Friday Photo: Ilhabela

I would say that this is the start of a weekly series, but y’all know how I am with consistency here on vaivia. It is an attempt though. 🙂

Ilhabela, Brasil. September 2011.

I personally just love the exposure of the image. And the memories it conjures up. It was a tiny island  (Ilhabela means “beautiful island”) I only intended to spend two days on – but it trapped me. I was there for a whole week. And I found family. I really loved this place and the joy of everybody I met who lived there. Oh and the fresh pineapple juice. Definitely can’t leave that out.

Forum Recap + The Irony of Solo Travel

Last week was UMD’s spring break. But instead of chilling on the beaches of Miami (my usual March/April getaway), I found myself in Heaven. Or what heaven would be for those who work in study abroad – the Annual Conference of the Forum on Education Abroad. The networking, learning, friendship-forming (friending? befriending??), reconnecting, and karaoke (don’t ask) that took place last week was an awesome reenergizing experience for international education. Not that I need reenergizing or anything – I obviously still love my job! But being surrounded by likeminded individuals who are so passionate about study abroad and especially about diversifying and access really made my heart smile. I can’t even tell you how many sessions I was sitting in and had to really think about something ridiculous to keep from tearing up. Whether it was a group of students on a panel sharing how study abroad has really changed their life (how original right?) or the simple recognition that two years ago I had my first experience walking away from a well-paying corporate position on the corporate ladder – a phone call I’ll never forget because it took me days to even craft what to say. And while most of the time when you step off of a ladder you fall to the ground, the weight that was lifted made me feel like I could fly. And now I can, both literally and figuratively. But I digress…

One of the full-day workshops taught us the art of Digital Storytelling. It was an amazing experience that tricks students into personal reflection and processing their experience. Ok, so maybe tricked isn’t the right word but creating a digital story is so much fun that you forget that you are actually learning and processing information while you are creating it. I hope that we’ll be able to incorporate the Digital Storytelling into our returnee programming one day… but we already have so many ideas in our office! During the one-day workshop I created this piece reflecting on my time in Brazil and really re-living my experience while I was there: ’twas amazing. Please enjoy my debut digital story – the Irony of Solo Travel:

Major s/o to Doug and team who put this all together! No way I could have learned all this in a day on my own while producing something I’m not afraid to share with everyone else (the perfectionist in me apparently was on spring break or something).

Discovered While Traveling: The Secret to Happiness

I’ve now been in Rio long enough for me to finally sit down and take a breather. In the past few days, I’ve started Portuguese classes, attended a music festival, visited Christ (the Redeemer), been to two different beaches, been to the movies, had some amazing dinners, walked (a lot), met a ton of new friends, and just explored whatever and wherever my little heart desires.

Besides the fact that I’m always happiest when I’m near beaches and 80 degree weather, I really think I’ve discovered the secret to happiness. Every single morning I wake up and I do two things. I promise if everyone practiced these two things daily, we’d be so much happier! It’s really quite simple and for the life of me I can’t figure out why people only do these two things while they’re on vacation.

So basically, every day when I open my eyes and thank God for the opportunity to experience another great day in this thing called life, I do these two things:

  1. Ask myself “What do I want to do today?” What will make me happy? Sometimes it’s a whole list of things, other days it may be just one thing that needs to happen to “make my day.”
  2. [Insert answer to #1 here]. <— Do that.
So much of our life is spent doing what we think we should be doing, or what we think we have to do, that we often prioritize that above what we really want to do. And that’s pretty damn sad. Every morning here I ask myself the question above and then make it happen and I just realized – I should do this everyday! Why is it just restricted to days spent traveling? When I visited the Christ the Redeemer statue, I couldn’t help but realize how happy everyone was to be there. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand a single word out of their mouths. I understood their smiles, the squeals, the energy.  Even before we got up the mountain to the statue, people were excited just to be on the tram. And I know they’ve been on trains before. It’s because they’re just eager to be doing whatever the hell they wanted to do that day. And I can’t be mad at that. On the contrary, it makes me very very happy!

Is she smiling so hard because of Jesus?! Or Vacation?! Hmmm...