My trip to the Maldives, with great thanks to the Maldivian Thalassemia Society
In October 2013, I was invited to speak at the 13th International Conference on Thalassemia in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
After my presentation was over, I met groups of people from all over the world. One of which was from the Maldives.
The conference ended a few days later and I returned to life as usual in New York City.
A few months later, I got a Facebook message from Jeehan Saleem, the head of the Maldivian Thalassemia Society, asking if I would consider speaking at their 2014 conference. She said that the group took a vote on the their favorite speaker in Abu Dhabi and they chose <em>me</em> to share my message with their community.
As you can imagine, I was psyched out of my mind by this news.
Unfortunately, I told her that I couldn't make it to their 2014 conference, because I didn't have enough vacation time left at my job.
I asked if I could instead join them in 2015.
Jeehan said "Yes" -- and again, I got psyched (and scared) out of my mind.
The truth is, I was super afraid to fly to the opposite side of the world by myself.
So, from the moment I accepted the offer to just a few months before the trip I asked anyone and everyone to go with me.
Several of my friends hesitantly said yes, but no one was absolute about it.
Months went by and I started to get more and more nervous about my upcoming speech.
I prayed that one of my friends would finalize their "Yes" and go with me. Otherwise, I thought I might have to cancel.
I started talking to myself saying, "I know that this trip is something I'm supposed to do, so I know that someone will say "Yes" and go with me."
Then a miracle happened. Just as I was about to give up, I was introduced to my boyfriend Andrew.
I asked Andrew to go on the trip with me after about one month of dating him. What's even more miraculous is that Andrew said "Absolutely."
Not only that, but his dad frequently visited an island in the Maldives that he recommended to us as a vacation spot.
Talk about the universe delivering! Can you believe that? I stopped freaking out immediately.
Andrew and I made our travel arrangements to fly to Dubai and then to the Maldives, because there was no direct flight from New York to the Maldives.
Jeehan asked me to write three speeches for the conference. One for kids with thalassemia, one for the Maldivian Health Minister and other dignitaries, and one for the parents and family members of patients.
The speeches took me a few weeks to prepare and I was ready several weeks in advance of the conference.
The flight to the Maldives took a total of 17 hours. This isn't even including the time it took us to transfer in Dubai.
As you can imagine, arriving in the Maldives was a huge relief.
After getting our bags, Andrew and I were greeted by two young adults from the society named Shanyz and Suha. I had met them before in Abu Dhabi, so it was nice to see their smiling faces.
Suha and Shaneez brought us to a ferry that took us to the main island of Malé. The water below the boat was a turquoise blue color that I'd never seen before in my life. It was truly beautiful.
As we stepped off the ferry and onto the island I realized how much life was buzzing around us.
There were rows of dark skinned people whizzing by on motor bikes. The smell of motor oil was strong.
Suha and Shaneez brought us to a hotel that was modest and clean, with a nice view of the Indian Ocean.
Our new friends asked if we wanted to sleep in or go out to dinner with them a little later in the evening.
My body desperately wanted about 24 hours of sleep, but I denied myself because I wanted to experience going out with and meeting new friends.
Andrew and I took a quick nap, then woke up to meet everyone for dinner.
They took us to an awesome restaurant that was just a few steps away from the hotel. We ate Thai food that was delicious! Everyone we were with made sure we were taken care of and happy at every point that they could.
When the night ended and Andrew and I arrived back in the hotel, we looked at each other and said that we couldn't believe how sweet, caring, and kind everyone was.
Before the conference began on the next day, Jeehan invited us to a breakfast that included several more members from the society.
Jeehan knew that Andrew was turning 30 that day and very kindly arranged to have a birthday cake ready for him (that her sister made)!
Andrew’s 30th birthday cake from the Maldivian Thal Socieity
Once again, we were overwhelmed by the display of love that we received.
I think it was at that moment that I realized I shouldn't have been so worried about traveling alone.
The next few days brought us more of the same. We met so many incredible people with warm smiling faces and generous hearts.
My speeches went well and the feedback we got was incredible. I was so happy that people seemed to like my stories and the meditation technique that I taught them.
Here are some of the people I met as well as the extremely kind words they shared about my speeches:
The most incredible story that I heard during the conference was by a young woman who lives on a distant island.
She said she used to travel 13 hours by boat to get to her transfusion appointments as a kid.
Her parents would need to miss work to bring her to the appointment every few weeks.
They also had to ask their friends to donate blood and the person who donated would also need to miss work and travel with them for 13 hours.
The story was incredibly eye-opening, because I know far too many Americans and Europeans who take the ease of their care for granted.
One of my friends who is now deceased told me that he had a friend who used to go into the bathroom during his transfusion, remove the IV tubing from his arm and drain the blood he was receiving into the toilet.
Apparently the person who did this died in his late teens, which is sad, but it speaks to the enormous emotional pain and lack of coping skills that some kids with thalassemia have.
On the last day of our stay, a few people from the society took us to their thalassemia clinic and I got to meet some of their nurses and doctors.
Here are a few pictures that I took from the hospital.
The Law of Attraction?
Now for the second bit about the Law of Attraction and this is really weird.
Before I was invited to speak in the Maldives I had been posting pictures of beautiful beaches and pristine bodies of water on my Facebook page.
Then, several weeks later, I received Jeehan's note asking me to speak in the Maldives. I started to Google pictures and information about the Maldives. Turns out the pictures I was posting on my Facebook page were actually taken in the Maldives!
Meeting Andrew was even luckier. Out of all possible scenarios, I met someone whose father visits the islands and knew so much about it that he intrigued Andrew enough to want to go.
There's a ton more I could say about the whole experience. It made me think about how wonderfully different but similar we all are and opened my mind up to a culture that is very far away, but feels such a part of myself.
What I really want to leave you with are these few thoughts:
Say "yes" to every inspired thought that is positive and could help other people.
Say "yes" to other people's generosity. Allow abundance into your life.
Trust the visions you have about the life you want.
Don't be afraid to listen to your inner guidance. I think you have that vision for a reason. Trust it.
Open your heart and believe in the goodness of others. Most people are nothing like the evil you see on the evening news.
Do things that are outside of your comfort zone. Life is about gaining experiences and evolving. It is not meant to be lived in timidity and distrust..
The more you listen to the words that come to you from your body and not your brain, the more you will move into a life that fulfills, strengthens, and enriches you.
If you liked this blog post, please share it with someone else who might enjoy it and of course, please leave a comment to share your thoughts with me!
In memory of his bright light:
Thank you so much, my friends in the Maldives.
This story originally appeared on josephinebila.com on Tue, 26 May 2015.