An even fuller, full circle

About 15 years ago, I began gently and patiently exploring how to create the life I really wanted. I slowed down, stepped back a bit from the life I was leading, began asking myself lots of questions and then, really listened to my answers. The process helped me decide how I wanted my life to look and feel, and I’ve been living my life that way ever since.

bitola-hills-looking-toward-pelister-1-1-079a.jpgMy journey has taken me many places. First stop was an honest look inside myself – the toughest journey of all. I hired a life coach to help me with that. I then used the support and insights I gained to help me create the life I really wanted, which led me to three exciting years as a volunteer with the United States Peace Corps in Macedonia.

It was there that my journey came full circle, when I realized that when we change ourselves, we change the world. And, not necessarily by making major life changes, but by believing change is possible. When you accept that change is possible, others will too, and then all sorts of doors will open – for everyone. That’s how Wishful Thinking Works.

This blog, Wishful Thinking Works: Create the life you really want, is part of my journey. I share what I’ve learned, what I enjoy, what I’m discovering and what lies ahead. I’m glad you have joined me. I also share great photos and information about my time in Macedonia (Search Macedonia for more.), the Republic of Georgia (Search Georgia for more.) and other volunteers’ experiences in the Peace Corps (Search Peace Corps for more.).

Since my first Peace Corps experience, I became a certified life coach, served two additional assignments as a United States Peace Corps Response Volunteer, spent a month volunteering at a Benedictine monastery, was the Director of Corporate Training and Continuing Education at a state college in Florida and married the man of my dreams in 2015 after enjoying the single life for 18 years! We now split our time living on two islands that vary greatly in size – Fort Myers Beach, Florida and Long Island.

And, today are I am thrilled to be back in Bitola, Macedonia as part of our month long honeymoon! Dan has enlarged the circle, making it even fuller – how fun to share the country I love with him. We will spend time in Macedonia visiting wonderful friends and enjoying its laid back and ancient beauty, then we are off to explore Venice, Italy, relax on a beach in Albania and go sightseeing in Greece, but we will return to Macedonia and dear friends after each side trip!

I hope to post lots of new photos, along the way!

среќен пат,

Happy journey!

Patrice Robson (Koerper)

WTW Dandelion

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Journey of a lifetime

Patrice BitolaWishful Thinking Works

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to change your life dramatically? To try something terribly new and scary, but truly heartfelt – all on your own? To do more and learn more than you ever thought possible?

I did, and I am sharing the experiences of my amazing adventure in Macedonia as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer from 2006-2009 at a program for the Fort Myers Beach Library on March 30 at 1:30 p.m.

Only 450 people over the age of 50 serve in the Peace Corps each year, I was lucky enough to be one of them. I was 53 years old when I decided to take the biggest risk of my life, and ended-up on an remarkable journey serving in a tiny, ancient, mountainous, wine-soaked country just north of Greece. It truly is my personal “Eat, Pray, Love” story.

You are never too old – or too young – to decide who you want to be!

My journey really began in 2004 when I started looking at my life through a new lens. I spent less time “doing” and more time reflecting and thinking about how I wanted my life to look, feel and be. During that time I discovered three things:

  1. I wanted to “touch the face” of the people I was helping. I am a visual thinker and that was my way of saying I knew I wanted to work one-on-one with folks. I had risen as far as I could in management within my field, and although I loved my job and was impacting my community in a way I wanted to, I knew I had more to learn and give at a personal, one-on-one level.
  2. I knew there were more people I was supposed to know in this world – not just to meet, but to know. Luckily I was right, and made friends for life on my journey.
  3. And, I knew I wanted  to live in Europe. Didn’t know how or why, but knew I wanted to live within another country and culture.

During my two years of introspection and months of research, Peace Corps (PC) rose to the surface. Joining PC was never planned, but popped-up while searching Internet options that would allow me to live as I realized I wanted to. And, and as sad as this is to admit, I had no clue where Macedonia was until I started exploring serving in the Peace Corps in Eastern Europe.

You are never too old – or too young – to become who you want to be!

During my presentation you will find out what it is like to pack two suitcases and leave behind everything else you love – family, friends, your home and your job to volunteer in a country where you must learn a new language, work in a new job and make new friends, while trying to understand and meld into a culture that is foreign to you.

Through photos and stories I will share how this wonderful trek enriched my life and broaden my understanding of myself, others and the world around me.

Postscript:

I returned to Macedonia in 2010, 2011 to visit and for projects and in 2012 for a short Response Corps Peace Corps (RCPC) assignment. In 2011, I served in the Republic of Georgia on another short RCPC project. This summer, I will be visiting Macedonia for a month; it is time to introduce my new husband to my second home. 

 

The learning and the fun never has to end!

Learning to check your expectations with your luggage!

Chaska, Macedonia 2013 Mountain Road

An unplanned journey, and a day I will remember always – near Chaska, Macedonia.

I’m finishing-up my third Peace Corps assignment, and will be heading back to the States on Valentine’s Day – a sweet treat for sure. I served with the Peace Corps from 2006-2009 in the Republic of Macedonia, 3.5 months in the Republic of Georgia, 2011-2012, and I’m now finishing a 3.5 month assignment in Macedonia.

A big part of the joy I have experienced in my work here and in Georgia has to do with being open to exploring and understanding different cultures. So, earlier this week, when I opened my email and read an e-newsletter about “Cultural Intelligence”, I started thinking about what I’ve learned by living and traveling abroad and how those lessons have shaped my life.

My favorite line in the article is . . . “The last part of cultural intelligence relates to how you behave, and, in particular, how well you adapt when things don’t go according to plan.”

While living abroad I quickly learned that some of my richest and most rewarding moments were dependent on how well I adapted when things turned out differently than I expected, which led to an even more valuable lesson – to be truly happy abroad – it’s best to check your expectations with your luggage!

And, guess what? The amazing part of that lesson is it works just as well at home as it does abroad! Letting go of your expectations, is one of the keys to being truly happy – anywhere, anytime. When we let go of what we expect to happen and how we expect others to act and react, the happier and more fulfilling our lives become.

Expectations take-up a great deal of room in our hearts and in our heads and require loads of effort to maintain, which leaves very little space and energy for understanding, communication,  growth, and happiness.

Think about it.

  • How many times a day do you get frustrated with the actions or non-actions of yourself or others?
  • How many times in your life have you look backward or forward through a very narrow lens, shaped almost entirely by your or other’s expectations, and felt embarrassed, sad or stressed?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to leave all that behind?

Why not give yourself a special gift this Valentine’s Day and lessen your expectations for yourself and others (past, present and future) and increase the likelihood that happiness will find a special place in your heart and grow to become the sweetest part of your life?

“Sreken pat” or happy journey, as they say to travelers in Macedonia, and may your happiest journey be your life.

Choices and change

Creating the life you want involves choices. 

I made a wonderful choice a few months ago, and I am now back in the United States Peace Corps as a Response Corps Volunteer in the beautiful  country of Macedonia. I spent three years in Macedonia from 2006-2009 as a Peace Corps Volunteer living and working in the Municipality of Bitola. I’ve been lucky enough to journey back here for pleasure and projects each fall since then.

When the opportunity to serve again with the Peace Corps in Macedonia arose earlier this year, I decided to give it a go. Response Corps and I are good friends. Last year, after visiting Macedonia for 6 weeks, I flew to the Republic of Georgia to serve as a Response Corps Volunteer at the Ministry of Environment for three and a half months. As always, I had a great time, learned a lot about myself and the world and lived with an amazing host family in TbilisiResponse Corps offers short-term, very focused assignments to former Peace Corps Volunteers, and now for the public, as well.

I invite you to follow and share my three month journey – I will be posting photos and more about Macedonia in the weeks ahead, along with my Wishful Thinking Works posts.

Creating the life you want takes couragecommitment and change. What have you been thinking about doing? What excites and inspires you? Why not spend a few minutes this week, exploring what’s ahead for you? Click here for easy to use sheets that can help you explore your dreams – big or small.

Then check out the The Power of Fortune Telling to take your dreams to the next stage!

PS Rest assured your dreams are possible, there was a time when I believed living and working abroad was an impossible dream for me, and I have happily proved myself wrong time and time again. And, I’ve seen my clients change their lives in ways they never thought possible.

Challenge the limits you’ve set for yourself – push the boundaries of your dreams. Take a risk in the direction of your dreams.

Wishful Thinking Works!

PS Here is a post about one of my favorite places in Macedonia, the nearby village of Dihovo.

A brief glimpse back

Sadly, this is my final week in the Republic of Georgia. Today is my last day at the Ministry of Environment where I have spent the past three and a half months as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer working with great people on interesting PR projects. My Peace Corps reports are finished and waiting to be signed, and hundreds of my photos are sitting in my files waiting to be shared with you! Since I only have a little time left here, I’m letting myself get further and further behind in posting my memories so I can spend time with my Georgian host family, who are absolutely wonderful and so much fun!

I promise to catch-up soon on my photos. I’m sure it will take me a few weeks to sort through all the photos I’ve already taken and the hundreds more I plan to take in my remaining three days. Until I get my photographic act together, I thought I would share a brief glimpse of one of my favorite holiday traditions here.

These sweet little trees were for sale in markets and along streets before the holidays. I’d never seen anything like them and quickly fell under their ancient holiday spell.

Chichilaki are made from young walnut or hazelnut tree branches that are shaved, and curl naturally during the process. (I have been told that only hazelnut trees are used and just as adamantly told that only walnut trees are used. As yet I have no final verification if one or the other or both are acceptable!) I can confirm that they range in size from 10 inches to four feet!

Once bought, these blonde beauties are given an important place on the table during New Year’s celebrations. They are decorated with candies, and are said to absorb all the bad memories accumulated in the home during the year. On the eve of Epiphany they are burnt as a way of symbolically reducing bad memories to ashes. I like that. 

To read and see more about how Chichilaki are made, click here. To see more photos of my wonderful days in Georgia return often to Wishful Thinking Works.

Just before this door closes

When a door closes, a window opens . . .

In September of last year I headed from Florida to Macedonia for a project and to visit friends. I haven’t been back to the States since! After six weeks in Macedonia I flew to Tbilisi, Georgia for a three-month assignment as a United States Peace Corps Response Volunteer. It was my second Peace Corps assignment; I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bitola, Macedonia from 2006-2009.

I’m now faced with the sad process of saying goodbye to more folks I have grown to know and love. In two weeks, I will be leaving my warm and wonderful host family; it will not be easy. They opened their home to a total stranger and quickly shared their hearts, as well. I also was lucky enough to meet and make new American friends through Peace Corps and other organizations here, and to work with many talented and amazing Georgians at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Peace Corps.

Before heading from one place to another, finishing a project and starting another, or heading into a new phase of life, I like to take time to savor where I have been and what I have done. I think it is important to honor the doors and windows of our past as we prepare to discover and open those in our future.

Next week I will share some of the magical moments that have unfolded for me in Georgia, but for now, I hope you enjoy revisiting with me those I experienced when I began my journey last fall in Macedonia and the thoughts that are with me wherever I go. (These photos were originally posted in October, 2010.)

Hmm, closed and locked seems impenetrable! Ohrid, Macedonia
Don’t let appearances or the number of closed doors deter you. Bitola, Macedonia
What about a gate half open? Go with your guts; it’s always up to you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Mixed messages; “Should I knock or should I go?” Choice is yours. Bitola, Macedonia
A lost cause, time to let it go? Or, something that has stood the test of time? Ohrid, Macedonia
Not all your options will be neatly laid out in front of you. Leptokaria, Greece
Sometimes, you may need to pause and reflect before the answers come. Bitola, Macedonia
Some choices may be hidden or seem confusing. Bitola, Macedonia
Some options will sit squarely in front of you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Others may seem whimsical or unusual. Bitola, Macedonia
Sometimes your options will be appear at the same time. Bitola, Macedonia
Then previously closed doors, may open. Bitola, Macedonia
Or, new even fancier opportunities may materialize. Ohrid, Macedonia
Simple and yet stunning openings exist all around you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Moments you might miss without quiet reflection. Bitola, Macedonia
Recessed and waiting. Bitola, Macedonia
You truly never know what may open before you. Bitola, Macedonia
Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. Bitola, Macedonia
With an open mind, you will surely see . . .  Bitola, Macedonia
. . . the possibilities, are endless. Ohrid, Macedonia

Hope your week is off to a great start, and windows are opening for you! 

PS Thanks for the “Likes” on Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook.

The back-to-work-blues

Even if you love your job, you may still be experiencing some form of back-to-work-blues this morning. The holiday rush, combined with overindulging in all things fancy and edible; mixed with late nights, early-rising kids, long-staying relatives and a long weekend to enjoy it all – may have left you feeling a bit overwhelmed at the thought of heading or being back to work today.

Not to worry, you’re in good company. Much of the world is feeling exactly the same way. To help combat the back-to-work-blues, I have developed a novel approach rooted in ancient teachings.

The Archetypal Return

You are passing through an emotional and mental threshold as you rise and return to the world outside your door. After 2-4 days in your cozy cave and weeks of holiday and social activities and demands, you are once again on your own. Embrace it!

I suggest starting the day by picking the attitude and archetype that suits your current mood or mindset. Carl Jung, a famous psychologist in the early 20th century, popularized ancient archetypal roles and took them quite seriously; I’m suggesting a much lighter approach for today, in fact I call it Archetype-Light.

There are many Archetype-Lights to choose from: hero, warrior, wizard, goddess, damsel, mother-earth, trickster, sage, explorer, guardian, adventurer, detective, cowgirl, philosopher, angel, devil-may-care, etc. Select the one that sounds the most appealing at the moment to you, and then act accordingly throughout the day.

We’re not talking long-term – adopting an Archetype-Light approach is an imaginative way to make your passage back to the “real” world as relaxing as possible. You can start your day as light and as airy as mother-earth by sipping lemon water and nibbling on nuts, or you can feed the warrior within and begin your day with lean meat and eat it off the tip of the knife you use to cut it! The choice is yours, and since we are only type-casting for the day, throw caution to the wind and create the persona that best describes how you feel or who you most want to be, and blend it with:

A Sense of Adventure

Go for it. Decide to take a chance in the New Year and let your imagination run wild. Exercise your psyche and your soul.

A Sense of Drama

You can choose to push your blues aside and dive into your new persona using all your creative acting abilities, or you can choose to wallow in any lingering grogginess and grumpiness and craft your actions around being the best post-holiday Scrooge-like creature imaginable. No matter which option you choose – revel in the details and the drama by immersing yourself in your character.

A Sense of Humor

Make it fun, even if you only ended up laughing at yourself. Pose as your persona when no one is looking or perform for the amusement of all around you. Pretend your scarf is your wings or the wind blowing through your hair, or transform your tie into your shield or the launching pad for all your super powers. Your cellphone can become your transporter and your car can be a chariot or a gilded carriage. You decide.

I have decided to be a goddess/angel for the day – I’m a Gemini so I responding to the whims of twins. I started by turning my many gratitudes into gold, so I feel rich and wonderful. Keeping in character, I’m sipping and enjoying only the most delicate beverages and the most delicious and diminutive portions of food under the most elegant conditions, which include a glass of sweet, freshly-squeezed tangerine juice with rich dark chocolate on a holiday napkin at my desk! I’m wearing a two-tone scarf woven of the memories of my family and friends in the States and my new family and friends in the Republic of Georgia, who after much holiday revelry in very different locations on opposite sides of the globe, are sharing in the same cultural phenomena today – the back-to-work blues.

Enjoy your journey!

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