In-between Worlds

It has been nearly 6 months since I returned from my trip to Africa. Since then, I took a short trip to Spain for a retreat (which was awesome- more on this later). Aside from that, I haven't embarked on any international travel. And to be honest, I felt at peace about this- and still do majority of the time. But I can't ignore the nagging feeling in the back of my mind. Am I content with this, or have I just come to accept that currently, I'm at a place in my life where stability and adult responsibility must take the forefront? I'm still not sure I have the answers. It's possible that I feel a little bit of both: I'm content with my life. I enjoy working in my career as a therapist. I enjoy being able to come home to my boyfriend every single day. I like being able to make plans with friends on the weekends. Simultaneously, I long for another round the world adventure. Up until this past week, I hadn't really fantasied about travel as much as is normal for me. I believe this is largely in part due to the fact that I am so busy that I don't make time to fantasize and daydream about faraway destinations. Or maybe I don't allow my mind to trail there because I know it isn't feasible in this moment. 

Well, this past week, due to client cancellations, I had ample amount of time to let my imagination run wild. I watched several travel vlogs on Youtube. And just like that, I caught the travel bug yet again.As I spent hour after hour watching these inspiring travelers document their journeys, I felt a small pang of... something. Something that I still can't quite put my finger on. The best way to describe this feeling in words is: That was supposed to be me.

So the million dollar question for me is this: How do I cultivate both sides of myself when I have two passions, each equally integral to me as a person. When/if I find the answer, you'll be the first to know. 

 

The Law of Attraction and how it's Worked for Me

We've probably all heard in recent years about this "Law of Attraction." It's not really a new concept- actually, it's ancient. However, it appeared in mainstream media when a documentary on  Netflix called 'The Secret' came out, following the book written by Rhonda Byrne. The whole basis of this supposed law is that we as humans attract what he put out into the universe. If we visualize, speak, and behave as if we know a certain dream, goal, or plan is already in the works for us, it will come to fruition. Sounds simple right?

Now, this does not mean that a person who sits on his mother's couch from sun up til sundown, playing video games and eating corn chips all day can believe he will become rich and famous and then out of nowhere, get signed onto some big movie deal. The Law of Attraction is not some passive wishful thinking. It actually requires some active role on your part. The good news is, this is mostly done with your mindset. Let me explain by giving a personal example:

So, as you may already know from my other blog posts, I travelled in Africa for a little over two months beginning in September. I came back home around Thanksgiving time and had been living off of what (very) little savings I still had left. Well as you can imagine, that very quickly began to dwindle away and I knew I needed to find a job as quickly as possible. I actually had began the job search while I was still in South Africa, about two weeks before returning home. December rolled around, and still no job. Not even a call back for an interview. Everyone kept asking me "how's the job-hunt going?" And I dreaded having to say "Still looking!" 

Finally, about two weeks before Christmas, I called one of the places I had applied to to follow up. They agreed on setting up an interview for the following week. I was really excited and hopeful. I thought this job was a perfect fit for me. A little background info - I'm a (very new) therapist and I received my Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy this past August. What I would love to specialize in is working with clients who have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives - mainly sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. 

Anyhow, this job was perfect for my passion in trauma work because trauma is what most of their cases focus on. I just knew this job was meant for me. So what did I do for those next couple of weeks leading up to the interview? I spoke everyday - whether out loud to myself or to a family member or friend, about how I was going to get the job. I didn't use words like "I hope" I get the job. Instead, I spoke as if I already knew that I would get it. I visualized myself working there. I looked up the nearest yoga studio and gym to the office, already planning how I would go to the gym afterwork or between clients. I calculated what my salary would be based on how many clients I imagine I'd would have on my caseload. If anyone I met  asked what it is I do, I didn't say "Oh, I just graduated from grad school and still looking for a job. No. I told them casually, "I'm a full time therapist."

Fast forward a few months. I had been working at this organization for almost 4 months now. To be honest, things started out rocky. I had been getting reprimanded almost on a weekly basis it felt like. So what did I do? I pulled out my journal, and wrote down some new intentions. one of them being: "I am excelling at work. My bosses are pleased with me and tell me often that I am doing a good job." And you know what happened? I'm sure you can guess, but I a few weeks later, my boss started praising me. Two weeks later, and I can count 3 separate times that she has told me how much she likes me and how she sees me doing great things not only with the company, but just in my career in general. This isn't by chance- it's manifestation. 

I'm working on a couple of new intentions now. She work related, and some more personal. The beauty of this is, you almost have nothing to lose - and everything to gain. 

 

Let me know in the comments how the Law of Attraction has worked or is working for you currently. Let's all inspire one another. 

My 1st Solo Road trip - What it was like to drive 41 hours all by myself.

Thanks to Hurricane Irma (and a host of other unfortunate events this past week - more on that later), I ended up taking a road trip to Washington D.C. from Miami. And I did it solo. 

Prior to this, I had never driven more than four hours alone. Thanks to this, I ended up driving ten times that. Aside from Hurricane irma threatening to wash away the city, I had had a mix up with my Ghanaian visa and needed to get a new one ASAP. The quickest way was to go in person to the Embassy in Washington D.C., so that's what I set out to do. i figured I could make a nice little road trip out of the experience, and I have to say that I definitely did just that. Furthermore, I learned that I truly enjoy traveling solo. 

The first leg of the trip was the worst. I decided to stop in Atlanta before driving the rest of the way up. I thought, oh it's only 9 hours from Atlanta and then another 10 to D.C. from there. Wrong. Thanks to all the traffic from other evacuees, it ended up taking me 21 HOURS to get to Atlanta from Miami. Keep in mind it's normally a 9 hour drive.

The first 12 hours wasn't terrible. I had an audiobook, good music, and plenty of snacks. But then it got dark. And my eyes got heavy. My estimated time of arrival got later and later and later. By 2am (mind you, I left Miami at 5:30 am the day before), I was seriously delirious. I kept falling asleep at the wheel, I started seeing things! I pulled over, did some jumping jacks, said a prayer, and got back on the road. Finallyyyy I made it to my Airbnb and passed out on the bed instantly. 

The next day, I drove to D.C., and that's when all the fun began. I found out that i LOVEEE D.C. If ever there were a place that would make me consider moving back up North and live through cold winters again, it would be D.C. There's just something about the city that speaks to me the way Miami (as much as I love it) never has. i love the strong Black influence there, and all the diverse and beautiful people.Sooo many Ethiopians which means tons of good Ethiopian restaurants and good food. I also love that there is so much to do, from all the free museums, to endless options for food - I especially appreciate how easy it was to eat vegan there. 

So why do I love solo travel?:

  1. Whether driving or flying, being alone outside of your normal environment gives you ample time and space to reflect on things. 

  2. Having only yourself (and strangers you meet along the way) to rely on, it forces you to be self reliant and more aware of your surroundings. there is a certain feeling of independence you gain. 

  3. You get to do what you want, when you want, and how you want!!! This is obviously the best part. For example, I enjoy museums, but I like to enjoy them alone because I can take as long as I want to peruse the different exhibits. I'm one of those people that actually reads the explanations on the placard. Likewise, there are some parts of museums I'm not interested in and when alone, I can simply skip them without worrying if I'm cutting someone else's time short. 

  4. Explore how you like. This pretty much is the same as point 3. When in a new place, I like to explore without necessarily having a plan. On my first day in D.C., I literally spent 8 hours just walking and roaming around, stopping when I pleased. Had i been with someone else, I'm sure they would have gotten sick of all the walking. 

  5. It forces you out of your comfort zone. This is definitely true. when we travel with friends, family, or partners, we don't really feel the need to branch out as much. However, when alone, you feel more motivated to strike up conversations with strangers. If you're shy, this will definitely push you. This is good, because you may learn something new about a place that you wouldn't have otherwise. Talking with local people gives you a different perspective outside of just the tourist one. One morning, I sat at a cafe when a girl around my age asked if she could share my table since there were no more empty ones left. We ended up sitting there for two hours talking about each others lives and she gave me some tips about how which museums were worth seeing and which were not. 

 

Highlights for me were visiting different cafes and just reading, doing some work on my laptop, and people watching. My favorite two places were Philz Coffee and Busboy and Poets- I went there for breakfast twice and bought a book in their little bookstore portion too. 

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Also, I really enjoyed the Natural History Museum and the African American Museum. The African American Museum is so huge that I only got through the bottom floor which covers slavery. Walking through it was amazing, heart breaking, and uplifting all at the same time. It will definitely be my first stop the next time I am in D.C. 

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The massive African American museum.

The massive African American museum.

I realize the idea of traveling alone sounds horrible to some. But for those who have even considered it once, I say go for it! Don't get me wrong, there are cons too. Like getting lonely, or lost, or bored. I still love to travel with friends, family, or my boyfriend. But there is a certain feeling of freedom and power when flying solo too. 

Home Sweet Home

As they say, all good things must come to an end. It's crazy to think that 2 months flew by so quickly. But to be honest I was ready to come home. I wasn't in a rush to leave Africa, but when it was time, I felt at peace to be going. 

My flight back to Miami was a combined 26 hours with one short 2 hour layover in Dubai. A flight that long sounds miserable, but I was actually quite comfortable. God heard my prayers and I got practically an entire row all to myself so I was able to lay down and get some sleep which killed a decent amount of time. Plus, I flew with Emirates, the sort of "luxury" brand when it comes to airlines. All in all, a very smooth journey. 

When it came down to the last two hours before landing, I got really really antsy. I spent a portion of the time looking at all the photos from the trip, watching videos I had taken of my babies in Ghana, and just reminiscing about those good times. But then I began reminiscing about my life at home. My family, my friends. And of course, my boyfriend. I didn't realize how much I missed him until it was almost time to see him again. I literally jumped up out of my seat the moment the plane landed. I felt like I couldn't wait even a second longer to see him again. 

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Jimmy was ready and waiting when I arrived. He brought flowers and a sweet card with him. The old saying "Home is where the heart is" is definitely true. I was home.

I've been back for two days and it all still seems so surreal. I find myself thinking back to specific moments of the trip. This morning I woke up remembering the spectacular view from atop Table Mountain in Cape Town. Last night as I lay holding my two stuffed animals - one of which Jimmy bought me while I was away - I reminisced about holding Nkansah and Joy back at the orphanage in Ghana. On my first day back, I took a long hot shower. But not without feeling a tad bit guilty for wasting water when i know there is a water crisis/drought in Cape Town. I also began brainstorming about how I am going to fundraise enough money to sponsor a child form the orphanage I was in in Tanzania. 

I imagine it will be like this for a while. Maybe even forever. This trip left such a mark on me. It was honestly the best thing I've ever done to date. I am so extremely grateful to have had that experience. I will never ever forget it. 

At the same time, I feel good that I am back home. I'm happy that Jimmy and I have been able to pick up where we left off, as if I never even left. I think that shows great strength in our relationship. Since I've been back, we literally have only binged on chips and salsa while also binge watching the show "Stranger Things" on Netflix. I haven't left the house much. But I am content for now in my little bubble. 

Anyway, I have a lot of writing and updating to do. There is just so much to say. I better get started.

-V

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Managing Two Africas

So I've been in South Africa for a little over a week now. I've spent quite a bit of time alone, exploring the city and as a result, I have had ample amount of time to reflect. As I mentioned in another post (Cape Town is NOT Africa), it was quite the reverse culture shock coming directly here after spending almost two months in East and West Africa. 

For me, the biggest challenge was managing two very different ideals of Africa at once. In Ghana and Tanzania, I saw poverty. True poverty. Children coming to school without proper shoes, wearing the same dirty clothes everyday, children not having enough supplies in the classroom,  living in not the best or cleanest conditions. Orphans. So many orphans. People who didn't know how they were going to eat that day, and the list goes on. 

Unsurprisingly then, I felt a strange feeling when I arrived in Cape Town and felt like I was back home in Miami. People living lavishly, or at the very least, comfortably, seemed out of place compared to what I had gotten accustomed to. Big fancy malls with expensive things seemed just plain - shameful. On my first day, I decide to go and treat myself to a pedicure - it was much needed, believe me. As I sat in the chair getting my feet scrubbed, I looked over at the seat next to me. A little boy - no older than 8 or 9 years old was sipping on a latte, playing on and iPad, and getting a pedicure as well, while his mother sat next to him, doing the same.  I immediately thought of Comfort. Comfort is a 12 year old girl that I met while at the orphanage in Ghana. At only 12 years old (she doesn't actually know her true age, given that she is considered to be an "abandoned" child), she cares for the smaller children with such ease. Instead of texting and taking selfies and going to the mall like other preteen girls her age, she's bathing, feeding, and rocking babies. After that, she's hand washing clothes of hers and all the other girls in the compound. She prepares food and feeds the disabled children. All of this while still going to school. And this is her life. Every, single day. 

I couldn't help but to feel a wave of sadness. Sad that while some children are blessed enough to be born in a world where they are cared for and live comfortably, or luxuriously even; other children are born into poverty. Abandoned, orphaned. Forced to grow up way too fast. I find it heartbreaking. 

Obviously, I realize that people suffer everywhere in the world. Even right at home in the U.S. I guess it just strikes something within you when you see firsthand the stark contrast within a matter of 24 hours. One day I was playing in an orphanage with children who's shoes were so broken down, that they would just play barefoot - the very next day, I was in South Africa getting a pedicure next to an 8 year old boy with a latte and an iPad. 

It just isn't fair. But then, life isn't fair. 

Capturing the Moment or Living in the Moment?

For the past two days, I've been on safari. Took a million photos of course. Yesterday at Ngorongoro Crater, we stopped at this breathtakingly gorgeous spot for lunch by the water. Everyone was out with their cameras.They were so busy with their pictures that they missed out on the birds serenading us. And the ibises swimming in unison. And the hippo raising his head up slightly ever so often. I'm guilty of this too, but I always try to make a conscious effort to put away the camera after a while and just take it all in. Or just do like I do and let someone else capture the moment for you.

This got me thinking though. Why do we live in an age where capturing every single moment of our lives has become so precedent to actually being in the moment? When exactly did it begin? With Myspace? Facebook? Instagram? Snapchat? I think it began with the combination of smartphones and social media. Maybe something about getting likes and recognition from strangers, friends, and family gives us some form of validation. 

Or maybe we feel that if we don't have a photo, we won't have the memory. I can admit I feel this way sometimes. I love having mementos. I love making memories and having records of it. I love photography, photo albums, scrapbooks. And I don't feel there is anything wrong with this. 

I guess the best solution for me is to have balance. Take pictures, make record of the experience. But also make sure to enjoy and revel in the experience. 

I realized I started doing this years ago without really thinking about it. I was spending a summer interning in London. I remember walking in Leicester Square and trying to permanently mark every detail into my memory. I literally said outloud to myself "remember this moment." And I always have. If I close my eyes right now, I can put myself back there on that exact street corner facing the square. And from time to time when I'm in the mood to reminisce I do. 

And to me, that is priceless. 

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Where to 1st?

So as you know, I am taking a bit of time off so that I can see some world. You're probably wondering where I'm headed.

I haven't yet set in stone exactly where I will get to visit during this time. I don't even know for sure how much time I can, or will take. All I know is that I just need to go experience something new.

I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Africa. I'll admit, it first began when those God forsaken commercials would come on TV with the starving and big bellied children, as if to show the world that this was all the great continent has to offer. I imagined myself going over and doing everything I could to help them. Although this is still the case, I also realize there is much, much more to Africa than that. When I decided to take this time off, I knew Africa had to be on the list. 

After  a bit of research, I found a volunteer organization (more on that later) that would not only satisfy my craving to see the land where it all began, but would also allow me to do something great for children that deserve the world. 

I couldn't travel aaalll the way to Africa and only see one place. Getting there is no easy feat - expensive vaccinations, long and costly flights, visa, etc. So I decided to spend two months (9 weeks to be exact) volunteering in orphanages in Ghana, Tanzania, and finally, South Africa where I will be teaching English to elementary school aged kids. 

I do plan to return home afterwards (just in time for Thanksgiving) and spend some time there before flying off to chase another adventure. Where to next? Only time will tell.