It’s late, I’m home and I’m on staring off into space as my eyes well with tears and sadness. I want to—need to— say something. I stare at my Facebook homepage, unsure how exactly to phrase “What’s on my mind” (but thanks for asking all the same, Facebook).
The Great Barrier Reef is dead.
The story of Vivian Maier begins with an accidental discovery decades after her quiet, forgotten death: A young man happens upon her estate at an auction, hoping to luck out and find some valuables in the boxes and boxes she hoarded.
Author and artist Douglas Coupland has been a hero of mine since, as a teen, I stumbled upon his novel The Gum Thief. It's essentially a story about a bunch of losers working at a Staples store, hating everything and stocking printer paper. Two of the main characters are lost and trying to build their lives. One, an angsty teen named Bethany, struck a chord with the moody shades of myself—not that I identified as her, necessarily, but I understood her in my bones.
Travel is life-changing. It is one of the world's greatest teachers, giving shifts in perspective and an appreciation of other views and cultures. But, sometimes, things don't go as smoothly. Hell, sometimes things blow up in your face.
How many times have you been told you can’t do something because you’re a girl? I still remember taunts from schoolyard peers and sharp corrections from family members, reminders received (if not really understood) about what I should be like—of how I should behave.
I’m one of the lucky ones, of course, not having basic things denied from me based on my gender. And I know my list of memories shrinks compared to the harsh examples many others face.
I've never thought the world was tidy enough to be divided into two types of people. Maybe it's a love of humanity, but I think we're too messy and multifaceted to be lobbed into two big defining traits.
The more I travel, though, the more I think there might be two types of travellers.
It was a moment I’ll never forget: A foggy sunrise, steam rising from the rain forest canopy with a red-and-pink streaked sky before me. Howler monkeys living up to their name, bellowing good morning from the branches.
This is how the day begins in Tikal.
Love mermaids? Me, too. I remember getting a copy of The Little Mermaid one Easter—and the blur of re-watching its’ namesake Disney princess under grand, wild waters.
My seven-year-old self never knew a betrayal quite like when Ariel traded her fins for legs. Why would you give up the entire ocean for some boy? (For the record, that one still baffles me.)
It all started a couple months ago, sipping martinis with a dear friend. We were talking about life in that flowing way that happens late at night with someone who's seen you at your best and worst.
She asked me: "So who are your heroes, anyway?"
I don't eat meat. I haven't since age 13, when I told my parents I was giving up "eating dead things," as I bluntly put it. Kids at my school were fasciated, asking me how I lived without bacon and what my reasons were.
A lot has been said about Trump's win, and for awhile I decided I wasn't going to chip in. Wise, impassioned stuff—the kind of stuff that makes you nod while you read it—was everywhere, and I didn't know what to add, other than a "YES" in all caps under my brother's Facebook posts.
I've said before that China, especially Beijing, feels like a crush of energy coming at you from all sides. It's life being thrown directly in your face: You see cars cut traffic by mounting the sidewalk, veering around vendor's carts full of fruits so different they don't have an english name. It's raw, messy, vibrant and beautiful.
Going to new places means breaking your routine: Literally leaving your comfort zone behind for fresh scenery and experiences. It means facing challenges and the unexpected. It's almost synonymous, then, with bravery.
Standing before a broken, dilapidated chalk board, a perfect-skinned brunette with stiletto heels holds a nub of chalk. Even though it's a photoshopped image, with her static expression and impossible body shape, it's one that's all too real—and, if you've ever volunteered abroad, probably all too familiar.
Souvenirs- those small trinkets that show someone how much you missed them while you were away- always strike me as such a romantic expectation. Even the name, closely related to the French word for memories, evokes a wistful feeling in my heart.
But, in reality, I’ve found they rarely leave me so wide-eyed.
When we arrived on the island of Caye Caulker, Belize, I needed a vacation. I was in the midst of uprooting my current life, trying to separate the seeds of what I wanted next from the dirt surrounding them. And man, was there a lot of dirt.
So, it seemed fitting to go somewhere where there wasn't dirt but sand. Sparkling white sand, pure as snow, stretching out before me like a blank slate I could wiggle my toes into.
China's capitol city is also it's hardest to define. In parts, Beijing is towering grey, chock-a-block high rise apartments that all look the same- like a grim set for 1984 that never went to film. Then, you round a corner and find parks, fountains, shopping complexes that would make Manhattan blush, with restaurants spilling international music and cuisine into the street.
Is your wallet feeling slimmer than a supermodel? When you're scraping together pocket change to afford a coffee, having travel dreams can cause a lot of heartache. You'll find yourself thinking "Will I ever make it to Paris? How can I daydream of Europe when I can't afford pizza delivery?".
The train pulled away from Suzhou while I was still dreaming of its canals. The early morning light cast a strange quality over my surroundings. Everything seemed sharper, from people's cheekbones to the hills unfurling outside the train window.
China is a fast-paced place. The cities are big, the crowds jostle, and every train, bus and street is crowded. Even the language is rapid-fire quick. After 2 weeks of exploring different Chinese cities, I was tired. I felt like a disk full of too much information. I couldn't process any more of the beautiful, incomprehensible world around me.
We piled quickly into the van while Shanghai's skyscrapers were still shaking the morning mist from their shoulders. We sat, groggily, sipping bad coffee from Styrofoam cups as the city around us shrank towards the sprawling countryside, with small shacks dotting fields of vivid green.
I admit I was skeptical- my brother promised Suzhou was amazing, but how is it possible I could've missed something so must-see in the hours of research I did before our arrival?
We landed in Shanghai in the late morning, and the first thing that struck me was how the whole city seemed to shimmer. Bold skyscrapers with lacquered glass loom over neighborhoods pulsing with neon-sign-storefronts and kilometers of rope lights. Sunlight reflected off almost every surface.