The Saga That Has Been This Year!

After returning from Europe in the beginning of this year I was still in a state of constant transition. Half of my belongings were in upstate New York, a quarter on my back in the pack I’d been gallivanting through romantic European destinations with, and the rest of my worldly possessions in my mother’s basement. I decided to move in with her briefly, to “figure my life out”. I was delivering groceries about 11 hours a day, trying to climb out of my European Vacation money pit. While not the most stable point of my year, beyond all that came after, this was the most special time to me. I haven’t lived with my mother and sisters since high school, and we were all under the same roof again.

Growing up with a single mom and all sisters we are indeed a pack of Amazon women strong, independent, driven, and ferociously supportive of each other. My family is everything to me and to have the Girl Gang back together meant more than the world… even if it meant sleeping on my mama’s floor in a technically two bedroom home, converted to 3.5, but currently housing 7 humans…. Then came good news all at once, I was accepted into the University of New Haven for a fully funded masters program in Environmental Science AND I was accepted into a separate summer internship to work with US Fish and Wildlife at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota.

I had my assumptions about spending the summer in the middle-of-nowhere, MN. Wow was I wrong! Tamarac now holds a special space in my heart as one of my favorite locations on Earth. It was the peace, solitude, and wild strength I needed after my time in Europe and in DC. The people I worked with at the refuge became family, I love and miss them all. I learned so much, but that wasn’t what set this experience apart for me. It was the first time working as an intern where I didn’t feel like I was just absorbing knowledge, I felt valued and my confidence grew. As the internship progressed I felt more and more like a contributing member of the team and a sense of pride and independence I hadn’t felt before blossomed within me. The most important lesson I learned in that forest had nothing to do with the swans, the sampling techniques, the way a National Refuge operates; the most important thing I learned was how to start truly trusting myself again. This is something we have a firm grasp on as children, and unfortunately for most of us as we get older that trust in our intuition fades. I grew this summer from somewhere deep in me, while deep in the woods… into someone stronger, someone familiar, someone I once was, someone I always have been.

That was far from easy, growth never is. The usual lessons were learned, that you can’t take every thing, person, or idea you once held onto with you. Losses I’m still grieving today. I left feeling brand new, at peace, ready for the insanity that would be August. Since I am apparently insane… I decided that it would be a great idea to do a “few fun things” before I buckled down into my graduate studies… those few things included vacationing in Jamaica, visiting Ithaca, moving into a new apartment, working for a week and a half for my professor in the lab, and flying to the west coast to go to Burning Man again. Yeah, I know. So off I went. I left Minnesota on the 25th of July, and 28 days later I am on a flight to California writing this post. I started with an epic and eventful road trip, where I spent the night sleeping at a truck stop just outside of Chicago, and got from MN to DC in barely 2 days, which is about 20 hours of driving folks… if I made zero stops. I had then three days before my flight departed for Jamaica, which I had yet to pay for, thank the Goddess for sisters that can spot you $, and my ability to contribute to a trip with my master planning skills and intense Virgo organizational habits that border OCD! I spent those days packing and catching up with friends and family! Then paradise!!

I thought I was going to just luxuriate buuut I ended up being the master-planner-mom for my sister’s dirty thirty, where out of 9 people she was the only person I knew. I coordinated the logistics for her and 8 of her friends, and all though I was “busy”, I realized I LOVED it. I knew I liked planning, thank you September birthday, but I didn’t know how fun it was to coordinate a big trip like that (I’m weird I know), and to top it off I absolutely adored all of her friends! We stayed in a villa, had a personal chef and driver and butler. I have never traveled like that in my life and it was fabulous. I stayed an extra two days and traveled a little more my speed (I spent one entire day sleeping), but then I hit the beach and the markets and local eateries. I stayed in a hostel right in the middle of the gritty city of Montego Bay for about $20 a night and I was in heaven. Just drowning in a culture so similar to my own having grown up in the Virgin Island, yet so unique. I ate myself silly. Then home again home again jiggity jig. I was thrust back into reality.

Ok, let me preface this next part with… yeah I know I’m not the most conventional, and as much as I just said I love planning… that’s usually just for other people when it comes to me, I prefer the procrastination route. So, now it’s the 9th of August, I need to be working in my lab the morning of the 14th…. I don’t have an apartment, I don’t have any of my belongings, oh… and I don’t have any money. Like I have $150 in my account, which fingers crossed covered the gas to get there. I was banking on a loan coming through, but come to find out that won’t clear until the 28th. Moral of that story… have friends that love you like family and family that’s ready to ride-or-die like best friends! I figured out the money, packed a truck my mom would drive later that weekend and headed up to Ithaca, NY to collect my storage. I spent not even 24 hours in Ithaca, I loaded a Uhaul, again thank you for humans that love me enough to lift heavy objects for me, and strapped my car to the truck then checked in for a brief night of sleep.

Next day… dooms day, I actually can’t even… I will save what happened the next day for its own very special post called “Try and Move When Mercury is in Retrograde, I Dare You”, yeah it was that bad. Long story short for those of you who are tired of me and won’t be reading the next post…. Every possible piece of equipment malfunctioned, every apartment was rented, Murphy’s law was running around in its birthday suit having a damn field day! The universe eventually came through and by 6 pm I had an INCREDIBLE apartment with an amazing landlord in an awesome part of town. I actually live in what everyone refers to as “the hood”, but it’s my people… black people of all backgrounds, tons of Caribbean people, I’m walking distance from an organic grocery store and 4 Jamaican food spots… it’s a dream. I’m also a 6-minute drive to campus and less than a 4-minute drive to the downtown area of New Haven. My mother, who had met me that morning with the truckload of my things from DC, picked the most incredible restaurant and we went out to congratulate ourselves on surviving the day.

I slept the entire next day. Then it was Monday, I had to start work. That whole next week was spent meeting lab mates, collecting crabs in the marsh, running around filling out university paperwork, and pretending to unpack. I had zero time to get anything done in my house. The weekend came around and I was living out of suitcases and boxes, I couldn’t even start to unpack because the apartment was unfurnished and I had nowhere to put anything! I spent Saturday buying an entirely inappropriate amount of Ikea furniture, and all of Sunday marathon-assembling. Come Monday, work again. This is when it sinks in that I leave for Burning Man in just over 48 hours…. My apartment is chaos and not only do I have to unpack all my Burning Man gear I also have to then sort through and pack what I need for this year. I honestly couldn’t stay up past 8 pm, my body was revolting… it was like screw you, we have been in transition for almost 28 days lay down… OR ELSE.

I had to listen I had no choice. I slept through the night like a baby, wishing in the morning I had just pulled at least one all-nighter that week! Tuesday, my last full day in New Haven, I couldn’t pack at all because it was graduate orientation day at UNH. I spent the whole day meeting new people across tons of fields, it was a blast. When it was finally over I needed to unpack/pack, but I crashed. I attempted to take a nap and woke up 8 am. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention…. I had a 10:30am meeting with the team I’ll be working on for my graduate grant-funded research, and I needed to leave town by noon to drive to Newark to catch my afternoon flight to San Jose. Yoga breaths!!! I tell my girlfriend who’s driving me to the airport once I get to Jersey my “status”…. Her response “oh you’re playing with life today”, she isn’t wrong, haha I never have been this unprepared for Burning Man. 

It would seem an impossible feat, but apparently, the universe is into cosplay as much as I am. I move faster than maybe I ever have in my life. I spent the next hour cleaning and organizing my apartment to an acceptable state, then 40 minutes deciding what I needed to bring to the Burn this year, and 20 minutes packing it. I was only 5 minutes late for my meeting. I then drove back to my house, picked up my bag and packed a few last minute things, I was on the road at 12:20. I got to Jersey in time to have lunch with my friend and her beautiful baby girl before heading to the airport. Here is where I take a bow…. Thank you, thank you, but I can’t take all the credit for this impossible circus act, let’s hear it for the Universe!

As I type, I’m snuggled into my Alaska Airlines seat, which I didn’t realize was premium and comes with free drinks… I love surprises. I’m three glasses of wine deep, and happy as a clam. It’s been two whole years but I’m finally heading “Home”, Burning Man here I come!!! Overcome with emotion my eyes started getting watery.. my emotional state is totally exacerbated by the Pinot Gris and the mama rocking her 4-month baby next to me (I have baby fever), but it was more than that. I was having one of those heartfelt moments when one realizes how incredibly blessed they are… and how little that has to do with anything material in their life. The sheer amount of love engulfing me every day I wake up is an outright miracle. I love my life, and I love unconditionally the people who have chosen to be integral parts of it.

Well, that’s all for now folks. I will check back in after I am done getting good and dusty!

 

Olivia, Olive, Ollie.

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In Defense of Wanderlust!

The life of a travel blogger, or a travel-addicted nomad, posing as a travel blogger (shhh don’t tell anybody), is a lifestyle often accused of residing “out of the box”. The fact that I can live from a singular backpack for a year, or that I have been known to go without a permanent address for months at a time, can sometimes make folks uneasy. To live this lifestyle you find yourself sacrificing that night out again with your girlfriends, incessantly ‘instagraming,’ locking yourself away for hours on end to write (not good at this one yet), and my least favorite… missing lots of holidays. When people ask you “what’s your 10-year plan… or 5-year plan… or 2-year plan… ok, what the hell are you doing next month?!?” I usually giggle and give them the same response every time, “Something fun I suppose,” and throw my hands in the air the way I do caution to the wind.

I am certain at least a few of you have experienced that this lifestyle isn’t always well received by family and friends. I remember right out of college, after working my butt off at an Ivy League school (literally… cuz those hills on Cornell’s campus are no joke), my family was like… ok and next. They didn’t miss a beat, it was “where will you be going for your Ph.D.?”, I was in no shape to hop back into the term paper saddle, let alone begin a full-blown career. After 4 years at Cornell, I wanted to take a nap… like a nice year-long nap. My ‘gap year’ turned into two, and my family continued to freak. I continued to rebel… the wild child that I am, what else did they expect. Those 2 years turned into four, but it didn’t take all four years for them to get the picture that I would be living life in my own way and on my own timeline. Every single person came around to that idea, they saw the joy that traveling brought me, they saw that I wasn’t starving or homeless (except when I elected to live in and out of hostels and on stranger’s couches for months at a time in developing countries… but that is a technicality). I had the support of my family, which actually means everything to me… no matter how many times I tell my mom that I don’t care what she thinks.

Unfortunately, their acceptance wasn’t where the difficulties ended when it came to choosing a life of adventure over sitting complacently while being spoon-fed conformity (a tad dramatic, I know). There is a lesson I had to learn recently, one that I want to share with all those out there trying to make a name for themselves in the travel industry, the blogging sector, or really any field that goes against the traditional grain. There still may be people you actively choose to have in your life, who accept your lifestyle but resent you for it. They will ‘reason’ your love to travel away, by telling themselves that you are in a constant state of flux because you are somehow lost, and one day when you are found, then you will finally settle down. I guess it makes it easier for them to swallow the fact that I can pick up and go with such ease, if they label it with an alternative purpose, with an end game. I decided to stop letting people shame me into believing I was being selfish, I was taking too much time “discovering myself and soul-searching”. How dare I reject societal norms, how dare I not fit their mold… it must be because I am lacking, lacking something… and clearly, I am searching for it in places far and wide.

I have a secret to tell you… There is NO SHAME in spending time ‘finding yourself,’ but don’t let anyone convince you that just because you elect to live a life full to the brim with adventure and challenges, that you are lost. I am never going to stop ‘finding myself’ because that is who I AM. There is no rhyme or reason that can stand up to my love for exploration and my dedication to personal growth. I am a girl who loves to learn, to venture into the unknown, and if that unknown includes the depths of my soul, so be it. I don’t have to be lost, to adore flying to foreign cities and losing myself wandering on ancient cobblestone streets. Anyone who sees the road to self-discovery as a voyage with an actual destination has clearly never taken on the task of looking for themselves. Don’t let anyone write your life story for you, forge your own trail and love yourself every damn day that you have the courage to do so!

6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Traveling to Europe!

I am off again, galavanting. This time through Europe! It will be my first time solo traveling in Europe, and I plan to see somewhere around 8 countries. The thought of planning a 3 month trip through 8 different countries was frightening to say the least… but I did it! Here I am half way through my time in Europe, and starting to reflect. I put together a list of the 10 things I wish I knew while preparing for my trip. Getting ready for a big trip can be a mountain of a task, especially if it is a destination you have never been to. Hopefully this guide helps to point you in the right direction. Be warned some of them are totally embarrassing things, that I know good and well I should have known, but I am not here to be an expert. I am here to give you the honest truth, as I make my way on this journey. Giving it to you real: The Good, The Bad, and The ‘Wanderful’.

  • Seasons Don’t Change Slowly in Europe

This lesson was a hard one to learn myself! I did not look closely enough at typical weather patterns for all the countries I was visiting, and for this I froze my buns off for the first half of my trip. I started in London and the weather was fantastic, warm and sunny every day around 80 degrees fahrenheit (Side-note, I just realized I have no idea how to spell fahrenheit, I was spelling it so badly even autocorrect had no idea what the hell I was trying to say, and so I had to google it). I figured I would have at least 3 weeks of “transitional weather” before it got really cold… wrong-o. The temperature dropped 30 degrees from when I left London to when I got to Germany, which was within a week. Despite the fact that I was wearing almost every article of clothing in my bag at once, I was still under-dressed for the weather in Amsterdam and Germany especially. If you are traveling in a transitional season, bring warm winter clothes. Better yet don’t travel in a transitional season! Its a pain in the butt. Pick a season, and you will thank me when you don’t have to pack both your bikini and your parka.

  • Not Everywhere in Europe Uses the Euro

Ok yes, this one is a little embarrassing… I knew not EVERY country used the Euro, but I thought all the Schengen Countries I was visiting on this trip did. First of all, this is great info to know when budgeting, and planning when and where you will exchange your home currency. I never exchange all my money at once, especially if my trip will last over several months because the rate can always change (hopefully in my favor). Also if you are bussing into another country, and you arrive late at night, and only have Euros… and they don’t use Euros, no bueno for you… Trust me I know. So here is what I learned, it has nothing to do with Schengen countries, it is much easier to think about it in terms of the EU. All of the European Union countries use the Euro except: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden, and the UK (I knew this one!).

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Don’t forget to spend some GBP on the London Eye, its worth it!

 

  • WiFi is NOT Readily Available All Over Europe

This came as a surprise to me, it really depends on the country but I think it is best to prepare with the thought that you may need to hunt for wifi. I especially found this to be true in Germany. I would say to be on the safe side insure your accommodation has wifi, that way you know you will be able to use the world wide web at least once a day (for research, chatting, or working purposes). Typical places that have wifi: cafes, “coffee shops” (in Amsterdam), some restaurants, and large malls.

  • Laundry Facilities are NOT Always Easy to Find

If you are traveling for more than 2 weeks, the only way to pack light is to do laundry along the way (I guess you could also commit to wearing dirty clothes over and over… but for the sake of making new friends I went with the less smelly option). When traveling in South America I found this very easy to do, there was a ‘Launderia’ around every corner. Not so much in Europe. Most Europeans have washers in their apartments and hang their clothes to dry, and so a laundry mat in the city has been hard to come by. When booking accommodation I would say every 2-3 weeks attempt to find a place near a laundry mat or ask if they offer laundry services at your hostel/hotel/airB&B/etc.

  • Your Travel Schedule WILL Change… At Least Once

I know it can feel mildly stressful for some not knowing where you will be next, but that is half the fun of this! Over the course of 2 weeks I have added and subtracted at least 2 destinations from my itinerary. I would say have an “outline” of what you want to see and about how long you want to stay in each place, but don’t book transition-travel right away. If there is somewhere expensive (or not continental) it could be beneficial to book a flight in advance. For example, I knew I wanted to go to Greece, and the only cheap way to get from there to Spain was to fly and stop in Malta, so I booked that about 1 month ahead. For all the other places between Germany and Greece where I knew I was going to take a bus, I budgeted for the average price, but waited to book the ticket. I have added Budapest and Vienna to my trip since I booked my Greece flight and getting cheap bus tickets 2 days in advance has been no issue.

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I stubbled upon the Signal Festival in Prague! You never really know what is going on until you get there!

  • Budget for Public Transportation

For some reason I did not factor into my budget getting around, once I got there… Silly me. Do not make my same mistake. While public transport is reasonable easy (depending on the country) and affordable, it still adds up! If you are going to be staying in a city for any more than 2 days, it might be worth looking up prices per trip for their metro system and making a per day budget for transportation. Even if it is just 5 euros a day, that is an extra 280 euros needed for a 2 month trip. Most cities have a 1/2/3 day pass, and some even week long passes geared towards tourists.

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Always worth it, even if you aren’t counting pennies. Public transport in Europe is an awesome experience!

Hope these help you while preparing for your big trip! Any tips you have for pre-trip planning? Let me know in the comments, or if you have specific questions about… anything, ask away!

With Love From PRAGUE,

Olivia

Have Camera, Will Dream.

Last year around this time, maybe a month earlier, I bought my very first SLR camera. I am a huge fan of buying myself Christmas presents, I always get what I want that way! I didn’t go top of the line, but I wanted something to take me close to professional. I had been exploring cameras since my first trip to Hawai’i when I was about 11 years old. My Nonna took me on that trip, which changed my life in so many ways, and one of those being discovering my love for photography. I got to have not only 2 disposable cameras, but also a disposable underwater camera to use on my very first snorkeling adventure!!

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Fast forward to Christmas 2014, I have my very own fancy-pants camera, a Canon! I got it right in time for some big traveling. I went from Arizona, to Peru, to South Africa all within that year, and of course everywhere I went, attached to my hip was my Canon. My dream was to do something with these photos, share them, sell them, something. I dreamt, and I dreamt big, and I dreamt often. That, my readers, is the key. It is something I so easily forget, but it is the secret to breathing life into your dreams, if you have a dream it must consume you for it to come true.

Knowing what you want and envisioning yourself getting it everyday is exactly how you are going to get there. Now I’m not advocating sitting on a meditation cushion and willing a trip to Madagascar into reality (maybe some folks have that power of manifestation… I’m not quite there yet). What I am saying is that when your dreams are always in the forefront of your mind, with every decision you make you will clearly see if it serves your dreams or not. Soon you will be effortlessly and automatically only following paths that lead you closer to that dream.

Learning to clearly define your dream, trust your intuition, and have the courage to jump blindly after what you want… is so freaking hard!! Just because I know what to do doesn’t mean I am good at always doing it. Yet, I do get lucky from time to time 🙂

Not even a full year after the first time I used my camera, I was hanging my very first photography exhibit. “Footsteps of a Nomad” was a huge success, it was so much work, and worth every ounce of stress! I sold 4 photos during my opening reception, and I even got to have my family there with me. I took my show down after a month, and the day I took it down I hung another show up at a local bakery, and they will be showing my photos for 2 months! Two shows and counting, only a year after manifesting my big-girl camera!

After hanging my very first photography show!

 

My show at Heavily Brewing Company in Montour Falls, NY

 

My second show is now up at a local bakery in Ithaca, NY

 

The Triphammer Ithaca Bakery

 

Featured Artist for the next 2 months!

 

When there are no words left, all that remains is gratitude. I am so grateful for all the support of my family and friends, the opportunities made possible only through collaboration, and I am grateful to myself for believing and being courageous when I needed it most. If you have something beautiful to share with the world, go for it!! Share it under this post as your first leap of bravery!

Mom, Dad, Sisters!! All came to support me!

 

My fellow teachers, and one of my students (the baby in my arms), came to show support!

 

Flowers from my loving grandparents!

 

Footsteps of a Nomad

Every time I travel, I bring back enough gifts to fill a separate suitcase and I think everyone should support local artists wherever they go. Yet, there are some places where the best thing to take home are just memories. Beautiful and wild places where there are no stores, no vendors, no souvenirs. For me photos are the way I can share those memories. In those wild places, those natural spaces, I leave only the trace of my footsteps and take only photographs.

This weekend I have the amazing opportunity to share my photography with my community. I will be showing my travel photos at a local brewery! If you are in the upstate area, it will be at Heavily Brewing Company in Montour Falls, NY from 4-6pm! Having this show has really gotten me to put more thought into why I travel, into why I LOVE to travel. I know this is a passion of mine, but what do I want to share with others through my photography?

As of last year, I have been to every continent aside from Antartica, and explored countless cities, towns, and villages in 10 different countries. I have a passion for exploring new cultures, and meeting people who have a completely fresh outlook on life. Two big drivers for my travels are the people I meet and the communities they create; I love how you can find similarities amongst them all and yet in other aspects we are all worlds apart. The further I travel the more I realize what a “global community” we are, and how we have a communal responsibility to protect all things natural and beautiful in our world. I share my photographs because I feel that what I capture in my images can bring the viewer closer to the beauty of the place I visited. The more connected people in this world feel to those far off lands still full of natural wonders, the more likely they are to protect them. I hope my photos inspire people to travel more, get outdoors, and celebrate the beauty of nature, culture, and tradition. From our own backyards to Amazonian waters flowing through Peruvian villages, there are still so many things natural, beautiful, and wild that need our protection.

Lucky Number 6!!!

For those of you who don’t know, which would be all of you, six is my favorite number. There are many strange and superstitious reasons why I love that number, but what it comes down to is fun things happen For me when the number 6 is involved. The biggest number 6 yet is here, and I can’t wait to share the big news with you all!

Drumroll…

I am currently on the 6th continent I have ever been to. Not even 25, and I have been to all continents but one. I have a passion for traveling and a dream to see the world! The reason I blog is to share that crazy journey with anyone interested, and just maybe inspire a few people to embark on their own crazy nomadic journeys.

I have spent the last 2.5 days jetting across the sea to nurture my nomadic soul, Hello Africa!! This first trip to Africa, hopefully of many, will be all about South Africa. I just touched down in Cape Town, and it’s already off to an amazing start. As usual, I connected with incredible souls on my way here. Having deep conversations about race and culture in this country, on buses and in taxis. Young locals I have met seem so conscious of the politically charged environment they live in, and they can’t wait to dialog about their world and the troubles we face together as a globe. Beautiful people, openly and freely offering suggestions for my travels and welcoming me to their home. I have officially decided I will be coming back, mostly because I already accumulated a list of “must-eat” places as long as my forearm… And I LOVE to eat 😉

Tomorrow I will be going on a tour of the Cape Peninsula, and I will be reviewing this tour by Baz Bus for their website! My first official travel writing gig, not paid… but hey, everyone starts somewhere! After the tour I will sample a restaurant, or 2, from my growing list. The following day, Robben Island, Table Mountain, and a champagne tour are all on the todo list!! This is trip is going to be incredible I feel it in my soul, but the best part of it all is I get to journey with my beautiful sister Amber!

Sawubona! (Beautiful greeting translating to “I see you”)

Olivia, olive, Lala

Traveling Black

My personal belief is that we are one race, the human race, and we are all so incredibly and beautifully unique that it’s silly to try and group people into categories based on physical attributes. Physical attributes that have begun to meld and blur more and more as love defies all and every social boundary that attempts to tether it. That being said, when I am seen through other’s eyes I am a black female, and I am damn proud of that, but it doesn’t always make traveling easy… especially traveling alone. I want to share just a few things I have experienced being a black traveler, that guidebooks written for the general public are never going to cover.

When foreigners travel to new places sometimes they can face discrimination, having assumptions made about their intentions in that country or being called names like gringo or worse. I personally have not experienced much in terms of these hardships of travel, but I have been called other things that when lost in translation seem horribly derogatory. To make this clear I have to explain a little bit about the Spanish language for those not familiar with it. It is common practice in Spanish to make a word more affectionate by adding “ita/ito” to the end of the word, this is usually used to say something is small or cute. For example gato+ito = gatito for a little kitten, or “que linda es tu pelito” for how cute is your hair, the ending simply emphasizes the cuteness of something. Here in Peru I have experienced tons of catcalling, which having grown up in the Caribbean doesn’t phase me at all, but being referred to as negrita and crespita did throw me for a spin. Those words translated literally to English mean little back one and little curly one, but literal isn’t the way languages work. After discussing it with many friends here in Peru, a few of them saying that their nickname in their family is also negrita because they are the darkest of their siblings, I was able to get a better understanding of these words. In the U.S. there is something we assume when people refer to you by the color of your skin, that they are attaching to those words some discriminatory stereotype… and often times this is correct. Learning more about the Peruvian culture, I came to the beautiful understanding that there are no stereotypes attached to these words, they are said honestly with pure intent. Calling someone negrita or black girl is not a comment on anything other than the beautiful darkness of her skin tone. Once I truly understood the comments as they were meant in this culture, it was such a refreshing moment, realizing that being brown or black or having kinky hair had nothing to do with anything else other than having a beautiful physical attribute. I have since reveled in the fact that my brown skin and curly hair are so celebrated by this community!

Being a foreigner in a new place you also must get used to a certain amount of attention… especially being a black female alone, which just might be the rarest of all traveling types. That being said, I had to get used to a whole new level of attention in the more remote areas of Peru I have visited on this trip, places where they have never seen anyone… not on a TV, not in a book… with hair like mine. This was especially true in the jungle where my presence was met with the stares of every adult and the tiny hands of children in my locs when they thought I wasn’t looking. It was quite the culture shock that swiftly blossomed into a learning experience for all involved!

I can’t say that I am particularly tolerant of anyone putting their hands in my hair. I am not a petting zoo, and I did not grow my locs for 8 years for your entertainment. In the U.S. I have been in plenty situations where someone has, without asking, come up to me and touched my hair (FYI… That’s really not ok) I am not one to be confrontational and so I typically do nothing more than let them know it’s an invasion of personal space to do what they just did. Then there are people who ask to touch my hair… with almost a frightened look in their face, like they are afraid of what might jump out. These people are not interested in my hair for what it is… an extension of my vibrant energy… They want to see if some crap they heard from a friend about locs being dirty or smelly or itchy is true. I could really rant at length about the ignorant things I have dealt with in the U.S. when it comes to my hair, but this is just a little background so you as a reader can understand where I am coming from when I discuss my time in Peru.

Naturally I was looking at the situation of my hair being ogled at and touched through the lens created by personal experience, but none those scenarios were in play here. There was a genuine and honest curiosity of the complete unknown, which is something I love and is one of the main reasons I travel. I quickly became a lot more tolerant of fingers in my hair, reminding them kindly that it isn’t polite to touch someone without asking, but then allowing them to continue their exploration… which usually resulted in them calling their parents over to join them. I also got used to addressing adults who were staring in a way that made me uncomfortable, asking if they liked my hair… which always resulted in a smile and a nod… telling them it is indeed real, that my hair is curly, and no i can’t take it out and make it straight… and inviting them to touch it if they like. No my hair does not bite!

People fear what they don’t know. So know me. Know me in all my glory. Familiarize yourself with my dark brown skin, my full lips and wide grin, my curly brown hair that flows nearly to my waist. See yourself in the kindness of my face, so it’s crystal clear there is nothing to fear.