Virtual Dance Class: Travel from Colombia To Mexico through Cumbia

It’s Fall season, when spirits are said to come back to roam our realm. In honor of the Mexican holiday of “Dia de los Muertos“, our founder Ale will be offering a virtual Rumbaterapia dance class on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021 at 8pm EST / 5pm PST to commemorate our ancestors through dancing Cumbia. This begins “Travel through Dance”, a new virtual dance class series where we explore different cultures in this unique way.

She will lead a 1.5 hour session beginning with a trip that starts in Colombia during colonial times when folkloric Cumbia was born on the Caribbean coast. Join her as she travels to land in Mexico to see the progression of the dance & music of Cumbia throughout Latin America. Of course, no such event can go without honoring La Santa Selena, Techno-Cumbia Queen.

Participants will be encouraged to prepare an altar honoring their ancestors (and/or Selena) before the dance class begins, and close to where they will be dancing. We will start with an introduction to the theme of the class, stretching, music & dance progression from old school Cumbia to modern Cumbia, and then we will end with a ritual to honor our ancestors, a breathing exercise, and then close out with a meditation. Feel free to dress in folklórico outfits, Selena impersonation costumes, and/or overall get as creative as possible to celebrate the dead through dance. It’s suggested to load up on incense, candles, sage, palo santo, or anything that you would like to incorporate into this dance therapy ritual.

There is a minimum $10 donation required for this class since all funds raised will go towards the Mochila Fundraiser to help us monetize our website. Send your payment with your email, and we will send you the virtual class link. Accepted forms of payment are: 1) Venmo @Travel_Latina, 2) Paypal aletracy4@gmail.com, or 3) Zelle aletracy4@gmail.com.

Conectando con Raíces Ancestrales en México: Las Queer Enamoradas

On April 19th, a photo of one of my favorite influencers, Brown Badass Bonita’s Kim Guerra wearing a vibrant red dress with the backdrop of a turquoise blue ocean, grabbed my attention because it was tagged as located in Mexico City, Mexico. BBB usually commands my attention with her colorful graphics and empowering poetry, but this was different. I was confused because I knew that there weren’t any beaches in DF, but I also know that many of us women don’t always like to immediately disclose our current location for safety concerns, especially for someone with such growing recognition like Kim. It suddenly hit me when I quickly remembered some of her recent posts in the past few months, “¡Kim está viviendo en México!” So of course I perused all of her recent posts, none of which I had realized where she actually was, or that she announced or explained outright what she was doing in Mexico with her partner Ana Sheila, the co-creator of Tamarindo Podcast. I was instantly determined to find out their story, as I felt it in my soul that they were living and traveling there to connect with their ancestral roots. And as a queer couple, how must that be for them? I had so many questions already! I can spot the radiating glow of not only empowered mujeres like them, but ones who further this empowerment by making the decision to go back to live in their motherland. Their story is a perfect addition to our “Conectando con Raíces Ancestrales” series, as we share inspiring stories of Latinxs who connect to their land in their own deeply personal way.

Kim’s Artesania Necklace

I had the distinct opportunity to interview Kim Guerra and Ana Sheila via Zoom while they were in their comfortable apartment in Coyoacán. Las Queer Enamoradas, their new joint IG account, provides a space to celebrate queer mujeres in love, the epitome of this perfect pair. I had to calm my fan-girl squeaking right off the bat. Down-to-Earth, free spirits, chingonas. I already knew I wanted to talk to them for hours about their experience in Mexico. Kim was wearing a gorgeous indigenous bright yellow beaded necklace sprinkled with other colors, reminding me of the Indigenous Colombian Embera Chami necklaces from my motherland. They sat comfortably next to each other, embracing with such burgeoning love for one another.

Kim and Ana are from the Los Angeles, California area, and met during the pandemic on a socially distant Zoom call. By January 2021, after dating 8 months, they both agreed that they wanted to live and explore México lindo y querido, something that was possible because of their ability to complete their work remotely. They took their dog Chanchito, and arrived in Mexico City (aka Distrito Federal, aka DF) with their adventurous yet COVID-conscious spirits ready to explore. Ana was actually born in DF, so going back was like a coming home to her roots to connect with her ancestors like her Dad who was raised there but unfortunately passed away just 2 years ago. She still has family in the Mexico City area, a tremendous resource to help navigate the city and travel outside of DF. Kim has family in Guadalajara, Jalisco who they plan to try to visit. Since arriving, they’ve explored 6 remarkable locations thus far: Tepoztlán, La Condesa, Coyoacán, Mazunte, Zipolite, and San Agustinillo.

Tepoztlán
Kim and Ana first visited a pueblo 1 hour outside of Mexico City, Tepoztlán, Morelos considered a Pueblo Mágico or Magical Town, awarded the label in Mexico for maintaining their original architecture, traditions, history and culture. These pueblos normally hold great relevance to the country’s history, and many times hold remarkable symbolism and legends. Tepoztlán is best known for the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec feathered serpent god. The town is also known for its weekly artesania market, and a hiking trail that leads to the Aztec Tepozteco pyramid.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, many of the public sites were closed, including the Pyramid,  but it was still possible to do and see many things out in nature and from afar. Kim and Ana spent the greater part of their short trip hiking. Kim describes this location as a perfect spiritual getaway to exercise on the trails, self care with massages, experience an indigenous Temazcal sweat lodge, and to learn about herbal practices via a tea cleanse. Ana described that she felt she connected spiritually with her deceased Abuela and Dad during the Temazcal experience, physically feeling their presence.

La Condesa
At this point, Kim and Ana were ready to figure out their long term living arrangement in the Mexico City area. They chose La Condesa, a colonial borough in DF just 4 km south of Zona Rosa. They booked an Airbnb only for a month to try it out. Although the area had its own charm, Kim and Ana felt that it catered towards the extranjero or tourist, and felt culturally disconnected. After one month living and working there, they decided they were interested in an area where they would be able to interact more closely with locals. This led them to the bohemian burrough of Coyoacán.

Coyoacán
I was not surprised that las Queer Enamoradas fell in love with the area that once was inhabited by Queer Diosa, Frida Kahlo. In Nahuatl, Coyoacán means ‘the place of coyotes’, known for its bohemian colonial style, open artesania market, and La Casa Azul – Museo Frida Kahlo. The burrough is located about 12 kms south of downtown Mexico City. They found an apartment, met with the landlords, and decided to secure 3 months up front. The place has a charming patio shared with neighboring apartments, and it provided a perfect comfortable space for both of them to work remotely. 

Anasheila and Kim at the Frida Kahlo Mural in front of the Mercado Artesanal de Coyoacán

They both reflected that they acknowledge their privilege in living there, expressed their gratitude, and explained that they saved money on rent and food alone by living there instead of expensive California. Even their black labrador, Chanchito, demonstrated having a higher quality of life as they enrolled him in incredibly affordable “doggy day care” every day during the week. As a dog mami myself, I was pleased to find out that Kim had also seen a psychiatrist to certify Chanchito as an “Emotional Support Animal”. She had to prepare to travel to Mexico with him by making sure he had his paperwork in order: a travel certificate, a health certificate with all his vaccines up-to-date, and the Psychiatrist’s note.

Kim explained how she purchased her gorgeous artisanal necklace at the local open market. I was in awe with some of the activities she already had planned, like that of posing as a muse for a circle of artists in the area. How much more of an experiencia Frida Kahlo can you get!? What was clear to me was that both Ana and Kim were interested in making deep connections in the area. They highlighted their desire to contribute to the economy there in a meaningful way, and these statements and intentions gave me escalofríos from the good vibrations. 

Mazunte, Zipolite & San Agustinillo
After a couple of months living the city life, Kim and Ana decided to plan a trip to the beaches of Oaxaca for 4 days. The flight was about 1 hour and 20 minutes from DF. Apart from relaxing in paradise, the most majestic part of the trip was whale-watching – so powerful for them, that both teared up at the sighting. Notably, they visited Zipolite as an LGBTQ-friendly nudist beach they felt welcomed to explore and be themselves. However, they observed that the area was overrun by White Hippies who have lived there long term but barely interact with the local population. 

Living and Traveling in Mexico as LGBTQ
Kim and Ana smiled bright as they explained to me how they loved taking up space as a couple. They walk around often holding hands, and they never feel unsafe. Furthermore, they did note that people do stop to stare often, including people who stop their conversation to stare, and people who nudge “mira” to point them out. Overall they feel proud to take up space as queer enamoradas, unapologetically queer and in love.

Living and Traveling Mexico during Pandemic Times
They made sure to get tested anytime before getting on a flight, wore masks when indoors and around place with people around, and followed the strict regulations enforced in Mexico. They avoided crowded places and destinations like Cancun, Cabo, Tulum, etc and made sure to stay at small, private boutique hotels to avoid having to deal with too many people.

I can’t wait to see where else this lovely pareja will travel to in their motherland. The opportunities are boundless, and I feel that they will make unforgettable connections, catalyze collaborations, and have life-changing experiences enough to write a book about. Let’s hope that in a couple of years we get the opportunity to interview them again to debrief. Who knows, maybe they will live in Mexico for the rest of their lives! May their story inspire you to connect with your native motherland in this unique and unforgettable way. ¡Que viva el amor, y que viva la oportunidad de conectar con tus raíces ancestrales!

The Latinx Traveler – A Latinx Heritage Month Virtual Presentation to TCS World Travel

I’ve never been invited to present anything like this before, which makes it exciting to witness in real time the way companies are taking issues of Diversity & Inclusion increasingly more serious. A representative from TCS World Travel located in Seattle, WA invited me to speak virtually to the company to commemorate Latinx Heritage Month on September 22nd, 2021. The part that I found most incredible was that she wanted me to present on the ideas from my article “Travel is Political.” Growing up Latina and as a WOC, especially during my college years, I was constantly told by mostly White Midwestern people I knew that I was being “too political” and “why do I always have to bring up race” when I brought up serious issues that impacted the most marginalized populations in our society, of diversity & inclusion, and/or of race & ethnicity. Usually they would say it in a way hinting at my moral inferiority, and/or to get me to drop the ‘taboo’ subject immediately. Never in a million years would I have thought someone non-BIPOC would be interested to hear my take on why travel is ‘political.’

The presentation started with an intro to the Latinx/Hispanic identity, data on the Latinx Wage gap, and market research on the Latinx Traveler. Unfortunately, the “Travel is Political” section was at the very end, and because of time constraints, I was forced to speed through. Nonetheless, I would love it if you would watch my presentation in the video below and give me some constructive feedback to improve.

I’m excited for and hoping for more opportunities like this in the future!

Hermanas are the Best to Travel With

This is dedicated to my sister Michele Catarina Tracy Chavarriaga for her birthday

Gritting your teeth while sitting in the car during a long road trip, you would yell, “déjame en paz!” This was normal for you when we were young since I was usually the annoying one trying to bother you. You couldn’t sit still, loved shaking and moving in your seat…which we would find out was because you were holding your pee because Papi would get mad at us if we needed to use the restroom too many times.

We would play the road trip game “I spy with my little eye”, and sing “Cielito Lindo” or “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” in order to avoid annoying our parents with the constant restless question of “Are we there yet?” We would listen to Carlos Vives, Gypsy Kings, Gloria Estefan, Maná, all kinds of Classical music, and much more on the vehicle’s stereo system.

Despite all of the fights, the long drives, and the cranky attitudes, one of the best parts of growing up was traveling with my hermanita. There isn’t anyone else that has experienced the world almost the exact same way as me growing up. We both had the privilege of having humble parents that valued experiences and education rather than material things. I am so grateful for them.

Our trips were either to the park in our community, or to go visit familia in South America. We also moved all over the USA, lived in northern México, and visited our family in Colombia together. Every family trip was made together up until our college years. We were quite literally THE traveling hermanas.

Following are some of our most fond memorias I have explorando with you

Where visiting our Colombian family every couple of years was always a big deal:

Bogota 1995 - First time remembering Caro

The first time we remember meeting our prima Caro at the airport in Bogotá, Colombia in 1995

Living in Texas for almost 7 years meant exploring the U.S. Southwest:

 

Living in México for 2 years meant exploring a lot of this gorgeous country and receiving lots of visitors:

Moving up North to Michigan meant traveling became less frequent, but the few trips we did take became more extreme:

Bogota Airport Arrival 2001

The first time traveling to stay with family in Bogotá, Colombia for a whole summer without our parents was in 2001. This is our whole family greeting us at the airport.

 

Moving away from home means meeting up to explore together:

 

Michele, I truly hope we never stop adventuring together. When and where will our next trip together be? TE AMO MUCHO!

Anyone else LOVE traveling with their sister or siblings? Send us stories, photos, comments, etc!

A Love Letter to Bogotá

Ah, Bogotá. 

Every day, the thought of your cloudy skies and rainy streets permeate my mind. I never thought either of those things would appeal to me, not now they’re forever preserved in amber in my memory.  

In July of 2016, I flew into you, not knowing much more about you other than the fact that you’re bursting with about eight million people.

The hum of Pillar Point’s Dove oozing from my headphones, I gazed out onto the hazy, emerald mountains outside my scratched, undersized window. I’d watched Kia Labeija voguing through Bogotá each day before visiting you, each time my soul building with anticipation to wander La Candelaria’s cobblestoned streets. 

 

I couldn’t wait to see your jarring contrast of skyscrapers and Montserrat’s looming presence with my own eyes. I wanted to feel as free as the uncaged Kia.

As soon as I arrived, I felt disoriented. Which way was North? I wondered countless times. My obsession with order was flipped on its head. I’m usually quick to orient myself, but with mountains on all sides, it was hard to do so.

Which way is up? I might as well have wondered. I was vulnerable in a most basic sense, but I’ve learned to grow from this discomfort.

I was nervous and thrilled, but with you, this excitement was different. I’d returned somewhere I’d never visited. I felt as if you’d been waiting patiently for me all these years, trusting I’d walk in the door eventually. Like a dormant volcano whose crater filled with water over millennia, you basked in waiting.

What was the rush?

I’d meet you in due time. Now, as I write this, I realize how much I miss you. I miss the cool air that put my blankets to use. I miss wearing jeans without sweating and layering my clothes. I miss the peppery smell emanating from food carts selling warm empanadas.

“Beef or chicken?” the vendor asked me.

“Mmm…One of each, please. Oh, and do you not have salsa?”

“Como no,” he said, and he placed the magical ingredients in a brown paper bag.

I felt inspired during the Bogota Graffiti Tour. I’d learned of the artists from Ecuador, Mexico, and New Zealand who’ve made this place their second home, and now I wanted to join them.

 

 

A Reptilian monster wrapped itself around buildings’ unassuming walls, and an indigenous woman looked to the sky, averting her gaze from us mortals. I’d learned of the artist the police had shot, then of the subsequent police barrier protecting Justin Beiber while he stained your walls. Once the police left, your artists reclaimed your wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I loved the atmosphere of change. Of recuperation from trauma of a violent, capitalist-driven cocaine trade. Just like with any trauma, I’ve never completely recovered from mine. I constantly seek to explore my traumas and the effects they’ve had on me, and writing has been my saving grace in that process.

Bogota-Street-Art

On your walls, people explore their traumas or those of humans no longer with us. This homeless man was beaten to death and one artist commemorated him.

I was only there for three days, yet I was blessed with being able to queer it up during the LGBTQ Pride Parade. Just like Pride in Managua, Nicaragua, you haven’t sold out to corporate interests. Instead of free t-shirts, I got kisses on the cheek from new friends. We floated past the rainbow banners in between patches of sunlight that the skyscrapers’ granted us. I took my sweater off and put it back on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I danced the night away at the immensely fabulous gay club, Theatron, then on the taxi ride home, I fell into darkness. It could’ve happened anywhere, and I’ve learned just how resilient I am since it happened.  

I wanted to stay. You know, I really do love museums. It’s how I get to know a place intimately. I wanted to dive further into you, to explore your history in its glory, sadness, and tumult. I still want to know you. I felt the heaviness in my heart one feels when they’re not ready to leave a place. This feeling reminds me of Iranian author Azar Nafisi’s words about leaving:

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place… like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” – Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

I miss who I was when I was with you, Bogota. Now you know. I can’t wait to explore you again.

Love,

Char.

I’m as Migratory as a Monarch Butterfly

Dear friends,

I wanted to share a journal entry I wrote in 2011 during a family visit to Morelia and Leon, Mexico. While I’m a little late, the message of migration still rings true, and most importantly, of embracing change. I’ve been back to Mexico a few times since, and one of the things I look forward to the most is staying with my grandma and enjoying her company and the delicious tacos, menudo, and pastries of León, Guanajuato.

When I think of my top ten favorite places in the world, I think of her kitchen. It’s a place where we can sit and peruse her family albums. It’s during one of our memory recovery sessions that I found one of my favorite pictures of my family (the cover photo). Having albums is a tradition I wish my generation continued with as well, but with facebook, we’re leaving our memories online, and who is to say they will be preserved there forever?

 

 

 

 

I’m dedicating this post to the Monarch butterflies which I was lucky enough to see in the state of Michoacan in November 2016. I was born in Morelia, Michoacan, but it wasn’t until I finished my Peace Corps Nicaragua service at age 26 that I ventured by land up to Mexico to finally witness the millions of butterflies swarming around and coating the trees in what at first glance looked like leaves–but no, they were butterflies.

 

 

 

Change has always been a part of my life. At three, I emigrated to Washington State. At 17, I moved across the country to Boston because that’s where it was the cheapest place for me to go to college. At 18, I came out as a lesbian. At 21, I became a U.S. citizen. At 24, I moved to Nicaragua. At 27, I swam at the edge of Victoria Falls, hiked Table Mountain in South Africa, and finally ran on Ipanema Beach in Brazil. I underwent top surgery due to gender dysphoria and am exploring the fluidity of my gender identity.  2017 was scary, but it taught me so much and I learned that I have much to look forward to. This month, I just took the GRE (after 6 years of self-doubt) and am considering getting an MBA.

 

This year will be just as stressful as it is exciting. I know it. The butterflies remind me of how easily they accept change and migrate with this intense, innate sense of purpose that I like to think that I share with them. My goal is to just accept things for how they are, and not as they should be, just as the Monarch butterflies do.

Enjoy!


December, 2011

I flew to Mexico and arrived in Morelia, Michoacan my birth town, at about midnight. Finally. It had been two years and I’m always restless to go back to Mexico. I stayed there for about 4 days and saw family, hiked, and basked in the sun that I missed so much. It was hard to believe that the beating, hot sun down here is the same one that teases us in Boston, where it begins to set at 3:30 pm.

One restaurant that stuck out to me was the San Miguelito, where my aunt and cousin went. It’s famous for basically being a museum to San Antonio, the saint that women turn over so that they can find boyfriends. There was even a life-sized one there, turned on its head, accompanied by several advertisements of women seeking good men to marry. All of my photos of the place seem annoyingly upside down. I looked at the menu and decided to try Huitlacoche, which is the cooked fungus that grows on corn. It’s a delicacy there, but after a bite of some in my quesadilla, it tasted and looked just like cooked spinach.

The day before I left, I took a stroll past the huge aqueduct through the historic downtown, which has been around since the 1500s. I really missed the concept of a town plaza where people go to sit and relax, as they listen to the constant flow of water ebbing from the fountains-or children crying loudly, asking their parents to buy them that unnecessarily large sized tweetie balloon. I was basking in the 70 degree weather, and everyone could tell I was not from there because I was making a conscious effort to sit in the sun while they wore their hats and long sleeved shirts. “No, I’m not cold,” I’d say to them. “Your winter is my summer!”

Then came the bus ride to Leon. I thought I loved to recline in my seat but these Mexicans had me beat. Halfway there, I turned and saw half of them knocked out, reclining one after another like dominos. There was a movie about a cave playing (the only actor I recognized was the man who blew the whistle at the end of Titanic in search of survivors) but I lost interest after the only female lead died. How Wellesley (my women’s college) of me.

My favorite part of the 2.5 hour long journey to León is the ride over Lake Cuitzeo. It’s this large expanse of grayish blueish water teeming with white herons all over it, and the road glides right through the middle of it. The environmental studies side of me wonders how badly contaminated it is at this point, as there weren’t many fishermen out there at all.

I should stop here in order to describe León in its deserved detail, but I’ll leave with one thought. This morning I heated up my egg, tortilla and salsa and broke my fast with abuelita (grandma). Somehow the topic of the monarch butterflies emerged, and she marveled at the way in which four generations of them migrate each year from Canada to Michoacan (the state I was just in).

She lamented at the fact that deforestation is leaving them with less places to land, and how blood has been lost over the land that these creatures deserve to call home. On a brighter note, she asked me “¿Como deben saber a donde ir, año tras año, desde Canada hasta aqui?¿Que maravilloso, no?” (“How do they know where to go, year after year, from Canada all the way here? Isn’t it marvelous?”).

Well, the monarch butterlfies are just like me, I thought. They always just want to come back to Mexico.

I don’t know why, but I’m as restless as any one of those Monarch butterflies to leave the North for a while and join family here and there, and ultimately to stay at my grandma’s house for a while. I thought by now this urge would die down, but it seems just as strong as ever.

 

 

Viajerx Spotlight: Laura Gonzalez – Remote Year Ambassador

Here at Travel Latina we are always looking for ways to empower and motivate Latinxs all over the world! Which is why we are spotlighting a Viajerx each month to share their stories with us!

We start off by interviewing this month the wonderful Laura Gonzalez whom participated in the program Remote Year in which she experienced living and working abroad for a full year. I personally was very inspired and excited to interview Laura, as she was the only Latinx that I knew about participating in Remote Year. With a lot of courage, financial discipline, and developing and preparing her professional skills, Laura was able to make her dreams of travel a reality. Check out our interview with her below.

LG Shahara 2

Camel trekking in The Sahara

Travel Latina: Tell us a little about your background.

Laura Gonzalez: I’m originally from Barranquilla, Colombia where there is always a party and the weather is a constant 90 F. I moved to the gorgeous and tranquil state of New Hampshire in the United States during my early teens. Although I will always love the gorgeous state of New Hampshire,  adjusting was probably one of the most challenging aspects of my life. I graduated from the University of New Hampshire in Manchester with a Business degree, my concentration  was in Sales & International Marketing. 

TL: Congratulations on recently being named an Ambassador for Remote Year! The digital nomad lifestyle is a fairly new thing I would say, it has got a lot of spotlight in the last two years or so. How would you describe this type of  lifestyle to someone who knows nothing about it.

LG: The digital nomad lifestyle consists of having the freedom to work from anywhere on the planet with an internet connection. You are basically free to roam around the globe, as long as you maintain your work responsibilities. I worked from traditional co-working spaces and from my bed but also worked from the beach. Even a castle! My favorite thing about a digital nomad life is being able to explore new places, immerse myself in new cultures, while continuing to make a living. 

TL: What is Remote Year? How did you find out about it?

LG: Remote Year brings together 50-80 inspiring professionals, freelancers, entrepreneurs, and adventurers to see the world during an unforgettable year of personal and professional growth. I had seen ads on social media platform and it was something that interested me from the get go. It became real when someone I went to high school posted about starting her Remote Year experience. Your monthly fees covered your living space, co-working space, flights, and professional & social events.

LG Hackathon

In Rabat, Morocco running a hackathon providing web development and marketing consultation to an education start up.

TL: What was your remote work position? 

LG: I decided to be my own boss while on Remote Year. I was a sales and Marketing strategist for a few small businesses in the health and education industry. I also did Spanish tutoring and translation.

TL: How were you able to fund your program participation? (Savings, scholarships, work – pay as you go?) A lot of people are afraid to take the leap into these type of programs for financial reasons, what advice do you have for those that may find money as an obstacle to participate or to travel in general?

LG: To fund my Remote Year experience as well as the many other (unexpected) side trips and experiences, I used a combination of work-pay as I went on with the program, as well as savings from my travel fund that I started back when I was in college. Travel has always been a priority in my life, hence I have always made a priority to save for it. 

As for finances, my tips for someone that is looking into a Remote Year or a similar experience is to do the following:

  1. Already have a travel fund to cover at least 3 months (better if 6 months) of your life abroad in case of unexpected situations.
  2. Try to be as debt free as possible.
  3. Make travel your priority and really make an effort to save for it.
  4. Establish clients if you are self-employed before you begin your program.

 

 TL: How do you keep a work-life balance? I would imagine people would think this is challenging to have when your mind may be in travel mode. 

LG: When you decide to become a digital nomad (whether it is for a month or years) it is important to shift your mindset —  This is your normal life now…treat it as that! Tour your new home, attend parties with your new friends, have spa days (generally way cheaper than at back at home) check out amazing restaurants, but also stay in and watch netflix, cook your own meals, Skype your family and friends from back home, read books, paint your own nails! Try to stay grounded in order to feel balanced.

TL: What countries did you visit while in Remote Year?

I lived and worked from the following countries: Portugal, Morocco, Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, and Argentina.

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TL: Which was your favorite country? Do you have a favorite experience you would like to share?

My favorite country was Morocco. I lived there in September 2016 which was month #2 of my Remote Year experience. Living and experiencing Morocco was one of my wildest dreams. I’ll never forget the one morning I climbed up a sand dune to watch the most gorgeous and intense sunrise. I stayed there for a while overlooking the Sahara.

TL: Do you have any final words for Viajerxs reading this interview?

LG: Unanimously, the year I participated in Remote Year was the best year of my life! It allowed me to live out my intense passion for traveling and experiencing new cultures while also evolving personally and professionally. I realized how privileged I am to be living my dream and I want to let everyone know how possible it is. I would love for more Latinx travelers who are interested in experiencing the digital nomad lifestyle to to take the leap and live out the dream! Make intentional yet flexible plans for what you want your digital nomad lifestyle to be and go do it!

LG Bulgaria 2

Hiking The Seven Rila Lakes in Bulgaria.

Since finishing her Remote Year abroad last year Laura took yet another leap and moved to sunny San Diego, California. She had never visited the city before and did not know many people there. Nonetheless, she followed her intuition to move there and is now working for a technology company as a  Business Development Manager for the Americas. Laura wholeheartedly believes in the power of daily visualization and meditation as this helps her live her best life. When I met Laura, additionally to her titles as a world traveler and business boss, I thought she should really consider adding life coach to her resume. Laura’s spirit of positivity radiates when you speak to her! It is no wonder she made her dreams of living a Digital Nomad life a reality!

Follow LG and her adventures on IG @lgsworldcrush

*All photos provided by Laura Gonzalez.

A Safari Story, South Africa

If Africa is pure magic, we clearly fell under its spell of wonder.

This was our first time in the continent and with so many countries and options it was hard to figure out where in Africa to visit. Tom and I narrowed it down to 4 nations that interested us: Namibia for Kolmanskop Ghost Town; Kenya for Maasai Mara National Reserve; Ethiopia for the Rock churches in Lalibela or South Africa for the complicated history, Cape Town and Kruger Park. In the end, we chose South Africa, the southern most nation in the African continent.

It was our first time going to a Safari or as locals call ‘Game drives’ and as huge animal lovers, we were beyond excited for this adventure! After a 14 hour flight from Orlando to Dubai, then another 8 hours to Johannesburg, South Africa was our farthest destination to date! Next morning we were picked up by the safari company and still had another 6 hour drive to the Private Game Reserve.

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Every zebra’s pattern is unique like a fingerprint.

TIP: If you book a drive-in safari, expect some delays as things in South Africa are not always on time and the traffic in Joburg can be heavy. Also, be ready to half way through the drive, switch tour vans. In all the paperwork we received from our safari booking, no where did it mention that since the drive is long (6hrs) we would stop at a small town midway and jump into another van, with a different driver. And they might move all the luggage into a cargo van. Yeah, I was freaking out, thinking the worst, ‘Oh my God are we being kidnapped’? Are they gonna steal our bags? WTF is going on? We made sure we had our backpacks with all documents but I was still uneasy the last 3 hours of the drive. But in the end, that is simply how it works, the Safari company has multiple drivers and switch half way to avoid one driver having a super long shift. No big deal #thisisafrica. We arrived at the safari lodge, checked in and literally 5 minutes later the van with everyone’s luggage arrived too. Sigh… Now with my peace of mind back, we were off to our first Safari sunset drive in a private game reserve!

CHECK OUT THE SAFARI VIDEO On YOU TUBE

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SAFARI DAY 1: Sunset Drive & Braai Dinner at Private Game Reserve

That first night at the private game reserve was spectacular. Riding around in a safari jeep, spotting impalas, giraffes, zebras and elephants in the distance; and as the beautiful golden sun made its final decent in the South African horizon, a graceful giraffe walked right in front of our shot for a perfect silhouette photo. #Priceless moment. The evening concluded with an outdoor barbeque dinner in the African bush. As night took over, the temperature dropped significantly but we didn’t care. We were surrounded by stars above, and by a curious group of hyennas; of which we could only see the glow of their eyes and faint body shapes with our flashlights. We had to pinch ourselves, it was so surreal!

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Male Kudu (a type of African Antelope) have such beautiful horns!

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SAFARI DAY 2: Bush Walk at Private Game Reserve

We did a bush walk! The notion of danger only creeped in when we saw our safari guide; Elias, pull out a shot gun for ‘just in case of an emergency’. Sadly we only saw some zebras and elephants in the far distance on this day. But the real highlight of this bush walk was smoking elephant dung. YES. We. Smoked. Elephant. Shit. It surprisingly didn’t smell like it came from an animals butt at all! Don’t judge ‘til you try it. Bush people have smoked it for centuries for its medicinal properties.

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Since an elephants’ diet is all plants, once the coconut-sized poop is completely dry you can smoke it and get all the benefits from the different herbs. It relieves headaches, stomach ailments, allergies and more. Tom had an upset stomach  since we left Orlando 2 days prior, and actually felt better after our smoke session. Check out the video above of our safari group passing around the shit blunt and sniffing it!

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Elijah, our safari guide holding the elephant dung we all smoked.

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Mama hippo was not happy, we were getting too close.

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Pumba! And all his cousins eating the lodges leftovers from breakfast.

SAFARI DAY 3: Kruger National Park Game Drive

Our full adventure day at Kruger National Park turned out to be much warmer and sunny. We saw the most sightings of elephants and giraffes, along with cape buffalos, kudus, cheetahs and lions (from far) at Kruger National Park. It was also different than the private game reserve because at Kruger the roads are paved and the park is huge. At 7,523 sq. miles, it’s bigger than the Grand Canyon (1,902 sq. m), Yellow Stone (3,471 sq. m) and Yosemite (1,169 sq. m) combined! That’s pretty impressive and it means it has a high density of animal populations, including Africa’s Big Five: Elephants, Cape Buffalos, Lions, Rhino and Leopard. Being around all this nature and having majestic elephants and giraffes literally stop traffic and cross right in front of you is an incredible experience. I urge you to save every penny you got and book a safari. It will be a trip of a lifetime.We didn’t get to see any leopards though, they are the hardest animals to spot because they typically are up in the trees and hide well. We also missed the rhinos, the most endangered of them all. Poaching is still a very big problem. PLEASE don’t EVER buy anything made of rhino horns, it only perpetuates this vicious cycle of killing. Rhino horns have NO medicinal value and it will NOT help with impotency like some cultures believe.

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This big guy crossed right in front of our car!

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Cape Buffalo, one of Africa’s Big 5 Games.

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SAFARI DAY 4: Sunrise Drive & Blyde River Canyon

On the last day of our safari adventure, we did one final sunrise game drive and afterwards headed back to the airport. But on the way to Joburg our driver did a 30 minute stop at the Blyde Canyon on the border of the Limpopo/Mpumalanga provinces. He promised us that it was like the Grand Canyon of South Africa, and he wasn’t lying. The views were absolutely breathtaking. We were reminded again of how incredibly blessed and lucky we were to be able to work, save, and have a dream trip set into motion. Standing on the edge of this canyon, we were humbled and awed by nature’s beauty once more.

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An African Safari was something we grew up watching on the Discovery channel. It was the kind of story we would read about in our National Geographic magazine. We always made excuses, because going to Africa is really far, it’s expensive, and a bit scary because of all the unknown. But we realized one day, that life is to short and “you’ll regret more of the things you didn’t do” so we had been saving for a whole year, and we took the leap. We booked the plane tickets and it was the best the decision of the year. So don’t give up on your dreams, work hard and make it happen. We did, you can too. But of course, now we have to plan other trips to explore more places because one time in Africa just isn’t enough. It was just a taste and glimpse into this amazing continent, and now we are left craving more. I hear the safaris in Botswana are incredible…

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WHAT ABOUT YOU? HAVE YOU EVER DONE A SAFARI? WOULD YOU LIKE TO?

Be sure to check out more South Africa posts at:

http://www.chasingwildgusts.com/2017/10/beginner-guide-safari/

http://www.chasingwildgusts.com/2017/11/why-visit-cape-town-south-africa/

www.ChasingWildgusts.com

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Reminiscing about Honduras in the Philippines

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Nagtabong Beach in Palawan

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Nagtabon Beach in Palawan

I’m from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a lively city that I called home for 15 years before moving to Los Angeles. In 2014, I moved to Korea to teach English.

When I first arrived in Korea, multiple people kept telling me about their desire to travel around South East Asian countries. I decided to research these countries and found the idea of visiting a new place exciting, but I couldn’t get over how much these countries reminded me of Honduras.

No thanks.

I did not see the logic in spending money to go to a country to have an experience I had lived while in Honduras, and going back home to see my family and friends was more appealing. Nevertheless, this summer I found a cheap ticket to the Philippines and I decided to check out South East Asia afterall.

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I visited Cebu, Puerto Princesa and Manila  but no matter where I went I could never shake off the feeling that I was back in Tegucigalpa. The local stores that resembled pulperias (neighborhood stores run by a community member that are like a 7-11 or a mini mart), the decked out cabs and motorcycles weaving their way through the streets, or the street vendors selling mangoes and coconuts and the unending catcalling.

I felt right back at home.

 

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Riding a tricycle through Palawan

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Plants from Luli Island

Once I left the main city I was blown away by the vegetation and landscape the Philippines had to offer. Clear water by the roads, lined with different shades of greenery, and a distant view of the gorgeous ocean accompanied me on my journey.

I caught myself gasping multiple times. I finally found the appeal; greens and blues everywhere with bits of color, in a foreign terrain. It reminded me of the natural beauty Honduras also offers…but it was different. It seemed untamed, foreign and appreciated. In Honduras, those natural resources have been mismanaged and exploited. I was able to get a glimpse of how Honduras’ tourism would thrive if it hadn’t been mismanaged by the government and locals.

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River leading up to Kawasan Falls in Cebu

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Green clear water leading up to Kawasan Falls in Cebu

I was amazed by the Filipino spirit. Walking down the street, working as a guard at a museum, or even  stocking groceries at a supermarket they always had a cheerful spirit. Everywhere I went I would hear someone bellowing a song  or tune and not care if you caught them. They would smile, acknowledge my presence with a nod and continue to sing. It reminded me of people dancing and singing in the streets of Honduras, and it made my heart happy to see people enjoying lives full of small, happy moments.

My short week in the Philippines went by fast. There was a lot to see and do in each particular island, and I wish I would have had more time to explore each of them. I am glad with the experiences I had, and the kindness and spirit of the Filipinos, their food and the scenery made me feel like I was in Honduras.

I felt comfortable in Asia. It felt like home.

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Fort Santiago in Manila

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Scarlet Macaw Trips by Sahara Borja

“A social purpose travel effort that emphasizes a rich cultural experience while empowering local communities.”

Born in Toronto, where her father from Cali, Colombia had met her mother from the Bronx, New York, Sahara Borja is now connecting with her roots once again through the creation of her brand new social purpose travel effort: Scarlet Macaw Trips. The trips – headed back to Cartagena this summer and in early 2018 – are curated with both the beauty and reality of the region in mind. The trips will continue to find mutually beneficial ways for travellers, local artisans, NGOs and local organizations, schools, and women’s groups in the region to work together within the broader, more well-known travel experience of day trips and nights out dancing to champeta.

Baby Sahara in Cali, Colombia with family from both sides

Despite a few visits to Cali to visit family, she was really able to dig her heels in and reconnect with with her roots while on a Fulbright research grant in Cartagena, where she worked with women and youth in the situation of internal displacement via photography and interviews at the University of Cartagena. While there, she connected with a professional tour guide, a native of Cartagena, and a couple of years later the idea for all-inclusive trips to Cartagena was born. This August, they’re offering a unique opportunity to learn and experience aspects of the culture in a number of immersive and participatory ways, while also having one hell of a time.

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Sahara with Fulbright colleagues and friends in Cartagena, Colombia

Ms. Borja states: “Part of our itinerary takes us to La Boquilla, a primarily Afro-Colombian fishing village where we offer a lunch-and-learn with a local organization and eat on the beach in a makeshift restaurant with food cooked by Abuelita (aka Everybody’s GRAMMA!). Another day we’ll head to San Basilio de Palenque, the first free town of The Americas, founded by escaped slaves.

She explains that this trip is especially relevant for those interested in the African Diaspora as it is seen in this region of the Caribbean, in South America and Colombian culture, music, food, and in the class and race perspectives of the southern hemisphere.

“Being bicultural in the US is a trip; I’ve forever had the pull of Colombia within me. It’s a complicated untangling if you can’t afford to travel that much!” Though this trip costs $2,199 sans airfare, it’s an all-inclusive 8 days and 7 nights, and includes a professional photographer, artisan goodies to take home, breakfast, most lunches, and transportation throughout the week. The trip can be paid for in instalments with 40% deposit due at first.

Be sure to check out this inaugural amazing trip you won’t want to miss!