Friday, April 29, 2016

Solitude: The Girl On Fire

Ah, how refreshing it is to be back in the city with a whole new perspective on life. A couple weeks back I returned from my first solo trip and boy was it a mental and physical journey. Both challenging and exciting and new. I took solo travel to heart and did everything on my own. Some people solo travel and stay at a hotel, or under a safe roof but I wanted to rough it up cause that's just how I go on in life. If I do something, I go bold. So here is my story. Here is my current take on solo traveling, how I survived it, or how I am recuperating from it.

I got home from work Friday night, finished packing up my belongings and took a nap because I was going to hit the road at 1am for a 4-5 hr drive ahead of me from Los Angeles to Valley of Fire in Nevada. I got woken up by a text from a stranger which is a whole interesting story in itself and It was only 9pm. So, I decided to change my planned schedule to leave at 11:30pm instead. And off I went. Driving through the night with ETA of 4am. But around 2:30am I started to crash and some brilliant being thought of the idea of a "rest stop" app across the USA which was my savior to finding the next rest stop to take a nap before I dozed off. So I slept at this rest stop for an hour, got back on the road and my body still needed more sleep, so I slept at another stop for an hour and it screwed up with my whole schedule. I arrived to Valley of Fire State Park at 7:30am instead of 6am. All the campgrounds were full because they are first come first serve. No reservations. The planner in me was pissed. I had all this gear I packed up with no campground to sleep at. But I couldn't let anything upset me from the beauty around me, so I powered through and said "Vanessa, start exploring in the meantime, everything will work out." So I did. It would be an understatement to say this place was beautiful. It was this burst of colors, of surprises. I would be driving through the curvy road and bam! A new completely different scenic route would appear. One moment I'm surrounded by fire red rocks and the next is a painted landscape of so many colors you can't keep count. It's these images that stick with your head forever. No camera can capture the magnificence of nature. We can try, but always remember to take a deep breath and let it soak into your mind. A mental photograph to keep till you grow old. 
I was the only one on the road. This single road that lead to the beyond. That lead to so many choices. So the sun had just risen and I was already exploring the park. From the White Domes, to the Rainbow Vista. It all kept me busy and distracted with the possibility that I might not have anywhere to sleep at night. 9am rolled around and the visitor center was open. And their advice was to drive around the campground throughout the day and hope a spot opens up because everything was already full. I rushed over to the secluded Arch Rock Campground and drove through and to my luck, I found a spot! Surrounded by rocks with little caves to crawl into. I was so relieved and excited to set up on my own, I was surrounded by RV's and families. And I set up my small one person tent and my belongings. It was still bright and early and I had the whole day ahead of me. I had driven from CA to NV, hiked 2 trails, set up my camping spot and it was only 10am. So I lounged for a bit. Climbed the rocks, played Sigur Ros and closed my eyes and let the sun comfort me with it's warmth. I was in a blissful state. I was alone and I was ok with that and that already was a big accomplishment for me. I watched the children climb past me, I watched people set up their intricate campgrounds and I sat alone as I devoured my blueberries. But then I was off on the road again, to go discover every part of the park. I experienced it all on my own, with the full freedom to do it at my own pace. The day went on, the sun got hotter and I got more confident. I hiked 4 trails, saw the Fire Wave, The Elephant Rock, the Vistas, the Domes etc. I saw it all. I was pooped and went back to my campground. It was only 4pm and I had pretty much done it all. I passed out in the desert heat dripping in sweat. I had dealt with the up and downs of my journey but I was too blissful to let it carry me down into negativity. 
When you travel alone you make your own decisions, you plan everything alone. If a mistake is made, you are the only one to blame. I foolishly left my food in the tent and it was warm and had gone bad by the time I had gotten back, I had cookies and water left. I laid in the heat as I smelled my neighbors Barbecues filling the air. And at this moment I knew I had made a mistake. Tired from over exhausting myself from the days shenanigans and no fuel to feed myself with. But I couldn't let this one hiccup ruin the peace I had developed throughout the day. I woke up Sunday morning exhausted from too much sleep and the sun was about to come out. So I grabbed my camera gear and climbed to the top of the tallest rocks to watch the sunset. The sun slowly came out as it shined over the land. And I was one of 2 people awake in the whole campground. There is this feeling that comes over at moments like this. It's not happiness, it's not sadness, it's not peace, its joy. It's feeling that just makes you grateful for where you are, its not a fading emotion, it stays there because whether things are bad or good, you remain joyous. You remain optimistic, you remain calm. I laid there at the top of the rocks and came to a conclusion of what this trip meant to me. I had become so consumed with the need of having company, of never doing anything alone that I had forgotten what it was like to be alone. I was scared of being in solitude. And this was a giant step for me to clear my slate, deal with unresolved issues, come to realizations in nature, on my own. Not escaping to nature with friends as a distraction. This was a journey within myself. A much needed push into a life I will begin to lead now. A life that doesn't rely on co-dependency. A life that is lead by a woman strong enough to do things on her own. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I was meant to do something grand, I have always been a dreamer. And I would fantasize about my days as an adult, achieving my dreams, changing the world, changing the norm all through my art. But I lost that spirit and passion for the art along the way. As I grew older it began to be more about making money and having responsibilities rather than the art. It became more about using my down time to indulge in romantic relationships when I could have been brewing my creations. I lost myself and I needed to find myself again. This trip did it. I needed to find that child again. That little Vanessa who was so confident and faithful that she was meant for great things. And the older Vanessa grew on the dependency that another human being could make me great. No one can make you great, you were meant to be great on your own.
Solo travel is my new found love. I feel like the more solo trips I embark on, the more I will discover. Being alone with your thoughts is helpful. Or at least it was for me. Living in the city, in all the chaos, being on the run at work getting questions from multiple people etc your mind begins to just jumble up in one big mess. I'm constantly over-stimulated with people and thoughts and energies and being an extrovert, I absorb all that whether I want to or not. But one thing I will leave you with, one thing that stuck with my most on this trip was that I was ok. I was alone and I was ok. You can find happiness in solitude. Peace. You don't need anything or anyone to make you feel whole. I know that's a constant thought in everyone's head and we more often than not get consumed with that "need" It's not healthy, but we don't realize the damage we are doing to ourselves with those wants. Get your head clear, get out there, escape, become whole again on your own. I promise, you will feel a million times more rich than anything or anyone will ever make you feel. I don't think I would be at this point of acceptance, at this level of happiness if it wasn't for this trip. I came to discover a lot in myself and about myself. I thank the women who inspired me to embark on this adventure, because I got a lot more from it than I had anticipated and I wouldn't take it back. I am grateful for it all. Grateful for the women who gave me strength, for the independent strong woman in me that finally woke up and got her shit together to go into a new chapter. It was all worth it. The sweat, the heat, the mental and physical challenges. I am a new woman now. Ready to take on the world! I urge you to do the same! 


Friday, March 18, 2016

Solo Travel

I'm sure you have someone in your group of friends who has solo traveled. Somewhere on your news feed there is an individual sharing that they've just purchased their first solo trip. And a part of you wants it and is simultaneously scared for them. For the past 2 years I have been attempting to do something solo, but I always get an interested soul to join me. This is a tough task for me, I am a very extroverted person and I prefer company wherever I go. I admire the people who do things on their own, go to the bar alone, go to dinner alone etc. I have yet to try those. So this constant urge to do something solo is scratching at the surfaces right now. The need to do something solo is becoming a necessity for me now and I am about to embark on my first solo trip. 

Last night I went to an event and was chatting with a friend of a friend. He had just gotten back from a trip. He traveled to Indonesia, Thailand and he was excitedly showing us the woman he had met and fallen for while on this travel. Weeks ago, I saw a post of a friend getting ready for her first solo trip, days prior to that I read a post of a girl who decided to take a solo trip to a national park. I hear all these stories around me and they excite me, they inspire me. It's something I've been wanting to do for a while after experiencing a move on my own. I moved to Portland and knew no one in the city. I had this young mentality that I was going to a whole new place and I could be a whole new person. Before leaving my parents home, I was a quiet girl. Shy, couldn't look at people in the eye.,Awkwardly conversed at social events. I hadn't been thrust into the real world yet and this was my chance. I could shake that shy girl out of me and learn to interact with the human world. Portland took me under it's wing and after a week of living there I had already made friends through the amazement of how small this world really is and how we are all connected in some way. So that silent girl now became a blossoming social butterfly, it just took a little longer for her to get out of her shell. But since that transition, I've been codependent on doing anything in my life with someone. Go to dinner? Invite someone to join me. Get a tattoo? Tell 3 of my friends to come with me. Go on a road trip? CONTACT EVERYONE I KNOW. It's been a jump of one extreme to another and now I need to find a balance between the two. So I decided, while my traveling buddy is on her trip with her family, I will embark on a solo trip of my own. I'm getting in my car and traveling 7 hours to Valley Of Fire in Nevada. And to be honest, I couldn't be more excited. 

The thing about solo traveling is complete freedom. I may be overly romanticizing the idea of solo travel but I've heard nothing but great things about it. I will be doing it full on solo. I have my own backpacking tent, sleeping back, backpack, car and I'll be doing it all alone. There's something that gets me all excited about doing things by myself. It's empowering. I grew up with a father who wouldn't let me help put up the christmas lights, wouldn't let me set up the tent when we would camp, wouldn't let my mother drive down windy mountain roads. So now I have this freedom and power to do it all on my own and not let anyone tell me I can't or shouldn't. Please take note when traveling, to be careful. Especially if you are a woman. We all have to be cautious and smart but also don't live in fear. Fear is not a factor in this, I am filled with so much excitement. I have my backpacking tent, I just bought some camera accessories and got a new pair of hiking boots. I am as set as one could be. I'm looking forward to stopping on the road without making sure everyone is ok with it. I'm looking forward to pushing my own limits and no one elses. When you travel and do active things, you have to worry about where to draw the line with others, can they handle this hike? etc. If I overdo it, it's just me I have to worry about. If I want to hike 3 trails in one day, I do it. Solo travel is this ultimate freedom of everything, you find your limits, you find yourself. And for me it will be this self discovery and challenge if I can be ok with doing things myself. I have to be ok with doing things myself and this will be a test. I have nothing but positive thoughts for this trip. We all must do things like this. It's sort of a right of passage to discovering oneself. I am 26 years old and I feel like the older I get I still find new things out about myself. Every year is a journey and I'm a new person by the new year. And there's so much I need and want to discover about Vanessa, her roots, her core, her purpose, her truth. 


Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Unexpected Roadtrip

Living this lifestyle means you have to be able to let loose, to care yet not care. To not mind a life that may not always work. Going non stop at 100mph. This past weekend was no exception for my best friend and I. We both agreed to go on dates knowing we needed to wake up early the next morning for another trip of ours. And as we were on opposite ends of the city meeting boys, we still texted each other with one thing in mind, our trip the next morning. "When should we meet?" texts were sent as we had these boys waiting for us. But when that man is ok with that lifestyle, it's that much more freeing to cling to the feeling that you'll be off on another adventure and you're not gonna let anything stop you from exploring. Luckily, I was with a man who wanted to talk about camping, who wanted to find people to go on trips like that with, who didn't mind chatting about our travels and getting excited together of our future trips of traveling the world. As I plan for my international trip to Iceland, he plans his to London, Amsterdam and Barcelona this year and our travels were the only thing on our minds and it was a mutual excitement. 

So due to our unexpected nights before, my friend and I hit the road slightly unprepared. Me more than her. Our destination was Deep Creek Hot Springs, an off the grid destination about 2hrs from Los Angeles. It got chilly and all I had was a dress and hiking boots on. I had no jacket, no towel, no water. We stopped at a walmart, I purchased some necessary attire and off we went. We drove through a rough dirt road for about 40min to get to the entrance of the hot springs. And we were hit with a cash fee of $5. We had no cash. There was no other option and we had to turn around and get on that road again to get cash, but by the time we hit civilization, it was far too late to drive back and get to the hot springs on time. So we sat there, parked, thinking of what other alternative we could do. It was already 2pm and we weren't in a very exciting town. So we spontaneously decided to take the back route to Angeles Crest and we were gifted with an amazing experience. We arrived in Wrightwood just in time. The clouds were rapidly coming onto the mountains, it had just rained and there was snow topped on the mountains. We drove up the mountain to a view point and ran out with excitement at the view. It was especially chilly and we got too excited and jumped over the wooden fence down the steep mountain and ran. We immediately got out of breathe because of the elevation but we got to see this magical view. It was worth losing my breathe. 

As my friend was taking a time lapse video, I sat on a tall rock overlooking the mountains and closed my eyes, the air was so cold and the clouds were moving through me and there was a mother with her 3 children next to me and I just felt good. I just felt at peace. I felt like I was where I needed to be. This is what I mean when I go into nature, all your worries are gone for a second. You feel good, you get this rush through your soul and body and you just bask in all the glory the world has to offer. I remember. Someone once told me that when you get Deja Vu, which happens to me a lot, it means you are exactly where you are supposed to be. And I felt that way when I sat on the top of the mountain and overlooked the forest and I didn't want to be anywhere else. Our trip had to come to an end and we decided to take the scenic route back home through Angeles Crest Highway and that was a bad mistake. The fog had already rolled in and the mountains were covered in a thick fog where you could only see 2 feet ahead of you. It was both beautiful but also frightening driving through the mountain windy roads. But we hit a closed road. So we ended up having to drive back and take the regular freeway back to LA. From the beginning of the trip to the end of the trip, we were being pushed away from a fee, to a closed road etc. But we laughed, we talked about life, and boys, and sex and passed the time with each others company. Yes, we hit literal road blocks, but it made the trip and story that much more unforgettable. 

That is what traveling is all about. it's traveling 101, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. You have to be able to let loose and be spontaneous. Sometimes flights will get canceled, sometimes cars will break down, sometimes you need to make a last minute change and you have to be ok with that. That's the life of a free traveler. You make the best of the situation. And we did, and it made a great adventure. We drove back to LA to meet with a friend and we were so exhausted from the day that we had gotten into that hyper tired stage. We were in bliss. And I live for this, we both do. We've found something not many people are lucky enough to find. We found a partner in travel that doesn't make us sick. That is what we warn every new traveler we speak to, find someone that you can tolerate on a roadtrip, find someone you don't get annoyed with too quickly cause once you do, you've met your match. If you can go through a long roadtrip together you can pretty much do anything. So cheers to the unexpected, cheers to the spontaneity that the universe throws you and here's to best friends who got your back no matter what. 


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Being Single & Discovering The World

I've been watching a lot of stuff lately that has messages being thrown at me. Yes, I am one of those who over analyzes everything. One of those who believes in the signs. And I keep coming across these little scenes in shows, in movies, in life telling me it's ok. It's ok to be how you are, but give yourself the opportunity for growth and learn through your experiences. I am single, what some may jokingly call a "perpetually single" girl. Sometimes I'm ok with it and other times I'm not. But what gets me through all of it are the travels. And I say that over and over again but take it from someone who is an avid traveler now, I go on 3 trips a month and it is the perfect way to find oneself, to heal, and forget. 

I've dated many guys. But nothing of significance came out of any of them. I had rich experiences, stimulating conversations, great sex but I always felt empty. I always found a reason out. Because I was afraid to get hurt. When you've gone through the amount of suffering I have gone through, you lose hope of anything becoming good for you. You just try to get through life hoping nothing else will go wrong again, and try to keep a smile on your face as long as you can. To anyone who knows me, I am a ball of sunshine. I am the friend you invite who is sure to show everyone a good time, that kind, easy going girl who speaks to everyone and makes everyone feel at home. It is a good and bad quality to have. It can be exhausting but rewarding. But having this quality gets taken advantage of and it often happens with the men I date. But I tough it out, I get through it, get over it and travel and go through it again. I have many girlfriends who deal with dating drama, and I always seem to be the go to girl for the inspiration push that will give you the confidence to own the single life. To be ok with just yourself. And don't get me wrong, it is hard for me too, I am a flawed human being too. But I have found the answer to acceptance and happiness. And I really want other women to be ok with themselves, I hate this ideal life that society has fed us to want. And I've gotten caught up in it. But I've found my way back. 

I dated a guy beginning of last year. It was back and forth with him. He wanted the girlfriend experience without the girlfriend. He would say very intimate things to me but ended it the first time by saying he couldn't be in a relationship. Then changed his mind. But then changed it again. I was the easy going nice girl going along with his indecisiveness. But I fell for the charm, for the drive, for the passion he had in life. We spoke for weeks before seeing each other. We had the same vision in life. Then we faded away into nothing. The man who told me he couldn't be in a relationship moved on to another woman. Living a life that we spoke about having. Going on trips together, collaborating our creative minds to create work. He forgot about me and built this with another woman. I started to question was I enough? What was wrong with just me? I started to question myself for the first time. I always thought I was enough. I was happy with myself before and now I wasn't. So what did I do? I traveled. I traveled like a mad woman. I escaped, and I was in this in between stage of happiness and heartbreak. And little by little it was less heartbreak and more happiness. I drove with music rising my spirit to the light, I went to the desert, I saw the meteor shower. I found an inspiring world around me. And just when I had finished healing another man broke me. He decided to try to get with another woman at the birthday party I held in my home that I had invited him to. I took a step towards something more with him, thinking this could ease me into giving him a little more of a chance than just a casual fling. And I got my answer. He wasn't. I couldn't trust a man who would do that, especially being a person who watched her father cheat on her mother for 25 years. I can be ok with a lot of things, but that ripped me apart. I was in a place that my father had put my mother through. I was put into a position I promised I would never let happen. And this man did it with no thought or respect towards me. So I had to let go. And it was perfect timing, because I had to get on a plane to go to India. I went to India with a bleeding heart and the trip healed me. I found some of the answers I needed. And again, my travels lifted me up from the ground filled with my tears and let me breathe the fresh air again and saw another chance for a fresh start. 

I have been traveling for years now. Camping, getting on planes, off roading in South America, driving through the night to an unplanned trip. I've almost done it all, I'm building my travel list to more adventures. But I can say now that it truly helps. It helps you be confident in yourself, it helps you remember that there are bigger things in life, it pushes you physically and mentally. If you are in search for healing, traveling is the answer. Whether you are seeking to heal because of a loss, a break up, any sort of bad juju that brings your heart down, this is the answer. Do it with friends, do it solo, do it anyway you want, but you gotta get out there and see what Mother Earth has to offer you. Being single, getting taken advantage of is just one thing I have had to deal with that traveling has helped me out with. I have had to experience death, I have had to experience losing my home, dropping out of school, watching my father remarry 3 times. I have gone through it all. I am an expert at the unexpected challenges that life has to bring but I am also an expert at healing through it all with travel and coming out stronger from it. Around this time of year, I start to get my anxiety attacks. It's always around the passing of my nephew's anniversary. And this year is no different. It's a struggle a lot of people deal with that is still very new to me. My stomach burns, I feel nauseous, no comforting words help, with anxiety you just have to tough it out. You just gotta try to pull through. I have my methods of calming down but when I go on a trip it goes away. I am distracted with the happiness it brings me. Sometimes I will stare at a mirror of my reflection for hours, and shed tears till my face is swollen and red. But I'll tell myself. "Vanessa, you are beautiful, you are great. You are strong, you'll pull through this. You can do it. Things will get better. Things have gotten better. You have so much going for you." And I chase my dreams. I chase my dreams on the road, oversees, on a plane, in the wilderness, under a waterfall, on a walk in nature, in the rain. I feel alive and well. 

Traveling may seem like a thing everyone is doing now. It's all over your news feed. Someone doing their first solo travel, or another going to The Grand Canyon on a whim. But we all do this for a reason. We all do it for something more. The experience is just as good, but it's accompanied with the promise of a soul enriching experience, with the fulfillment that you will find yourself, that you will be happy from the struggles life brings us sometimes. I get that it can be annoying seeing other people travel so much, but look at it from the perspective that this is necessary for our souls. Because we've gone through so much and this is the only thing in life that give us hope and promise to be happy. Or at least for me. But I've seen other women do it for the very same reason as me. We find ourselves and there is a whole large group of women who can relate to this. Your boyfriend just cheated on you? She's off on a solo trip to Europe. You broke up with a guy who moved on quickly? Road trip to the unknown. You lost a brother, a sister, a mother, a father? Fly off to Thailand. You don't know what you are doing with your life and you feel stuck? Run away to the forest and be one with nature. These trials are necessary, these adventures are necessary. John Muir knew it, Kerourac knew it, Thoreau knew it. And now a whole generation of women grieving or searching know it. Discover and heal in this world with me. You will feel like life has so much to offer you. Join me on my adventures. Come and share the world with me. I love you all. Safe Travels, Nessa.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Watts: Traveling in History

Whether the journey is a couple miles away or thousands of miles away, it's still a journey. You travel through time, through community, through history. A couple weeks back I had an unforgettable experience in my own city. I traveled to a lil community in LA called Watts, right next to Compton. My two friends and I went to see the Watts towers there. I suggested it without knowing what kind of day it would turn out to be. I had not anticipated the influence, the power, the message that I would feel that day. Ever since I was a little girl, I've always been very sensitive to emotions and peoples energies. Which I later found out in life that I have a "light" in my soul. Meaning I often tend to easily absorb people's emotions, energies around me. It's an emotionally tiring quality about me but it's made me stronger, but also open minded about people's sufferings, sympathetic on people's views, beliefs etc. And I think that is why Watts was a cherry on top of a current topic that has been swirling in my daily life for the past couple of years.

Watts has a lot of history. A very diverse community. Historically known for the Watts Riots in the 60s. But now it's a melting pot of a community, growing and evolving. The Watts Towers is an art installation made by Simon Rodia an Italian immigrant with a fascinating story. Placed in the heart of a neighborhood with a cute park & active families surrounding the towers. We arrived too early for the tour on the Sunday morning, so we drove to Walmart to buy some bubbles and soccer balls to pass the time. When we came back, we purchased our tickets from two charming employees who work the towers and viewed the museum that I had no idea was there. A powerful gallery showcasing the Watts Community, Black Lives Matter and other topics revolving the community and race issues still happening today. Issues that we face everyday. We walked through the museum in silence, the only sounds was coming from a little toddler boy with his mother. I was so touched. This white mother had taken her boy out on an adventure, but an educating one, and we listened to her answer his innocent questions on the bad guys and good guys and why? And the mother so eloquently translated it in an easy and child friendly way but educated her son. And I just thought that this is going to be the next generation. Kids who are being taught an open mind, an accepting soul, a soft heart. And it gave me hope.

We traveled through time and toured the towers with a charismatic tour guide. And the tour was over. But we weren't done for the day. We got our soccer balls, took off our shoes and started to play in the park. These 3 black boys approached us. We saw them across the street earlier making a ruckus and having fun. They asked us if they could play with us. So we gladly invited them into our game and played for hours! I was sweating, they were teasing, winning, we were laughing. I felt so good. They came over to play with us just in time, a fight broke out at the house they were playing at before and we distracted them with good spirits and simple fun. They beat us and we gave them our bubbles as trophies. They were 5, 9 and 11 years old. The most energetic and cutest kids. We left with the biggest smiles on our faces. We were in pure ecstasy. We looked up at powerful art, folk art, history, community and then were part of a community for a little bit with these kids. I left my heart in Watts that day. Something touched my heart there. Everything about it.
I went on this little adventure with my two best friends. One white girl and one black girl. I mention race because that was the central topic at the museum. And I see perspectives of all sides everyday with the diverse group of friends I have. We are the racially diverse Charlie's Angels. A latina girl, a white girl and a black girl. I've seen and heard the struggles from my friend, I've listened to the views of my other friend. We live in a world where race is still an issue and people suffer from it everyday. Race and color is a beautiful thing, but some people don't look at it that way. I think all shapes and colors are beautiful. LA is a melting pot and I grew up in a conservative community where the majority were white people. So when I escaped the suburbs I was so eager to befriend people of all types of backgrounds and not be so one dimensional with who I choose to hang with. I just remember looking at this kids we played soccer with and saw them as their own individual beings, not as another statistic of where they may end up because of their upbringing, or race. I imagined a bright future for them. I saw their spirits and it reminded me of why I loved working with kids, which was a profession I turned down due to a job offer I got years ago. Something in me changed that day. I was reminded of what warmed my heart, I was reminded of what brings me joy, what inspires me. And I only had to travel down the freeway to find it again.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Traveling and Being In Nature

To any new traveler out there, to any soul who craves the life of others who travel constantly, make sure to not always do it right. Be unprepared, learn, rough it up, let nature give you lessons. My journey with travel started when I was a baby. I was just born and my family decided to move to California from Virginia. We were on the road, driving across the country and I was just a little baby. As I grew up, my parents loved to road trip, camp, explore all of America because it was new territory for them. We did it all. Camping, lodging, road tripping, zip lining, water rafting, jumping off bridges, swimming in rivers etc. But even after all that growing up, I still don't consider myself an expert.
I have been seeing a lot more people delve into their travel bug lately. Many friends have reached out to say that they enjoy watching me travel in social media, and have managed to get their adventurous life going too! I read an article about how popular the "wanderlust" spirit has become these past couple of years and rightfully so. Sometimes the spirit, the soul needs to go out to nature. To seek out answers, peace, clarity, so many things. And it seems like my mind, body and soul are fighting to get out of the city and into nature on a constant basis. But when I do, it's sometimes spontaneous, unplanned, unprepared and that always gives the best results. 
This past weekend I went to Anza Borrego State Park. I booked the camping site at the beginning of the year but have been so busy to fully prepare, and got sick the week rolling up to this past weekend. So I was bed ridden for the whole week and had no energy to pack until the morning of. I went with three other girlfriends. We had to make a pit stop to pick up my sleeping bag that I left behind in Orange County and took a back route that we had no idea existed in south OC. We drove through the Ortega into Cleveland National Forest. As we were winding down the road through this scenic route, I had my road trip playlist playing, the one I featured a couple of posts back and We all had our windows rolled down, and we fell silent. My friend had her head out the window and we were all in it. We were having our moment, just for a second, that we were at the right spot, at the right moment, with the right people. And we burst out in laughter. This route was the back route so we didn't run into too many gas stations. And we were about 20 miles away from Anza Borrego when I said we need a gas station soon! I was on empty. We mapped out our closest gas stations and nothing. We were in the middle of nowhere. The closest was in Anza about 14 miles away. So we decided to drive and hope we didn't break down going down the mountain. Anxiety enveloped me, and I just had my heart set out for that gas station. WE MADE IT WITHOUT BREAKING DOWN! 
And we were there. We hit up our camp spot and were kind of shocked at how nice the campgrounds were. Usually the bathrooms are a hellhole, the campsites provide nothing but State Parks know whats up. Bathrooms were nicer than in the city, we had a fire pit, a very even flat campsite and Plugs in the bathroom to charge phones?! Unheard of. We set up our campsite. Bought some fire wood and went on our first hike. Even the hike had a perfected path. Easiest hike, and a beautiful one too. Everyone in our campsite was overly prepared, with trailers, portable stoves etc. We just had our fire pit, with hot dogs and smores. I like roughing it up though. I like being unprepared, it makes for a more exciting experience. A more entertaining story. And I can't get mad when I'm in nature. There's a peace that comes over me. As we grilled our food in the dark of night, the clouds cleared and we looked up at the starry night. We all looked at it differently. One felt minuscule, with the world so vast you problems seem trivial. I looked up and it was hard. I had a hard couple of weeks and it was a hard day for me and I just kept thinking of all my problems, my life and how grand this world is. How insignificant one can feel and I didn't want to feel that way. I want to do something great in my life. I want to look up at the stars one day and not feel minuscule, but feel great because I'm part of this universe and I've done something of importance to make this world of ours better so someone else can look up at the same stars years later. Still haven't found out what that may be but I'm working on it. 
Going on a trip is so healing for me. I need it on a constant basis. I find answers, I find peace, I find happiness. I forget my problems. It's an escape and I come back to the city with a new perspective. We woke up the next morning at different times. Some saw the sunrise, others slept through the morning, but we packed up and were off for our next adventure hike. We drove through the State Park and explored the Canyons of Anza Borrego. Nothing like Antelope Canyon I assume, but a great and adventurous trek through the desert slot canyon. We adventured through out the desert and drove from one direction to the other. And by late afternoon, we were back in our city and in our beds. We talk about everything on these trips, we answer each others questions, we open up. We discover new things on our own. Nature does that to me, it pushes me, it forces me to face and forget problems. To get over all of it. To think of the bigger picture. Because there is always a bigger picture. Nature is the shoulder I lean on when I need one. So get out there, go out into nature. To heal, to forget, to be happy, to explore, to be thrust into challenging situations. It's all worth it. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Life, Travel and Beauty

The more I travel, the more I see how little I need. Beauty-wise. Beauty is an interesting thing. Beauty has many forms. When traveling around the world, you find out the different types of beauty, what is to some and what it is to others. You see all variations of it in people. You see this whole new world of how people look at things. You see how beauty is defined in different cultures, different households, different people. I grew up with a different way of looking at beauty. As the years progressed, I traveled through time and places to realize what beauty meant to me and how people see me. I grew up in Orange County. With a bunch of rich white kids, a Latina shy alt girl wasn't really the hot commodity in a place like that. I grew up constantly having to reassure myself that I was beautiful on the inside and it was ok to not be the conventional gorgeous on the outside. I dealt with many unrequited loves in my teen years. Having to watch every crush fall for the white blonde girl and I had to keep on going. I healed with expressing myself through the art of painting and the art of dressing. The moment I had the chance to escape this bland community, I ran off into a bigger world that I hoped was more diverse. And it was!

I moved to LA and moved to Portland where I found out that I was a unique being. An ethnically ambiguous gem that was actually beautiful on the outside all along. But it took a while for me to gain this acceptance and confidence. I grew up in a Bolivian home. With a light skinned mother who had 4 brown children. She would tell me to stay away from the sun because I couldn't get too tan. In bolivia the darker you are means you grew up in the "village" a "field worker" per say. I had to stay away from too bright of colors in clothing cause it didn't compliment my skin. She told me to wear light lipstick, nothing too drastic. I was constricted and fighting to come out of this shell fed to me from my mother and society. Then I moved to LA, cut all my hair off and started to dress in bow ties, trousers and blazers. I wanted so badly for people not to look at me for my skin, or my face but how I expressed myself through my clothing, my style. I would wear outlandish outfits and sported a pixie cut before it was trendy for the heterosexual girl. I never saw myself as a conventional beauty but I knew I was different in a good way. But The shorter my hair got, the more make up I would cake on. My beauty products piled up to compensate for the androgynous look. And I began to grow tiresome of the response I would get. People stereotyped me into this little box. Assumed my sexuality before my person, or a certain type of guy would creep on me because I had bows in my hair and wore peter pan collars and I looked like a doll he could play with. And as I was done with one chapter of beauty in my life, I transitioned onto the next.

I grew my hair out, to long lengths that made me look like a mermaid. I would lounge around naked with my hair long enough to cover my nipples. This was another stage of beauty I hadn't experienced. I was sexy for the first time in my life. And I liked it. Men flocked for the long black witchy hair, red lipstick and curve silhouette. Finally a true representation of my latina background and I was unapologetic about it. I felt comfortable in my own skin. I remember I was laid across my bed naked, with my hair in all directions because there was no controlling it. And the guy I was with just looked down at me caressed my hair and said "look at you. With your long hair down and nips out." And I was comfortable. I was in my element. Any chance I could get, I would be naked. But it wasn't for attention, I just felt free. I finally felt comfortable with myself and didn't need to look in the mirror and convince myself that I was pretty. But with this came a tiring line from men. "you're so sexy." This monumental transition of finally loving myself inside and out became just a physical sexy thing to men. They lost me in their minds. The Vanessa that was there all along, who I knew was beautiful inwardly since teenhood didn't matter anymore to these men. I wasn't valued for what I worked so hard to be for myself. To be a well cultured, well traveled, well adjusted, intelligent, responsible, kind, hard working individual. It was always that I was sexy, and that's all that was on their mind now. Nothing more. I was sexy and that was all they needed from me. They didn't compliment me on anything more. I wasn't a whole human being to them, the complex Vanessa didn't matter to them, only the body they wanted to explore mattered. So then I went onto the next and current chapter of my life.

I needed to find a middle ground. I cut 5 inches off my hair, started to wear less make up, grew comfortable enough to leave my house in a sweatshirt and pony tail. And I started to adventure more in physical activities. I have become that girl who is shopping for the newest hiking boots instead of spending it on a new MAC compact. And I'm glad I've found this new balanced life. I am still comfortable in myself, I love myself in every way. I wear grandma glasses and big sweaters and don't need validation from men. I traveled to india with no make up. I felt weird but free. And people still saw me as beautiful. They saw me as a whole person. And even when I came back to LA I noticed men were treating me differently. I wasn't a fuckable piece of meat anymore. The more I travel, the more I live and the more I live, the more I experience. Beauty has many definitions and I had to live 26 years of different stages to realize my own purpose and definition. As I travel more, as I explore different countries and cultures, I discover myself as well. How other people perceive me on the outside and inside. I love myself, I'm ok with myself. But It took a while to get to this. It had to take growing up in a white washed town, hearing it from a conservative mother, people questioning my sexuality, relationships with men, going to different countries, seeing myself through foreigners, cutting my hair off, growing it back out. All these changes make me who I am now. A person not trying to convince herself anymore of her worth and beauty, but an acceptance that you just have to be.