My time abroad, already, has taught me the powerful lesson of loss, resiliency, and the necessity of a good cry every once in a while. I started out this trip on a loss. I had foregone two months of rent trying to find a subletter, ended up subletting undervalue, and owed the U.S. government over $1200 in taxes (still in disbelief on this one). Although I had considered changing my flight and even canceling my trip altogether, something in me knew I would be disappointing myself by giving in. I at least had to try. Little did I know this was the beginning of more loss and reconsiderations to come. To be honest, I am hoping that by writing this, I can move on from this season of loss and that the powers that be in this universe allow me to fully thrive once again.
The pit in my stomach sunk even deeper as I walked to my seat, 27B, on my flight from New York to Bogota. Disbelief, excitement, anxiety, fear rustled with each other as my stomach gnawed itself in hunger. I had chosen this time to embark on something new, a sense of entrepreneurship on my life, and a return to the joys that traveling have given me over the years. I was looking to recover from a toxic work environment and feed the itchiness that lingered in my fingertips to clutch a pen and craft and create stories to share. Unlike the many other trips I had taken, this was not just a vacation, but a relocation. Although I couldn’t really say I was from Bogotá, that’s where my base was, where I would be coming and returning to, how I would begin to identify myself.
The first loss came at the gate. TSA (or someone in the airport baggage supply chain) went through my bag, without my knowledge, and had removed my Iphone 4 that I had dug up from the depths of storage bin to serve as my means of communication (always lock your bags folks) during my time here. Exactly a month later, I would lose my Iphone 6 to a tragic water incident, drowning photos of flair and fun from Barranquilla Carnival. And here I am left to do exactly what I had wanted I guess, use my pen to start capturing and sharing moments versus my photos (don’t worry, still some photos to share). I have found myself a million miles from home without the one pearl I clutch closest.
I sat in a storefront in Getsemaní, Cartagena fiercely fighting back tears and utterly failing as the technician very neatly closed my phone back together and said there was nothing more he could do. He sat for an hour cleaning and drying and attempting to salvage the corruption and corrosion salt water had inflicted on my poor Iphone, the victim of a freak accident of poor timing and a snapped shoulderbag. My Iphone had become more than just a tool for music, but my main method of capturing my trip and a true beacon of safety. The ability to call an Uber at last minute notice because Bogotá cabs are dangerous, the ease of snapping a photo reference of the directions of my next Airbnb, the click to find the translation of the ingredients of this hair product that may or may not have straightening chemicals. In addition, another phone would cost a pretty penny over here. Iphones are overvalued by 25% at least, and my freelancing was only covering my day-to-day and my expenses from back home. Another dip in the savings that had only barely recovered from the first blows of 2017.
This second Iphone loss came on the back of another hit, the loss of my trip to Brazil. I had been rejected at the gate by an incorrect visa and faced with the shock of a lifetime. All my Carnival plans were shot. I called and cried to airlines, travel insurance companies, embassies, nothing short of a miracle would get me there on time. Not to mention the rest of my plans for the month I had planned to stay in Brazil, a country I deeply loved and was hoping to get to know better – also gone. Getting a new visa and flight would cost too much, so I quietly tucked those dreams back in my journal, allowing them to marinate for what I know will be an even better time in the future.
Yet, I believe with loss comes redemption. It may not be tomorrow or the next day, you may not even realize the correlation, but that redemption is on its way. This is not a message to ignore or downplay the loss in your life. Cry, grieve as you see fit, re-evaluate. Make the hard decisions, or let life’s breeze continue to blow and move you as they see fit.
After the airport fiasco, I hung my head and returned back to the Airbnb I had just checked out of. *Upside is that they caught the flaw on the Colombian side instead of at Brazil customs. You might be hearing this story from the inside of a Brazilian jail cell.* The host’s jaw dropped as I recounted the story and then dragged my feet back to the room to plan my next steps. A few reruns of The Cleveland Show and a short nap brought me back to a place of productivity and before long, I had a new plan in the works.
In my radically reactive state, I decided to salvage my Carnival hopes and head to Barranquilla Carnival on the Northern Caribbean Coast of Colombia, it would be starting in just a few days so plans had to be made quickly. I found one of the last Airbnbs available and flew into Santa Marta (half the price of flying into Barranquilla) to catch a bus to Barranquilla. As I exited the cab in front of my Airbnb, I felt a little taller, despite the 60 L bag on my bag and the 10 lb bookbag strapped to my front. I had conquered the doubt, conquered the circumstance, juggled ridiculous logistics, and might get my Carnival dreams after all.
But the biggest redemption of that fiasco came with my trip to Cartagena. Despite the fact, my phone didn’t make it out, I was able to spend a few glorious days with my girlfriends from the States! Loneliness had been weighing on me heavy for the last few weeks, so familiar faces and a familiar cadence of speech brought a light and renewed revival to my spirit that will carry me on for the rest of my trip.
If anything, this trip has caused me to truly evaluate the value I place on things or actions in life. I mourn the loss of my photos, but if I truly value such visual representation, I need to do better in preserving it – uploading, Icloud, etc. Did I see the value of this trip being worth two months rent? Is the stress of arguing with the cab worth the extra 3000 pesos? Am I willing to put my money, actions, or time where my mouth is?
Despite the many jabs and landed punches thrown my way – big and small, I am the boxer that will rise again. I have my family, my friends, and my health and that’s one hell of a foundation. Besides, I’ll need a community, most importantly, to share all the lemonade life is determined to have me to make.