southeast asia

WHERE ONCE THERE WAS GREY THERE IS COLOR.

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I’ve been working on a rebrand project for  DSIL Global trying to conjure and call in its brand essence.

Something that rings true to every multitude at the table.

  • Something that speaks as clearly to the wise old sage as the 5th grade adventurer
  • Something that represents the world of the rebel revolutionary and the architect
  • Something that embodies the heart and spirit of the olympian from the ghetto, the riser
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What we’re talking about here is something that can’t be quantified or qualified but only felt.

  • Business people will call it the UVP.
  • Spiritual junkies will call it the soul.
  • And everyone else who can’t quite put a finger on it will call it magic.

For me, I can only attest to how DSIL has radically rerouted and reframed my life and it all started four years ago with the girl who cried, “Southeast Asia.”

Four years ago, I was highly considering leaving my job to seek adventure. I had seen photos of a friend’s travels in Southeast Asia and something about the vibrancy of the aquamarine waters and the pungent hues of street side delicacies drew me in.

I had to go.

I was living in Phoenix, Arizona at the time and Southeast Asia seemed like a far off and not commonly visited destination. Nevertheless, without a plan or a budget, I put my thirty days notice in with the intention of getting out there as soon as possible.

Long story short, I didn’t end up making it. I postponed that dream for another. I moved to my dream city, San Francisco, California.

Rooftop dance parties at Sunrise beneath San Francisco's infinite sky.

Rooftop dance parties at Sunrise beneath San Francisco's infinite sky.

Fast forward three years later, after living happily in San Francisco, I still had the Southeast Asia itch. When I wasn’t working I’d spend my free time pursuing personal growth at social innovation institutes, global leadership programs, and changemaker intensives.

Often at these types of things there’s an opportunity to introduce yourself and make a pitch or an ask. My ask was always the same, “Hi I’m Kelsey Wong. I’m passionate about people, culture, and community. If you know of any fellowship programs or courses in Southeast Asia, please send them my way.”

While many people sent me ideas or places to visit, the only program that was sent to me consistently was the DSIL Course. This globally certified executive leadership course includes a ten-day field immersion in Thailand/Cambodia or Indonesia and a virtual classroom setting for teaching design thinking, conscious leadership, and inclusive development applied to social innovation.

After receiving knock after knock, I finally looked up the site. To my surprise, I recognized the course, when I was living in Phoenix and first considering going to Southeast Asia, a social entrepreneur friend, Courtney Klein had taken the course and had encouraged me to check it out. At the time, I had read “Executive Leader” and been too intimidated to pursue it. But by this time, I had honed more of my leadership skills and creative capacities and could see myself doing something like this. Then, to my even greater surprise, as I was scrolling through photos of the current cohort, I saw a former mentor and dear friend, Tom.

The stars aligned.

Tom put me in touch with the two partners, Courtney and Katy. It took a bit of time coordinating schedules but Katy and I finally had a chance to Skype. After just a twenty-minute call, I was hooked. Katy was so real, down-to-earth and yet for all intensive purposes, such a badass. Her extensive design and teaching background, the complex problems she was working on and the countries she was working in really amazed me and I was eager to learn more.

The badass that is Katy Grennier, Partner at  DSIL Global.

The badass that is Katy Grennier, Partner at DSIL Global.

It felt like synchrodestiny. I expressed my enthusiasm and said as soon as the course application came up I would apply.

When applications opened I didn’t think I could be more stoked and then I read the application itself. Never have I ever loved applying for anything so much. The questions felt different. I felt different. Never had I applied for something where I felt I could be my whole self and breathe into my fullest possibilities. 

On top of that, I had manifested an opportunity to travel to Thailand and Vietnam six months before the course with two friends. I mentioned to Katy I would be in Thailand and she instantly volunteered her apartment to us. Remember, I had only ever spoken to Katy on Skype for 20 minutes and yet she offered me her house. WHO ARE YOU?! I thought. 

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In December, I did stay at her house. While I was there, I knew she was my people when I saw on the inside of her door that you see as you walk out, a hand-written note that said, “How are you contributing today?”

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Fast forward, not only was I accepted to the course but after spending the month in Southeast Asia I knew I had to be here full-time. So I made it happen. Katy and I had kept in touch along the journey and in May she started a dialogue about capacity gaps DSIL had and asked if I was interested in collaborating more with their consulting team.

I was simultaneously flattered and floored. I signed up for THEIR course, why would they hire me if I’m trying to learn from them?

We talked and she asked if I was interested in working together and even co-facilitating on an upcoming project to test it out we could. To say I was keen is an understatement; I was thrilled.

A week later she sent me an invitation to join her in co-facilitating a leadership development program with the Australia Asia Organization Combating Human Trafficking in Bangkok the following month. I was in Bali at the time and was so ecstatic receiving the invitation I let out a full-bodied YES.

Katy also let me know she’d be in Bali the following week and invited me to meet her local team.

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So this is where it gets interesting.

The day before I met Katy in person I had a life-changing tarot card reading.

After a series of wild events, I found myself frazzled as I checked into the White Lotus Meditation Center. After sensing how disoriented I was, Sandee, the owner asked, “What’s going on? Are you okay?”

After I flooded her with neurosis she made me some tea and asked if I would you like to do a tarot reading. She thought it would be good for me.

I nodded and so we did.

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I’ve only done a few tarot card readings in my life but the times I have were spot on.

Sandee had me shuffle the deck, lay out the cards and take a deep breath.

The first card she asked, “Which card represents you?”

I closed my eyes and sensed for the light. Wherever a golden light beamed in my minds eye is where I chose.

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XIII 

TRANSFORMATION

in the Major Arcana, depicting Shiva sitting in a flaming lotus with a phoenix rising above his head. 

Fitting.

The next card she asked, “Which card represents your current work?”

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SORROW

I felt into it and pulled a card. I flipped it around only to see the card of Sorrow staring into my face. When I saw that card, I felt like the wind got knocked out of me.

 

My gut tightened. My face paled. I didn’t want to believe it but I knew exactly what it meant. I saw the hunched over monk in the darkness crying and I saw myself working late on my computer in the dark unhappy.

Sandee shook her head, “if you stay working for this company, this will be your life.”

I didn’t like hearing her say that but I knew deep down as much as I loved my team, that she was right. I had been working remote with a U.S. based company for the last four years and while it was an amazing ride and wonderful place to practice my skills, now that I was living in Southeast Asia, the time difference wasn’t healthy and the opportunities to grow were limited.

She asked me, “What other possibilities are opening for you?”

I told her I was meeting someone tomorrow that was a partner at another consulting firm I was very interested in working with.

She said, “What’s the name of this person you are meeting?”

“Katy.”

“And what’s the company?”

“D/O consulting."

“Pull a card that represents Katy and D/O.”

Again, I closed my eyes and sensed for light.

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XIV

 

INTEGRATION

The light shined on a card right in the middle. I picked it up and turned it around to see the card of Integration, XIV in the Major Arcana.

Looking at the two cards next to each other. Sorrow and Integration was like night and day. The card of Integration represented a world of color where the card of Sorrow was all grey. Furthermore, the card of Transformation, which represented me, was 13 in the Major Arcana and Integration was 14, a natural progression, the next step.

“The next card is the most important,” Sandee said, “It represents what you need to do now.”

Again, I paused and took a deep breath, looked for the light and then…boom.

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4

POSTPONEMENT

At first, I thought that meant postpone meaning the D/O opportunity is not going to happen. The card showed a woman in grey looking into a frame of color.

But Sandee said, “No, what this means is that if you don’t act soon this opportunity for color will be gone and you’ll be stuck living in the grey. This is the most important card for you. If I were you, I’d resign today.”

My heart stopped.

Was she serious? That’s crazy. I can’t do that. I’ve been with this company for four years; I’m not just going to throw it away after some tarot card reading.

Yet even after thinking that, I knew she was right. Agh. She was really right. The writing was on the wall.

I wrote my letter of resignation that afternoon and though it took me two weeks to have the conversation, eventually I did. And to my surprise I received so much love and support.

Today, I write this blog post from my room at Prado Farms. It’s a biodynamic farm, eco-resort, and inspirational sanctuary that DSIL is living in and working out of for the next two months. I’m on the new team of four core staff leaning into the business as it undergoes a [r]evolution.

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Not only did I complete the DSIL course in Thailand and Cambodia in September, but I’m working with the very team I was so intimidated by years before.

In short, I can’t believe I’m here.

And as I dive deep into this [re]brand and organizational transformation I can’t help but see what’s real and true.

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This company, this course, these people have given me the lens of possibility. I’ve been equipped with new tools for designing, building, and doing. Together, we practice new ways of living, being, listening, and seeing. Creativity is streaming out of me like never before.

So I say again…

  • Where once there were roadblocks there are rivers.
  • Where once there were walls there are worlds.
  • Where once there was grey there is color.

With love x light,

Kelsey Lotus

BIG TRIP TRAVEL TIPS

'The world is a book, and those who don't travel only read one page.' — St. Augustine

While preparing for the unknown, it is impossible to know exactly what one may need.

The road less traveled is unpredictable and I have often found myself at the crossroads of should and must asking, “do I really need this?”.  

At the tail end of every big trip, I discover my needs are very little. That said, it's good to be prepared. 

I've been on the road 50% of the time for the last three years and full-time for the past 6 months. This is a list of my travel essentials for big trips (1 month or more). 
 
HEALTH ESSENTIALS
½ of what I pack is clothing and the other ½ of what I pack is my own holistic pharmacy.
 
    1.    Vitamins & Supplements – Every Body is different so these will depend on you. I have a holistic health specialist who helps assess my needs (let me know if you need a recommendation). I am a high energy person with an adventurous palate and I often wear out my immune system. I use:

    2.    Vaccines – Look up the recommended vaccines for the area you're traveling to. I used One Medical to complete my vaccines. The One Medical staff were very helpful, straightforward and designed for the modern professional who loathes long wait times and is tech savvy.
    3.    Health Insurance – Check your Coverage and Eligibility & Benefits. I was required to cancel my plan if I was out of state for more than 90 days. I did not qualify for an Exemption and will have to pay a Penalty. Check to see what is available to you.
    4.    Travel Insurance – I went with World Nomads “Explorer” option – it was about $400 for 5 months of coverage that included every kind of activity I could possibly get myself into.
 
FINANCIAL ESSENTIALS
    1.    Budget – Start a spreadsheet or another more sophisticated tool (if you have a recommendation, please let me know!) and do the math.

  • What’s the cost of living on a low end and a high end?
  • Approximately how much are practical things like visas, transportation, and accommodations? And then what about experiences, will you be taking any workshops or courses, attending any festivals or events?
  • How does this compare with your current cost of living?
  • Does it make sense from a financial perspective?
  • Living in Southeast Asia was cost effective for me in comparison to San Francisco at about ⅓ or ¼ the cost. This allows me to work less and travel more.

    2.    Financial Advisor - Meet with an Advisor to help you review your goals and determine what you can afford to do. I have been fortunate to work with Daisy and Jeff at Titanium Advisors who help me build my financial strategy around my unique lifestyle.
    3.    Taxes - Take into consideration how you’re doing business and what this means for filing your taxes later. I also work with Daisy at Titanium Advisors for my taxes, she charges $250 and is so worth it! 
    
TECH ESSENTIALS

  1. Cell Phone Coverage – Talk to your provider about your options for suspending, upgrading, or canceling your plan. Different providers have different policies and options for international travelers. It’s also easy to get SIM cards for each country while traveling. They usually sell these at the airports and you can load up via phone or at convenient stores. 
  2. Back up your computer – Get an external hard drive and back back back it up! Leave the hard drive at home so in case anything happens to your computer, you have a back up.
  3.  Favorite App’s
  • Communication – Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, and Skype.
  • Maps – Maps.Me (offline mapping tool, like Google Maps but available offline)
  • Transportation – Grab Taxi, Uber, Lyft
  • Accommodations – Airbnb, Trip Advisor, Hostelworld.com
  • Flights – G Flights, Google Flights, Bunnyhop (tracks flight prices for you)
  • Translation tool – Google Translate
  • Currency converter – Units Plus
Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Pho Temple, Bangkok, Thailand

While embarking on the road less traveled it's easy to get caught up in doubts, fears, worries, and insecurities along the way. Remember, the mind lies. Subconsciously and consciously, often and much. Sometimes innocently, sometimes in ways that really hold you back. 

Listen to the callings of your soul. Be courageous in your intuition. And above all, trust yourself, know yourself, and love yourself so wildly and deeply that you are willing to fly around the world chasing some unknown adventure to show it.

There is magic in a life in motion. Believe in yourself and know you are guided and protected, wherever you go, wherever you grow.

Godspeed and safe travels,

Kelsey Lotus Wong

p.s. For more insight + support, read NO MUD NO LOTUS: Getting Through the Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Mud When Taking a Leap of Faith.

Stop Wishing + Start Doing = Southeast Asia

For three years I was a broken record about Southeast Asia. When I left my job at CO+HOOTS I vowed to travel there. At every global impact conference I attended, my ask was for recommendations for fellowship opportunities based there. It was to the point where I was becoming “the girl who cried Southeast Asia” and never did anything about it.

Then in November 2016, one of my dear friends, Vickie told me she was planning a trip to Vietnam for her cousin’s wedding in January. She had known it was a dream of mine to go and asked if I wanted to come. “HELL YES!” I said. She followed up with, “and what about Thailand too?”

The rest, as they say, is history.

One month of epic adventure and new discoveries.  Two weeks in Thailand, two weeks in Vietnam. Another friend, Anna aka Disco Squirrel Queen joined us for the first leg of the journey in Thailand. 

We named our trio the Infinite SEAsia Sistas (full name: Infinite Mirror Mirror Same Same Sister Sisters) and spent weeks planning it out. When I say we planned it, the credit really goes to Vickie. She is the MVS (most valuable sista) in this lineup. Words cannot express my gratitude for her in launching this vision into action. She researched every city, booked every hostel or Airbnb, found our transportation and flights. She is a true pro with a passion for travel and it shows!

Paying tribute to the MVS (Most Valuable SEAsia Sista) Vickie Lau! For making this trip happen. 

Paying tribute to the MVS (Most Valuable SEAsia Sista) Vickie Lau! For making this trip happen. 

Though one month, in the broad spectrum of things doesn’t sound that long, when every day is completely different and you travel to eight cities, it feels like it’s own lifetime, a crack in the Universe.

And that’s exactly what this experience has given me, a glimpse of life beyond America and Europe.

I felt the call years ago and it took a series of fortunate events for it to come to fruition. I realize the timing was even more divine because I wrote a post in December 2016 where I made a call out to the Universe, I said "Something is missing: ALIVENESS. I want to swim in the ocean of this deep blue mysterious planet and be swallowed whole by bliss. I want to sit at the edge of the known world and make eye contact with the unknown Universe."

To say I feel blessed is an understatement. 

The true gift of this is less about the sights themselves, it's about believing in the POSSIBLE. It's about listening to your callings, sharing your visions, and to keep pushing to make your dreams a reality. 

Okay, you get it. Now what about Thailand??

Thailand has become a major tourist destination and there is a reason. Culturally, it is a place of sheer wonder. Geologically, the area is lush, the food is fresh & juicy, and the cost of living is amazingly low. Beyond that, the Thai people are such a joy to be around. They are gentle, communal, and unbelievably welcoming to travelers.

Highlights included:

Going from Urban Asians to Jungle Asians.

Going from Urban Asians to Jungle Asians.

Bathing baby elephants at the Elephant Rescue Sanctuary in Chiang Mai. 

Bathing baby elephants at the Elephant Rescue Sanctuary in Chiang Mai. 

Visiting heavenly temples including Wat Pho in Bangkok and Doh Suthep in Chiang Mai.

Visiting heavenly temples including Wat Pho in Bangkok and Doh Suthep in Chiang Mai.

Exploring tropical florals at the Chiang Mai Flower Garden.

Exploring tropical florals at the Chiang Mai Flower Garden.

Coconuts on coconuts and in this case a delicious coconut curry inception! NOM NOM NOM.

Coconuts on coconuts and in this case a delicious coconut curry inception! NOM NOM NOM.

Setting New Year's intentions and lighting up the night sky with so much love.

Setting New Year's intentions and lighting up the night sky with so much love.

This experience has activated a whole new way of seeing, being, and living. So much so that it has inspired me to return. I plan to go back in April!

Stay tuned for my next blog post on Vietnam and check out the full Thailand Album on my Facebook

Whatever you do, don't stop believin',

Lotus