Tag Archives: Travel

Operation Self-Esteem–Day Fucking One.”


I was staring at a text message screen, at a phone that wasnt mine. He was lying next to me asleep and half naked.  We had just spent the night together and five minutes before I had arrived he messaged her “i miss you” when I called to tell him I was downstairs she responded “I miss you too”. …I quietly put the phone back on the bedstand, gathered my things whispered “you never loved me” looked at him long and hard, and held on to the turning of my stomach which was finally cutting off all interference my heart had been making with my brain for the past six months.. I allowed that feeling to follow me back home to shut out any connection I could make with him via mobile or social media, and those blocks remain till this day.

This scenario was a reoccuring incidence  for over a month before I left. If it wasnt him hurting me it was me throwing things in his face. That aspect had been occuring for a year. Maybe it was the dirty wood floors,  unfinshed paintings, and half unpacked clothes, alongside a  body of someone who I knew no longer existed. I looked around and could only think about how much I didn’t want to be there or anywhere near that apartment, situations, or him again. It took alot of experiences of wrong, to push me towards the right.

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.  “-The author of Eat,Pray, Love

Its now 1 45 am three months later, im sitting at a wooden table chatting with my roomate as she delves into a can of corn trying to eat herself to sleep. We humoursly account the past seven days  random bump-ins and encoutners of people forgotten, left behind, or outgrown.

It’s been a short and intense summer full of stories that I shall divulge to you in the up and coming weeks, yet somehow this discussion seems to be the best way for me to introduce how I was the only person with nothing to go back to in Guatemala..

Two weeks before I left for Guatemala, The final push I needed to say shut down a chapter in my life and myself was a series of reoccurences of a relationship that shouldve ended before it started.

When I met my peers at the airport at 4 am on our way to Guatemala, I was empty. I had said goodbye to alot of unhealthy habits, people, and things. Self preservation was the theme of my Spring semester, and going down any road other than that which lead to the utmost unhealthy comfort seemed like a good idea, and did a number of things to my spirituailuty and self esteem. When I had thought of going to Guatemala it seemed like the kick in the ass I really needed to jumpstart the person I knew still existed somewhere inside me. The thought of Ava Stone, Creative co founder of R.A.I.N the fashion organization building stoves and studying socioeconomic devleopment in indigienous communities could come to a shock to many who know me. However, the few who understand me didn’t see it as a surpise at all. Im alot of things, but the person I want to become belonged in Guatemala, she didnt need to be in Richmond pushing a hobby, I needed to prove I had what it takes to be in the field of something far more worthwhile.

The person, who brought me to understand this about myself, to really come to attention about how far off my own personal course I strayed Is someone I spent this entire summer trying to forgive. You know those relationships that start in the movies, the people are in some sexy college party, they stare at eachother and its supposed to explain it all… the thing about those movies, is it really understates wants going on visually and mentally for the two individuals. When your around a massive group of drunk college kids, and someone from across the room is the only thing you can see and the only thing that matters from that moment on, you are in trouble.

I inspired him and he inspired me, however in the end we ruined eachother. I learned alot about myself in that relationship, alot of things were brought to the surface about myself that I didnt want to face, but I lived with my demons when it came to dealing with the remnants of its failure.

In all honesty, when i imagined what the title of this chapter would be the only thing that came to mind was “Ben”

In order for me to move on, not just from my longing for companionship, but the idea that I needed someone else to validate my existance, the pain, and the anger, I needed to find something in myself which could build ontop of something new. I as simply “Ava” when it came to myself and the group of seven individuals that would be the first to witness me at my most humble existence. I was quirky, wierd, and experiencing something completly outside of my comfort zone, in a place where R.A.I.N, my past relationship, and others didnt matter.

When we came out of the Airport in Guatemala city we hopped into a van taking us to Queztltango. We stopped by a roadside market, where stuffed muscrats and mayan idols were being sold. I looked out over the moutain view, breathed in the air so far away from everything I had just left behind and promised myself from there on, anything I am this summer is nothing I was in the past.

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Swimming in 165 pounds of misery

a captured moment of the Drum circle in the El Retiro 

Traveling is therapeutic in a way where if you open yourself up to foreign people and places, you realize things about yourself you may not be privy too. Or maybe your already aware of your demons, yet somehow existence has allowed you to live with them, and find comfort in it. Spain, and my time in Richmond, has had me up close and personal with myself, and I no longer find these demons tolerable. For to live with what holds you back does not allow you to move forward. This blog is about moving on, but reconciling with the past…

I went all the way to Spain to learn and experience a lot of things but above all pursue happiness.  I danced in drum circles, egg tossed in buses with Italians, and dated a flamenco dancer but the whole time I was constantly afraid of someone calling me out on being a phony. I let that fear keep me from practicing Spanish more, engaging with my schoolmates more and even at times trying to get to know my flatmates.  Although Spain was where I wanted to be  I couldn’t let myself immerse in it, in fear that the people and the  country I loved so much would reject me, make fun of me, and call me fat.  (It’s silly, but people hold them selves back for all sorts of reasons, and it’s all fear)

Nearly two years ago the person I felt I was on the inside wasn’t translating completely to the outside world. I was 165 pounds and 5’6 but inside I felt like a beautiful girl, smart, worthy of attention and confident enough to go after the guys I wanted to be with. However, this extra weight was making me afraid to be myself.I was frightened to go to the club meetings, participate in ice breakers, run on the treadmill, and waited for a disgusted look every time I introduced myself to someone. With every surprising note of acceptance my heart would spring, feeling I had defeated a handicap I’m forever facing when it comes to being in public.

The concept of being afraid of who you are takes on many forms. In High School, we had our cliques, music, and brand names like Abercrombie and Hot Topic to separate us from those who would not be considered “like” us. In this separation, we could easily identify who would accept our quirks and who wouldn’t. We created images, projected ways of expression and feelings that weren’t necessarily authentic in delivery. At the end of the day we know that we are guaranteed acceptance without risking the best parts of who we are.  Nonetheless we were saying something about ourselves…

For many people who aren’t aware, emotional eating is symptomatic of virtually all women, periodically, seasonally, or once a month. In my family I dare say its genetic. Some psychologists have said, over eating, or unhealthy eating is a subconscious way for a person to create a barrier between themselves and society. The barrier can function as a way to not be susceptible to the energy of others. Weight then becomes a self-created boundary placed between ourselves and outsiders, a form of control over who we become close to physically and emotionally, and it did.

I no longer wanted to hate myself, and was absolutely fed up with being brought down on the rare occasions I was feeling great. I want to feel good about others feeling good and mean it. Rather than focus on what I don’t have instead of partaking in the joy of others success, beauty and happiness. Happiness in this life is something we work and pray for, why try to ruin it or not empathize with what another has attained? We all have it within ourselves to achieve these wonderful states of being.

I spent that summer before by 20th birthday mostly in solitude. I wanted to rethink who I am in this place and what I want. I watched documentaries about the integrity of food learning that Tyson’s chicken owns half of Kroger and corn or something like it is in everything we eat. It really retrained my mind into not just wanting to lose weight but seriously rejecting this sick system of a food industry we’re stuck with.

Aime in a notorious Cordoba patio

My lifestyle transformed over a summer, I was genuinely happy the next fall. Assistant Directing a student produced musical, acing my classes and meeting new people and re meeting acquaintances. I would go to parties and people who treated me rudely before, hadn’t recognized me or the memory of a chubby girl they were rude too was too insignificant to retain. In some cases, to this day some still don’t know that my first impression of them is not one of flattery and kind words. That September the same boy who slammed a door in my face and referred to me as two people instead of one, asked for my name and number.  In fact in some circles, that fall was as if I was a new student, just arrived who no one had ever seen or heard of before. Crazy.

That fall was also my introduction into the world of casual dating filled with encounters of body builders with the insecurity of a twelve-year-old, the guy who wished I thought he was a player, The boy who liked me more when I was taken, and The Turk who tried to domesticate me.

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ImageMany people have told me I have lived a wild and full life.  I can’t deny that my morning after stories at Sunday brunch have left the person on the other end of the table eyes wide and mouth open on some occasions. To be honest at times I’m turned on by the unusual and downright crazy. I don’t have a taste for the safe and familiar, I’m curious and pursue all that intrigues me with consequences to be processed much later. I must warn you or entice you (whatever your fancy) by saying that what I will be sharing the next few weeks isn’t for the conservative or prude, my life is filled with bad choices with beautiful outcomes and in need of sharing. It’s that the last twelve months have led me to the ultimate decisions to really just come clean, let go, seek enlightenment and share.

At 21 years old I have known various countries and cultures. I’ve fallen in and out of love with the idea of love. I benefited from summers  in the Netherlands Antilles during my final High School years which made me feel beautiful during a time when I was constantly told I was not.  I’ve experienced Inter-racial relationships,  scary intimate encounters with my peers, along with romances I never wish to forget and a few I cringe to remember. I’ve survived the death of my father, High School obesity, and the cruelty of gossip and young adulthood. What makes me strong is that I never lost the sense of self that allowed me to succumb to my  desires. Thanks to a very outgoing Lebanese gay friend I tried my hand at theater direction, photography, and a cultivated love for foreign cinema.  I’ve aspired to change the world through activism, loving, living, and above all relating.

Three years ago when It came time to decide where the next chapter of my life would take place (college), I was fed up with the world around me. At the end of High school I was sure of one thing: The contentment  I was seeking would not be found in a Virginia University and I wasn’t getting any happier with just a change in self (I lost ten pounds my senior year of high school) .

Against all odds and that which is logical, I somehow acquired acceptance into a underclassmen program at Suffolk University in Madrid, Spain. While trying to decide between a year of freedom and a degree from a state school or four years in Connecticut, I had come upon my fathers old passport from the 1970’s. I was astonished to find the only two stamps inside it were from the customs counter in Madrid and the Balearic Islands. I took it as a sign to take one incredible year instead of four filled with possible mediocrity.

This blog isn’t about Spain, and what I did there,  those memories are a prequel, and in a better sense the map which led me to my decision to embark again on another Journey taking me out of my comfort zone. If anything, many voyages are a promise to have at least one night under the covers crying to be safe in my Oakton Home due to things gone wrong: anti-Americanism or just plain culture shock. (my first bedroom in Spain could barely fit my suitcase in it and my senora was oozing with xenophobia, being  brown-skinned in Spain had its perks and its annoyances)

This Blog and this summer are a testament to my decision to grow up and stop limiting myself to the real barriers between me and the world. Not just society, but my barriers to let love in and out unconditionally with friends, strangers, and former/current lovers. These barriers which constrain me from true fluency in every language I have knowledge of, and the ability to marvel at life’s moments; ugly and good so I may appreciate them for what they are as they occur rather than dwell on them in sadness. These barriers I have built out of fear of pain, failure, and the unknown.

Before this point, I had always traveled with all intent and purposes to throw myself deep into the places  far away from fellow Americans, resorts, and tour guides.  Admittedly, while the culture was the initial draw, every expedition was about the sweet anticipation of connecting with people I’ll never forget and  times  littered with getting drunk in strange bars, deep house music, and  hot men who I barely understand. This time around things are different. I’m older, wiser, and a few years deep into the freedom of living without supervision.  I’m not lonely, sexually repressed, and desperately in need of a good time. At 21 the grass isn’t always greener anymore, it’s that my yard just needs some weeding out and new seeds planted.

I want to be moved down to my very core, above all this is a spiritual mission. I don’t want to come back and tell you the stories, and exude my change, I will share it every step of the way by Photoblogging and relating my experiences in Guatemala and Turkey.

The next coming weeks I’m going to relate some moments that have occurred which brought me to this moment. The past year I’ve played my part in moments which defy logic, ive been lost for a while and what you and I will uncover together is my way back. ..If anything I  hope that my story and the path ahead of me, will inspire or educate all who come upon it. This blog is my gift to anyone who wishes to receive it, and wishes to be moved by it. This isn’t another travel blog, this is a memoir. My story…..Eat. Pray. Love. For the Twenty something soul.

Eat Pray Love For The Twenty Something Soul: My Summer Manifesto

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