Meet New Faces, Go New Places

“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

By Dawn Onley

Twenty two years ago, I met Tobias in Cape Town, South Africa. He, like I, came to this young democratic nation to experience the country’s first free elections and ultimately the electrifying moment when Nelson Mandela would become South Africa’s first black president. On this same trip in 1994, I met Sagren Moodley, too.

Nelson Mandela

In Egypt, I met Amir. He was a young man originally from Sudan who came to Egypt in search of opportunity. He worked in a small jewelry shop in Cairo, and he left me and my friend, Sandy, to sit unattended in his shop while he ran out to get us tea and soft drinks and to offer up midday Salat.

I met Cheryl in Paris. She worked in a clothing store and we chatted about fashion and what it was like to live in the city of lights. Originally from Africa, she hoped to one day make it to New York and to carve out a singing career in the United States.

In China, I met Asia and Angela, two close friends who live in Los Angeles and who enjoy planning exciting excursions. On a safari in South Africa, I met Debbie, Domenico and Howard, and we discussed everything from baking techniques to life as a rocket scientist.

Two days ago, I met Paqui in Greece. Full of personality and energy, we jumped from topic to topic, talking about politics, our love of travel, our relationships, our jobs and our families while on an island ferry to Hydra, Poros and Aegina.

The girls in Hydra

Free travel picture

I have met so many wonderful people from all walks of life while traveling — both domestically and around the world. I’ve met people who have enriched my life with their stories and experiences and who have expanded my understanding of religions, cultures, world views and beliefs. These relationships are so important and valuable, even if only for a season. They help to show us who we are and where we fit in this vast, beautiful world.

They help us to see how alike we are and how we basically want the same things out of life as everyone else.

They show us that we are never alone. We may feel isolated in our neighborhood, in our small town, but on the world’s stage, there is someone out there who has been exactly where you are now, and they may have a word to help get you over the doldrums of your situation.

I hope one day you will meet them. I wish you a boundless curiosity, new friends to share life’s joys and struggles (and hopefully another trip), and a desire to want to learn more than your neighborhood or town, more than your state and even your country.

Travel remains one of the best forms of education and enlightenment. It helps to open the mind and heart. As Mark Twain said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Hydra Greece

And as Rumi said: “Travel brings power and love back into your life.”

Go somewhere new. Meet new people along the way. As Augustine of Hippo said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”



I Hope You…

“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”      First Lady Michelle Obama

By Samantha McKenzie

I hope for many lofty things, like world peace and stomping out hunger. Today, however, I hope for more granular, tangible things that can be accomplished with just you, almost immediately.


I hope you kiss your children and remind them how much you love them.

I hope you write down one goal on several pieces of paper and stick it on every mirror in your home.

I hope you call an old friend, the one who popped into your thoughts a week ago, before it’s too late.

I hope you apply for another job, just to remind you of your value. And dust off your interview suit.

I hope you say yes and I hope you learn how to say no.

I hope you tell the truth, even though lying about it seems easier.

I hope you wear a dress that makes you feel pretty again. I hope it has a pop of color.

I hope you get a glance and glance back.

I hope you say I love you first. Don’t wait.

I hope you cook a scrumptious meal and eat slowly. Savor it.


I hope you say one sincere prayer before you get out of bed. And then another.

I hope you smile and giggle and laugh at a joke.

I hope you read something inspiring and then share the message with another.

I hope you clean out that drawer and throw away 50% of the stuff.

I hope you exercise for at least 30 minutes without whining.

I hope you drink more water.


I hope you give away a belonging to someone who needs it more.

I hope you speak up. Even if what you say will be unpopular.

I hope you dance with no music and sing in the shower.

I hope you get what you deserve.

I hope you use the next few minutes wisely.

Because time is most precious in the present.

And hope is only a place holder for courage.

I hope…




Consistency Yields Big Rewards

By Dawn Onley

Consistency makes the difference.

Consistency over the long haul enables us to save just enough money in the bank to buy a home. When we consistently eat healthy, it’s possible to whittle our waist line down a few inches to get us back in those jeans that we wore a decade ago. Consistency pays off when you least expect, even in those moments at the kitchen table teaching your toddler a new word or how to count.

consistency-600x400-1 (1)

It’s never the things we do once in a blue moon or when the mood strikes that yield the greatest reward. It’s the grunt work that is done by routine or through diligence, that may not seem like a lot from day to day, but after awhile, those little moves add up to huge results.

It’s forcing myself to write each day, even when I don’t have much to say. It’s reading a few chapters of a book each night until the book is completed. It’s doing away with soda and potato chips to reach a fitness goal. It’s practicing an instrument a little bit each day, until you can play the song flawlessly.

It’s also keeping our energy levels and enthusiasm up or we will lose the motivation to stay consistent. It’s the fervent prayers of the righteous that availeth much, according to the Bible.


It’s the old adage: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

There is probably not a single attribute one person can possess that is as important to achieving success or getting results as consistency. As the saying goes, if you are persistent, you will get it. If you are consistent, you will keep it.

“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently,” said bestselling author, motivational speaker and life coach, Tony Robbins.

consistency_quoteIt takes discipline to be consistent. It also takes vision, courage, perseverance and delayed gratification. This last point is important because we are living in a time where everyone wants to see the end result pronto without putting in the effort. We want to lose weight fast, without changing how we eat and exercise. We want financial security, but can’t discipline ourselves enough to forego the $5.00 Starbucks run, 5 days a week. Students graduate college and immediately expect to get a job earning money that it took many people their whole adult life to attain.

In other words, we want to eat the elephant in one setting and when that proves impossible, we get frustrated and decide to dine on something different altogether.

Consistency is eating the elephant one bite at a time. It’s the way to hike mountains. It’s the way to conquer fears. It’s the way to build a nest egg. And it’s the way to realize our dreams.

Building Your Personal Brand

By Samantha McKenzie

Not too long ago, when you heard the word brand in the business world, it referred primarily to the type of product or service a company produced. The word has since then evolved into something more personal. Nowadays, a brand is whatever your customers say it is when they hear of or see the name. Savvy marketers have been able to link a consumer’s emotional ties to a product or service. Simply put, they’ve figured out why we are attached to a particular brand, and go about ensuring we continue to have that same satisfying experience over and over again.

My mom’s personal brand favorite was Aquanet. The holding spray that gave hair life. Mine is Google. I can and will do all things through Google!

It’s how women feel when we see a Tiffany & Co. box. The light teal blue colored box that became so popular that people referred to it as “Tiffany blue.” The box that made us smile before we opened it, and the box that never gets thrown away.

You can probably think of countless brands that you are attracted to, for one good reason or another, that keep you coming back. Like the upgraded experience you get shopping at Target vs. Walmart, or how Nike makes you feel that you can still be like Mike. It’s how Chick-fil-la’s exceptional customer service makes you forget you’re eating fast food.

brand-promiseIt’s the psychology of relationships. We all want to be treated well in any type of relationship. We are drawn to the people who we believe will be more thoughtful, who will go the extra mile to make us happy and who leave us with a good feeling. The business world has figured it out, but have we?

What’s your personal brand? What’s the experience that people have when they interact with you? What’s your promise to your customers, your coworkers, and your family members? And do you deliver?

Whether your relationships are with the people you see every day or the ones you associate with on social media, we are all conveying messages about who we are on a daily basis. Good or bad, we have built ourselves a reputation. We make commitments. We aim to please.

You are Your Own Brand card with a urban background

So what are people saying about you? Are you the associate who’s really good at her job, but never shows up on time? Are you the relative that only calls her family in a crisis? Do you make promises you can’t keep? And when you fall short, as we all will, do you know how to repair your relationships?

Your personal brand is about how you publicly and privately define yourself. It’s your promise to yourself first, and your promise to the people you interact with. Good brands, keep people coming back. They build trust. They allow others to invest in you. Positive personal brands open up opportunities. Bad brands create the opposite.

So who are you? Or better yet, who do you want to become?



Just Do It. Today.

“If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions.” – Padmasambhava

“Everything we have done up to this point in our lives has brought us EXACTLY to where we are now in our lives, and everything we do from this point on will take us to the next place in our lives: Every move forward or backwards commits us to some place in the future. If you want to be someplace different in the future than where you are right now, begin by moving in that direction today.” – Adisa Ajamu

Woman skateboarding

By Dawn Onley

Today is the perfect day to take action.

Whatever you’ve been putting off for later, for whatever reason, take a small step today towards that goal. Don’t wait until Monday to start eating healthier. Don’t wait any longer to make that phone call to a long lost friend. Don’t wait until you’re all stressed out to polish off that resume and look for a new job.

Don’t wait to start saving for that rainy day fund. Don’t wait to take that class you’ve been interested in taking for some time now.

Don’t wait. Do it today. Start immediately moving in the direction of your dreams.

Take action. Stop talking about what you want to do, what you’re going to do, and do it.


Next year this time, you’ll be glad you did.

Now is the right time

The Lessons and Blessings of Pain

By Samantha McKenzie

No one volunteers to experience pain, but one way or the other we all end up feeling its unpleasant effects. Let’s face it, pain hurts. Like it really hurts. It’s sharp and unbearable. It’s long and drawn out. It can make you wince, shout, cry out loud and beg for mercy. It’ll even force you to your knees some days.

But pain has its purpose. It’s your bodies personal ADT system. It alerts you to danger. It tries to protect you from further injury and it beckons your attention. It’s your body’s way of letting you know that it wants to survive.

Pain also has a support system. When your head hurts, your body will respond by closing its eyes. When you stump your toe, your other foot accepts that it will have to bear the extra weight. When your heart breaks, your tears allow you to release the agony.

pain4.jpgPain also has an end game. It literally wants to stop. It’s ultimate goal is to allow you to survive.  After one broken leg, it hopes you’ll avoid another. It doesn’t want to end up being chronic pain – which becomes pathological rather than beneficial to you. It doesn’t want you to adapt to extreme forms of torture nor tolerance. It wasn’t designed to coax you into suffering willingly either. It was meant to be temporal. It was meant to produce, to change, to help you find better solutions.

Pain is said to promote healing, since most living organisms will protect the injured area to avoid further pain. It’s also interesting to note that people born with congenital insensitivity to pain are said to have shorter life spans. Their bodies don’t respond to the signals of pains, so they often suffer with numerous broken bones and repetitive ailments.

Pain in some way is a blessing. It teaches us to be more careful and reminds us to be empathetic towards others. It has the capability of creating a stronger community – one in which we come to each others aid.

painThe best part of the experience of pain is that it cause us to grow – physically, mentally and spiritually. Struggle is painful, yet it builds your stamina and creates a more resilient you. My pain has a tendency to help me focus more. I gain clarity during my darkest hours and make decisions that ultimately ease my pain.

Pain is also a teaching tool. It directs your path. It is an impetus to our wisdom. It’s what our parents meant when they’d say, “if you won’t hear, then you’re going to have to feel.”

Instead of rejecting your pain, use it to guide your growth and see it as an essential part of your existence. Learn from it.




Living Every Word of Our Story


By Dawn Onley

Focus on the story, not the sentence.” – James Patterson

Our lives are made up of a whole bunch of sentences. Some phases of our life story are long sentences, while others are short. Some are funny and others are dreary. Some sentences are fragments in need of repair. Resist the urge. Don’t fix it. Let it stand.

These sentences form paragraphs and these paragraphs form pages and these pages form chapters, and so forth. They all come together to tell the story of our lives.

All of it – the joys and triumphs, the heartache and gloom — is vital to who we are and who we are becoming. We don’t particularly enjoy the periods when we struggle or fail. We could probably do without the sadness or the moments of unrest. But neither you nor I would be the person we are today without every last word of our story.

the struggle

The key is not to stop at the tough sentences. When we feel like giving up, we need to push through the hard times, through the long stretches to get to the other side. There is light after darkness. It is called dawn.

If we focus on our stories, instead of the sentences, it gives us context and a broader view. Failures are no longer isolated and rehashed, they are interwoven with successes and together, they form a masterful union that is worthy of the miracle of your being.

Keep writing your bestseller. Don’t stay stuck on any sentence. There’s too much life to live. There’s a better chapter ahead.