OKAY i’m the absolute worst — so here’s my annual “i’m going to start writing again” post, BROUGHT TO YOU BY MY FRIKIN 30TH BIRTHDAY…
YES — i’m turning 30 (even though i still feel & look like a child!!!) In a blink of an eye, i’m entering my third decade of life filled with anticipation, excitement, and of course, a bit of dread and a twinge of anxiety. AND I AM RIDING THIS EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER WITH MY HANDSUPPPPPP BABYYYY!!!
i can’t say that this is the life that I imagined for myself (or, should I actually say, my family’s/society’s plans) but it’s the life i’ve chosen & i’ve created. [INSERT SOME GENERIC QUOTE HERE ABOUT SEEING INCREDIBLE THINGS, MEETING AWESOME PEOPLE, AND THE GLORIOUS ADVENTURE YOU HAVE WHILE TRAVELING BLA BLA BLAAAA]
I seriously know that I’m the luckiest person on the planet, but (cues tiny violins in the background) if i’m tryna be honest & keep it real (and not just add some beautiful instagram filter to a load of crap) it’s not always “good vibes only” or #blessed feels on the road… i do get pangs of anxiety from not having too much stability and feeling like i’m behind (hello to all my engaged, married, pregnant and/or friends with children… also shout out to all the home owners & successful business peeps/entrepreneurs.. I SEE YOU TOO AND YOU MAKE ME FEEL INCOMPETENT AT TIMES.. BUT I STILL LOVE YOU!!!) AHH the perks of being a millennial...
But anyway, enough tear shedding for me — i just wanted to be completely honest because i know i pretty much have the most amazing life and yet STILL.. it can feel like it’s not enough. but anyway, It’s been nearly five years since my quarter life crisis, when I left NYC, in search of something else & now here I am. I feel like i’ve lived a million lives within my 30 years on this planet—
from growing up in the ghettttoooo (KILLA QUEENS ALL DAY EVERY DAYYY)
to graduating from Syracuse University (most expensive bartab of my life TBH… though Madrid & Cape Town were pretty awesome!!)
to becoming a corporate career woman (except i worked in “digital” so i could wear jeans and t-shirts and sneakers to meetings while still making it rain & being a bo$$ bitch)
to quitting my job & becoming a dirty solo backpacker,
to now living my life as a “digital nomad” (gosh i hate that term) working from wherever there’s WIFI and a bit of wind, because along the way i met a guy who loves to kitesurf, and i love him (on most days) … and our relationship is wonderful & glorious, but also hard at times because relationships require selflessness and compromise at times… and i’m not really good at that.. but i’m working on it!
In the meantime, i often think about how nearly one decade ago, my job didn’t really exist (at least not to this capacity) and now it’s how i, and many others, make a living (though i wouldn’t shed too many tears if the majority of Instagram influencers disappeared from this planet..) i guess it’s all about recognizing opportunities, being flexible & letting the world know what you want to achieve because you never know who’s listening & willing to help!
Life’s been good to me & i have zero regrets about the way it’s turned out (though i’m sure i owe a few people apologies & learned some hard lessons along the way.. which i hope i won’t be repeating again..) i wouldn’t be me if i wasn’t eternally optimistic so i have to say that i'm super stoked for the next decade of my life & more… i’m still learning, still growing up (whatever that means) and there’s stilll a lot i hope to achieve & accomplish.. i’d like to own a business at some point and plant some roots somewhere (for those wondering if i’ll ever settle down)
BUT here’s to continually taking things one day at a time (and with a big smile, and positive attitude, when possible — otherwise let the bitch in me come out!!!)
And now here’s the very brief version of what i’ve done since i last left you, in bullet points, because corporate Andrea is still alive & well.. i will hopefully expand shortly (or at the very least, hope to update my albums) but in the meantime, if you have any questions, send me a message! Here we go:
CURRENTLY AUGUST: back in Greece (coincidentally — funny how things come full circle) living in Lemnos while Matt teaches kitesurfing at Surf Club Keros aka the Greek station)
July: celebrated Christa’s upcoming nuptials with the chillllest bachelorette in Naples, then took a mini solo trip to Bulgaria (Sofa, Rila & Plovdiv, this year’s European cultural capital — TY hannah for the tips!!) and Turkey (Istanbul + Gulabache). Couchsurfed with some amazing people, got an awesome walking tour (20KM!!) of Istanbul with one of the smartest people I’ve ever encountered (another Andrea, coincidentally, who was from Turkey & studying restoration in Istanbul!) & winded up meeting some bad ass kitesurf babes thanks to OceanBirdz during my stay in Gulabache… :) .Good souls all around :) There were lots of interesting convos, especially about the current political landscape in Turkey & Buglaria, but that’s a whole other post — plus honestly, Turkey was probably the first country i ever visited where people were extremely mindful about what they were saying out loud because you never know who’s around…
June: Arrived in Lemnos and spent the beginning of the month traveling around with mom in Vietnam. (See below for Vietnam details)
May-June: Traveled with mom in Cambodia & Vietnam. IT WAS SO FRIKIN HOT & HUMID.
Cambodia: Flew from Bangkok to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat (duh!) It was obviously super de duper impressive…
What I really loved most about Siem Reap though were all the amazing social enterprises including Phare Circus, which tells uniquely Cambodian tales using modern circus arts and high energy music, touching on themes strong in Cambodian tradition, ethos and spirit. The performers are graduates from an arts/circus/public school in the city of Battambang. The school was founded by 8 young men coming home from a refugee camp after the Khmer Rouge regime. They were greatly helped by art therapy and wanted to share this new skill among the poor, socially deprived and troubled youngsters in Battambang.
and HERO RATS, which i am totally obsessed with!! These African giant pouched rats, nicknamed HeroRATs, sniff out the chemical compounds of TNT (explosive) found in landmines and other explosive remnants of war. They ignore scrap metal making them much faster at detecting landmines than metal detectors. With over 40,000 amputees Cambodia has the highest ratio of mine amputees per capita in the world. There are estimated to be at least 26 million explosive sub-munitions were dropped on Cambodia during the Vietnam War. It’s so effective & saves so many lives (and yes, i adopted one!)
We then when to Phenom Penh, where we went to S21, the prison where millions of Cambodians were tortured before being sent to the killing fields, which we also visited. It was an extremely sombering sight, especially the tower of skulls from victims who were unearthed at the site. The Cambodian genocide is something many people never learn about, but it wiped out nearly 25% of the population, with the deaths of 1.5 to 2 million people from 1975 to 1979,
Vietnam: THE VERY ABBREVIATED VERSION: From Cambodia, we took a boat to Can Tho, where we saw the floating market, made our way to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to see the War Remnants Museum (interesting to note that Vietnamese people call it the “American War”) Da Nang (which was a great reprieve from the heat), Hue (imperial city) then to Hoi An via the Hai Van pass, which was awesome!… (we also saw the amazing lanterns)… then we headed to Pho Nang Ke Bang to explore caves, then to Tam Coc to see the Halong Bay of the lands, Hanoi (lots of good food!!), a luxury cruise in Halong Bay, and Sapa for hiking. I really enjoyed all the sights, though i have to admit that i was initially startled by the abrasiveness & aggressiveness of Vietnamese people.. i mean even crossing the street was intense (literally, i have never been so fearful of my life), though as you consider the country’s history of war and exploitation, it’s understandable how people have to be tough in order to survive (in contrast with Thai people, who are wayyyyy more meeker.) though on the opposite end of the spectrum, i was also amazed at how many vietnamese people were also able to forgive & forget… any time they figured out i was American, they’d actually smile & tell me about how much they wanted to visit … and lastly, i have to comment about the FOOD — omg, so many fresh herbs & wonderful, delicate flavors — i really ate SOOOO well…. (and cheaply too!!)
April-May: Backpacked in Penang & Thailand (Koh Lipe, Koh Muk, Koh Lanta, Railay, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Bangkok) with Matt. Saw lots of pretty islands, did a little rock climbing & kayaking, visited loads of temples, petted elephants (and he took a freediving cours!!) OH AND I STOOD UP ON A KITEBOARD FOR THE FIRST TIME (woohooo thanks Vid!!) oh, and we ate super super well!! OH and mom finally met Matt & they like each other so that’s good for me!!
March-April: Lived in Hua Hin while Matt completed his first season as an kitesurfing instructor at North Kiteboarding Club! We absolutely loved our ragtag crew AND the wonderful people who made our stay so enjoyable (like Liew, our favorite cook!!!!!) We also got to celebrate Songkran (Thai New Year) aka the world’s largest water fight!!!!!
Feb: Left Cape Town and spent two weeks in Fremantle (Western Australia). Matt’s plans didn’t work out in Australia plus he got an opportunity in Thailand, so we packed up and peaced out… gotta say, didn’t really take any pics.
Oct-Feb: Ended up back in Cape Town after nearly a decade since I studied abroad there. Still absolutely love the city, though it’s been devastated economically, which has led to high crime rates. Matt & I, fortunately, never had any safety issues, but we always had to be on our guard & look out after each other. STILL, it’s an absolutely STUNNING city and remains one of my favorite places to this day!! Highlights of my return include:
Going back to Langa & seeing my host family & partaking in a Xhosa coming of age ceremony
Road tripping on the Garden Route, followed by a drive up to Lesotho & then to Drakensberg, before returning to Cape Town!
Watching King of the Air (while getting whipped across the face with sand)
Dancing at Rands (the new Mzolis)
HIKING!! lots of gorgeous day hikes right in the city…
First Thursdays + a ton of other awesome drink spots & parties!!
Good, cheap wine!
Making some amazing new friends (who i can’t wait to see again!)
Oct: Traveled with mom in Kenya & Tanzania. Saw 4 out of the big 5 (rhinos are super hard to spot!!) We spent a week in the Serengti, Ngorogoro Crater, & Lake Manyara before we headed to Zanzibar for some R&R. I reallly wished i had spent more time in the two countries & got off the tourist path, but logistically, when traveling with mom, it’s just so much easier!