Colors of C U B A

As one of the most unique countries I’ve ever visited, catching a glimpse of Cuba was a special opportunity as an American. Traveling legally under a ‘People to People license’, my coworkers-turned-travel sisters had the chance to explore a country that truly feels like you are traveling back in time. You won’t see a Mc. Donalds or a Starbucks in sight- it’s a rare beauty! Cuba’s culture is alive and evident in the architecture, food, and undeniable rhythm of the country.

Trinidad, Cuba
Pastel streets make up beautiful Trinidad
Plaza Mayor, Trinidad. The best outdoor salsa in the evenings, just above those steps to the right!
Plaza Mayor, Trinidad. The best outdoor salsa in the evenings, just above those steps to the right!
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Havana, Cuba
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Traditional Cuban ‘ropas viejas’ (literal translation of “old clothes”) dish of shredded beef and veggies
Strong Cuban coffee is delicious for coffee  addicts like myself
Strong Cuban coffee is delicious for coffee addicts like myself
Mi chica loves her Che
Samara loves the history that makes Cuba so unique. Mi chica loves her Che!
Streets of Havana
Streets of Havana
Inside a local rationing shop where Cubans can collect their monthly goods distributed by the government.
Inside a local rationing shop where Cubans can collect their monthly goods distributed by the government.
The colonial city of Trinidad
My favorite view of the colonial city of Trinidad.
The taxi driver was surprisingly amused with us too
The taxi driver was surprisingly amused with us too
Samara and I after exploring the local markets in Trinidad
Samara and I after exploring the local markets in Trinidad
Got a killer deal for that hand-made leather bag from a local craftsman for less than $30!
Got a killer deal for that hand-made leather bag from a local craftsman for less than $30!
A collection of coins from an antique market in Old Havana
A collection of coins from an antique market in Old Havana
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We loved the pops of color all over the country
Learning Afro-Cuban dances after watching a fun performance
Learning Afro-Cuban dances after watching a fun performance
Taneika's joy is contagious!!
Taneika’s joy is contagious!!
The streets of Old Havana
The streets of Old Havana

Exploring beauty

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“We do not want merely to see beauty . . . We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.” -C.S. Lewis

DSC_009010001559_10203362679212800_666656904_nPhotos from my spring break adventures: staying at La Misión Orphanage in Mexico and road tripping to explore, camp, and climb Zion’s National Park- absolutely one of the most awe-evoking places I’ve been so far.

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Into the Wild

“In wilderness is the preservation of the world” -Thoreau

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I’ve been craving nature. Give me straight up, raw beauty untouched by man.

Nature has this ability to captivate and calm my soul all at once. There’s an unmatched peacefulness that comes with exploring and feeling the crisp air brushing through your hair. If you need to clear your head, grab your hiking boots and go off into the wild.

Impulsive dreaming

“It’s ok to be sleepless and restless.Late nights and early mornings are worth it.It’s ok to let a dream consume you.To breathe it, eat it, drink it, make love to it, let it seep in, permeate through your pores, pulse through your veins, rise the hair up on your skin, bounce from cell to cell and let it radiate from the very core of you.I feel we have to dream a dream that way, otherwise it’ll only be just a dream.”-Satori

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My impulsiveness loves that life is always the biggest adventure if we want it to be.

Boston Strong

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My mom always told me I’d love Boston. The idea of me attending graduate school at Harvard and meeting some gorgeous guy studying Political Science or something probably gives her hope that I won’t run off to some South American country and elope.

I’d have to admit that my mom is right about a lot of things, I did love my visit to Boston. Not only do I love the anticipation and thrill of exploring a city for the first time, but I had a mini reunion with some friends I met when I was living in Perugia, Italy!

It felt refreshing to be in a city that actually embraces Fall (seasons don’t exist in L.A.) and Boston has this undeniable tenacity, integrity, and pride that I appreciate and love (not to mention the U.S. was founded in the heart of the city).  But between the rides on the T from one part of town to another, passing by the impressive amount of Dunkin Donut shops and quoting Good Will Hunting at any given moment,  it dawned on me that the North End didn’t seem to spark like North Beach, and I couldn’t help but think of San Francisco…

*Bostonians refer to the train in Boston as the “T”

*North End: little Italy in Boston

*North Beach: little Italy in San Francisco

Memories of Morocco

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I could only hear bits and pieces of the conglomerate of noises that surrounded me on both sides. We slowly walked down tiny, jagged alleys as men draped in long battered cloths loudly called out to us in broken English. “I give you good prices”, one said. I stopped feverishly—I was curious to feel the handmade leather of the bags displayed. Each leather bag felt tired, worked for hours, designed purposely with a contrast of color from the hand woven carpet. My eyes marveled through the amount of treasures I saw within each burrow that belonged to the individual merchants. Pops of burnt orange of the walls and the vibrant colors of every market caught my eyes. I could smell spices and a steam cloud from the woman frying dough down the street filled the air. The streets were busy with swarms of people—it was like we were caught within a hectic maze as locals zoomed by us on rustic motorcycles, and as the stray cats followed our every move. Small coves of hanging lanterns led me inside. There, I saw a hamsa pendant dangling on the walls. I had seen this symbol before in other cities and countries. It was a comforting reminder of the journeys these past few months between a foreign land. It spoke to me-as a sign that I was that I was safe. Even thousands of miles away from what I was familiar of, I felt at ease knowing I was protected wherever my feet took me.

I don’t know if it was the rawness within each corner of the bustling city, or the meticulous detail shown through the impeccable architecture, or the smile from the local old man as I kindly asked to take his photograph, but I was smitten by the chaos of Marrakech. Morocco had stolen my full attention—and it still often lingers in my mind.

What San Francisco taught me

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The Golden Gate at dusk

To those who are fortunate enough to experience San Francisco, it’s easy to catch the city’s infectious energy. This city is proudly photogenic and individualistic. Creativity is found everywhere–from the people  entertaining you on your bus rides across town, to the genius concoctions in novelty restaurants and cafés lining Victorian pastel painted houses.

This city is fully alive.

View of the city from USF campus
Divisadero street art

San Francisco taught me that life can be anything you want it to be. Whoever you want to love–love them fiercely. Whatever enthralls you to your bones–push your own limits and create a new project for yourself. I truly believe everyone is creative, they just don’t know it.

Experiment with your senses. As an international city, every type of food you can imagine is probably right around the corner. There is always something to do and see. I’ll admit that I get bored doing the same thing for too long, so I love the opportunities the city always offers (my favorite was the celebration of India at the Festival of Chariots in Golden Gate park).

Go fall in love with San Francisco!

My heart aches to live with intention

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Morocco Feb 2012/ Photo credit: Stephen Doyle

The most powerful thing travel taught me was how to live.

The memories you create, the people you meet, the things you see.

It changes you. Inspires you.

For the past few months, I’ve felt like a storyteller. Now, I want to take serious action to serve others.

Action on a global, tangible scale.

While researching humanitarian organizations to collaborate with, I came across charity: water. Their mission is simple yet groundbreaking: bring clean water to those who desperately need it. We take water for granted, but it’s the most basic, deserving daily need. The integrity and authentic enthusiasm of this nonprofit is what caught my eye. Immediately, I thought to myself: wow… I want to work with people like this. People that share the same passion to serve others, because we understand that taking action and giving love brings life meaning. This is what life is about. To be blunt, my goal is to work with a passionate, creative group of people who actively seek living life with intention and courage.

I want to share this because this is what’s on my heart and I know the world isn’t so big after all. Life is sometimes a series of actions, and I choose to make my dreams happen.

“I learned from a very young age that if I pursued the things that truly excited me, that they would reward in more important ways, like happiness.”

What adventure do you choose?

 

Doors leading to Europe

Venezia, Italia
Venezia, Italia
Marrakech, Morocco
(Africa) Marrakech, Morocco
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Stockholm, Sweden
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, Czech Republic
Paris, France
Paris, France
Cortona, Italia
Cortona, Italia
Futog, Serbia
Futog, Serbia
Venezia, Italia
Venezia, Italia
Córdoba, España,
Córdoba, España
Roma, Italia
Roma, Italia
Morocco [Sammi]
(Africa) Marrakech, Morocco [Sammi]
Espana
Ronda, España
Rastina, Serbia
Rastina, Serbia
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Budapest, Hungary
Capri, Italia
Capri, Italia
Sevilla, Espana
Sevilla, Espana [with Tamara]
Futog, Serbia
Futog, Serbia
Perugia, Italia
Perugia, Italia

A door can symbolize openness–an opportunity and freedom to explore for those curious enough.

I was fixated on distinguishing the variations of doors while I was traveling. There was just something about admiring them that spoke to me about what it means to discover a culture. Was the door open? Who was leaving and where were they off to? What color stood out the most? How tarnished did it appear?

I was smitten by discovering the stories behind these doors.

Months before I left for Europe, I was anxiously applying for scholarships to study abroad and was reminded of this quote: “when one door closes, another one opens”. This rang true when I did not receive the travel scholarship I so desperately wanted. Fortunately, I had the incredible opportunity and honor to become a global ambassador. I wanted to inspire students just like myself to travel with me, even if was just through a computer screen. If I could leave you with any advice, hear this: stop making excuses–do yourself a favor and just buy the ticket already. It doesn’t have to be just a dream.

More about me as a Abroad 101 Global Ambassador here .

P.S. Do you gravitate towards something in particular too when you travel?