Easter in Santiago

Some of my favorite experiences on this trip so far have been the unplanned, yet calculated series of yes’s that lead to outings and interactions with locals. They are the deep, authentic moments of culture immersion that are near impossible to feel on the surface level that is being a tourist. They are the tastes, after all, that are the true makings of travel. They are the experiences that remind us to accept the interconnectedness of life using a broader perspective. The night before Easter was one of those times.

Part 1

A. and my intentions for that Saturday were to be productive: accomplish some reading, some writing and some financial planning. We had been in Santiago, Chile, for nearly two weeks- the longest we had been in a single place- and we were getting antsy. Though our Airbnb landlord, R., had invited us to a daytime electronic park party in the morning, he found us, hands grasping the barred gates, open-mouthed and wide-eyed, staring at the overly stimulating, yet very over, park darty at 9:30 p.m. that evening.

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Getting writing inspiration via coffee at Cafe Forestal in the Bellas Artes district in Santiago.
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A glowing bench display at the Lollapalooza Music Festival in Santiago on March 19-20.

Laughing, R. followed up his first invite with a second: did we want to join him and his friend at a house party in the “Beverly Hills” of Santiago? Eager not to miss a second shot at fun- whyyeswedid.

The Chilean hillside house was stunning. It was equipped with an in-ground pool and lounge area, a living tree growing through the ceiling in the shower, Buddha statues galore and other sprinkles of modern design.

A local couple approached us shortly after our arrival, offering a kind welcome and intriguing conversation. We hit it off instantly, discussing deep relationships and closeness with others, connectivity and mindfulness. The Chilean man told me that at once point in his life he felt anger and dislike toward certain individuals. How could I love a rapist or a thief?, he asked aloud. We concurred together an answer to be something like this: it is morally difficult, but possible when looking at the pixels that are the sameness in each of us.

Instead of getting caught up in the differences, dive into the deeper, shared qualities. It doesn’t mean malicious and unkind acts should be overlooked or justified. It does not make them right or change wrongdoing that has already happened. But remembering the oneness of humanity aids in the relief that is forgiveness and even further, love. At the end of the day, we are all human. It is much easier and deeper to find love for another person remembering that than it is to love, accept or evaluate someone solely for their actions.

It is both the tiny pixilations that compose us, and the magnificent web of oneness that encompasses us all. It is not the insignificant differences that lie in between. We humans share all of the same most magnificent and significant qualities: the universe inside.

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Venus visible in the night sky from Amantani Island on Lake Titicaca in Peru, March 6.

Before leaving the party of Chileans, swaying to the dj and having lounge chair conversations under the night sky, our friend left me with one more piece of wisdom: family is the most important.

“At the end of it all, they gave you life. They are humans just like the rest of us. They don’t know what they’re doing. But they brought you here. And without them, you are nothing.”

Part 2

I woke up feeling homesick on Easter morning, in part due to last night’s conversation with the stranger and to a dream I had about my grandparents and my aunt. But after calling my parents and speaking with some loved ones, and a short moment of condolence from the person who has spent the last 75 straight days with me, I was feeling better and was ready to celebrate Easter the way that I best knew how- like my family.

I pulled an Easter outfit out of my backpack to get me in the spirit: cue pink floral romper and pink lipstick. I compiled three Easter “bags” out of the $10 thousand Chilean pesos’ worth of chocolate I had bought the day before (not included in the backpacker budget): one for my favorite sweet-toothed partner, one for R. and the last for our roommate, T.

I let the three adult men search the house excitedly as I cooked Easter brunch for A. and me, smiling at how much I reminded myself of my mother.

A. helped set the backyard table, munching on his remaining peanut-butter-filled chocolate eggs while we waited for my frittata to finish (I really do need to stop eyeballing measurements- how do you do it, dad?!).

In some time, we moved outside to enjoy a delicious brunch of eggs, home fries, fruit salad and avocado, accompanied by the South American touches of fresh maracuya juice and Chilean red wine.

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A. and I enjoying Chilean wine at a park after brunch.

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We sat outside laughing and talking long after the food was finished. If the neighboring cat made an appearance, I might’ve thought I really was home. Or better yet, that my family was all here with me celebrating like we always do. I smiled again at A., feeling loved and full of love.

The stranger was right. I am human, just like him and our families, and just like every other stranger besides him. What’s more, my family did give me this life. They have given me everything. And they are always a part of me.

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Easter brunch 2016: a product of having channeled my family members.

Bailando, Bailando

I am 100% a proponent of getting out of one’s comfort zone. I believe in the truth that is humbling oneself, and growing pains and expressing oneself and taking actions in ways that may be unfamiliar, but honorable to the higher self that is calling.

That being said, I have not always been the first in a group to do something outlandish, and I am, in my most natural state, a creature of comfort.

 

Malécon of Lima, Peru

 

The magic and at times, exhaust of traveling is that it pushes you endlessly further outside of your circle of “known.”

And on this continent of South America where I speak little of the official language(s) and dance even less of the local movements, there have been times where I’ve found myself feeling a bit out of place!

To counter these feelings of discomfort (paired with the mysterious, nearly constant feelings of light nausea- from brushing my teeth with faucet water?), I decided it was time to do something that really made me feel like me again. For any of you who have read this past post, you shan’t be surprised… I set my eye and heart on checking out the botanical gardens on my handy city map of Lima, Peru.

I grabbed my journal and a cold botella de agua and headed to my park, only to find that with my limited Spanish speaking skills, I could not confirm with the man at the information desk whether or not the gardens were still open and if they were indeed worth the 20-minute taxi ride.

Alas, my next move was simple: set up in Kennedy Square, a park full of bright scarlet sages and orange zinnias and- to my pleasure- stray cats and kittens!

Cats in Kennedy Square in the Miraflores District, Lima

 

Upon approaching the park I found a circle of people and some Latin music sounding. I was hoping to stumble upon a live concert, only to see pairs of elderly couples dancing salsa and meringue in a small rounded pit surrounded by the crowd! Feeling warmth in my heart, I decided to watch a few songs.

 

At the start of the third song, I was startled by a Spanish offer.

Granted, Spanish-speakers communicate ridiculously fast and my comprehension skills are below the average first grader’s, I could only assume that this man was asking me to willingly volunteer myself as token gringa in this dance party of wiser, older, more coordinated Latino hip-swingers.

While my own dear gringo man and world-adventure partner has been so kindly coaching me in meringue movements whenever we’re out (he’s a much better dancer than I am; I told him once and he’ll never let me forget it), I was by no means feeling confident enough to showcase my skills amongst these naturals.

“No, no, no,” I said in my best Spanish accent, shaking my head and gesturing at my full hands.

But whether it was my already existing cultural discomfort (what more do I have to lose!), the young Peruvian man’s incessant requests, the middle-aged woman grabbing the water bottle and journal out of my hands and waving me to go, or a combination of the three, what finally came out of my mouth was an exhaled, “Ok… Vamos!”

Into the pit I went, where I discovered the song required Cubana dance skills (which I also didn’t have) and I giggled half-nervously, half-without-inhibition for the next three and a half minutes, making smiley eye contact with other dancers and older folk who were sitting on the surrounding stairs.

Whether they thought I was crossing barriers of age, skin tone or dancing skills, or imposing on cultural traditions or merely a Sunday evening routine, we were all laughing.

Because, when honest with yourself, it is impossible to see someone throwing themselves humbly outside their comfort zone without it affecting you as well.

The good-natured heart in us all knows deep down the courage and strength that vulnerability takes, and the beauty of that alone is infectious.

I found that that song alone was enough to fuel me in my pursuit of comfort, which was really after all a need to feel the greatness that I have, and have had in me all along.

In doing something that felt a lot less of me, I felt a lot more of me, because I was feeding the parts of expansion, the parts of myself I didn’t yet know were there.

I thanked my partner and the kind woman who guarded my belongings and I walked across the park. I sat myself beside a bed of scarlet sages and cats, opened up my journal, and I smiled. Because I realized that no matter where I am in the world, I can find a little bit of me, and I can fall a little bit more in love with it every day.

Parque del Amor, Lima

 

Closer to My Dreams

  Day 10 está aquí! While the time is certainly flying by, it seems like we’ve been in blissful exploration for months. What was this life prior full of laundry machines, closets and iced coffee? 

We’re finally getting the hang of this lifestyle where our possessions are rollable and squeezable and transportable on our backs (#trapeziusqueen). We’ve started cooking our own meals, hand washing our clothes and even bargaining with locals for free tent-pitched-night’s sleeps behind hostels and hotels. 

Despite the Western luxuries from another life, I have been reminded in just this week and a half the humbling treasures of traveling. 

I am back to being surrounded by the new, the unfamiliar. I am forced to be alert and present. I am living life wide-eyed, soaking in every new word, custom and person.  

  

I think that this awareness is what draws humans to travel again and again. It is the complete immersion into a new world that reminds us how minuscule our personal problems and lives are in the grander scheme. It is the feeling of ego-deflation, the resetting of perspective and the stripped-down rawness of self, eyes wide and arms open, ready to embrace modestly and gratefully all that the world has to offer. 

This presence, awareness and alertness is what I was craving when I last mentioned feeling stuck; the feeling right before the acceleration. I’m starting to figure that people can only stay comfortably “stuck” for so long, lest the fear of change keep them from breaking habit. Perhaps it is different for everyone- once I started to feel that stagnation, I knew my truth was calling me to something more. 

There is no fearlessness without having fears; the courage comes in facing them. 

When I answered my truth’s calling, magical things happened. Not only did I have the courage to face my fears, I had the drive to go out searching for them myself. It was this newfound understanding of my capabilities and my strength that guided me. I wrote in my journal, “I’m feeling so fearless these days; so fully grasping my life by the horns and just living the way I want to live!” 

With that exciting, fulfilling understanding and appreciation about making my life my very own in all the ways I wanted to, I found the power to face down these fears. I found the key to fearlessness (“they don’t want you to live”🔑🔑🔑). I followed my truth and my calling and I dove right in. And I learned there is no fear of death or failure, so long as you’re living your life the way that you love to live it. There is nothing to regret, no “should have, would have, could have” and no unfinished business. 

Because you know that you listened, self-reflected, sought out and tried. You challenged yourself to be the best you, and only you, could be. And with the fulfillment of doing what you love for your truth and purpose comes no greater reward and unlimited possibilities. 

I am diving, head first into this passionate, truthful life of mine. I’m not stopping, giving in, and I’m never turning back. 

  For those of you who can’t decipher the typically my-eyes-only chicken scratch, it reads: “I jumped off the bridge. Who do I think I am! Who is this girl, fearless in her evolution and plight in discovering and striving toward and grasping her truth, smiling all the while?”

It is me. And it has always been me. Just how it is you, and has always been you. 

 

  The Puente San Francisco in Baños, Ecuador- 100 meters high.

For those of you who read this post thinking the truth and presence vernacular was more looney than transparent, I would love to share and reference two life-changing books that helped me understand: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. Happy reading, and happy living. 🙂

The Revelation of Acceleration

Greetings, all, and happy 2016 from good & grateful! As some of you may know, I embark on the next chapter of my being come daylight. I have condensed my material possessions into 80 liters-worth (think this and this), made a conscious decision to wander off the corporate-career-crazed path (I promise I’ll get a 9-5 soon, Mom and Dad) and booked a one-way flight to South America with a golden soul with whom I share this very dream of seeing the world.

Like many of my peers who walked the stage this May, I returned home under my parents’ roof to reestablish my finances and my footing in the vastness that post-graduation life offered. Sweet summertime flew by, a high-energy, “work hard, play hard” period that certainly seemed to still embrace those college values and routines that we (I) were not yet eager to let go of.

By the time a slower autumn came around, I was feeling stagnant at home and out of school; I was itching for the next experience to learn and grow. The idea to backpack South America, formulating over playful breakfast talks, evolved to be just the adventure I was craving. But I was still feeling stuck where I was, counting my days away. I didn’t like this not-good-nor-grateful mentality one bit, but I couldn’t seem to break it.

That’s what deep talks with good friends are for, right?! A conversation with some close college friends regarding this plateaued post-grad life led me to a new understanding:

Just as it doesn’t serve one to dwell on the past, it is equally unfavorable to wish away the present.

I believe that the universe is alive and conscious and always taking care of me. The time given is presented in just the way and in just the right amount that is needed for each of us to do exactly what we need to do; whatever that may be.

 

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With deeper reflection I realized that there was a reason I was still here at home, and there were things that I had left unfinished that needed to be addressed for my further and future growth. We are always right where we need to be. As much as I wished for the day of my trip, I had unfinished business to see right here at home.

These two college buds helped me reach another revelation in that talk around a bumper pool table in Pittsburgh, Penn., that weekend. I had written once about my developing mindset away from life as a linear, single path of progression to reach an ultimate destination, and more toward something inclusive and encompassing of twists and turns and unpredictability. The second revelation: maybe life is like a roller coaster after all.

Just when you’ve nearly stopped at the top of a loop and you’re plateaued, hanging upside down, feeling stuck? Everything is only just about to begin. It’s all about to accelerate.

With a flight to Quito, Ecuador, at 5 a.m., I think it’s safe to say it’s all beginning. In just the right time and in just the right way it needed to.

We’ve got some serious plans to be immersed in our travels, but I’ll do my best to steal his Kindle every once in a while to post some blog updates! Stay good & grateful amigos! Adiós! (I’m working on it).

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(A sneak peak at my life in 80-or-so liters)

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