In June, 2005, I lived with a host family in the Dominican Republic for 16 days. Those 16 days are one of my top life experiences. During those 16 days, I was living in the present-moment and was incredibly in love with myself and life.
I stayed in La Descubierta, and visited Los Pinos and Santo Domingo.
I spent a good chunk of my junior year as a drug dealer in my classrooms and high school hallways, if you count chocolate bars as a drug, and some people do.
I pushed those See’s Candies bars like crack. A lot of us were selling them, those of us who planned on going to the Dominican Republic. (I was one of the top sellers. I laced my bars with smiles and charm.) 😉
I sold See’s Candies to my classmates, and I sent out a mass email to my huge family, asking to help support my trip to the Dominican Republic to build homes.
My high school’s sex education teacher, an amazing woman, Miss Moquete, went to the Dominican Republic each year to build homes and connect with the community. One year, a student asked why she didn’t bring along her students. So she started to bring along her students from Casa Grande High School (where I went to.) Then her trips expanded into a non-profit organization, BHBH (Building Homes Building Hope), and its reach expanded outside of Casa Grande students. Anybody who wanted to come could come. The group mainly comprised of students from near by high schools, their parents, and returning students from college. Later, BHBH was renamed to Una Vida.
I went in 2005, the summer before my senior year of high school. We built a home for a family, replacing the home they had, shown above. We also built a floor for another family’s home, a kitchen for another family, and painted a school.
We built the house from the bottom up.
This was the finished product, and all of us builders.
The happy recipient of the house, her and her family. 🙂
To see more photos of the Dominican Republic, you can view them here in my Dominican Republic album on Flickr.
Una Vida is an amazing organization that’s founded on love and community. For my high school senior project, I put on a play/variety show, LQ, and donated the profits, about $500, to Una Vida
To learn more about Una Vida, you can check out their website: Una Vida.
They also sell jewelry made from the Dominican Republic to empower low-income mothers to provide for their families and invest in their dreams. You can check out the store here and find out more about Madres here.
You can also find out more about Una Vida and support them by liking their Facebook Page.
Santiago De Compostela
I lived in Santiago de Compostela, Spain for 5 months in 2009, my second semester in my junior year of college.
I studied abroad for my Spanish major. I always thought I would study abroad in Mexico, where my family is from, but my college professor was from Spain; and we had language assistants who lived on our campus for the year, from each respective country: Spain, France, Japan and Germany. I was friends with the language assistants from Spain, and everything I learned about Spain from my professor sounded amazing, so I chose to study abroad in Spain, instead of Mexico.
Santiago de Compostela is the 3rd holiest place in the world. Saint James is believed to be buried beneath the Cathedral. Every year tens of thousands of people pilgrimage El Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which is shown above. 🙂
This is part of the path for El Camino de Santiago, which I walked part of with my class.
The path of El Camino de Santiago was marked by these yellow arrows.
These are two pilgrims staring at the Cathedral after making it to their destination. I was in awe staring at them, wondering how far they must have traveled and walked to reach this cathedral, and how cool it must have been for them to have finally arrived.
Santiago de Compostela is the prettiest city I have ever seen. It’s a perfect combination of nature, fun city life, and beautiful historic buildings.
I lived in the “New Town,” about a 5 minute walk from el Parque Alameda, and from the “Old Town.” The picture above is part of Alameda park, and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is in the old town. The new town consisted of tons of apartments, cafes, stores, bars, and clubs – all mixed and bunched into together. It was an amazing mix.
Another area of el Parque Alameda. This was one of my favorite places. I would come here to walk, run, chill with friends, and read.
A view of old town from Alameda Park.
An inside/outside area of the Cathedral.
More of old town.
The language program I was in consisted of 2 to 3 groups of students that had separate classes, but went on excursions together. This was my class. All of my classmates came from Loras College in Iowa.
The program as a whole attracted global students. There were students from the states, Iowa, Kansas, Chicago, NY, my school in VA, and there were people from Brazil, Japan, Germany – students from all over coming to Santiago de Compostela for the Spanish program. I became close with Ana and Juan Carlos, in the above picture, from Chicago and New York. I also made two close friends from Spain, Maria, from Santiago de Compostela, and Anabel, from Valencia, both were studying at the University of Santiago de Compostela.
While in Santiago de Compostela, I got to teach these two wonderful, beautiful kids, (who now look so much older!), conversational English. It wasn’t difficult teaching them because they already had a strong grasp on English. They also spoke Castilian (Spain Spanish), Galician and Catalan (the languages of Galicia and Catalonia, both autonomous communities in Spain that prefer identifying with their own nationality over Spain’s), and French.
While I was in Spain, I traveled by myself to Madrid, Barcelona and Sitges (right outside of Barcelona).
When I arrived in Madrid, I got off the train and was pleasantly surprised to find Marriachis.
The buildings were diverse and beautiful.
The streets were diverse and beautiful.
For all of the beautiful architecture, there was equally beautiful nature.
There was this huge park with a gorgeous river.
Madrid was equally as beautiful at night. This is a statue of Federico Garcia Lorca, a gay Spanish poet, dramatist and theatre director who was assassinated.
Two of my favorite Madrid memories: One, staying at a Gay hostel and meeting these awesome gay boys from Ireland, Scotland and London. I partied with them in their hostel room to the gay clubs. We were out dancing until about 3am, which is actually early in the night for Spain. The clubs don’t usually get packed until 4, or maybe 6am. We left early because I wasn’t feeling well. I was drinking from 11am until 1am, and I rarely drink, so I wasn’t feeling too hot the next day either.
I remember making an expensive call to one of my sisters that night, telling her I thought I was going to die. She repeatedly told me to go to sleep and that I wouldn’t die. I woke up the next day with the most horrible hang over, only comparable to the morning after my 21st birthday.
That was one of my favorite Madrid memories because I went outside of my comfort zone, introduced myself to other guests at the hostel and experienced life through their eyes for two days.
My second favorite memory in Madrid was when my two best friends that I made in Spain at the university surprised me. It was during one of our breaks and they came to Madrid to spend the day with me.
I stayed on the touristy street, Las Ramblas, in Barcelona. It was a mile long stretch with loads of vendors, a fresh food market with fish, meet, fruit and vegetables, people dressed up in costumes and loads of tourists speaking all sorts of languages.
This was one of the people dressed up on Las Ramblas. You’d pay them to take a picture with them.
In Barcelona, there were a few things I wanted to see, but other than that, I just left my hostel and roamed around. I found this beautiful area with this awesome Gothic market.
The gothic buildings were gorgeous.
Even the store front decor looked old. This reminded me of Star Wars. 🙂
I visited the Olympic stadium and museum, as well as this cool town, Poble Espanyol, where all of buildings and homes modeled different styles of architecture from all over Spain.
And I saw the Gaudi Cathedral, which was intense, and definitely Gaudi. It was gorgeous. I was staring at it for hours, taking loads and loads of photos. Every inch of the cathedral was covered in scenes from the bible.
Every part of the cathedral was as detailed as this. It was crazy! Barcelona was beautiful. 🙂
Sitges, right outside of Barcelona, was super fun. I went there for Carnaval, and Sitges is a big gay area in Spain.
There were two parades. During the day was the kids parade, and during the night was the regular parade. The picture above was my favorite float, Tim Burton! How cool! There were people dressed up as all of his movie characters! 🙂
That white snow-like substance on the ground is confetti. It was EVERYWHERE. 🙂 Sitges and Carnaval was super sick. I remember being nervous going out dancing by myself, and I ended up having a blast, finding a drag show and dancing with an older crowd.
The UK/Tijuana, Mexico
I spent about a week in the UK, briefly in London, but I spent most of my time in Reading, England. My college had a study abroad program in Reading, so I went there to visit some of my friends. I don’t have any photos of it. :/ I had a blast dancing, and the first thing I did when I got in was have a fish and chips dinner. 🙂
Why did I combine Tijuana with the UK? I went when I was very young, and don’t have any pictures from the trip. I remember getting a mini guitar, walking down some streets, and needing an ID to get back over the border.
[Everything Below Is Still In Edit Mode]
I went to London for a week in September, 2012 for a LGB youth leadership program via Stonewall, the Stonewall Talent Programme.
This area was fenced in, and where I’m standing to take this picture was a long grassy area with more cool looking pavement with tables. A lot of people were out having lunch, and there were people in business suits laying on the grass.
This was around an area with 3 or 4 outdoor markets. The name of the restaurant “Black & Blue” stood out to me. It’s the name of one of Ingrid Michaelson’s songs.
A month or two before I went to London, I saw a place that looked just like this place in a picture on Facebook. I either visited that place in London by coincidence, or there is a very similar scene somewhere around the world and I found its twin.
The West Coast Area
I’m from the West Coast. I grew up in Northern California, in the Bay Area, where I currently live. I’ve traveled to Southern California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico throughout my childhood and teen years for family vacations and family-related trips. I went to Hawaii in 2013 for my niece’s first birthday party.
July through August, 2013 I flew to Texas, explored Georgetown and Austin and road tripped to Albuquerque, New Mexico, then to Los Angeles and then back to the Bay Area, CA with my cousin. Update coming soon.
The East Coast Area
I’m in love with the East Coast. All of the states are so close together. An 8 drive on the East Coast can get me across multiple states, whereas an 8 hour drive on the West Coast can get me to Southern California, leaving from Northern California. I can get from DC to NYC for an $18 to $30 bus ride, if I’m lucky, cheaper. I can take a bus from any major city to another major city for about $18. It’s Amazing!
I lived in Virginia for 4 years, where I went to college. Throughout college, I’ve been to Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, and I have driven through a lot more states around that area.
After college, I took a 2 week trip around the East Coast, and spent a week in So cal. I spent about a week in MA, visiting Salem (Halloween town), Cape Cod and Provincetown (Big gay area), and Boston and Amherst, MA. And I spent about a week in DC, where I happened upon a free concert with Lionel Richie and other cool singers and actors, and I took my first trip to the Newseum, my Favorite museum!
I took another trip back to the East Coast from March through May, 2012. I bought a one-way ticket to Virginia, and traveled around for 2 months visiting various cities in Virginia, Maryland, and New York (my first New York trip!), and I also visited New Jersey for the first time, and spent some time in DC, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, as well.
Eventually I would like to live on the East Coast for a couple years. I’d like to live in DC for a bit, New York City, I love Massachusetts, I’ve never been to Florida, I love big cities. I’d like to go all the way up north during the Fall, and visit Salem, MA again, but during peak season around Halloween. There’s a lot I want to explore on the East Coast.
US Travel Goals
I’m going to visit every state in the US. I want to live a couple months to a couple years in the big cities, San Fran, NYC, DC, maybe other big cities, To be determined.
My Traveling Styles I Inhabit
In Spain, when I was by myself, I took loads of pictures, and I explored loads of places by myself. During my 2 month east coast trip, I took no pictures, and for the most part, was always with someone else (because my trip was defined by visiting my friends). The exception was my 2nd week in New York. I was visiting one of my best friends, but she worked a lot, so I toured the city by myself, went out dancing by myself, explored all over, and had loads of fun by myself. 🙂
This made me realize my two different traveling styles. When I’m by myself, I’m more adventurous, I go out more, explore more, and go out of my comfort zone more, which I do intentionally and love it! Also, if I have a camera, I’m more apt to take pictures.
When I’m traveling or visiting friends, I adapt to their way of living, and experience what it’s like to live their lives, to a degree. When I’m traveling to visit someone, my purpose is spending time with the people, not the destination, so I’m less likely to explore. When I’m traveling by myself, my purpose is to focus solely on myself and the destination.
I like both styles. Both styles can bring about some awesome situations. When traveling around the East Coast, there were two particular visits where I was staying with people who I had just met, and felt like I was taking part in commune living, which was so cool. I was also moving from place to place pretty quickly, and living with a variety of people; it was interesting to switch to different lifestyles, with wide ranges, so quickly.
I realized that I prefer both types of travel equally, and that when I travel, I should mix both into my experience, and I should bring a camera. 🙂