Archive for ‘Travels’

June 29, 2012

I’m Coming Home

Written yesterday, while waiting for my flight home.

 

My plan was to spend 2 months living and loving life in Costa Rica. Touching down that first day, I looked around at the hills and mountains, the way the clouds skimmed the top, and the way the sun exposed everything, and I couldn’t have envisioned leaving a moment sooner than July 21st.

Yet here I am, a month later, sitting in SJO waiting for my flight home.

Some people who know me well may say, “I knew she wouldn’t want to be away for so long,”  while others are no doubting saying, “is she crazy?! I’d never come back.” I think that until I was here in Costa Rica, living what was once my dream, I wasn’t sure how I would feel. I knew for sure that I wanted to experience living elsewhere for a short time. I wanted to improve my Spanish and develop a yoga practice. I wanted the time to think clearly about what I would want to accomplish when I got home. Did I want to work full time again? Did I still want to be a graphic designer when the field is so narrow? I want to get married and have kids, but when? I couldn’t sort through many of those things prior to my trip, due to a lot of cloudiness. I felt like after a few years in a very unhappy place professionally, I needed to turn that attention towards my personal life. I have a great partner in William, but how can I improve myself and ultimately both of our lives together?

I think alone time is highly underestimated. For someone who talks an awful lot, I spend a lot of time a lone in my head with my own thoughts. It it is easy for us to fall into day to day patterns, ignoring the small cries that are trying to tell us to slow down and take our time thinking things through. Have you ever spent some time not doing anything, just thinking about things, or spent a whole day with yourself saying, “I’m going to do whatever I feel like doing today?” I finally got to do that, a whole bunch of times, and I really liked spending time with myself. The lifestyle in Montezuma is one where you have plenty of time to do those sorts of things. I wrote a lot, spent a lot of time meeting and talking to new people, getting wicked cases of sunburn, and speaking terrible spanish. I spent some time working on my warrior poses, and even more time listening to crickets, howler monkeys, and reggae music. I love Costa Rica. I love Montezuma dearly. I will never forget what the sand, sun, and ocean feels like (warm, comforting), the amazing people who live there ( just as warm as the sun, too), and every experience I hope never to take for granted. Monica and I had the best time ever, and I know for sure, she and I will definitely travel together in the future to other warm, sunny locales.

Still, after one month, I think I accomplished what I came to do. I didn’t want my trip to turn into a 2 month long party, and I could see it heading in that direction. I’m not an undergrad, and I had no desire to feel that way again. I began to feel very homesick, especially after seeing my family gathered together on Father’s Day via Google Video. After the screen went dark, I cried and cried, for what is surely my real source of happiness was so far away. No adventure could ever bring the kind of joy (or stress for that matter lol) that my family brings me. Even Talia and Louis in front of the screen made me pine for my warm bed and cute little dogs laying at my feet. That feeling, combined with what would turn out to be a week dealing with a stomach bug made me long to be home. I remembered that at almost 29 years old, at this current place in my life, I can do whatever the hell I feel like doing. For some people, that means seeing the world with no return date in site. For me, it means I am completely content being the type of person who takes a few vacations a year. I once thought that such thinking would make me boring and out of touch. Now? I don’t really care. I am smart enough and resourceful enough to never get bored for the rest of my life. I am also strong enough and wise enough to know when its time to focus on something else.

I am happy I will always have this experience, and I feel blessed that I could afford the opportunity. I am even more lucky that I fully appreciate what it means to go home and truly love the life I have made for myself there. I am blessed to have figured out that there is no better place for me than with my family and friends, and that I could be anywhere and be home as long as they are there.

 

Loved My Life In Montezuma

PS- One of you will inevitably ask if I regret quitting my job to travel ONLY for one month, so let me just say, before you get it twisted, the following official statement.

HELL NO I DON’T REGRET IT. Not one bit.

June 4, 2012

Montezuma, Costa Rica: My First Full Day

After months of planning, several mental breakdowns, and a lot of support, Monica and I finally arrived in Montezuma, Costa Rica.

The town lies on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula

It only took two planes, a 2 hour van ride, a 1 hour ferry, another 1.5 hour van ride, and a bit of lost luggage, but we made it! I can completely understand why people go to the ends of the earth to experience this place. Simply put, it is beautiful. The people are incredibly nice for the most part, and very very helpful.

We left San Jose at 8 a.m. yesterday morning and arrived in Montezuma at 1:30. The ride was was so bumpy, but the scenery was amazing. The mountains surround you on all sides like a protective walls, standing high and very very green. It seemed like out of no where the mountains open up to the ocean and BOOM- there you are in Montezuma.

This small town has 2 main roads filled with a few street vendors selling their craft, and dozens of shops, bars, and restaurants. Everything is almost right on the beach. I can’t even describe how lucky we felt to walk up to this beach in 5 minutes.

Montezuma Beach

I still haven’t adjusted to the itty bitty time change, so I woke up at 5 am and read in my room. When I finally got it together and forced Monica to get up too, we found a cafe to eat breakfast. We have been eating some amazing, fresh, and unprocessed food here. It is a whole other post full of details and pictures to come. Anyways, we found one of the girls in our program, Katherine, shared coffee and a few laughs with her, and then started our first full day.

2 hours of Spanish, a big break in between spent sunning and swimming at the beach, and now we are ready for spanish lab- which means we walk around town together and socialize with people speaking only spanish. After that, an hour and a half of yoga 🙂

The Spanish class is very much like that in the States, but our instructor, Wendy, is certainly nicer than any teacher I had. Unfortunately, I may not stay in her class long. Since I have some proficiency already, I will likely move up to Spanish 3.

So far, I am really loving Montezuma. So far, I really miss my family (YES, ALREADY!). I had to keep myself from crying like a wimp while google video chatting with William last night. These past two nights away have been sleepless, but I hope I will sleep better as time goes on. Still, I intend to stick to my purpose- explore and enjoy, and I’m happy I can share it with him virtually.

Is that a nap calling my name? zzzzzzzzz……

May 3, 2012

End of the Semester & Funemployment Prep

 This happens to be the lovely time of the semester where I fall off the face of the Earth for 2 or 3 weeks because I simply cannot manage both my life and a blog. Anyway, I am back, and I’m ready to get my write on!

 

PRAISE JEEBUS!

School is nearly done. I finished Book Design last night after presenting an interactive story app for Poe’s The Raven. No I did not know John Cusack was making a shitty movie about him at the time I started.

Next week marks the last class of the semester. Info Design has been a decent experience. For my final project, I created an app called Rush. It works as a tool to track your creative conscience. I can’t wait to finish it and be DONE!

There are 15 calendar days until I am officially closing the chapter of my life as a government contractor. Yes, I am still excited. No, I will not miss anything about it.

There are 4 weeks until I leave the country for a summer in Costa Rica. Yes I am still excited. Yes I am still nervous. Yes to all of the above!

I’ve already started setting aside the stuff I am taking (the fun part), and planning what I will do when I  return (necessary evil). So far, things have been smooth. The only part I can honestly say is the 4 vaccines I received yesterday, leaving me feeling like a sick little kid. Polio, Typhoid, Tetanus, and Hepatitis A/B (1st round) vaccines are running through my blood stream as we speak, getting ready to kill all sorts of shit in case I come across it. My own little army lying dormant…

I also bought these extremely thorough kits to prevent me from getting nasty little diseases like Dengue Fever (what the fuck), and another one to ease the discomfort of the travelers diarrhea that I am bound to get. The nurse lectured me for quite a while on what to eat and what not to eat, sucking the fun out of everything as she said no to street food and mixed drinks containing ice from unfiltered ice cubes. What the hell am I supposed to drink?! Oh well, beer it is.  How am I supposed to remember to not open my mouth in the shower, eat fruit salad washed in local water, put a straw in everything, etc? I know I’m a mess, and I’ll forget as soon as someone says, “drink this rum and passion fruit juice.”

 

SAY NO (Photo Courtesy of Pbase.com

 

She also broke my heart by telling me not to pet any animals. I understand why I shouldn’t pet random street dogs, but not hold a sloth monkey? That’s 75 % of the reason I chose Costa Rica! What am I supposed to love on while I’m down there?

Don’t pet him? That’s just mean! Surely this loving little creature won’t give me Ebola or Rabies….
(photo courtesy of escapevillas.com)

Aside from preparing for my doom via bat bite, life is normal for the next few weeks. Lots of things are on the way, but for now, I’m enjoying my last bit of normalcy before I take off. Friends, be prepared for me to be needy and clingy for the next month! I am going to get in as much time with you as I can.

 
April 12, 2012

Racing Thoughts Late At Night

Last night, I came home from class beyond exhausted. It was 11:40 when I walked into the door. I was so happy to see my dogs, who clearly are barely living a full life unless they are following me around the apartment. I was even more excited to see William, who was barely awake.

Only a few more weeks of the double agent lifestyle…unhappy government contract support by day, stressed design student by night. School ends the 9th. 9 days after that, the job I begrudgingly came to for the past three years will end as well. I’ve quit my job to travel, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve sworn off new clothes, taken up afternoons at the gym, and gave up drinking anything but wine once a week in a Lent related attempt to save money and my health. I still haven’t had a beer yet. I excitedly shared my plans with everyone in my world. I can’t believe that I, a self-professed home body, will spend 2 months (I miscounted I’m actually away for a week longer than I thought) away from my home, my love, my family, friends, and 2 dogs, in the name of…my own dreams.

I laid awake in my bed until 12:30. Why do I feel guilty for following my heart? I lay in my bed, thinking about how I am not the only person sacrificing things for my dream. Darkness, laying beside me, is supporting my decision in more ways than one. He loves me so much that he is telling me to do whatever I feel called to do, because he would never want me to regret a thing, especially while we plan our future lives together. I am really grateful to have him, because I know he is the best.

I think about the people who accuse me of being crazy. How they think I am unstable. Who would give up the financial security? Squander their savings? Delay dreams of buying a home in this already tough economy?

I think about how I have spent countless moments crying, stressing, clenching my teeth, wishing for more time, hating my work day, crowing about how there is ever time for the things that make me happy. I think about the people who will never get to experience anything but hardships far worse than my own. I think about  my my best friend, Jessica,  gone to soon, and how she would never waste her life in a place she wasn’t meant to be.

Then I think about how I am a girl with nothing to lose. I think about how I’m not sure of everything I want out of life, but after spending nearly all of my 20’s listening to other people, and adapting their version of happiness, I think I owe it to myself to take the time to figure out what my version is.

I can assure you, this picture was taken while I was experiencing a moment of sheer joy.

I can assure you, this picture was taken while I was experiencing a moment of sheer joy.

April 1, 2012

I’m going to do WHAT?! (Part One)

Earlier this week I publicly announced something I’ve been so excited to share. I’m quitting my job in May, and going to Costa Rica. I find myself to be an open minded person- someone who is able to think outside of the box, question things rather than accept them at face value, and go through the trouble of seeking my own answers. It’s my inquisitive nature that has lead me to make this major, major change in my life.

How did I arrive at this decision?

I have spent much of my adult life in conflict with myself. I feel like I have an explorer’s spirit who is being stifled by an extremely practical logic (Is that partially my parents influence? Very likely). I have long wanted to pack up a bag or two, and take off to another country with the goal of experiencing the language, the people, and the journey of being on my own in an unfamiliar place. I have a very tight knit family While I’m grateful for their guidance, I think I owe it to myself to get in touch with my adventurous side before marriage and kids come into the picture. Those major milestones are on the horizon, and I wanted to experience more travel and adventure before I settled into the domestic life I have always dreamed of with William. I want no regrets.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching other people do what they felt called to do. I sat around thinking, “I can’t do that. I have a job and bills I have to pay.” But when everyone else is having the experience of the life time, and you are standing by green with envy, something in you snaps and says, “Why NOT me?!”

Work life became something I hadn’t experienced before. It was to the point where I didn’t want to get out of my bed in the morning, and I would be angry and aggressive on Sundays, knowing I had to spend the next 5 days at a place where I wasn’t learning anything or playing well with others. I felt depressed. Here I am, trying to be the best adult I can be, and I just can’t cut it. This couldn’t be all there is to adulthood, right? Graduate school provided some relief, but I also felt that my job left me so stressed at the end of the day, I couldn’t even concentrate on my schoolwork. 16 hours a day in front of a computer left me aching for change. Everything, including my health, began to suffer- anxiety, a HUGE weight gain, and constant tension headaches were some of the the things building up, adding to my unhappiness. I know there are always personality challenges and bad days at work, but this was beyond my realm of experience.

All the while I kept looking at other jobs, study abroad programs, travel programs and other escape routes. I’d plan them to the tee, then never hit the purchase button, of course. I could hear my parents echoing the same thing they had always said, “you can’t quit your job Crystal. You need to work. Sorry.” The assumption that I didn’t want to work was frustrating. Of course I want to work! I just want my work to be fulfilling and challenging. My parents would say, “if you get a federal position, you need to just take it.” Sorry, no. I don’t think so. I didn’t pursue a Master’s degree in Design to have no job growth for the next 40 years.

I reached my breaking point a few months ago when a coworker who I have always had tense interactions with stood over me, in my face, yelling. I called William frustrated and crying and said something I’ve blurted many times before. “I’m Done.” This time, however, I really meant it. A coworker violating my personal space was something I am NOT putting up with. No one should. What I also realized is that while she may have someone “talk to her” about her behavior, she would never really be apprehended.

That day, I made the decision that I was ready to move on. There are certainly people I love dearly where I work. Many of them are like family members I fight with and then we have a great, while other experiences are completely unacceptable in any work place. I just felt that after having worked there on and off since I was 19 years old, it was certainly time for me to move on. It was changing who I am. I’m a happy person, who has a lot to be grateful for in life, and I was no longer reflecting that part of myself. I was becoming too sensitive, too on edge, and too unhappy. When I walked out of there knowing I was ready to leave and put my notice in soon, I felt lighter and happier than I had in years. I was finally free of it. Why had I waited so long?

I realized that every time I have ever been unhappy in my life, it it has been because I have pursued SOMEONE ELSE’S version of what my life should be like. I have to stop feeling like I need other people’s approval to be happy and pursue what I want to do. I’m excited to be doing something I’ve dreamed about for so long! What makes this adventure even better is that when I told my family about my plans, they were actually being supportive, and William couldn’t have been a better cheerleader (add that to the reasons why I love him).

While I am heading into some scary and unfamiliar territory, I couldn’t be more excited!!! There are so many amazing things coming up. I can’t wait to share it here on my blog with everyone, and I hope you all stay tuned 🙂

March 19, 2012

Falling Out of Love With Home

Henri Silberman's Photo of New York- GLORIOUS!

I love New York. I love the lights, the sight of the bridges, tunnels, skyscrapers, loudass people, endless possibilities for exploration on any night, the shopping, the food, the culture, and mostly, that I can bump into anyone and don’t have to say excuse me, because EVERYONE is rude. I fucking love New York.

William does not share the same sentiment.  We have two completely different viewpoints on moving back to the city. Both of our viewpoints are tinged by the completely different lives we lead before knowing one another. His, full of fond memories and sad losses, and mine, enduring the white bread problems of suburbia.

The topic of us relocating to New York comes up frequently. His grandfather, who just turned 90, would love to have us around, I love the city, and William does miss his family very, very much. But there is this hesitation in him I just didn’t understand at all. I know William very well, but I couldn’t peg why he is so ambivalent about it. New York is his home! How could not want to go home? Even with me picking at the subject in the annoying way that I tend to do, he just can’t bring himself to give me answers.

The only thing I can determine is that he and New York have fallen out of love.

Let me explain.

William is a native of the Bronxdale neighborhood, next door to the housing projects of the same name.  His Mother, Gloria, and two brother’s David and Marcel, along with his grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and family friends, who might as well be blood related, are an incredible network of people who formed the wonderful memories of his childhood. Not all the times seem to have been good, but that is life for everyone. Having so much family around makes things easier.

When They Were Boys. From left to right, David, William, and Marcel.

Sadly, In 1996, William’s brother, David, was murdered. He was only 17. While at a party in Harlem one night, David made the “mistake” of dancing with a girl who supposedly belonged to someone else. Since some people can’t just accept that dancing is dancing, someone took his life, and shot him. The killer fled to Jamaica in an attempt to lay low after killing David. He was never brought to justice in New York Judicial system, but just like a tale from a movie, the street got him instead. He returned to New York when he thought it was safe, and was killed shortly after. No one knows for what reason, but my guess is, he has a lot of people who’s lives he ruined, and I’m sure a lot of people wanted him dead. What goes around, surely, comes around.

His family suffered through the worst heartbreak imaginable. It was that pain that prompted his mom to move him from NYC to Catonsville, MD later that year seeking a fresh start.  Marcel, almost an adult by then, opted to stay behind with his grandparents.

William adjusted well to being in Baltimore, even with a short time of feeling like a fish out of water. He made new friends and played lots of basketball, and Gloria, a former NYPD dispatcher, fulfilled her dream of becoming a chef.  To this day, I refer to him as the slowest New Yorker I’ve ever met. He likes the peace and quiet, is more inclined to spend a day in the country not doing much, than running around any city, and doesn’t  get why I am enchanted with skyscrapers and city adventures. Some city is ok- all city not so much.

William and his mom, celebrating eachother's passions- cooking and basketball.

Though William doesn’t say it, I think that David’s death has broken the love he feels for New York. Yes he loves it, as it is his home, but that love that makes some New Yorkers say, “I’m a new yorker for life and I’m not leaving” is gone. His mother, who passed away when he was just 23, has meant that WIlliam is here in Maryland with no immediate family. I am his family. My family is his family, and the rest of his family is in New York. He could have gone back, but the love is gone. I don’t know what that is like. My shitty little town of Laurel, MD has never presented me with such pain. The worst Laurel has to offer is a vacant mall and an increasingly sketchy population.

I didn’t understand it until last night before bed when I thought of my own best friend, who passed away a few years ago.  She is the most personal loss I’ve ever had, and surely the biggest tragedy I’ve ever experienced. She died  on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where she moved to live with me while we were in college. For years, I couldn’t even go back, or cross the stretch of road heading into Ocean City where she lost her life in a car accident.

The Eastern Shore isn’t my home, but I think the sentiment I had for it in regards to Jessica’s death may be the same as what William feels for New York. The more I think of that, the worse I feel for not understanding it sooner. I can’t say for sure if this is exactly what he is feeling, but I’m hoping he will share that with me after the reads this post- no worries, I have is permission to write about his life in this post, so I’m not blindsiding him!

Instead of pushing him to be more adventurous in moving us into a city he no longer wants to be in, I should be happy his home is here with me. Amazing what I come to learn when I stop talking.

October 3, 2011

My island in the sun: Key West

I have fallen in love. Might I never recommend going to Florida when the weather in your hometown is in a shitty state of transition after a hurricane. Key West enticed me, called to me, beckoned me to bathe in the sun on its shores, and so I did. I left for 4 days, with my beau, and **almost** didn’t come back.

There was something incredibly amazing about the keys. It seems so far away from the rest of the mainland. I get this similar feeling when I visit Puerto Rico. As my best friend, Juli, put it, it is amazing that you can take a plane ride just a few hours away and feel SO completely different. It was honestly just what we needed.

I have never been to the Keys before, but just the drive alone induced the “runaway” feeling. I wanted to pack my shit up and leave for the keys ASAP! Someone lied to me and told me it was 2 hours, but really it was a three hour drive. We were exhausted when we arrived late that night, so we did nothing but grab some beer and water, then hit the sack at our hotel, the Coconut Mallory. The room we had was nice, and the resort was decent, but really just because it was our first time.  We were closer to the Marina, and I’d like to be closer to Duvall Street next time (not ON it, just closer). Also, the hotel didn’t offer much in the way of amenities. Our towels never got restocked (we had to ask several times and finally just found the towel room ourselves), and despite hanging the tag on the door, we never had our room cleaned.  Also, a cardinal sin was committed- a pool that was non clean. Not a bad place, just not the greatest.

Either way, we didn’t spend a lot of time in the room. The town is so gorgeous, that why would we want to? We immediately went to Ft. Zachary Taylor Beach, and enjoyed a few hours in some CLEAR sparkling water. The bottom is quite rocky, but it wasn’t unbearable in some spots. You just had to swim past the rocky bar. William isn’t even that much of a beach person, but he loved this beach. For a few bucks we rented the chairs and an umbrella and he kicked back for a few. It was the best. The following day it rained so badly in key west that people were literally swimming down Duvall. The water was up to four feet in some spots! We were really glad we rented a GMC Acadia and not the stupid Challenger that William’s inner rock star wanted. The best part was that we weren’t sad it was raining. We went shopping 🙂 AND because I have the best friend a girl could ever want, I was pleasantly surprised by a facial that morning at a beautiful spa on the water. It was a thank you from Juli for all of the wedding stuff. I was totally taken back and it made me feel really special. I love her and William for conspiring such a great morning! I had a hang over, too, so I needed it. lol.

I spent a lot of time at the bar- obviously. I loved the Rum Bar at the Speakeasy Inn, Rick’s, Sloppy Joes, and Bagatelle. Alonzo’s has a squishy place in my heart, however. It was there that I surprised one of my best friends from childhood, who is now a full time resident of the Conch Republic. Jessi is a bartender extraordinaire, and she really made THE BEST mojitos. Alonzo’s also has some delicious baked Oysters, cause I don’t do that raw shit. I had a great time hanging out with Jessi and her husband, Joe, and I’ll name drop the hell out of Alonzo’s for those headed to Key West. 🙂

Overall I had so many great moments there. Time alone with William, alone with myself and my thoughts, with good friends, and of course lots of drinks and good food!

There are more pics to come, but here is a sampling:

The beach, and William eating a cow’s worth of ribs at Margaritaville. We thought Margaritaville was going to be horrible, but we actually got the best service and some of the best food there- the fish tacos were great, and Fats McGee over here at ALL those ribs.