Under the Knife and Under the Sun: Plastic Surgery While Traveling

By Camila Luna

Travel and plastic surgery. Yes, I traveled to where it’s sunny and warm (and cheap) and  got plastic surgery. Phew! There, I said it.

Like many of you, I, too, have struggled with self- image. I have looked in the mirror, and despite my best efforts to love myself, have told myself that I don’t like X, Y, or Z about my appearance. And, like many of you, some of those “imperfections” I’ve changed with surgery  (you’d be surprised who has had work done), and other “imperfections” I’ve learned to accept.

For me personally, two of my biggest insecurities have always been my nose and my breasts.  Nose too big, and boobs too small. I have done the typical girl things to cover up these insecurities with contour, bras, and flattering clothing, but at the end of the day when you’re bare-faced and the clothes come off, you’re faced with reality.

So, you’re probably wondering: what work did I get done, and how did I plan for it?

Well, I’ll start with the latter question. Honestly, I did not really plan for my surgery. I was at the beginning of my two-month trip through 3 countries and 5 cities, and I suddenly got the idea that while I’m in Colombia, I might as well get the work done that I have always wanted. Mind you, at the time of my decision, I was in San Francisco and was planning on being in Colombia in about a weeks’ time. I had one week to find a surgeon and schedule the surgery.  I was planning to target my two major “imperfections”: boobs and nose .

Right away I started researching surgeons in Bogota, and even reached out to a few, but then I remembered my dear cousin, who has had quite a bit of work done (and looks gorg, btw). My cousin put me in contact with her surgeon, who wrote me into her busy schedule right away.

While all of this was going on, I was sharing my plan with my close friends and family. Of course, all of them were trying to dissuade me from surgery, and my mom, being a scientist, managed to find some really interesting research on breast implants that ultimately changed my mind about getting them.

Although breast augmentation is one of the most common plastic surgeries in the world, it also has the potential for the most complications. Namely, breast implants are NOT lifetime devices. Although those silicone (or saline) pouches have improved dramatically through the years, if you’re in your 20’s, you must plan and expect to have AT LEAST one more surgery down the line to have the implants replaced or removed. Every extra year that you have your implants, the risk for complications increases, and after every additional surgery to fix or replace your old implants, the risk for complications increases even more. Top that off with the fact that I have a tendency for skin allergies (large foreign object implanted in body= unhappy allergies),  and I realized that breast implants were not worth the risk for me.  The absolute best case scenario was that they’d be great, last me a good 30 years, and then I’d need to have them replaced at age 50 (and then again at 80?? Uhhh…), and the worst case scenario is that I’d have a reaction and have to have them removed in a few years (with no guarantee of the condition of my natural breast skin & tissue after removal). I was not down for either scenario, so I decided against the boob job.

Rhinoplasty, on the other hand, is one-and-done. I knew the risk was not liking my new nose, and the usual complications that go along with surgery, but I trusted the surgeon based on the work she had done on my cousin, so I decided to go for it.

While in Bogota, I got all of my hospital tests done, booked my Airbnb for where I was going to stay (I wanted to have my own space while I was recovering instead of staying with family), and even arranged for someone to take care of me post-surgery when my mom wasn’t around.

I met with my surgeon three times before my operation to discuss what I wanted, what was realistic, and possible complications, and even got to sneak in a super intense 4-day trip to Medellin right before the surgery (not sure if my doctor would have advised that, honestly). Then, exactly one week after I landed in Colombia, I found myself laying on the stretcher, with an IV in my arm, ready for surgery. I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, “This is a joke right now. Am I seriously doing this? Whoah this is crazy. Am I crazy? You’re kidding me right now”. Nevertheless, I went through with the surgery, and woke up 1.5 hours later groggy and with a big cast on my nose… but very happy nonetheless.

Buuut….as soon as I was able to look in the mirror after surgery, my heart sank. My nose was exactly the opposite of what I had wanted! 😱😱 It was upturned, and the space between my lip and nose looked huge. My lips looked thin. I looked like a cross between a chipmunk and a pig (pigmunk). I knew that the way my nose looked then was not going to be the final product and that my cheeks were all types of inflamed, but it was really hard to stay positive.

In the first few days after surgery, I think it’s safe to say I was depressed. Surprisingly, my nose did not hurt at all during the entire recovery process (although my doctor had cut both bone and cartilage), but emotionally, I was not in a good place. My face still looked like a pigmunk, my cast looked crooked, I couldn’t sleep because my nose was so stuffy, and now I was starting to get bruising under my eyes. I was terrified that I was going to have the nose of my nightmares.

I am generally a person who is positive and in a good mood. Even if I’m having a hard time at work or if I get my heart broken, I just cry it out, read some books on inner peace, and then I bounce right back to my normal, happy-go-lucky self (yeah, for my exes reading this… even if you screwed me over, I was SO over you in just a few days 💁💁💁😂) . But post-surgery, there were some days when I just wanted to lay in bed all day and feel sorry for myself. It was a kind of sadness/emotional numbness I hadn’t felt before.

Thoughts whirled in my head. Was I succumbing to unrealistic European beauty standards that weren’t even for me?  Was I minimizing my African and Muisca roots? Was I betraying everything I stood for? Do I love myself? Can I love myself and still risk my health by unnecessarily going under the knife???? And if I don’t love myself… will I ever be able to truly, deeply love anyone else??????

I didn’t want to see anyone, or even walk around the block as my doctor had instructed. I just wanted to lay in bed and think about how bad I looked and then judge myself for being so vain (talk about vortex of self-pity😩) Regardless, I had promised myself that even if I didn’t like my new nose and looked like a pigmunk for the rest of my life, I was not going to get revision rhinoplasty and would just accept myself the way I was. I had PROMISED myself that my nose job was one-and-done.

One week after my surgery, when the highlight of my day was being  able to breathe out of one nostril, I had my first follow-up appointment with my doctor. She removed my cast and immediately I started smiling- under the ugly cast and the tape holding up the tip of my nose, I saw my dream nose! It was smaller, had no bump, and still had the characteristics of my old nose that I liked: it was still long, like my Muisca ancestors, and still round at the tip, like my African ancestors. My new nose was perfect for me, and I knew that through the recovery it was going to look even better!

My doctor put on a new, smaller plastic cast on my nose, and for the first time in a week, I put on some lipstick, dressed up in my cute clothes and even left my house to socialize with family and close friends. Finally I was feeling like myself again!

IMG_20180830_191233PicsArt_08-30-06.50.06

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before the procedure I had told myself that my surgery was going to be top secret. I felt ashamed, felt like a huge hypocrite (body- positive feminists don’t get plastic surgery?? 😰), and matter of fact, my biggest fear was returning to Shanghai (where I currently live) and having people realize that I had had my nose done. But with time, I found myself telling almost everyone around me. I told almost everyone except for my three best friends in New York who I would see in two weeks. These girls, who have known me for about a decade, were going to be the test reaction of my nose job. I was excited and nervous.

When I finally arrived to New York about two weeks after my surgery, no one noticed a thing. When I told my friends, all I heard was … *crickets*…. “wait, really?” “but where?” “but what was wrong with your nose?” “did it hurt?”. No one noticed a thing. My family joked that I had wasted my money since the difference was unnoticeable to others.

Despite this extremely anticlimactic reaction from my friends, I am very happy with my surgery and don’t regret it at all. When I look in the mirror, my nose is exactly the way I want, and I can absolutely notice the difference. I still contour my nose, but now it looks just the way I want when I take off my makeup. The difference is very subtle and natural, and I feel much prettier.

Now, for the big question many of you may be wondering about: how much did my surgery cost? The surgeon fee cost the equivalent of about $1,300, but with the hospital fees, anesthesia, medicine, etc, I would say the whole surgery cost about $2,000. This is freaking cheap AF. I paid it in USD, which probably thrilled my doctor.

I have decided to be open about my surgery because honestly, surgery is serious, it was as much an emotional journey as a physical one, and it is an experience that has changed me both inside and out. I know there is a lot of stigma and judgment around people who get work done, especially in the US. But honestly, I feel more comfortable and free when I’m open with others- even if they disapprove. I don’t want to normalize plastic surgery, but I want those of us who have chosen to go under the knife to be included in the self-love dialogue, just like everyone else. If you’re reading this and thinking terrible things about me (or even feeling “concern”/ “pity” for me), it’s ok, I honestly don’t mind- maybe you also secretly want to get some work done… hahaha 👀🙊.  Also, I understand it can be hard to wrap your mind around the fact that someone would get surgery just for vanity.

Either way I’m still me, and even though I changed one “imperfection” with surgery, I’m still on the journey of learning to tolerate/love my body. Will I have more invasive plastic surgery in the future? Honestly, I hope not. I’m happy with what I’ve done and don’t want more. Will I get little things like fillers or Botox? Honestly…. that’s a definite yes.

Mostly, I want to continue this journey of body acceptance/enhancement/modification with a prayer for myself and everyone reading this:

 “Universe, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”

 

Oh, and one last thing. If you’re considering surgery while traveling, here’s what you should know:

10 things to know before getting plastic surgery while traveling:

  1. Unresolvable cognitive dissonance. But… but…I’m a body- positive, intersectional feminist who barely shaves her legs… how can I get plastic surgery??????
  2. No flying for at least 10 days after surgery. Nope, ya can’t leave right away! And if you’re in a mountainous place like Bogota, you need to be in the city at least three days before surgery while your body adjusts to the altitude.
  3. No sun. I know, the title is misleading. No matter how beautiful the beach is near you, after surgery, you need to stay out of the sun to prevent swelling and possibly permanent discoloration.
  4. You will probably feel depressed. This was big for me. You will probably be in your room, in pain/uncomfortable, questioning your life choices/ beauty standards/mental health/sanity, and feeling ugly as hell for at least a week after surgeryThis can be quite isolating, and you might be thinking of all the cool things you could be doing if you weren’t suffering from your own vanity.
  5. Kissing will hurt, and you need to curb the hanky-panky and any other form of exercise. Sometimes flings & things happen while traveling, so tell your new amiguito to chill because you just had surgery and can’t get too crazy with any type of physical activity.
  6. With your cast on in Latin America, people will assume you got a nose job. With your cast on in the US, people will assume you had an accident… LOL
  7. You will think people are judging you, and they probably are, but guuurl (or boy or they/them)….. do you anyways.
  8. No alcohol in the days before and no alcohol for at least two weeks after surgery. Yep, gotta curb the fiesta.
  9. You should definitely speak the local language, or find a doctor who speaks excellent English. Clear communication with your surgeon is SO important to get the results you want.
  10. RESULTS ARE NOT GUARANTEED!! There is a possibility you will not like your results or that there will be complications. Be sure you are very, VERY aware of this and be emotionally prepared to deal with this kind of situation if it happens.
PicsArt_08-30-07.08.42

When I posted this photo from my room in Bogota, no one would have guessed I was laying in bed with a cast on my nose.

Check out more of Camila’s articles on the Travel Latina website, and check out her travel blog in photographs at @camila.lunaaaaa on Instagram!

 

Bailando y Gozando Around the World

IMG_9714

House of YES in Brooklyn, New York

Do you love to dance so hard you feel like your soul is about to pop lock & drop it out of chest? Do you love music at intersection of African, Latin American, Asian and European Influences?

Are your friends scared your head is gonna fall off from so much swinging around on the dance floor? Do you ever find earrings or other party artifacts buried in your hair the morning after? (no? just me?). Last but not least, do you have tumbao?

If you answered yes to these questions, this list is for you. I have danced in many corners of the world, but these spots made the top 5 list for guaranteed gozadera:

  1. House of YES (New York, NY)

This place is LIT! This venue focuses on consent culture, sexual freedom, gender fluidity, diversity, and is probably the most expressive place I have every been in my life. Have you every wanted to dress up as a metallic alien and rip up the dance floor? Do you want to wear a cake on your head? Do you love lime-yellow colored wigs with even lime-y-er yellow matching feathers (my guilty pleasure)? Literally, let your imagination run wild and think about the weirdest thing you could (or not) wear, and then times that by 10, add in a few cocktails served by Drag Queens dancing on a bar, mix in some love, professional acrobatists, the the most down to earth crowd, and then add an exponent of 7. That is House of YES.

urrRnX8

House of YES party

  1. CHILL Jamaica (Kingston, JA)

This is THE most surreal party I have ever been to. It’s outdoors, and happens once a year during Christmas time. Tickets can be pretty pricey, but it is SO worth it. The place is replete with all-you can eat gourmet food, open bar, dancing robots, drones from outer space, celebrities (Usain Bolt and Shakira were in the crowd last time I went) and the most gorgeous and well-dressed people you have seen in your life. Of course, the DJ’s play the most epic carnival-worthy dancehall you have heard, and by the end of the night your neck and abs will be sore from swinging your head and hips around allllll night. Ah. mae. zing.

  1. UNÏCO Shanghai (China)

Who needs cardio when you have Unico? Not even joking.  I literally go to Unico every single Saturday. I don’t think I have never NOT had fun at Unico. They have live drummers, and the DJs there play the newest, hottest reggaeton and afro-latin beats, and mix and modernize some of the oldest Latino tunes (“like yo, this was my granddad’s jam”) to the point where you are just dancing your heart out. The current drummer, Thomas Dyani, used to play for the Lion King. I know this because I often shut down the bar and get to talk to the musicians after the party. (Something to brag about??? IDK #ItISWhatItIs). The place is full of mainly Spanish and Latino expats, as well as some Chinese and Europeans who will be in awe of your very mediocre Latin dancing skills. Love, love Unico!

unico shanghai

Inside Unïco in Shanghai, China

  1. Salon Rosado de la Tropical (La Havana, Cuba)

Oh man. This place is so epically vintage. It is straight out of a 1950’s Cuban revolution movie. The place is old, I mean, really old. Its open-air, and now that I think of it, actually might just be an old baseball stadium turned into a party space, a lo “inventando“. Just a forewarning: this place is NOT your typical tourist spot. It’s is all local “repa” Cubans happy in their element. I went there several times and it never failed me. They play they latest Cuban reggaeton (often unavailable in the US) and salsa, have the cheapest beer, liquor, and the best #views. Also, no shy guys here- be prepared to be asked to dance, and make sure you can hold it down on the dance floor with Cuba salsa footwork. No messing around at Tropical!

tropical

La Tropical in Havana, Cuba

  1. Mehanata Bulgarian Bar (New York)

Mehanata is really special. If you get there early, the live musicians will be playing traditional Bulgarian tunes upstairs with reggaeton playing downstairs. Later in the night, Colombian-music-loving DJs blast the most amazing tunes mixed with some traditional Eastern European music which creates the most unexpected but beautiful combo! Downstairs, there is a communist-themed all-you-can-drink ice cage (LOLOL…. I know) and #2Poles with mirrors all around. Never fails, and if you’re lucky, you might just catch a few Greek dudes traditionally smashing plates. Not even joking. Mehanata def solicits the “how TF did this reggaeton/Greek/Bulgarian/afro Latin/communist era combo even happen?” kind of wonder. I don’t know the answer to that question, but the results are glorious.

Here you have it, folks! My top 5 favorite party spots (so far) in the world. Now go on, get jiggy with it.

IMG_0588.JPG

Party, party in Tokyo, Japan

Burning Man: Chinese Edition

I had recently moved to the somewhat antiseptic Shanghai, China, and was trying to downplay my natural “eccentricity” to avoid scaring away potential friends. I was starting to feel a little disconnected from the free spirit in my heart, divorced from the boogie-down-Brooklyn in me, and disjointed from my colorful lipstick and even more colorful wigs. Detached from some of the things that made me feel like…me.

And then I found Dragon Burn.

IMG_9390

Interactive heart that glows to the rhythm of participants’ pulses

Dragon Burn is the Chinese Regional Burning Man. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Burning Man, it’s an annual iconic, desert-dwelling gathering. But don’t get it twisted- it’s not a music festival- it’s a community of beautiful souls, coming together to share their gifts, talents, music, and most importantly, their love. Like Burning Man, Dragon Burn is based off a few key principles that really resonate with me. These are concepts like radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, inclusion, and decommodification.

Dragon Burn was exactly what I needed and expected…but there were, of course, some surprises.

On one of the first days of DB, one of the organizers asked me what was most surprising about the experience, and in all honesty, I said “the work involved”. Dragon Burn is not a spectator sport. You don’t show up to be a part of a fashion show, to be catered to, or even just to party. At Burning Man, you participate, you give, you love, and you work. Our camp had mouths to feed. Who will feed these mouths? Us. Part of forming a community of people who love each other is forming a community of people who care for each other, who nurture and support each other, are responsible for one another, and who put actions behind their words. Although of course, no one likes to think of “kitchen duty” or “camp setup” as pleasurable, ultimately, it helps us connect to others through the undeniable awareness of what others are doing for us, and what we have done for others. I experienced work as a profound art of giving and caring.

Another major theme in my experience of Burning Man was the feeling of freedom. I was free to be who I wanted, to come and go as I desired, and to connect with others in ways that challenged me but were ultimately absolutely fulfilling.

I was free to dress (or undress) in any way that felt completely genuine to my heart without gender expectations or body shame. Did I want to wear my big Brooklyn (faux) fur coat? Did I want to dress up as Mulan? Did I want to be a dominatrix in all spandex and leather? Or did I want to free the nipple? All was fair at the Burn, which was so, so liberating.

1525954651896

My first tattoo: a stick-and-poke

 

Next, was GROWTH. I was also able to explore various types of relationships, and I was given the opportunity to constantly learn new things through dozens of daily workshops that were given on subjects as far-ranging as Tantra, to mandala-making, to tattooing. I was able to grow spiritually through all of these experiences and form new connections with myself and with others.

I realized how many artists, scientists and spiritual thinkers we have in our midst, which is so, so eye- opening. If you take the time to listen, the stranger sitting next to you on the train could open your eyes to another universe. Even when I felt I had nothing to give, I realized that even my gifts were appreciated- I was able to contribute some of my own knowledge and skills through giving a salsa workshop (yeah, yeah- sprinkling a little Sabor Latino in China 😉 ).

On the final day of Burning Man was the long-awaited BURN. Yes, burn. Fire burn. Ashes, ashes. Everything burns away. We had all worked so hard to build the effigy, or the giant wooden dragon, and now, we were going to burn it. But not only were we burning the dragon, we were also burning our other wooden structures we had so carefully put together. We were burning our wooden bar on which I had served so many drinks, burning our James Brown statue, and even some of our small wooden decorations.

Items I had grown a close affinity to were now going to be ashes. This reinforced to me the art of LETTING GO. Building, loving, experiencing, and then letting go. Letting your love exist in your heart but then allowing it literally to flow into the wind. Creating friendships, connections, and relationships, and then knowing that things may never be the same. But something about the energy, the interconnectedness, and the partnership of dancing around the fire with my new community while everything turned to ashes reminded me that yes, the people, places, and objects, in my life may change, but the love, the universal life force, and the energy behind them will never disappear.

After the Burn, I knew that I would never be the same. I walked into my home and everything looked, tasted, and smelled the same, but I was different. I was absolutely exhausted to the bone, yet felt radiant. I was humbled to the core but sensed a new confidence in my being. I was weird but appreciated.

But most of all, I realized that I am minuscule, tiny. A dot on the edge of this world. Yet somehow, I could see the universe inside my soul.

IMG_9388

Volunteers building the effigy- the giant dragon that would later be burned

Fit on the Fly

There is nothing more empowering than feeling strong, kicking butt, pushing your body to the limit, and hitting your goals. For me, exercise brings a sense of confidence and love for my body for being so amazing. Sometimes I feel the most grateful for life and the universe after a killer workout because I’m so amazed at what my body can do.  Listen to your heart pumping so hard to carry more oxygen to your fingers and toes! Look at those muscles!!! Look at at these incredible bodies we have been blessed with! And let’s take a minute and be vain: damnnnn gurlll (or boiiii), show off those legz… they’re looking toned as helllll! And I see that baby 6-pack growing under there. And most importantly, who needs boob contour when you’ve been doing pushups? #PectoralsOnFleek

Right now, I’m the most fit I’ve been in my life, but it hasn’t been a walk in the park, especially with my travel-bug. My exercise routine has been disrupted many times, but here is what I have found works for me to keep me healthy, strong, and kick-ass while traveling the world!

  1. Be grateful and appreciative of the body you have now.

I was originally going to call this “love your body”, but I know first hand how difficult that can be. Like many of you, I have always, and I STILL have things about my body’s appearance that I dislike, or things that I would consider “fixing” with surgery, and honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely happy with how it looks. But something I CAN do, and something I think we can all acknowledge is how much our bodies do for us every second of our lives. Your body grew you from a little peanut baby into a full-grown adult! You have eyes that you can use to see, process, and internalize information! You can LEARN! You can be a spiritual being! Your heart is constantly beating for YOU! You can run and feel the wind on your face!! And if you have been #blessed with a uterus, you might even be able to create your own little human one day! I could go on and on about how amazing our bodies are. And honestly, I’m so, SO, SO incredibly grateful for everything that my body has allowed me to experience. I take care of my body, I love my body, and I am grateful for everything it does for me. And from there, from that heartfelt perspective of thankfulness, I exercise.

  1. Get a personal trainer for when you are in town (and develop a huge crush on him/her).

Now that we have the intention, lets focus on the action. I know that personal trainers can be expensive, but TRUST ME, it’s SO WORTH IT!! Even if you only meet a few times a month, it’s still worth it. Let’s be real: how many of those machines in the gym to you REALLY know how to use? Do you understand technique? Do you know how to prevent injuries? Do you know what weights are appropriate for you? A trainer can help you learn all these things, to the point where you might not even need him/her anymore! Now when I walk into a gym, I feel like a Boss Ass Lady next to all the meatheads because “damn right I know how to use this machine”, and “hell yeah, my technique is on point”. I own this place.

Now, trainers help you learn, and help motivate you, but what’s even better than having a normal trainer is having a HANDSOME trainer! I am in love with my trainer, and although he doesn’t speak one word or English, and I don’t speak one word of Chinese, we have a special connection! He gives me little oranges after our workouts and tells me I’m strong and beautiful (through our English- Chinese translator app, of course). I never cancel appointments with him, even if I’m so hungover my head is going to explode, because every meeting with my trainer is really just a hot date in disguise. Can you think of a better gym motivation? I think not.

  1. Incorporate sports and activities into your trips.

Do a bicycle tour, try a ropes course, hiking trip, kayaking, or anything that will get you moving! Think about making your entire trip about exercise. Move, move, move!

  1. Find a gym near you, and get creative with your routines.

A lot of hotels have gyms, and if they don’t (or if you’re at a hostel), there’s a 90% chance they have some sort of business arrangement with a gym nearby. Just ask.

  1. If all else fails, do pushups, sit-ups, and then squats holding your luggage.

I wish I were joking, but I’m really not. I have been known to do a few squats holding my suitcase. It works. just make sure you’ve worked with your trainer to assure you always have proper form so that you don’t get hurt! Try to do 100 pushups before bed! Run up and down the stairs! The world is your playground.

 

FitOnTheFlyFPhoto2

Saigon, Vietnam

6. Try unconventional workouts, and push your comfort zone.

I HATE cardio. Really, I won’t run for a second even if my handsome trainer tells me to (and I do everything he says). BUT, I found out that my gym has an awesome spin class where they blast reggaeton and simulate a bike trip in the Swiss Alps. Reggaeton party in the Swiss alps on a bicycle? Who hates cardio again?

Find something you don’t like, and do it. Don’t like being touched? Barely like hugging people? Try acro yoga. Scared of heights? Try rock climbing. TRUST ME. Nothing is more empowering than overcoming a fear in the most physical, tangible way possible.

7.Wear workout clothes that make you feel like a Boss.

I TOTALLY underestimated this. I was always one of those “I’m above the capitalistic trends, I’ll just wear a t-shirt. Workout clothes don’t matter”,  kind of girls. BUT…the way you dress and look impacts how you feel. You need to be able to look in the mirror and be like, “damn, girl got swag” and use that to motivate you to push harder and stretch your limits. Need I say more?

There you have it folks! Stay fit on the fly!! Move you body! Stay strong, nimble and free in body and mind! And remember, always stay grateful.

FitOnTheFlyPhoto1

Bestie workouts in Vietnam