October 12 marked one month since I arrived in Dublin! The time has flown by and I know it is just going to keep going that way right up until December 19. My weeks are fairly busy with even busier weekends so keeping up with blog posts has been challenging - but now, with over a month under my belt, I have so much to share!
I spent my entire first month in Ireland, which was very beneficial because while I am huge on traveling and taking advantage of my close proximity to so many other countries, I remind myself I chose to study in Ireland and this island has so much to offer! Below are some highlights of my first month in the country.
Dublin: howth, Guinness factory, causey farm, & food
My study abroad program took us on a day trip to Howth our first weekend here. Howth is a small fishing town on the easternmost coast of Ireland. It is a pretty big tourist destination, and one of the wealthiest areas of Ireland. I was expecting to enjoy this trip, but I could not have anticipated just how beautiful this little village would be. We hiked the Howth Cliff Walk, which is about a four to six mile hike depending which route you take. Luckily, most of the hike is pretty easy, flat ground. The entire six miles is absolutely stunning with a front-row view of the ocean.
I could not fathom how blue the water was. I have been on beaches in Barbados, Puerto Rico, Ghana and Mexico and this water beat them all. I absolutely love hiking as it is, but the views on this were some of the best I have ever seen. At this point, we had only been in Ireland for four days, but it was so nice to escape the hustle and bustle of Dublin and have some time out on the coast. On our walk back down the cliffs, we saw some absolutely stunning houses - I completely understand why people flock to live here and how it became a wealthy area.
After the hike, we stopped for some fish and chips (fries) at Leo Burdock, an Irish fish chain restaurant. The meal was by far the best fish and chips I have ever eaten and it was an absolutely huge portion for the 9 euro I paid. I recently discovered there is a Leo Burdock half a mile from my apartment in Dublin, and sometime soon I am going to cave and get fish and chips again for dinner!
Classes at Dublin Business School did not start for a week after we arrived, so my friends and I had some free time to do a bit more sightseeing before classes began. Of course, one of our first destinations was the Guinness Factory. The factory is directly across from our apartment building, which sounds cool, but we unfortunately get the fumes from the beer factory, and it smells awful. I am a little more used to it now, but at first, if the factory was running, I literally would gag when I went outside. Sometimes, the fumes waft in through my bedroom window, and it is never pleasant.
However, the factory tour itself was so fun. Guinness really works to make this an experience, even if you do not like the beer. It has seven floors in total, and you learn about the entire process, from start to finish. This includes learning about the water, hops, and barley in the beer, as well as the heating process. My absolute favorite part was the floor on the advertisement and public relations of Guinness (communications major nerd status). I took over twenty minutes to look through Guinness ads from decades back and read about different marketing strategies the company had utilized over the years.
The tour ends with the amazing views from the Gravity Bar on the top floor of the factory. The bar boasts possibly the best views of Dublin in the entire city, and is a round room completely made of glass windows. You get a free pint of Guinness with your tour. I knew I had to at least try it, but was pretty sure I was not going to like it because I have never tried a beer I did like (haha). As expected, I was not a fan. I used my free pint to take an obligatory picture, and then handed it over to a friend. :)
The second weekend in Ireland, my study abroad program took us on another day trip to Causey Farm which is about an hour outside of Dublin. It was, once again, such a wonderful escape from the busy atmosphere of Dublin and I had such a great day. We got to try a plethora of different activities on the farm, including baking brown bread from scratch, milking a cow and playing with baby pigs, and learning traditional Irish dancing.
After all these activities came the highlight of the day: bog jumping. Of the thirty five people in my class, only about ten jumped in the bog, and I was one of those fateful souls. I knew from the minute I saw the farm itinerary I had to do it. When would I ever have a chance to go diving into a mud bog again in my life? I will admit it was much more physically exhausting than I was expecting. You cannot tell from outside the bog or from the picture, but the mud is actually upwards of ten feet deep. The twenty minutes I spent emerged in the bog were pretty tiring but so fun. Although it was a pretty cold day, the mud itself was really warm and comfortable when you were just sitting on it and not trying to pull your body out of it. Let's just say those clothes did not make it back to Dublin that day and I was ever-thankful I packed a change of clothing.
Being the foodie I am, I tried a ton of amazing food within my first month in Dublin. The first weekend, my friends and I went to dinner at a restaurant that had been recommended to us called the Woollen Mills. It has some traditional Irish food as well as burgers and mac and cheese. I am one who gravitates toward what I know, so as soon as I saw the menu I wanted to order mac and cheese. However, my friend informed me that this restaurant was known for having the best Coddle in all of Ireland and she encouraged me to get it. I agreed, and I am so glad I did. Coddle is a potato broth-based soup filled with chicken, sausage, potato and onions and is served with a thick piece of brown bread. It was one of the best meals I have ever had. I am so glad I went outside my comfort zone a little and tried the dish - I ate the entire bowl and have been wanting to go back to the Woollen Mills ever since.
Our study abroad program took us to a dinner at the Market Bar in Dublin during the first week as well. The Market Bar is an Irish-American tapas bar where people typically order multiple small dishes for the table to split. I am a huge fan of tapas because it is an easy way to try so many different foods at one meal. The tapas just kept coming: we tried chorizo chicken skewers, meatballs, potatoes bravas, beetroot hummus, fried shrimp, nachos, and my absolute favorite, goat cheese crostinis. I have always been a fan of goat cheese, but this is next-level amazing. I took my cousin to the Market Bar when she visited and she was just as impressed as I was. I will definitely be heading back again before I leave Dublin.
These are just a few of many highlights so far in my Ireland journey! If any of my readers have any suggestions for other must-do's in Ireland, I would love to hear them. You can comment directly on this post or contact me here.
More to come again soon xx
The last time you heard from me, I posted about how I would be leaving for Dublin in three short weeks. Now, six weeks later, I have been here for three weeks already! I was planning to post a lot sooner than three weeks in, but Dublin has been breaking my expectations - to say the least.
I should know myself well enough by now to know it takes me a while to adjust to a culture shock. Three weeks later, I am still adjusting to my new routine here in Dublin and am definitely still reeling from homesickness. Every time I travel I remind myself to not create expectations, and every time, I subconsciously still do. Sometimes, this can help me - my anxiety will lessen if a subconscious expectation is met. But usually, it will hurt me - my anxiety automatically heightens if it isn't.
For some reason, I was not expecting to feel homesick this time around leaving home, because this is my third year living far away from home and I am extremely used to living at Elon and being away from my parents. So, I guess the excitement of living in another country blinded me from the thought I may have to deal with being homesick all over again. However, culture shock, the time difference and a brand new city hit me quickly and I suddenly wanted nothing more than to be back at home with my mom and dad.
On top of this, I began dealing with some stomach problems that got pretty severe at times - severe enough that I was missing class a week into school. This landed me in the doctor's office this past Monday. I was hoping not to see a doctor at all while I was abroad, never mind twenty days in. However, I am glad I mustered up the courage to go - alone in a different country - to the doctor because the treatment he prescribed me already has me feeling much better.
This post is absolutely not to complain, though. I am a huge believer and follower of the saying "grow through what you go through." Every day, I am reminded that feeling grounded definitely comes from within, and everyone adjusts to new environments differently. This does not just apply to traveling - this applies to life. Starting at a new college, working a new job, beginning a new relationship. Trust your instincts and what you are feeling despite what the person next to you says.
In the past, when I have gone abroad, whether it was to Europe, Ghana or Mexico, I have had a habit of looking for things that remind me of home as soon as I get there. In Europe, it was desperately searching for an iced coffee at a Starbucks. In Ghana, it was American snacks (Pringles for the win) in Ghanaian supermarkets. In Mexico, it was getting an omelet at breakfast instead of anything out of the ordinary.
This trip, I promised myself I would not try to fill my experience with things from home. That defeats my efforts to immerse myself in Irish life and culture. With that being said, coffee? Local coffee shops only. And lucky for me, there are a ton of cute ones to try. I have gotten Starbucks once, when I just needed a quick taste of home (and I was super thirsty after some serious shopping on Grafton Street). Out to eat? I had the choice between mac and cheese or Coddle - an Irish potato-based soup with sausage, chicken, potatoes and onions. With a bit of self-encouragement, I went for the Coddle - and it was amazing.
Little pushes like these have helped to remind me I am indeed living in a new country and it was never supposed to be easy. I am growing through what I go through - and I damn well am not done yet.
More to come soon from Dublin. xx
3 weeks from today, I will be heading to Dublin, Ireland for my fall semester! I will living in downtown Dublin and studying at the Dublin Business School. When I left Elon for the summer in May, my fall semester abroad felt like a lifetime away. But now, with only 21 days until my departure, it is suddenly starting to feel real. By that, I mean I am starting to become filled with excitement, anticipation and lots of nerves.
If you know me or you have kept up with my past posts, you know I am definitely a go-getter. I usually know what I want and am willing to work to get it.
In April of 2016, I travelled to Europe for the first time and spent 10 days exploring Germany, Austria, and Poland. At the end of my trip, I reflected on how absolutely magical Europe had been for me and promised myself I would return in the semi-near future. Two and a half years later, my time has come once again and I am absolutely ecstatic to see what this trip to Europe has in store for me - and for much longer than 10 days!
I would love to hear any recommendations for must-do’s around Ireland, and for neighboring countries I may be visiting. Any and all recommendations are absolutely welcome! Feel free to leave me a note down below or contact me directly here.
Be sure to check back here often for updates throughout my 4 months abroad!
Finding a balance between selfish and selfless.
This morning, I stepped foot on my yoga mat for the first time in three months. It has been four weeks since I went for a run. To some, this may seem insignificant. But to me, it is hard to even write this for others to read.
When someone passes away, I often find that their obituary includes praise of their character. "She was kind, smart, and selfless." Selfless. She was "selfless."
I came home from college in May with a list of goals for the summer. Being the goal-oriented person I am, I literally wrote down what I was "dedicating" my summer to: health, self-love, and self-improvement. At first, I stayed consistent to my dedications. I was training for a 5K and running at least twice a week, I bought a new yoga class pass, I was journaling almost daily, and I made an effort to meal-prep and cook most of my food at home.
Then, I started working 40 hours a week. Within days, everything I was working for went almost forgotten. The last run I went on was my 5K. I would sign up for yoga classes and cancel. I put down any book I tried to read. I would think about blogging and end up convinced I "had nothing to say."
Why was it suddenly so easy for me to lose sight of my goals? Why did the things that are inherently most important to me get pushed to the back burner? It has always been important to me to give to those in need. Giving my time, energy, and love has always seemed more valuable than giving money. Up until recently, having my obituary saying I was "selfless" was something I would have strived for.
But when you are not taking care of yourself, when you put your own needs and goals for self-improvement to the side, you cannot give others your best because, simply put, you are not your best. It is so important - if not essential to your prolonged wellness - to be selfish sometimes. You absolutely cannot selflessly help others without first taking care of yourself and working on your body, spirit and mind. When I stopped nourishing my body and soul, suddenly I felt like the rest of my life was malnourished too. The fire I feel when I'm working for things I'm passionate about went out.
I want to be known as someone who is self-full. Someone who understands the potential of their contribution to this world and does not take it lightly. Someone who values that potential enough to put themselves first.
Selfish and selfless have opposite connotations, but they both create unrealistic expectations. Let's find the middle ground.
Growing up, I was raised to be a go-getter. I wanted to jump on every opportunity that crossed my path. In first grade, my class put on "The Magic School Bus" play for our parents to celebrate holidays around the world. I wanted to be the lead, Ms. Frizzle. I got it, and got a dress with a map of the Earth on it to match my role.
Freshman year of high school, I went to graduation with my friend and watched the student speaker - a senior who writes a speech and is chosen to speak on behalf of the rest of the senior class. I knew I wanted to be that speaker when I was a senior. Three years later, I wrote a speech with my entire heart poured into it and got the role as student speaker. I was able to give the speech in front of my entire graduating class, my family, closest friends and favorite teachers. Two years later, current seniors are still reaching out to me for advice on how to write their speech for the student speaker audition.
As often as I went after something and got it, I went after something else and was denied, or had an outside factor turn me down. Sophomore year of high school, my school had a ten-day trip to Europe. As soon as I saw the posters, I knew I wanted to go. But my parents quickly reminded me I did not have $5,000, and that I would probably want to go on the Europe trip when I was a senior, which is when most of my friends would probably go. I decided to listen to them.
Freshman year of college, I applied to go on a mission trip to an orphanage for children with disabilities in Jamaica. I worked hard on my application and was pretty confident I had a good shot of getting a spot. A few weeks later, I got an email saying that I was not selected for the trip.
First semester of freshman year, I applied to be a tour guide on campus. Similar to my application for the Jamaica trip, I worked hard on the application and was hoping I had a good chance. Soon after, I was not moving on in the interview process.
Needless to say, I was disappointed when I was denied and I have been disappointed many, many other times when things did not go my way. But for every single time I have not gotten something I wanted, something better came into my life later.
We have all seen the quotes and mantras that praise the idea of "fate." The idea that everything will fall into place and to "trust the system."
I want to challenge that concept. Rather than trusting "fate," rather than leaving the things that happen to you up to "fate," what happened to having faith in yourself and the decisions you make? Furthermore, and more challengingly, what about continuing to have faith in yourself after failure?
Two years after my parents initially said "no," to my high school's Europe trip, I travelled to Germany, Austria, and Poland with every single one of my best friends and ended my senior year in the absolute best way possible. Just like my parents said I could, if I was willing to wait two years.
A year after being rejected from going to Jamaica, I decided to apply for the trip again. This time, I was accepted and spent my sophomore year spring break working at the orphanage alongside 10 other Elon students. During the trip, I quickly realized that I would not have been emotionally stable to handle that experience a year ago. My freshman year of college was extremely draining and a trip of that nature with absolutely no communication with home would have only made me more anxious. However, a year later I had matured and the trip to Jamaica could not have come at a better time in my life.
Four months after I was rejected from Elon tour guides, I applied to work for Elon New Student & Transition Programs. The office runs New Student Orientation and other programs that facilitate healthy, productive transitions in every part of the college experience - from getting accepted into Elon, to preparing for life after graduation. It was exactly the kind of work I was passionate about and wanted to be involved in. A year later, I not only work for New Student & Transition Programs but I have been promoted to Public Relations Coordinator within the office and plan on continuing my work with NSTP through graduation. I cannot imagine a better on-campus job. If I had become a tour guide, I would have never applied to work with NSTP.
I have faith in myself to make the right decisions for my future, but I also have faith that if something does not work out, time will tell why it did not. In January, I was rejected from my absolute dream summer internship and took weeks to process my disappointment. Four months later, I still have not figured out what better experience is coming - but I have faith that it is absolutely on its way. Maybe not this month, this summer, or even this year, but I know everything is as it should be.
Have faith in yourself, but more importantly, have faith in your future. It makes everything just a little bit easier.
As my sophomore year at Elon comes to a close, I am so thankful for this place I call my "blog" where I am able to share my thoughts and experiences! With just about 5,000 views in 6 months, thank you so much to everyone who has given me a read!
More to come in the future! xo
And step into someone else's.
Last week, I returned from my mission trip in Montego Bay, Jamaica at an orphanage for children with mental and physical disabilities. I returned to Elon, North Carolina, where I have spent the majority of my time for the past two years. Four days later, I returned home to Whitman, Massachusetts, where I have spent my entire life up until college.
But I felt like I didn't know these places anymore because I suddenly didn't know myself. I silently wrestled with this internal struggle because I didn't even know how to articulate what I was feeling.
After a few days, I got back in touch with myself a bit and began to ask myself: what made my trip to Jamaica so different from anything else I had ever done? Why was it so hard for me to readjust back into my regular life?
Simply put, this "mission trip" I had done - the children in this orphanage way up in the mountains outside of Montego Bay - they are not the missionaries. They are not the ones that need "help." They are not the ones that need "saving."
It is us, the Americans who travel to these countries thinking we can help these "poor" people, who need saving. The children who live at the orphanage may lack what we consider wealth: money or an abundance of material belongings such as clothing. But their lives are so full of happiness, spirit and love that they are damn wealthier than we could dream of being.
Upon returning from Jamaica, some of the questions I got included, "Aren't the children so sad?" "Did seeing their lives make you feel so lucky?" and "Don't you think they wish they had families?"
No, to all three questions. Out of the 34 residents, about 24 were in a wheelchair, and about five of them were verbal, with only one being able to form complete sentences. But they do not know anything else but a life up in the beautiful, lush mountains of Jamaica surrounded by the orphanage staff, other residents, and "mission workers" who give them so much love and care.
The reason I felt like I didn't recognize my old surroundings and places I called "home" was not because they were different - it was because I was. My priorities had changed, and that's ok. Since then, I have allowed that strange sense of "not belonging" I felt to motivate me to share my feelings with others and share just how important true "wealth" is, and to continue searching for it for myself.
I was apprehensive to do a mission trip because of the "voluntourism" complex - the idea that white people think they can enter other countries and help poor people, that people only go on mission trips to "take a picture with a black baby" (someone on my trip actually had someone say that to them), and the fact that people are paying $1,000+ to "help" people that really need their money much more than they need their presence.
With that being said, I highly, highly recommend the "mission trip" experience as long as you are fully aware and OK with the realization that you are the missionary. You are the one that will be significantly changed from the trip, and while you probably did some good for the place you visited, your world has changed much more than their's.
It took me a while to accept that. But when you are working with people who find peace within chaos, laugh at the smallest joys, and love unconditionally, your heart is bound to change. So let it.
A huge, special thank you to Elon University and Elon CCM for making the trip to Jamaica possible for me. I am so, so blessed.
Sometimes, feeling uncomfortable is the only way to grow.
I will be the first to say it: I hate being uncomfortable. I hate being unsure of what I'm doing, what I'm going to do or how to react to something.
Like most people, I spent most of high school doing everything in my power to avoid being uncomfortable. This includes typically not associating with people I didn't know, making sure I had my schedule written down and that I knew exactly what I was doing next, and most importantly, not doing anything that could possibly be embarrassing (like only raising my hand in class when I was 100% sure my answer was correct). Because of this, I was almost never uncomfortable. I was set in my routine and did not want it any other way.
Looking back, I realize this was precisely my problem.
Since coming to college less than two years ago, I have begun to see that the times I was uncomfortable are the times I grew. Most recently, that was going to Ghana for three weeks: I was literally uncomfortable for the entire three weeks. New places and people everyday. For someone who loves her routine, talk about stimulation overload. Before Ghana, it was deciding to become an Orientation Leader for incoming freshmen and spend a long weekend acclimating them to life as a college student. There's nothing like having those awkward, "boring" discussions with students just one year younger than you about the university's policies on alcohol. Or, one of my favorites: deciding to go through sorority recruitment and spending three straight days talking about myself and my values to girls that I did not know - basically 10 hours a day of girl flirting.
The common theme throughout all of these experiences is new. New people. New places. New foods. New cultural norms. As awkward and scary this may be, having "new" experiences in life is truly the only way you can ever grow as a person. Whether the new experience is trying a Ghanaian tribal dance with a tribe in rural Africa, or pushing yourself to act confident when you were definitely not feeling that way on the inside, at the end of the day, you've grown.
Tomorrow, I am traveling to Montego Bay, Jamaica for a week of service at the Mustard Seed orphanage. All the children at the orphanage have disabilities - physical, mental, or both. Many of them are not verbal. I have never worked with children like this. We are not using our cell phones during the trip.
Am I nervous? Yes. Was I apprehensive to even take this trip? Definitely. But am I ready to be uncomfortable, whatever that may mean in context of the trip? Absolutely.
In many ways, developing the comfort of being uncomfortable is similar to anything else - it takes practice. The more often you allow yourself to feel vulnerable and awkward, the easier it will become to embrace the challenge of allowing yourself to grow. Being uncomfortable will always be, well, uncomfortable - but there is beauty in that.
There is beauty in growth, and there is beauty in realizing you are so much more than you think you are. Sometimes, all it takes is being willing to accept the discomfort.
Ghana - part one
16 days ago I returned to the U.S after spending 21 days in Ghana. I spent my first 7 days back adjusting into my regular life, and the next 9 days pondering how I wanted to speak about my trip in my first post about it.
In 21 days, I experienced more than I could have ever prepared for. There were so many incredible moments, hours, and days. However, the most empowering, inspiring thing for me was the people I met and the attitudes they had. Not just toward me, a visitor in their homes, but toward their own lives.
I think it is important I start by saying this is absolutely not a post about how much I did to "help the poor in Africa," a stigma often referred to as the "white savior" complex that I think often follows any trip to Africa or a similar place. If anything, the people I met did more for us than we did for them. In fact, Ghana is one of the most economically stable and peaceful countries in all of Africa.
The first village we visited, Sokode (pronounced So-ko-day), was in the Volta region which is in Eastern Ghana. We spent a few days in Sokode becoming familiar with village life and its people. From our first night in Sokode, we were told, "The minute you land in Ghana, Sokode is your home." The people were incredibly welcoming, inviting us to learn their tribal dances at our welcome dinner, and genuinely excited to have us in their home.
The second day, we were each placed with a family in the village. My family included a man, Alhaji, and his mother, Bella. Alhaji and Bella showed us around the village, which is about the size of two neighborhoods (with a main road separating them). The Sokode people have almost everything they need to survive within the village: a small house (pictured below), farm animals such as chickens and goats for food and milk, and different plants that grow everything from coconuts, to palm nuts for palm oil, to vegetables like peppers and maize.
It was so clear to me that Alhaji and Bella were proud of their home and village. They were not trying to hide anything from us - these foreign, white students whom they knew nothing about. Rather, they were genuinely excited to be able to explain their lifestyle and answer our questions with no judgement. Compared to most Americans, Alhaji and Bella had so little, but they were genuinely happy with what they had.
In Sokode and other villages we visited, the children were absolutely fascinated with us. After just exchanging smiles, they would eagerly approach us, even if they did not speak English. Even more surprising, their parents would be nearby and they would let them run to us on their own.
Picture this: In the US, a mother and her young daughter are in a busy downtown and the daughter is suddenly approached by a group of older, clearly foreign people. I think we all know what would usually happen next: a swift nudge to the daughter's shoulder to walk away and a push of the head down so no eye contact can be made.
In Ghana I experienced the exact opposite everywhere I went. Ghanians were so willing, if not eager, to let you into their culture and home. More importantly, they were so genuinely happy with what they had - even if it was a tattered shirt and dirt to play in.
So often in the US I think we are preoccupied with the future - what will we buy next, where will we go next, who will we see next - it is hard to be happy with what we already have or what we're already doing. I'm guilty of this too - at least once a day I'll be doing something but all I can think about is what I am going to do next.
Happiness is so contextual - in our context, material possessions are often abundant and moments we take to smile and be thankful are often scarce. In Ghana, appreciation for what you already have seems to simply be second nature.
In or out of context, I think every American could learn a thing or two from Ghana and the people of Sokode. They will always have a piece of my heart.
I just returned from a week in Barbados!
Barbados is a country in the Caribbean directly north of South America - the entire island is less than 1/7 of Rhode Island. The population is about 285,000, compared to Rhode Island with 1.05 million. Barbados just gained its independence from England 51 years ago, so it is still developing its own identity and unique culture.
Although one week is definitely not long enough to totally familiarize yourself with a country’s entire culture and way of life, I committed myself to trying to learn as much as I could about the Bajan (pronounced like Asian with a B) people and their culture in the week I was there.
This means not staying in a resort and not renting a car or hiring a driver - check and check. We rented a small house in a neighborhood in Worthing, about a 15 minute ride from Bridgetown, Barbados’ capital. All of our neighbors were locals - 2 families and a nunnery surrounded us. We used public transportation for the entirety of the trip, excluding one private tour we took. Besides this, we either walked, or took a cab, the public bus, or a reggae van.
Behold: the Bajan reggae van. Basically, it is local drivers who rent vans with typically ~12 seats and pick up people just like cabs, for a flat rate of $1/person. Sounds fine, if you know what you’re getting into before you get in.
Now, I am all for “living local” and getting the “experience,” but alert traveling and being smart are just as important. You can’t really have a meaningful experience until you learn how to be smart while abroad. So, when getting into my first reggae van 18 hours into being in Barbados, all the flags went up in my head as soon as we got in. The van was completely unfurnished - the ceiling paint had been ripped off, the van was made to hold 12 people and had upwards of 15, the driver drove fast and rather carelessly (my dad called it a “rollercoaster without rails”), and the reggae music was blasting throughout the van so loud you couldn’t even hear the driver. Plus, (helllooo white privilege), the men running the van were all black. Immediately, I thought I had made a huge mistake. I wondered if they were going to drive me and my family off the road and steal from us, or (dare I say it crossed my mind) kill us. Looking back, was I being a little dramatic and stereotyping these men? Absolutely. And, since I’m writing this, obviously I was wrong.
The men were actually all rather friendly and each time, they got us exactly where we wanted to go. By our last trip in a reggae van, I sat up front with the driver and sang with him when a song we both knew (it was by Lil Uzi - lol) came on the radio. Although a reggae van definitely wouldn’t be my first choice of transportation for everyday life, I’m glad we decided to take them and be surrounded by locals every time.
Every other thing we did locally, such as take the public bus, go to the grocery store, and go to the famous fish fry that the Bajans have every Friday night, we were surrounded by locals. I felt I got a bit of insight into Barbados I definitely would not have gotten if we stayed in a resort and had a driver for our excursions to tourist attractions.
When we did do some “tourism,” such as snorkeling, I tried to just enjoy the views and the activity rather than focus on the “vacation” aspects of it - I had one drink the entire trip (and didn’t even finish it), despite daily opportunities to drink. I definitely don’t frown upon drinking on trips, but after thinking more about trips planned around alcohol (which I talked about in my last post - scroll down to read it), I decided to stay dry this time around.
After a week of trying to live la vida local in Barbados, I can say this: it is definitely an underrated country. The pride Bajans have for their land, their work, and themselves is so obvious in everything they do. 70% of Barbados’ annual profit is from tourism, and the Bajans are so proud to show foreigners their land, their food and their people.
Although I am ready for an American meal and to drive my own car, I am so glad I didn’t spend my week in Barbados on the beach with a drink, turned away from the real culture - reggae vans and all.
Tomorrow, I am leaving for Ghana for 3 weeks - look for my posts about that when I get back to the US!
"I'm here for a good time, not a long time, you know," said Drake in Big Sean's song, Blessings. Inspirational, right?
No, probably not. However, when you think of it in the sense of traveling, Drake is usually right.
For many, a typical vacation looks like this: The beach. The pool. Mexico. Florida. Drinking. Partying. A week away from our reality. And that's just about it.
Except someone else's reality is just a few minutes down the road from our resort.
Now, before anyone assumes I'm slamming people who take those kind of trips: I'm not (well, not exactly). I've been there - this summer my friends and I dropped over $1,000 each to spend a week in a secluded resort in Cancun and did almost nothing except drink (first and last time I take tequila shots) and lay by the pool or beach. Was it fun? Of course. Was it worth $1,000? Probably not - especially with the thought constantly lurking in the back of my mind that the devastation and poverty that is most of Mexico could not be that far from our luxurious, all-inclusive resort.
I think, for the most part, we have all been there. Traveling is fun - if not one of the most important things we can spend our money on - but I believe the art of learning how to travel meaningfully is so important not only because we are spending precious, hard-earned cash to travel to other countries and experience new places, but because who are we to be blind to the real culture of the places we travel?
"Meaningful" travel should look more like this: we go to a new place. We learn about the people who live there. We try new foods - and we say thank you as we cringe at the smell of them. We look around us - and we remember we are guests in these peoples' home.
And even more so, we remember that we all live on one Earth. This is all of our home - some of us can afford to spend $1,000 to lay on the beach sipping margaritas, while the people who live just 10 miles away from our all-inclusive resort struggle to gather enough money to send their children to school.
And should we enjoy ourselves along the way? Absolutely - there is nothing more enriching than experiencing how other humans live.
St. Augustine wrote, "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page."
Those who travel just to drink and turn away from the reality of what they are surrounded by - they may be reading a new page, but they are reading it upside down.
Just living, learning + loving and writing some of it down along the way. Senior + Director of Panhellenic Recruitment at Elon University in North Carolina. Currently interning + curating social for some badass clients at SFW in Greensboro, NC. Yogi, sightseer, shopaholic, foodie, writer.
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