A Dance With Michael Franti Just Changed my Entire Year (and maybe my life!?)

Stacy Hope Small
7 min readJan 2, 2019
Magical Moment with the incredible Michael Franti NYE in San Diego

Minutes before midnight just as 2018 was about to become history, my spiritual musical hero Michael Franti jumped off the stage while singing one of my favorite songs 11:59. The energy of the crowd was incredible, because no one goes to a Michael Franti concert — especially on New Year’s Eve — if they aren’t here to dance and sing and have fun. I’d seen him do this at previous shows (including a decade ago in NYC as John Mayer’s opening act!). He mesmerizes the audience as he dances and sings moving through the crowd. This time, he stopped literally right in front of me and motioned for me to come dance with him. As if I were in a movie, my 2018 melded into 2019 while being serenaded, danced with and then given a huge joy-filled hug by Michael Freakin’ Franti. WOW. What a way to end 2018. I felt like Courtney Cox in that infamous Bruce Springsteen video, but trust me, this was NOT staged and it was a complete (amazing) surprise. It was a reminder that anything truly can happen, anytime.

I almost didn’t even go to the show, as New Year’s Eve isn’t my scene. I don’t love crowds and if it weren’t a Michael Franti concert, I would have definitely enjoyed a quiet night at home meditating and manifesting what I want to create in my life during the new year ahead. But, my intuition told me to go. I invited a girlfriend to join me last minute as I’d bought two tickets months ago and never made further plans. She was excited as like me, she loves upbeat joyful music and the idea of a soulful musical journey into 2019 felt perfect to both of us this year. So glad we said YES to rallying for a 10pm concert (my usual bedtime) as that dance with Franti was the perfect opportunity to infuse the start of this year with an element of surprise and unexpected FUN.

(Sidenote: According to numerology, 2019 is a #3 year which is all about creativity, manifestation, joy and fun so why not dance with Franti in front of tons of strangers and get the positive energy flowing, as the clock ticked towards midnight and a fresh new year.)

This year didn’t start off the way it ended for me. Quite the contrary. I flew back to LA from Maui on January 7, 2018 with two dogs, and a plan to relocate to San Diego a few days later. The universe had other plans. I got a call on January 8th from a childhood friend’s mom letting me know that her son, who I’d known for four decades, was days away from departing this earth after losing a battle with leukemia I (and many) didn’t know he’d been fighting. It was a shocker of a wake-up call to find myself at his funeral in Chicago that week, and it quickly set the tone for a year filled with plot twists.

A childhood friend’s death was a wake-up call to many of us this year.

Truth: You never know what’s coming next. People come in and out of our lives when they are supposed to, even if it doesn’t always make sense. My friend Howie’s funeral was a bad version of The Big Chill, so many of us who knew him forever were there to mourn his “sudden” departure from this planet…it felt like the only person missing was him. But he wasn’t actually missing, his presence was felt very strongly by myself and others. His message to all of us was clear: Life is short, and it belongs to those who dare. Dare to live the life of your dreams.

That much — live my dreams — I’ve done this year. I came back healthier than I’d been in decades after an extended stay on my favorite island and wrote a book (!) about what a year on Maui taught me about living my dreams (and how you can live yours too!). I’ve been talking about writing a book for years and I finally took the advice of Unplug Meditation owner Suze Yalof Schwartz who told me the only way to write a book is to sit my ass down and write it.

So, I did, and I hired a cover designer and an editor and it’s now out of my hands and in the professional editing stage. It’s called “WHY NOT ME?!?” and it’s 30,000 words of authenticity about all I’ve learned as part of this unexpected journey to the path of peace & joy, and I’m super happy that the hard part of that “first book” project is behind me. It will be published this spring, because it’s meant to get out there and hopefully inspire people to live a life they love.

My first book is written and will be published Spring 2019!

I did a few other fun things this year, like attend the inaugural DUCO conference in Florence Italy for all things luxury Italian travel because who doesn’t want to go to Italy. I continued to organically grow my business and refocused on and redefined my “day job” as someone who changes lives through luxury travel (literally, daily). I continue to hear Deepak Chopra’s advice: “Your day job doesn’t define who you are. It’s okay to enjoy what you do for a living and to live in abundance so you can pursue your passions and callings in this lifetime.”

That’s where I am at. I love running Elite Travel International, especially now that we are partnered with the incredible team at Cadence Travel, and being a mentor to amazing new advisors entering the business while guiding my fascinating clients to life-changing experiences worldwide. Getting an email today from a client who just returned from a holiday adventure wanting ideas for the next one reminded me why I love what I do.

I opted to trade in my Lexus and upgrade to my dream car, a Porsche Cayenne. I didn’t do this for any reason other than I’ve always really really wanted to drive a Porsche. No idea why. It just felt like the right timing and even though no one actually cares what you drive, it’s fun to drive a car that you’ve been manifesting and dreaming about for as long as you could drive.

I rescued a third dog this past summer, a gorgeous golden cocker spaniel who looks very similar to the other two golden angel dogs I’ve had in my life since 2006. Lots more about my love for rescue dogs and their purpose and meaning in my life in the chapter of WHYNOTME?!? called “Dogs Not Diamonds are a Girls’ Best Friend”. This guy’s brought a new level of unconditional love to my life, and I named him PONO as rescuing him at 10 years old felt like the right thing to do (Live Pono means literally, do the right thing). He also added a few months of stress to my life (I could barely leave the house because he’d cry and disturb the neighbors) due to his severe separation anxiety that comes with the territory when a pup is abandoned by his family of 10 years. Anyways, he’s now super happy and well-adjusted and doused daily in as much love as he gives, and the other two are equally as loving and fun as ever.

Living PONO with this guy and my other two angel dogs. Love being their DOGMOM.

We are all enjoying this current chapter of life in the house I bought this fall, a block from the beach in S. Carlsbad, north county San Diego. It was a huge commitment for me, but I knew the moment I stepped into this Zen oasis it was exactly where I needed to be. It was time to get grounded. Finding a place I love as much as this house wasn’t really even on my radar, but now that I’m on the other side of the angst-filled financial and paperwork process, it’s a dream house in all senses of the word. It’s exactly my style (totally renovated by the previous owners as if they knew my exact taste down to the paint colors and bathroom tiles). The dogs have a fenced in patio to enjoy and I have plenty of space for the first time in my life, in a location that’s ideal and feels truly like home.

So, yeah, 2018 was a pretty exciting year. I’ll skip over the parts that aren’t necessary to rehash because, as Wayne Dyer, always said: “No one gets to have a different or better past. So, forgive yourself and anyone else for anything that happened (for not to you), and let it go. Move on. Manifest your desires. Don’t die with the music still in you.”

Thank you Michael Franti, for singing to me and asking me to dance last night as it was a life-changing energy shift for me. Your energy is contagious and the world needs more #SoulRockers like you. I appreciate the huge hug AND the reminder to say YES to the overwhelming joy and love and fun whenever possible.

A surprise hug from my musical hero made my year…and my life, that much better.

Life is too damn short not to do it on your terms. Here’s my quick 2019 “ to do” list burned in my heart and soul after last night’s experience: Hug your people and love your tribe. Smile at strangers. Listen to music. Make playlists that inspire you to dance. Spend time with those who bring you joy. Delete what doesn’t make you happy. Forgive everyone for everything. Love your life. Love yourself. Go to yoga. Walk at the beach. Chill with the pups. Drink lots of water, and coffee and tequila (in moderation). Eat Healthy. Watch sunsets daily. Have fun. Know when to say no, but also when to say yes. Trust your gut. Live your dreams. xo

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Stacy Hope Small

Founder & CEO: Elite Travel Club | Author: Why Not Me?!? | Now Bay Area-based and writing the sequel: A Little Bit Spiritual, A Little Bit CEO.