It’s funny what we consider homeless back home in comparison to here.
San Diego, Compton, Hawaii; any of the largest homeless populations of the U.S… my heart has always reached out to them. Each time I walk past these impoverished people in tents, with shopping carts full of clothes and blankets and usually a half eaten McDonalds bag beside them, my stomach clenches and my heart breaks for them. I am constantly compelled to always help, whether it is donating clothing to them or organizing food drives, there was hope, simply one donated sandwich to each of them was hope. To me, these people were rock bottom, to me this was all of the help I needed to give, because I had done my part in giving them all I could. To me, once I helped the community in my small bubble, the rest of the world would be okay.
To me, I never knew worse.
I was sitting in a smoothie bar in Leon, Nicaragua, enjoying a refreshing drink alongside many locals in 100+ degree heat. Anything other than my delicious smoothie was invisible to me in this moment.
I looked up just in time to see two teenage boys, no older than 16, carrying their limp bodies inside, clearly out of place.
Their meatless ribs popped out of their ripped up shirts, and dirty pants swam at their small hip bones. Despite the sweltering hot pavement outdoors, these boys were shoeless, and their burnt feet seemed to be the last of their worries.
One boy carried nothing on him besides the clothes on his back, the other had one thin sheet slung over his shoulder; probably to sleep on to protect his back from the rocky street… lucky him.
Then, the boy walked up to me. He carefully placed his fragile, clammy palm onto my arm and communicated to me through his eyes.
Maybe he assumed I didn’t speak Spanish, or maybe he was too tired and hungry to use his words, but he didn’t need to, as the split second his eyes were on mine, my stomach was sent into twists. With his sad, brown eyes, he told me he needed help, that he was holding on by one last string and simply needed a drop of hope to continue. One last person to show they still cared, somebody to help him.
This wasn’t the first time this had happened to me here.
Breaking his grip from me, I dug my head into my palms, as I knew I had no spare money or anything on me to give to him.
The kid continued to do this to everybody else in the shop. Some didn’t acknowledge him, others backed away in disgust, while very few politely rejected his pleads.
In defeat, he stumbled away.
As I attempted to drink my once delicious smoothie, the sickness in my stomach would not fade away. I wanted to hurl with each sip I took. He needed me, and I wasn’t able to help him.
That’s when I realized, I still had over half of my smoothie left, and could have given it to him. As I walked outside to find him, he was long gone. My heart sank in a way it never has before. I still felt the burn of his eyes piercing into mine. I failed him.
But, let’s say I had given him my smoothie, or let’s say I had several bucks of change on me to pass his way. Besides one refreshing drink and a cheap burger, would I really be making a difference?
As we walked back to our hostel, my legs limp and eyes flooded in tears, we passed a blind lady on the corner, begging. Then, a sick man hoping his half smile would win him spare change. A man trying to sell janky jewelry to feed his son, and many others who had simply given up on trying, lost all hope and just emotionlessly sat on the curbside.
The 1% and the 99%.
The 1%, the lucky few who own more wealth than the other 99% of the population all together, sat in restaurants, eyes on their phones, oblivious to those struggling right outside their dinner tables.
How much is money worth? If I gave a dollar to each starving belly here, I’d be left in debt, and what would that dollar really do? What would it do, if the rest of the world was blind to these issues? What would one person, one dollar be able to do?
Yes, our own community needs our help. Yes, places such as San Diego need our helping hands. But, what I want to know is, why are we isolated, blinded from the rest of the world, from the true and real rock bottom?
When I was 16, my biggest worries was academics and my upcoming soccer games.
This boy simply wants a sandwich he will savor for days.
How has life come to this, when have we stopped helping one another?
They need us.
Today is the day. The day I am going to start my voyage of change.
I do not yet know how I will make a true and permanent change, but all I know is that I cannot do it alone.
I am going to help, somehow, someway, but if we all help together it’ll be more than just a dollar.
The first step is knowing. Ignorance is bliss, but we cannot turn our backs to the rest of the world, hoping somebody else will handle it for us. We will find a way to handle it ourselves.
Be the change you wish to see in this world.
If we all join together, help as one, we will be that last glimmer of hope that so many people need. We will be the change we wish to see.
(A year in a half ago…)
Today I am 18.
Today I am filled with love.
Today I am filled with an immense amount of life.
Usually I am not big on birthdays but, man, today… I could’ve sworn the birds were singing just for me. I felt things I never knew existed.
As we walked to breakfast in the pouring rain, I skipped and twirled in my new overalls. I felt the pulling urge to smell every wildflower, and say hello to every passing stranger along the way.
The grey weather, the small, desolate neighborhoods with ancient homes, and the plants and trees felt as if their beauty had been magnified times ten on this day.
We then found a magical, fairy forest to stroll through all day. Let’s just say, there was moss EVERYWHERE.
My mind will never fully comprehend these moments. From the towering pine trees and never- ending green, to the immense cliffsides and pooling waterfalls, there is simply no way that this place wasn’t simply just a fragment of my wildest imagination.
“But, the crazy thing is, this is real. Our surroundings are real. Real and raw. No filters, no anything. Simply mother nature before our very own eyes,”- My beloved hiking companion.
I soaked my hands in puddles, tilted my head back as I drank from waterfalls, and hugged countless moss trees.
At one point, the sensation that something extraordinary was just around the corner swam through my body and sent me into a full run. I sprinted and allowed my rain- soaked hair to press against my rosy cheeks as I dodged rocks whilst I sang at the top of my lungs that I was 18 and so, very alive because of it.
Around the next mountain curve was certainly beyond my imagination.
A gigantic, elderly bridge overlooked the deepest untamed river of Oregon, soaring delicately through a city of green.
As my friends caught up to me, we laid on the bridge and felt everything, all at once.
The rain softly trickled onto my numb cheeks as the soft river water danced thirty feet beneath me. I felt the wind tickle my hair as autumn leaves swarmed my listless body.
The lush rain collided with my tears as my heart grew with the overwhelming beauty of my surroundings.
We gently tossed leaves over the bridge and, as we watched them slowly twirl downwards towards the river, I knew this is what it felt like to be alive.
I am falling deeper and deeper into love with life each and every day, and this year is going to be absolutely extraordinary.
Oh, I saw a double rainbow on my birthday. Oregon, you never fail to disappoint me.
You must let her be.
Free birds are meant to soar
If you try to contain her, she will roar.
As what you think you are protecting her from
Are simply fears she longs to overcome.
Because when the wind moves her wild hair
She knows there is nothing she cannot bear.
So, let her splash mud on her young face
While she twirls in fields of grace.
The desire within her continues to burn.
Don’t you get it? Getting lost in the world is what’ll make her learn.
Classrooms and textbooks are simply a safety net.
I promise you, learning through life is the best lesson yet.
Please, do not lock her in a room.
It will set her up for an eternity of doom.
As the feeling of twirling on a foreign, desolate beach
Is something a professor cannot teach.
She will learn through moments, unique souls, earth and travel
It will teach her how life truly unravels.
You see, this is her time to grow.
Let her jump, and watch her soar.
I want to be a writer.
I want to inspire the heck out of others.
I want people to see every color of my thoughts.
I want to paint peoples minds with my ideas and aspirations.
I want to make a difference through words.
I want to document on paper that I am in a cheap, colorful hostel in a completely foreign town eating day old rice with my dirt- stained hands while dripping in sweat.
I want people to read this and feel how completely and utterly alive this very moment makes me feel.
However people perceive my writing, whatever they take from it and what feelings it forced them to feel, I want them to feel it.
I want somebody to put down my paper and think “wow.”
Whether they need to curl into a ball and cry, climb a mountain, or dance in the streets; I just want my words to make others simply feel.
Friends, family, and strangers… I want to show the world how beautiful every moment is, as they see my moments of darkness and light through a story. Through my story.
I want somebody to feel the way my heart beats to the jungle and want to dance the way I dance when I finally hear music after ages of technology silence.
I want to show people how beautiful life is.
I want readers to feel my ten hour, treacherous bus rides and breathe as deeply as I do when I finally hop off that bus and walk barefoot into a world I have never yet been immersed into.
Beaches, cities, jungles, towns and villages.
I want people to soak in the feeling of being aimlessly dropped into an entirely foreign environment each and every day, and making it a home until it is time to find a new one.
I want people to read that “home is within” and truly believe it.
I want people to feel as free as the ocean breeze from my thoughts and put down my story knowing they are enough, knowing they can do every last thing they strive to do, and that if they dare, they too can do cartwheels naked on a deserted beach and look over the entire country of Nicaragua on a thousand year old, white rooftop.
I want people to know that their every last dream can become a reality within the blink of an eye if they learn to believe in themselves and the universe the way I have.
I’ve been inspired by every new face, new environment I have stumbled into, and I want to do the same in return.
The sparkles in my eyes, butterflies in my stomach, and ideas in my mind will soon flood onto a paper for the world to see, and I will inspire everybody the way everything has inspired me.
Just wait, one day, I am going to make the world feel.
Earth beneath my feet.
The mother sun bringing me heat.
Twirling in my skirt.
My toes digging into the dirt.
Flying like the birds and the bees
As the jungle trees watch over me.
The look of freedom in my eyes.
This is so real, so raw I could cry.
I stop, close my eyes and feel
And now know what it is like to heal.
As when the earth runs through my veins
I no longer remember the feeling of pain.
I have waited so long to feel this.
I want to give every flower, every leaf a kiss.
In a world of fast pace
I wish everybody would stop, take a moment to feel this grace.
As this is what society craves.
To feel alive as the ocean waves.
Take a moment to feel the breeze.
The world is calling you.
Look up at the sky, feel the blue.
Allow life to wash all over you.
Overcome your fear.
It is an illusion we create that a life of experience will cure.
It is time to stop just existing.
No more hesitating, no more resisting.
This life invites you in.
I know that must bring shivers to your skin.
Because the unknown is a fright.
Which is why we must climb to great heights.
To experience everything at its greatest measures
And treat every moment like a treasure.
So, dance with flowers rather than silver and gold
And watch the way your life will unfold.
The earth is free, so let’s all simply stop and be.
I promise you, if you stop and feel
You too will heal.
Ah, traveling alone.
Taking off solo to a foreign country, with no itinerary, four days after my eighteenth birthday.
No Spanish needed in Costa Rica, right?
I may have guessed prior that my greatest lessons along this journey would entail: finding transportation, finding somewhere safe to sleep every night, budgeting, and the whole language barrier situation.
Little did I know, the greatest lessons of all, would only entail skills to travel alone, but how to really be with myself throughout the process.
You see, I’m a people person. I love talking to others, sharing thoughts and ideas, and having constant friends surrounding me.
My overrun extrovert personality has gotten me far too used to relying on others company to have fun.
Getting lost has not been the scary part, no… It’s getting lost alone. The things that have triggered my every fear has been the lonesomeness of simply my own thoughts on a ten hour bus ride, or in a cheap hostel solo. Its the quiet dips in the ocean and navigating a scary town with only the company of myself to walk me through the day. The constant desire for a presence greater then my own at every waking moment of my alone time, in fear of what my mind truly may come up with when in freedom of distractions of others.
And now, 14 days into my solo excursion through Costa Rica, the quiet ocean swims, astray midnight walks, and lonesome bus rides are what I live for.
I have learned to not only love, but appreciate and cherish the every chance I get to be simply be with my own presence.
I no longer feel the need for constant companion, as the only companion I absolutely need is my very own.
This evening at Punta Mona, the rain poured on us harder then ever.
Breaking free of everybody, I found my way to the beach to take a quiet dip in the ocean.
The shore had a thick, lonely mist to it. My only company was the grumbling sounds of howler monkeys in the distance.
Already soaked, I waded into the Caribbean sea. And, just like the rain, the ocean had the perfect warmth to it.
I was no longer afraid of entering the stormy, angry ocean all alone. I felt peace with myself and simply enjoyed being in my own head.
Although a thick fog clogged the entire sky, and rapid raindrops tumbled onto the sea, the water remained crystal clear, and oddly calm.
Lacking a single wave in sight, I watched fish swarm my ankles in a frantic, as teardrops flew from the sky.
Water meeting water.
This was a moment only I will ever be able to comprehend. The sights, the feelings, the sounds and the oh, so distinct smells… indescribable.
Drippings of warm water created miniature puddles on the crystal glass surrounding me.
Heavy fog blanketed the entire coastline.
Restless clouds danced above my free, naked body.
The smell of sweet, fresh rain and crispy, humid air.
The sounds of trickling water on water and singing monkeys, tuning in with the rains harmony.
I floated on my back and howled with the jungle, thanking the universe for bringing me here.
I have begun to love myself enough to simply love the company of my own, and for that I am so, so alive.