Free Fall

3 Jun

At its heart, life is a series of short, fleeting moments of joy that we string together into an imaginary narrative.  If we want each and every moment of life to be full, to be beautiful, and to be thrilling, we need to live our lives fearlessly and stop worrying about how each moment fits into the next.  Moments begin to lose their joy if we are trapped in a constant fear about what each moment might mean, and how it might impact our future, our finances, or our reputations.  Free falling through life is difficult, and obviously we all have to think responsibly occasionally, but I have been a constant advocate for thinking and living in the moment and enjoying each second individually, rather than planning and organizing every moment around a greater plan.

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This is how I made it to 28 without every owning a credit card.  This is how I avoided debts, responsibilities, and stress.  Some might say I was irresponsible, and it is true that for five years after college the longest period I held down a job was only ten months.  But what did I accomplish instead of buying a house or building my resume or getting a master’s degree?

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Coming Home…

25 Jun

 

Last week I took a 10-day vacation back “home,” visiting friends and family in the Blue Ridge Mountains and attending a dear friend’s fabulous wedding in New York City.  It was amazing, glorious, and a much-needed uplift for my spirits. Yet as I soared across the ocean and over the Andes Mountains, and as the plane descended into the madness of Bogota, I realized I was also headed “home.”  I was heading to a city where I had lived for the past six months, a city where I will live for another year and a half.  I was heading home to a car that was parked at the airport, to an apartment that was full of my things, to a bed made up with my sheets and back to a desk and a computer in a cubicle with my name on it.  But Bogota most certainly does not feel like home.

I think I’ve avoided writing about my new job and about my new city and about my new life because I am afraid of what I will say. I love Colombia and I love exploring new parts of South America.  But my weekend adventures are just that- fleeting days here and there, trips measured out to maximize my two days off in a row, glimpses of other cities, brief moments of sunshine so I can forget about the 9-5 grind.  The vast majority of my time here is spent sitting in front of  a computer, lined up in a row of other computers, trapped in a box and doing work that at best is tedious and at worst is painfully monotonous.  There, I said it.

I have known for a long time that I don’t fit very well into boxes, and trying to squeeze myself inside of a box day after day is exhausting. I fill my time outside of work with the least boxy things I can think of- three-hour runs, two-hour yoga classes, three-day weekends at surf camps, wild nights out on the town with crazy new friends, big dinner parties at my fabulous apartment, long bike rides where I hold both my arms open to the sky and close my eyes for as long as I dare. But nothing eases the dread that takes over my brain every Sunday night when I realize I have to cram myself back inside a box by 8am the next morning.

I may sound like a hopeless romantic, but mixed into the jumble of emotions inside of me sits a very pragmatic bone in my body.  I tell myself every day that this job is a great career builder, that I will be able to get into Oxford after this, that I am learning and growing professionally in ways I can’t even fathom or imagine yet, and that I just need to sit tight and do the work.  My friends tell me it “will get better,” and maybe they are right, but that is what people told me when I struggled to adjust at my first office job, and I haven’t found the adjustment any easier two years later.

Bogota is home, I have forks in a drawer and plates on the shelf, and I sit in a cubicle every day.  These are the hard truths I’ve been dealing with lately, and now that I’ve gotten them off my chest maybe I can start to write about my travels again.

Mangosteens- Simply Amazing

2 Feb

When my girlfriends and I backpacked around South East Asia, we used to buy mangosteens by the kilo.  We would haul our big bags of fruit into the shade and slowly crack open one sweet and juicy mangosteen after another.  For those of you who’ve never experienced this magical fruit, a hard purple shell is cracked open to reveal sections of juicy white fruit within, the kind that melts in your mouth and has just enough tang to offset the sweetness.  I searched high and low for mangosteens, thinking I would never see them outside of Asia, and was generally unsuccessful in my quest unless you count the juices they started selling at Whole Foods.  However, just the other day I discovered Mangosteens in my little corner grocery store here in Bogota.  And what do you think I did?  I bought three kilos, took the bag home, and sat down and ate them one by one by one.

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Mythical Street Art

24 Jan

I stumbled across this stunning image hidden in an alleyway in the lovely and bohemian neighborhood of Macarena.  I like to think it’s a modern-day interpretation of Icarus, the boy who flew to close the sun and melted his wings.  While I am all about dreaming big, we can all learn a thing or two about the dangers of hubris.

2012= The End of Liminality?

8 Jan

As you all know, I am a Constant Nomad.  Traveling is my addiction and I seem to live in a permanent state of liminality.  I am more comfortable living out of a suitcase than putting forks in a drawer.  In fact, until a few months ago I didn’t own any forks despite the fact that I am 28. I always settle into a place and space just long enough to feel comfortable before I find myself seeking out the next great adventure- the next “fix” to my addiction. For years I have managed to float by in life without acquiring a great deal of possessions.  This has made me portable- the type of person who is willing to move to a jungle village in Guatemala at a week’s notice.  Yet that photo above is real, and it signifies so much more than the fact that I own a drawer full of kitchen utensils. 2012 will bring many big changes to my life, of that I am certain, but the biggest change may be the end of my nomadic lifestyle.

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Nostalgia

19 Nov

When I was living deep in the jungle in Guatemala, I could only get home by taking a boat across the ocean.  I didn’t live on an island, but the coastline where I lived was so remote that no roads reached my village.  When I would show up at the dock, there was always an interminable wait until the boat filled up with passengers so we could start the journey.  Sometimes I dreaded the wait on the long hot pier in the gritty port town of Puerto Barrios, especially since the sea became choppy and rough after dark and I was usually eager to get home.  The hours could feel like years as sweat poured down my back and I tried to remember what air conditioning felt like.  But the afternoon I took this photo, the sunset was glorious, I had a cold beer in my hand, and life was so beautiful I felt like my heart might burst.  As the sky exploded in shades of purple and pink and gold, I realized that these are moments I live for.

Desensitized Consumption

25 Oct

One of the perks of my new job is that it provides me with a discretionary income.  It’s not that I’m suddenly loaded, but this is the first time in my life I’ve been able to shop for things beyond the basic essentials and not be wracked with guilt or completely broke at the end of the month.  Lately, however, I have been wondering if this is more of a curse than a perk.  On more than one occasion I have found myself wandering through shopping malls, buying things that aren’t considered the basic essentials of living, and spending more in one day than some people make in an entire month.  I used to be afraid of shopping, and the mere act of entering a mall would send chills down my spine.  Every purchase I made that wasn’t an essential one would cause me major guilt.  And now, everything has changed…  and it terrifies me.

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From the Big Philth to the District

5 Oct

Graffiti in my old neighborhood in Philly- pretty much sums it up...

There is a reason I haven’t been posting for the past few months, and I apologize profoundly to my dedicated readers who have been left on the edge of their seats awaiting fresh travel inspiration!  There have been some major changes in my life, as I alluded to earlier, but now that things have settled down a bit the Constant Nomad is back in business.

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Thoughts on Destroying Homes in Haiti

4 Oct

I recently returned to Haiti to volunteer for a few weeks with All Hands Volunteers (formerly Hands on Disaster Response), the same organization I volunteered with last year.  When I first came to Haiti in April 2010, it was just a few months after the earthquake and the country was a  full on disaster zone.  Destruction and death were omnipresent, and misery lingered heavy in the air.  Although the tangible changes to Haiti are small, the biggest change for me was seeing how a nation had overcome such horrible suffering and was working on rebuilding out of the rubble.  The work to rebuild is massive, and at times seems to be such an overwhelming and Sisyphean task that one wonders where to start.

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How to Pack: Top Five Things to Bring to a Developing Country

14 Jul

As I mentioned before, the Constant Nomad is on the move again.  At least for the next few months I’ll be living out of a suitcase again, living in liminality again, and traveling the world.  As I prepare for a short two week trip to Haiti and begin to pack up my apartment in Philly to move to D.C., I have been thinking a lot about packing. Having moved around and traveled so much in the past few years I feel as though I have become a pretty efficient packer, especially when traveling in developing countries.  For two weeks in Haiti, all I brought was one small backpack and a sleeping pad.  My roommates were shocked at how I managed it.  Besides a few clothes and a toothbrush, however, there are a few items I never leave home without, so here they are in no particular order- the top five things to bring to a developing country.

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