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Marry Yourself First: My Marriage to Myself in Guatemala

My solo trip to Guatemala was my first solo trip. I had left my corporate job and was working on my own. I decided to take almost four weeks and journey to Guatemala to find myself after the end of a relationship.  Solo travel after the end of a relationship turned out to be a pattern: I would go and find myself after a relationship ended.  A perfect way to move on and enjoy life fully again! Traveling solo for me is extremely therapeutic.  I’ve met so many amazing men and women, and I’ve seen so many things I would have never seen had I just taken a tour.  Usually on these trips, I would show up with no big plan in mind.  I would “go with the wind,” which felt like the most freedom I had ever had in my life.

During my first solo trip in Guatemala, I was grieving the loss of a recent relationship that was as close to abusive as I have ever experienced. The really good news is that as soon as I knew there was abuse potentially going to happen, I made a decision in that moment that this person was not for me.  I truly had asked the Universe to send me a sign if I should or should not stay with him: Just days later the prelude to abuse occurred.  I was actually fearful of this man, so ending the relationship took a bit of time but was a very healthy step for me.

Young girl looking at the seaI was free, and the land was so rich in Guatemala. During this trip, I was staying at a wonderful hostel location in San Marcos near Lake Atitlan, my favorite place in Guatemala, where I had fun and met a lot of people.  There was a stone sauna, and we would all do a sweat together in a stone house and bond with everyone.  Some people did not wear clothes.   I loved that the level of inhibition is so different and much lower in other countries.

I connected with a very important teacher in Guatemala.  Hugh, a man from Australia, and I made an instant connection. It was like I had known him forever—and he was certainly a teacher for me. The small town of San Marco was having a fair, and there was a ferris wheel we decided to ride.  We were stuck at the top for awhile, and his friend yelled up to us, “That is how gringos die!” Yes, that ferris wheel was truly beyond old.  I remember yelling to the operator “mas dispacio” (go slower).  I was afraid. But when you travel solo, you really don’t focus on fear as much.  That is part of the freedom.

Hugh would become a part of my self-healing journey. We connected so easily and deeply.  I did not want him to leave, and he invited me to travel with him. I said YES.  We decided to travel to a beautiful waterfall with amazing pools, Semuc Champey, Guatemala.  Hugh got sick before our trip was to leave, so I went ahead riding in the back of an old truck the entire bumpy, dusty road to this magical place.  I really hoped that Hugh would join me.  I waited, and he finally showed up but was still very sick.  Taking very good care of him and feeling so close and connected, I truly felt like his long-term girlfriend. We then decided to head to a place very near Honduras, Livingston. However, once we got there, things started to change. We met an Australian woman with whom Hugh connected, and he chose to spend the day with her. That was my cue to leave.  As I was leaving the next morning on the early boat, I remember Hugh looking me in the eyes and saying to me, “I am sorry. You deserve to be treated better.”  Yes, I did.  Hugh taught me once again that loving myself was the most important aspect of my life at this point.

I had used my limited Spanish and booked the early boat that they over packed by probably 50 people over to Puerto Barios.  I was so scared, and I literally thought to myself, “if I die now, my mom will never know what happened.”  But the boat was the quickest way to get back to Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan had become my safe haven.  I was hurting from this experience with Hugh.  I took the boat, a bus and then a chicken bus—yes, there was a chicken—and then a boat all the way back that day.  That was a true feat to make all of those connections! Times like these really allow you to realize your strength. This was a large part of my lesson on this journey.

I had a few days left, so I focused on taking care of me and continued my healing. One night I rented a nice room at a small hot springs in a neighboring town.  I was the only one there and had an idea as I gazed up at the twinkling stars: I did a wonderful little ceremony and vowed to love and respect myself for the rest of my life.  I married myself that evening. I first was married that evening in Guatemala, and I was married to me.

This vow and accompanying ceremony proved to be a turning point in my life.  I knew that I was loved because I loved me. I bought myself a beautiful jade ring on that trip, which I wore as my wedding ring.  I recommend this initial marriage to anyone who is single. We must truly marry ourselves first. It is such a wonderful way to acknowledge our love for ourselves. My journey had truly just begun, but I was finally looking forward to it with anticipation. I realized I had the power to make myself happy.  I am forever grateful to Hugh and all he taught me.

This is an excerpt from Shannon’s new book “In Love With Me: The 7 Self-Love Strategies for Successful Relationships, Parenting and Performance”.

Shannon R. Rios Paulsen MS LMFT (www.inlovewithme.com) has spent the last 12 years learning, writing, and coaching about self-love. She is a professional life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is the author of two best-selling guided meditations: The Healing Journey Within: Meditations for Abundance and Love, Volume I (Deserving) and Volume II (Manifesting) (bit.ly/meditat3). She also wrote the best-selling book, The 7 Fatal Mistakes Divorced and Separated Parents Make: Strategies for Raising Healthy Children of Divorce and Conflict (www.healthychildrenofdivorce.com).  Shannon lives in Denver, CO with her Swedish husband whom she met on one of her solo self-love journeys in Thailand.

Eating Well, Living Well

Monday April 7th, 2014.  Today I started the Whole30 food nutrition plan www.whole30.com.  I will share below what I am eating every day to assist you in knowing you can do this too!  I also want to give you ideas when you start the plan.   I know that the way we eat can change our lives.

Eating Well, Living WellFor me I realized three years ago in the midst of health issues that food affected not only my body, but my mind in a huge way.

As a female entering “those years” when our hormones begin to change, I realized that I could no longer eat what I wanted and still feel good.  Sugar and carbohydrates (the most offensive being wheat) can send me into a place where I am not the best person to be around.  I learned this very quickly with feedback from my husband!  I also felt more mentally balanced when I cut out wheat from my diet.  I cut it out for physical health reasons but realized it really helped me mentally as well.   My physical health reasons were truly scary for me.  I had arthritis like symptoms, memory issues and chronic fatigue symptoms.  After cutting out wheat, most dairy (including milk) and taking a probiotic every single day, I felt amazingly better.  You can read my whole food journey here, http://foodblog.inlovewithme.com.  My husband literally thought I was nuts when I told him I was sensitive to wheat but he started to do his research and he is now a believer.  Now he actually watches food more than me!

I am completely grateful that my body told me what it needed three years ago.  Doctors could not figure it out and even told me “we may never find out what is wrong”, and I had a low-grade continuous fever!  I found out I was truly poisoning my body with the food I was eating and now I have a passion to assist others in this journey.

I have been traveling for work and have “fallen off the wagon” in some respects so I want to completely reset my body and see how my mind responds once again.  I have been a sugar addict most of my life (until recently) and it is time to fully make that change.  I am also focused on my fertility and I know that having a healthy body could increase my chances in that area as well.   Intention: healthy, happy child 🙂

For me, communicating with you, my readers, truly assists me in toeing the line.  Thank you!  I am going to share this journey with you in the hopes that you may be inspired to do the Whole30 or really decide to eliminate foods we know are not good for us.  It just makes so much sense to me to NOT eat processed foods.  Our bodies  (especially or intestines where all the issues truly start) break down from these foods over time.   If I can’t pronounce it on a label, I will not purchase that product.  I see it as poison for my body.  I look for “clean” ingredients.

If you want my support in your journey, please reach out.  As a professional life coach for the past 12 years, I have assisted so many in achieving health through self-love and self care.  Eating well is a significant part of truly loving ourselves.

Join my husband, Jonas and me in this journey if you like!  I know switching to this type of nutrition plan can be SO daunting, it truly has taken me three years to figure out what I can eat that works for me.  I want to share this journey with you and let you know what is possible when we feed our bodies right!

Just a note:  we buy only organic and grassfed products.  I know there is the concern of cost.   For me, there is truly no price I can put on my health.  My husband’s motto is “eat less and eat healthy”.   I also really don’t eat out much at all on a plan like this which truly saves money. I would bet anyone that they truly do not spend that much more.  And it is also helpful if you have a reasonably priced health food store option available like we do (www.vitamincottage.com)  But again when I think of the cost of health care and what I will have to pay ($4,000 deductible) if I get sick, over time a bit of extra cost is worth it every time I think of it.  I encourage you to think about what you can give up in your budget to eat healthy.   Again, there is just no price I can truly put on my health.

Day 1:

Breakfast: 

Green Breakfast Smoothie:

  • Cucumber (1/2)
  • Celery (3 stalks)
  • Parsley –handful
  • Kale – lacinato
  • Spinach – handful
  • Olive Oil – 1-2 tablespoons
  • Apple Cider Vinegar 1-2 tablesppons
  • Dash of lemon (or lemon squeezed)
  • Garlic – clove or two 

This is a variation of another green smoothie I sometimes do (with what I had in the refrig today).

Lunch:

  • 1 egg – fried
  • bunch of kale with some great spices and salt, sesame seeds and coconut oil (fried in the same pan).
  • Spices are Bragg Organic Sprinkle.  I buy a lot of this brand: www.bragg.com

Snack: 

  • BunnyLov Carrots
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Cashews

Dinner:

  • Chicken and Spaghetti Squash (with olive oil).

Dessert:

  • 3-4 Strawberries and 2 tablespoons Almond Butter

Day 2:

Breakfast:

  • 2nd half of smoothie from yesterday.  Saved in a ball jar.

Lunch: 

  • Stir fry with cauliflower, kale, asparagus and mushrooms,  with grassfed organic butter – kalona super natural.
  • Spices: Salt, White Pepper, Garlic Salt
  • Mulays Natural Mild Italian Sausage

Snack:

  • One hardboiled egg with salt
  • 3 strawberries with a tablespoon of almond butter
  • Sunflower seeds and cashews.

Dinner:

  • Beef Burgers with avocado and onions (in the burgers).
  • Spaghetti squash and Spinach (cooked with salt and white pepper, garlic salt).

Shannon R. Rios Paulsen MS LMFT (www.inlovewithme.com) has spent the last 12 years learning, writing, and coaching about self-love. She is a professional life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is the author of two best-selling guided meditations: The Healing Journey Within: Meditations for Abundance and Love, Volume I (Deserving) and Volume II (Manifesting) (bit.ly/meditat3). She also wrote the best-selling book, The 7 Fatal Mistakes Divorced and Separated Parents Make: Strategies for Raising Healthy Children of Divorce and Conflict (www.healthychildrenofdivorce.com).  Shannon lives in Denver, CO with her Swedish husband whom she met on one of her solo self-love journeys in Thailand.

Vamos gringa! Let’s go single women: solo travel is the path to self-love and successful relationships

Traveling solo as a female has been one of the best things I have ever done in my life.  I recommend it to anyone.  In my 30s, when everyone else was getting married and having kids, I decided to love my single life.  When I decided this, everything changed.  I was able to look forward to the wonderful trips I took during those years.   Working on my own, I was always able to set aside 2-3 weeks each year.  It truly does not matter the amount of time but my advice is just do it.  Traveling solo has its highs and lows but when you return, truly you only remember the highs.  I believe this is because you learn so much about yourself that you can only see the trip as positive.  I work now as a life coach and coach women who want to travel solo.  I can not imagine those years single without my constant companion, solo travel!   It helped me learn to love myself more so I could be the best partner possible once I did find that relationship I hoped to create in my life.  My new book  In Love With Me:  The 7 Self-Love Strategies for Successful Partnerships, Parenting, and Performance highlights some of my travels and there will be more books to come dedicated to self-love and my trips!  Solo travel prepared me to think of life as a journey in whatever I do.  I even met my Swedish husband on my “last” solo trip to Thailand, little did I know it would be my last solo trip.  The article below discusses one of my “lows” that turned out to be a “high”.  I encourage you to learn, grow, love yourself and TRAVEL SOLO!

solo healthy single womanI was a 37 year old solo female traveler in Peru.  The previous day I had left my ATM card at the ATM and had missed my upgraded bus.  The 10 hour bus ride was now on the economy bus in Peru.  As we were driving through the middle of a huge, what looked to me like, a desert, the bus had a mechanical issue.  I was the only tourist on this bus, we had been sitting there over an hour and it was growing dark.  I knew a robbery was very possible and I began to feel afraid.  I began to pray and within 15 minutes the bus was moving, however you could tell it was still having issues.  We made it to the nearest town and everyone started getting off the bus.  I have very limited Spanish skills and I had no idea what was going on, when all of a sudden this huge Spanish woman with all of her petticoats looked at me and I am sure sensing my worry and said “Vamos Gringa!”  I knew what that meant, “let’s go white woman!”  She and I were fast friends, even though we could not communicate.  What I have learned from traveling in other countries that I can not speak the language well is that a smile is worth a thousand words.   Once we were safely on another bus, she was very proud of herself for helping me; she was smiling from ear to ear and telling others in Spanish.  I will never ever forget this amazing woman that helped me in a time of complete fear.  As a solo female traveler, I have met so many people along my journey that give me faith in the goodness of others, whom I will never see again.  I want to dedicate this story to all of them and thank them for their kindness and for the difference they have made in my life.  I would not be the person I am now without all of them.  I am so very grateful.

Shannon R. Rios Paulsen MS LMFT (www.inlovewithme.com) has spent the last 12 years learning, writing, and coaching about self-love. She is a professional life coach and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She is the author of two best-selling guided meditations: The Healing Journey Within: Meditations for Abundance and Love, Volume I (Deserving) and Volume II (Manifesting) (bit.ly/meditat3). She also wrote the best-selling book, The 7 Fatal Mistakes Divorced and Separated Parents Make: Strategies for Raising Healthy Children of Divorce and Conflict (www.healthychildrenofdivorce.com).  Shannon lives in Denver, CO with her Swedish husband whom she met on one of her solo self-love journeys in Thailand.

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