Tag Archives: life

WHY WE LOVE BIG CITIES – I DREAM OF NY, I DREAM OF EUROPE

For a little over a year, I have been living in Los Angeles. I haven’t yet warmed up to the city to the extent that I feel comfortable to call it my home; yet, when I first arrived to Los Angeles I absolutely loved it. Why? The beaches, the weather, the mountains, the proximity to both ocean and snow, the diversity, the food, you name it! The creativity! There are so many people that come to this city with a vision of making their dreams a reality. So many artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers. I felt surrounded by people that understood my desire for a creative life. Yet, I haven’t been able to call it home.

After a long inner search, it finally dawned on me. I miss that constant novelty I got in New York City. Where all I had to do was step outside my door without worrying about a car or parking and I knew I could find a world of possibilities. An adventure awaited. LA is a big city, and unfortunately, not the best example for public transportation. There are great pockets to the city. But having to drive to them takes away from the spontaneity that I personally crave.

I am drawn to travel. I dream of a European home. Weekend trips to different cultures by simply jumping on a train; different architecture, different languages spoken. European cities are built for the human scale, for walking; for experiencing architectural beauty every few steps. I see that in my future, but for now, my craving goes to the concrete jungle in the East Coast. New York still holds my heart, even with all of its imperfections (aka. the subway at rush hour).

Turns out, my craving of novelty is a very basic human need. We are biologically disposed to want to be in locations with variety, with differences, with complexity. We all have different ways of fulfilling this need. Perhaps many don’t even realize why, or how to fill it. There is even research that suggests humans are healthier when we live among variety. That the cities of the future, especially here in the US, that are built for the bottom line, could cause even more depression – among other health issues. Boredom increases cortisol levels more than sadness.

Imagine the cumulative effects of working and living in the same dull environment. Day after day.  Ughh.

Yes, I realize this took a dark turn. It all started with a sunny happy description of Los Angeles. The wonderful city of Los Angeles. I truly do think it’s beautiful. It does need to work on it’s infrastructure for better public transportation. With so many artists in the city, I don’t think it is living up to it’s best potential just yet. For now, I am here to point this out, but I see myself moving back to New York City. After all, I know I have unfinished business with that town, and with that, be closer to my beloved Europe.

Cheers!

What do you think? How do you look for novelty in your life?

WHY OFFICE WORK IS OUT AND TRAVEL WORK IS IN

A few days ago, out of sheer curiosity for my own past – prompted by my love/hate relationship for Facebook memories – I decided to scroll through my own profile. I went deep. Scrolled past photos of friends who I haven’t seen in a while, funny videos I had shared, political articles, and a post about remote living. I stopped short. Around two years ago I has shared an article from Fast Company about co-living spaces for digital nomads. I remember at that point the idea of living a location independent lifestyle by working on my computer and being able to move around freely was the stuff of dreams. I thought travel while working usually required a company sending you out on business trips. I hadn’t realized that in out internet age, traveling freely while working, was not only for a selected few, but millions were already on this path.

Here we are in 2018 and I feel reconnected with that idea. I have become increasingly aware of the digital nomad lifestyle; and with that, I have also become aware of the fact that I am most definitely not alone. Today, 82% of millennials have said that they are more loyal to their boss if they have flexible work options. We are just not all wired for the 9 to 5 work schedule!  For example, at the time I write these words, it is 3:05 am in Los Angeles (where I currently reside). Not to say I normally find myself writing at 3 in the morning; but many creatives types find themselves in the night owl category.

The 9 to 5 work day was created to maximize efficiency at the time of the industrial revolution. The idea was: 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation, and 8 hours of sleep. Makes sense. Thing is, the world in quite different today than it was at the peak of the industrial revolution, and we shouldn’t have to adhere to those norms. My internal clock most definitely does not want to adhere to those norms, and shouldn’t have to.

Fortunately for me, and for many entering the workforce today, the rules are changing, and they are changing fast. Companies are adopting the remote work philosophy, and there are many other companies that operate completely on a remote workforce. In fact, by around 2030, the Millennial majority will likely have done away with the 9-to-5 workday entirely.  Insert happy dance.

Photo by Nubia Navarro

This is exciting for many obvious reasons. To me, since travel and discovery are some of the things which most exhilarate me, I don’t want to just be able to control the hours I work, but to be free to choose my location. After all, many of us humans are still nomadic at heart, we have been nomads for 99% of our existence. Nomad lifestyle, count me in. It is not my desire however, to move locations every few weeks, but to be able to see the world without being limited to an office space; and by having to waste another hour on commute to the office where I would sit on my laptop and use the internet.

My generation wants to get to know the world outside of a two week allotted vacation time. We are making it happen. There are more and more companies each year that are born based off of that desire. Companies like Roam, WiFly, Remote Year, and Hacker Paradise cater to digital nomads. Some are designed to help people jump-start their digital nomad career, others are for more established remote workers.

As of now, the future seems promising, and I am excited for that seed that was planted in my head over two years ago. Even though it has taken me until now to start searching for real solutions and ways to accomplish it, I am certain it will happen for myself, or any of my fellow wannabe citizens of the world.

Cheers!

Would love to hear your thoughts! Anyone else a digital nomad?

The New Way to Plan Your Trip To Brazil

It was winter in Boston. Cold, windy, icy, oh yeah… and I was diligently going to class every day, freezing my hand because I just had to hold a cup off skinny vanilla latte in my hand even if I didn’t have gloves on – I was always losing my gloves. The decision had been made, I was going to Brazil for spring break. Sao Paulo to be exact. I dreamed of escaping the February snow and arriving in the tropical Brazilian city. I had worked out the numbers, all I had to pay for was the occasional meal and my plane ticket. I was staying in my friend’s home in Sao Paulo, therefore I was getting to travel like a local, with a local. Perfect. I’ll soon be clubbing in Sao Paulo, beachin’, shopping, and eating pao de queijo (my mouth waters just thinking about it).

After all of that imagining, daydreaming, and talking about my plans, I unknowingly convinced my roommate Patricia to join me that week. I was excited. I never thought she would come with me, and my Brazilian friend was happy to accommodate us both. We would have such an amazing time! Right? For the first time, my Venezuelan passport afforded me an advantage over Patricia’s American passport. I could freely travel to Brazil without the need for a visa. Patricia, could not. She had to pay a 160 dollar fee for a tourist visa, and go through all of the bureaucratic pain of waiting. Waiting in a line, waiting for approval, waiting, waiting, waiting. I understand that quite well, after all, that is the process I had to go through when changing my status here in the United States, or visiting for that matter. Quite annoying.

Photo by Raique Rocha

We were two weeks away from our trip and Patricia was scrambling to figure things out. Guess what happened. It was too much of a pain to go to Brazil, she went to Puerto Rico instead. Where Patricia happens to be from. I went to Brazil, and did all of the things I mentioned. Although I did quite a bit more clubbing than I expected.

Even though the application process to travel to Brazil with a United States passport is complicated, and I imagine it turns away a few tourists from countries requiring visas; turns out, Americans still represent the second largest source of tourists for the South American nation. The first being neighboring Argentinians.

It seems Brazil is aiming to boost its tourism. In a smart move, the country created an electronic visa program. Now tourists can apply to their visa online. An E-Visa; which costs 40 dollars. Quite a difference from the 160 dollar fee. Since Brazil implemented this earlier in the year, it has seen an increase of 80% in visa applications for Americans. Not too shabby.

Of course, there are still quite a few people that would like to see the visa waived. Why is it that with my Venezuelan passport or most European passports there is no need for a visa? Simple: Brazil has a reciprocity clause. If you require it of them, they will require it of you.

Since I went to Sao Paulo I haven’t felt the need to return. If I needed to go through the process of getting I visa, I wouldn’t even think about it. The city reminded me of my own tropical city of Caracas. Maybe a tad less dangerous and a lot bigger – but the feel of the place was the same, and the temperature felt the same. Maybe one day I’ll go back and explore Rio and it’s beaches. For now, the world is quite big and I can always visit somewhere else. Brazil is working on becoming a friendlier destination for tourists who need visas. Perhaps other countries should take their cue from them.

Cheers!

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Documentary Review: “A World Not Ours”

“The old will die and the young will forget”

These are the words attributed to Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. He was referring to Palestinian refugees and assuring his fellow Zionists that Palestinians would never try to return to their homes.

In the documentary film “A World Not Ours,” filmmaker Mahdi Fleifel shows us that this statement is certainly untrue. The young Palestinians are now old refugees and they still hold on to the idea that Palestine will once again be their home. The young Palestinians however, are trapped in a sort of limbo. Being stateless is their lifestyle, and they only become nationals of a country when the FIFA World cup comes around every four years.

Fleifel’s film is sentimental and takes a very different approach to documenting the refugee crisis. A very personal approach given that some of his own family is still trapped within one kilometer of Ain el-Hilweh; the refugee camp home to over 70 thousand people in the south of Lebanon.

Ain el-Hilweh, Palestinian refugee camp housing over 70 thousand refugees

“To me, going to Ain el-Hilweh was better than going to Disneyland” remarks Fleifel in a voice-over. He says that it took him years to realize that the people in the camp were not there by choice. Through old home footage of children playing football in the streets, and celebrating the FIFA World Cup, he outlines his skewed childhood views and contrasts them with footage of the Palestine-Israeli conflict and the disillusionment of those who are trapped at the camp.

He interviews his friends, uncle, and grandfather, which in turn humanizes the faceless statistics about the plight of the refugees. His friend Abu-Eyad puts our everyday conflict into perspective, when he remarks that he would like to “go on a mission’ and blow himself up, because he sees no future for himself – trapped in a place where his everyday life has absolutely no meaning.

Abu-Eyad in his home, in Ain el-Hilweh

“Palestinians really fucked us over, I wish Israel would just massacre us all…” says Abu-Eyad while contemplating his future.

This film was filled with contrasts. The music was upbeat, yet the feeling inside the camp was one of helplessness. Is this how human life should work? They belong to no state so they are not allowed to live a fruitful life? The immediate answer should be no. That is not however, how thousands upon thousands of refugees view their life. Just like Abu-Eyad, they see no future, and they see no meaning.

You can watch the trailer here. Also, don’t hesitate to comment, or contact me to let me know what you think!

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,

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.”