A reflection on how traveling changes you.
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It's January 2015. I'm sitting in a tiny little Brazilian restaurant named BERIMBAU on Carmine street across from my dear friend, Angela. For the span of a little over a year, we have regularly met over lunch to discuss our shared flounderings through our twenties, love lives and professional careers. "What the eff are we doing with our lives?" is a general staple of our conversations.
Over the course of lunch, Angela tells me she quit her job and is leaving to embark on an adventure across the country to travel. I couldn't believe the cojones of this girl. For so long, we had talked about it, and finally she was doing it. What she told me that day stuck with me, and not too long after she left, I did too. Who knew how much that one hour lunch so many months ago would change my life today? Below, Angela describes why she left on her trip to FOLLOW THE SUN. You can follow Angela's travels on Instagram HERE.
FOLLOW THE SUN
By Angela Del Sol
Our selfie-obsessed generation is fixated on capturing every single moment and curating an image of self for the world to see. Traveling allows us to step outside of ourselves and let someone else take the picture, widening our perspectives and reminding us that there is so much to life beyond the selfie stick.
I wasn’t feeling entirely content with my life in NYC, so I decided to toss my safety blankets to the wind and follow the sun, my sun. In big cities like New York, the pressure to succeed and survive is high, and it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters as we become blinded by the unattainable markers of success. We begin to define ourselves by what we do rather than what we truly love. After pushing past the fear of leaving all the comforts behind, a stable job, a beautiful home and a relationship- I bought one way ticket to South America. This was a terrifying process but the risk of living one more day just going through the motions scared me more, and with one click I set my sails towards the unknown.
My journey began in my home country of Colombia. It was liberating coming back as an independent young adult to reconnect with my roots. After riding a packed Transmilenio (the transit system), and seeing firsthand some of the negatives of human nature, I made a conscious decision to focus on the positive and tried to not lose the edge that living in places like New York City gives you. I ventured to the center of Bogota, which is known for street art but also has a reputation as an unsafe city.
As I walked down the hundred year cobblestones of La Candelaria - Bogota's oldest neighborhood, I joined a free street art tour where I absorbed the street art created by politically charged artists such as Toxicomano and Juega Siempre. They call attention to institutionalized corruption and remind people about the disappearances of homeless men during the tumultuous "falso positivos scandal." Halfway through our tour we stopped at El Chorro De Quebedo, and our tour guide pointed to what was the oldest jazz club in the city "El Bolon Verde". I was shocked to see the disrepair of it's facade. How can a place of such historical relevance be in such ruin?
As a person that holds music in the highest regard, I stood on the small street of El Callejon de las Brujas in shock. A man walked out the door and we made eye contact, I introduced myself and asked him about the building, because I was interested in painting it. As luck would have it, he was the owner's son. He gave me his number and told me to come back later. My heart beat fast with excitement as I ran to catch up with the group.
After painting my first mural in Brooklyn as part of a beautification project for my neighborhood last year, it was something that I wanted to do it again, but this time it was even more special. This time I had the opportunity to give back to my birth city. After convincing the owner of the jazz club to let me paint his building, I raced to accomplish a project that seemed impossible. With less than 48 hours before my next flight, I was determined to paint this mural.
Having lived half of my life in Colombia and the other in the United States, I’ve felt in a cultural limbo and have a hard time identifying with either culture. This project was an opportunity to create some sort of permanence in a place that was dear to me. Bogota, has one of the most relaxed street art laws in South America and some of the best street artists from around the world come here to paint. I was scared, but I thought that whatever painted would be better than what was already there since it would be done with love.
I met two locals, Mike and Nick that helped me navigate Bogota to find the best paint deals. Upon first glance, these two young men were intimidating - piercings and tattoos, baggy clothes and chains- but there was something about them that made me feel at ease. This taught me to trust my gut and believe in my first impressions, vibes don’t lie.
“Judge people by their character and not by their looks. “
After prepping the wall, I painted non-stop. I felt completely liberated and time felt suspended in those moments. Any plan that I had before this moment went out the window and nothing mattered other than the completion of my project. I was exhausted but I did it and I must say it was an amazing feeling; it felt like love.
It's been months since I left my traditional life and I have been traveling nonstop; right now I am typing this from a cafe in Berlin, continuing to follow my sun. The more I continue to embrace the fear of the unknown the more the world continues to open up.
I've let my dreams be bigger than my fears and my actions louder than my words and I wake up every morning with the intention to live life on my own terms. I think that’s what it means to live a successful life : to have the courage to honor your inner voice and take action on whatever burning desire is inside of you, to live life creatively.
As I continue to travel across the world map, layers and layers of myself are shed and I feel lighter, more vulnerable. In our society vulnerability is a trait that is not necessarily celebrated but is something we’re supposed to remove from ourselves. For me, being able to shed all of these layers that I create to protect myself allows me to be open to life and to connect with those who are on the same wavelength. It's ok to get lost, it's ok to not know.
My values and ideas are constantly challenged by the places I go and the people I encounter along the way. Fully opening to them has broadened my sense of self and my understanding of the threads of connection binding us all. We are all on the same boat no matter where we come from or where we are heading.
We must follow our sun.