June 21, 2014

Free Spirit Saturday: Charmie Stryker

Happy Summer Solstice you sweet sun bathers!  We hope you are out enjoying the longest day of the year! Opal+Wonder is so happy to introduce this sun-chaser as our Free Spirit feature, Charmie Stryker

"Breathe properly, stay curious, and eat your beets." || Tom Robbins || 

Sometimes life has a funny way of introducing integral parts of your life without your knowing of it.  Back in 2007, I met Charmie and Aaron for the first time through a mutual group of friends, upon meeting them little did I know the importance of their presence in the future. We crossed paths various times throughout the remainder of their time in Tennessee before they moved to Austin,Texas in 2010.  Each meeting leaving a stronger impression on me; it was when they moved to Austin I started seeing the dynamic, inspirational, adventurous individuals they are.  Charmie's love for the unfamiliar inspires me to willingly walk outside of my comfort zone, to feel confident walking into the abyss, to be powerful in my own skin. Her graceful presence shows, women, in particular, the importance of self-reliance, individualism, but most importantly, not being afraid to see life in a different light, a light that is not attached to an electrical circuit, a light that is not provided falsely by dollars; but a light that shines effortlessly through her transcendental self.  Charmie's travels have taken her all over the United States (I'm pretty confident she has been to almost, if not all of them.) and during those travels, she and Aaron bring to life a beauty that is sometimes forgotten due to the high-paced, commercialism lives we live currently. They withhold the capability to display the rarest beauties and unfold the forgotten treasures of this world. 

Rajasthan, India

 On Earth Day in 2013, they both resigned from their positions in Austin, TX to embark on a journey that would take them across the United States, and to lands most of us dream of seeing: Laos, Thailand, India, Cambodia, Philippines, and Palau- just to name a few.  You can scroll through their travels on their  photo blog: Visual Journey. Charmie just recently received her yoga licensure in the Himalayans with fellow Free Spirit, Kaya Cait with The Barefoot Print. As Charmie and Aaron began their journey around the world, the two of them brought New Crop to life- a multi-cultural shop that inhabits the most delicate jewelry, exquisite patterns and materials of the cultures that have left their mark on the canvas of Charmie and Aaron's life; the site is also home to a blog that tells the most beautiful stories of some of the most primitive cultures and tribes in the world, and a visual blog that will make every hair on your body stand on end.  New Crop is our connection to lives that are beautifully detailed, respectfully self-reliant, and gracefully happy.  New Crop provides a look into cultures that live simply.  

This versatile Gemini's spirit is an infectious one, that breathes life into all she encounters, (She is, after all, the air element.) her spirit excites you, inspires you, and challenges you to step out in the void...Confidently. I am over the moon to present a feature on a young lady who originates from the Philippines, but found her home in Johnson City, TN who is currently residing in an Ashram in the Himalayans in Kullu Valley, India, Charmie Stryker. 

Charmie received her yoga certification in the Himalayans. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself: 

I was born in the Philippines with an amazing childhood surrounded by family and living with all my close cousins under one roof. I moved to Los Angeles when I was in 2nd grade which was a great city to "ease" in to a new country. LA was so vibrant with culture and diversity that I didn't have a hard time adjusting. Later, my father's job was moved to a small town in East TN where I spent the majority of my school years, where I have made my life long friends, and where I met Aaron =) Hindsight, I realize how serendipitous life is.  My family found their way back to Los Angeles and me and Aaron  found ourselves manifesting our dreams in Austin, TX. He pointed out a boutique design agency that he said he would love to work for, and I admitted my dreams of working for a creative magazine in which later we both landed as our dream jobs at the time.  We were so blessed to be surrounded by such a fun buzzing city that was growing with us filled with music festivals, sunny days and amazing friends. As happy as we were we found ourselves in search for something more. We would daydream out loud about "what if we could just up and leave, and do whatever we wanted?"  If money and security really wasn't an issue and you couldn't fail, then what would you do? The same way we planned and manifested our dream jobs in Austin, we planned to manifest our dream lives.
We daydreamed about travel, about discovering and RE-discovering our roots. Hugging family members and sharing stories in person. 

Charmie and Aaron celebrated their 8th anniversary in Ifuago, Philipines.  
We wanted to find our creativity in a place we never even thought of visiting, and finding inspiration in places we wouldn't think to look for. I will admit the thought excited me to the depths of my soul and scared me to tears at the same time. All of it makes you feel so alive. That was all we needed to feel to hit the road. The road has been our biggest teacher. I've learned not to tie myself to anyone or anything. I realized how temporary everything can be and to allow things to happen, to appreciate it and then to let it go.  The act of letting go has made me feel even more connected with everything and with myself. I have fallen in love with our nomadic lifestyle, where our only permanent address is our emails and when the only constant is change is when we feel most alive

How do you keep your mind stimulated? Books? Records? Journals?

I have gone deeper into my meditation during my stay here at the ashram. They require us us to meditate twice a day. There is such a mind stimulating life force within us internally that we lose awareness to during the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. A lot of intrinsic changes, emotions and realizations arise from this and I find the best way of sorting out is with my journal. I also find travel to be exponentially mind stimulating. Everything seems to be a discovery, the food, the language, the people, their culture and their art.  I am always in awe of the creativity that is naturally within us. I always find that those who live simpler lives are happier, live with more mindfulness to the earth, and have kept their traditions and  art alive.

Why leave it all behind?

Hindsight, I realized that letting go and practicing non attachment has opened up a whole new mindset for me. When we first set out to leave, I spent a few nights overwhelmed with fear and anxiety wondering how we were going to make this crazy idea of just up and leaving to travel indefinitely actually work? The hardest part was convincing our friends and family we weren't crazy and that we were going to be ok, when we weren't even sure ourselves if we were crazy or not, or if we were going to be ok. The act of leaving was surprisingly easy, once we downsized everything we owned to fit in a car, we hit the road. We've been downsizing every since, our packs getting smaller and smaller with each step. I can't even explain how liberating the feeling is knowing that we were leaving and could come back whenever and wherever we wanted to.


How do you budget for a trip that long? Advice?

We sold everything, and saved up a couple month's salary and decided we would figure out the rest when we got there. Being on the road and meeting lots of other travelers I realized the one thing that long term travelers are rich with is courage. With our scenario we were both lucky enough to be able to do freelance and work from anywhere with wifi. So when we quit our jobs, we started working for ourselves and with amazing clients. Aaron handles mainly all the design web and print, and I handle the social media, and blog management. I've realized travel takes more courage than it does money. When most people think of travel they think of vacation, which normally is a lot of money. There are so many options with traveling long term such as: work abroad programs, freelancing, teaching English somewhere exotic for a year,  couchsurfing…etc. We found ourselves traveling a lot longer than planned, working a lot less, and saving a lot more. I keep asking ourselves why we didn't we do this sooner?!  =)

Was New Crop already an idea? Or was that an idea that manifested into your travels?

Yes, I look at our old logos, which says est. 2011, but we didn't actually launch it until a few months ago. We knew we wanted a creative outlet, and once we hit the road puzzle pieces started falling into place; it eventually evolved into what it is now. I have definitely found my passion in rediscovering my roots and preserving my culture and along the way I have felt a calling towards discovering and preserving others' cultures through New Crop. It is still definitely manifesting, and evolving with us and our journey.

Along with your growth, how did your experiences change you perspective on priorities?

 It took leaving everything behind to make me  realize the unknown is not so scary after all, it gives you that warrior spirit and makes you feel fearless. To not let uncomfortable situations and annoyances distract you from realizing that our circumstances of existence is pretty glorious.

Siem Reap, Cambodia 

What are some of the best experiences you have had overseas?

India by far has taken the cake for experiences. I have never pushed out my comfort this intently and this often. Sometimes its a love/hate relationship but one thing is for sure, it has definitely shaken and awakened me. Made me realized just how sheltered and comfortable I was before and how little I know and how much there is left unseen. India has made me hungrier for more.

How have you coped with uncomfortable situations? Have you had any?

All the time =) I think that is the gem with traveling. Funny thing is as I answer this question,  I am on a sleeper train in India, where someone is currently sleeping on my bed, so me and Aaron are sitting cross-legged on his bed while other Indian passengers across from us are resting their feet on his bed using it as a foot rest. The funny thing is you cant resist the uncomfortable situations, you just have to go with it and let it be =)

Any "aha" moments that humbled you?

Constantly, even now as I write this and wonder if I'll have my bed to sleep on tonight on this train, I realize that I am lucky enough to get off this train and have a comfortable bed in a guesthouse.  That it's not the end of the world if someone who needs my bed more than I do is currently in it. No matter his situation or others that I come across, I know how lucky I am and I am constantly reminded to be grateful for my situation and to be mindful of others.

Any advice for Wanderlust spirits?

Follow what sends a tingle down your spine, what makes your heart race and where your daydreams wander.  Make a list of what truly makes you happy, or what your dream life would consist of and find a way to connect the dots. Whatever your bliss may be, work really hard at it and surround yourself with those who inspire you and support you.

|| Keep up with Charmie and Aaron's adventures||

New Crop Blog

Congratulations to Aaron and Charmie on their engagement!  Aaron proposed to Charmie on June 13, 2014 in India!  O+W wishes you all many years of love, adventure, and happiness! :)  

All photos from New Crop

1 comment:

  1. When are Aaron and Charmie coming to San Diego? It would be awesome to meet Charmie and catch up with Aaron. Just saying. :)