Visiting The Dominican Republic For Surf, Smiles, And Self-Reflection

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Before The Summer Season Begins We Head To The Dominican Republic

A few weeks ago, my family and I set off for the Dominican Republic. We were greeted by amazing people and found ourselves very much at home with surf, sand, smiles, and Moringa everywhere. everywhere! The trip was one that allowed me to truly reconnect with my creative intuition and to break away from the fear I’d been lugging around with me for a while. I also found that, like so many who have gone to the Dominican Republic before, I’ve fallen in love with the place and the feeling I have when I’m there. If you’re ready to fall in love too, read on to learn more about my trip.

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A Home For Many Expats And A Culture That Reflects That Beautifully

One thing you’ll probably notice about the Dominican Republic when you first arrive is the vast number of expats who this place their home. People from Scandinavia Haiti, Spain, the US and everywhere in between have come to add their influence to this gorgeous oceanside paradise. The climate is fantastic, the ocean is a kaleidoscope of different blue shades washing over one another with the tide, and with every wave crash you become all the more certain that you belong there. Sampling local produce like papaya or turmeric was (which you’ll soon find is used in everything and is an awesome addition for sure!) gave us that tropical feeling from the start. The food in the DR is very influenced by Spanish, French, and multicultural Caribbean style so there are plenty of empanadas, braised meats, and veggies,  


The Dominican Republic Loves Moringa As Much As Wave Of Balance Does!

We loved the papaya and empanadas, and we were also struck by how the Dominican Republic is culturally aware of the benefits of moringa. Moringa and the Dominican Republic, much like our Wave of Balance Moringa and Our hometown of Asbury Park, are a delicious and dynamic duo.  From smoothies to food toppings, Moringa is everywhere in the DR and so is hospitality! Lina, who works at the gorgeous El Encuentro Surf Lodge was amazing. While we weren’t staying at the Lodge itself, we were nearby and Lina made us feel so comfortable. She was truly welcoming and helped us to find anything (from yoga to great surf breaks to excellent meals at local joints) and we just couldn’t be more grateful. In fact, we even left some of our Wave of Balance Moringa for the amazing folks at El Encuentro Surf Lodge. So, they’ll be using our Moringa to ride their own waves in the Dominican Republic. If you want to learn more about the Surf Lodge check them out here and if you’re ready to try our Wave Of Balance Moringa line, you can find those products here. Ready to plan your own trip to El Encuentro? Check them out here.

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The Work and Impact of Mariposa On The  Women Of The Dominican Republic And DR Surf Culture

While we certainly loved visiting Lina and the team at El Encuentro (and eating our way through the amazing local eateries in the area), I’d be crazy not to mention Mariposa and my own experience of clarity from this adventure.

If you’ve read my travel blogs before, you definitely know that I don’t leave my humanitarian hat behind when I travel and Mariposa is one of the organizations I’ve fallen head over heels for in the Dominican Republic. The organization (You can learn more about them here.)

) works with women and children on everything from education, to health, to sustainability, to recycling. In fact, Mariposa makes the most of the Dominican Republic’s tourism draw for kitesurfing, especially in the Kite Surfing Capital Of the World in Cabarete. They repurpose the sail fabric to make travel bags and all sort of purses and backpacks. Mariposa cares for the environment by working on reef replenishment as well.

As I reflect on my own personal experience on this trip I found that surf culture is growing in the Dominican Republic. I visited the Encuentro Surf Break about 28 years ago, and I was the only one of my friends in the water. On this trip I found that about 50% of the surfers were women, and many were young women. I could see Mariposa’s influence, as they work to get kids on the coast involved in water sports, they focus on women and girls. They work to get young girls exposed to the resources around them.


A Guided Meditation That Unblocked Creativity And Found Me Profoundly Grateful.

I also had the chance to push the pause button on my trip and took full advantage of that opportunity. I was lucky enough to be led through a meditation with a woman named Lola (onajourneyinwards  on Instagram). She had instructed a yoga class for us and we hired her to do guided meditation and yin class.

Before the meditation I was finding my intuition and creativity fairly blocked, or at least very challenged for the past year. Lola’s meditation opened me up and allowed me to see an eye in my visualizations that I can still see to this day whenever I need it. It was a simple drawing but helped me to see and unblock what was feeling so stuck for so long. Lola’s work helped me to take the anxiety and fear out of my mental state and over the course of that hour I found my mental block released. I felt more connected to myself and so grateful for that place and even, for a place I was beginning to miss.

This trip made me appreciate our restaurant pavilion by the sea even more. Lola’s mediation, Lina’s welcome, and finding myself in a place that understands the true meaning of hospitality all reminded me of our places in Asbury Park. The people of the Dominican Republic allowed us to feel like we were the only people they were taking care of, and that is the heart of hospitality that others should truly strive for and live out each day. Lina, El Encurentro, Lola, and the other amazing people we met on the island (including Myran Lindblom who took photos of us enjoying the surf and sand) understood and lived this idea fully.

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Home Is Where The Beach Is: Come Visit Us At Ours!

The welcome and true hospitality we experienced in the Dominican Republic allowed me to come back to this table by the window at Langosta and to feel as though there is no need to leave it right now. I find myself all the more committed to our work, to this beautiful ocean view, to my amazing team, and my phenomenal family. I’m glad to have new friends in the Dominican Republic and am so glad we got to visit. I’m sure we’ll be back sooner than we think.

But for now, it’s summer at the New Jersey Shore. And that means it’s time to make some amazing food, surf our hometown waves, enjoy the weather at our pavilion by the sea, and welcome our own visitors with the heart of hospitality that is rare by remarkable.

I hope you’ll come visit us at Langosta, Pop’s Garage, or the Asbury Park Yacht Club this summer and I can’t wait to meet you!

Feed This Community Spotlight: Kula Cafe And Kula Urban Farm


Kula, Ideas, And Community Transformation

Have you ever had a thought, idea or dream, that just would not cease to pull at your heart, drawing you in? It’s filling you with passion, determination, creativity, and fulfillment, even if it doesn’t even exist yet? That’s how I felt about the Kula Café and I can’t wait to describe the Café and its work to you today.

Several years ago, I went to my friends at Interfaith Neighbors and I told them that I had the idea to do training café for front of house work. I’d seen that young adults in our community didn’t have opportunities to work in restaurants. At that time a lot of restaurants were opening and this meant great job opportunity, if young people had the confidence and training in hospitality.

The Empowering Experience Of Training And Working In Hospitality

I am a firm believer in the power of training people in the work of hospitality because it can build confidence, communication skills, and leadership skills. It’s been my experience that if you can communicate in a way to makes people feel good you’re going to find success in what you do. Training in hospitality offers access to a great skill set where people learn to manage themselves in a business, acting a sort of independent contractor in the moment. You have your section, your tasks, and you’re running that part of the business in that moment. I feel that if young people learn these skills they will learn to feel good about themselves and they will then take that into whatever career they pursue. Whether they work in retail, in an office, in a warehouse, in a school, they can take those skills, those abilities, and that confident communication, into that job and create success.

Coffee, Hot Chocolate, And The Common Good

When I had the idea for Kula Café, I found that there was not much of that front-of-house training, at least not in my neighborhood. I also knew that, while I loved cooking, not everyone wants be a cook and that is a different skillset all together.

When we began, Interfaith Neighbors and I went out into the community to give coffee and hot chocolate to people and businesses in town. The next step was to want to have people in community give to community.  There was a good deal of gang activity in Asbury but when the hot chocolate and coffee came by, people of every walk of life would come together to share a cup.

 This became a time where we realized we all wanted the same things, we just went about them in different ways. Someone might not want to interact with different gangs but both parties want a cup of coffee. So, for a time they’re willing and able to share that space with people whose experience is different than their own. This kind of community effort brings different people together. After the coffee and hot chocolate experience, Interfaith loved the as-yet-unnamed-idea and took it on. 

Asking “What’s Next?” And Answering In A Big Way

I had just left politics, and my husband Scott and I discussed the next chapter of our personal lives (Do we want kids? Do we want to move? What’s next?)

For me, travel has always been something I love and I’d always wanted to go on a women’s surf meditation trip. It just so happened that one was available and affordable at that time and so I went to Maui on a retreat that was sponsored by the surf brand Carve.

I was there. I was soaking in the Maui sun and so I headed to our first meditation. The topic of that first meditation was on the idea of Kula. Kula is the Hawaiian concept of a community of the heart (We wrap around our community with a passion for that community.) I loved my surf retreat experience (To read more about it, click here ) and returned to Asbury Park with a revitalized spirit, and a name for this place for Interfaith Neighbors: We decided to call it Kula Café.

Kula And Community Impact

 I know it’s not a Jersey word, but it is a beautiful word and a beautiful representation of what Kula offers the community and its people. Kula Café empowers the community grow, to strengthen itself, and to believe in itself.

The Kula Café has since been joined by Kula Urban Farm (right beside The Kula Cafe) where greens, microgreens, and edible flowers are grown. They’re then sold and delivered to local restaurants. Kula Urban Farm offers access to locally grown organic produce. The Farm’s work means that more people in the community are involved in knowing where their produce comes from, how it feels, and perhaps even what it means to want to pursue a career in some form related to that sort of work.  

This work may mean that people, who may not otherwise be exposed to such things, might explore careers in urban farming, horticulture, landscaping, and other related areas. The Café and The Farm are giving the people of Asbury Park the opportunity to discover passion they may not have been Intune with otherwise.

Igniting Passion Through Experience

Thinking about Kula Café And Kula Urban Farm brings me back to the first time I ever cooked at Oshin. It’s an understatement to say that something was just ignited in me. I know that it was a transformative moment and yet, I am also aware that we don’t always know where that passion will come from. Exposing community youth to new things will be of benefit to them because they will have the opportunity to explore things, all sorts of things:  From the beach, to business, to the chance to find desire in ways that were not always full available to the prior generation. When we find ways to provide these opportunities we give everyone in our community a way to look forward to what lies ahead.

A Leap Of Faith And The Kula Movement

Kula Café brings in a youthful demographic to explore something that excites and inspires them. The Café is a new, stable, and grounding place for the west side of Asbury.

This area is also experiencing the development of new gardens, parks, and affordable housing. It’s a transformation that has just begun with Interfaith Neighbors taking on this project and taking on this corner of the community.  Interfaith’s work, and my own, has convinced me that it only takes one person or group to take that leap of faith and hope that others follow.

That leap of faith, when made with amazing partners like Interfaith Neighbors, creates a movement.

Kula is The Café.
Kula is The Movement.

What’s Next?

  • To learn more about Kula Café and Kula Urban Farm, click here

  • To learn more about Interfaith Neighbors, click here

  • To pick up your copy of my new cookbook and support amazing organizations like Interfaith Neighbor’s Kula Café And Kula Urban Farm, click here




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