Ode

This is for all the ghetto girls who spent afternoons gazing out barred windows and who dreamed to be somewhere anywhere else. This is for all the kids who took sanctuary in their closet to escape the dysfunction of their habitat. This is for all the big foot, thick thigh mama’s who were made to feel ashamed of their bodies, to cover up, to wear oversized t-shirts, and who grieved their differences from the girls on t.v. This is for all the Cosby Kid Wanna-Be’s. (Aren’t we angry at the man but so grateful for his art, for it helped save our lives from the cycle of poverty.) For the latchkey kids who wanted their mom home instead of at work… until they discovered call waiting and three way. This is for every free spirited wild woman who wants to live without borders, except the ones she chooses. This is for every girl who refuses to say ‘yes’ because it’s cool for everybody else, and who says ‘no’ because someone has to ‘Goddamn it!’ This is for the “Too Much” women, the “Rainbow Is Enuf” women, and every woman who is part wolf as much as she is wind and water. This if for every black woman who has lost a brother to gun violence and continues to lose others to the prison industrial complex and other social injustices. This is for every woman who has ever loved another woman so much she learned to see the world contrary to her own self and with newer more compassionate eyes. This is for every woman who knows she deserves a furious love, and couldn’t find it, so she stopped looking and then ooops… found it. This is for every human who has reached the end of her limits and discovered a whole new self that was pretty fucking super hero-fantastic. 

Note 1

Don’t expect to find normal. Being different means realizing your true self. What makes your cells come alive and your toes curl specifically belongs to you. Let go of the expectation that other people SHOULD relate, and be grateful when someone does.

Note 2

Hold fast to old friends. Maintaining old relationships helps us honor our past, our commitments, our most sincerest selves. Old friends remember who you were, what trials you’ve lived through, and can help keep you grounded when we become too aloof. Our new friends aren’t equipped with the tools to rescue us from ourselves. 

Note 3

Let every step we take be to maximize opportunity. Since most of us can’t figure out what we want, we ought to make consistent choices that allow more room for opportunity.

Note 4

The older generations don’t get us! They are caught somewhere between envy and disgust with the whole lot of us. So stop telling them things. Just show them. 

Note 5

Rituals (Not to be confused with routine) bring inner stability. No need to be faux-Buddhist. My chant: “No toilet. 12. Toe!” (I’ll explain later.) Just make it something that empowers you to feel good, to help you find your happy place, to make you laugh. It’s okay. You can keep it a secret. Rituals = structure. And the brain loves structure.

Note 6

Practice makes perfect. When learning something new, everybody thinks they suck. And if you’re the unfortunate person who has to practice in front of others who are amazing at what you’re trying to do, just tell yourself that they are too absorbed with criticizing they’re own image; they can’t possibly notice how much you suck. Sucking is a rite of passage. (Keep it clean fokes.) Learn to love sucking. Smile at it. Laugh at it! And schedule a point in the not so near future to stop and reflect on how far you will have come.

Note 7

Challenging the self is its own reward. Try something new. Pick something. Anything. And challenge yourself to do it every day, just to nurture the spirit of success in the self. Success is an excellent addiction.

Note 8

Consume less! Make it a mantra. Make it sport you enjoy. Ask: Can I have one less…or, a little less…? For, if I’m not prepared to carry it on my back for a few hours or between travel destinations, I’m not buying it. Furthermore, a mentality committed to consuming less not only help save money, it can help you lose weight. I lost 15 pounds (slowly) just by fixating on consuming (with my mouth) less than what I would have before in my splurge by urge days.

Note 9

Consume positive media! Oh god! Music, pictures, videos, and tv. series alike have the power to influence your mood. If you choose the happier stuff, you’ll feel happier. Same goes for blood wrenching, corrupt, and violent stuff. Alls I’m saying is that Game of Thrones has certainly taken something away from my spirit that took dozens of TED Talks for me to get back.

Note 10

Free time should be free from self judgment. Doing whatever you want to do sometimes mean doing nothing at all, walking in circles, imagining, coloring, etc. Free time lets your own voice surface, unbridling your true desires and interests. It’s no surprise we in the US make no priority of vacation time. Heaven forbid we figure out that we don’t want to go shopping to make us feel better, and instead actually want to do something to BE better.

Note 11

No one else can define the experience of love in your body. That cliche romantic experience of a passionate love that renders you helpless, captivated by…–yeah that shit leads to self abuse for many of us. This is not reality, the norm, natural, nor necessary in order to have a fulfilling loving relationship. Your body and your mind determines the love experience for you. So don’t hold yourself or anyone else to the standards of French romantic propaganda.

Photo Credit : Vhdragoon Photography

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!

 

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