Little surprises…

While rummaging through some old documents sitting on my desk today, I came across a letter I wrote while applying for a scholarship through the program I was to study abroad with in Paris. I completely forgot I wrote it, but it was just the surprise I needed. I read this letter and knew I wrote it, but it became so interesting to realize how my mind has evolved since writing it.

Here I am. I’ve applied for internships, worked in television production and spent my senior year trying to soak it all up, but I feel slightly unsatisfied. This letter reminded me of why I am doing all of this work. I’m not trying to get internships at Discovery Communications and others like it because I want money. I am applying to work for these specific companies because of the possibility of travel opportunities. I love cinematography and broadcasting television, but so much of my soul is based from a fire within me to travel and help other species. I don’t just want a job I want irreplaceable experiences. I am going to copy the letter I wrote here, for any of you who may have the same feeling about travel that I do. This is why I travel…this is why everything I am doing matters at all.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” 

Beginning the moment I could understand the written word and recognize rotating images on Animal Planet, Travel Channel and Discovery Channel, I became a restless soul constantly seeking the ever changing and expanding world of endless culture surrounding each corner of the planet. To me, travel became an innate obsession after watching the genocide in Africa, reading about the extinction of the Baiji White Dolphin in the Yangtze River in China and observing the timeless architecture in Paris. In no way would I sit in one place watching the world from behind a screen ever again. 

My curiosity and desire to see the world through the eyes of those living thousands of miles away grows by the day. This has resulted in flying across the world to Reykjavik, Iceland to discover the plentiful landscapes and budding philosophy based on the notion that we must care for the planet the way it cares for us. As my Icelandic tour guide Oli believed, “nature must be preserved completely. Without it, we have nothing.” 

The memory of my travels has resided deep within my heart and has been a privilege that I am grateful for as each day passes. I recognize the opportunities I have been able to grasp; a significant reason why I have chased this Parisian journey so incessantly. My goal is to understand the way the world works. I want to feel what others feel. I want to be out in the field fighting for what is right. 

Without the glories of travel, I believe imagination is limited. Just the way a dog living inside a home cannot experience the softness of the grass, a person cannot respect the differences between her and the foreigner beside her without traveling to culturally diverse countries. In order to develop an true internal acceptance of others, a person must live alongside other less fortunate or perhaps more fortunate cultures. Broadening the knowledge of how the world spins will generate empathy for those living with less. In life, this can be one of the most difficult mindsets to embrace.

I know that travel an be frightening and it can be challenging in more ways than one. This is a life lesson; that which requires bravery will muster the greatest of changes. This is the largest hope for my future: to change, to develop, to be confused, to be uncertain and to learn what it means to make a significant impact on someone’s life. 

Now, I wrote this letter before I traveled to live in Paris for four months. And to be completely honest, my feelings before the semester have only grown more intense. Still, I have learned one special lesson that I never thought I would. Sometimes, us travel fanatics tend to feel unhappy in one place for a long period of time. If we feel upset or frustrated, we look outside ourselves and want to change our environments. Perhaps our problems are from the weather, the air quality or even traffic. After I lived in Paris, I noticed that
some of the problems I would have at home still existed when I lived abroad. So I learned that my little problems weren’t from external sources at all. They were stemming from inside me. So, being here in Southern California once again, I’ve made the distinctive choice to be happy right where I am. I often complain that I want to travel, but the truth is, I am traveling right now. When I lived in Seattle, I was so eager to come here and go to school. That was my biggest adventure to date. I was going to experience college outside of my hometown because I felt just as eager to live in a new place. But a year passed and I wasn’t happy because of things that I couldn’t change. So, I wanted to up and leave once again. But what if changing my environment wasn’t the solution? What if changing my mindset was the answer.

Truthfully, it was my mindset. So reading this letter to myself now, it means something completely different than it did then. I don’t travel just because I want to see new places, I travel because I truly want to help others and make a difference in the world. I want humans to live as one with their planet, not against it. That was the reason buried deep in my heart. It took sifting through the muck surrounding it to find the authenticity I always had, but never saw.

I ended up being offered the scholarship. When they gave it to me, they had no idea their money was going toward me finding myself once again, not just funding a travel-hungry college student.

T.

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Sangria: medicine for the soul

Last weekend, I was in a country that seems to understand that quality doesn’t mean a quantity of euros.

HOLA BARCELONA.

To get you to understand the environment I was in, I’ll post a landscape before I dive in to the beautifully cheap foods in Barcelona.

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Isn’t that beautiful? I know we see thousands of photoshopped landscape pictures all over advertisements and billboards, but that is an actual unedited picture…which I took.

So now you that you have an image of where I was, I will give you the low-down. Europe seems to be the most expensive area of the world, but I have discovered a city in Spain that understands how to bring in the big bucks.

It’s about quality. If you want to have a successful restaurant, you don’t need to charge thirty euros for a plate. Just IMG_0467charge fifteen euros for a pitcher of perfectly blended sangria and burritos. It really is that simple, people love burritos while in the sun… at the beach. We stumbled upon Carabela. The price range is from three-nine euros. So if you can’t afford much, you can definitely afford a gourmet meal like this one.

There were four of us in Barcelona eating at this juice and cocktail cafe and every single one of us, after trying multiple sangria mixtures throughout the city, agreed that this was the cafe we wanted to come back to three more times. That is really saying something. And here it is… so pretty.

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Those are freshly cut bananas, strawberries, oranges, limes, lemons all mixed together with some sugar, red wine and either lemonade or strawberry juice. We took a sip and starred at each other…thinking…smiling…confused… we couldn’t believe the wonderful mistake we just made. We simply walked up, were warmly greeted and sat down. That’s all! We tried sangria at other restaurants down the pier but nothing even came close.

It is truly amazing how easy it is to tell whether a restaurant takes four extra minutes to prepare their foods and drinks or if they throw it together. You think you know flavor, but when you find something that smacks you in the face with it, you begin to understand how important it is to do your research before entering a restaurant. Save those dollars for foods that do more than put nutrients into your body…find foods that make you close your eyes while you’re eating them.

And then this happened. A sandwich! A simple sandwich I could make at home, but because it was so freshly prepared, I knew it would take some time and love to accomplish this masterpiece. Avocado, lettuce, goat cheese, tomatoes and salsa on perfectly grilled toast. Not white bread you notice..this isn’t the United States.

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Remember, I don’t just blog about every food I eat while abroad. I only write about the foods that seem to jump off the plate and into my heart. I am leaving these images so large because I need you to see the intricate detail of the ingredients…it is vital you understand just how perfect the meals are.

And finally, so that you stop drooling and go find some food yourself, I’ll leave you with this last mouthful.

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Its called a magic burrito. Not because it has a wand and shouts “expelliarmus,” but because it looks like a painting and tastes like a trip to Playa del Carmen.  “Magic burrito” isn’t that actual name of it, but I am officially going to forever call it that.

In addition to the savory, tender chicken pieces, beans, cheese, some special sauce and other warm goodness, the chips and guacamole take the plate to a whole new level. You need that contrast of texture in the crunch of the chip and the cool, fresh waterfall of an avocado dip. IMG_0487

Now that you have some insight, go to Barcelona and visit this wonderful restaurant on the water. It is all outdoors, on old benches. Not to mention the adorable pup that meanders around and greets you with those puppy eyes. Take my advice because I will never write about a food that won’t move you.

T.