Friday Photo: Red, White and Blue

Another one from Ilhabela with São Sebastião, Brasil in the background as the sun begins to set. Hope you had a wonderfully relaxing 4th of July celebration!

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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).

Traveling Pretty (or How I Hiked Sugarloaf in a Sundress)

“How in the world did you fit three weeks of clothes into that duffle bag?” Sundresses and sandals my friend. A pair of jeans is only half of an outfit but still takes up the space of 3* sundresses! So, yeah I do it mostly because I know I can bring like 50. But also because ummm they’re cute? I don’t like to be “that tourist” traveling through the airport looking all frumpy – that’s the number one way to spot the Americans in the international terminal.

Yes I hiked up here in a sundress. And sandals. Keep your judgement and give me a drink!

Besides, the photo ops are better. And you can go from sightseeing to the bar without skipping a beat.  And if you bring a sweater you can go to church too (a post about that later).

Traveling pretty is great – until your Couchsurfing host lets you know that it costs damn near $50 to ride the tram to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Say what now?! But all hope is not lost – there is a way to hike up the mountain and you get the very same views plus a little workout in – for free! Great. I’m wearing a sundress and Havaianas. And so is she. Well, we decide to do it anyway. Because we’re geniuses of course.

Are we there yet? No. Well, let's stop anyway.

I really thought it was going to be an easy hike. I saw people taking their kids up, others taking their parents. Everyone who was coming off the path was full of spirits and some were even laughing. Duh! Because they were coming down! (Insert Homer Simpson “Doh!” face here.) Yeah going up was another story. It definitely wasn’t the worst hike I’ve ever done. Far from it – it’s just the sundress and sandals combined with the week of eating nothing but steak, cheesy bread snack things, and more steak wasn’t really a good prep for a Sunday morning hike. It was pretty fun(ny) though! I’d definitely do it again – in tennis shoes. The views of Rio de Janeiro were unbelievable, the weather was perfect, and it’s actually a great place to just hang out and maybe relax with a good book (or a boo :)).

*Not scientifically proven (i.e. I totally made that number up).

The view of Flamengo Beach and Centro Rio de Janeiro from Sugarloaf

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...

Day 02: Where You’d Like to Travel Next

Day 01 was pretty easy for me.  Capri has held a special place in my heart for years now! Day 02 is pretty difficult though.  There are so many countries to be explored I can’t ever decide which one is going to be next.  While I think about that, let’s recap from some other people who are participating in the travel challenge. (Were you aware that I am a master procrastinator? No? Well, yes I find creative ways to distract others from what I’m really supposed to be doing 😉 )  Terri over at Try Anything Once  couldn’t pick just once place – but Italy also topped her list!  Check out her blog to see what other two fabulous places made the cut. Ernest, better known as Fly Brother, is participating, too.  This lucky guy is now living in his top favorite place so go on over to his blog to figure out what new “gritty, soulful and borderline schizo” city has now topped the list (I honestly never would’ve guessed it! But it’s now on my radar.) One of my good friends from home chimed in via Twitter, and tried to convince me that his favorite place (Hawaii!) wasn’t too expensive for a grad student (really??).  We’ll see.  Follow Jon Cornes to see what other cool places he’s going to mention during the travel challenge.  Did I miss anyone? I know some of you have some favorite places you want to shout out during the travel challenge!

Now that I’ve stalled enough, I guess I’ll finally pick the one place I’d like to travel to next.  This should have been easy because I actually AM traveling here next.  So, the love affair in-my-head with this place will soon become reality.  Every research assignment during my first semester in graduate school had something to do with this country. People would ask me why and I really couldn’t verbalize one particular reason – the beautiful people, the music, the weather, the language, City of God, the Diaspora, the Olympics and World Cup hype – I’m not sure what was pulling me here.  The one thing I did know is that I needed to act on that feeling. So I started learning Portuguese, and later booked my flight to Brazil!  For three weeks I will be traveling through Rio and Sao Paulo (and perhaps Salvador?) and I CAN. NOT. WAIT. 

So what about you? What’s next on your “To Travel” List?