A trip to New York City

With her bright city lights, energy, crowds, food, and symbolism, New York City is a destination for tourists and Americans alike. So, after living in Europe for nine months and traveling a bit, I thought it was time I visited the place where it all started—literally my family arrived in America via Ellis Island in 1902—and pay the iconic city a visit. Conveniently, my younger sister Mariana decided to enroll in a pre-college program in NYC this summer, which provided me with an excuse to pay the city a visit. So, in early July my mom, dad, two sisters, my niece, nephew and I headed to the city that never sleeps.

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Time with family, especially fourteen-hour car drives, is unique and special in a few ways. In fact, when reminiscing childhood vacations, the memories that occur in the car on the way to our destination are often the ones that stick. Why is that? Well, drive across country with over ten people in the car and you will find out! Our road trip was not so bad though, even with a two and a half year old and a baby. Surprisingly, they were the least of our worries.  With heated political and religious conversations, children’s songs, prayers, and bantering, there was a lot of chaos! Amongst the disorder of it all, there was still a sense of peace and relaxation, one that only a road tripping family can possibly understand.

Before our time in NYC, we stopped in Washington DC to visit my family. While in DC, we visited Georgetown Cupcakes (they have yummy vegan options), the Smithsonian and the National Mall.  At the Natural History museum there was an incredible Iceland exhibit.  It made me want to visit the country!

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After a few days in DC, we headed to New York City, leaving my older sister and her two children behind for obvious reasons. My aunt and uncle came along for the city visit, which was great. We stayed at an Airbnb in Bushwick, in an area that turned out to be undergoing re-gentrification, which was an adventure in itself!  Staying near Brooklyn was great, as I loved window-shopping, farmers market going, and people watching. Brooklyn is an absolutely wonderful area, it feels urban yet eclectic and whimsical. I loved the vegan restaurants, jewelry shops, street art, flowers, and its overall energy.

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Brooklyn StreetsWe visited all the main sites in NYC, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Greenwich Village, Union Square, 9/11 Memorial, and Times Square (among others).

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After feeling a bit claustrophobic in the busy city, Central Park was a wonderful stop. While in Central Park, we happened to run into a celebrity! Her name is Roxie and she is an adorable little Yorkie (search “Roxie in the City” on Facebook).

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Roxie in the City!

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We were also able to see both my cousin (who works in Manhattan) and distant Puerto Rican relatives. Sitting around the dinner table and enjoying the company of family and friends is something I will always cherish.

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One of my favorite memories from our trip was surprisingly in Times Square, not because I liked Times Square, but rather, I enjoyed my father’s reaction to the famous New York icon. Right as entered Times Square my father, with his socks, sandals, and baseball cap walked around excitedly and said, “Well…Time to check this one off the bucket list, now I just need a pretzel with cheese…” He then proceeded to buy a pretzel and walk aimlessly through the crowds of people as he stared up at the bright lights and advertisements. I, of course, did nothing but laugh and follow him, watching his reactions, enjoying every moment of it! It’s moments like those that I will always remember.  So, I made it to New York City. No, I did not eat a hot dog (I’m vegan) or even buy a “I heart NYC” t-shirt, but I did have a wonderful time with my family and I made memories that I will always treasure.

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Stay true, live justly, and always travel one. Peace and love.

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A pilgrim’s heart: one year post Camino

Everybody has their own path, their own story, their own way. Amongst the business of life, the excitement of politics, the stress caused by work, and the seemingly mundane moments, we are all trekking our way through life. Each moment passing as the next precedes it. Each word acknowledged as the next is spoken. Sometimes, I fear that we forget we each are on a journey. I fear we forget that life is an adventure.  Mostly, I fear we are all going along with the motions of life; we are merely existing, instead of living.  What does life look like when we’re living anyways?  For me, it looks a lot like the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. SAMSUNG CSC Imagine yourself stripped of your job, school, political and religious ideologies, material belongings, culture, and all the convenience of comfort. Now, imagine living your life questioning every aspect of your existence, envision yourself actually thinking. Yes, thinking.  Thinking without the constant influence of society and media invading your every thought. Thinking not only about work, but also about the inner workings of your being, your very existence. Imagine yourself living out of a backpack for 38 days, with no set place to lie your head at night, a mere wanderer. Now imagine living an adventurous life every day and letting go of all you once were and instead, embracing who you are to become. IMG_0780Why am I asking you to imagine such things you may wonder? I am asking you to do such things because I fear no one else is. I am asking you because those were the things that I experienced and learned to ask myself while on the Camino de Santiago. Today marks my one-year Camino anniversary, as I completed the Camino de Santiago on July 25, 2014.  Yet, today truly represents something more than my arrival in Santiago one year ago. Instead, today is the one-year mark on my new beginning.  A new beginning where I began to strive to live each day as if I were still on the Camino.  Why?  Because I am. Though I may not be following a dirt covered trail surrounded by beautiful vineyards and rolling hills, I am on my Camino.  I am on my way to an unknown destination. SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC The Camino represents our life journey. A 520-mile journey that is plagued by times both good and bad, by friendships both lasting and fleeting, and by moments both remembered and forgotten. Though the Camino was only a five-week experience, it was a life changing and eye opening one.  I choose to take the lessons I learned on the Camino and apply them to every facet of my life. I search for and follow the yellow arrows placed before me, both literal and figurative.  I often carry a scallop shell in my purse wherever I go.  The scallop shell, a symbol of the Camino, serves the purpose of reminding me though I may not be on my way to Santiago on the trail, I am on my way to Santiago in my heart. For, I have adopted a pilgrim’s heart. Camino wild flowers IMG_0865This year, alike with the Camino, had her moments of pure bliss and moments of heartache. But, when I step back and see things as I should, moment-by-moment and step-by-step, then my heart is soothed, my mind is cleared, and I begin to live. I will always choose to stop and smell the flowers; I refuse to live a conventional, lukewarm life. I will continue to smile and say a quick “hello” to strangers.  I will cling to the beauty of community and the excitement found in a new friendship.  I will listen to the stories of others without making rash judgments based upon their surface level, external characteristics.  I will always hold onto the freedom that a life characterized by simplicity yields. I will continue to hold a part of the Camino in my heart.  As I head into my junior year in college, I will continue to question, think, and take my time to reflect upon my actions.  I will not fail to remember who I am and who we all are: unique human beings who possess the ability to love others and live in harmony and peace with all living things. I hope you are enjoying your way, your journey, and this very day. I hope that you too will choose to live rather than to merely exist. And finally, I hope that during your journey, despite the hardships you will (and do) inevitably face, you will see beauty in the simple and the mundane moments taking each as they are: a gift that will bring us one step closer to our final destination. Buen Camino pilgrims! SAMSUNG CSC My sweet travel group On the Camino SAMSUNG CSC Stay true, live justly, and always travel on. Peace and Love.