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Posts from the ‘Travel’ Category

6 Quotes to Help You Embrace Small


When I started Defying Small three years ago, I wanted to bring together an online community to help people live bigger, more passionate lives. Why? Because none of us wants to come to the end of our life and regret that we didn’t pursue the things we were created for.

Over dinner one night my boyfriend (now husband), Stephen, looked at me and said, I get Defying Small. But why aren’t you also writing about Embracing Small?

Embracing Small seems counterintuitive in the “Super-Size Me” culture we live in. But there’s a movement under way that’s all about Embracing Small—people downsizing and opting for tiny living spaces. Others who are getting rid of “stuff” so they can travel. They talk about how freeing it is. And there’s a reason.

Defying Small always begins with Embracing Small. No matter who we are, no matter how ambitious our dreams, we must start right where we are—with the gifts, talents, and resources we’ve been given. We have to embrace our small beginnings. Only then can we begin Defying Small, moving step-by-step towards our biggest life.

A few days after my conversation with Stephen, I changed my tagline—and the title of my book—to Defying Small, Embracing Small. That also changed the focus of my Defying Small Manifesto (click here to get the free, downloadable PDF).

As I pondered the idea of Embracing Small, I began finding quotes that inspired me. Some of them may be familiar. Each of them talks about the importance of Embracing Small. Please enjoy and share!







Note: I love the photo above, taken when I was in Rwanda. My friends and I ran across this amazing group of women who had started their own micro financing co-op. Each woman owned a goat and was working towards purchasing a cow. Talk about Embracing Small!

How are you Embracing Small in your life? Feel free to comment, below.




10 Beautiful (and Inspiring) Travel Quotes

I have wanderlust. Big time.

No matter how many great places I go, I’m always thinking about my next adventure.

I just got back from a weekend in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Next month I’m headed to Italy (keep an eye out here for photos and posts).

I’m also excited to have recently become a guest travel blogger for Paul Steele, aka The Baldhiker. Paul is a world class traveler and a great guy. If you aren’t already following him, you should.

In the weeks to come, I’ll be sharing how travel can inspire you to live your biggest life. To kick that off, I thought I’d share a few photos from my travels along with my favorite travel quotes. Please enjoy and feel free to tweet, post or pin!

Do you love to travel? Why? Where would you like most to go? I’d love to hear your thoughts, below.











10 Quotes from Alice in Wonderland That Can Help You Defy Small


In honor of British novelist Lewis Carroll’s birthday on January 27, I thought I would share a few quotes and my reflections about defying small from Alice and her adventures in Wonderland.

#1 “When I used to read fairy-tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!”

You know you’re living your dream when you wake up and can’t imagine doing anything else. If you’re not there yet, don’t lose heart. Just take that first step and, slowly, but surely, you’ll get there.


#2 Alice: “Where should I go?” The Cheshire Cat: “That depends on where you want to end up.”

Have a plan (life plan, business plan, book proposal, etc.) Without one, you might eventually get to where you want to go, but you’ll waste a lot of precious time in the process.

 #3 “Be what you would seem to be—or, if you’d like it put more simply—never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others.”

Be authentic. You won’t please everyone, so don’t even try. Build a tribe of faithful followers and just keep doing what you do best. Those faithful few will show up and bring new followers along.

#4 “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

Sometimes you’ll think you are crazy to pursue your dream, whether it’s starting a new business, writing a book, or traveling around the world. Other people will think you’re crazy, too. Personally, I’d rather be creative and crazy than do nothing and live a life of regret.

#5 “Curiouser and curiouser!”

Be curious. When I want to master a new skill, I do my research and delve in. Take a risk and dare to try something new.


#6 “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

The more passionately you pursue your dream, the more demands you’ll have on your time. Make a choice to get off the hamster wheel. This is your dream, after all. Slow down and enjoy the journey.

#7 “Why, sometimes, I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

I am most creative in the early mornings, so that is when I write. It’s also when my thoughts are most fluid and when the best ideas come to me. Find your prime time for creativity and guard it with your life.

#8 “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

Once you decide to pursue your dream, there’s no turning back. You may be successful. You will probably fail somewhere along the way. If you are open and vulnerable, you will grow. But you will never go back to being the person you were before.

#9 “If you limit your actions in life to things that nobody can possibly find fault with, you will not do much!”

See #4.

#10 “If you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”

Find a tribe of people who believe in your talents and abilities. Find a mentor to guide, empower, and encourage you. Show gratitude by believing in and encouraging those who believe in you. At the end of the day, it’s connection that counts.

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Which is your favorite quote and why? Feel free to share your thoughts, below.

A Love Affair with Life by Jacqueline Boone

I am excited to welcome Jacqueline Boone as my first guest blogger for Defying Small! I met Jacqueline through a Skillshare blogging class she was teaching and we instantly connected as passionistas. She is an amazing person and I believe her story will inspire you. Enjoy! Laura

Meet Jacqueline Boone! Photo by Vanessa Hellmann

Meet Jacqueline Boone! Photo by Vanessa Hellmann

Are you wholly, completely, absolutely head over heels in love with your life? If not, it may be time for a new relationship.

Of course there will be moments that are less than ideal—squabbles, mixed up directions, peaks and valleys, but at the end of the day do you think to yourself: “Wow! I love my life!”?

I wish I could tell you that as the creator of 6 Months to Live, a blog and company completely dedicated to inspiring, empowering, and helping people live their dreams, that I have always loved my life, but that’s not the case.

At the time I started 6 Months to Live, I was a 26-year-old who had just returned from the grand adventure of living and working in China for 3 years. I topped off the experience by working on a ranch in Montana, which was one of my childhood dreams. Fall came, and I found myself sitting on my mom’s couch in Atlanta, GA trolling the Internet for jobs in San Francisco during the 2009 recession. I felt deeply discouraged and life in suburbia felt painfully ordinary in comparison.

Hua Shan, China

Hua Shan, China

I went to a conference as an opportunity to network and hopefully land a job. An attendee at the conference asked me, “What would you do if you had 6 months to live?” I didn’t have a good answer.

That question stuck with me. If I had 6 months to live, what would I be doing different in my life? I decided to try a 6-month life experiment. What if I approached my life intentionally? What if I made the best of each day? What if I loved my life?

That decision completely changed my life and my philosophy towards it. I wrote 168 letters of gratitude to people all over the world for how they had made a difference in my life. I took last minute trips and moved to San Francisco with a place to live for a month, no job, and a little over $1,000. 5 weeks later I was hired by a great company working for the CEO doing international strategic partnerships for a 2-billion dollar company. And I lived happily ever after…for 3 years.

Three years later, I found myself no longer in love with my life, so I made a change. The truth is that life is constantly changing, just like our relationships. While our relationships with girlfriends, boyfriends, partners, friends, and family are significant, our relationships with life and ourselves are the longest and most important relationships during our time on earth.

Sailing in Mexico

Sailing in Mexico

Our relationship to life and to the people we choose to have in it makes all the difference. If you’re ready to make a change, but you don’t know where to start, begin with gratitude. It doesn’t mean that further changes in your approach or life won’t be needed, but it does make it immediately clear how much there already is to love in your world.

How we choose to spend our time makes up a lifetime. Sophie Tucker, a Vaudeville singer at the turn of the century, had a saying, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor—and believe me, rich is better. My saying is: “I’ve loved my life and hated my life—and believe me, loving your life is better!”

Jacqueline Boone is a passionately curious explorer, entrepreneur, and writer, who has a profound love of humanity. Follow the passion at, on Twitter @6monthstolive and on Facebook at 6 Months to Live!

In the months to come, look for guest posts by other amazing authors, bloggers, travelers, and entrepreneurs who are Defying Small by living their biggest, most passionate lives!

A death-defying dive into life


Photo: Julia Fullerton-Batten

If you ask me, there’s nothing worse than jumping off a high dive. Unless you are pushed. And that’s exactly what cancer is like.

I wasn’t ready to dive into the chilling waters of breast cancer. Swim through weeks of radiation. Or tread through years of meds. I found myself looking out over the deep end of worry and fear, then suddenly, I was plunging in.

Growing up, I was the kid at Tanglewood Swim Club who would climb to the top of the high dive, walk to the end, and then stand there for what seemed like hours, staring at the water and contemplating my fate. Which, of course, was always death.

If you jump from something this high, I reasoned, you’ll die. It was that simple.


“High Dive” by Norman Rockwell

Day after day I would face My Giant. Today’s the day, I’d tell myself.

But no matter how stalwart my resolve, I always came to the same conclusion. And I’d climb down and make everyone waiting on the ladder behind me, climb down, too.

I knew they resented me, the girl in the pink polka-dot two piece. I was a wimp. A nerd. A scaredy cat. (It did help that my handsome older brother was a lifeguard and surely saved me from some terrible fate.)

But this post is not about cancer or dying. It’s about living. Here’s what I’ve learned.

It was my unexpected dive into cancer that taught me to have faith. To trust. When you’re on your way down, the best place to look is up.


Secondly, it taught me that there really is a fate worse than death. And that is to never really live at all.

So I began living. Wide-eyed-in-your-face-out-loud-living. And that is when some of my great adventures began.

First, there was Paris (my post-radiation trip—thank you, Stephen).


Then Rwanda, the Land of a Thousand Hills.


In a few weeks I’m heading to London for my five-year survivor trip (I fancy being the cheeky blonde, below, second from the right).


But my newest and most fearful adventure is Defying Small, the online community I recently founded for visionaries who are daring to live bigger, more passionate lives. People like Torre DeRoche (you go, girl!) the #fearfuladventurer herself.

This summer I will be writing a book called Defying Small: How Defining Life Moments Can Help You Live A Bigger, More Passionate Life. I’m terrified. I also can’t wait to get out of bed every morning.

I’ve come a long way since those climbs up the ladder of the high dive back in my hometown.

Now, whenever I look over the terrifying precipice of my latest adventure and contemplate my fate, I simply shout “Let’s go, baby!” and dive right in.

Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press

“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.”

“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail

Find out more…

Stop hitting the snooze button (reflections from my week at the beach)


“Life goes by in about three weeks, so be here for it. Stop hitting the snooze button. Wake up! That’s why you’re here.” ~ Anne Lamott

I just got back from a week at my beloved Outer Banks. For those of you who don’t know about the OBX, it is the fragile thread of barrier islands running along our magnificent North Carolina coast. My brother lives there and it is my second home, so, naturally, I headed that way when my spring break began.

I stayed in a little cottage like this one in a place called Pelican Shores. I arrived exhausted, burned out from too many mornings of rising at five and working late into the night. But a girl does what a girl’s got to do, and so I have. Now it was time to stop, breathe in the salt air, and reset my spirit.DSCN2275

One of the ways I keep from losing my sanity as I move through life is by reading the musings of Anne Lamott. She is now on Facebook and if you’re not following her, you should. This woman truly does live out loud. And that’s why I’m drawn to her. Anne has the rare gift of putting her raw, unfiltered, gloriously imperfect self out there for all the world to see.

And that brings me to the snooze button. Anne was about to go on a book tour last week and I was reading a post she had written about what she was packing, where she was going, and what she might say, when she said (in her thought-provoking, Anne Lamott way):

The most important thing I will say tonight is that life goes by in about three weeks, so be here for it. Stop hitting the snooze button. Wake up! That’s why you’re here.

Yeah, baby! my inner voice resounded. But wait. I’ve probably already lived at least two of those weeks. Perhaps I need to start thinking about Week #3.

So I left for spring break with Week #3 very much on my mind. I brought along my computer, a suitcase of books, and my joie de vie, so I felt I was well prepared.

What insights about Week #3 did I glean from my week at the beach?


My writing spot.

1. Stay awake. Be present. Enjoy every moment. I rose with the sun each morning and enjoyed coffee in my pjs before heading out for the day. I ate lots of local seafood. I enjoyed some great wines. I took afternoon naps and drives along the beach. And I found a funky little place to hole up and write.

2. Make time for those you love. I spent time with my beloved brother, my nieces, and a cherished friend. Hugs and kisses, laughing and lingering, are good for the soul.

My brother Horace at The Brine and Bottle

My brother Horace at The Brine and Bottle

3. Beauty is all around you. Drink it in. A friend of mine lives in a lake house nestled in the woods. This former New York/London/LA dweller now loves feeding the geese that frequent his lakeside shore. “There are no bad days in nature,” he says. Take time to enjoy the beauty of creation. And don’t forget to stop and thank the Creator.


4. You don’t need much. The older I get, the less stuff I need. Or even want. A friend once shared with me the secret of Europe’s relaxed and happy cafe dwellers: They don’t have a lot of stuff. Most have a modest dwelling. A nice leather jacket, a few pairs of jeans, and comfortable walking shoes. They share a passion for good food, good wine, and good friends, and, of course, travel. And they set time aside to enjoy all of the above.

5. Be grateful. Every day is a gift. Wake up and be thankful.

6. Give back. Discover and develop your passions and talents. Then use them to bring blessing and joy to others. Make a difference while you can.


7. Don’t take anything (or anyone) for granted.

Doing this thing called life is simple, really. But day in, day out, we forget. Sometimes we just have to get away and be reminded that life is short and we need to stay awake for it.

What are you doing to stay awake? I’d love to hear your story.

My Top Thirteen for 2013

Mixed media collage "Life" by Rachel Bradley

Mixed media collage “Life” by Rachel Bradley

While some of you have been making your list of Top Ten New Years’ Resolutions, I’ve been pondering My Top Thirteen Moments On Planet Earth (in honor of 2013).

This is surely a work-in-progress, but, for now, here they are:

1) Receiving the gifts of Love and Forgiveness from Above (thank you, Jesus).

2) Mother moments: Finding out I was having twins, and, later, #3. Holding Elizabeth, Hannah and Annie in my arms for the first time. And every moment since May 2, 1989, 9:48 pm.

3) Priceless moments with family and friends. Finding Fiona (my fuzzy girlfriend).

4) My first poem/published article/newspaper column/typewriter/writing desk.

5) Lunch with Ruth Bell Graham at Little Piney Cove. Weekend writing retreat with Madeleine L’Engle.

6) Lunch with handsome boyfriend on the Eiffel Tower.

7) Photo shoot in the Mediterranean with Regent Seven Seas. Standing on the balcony of the Sicilian villa where they filmed “The Godfather II” while someone played “Speak Softly Love” on a piano below.

8) Life-changing travel experiences: Rwanda (2010). Paris (2008). Turkey, Greece, Italy, Sicily, France, Spain (2004, 2006). Dominican Republic (2004). Romania, Belarus (1995). Latvia, Estonia, Russia (1990).

9) Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway for the first time in a rented convertible. Yeah, baby.

10) Moments en Francais: Seeing Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and Monet’s “Waterlillies.” Minueting in the garden at Versailles.

11) Seeing an angel in Carrboro, NC, while tooling along in my 1968 VW Beetle. True story (I have a witness).

12) Being at the bedside of my parents as they slipped from this world to the next.

13) Finally, all the millions of unspoken, and yet, profound, moments that have shaped who I am today. Grateful for each and every one.

“There are years that ask questions . . .”

. . . and there are years that answer.” Zora Neale Hurston *

This is an answering year.

My last two posts were about waiting. Many of you have checked in over the past few weeks to find out whether I am still waiting.

Well, I am happy to report that my waiting ended this week. Tuesday, May 24 at 8:15 pm ET to be exact (no one waits as long as I have and then fails to note the moment the waiting ends).

Several difficult weeks led up to that moment. First, my old boyfriend re-surfaced (see my post “Enough”). After a few days of phone calls & emails, I realized, once more, that we had parted several years ago for good reason. So we said good-bye again, this time, for good.

Week 2: My beloved dog, Fiona, began having serial seizures. After several sleepless nights, two visits to the vet, and a dose of Valium (for her, not me) the seizures stopped.

My Fuzzy Girlfriend

The week following I had dental surgery and all the lovely accompanying pain. Enough about that.

By Monday of Week 4, my left foot was painful and swollen and I was having trouble walking. After visiting an orthopedist, I found out that I had a stress fracture. I would need to wear a large black boot for three weeks and stay off my feet.

I didn’t mind the boot or the three week bit. But I didn’t know how I could continue to work the part-time retail job I’d had since January.

I realized that the long hours of teaching and working part time had taken their toll. That night, I sat at my computer and tried to process what had happened.

“Lord, what do I do?”

Suddenly I knew. I had to stop asking questions. I had to let go, surrender.

So that’s what I did.

A few minutes later I was tweeting with a friend from the UK. I gathered all the self-confidence I could muster and sent him a tweet that read: “Know anyone in the UK looking for a great communications person?”

One minute later I got this reply: “Why are you asking the question when you know the answer?”

Sonning on Thames, White Hart Hotel

So now I am officially working part-time for Essential Hotels in Berkshire, England. I will be writing for their new US website (launching early 2012), blogging at Essentially Laura and tweeting about travel in the US & UK @essentiallaura.

My English teacup collection

I now “fancy myself a Brit.” I will be traveling to my beloved England often. Perhaps I will even live there one day.

But for now, I am sitting here (in my big black boot) blogging about waiting. Again.

And I couldn’t be happier.

* Special thank you to Tony Deifell, author of Seeing Beyond Sight for this quote from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Nora Zeale Hurston. You inspire me. You can follow Tony on Twitter @deifell.


In February 2008 I was diagnosed with Stage I Breast Cancer. Two more surgeries followed. And six and a half weeks of radiation.

I am blessed. My doctors caught it early. My prognosis was excellent. And I have come out stronger and more resilient.

My boyfriend at the time told me that after I finished radiation, he would take me on a trip to wherever I wanted to go. Hmm. “Someplace tropical . . . . or Paris,” I thought.

I chose Paris.

Even before I stepped foot in the City of Love, I loved Paris. I dreamed about “us” in Paris . . . walking each morning to the corner patisserie for chocolate croissants and cafe au lait. Kissing on the metro. Holding hands as we strolled down Rue Cler. And sipping wine at Les Place des Vosges.

But what I wanted, what I longed for, most of all, was to see the Eiffel Tower. I collected Eiffel Towers. I was (how do I say it?) obsessed with the Eiffel Tower.

So my charmant 6′ 5″ boyfriend made lunch reservations at 58 Tour Eiffel, one of the three restaurants located on the Eiffel Tower.

I was in heaven. I excitedly told all my friends. Okay, I bragged. Who wouldn’t?

We landed in Paris on a Monday morning and got settled into our beautiful apartment in La Marais.

We had decided to save our special lunch for the second day, hoping to sleep off jet lag so that we might fully enjoy the experience.

The first day passed quickly. Day Two finally arrived. I put on a favorite dress, and we hopped on the Metro, then got off and walked the 5 or 6 blocks to Lunch in Heaven.

After a couple of blocks we rounded a corner and voila!

I was Dorothy and I had just laid eyes on the Emerald City. I quickened my pace and left my city-tromping b.f. clipping at my heels like Toto.

Finally, with just a block to go, I stopped and asked him to take this photo of me. He told me later that I looked (at that moment) like I was going to spontaneously combust.

View from 58 Tour Eiffel

I can’t tell you now what we had for lunch that day. It probably involved seafood and an expensive bottle of Sancerre. Other than that, all I remember is that I was blissfully happy. And that, somehow, is enough.

Salt Water Runs Through My Veins

There is nothing I love more than being at the beach. Almost any beach. But I prefer those that are beautiful. And I have seen many. St. Thomas. St. John. San Salvador. Punta Cana. Cayman Brac. Ixtapa. The Amalfi Coast. The Greek Islands. The French Riviera. South Beach (Miami). Cape Cod. The California Coast. And, of course, my beloved Outer Banks.

An aunt on my father’s side of the family once researched our family genealogy. My maiden name is Whitfield, and she traced our ancestry back to the 1600s. Apparently the bottom third of England was called “Whitefields” at the time, because of the white, sandy soil. So the Whitefields became Whitfields and they lived along the coast.

And that’s why I believe I have salt water running through my veins.

I am a Fire sign, so I have never understood my attraction to Water. But water calms us fiery types and we need its soothing presence. There is nothing more refreshing for me than spending a few days by the water. Any kind of water. Rivers (the Cape Fear, Wilmington, NC). Lakes (Lake Michigan, Chicago). It’s all good.

But I am especially fond of beaches.

My brother, Horace, has lived on the North Carolina Outer Banks for 40 years, so it is my second home (along with NYC). More about my amazing brother later (he deserves his own post). Last year, his beautiful daughter and my beloved niece, Ashley, opened a restaurant on the Manteo Causeway, The Brine and Bottle. The food is New York good. Her amazing chef and husband, Andrew Donovan, was a sous chef in New York and just won the “Best Chef Award” at Taste of the Beach. Way to go, you two!

My Twitter name is @ncbeachgirl75. Many of my followers assume I live at the beach. And I do. Not physically. But because it is ever present with me. My little cottage in Chatham County looks like a beach house. No beachy kitsch. Just the colors of the sea, some shells, and photos of me and my girls frolicking by the shore.

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