Monthly Archives: February 2018

Is Food an Anchor, or a mode of Transportation?

As I mentioned in a previous post, Millennials are the most global generation in history thus far. Many of us live far away from where we were born, many of us have an insatiable hunger to get to know the world that surrounds us; and for the times we can’t physically travel to a location, there is something we can use in order to take an instantaneous journey: food.

As I’m sure travelers from all generations will agree, food can be perennial to a location or a particular culture, it really doesn’t matter where one takes that bite; you can instantly be transported to wherever you associate the meal to be from originally. There is nothing quite like food to get your senses to transport your mind to another culture, or place. Especially if taken the time to enjoy and flavor Every. Single. Bite.

Close your eyes and have a slice of the best pizza in town. Let your imagination transport you to the streets of Naples. Overlook the navy blue water at the Mare Lungo while you are there. Have a bite of crepe with a touch of sugar and a cafe au lait; and imagine yourself in a street side cafe in Paris, just about to go for a walk in the Champs-Élysées.

Just as it can transport you, food can also be a delicious reminder of your roots. An anchor in the best sense of the word.

My anchor keeps me from straying too far from my home. An anchor that with every bite, reminds me of a simpler and more carefree time where I would jump out of bed to run to the breakfast table to have a meal with my family.

My anchor is the arepa, what Venezuelans call home; and with every bite, no matter my location, I suddenly find myself back in Caracas, having breakfast, overlooking the hills of the Avila mountain, and feeling that warm caribbean breeze.

What food transports you to a different place? Would love to know! Comment below, or contact me!

Cheers,

“The Blood is at The Doorstep” Review

From a mental issue, to a race problem. From a simple life, to activist leaders.

The Blood is at The Doorstep is not an arbitrary title; it is spoken in this thought-provoking documentary in a moment of peaceful protest by Nate Hamilton; younger brother of Dontre Hamilton, whose death and aftermath is explored by the Milwaukee-based filmmaker, Erik Ljung.

On April 30th, 2014, Dontre Hamilton was taking a rest in Red Arrow Park, right in front of a Starbucks, in the city of Milwaukee. Dontre was 31 years old when he was shot 14 times by Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney; and his death, was just the beginning of a life changing experience for Hamilton’s family.

Not too far from the Hamilton home, filmmaker Erik Ljung heard about the incident, and three weeks later he was with Dontre’s family, documenting their search for answers and justice.

Nate Hamilton leading a peaceful protest

 Ljung then went on to spend the next three years alongside the Hamilton family. Chronicling their journey as they sought out justice for their lost son and their lives became more intertwined with a national movement taking place. For Dontre’s younger brother, who said he led a “simple life” before his brother was killed; the change meant becoming the founder and leader of the movement “Coalition for Justice.” As the film developed, we saw the conversation about Dontre’s death go from a mental health issue – the police claimed Dontre’s schizophrenia was the main cause that killed him – to a racial issue. When Michael Brown is shot dead three months later in Ferguson the search for justice intensified in Milwaukee, and the accusations for racial profiling by the police grew stronger.

“It’s stunning to me that there is not a social problem in America that can’t be solved by more training for the police.” – Ed Flynn

Ed Flynn being interviewed by the press

Erik frequently includes the voice of Milwaukee chief of police, Ed Flynn. He never accepted the racial argument for Dontre’s death; but he did illuminate a very real issue when he pointed out the irony in having the police be responsible for all of America’s historical issues.

The filmmaker found a way to give this film an honest look towards a very human issue happening in the country. The film was not propagandistic, nor was it angry. It made no attempt to be controversial. It was, in fact, a very fair approach to documentary, which allowed all sides to have a voice.

Ultimately, Eric Ljung’s first feature documentary looked at how the community was galvanized after the shooting, and how it attempted to find a place for healing among the chaos and growing tensions.

You can watch the trailer here!

Millennials, Boomers, and Luxury Travel

For as long as I can remember, my generation – generically referred to as “Millennials”- have been at odds with my father’s generation; the Baby-Boomers (my mom is actually Gen X). As Millennials, we are called entitled, lazy, self-absorbed, blah, blah blah…

The truth is, every generation is criticized in some way, shape, or form; and we all have our own hurdles to get through. The thing is, the Boomer generation and Millennials actually have one big thing in common: desire to experience and travel.

As of now, there has been a shift of focus coming from major travel brands. They are taking attention away from my dad’s generation, and focusing on us: Millennials.

There is a simple reason for this: my generation is the most global and hyper-connected in history. Wecrave experiences. We prioritize “experiential affluence.” Now, I know that this is not true for everyone but it is a major shift on how the world has operated thus far.

But guess what? We inherited this immense curiosity of the world through our parents: the Baby-Boomers. Surprised? I would be, if it wasn’t for the fact that I acquired my hunger for travel through my dad’s desire to turn us into a nomadic family at least twice a year. So far, I have visited 20+ countries, and that’s a smaller number than some of my peers. The truth is, Boomers, compared to older generations, are more self-empowered and individualistic.

As Millennials, we are more time constrained than many Baby-Boomers who have gotten to the point in their lives of time affluence. At least in the US, people who are over 50 have 70% of the country’s disposable income. They are also a lot more experienced and sophisticated buyers. And because they know they are running out of time to try new things, they have an increasing appetite for experience. Millennials, we are time constrained, yes, but we are also time expansive. Primary reason luxury travel brands are now turning to us. We have a whole lot of time ahead of us.

Why does this relate to luxury travel?

Well, as I mentioned, Boomers are wealthy and time affluent. Travel brands should not be taking their attention away from this generation. At the same time, Millennials, even though some more willing to stay in youth hostels, are also interested in traveling in style. Plenty of them will forgo owning a home for being able to freely move through the world. In fact, only in the United States, there are 5 million millionaire Millennials (try saying that 5 times fast), that is 1 million more millionaires than Gen X. And that number is only bound to keep growing as Millennials get older. What do you think they will spend their money on? Safety? Or experiences? I would bet on the latter.

The thing is, the old ways of travel advising need to change. It’s happening with companies like Airbnb that now provide the option of purchasing an “experience.” But we no longer want a travel agent to book a ticket for us. We can do that ourselves. We want a personalized experiences, and agencies who know how to make that happen. Otherwise, we’ll figure it out ourselves – we also happen to be the DIY generation (we can learn almost anything through the internet). Boomers, though not necessarily inclined to turn to Youtube to learn new skills, are also fiercely looking for new experiences and ways to grow. Some of them also want a personalized experience. I have gone on plenty of trips that our family’s travel agency planned for us. My parents stick with them because they cater to their tastes and needs. As millennials we are more connected to social media, and we turn to our peers to imagine our dream travel destination and journey, but in truth, it might be time for a business to provide us with some “dream advisors.”

We want to engage with the brands, we want to see the humanity behind them. We know how to find CityGuides and the best rated restaurant on Yelp. We don’t want a travel guide. If travel brands can figure out a way to connect with us in a more personal level. You got us.

Thoughts? Questions? Emojis? I would love to hear your thoughts! Don’t hesitate to comment below, or even contact me!

Cheers!

Documentary Review: “Thank You For The Rain”

Good documentaries connect you with the world; they bring you another perspective, or perhaps transport you into the past.

Thank You For The Rain” takes us to a small village in Kenya, where Kisilu Musya is attempting to organize his community to become more empowered in the drought that faces them, by planting trees to bring in the rain.

Musya’s wife in Kenya. Photo taken from “Thank You For The Rain.”

The documentary was directed by Julia Dahr, a Norwegian filmmaker who after meeting Kisilu, is drawn by his enthusiasm and drive to make a change. After asking Musya if she document him and his family for a month, she accepts an unconventional request: to share the camera with him. Kisilu is not exactly an experienced cinematographer, but through his lens, the message of the documentary is even clearer: the problem of climate change is not a theoretical one, it is an everyday man problem.

We begin by seeing Kisilu’s village facing a drought that is severely affecting farming; forcing other farmers in the community to seek other work. Kisilu’s family struggles with making ends meet, and his son is sent back from school because the tuition had not been paid. Despite the trouble, the farmer remains optimistic that the rain will come.

“Everything is being contradicted”

The village starts seeing signs of rain and are happily expecting the first teardrop. Soon the rain comes, and flood comes with it. Kisilu’s home loses its roof and trees fall due to the storm of rain. Yet, the farmer uses this obstacle to remove the apathy of his village towards climate change, and drive them to action by spearheading a tree planting campaign.

Kisilu Musya in kenya organizing his community. Photo taken from “Thank You For The Rain.”

Through his activism, Kisilu gets invited to Norway, to speak among climate activists. Where he learns about the European lifestyle, sees snow for the first time, and is amazed at the living conditions Norwegians manage through such difficult weather. He goes back to Kenya with a new sort of enlightenment, with the idea of bringing European effectiveness and organization to his hometown. There, his activism becomes his sole purpose.

Shortly thereafter, the Climate Change Summit takes place in Paris, and Musya is thrilled to receive an invitation to speak at the United Nations where world leaders are making decisions. His initial excitement quickly turns to frustration when he realizes most leaders who are there to “fight climate change,” will only do something to fight the problem just as long as it does not interfere with their economic endeavors. Tensions are high in the climate summit, and disagreements between leaders result in a climate agreement that is disappointing to most climate activists. Especially Kisilu, who goes back to Kenya still determined to put in efforts every single day to improve his community.

Dahr perfectly captures the farmer’s strength and resilience of spirit; and the message is clear to anyone who loves this planet. Even if you go at it alone, you must put in effort every day to save it.

You can watch the trailer here!

Kisilu Musya at COP21 Summit about to speak in front of policymakers. Photo taken from “Thank You For The Rain.”

Traveling at 15, a better version of the Quinceañera?

Every place has a different rite of passage, whether its a simple thing like your first drink, your first date, prom, or a more elaborate moment like a debutante’s ball, or a Quinceañera party.  Many of us go through different rites of passage, and they all have different effects, different weights on our soul, mind, and heart; but for many of us, there is none quite as powerful as our first trip abroad.

“People don’t take trips, trips take people” – Anonymous

If we are open to it, even a short term trip can change our perspective. Change who we are; push our limits and drive us to discover new horizons. It’s no wonder many people feel the need to travel to “find themselves.”

It is tradition in many Latin American countries to have a Quinceañera or “Fiesta de Quince Años,” when a girl turns fifteen. Historically speaking, turning fifteen meant a girl became a young woman. She was not a child anymore, and she could be presented to society; which in many cases meant she was ready for marriage. Of course, even though the meaning has changed over time, the celebration remains. For over half a century, there is another form of celebration that takes place not in the shape of a party, but of an excursion.

The tradition (if we can call it that) has been embraced quickly enough that most girls in the position to take the trip, choose to travel with new and old friends and neglect the party altogether.

Many consider summer to be a time for freedom and discovery (myself included). There’s no better time to open your mind, and experience a different culture. The travel companies which organize these tours focus on having the girls (and most recently boys too) truly experience the countries visited. Not only through museums and monuments, but through history, food, and their ways of enjoying life.

In fact, this was a personal experience as well. Both my mom and I chose to not have the party when we turned fifteen; and instead, went on a trip for a month around different European cities, with other like minded girls.

There was a lot of time spent sitting on buses, hearing our tour guide explain the history of the place we were visiting. Some of the times we would even listen. Others we just dreamily looked out the window and hoped for an exciting adventure to come our way. We visited over 10 countries, most of which was traveled on the tour bus. Some of us had our first kiss with a Scottish guy in a club in Florence while dancing to Rihanna’s “Umbrella” song (some of us never even knew his name). Others experienced moments of solitude in a foreign land where no one spoke our language. We made friends. Got into fights. Lost weight as a result of walking around emblematic European cities (despite the fact of eating our weight in chocolate, bread, and pizza). And made unexpected connections with people of completely different cultures.

For most girls taking the trip, it’s the first experience traveling abroad without a family member to guide their actions. Even though the travel companies (like Protocolo) provide chaperones, it is a new found freedom which encourages a new outlook in life. Many of us came back with higher expectations for our lives. Desire for deeper meaning, and to one day go back and widen the experience even further.

For generations, this trips have been shaping the vision of many young women who, over the course of a summer, become more independent, open-minded, cultured, and excited for life. No longer do they see the world through the lens of their hometown or through their family’s protection. As Mark Twain said best, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness…”

Any interesting experiences you’d like to share? Would love to hear about it! Comment, contact me, or share!

Cheers!

Some travel resources:

HotwireKayakLast MinuteOrbitzPricelineTravelocitySeatGuru

Why Eating Pizza in Napoli Changed My Perspective on Food

After an hour on the “Frecciarossa” (Italy’s express train), I was already savoring what would come next. The world famous Neapolitan pizza. I stepped out of the train on a Saturday morning in the middle of October to find a sort of beautiful chaos ruling the southern city of Naples. There were pedestrians challenging the cars and walking among them. Vehicles taking the traffic signals (if there were any) for granted; resulting in a disarray of cars, vespas, and taxis going in all (and unclear) directions. This was a day trip. a discovery trip; I wanted to rediscover pizza.

A few days earlier I was in Rome and I had called my friend Tiziana to ask her if she would meet me in Naples for some pizza. Tiziana lives in Salerno (to the south of Naples), and there was no better friend to guide me through the not-so-orderly south of Italy. She very clearly told me to stay in “Napoli Centrale” (Napoli’s train station) and wait for her before exploring on my own. Titi (as I call her), was among the many voices to tell me that Naples would be too chaotic for me to venture out on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the chaos, the anarchy. It was exhilarating and full of life. Who wants calm and order all the time? I mean, after all, this was an investigation in the name of pizza; which is basically the meaning of life. What better sort of food is worth getting lost over?

We zigzag the neapolitan streets, passing what seemed like an endless amount of leather shoe stores. We walk through small cobblestone alleyways that showcase other Naples delicacies, like the babá and the sfogliatella. I want to try it all; but I keep my eye on the prize – just as I keep an empty stomach to prepare it for a feast. As I mentioned, like any self-respecting pizza lover should know: Naples is the birthplace of pizza. Naturally I had to pay this place a visit and try it. Titi and I reach the Lungomare, the seafront promenade in the bay of Naples. A beautiful sight of Mount Vesuvius and the mediterranean sea. Along the Lungomare there is an alluring amount of restaurants and bars to enjoy an aperitivo, or a pizza, while enjoying the light sea breeze. We almost sit down for our meal, but we opt to go a bit deeper, a bit more local.

We find a small ristorante in the heart of Naples. A place called “Sorbillo,” very much known to the native Neapolitan. This is the kind of place filled with locals and bustling with provincial vibes. A restaurant which mostly serves pizza. We are lucky. On that particular day, we don’t have to wait long to be seated. We are lead upstairs while we ogle the other costumers’ cheesy pies. We can’t wait, so the story goes… we both order the original pizza Margherita. Originally made for Queen Margherita de Savoy after her visit to the city in the 19th century. Let us take in the fact that the emblematic pizza Margherita was made for royalty; and before it acquired its fame, it used to be a dish for the poor. This only goes to show the revolution of history and of food. How a dish can transform cultures and societies; and no, this is not an overstatement.

The pizza Margherita (my favorite btw), is topped with San Marzano tomatoes. – which naturally grow in the volcanic plains south of Mount Vesuvius, – and with Mozzarella di Bufala di Campania, which is made by the milk of water buffalos strictly raised in Lazio or Campania. The flour used in its purest form is what Italians refer to as “00.” Neapolitan pizza has to adhere to guidelines of authenticity! So you can imagine the purity and delight. The pizza is a success. Of course, the supposed “anarchy” of the city does not put a damper on my trip, nor should it. It gives a city character, life, oh and you will likely get a good story out of it. 

In short, food is partly about the taste, but to truly enjoy the marvels of food, make a real experience out of it. Cheers!

I would love to hear your thought! Comment, contact me, or share!

Un bacio!