• Cheetah Love

    Cheetah Love

    New Years Resolution: update blog more often.

    This update comes several months after the last, but worth the wait. As part of my schooling, which has been going great btw, I'm required to log 40 hours 'in the field' of my study. Because of lack of experience, I was turned down for an intership at the Wild Animal Park and Zoo here in San Diego. Totally understandable. I only had two months of schooling under my belt. They advised me to re-apply next summer. They also suggested I contact a couple wildlife rescues located in San Diego and try and volunteer with them. I was delighted to hear there was a second option for me and the more and more the months go on, I realize it was just where I was supposed to be at this point in my new journey. 

    I've been volunteering at Wild Wonders every Sunday now for over 3 months. The first day I came for orientation I was taken aback by the cheetahs they have in residence, 3 to be exact. Just seeing them through the fence stopped me in my tracks. Learning that they 'feed the cheetahs' every day at 2pm, I strategically asked for the 11-3pm shift on Sundays. Every Sunday I would watch the owner, the keepers and the seasoned volunteers go into the cheetah pen after feeding to cuddle one cheetah named Victor. Meeting Victor, up close and personal, became my new goal.

    Here's to doing something different, working hard, being patient and staying hopeful. Cuddling Victor was well worth the three months I spent learning about him and watching him through the fence. Today he came right up to me, licked my arms, let my rub his little ears and made me feel so grateful to be trusted by such a beautiful, wild animal. What a moment!   

  • Changes Are In the Air

    Changes Are In the Air

    You ever just want to quit work early and go to the zoo? Me too. I've found ever since my great Bali adventure my heart has been yearning more and more to play. Although I enjoy my work, being healthy and finding true joy have become my first priorities and that attitude has changed many things in my life since Bali. 

    Coming back from a month in Bali was not easy. I'm not gonna lie. My heart and mind were overflowing with thoughts of beautiful temples, swimming Koi and peaceful people. I wanted to find a way to keep those feelings alive but I was met with reality in the form of an office, deadlines and people honking. I live in San Diego, so I can't complain much but I have to say the moment I opened my office door to start work again, something shifted. I literally stopped at the door, looking into what felt like a foreign place and said to myself, something has to change. This is no longer working for me.

    So, I asked myself what I would like to do with the next chapter of my life and what I needed to do to get there. And with any great, new adventure I started my research. What came up for me was animals. I've always loved them and not just in a, oh I love my pet kind of way. I love wildlife and everything about their lives, the planet they live on and their survival. I feel a true kindship with animals and after meeting that baby elephant in Bali, I was hooked in a way that I couldn't wiggle away from. So, I'm going back to school to learn how I can help them. My first semester is almost completed. By next summer I could be frolicking with elephants at the Safari Park. Don't worry, I'll have my camera with me. Here's to new adventures...



  • How I Did It

    How I Did It

    It's easier then you think to travel across the world to feed your soul. I did it, with a couple weeks of planning, not a ton of money and some courage. It was spurred by a conversation I had with a friend about a month prior to me booking Bali. I was searching hard to find an apartment. It seemed like the next step for me, since I'd had my possessions in storage for over a year since my break up. It was time to face the next phase of my life and find a place to live. Only problem was that every place I saw was a no, for one reason or another. I was frustrated. I complained to my friend that I didn't understand why I was hitting a wall with this next step and she simply said, "Maybe you're not supposed to get an apartment right now. Maybe you're supposed to do that travel you're always talking about." 

    Fear set in. My mind rejected the idea immediately because it seemed like bad timing, irresponsible, too expensive. Plus I had cats and I couldn't possibly trust their care to anyone else. I slept on it. The next day ideas to make it happen started flooding my mind. I could use airline miles for my ticket. I could stay in cheap Airbnb's. I could find a nice pet person to take my cats for a month. Oh my God, it all seemed like too much to ask the Universe, that all these details fall into place and I am able to fly off to a destination I've had on my Bucket List for years. But, if you don't ask, you don't get. So, I asked.

    Since that day, all plans flowed easily. I found exactly the right person to love my kitties. I cleaned out my Amex points I'd been saving for a year and I booked the cheapest, yet cutest places I could find in Bali. Everything flowed easily, even while I was in Bali and it started to restore my faith. I think it's when we follow our hearts that we get rewarded. It's often easy to ignore how we feel and get caught up in life's responsibilities. My new rule since Bali is to ask myself how I FEEL about things, not what I THINK because when we overthink, we can get in trouble and stop the flow of our lives. I'm glad I leapt. The net appeared and it was oh so beautiful. 

  • Shooting Swimwear in Bali

    There was a lot of planning that went into my month 'vacation' in Bali, including coordinating and executing several photoshoots for myself. I didn't have an official work visa, so these shoots were 'for fun,' but came with the idea of producing something beautiful and hopefully coming home with some new work I could be proud of. The idea came to me a couple weeks before I left. Why not make this a work trip Rem, I said to myself. Challenge yourself to produce some new stuff. So, I got on a local community Facebook page for an area I knew I was staying in. I posted a call to local models and spent the next day culling through over 20 responses. For several weeks before I left, I communicated back and forth with several girls trying to coordinate times and locations, even before I got to Bali and knew the best locations to shoot. Thank you Google.  

    Then my next bright idea came. Why not approach local California apparel companies, perhaps companies I'd like to work with more and ask to borrow some clothes to take with me. That way, I'd have some great clothes to shoot on the models and these companies would get to know me better. A win win. So I took a second suitcase of clothing from Prana and swimwear from Kenneth Cole and La Blanca. Over the course of my trip I photographed 5 models I found through Facebook, in several different locations around Bali. All the planning paid off. I came home with some work I'm really proud of and inspired by...

  • Nusa Lembongan Island

    Nusa Lembongan Island

    I had plans to visit the Gili Islands 40 minutes off of Bali by boat but was told by a local expat that Nusa Lembongan Island was better. So, I changed my plans and took a fastboat (only 20 mins) over to the island. The views from the boat were stunning. We arrived at sunset and the burnt orange color of the sun setting on the water took my breath away. Several of us stepped off the boat onto the sand and just stood there watching the beauty unfold. 

    This island wasn't like the rest of my trip in Bali. It was definitely a lot smaller area, simplier restuarants and a bit run down in areas. The villas were not quite as nice and you'd see a trash heep or smell it every so often along your walk to the beach. The beaches were pretty private, which was a bonus but the weather while I was there was crappy so I didn't really get the sun soaking in that I thought I would. But I changed my attitude, went for a walk and found the most stunning cliff views I think I've ever seen. This was Devil's Tear. There were no gates around this sheer drop, only a small sign that I think read, 'Caution.' I stood as far back as I could to get the shot and still be safe. The waves were crashing into the cliff with such a vengence you could feel it every time they hit. It was incredible. 

    The other people on the island were a bit young but I blended in the best I could (think Spring break). Saturday night was a full moon and because of that, they have a party to celebrate it's beauty and positive effect on their lives. I attended a gathering and ended up drinking the local beer and dancing to "Jump, Jump" with some of the locals on a tiny man-made dance floor on the sand. The DJ was ok. I couldn't help but wonder what they would think of how we party in Vegas. On this quiet, little island with only one beer choice, plastic chairs and only about two 'high end' hotels to choose from, it might just blow their minds how we do things. I was pretty happy in my flip flops, dancing to the full moon, not giving a crap what I looked like or danced like or who was watching. Thanks Nusa for a low key reminder of the simple things in life. 

  • Meeting an Elephant

    Meeting an Elephant

    For as long as I can remember I've wanted to meet an elephant up close and personal. I couldn't do this at most zoos because the elephants are always really far away in their pen and of course, it's not allowed. So I've been determined to find a place were I could touch an elephant and I found it in Bali! The Elephant Safari Park is a santuary for elephants rescued from Sumatra, Africa where they are still being hunted for their tusks or killed by annoyed farmers who don't want to share their crops. They are on the endagered list because of a long history of this. The Safari Park rescues these elephants and brings them to Bali. This journey takes at least five days. My guide explained that each person is assigned an elephant and they train with that one elephant and no others, so they get to know and trust one another. He had been with Nookie for 9 years. Some guides had worked with their elephants for over 15 years. 

    We were able to walk onto the park grounds with the elephants, help bathe them, swim with them and ride them. It might have been the coolest 4 hours I've ever spent in my life. I teared up a bit at how serene their big eyes were, looking right into my soul it seemed. The shear size of them made me sweat a bit. Just being in the presence of an animal that big is humbling. I rubbed their ears, scratched their backs and put my bare feet on Nookie as he toured me around the grounds. What an amazing energy these creatures have. I hope we can figure out how to keep them on this planet. The Safari Park is helping with that. 

  • Healer in Bali - Cokorda Rai

    Bali is an island rich in spiritual heritage, with focus on healing and personal growth. I wanted to go beyond the traditional places to visit in Bali and seek out a well known healer to visit instead. 94 year old Cokorda Rai turned up several times in my Google search and upon checking with our Airbnb owner he was ineeded revered in the community.

    We arrived early in the AM and got in the que. We were told he was not awake yet and no one wanted to wake him. Apparently we started when he was ready for us to start. We waited about an hour and a half before we saw him immerge in his sarong with crazy hair and a big smile. The first two people receiving their healing were a husband and wife team whom had come in from Jakarta, a nearly 2 hour flight, just to see him. We watched as he poked their ears, felt their head and face and then laid them down to poke their toes. They both seemed in pain from the pressure in certain areas, meaning certain things. He established that the wife had some emotional stress over not getting pregnant. This was indeed true. He established for the husband that he had a health concern he was managing, to which he responded that he was diabetic. We were believers after seeing this, but a bit nervous at what he might find within us. 

    It was my turn. I sat facing away from him on the ground, him on a chair above me. He laid my neck and head against his knees and started his process. I relaxed in and waited to hear him speak. He put his hand on my shoulder after a moment and said, "You are good. You have clear mind. You see beautiful things. I see no problems here." I turned to look at him and then the audience of others waiting for their healing, about 20 other people looking on. I make a face like, wait, what? That's it, I'm cool? He asks me what I do for a living and I tell him I'm a photographer. He says, "Ah yes, you see a lot of beauty and you capture that. You have passion for what you do. Photographers live long lives," he says, "because they are focused and see things clearly. His English was broken, but I got the message, some of it later from our driver who had to translate a bit. 

    He then asked my age and said I was just beginning my spiritual journey to openess and that in two years, I would no longer feel any blocks and I will be happy. He also said something about great adundance that went with that and that I had an inituitive sense about things. "You know things," he says, "but have it be your little secret." I liked that and smiled. He traced his finger under one eye and said, "See this looks good." Then traced along the other and said the same thing. "All good." 

    I said thank you and caught the shocked glances of the other people waiting. When I went to grab my bag from the back of the line a lady turned to me and said, "You are so lucky. He found nothing wrong with you. That's incredible." I too thought it was pretty incredible...

  • No bitterness. Only happiness.

    No bitterness. Only happiness.

    'No bitterness, only happiness,' reads a sign outside a coffee shop in Seminyak, Bali. It makes me smile only because I've spent a week here and understand the message. There is a beautiful harmony to this place and the Balinese seem blissfully unaware of it. They live in it every day, arriving to work on their scooters, sometimes with their dog and 2 children in tow. They smile, they serve, they laugh, they pray and they wake up and do it all again the next day. 

    I noticed what looked like shrines containing baskets full of goodies outside of almost every building and asked a local resident what they were. "They are offerings," he said, "to the gods. We pray two times a day, in the morning and at night and thank the gods for our lives." I begin to see these offerings everywhere, outside the front of boutiques, restaurants, even in taxis and I start to notice people doing their daily prayers. It's quite beautiful watching this act of gratitude and knowing how important it is to them to be thankful. There seems to not only be a respect for one another but for ritual, tradition and family. "It is family first," I am told, "then money, then work. And you will not get the Balinese to change that, ever." 

  • Getting settled - week one

    Getting settled - week one

    Thanks to the power of Facebook, I was connected with the owner of a beautiful home in Bali through a friend of a friend. I've come to learn that she rarely rents out her space to strangers and usually reserves her spare room for close friends and family, so I feel very lucky to be staying in her private home. It also turns out that she's quite lovely and we get on very well. She even invited me out with her good friend that night to have dinner and girl talk so my introduction to Bali and it's people has been, so far, warm and inclusive. 

    I woke the next day to that feeling of, "Wait, where am I?," and then smiled immediately knowing I was just beginning an amazing trip full of doing nothing and everything. It is an interesting feeling to clear your schedule for a month and have literally, no plans. What do you do when no one is telling you what to do? This is going to be interesting...

  • Arriving in Bali

    Arriving in Bali

    I couldn't help but wrap myself up in the beauty of Bali the moment I arrived at my Airbnb. Hair was notted in a bun, clothes were off and there I was, beginning my amazing vacation. Even after 27 hours of travel, I felt as clear and centered as when I first stepped on that train to LAX. There is something magical about this place and I could feel it immediately. 

    My wonderful 'host' had arranged a car to pick me up at the airport and sure enough Yoga was waiting for me with a sign that read "Remy Tamara H". He was lovely and kind and welcomed me to Bali. We got on the road to Semiyak and I noticed many new sites along the way, especially the organized choas of the city. Motor bikes and mini cars snaking there way around each other, narrowly missing each other's bumpers.

    As we began to leave the city of Denpasar, the air started to get a little quiter, the cars a little slower and the foliage a big bigger. Even in my weariness and sleep deprivation, my eyes were wide with excitement...