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!
IMG_2308
Havana, Cuba
IMG_2409
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
IMG_2493
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

Finding freedom

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hands of manIMG_3033IMG_3039IMG_3000

After moving to Panamá City a little less than two months ago for a new job as a Travel Specialist for a non-profit, the thrill of adventure can turn into frustration from the chaos of living in the hustle of the city and sitting at a desk for 40 hours a week. Buenos días, reality and culture shock. Adjusting to my first “real” big girl, full-time job, embracing Latin American culture, fumbling to learn Spanish, countries away from my loved ones is not always peaches n’cream. At times, I remind myself that I chose this challenge and I learn to choose joy on a daily basis to feel like myself. So much easier said than done, but it’s a learning process and mental exercise that usually is facilitated faster with intentional love and coffee first. This past weekend was such a treat picking up my boyfriend Sean from the airport, celebrating 23 years of life, and spending the weekend tucked up in the mountains of El Valle. We enjoyed the simplicity of just being together and even got to explore a new part of Panamá with what our backpacks could hold. And I’m glad to say the bottle of an Argentine Malbec made it safely through the 2 hour bus ride (with continuous reggaeton playing) to the mountains to celebrate only missing the bus stop once on our journeyInspired by my birthday weekend, discovering Parque Natural Metropolitano, just 15 minutes outside the city was glorious! I felt like Jane of the jungle running through the wilderness, regaining my sense of freedom and curiosity of where I am. Like love, life is so wild–often messy, but beautiful. I’m trying to be present in the little moments.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to feel more alive.

Defining beauty

India1

Passing through a village outside of Kolkata, I quickly snapped this woman’s photo since I had fallen behind the rest of the group. I heard a “hey!” in broken English right after I passed her. I walked back to her, thinking she’d be upset I took her photo without asking.
I told her, “You look so beautiful. Can I take your photo?”
She instantly smiled then started posing for me, which is not common in this culture.

The few moments with her made me realize how she maybe hadn’t been recognized or noticed in the longest time.

What a beauty!

I N D I A

IMG_1442IMG_1164IMG_1168IMG_1170IMG_1310 IMG_1376IMG_1720IMG_1235IMG_1687

India hit me like a two week-long, continuous hot yoga class–mentally and physically exhausting, yet rewarding and strangely empowering in ways I didn’t expect.

I was flooded with feelings of awe in the vibrant colors of the details and the natural essence of a simple, yet full life in the jungle. I’m anxious to share memories and stories that stood out based on the relationships created and the moments that made this experience so precious. Amongst the exhaustion from the humidity and travel challenges of health and discomfort, there is something so beautiful and fulfilling in acting out kindness.

Life without borders

1959795_10104597322241254_1641446197_n-1

In two weeks, I leave for an anticipated challenging adventure to India. My heart has been anxiously pursing something to stay passionate about, and that kept me close to my wanderlust and love for people.

As I join a group of diverse people from different ages and backgrounds, we share a common mission in putting love into action. Love is powerful and poverty is something foreign to most of us living in a place where we can access clean water and a toilet when we want. India has been on my heart for years and I am trying to prepare my heart with little expectations.

This short, two week (yet rewarding) opportunity allows me to grow in my faith in humanity, learn from a different culture than my own, while being open to what India can teach me about life. I don’t pretend I know what it is like to live in poverty, but I am grateful for the opportunity to connect with new friends in India. My hope is to be fully engaged and revealing kindness in action, without hesitation or fear. I don’t think you need to fly across the world in order to practice this, but I believe God is creative and values our willingness to explore His world.

Preparing for this adventure takes patience and consistent reflection. However, I have come to realize that we can only prepare ourselves so much for adventures; part of the experience is learning how to respond when challenges arise, and how to trust that things will turn out just as they should.

What would your life look like without borders?

Exploring beauty

DSC_0046

“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.

DSC_0522

Up on the rooftop

DSC_0960DSC_1056DSC_1218DSC_0810DSC_1167DSC_0882DSC_0283DSC_0250DSC_0821DSC_0140DSC_0709DSC_0328DSC_0510

Can we talk about how gorgeous my friends are for a hot minute?

They’re my undercover models.

I’ve grown up with these gals and we’ve seen each other at our worst and at our best. No matter what happens or where life takes us, we still hold on to each other. And we’re always, always laughing.

P.S. after getting into trouble for our shanahanigans on the rooftop, our next move included splitting a pitcher of margaritas and tacos for happy hour and planning our next adventure.

Into the Wild

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

DSC_1384DSC_1227DSC_1326

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

148770_10151214937052694_1142000070_n

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