Truly, Madly, Deeply

We have arrived to the end of February, for many it was the month of Love.

February is filled with lots of hearts and pinks and reds and cards and chocolates and flowers and special dates. So many people are looking for love or keeping the fire alive with the love they already have. So many others also running and hiding from the all the fuss, possibly stung by love in the past.

Love is such a powerful emotion. It is such a moving motivator. Love evokes all kinds of reactions.

My boyfriend and I actually choose not to celebrate Valentine’s Day or Sweetest Day. Our reasoning has always been keeping our love for each other genuine by celebrating outside of such “hallmark holidays”.

Love takes on different forms for everyone. I am fortunate to have someone in my life who I enjoy spending time with, someone I like, someone I love and someone I know is worth keeping company with.

I pay a lot of attention to relationships. I observe what works and does not work for others. I don’t model my relationship off anyone else’s but the insight into the challenges as well as opportunities to dive in further is so valuable.

A friend of mine just began a couples club with her husband. The idea is to get couples together on a regular basis, out of the house to have fun and enjoy the company of other great couples. It is such a brilliant idea to support each other and keep our own relationships strong.

With such high divorce rates, having strong examples of love and marriage has always been important to me. I like seeing it and believing it is possible. I get love in relationships or marriage is not always so easy but it can work if you work it.

Interestingly enough, earlier this week I started watching Married At First Sight on OnDemand. They are in the third season of this show and the concept is so fascinating.

The show site explains it like this:

“Married at First Sight” is an extreme social experiment that follows six brave singles yearning for a life-long partnership as they agree to a provocative proposal: getting legally married to a complete stranger the moment they first meet.

Four specialists – sexologist, Dr. Logan Levkoff; psychologist, Dr. Joseph Cilona; sociologist, Dr. Pepper Schwartz; and spiritual advisor, Greg Epstein – create what they believe are three ideally matched couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle and see each other face-to-face, for the first time, at the altar.

Over the course of several weeks, episodes capture each couple’s journey as they go from wedding, to honeymoon, to early nesting, to the daily struggle of working on their marriage. After several weeks together, each couple must make a decision: do they remain together or decide to divorce?

This arranged marriage style is so untraditional to many cultures but watching the show unfold, it is so interesting. These couples are going through battles seasoned couples have further down the line in their relationships. They are getting to know each other personally on an intimate level with such a humongous leap into marriage.

Love and the pursuit thereof can do that to people. Of course this is an extreme example but people pursue and look for love on all kinds of levels, hoping to find  love that will last, be true and mad and deep.

I am steady learning and finding enlightenment on my own journey with love. I appreciate looking by my side to a partner that supports, motivates and challenges me. I appreciate having someone I can trust and share my strengths and weaknesses with who can do the same with me.

Relationships are not for everyone, neither is marriage and I respect that. I still am in no rush to marry. I am so blessed at my life and relationship stage right now. But should you choose to find someone and you see a potential for love, I hope it is true, mad and deep.

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Choose Joy

Don’t you find such freedom in making your own decisions?

When you choose your education path, faith, career, love life, friends you will keep in touch with, etc. The opportunity for you to choose the paths for your life is freeing.

Growing up, if you were lucky, someone probably guided you, always telling you what to do. Usually this was a parent, an older sibling or grandparent perhaps.

If you were “normal” you likely hated it. It is easy to misunderstand being told over and over how you should live, especially as you’re growing up without much choice or explanation about why. 

Part of the reason I got so much out of my education at college was the freedom I had to choose what I wanted to study. It was different than elementary or high school. I had a greater level of satisfaction and fulfillment being responsible for my own life. 

Some people would rather be told their whole lives what to do and when but if you recognize there is more to life, if you really get it, you will take ownership and live how you want.

I choose to live this way in all the areas I previously mentioned. My faith has been far more powerful and meaningful to me as I have gotten older. I’m not continuing a cycle because my parents did but it’s my own decision. I find freedom in that because it impacts how, where and why I worship as I do with the faith I have.

My romantic life is my favorite daily choice and giving my all in a relationship empowers me to learn all the important lessons about love. Choosing the man I do life with was one of my best decisions. We will explore all we can while flying or occasionally falling together. We are learning so much.

Even defining friendships has gotten more precise. My group of friends has shrunk significantly since my school days. I am far more intentional about who I keep in touch with on a personal level. Some people are truly only in your life for a season and when the season ends, we must take the lessons and move on.

I was fortunate enough to keep my cold at bay long enough to attend my friend’s wedding shower this weekend. I spent so much time at her house growing up, her dad assumed they adopted me, haha. It has been a few years since I saw everybody. It was like old times hugging and catching up with the cousins, sisters, mom, grandma and a few other high school/college friends. I missed the last 10 year school reunion so I haven’t seen most people since we graduated.

It was such a good feeling to be in a room with great people. Actually my friend made a comment I totally agree with. The party was like school but with only people we liked. That’s the freedom I mean. I do everything in my power to choose joy and happiness and the paths or people who bring me closer to that. Point blank, period.

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Wedding Shower

Traveling in Trinidad: Top 10 things I learned in the Caribbean

For the last seven days, I enjoyed the sunshine, surf and sites of Trinidad. My new brother-in-law has family there and thus opened an interest in the opportunity to visit.

Of course I wanted to share all the things I experienced and learned. If you are unfamiliar with this country in the West Indies, hopefully this will help give you some insight as well as tips in case you should travel there yourself in the future.

Not only was I able to see and experience the country but saw the ‘greatest show on Earth’, Trinidad’s Carnival.

There are things we wish we knew beforehand and now I want to share those things with you so you can experience Trinidad to the fullest and possibly avoid some of the pitfalls we faced. There are also things so incredible that you just cannot miss.

The first night, we got in late, stood forever in the Customs line but eventually left the airport after a couple hours.

1. Exchange your Money to Trinidad Dollars (TTD) at the Trinidad Airport.

We thought we might try mainly using USD but we exchanged which was smart. Most places outside of the airport did not make it easy to figure out the conversion so it would be easy to lose money, paying far more than something is worth.

We wanted to convert our money before traveling but even the airport, major banks and international currency exchanges in our city did not have the money on hand. It had to be ordered and by the time we realized it would not be as easy as expected to find TTD at home, it was too late to order. The Port-of-Spain airport in Trinidad is a great place for you to take care of it.

We were fortunate enough to have local connections through my brother-in-law so the first night we went to a house party.

2. Be Weary of Wild Meat…

Unless you are used to it or are particularly adventurous. Some  Trinidadian ladies at the party described it to me as animals with tails that creep and crawl, like possum and iguanas. They were not fans. The men seemed to enjoy it. My boyfriend tasted it as said it tasted like curried jerk pork with a lot of bones. He really liked it. I however just could not do it.

I was really glad when later in the night, our party hosts fried us some fresh catfish. It was oh so delicious.

One major key we learned from the conversations that night:

3. Get off the Jet and Go Fete. Party NEVER stops

Mind you we went straight to a party after a full day of traveling. Little did I know that would be the motto for the entire trip.  Ultimately the endless party lead to me being sick over half the trip with my lack of rest and recoup time. Even while writing this, I am coughing and congested. Still worth it. The season of Carnival can start as early as Christmastime. Most people have been partying since early January when the fetes (parties) begin. There is a fete for every style.

We arrived at the tail end of the party season. After Carnival Monday and Tuesday are over, the party is done. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and the end of the carefree party lifestyle. People go back to work and get back to business. Carnival is the time for everyone to let loose and be free.

3. Maracas Beach is Far

Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. The roads twist and wind around dangerous curves up then down the sides of a mountain. Streets that look big enough for only one car can, with the right amount of creativity, fit four across. This fact was fascinating and terrifying wrapped in one.

Maracas is beautiful when you finally arrive though. Expect traffic if you go anytime during Carnival. Island beaches can be really stunning and Maracas is no exception. You look out at the mountains framing the scene.

Downsides were the waves at this beach are rough. It was very crowded and unfortunately full of trash after big groups vacated their spaces.  It cost $1 to use the toilet which sadly were not regularly cleaned by the staff collecting the funds.

Upsides are the beach never closes, unlike where I’m from when everyone gets kicked out before dawn or after dusk. You can also drink as you please without police harassment. Maracas is also a great beach for sun-bathing. There are plenty of palm trees for shade but if you enjoy sunshine like me, you will find more than enough. Be sure to lay on the bug spray though or the bugs will feast.

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4. If you Drink One Rum and Coke then Stop, you get a Headache

Every bartender’s advice: Keep going. I suggest Black Label Rum from Trinidad

5. Embrace the Break from the Hustle and Bustle

I’m a city girl. I like city life. When I spend time outside of Chicago I go back home and listen for the honking horns, see people everywhere having a great night out or drunkenly stumbling home.
But every city horse can stand a break.

I love to travel and go on vacation to take the regular breaks I require.

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6. If you do not have a car, take a Maxi

A maxi may sound like a taxi but operates more like a city bus. White passenger van with a colored stripe. The different color tells you what direction the maxi travels and the areas covered.

7. Play J’ouvert

J’ouvert begins 4am on Carnival Monday. You pick a band and walk with them. Although not really walk, more like do a West Indie march through town to the blaring Soca Music from your band’s speakers. There are typically 2 trailers. One with the music and one with the drinks and food. Oh yeah, it’s all inclusive. Plus you get a t-shirt and a drink mug.

Last but not least, this is not for the faint at heart. You need stamina for the walking and a great desire to get dirty because you will. Others who play J’ouvert, are armed with mud, paint, colored powder and whatever else makes a mess. The entire route, you are being covered as part of the celebration in the streets. Mine ended at 9am but there are others who finish at 10, 11 or even noon.

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8. Play Mas

Carnival Monday and Tuesday have full days of parades. There are 1000 bands that participate.  You can choose to be  a spectator or if you really want to, you can pay to be part of a band, get a costume and be in the parades for those two days. If you choose to participate in the masquerade or “play mas”, note it is a major commitment. You basically need to train like you would for a marathon. You will have fun but you are walking in a 2 day parade under the hot sun and being scored at 5 judging stations for your band to compete.

Wear comfy shoes no matter how cute you want to be. Use sunscreen all day, everyday. Stay hydrated and wine (dance) with all your body and soul until the very end.

The more you are willing to pay, the more perks you might have with the band you choose. I did not play mas this trip but I am now adding it to my bucket list. It was so fun to watch and dance from the sidelines. I want to be further in the mix next time. The costumes are immaculate and fancy. It is a great way to celebrate the culture and tradition of Carnival.

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9. More Phrases To Know:

Bake & Shark: Bake is a sandwich bread that reminds me of ciabatta. Lots of people will tell you try bake and shark which is a fried shark sandwich. It is actually pretty tasty. There are other bake sandwiches as well.

Good Night: This was interesting to me because I always use the phrase good night as a form of goodbye or something I say before lying down in bed. Good night here is used as a greeting for the evening. People say it when they enter the room instead of leave it.

Lime: Hang out or chill.

Savannah:  A park where events happen or sports are played. Any open field for activities can be a Savannah.

10. I loved it and You will Too

At the end, we stayed a few days past Carnival and toured the islands on a boat. Dramamine for motion sickness saved my life that day. We learned about the history and challenges of the country from our local connects. Now we have new friends and family. I developed a true interest in the Trinidadian people, their culture and country. They were so hospitable and loving towards us.

I was most fascinated that many of the same people who were shirtless or in fancy bikinis, losing all control in the streets on Tuesday by Wed and Thursday were back at work in long pants and cardigans, suits and ties like it had never happened at all.

That is all part of the beauty and mystery of Trinidad. Work hard, Play hard.

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Celebrating the View

Yesterday I was bundled in 2 layers, winter coat and snow boots just in case. Chicago can be unpredictably brutal this time of year.

Today I have the extreme pleasure of penning this post from the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

This post won’t be that long because I am eagerly awaiting my ride to Maracas Beach on the other side of the grand mountain here.

This experience even from last night to today has been fun. We have no true plan or itinerary. Our goal is to go with the flow and we are. Sometimes life is like that and those can be the most memorable moments.

The country is beautiful like they said it would be. I am feeling quite nostalgic because so many things are reminding me of when I lived in Nicaragua.

The weather, the houses, the scenery, the hospitality among many other things.

I love traveling and telling people about new places they can make their own adventure to. If you have never been, consider booking your trip in the future.

It is so important to take some time to enjoy the view everywhere you are. I hope on this Sunday you take a breath, say a prayer of thanks and enjoy the view.

See you next Sunday when I take a deeper dive into all I will learn from this stunning place. For example, did you know it is illegal to curse in public in Trinidad? As in, people can actually get arrested. Stay tuned for the ins and outs of Trinidad including the greatest show on earth…Carnival.

Peace & Blessings

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Travel Diaries: The Vacay Mindset

In a few days, I will be fully emersed in the world and culture of Trinidad. I am starting to get so excited!

Naturally, during and post-trip, I will share great lessons, tips so look forward to that.

More and more I realize two of my favorite things are traveling and writing about it. I hope more doors open in the future and opportunities to do more of these two things that I love.

I spent a few hours today on YouTube learning about what to expect from the Caribbean island. I look forward to the traditional food, Carnival partying, hotter-than-Chicago weather and beauty everywhere from people to scenery.

Any opportunity to see the world and open up your mind and perspective, seems worth it to me. A trip to a new town near where you live or a new country across the world offers the same chance to evolve as a human being.

I cannot wait to share with you the experience. I hope it might inspire you to take mental and physical break from the day-to-day routine to just take a few days for yourself.

Travel is nice but a staycation is perfect too. Some weeks we just need to be kinder to ourselves and take time off to rest, relax, recoup and do what makes us feel joy. 

Actually my new motto is “I work to vacay.” I hope you will take that challenge as seriously as I do.

Talk to you soon from the West Indies!

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