When people ask me what I do for a living, I really want to tell them that I am a writer, down to the very fiber of my being. Having kept a journal since I was ten years old, it was only natural that I would major in English with a specialization in Creative Writing. I don’t go anywhere without a pen. I used to say that I had a novel written on Dunkin’ Donuts napkins…but I am not a novelist. I’m too restless to be a novelist. My desire to see and understand the world runs too deep through this blood. I have a deep desire to understand humanity. I believe that we are more alike than we are different, and that’s why these differences are so beautiful. I love to explore in an attempt to understand different cultures, ethics, music, food, lifestyle, etc.
In the late 90s, when I decided
to go down to Colombia in South America for the first time, people called me
crazy. (I preferred fearless.) Although they warned me about drug trafficking
and kidnappings, I was never afraid. Their warnings only incited my desire further.
I wanted to see the country for myself, rather than follow the paper trail of
statistics and stories. I wanted the full experience: to meet people and to
understand their culture. And against all odds, I always believed in the good
When you arrive in a country like Colombia, a country that is truly a sensual
experience, the world comes alive. I can describe it as switching from black
and white to color television. I was born and raised in the United States, in
New England. My parents immigrated to the United State from Portugal, and I
have visited Portugal many times throughout my life. My 95 year old grandmother
still lives in a small village in Portugal, a village that is almost a ghost
town now. I have loved all of my travels to historic Portugal, but Colombia is
vibrant. My first year in Colombia, I lived in the desert along the mountains
in an area referred to as “the wild west” by some travel guides. My second
year, I lived on a small private island in the Caribbean. I have been horseback
riding and white water rafting in Costa Rica. I have traveled across the United
States several times. I once spent a summer exploring the southwestern states
with a rental car, a tent, sleeping bag, and my college roommate. So you can
see that my travels to Colombia were not the first time I had been called crazy
(while quite possibly secretly envied).
On my spring break during
college, I jumped on a bus from New Haven, Connecticut to Taos, New Mexico alone, while my friends ventured
off to Cancun. I had been to Cancun the year before and was searching for a
different kind of adventure. The bars full of skimpy panties hanging from the
ceiling and wet t-shirt contests were not what I was looking for. I had wanted
to feel Mexico, to hang out with the locals in their everyday lives
and just talk, but I had left Cancun empty. While my friends
curled their hair and shaved their legs after a long day of tanning on the
beach outside of the hotel, I went out exploring the shops in an attempt to
meet the people. The following year, I decided against returning to spring break in Cancun, and I set off alone on a Greyhound bus to New
Mexico with a backpack, sleeping bag, and some mixed tapes and Dead bootlegs to listen to on my cassette walkman during my three day bus journey.
I’m sure there are not too many people who have pursued writing and explored
the lands that I have explored, and seen the things that I have seen. Although I am fluent
in Spanish, there were places in Colombia where the indigenous people I met did
not even speak Spanish. I fell in love with the romance and the passion of Colombia, the music in the streets, the dancing people with laughter and deep sadness in their eyes who always had a story to tell. The truth is that my curiosity
for the world and my desire to get to know the people is simply in my blood. There
are (many) days that I want to throw away my material possessions and find the
next adventure where unexplored territory and somewhere a story awaits.