A Life Worth Living in Arequipa

Back to back! I have another guest post from the incredible travel blog A World to Travel. 

This time we take you below the equator to a hidden gem of a city at the tip of Peru on the border of Bolivia and Chile: Arequipa.

 

I awoke in the desert around Arequipa after being in Peru for a total of 18 hours and spent most of my time in the dark on a bus.

I awoke surrounded by sand dunes, an element I am not so familiar with. I had been traveling for 5 months and had made my way from Mexico City through the lush rainforest covered countries of Central America that are dripping with foliage, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, multicolored flora and fauna, and electric streaked hummingbirds. So being surrounded by beige was unsettling. It was like driving through an ocean of suspended waves, frozen in time like a magic spell had been cast upon them, and the repetitive pattern of curves and swirls of the desert was meditative and occasionally boring.

Then our bus began to elevate and made its way down a rockier mountainous path, an adjustment from our smooth sail through the desert.

You can feel the rumble of Arequipa before you get there. It’s like walking towards a thunderstorm. As you drive closer, the power of the active volcanoes and city comes in clearer, but you are still surrounded by the silence of the desert. You are stuck between emptiness and everything. It’s hard to describe.

We arrived when the sun broke over the city like an egg and began another glorious day.

I arrived at Arequipa at 7 in the morning while the city was just waking up. In broken Spanish, I asked a combi driver ( cab driver) to bring me to where I would be staying. I was going to be working at a chocolate shop for the next few months and living with the other workers and owners.

I stepped out onto white and beige cobblestone street. The air was crisp and dry with no water vapor between you and the sun. My hair for once wasn’t immediately curled. I put down my bags and took my first walk around the city.

Once you step out into the cobblestone streets, you will feel a ubiquitous force that whisks itself around the city. You will find it in the streets, in the basements of monasteries, in the bites of ceviche. Maybe it’s that the walls of the city are made of the same material that hovers above them; the rock from the volcanoes have been repurposed to make a different kind of juggernaut.

Maybe it’s the fusion of colonial Spanish, ancient indigenous, and modern influences condensed into one area. There is so much life in a such a small space, surrounded by extreme nothingness. The energy is trapped, like a frantic bee in a Mason jar.

Or maybe Arequipa is special because we are always reminded of our existence. The volcanoes are always in sight, a constant reminder of their magnitude and your minutness.

We can sense the lava flowing beneath the buildings and our bodies. It’s a place that reminds us we are alive and to not waste such an unlikely possibility.

Whatever it is, Arequipa is an experience not replicated elsewhere.

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You can check it out here!

This is a great article filled with travel tips on where to go, what to eat, and how to experience the White City of Peru. Arequipa has been safe to travel to for groups or solo travelers ( including solo girls!). It is cheap to travel to and great to travel throughout the year.

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Best Beer Gardens in Prague

Hey strangers!

I just had my first feature guest post on the wonderful and wanderlusty travel blog Getting Stamped.

I wrote about my first love: Prague.

Prague planted the seed of travel for me. I had always wanted to travel but didn’t want to go somewhere that all other young college students were going. I wanted something different but not too foreign.

I was far from disappointed.

Like a first crush, I have never fallen in love with another place so hard and so fast. The avant-guard glass blowing, cobblestone streets, the tenebrous history and surrealist literature, the colors of the walls, and sausage + beer for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

But there was something else…

It was the most strange feeling to wander around a city that was older than the country I had come from. I felt my brain grow because it was the first time I recognized there were so many more people on this earth with equally complex and full lives that weren’t in the States. For a moment, all the mental dominos fell and I realized my tiny existence on an infinitesimal planet in a much larger universe. 

There were billions of people coexisting with me that I would never meet.

I was able to give these people faces and extend empathy towards them. They had lived different lives than I had, raised differently, and had a different mother tongue.

This was a feeling I would become addicted to- the feeling of tinyness.

This is a feeling that would ignite an ache for distant places so vast it would drive my life for nearly a decade.

Traveling understands me more than any friend can- it is my opportunity to feel connected to the larger web we are a part of.

and I wouldn’t have had that without Prague.

I miss it every day, like an unrequited romance, feeling like I will never have enough time with it.

When I was asked to write about Prague I was so excited to be able to write about the most iconic aspect of Prague: its beer gardens! I write out all of my favorite places to get lit under trees.

Czech out the post here!

 

Pinterest pin for best beer gardens in Prague -

This is a great article filled with travel tips on where to go, what to eat, and how to experience Prague. Prague has been safe to travel to for groups or solo travelers ( including solo girls!). It is cheap to travel to and great to travel throughout the year.

Be a Cow

This week I have officially started recording and interviewing people for the second season of my podcast! I’m elated but overwhelmed. I feel like there is always too much to do and that I don’t have enough hands or hours to accomplish everything I want to get done. I feel like I’m shoveling a super healthy salad down my throat, meaning I’m doing a lot of fulfilling and productive creative work but going through it all too quickly. I’m not taking the time to sit and savor it. This reminds of another time in my life when I was overwhelmed with all of the creative opportunities I had.

When I was 19, I had just finished my first year of college, and although I had declared a major, I still felt undecided about my future. I have always been a person who wants to do everything at the same time.I wanted to learn how to write and dance; I wanted to learn psychology and how to knit; I wanted to be on stage and travel the world. I wanted to do so much I never got anything done.

One day during summer break, I went to Great Barrington, Massachusetts, near my hometown, for the afternoon and stumbled upon a yoga+meditation bookstore. It was filled with books about mindfulness, Buddhism, and Tibetan decorations. The store had a stillness about it that felt like it was in a deep rem cycle. It was a calmness I was unfamiliar with. I perused the store at a pace that was slightly slower than I was used to and selected 5 books off the shelf, unsure of which one to get.

I go up to the counter where there is an older woman wrapped in soft, bright scarves and beaded bracelets jiggling against one another as she begins to handle my compulsive book selection.

“You’re going to read all of these?” she asks.

“Well, I want to read all of them because I’m really interested in Buddhism and possibly meditation but I don’t know yet because I haven’t done anything and then this other book I really want to go to Tibet and learn more about their culture, and then this other book…”

And she interrupts me and says,

“Slow down. Be a cow.”

“What?” I thought.

“Be a cow. A cow stays in one spot and eats its grass. Don’t be a goat. A goat runs around the mountain top and never gets anything done. Stay in one spot an eat your grass.”

She selects the book she thinks I need the most, rings me up and sends me on my way.

I go back to that advice all the time when I feel like I am biting off more than I can chew. Just focus on one thing until it’s complete. Have the judgment to know if it isn’t serving you, but don’t go running around the mountaintop because you won’t be able to enjoy the view from where you stand.

Let’s gear up and enjoy the process of making the second season of my podcast!

 

I really am trying to avoid becoming Liz Lemon, I promise.

Storytelling Can Save Lives

The world came together yesterday in solidarity with the American protests against gun violence. There were over 800 marches worldwide with the vast majority of the United States, but protests were pinned on most global metropolitan cities spanning from London to Sydney, Berlin to Sao Paulo.

I was fortunate to walk along the edge of Central Park with my sister, who is in high school, and my fellow friends in solidarity. We have never been affected by gun violence directly; we got to walk in protest under the sun yesterday, and we are the lucky ones.

However, I can’t say that for those who stood around me. I don’t know their motivations for attending, be it compassion or deathly personal.

Through traveling, I have found that most people aspire to be proud of their country. Of course, selective biases have us highlight the positive and overlook the negative aspects of our nations. Nevertheless, it is incredibly hard to be proud of my country, the decisions my politicians are making, and the unnecessary and unruly violence plaguing my country.

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It must be unfathomable for those in other countries to understand the subtle hostility that blows through our country like the western wind. People in Japan, who have the lowest gun homicide rate in the world, probably don’t hesitate when they walk into a bank or a cafe or any other seemingly normal space social space and think, “ What if someone here has a gun?”

I’m not saying that there isn’t violence in other nations, but I personally feel like there is always an edge in America. I remember acknowledging that subtle sensitivity once when I was taking a tram in Prague and for the first time thought, “ I don’t fear being shot here.” It was a novel feeling. One where I could go about my day and not question my own safety in seemingly innocuous public spaces

The thought of being shot never crossed my mind.

That thought has pleasantly carried itself with me through every country I have been to; it packs itself into my bags and I wander the world with no fear of being affected by gun violence.

That feeling changes the moment I come back onto American soil. It isn’t a pervasive feeling or something that limits my ability to move about, but there is always a moment of hesitation before entering a bank or a post office or a mall.

The strange fear has blanketed itself over our country and now looms over our schools, a place where students should be learning how to read, not dodge bullets. Fear has no place in the education system.

To the rest of the world, we look insane.

What I thought was the most pervasive aspect of March For Our Lives was the sharing of stories.

There were a few moments of this, like when the use of storytelling was able to capture a moment stronger than statistics.

At the Washington D.C. protest, Emma Gonzalez led a 6 min and 20 second moment of silence, which is how long it took the gunman to kill the 17 students in Parkland. Out of the 380 seconds they sat in silence, one individual died every 22 seconds. That’s abhorred.

Or when Paul McCartney, who was walking in the New York City protest stated, “One of my best friends was killed by gun violence right around here.”

Or all of the powerful messages, quotes, and tales on the protest signs held up by the arms of individuals who were carrying more weight than a stick and paper.

Storytelling is a powerful tool. It can be used for good, and it can be used for change.

We can not let the stories of those who have been victims to gun violence fade away. Those stories must turn into cautionary tales to parents, into persuasive arguments towards politicians, and into conversations with schoolmates who seem to be in need of support.

Although their lives were untimely ripped away, sharing their stories makes them a little immortal. They are allowed to live on in the collective consciousness and part of the larger story we are all shaping and construct a more peaceful world.

We can not let them be forgotten.
You can donate to March For Our Lives.

28 things I have Fully Learned, Half-Heartedly Remember, and Occasionally Forget in No Particular Order.

Last Friday was my birthday and I turned 28, an anxious 8 years away from 20 and 2 away from 30….but here is some semblance of wisdom I think I have learned in those full 28 rotations around the sun.

1) Please eat slowly. The food isn’t jumping off your plate, and your stomach will thank you later.

2) Don’t think you can have it all at once. Maybe you can have it all but over a slow duration.

3) Be grateful for the friends whom you can call at midnight on your birthday because you are having an irrational (privileged) existential crisis about getting older. Never let them go.

4) Be in the moment. Truly be in the moment.

5) CALM THE FUCK DOWN.

6) Thank god for therapy. I know Freud didn’t get women, but talking to a stranger about all of your inner anxieties, past demons, and future doubts is fucking incredible. KEEP DOING IT.

7) Don’t worry about being “ too intense” for some people and tone yourself down. Don’t be with the people whom you can’t be fully vibrant with.

8) Have your life be filled with one-way tickets not dresses.

9) Call your mom more. Seriously. She is fucking badass who brought you into the world, will dance to Michael Jackson with you in a grocery store, and she doesn’t deserve a sassy response 12 hours after she texted you an innocuous question.

10) Also call your dad more. He is also so wonderful and you are fucking lucky to have a great male role model in your life. He grows plants and makes the world more beautiful.

11) Spend more time in places that make you happy.

12) Make the places happy that you don’t always love ( #apartmentjungle).

13) Please dance more. Please, please, please.

14) Traveling the world is the greatest thing you can do with your limited existence on this huge planet.

15) If you can’t write down 5 reasons why you like someone, don’t hang out with them.

16) Talk to people who think differently than you do and really listen.

17) Also get out of the house 15 minutes earlier- the subways are unruly and are under no obligation to stick to a schedule. Ever.

18) Appreciate you got to make it 28 years with only minor physical and emotional damage. Others aren’t so lucky.

19) Stop thinking “ it will only take 5 minutes.” It never does. It never will. Things always take more time, so start planning for that.

20) Talk to more strangers.

21) Appreciate that you live in the greatest city in the world- even if it is overcrowded, overpriced, cacophonous, and occasionally lined with human fluid- it’s the only place you get to be the weirdo you are and no one cares. People travel for thousands of miles just to stand for a moment where you get to walk every day.

22) Be aware that you are what you think.

23) Love the creative path you are on- it may have taken you 28 years to embrace that you are an artist, but for some, it could take a whole lifetime.

24) Don’t worry about not having “a real job.” Worry about not making enough of the magic that is within you.

25) Don’t think you have to finish books. If it isn’t pulling you in, put it down, and pick up something that is.

26) Tell people you love and appreciate them more. You have a fucking awesome social group, and you are not entitled to them. Tell them you love them. Tell them you love them. Tell them you love them.

27) Be fucking kind to yourself. Stop telling yourself that you aren’t good enough, that you are fat, and weird looking. The last two don’t matter and the first one is bullshit.

28) You come from a line of weird, wild, and wonderful women. Don’t let them down.

How to Eliminate Gender Violence

I wanted to share the recording of the AMAZING panel discussion I was so grateful to be on at Fordham University with the powerhouses Tayo Rockson Ceasar Fernando Barajas and Brooke Currence about eliminating gender violence.

The panel was in support of the HeForShe campaign, which addresses the issues of gender equality.  The movement recognizes that gender inequality is not just a woman’s issue, but is a human rights issue and how people of all backgrounds can work to level the playing field for everyone.

You can listen here to the conversation.

Gender violence could be your boyfriend telling you “ You’re pathetic” or your girlfriend pushing you. Gender violence could be your male role models telling you to “man up.” Gender violence could be someone being cyberbullied because they are gay. Gender violence could be someone forcing you to perform uncomfortable sexual acts.

Gender violence happens to all genders, races, cultures, ethnicities, sexualities, and ages. Gender violence doesn’t discriminate and is not exclusive to women.

Gender violence is more than just the physical bruises, the skewed statistics, and the fear of traveling alone. It’s the stories that we are told about gender in the first place, and these stories have always been violent. These stories have barricaded humans into behaving in this way or that pushing us to conform to behaviors, attitudes, and lifestyles based on a singular superficial piece of flesh between our thighs. Gender violence can be caused by not conforming to the role that was thrust onto without your choosing.

Gender violence is telling boys they can’t be ballerinas and girls they can’t be football players. Gender violence is believing in the concept of boys and girls in the first place. Gender violence is as much psychological as it is physical.

Can we easily eradicate the story of gender dichotomy, which has roots so tenaciously deep in our cultural systems and social psyche that grown and spread for thousands of years? Probably not in my lifetime. But last night was a glimpse into what the world could look like if we start opening up about these sticky conversations. It was a true honor to speak beside such wonderful intersectional allies like Tayo Rockson Ceasar Fernando Barajas and Brooke Currence on eliminating gender violence at Fordham University on Wednesday, March 14th, 2018. It was a powerful and personal experience, and I can only hope to continue to create spaces where people can open up to taboo conversations.

We might not eliminate gender violence tonight, but we can reframe the conversation so that women can take agency of their sexuality and men can start expressing their feelings. We can start doing that today. Right now. We can let boys cry and we can tell girls they can be strong. We can stop negating an individual’s human experience, which is so beautifully unlikely to begin with and we shouldn’t limit how it could be enjoyed.

 

BenCFeminist

 

I mean common. If Benedict Cumberbatch is a feminist, can’t we all be feminists?!

Strangers Abroad Podcast Has a New Hashtag!

Hey there strangers!

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***We have decided upon a #hashtag***

If you are interested in having your story featured on our Instagram, podcast, or this travel blog then #wisdomfromtheworld.

I want to hear about all the stories you have experienced abroad and the lessons the world has taught you: the long journeys, awkward encounters, favorite feasts, and the places you never wanted to leave.

 

Money Can’t Buy Me Peace

I was nervous that moving to New York would make me more materialistic. Everywhere you look are signs of wealth; it is a constant display of conspicuous consumption where people casually wear $500 shoes on the subway, overhear conversations of people spending $200 at dinner last night ( and it was a cheap meal), or casually mention about the after parties of Fashion Week. Sometimes the street feels like a runway, everyone sporting their limited edition Nikes, holding $7 golden lattes, and on their way to SoulCycle.

I thought I would fall into the materialistic rabbit hole, and endless emotional downfall for the need to have more, more, more, and never feel satisfied with what I had. I thought I would feel more envious of what I couldn’t afford and judgemental of what others could.

And maybe if I moved to New York right after college, I would feel that and fall into that trap of getting a high paying job just so I could have fancy clothes, spend $19 on a cocktail, and go to exclusive nightclubs, so I could continue to fill a void I had inside of me with the newest electronics, the expensive food, or the stunning Instagram photos to show that I had made it.

But I think all too often we equate financial success with actual success, which calls into question what is a successful person? Do they have 500K Twitter followers or multiple summer homes or sit front row at basketball games?

Or do they have loving relationships? Are they kind to strangers? Do they love themselves? Are they able to quell the inner demons of loneliness, doubt, and envy and be able to sit comfortably with themselves in the present moment? Are they able to be happy with where they are, wherever they are, regardless of how their stocks are doing?

Long distance travel absolutely taught me how to live simply. If I could carry it on my back I could take it, if not I don’t need it. And fortunately, that mentality has transferred over while living in New York. My happiest moments in New York are not experiences I can purchase: dancing at house parties, strolling and chatting with my friends, and looking around the subway at the beautiful multicultural population that makes up New York.

Those who can afford the $12 eclectic ice creams, the 4-hour tasting dinners, and a yearly membership to Equinox, good on them! But that’s not for me and won’t be the motivator for the work I do.

I know what I need and the rest won’t fill me. A human must be happy without things.

The World is Yours for the Eating

I don’t like the question “What is your favorite place you have been to?”

That is like asking which ice cream flavor is your favorite?

All of them?

There is no singular answer because all of the places I have been to are so subjective and my feelings about them are based on my place and perception in life.

Also, there are infinite amounts of flavors, I mean, places to experience, so why limit myself to a singular favorite?   

Not to mention, it is all subject to change and the moment.

When I was a kid, mint chocolate chip was my absolute favorite; now all I want is the swirling salty and sweet splendor of peanut butter and chocolate swing dancing together in my mouth, and who knows what I will be craving tomorrow.

Different places will resonate with you, call to you, and teach you different lessons depending on where you are in life. Your previous experiences, perceptions of the world, and current state of being will influence how you experience your travels.

Sometimes you’re ready for a place and sometimes you’re not, but that doesn’t mean that your taste buds don’t change and you might return to a place years later and find it to be the most delicious experience.

I encourage you to go out and try as much as you can because the places you might have expected to enjoy might not wow you as much as the ones that had no expectations at all.

I want you to take advantage of all the free samples you can get and sometimes know it’s ok to not choose and decide to have an ice cream sundae instead ( and the best are shared 🙂 ) icecream w:friends