how many days till i get married | Shayari, Status, Quotes, Stories

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Why Do Married Women Have To “Look Married?”
“You're married? You don't look like it” is a phrase I have heard way too often in the nearly two years of 
being married. For the world, a married woman is supposed to look different. Her appearance is supposed 
to announce her marital status. But no one has been able to answer why that is. What do these symbols 
have to do with my commitment to my marriage? Has a woman wearing sindoor, a mangalsutra or a choora never cheated on her husband?


During the wedding, a bride typically wears shades of red, pink, orange and other bright colours to shout 
out her status as a newly married woman. In northern India, most brides wear bright red bangles, known as 
a choora, during and for some time after the wedding. Trinkets dangle off the bride's wrist, she has jewellery on her ankles, her head, her neck, her waist, and her ears. Any empty spot is taken by mehendi.





After the wedding, the bride is supposed to be heavily adorned for the first few days or months. In some cases, this situation doesn't change for years. The women who wear the choora typically keep it on for a minimum of 11 days to a maximum of a year-and-a-half. It doesn't matter if it gets in the way of showering, tears a few clothes, doesn't let the woman do her job while at work, or makes her uncomfortable. It's tradition and she must do it. The new husband, however, has no such adornment to wear. He can go right back to shorts and t-shirts as soon as the wedding is over.


I didn't wear the choora for more than two days, mostly because my arms started itching. And it was a rebellion of sorts to roam around bare-armed. Two days after my wedding, when my ears were hurting after nearly being torn apart by heavy jewellery and my body had done enough weight-lifting for a year with those outfits, I was told to decorate myself. “Kuchh toh pehno, beta” was said in a way that made me feel like I was walking around naked. Apparently, I didn't “look” like I had just gotten married. The fact that I was wearing an engagement ring and that my arms were drowning in mehendi was disregarded. The oft-repeated dialogue “aisa hi hota hai” didn't apply to my husband. Nobody beta'ed him into wearing the weight of the world in an attempt to look married.





Since I'm married into a Hindu family, many friends and acquaintances questioned me about the lack of sindoor on my forehead and the absence of amangalsutra around my neck. In the politest manner they knew, these people were questioning my intention behind not wearing all these symbols of marriage. Did I not want to look married? Was I doing this to attract other men? Did I not love my husband enough? None of that was, or is, true. All I was doing was being myself, and any such adornment did not fit my image of myself.


My wardrobe had also come into the spotlight on more occasions than one. At weddings, I was expected to be wearing the heaviest outfits from my bridal trousseau. When I didn't, the “cool” crowd told me how “cool” it was that I didn't adhere to custom, not realizing that the non-adherence was a by-product of me just being me, married or not.


Some women, including those in my extended family, face several wardrobe restrictions. From no short sleeves to no western wear, they've been relegated to wearing a lot of extra fabric on their bodies, even in the sweltering summer. Only because they're married now. How can a married woman dress as she pleases? She has to represent our family, bhai. No such restrictions exist for these women's husbands. They lead their lives dressed the same way, wear their hair however they want and have the option to not “look married.”


A woman is treated as a walking, talking platform meant to showcase her husband's wealth. You're supposed to dress a certain way because, my god, what will people think of your husband? He keeps you in rags? No one realizes that the “rags” are the woman's choice of clothes. My independence or my sole authority over my body has not diminished after marriage. I don't want to deliberately look unmarried, I just want to be comfortable. Why should I have to put a red line in the middle of my heap of curls or wear a beaded necklace while my husband has no such expectation of him? So that the world can be satisfied at the demarcation of a married woman? That this one is not to be touched, she belongs to another bro?


Source: Vagabomb

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An Easy Spiritual Discipline
!! Shri Hari !!
While giving lectures to the children of the demons, Prahladji says – what effort is required in realizing Paramatma (God, Supreme Being) ? - “koti prayaasosurbaalakaah?” (Srimad Bhagwat 7/7/38)


There is one point that one must remember regarding sense objects that, things of this world are not present in all places and at all times. For attaining these, one has to make significant effort. However God is present at all places, at all times, in all beings, and in all situations. There is not a place, time, individual, thing where he is not present. For his attainment all that is needed is intense longing. Just like we have a particular object in our possession, then it is on looking at it that we are able to see it! But to see God, it is not essential to even look in a particular direction, because Paramatma is outside, inside (within-without) and everywhere. Therefore, one can attain Him simply by longing to attain Him!
In realizing God, no effort is required. In this, the only requirement is a deep thirst, a want. And even this want is not difficult. In reality, this need is present in all human beings, naturally and on its own; because man feels something lacking within him, but the mistake he makes is that he wishes to fulfill the deficiency with the aid of the world. All things in this world cannot be acquired by all, they never have and they never will be and even if they are acquired, then too they will not remain with you. Even if the things remain, then, you will not remain. There will definitely be separation from it. Before too there was separation and later on too there will be separation. In between the union is only perceived, it is not there as such. Then too we consider our relationship with those things and desire them, this is a very big mistake.


You have considered yourself to be one with the body, this body is me and this body is mine, this is the main mistake! You are not the body! If you were the body, then you would not die at all and if you died, then you would take the body with you. After dying the body (dead) remains right here, and in that body too we are present. But neither the body goes with us, nor the body stays with us. Therefore accepting that you are the body is a mistake and to consider the body as ours is also a mistake. We cannot keep the body, the way we wish to keep it. We have no control over it, then how is it ours? If the body is not ours, then this money, wealth, glories, family etc. how are they ours? Therefore, what is the difficulty in accepting that this world is not ours? Only God is ours. It has become difficult to regard the thing that is in fact ours – God, as our very own, because we regard the world as ours.


The scriptures say that Paramatma (God) is our very own and the world in not our own - your experience tells you this. At this time though you may not believe this, you are unable to accept this; however do not lose your self-assurance. Do not think that we are unable to accept this at this time. Though it is not believed at this time, but in fact, “I am this body” this is not so. Stay firm with this point. Whether you believe or not, whether you experience it or not, do not worry about it; but do not make this point worthless.


This body is not me, and it is not mine – this point is true, and I am God’s and God is mine, this point is also true. Even on being true, it is not accepted, then this is our weakness. How can our non acceptance make the truth become false?


Questioner - How do we end up making this false?


Swamiji - Whatever we see through our senses, intellect, we consider it to be real and our own; by this the point becomes false. Due to this, even if we are unable to give up sense of mine-ness with those things, then so be it; but “body and world are not mine” this is the truth – that much you must honor. If you don’t see God, then so be it, but God is ours and we are God’s, this point is true. Even if Brahmaji says that “See you are of the world and the world is yours, you are not God’s and God is not yours,” then too clearly say that “Maharaj! We will not listen to your point” So be it, even if we have not experienced this so far, even if it is not entirely sunk in; but this is the truth! God Himself has said - “Mamaivaansho jeevaloke” (Gita 15/7) “this being is a part of Me alone” Saints and great souls have also said so - “ishvar ans jeev avinaashi” (Manas, Uttar. 117/2) Therefore I join my hands and pray to you, have mercy on me and accept this point today. Even if there is no change in you upon acceptance, there is hunger and thirst just like before, there is likes and dislikes just like before, but please do not make these talks false. We are only God’s - accept this, thereafter whether you experience or not , whether you are awakened within or not, do not worry about this. In the end, this point will become firm; because this is the truth.


It is the absolute truth that “Only God is mine, there is no else” (mere to Giridhar Gopal, doosero na koyi.) What is the difficulty in accepting this? You certainly know how to accept. Just as you accept someone as your friend, your Guru etc., similarly you also know about not accepting, just as initially you accepted yourself as a bachelor, but on getting married, you no longer saw yourself as a bachelor, but you begin to accept yourself as a married man. If you leave the household life and become a “sadhu”, then you stop considering the house, the family as your own, and you begin to regard the Guru Maharaj as your very own. Therefore you already know both – about acceptance and non-acceptance. Everyone has knowledge of acceptance and non-acceptance. Now apply this knowledge by engaging only in God, and not in the world.


The mistake we make is that while listening we accept, but then we trivialize it. Whereas that which is not true, we begin to accept it as true. One more mistake we make is that brothers-sisters say that we forget this point. Really speaking if you have firmly accepted this, then even if it is not remembered then so be it. Without remembering, you accept that you are at present in Vrindavan. Has any brother-sister completed even one “mala” repeating that “ I am in Vrindavan”? Just one time you accepted that you are currently in Vrindavan, then do you have to try to remember time and again? Is there any doubt about? When someone asks, you immediately say that you are in Vrindavan. Similarly, without remembering too, the point remains within. When you start to believe that you are in Haridwar, then this will be considered a mistake. Therefore I do not regard the not remembering as a mistake. “I am God’s” - if this is not remembered then it is not a mistake; but the mistake is when one accepts that “I am not God’s and I belong to the world.”


After accepting one time with a true heart that you belong to God, then if you don’t remember at all, so be it. Now what is to be remembered is God’s name. Repeat His divine Name (japa), remember Him, Sing His glories, meditate on His divine play, meditate on His form - these are to be done. After accepting God as your very own, let it be. But do not doubt that you are God’s. Whether you a believe or not, whether you experience or not, do not be concerned.


Many people say that what difference has this made to your life? Even if there are no changes, that is, no change in measurement, no change in weight, no change in color, no change in mannerism, no change whatsoever, then too it is OK! However “I cannot accept, I cannot remember, I am not capable, I don’t have the rights, I am not the proper recipient, I did not meet a Guru, I did not meet any saint, the times are not good, it is the age of Kali yug; the environment is not proper; associations are not good” - by talking about these, do not make trash this point. By applying various tactics, if you continue to make this point trashy, then you will not attain perfection. However, if you do not scrap this point, then surely you will attain complete knowledge. This attainment can be in a few days, months, or it can take years. If you continue to indulge in worldly pleasures, then it will take very long, but in the end you will attain that complete knowledge.


Those who work in the fields, they sow the seed in the fields and feel at ease. That seed gives birth to a sapling on its own. If time and again one takes out the seed to look at it, then the seed will never germinate. There is a story. There was a mango grove. The monkeys were eating mangoes from there so the gardener threw stones at the monkey and scared them off. While going each of the monkeys took one mango in their mouth and one in each of the hands and began to run. The monkeys had a meeting that this evil gardener is not letting us eat the mangoes! Some wise monkeys said that how can they let us eat mangoes from their own groves? If we also have a mango grove, then no one will refuse us from eating mangoes from there. They thought that we have the mango seeds, why don’t we grow these. All we have to do is sow the seed, water it then the grove will be ready, and we will eat plenty of mangoes! On consensus from all those that were present, they decided to proceed. They sowed the mango seed on the bank of a river nearby. Now, time and again they removed the seed to look to see whether the mango had started growing or not, and then they would re-plant it! Till dusk, they kept removing the seed and replanting it! Can a mango grow like this? If you want to farm, then sow the seed, water it, and become free of all worries. That which is not there right now, it will most certainly germinate and appear as sapling; then that which is the truth, why will it not materialize? We are God’s and God is ours – this is the truth and it is spontaneously realized. What is the effort required in accepting this? What force is needed? Do you need some knowledge? Do you need some abilities? The simple straight-forward point is that we are God’s and God is ours; we do not belong to the world, and the world is not ours. Now, do not root is out, like the kernel. In other words, do not test it that are there any changes in us or not? When the seed germinates, the plant will also grow, later on the mangoes will also grow and it will all be great! However have mercy and do not overlook this point. This is a very easy means of God Realization and there is nothing else to be done. Simply, “I am God’s and God is mine.” Do not waiver from this firm determination.


This brother sitting here, first regarded himself as a bachelor, but now he is married therefore he now says that he is not a bachelor. Now if someone asks, are you married? Then will he say, wait a minute, let me think; this year I did not get married, the year before also I did not get married, but twenty years ago I got married, Yes-Yes, now I remember, I am married! Why do you not say so? Because once married, it is done. This is acceptance. Even if someone asks in deep sleep, then too you will say that you are married. Similarly, “ I am God’s and God is mine” this will be remembered without attempting to remember. There will be no mistake in this. A mistake is when you will think that I am not God’s, and God is not mine; because my conduct is not proper, my behavior is not good, Do not raise such obstacles. Even if there is no faith, no trust , no remembrance of God, no changes for the better, life has not improved spiritually, even if nothing whatsoever has happened, then too do not scrap this acceptance (maanyataa), that I am God’s and God is mine.


I have even asked those great men in my eyes and they said, that those men that accept God as their very own, the responsibility of making Himself known to them is borne by God. The reason is only God can make Himself known, we cannot know Him. Where we are incapable, there God’s capabilities come to use. This is such a great point that “ I am God’s and God is mine, I am not the world’s and the world is not mine.” You have the capability of accepting this! Whatever abilities you have, that much you apply. That which you do not have, God will fulfill those. “Sune ri meinne nirbal ke bal Ram.” In those things that you are powerless, there, God’s powers comes to use. However, in those things where you are able to apply your powers, if you do not apply that strength then in this the fault is yours, the responsibility for this is not on God. You accept a few people as your own and others you do not accept as your own - why do you not apply this ability towards God? Whatever you are capable of doing, that is the extent of the hope that God has from you. That which you cannot do, God does not expect that out of you. What do you hope from a little child, do you expect that he carries a heavy bag of wheat flour and bring it home? You only expect as much as he can do. Then does God lack even that much honesty? Will God tell you to do the things that you cannot accept? That which you can accept, you must accept that! That is it! This spiritual discipline that I have shared with you today, is so easy, and so straight-forward and all can do it. Whether someone is a learned and educated person, or uneducated, whether it is a brother or a sister. Whether you have good conduct or bad, whether you have good qualities or bad qualities, whether you are a gentleman or a evil man, however you are, all can simply accept this.


It has been said for a chaste (pativrata) wife -


Ekayi dharma ek barat nemaa |
Kaayam bachan mana pati pad prema ||
(Manas, Aranya. 5/10)


This is my husband, on having a firm acceptance of this, however may be the husband, she will become a chaste wife. Was Ravan a great and extra-ordinary man? However, Mandodari being a chaste wife, followed her “Dharma” properly, whereby she was able to get to know the greatness of Lord Ram, whereas Ravan, even on being told, did not listen! Where did Mandodari gain so much knowledge? This knowledge came from “pativrata dharma”. Can God say that your husband is not of good conduct’ therefore you will not attain salvation? No, He cannot say so. If his conduct is not proper then what are we to do? We have abided in our “pativrata dharma” properly, then God will give it’s full glories - “Binu shram naari param gati lahayi” (Manas, Aranya. 5/18). The responsibility to attain that eternal and highest state, is not on her. That responsibility lies on the scriptures, the saints and on God. She fulfill her “pativrata-dharma” then she is abiding and fulfilling the commands of the Rishis-Munis, Saints-great souls, and God; therefore they will have to give her salvation. If the husband is not capable, then how is it his fault? Mother and father got her married so he became her husband. Her fault will be when she does not follow her “pativrata-dharma”. Similarly “I am God’s and God is mine” - this point, if you do not accept then it is your fault. But if you want to accept from within and you are unable to do so, then don’t be concerned. Apply your complete strength. At the very minimum, do not accept the opposite, do not trash this point. This is an extra-ordinary point that has been shared with you.


I am God’s and God is mine” - only accept this much, then further along what should happen will happen on its own. After accepting this, become free of any uncertainties and ambiguities. Now whatever effort is needed, you do. Do divine name repetition, chant the Lord’s divine name (kirtan), do satsang, engage in spiritual studies, go to the temple, behold the Lord. Do not do any actions that are opposed to God and the scriptures. To the extent that is within your control, as much as you can do, that much you should do. Do not waiver on this point, whether unfavorable times come or favorable; whether someone approves of you or opposes you. This is the truth; thus we have accepted it ! Accepted it once and for all.


Now a question can arise that if we do so, but thereafter do not attain God, then what? The answer to this is that till now, in so many years, what great work have you done, which will be short-changed? If it happens it will be gains only. From all of you present here, any of you tell me, what will be the loss? There will be no loss, and I do not deceive! There will be only gains; because this is the truth, and the truth will ultimately be realized as the truth. How long will a false thing last? By regarding this body and this world as our own, will it become ours? They have never been ours and will never be ours; however, if you regard them as yours, you will have to suffer and you will have to cry! Instead of being deceived by it, and later on accepting it as true, it is better to accept on my saying. Tell me what deception will it lead to? And if you are deceived, then you have been deceived so many times so far, therefore one more time be deceived by my saying! However if amongst you all, if any of you see this as a deception, then tell me brothers! There is no deception oin this whatsoever. Besides gains, there is not the least bit of any losses. Not only do I say this, but God Himself has said this - “mamaivaansho jeevaloke” (Gita 15/7) and Saints and great personalities have said so – “Ishvar ansh jeeva abinaashi” (Manas, Uttar 117/2). Therefore accept, grab hold of this point with a firm conviction. This is the principle that has been agreed upon by saints. Saints and Great Souls have done so and seen for themselves and they have showered us with their grace by writing this down, and to reveal it. Just as some father, earns a lot of wealth, and gives it to his son, then what effort did the son have to go through ? Similarly, this is the wealth earned by the Saints and Great Souls, which they are giving to us. Now it is our duty to protect it, not to waste it. It becomes worthless upon looking at it and doing. You regard as real, those things that are seen with your senses and intellect and the things that are done, but you consider the words of saints and great souls as imperfect. This is a mistake. That which is seen is not there. Actions are not permanent and their fruits are also not permanent. Thus depending on them, by dishonoring the Truth, do not choke the Truth. Do not cause violence to the Truth. By violating the Truth, the Truth is not harmed, rather we are harmed, we only take a fall. Truth will always remain the Truth. Truth will never be wiped out - “Naabhaavo vidhyate satah” (Gita 2/16). If you do not abide in it, you will not benefit. Therefore, accept the point that - “I am God’s and God is mine”. This point is a very easy, but of a very high stature. It encompasses everything.


Narayana! Narayana !! Narayana !!!


From "Bhagwaan se Apnaapan " in Hindi by Swami Ramsukhdasji

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The best thing you can learn from Inception of 'Alphabet' by Larry Page

This is something best I've read in long time, so just wants to keep this piece in my collection.
Written by: James Altucher
========================I visited Google a few weeks ago and, after almost getting arrested, my mind was blown.
First, Claudia wandered into the garage where they were actually making or fixing the driverless cars. When they finally realized she was wandering around, security had to escort her out.

We got scared and we thought we were going to get in trouble or thrown out.

Then we met with a friend high up at Google and learned some of the things Google was working on.

Nothing was related to search. Everything was related to curing cancer (a bracelet that can make all the cancer cells in your body move towards the bracelet), automating everything (cars just one of those things), Wi-Fi everywhere (Project Loon) and solving other “billion person problems”.

A problem wasn’t considered worthy unless it could solve a problem for a billion people.

So now Alphabet is aligning itself towards this strategy: a holding company that owns and invests in other companies that can solve billion person problems.

It’s not divided up by money. It’s divided up by mission.

I want to do this in my personal life also.

Just analyzing Larry Page’s quotes from the past ten years is a guidebook for “billion person success” and for personal success.

Here Are Some Of His Quotes:
"If you’re changing the world, you’re working on important things. You’re excited to get up in the morning."

To have well-being in life you need three things:
A) a feeling of competence or growth.
B) good emotional relationships.
C) freedom of choice.

Being able to wake up excited in the morning is an outcome of well-being.

Feeling like every day you are working on a billion-person problem will give you those three aspects of well-being.

At the very least, when I wake up I try to remember to ask: Who can I help today?

Because I’m a superhero and this is my secret identity.

"Especially in technology, we need revolutionary change, not incremental change."

Too often we get stuck in “good enough”. If you build a business that supports your family and maybe provides for retirement then that is “good enough”.If you write a book that sells 1000 copies then that is “good enough.”You ever wonder why planes have gotten slower since 1965? The Dreamliner 787 is actually slower than the 747. That’s ok. It’s good enough to get people across the world and save on fuel costs.It’s only the people who push past the “good enough syndrome” that we hear about: Elon Musk building a space ship. Larry Page indexing all knowledge. Elizabeth Holmes potentially diagnosing all diseases with a pin prick.

Isaac Asimov wrote classic science fiction like “The Foundation Series” but it wasn’t good enough for him. He ended up writing 500 more books, writing more books than anyone in history.

Larry Page keeps pushing so that every day he wakes up knowing he’s going to go past “good enough” that day.

What does your “good enough” day look like. What’s one thing that moves you past that?

"My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society."

Whenever I’ve managed companies and have had the small opportunity to be a leader I’ve judged my success on only one thing:

Does the employee at night go home and call his or her parents and say, “guess what I did today!”

I’m not sure this always worked. But I do think Larry Page lifts all his employees to try to be better versions of themselves, to try to surpass him, to try and change the world.

If each employee can say, “who did I help today” and have an answer, then that is a good leader.

Empowering others, empowers you.

"Lots of companies don’t succeed over time. What do they fundamentally do wrong? They usually miss the future."

The stock market is near all time highs. And yet every company in the original Dow Jones market index (except for GE) has gone out of business.

Even US Steel, which built every building in the country for an entire century, has gone bankrupt.

Never let the practical get in the way of the possible.

It’s practical to focus on what you can do right now.

But give yourself time in your life to wonder what is possible and to make even the slightest moves in that direction.

We’re at maybe 1% of what is possible. Despite the faster change, we’re still moving slow relative to the opportunities we have. I think a lot of that is because of the negativity… Every story I read is Google vs someone else. That’s boring. We should be focusing on building the things that don’t exist.

Sometimes I want to give up on whatever I’m working on. I’m not working on major billion person problems.

And sometimes I think I write too much about the same thing. Every day I try to think, “What new thing can I write today” and I actually get depressed when I can’t think of something totally new.

But I am working on things that I think can help people. And if you are out side of people’s comfort zones, if you are breaking the normal rules of society, people will try to pull you down.

Larry Page didn’t want to be defined by Google for his entire life. He wants to be defined by what he hasn’t yet done. What he might even be afraid to do.

I wonder what my life would be like if I started doing all the things I was afraid to do. If I started defining my life by all the things I have yet to do.

"Many leaders of big organizations, I think, don’t believe that change is possible. But if you look at history, things do change, and if your business is static, you’re likely to have issues."

Guess which company had the original patent that ultimately Larry Page derived his own patent (that created google) from?

Go ahead. Think a second. Guess.

An employee of this company created the patent and tried to get them to use it to catalog information on the web.

They refused.

So Robin Li, an employee of The Wall Street Journal, quit the newspaper of capitalism (who owned his patent), moved to China (a communist country), and created Baidu.

And Larry Page modified the patent, filed his own, and created Google.

And the Wall Street Journal got swallowed up by Rupert Murdoch and is dying a slow death.

"I think as technologists we should have some safe places where we can try out new things and figure out the effect on society."

A friend of mine is writing a novel but is afraid to publish it. “Maybe it will be bad,” he told me.

Fortunately we live in a world where experimentation is easy. You can make a 30 page novel, publish it on Amazon for nothing, use an assumed name, and test to see if people like it.

Heck, I’ve done it. And it was fun.

Mac Lethal is a rapper who has gotten over 200 million views on his YouTube videos. Even Ellen had him on her show to demonstrate his skills.

I asked him, “do you get nervous if one of your videos gets less views than others?”

He told me valuable advice: “Nobody remembers your bad stuff. They only remember your good stuff.”

I live by that.

"If we were motivated by money, we would have sold the company a long time ago and ended up on a beach."

Larry Page and Sergey Brin wanted to be academics. When they first patented Google, they tried to sell to Yahoo for $1 million (ONE MILLION DOLLARS).

When Yahoo laughed them out the door, they tried to sell to Excite for $750,000.

Excite laughed them out the door. Now an ex-employee of Google is the CEO of Yahoo. And the founder of Excite works at Google. Google dominates.

Money is a side effect of trying to help others. Trying to solve problems. Trying to move beyond the “good enough”.

So many people ask: “how do I get traffic?” That’s the wrong question.

If you ask every day, “How did I help people today?” then you will have more traffic and money than you could have imagined.

"Invention is not enough. Tesla invented the electric power we use, but he struggled to get it out to people. You have to combine both things: invention and innovation focus, plus the company that can commercialize things and get them to people."

Everyone quotes the iconic story of Thomas Edison “failing” 10,000 times to get the electric lightbulb working.

I put failing in quotes because he was doing what any scientist does. He does many experiments until one works.

But what he did that was truly remarkable was convince New York City a few weeks later to light up their downtown using his lights.

The first time ever a city was lit up at night with electricity.

That’s innovation. That’s how the entire world got lit up.

"If you say you want to automate cars and save people’s lives, the skills you need for that aren’t taught in any particular discipline. I know – I was interested in working on automating cars when I was a Ph.D. student in 1995."

Too often we get labeled by our degree and our job titles. Larry Page and Elon Musk were computer science majors. Now they build cars and space ships.

David Chang was a competitive golfer as a kid, majored in religious studies in college, and then had random gopher jobs in his 20s.

The gopher jobs all happened to be in restaurants so he became familiar with how the business was run.

Then he started probably the most popular restaurant in NYC, momofoku. A dozen or so restaurants later, he is one of the most successful restauranteurs in history.

Peter Thiel worked as a lawyer in one of the top law firms in NY. When he quit in order to become an entrepreneur, he told me that many of his colleagues came up to him and said, “I can’t believe you are escaping”.

Escaping the labels and titles and hopes that everyone else has for us is one of the first steps in Choosing Ourselves for the success we are meant to have.

We define our lives from our imagination and the things we create with our hands.

"It really matters whether people are working on generating clean energy or improving transportation or making the Internet work better and all those things. And small groups of people can have a really huge impact."

What I love about this quote is that he combines big problems with small groups.

A small group of people created Google. Not Procter & Gamble. Or AT&T.

Even at Apple, when Steve Jobs wanted to create the Macintosh, he moved his small group to a separate building so they wouldn’t get bogged down in the big corporate bureaucracy that Apple was becoming.

Ultimately, they fired him for being too far from the corporate message.

Years later, when Apple was failing, they brought him back. What did he do? He cut most of the products and put people into small groups to solve big problems.

Before his death he revolutionized the movie industry, the computer industry, the music industry, TVs, and now even watches (watch sales have plummeted after the release of the Apple Watch).

All of this from a guy who finished one semester of studying calligraphy in college before dropping out.

Studying the history of Apple is like studying a microcosm of the history of how to create big ideas. Larry Page is recreating this with his new corporate structure.

We don’t have as many managers as we should, but we would rather have too few than too many.

The 20th century was the century of middle-class corporatism. It even became a “law” called “The Peter Principle” – everyone rises to their level of incompetence.

One of the problems society is having now is that the entire middle layer of management is being demoted, outsourced, replaced by technology, and fired.

This is not a bad or a good thing (although it’s scary). But it’s a return to the role of masters and apprentices without bureaucracy and paperwork in the middle.

It’s how things get done. When ideas go from the head into action with few barriers in the middle.

To be a successful employee, you have to align your interests with those of the company, come up with ideas that further help the customers, and have the mandate to act on those ideas, whether they work or not.

That’s why the employee who wrote much of the code inside the Google search engine, Craig Silverstein, is now a billionaire.

Where is he now? He’s an employee at online education company, The Khan Academy.

If you ask an economist what’s driven economic growth, it’s been major advances in things that mattered – the mechanization of farming, mass manufacturing, things like that. The problem is, our society is not organized around doing that.

Google is now making advances in driverless cars, delivery drones, and other methods of automation.

Everyone gets worried that this will cost jobs. But just look at history. Cars didn’t ruin the horse industry. Everyone simply adjusted.

TV didn’t replace books. Everything adjusted. The VCR didn’t shut down movies.

The Internet didn’t replace face to face communication (well, the jury is still out).

"What is the one sentence summary of how you change the world? Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting!"

Not everyone wants to create a driverless car. Or clean energy. Or solve a billion person problem.

But I have a list of things that are uncomfortably exciting to me.

They are small, stupid things. Like I’d like to write a novel. Or perform standup comedy. Or maybe start another business based on my ideas for helping people.

Every day I wake up a tiny bit afraid. But I also try to push myself a little closer in those directions. I know then that’s how I learn and grow.

Sometimes I push forward. Sometimes I don’t. I want to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I do think there is an important artistic component in what we do. As a technology company I’ve tried to really stress that.

Nobody knows what the definition of Art is.

How about: something that doesn’t exist except in the imagination, that you then bring out into the real world that has some mix of entertainment, enlightenment, and betterment.

I don’t know. Something like that.

Certainly the iPad is a work of art. And the iPad has created works of art. And when I first saw a driverless car I thought, “that’s beautiful”.

I’m going to try and put my fingerprint on something today. And maybe it will be art.

The idea that everyone should slavishly work so they do something inefficiently so they keep their job – that just doesn’t make any sense to me. That can’t be the right answer.

We’ve been hypnotized into thinking that the “normal life” is a “working life”.

If you don’t “go to work” then you must be sick or on the tiny bit of vacation allotted to you each year.

What if everything you did you can inject a little bit of leisure, a little bit of fun into it.

I have fun writing, except when I think I have to meet a deadline (work). I have fun making a business that people actually use except when I think about money too much (work).

When you are at the crossroads and your heart loves one path and doesn’t love the other, forget about which path has the money and the work, take the path you love.

We want to build technology that everybody loves using, and that affects everyone. We want to create beautiful, intuitive services and technologies that are so incredibly useful that people use them twice a day. Like they use a toothbrush. There aren’t that many things people use twice a day.

What a great idea for a list of the day!

What are ten things that can be invented that people would use twice a day?

You need to invent things and you need to get them to people. You need to commercialize those inventions. Obviously, the best way we’ve come up with doing that is through companies.

I was speaking to Naveen Jain, who made his billions on an early search engine, InfoSpace.

He just started a company to mine rare earth minerals on the Moon.

But his real goal is extra-planetary colonization.

Somehow we got around to the question of why have a company in the middle of that. He has billions. He can just go straight for the colonization part.

He said, “Every idea has to be sustainable. Profitability is proof that an idea is sustainable.”

You may think using Google’s great, but I still think it’s terrible.

K. Anders Ericsson made famous the “10,000 hour rule” popularized later by Malcom Gladwell.

The rule is: if you practice WITH INTENT for 10,000 hours then you will be world-class.

He then wondered why typists would often reach a certain speed level and then never improve no matter how many hours.

After doing research, its because they forgot the “With intent” part. They were satisfied with “good enough”.

You have to constantly come up with new metrics to measure yourself, to compete against yourself, to better the last plateau you reached.

Google is great. But it can be better. Having this mindset always forces you to push beyond the comfort zone.

Once they changed the way typists viewed their skills (by recreating the feeling of “beginner’s mind”) the typists continued to get faster.

We have a mantra: don’t be evil, which is to do the best things we know how for our users, for our customers, for everyone. So I think if we were known for that, it would be a wonderful thing.

Many people argue whether or not Google has succeeded at this. That’s not the point.

The point is: Values before Money.

A business is a group of people with a goal to solve a problem. Values might be: we want to solve a problem, we want the customer to be happy, we want employees to feel like they have upward mobility, etc.

Once you lose your values, you’ll lost the money as well. This why family-run businesses often die by the third generation (“Shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations).

The values of the founder got diluted through his descendants until the company failed.

I think it is often easier to make progress on mega-ambitious dreams. Since no one else is crazy enough to do it, you have little competition. In fact, there are so few people this crazy that I feel like I know them all by first name.

Our parents have our best interests at heart and tell us how to be good adults.

Our schools have our best interests.

Our friends, colleagues, sometimes our bosses, sometimes government, think they have our best interests.

But it’s only when everyone thinks you are crazy that you know you are going to create something that surprises everyone and really makes your own unique handprint on the world.

And because you went out of the comfort zone, you’re only competing against the few other people as crazy as you are.

You know what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night with a vivid dream? And you know that if you don’t have a pencil and pad by the bed, it will be completely gone by the next morning. Sometimes it’s important to wake up and stop dreaming. When a really great dream shows up, grab it.

For every article I’ve ever written, there’s at least ten more I left behind in the middle of the night thinking I would remember in the morning.

I have to beat myself in the head. I . Will. Not. Remember….Must. Write. Down.

It’s hard to wake up. And that’s the only thing worth remembering. It’s hard to wake up.

I have always believed that technology should do the hard work – discovery, organization, communication – so users can do what makes them happiest: living and loving, not messing with annoying computers! That means making our products work together seamlessly.

This is a deep question – who are you? If you have a mechanical hand, is that “you”?

Conversely, if you lose a hand, did you lose a part of you. Are you no longer a complete person? The complete you?

If an implant is put into your brain to access Google, does that effect who you view your self to be?

When books were invented, memory suffered. We no longer had to remember as much, because we can look things up.

Does that make our brains less human?

I bet memory has suffered with the rise of Google. Does this mean our consciousness has suffered?

When we created fire, we outsourced part of our digestion to this new invention. Did this make our stomachs less human?

With technology taking care of the basic tasks of our brain and body, it allows us to achieve things we couldn’t previously dream possible.

It allows us to learn and explore and to create past the current comfort zone. It allows us to find the happiness, freedom, and well-being we deserve.

Over time, our emerging high-usage products will likely generate significant new revenue streams for Google as well as for our partners, just as search does today.

This is it. This is why Larry Page has re-oriented Google into Alphabet.

Don’t waste your most productive energies solving a problem that now only has incremental improvements.

Re-focus the best energies on solving harder and harder problems.

Always keeping the value of “how can I help a billion people” will keep Google from becoming a Borders bookstore (which went out of business after outsourcing all of their sales to Amazon).

How does this apply to the personal?

Instead of being a cog in the machine for some corporation, come up with ways to automate greater abundance.

Always understand that coming up with multiple ways to help people is ultimately the way to create the biggest impact.

Impact then creates health, friendship, competence, abundance, and freedom.

But this is also why he created Alphabet and put Google underneath it.

To save the world. To save me.

--------------------------------

Original article appeared here: http://inc42.com/buzz/20-things-ive-learned-from-l..

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As always, everyone in this story is eighteen years or older. This is a completely standalone story totally apart from my intricately related other ones.

A heads-up for those with short attention spans: this is long. Look elsewhere for a quick fix. I won't judge you for looking for something shorter and please don't judge me.

A heads-up for the squeamish types too: there are equal parts incest and anal here. Hope that's your cup of tea.

Enjoy.

Words on Skin: A little sister can't say some things out loud

*~*~* Part I *~*~*

Lizzie watched as her best friend Jessica brushed past her brother again on her way through their kitchen. The house was packed full of people and there was plenty to eat and drink in every room but Jess still managed to find a reason to swing through the kitchen every fifteen minutes to flirt with her brother.

"Heya stud," Jessica smiled, "it really is nice to see you back around these parts again. I kinda missed you." She winked, nodded at Lizzie and wandered off again with a few gratuitous wiggles of her curvy hips.

Lizzie's brother leaned into her with the question she saw coming, "Okay, what's with Jess? Does she like me now or something?"

Lizzie smirked and waited until Jessica turned a corner out of earshot. "Let's just say she likes the kinds of things she could do with you."

"And what kinds of things might they be?"

"You're the dumbest smart guy I know but even you're not that dumb. Either take that frisky cheerleader friend of mine upstairs and find out for yourself or stay down here and hang out with your adorable kid sister. Sounds like a close one. Want me to get a coin for you to flip, Scooter?"

"Don't bother dog-girl, I'm going with plan A."

Lizzie watched her brother toddle after Jessica. As consolation, she took a long swig of her beer, swallowed, and howled softly to herself, "Bawoo."

Her brother Richard was a year older and actually was the dumbest smart guy she knew. Sometimes she swore he couldn't see the nose in front of his face. He was pure book smarts from head to toe. He'd steamrolled through high school - racking up the highest GPA in the school's history then nailed a perfect SAT. He'd even be finishing up his undergraduate ahead of schedule. Less than three years for a physics degree at one of the best programs in the country? Who the hell could compete with that?

Lizzie sighed. She was proud of her big brother but sometimes he made her feel small. All she could do was run. Ba-frickin'-woo.

The "dog-girl" and "bawoo" thing? That started when her middle school track coach came to visit their house after school eight years ago. Lizzie and her brother snuck to the top of the stairs to listen to the grown-ups talking down in the kitchen.

"You have a lovely home, Miss Robbins, and I appreciate your agreeing to see me. I know you're a busy woman so I won't take up too much of your time. I'm happy to tell you that you have a very gifted child."

"I'm quite proud of Richard, but I thought..."

"I'm not here to talk about your son. I'm here to talk about Elizabeth. I'm her track coach. I thought you should know that Liz is an excellent runner. In fact, she may just be the best I've ever seen."

"Really? I mean, I guess she has always been quick on her little feet. If I look away for a second she's gone."

Lizzie remembered beaming proudly at Richard upstairs. She took this as a big compliment.

"It's more than just that, Miss Robbins. Look, middle school kids? Even the fast ones? They're a mess when they run, all of them pushing and shoving to get up front, to lead right from the beginning. It's complete chaos. None of them have the maturity or the patience to pace themselves. To hang back and wait for the right time to make their move. Hell, most of them won't even figure that out in high school. But not Lizzie. She's... she's very special."

"How so?"

"You need to come to our track meets. To support her and see what I mean at the same time. Lizzie doesn't run. She... well... she chases." The coach's voice grew more excited, "She does it every race. It's a beautiful thing to watch. Less than halfway through, Lizzie falls in a few yards behind the lead girl. She tracks her. She... she drives her. Heck, she even baits her. Then at the very end, Lizzie simply runs her down. Honestly, I don't think I'd even call what Liz does 'cross-country.' She's not just running. She's hunting. Like a... like a little dingo."

Upstairs, Richard hugged her with one arm and teased her softly, "Sweet, Mom's going to buy you a flea collar, sis."

"Bawoo," Lizzie howled quietly into his shoulder and giggled.

It was her very first bawoo.

Of course, the coach's offhand nickname stuck with Lizzie and "Li'l Dingo" would eventually be stitched across the back of her track uniforms.

As the years went by, Lizzie ran and ran and her body changed. By high school, the quick little blonde pixie became a sleek and slender young woman. Lizzie looked like a gazelle but she still ran like a predator. Chasing. Hunting. Winning. In fact, she would win state finals in cross country each of her four years in high school, a feat unheard of before Lizzie.

People even came to track meets to watch her. And who could blame them? She was hotter than hell in her school's skimpy little track uniforms, long, sleekly muscled legs and bobbing little breasts. Her finishes were always spectacular too. After loping along patiently at the number two spot for three miles, she'd get this crazy little grin. Then her legs would stretch, they'd quicken, and Lizzie would start her race. Without fail, she'd chase that poor last girl down like something small and tasty.

Two months ago, when Lizzie broke through the yellow tape at her last high school race, she didn't have to howl for herself. Her coaches, her family, and classmates were doing it for her, for their favorite little dingo, "Bawoo! Bawoo!"

Lizzie snapped out of her reminiscing when Richard reappeared with Jessica. The curvy, raven-haired cheerleader winked at Lizzie as she led her brother upstairs. One of Jessica's hands was already playing at the bottom of her tight tank top, obviously itching to get it off. Jessica liked to show off her body and Lizzie didn't blame her. Speaking objectively, Jessica's breasts were spectacular and she had every right to be proud of them. Of course, half the guys in their high school class could draw them from memory. Perhaps Jess was a little too proud of her boobs.

Lizzie took the next couple of minutes to finish her beer then she set it down. She chewed her lip again, pondering, then decided to follow them. She was more than a little curious and she knew her brother well. Odds were that he'd be too distracted by Jessica's charms to shut his sticky bedroom door completely.

She crept up towards his bedroom and she was right. There was a quite peekable gap left. She sat herself tipsily down on the floor for a little bit of perving. Okay, a lot of perving.

From the look of things, Richard was having one of the best nights of his life. Jessica had always been that perfect cheerleadery mix of flexibility and eagerness that drove guys crazy.

At that moment, Jessica was topless and cupping her oversized, flawless breasts in her hands with her lips wrapped around half of Richard's cock. Lizzie gaped. Her brother's erection was impressive and while Jess was working her mouth down on it steadily, she was definitely struggling. Her full lips strained to fit around his shaft. When she finally swallowed his entire length, she groaned from her chest and bobbed slightly.

Lizzie had to admit, Jess knew how to please a guy. The curvy brunette never forgot to look up and keep eye-contact with her brother even as her hands slid down from her own tits and under her skirt to quickly drag a small white thong down and off.

Yep, Jess knew what she was doing. Lizzie watched as her gal pal ditched her skirt then scooted onto the bed on her back and spread her legs. Lizzie and her brother's eyes were both drawn to the same place. Jessica was shaved completely bare. Her tiny glistening sex was a perfectly smooth and pink invitation. Scooter paused only long enough to finish getting his pants off and quickly slid on top of her.

Lizzie watched her friend's mouth fall open as Richard eased himself into her. Jess shifted and pulled her legs up very high, limberly hooking them over Richard's shoulders. Yep, flexible and eager. Damn cheerleaders.

For the next half hour, Lizzie watched her brother make love to her best friend. She was appalled and excited at the same time. Jessica shivered through three separate and very satisfying-looking orgasms before Richard groaned his own release. Lizzie assumed they were done.

But they weren't done.

Jessica slipped herself off the bed and did something Lizzie didn't expect -- not from her eighteen year-old friend. Jess stood, turned, and bent herself forward at the waist with her upper body on the bed. She swished her little cheerleadery bubble butt temptingly.

"C'mere Scooter, I've got this other hole you missed."

Out in the hallway, Lizzie's eyes slowly widened. Partly because Jessica had just used Lizzie's nickname for her brother. And partly because Jessica offered what she did - Lizzie had no idea her friend did... well... that.

Mostly though, Lizzie was astonished because her big brother, her sweet and gentle Scooter who used to read her bedtime stories when they were little, didn't hesitate. He simply stood and moved behind Jessica and then gave her just what she asked for, pressing himself into her ass with no more than a nod. Jessica whimpered at the invasion but didn't move away. Worst of all, the bastard was good at it, judging from the very happy groans Jessica made over the next ten minutes.

It was wrong and dirty and nasty and... hot.

Peering through the crack into her brother's bedroom at the gleeful sodomy scene, Lizzie's surprised face slowly spread into the same determined expression she wore at the last 100 yards of every race she'd ever run.

Lizzie would chase. And she'd win. She always did.

Bawoo.

She wandered back downstairs quietly for another beer.

*~*~* Part II -- One year later *~*~*

Twenty-years and two days old, Richard woke to the sounds of sea gulls crying and surf lapping at the beach. But it wasn't either of those things that drew him out of his sleep. It was a slender little finger that did it. That finger was tracing letters across his back. It wasn't all that odd, his kid sister Lizzie liked to wake him up this way - writing words on his skin.

They'd written messages like this for each other since they were children. It was their mother's idea. When they were young, their family went on long car rides to visit their grandparents. Little Richard and Elizabeth would get noisy in the back seat along the way -- two hours of nonstop tickling, poking, fighting, laughing and crying. Normal kid stuff, really. Unfortunately, their father was a bit high-strung and those long drives to see his in-laws only made him more tense.

Their mom did what good moms do. She buffered. She taught her children skinwriting to keep them occupied. "Give her your hand, Richie," his mother nodded at his sister from the front seat. "And close your eyes."

"Okay, now you think of a word, Liz. A small one. But don't say it out loud, honey. Ready? Now spell it on your brother's palm."

Liz nodded and traced each letter of her word with her tiny seven year-old finger. She had to write it twice before he could get it.

"Cat?" Richard finally guessed.

Liz giggled and their mother smiled. "Very good, you two. Lizzie, keep going until Richard guesses wrong. Let's see how many words you can get him to say."

Over the next two hours, their parents listened to the more peaceful sounds of elementary school vocabulary coming up from their backseat. "Dog." "House." "Truck." "Chicken, but you forgot the other 'c'."

Their mother's strange little improvised game was one of the many things that built a strong bond between Richard and Lizzie over the years. They had their tiffs and their struggles but they stuck by each other more than other siblings they knew. That bond grew even tighter when their family shrank a few years later. Their father died of a heart attack. No one was surprised -- he'd always been wound pretty tight. Their Mom missed him but she was leading an active, happy life again.

Richard focused on his sister's finger as it traced the three quick letters of her ritual puzzle before moving on to what she was going to make for breakfast.

The puzzle? He'd never solved it. Feeling what was for breakfast? That was easy.

"Pancakes," he muttered into the mattress.

"Good boy. And the other thing?" she scratched the thick brown hair at the back of his head.

"I still have no fucking idea what the hell 'imu' means."

"Ooh, poor little Scooter. Don't worry, you'll get it someday. You're the smartest dumb guy I know," she patted his back and left him alone to get dressed.

Stupid "imu" puzzle.

Eight years ago, he'd told her that she'd misspelled 'emu' and described the little ostrich-like bird. She'd laughed and shook her head, "Uh uh."

Seven years ago, he'd guessed that she'd cheated and skipped the apostrophe for "I'm U." Some sort of funny poetry thing. This of course made no sense. She'd laughed harder.

Lizzie's hardest laugh came three years ago when Richard, fresh from his first few weeks of high school physics had figured out that "I" was the letter for electrical current and the Greek letter "mu" was the symbol commonly used for a coefficient of friction. Thus, "I mu" meant "current friction" referring to how her finger was rubbing across his skin.

Lizzie had nearly wet herself laughing, "Dumbass, I wrote that for you when I was ten years-old. I barely understood what you just said now. How the hell could I have meant that then?"

She had a point.

Richard sighed into his pillow. He knew he was smarter than average and that he was pretty good at figuring things out. The fact that his little sister had stumped him for so long was a sore point.

Well, Lizzie was right about one thing -- pancakes sounded perfect for their first day at the beach.

By the time he splashed some water on his face and pulled on a bathing suit then made it to the kitchen, Lizzie had already finished cooking and was pouring coffee.

Amend that, pouring coffee in a bikini. Good god, his heart skipped several beats.

Lizzie's back was turned to him and the little black bikini's strings were knotted loosely at the middle of her back, her neck, and each hip.

Richard had long since made peace with the fact that his kid sister was far and away the prettiest girl he knew. Blonde with gigantic, soft, bambi-brown eyes, she was a gifted long distance runner and it showed. Basically, everyone agreed she looked like a gazelle. Her long, slender legs swept up into an equally sleek little ass. Her slim, tight upper body matched her lower half.

Lizzie Robbins was built for speed. And bikinis. She looked amazing in that suit.

He snapped out of his daze when she turned, golden ponytail swinging, and handed him a cup of coffee.

"How late did you get here last night?" she asked as she slid into her seat at the table. The motion made her round breasts sway slightly in her top and he only looked away with effort.

"Oh, a little after two. It took me that long to sober up from the birthday party they threw me at school. I'm going to need a lot of coffee today. Thanks." As proof, he took a long drag from his cup. His eyes flicked down her body again before he could stop them.

This time she caught him looking. "Like my new suit?" she needled him a bit, eyebrow cocked coyly.

"S'not bad," he shrugged. "It's just funny seeing you wearing it in the kitchen. My shy kid sister used to wear t-shirts over her suit right up until we got to the beach."

"That had more to do with Mom being around than being shy, dummy," she half-smiled, "No mom around to harass me now."

They ate breakfast and stepped out the back door and onto a patio overlooking a beach that they had all to themselves. Lizzie said her fiancée's parents rented the beach house for them for the last month of the summer, but he'd gotten dragged away to help with his Dad's company.

Lizzie... and her fiancée.

Wow, it even sounded weird. His little Lizzie, just one year into college, was getting married? And she'd never even brought the guy home to meet her family. She'd always been independent and headstrong but this was ridiculous. He only found out when she called him late one night from school with her engagement news that spring. He'd answered the phone and, before he'd even said hello, she just blurted it out.

"I'm getting married."

"Wah - huh?"

His sister giggled over the phone. "Married, Scooter. I'm getting married."

"Who? When? Why?" A bad answer to that last question popped into his head, "Oh god, you're pregnant aren't you?"

"Relax silly, I'm not preggo. His name is... okay, don't make fun... his name is Chip."

"Chip?!" he laughed, he couldn't help it. "This is some kind of sick joke..."

"You're really going to talk smack about names, Scooter? For real, his name is Chip. And he's a great guy. We're going to get married this summer. At the beach."

"Lizzie, I told you -- pot or tequila. Never both. You really can't mix them and keep a grip on reality."

"C'mon Scooter, I'm sober. Well, mostly sober. But more importantly, I am serious. I really am getting married. He just gave me a ring tonight and everything. Wait until you see it. It's fucking huge."

It finally sank in, she wasn't kidding. "Wow. Okay. So what did Mom say?"

"I haven't told her yet."

"You called me before Mom?"

"Of course silly, you're my brother. And brothers come first."

Brothers come first. That one tugged at his heartstrings because there was some history to it.

Richard had given little Lizzie her first kiss. It had been her idea and it was very innocent. She'd said she was worried about making a fool of herself with her first boyfriend.

"C'mon Scooter, please?" She'd pleaded with him. "I brushed my teeth and used some of Mom's mouthwash and everything. No cooties, I swear." But then she'd looked at him seriously and said something that had never even occurred to him back then, "Just don't do anything gross like put your tongue in my mouth, okay?"

He did like she asked, he kissed her. Their young lips merged hesitantly in a tender way for a long moment. Actually, it waskinda nice.

Lizzie had smiled hugely afterwards. "See, that wasn't so bad was it? Now you'll always be the first boy to kiss me. Cool huh?" She darted in and pecked his cheek in a more sisterly way. "Thanks, Scooter. You know, I think brothers should always come first."

But that would change soon. She'd be someone's wife. It was all happening too fast.

Richard pushed these thoughts away and focused on the now as he and his sister crossed the beach then swam out about forty yards into the surf where the waves just began to curl. They were both comfortable in the water and Lizzie was practically fearless when it came to picking her waves. The bigger the better.

They picked out their respective spots, alternatingly bobbing, waiting and surfing. Later, when Lizzie came back from her last wave, she swam over to him and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"Mind if I hang on you, bro? Can't touch bottom here like you," she pouted, "not tall enough. And I see you're catching the nicer rides from here." It was true. The largest waves were just beginning to curl where he could barely stand. Just a few yards further in, Lizzie had to duck under them because it was too late.

 

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The 30 Cheapest Places To Travel In 2017, if your new year resolution is to Travel
Time to start packing your bags: 2017 is shaping up to be a banner year for budget travel. The dollar is enjoying historic highs — meaning your money goes much further in many destinations around the globe — and according to an American Express Global Business Travel report, airfares are expected to fall in 2017.



1. Mazatlan, Mexico

Why: The current exchange rate ($1 = 20.69 Mexican pesos) makes Mexico one of the most affordable destinations.
For the frugal traveler who wants to enjoy more culture than they might in the Riviera Maya, my top pick is Mazatlan. As the shrimp capital of Mexico and a foodie paradise, Mazatlan is teeming with awesome eateries and fresh, interesting dishes. Hotels (including all-inclusive properties) are extremely inexpensive and authentic since most aren't part of the huge chains. El Cid Marina has awesome pools that are perfect for families, great food and huge rooms. (Rates are as low as $100 for a family of four.)
You can also enjoy superb dining at a top-notch restaurant like Casa 46 for less than half what you'd pay in the United States.
Side note: Sinaloa (the state where Mazatlan resides) grows the bulk of produce in Mexico, so Mazatlan produce is unbelievably cheap as a result. You see this reflected in top restaurants all the way down to street markets.



2. South Africa



Why: In South Africa, the exchange rate is in our favor, but so is the fact that it's a developed tourist destination with a solid infrastructure. In spending a month in Cape Town earlier this year and relying on Uber to get me to and from meetings, activities and lunches, I averaged under $20 in transportation per day — a major win.
Hotels are cheaper, too: Take a standard room at Taj Hotels & Resorts in New York, and you are out about $786 a night, whereas in Cape Town, a room at a similar luxury property costs $266. Remember, South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere, so seasons are the opposite: Consider going in low season (our summer) when hotels and safari lodges are even less expensive.
Airbnb and private villa rentals are also reliable and cheap options in the major cities. Travelers should also consider booking domestic airfare in advance for the greatest cost savings, since flights on South African Airways can sell out quickly.
The best value of all is the wine: Travelers can order a glass of one of the best locally produced varietals for less than the cost of a can of soda. For more information on travel in South Africa, watch "Michaela's Map: First Timers' Guide to Southern Africa."



3. San Juan, Puerto Rico


Why: The best way to get a deal in the Caribbean is to travel during the low season (end of April through mid-December) to destinations that have direct and frequent fights from your gateway; plenty of hotel inventory; and economies that aren't euro-based.
Puerto Rico fits the bill, and I'm a big fan of San Juan, which I think is seriously underrated as an easy and affordable getaway, especially for visitors from the East Coast of the U.S. Old San Juan oozes charm, and if you stay within the old city's two-square-mile radius you won't need a car rental to access great restaurants, sightseeing and shopping.
U.S. citizens can save themselves the cost of a passport since it's not required to visit, and since the U.S. dollar is the legal tender, there's no money lost on currency exchange. Hotel Casa Blanca and Villa Herencia are two of my favorite high-style/low-cost boutique hotels.



4. Chile



Why: Europe is on everyone's list of value-added trips this year and for good reason — the exchange rate is more favorable for American travelers than it has been in years. But the destinations I most dream about and long to return to are in South America, a destination that has long given travelers great value for money.
In Chile, I love Santiago for its vibrant food and wine scene — think tucked-away wine bars, delicious tapas and hip hotels in a beautifully chaotic city. For a lesser-known and truly special corner of the world, I love the small lakeside town of Puerto Varas. It is part of the lakes district in Chile and the northern start of Patagonia.
It is easy (and cheap!) to rent a car and explore this area. There is a surprising German heritage, so you'll see signs for "kuchen" (cake). With Puerto Varas as a hub, you can explore great places within a two-hour drive from the city: going to the top of a volcano, exploring waterfalls, finding the best cakes and food.
This area sees very few American visitors and everything is CHEAP. It's one of those places I almost want to keep to myself, but it's so special that I can't.



5. Crete

Why: With the U.S. dollar strong against the euro right now and the economic crisis in Greece keeping prices lower than other parts of Europe, it’s the perfect time to visit the beautiful island of Crete. Crete is a foodie dream come true.
A place where farm-to-table isn’t a new fad, it’s a way of life. The people here often live to be well over 100 years old so they must be doing something right! With truly stunning natural beauty (like Balos beach) and locals that welcome tourists with open arms, you are bound to have the trip of a lifetime and save a few dollars at the same time.



6. Morocco


Why: For many, Morocco is the ultimate dream trip, and yet cost tends to keep most from visiting. But what you might not know is that it's one of the most affordable African countries, particularly when comparing flight costs. R
eaching Marrakech from cities such as Lisbon, Madrid and Paris may only set you back $40 to $100 roundtrip with many budget airlines. And this past Black Friday, flights from New York were a mere $400 roundtrip.
Food is by far my main reason for visiting as often as I do, and typical meals can range from $2.50 to $15 for two, which includes appetizers, entree and unlimited mint tea. For vegetarians and vegans, the country is especially great, as veggies are cheaper than meat and fresh fruit smoothies are barely $1.
Souvenir shopping can get a bit intense when you realize leather goods such as wallets, handbags and weekenders run from $5 to $60. (A shopaholics dream!) When it comes to accommodations there's something to fit everyone's budget, my favorite being Riad Yasmine (only $80-$160 per night).
For those looking for Moroccan luxury while still on a budget, my go-to is Riad Kheirredine, which will have you living like a queen without breaking the bank and even provides a cell phone during your stay to ensure guest safety.



7. Belize



Why: Modern conveniences and history collide in Belize. It's a perfect place to take a budget romantic vacation. Many of the four-star hotels offer extras, like bicycle rentals, included in their low rates, as well as Belize's excellent local wines.
Some affordable resorts to check out are George Hardie's Las Vegas Hotel in Corozal (Northern Belize) and the oceanside Royal Caribbean Resort in San Pedro along Ambergris Caye. Both can be booked for under $100 per night.
Meals are also crazy cheap, but delicious. Two can eat at an upscale restaurant for less than $30, and much less at an everyday venue.



8. Vietnam



Why: Affordable upscale accommodations, cheap and remarkably healthy food and beautiful sights make Vietnam a standout among budget-friendly South Asian destinations.
Eat your way through historic Hanoi, kayak in the emerald waters of Halong Bay or relax in ancient Hoi An and the nearby beaches. There are clean, safe accommodations to fit everyone's wallet. In Hanoi, my favorite is the Tirant Hotel, near the old town, where you can bag a room for less than $70 a night.
Don't miss the Hanoi street food tour: For just $20 per person, a guide will lead you on foot or by scooter through backstreets, markets and footpaths.
You will eat like the locals and learn the names and ingredients in the dishes so you can order them again. And be sure to take the time to sip a bowl of steaming "pho" noodle soup in restaurants, push carts and food stalls, where a street meal and a beer can cost the same as a caramel macchiato at Starbucks.



9. Costa Rica


Why: Costa Rica is the one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and to be able to see this on a shoestring is an incredible opportunity.
There's a ton of national parks to explore, for instance, that only cost a few dollars to enter. Once there, you can then enjoy free self-guided walks that won't cost you a cent, but will deliver some great encounters with amazing wildlife like tapirs, monkeys, sloths and macaws.
Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Parks are two of the best. Public transport is also super cheap in Costa Rica, with buses generally less than $10, even for an eight-hour ride. This makes traveling between destinations in this compact country very affordable and means you can see a lot in a short amount of time.
In addition, budget accommodation in Costa Rica — even at some of the best surf beaches — can be as little as $6 per person. And a "plato tipico" (local dish) can be enjoyed anywhere for as little as $2-3.



10. Portugal



Why: Portugal is a pocket of affordable travel in contrast to the rest of Western Europe, especially if you get off the highways and take the back roads (where you can also avoid tolls).
A bottle of delicious port and a plate of the day with a glass of wine can be found for around €5 each. Nowhere else in the world can its "California Highway 1 meets Tuscany" landscapes be enjoyed on such a budget, especially now that the dollar is strong against the euro.



11. Ecuador



Why: Although Ecuador is not quite as inexpensive as Peru to the south, it’s an easy and affordable destination to travel to, especially if you stay a bit off the beaten path. It’s a short cheap flight from Florida with budget airlines like jetBlue and TAME, and accommodation is pretty cheap.
Shop at your local market and you can get a week’s worth of groceries for $10. And Ecuador has lots of variety; from surf beach towns like Montanita, to the volcanic Banos with famed hot springs at the gateway to the Amazon basin, to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cuenca in the high Andes, there’s a lot to see. The bus systems are good and domestic flights cheap and plentiful. F
ind a free accommodation option like house-sitting or volunteering, and your trip can be even cheaper.



12. Barcelona



Why: Barcelona is ranked right up there with cities like Paris and London as one of the most popular European cities, but it is by far the most affordable. This is thanks to low-cost tapas restaurants, endless free attractions and affordable things to do.
Have a meal of tapas and wine at El Xampanyet for around €10-15. Soak up the rays on the beach at Barceloneta. Get lost in the La Boqueria Market.
And take the tram up to Tibidabo (only €5) for sweeping panoramic views of the city; it's also where you can experience a vintage amusement park and a gorgeous cathedral.



13. Where: Guatemala


Why: Often bypassed in favor of nearby Costa Rica, Guatemala is unique unto itself in Central America. And because it's a bit more "off the path" in the region, it's also easy on the budget and a nice place to splurge.
The villas and hotels rimming Lake Atitlán have all the beauty you could want for a small fraction of the price you'd pay in Europe or elsewhere. From the lake, you can then delve into the country's unique culture by visiting the indigenous markets and villages in the Guatemalan highlands.
Lush Atitlan is a gorgeous, affordable place to stay in San Marcos La Laguna, the prettiest and most culturally interesting of Lake Atitlan's villages.


14. Bonaire & Curaçao


Why: In the deep Southern Caribbean, Bonaire and Curaçao are always out there on the edge of everyone's Caribbean consciousness. Both are known for scuba diving, but also for other water sports, hiking and amazing secluded beaches.
Vacation villas that let you live like a local are plentiful and affordable on both islands, but chain hotels like the Renaissance Curaçao Resort & Casino are an option on Curaçao (great if you're using points).
Bonaire gets its very first chain hotel at the end of 2016 when a Marriott Courtyard opens.



15. Las Vegas



Why: If you can avoid the slots, there are lots of free things to do in Vegas: The Flamingo's flamingo habitat, the fountains and conservatory at the Bellagio and the outdoor movies at the Container Park are just a few.
You can also find many places for cheap eats if you are willing to get off The Strip to do so. Check out the nearby Crown and Anchor, which serves up delicious British favorites, and Ninja Teriyaki Sushi 2 Go for fresh-made amazing sushi rolls in a no-frills setting.



16. Cambodia



Why: Sadly, the average income in Cambodia is about $950 per year. What does this mean for international travelers? Your international airfare might be expensive, but once you are in Cambodia, you can live well. Tuks tuks (a combo bike/taxi) and food cost just pennies. Even international hotel chains and luxury river boats down the Mekong are more affordable than other Asian destinations.
Before visiting, I suggest doing your homework to support luxury companies like the Shinta Mani Resort, whose foundation plays a large role in its community, building water wells, schools and farms and providing the best healthcare in the country to its employees. Culturally conscious companies like Aqua Expeditions sustainably introduce their guests to the communities along the Mekong River, including the floating markets and the farmers in the rice fields; the company can even arrange a conversation with a local Buddhist monk to discuss the significance of his journey from childhood to monkhood.




17. Bali



Why: If you're looking into an exotic long-haul trip, Bali offers a ton of high quality experiences for a great value. You can easily stay in a private villa overlooking stunning rice paddies with a private pool for around $50 per night. (Airbnb is a great way to go).
However, if you want to splurge a bit but not go overboard, a stay at a high-end luxury resort will still cost you less than a stay at a luxury resort, for example, in Maui. Not to mention, spa and transportation costs are quite low relative to other exotic locales, as well as the amazing and healthy food options that end up being a fraction of the cost elsewhere in the world.



18. Greece



Why: The weakened euro has made any trip to Europe more affordable, but this is especially true in Greece. The struggling economy craves tourist dollars and makes it known with affordable pricing on everything from hotels to food.
In Athens, you can book a three- or four-star hotel for well under $100, like 360 Degrees, a nice and modern hotel with a huge breakfast buffet included and an awesome location directly on Monastiraki Square.
Throughout the countryside, prices may be even better. Best of all, you can sit down to an amazing Greek meal with drinks (Mythos or Ouzo?), appetizers (Saganaki, anyone?) and entrees of your choosing for less than half what you'd pay in the States. Heck, you can pick up Souvlaki or a gyro for $1-$2. Souvenirs are insanely cheap, too.



19. Albania

Why: This forgotten corner of Europe is a wonderfully off-the-beaten-track budget destination in an otherwise very touristy and expensive continent.
With fantastic beaches along its coastline, including the fishing port of Saranda, Albania gives visitors the chance to enjoy the Mediterranean waters for a fraction of the usual price. Accommodation starts from as little as $5 per person and fishing trips or boat rides to the nearby islands are similarly well priced.
There's also some fascinating historical sites across Albania that are either free to enter or cost only $2-$5. From the moutainous medieval town of Gjirokastër to the Roman ruins at Butrint, this is a diverse and very different side of Europe, which is definitely worth visiting before the crowds do.



20. San Luis Potosí, México


Picture a perfect class III white water rafting experience through a limestone canyon of turquoise waters, a visit to a living garden of eden, complete with art sculptures, hidden pools, butterflies and waterfalls, a hike to the largest known cave shaft in the world, which you can rappel into, and a series of waterfalls for cliff jumping.
Top this all off with a plate of homemade tacos and a local beer for $2, and you've got yourself a piece of adventure paradise on a budget.
Still very much under the radar to anyone outside of Mexico, San Luis Potosí could be compared to Costa Rica in terms of adventure and Cambodia in terms of affordability. Since Election Day, the dollar has been especially strong in Mexico, offering an even better excuse to travel south of the border.



21. Quebec City, Canada

Why: Take advantage of the weak Canadian dollar and travel north for a 25% discount on prices.
Enjoy a slice of Old Europe without the jet lag or the cost of a transatlantic flight. Indulge in some of the best French food outside France — steak-frites, oysters and pastries at a bargain price. Stroll and shop in the narrow cobblestone streets of the picturesque Old Town and enjoy night parades and ice canoe races during the colorful Winter Festival in January and February.



22. Buenos Aires



Why: One of the world's most intoxicating cities, Buenos Aires has only grown in popularity, but it's still relatively cheap compared to European and Asian capital cities. There are many green parks, French-inspired architecture, late-night dancing, custom leather shops and fantastic food.
Taxis are relatively cheap (around $5-8 a ride), but you should also walk for miles in all of the distinct neighborhoods, like Palermo (try Salon Canning, a super casual milonga, or dance hall, after midnight). Must-try cheap eat in Buenos Aires: anything dulce de leche. It is everywhere — inside crepes, drizzled over grilled bananas and in gelato.
Tip: Bring a ton of American cash and you'll get better deals in many places. For example, I bought my custom leather jacket at a shop called Uru Recoleta (close to the famous Recoleta Cemetery) and was able to buy it for much less than using my credit card because I brought American dollars.
On Sundays, the place to be is the San Telmo market for browsing leather, antiques, watches, jewelry and more.



23. Haiti

Why: While Haiti still remains under the radar as a travel destination, many people have been flocking to the vibrant country, and I can see why: The island provides all the stunning Caribbean characteristics without the high costs. Outside of holiday seasons and the later part of the summer, flights from New York range from $300 to $500, and even cheaper when flying from cities in Florida.
The real gem is how cheap the hotels are, with many starting at $50 to $150 per night including airport transfers. Even the newest Marriott Port-au-Prince will only set you back $130 to under $200 a night for larger rooms.
One of my favorites is Wahoo Bay Beach, which has epic mountain and ocean views from its stunning pool and rooms. You can take small boat tours around the area for a couple of dollars per person. Lobster, conch and crab can be caught right from the water and prepared for you without costing more than $10.





24. Santa Catalina Island, California

Why: Santa Catalina Island is one of my new favorite places. It is way more than a weekend SoCal jaunt. Hotels are quaint and average under the $200 per night mark. The Avalon Hotel is a charming choice. It’s right in the center of town, making it an easy walk to almost any activity. There is plenty to do, like kayaking, scuba diving, snorkeling, ziplining, hiking or just beach sitting.
The Catalina Island Museum is a must-visit stop to get the full story of the island's fascinating history, including its Hollywood connection. Food and shopping choices are extensive.
And you don’t need a rental car. Getting to the island is easy: Catalina Express Ferry whisks you to there from three different ports, Long Beach, Dana Point and San Pedro. I prefer Long Beach because flights there are often lower priced than neighboring LAX.



25. Indonesia



Why: With 17,000 islands, you are bound to find the ideal paradise to suit your travel and budget in Indonesia.
There are stunning untouched beaches that offer world-class snorkelling and scuba diving in Raja Ampat, fascinating Unesco World Heritage Sites dating back to the 9th century in Yogyakarta and — everywhere you turn — the friendliest locals. In Raja Ampat, we found a homestay that included breakfast, lunch and dinner — plus it was right on the beach for around $29 USD per person per night. For more, see Food Fun Travel's "Bali Food Guide."



26. Bulgaria

Why: The entire Balkans region is an excellent option for budget travel, and if you haven't been before, I recommend starting with Bulgaria.
From wine country to snowy peaks to the Black Sea coast, it's an adventure playground that every budget can afford. In Bulgaria's wine country you can get a full winery tour with multiple tastings plus bread and cheese for about $5 (check out Villa Melnik winery), take a hike through Bulgaria's famous sandstone pyramids and then sleep in a beautiful authentic style hotel like Zlaten Rozhen with breakfast included for about $30.



27. Cusco, Peru



Why: Most people who pass through Cusco are en route to the very popular Machu Picchu, but you should make sure to spend a few days, maybe even a few weeks in this colorful city. Not only is the city absolutely stunning and oozing with culture, most accommodations range from $20 to $100 a night. Peruvian textiles are extremely affordable and the vibrant colors are stunning.
Eating out in Cusco can be extremely cheap, if you know where to eat. Restaurants are quite affordable compared to most American and European restaurants, but street food here is the real winner. I'm personally addicted to ceviche and can't find it cheaper than $15 for a small portion in the states, but in Cusco's San Pedro Market you can find ceviche plus Peruvian fried rice for only $3.
On my last trip, I had steak and ceviche nearly every day and never spent more than $15 for two including a drink and soup.



28. Georgia
Why: Meagen Collins: This ancient European country is starting to grab the attention of travelers from all over the world. Georgia has so much to offer — beautiful scenery, unique culture and tradition everywhere you look, and the food will leave you drooling for more.
Add to that the fact this country lays claim to being the birthplace of wine (winemaking here goes back 8,000 years) and you have the ultimate new travel destination.
In Georgia, you can get a full meal plus copious amounts of wine for two people in a higher end restaurant, with live entertainment and still spend less than $30 — total. But get there fast: Word is getting around about this little gem and it won’t be tourist-free for long.



29. Mozambique



Why: This country is one of Africa's best budget travel destinations, with some extremely affordable accommodation situated along white sand beaches and next to an azure ocean. (Check out Villa Sands or Terraço das Quitandas.)
There's great scuba diving, too, and you can easily feel like a millionaire here for nothing! For more ideas, see Big World Small Pocket's "17 Incredible Budget Travel Destinations Still On My List (That Should Be On Yours Too!)."



30. Dallas, Texas



Why: Dallas is often overlooked, but packed with fun, food and great places to stay at prices far below the national average. (The city was voted the most affordable destination in the U.S. last year by Priceline and continues to remain a great value.) Downtown buzzes with excitement and culture, and the nearby Design District is exploding with eclectic shopping for home décor.
The high-rise Omni Dallas has rooms with stunning floor-to-ceiling views of the city starting at just under $200, putting you in the center of the action. With a rental car, you can fully explore everything the city has to offer. Look at fringe cities like Grapevine and Plano for the charm of small towns of yesteryear with main street shops and eateries.
The Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine is convenient to DFW airport and offers full-out luxury at rates around the $200 mark.

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