It’s My Birthday, and I’m Getting Away From It All…

Image ID : 39935241
Copyright : Christopher Howey

Image ID : 21219324
Copyright : kbuntu

My plans for my birthday week will take place in this part of the globe…Thank goodness for this break!

My International Travel Promise To Myself

Copyright : Sebastien Decoret

Back in 2014, I made a promise to myself that I would visit a foreign country, preferably one I had not visited before, every even-numbered year. I designated every even year primarily as a means to give myself enough time to prepare my schedule and my finances to be able to travel every other year, and I also chose that interval because I felt a strong itch to visit a foreign country in 2014.

Why was I struck with this idea in 2014? One reason was that I suddenly realized that year that I had not taken a bona fide vacation since 2007. The second and more compelling reason stemmed from deep conversations I had with my dear friend and meditation teacher, who was quickly succumbing to a very aggressive and deadly brain tumor. On more than one occasion during my visits with him, he told me, “Don’t wait to do the things you have always wanted to do, because you might run out of time to do them.”

What Rob told me really got me thinking. I thought of how my mom had a number of big dreams dashed because she had always pushed them to the side, believing that she either didn’t deserve to pursue them, or that her dreams would never come to fruition. For example, she had entertained a strong interest in travel, but she always made excuses for why she couldn’t go on vacations or getaways. In fact, the only “vacations” she ever took were when one of her siblings fell ill or died, and she had to fly to Hawaii to visit. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t think such trips should ever count as vacations, especially since they are so emotionally difficult. It’s not like my mom went to Hawaii and had a grand time at the funerals she attended.

Though I had traveled to various destinations for reasons other than the death of a relative, I knew that I had also fallen into a similar trap of making excuses about being too busy to take a vacation. So in the Spring of 2014 I decided to travel to Prague to compete in an IFBB Pro event, and figured that I would also visit Hungary, which was on my bucket list of destinations to visit.

My friend Rob passed away on April 29, 2014. After spending several weeks grieving for him, I decided to act upon my proposed travel plans to Eastern Europe. As I was planning the trip, I realized that since I would be in prep for a bodybuilding show, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy Prague as a vacationing traveler, and also realized that I would only have a couple of days to explore Hungary. I ultimately decided not to compete, and instead booked a 7-day trip to Hungary which I completed in September of 2014.

Hungary turned out to be just as magical as I imagined it to be, and I honestly felt like I was honoring my dearly departed friend Rob when I was there. By an incredible stroke of luck, I was able to travel to Sydney, Australia and Bali the following month. Satisfied with having traveled to 3 new countries, I resolved to go somewhere new in 2016.

In March of 2016, I flew to Costa Rica, adding to my list of foreign destinations and keeping my promise to Rob and myself to travel internationally in an even year. After my Costa Rica trip, I wasn’t able to save money consistently for a trip in 2018, but whenever I had a chance to set something aside, I did.

I’m proud to say that I have fulfilled my promise yet again this year, when I traveled to the Maldives in September, and to Thailand earlier this month. Both trips were absolutely amazing, and I feel spiritually richer because of those experiences. I love the fact that I am able to say that I added six new countries in the last 5 years to my foreign travel roster, and I have every intention of adding to the list in 2020. My goal is to save up for a trip to Japan in 2020, but if I am unable to save enough money to travel to that destination, I will select a more reasonably priced excursion so that I can stay on track with my travel goals.

For those of you who are curious about what foreign countries I have visited, here is the list:

England (1980)
France (1980)
Switzerland (1980)
Italy (1980)
Germany (1980)
Austria (1980)
Greece (1980)
Turkey (1980)
Hungary (2014)
Mexico (1986, 1989, 1992)
Costa Rica (2016)
Australia (Sydney) (2014)
Bali (2014)
Maldives (2018)
Thailand (2018)

It will be exciting to think about what countries I will visit in the future. Some of the countries on my list include: Fiji, Bora Bora, Spain, Egypt, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, Scotland, Kenya, New Zealand, Nepal.

For those of you who dream of traveling, but who always seem to find a roadblock when trying to plan a trip, how about setting a similar goal to the one I have set for myself? You would give yourself at least a year to save up money between trips, and you would be able to travel to destinations you’ve always wanted to see.

Give Your Brain A Vacation!


Please check out my original post at:

By: Dr. Stacey Naito, Physician and IFBB Pro

Leaving Work Behind

Americans have a bad habit of skipping much needed vacations, either because they cannot catch up with their workloads, or because they can’t afford the travel expenses. However, everyone needs to press the reset button and allow their bodies, spirits and minds to relax. The brain in particular needs a break from all the factoids and sensory input which assault it on a daily basis. Yet we often feel the urge to check emails and social media while on vacation in an effort to keep up with the hectic and exhausting to-do list which seems to always hang over our heads. Guilt sets in over being away from work, even though we truly deserve to a have a little time off. The problem with tending to emails and other work-related items is that the break is eradicated, with the only distinction being that we have taken our work with us.

Information Overload

Even when we aren’t at work, our brains must sort through an enormous amount of information from our phones and computers. One 2011 study stated that we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information every single day. And since the brain’s ability to process information is limited, we often end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious as we try to power through all the information being thrown at us. Though the age of social media has enabled us to connect in novel and far-reaching ways, it also robs us of our attention and distracts us from other tasks.

So when we go on vacation, there should be a limit on the frequency with which we view social media sites. The best tactic while on vacation is to completely avoid electronic devices, but if you aren’t able to do that, set aside a brief designated time each day to check emails and peruse social media.

Leave the bulk of each day to relaxing, sightseeing, engaging in outdoor activities, and enjoying life. This way, your brain will enjoy the fruits of the vacation as well.

When You Need To Get Away


I am the kind of person who burns the candle at both ends, not necessarily because I like to constantly feel like I am being run ragged, but because I always have an insanely busy schedule which has me switching gears constantly throughout each day. My usual response to the question, “What did you do last weekend?” is that I worked. I am ALWAYS working on something, and there is always something to do in my hectic life.

There is a bit which comic John Mulaney performs which captures the feeling which I feel whenever I get the rare chance to actually relax on a weekend. Here’s his bit:

Kids always want to do stuff, kids get angry. They go, “awww, we didn’t do anything all day!”
You ever ask an adult what they did over the weekend and they say they didn’t do anything, their faces light up. It’s like, “What did you do this weekend?” Ï, uh, (big smile across one’s face) I did nothing. I did nothing at all! Did we do anything? No, we didn’t do anything!”

I am definitely feeling the urge to get away so I can get a break from the constant movement which defines my daily life. I firmly believe that everyone should take vacations and go on weekend getaways every now and then to recharge the spirit and relax the body and mind. Though I won’t be able to take any big trips this year, I know that a weekend getaway needs to occur soon so that I can preserve my sanity! The telltale signs of burnout are showing, such as lack of concentration, irritability, and fatigue. The nice thing about living in southern California is that there are so many options available for weekend getaways, so I will make sure to plan something very soon.

Where In The World Should I Go For Vacation?

world-map-continents-michael-tompsettI have been chomping at the bit to take a much-needed vacation. I have not had a bona fide vacation since 2007 and long to spend a week somewhere that offers relaxation, adventure, culture, and which finally gives me a chance to catch my breath from the hustle and bustle of a life that is full of activity and responsibility. Everyone needs this kind of break!

I think because I have waited so long to give myself permission to go anywhere for fun, my brain is getting flooded with all the places I have longed to visit. One criterion which I have established in my determination of where to go is that it must be a place I have not yet visited, and it must be outside of the United States. Out of habit I have included the IFBB Tijuana Pro as part of my travel plans despite the fact that this is a competition and thus not a vacation destination on my list.

My desire to go somewhere I have not yet been rules out the following countries: England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria, Greece and Turkey. But that’s only eight countries out of a relatively long list of countries I would love to visit. One question I have entertained is, do I visit a country of my origin? That is relatively easy since my heritage stems from only two countries: Japan and Hungary. However, my knowledge of the Japanese language is quite limited now, and I feel somewhat ashamed even though as a Eurasian half-Japanese mutt, I am considered “gaijin”. And with Hungary, I only know a couple of Hungarian words. I know that the other language which is spoken in Hungary is German, and sadly, my knowledge of German is quite limited as well.

I just looked up a list of all the countries in the world and this is the list of countries I have not yet been to that I would like to visit:

Cayman Islands
Costa Rica
Czech Republic
New Zealand
Virgin Islands

I am thinking of going somewhere at the end of July or the beginning of August before my contest prep for November gets too restrictive. I welcome suggestions on what locales are the best to visit, especially on a shoestring budget.

My Wish To Compete At Prague Pro

Prague Castle

Prague Castle

Every year I have mapped out a contest strategy, but 2014 is the first year that I am doing it fully as an IFBB Bikini Pro. My priorities and interests have shifted dramatically as a result of my Pro status, with my focus centered on having fun onstage and not concerning myself with my placings. This doesn’t mean that I intend to do poorly at contests, but I am not going to expend ridiculous amounts of energy trying to get a top placing at an event.

One of the most exciting things about the Pro contest schedule is that there are international events added to the mix. There is one international event I have been keenly interested in doing this year, and that is EVLS Prague Pro on October 4th in Prague, Czech Republic. One reason why I am so intent on competing at this event is because I have heard that it is beautiful in Prague. Another reason is that I have not been outside of the United States since 1992. I also have not had a bona fide vacation since 2007, which is part of the reason why I have every intention of spending a few days in Hungary after the contest.

This is Buda Castle...

This is Buda Castle…

But perhaps the most compelling reason for me to compete in Prague is that I have strong genetic roots in Eastern Europe, particularly Hungary. My direct paternal stock came by way of Hungary, specifically Gyor on the Buda side of Budapest, Hungary. However, when I recently did a 23andme analysis, I discovered that though most of that Eastern European stock came mostly from Hungary, there was some genetic input from the Czech Republic. Basically, I would be competing on land that my ancestors stood on, which is incredibly meaningful for me.
Gyor map
I have put the intention out there and will continue to nurture it so that my wish to compete at Prague Pro comes to fruition.