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.

Robben Island

Two years and two days ago was a very sad moment in history for South Africa, and the global community. The country of South Africa lost a national hero, and the world lost one of the greatest defenders of justice and equality. On December 5th 2013 Nelson Mandela left this physical world. Yesterday, I was exceptionally lucky to get the chance to memorialize this date with a trip to Robben Island. Robben Island is the site of the prison where former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela, and many other political prisoners were held. Many of them were peaceful fighters for freedom from oppression, and almost all of them were unjustly held without any formal charges or a trial.

I was prepared for this experience to be a powerful and deeply saddening tour, because of how horrific the crimes against human rights were during apartheid. I was not prepared for the fact that all the guides were former prisoners. The painful history was real and alive in their eyes. I think hearing it straight from the victims of this brutal system, helped even the furthest removed from this type of oppression to connect with the gravity of this moment in a more personal way. 

Former prisoner on Robben Island, and my amazing guide

 

The first guide we had gave us a rundown of the basic history of apartheid, the history of the island (it was previously a colony for outcast lepers), and the first political prisoners to be sent to the island. In the 1960s, the leader of a peaceful protest called people to burn their ID documents used to control the black and coloured people of South Africa, this resulted in a horrific massacre leaving 69 people dead. (Although I have a sick guttural reaction to the word coloured, being a Black American, it is widely used in SA to this day, and simply means person of mixed race.) The man who led this protest, Robert Sobukwe, was one of the first political prisoners on the island. He was held in a small house alone for 3 years, no one was allowed to visit and no guards were to speak with him. Once his time was served he was arrested onsite before he ever left the island and was given another 3 years, and eventually allowed one letter OR visit every 6 months. Sobukwe was never charged for a second or third offense although he was detained twice after being released, and then put on house arrest until his death. This was the beginning of the “Sobukwe Clause”, which states the government of SA can arrest and detain anyone without cause or trial.

Different meals for prisoners of different races

This clause was the way in which the government justified their round up of all the anti-apartheid leaders fighting for equality and justice. The leaders were all kept in the same prison, in single cells, without running water and exposed to the elements with only bars (no glass windows or doors) until the late 70s, when windows and showers were added to the building. The leaders were also forced to work in a limestone quarry leading to many fatal illnesses, such as cancer and infections. Their only means to gain more privileges were long and painful hunger strikes. Seeing and hearing first hand about these horrific inequalities infuriated me, and spoke to a part of my heritage during slavery, then segregation, and the current state of racial profiling and attacks. All this weighed so heavy on my soul, and I felt the pain that had saturated Robben Island and lingered still.

Photographing Nelson Mandela’s cell

Then came hope, we learned that as much as they attempted to separate, dehumanize, and kill the spirits of their prisoners… There was an aspect of apartheid rule that came to be the prisoner’s saving grace. During apartheid all was separate, which means wherever the prisoners were to “relieve themselves” was a black toilet, and no white guards were to enter. While in the prison they all had buckets in their cells, but out at the quarry while they endured hard labor, they were forced to go to the bathroom in a cave. This cave, affectionately referred to as “The Parliament” was where a new South Africa was born. All the fighters for justice shared ideas and strategies in that cave, they thought not of the present but the future, and many of their goals for justice can be found in the South African constitution of today. From this atrocity, blossomed the beautiful philosophy of “Each one, Teach one”.

This experience is something that will always be with me in my heart and on my mind. It was a heavy part of my journey, it led me to think more on my “place” in my own country, my “place” as a brown person in this world, and how far we as a globe have to go before we see real equality in every corner, and that wound of past atrocities against our basic rights as humans isn’t festering still. I feel for South Africa and they, like my own country and many others, have a long way to go before equality and justice are the true law of the land. Everyday we can get closer, and the key to reaching that dream of global peace is the education of the future generation, I believe that with all my heart. If we take the goal of peace and equality, and then “Each One, Teach One”… we will get there, in every corner of the globe.

 

 

 

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

R&R at a B&B 

This past weekend I took an extra couple days off for some R&R at the BEST bed and breakfast in Virginia. OK I am slightly biased but very rightfully so. In Hillsboro, Virginia a quiet town of 88 residents there is a magnificent bed and breakfast, owned and operated by my great aunt. I grew up with it as a family home and it’s now been converted into this amazing Inn in an equally awesome location. Gourmet farm-to-table bistro’s and wineries producing bold flavors are beginning to pop up in towns surrounding Hillsboro. The tiny town of Hillsboro, and the surrounding countryside, are slowly but steadily becoming more commonly known as wine country for the socialites of the Washington area. For me to refer to this rural slice of Virginia as “wine country” says a lot coming from a girl living in the finger Lakes!

 

Fieldstone Farm

 

I’m just going to give you the highlights of the trip, but for you to get the whole picture, I first have to tell you about the B&B. To say the Fieldstone Farm bed and breakfast is luxurious would be an understatement, to say it’s inviting another understatement, and to call it inspiring yet again an understatement. My aunt’s property will always just be a family home to me, but it’s now equipped with all the modern amenities you would find in a hotel with even fancier soaps and an outdoor pool! Watching this family home evolve into this “resort like” country-get-away, has been such a fun journey. The grounds which I have had many a Easter-egg hunt on, are now home to magnificent flower, herb, and vegetable gardens, perfect places for reflection. One thing that hasn’t changed is my aunt’s love to decorate, every season gets its fair share! When I was just there, every room smelled like cinnamony-goodness and my aunt was ushering in Fall in the best ways. Despite all the modern amenities it can still feel like a trip through time to 1770, with fires blazing and antique furnishings. My Aunt has done a fabulous job keeping most of the decor to date, as this property is one of the premier historical homes in Virginia. This trip I brought my partner, and maybe if I haven’t done a sufficient job getting across how amazing this place is his words will do it best. According to him, Fieldstone Farm is an antique store mixed with a Hilton hotel… or what it would look like if a colonial museum had a baby with a luxury spa, so eloquent that man of mine!

 

Welcome Home

 

Tranquility Anyone?

 

Felt like summer for a day

My Aunt recommends the best places around to all of her guests, so we are always in good hands when we go out with her. This trip she took us to one of her favorites, Market Table Bistro. This is a place one would expect to find in NYC or DC, it is hip to the local farm-to-table food scene and delivers at the highest quality. The premise of the restaurant is comfort food in a gourmet fashion… I couldn’t ask for more! Considering myself a “global gourmand” I feel arbitrarily qualified to judge this eatery, and I give it an A+. The flavors are absolutely delivered as promised, highly evolved yet familiar. I am a huge fan of restaurants with the “fancy comfort food” philosophy, it creates a space where unique and complex flavors become available to those not so comfortable outside of their comfort zone.

 

Shrimp and Grits!

 

Quail and Kale… YUM

 

The potato flight (potatoes done 6 ways)

Visiting Fieldstone Farm and my Aunt Amy is always such a treat, and since I’m back on the writing wagon I wanted to share just a bit of that magic with you. Having the chance to relax in such a positive space played a huge role in me renewing my dedication to follow my dream of travel writing. If you are ever in the Northern Virginia area, my aunt would love to have you at the Inn, and maybe some of the magic of that place will inspire you as well!!

Following the Birds South

First let me confess, I’ve been less than active when it comes to my passion of travel writing. Yet, here I am at the keyboard with new vows of dedication and rekindled fires for my dream to share my journey as I wander around this world in a state of wonder. I think an important part of this confession, for all those other aspiring travel writers reading this, is that making this dream real is NOT always easy. Before you are a successful (money-making) travel writer you have to survive somehow, and sometimes that means working 13 hour days… and at times the reason why you are working so hard gets forgotten. That’s OK! Just pick up where you left off, and don’t get down on yourself for losing focus. One step at a time is how I am going to reach my goal of becoming a full-time nomadic travel writer, but when those steps start getting wobbly and I’m not sure which way is forward and which way is back… I take a break, find myself, and refocus my passion to fuel my dreams! This time I knew I needed some sunshine, a change of scenery to kick my butt in gear, and to avoid the first snowfall in Ithaca, NY. So I flew south with the birds… well technically I drove.

I didn’t have to go far to find some sunshine.  Just about 5 and a half hours away from Ithaca, I found myself in a town that is actually the definition of quaint. Coming from what some would call a “small” town it’s not easy for me to find smaller, but I did it… in a big way! At a grand total of 88 friendly souls Hillsboro is one of the tiniest towns in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This happened to be a big weekend for this compact slice of sunshine. The weekend of  October 16th and 17th happened to be Hillsboro Heritage Day, a day packed full of local food, drinks, and crafts. Not only was it an impressive display of local talent, but also a trip back in time. This second annual festival is a benefit for the Historical Old Stone School, a centerpiece of this tight-knit community. The school, which now serves as a community center and town hall, was built in 1874, at that time called The Locust Academy was one of first public schools in Loudoun County. There was an awesome turn out to enjoy the local offerings, and watch presentations on crafts of the past like paper making, weaving, and spinning.

Hillsboro Heritage Day!

Hillsboro Heritage Day!

Amy Newton a Pillar of the Community, Dressed to Impress... if it were 1874

Amy Newton a Pillar of the Community, dressed to impress… like it was 1874! (Photo by Amie Ware)

My fun was just beginning with this weekend full of old-time Virginia festivities. My next post will be about the other ways I explored and enjoyed this lovely and welcoming town. Home to the Fieldstone Farm Bed and Breakfast (owned by my Great Aunt), some incredible wineries, and a handful of hidden culinary gems… Hillsboro is a place you can’t judge by the size of its cover!

Enjoying what seems to be remnants of summer at the Fieldstone Farm!

Enjoying what seems to be remnants of summer at the Fieldstone Farm!

I’m Back in Action and Equipped with Glowsticks!

Im back in action! After Peru I went through a whirlwind of physical and emotional ups and downs, trying to “figure my life out”… I feel like every once in a while I go through these phases where I don’t feel complete in what I’m doing… Usually it’s more like I feel that the important people around me don’t see me as succeeding or living up to my full potential. It’s always different… grad school, settle down, get a “real job”, but it’s never what I’m doing at the moment, and so I stop what I’m doing and momentarily follow someone else’s dream for me. Then I remember how the only thing that made me unhappy… the only thing that made me feel incomplete, was their opinion of my trajectory. I was perfectly loving life when I was just doing me and carving a path all my own. So that’s what I’m going to do damn it!
Although the move back has been rough at times I am so happy I relocated to Ithaca, and will have it as my home base as I continue to see the world… the whole world! Starting with… my home in the desert BURNING MAN! This summer I have been rocking through the festival season, I have been to the local and classic Grassroots Festival, which will always be a favorite music festival for me. Right in my backyard, Grassroots is homegrown with an international flavor. The music comes from everywhere but it’s still small enough to feel like a family, and as an organization they hold social justice close to the heart. A yearly tradition for me that I hope all my readers will look into enjoying some day, they also have satellite Grassroots in Miami and North Carolina! After Grassroots, I hit up the Finger Lakes Cheese Festival with my mama which pretty much explains itself and pretty much explains why it’s amazing. It was very well attended event and a super fun place to take my mom when she came for a visit.

 

Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad (Grassroots)

 

Big Mean Sound Machine! (Grassroots)

The last two festivals I hit up were both run by friends in their backyards out on beautiful pieces of land in the country. The first, Seedstock, was a sweet and family friendly bundle of local vibes! Taking place in Cortland, NY it was an awesome display of small town local bands and nationally known artist from the larger neighboring towns, mainly Ithaca. The highlight was hands down the epic silent disco in the forest behind the house. Yes, it’s just what you think… it’s a dance party… that is silent, but I’m not that into mind altering drugs, there may not have been sound but there was music. I wasn’t running around with 100 other people dancing to the voices in our heads.. Haha! Everyone has a pair of headphones with two channels and there are two DJs transmitting their sticky sweet jams to your noggin! The only thing better than seeing 100 people dancing like maniacs in a silent forest… is seeing them all dancing to different beats! It was a blast! The weekend after Seedstock I hit up, for the first of many more times to come, Gourd Fest. A tiny, invite only, free festival put on by a friend of mine who is an amazing DJ. This weekend of debauchery takes place in the mystical Adirondacks and is typically attended by 60-70 people. For those people, and now me, this is a family! It’s like a reunion of best friends and like minded people where they can let go, live free, and make up all their own rules. There is nonstop music, phenomenal food, each year is themed, and all of this is done by the group of friends attending so everyone can enjoy and participate for free. This has been going on in this otherwise quiet slice of the Adirondacks for 21 years, the kindness, openness, and pure uninhibited fun blew my mind!

Seedstock!

 

Rookies partners of the year, for making zero rookie mistakes! (Gourd Fest)

 

New Friends Forever (Gourd Fest)

 

Gourd Fest Sunday Crew!

 
Gourd Fest was the best prep for the mothership, the festival of all festivals, my home land, where my new year begins every year… Burning Man. That little festival in New York reminded me of the many reasons I adore the Burn. The inclusiveness, the freedom, creativity, genuine kindness, and of course the debauchery! Today I am on my way to spend a week getting my ass good and dusty, a week breaking things down to the raw matter, burning it all to the ground, building myself back up, and starting my new year brand new! I am so ready to remember what I love, and who I am, and and the power we all have to create! I am ready to manifest my destiny, and revel in the possibilities… Burning Man here I come!

 

So Ready to Burn Baby Burn

 

Travel Tip of The Day!

Nothing like waking up to the sunrise from the airport floor! I love to travel and fortunately enough for me I honestly don’t mind red-eye flights or layovers sleeping on airport seats. The way I can travel so cheaply has a lot to do with the dirt cheap flights I find that have the worst layovers possible. Not everyone feels the way I do, and often times for travelers, getting there is by far the hardest part. For all those that fear the airport floor, there are a few things I always bring that make my airport stay a bit more comfortable. When my layovers are short I try to bring nothing more than a small bag, but traveling around the world requires something more substantial. I typically pack one carry on, and the easiest is by far a small backpack. If you are a backpacker then your 10-20 liter daypack will work great. To make my comfy airport bed I bring an eye mask, ear plugs, a small sweater, another sweater I use as a pillow, a lite weight sarong just to cover the seat or floor, and a small blanket (mine is actually an airplane blanket I “collected” a while ago). A book and headphones are critical, and I always bring a change of clothes (thin fabric to save space) and my toothbrush so I can arrive in a new place not feeling like I’m covered in thousands of other people’s germs. One last thing I bring that I don’t think is on most people’s airport list is peppermint oil, rubbing some on your tummy helps with nausea on the plane not to mention it smells a lot better than stale airplane air! Before I head out I often check tripadvisor for the restaurant ratings in the international wing to make my decision of where to eat easier when I’m starving and my legs are wobbly from sitting for 7 hours. If you are ever in the Bogotá airport, Orleans- American Bistro is pretty tasty… but aside from Tabasco there is nothing there that reminds me of New Orleans, that said their chowder is incredible. They also play great movies (on mute), and awesome 90s music videos at a reasonable volume during the day… at night you might mistake it for an empty discoteca. I hope this helps make it a little easier on those that loath the overnight flight, if you really need to save some bucks go for that dirt cheap flight with terrible hours and make the best of it. Happy Traveling!!