I was born in Los Angeles, and moved to the east coast and back by age 13. My first travel outside North America came nearly a decade later, days after my 22nd birthday, when the travel magazine I worked for sent me on a press trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. The first night in St. Croix at serene Carambola Beach Resort, I got a bucket of ‘voodoo juice’ (it came in a bucket, really), took it down to a hammock on the beach, watched the clouds caressing the moon and thought, ‘I got myself here for work… SWEET! Happy Birthday to me!’ Never mind that I was paid peanuts and had to use vacation time for what was technically work, but what awesome work it was. I felt so alive being in discovery mode, observation mode, relishing all the firsts.
The following year, I made a relatively easy and thoroughly engaging trip to Costa Rica with two girlfriends. In my estimation, our trio attracted the best people, made the best memories and had the most fun, which I took as a lesson that I have that potential within me, and carry it with me everywhere I go. Potential is an empowering tool to walk around with. Travel has yielded many more revelations, and over time has gradually ignited a deep curiosity and passion for the world at large. I want to use my writing to promote awareness of other cultures, in the hopes that increased understanding will lead to more peace.
I’ve visited at least one new country every year since 2006, and hope to continue that for as long as possible. My travels became a bit more challenging, from taking on Amazon insects to ignoring U.S. government travel warnings to attend Festival au Desert outside Timbuktu, Mali in 2010, two years before that country unfortunately descended into a military coup and Islamist violence. As the once-annual, now ‘Festival in Exile’ struggles to recoup amid lingering security concerns, I’m all the more glad I witnessed it when I did. It represents many attributes that I treasure – cultural diversity, tolerance, celebration and unity through music. I had an incredible experience there and felt perfectly safe within the communities I visited – an important lesson in educating myself beyond the mainstream media. I researched Mali extensively before traveling there, but of course the best education came on the ground.
Music and food have frequently lured me to explore new places and cultures, including the ethnic enclaves of Los Angeles, and have served as complementary passions that travel informs, underlies and intermingles with. Within this blog, some miscellaneous entries may fall under Travel as a ‘catch-all’ category, since to me travel is not just seeing new surroundings, but seeing my surroundings with new eyes. It is making an effort to be present in the moment and open to observations that have the power to surprise and educate me. It also means finding beauty to appreciate, whether the sun sparkling in a pavement puddle; a unique, ephemeral cloud formation; or a heartfelt, gesturing conversation with limited common language that still somehow reinforces our common humanity.
Each of these examples of beauty that came to mind is quite temporary. That is another great lesson that travel has provided me – appreciating the moment, since now is truly all we have.