Alright my people, this will be cheeeeeesy.
Whatever high you get from being in a new place, the little language victories, making connections with people from all over the world, coming alone but only eating dinner alone one time, being humbled by an extensive, deep, and diverse culture – whatever that high is, I haven’t felt it in over two years. Being around other people that get it and realizing you aren’t alone makes the experience even better. It also prepares me for returning to a place overly concerned with responsibility and timelines and the struggles of a system that makes it difficult to enjoy life. I’m already preparing for push back I’ll receive for some more travel plans I have. So, meeting people who were traveling for months, even years, at one time was very validating.
This was my first solo trip. It was a bit impulsive, planned only a few weeks in advance. But it was very needed. It’s brought back parts of myself that I haven’t experienced since March of 2020. I want to hold onto this energy for as long as possible and spread it out until the next time I leave. I made a goal of listing things I’m afraid of doing and then doing them. These included solo travel, wearing a tight dress out and feeling good in it, dancing salsa, speaking Spanish, and eating alone. My destination ended up being a great choice.
I’m at a point where I truly enjoy spending time by myself. Up until the last few years, I tried to fill my life with as much noise as possible to drown out my own thoughts. I don’t do that anymore, which is cool. So, growth! This trip was a wonderful mix of long walks by myself, cortados in small cafes, and planning activities one day at a time based on what worked for me. But this alone time was complemented by making new friends and, thanks to a small world, meeting up with old ones, too. I went alone but never felt alone, and that was really cool. And maybe a little addictive.
Spanish. I’ve been afraid of speaking Spanish my whole life. Growing up within a Puerto Rican family, it just seemed unattainable for some reason. As if the only options for knowing a language is fluency or nothing. It doesn’t make sense either. I speak French, I’ve taken lessons in Mandarin, Kinyarwanda, Adja, and Farsi, picked up phrases in Arabic and Fon. And Spanish, to which I have the greatest proximity, was the language that scared me.
Before CDMX, I spent 3 weeks trying to cram as much as possible. And even if it was a nervous start when I arrived, I started speaking with people: conversations with Uber drivers about life, talking to fruit vendors about the fruit quality in the US and my goal to eat as much papaya and mango as possible, explaining that I speak French more than Spanish and finding out that person also speaks French. I ordered food, asked strangers if they could take a photo and if they wanted one, received recommendations. Even if my Spanish was broken, incorrect, and occasionally just French with rolled Rs, I’m finally doing the thing I’ve spent 26 years being intimidated by.
This was the greatest decision and the happiest I’ve felt in over two years. But some reactions as I prepared for the trip were ignorant, filled with stereotype and assumption. Lack of awareness happens, I have plenty of it that I’m always trying to address. But the confidence in that lack really angers me. So mi gente, when someone tells you they’re going somewhere you may have not thought to go, ask questions and do it respectfully. Inquire about what they will do, why they chose to go, what they’re excited for. Don’t call them brave, don’t talk about food poisoning, you really don’t need to mention safety, they’ve already done any necessary research. Or if you have to ask these questions because you cannot fathom that other places exist, then be better.
It was only one week but this week brought back a part of me that I lost in 2020, and I am not letting that go again. I also heard a lot of “I could never do that,” which made me quite sad. It scared me to think about the experiences that we miss out on because of fear. The only fear I’m alright holding onto is the fear of missed opportunity. I’m trying to lean into this list I have, hold onto the high until the next trip, and finally look at my June credit card statement.