It’s been easy to allow other people’s assumptions, opinions and narratives dictate how I respond to life in my body, in my skin, in this world. This gap year gave me the time to isolate my own thoughts and feelings from those of others, and to listen to my intuition. The following is a list of life lessons I’ve recorded along my journey this year. Despite how many of these are cliche, they are my personal truths. 

1. It takes me two weeks to warm-up to a place, especially new places.
2. I like walking on the sand with water shoes. I love the squishiness inside the shoes, and the resolve of freedom for prickling things like broken shells and sea urchin spines. Ouch!  
3. When I’m in a funk, a place of disenchantment, I must compel myself to look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. (Thank you Naomi!) I will sit my tail down, and log three things I witness (with intention) that demonstrate magic, humanity, or love each day.
4. I can make room for my attention deficiency even in leisure. LOL! I am a person who enjoys bouncing between activities. (Draw in the sand, play the ukulele, read, etc.) 
5. I instantly smile while playing the uke…even though I can barely play through a You Are My Sunshine).
6. The greatest sense of freedom I’ve ever felt is wanting for nothing. This is not to be confused with being able to get all I want. 
7. I do not want to know the measure of time, numbers, intervals, etc. it takes to get something done, I’ll just do it blindly and thrive. 
8. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (African Proverb)
9. “Be intentional.” Apply this to love, life, and happiness. (Thanks Tiffany!)
10. I am a wild woman. (based on the publications of Clarissa Pinkola Estes)
11. To bleed also means to have flesh. (Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes) Letting go, leaving friends and family, releasing experiences to memory hurts. But this body knows so much living, and I’ll honor every bruise.
12. I am content to stay in my room…as long as the door is open. 
13. My mantra: No toilet! Twelve! Toe!
14. I have my own rhythm. It doesn’t make sense to anyone else nor should it. Trust it! Respect it! 
15. “Do not make decisions out of fear, make them out of love” (Jim Carey)
16. I must nurture my “playful mind” forever and ever. (based on the lectures of Jim Carey)
17. Meditation occurs when I am learning something new. It is the only way I know how to quiet my mind. 
18. When I can’t stop thinking about something and want to, I must focus on something else.
19. Hapana kazi! (No work!) I never want to work again.
20. A home isn’t worth having if I can’t share it. 
21. The things I do when I don’t have to, are what I should be doing more of.
22. Visiting other people’s lives is nice, but only for just a moment. 
23. A healthy community offers purpose to all of it’s members. That’s what I want.
24. Black people–this obsession with personal space and lenience toward germaphobia are lesser known evils of white supremacy. How the hell did we get so afraid to touch each other? 
25. White supremacy hurts white people too. 
26. An easy way to restore my yen is to drink water. Who’d a thunk it?
27. Privacy. Eh. How much of it really is the desire to function without shame. 
28. I have a deathbed mentality.
29. Our birthright is to realize our “potential”. (Quotas from The Monk who sold his Ferrari)
30. Don’t take myself so seriously. Geeez!
31. Live in the now.
32. Happiness is a journey not a destination.
33. Vacation is an act of the mind. Disconnect. 
34. Friendship, like all things living, has a cycle. 
35. It’s good to be a part of something bigger than myself. 
36. Avatar was right! God lives in the hivemind.
37. “Real love” doesn’t make you lose your goddamn mind. Hollywood, please stop with your bologna. Sheeeez!

 

 

At first, it was difficult to sleep peacefully through the night. I grew consumed with the voices of doubt and fear. “I should be doing something else more responsible sounding. I should be saving more money, not blowing through my savings just to live a little. How am I going to buy that house?” the voices would say. Where does this shit come from?  I’ve never wanted to own a house.

Here’s a list of my dark voices:
 1. The death of my loved ones.I live with a “death bed” mentality. Not only am I hyper aware of my own mortality, but I am carry the fear of the mortality of those closest to me. Yeh, much of this has to do with growing up in the South Bronx during the 80s and the sudden loss of too many loved ones to violence. I try to keep the trauma on leash as best I can, but the residual effect is a looming fear of the inevitable truth that the people I love will certainly die, and could die suddenly. Per this, I take the cathartic approach to conflict. Let’s talk about this now and be done! For I am fearful that if I don’t tend to issues between myself and the ones I love with urgency, they will suddenly die, and I will regret whatever the offense I allowed to come between us. Some say that this is a good thing. And as the “death bed” mentality influences how I manage my relationships with friends and colleagues I believe that this is what has allowed me peace from resentment with most folks. But sometimes the leash gets tangled in abuse. At times, yes, I have made myself a martyr, a door mat to a small few who have abused my willingness to forgive and move forward. Ack! It happens. But this particular fear has choked me out of my sleep from time to time on this journey. I wish it would just go away.2. Loss of a limb.

Nuf said.

3. Loss of senses.

Obvious.

4. Poverty.

I’m a black girl from the projects in the South Bronx. And like every child, I found happiness in childhood; I have plenty good memories. Nothing beats an open fire hydrant in the summer, and the elegance of the Mr.Softee ice-cream truck busting the corner headed your way. I got love for home. I still stay with Momz on the block from time to time. But losing my wings, my ability to catch the wind and do what I want when I want reminds me of those barred windows, and the paint from the radiator against my thighs. I’d sit on it for forever dreaming to be free. And for real, money makes that shit happen.

5. Regret.

The omniscient “THEY” say you only regret the things you didn’t do. The death bed mentality doesn’t allow me to sit back and wait for anything to happen for me. In my mind, at the time of my death, I want to say: Self, if you thought it, you did it girl!

6. Falling/heights.

I’m a big fat chicken. Wanna see me almost faint crossing rope bridges between cliffs. Nuff said. 

7. The hamster wheel (hurting myself out of ignorance, fear, stubbornness).

Please God. Do not let me enter another cycle of self abuse. I don’t want to wish upon a star to change anything that I can change myself. And if I’m too blind to see it, bring me to the light and I will certainly race towards it with all my might.

8. Needles.

I’m still a big fat chicken. I was 16 years old at the phlebotomist and burst into tears standing in line for my turn to get pricked. Still to this day, I use the Rudy Huxtable method in the chair. I fill my mouth with air and slowly let it out when it’s time. And they bet’ not show me anything either! Before I left South Africa, I wanted the full works, while I still had health insurance. I sat in the phlebotomist office to wait for my turn. A teen aged girl sat with the band tight around her arm and her mother stood beside her. Next look, and there was blood pouring down the table, on her leg, and on the hands of the phlebotomist, a smoothly dress South African dude bout ready for the club except it wasn’t even noon yet. Nah, man…and I was ouuuuuuuut!

9. Pain.

Despite what some people believe about me, I do not like pain. I care not for physical or emotional pain. Yes, I make choices that sometimes bring me pain, but it is for the beauty of experience. I do not want to hurt nor do I deal well with the hurt of others. I aim to assuage pain, to fix matters that bring pain sooner rather than later, so that I may breathe easily. I also do not wear shoes that hurt my feet, or clothes that restrict my breathing. Nope, pain is only worth it, if there is clearly something tangible and or practical to gain.

I have much for which to be grateful. Had I never meant it before, nothing like a dirty back pack, miles to go, and a deep whiff of these roses to help me appreciate them now.
I’m grateful for…Love. It fills my cup and runneth over. I am fortunate to for love and kindness to find me no matter the hole I dropped myself in. I’ve been a true recipient of so much generosity this year. I leaned on so many others, borrowed their air and they gave it to me willingly. To confess the debt I feel to you all would denigrate this as my offering of gratitude. I thank you thank you thank you all for your homes, your beds, your meals, your contributions. My journey would’ve been empty without you.Health.I wanted a full medical exam before I gave up the security of health insurance. To be healthy is a gift. It is not promised, and it is not ever lasting. I am grateful to be well, full bodied, and abled. It has made carrying my apple green Deuter 60+10liter bag manageable every step of the way. I will fight for my health as time and age conspire with nature to take it from me. And I will honor all that I have been given, conventional flaws and all, with intention. Run. Eat well (as best I can). Aim to be the fittest me. And fo’ sho’ drink (mostly water) and be merry.Time.

To witness God. To hear my own voice above the noise. To be young and to have enjoyed it. To fall in love, then out of it, then back in again. To visit my loved ones. To know timelessness. To live my dreams (big ones and small). To question and to seek answers. To harness the wind and be wild.

Intuition.

Intuition is God’s voice within. I have let that voice speak to me above what my heart and mind have had to say. And it was always right. Intuition is the perfect strike between integrity and desire.

Freedom.

My freedom looks like rolling over in my bed in the somewhere out there, twisting my heels and ankles, and kicking my legs cuz it feels just that good to do whatever the hell I want. My god, it has been delicious. Just me, by myself a lot of the time. No plan. No demands. No imposed objectives. No shoulds. Only coulds! And say thank you, thank you, thank you to the designer of life for letting me seize this opportunity. How unAmerican of me, I know? What kind of working class black child am I? Psssssssht! That’s me.

Water.

Undoubtedly, the healing properties of water are unmatched by anything on this earth. My sister is a nurse, and she says that her one goal is to get black people to just drink more water. Drinking water heals. Staring at water also heals. God, I stared at oceans this year. Naomi, my kitesurfing wind-sister from Australia, and I just watched the Indian Ocean for hours. It was actually how we spent our last morning together before I left. Fried puff-puffs. Coffee. And sparkling clear blue water. I just needed one more look, just a moment to drink that water in with my eyes. And the women of Brazil hugged and prayed for me as I wept in the ocean on New Years 2017. “Yemanja”, I said, “please show me the way.” Is it me…or do people who live by water just seem to exist in a permanent state of chill? I’m grateful for discovering my love for water.

My American Accent.

Here me out. Before I catch a lecture from brutha man or an eye roll from sistah girl, try to feel me when I say white supremacy consumes the world, and our fancy pants American accent is a gift card to shop. With my mouth closed, I am received like a pauper, a subordinate. I’ve tested this theory in many places on multiple continents. I would be skipped while standing on lines, and overtly shoo’ed away. Only later, upon hearing my Anglo voice, I receive a double-take and consequently rapid service for mistreatment. I’ve been dismissed entirely by retail workers, later to be escorted by managers around the luxury items sections. I’ve been met by frustrated chefs who assumed I “must have” confused my own order, to then be sent bottles of champagne out of remorse for miscommunication on the part of the waitstaff. :/ Sadly, the result is even more dramatic on the African continent, though all except Ethiopia (thank you King Haile Selassi). My Anglo American accent changes things out there. And for those of us who can admit that it alters the dynamics of living a black life IN America to our advantage, let us not forget this is a very white card for access to white power. Take all that and raise it by the power of the Red, White and Blue, which IS the stamp we are given whether we like it our not, and picture it at work in every encounter you have with the countless others who’ve been consuming white American supremacy by the spoonful for generations. Yeh, it’s a tough pill to swallow. But it’s the god honest truth.

 

If you’re planning to go on a lengthy excursion about the earth somewhere, do yourself a favor by packing these items in your backpack.

1. Q-tips (for your make-up removal and hygiene needs).When you buy these overseas, not only do you get shafted for buying them in the smaller quantity size, but the quality usually doesn’t meet a q-tip junkie’s standards. I’m just saying…pack some in sandwich bag, and you’ll be most grateful you did.

2. Sunblock.

SPF 30 is sufficient for all shades. Don’t ignore the truth. We need protection too. Some of my hippie dippie homegirls use coconut oil for it’s natural sunblocking properties. A little protection makes all difference on your skin 10 years from now.

3. Good smelling shower gel or soap.

My recommendation is for peppermint or citrus scented soaps. Trust me! There’s nothing like fresh feeling skin when you’ve spent a whole day in transit, between national borders, on public buses or a safari truck.

4. Needle and thread.

If your intention is to not weigh yourself down with more luggage, you probably want to maintain the clothing you have. A single needle and a spool of white and black thread comes in handy in case your hemlines come undone on your trip. And some of us don’t want to waste precious travel time locating a seamstress to mend our clothes for us even though in most developing countries it’s dirt cheap.

5. Sarong that works as a head wrap and scarf.

I’ve lived in sarongs. You can use it to wrap your body, your head, lay it out and take a nap on it at the beach, or throw it over your shoulders or legs in case the AC is suddenly too strong on that border run bus ride.

6. Tupperware of small sizes.

Two firmly sealable containers come in handy, and sometimes in the strangest circumstances. I’ve brought tupperware with me while I was frolicking around street market stalls and to restaurants. Not everywhere does take-away. If you tote around your own container, you can get spring rolls to go, and not worry about grease stains in your purse. Other times, I’ve used my tupperware to store my toiletries in a hostel bathroom, or to store cooked food in a shared kitchen.

7. Ziplock bags (also for storage of food and things).

If lugging a container on an excursion to the markets doesn’t suit you, some good ol’ ziplock bags (go with quality ones) will do the trick. You also want ziplock bags to store your packed away liquids and/or dirty clothes. I usually bring 5 one gallon size. 3 quart and 3 sandwich size.

8. Quick drying microfiber towel .

These towels not only dry quick but they usually come in small totable sizes. Nuf said.

9. Nail clipper. 

10. 1 hair care product.

YOUR 1 ESSENTIAL hair care product that absolutely cannot be found in other places outside of your home country AND that has a very specific purpose. Don’t judge me. I use Ampro Pro Style gel to twist my locs. I bottle this stuff up in smaller tubes (3.4 oz bottles. Thanks TSA!) and bring it with me in proportions that I KNOW will be SUFFICIENT. Too much more, and it weighs my bag down. But hair oils, shampoos, conditioners, aloe vera plants, etc. exist all over the world, and I know that I can find any of it when necessary. Keep your bag light by limiting your hair care products. I know it’s hard black girls. Embrace the adventure and be as basic as you can.

11. A snack size bag of condiments and seasonings.

Look! You may not want to eat out every day you’re traveling. Having a few packs of salt/pepper and ketchup/mayo/hot sauce goes a long long long way on the days you just want to cook for once and don’t want to run out and buy seasoning to flavor your “good enough” meal. If you keep a spork on you, you’re waaaay ahead of the game.

12. Minimal make-up (cuz sometimes you want to live above grundge backpacker status).

I bring an eyeliner, my favorite 2 lipsticks(to support my day and night lip looks), mascara, a small eye shadow panel(something with shimmer), and a Mac Studio Tec compac (maybe). Truth be told, when traveling I rarely put on make-up at all. The beauty of travel is in the freedom to find and be exactly who you are. But just in case you want to glam up your look for an evening out, it’s nice to not have to shop around for your old reliables. Sidebar, quality cosmetics in much of the world is waaaaay more expensive than in the USA.

13. Inspirational electronic books.

Everyone has their own reading preference. But I strongly recommend reading books that give you hope, courage, emotional support, and all that on the happy side of feelings wheel. Consuming positive media keeps me motivated to try new things and to be brave when in a new environment. To know surprise, many of the folks you encounter along your travels may have something to say about these inspirational titles. Use it in friendly conversation with strangers. Some of my favorites are: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Alchemist by Paulo Cuehlo, The Greatest Salesman Who Ever Lived by Og Mandino, 5 Love Language by Gary Chapman. See my list of favorite travel books here:

14. Headlamp.

If you’re traveling to a developing country, it is always good to bring a headlamp with you. I’ve used a headlamp when going for an evening hike, or walking through dim lit (but very safe) street. Using your phone light may not be comfortable if you’re needing to hold on to bike handle bars, for example. Also, in case you’re a back packing G, for real, having a headlamp easily accessible is a peaceful way to not disturb your hostel roommates at night while you read or search through your luggage.

15. Box o’ matches.

Sometimes, a girl needs a light.

16. Medi-Kit.

No matter where I go, I’m sure to have the following:

Alcohol pads (3)

Painkillers of choice (travel size)

Anti diarrheals (travel size)

Dramamine (travel size)

Bandaids (3)

Theraflu (1 packet)

Alkaseltzer (3 packets)–If I’m drinking enough to need one of these, my drinking buddy probably needs one too. And last packet is a back up. =D