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 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.
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.
BHBH is an amazing organization that’s founded on love and community. For my high school senior project, I put on a play/variety show and donated the profits, about $500 to BHBH.
To learn more about Building Home Building Hope, you can check out their website: BHBH.
They also sell jewelry made from the Dominican Republic, to raise money for BHBH. You can check out the store here, Building Hope – Made With Love In The DR.
You can also find out more about BHBH and support BHBH by liking their Facebook Fan Page: BHBH FB Fan 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 would live on our campus for the year, from each respective country, Spain, France, Japan, Germany, … we had a student assistant for all the languages that were taught.
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, over 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, student 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 studied 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’s 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, was 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.
My second favorite memory was when I went to Madrid, I think for a 2nd time, and my two best friends that I made in Spain surprised me, and visited with me for the day during one of our breaks.
I stayed on the touristy street, Las Ramblas, in Barcelona. It was a mile long stretch with loads of vendors, people dressed up in costumes, loads of tourists, speaking all sorts of languages, a fresh food market with fish, meet, fruit, vegetables, the world.
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 area 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, this cool town where all of the architecture modeled different styles of architecture 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.
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. This 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. My college had a study abroad program in Reading, so I went there to visit some of my friends. And 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 ID to get back over the border.
I went to London for a week in September, 2012 for a LGB youth leadership program via Stonewall. Update later.
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. I’ve driven through Arizona a handful of times, but I haven’t stayed there. I really want to visit Arizona, Oregon, and Washington, relatively soon, because they’re so close!
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 this past March through May. 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.
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.
Next May I’ll make my first trip to Hawaii for my niece’s 1st birthday celebration. And I want to be living in San Fran, for at least a month or two, around June next year, during SF Pride month. I only want to stay for a month or two because right now I have my travel goals set on outside of the country, and more East Coast month(s) excursions.
My number 1 Travel Goal, make it to Hawaii for my nieces birthday in May, that & explore SF and the Bay Area more, and go to events for networking & fun.
Internal Travel Goals
When I took my 2 month trip around the East Coast, I didn’t bring my camera. The only pictures I have are pictures that other people took of me. I have no pictures from New York, where I stayed for about 2 weeks, and which was one of my favorite destinations. The most pictures I have from my trip are from my last two days in Charlottesville, VA. My friend Audra had a camera and loved taking pictures, which I loved. I have more pictures documenting my travels from my last two days than pictures from the rest of my trip, almost 2 months of travel, combined.
I didn’t bring a camera because I like to travel light, and when I’m walking around, I like to have as few things in my pockets and on me as possible. I don’t like carrying extra stuff. My wallet, phone, and chapstick already fill my pockets.
But I’m starting to bring my camera with my wherever I go, and I really do like the idea of taking pictures. (This is why I’m looking forward to getting an iPhone. It will be my phone, camera, and video recorder in one! And I won’t need to pack the cords to charge my camera or to upload the photos to my computer. I’ll be able to upload them straight to the world wide web!) The first time I really got into picture taking was when I traveled by myself to Spain for 5 months. I took LOADS of pictures, which was a new thing for me then.
Reflecting on this has made me realize two different 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.