…Somehow I got back up and recreated my life again and honestly, it has turned out better than I could ever have imagined.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education.
Lisa is a science teacher and an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. She is an award-winning television host, travel journalist and passionate artist who sailed the seven seas by cruise ship for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 213 countries, named #3 on the top 1000 Travel Blog and the top female travel blogger 3 times in 2019. Find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her, We Said Go Travel videos with over one million views on her YouTube channel. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter, has over 160,000 followers across social media and ran fifteen travel competitions publishing over 2500 writers and photographers from 75 countries.
Niver won a 2019 NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award for one of her KTLA TV segments in December 2019 and was a finalist for articles published in both Ms. Magazine and Wharton Magazine. Niver won a Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal and has been nominated as a finalist for five other broadcast television segments, print and digital articles over the last three years.
Niver has written for AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres (United Airlines), Jewish Journal, Luxury Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Myanmar Times, National Geographic, POPSUGAR, Robb Report, Saturday Evening Post, Scuba Diver Life, Sierra Club, Ski Utah, Smithsonian, TODAY.com, Trivago, USA Today 10best, Wharton Magazine, and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave Rebel: 50 Scary Challenges Before 50,” about her most recent travels and challenges. Look for her underwater SCUBA diving, in her art studio making ceramics or helping people find their next dream trip.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always felt that the quote about the road less traveled explained my career path the best. I thought I would be a doctor but then I left medical school and became a teacher. I loved being a teacher but wanted to scuba dive and then I worked on a cruise ship until September 11th when my company went bankrupt. Then I was teaching and missing traveling and fell in love and traveled more and got married and then everything unraveled and I was getting divorced. There have been so many times when I thought I had a plan and then felt like my entire life was a train wreck. I have felt blindsided several times and had to start all over again. It has been really challenging, difficult and mainly I wanted to just pull the covers over my head and cry every time. Somehow I got back up and recreated my life again and honestly, it has turned out better than I could ever have imagined.
Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about “divorce”?
I know for myself I felt like a complete and utter failure when I was getting divorced. I was embarrassed that the man I had been head over heels in love with had been treating me terribly. I knew our marriage was broken; I just hated having to tell anybody about it. I was living in Asia with him and had quit my job, sold my car and rented my condo. When I left him and returned to America, I felt like I had nothing except culture shock and my ongoing pity party for myself. Many women I have spoken to about their divorces also felt alone and like failures. I think one of the hardest things is feeling like it is only you.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
One of the hardest things for me was to stop wishing that I had never met the man who became my husband. I just kept telling everyone and especially my therapist, if I never met him, my life would have been so much better. If only, I had a magic wand and could go back in the past and never answer his online dating message! I was focused on how I could erase it all.
I was going to many new classes like kickboxing and hula-hooping because someone told me you could not do new things in the old way and it was a way to remake yourself. I had two new jobs as I was trying to figure out if I was going to keep teaching or try to be a journalist. I got both offers to be a lead teacher at Nickelodeon on Bella and the Bulldogs and contributor for USA Today 10best on the same day. I called a few people for advice about what to do and they said, “Take both!” It was smart advice and it kept me very busy.
I was reading books non-stop and when I read Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success I finally was able to stop looking in the rearview mirror and drive forward into my future:
“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different…Forgiveness means breaking the psychological ties that bind you to the past, giving up the quest to change what has already happened…Rather than dwelling on the past, she found herself asking the hopeful and forward-looking question ‘What now?’”
I started to accept that I was never going to have a magic wand or change my past but I could make new and different choices in the present. I felt like I was leaving medical school again and having to find a new job after Renaissance Cruises went bankrupt — all rolled up together. I felt certain that I had made too many mistakes to start over again. Many times, I feared that I had ruined everything. But with the support of my friends, family, rabbis, and therapist, I found a way to create a new life.
In the last three years, I have been nominated nine times in four different awards and won twice in both the National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and in the Southern California Journalism Awards.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first left my marriage, I told everyone I was living in CrazyTown and hoped to someday move to Sucksville. It seemed like Sucksville would be an improvement over the daily hysteria in CrazyTown. A new friend called to tell me about how her life was going into the toilet and she said she was now living in Sucksville Adjacent. I laughed so hard that day and it was one of the first times I thought anything was funny since I had left Thailand and my now ex-husband. I realized that it was possible that things were going to get better!
If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?
When I was first choosing to take back my name and find a lawyer after I left my marriage, I felt like I was stuck in a long dark tunnel. I thought if only I had a flashlight and a friend would walk with me, maybe it would not feel so lonely and I would not feel so badly. After my divorce, when a friend called me upset about her upcoming divorce I told her that I would walk with her and she could borrow my flashlight. I offered that she could call me anytime and we would often have long chats over Facebook messenger as we were in very different timezones.
Therapy is one of the things that helped me the most in my divorce process. I remember telling my lawyer I am not here for crying, I am here for legal advice. I can cry at my therapist’s office. While I did cry at both places, I wanted my lawyer to focus on her specialty. I have offered many friends’ referrals for therapy and told them about how it really made a difference for me. I am surprised how many people are resistant to therapy and getting assistance, especially at difficult times.
As I changed continents as part of leaving my marriage, I had to find a new job and circle of friends. Many people I have spoken to have not had to move or change professions as part of their divorce, but it has still impacted their daily lives, routines, and support circle. I tried many new classes and searched for ways to connect with people. I joined a salsa dance performance team and having a regular place to go with the same group was enormously helpful to me. I have recommended to many women to find a new hobby or reclaim one they had lost.
I had always been involved with my temple and it was one of the things I missed living overseas. When I came back to Los Angeles, I met with my rabbi many times to talk about how I could get more involved and to have discussions about what it meant to be getting divorced. He helped me with the steps for a religious divorce or GET and I created my own mikveh ceremony to start over. Many people ask me questions about the GET process and if they could use the mikveh ceremony I created.
As part of my divorce, I restored my name. I had not realized how many places and how many times I would have to change my name. In the beginning, it felt so aggravating and upsetting. I spoke with my friend, Jessie, about it and she said, “When there is a spider in your room, you STOMP STOMP! and then it is gone.” It became my mantra every time I had to change my name AGAIN, I just thought it was a spider and STOMPED it. Eventually, it just did not bother me so much. I would send Jessie an email and say, “I stomped another spider.” It made me feel better that I had someone to share it with and it actually became kind of humorous after a while. It was weird that it was easier to change my name at any bank than any airline frequent flyer program. At one point, Jessie called me and said don’t be upset, “There was a spider and I called for Ed to stomp on [Ex-husband’s Name]!” I laughed so hard that our mantra to help me had evolved to such an extent.
What are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?
For me, the biggest mistake was thinking it would be easy to deal with. My friend Joan called me after I had been home for less than a week and said, “I have known you for a long time and I want to let you know you are not going to figure this out over the weekend.” It was helpful to have someone who knew me tell me the truth. As part of returning to the USA, I needed a car to start my new job. I was test driving cars and my friend Jessica called me and said, “Lisa, this is not going to take one test drive. This is not like buying a sweater. You are going to have to drive cars to different places and see what you like.” I think the biggest mistake is not listening to people who are trusted advisors who can help you figure out your next steps.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?
I loved books by Brene Brown, Rabbi Harold Kushner, Glennon Doyle Melton, Adam Grant and Grit by Angela Duckworth, and Option B by Sheryl Sandberg.
Here are some articles I wrote about their books.
I recently wrote about feminist fiction books for Ms. Magazine and about how you can read and change your perspective: https://msmagazine.com/2019/12/17/choosewomen-find-your-favorite-new-fiction-book-for-the-holidays/
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that helped you in this work? Can you share how that was relevant in your real life?
One of my favorite proverbs is “Fall down 7, Rise up 8.”
I think I learned this lesson as a child in the book, “The Little Engine That Could!” Now I might describe it in terms of Angela Duckworth’s GRIT that when I feel like giving up I can reframe the situation and find new resources and ways to continue learning about the situation and ways to achieve success. No matter what happens I can get up one more time and find a way forward that works for me. I may need to change my goal or my strategy and sometimes I may feel like a derailed train but eventually, I will find a path that works for me.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am writing a book about the 50 challenges I achieved before I turned 50. It started during my divorce when I chose to work with Dr. Brodney, an optometrist, who correctly diagnosed my eye issues which were never fully understood when I was a child. I had many accidents and believed I was clumsy and not good at sports. It turns out that I had an eye turn which impacted how I interacted in the world especially with any sports with a ball!
During my vision therapy, Dr. Brodney recommended I challenge myself and see what more I could accomplish now that my eyes were working together. I realized I had to try new things and let go of old limitations. It was at the same time I was changing my name and evolving my life after my marriage ended. I found that I could do so many of the things I was afraid of and many of them were actually FUN!
Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I love to send cards with stickers. My friend, Jina, actually calls them “Lisa-grams.” I feel grateful to the people in my life and I like to send them notes to say Thank you. I hope that more people will take the time once a month to send a card, email or make a phone call to tell someone to thank you. When I was teaching school, I told my students it is more important to be kind than smart. It would be great to be both but if you must choose, BE KIND!
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Last year at AdWeek in NYC, I was able to meet Seth Godin. I love to read his books and I have been inspired by his work. My friends all know about him because I often forward his emails to him.
Next, I would like to meet, Adam Grant and Angela Duckworth who are both professors at the University of Pennsylvania. I have written about both of their books and I am a proud Penn alum! I was just interviewed for the Power of Penn Women Podcast and will be back on campus in October for the Momentum 2020 conference. I hope to meet them there!
I wrote about Simon Sinek for Wharton Magazine and he actually talks about Adam Grant and being worthy rivals!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you! I would love to connect with your readers.
They can find me at:
Facebook WSGT: https://www.facebook.com/wesaidgotravel/
My website: We Said Go Travel: http://wesaidgotravel.com/
My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/WeSaidGoTravel
My articles and TV segments: http://lisaniver.com/one-page