Muchas gracias

Hola amigos!  I’m currently in the Dominican Republic, about to meet my friend Erica and her sister and brother in-law for a week of resort vacation (because I have no boundaries and like to crash family get-togethers like this and who doesn’t need a vacation from their vacation?!) and I’m on day 3 of not having a working phone (sorry if you’ve tried to text or call).

I just finished my month of living with families and taking classes in Costa Rica.  It’s probably been the most impactful experience of my trip.  I know it sounds crazy/entitled/#firstworldproblems to say that it takes a lot to impress me.  But it does.  I’ve seen beautiful beaches and mountains, and so at first it was like well yeah, Costa Rica is cool but I mean, it’s a little bit been there, done that.  And I was really mad at myself for feeling that way, and thought I should probably go home.  Before the trip, I wasn’t sure how I would know it was the end, but then I thought, ok if I’m not impressed anymore, it’s time.  And I felt really bad about feeling that way.  It’s sad when the magic is over, but especially the magic of travel and I was discouraged.  It went another level.  It was cool to speak Spanish, but I was discouraged too.  I felt like, I had the opportunity to learn this in school in high school and college, and I lost it.  How wasteful of me.  Now, I want to learn, but damn, I’m far away from being fluent.  It seemed like locals who spoke English were better than my Spanish and it seemed like I was just so far away from being able to be fluent and use Spanish back home in a meaningful way.

But I was committed to 4 weeks.  Partly because I had paid and was there, but partly because my vision was yoga in Thailand and Spanish in Costa Rica and I owed it to myself to see it through.  It was a little over halfway through that something in me changed.

In my time in Costa Rica, I lived with families and took classes for 4 hours a day, and then explored the community the rest of the day and did some touristy excursions.  No day was spectacularly amazing like hiking Machu Picchu or paddling next to a whale, or transformative like my month of yoga.  But what I did, was practice my Spanish and just live.

I realized that in Spanish, I made new friends and learned about a new place.  I discussed religion, politics and science.  I discussed love and family.  Hopes and dreams.  Somewhere in that time, I realized that for me, language is about being able to connect with other people.

3 out of the 4 weeks, I was in class by myself.  That means 20 hours of talking in Spanish with my teacher.  In 20 hours of talking, you can find out a lot about a person and a place.  And when you live with a family everyday, you also can learn a lot about a person and a place.  And yourself.

At first, I was hung-up on how different things were with my Familia Tica (Costa Rican family).  The climate, the food, the bed… but also just, when was the last time I lived with kids?  When was the last time I shared a bathroom?  When was the last time I lived with strangers that don’t speak English?  It was hard.  Again, it sounds very entitled and #firstworldproblems but eh, it’s how I felt.  So yeah, it made me realize how easy my life has been and how many things I have taken for granted.  It also made me understand what types of environments I’m happiest in.

In my trip, I had been a tourist.  In Costa Rica, I wasn’t a local, but I came closer to experiencing what its like as a local.  And that was awesome.  I was able to see that many things are different but many things are the same.  And the things that are different, that I perceive as “worse” but there is a reason for it, outside of the control of the individuals.  And sometimes, it’s not worse.  Just different.  Not to go down a political or historical rabbit hole, but for instance, why don’t many houses have hot water?  I love a good hot shower.  Don’t you?   Same thing with toilet paper.  Why can’t you flush toilet paper in most of South and Central America?  It seems disgusting to have fecal paper hanging out in the trash can for a couple of days doesn’t it?  So I mean, I’m a little sad to say, I had stigma in my mind about these things, and I thought it was a sign of “less than.”  Sorry, world.  Well electricity is expensive because there are taxes on it, partially because the government wants to protect the environment and partially because it needs to collect money, because a while ago, they decided to pay down debt rather than invest in infrastructure… and thus it’s too much of a burden to redesign the sewage system.

Then you start to think about why the US and Western Europe, the places I feel like I had the most familiarity with before my trip, don’t have these problems.  Well, there are most diverse economies or historical stability… which in many cases come from the fact that these countries could exploit other countries or people – like slavery in the United States or the Spanish and the Brits “colonizing” other places.  So yeah, the development that I think of as “better” came at a price that I don’t have to pay, but in many ways we’re still paying that price like racism in the United States.  Ok the point of this isn’t to be political, but more just to say, I guess it just made me more aware of my privilege and that the dichotomy of better/worse often times comes at the back of a different zero sum exploitation that I want to be more aware of going forward.

But it also made me realize what it’s like to be an outsider and get comfortable in that space.  I’ve said before that I rarely was not in the majority, and it was a strange thing to feel when traveling, to be the stranger.  But for instance, a very basic example, with my Spanish.  So many Costa Ricans were patient with me while I tried to speak Spanish, or repeated so I could understand.  I’m not entitled to their patience.  It was a gift that I appreciated because I was really trying, but it was hard.  It’s hard to not be able to say what I’m thinking or feeling, or to have to dumb it down to what I can say.  I guess it just comes back to what I was saying before, that it made me realize that people and things that don’t meet my standards of what is right, aren’t necessarily bad.  It’s an opportunity for me to learn about things different than what I know and gives me the opportunity to grow and learn.

There isn’t an ah-ha moment really, and there isn’t a clear next step.  But Costa Rica helped me to see on a different level that I had known before, that differences are to be valued and not avoided.  It reminded me of how lucky I am, how grateful I feel and how amazing the world is.  My experience also reminds me that I want to continue to grow and learn, be it with my Spanish or in other experiences that help me relate and connect to people.  It also makes me want to see more of the world that is different than what I know, places that to be honest, kind of scared me because I perceive them to be so different, like Africa and the Middle East.

If I flashback to laying awake in the guest bedroom, because I was too sad to sleep in my childhood bedroom, when I was back with my dad after I tried to go back to work after my mom died and I had a breakdown; I had my vision that I wanted to practice yoga in Thailand and Spanish in South America.  I’ve manifested it now.  I opened my head and my heart to follow God.  Fate aligned the stars for me.  However I want to say it, I did it!  And I’m so thankful for the people and prayers that helped me get here.  It’s not over.  I did what I wanted to do, and the things I learned along the way and saw/met/experienced in the journey were way more than the yoga or the Spanish.  But the yoga and the Spanish on their own were pretty great too.

I still have a few more months left on my year off.  After these first 8 months, I’ve realized that I have a lifetime of things I want to do and see.  And I mean, thank God.  If I could accomplish everything I wanted to see and do in a year, how sad is that for my future?  So for now, it’s really hard to decide what I want to do and what I have to save for a later day.  I want to explore the United States a lot more.  I want to go to Africa and the Middle East.  I want to see more of Europe.  I want to visit my friends around the country and the world.  I want to take my Spanish lessons and study more yoga. I want to scuba dive in more places and hike more mountains.  I want to go back to Asia and Australia and South America.  I want to spend more time with my dad and my oldest and dearest friends.  I want to start my yoga business.

Thanks again for everyone who has supported me along my path thus far and may we remain connected as we continue our journey down this crazy road of life, but like, right now I don’t have a cellphone so we’ll pick back up again soon 🙂

Also, I can’t access my icloud pics because when I tried to reset my phone, it locked my account which I can’t validate with a text because, well, I don’t have a phone… so these pics are brought to you by Instagram, because all posts need a couple of pics!

 

So much gratitude

After my mom passed away, the first time I tried to go back to work, I basically had a nervous breakdown in a German convention center and had to go back home again.  It was that second time back in Edina, when the vision of this trip came to me.  I laid in the guest room bed, because my room was too emotional.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t handle being at work.  I couldn’t handle being at home, or the place that I had known as my home.  I didn’t have a home.  I sold my house, and hadn’t actually found a place to live in Boston, after spending the summer at the Cape.  I didn’t know where to turn.  So in that place of feeling lost and low, I thought, well what DO you want to do?  And that’s when I came up with the idea, that if I can do anything right now, I want to practice yoga in Thailand and practice Spanish in South America.  I found Ananda, where just about one year later, I did my detoxing and yoga teacher training.  I found this school, called CPI, Centro Panamericano de Idiomas, in Costa Rica.  Next week I start 4 weeks of language classes there.  It took me a little bit of time and a lot of looking inward and getting my shit together, but I’m so happy I’m on this journey.  So this seems like a good time to stop and take stock of where I am and what I’m feeling.  Thanks for humoring me 😊

I’ve had so much fun traveling in South America, and there are so many places that I want to see and things I want to do, that I kind of pushed out Costa Rica.  Now that I’m here, it’s like, this is a big continent and while I’m in the South, I want to do as much as I can!  But I finally drew a line in the sand and enrolled to start on Monday.  It’s a bit of mixed emotions.  It signifies a bit the end of my South American wandering, which is a little sad.  It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a year and a half now and the more I’m in South America, the more I want to improve my Spanish.  But it also makes me think about what it all means… which, ugh, feeling deep feelings.

When I first found this program, well, let’s be honest, I was in my grieving despair… but one of the reasons I liked it was because it has a special Spanish for business program.  At that time, I thought yeah, wouldn’t it be great to use Spanish to improve my business skills?!  And now, well, I don’t think I’m going to sign up for that program.

There are  4 big themes that keep coming into my head and heart during this 2nd leg (South America and Antarctica) of my trip, and they all wrap around things that I have struggled with for a long time: 1. Gratitude 2. Transience 3. People 4. God.  They tie back to Spanish, but they don’t have a resolution, but that’s the point of taking stock of my feelings right now?  I accept that I don’t have the anwser 😊

Gratitude: While I was in Thailand, I posted a poem that kept popping into my head, called “So much happiness.”  Something in this trip flipped it over in my head and heart, to so much gratitude.  Maybe it’s the winter hat I have that says “GRATEFUL,” haha.  But really, I’ve just been filled with a sense of gratitude.  Like most of my posts and let’s be honest, my life, I don’t have the exact words for it, but I’ll throw a lot of them out there and see if I can corral in the sentiment.  Gratitude often sits with joy and happiness, but it’s like, it opens the door for it.  Gratitude comes in the quiet.  It comes from the heart.  It comes when you’re on the zodiac in Antarctica, looking at the massive glaciers that are millions of years old and it makes you feel so lucky to be part of this world that has existed long before me and will continue to exist long after me.  It enters my heart when I’m with new friends, that I have met on this trip and have a special place in my heart as we share this magical journey together.  But its also found on the streets in Buenos Aires that smell like urine and have homeless people or talking to the cab driver in Ecuador that has left his family in Venezuela because this is his best option to support them; how lucky am I that was born into privilege, to a family that loved me unconditionally and I knew always had my back so I could take risks and follow my dreams no matter what convoluted path that may be.  I was born into a country with a skin color and a religion and sexual orientation that doesn’t limit my opportunities.  I don’t mean for this to sound mellow dramatic.  It kind of is, but all these things – being a part of this beautiful world, sharing the journey with good people, and having the opportunity to take this time to travel and follow my heart and live the dream… well I’m lucky.  I’m grateful.  I guess why being grateful is more prevalent than happiness on this trip is because it’s more diverse and brings more peace for me.

Transience:  So the nature of this trip in general, evokes thoughts of everything is temporary.  It’s a cloud that hangs over my head, that eventually, I need to go back to work and stop the traveling, but also, to just live in this moment because I’m doing so many wonderful and amazing things.  But to the best way to express this theme is in two examples and both have to do with what I studied in college.  The first, is Venezuela and Colombia.  When I applied to college back in 2002, I applied to the Georgetown School of Foreign Services.  I wanted to be the Ambassador to Colombia.  At that time, Colombia was dangerous and dominated by the FARC and drug cartels.  I could go into more details about it, but it just wasn’t a place to visit.  I mean, Narcos.  Clearly I didn’t go to Georgetown, but I did study Latin American politics in college, focusing a lot on the relationship with the United States and how it helped/hurt the countries.  I studied Venezuela a lot because it was doing well economically under Hugo Chavez, who didn’t like the US.  But now, 15ish years later, it’s flipped.  I look forward to visiting Colombia.  I’ve met more people than I can count on this trip who have been there, and loved it.  Conversely, I haven’t met anyone who has been to Venezuela as a tourist, and the Venezuelans I have met have left their country for a job and say that sadly, I should not visit.  It’s not safe.  What a difference in my lifetime, right?  The other example is my favorite though.  I studied Argentina a lot too.  One of my best friends, Lexi, wrote her capstone paper on the Madres de Plaza de Mayo.  In the 70’s and 80’s, Argentina had a dictator that would literally disappear dissidents.  It made disappeared an adverb because it was so prevalent.  If you challenged the government, you could just go missing.  And if your parents went missing, then as a kid you would probably go to a family in the government that didn’t have kids.  Very Handmaids Tale, right?  Well, I was in Buenos Aires for International Women’s Day on March 8, where thousands gathered to support women’s right, and it seemed worker’s right, etc.  It was a massive peaceful demonstration and protest.  But I mean, how amazing is that?  40 years after people vanished, now Argentines can assemble for change.  Like the glaciers and the ice shelves, nothing is permanent.  It’s always moving, and changing and growing.  And even if you can’t see the change in that moment, it’s moving.

People: For a long time, I thought I was an outgoing introvert.  I like people, but I get energy from being alone.  I realize that I am an extrovert on this trip.  Yes, I like to be alone.  I’m an only child and need my space.  I need more sleep and quiet time than many.  But really, I feel my best, when I’m with people.  After I left the group that I had been traveling with for over a month, through 4 countries, I was sad, but I realized, people make the experience for me.  I learn about myself in the quiet and on my own.  I find strength and can listen to my heart more… but really, I have the most fun when I’m with friends.  I actually remember thinking, after I slept for like 18 hours because I was so tired from all of our fun, that it made me believe in love again.  And when I thought that, I was like, OMG you’re so cheesy right now… hahahaa… but really, being with these new friends made me remember that sharing something with others really is enriching.  And the same goes with the groups I bonded with at yoga and Antarctica.  But just the people I’ve met along the way, the friends at scuba diving and detox and just meeting along the way… they’ve made this go from great, to wonderful.

God: I go back and forth on if God is the right word, but I think it is, even if the meaning is a bit different than my Catholic upbringing.  It’s also the hardest one to explain, but it’s also the one I probably talk about the least?  The connection I’ve found through meditation and yoga, stemming back from the first part of my trip in Thailand. The power and beauty and presence of nature – the mountains, the deserts, the glaciers, the ocean.  Pachamama as they say in Quecha, Mother Earth.  It’s bigger and more powerful than words.  But it’s more than just meditating or praying, and feeling the power and significance of Mother Earth.  It’s following this vision I had back a year and half ago.  It’s feeling like even though I’m alone on this journey, I’m not alone.  Even though I’m wandering I don’t feel lost.  Even though I don’t have any of the things that previously gave me value and validation in my life – a house, a job, a boyfriend/partner; I feel like I have purpose.  I think that’s God.

Ok, so back to Spanish, haha.  In finding myself closer to God and feeling the peace and power of gratitude and transience and relationships it makes me want Spanish to be a tool.  When I was lost in the Chinese airport after my flight from Bangkok to Aucklund was delayed for weather and had to spend the night in China, it felt awful to be lost and vulnerable because I couldn’t speak the language.  It’s felt more empowering to be able to communicate, even if it’s poorly, in Spanish.  I think being able to communicate and help those who are more vulnerable in my community, is a gift I want to use.  What does that mean?  I don’t know.  It seems like it’s volunteering back when I’m home.  But it brings up questions because I don’t know what it looks like when this is done.  Right now, I think its that I go back to business, but look for a job that I align with on values from my peers and the leadership, or a company that allows me to travel the world and explore or maybe a wellness or yoga brand that would support my yogic journey.  Or maybe I just go right into yoga fulltime and figure out how to make more money and travel on the side, rather than make money and then teach yoga on the side while I figure out my yoga business plan?  How does Spanish fit in it?  I don’t know.  But I’m excited to go to the beach for a month, and intentionally study Spanish everyday.  So far, having an open mind and open heart has turned out pretty well, so I’m excited for the next adventure in this wonderful journey 🙂

Clearly I’m not good at product placement, because these are the best shots I have that feature my GRATEFUL hat.  The magic of just waking up after my first night camping and hiking in the Sacred Valley in Peru; and being in Antarctica can help fill in the blanks 😉