Wanderlust: Travel Adventures- Series Five

Travel or Bust!

This one’s for the majority of you who responded to my recent social media poll thus granting this series be focused on travel. And for those of you who wanted more of reading, I certainly have some of that coming your way. In fact, I’d say I credit reading for my love of travel. Reading novels awakened me to a myriad of picturesque locations. I imagined them in my mind. Now, I wanted to see them for myself.

It is no secret that I love to travel. In fact, I think the first thing out of most people’s mouths when they see me after a long absence is, “Where are you off to next?”  It makes me smile inside. Firstly, because I see the excitement in their eyes when they mention just how much they enjoy seeing the pictures I’ve shared on social media and joining me on my adventures. And secondly, because my exploring is awakening in them, just as it does in me, a sense of living life to our fullest. One things for sure, travel adventures take you on a journey of self-discovery.

I’ve come a long way since the east coast greyhound bus traveling with my mother and sisters. Each trip was a necessity. Not leisure. Every time we traveled up and down the east coast it was as a result of a recent move. I was 2 years old when I boarded an airplane for the first time. Traveling from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic. My second airplane ride was at 4 years old when my mother decided it was time to leave for the United States, seeking a more prosperous life for us. Thereafter, every other trip was a greyhound bus trip from Providence, Rhode Island to Miami, FL, to Paterson, NJ, then back to Miami. I learned a lot during those trips… namely, BUS RIDING IS NOT FOR ME. Lol But, I’ll admit I enjoyed those bus stops in between at that age. It felt like an adventure. We were in a new city each time. It awakened a sense of need for change and culture in me.  

I’ve always been drawn to seeing more. Discovering new things has been a great pleasure over the years. But it didn’t come without its share of anxiety, motion sickness, and struggles; all of which was totally worth it.  Above all else, on each trip, I seek to experience culture. Not only do I want to see the arts, the customs, and achievements of people or social groups where I visit, but I want to experience the food, the language, and their world. There’s so much outside of our world to be inspired by. It’s as if it magnifies our emotions. To see your own world in comparison. In some areas, you see many people living on less than you do. And how crafty and inventive they are at making the best of their circumstances. It also reminds us just how much we all have in common with one another. In the words of John Kerry himself, “Traveling allows us to see the world through the eyes of someone else, and to understand their aspirations and assumptions.” Deep isn’t it?

Exposing ourselves to various cultures is vital to our own personal growth. I believe it awakens a sense of modesty in us, to see just how small we are in comparison to the vast world we have yet to conquer. We’re forced to be removed out of our comfort zones. To a place where we’re left with no other option than to trust “strangers”. You are no longer surrounded by all things familiar; you are now in a place where the only thing that belongs to you are those essential items you brought with you. To some, this may sound pretty strange.  Scary even.  Like, who wants that? And to others, its pure excitement.  After all, to travel is to LIVE.

I once read a quote that said, “Travel far enough, you meet yourself,” by Cloud Atlas. I couldn’t agree more with that statement. You learn more and more about yourself with each trip. I recall vividly a trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Where I was ready for all adventures to come. Including jumping off a cliff into deep waters nestled between rocks. From afar it seems doable, easy even. I was eager, I was pumped. Until I got to the edge of that plank where I now had to jump off. I hesitated. I was shocked. I was literally questioning my own strength and abilities. But I quieted that voice in my head and I went for it. With a screeching yell all the way down, I swear my heart was going to come out of my mouth before my toes touched the water. It was a relief to splash into the water in full vigor. In hindsight, I’m so glad I went for it.

I also understand that many don’t travel for various reasons. Some think they can’t afford it, others don’t have the time, the resources, and some are simply terrified! There’s a solution to each of these cons. Whether it’s local or aerial, here are a few tips you may find helpful:

  • Learn what to expect- familiarize yourself with the process, security procedures, research the facilities you’ll visit and their amenities.
  • Plan your route- confirm your bookings and allow ample time in case of delays.
  • Rest and Hydrate.
  • Take a friend/loved one.  It’s much more fun this way, though it is not required.
  • Visualize- success in your trip builds confidence and reduces stress.
  • Seek physicians help if needed for trip anxiety, possible motion sickness, etc.

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-fear-of-travel-2671901

The Dalai Lama reminds us, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.”  Awaken your senses. Push yourself past your limitations. You’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you try. And don’t think you must be rich to travel. This is an absolute myth. You can plan your trips out in advance. Sit down and prepare a budget. Your trips budget will be based on what you’d like to experience. Local travel can be just as costly if not more than traveling abroad. In fact, these days, with the current state of the pandemic in many countries, you could very well find some deals. Tourism is looking to expand in areas hardest hit by the pandemic. It’s the perfect time to take advantage.

I’ll leave you with 3 of my favorite travel quotes:

“The impulse to travel is one of the hopeful symptoms of life.” Agnes Repplier (This is me, I live in full surrender to travel impulse. Riding on HOPE.)

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Helen Keller (What is life if not an adventure?!)

And last but not least…

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine

Turn the page. Read the entire book. Expand your book collection. And gain some additional travel inspiration by visiting the following travel blog. So many goodies shared here. ENJOY!  

A Moment in Time

My love for history began in elementary school. I was that model student in Mrs. Mullins class at Carl G. Lauro, attentively listening to every detail about the Egyptian culture and times. From the way they communicated with use of art, drawing, and papyrus, to the way they built their statues and homes. All of which depicted who they were, where they came from, and their lives. I was blown away. Just as I was mesmerized by this astonishing era, we dove into Greek mythology; another one of my favorite moments in history. The way that Greek god’s and goddesses ruled over others. As well as their delight to all those who looked to them for direction and guidance. Those mythical moments had me in awe.

I always sought to be in that place. In the very location they described in the tales. To be a bird in the sky as they lived out these moments in history… boy was I ever astonished when I finally got the opportunity to visit one of these places. Standing at the very top of that mountain looking down from Acropolis… the views were magnificent. Visiting the very Parthenon and seeing the beauty that still stands. Among the rubble of dust and marble, were cranes and equipment currently working to ensure these historic monuments built somewhere between the fourth and third millennium B.C. maintained its historic charm. Some of the walls tumbling down so many years later. I visited the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Temple of Athena, as well as the Acropolis Karyatides. I was transported back in history as if I had just stepped in a time machine. It is miraculous to see. The many sites, the many stories, the abundance of history in this town… like WOAH! I was speechless. 

Check it out for yourselves: http://www.athenshappytrain.com/athens-sightseeing/history-of-athens#:~:text=The%20History%20of%20Athens%20is,the%20foundations%20of%20western%20civilization.

This, my very first visit to Europe. It was also the first time I traveled alone, to a foreign country, for over 17 hours.  From Florida I flew to New York, where I would ultimately have the longest plane ride of my life. No big deal I thought. I’ll get some sleep in. I’ll read. I’ll eat. And before I know it, we’ll be there. WRONG! About 2 meals and 3 full sleep episodes later, I had no more sleep in me. Now, I was antsy.  I looked at the map displayed on the headrest in front of me checking the small pin point on the map where we’d be going, compared to the animated plane in the middle of the ocean.  But I prayed through it and soon we’d arrive.  I originally flew into Chania, Greece. A quaint town outside of Athens, where I proceeded to board a very small, noisy, and delicate plane. The excitement was REAL! So was the nervousness. But you only live once right?  This was YOLO to the tenth power.  I reveled in every little detail of the journey.

After visiting Athens, Greece I was off to Rome, Italy for what would be a quick trip. Definitely got some sight-seeing in. The infamous Colosseum, filled to the brim with onlookers in search of that same historic charm as I. To step foot in the very place where gladiators battled it out. The most famous arena known to man. One of the largest amphitheaters in the world today, was completed in AD 80 with more modifications made thereafter. We’ve seen the gladiator scenes be reenacted time and time again through the magic of cinema, but THIS… THIS WAS BEYOND MAGICAL.

Then it was off to the Vatican City. I was told to wear comfortable shoes, but in true fashion… I wanted to be enchanting. This was my Carrie Bradshaw in Rome moment. So I wore some cute yellow flats. BOY OH BOY! The cobble stone streets did a number on those soles, and on my tired achy feet. But the throbbing paled in comparison to the beauty of the historic buildings that surrounded me. From St. Peter’s Basilica, to the Vatican, to the many historic monuments that enveloped this splendid town. Not enough time to explore them all, but I vowed to return one day.

Here’s a starting point if you’re interested: https://www.rome.net/attractions

As we drove to and from the Rome airport, I remember the wide array of olive trees that lined the main roads. The richness of all the foods I’d eaten were heavenly.  As smooth as butter, and as light and natural as can be. It was truly an experience. To see the way our world is filled with so much treasure. So much history. History filled with both terror and anguish, as much as it was filled with celebration and independence. The rise and fall of empires. I saw it all around me. I saw it in the liberation of the siestas for which many business owners closed their doors to allow time to restore themselves. Then it was back to business. Not ruled by society’s standards of hard work and determination. But filled with the love of the people, and most importantly themselves.

I learned so much in my travels to Europe. Check out my Travel Highlight on my Instagram page. Click the following link to view. https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17923551166510500/ I’ve visited so many other places. Allow me time to update the highlight to include all my travels. I’m currently counting down to my next trip in T minus 8 days (from the writing of this article).

In the words of Duff Goldman, “I love history because when you strip away the social and political aspects, it’s really just a bunch of fun stories.” We can learn so much from history in travel. We see how pain and sadness makes people love a little differently. And even throughout history, the way of truth and love has always won.  I see it all around us. There is so much of this world I have yet to see. At the top of my bucket list are places like Egypt, Israel, Morocco, and the list goes on and on. There’s no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this. So much to see and explore. So much to live for.

I challenge you all to envision a dream expedition. A place you’ve always dreamt of going. If the sky was the limit (which it is) and there were no restrictions; if you had all the resources, the funds, the support, and the strength to overcome mental obstacles… where would you go? What would you do? “An investment in travel is an investment to yourself.” (Matthew Karsten)  What are you waiting for?

Patience, Young Grasshopper.

So, it’s taken me a while to wrap up this travel series. For one, I’ve been traveling. Living. Enjoying life. Spending time with family, and just basking in the glory of my own eternal light (closes eyes, tilts head back, and takes deep breath). But I’m back! Though I’ve been absent in writing… my thoughts have been steadfast on this piece. My preoccupation, how do I close out this series? Should I close out this series? Do people want to read more about my travel adventures? Or should I wrap it up with the most important message of all… PATIENCE.

As I wrote about in my previous piece, “A Moment in Time,” https://issalivestyle.com/2021/05/12/a-moment-in-time/ I was counting down to a trip… and it was eye opening to say the least. One thing that rang in my head over and over from the start was, PATIENCE! Lord… did I need it. I had planned this trip for months. For me, it was the perfect start to a new chapter in life. My 40th birthday as I had imagined it, would be spent in a place, high, atop a mountain, covered in greenery, surrounded by nature, in none other than the very place where I remembered growing up. The Dominican Republic always brings back so many nostalgic memories. And this trip was in some way going to bring it all back full circle. I was looking forward to it.     

Picture this. I’m flying in. From the airplane window seat, I see it. The clear blue, turquoise, teal waters at the edge of a beautiful green landscape. No sooner than the wheels touched Dominican Republic ground the claps rang loud in the aircraft. Always such a wonderful sound. Transports me back to being a kid traveling with my mother to see family.  We gather our belongings. We walk off the plane. Through the narrow and sterile hanger and into the Santo Domingo airport, where we now see a line forming. “Normal airport process,” I thought. We stand in line. The line starts to grow. It is now a winding caterpillar of a line reaching past us in the opposite direction forming a “U” in the now crowded airport lobby. We stand in line for 40 minutes before it starts to move.  Slowly, like an inchworm.

As we move along the line and round the corner I see yet many other long winding lines. I try to remain patient still, during this process. Wondering, what’s going on? What’s the delay? I look at the time and find that its a few minutes past 12pm. This could only mean one thing… they were out to lunch. Not every country has the same organized airport process as we’re accustomed to in “the States”.  We should move quickly now, I said to myself. But NOPE! I was wrong. We stood in that line for nearly two and a half hours. Airport officials passed by and I couldn’t help but inquire. What was the hold up? They say simply, “too many flights arrived at the same time.” Shrugging their shoulders and walking away. You can imagine at this point that I’m not the only one growing impatient. The disorganization in the airport was apparent. Their system, NOT WORKING. The travelers, LIVID. And somehow I managed to maintain my cool, as best I could.  My husband, not so much. When we finally reached the immigration kiosk we felt free!!! Is this what prisoners feel like when they’re released?! Sheesh!

This, only one of the challenges on this trip. Nonetheless, after this fiasco, I was determined to make the best of a rocky start. We were greeted by my three best friends. Them, in full bathing suit attire. Us, disheveled and worn out.  On the upside, prior to their arrival, we were able to get a quick pick me up in the form of a delicious and decadent Dominican treat, a creamy helado Bon   https://heladosbon.com/  We then headed to our next destination to find a lovely surprise being planned in my honor. The husbands all band together to orchestrate a private in-home concert, facilitated of course by the besties. Definitely a welcomed surprise. This eased us right into ending what was the start to our adventure. The next day, we picked our last guests up at the airport and moseyed on up the road to the mountains of Samana. But first, we ate at this fabulous pit stop, Gran Parador Bella Mar https://restaurantguru.com/Gran-Parador-BellaMar-Santo-Domingo-Santo-Domingo-Province  the fact that this restaurant stop was #6 of 81 BBQ spots in Santo Domingo Este (East Santo Domingo) says enough. Absolutely delicious. We loaded our table up buffet style with some of the best eats. Lord knows we’d need it as we hiked up the road.  Figuratively speaking of course.

Cut to… we’re breezing through the Samana neighborhood, just past Las Terrenas (see my travel highlight for photos- click to 3w: 3 weeks ago) https://www.instagram.com/stories/highlights/17923551166510500/ . We’ve driven up the mountain. Passing winding roads and locals. In a minivan occupying ten and our baggage. We’re following a location sent by the Host of our private villa and can’t locate it. Seems we passed the not so visibly seen sign where we should have turned left. After a call to the Host, he came to rescue us. Led us up the hill as he escorted us in his high powered motorcycle. Us… having trouble with the van on the rugged terrain carrying all ten of us and the load of our belongings. Patience, young grasshopper. We did what was the next most logical step… we got off the van (well, most of us) and we walked up the hill. None of us wearing adequate walking shoes. This wasn’t part of the plan. Though treacherous and inconvenient at first. I welcomed this as yet another opportunity to revel in the marvelousness of God. I told myself… I will not let this put a damper on my trip. I even recorded myself in this moment. I, lagging behind some of my guests, camera in hand, panned down to my feet where you can see I’m clearly not prepared for this hike, but I say, “This is the best birthday ever!” Because guess what? That’s what it’s all about! Mind over matter. You’d be amazed how much you can change your attitude with positive self-talk.

We finally reach our private villa. It’s just as I pictured it. Fit the description to the T (see VRBO Link https://www.vrbo.com/6166149ha?adultsCount=2&noDates=true&unitId=1875643 ) Except, two things… I didn’t realize it was open air. Not that we needed it as the weather at the top of this glorious mountain was crisp and the wind flowed through the home as if it were dancing a light tango. This gorgeous home was designed to enjoy all the glorious wonders of nature. And two, this meant, no screened windows and old school wooden shutters which did in fact shut, though not long enough to ensure critters wouldn’t enter. For me, it was okay. I’m a nature girl at heart. In fact, the mosquito nets available in each room, known as “mosquiteros,” were also a very evocative moment for me (also pictured in my Instagram travel highlight). They are designed to cover the bed to ensure mosquitoes don’t disturb your sleep.  Allowing for a good night’s rest. My guests, not too fond of the critters. But we were all very clear on the significance of this trip. For this, I was grateful. It definitely made for some very humorous and memorable events. The likes of which I will treasure forever. Patience, young grasshopper.

There were so many beautiful moments shared. Yes, I would have loved to have been able to explore more of Samana, Las Terrenas (https://www.godominicanrepublic.com/samana/ ). But I know there will be a next time. What I take away from this experience is much more than I ever bargained for. I reached new heights on this journey. Both literally and figuratively.  I recall waking up to the sound of roosters crowing, crickets stridulating, birds chirping, the palm tree leaves rustling in the wind, the look of the sun rising and passing over the trees cascaded all around us in the distance, the morning dew dropping like tears off the greenery that surrounded us, and the sweet calming sound of peace. PEACE! What I had been searching for. And guess what (side-note), I wasn’t bit by NOT ONE mosquito. This is major for someone who’s very sweet to mosquitoes as I am.  See, the patience I needed to get to that moment was exactly what brought me to that place of peace. There’s a scripture in Psalms 131: 1-2 that describes it best. It reads, “Lord, my heart isn’t proud, my eyes, aren’t haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great for me to grasp. Instead, I’ve calmed and quieted myself. Like a weaned child is my soul within me.” Spot on!  His peace, surpasses all understanding.

And though there were moments where my flesh probably wanted to react, to shout in anguish and despair, I didn’t. Colossians 3:12 also reminds us, that God chose us to be the holy people he loves and so we must “clothe ourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and PATIENCE.” I’ve matured to this place of patience. Its taken practice, prayer, and faith. Lord knows I couldn’t have done it alone. Self-control is my biggest obstacle when it comes to practicing patience. Definitely a struggle in life. But I’m sure I’m not alone here. Our ability to control our own emotions, desires, and selfish ambitions lead us on the righteous path. In fact, it’s a peaceful path. Just think of the many ways our inability to get what we want has often frustrated us. It’s made us undesirable to those around us. To ourselves even. The word says in 2 Peter 1: 5-7 that “we must supplement our faith with generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with Godliness.” Whoa! There it is. All right there in the written word.

As we grow in understanding our own identity, we worry less about the not so important things. When you know who’s you are, the simple things don’t phase you. You are able to wait patiently and endure difficult circumstances. Because in fact, YOU ARE CHANGED. And there’s no turning back.

I hope you enjoyed this travel series. There’s so much more I hope to share with you in my travel adventures. Stay locked in to our page and follow us for real time stories on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/issalivestyle/ please, if you feel compelled to, share your own experiences below. I’d love to read about them and interact with you. Until our next adventure… Love, Lin.

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