What Life Has Taught Me in 33 Years

What Life Has Taught Me in 33 Years


What Life Has Taught Me in 33 Years


Today is my birthday and it’s the first time I have felt compelled to write. I have been hiding out for the past two weeks after a devastating blow.

It has taken me this long to get to a place where I am no longer angry or sad and I can share this disappointing news with a positive twist.

A lesson learned.

I thought it fitting to share this on my birthday, a day of reflection for me.

On Friday the 13th of this month, we drove to Los Angeles to pick up our “finished” product for our new surf bikinis from Lemi’s Studio, the contractor whom we had hired to do our first round of production. Once we started inspecting the suits, I instantly wanted to cry. My biggest worry had become a reality…

The bikinis were all made carelessly and incorrectly – beyond repair. I took every precaution to avoid this from happening. I included all the instructions, pinned little notes and sent reminder emails to the owner asking him to make sure his employees pay attention to these instructions.

He replied with, “No worries.” When what he should have said was, “You should be very worried. Call me everyday… no, no wait. Actually, you should probably come down here to make sure we don’t fuck up your livelihood.”

They completely ignored all the specifications and didn’t care that they had ruined all of our materials. When we spoke on the phone the next day, the owner informed us that we can’t expect the product to be the same quality as the sample he made or that it would be done correctly since we had a smaller order than his usual customers. (Yes, my jaw actually dropped onto the floor).

Even though bikinis can’t usually be taken apart and re-sewn, we asked the owner if he would at least give it a try. After several email attempts, the owner finally just stopped responding to us. He already has our deposit and he isn’t losing much money by us not picking up the product he made incorrectly. He is just hoping we will go away.

After he stopped responding, there wasn’t anything else we could do, except to refund all of our pre-orders. This situation has caused a huge financial blow to our business, but we didn’t want to keep our customers waiting for a product that we don’t have.

That’s where we are today. I’ve come to terms with the loss and can even see the silver lining. This gives us more time to focus on our blog and travel, our first love.

What Life Has Taught Me in 33 Years

I don’t know where our swimwear business is headed in the future; it’s possible that we will search for an experienced seamstress to partner with or one of us will learn how to sew. I could even try to force Scott to work in the OT Surf sweatshop.

But, that’s not the point.

I believe everything happens for a reason. I don’t know the exact reason yet, but I have been reminded of many lessons and learned a few new ones.

1. No matter how tough things get, life goes on. You can’t look to the past. All we have is this moment.

2. “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Buddha

3. Being “attached” to something means that you will become immobilized without it.

4. Bad things do happen to good people.

5. Time heals all wounds… regardless of how you feel right now.

6. It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary. This situation has forced us to both see the beauty in the simple things in life and enjoying what we do have.

7. You will encounter obstacles and take detours while realizing your dreams.

8. There is nothing more important than your health. I think the best thing that came out of this situation is that it somehow woke us up and we changed our diet and habits dramatically. We now eat a mostly raw diet of fruit and vegetables, with limited meat, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol and we both feel exponentially better.

9. “The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” — C. JoyBell C.

10. Be grateful for all of the obstacles in your life. They have strengthened you as you continue with your journey.

11. “And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” — Haruki Murakami

12. Happiness is not the absence of problems, it’s the ability to deal with them.

13. Be grateful for all the beautiful people in your life including our wonderful customers, most of whom we have never met. Many of them sent heartfelt emails thanking us for our hard work and sending their apologies for our misfortune.

And last, but not least.

14. Always pay with a credit card! If we had done this for the deposit, we could have at least recovered some of that money fairly easily. I could have sworn I already learned this one after our Panama fiasco, but apparently I needed a reminder.



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  1. Green Global Travel says:

    Thank you for sharing this deeply personal post. You’re disappointment must have been enormous. Bret and I had a similar situation happen just before we relaunched Green Global Travel. We poured our hearts, time and resources into an improv comedy company. Just as we were gaining momentum the bottom fell out and we were forced to reevaluate our priorities. Fortunately, our loss provided the focus we needed to be able to go back to our primary passions- travel & conservation. I love the life lessons that you posted and will be printing them out for my future use. I’m inspired that despite your loss, you are able to move on with a positive attitude. You’ve done a lot with your 33 years and should be very proud. Hugs – Mary

  2. Susan Mcguire says:

    Whoa!! it’s great to see the child making his own castle in the first picture background… it’s look so cute. hmm about you don’t worry i never forgot you dear. especially after reading this “You can’t look to the past” well said because whenever you look past it will hurt you for sure ..

  3. #15. Make them sign a contract

  4. Tiffany @ theUnimaginedLife says:


    I could actually feel my heart breaking for you guys as I read this. I was in the fashion business in the states (until November of last year when I sold my boutique,) and I can pretty much imagine the devastation your going through..but you are SO right…everything does happen for a reason…hang in there…I’m pulling for you 🙂

  5. asalvesen says:

    What a terrible thing to happen! Terribly sorry to hear it.
    The lessons you shared however are inspiring (love #12)! I have no idea why this would happen and can’t grasp how it’s a good thing, but I do know that things always work out for the best.

  6. Angela Corrias says:

    Definitely #1 is the best life philosophy! Happy birthday 🙂

  7. Cam Wears says:

    happy birthday! Sorry to hear about the hiccups with your business, but you’ve got the right attitude so I’m confident its all for the best (even though it may not seem like it right now)

  8. so sorry to hear that you were ripped off and treated poorly- I can’t believe what has happened to you. I hope you had a great birthday anyway- yay 33! Hope there are lots of travels in your future!

  9. Rease Kirchner says:

    I’m sorry all this happened but I am glad you didn’t let it ruin your birthday or your life. You guys are incredible and you will find something better. Bad things happen and we just have to move on. You’ve got a great support team here for you!

  10. Happy Birthday! What a disappoint and what a jerk! Kudos to you for turning it into something positive so quickly. Keep us updated on the future of OT Surf.

    1. Ordinary Traveler says:

      Thanks, Laurel! Will do!

  11. Barbylucedistelle says:

    Happy Birthday!
    Just discovered your blog and I am already in love with it! I am so sorry for your loss, it’s a hard lesson to learn that way.

  12. Happy birthday! I’m so sorry to hear about what happened with the bikinis, that’s so awful! I can’t believe the things that guy said to you. How could he not take any pride in his business? Crazy. I’d file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and see what else you can do about getting your deposit back. He didn’t deliver the product as promised, so he shouldn’t be entitled to your deposit even if you didn’t pay with credit card. Regardless, I’m glad you’ve gotten something good out of this, and I’m sure something better is just around the corner.

  13. Danny Tobias says:

    Happy Birthday and bummer about the bathing suits. I’m sure something will work out for you in the end…just gotta keep trying and working at it. Good for you for taking the positive away and leaving the negative behind.

  14. Jesus. What a blow. And yet, what a positive way to deal with it. Well done. I’m like you, firmly of the belief that positive can come of everything. Keep smiling, the best is always to come 🙂

  15. dtravelsround says:

    What an ass. I’m so sorry that happened, but it isn’t the end. This is a beautiful and inspirational post. It’s amazing how, as we grow older, the more awesome we become. Belated birthday wishes. Sending you love and hugs from Thailand. <3

  16. Technosyncratic says:

    I agree with Candice — that guys behavior is completely unacceptable. If I knew a business owner treated his customers like that, I would NEVER give him my business. Write reviews on the internet so that whenever someone googles Lemi’s Studio they get the full story!

    But. Aside from all that, happy birthday!!! I hope you and Scott are able to celebrate in a way that’s befitting the big 3-3! 🙂

  17. Carli Nicole Leavitt says:

    Oh my dear friend, I am so sorry! I know how it feels to put your heart and soul into something to have it spoiled, but keep your chin up and let’s get in the water soon! Happy Birthday beautiful girl!

  18. Ruth Rieckehoff says:

    Happy Birthday!! First, I want to thank you for having the courage to write this. It is difficult to share life’s dark moments with an audience. However, I think this is necessary so the audience understand we are just normal people who try to make the most of every moment (good or bad). I really identify with your post. I have been going thru some rough moments. This post cheered me up. All the lessons you share in here are so true. We should think carefully about these ideas on a daily basis. Wish you the best!!

  19. thetravelchica says:

    Happy birthday, chica. I am always impressed by the ability of strong people to move on when dealt a personal blow. You have a lot of other great things going on in your life to celebrate, and you will figure out what to do next with your new business.

  20. Happy birthday, Christy! You are so wise. I’m sorry for all that you had to go through, as that must have been devastating. Loved reading all of the inspiration you’ve already so swiftly dove into. Someday you will apply what you learned here to an even BIGGER project, one that will catapult your business into something huge. Nothing like trial by fire!

  21. Catherine Sweeney says:

    First of all — Happy Birthday, Christy! Take this day to enjoy life to the fullest, celebrate and surround yourself with people you love. About your business troubles — I am so sorry to hear about it all, but lessons have been learned and you’re moving forward. I’d suggest filing a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. He won’t like that and may be compelled to do something to keep his record clean. Can’t guarantee it, but it might be worth a try.

  22. Jeremy Branham says:

    A great list of life lessons learned through a very disappointing result. I’m sorry about the project as I know you put a lot into this. I recently reflected on life lessons I learned as a travel blogger (probably my most popular post) so I can definitely related to looking back, learning lessons, and making life changes. I hope that this only makes you more determined and focused.

    Happy birthday! I hope it is a great one. You don’t look a day over 25 🙂

  23. Swingkitten says:

    Loved reading this, not for your troubles of course, but because I am about to turn 33 myself 🙂 Your life lessons, whilst learnt on a different path than my own, have led us to the same conclusions. Bless you for sharing them, and have a fantastic birthday. Good things await!

  24. Candice Walsh says:

    First up, happy happy birthday! You should prob go out and celebrate immediately.

    Second of all, that asshole deserves his cumuppins. If I were you, I’d shed a little more publicity on the issue…he doesn’t deserve anyone’s business. I believe in forgiveness, but I also believe in human decency…and this guy clearly had none.

  25. HikeBikeTravel says:

    Happy Birthday to you.
    There will be many more life lessons along the road – as I can attest to with considerably more years than you – but it sounds to me that you have learned so many valuable things out of trying this business venture. Sometimes a setback or failure will teach you the lessons you need so that the next venture is a wild success. And your blog is already amazing and you are a fantastic photographer so never lose sight of that.