yourself, you might see some of your own stuff show up in her story, too.
  8. The Courage to Be Yourself, Sue Patton Thoele. I.am.obsessed.with.this.book!!! Written specifically to a female audience, it's really about having/gaining the courage to live boldly with emotional strength & self-esteem. And yes, these are things most of us tend to think we have but there are so many ways--consciously & unconsciously--that we as women give our power up! Sue will get you back on track in line.
  9. The Power of Purpose, Richard J. Leider.One of the better books I've read about seeking meaning beyond yourself (in work) and the thoughtful process of choosing how to best use your gifts to serve others. It's an easy, practical read and, IMO, a worthwhile one.
  10. The Untethered Soul, Michael A. Singer.I'm obsessed with Singer's 2nd book, The Surrender Experiment, but I picked his first title since everything started here. And you'll understand the telling of his own story better if you understand the view from which he lives. It's all about freeing your mind from the "habitual thoughts, emotions & energy patterns that limit your consciousness." But if you decided to read The Surrender Experiment first, I wouldn't be mad--both books are so, so good.

What titles have mattered most to you??

JUNE CHALLENGE: DOING WHAT MATTERS MOST

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June is here!! We're officially halfway through 2016 and just as it happens every year, I'm looking up thinking, "Where has the time gone??!".

When January slides in it feels like 12 months--hell, even 6 months--is a loooonnngggg way away.  And then before I know it, the Atlanta weather is sticky, everyone's showing off their summer bodies & I start taking stock of what I've accomplished since the beginning of the year. I'm normally a "6 month goal check-in!" kinda gal but this year I've decided to mark this halfway point by doing something radical: I've made a personal commitment to spend the next 30 days doing the things that matter most. And just what makes this simple idea radical?? The fact that I spend a lot of time doing OTHER things that keep me "busy". I do the things I THINK I should be done (post here, create more engagement there, figure out how to monetize X, get more clients/more money, etc.) but to be honest, I don't always feel like I'm doing the RIGHT things. And in this case, the "right" things are the ones that matter to & for me BEYOND the snappy business advice....the things that speak to who I am as a person. I've been on a wheel of what feels like a lot of DOING--trying to "make" or "force" things to happen--versus just BEING, which means working according to flow and moving inRIGHT action. All of this "busy-ness" is actually counterintuitive to how I believe the world turns and how I should believe my life should work. So I figured it's time to line up with what I believe. There's nothing wrong with having a full calendar (I detest the word "busy"), but too often I think we fall victim to filling the holes just to fill the holes. Or at least I have. Like there's something wrong with silence spaces or doing the work that comes easy. The need to DO all the time makes it seem like there's one tried & true route to "success" when there's not--and by working in a way that feeds into the myth, I feel like I'm abandoning the things that really matter for what "the world" says is right. Which doesn't make sense because my beliefs are metaphysical in nature (stay with me here). So I'm calling bullshit on myself. I want to be in the flow of allowing and inspired action...and because of that,I'm taking a step back. Doing less to do more. 

 I've decided not to waste my time "checking back over my 2016 goals" or mapping out more things to do before the calendar year escapes my grasp. I know that a lot of what I really need to be doing right now is WRITING. About secrets. love. entrepreneurship. business advice. confidence. staying in your own lane. making room for God. I have a lot I want to talk about! And a lot I want to hear from YOU about! For years I've believed that being successful in business is related to how much I'm worth as evidenced by how many clients I have at any given moment & how much they're each paying me--you know, what i'm doing to make the machine run. But when I think about how I really want to be spending my days, the kind of work I really want to be doing, who I most want to work with & the kind of legacy that I most want to leave, I know it's about building a special kind of COMMUNITY. And as a result, there's always a single refrain running through my mind: Write. Write. Write. So that's what I'm committing to do this month. 6 blog posts. And that may not seem like a big deal to you but because it's the thing I think I run from the most (which is odd because it's also one of the things I want to do the most) 6 is me really pushing myself to put pen to paper over the next 30 days. To stop putting off the inspired ideas for the ones I THINK are "best" because I'm trying to force what I think is right (what the "experts" say & what other people are doing). Because what's really right for me a this moment, is to write (as much as 6 scares me). And to know that I'll meet who I need to meet, travel where I'm supposed to travel and create what I'm supposed to create but in a more meaningful way--all because I listened to my heart. 

So that's my plan for my "6 month business check-in":

focus on what matters most

. And my question for you is this:

Is there something you'd LIKE me to write about?? A question you've been wanting to ask me or something you'd like my take on?

If so, leave it in the comments below...or email me if that makes you feel more comfortable. dayka@daykarobinsondesigns.com

Happy June!

IT'S HARDER TO IGNORE A CALL THAN TO ANSWER IT.

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On 3 separate occasions last week, I spoke with different friends who shared with me that they felt themselves being called to do something....and yet they didn't do it. For 2 of the people, not following that calling was creating situations where they felt stuck or unhappy. For the other person, not following his calling resulted in a life-changing circumstance. These callings weren't about following their passions in their work life (matter of fact, all of them are doing just that!), but were instead soul callings, where they felt themselves being internally drawn/called to do something new. Things that, on the surface, felt frightening because the urgings were requiring them to let go of something old & comfortable. To leave a job. To tell a secret. To be sexually adventurous. To end a relationship. To ask for what they needed.

But the thing about "losing" is this--we never really lose anything.  Something more tailored always comes a long--a situation, a person, a lesson--that is just the thing you need to help you grow into a fuller/deeper/higher version of you. But when you're in the transition phase, it just feels like you're losing out on the thing you're familiar with to walk into something unknown...where being supported doesn't feel like a guarantee. Life is always calling you to evolve & pushing you toward something greater--I just believe that our souls are wired that way. So it's actually harder to ignore a call than to answer it because the thing about questions is, they never go away. Think you can move to a new city to escape it? Here comes the question right behind you. Think you can drown it out with an engagement ring? The question will be right there at the alter. Think you can just keep your head down & try to make yourself just BE okay? Well the question will be the 2nd (or 3rd!) person getting in bed with you every night. Because the questions/longings/urgings are there for a reason.

I question myself about this all of the time--not in a judgemental way, but as a check in. Am I here because I want to be? Is this really what I want to do? Am I trying to avoid the thing I KNOW I need to do? Because I know I won't lie to myself about the answer. I'd be untruthful if I said that I always leap the minute a new opportunity appears because I don't--I feel afraid sometimes too. But for me, I see my fears as signs of the things that I MUST do next because my beliefs remind me that there's really nothing to be afraid of. And I'm not talking about the "don't go down that alley" fear, but the "don't take THAT client/write THAT article/tell THAT story" kinda fears...the false kind. I know those signs are markers for my next evolution and I try my damndest to do just that.

I remember the questions that ate away at me in both of my relationships & the more I tried to drown them out, the louder the noise got.  And as the noise got louder it just tainted everything that was once beautiful because staying with someone/in a job/in a city/in a friendship where your BODY is actually telling you you don't belong just robs you of the desire to remember what was once so good about it. You deserve better--and the other person/job/location deserves someone who wants to be there as well. And in that way, it's harder to ignore a call than to answer it. If something is calling you, know that it's there for a reason. The call is really a glimmer of something greater that could be possible for you....if you allow it to be so. 

image via blackcitygirl.com

HOW I TRAVELED TO ISTANBUL & PARIS ON $2000

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8 days in Europe for around $2000??  It's absolutely possible and actually quite easy! My entire trip cost me under $2000 (I still have about 80 Euro in my wallet!) and is by far, one of the best investments I've ever made in myself. Here's what my trip actually cost:

Airfare $790. Istanbul accommodations $357. Culinary Tour $125. Paris Accommodations $150. Gifts $250. Entrance fees, books, jewelry, spices/teas/soaps, coat, personal                       items $270. Food $150. Transportation $139.Total $2231. (*yes it's over $2k but since the gifts weren't a necessity, this is doable for under $2k)

Here's what I did:

  1. Stayed flexible. I knew I wanted to go in August since I'd originally planned to go with the group around the same time, but I wasn't set on any dates. When searching for the best flight deals, the key is to be flexible. If you're tied to specific months/flight times, it might be better to bite the bullet and pay for a regular ticket because the chances of finding exactly what you want at a price you can handle may be slim. Staying open--and allowing your plans to change accordingly--will grant you access to the best deals.
  2. Istanbul Omer Hayyam 2015
  3. Used resources that were already available. There's really no need to reinvent the wheel because there are already TONS of sites across the web dedicated to travel deals--use them! My absolute favorite is Travel Noire through which I've found quite a few websites that can help you score a deal. One such site is The Flight Deal where I found my ticket at the beginning of July for my August departure. With taxes/fees plus the additional travel insurance I purchased (ALWAYS get travel insurance...don't skimp here!), my ticket came to $790 which is almost HALF OFF of what I'd found on my own. The ticket had been running around $1500 for months. The Flight Deal requires you to use ITA software matrix to get the codes for the best deals (you'll need to follow the directions as listed on The Flight Deal) but it's not that difficult & absolutely worth the time it takes to lock in the best deal. My ticket was booked through Priceline and I flew Delta which also allowed me to accumulate Skymiles for my trip, so my vacation is helping me earn a free ticket to go somewhere else, too. And sidetone: don't think you need to be 6 weeks out from departure to find a great deal--the earliest availability was actually for the end of July, but I couldn't make that itinerary work with my schedule.
  4. Istanbul Turkish Flavors Tour 2015 Dayka Robinson
  5. Booked my accommodations through Air BNB.I am OBSESSED with this site! I'd heard of it for years but didn't use it until my trip to NYC last year when I wanted to stay on my own in the city, versus with friends/family. I immediately fell in love. If you love staying in a place that feels a little more like home, having access to personal restaurant/tourist recommendations from your host, and living in a neighborhood that gives you a more intimate experience of your destination, then Air BNB is right for you. You can share a space, rent a room or an entire home--whatever your preference according to what you'd like to spend! I've used this service 3 times now and I only rent an entire home when I travel since I don't want to think about coming in/out with another person there. I also pick my accommodations according to the number of reviews a listing has & only book places with a MINIMUM of (10) 5 star reviews.  Depending on your destination, the accommodations can be incredibly inexpensive, too.  I found this place in Istanbul which was close to Taksim Square, Galata Bridge, the Old City & Istikal Street for only $47/night. Yup, you read that right--$47/night, and since Istanbul sees a ton of tourist traffic in August, that's actually the high season rate (rates go as low as $37). Was my budget limited to $50/night? No--but it's great to know that traveling on a smaller budget is totally possible to do here. I did look at a few more expensive places but when I realized it was possible to get a nice place at a much better rate, it just didn't make sense to pay $200/night for an apartment I'd spend little time in. Again, my intention is to invest in experiences. ;-) In the end, this studio apartment was absolutely the right choice for me. Onat, the host, had 85 stellar reviews for this apartment (and 510 in total!) from people all across the world which sealed the deal for me and after having stayed there, I'm so glad I did. He gave me exact directions to where I wanted to go. Told me about a few restaurants off the beaten path that locals loved.  As an added bonus, he owns a cafe right next door to the apartment so we spent a lot of time talking during my trip & became very good friends!  My tips for Air BNB? Book early if you can (I didn't, but it will ensure the best availability). Complete your profile and let the host know what's bringing you to their city (keep in mind that you're a stranger to them!). Take time to scour the reviews and if people say a place doesn't need air condition, pay attention to whether they're from the US or not, as standards of living vary across the world. Make sure your host has a 100% response rate. Look for hosts that go above & beyond (this depends on your needs but since I was traveling alone in a foreign country, I needed someone who was available 24/7. Onat was perfect!). Keep in mind that the neighborhoods may be very different than what you're used to back home but just because they're old doesn't mean they're dangerous.
  6. Grand Bazaar Istanbul 2015 Dayka Robinson
  7. Utilize Trip Advisor. Another site I live by, even when I travel in the States. I love sites with user reviews and for travel, this one is probably the best out there. I found Turkish Flavours, the company that led my culinary tour, through Trip Advisor and they did NOT disappoint--there's a reason they're # 1! If you're wanting to know about restaurants, top tourist sites, cruises, etc., definitely peruse Trip Advisor for the traveler tips/reviews of your destination. As I've previously mentioned, that $125 was some of the best money I've spent on a tour and really gave me a wider understanding of Turkish culture. I'd originally planned to do a tour of the historic sites but as the days went on I felt more comfortable navigating the city/transit system and decided to just tackle them on my own. Instead, I hired a taxi driver to drive me around the city for a little over an hour and we went into areas I never would've seen on my own, which cost me about $30 USD. Definitely worth the money.
  8. Consider the exchange rate. I didn't research it at all before I settled on a destination but part of the reason my trip was such a steal was because the USD to Turkish Lira (TL) exchange rate is awesome right now. $1 USD=2.8 TL, so as you can imagine, my money went far! Charlene, the Spelman woman that I met in Istanbul (see my Instagram post) said I kept cracking her up as we walked the Grand Bazaar because I kept whipping out my phone anytime someone started naming prices so I'd know how to negotiate. I kept having to remind myself, "150TL is only $53 USD Dayka--that's a deal!". So if you want to really stretch your trip, go somewhere where the USD will go far. For me, Turkey couldn't have been a better destination. The Euro in Paris is actually stronger than the USD so your money won't go quite as far there. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't go.
  9. Be intentional about what you really need. A key part of trip planning for me--or embarking on anything new that I really want--is to set my intentions about who I want to be/how I want to show up/what I want to do/how I want to feel in the midst of my experience. Since I'm in a phase where I'm currently decluttering my belongings and getting rid of a ton of stuff to really live with the things I love, I also made an intention about my vacation purchases as well. Did I see lots of cool things that I could've brought back a souvenirs? Most definitely. But I really don't need a miniature statue of the Hagia Sofia, post cards from the Blue Mosque or keychains that say "Istikal"....they aren't things I would ever display in my home so I kept asking myself, "How are you going to use that? Where are you going to put that?". Instead of wasting money on things I'd never use once I got home, I invested in things I love and actually would use like fresh spices & teas from the Spice Market, a lot of of beautiful Bronze jewelry, a few 100% olive oil soaps and some Pink Himalayan Salt Bars which I was introduced to on my trip. So being mindful about what you really need and how you want to remember your trip will drastically cut down on your expenses. Don't just buy something to bring it home so you can tell people you bought it in Turkey. You don't NEED to buy a pair of shoes in Paris.
  10. Dayka & Ayanna Paris 2015-5
  11. Use cash. I left the US with $300 dollars and used an ATM twice while in Turkey to get 1,000 TL  out each time ($357 USD) so I had a total of $1,014 during my trip. The only time I used my card while I was gone was at the ATM and to purchase tickets for the train in Paris. Other than that, cash was king. This helped me to keep a watchful eye on my expenditures and ensured that I always had sufficient cash on hand to hail a taxi in a moment's notice (I didn't notice any taxi's accepting debit cards). I used this money throughout Istanbul & Paris (though I did lose some money when I had to exchange the TL to Euros). In general, I think having cash just makes it easier to get around but then there's also this: at one very small, local kebob shop in Istanbul, I saw a British man going back & forth with the owners because his debit card had been overcharged and due to the language barrier, no one really understood each other. Because they couldn't get on the same page, he eventually just gave up and left but I wondered how often that happens when you try to use a debit card in a foreign country.  Had he used cash, he could've been sure of the total amount upfront & avoided this situation all together.
  12. Dayka Robinson Locks on Seine 2015
  13. Selected a flight with a stopover. So the Paris portion of my trip was actually a 24 hour stopover, but there was no extra fee for the extended layover--because of the flight I selected it was included in the original $790 fee. Taking advantage of this stopover gave me an opportunity to have a full day/night in a second European city (Paris, at that!) en route back to Atlanta. When you're selecting your flight, make sure you look at ALL of the flight options and try to get something with at least an 8 hour layover, which will give you time to leave the airport, do a bit of sightseeing, and get back through customs in time for your flight home. I found my 24 hour layover in one of the flights at the bottom of a very long list and I had I not looked at every singe option closely, I would've missed out on this "free" second location.  Since I would've paid $790 with or without the Paris stop, it was a no brainer and ended up being the perfect way to wrap up my trip. My Atlanta girlfriend took the train in from her London vacation and we had a delicious breakfast at a local cafe, peeked in the Luxembourg Gardens, saw the Eiffel tower, walked the Seine, saw the Louvre, took a 1 hour boat cruise, and ended our night eating Japanese food at one place and then sharing 5 (5!!) deserts at our original breakfast spot. We headed back to the room stuffed & exhausted, then the next morning I hopped a train back to CDG for my flight to Atlanta. I don't know if I could've done 24 hours in Paris better.

So now you see, $2000 is totally possible! I don't profess to be a solo travel expert but.....I sure hope to become one soon. If you're thinking about embarking on a trip of your own & need encouragement or simply want to know more details about my trip to Istanbul, please leave a comment below!

TIPS FOR TRAVELING SOLO INTERNATIONALLY LIKE A BAD ASS

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Embarking on a solo adventure clear across the world is one of the most exciting things you can do for your personal growth. It's okay to feel a little nervous but if you're thinking about booking a jaunt of your own, don't let fear keep you from sealing the deal! Part of the reason that I was able to successfully travel to Istanbul alone is because I made sure to take as many safety precautions as I could up front so I could travel with peace of mind (mostly). ;-) Fresh from my trip here are my tips on how to make the best of your solo international excursion and travel like the bad ass you are!

  1. Register with the US Embassy. I've traveled out of the country before and never done this prior to my trip to Istanbul because I was always traveling with a partner or meeting someone at my destination. Traveling alone, however, is another story and this tip is especially important if you're traveling alone. In the event of an emergency, registering with the US Embassy at your destination lets the officials know that a US citizen is in the country and helps them quickly & easily notify you/your family in the event of an emergency (natural disaster, etc.) through the STEP program (Smart Travel Enrollment Program). Sure, emergencies don't happen very often but when they do, it's good to know that someone knows where to find you ASAP. If you have any issues while you're traveling, always call the embassy. And make sure to check the current travel warnings for your destination city prior to departure.
  2. Always carry a written copy of the phone number and address number to where you are staying. Phones die. Break. Get lost/are stolen. Fall in the ocean while on a ferry boat. Think ahead and make sure you have directions with you in a safe place somewhere outside of your phone. This tip especially comes in handy when you're staying at an Air BNB versus a local hotel. This didn't occur to me until I was out in the street and taxi drivers wanted to know where I was staying--I couldn't just say the name of a hotel (because I wasn't staying there!) and I couldn't pronounce the long names of the streets nearest to where I was staying. Luckily, upon my arrival my host handed me a business card that had all of the information I needed to contact him. Each night that card was my lifeline to get home so I always made sure to have it in my purse at all times (write down the number/address to the Embassy as well!).
  3. If you get lost/need a taxi/need a translator, head to your nearest hotel. Most hotels cater to tourists so this is a great place to stop if you're out in the streets and need assistance--you'll almost always be sure to find someone who speaks English behind the front desk as well.  My first night in Istanbul I "randomly" met a front desk attendant standing outside of his hotel who mentioned that if I ever needed a taxi, I could come back and he would get one for me. Not 15 minutes later I found myself having a hard time getting taxi drivers to agree to take me to the address on the card, so I went back to that hotel and Mehmet walked me across the street to a taxi and told the driver where I needed to go (in much better Turkish than I ever could've managed). Due to his central location (& friendly nature) he quickly became an asset (and a friend!) throughout the duration my trip. Nothing is random, of course.
  4. Dayka Robinson Designs Marrakech Morocco Adventure 2016 Mosque
  5. Don't underestimate a smile. Especially when you're in a country where few people speak English. While in Turkey I encountered a lot of people who outright stared at me--blank, unemotional face and all. It made me super uncomfortable at first, then after a few days I started to think more about how MY face was looking to them. And I know that people were looking at me because I look different that what they're used to--from my brown skin, to my long braided hair, to the fact that I was traveling alone--and it occurred that they were looking at me because they were curious. Remember on Instagram when I mentioned being accosted by a group of moms to take pictures with their kids outside of Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque)? That all happened because I saw the young girls & their mom continuously staring at me. After I offered a smile (and pointed to my hair), the little girl nodded and a huge smile spread across her face. They didn't speak English at all but I was able to gather that they wanted to have their picture taken with me, so I obliged them. All because I broke the ice with a smile. It was interesting to see how many people appeared more welcoming after I smiled or gave a wave so don't underestimate the power of a smile. Be who you want to encounter. 
  6. Always carry a portable charger. Always. There is nothing worse than being out in the streets, in a foreign country, with a dying battery on your phone. It's a huge safety no-no and if you're using your phone as your camera--like I was--it's a total nightmare when your phone dies and you have no way to capture those once in a lifetime memories!  Even when you're in the US, a portable charger is a god-send when your phone gets low and you find yourself without a USB cord.  Let's face it--there's just need to be walking around with a dead phone these days....unless, of course, you want to.
  7. Istanbul Eminonu 2015 Dayka Robinson
  8. Learn a few basic words/phrases in the local language. This is something I should've done but didn't. Traveling to a country where I had zero experience with the local language (Turkish), it became apparent that failing to learn even the most basic phrases is actually a bit inconsiderate & rude. It doesn't help that there's often a perception of Americans that we travel with the expectation that everyone should know English wherever we are--which I witnessed with my own eyes. If I could even fix my lips to say I spoke a second language it would be Spanish--the pronunciation of which is much easier to me than Turkish--so I made an assumption that I could just learn the language on the go but that wasn't the case. Be a courteous traveler & teach yourself how to say a few words in the local language like hello, goodbye, good morning, thank you, and maybe even how to ask for help. Even if your pronunciation isn't 100%, the gesture will be appreciated & you'll find it incredibly handy as you navigate your travels. 
  9. Take advantage of the disconnect. By far, one of the unintended highlights of my trip was the fact that my phone only worked as long as I was connected to WiFi. This meant that when I was out during the day, I didn't have access to ANY social media so I couldn't peruse Facebook while my taxi driver drove me home, check Instagram as I rode the Metro through the city or text message my friends while I waited for my breakfast/lunch/dinner to arrive. And you know what happened when I didn't have my face in my phone every 15 seconds? I paid attention.And interacted with strangers.And met an incredible Spelman sister on a random street corner, all because I was being present. It gave me time to think about my next steps, reflect on my business and really absorb the culture of the city in an uninterrupted manner. One of the main points of vacationing by yourself is to be WITH yourself--not constantly checking in with everything that's going on back home (the place you're supposed to be taking break from). You're the best company you'll ever have, so take advantage of it as much as you can.
  10. Book a food tour.  One of the best ways to learn about a country/culture is through its food and if you can only book one tour on your trip, consider making it a food tour or cooking class. During my 5 hour tour with Turkish Flavours I tasted all kinds incredible local Turkish cuisine and was able to experience the city in a way I wouldn't have been able to on my own. A food tour is also a great way to see how the locals live as your guide will often take you through markets in neighborhoods filled with residents doing their everyday shopping. An added bonus? Because these markets are often off the beaten path it will translate into better deals for you! During my tour of the Asian side of Istanbul I scored a Pink Himalayan Salt Bar for $3TL which equals about $1.07 USD. 2 days later I bought the same bar from the Spice Market--a tourist area--for $10TL ($3.57 USD) which is still a deal but.....I'd much rather pay $1. Next time I return I'll know exactly where to go!
  11. Dayka Robinson Bali Woman Solo International Black Woman Travel Ubud Paradise Room 2016
  12. Bring a ring. If you're a woman traveling alone, consider bringing a faux wedding ring along for the journey. Even if it's a basic gold washer from the hardware store that can do double duty as a wedding band, buy it & carry it in your purse at all times. You don't have to wear it (or can take it off whenever you need) but it's ALWAYS good to have. I can't tell you how many people--especially men--wanted to know where my husband/friends were and if I was traveling alone. After awhile I just started telling people that I was meeting a friend at another location because it occurred to me that I could be unintentionally making myself a target. Most of the time it was just innocent inquisitive conversation but there a few conversations, particularly with 1 cab driver, that got my antenna up and had me thinking that a ring would be a great thing to have. Leave the feminist pride at home and, if someone asks and you feel uncomfortable/don't want their attention, tell them you are married. With kids. There are still a lot of places in the world where this means something, and it was my experience that the men would back off immediately.
  13. Use cash if you can. Swiping your card in foreign lands makes you much more susceptible to fraud while away so use cash whenever possible. Depending on the exchange rate, start out with about $300 USD you can exchange at the airport, then use a local ATM to take out cash as needed. Not only does dealing with cash help you keep track of your spending but if you bank with Chase (like I do) they'll refund all foreign transaction fees incurred at an ATM once you return stateside.  Keep in mind that they can't do this for POS (point of sale) transactions, as the fee is added into the charge, so in this case using cash can actually save you money. Not a Chase customer? It's worth a trip to your branch to find out if they'll extend this courtesy to you as well.
  14. Find a mall. Yup, I'm serious. It seems basic and very "American", but if you're like me and enjoy seeing how the locals live, the mall can be a great place to visit. You'll get a chance to tour the city en route to your destination, experience local architecture, see retail brands we probably don't have here in the US and it's always a safe bet for the days when your plans didn't turn out like you expected. Not to mention, malls are generally safe places for solo travelers.
  15. Take pictures. Of yourself, yes, but consider taking pictures for other people as well--I must've taken at least 40 pictures for strangers while I was in Istanbul. As I toured different areas I constantly saw couples alternating taking pictures of each other in front of special sites, entire families trying to fit in a picture on a selfie stick or even a few solo travelers who looked like they really wanted their picture taken but were afraid to ask. Were there language barriers? Absolutely. But one thing you'll find about offering to do something nice for others--no matter what language they speak, your kind gesture won't go unnoticed. Everyone was so grateful that I offered to take their picture (and took several at that!)...it felt good to know that such a small gesture on my part could help people memorialize a special moment/trip.
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  17. Give yourself permission to feel scared. Feeling scared is only a feeling (which doesn't make it true!) and it's only natural--you're in a new land where you don't speak the language with zero friends, navigating your way on your own. It's unrealistic to expect that you'll feel comfortable all of the time....plus, traveling alone inherently means you're bound to be a bit uncomfortable in the process so just lean in! Learning how to navigate on your own will give you a new level of self-confidence that just can't come any other way....and it will also make you mindful of how much we all tend to default to sticking to our comfort zones in our daily lives. Take this time to consciously stretch your limits & live a little! You'll never, EVER, regret spending money on an experience that honors the core of who you are. 

Happy Traveling! 

MY TRIP TO ISTANBUL...AND WHY I TRAVELED SOLO.

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Dayka Passport Istanbul
Dayka Passport Istanbul

My trip to Istanbul and Paris was life shifting--the kind of adventure that finds you going away as one person and in a matter of days, returning as another.

It's hard to put words to an experience that changes you so deeply because it's not about any one specific thing that's the cause of the shift.  Really it was me, being in this body, at this time in my life, meeting those people and having those experiences. I believe that we always get what we're ready for & what we need to help us evolve into greater beings. For me, this trip was a message and a symbol confirming, it's time to evolve. 

Istanbul view, Topkapi Palace 2015 Dayka Robinson
Istanbul view, Topkapi Palace 2015 Dayka Robinson
Istanbul Istikal St 2015
Istanbul Istikal St 2015

As the plane was descending back to Atlanta, I cried. Not because I was sad to return (coming home is always a joy for me), but because....I did it. I was officially returning from the trip that at one point, I wasn't sure I "could" go on or should invest in. Didn't know how it would happen. But like every big shift in my life, it began with an urging to "just go", without knowing the who, how or why. Fast forward a few months later and I know for sure that this is a life defining trip for me. It speaks a lot to where I am personally/professionally and to the shift that's currently happening in so many areas of my life. It seemed like once I pressed "confirm" on my order, a million tiny miracles happened in a matter of weeks that are swiftly moving me towards the new goals I've set for myself. So this trip ended up being the perfect marker to usher in this new phase of my life.

Istanbul Turkish Flavors tour 2015, Dayka Robinson
Istanbul Turkish Flavors tour 2015, Dayka Robinson
Istanbul Sultanahmet:Blue Mosque 2015 Dayka Robinson
Istanbul Sultanahmet:Blue Mosque 2015 Dayka Robinson

If you follow me on Instagram you know the story but here's the short of it--I'd originally planned to go to Istanbul with a group but in the midst of my planning, it occurred to me that I should go by myself. Mostly because I was having trouble justifying the cost of the group trip. And while I know I missed the benefit of some of the group experiences, I'm 1000% sure that going alone was indeed the right move for me--and that fact had nothing to do with the money (although I spent 1/3 of what it would've cost me). In the end, traveling alone required me to rely on skills that I wouldn't have had to use with a group because being in a foreign country--with a very different culture--where you don't speak the language (and not many people speak English) requires a great degree of resourcefulness & self-reliance. Are these skills I cultivate at home? Certainly. But keep in mind it's within the context of a country in which I was born, a city where I speak the language, a terrain I know like the back of my hand, a ton of local friends & family on speed dial if I get in a bind and a place where I have access to my own car at all times. I didn't have the benefit of a travel guide or a friend to accompany me--I had to get things figured out on my own. And I was also in a Muslim country as a single, Black, non-Muslim, American woman traveling alone and staying in an apartment in a local neighborhood (this is key). From everyone's reaction to me, it became clear that I was not the norm.

Istanbul Omer Hayyam 2015
Istanbul Omer Hayyam 2015
Durumzade Istanbul 2015 dayka Robinson
Durumzade Istanbul 2015 dayka Robinson

I opted not to get an international plan on my phone so the minute I touched down I turned the cellular data off so I wouldn't incur any unexpected charges. This meant that I the only time I could actually use my phone was when I was back in my apartment and connected to wireless. Outside of that, I was on my own. Lost?? I had to consult a map & figure it out the old school way (I hate pulling out maps when traveling--they scream "target" to me). Need to know how to say a certain word in Turkish? If I was lucky I could find someone who spoke English to translate, otherwise I had to make a note in my phone so I could Google it later.  I can't tell you how many times I had to order my meals by pointing to what I wanted & as someone who loves to ask a million questions about her food...it was quite a change! At the start of my trip I remember being embarrassed by having to continually point to things and feeling frustrated/helpless when I couldn't communicate my needs but then I remembered, "This is the point of this trip. If you wanted to feel comfortable & at ease, you could've gone to London but that's not what this destination was about."So I kept pressing on. One of the things to note about my trip is that I wasn't staying in a high-end hotel with a concierge at my fingertips. When I travel I like to get a feel for how the locals live so this means that I'm generally not right in the middle of tourist areas with hordes of English-speaking taxi drivers & "tourist-friendly" restaurants at my disposal. Instead, I like to stay in residential neighborhoods where real people are going about living their everyday lives. It's exciting...but as someone who definitely stood out in the neighborhood--it can also be a bit scary. I walked a lot. I visited the major, ancient historic sites. I ate at restaurants recommended & beloved by locals. I slept in & rested whenever I wanted to. I had a twice daily informal date with the owner of my apartment as he made me tea every morning before I left and then again when I returned. We talked for hours & hours. I listened to the Islamic call to prayer sound across the city 5 times a day & took that time to meditate on my own faith.  I signed up for an amazing culinary tour of Istanbul/Turkey that had me tasting everything from local spices to cow/goat/sheep cheese, Ayran (pronounced Eye-ran, a buttermilk-like yogurt drink that's a cultural favorite), stuffed muscles, lamb intestines, goat milk ice cream, lots Turkish delight (of course!),  Turkish hummus (more sesame than normal) and a TON of other tasty treats.Needless to say, I did & experienced a lot. 

 I wish I could tell you about every single incredible thing that happened while I was away, but some of it is still so hard to describe...and as transparent as I like to be, I honestly I feel like some of it is just for me because it was so personal. Instead, I'll just say that it was by far the best vacation of my life. As I like to do before I travel, I wrote out my intentions for my trip before I left and it's no big surprise that every single one of them was fulfilled. I only had 4 and they were: (1) to "totally & completely relax" by being in the moment and not thinking about work, (2) to pay attention--to the sounds, the smells (!!) & the tastes (3) to eat really good, expand my palette (lamb intestines!) and not eat Paleo and (4) to meet someone new (funny how much personal stuff you can share with a stranger). It was good to look at my list when I came home and see that I indeed accomplished everything I originally set out to do.

This trip renewed my confidence/trust in myself and reminded me that I can create ANYTHING I want. I believe that thoughts are creative (our lives mimic our thoughts) and this trip was a reminder of that--that asking "how" I would get to Turkey for all of those months was the wrong question. Instead, the only question I needed to ask myself was "Do you WANT to go to Turkey?" and once I acknowledged that I did, everything fell into place.  I ended my trip with an enormous sense of gratitude for the life that I live and I'm so relaxed, focused and genuinely excited about the coming months.  The renewed perspective alone was worth the investment.

Dayka & Charlene Istanbul Grand Bazaar 2015
Dayka & Charlene Istanbul Grand Bazaar 2015
Kaymak Namli IStanbul 2015 Dayka Robinson
Kaymak Namli IStanbul 2015 Dayka Robinson

So why Istanbul? I guess my thought was, "Why not??". It's geographically & culturally far away and isn't what most people think of as a single woman's vacation destination. I didn't want to relax on a beach, I wanted to DO something. The older I get the more I find myself interested in history and I knew my destination would have plenty to keep my attention. Istanbul captured my interest & I didn't want it to be a place I waited to see "until I had a man" so when the opportunity arose, I took it! Why did I travel alone?Because I really wanted to. I didn't even invite anyone else (lol). So much has happened over the last 3 (really, 10) years of my life that I wanted/needed this to be just for me. The fact that I was even ABLE to go is a sign of all that I've accomplished in building my business and transforming my life and I wanted to be able to reflect on all that good stuff alone. I think personal time is one of the most sacred & loving gifts we can give to ourselves. I didn't want to discuss where "we" should eat breakfast or what "we" should do today...I just wanted to "do me". Traveling with friends is great (did it on the Paris leg!) but I don't think it's any more important than traveling on your own. They're just 2 different experiences & the one that's right for you depends entirely on your needs. I love hanging out with friends but...I really love my alone time, too--I NEED that to recharge my batteries. So, while I was a bit nervous to venture into the unknown, I was also really excited. 3 years ago I would't have thought a trip like this was possible. And I definitely wouldn't have expected it to change my life. 

NEXT: 13 Tips on How to be a Bad-Ass International Solo Traveler.