the AHA moment that led to me traveling around the world with myself

Definition of AHA MOMENT

: a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension

So I just turned 35 and my vision of being married with two children, a dog and a white picket fence is not exactly happening. In the last few weeks, I moved back in with my parents. I left my overpriced Santa Monica bungalow for suburban Orange County and put all of my possessions into storage. And I just gave notice at my dream job, something I had worked ten years to achieve. In three weeks, I leave for New Zealand. The beginning of my solo travels around the world.

So what’s this Aha Abroad blog?

I have worked in the fashion industry for 15+ years. In my early twenties, I worked in a fast paced multi-line show room selling clothing brands to the department stores and boutiques. After years of schlepping clothes and working trade shows (New York to Milan) I decided I wanted a more personal experience with the customer. I have been in retail sales and management for Neiman Marcus and Scoop NYC, some truly great stores. I absolutely love what I do! There is no better feeling than when someone leaves my store feeling ready to nail their date, special event or day they were shopping for because they look great (invision you “average girl” leaving the store feeling like Beyonce).

But what’s true is there are the same items in every high end boutique. How can one feel unique when there is nothing fresh in the market and I have heard this from buyers, contemporaries, and most importantly the consumer. I am traveling the world in search of fresh Aha finds for you and more Aha moments for myself. I am so excited to combine my travels with finding products that are unique. Hopefully, using this blog as a forum to receive feedback and providing new gift ideas, fashion finds and treats for yourself from around the world.

Why? Why not!!! But the story is something I have actually to tell, so . . .

Let’s rewind three months… I went to The Netherlands. I had swiped right on a tall, handsome, funny Dutch gentleman . . .Tor. He was in LA and using Tinder for travel advice. We ‘matched’ and he kept in touch for restaurant and bar ideas, but we never met up. Days later he sent a picture of his passport, plane ticket and the airport escalator under his feet moving upwards and said “stay in touch”. The sensible part of me said “yeah right”; this was a geographically impossible relationship. But Tor’s persistence paid off. He kept contacting me once he got back to The Netherlands and he was so goddam cute. He suggested a Skype date. And for the first time in a long time, I felt that spark of possibility.

Now let rewind ten months . . . I separated from my ex-husband last year and moved into my studio while we went through a divorce. So 2015 was pretty much the worst.

Anyways, this was my first “first” date in almost five years. In my own ‘a little effort could lead to “love” mentality’, I ran home from work, brushed my teeth, hit hair and make-up, found my best Skype angle and jumped on the computer. Two hours of conversation later, I had a non-stop ticket to Amsterdam.

I was pacing in my room at the Sofitel Amsterdam waiting for his arrival. It was all so romantic. Upon seeing him, “it” was there. That split second when the reality of someone either meets or dramatically falls short of expectations went my way. Thank you internet dating gods!

Aha moment: as it turns out, I love Dutch men.

IMG_3876We had a perfect day in Amsterdam and flirted through every floor of the Riksmuseum and Van Gogh museum. We strolled the canals and at night smoked a obligatory joint in a coffee shop and then wandered through the red light district. We then drove North to see the iconic Windmills, The North Sea and finally, Tor’s home, the town of Groningen.

Groningen is a small little gem. Everything you would want in a European town; charm, beauty and, simplicity. It was Sunday and Tor had soccer (aka European football), so I was on my own to explore. To avoid blowing up his apartment with my industrial American blow dryer, I took a shower with a bag on my head, put on a sensible outfit and in-ear headphones on and was out the door. On my own. I listened to the only music available with WiFi, an Ed Sheeran X Album.

As I walked into town, I passed an old man surrounded by cats, the kind of guy you know has been sitting on that front lawn for 20 years. I was on a mission to make it to Martini tower in the center of town. On my way, I passed a lovely secret garden and walked in. A small labyrinth of paths weaved together and rose bushes shined in the sunlight on this beautiful day. As I walked through the garden, tears started to roll down my cheeks.FullSizeRender-4

Aha moment: I am not broken from a failed marriage. That all great changes are preceded by chaos” (check) and “We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, to have the life that is waiting for us” (breathe and check). I realized in this moment there is so much for me to see, do, explore and experience.

I felt alive sitting in that garden in Groningen. As I strolled by Martini tower, thousands of miles from home, it was so clear to me – — happiness is a mind set. My life had shifted and old limitations and parameters no longer applied. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I could feel the growth and transformation that had occurred over the last year and something new was emerging. It was exhilarating and terrifying but above all, I had the most distinct sense of clarity and ease. For the first time in a long time, I knew what I needed to do.



  1. Profoundly beautiful, heartfelt, soul-baring and breathtaking. Go grab the world, Rissa, and know that support and excitement is being energetically beamed to you….from expected and perhaps unexpected sources. I salute your fierce courage in molding your life in the direction that your heart is urging. Bravo!

    1. Sara! Wow, thanks for the thoughtful and inspiring comment. I am believing the universe is behind me and supports the miraculousness of new beginnings. First, I need to come see you ASAP! Gotta have glowing skin for adventures around the world:)

    1. Thanks Katie!! Have you been to NZ? Leave mid-March . . .cant wait. Then off to Bali and Europe. I posted a picture of us on Instagram the other day. I didn’t have your insta but wanted to share it with you. It was from the high school trip to France 1989.

      1. I went to NZ after college for a few months. You will love it. My one rec would be to spend more time in the south island than the north. Hike and partake of the incredible hut system. What an adventure you are on! I’m KatieKMcLain on instagram. Would love to see photo and more of your adventures!

  2. You are brave and inspiring. This is the life you will create not rndure. Bravo Rissa go and grab handfuls of ah-ha moments and then share to those that will listen

    1. Thanks Juliana! Life changes a lot . . .on that note . . .how is motherhood? That is so wonderful. Marshfield gets shout out in my next post. Nice to hear from you:)

  3. Oh Rissa – you write beautifully! Good luck on your upcoming adventures – may your travels be full of laughter, love and learning. I look forward to reading your posts – travel safely and enjoy!

  4. Rissa-So glad to reconnect with you! I love what you wrote and I look forward to hearing about all of your adventures. Wonderful things are just around the corner:)

  5. Wow, so powerful! Enjoy your journey, Rissa, it really is what it is all about. Great to see your smile is just as contagious now as it always has been 🙂

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