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

Tend to Yourself

People know about the love languages, yes? If not, definitely look them up, because I feel like I understood how I expressed and receive love better once I read about the generality of these categories. I am a HUGE words of affirmation- tell me what I’m doing right and wrong or else I have no idea.

Which is why I love constructive criticism. I always, always, always want to do better, because I can’t always see what I’m doing wrong in the first place.

And after finishing my first season of my podcast, I know how I needed to improve and am taking the time to do so. So I’m giving myself the month of February to read up on those who are masters in the skills that I need and boy is it HUMBLING. I’m reading and listening to the works of all of these people in the travel, writing, and podcasting field and how to be a better interviewer, writer, and listener and will often pause and think to myself, “ Could I ever be as good as them?”

Because there are the voices in my head that whisper words of doubt and hesitation- can I be a great podcaster, writer, performer? Can I be a great storyteller, will anyone care? This picks up on my sensitivity towards words of affirmation.

So having negative words of affirmation against MYSELF could be a huge setback because if I listen to the voices of doubt then I might believe them and never book another one-way ticket, create another episode, or tell an honest story.  And for others, these voices could be so loud that they inhibit people from living a life less bold, creative, or adventurous as it could be- and I can’t settle for that.

I need to remind myself that everyone has had, at one point or another, these deleterious voices, especially the ones whom I am reading and looking for guidance from. The people I’m reading have also had nights of wondering whether they were good enough and it hasn’t stopped them.

So, I’m going to give myself my own positive affirmations,  sit down, be humble, and read.

#selflove

Travel for the Thrill

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me, circa 2013, on the road for 7 months and v tiered 

My bed is my favorite place in New York.  I’m grateful for it every day when I am reminded of all the planes, hammocks, sunken beds, and mattresses cloaked in shredded mosquito nets I have had to sleep on.

I love lying down flat on my 10 inch mattress when I am reminded of how my body would have to contort itself on the awkwardly angled bus chairs, propping my head on a makeshift pillow- some combination of a sweatshirt, scarf, and tights- that muffle the abrasive vibrations of the rubber tires repetitively and endlessly hitting concrete.

I love closing my eyes to the perfect stillness of my room with no fear that someone sharing my space will be snoring, blasting reggae music in the hostel room next door, or attempting a quickie in those tiny single hostel beds that architecturally structured to inhibit sexual relations.

I love waking up without the fear of wondering “Where will I be sleeping tonight?” I love my consistency; I’m grateful for my comforts; I enjoy waking up relaxed, but there is a thrill that no longer greets me in the morning.

The thrill of being roused by a distinctive melodic beeping of an awoken city; the thrill of having new dreams; the thrill of waking up under an altered angle of the same sun. The thrill of different breakfast smells, morning news reports in unfamiliar languages, and watching someone else’s morning ritual. The thrill of wondering where will I be sleeping tonight?The thrill of being alive can sometimes only be experienced thousands of miles away from the bed that has been warped to your body after years of sleeping in it.

It is a thrill and fortune to be awake at all.

Retracing Your Roots

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I was raised in the woods of upstate New York and was raised from a pack of wonderful and weird women, and I was fortunate to spend the afternoon with them the other week. My sisters, mom, and I were a juggernaut of blonde-haired women wherever we went. Although they still know how to humble me, I have a blast with them because we all inherited my mother’s sense of humor. My family is the type that will start dancing in the dairy section of a grocery store if  Michael Jackson if comes on.  

I was pretty overworked and overwhelmed by taking a day off to be with them, but the feeling of my stomach hurting from laughing so much on the way down to Coney Island got me to forget about all the work I was neglecting. We got out and walked on the beach by the calm Atlantic in the blustery air. I had a sense of tranquility I hadn’t felt in a while, a lightness and laughter I had almost left behind.  My family reminds me how important it is to be brought back to your roots, remind yourself of parts forgotten or grown out of ( like how my sister reminded me I used to eat Lucky Charms marshmallows in order of the song).

I miss them the most when I travel. They are the hardest leaving sometimes because I feel like I’m abandoning them. But I know that if I stayed, I wouldn’t be true to myself and it helps me relish and appreciate the times I do get to be with them. I get to come back with stories for them to listen to and laugh about how I made a fool of myself abroad.