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Solo in California: A Memoir


Solo in California: A Memoir

Travel journal
Travel journal

Excerpts from my travel journal - California 2016

Departure -January 7th: 

Currently sitting on the flight to Cali. Super excited and a bit nervous. This is a familiar feeling. It's heading off into the unknown— no real way of knowing what will happen or how I will spend the next few weeks. I think this is the best way to experience life. It keeps things fresh and new. I feel that monotony and redundancy can cast a dark cloud over a person's life, which can rob them of the joy and happiness obtained from seeking new and different roads. One thing I would really like to accomplish during this trip would be to become better at interacting with new people and strangers. This is certainly something that I find difficult. Just the simple act of starting the conversation can be daunting.

Example? So, right now I'm on a plane. There's a few solo travelers next to me, and I want to strike up a conversation, but I'm struggling with actually doing it. I just need to stop thinking about it so much, and just do it. I think that's key with a lot of things in life. Don't think— just do. 

After boarding a Greyhound from the Bay Area, apparently I was on a solo travel high en route to SoCal...

Epiphany- January 12th:

Blog pic of journal
Blog pic of journal

You can have all you want in life if you take the time to look within for your purpose and direction. It takes a great deal of courage, patience, and persistence to pursue your dreams, but the only person holding you back is yourself. The ultimate question is: what  are seeking? What drives you and propels you towards your dreams? Look within your soul to find what kind of life you want. The only time that matters is right NOW. Keep striving for adventure and self-growth.

Heading Home- January 21st:

This solo trip is one of the best decisions of my entire life. It just further solidifies my love for travel and meeting new people. Gaining new perspectives and being amongst amazing people really makes you feel alive and present. The self-transformation is truly astounding. It really is difficult to put into words. Getting out of your comfort zone is the most incredible thing you can do for yourself.

Sailboat at sunset!
Sailboat at sunset!

Travelers are in the pursuit of education and knowledge. This knowledge and these experiences can be taken with you forever. Nobody can take it away from you. The fleeting friendships and passionate conversations will live on for eternity. I'm a firm believer in putting positive and loving energy out there for fellow people to then transfer into their own unique energy. The people you meet always have stories and perspectives that will inspire you to be a better person. As Johnny (fellow Cali traveler) said, "I believe in leaving a place better than I found it." That's such a simple, yet incredible concept. If everyone had a mindset similar to this, the world would be a much better place to live in. We need to take this idea and put it into action.

When we experience all walks of life forming friendships and bonds, we realize that all these divisive thoughts are just an illusion. None of it is real or authentic. We create the reality around us. Don't settle for the status quo. In fact, F#%! the status quo. Be bold enough to live the life you know you're capable of living. Doubters and haters are losers.

Go for it.

—After perusing my journal entries and reflecting on my experiences in California, I realized that not only did I accomplish the five goals that I set for my trip in my previous blog post: Solo Trip Goals , but I SMASHED them. When you break out of your comfort zone and open your mind to new possibilities, there are NO limits.

Break Your Boundaries. 


Solo Trip to the Left Coast

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Solo Trip to the Left Coast

  • Flying from Boston, MA to San Jose, CA on January 7th
  • Staying with a friend in San Jose for a few days
  • Flying back from San Diego, CA to Boston, MA on January 21st

Besides these three basic facts, I have no specific plans while in California. By doing little planning, I hope to embrace the mystery and surprise of taking each day as it comes. I've never done this type of solo travel before. As each day passes, the anticipation and anxiety creeps in. Having a bit of apprehension about the trip only reinforces the necessity to go through with it. The fear of the unknown is quite possibly the greatest of all fears, but confronting that fear is an enriching and rewarding experience.

Although my plans are minimal, I have decided to set some rules for my time on the west coast:

1. Attempt to wake up early every day. This way I can maximize my time away from home.

2. Spend minimal time on my cell phone. These little devices have become a large part of our lives. I want to be present in as many moments as I can in California. Limiting my time on my phone will allow for more face-to-face interaction with fellow people and nature.

3. Attempt to strike up conversations with perfect strangers. This is something I find difficult and scary to do. This is another fear that I want to face head-on.

4. Limit alcoholintake. (ties in to rule # 1) Nothing's better than the ice cold amber nectar of beer hitting a weary traveler's palate. With that said, I'm not going to completely abstain from booze, but I don't want a late night to ruin the following day. With limited time in the state, that would be a real tragedy.

5. Document my trip in an interesting way. While in California, I will be filming and photographing my experience. The initial goal would be to capture interesting and engaging moments for a three-minute piece. Identifying, capturing, and forming a cohesive story would be the ultimate goal.

Bonus rule. Spend money wisely. Obviously I'll have to spend money every day while I'm away for food and lodging, but I'm looking to live as cheaply as I can. It will certainly be a challenge, but that's what life is about!

As I mentioned before, I'm getting nervous about this entire trip, but my enthusiasm far outweighs this anxiousness. Getting out of your comfort zone is an unbelievable feeling, and it will take you to places you couldn't have possibly imagined were possible before you decided to take that first step. Take that first step.

Break Your Boundaries.



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Weekend in the Wilderness

On a pristine morning in late September, myself and two friends loaded our over-sized packs and plunged into the White Mountain wilderness of New Hampshire. In search of nature and solitude, we studied our map and began the trek on the trail that would be our home for the days ahead. Armed with camping gear, military-style MRE (meal ready-to-eat) rations, and the ever-important water filter, we were prepared for battle. The thought of breaking out of our daily routine, even if only for a few days, was motivation enough to live and breathe among the trees, wildlife, and fresh mountain air. Replacing digital technology and the instant gratification that we're accustomed to with pure, raw nature was invigorating. Invigoration

Our first day of hiking was not without challenges. While climbing a steep stretch of rocky terrain along a cascade, my foot slipped on a wet rock surface. As the weight of my body and my heavy pack shifted backwards, my friend grabbed the strap of my pack to pull me to the edge of the trail, to safety. For a few seconds thereafter, my hear pounded intensely, as I realized that I narrowly escaped a 30-foot tumble down a slick rock face, a fall that would have likely resulted in a serious injury. Humbled by this close call, I was aware of every step for the rest of the way. One misstep can bring about tragic results. This is not only true in hiking— but also in life.

After ascending steep, rocky terrain for a few hours, we managed to find a perfect spot to pitch our tent. Either this area was cleared by previous trailblazers or it was a stroke of luck, but this spot could not have been more picture perfect.Mountain views Our tent fit flawlessly on this plot of earth, nestled in by small pine trees.We wolfed down our MRE and watched as the sun faded west, golden hues reflected on the rocky peaks that lay before us. We were nearly above tree line. No sign of human life in any direction. THIS is why we came. I felt a sense of peace and tranquility at this moment, as I pushed the thought of a rogue bear terrorizing our tent in the middle of the night, out of my mind. 

We awoke to a spectacular sunrise, as the morning light gleamed intensely off the mountains. This is something that happens every single day, but witnessing it at this vantage point with no other people in sight was truly a spiritual experience. Moments like these invoke an extreme feeling of appreciation, an appreciation that you want to DCIM138GOPROgrasp and hold on to for as long as possible so you don't ever take them for granted again. After a quick breakfast, we were back on the trail once again. We had another gorgeous sun-filled day on our hands. Since we tented close to the tree line, we reached our first peak in a short time. Gazing out atop the summit left us feeling accomplished and awestruck.We had to keep our amazement at bay, though— we had three more peaks to summit before the sun went down!

Slowly but surely we made our way along the ridgeline to the remaining peaks. The mountain trails that one imagines in their head are far different than the hearty terrain that the White Mountain wilderness features. Leaping from rock to rock for miles on end takes a toll on the legs, especially your knees. Midway through our day of trekking, my beat-up hiking boots showed signs of extreme wear.  The sole began to rip away from the shoes. Nothing a roll a duct tape can't fix, right? Sure enough, as we began to descend for the first time on this trip, the sole fell off completely, making the rest of the descent an adventure, to say the least.


As our second day of hiking drew to a close, our battered bodies begged for rest and nourishment. We unstrapped our packs and began to construct our tent, eager to bury ourselves in our sleeping bags. No doubt it had been two long, physically-demanding days,  but it left us feeling revitalized. Immersing yourself in nature is something that can't be replaced or replicated. If you're willing to take on the challenge and step away from your day-to-day life, you will be rewarded with a gratitude and a connection with planet Earth worth far more than anything money can buy.


Break Your Boundaries.

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Reflecting on Ecuador (Part 2) - Sarayaku

One of the main motivations of going on this adventure was to spend time with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon— Sarayaku. As a Worcester State University alum, I was approached by one of my former professors about an opportunity to join him and several other professors on this journey to Ecuador. My professor explained the concept of forming a partnership with this indigenous tribe. This professor has visited Sarayaku (area of land that the tribe occupies), where he formed a trusting friendship with the tribe's most influential members. Ereberto

As mentioned in a previous post, Sarayaku has been targeted by major oil companies in South America, as their land in the Amazon Rainforest has an enormous amount of oil lying beneath. As one would expect, Sarayaku members are not quick to give up their land without a fight. Since the 2002 invasion by an oil company, Sarayaku members have been hard at work forming a community that has one foot in our western way of living and another in their traditional way of living— a life rich with hunting, gathering, and a deep respect for nature.

As we left Quito in our mettalic-colored minivan, we slowly transitioned from the rocky peaks of the Andes to the lush forests of the Amazon. After a long five-hour drive, we arrived in the town of Puyo, the gateway to the Amazon. My professor explained that just a few years ago Puyo was nothing but ramshackle houses and small minimercado (small markets). As we drove past the bustling streets just after sundown, I noticed numbers of people hanging out on the sidewalks next to brightly-lit restaurants, bars, and convenience stores. Additionally, there were several hotels and traveler amenities. Our modest hotel was across a small bridge suspended over the Pastazi River, which included a full-service restaurant, patio, and pool/spa area in an outdoor setting.  It is obvious that Puyo has grown significantly in the last few years

After a short stay in Puyo, it was time for the next and most important leg of our journey. I laid on the bed in my hotel room, looking up at the muted grey ceiling, when a feeling of amazement struck me. I was now in Ecuador, and tomorrow I would board a five-person plane to fly into the Amazon Rainforest. A strange surge of excitement and nervousness coursed through my body.

Pilot of five-person plane

Prior to boarding the plane, ourselves and all our cargo was placed on scale to be weighed. It was crucial that the aircraft's weight limit was not exceeded. That would be bad!! Admittedly, this part of the process was a bit nerve-racking, because anxious thoughts of what could go wrong began to creep into my mind. After all, these types of planes go down much more often than commercial airliners. Then again, what fun is life without a bit of danger, right?

Being within arm's length of the pilot while he controlled our fate was an amazing experience. I was in awe as I stared out at the rainforest canopy while our pilot monitored the abundance of gauges before him. After a twenty-five minute flight, we were now in Sarayaku territory, deep in the Amazon Rainforest.obecu (138)_resized As we climbed out of the plane, we were greeted by warm smiles worn by a dozen residents of the village. We walked on the dirt path towards our dwelling, hearing chickens clucking and wild dogs barking. Our hut had a dirt floor, but it boasted impressive bamboo walls and a thatched roof. Inside there were several beds made up with sheets, a top blanket, and a mosquito net—a necessity for sleeping outdoors in the jungle!

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During our stay in Sarayaku, we got a real taste of the daily life of the tribe's people. We watched women make a chicha, a fermented drink made by chewing leaves of the yuca plant. One of my favorite parts of the entire  trip was going on a hike through the rainforest with a native guide who taught us all about the plants and their uses. Learning about nature from this direct source was truly inspiring, especially after hearing about the deep respect and philosophy that the Sarayaku people have for the natural world, the world that surrounds us all. The primary reason of going

obecu (217)_resized to this unique corner of the globe was to discuss the partnership between the Sarayaku people and Worcester State University. The group of WSU professors who I traveled with each has a specific area of expertise (business, education, geography, tourism, and communication), which made it easier to delegate the assistance that the Sarayaku people sought. Although we engaged in formal meetings for the duration of the stay, the second day was the longest and most important meeting. I was lucky enough to film the entire rendezvous.

obecu (215)_resized

My major hurdle during this trip was the language barrier. Although I have taken a few Spanish courses, it did not prove to be  of much help during my time in Ecuador. Much of my time with the natives was spent filming and listening. I relied heavily on two of the professors, who were experienced translators. As a talkative individual, it was difficult not being capable of proper communication, but it taught me a new form of patience.

This unique experience has once again transformed my view of the world and cultures far different from my own. Being influenced by new people and new languages truly changes who you are as a person. Saying yes to a once-in-a-lifetime experience and following through with it gave me a new energy that I cannot properly convey in words. I encourage everyone reading this to take risks and seek new horizons, because your life will inevitably change for the better.

Break Your Boundaries.

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Reflecting on Ecuador (Part I) - Quito

As always, traveling to a foreign land changed my perspective of the world and of my own country. My first trip to South America landed me in Ecuador, a country that features dramatic converging landscapes, creating some spectacular and awe-inspiring scenery. Our first stop was Ecuador's capital—Quito, the highest capital city in the world at 9,350 feet above sea level. Amazingly, this city is perched high in the formidable Andes mountain range.  Just four days prior to our arrival, the Cotopaxi volcano (30 miles south of Quito) erupted, spewing ash seven miles into the air. This ash reached the capital, which forced residents to weAndesar surgical masks in the city’s streets. Several hundred people living close to Cotopaxi were evacuated from the area. As I mentioned in my pre-departure post, Cotopaxi is Ecuador’s most active volcano and is considered one of the most dangerous in the world because of its glacial covering, which can result in lahars (mudflows) if a major eruption occurs. Luckily, there we no eruptions or volcanic activity while we were in the area. WHEW! We weren't consumed by ash, mud, and molten lava!

On a gorgeous blue-skied day, a guide took us on a tour of the city, where we saw the intricate architecture of the buildings and churches. It was interesting to see these structures with their Spanish and Roman Catholic influences. The Basilica del Voto Nacional in old town Quito was certainly a highlight of the tour. On the exterior of the church, there are several gargoyles of native Ecuadorian animals, including an armadillo, Galapagos tortoise, and iguana. Each of these animals is said to represent a specific characteristic of the church.

Basilica del Voto Nacional

As we made our way through old town Quito, we passed by more historic sites. Quito's national bank, the city's library, and of course— more churches. Eventually we arrived at the Presidential Palace, located in the Quito's Independence Square. It was built in the late-16th century and is now a museum for the public. We even had some fun with the guards in front of the palace. 20150828_095457They reminded me of the Queen's Guard of  England because they were emotionless and virtually motionless, standing there straight-faced in their crisp uniforms. Our guide explained to us that the palace was converted into a museum in 2007 by current president, Rafael Correa. She went on, explaining that the political situation in Ecuador is a tumultuous one. Many Ecuadorian citizens want Correa out of office, as he is suspected of corruption and is said to be focusing on economic gain instead of the well-being of the citizens. This comes at a time when indigenous Ecuadorian tribes are protesting oil exploration in the Amazon Rainforest, which is destroying the natural beauty and ecosystem of this fragile and beautiful part of the Earth. I knew a good deal about this situation before departing for Ecuador, but hearing it from an actual citizen certainly put the gravity of the situation into perspective.

Another spot on our list was the Mitad Del Mundo or "middle of the world", the exact point of the equator. After all, we were in Ecuador! It was certainly an interesting feeling being at Latitude 0° 0’ 0”. As we toured this historic site, our guide informed us about the history of Ecuador and how the equator affects the gravity in the area. We then engaged in some goofy  science20150827_142458 experiments. For example, water was poured down a drain on the equator line, where it flowed straight down to the ground. Just six feet into the Northern Hemisphere, the water flowed counter-clockwise. Which way did it flow  six feet into the Southern Hemisphere? You guessed it— clockwise. Pretty interesting stuff, I must say. Continuing the fun science experiments, members of our group were asked to attempt to balance an egg on a nail set in a stone. To my surprise, I was the only one in our group who completed the task *golf clap*. 

My personal favorite of Quito was the site of El Panecillo, a 650- foot hill that sits atop the large city. An enormous Virgin Mary (Virgen de Quito) statue overlooks the city from this steep hill, and boy, does she have a spectacular view. As far as your eye can see, there are thousands of stone houses built into the hillsides— all of this surrounded by the dominating peaks of the Andes.

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Stay tuned for Part 2, where I discuss my experience living with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon Rainforest!



Excursion to Ecuador

I am one day away from my highly-anticipated trip to the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about the journey, but I have to say my nervousness is outweigecuador-06hed by my excitement and anticipation. Right now, South America seems like a distant dreamland. Tomorrow night it will be my reality. I'll be thrust into a world vastly different from the familiar surroundings of Massachusetts. I hope to encounter wildlife that I can't even fathom and to make deep connections with people from another part of this vast world that we live in. Recent gear purchases:

  • Mosquito net
  • Hiking pants
  • LED headlamp
  • Stainless steel canteen
  • 30% deet wilderness insect repellent

From the aforementioned purchases, it's clear that adventure awaits. My former professor, the trip coordinator and supervisor, promises waterfall swimming, a Cessna airplane ride, and Amazon Rainforest "jungle" walks. As the trip's dedicated videographer, I'm very excited at the prospect of capturing some powerful images. After listening to my professor's description, I will be joining him and several other professors from my alma mater— Worcester State University.We plan to consult with the Sarayaku, an indigenous Amazonian tribe in eastern Ecuador. The goal is to form a partnership between this tribe and Worcester State, The Sarayaku is a tribe consisting of approximately 1,200 members spread across 6 villages. This is NOT an uncontacted tribe without experience dealing with outsiders. Don't worry —we won't be performing strange ancient rituals and disfiguring our bodies. In fact, this tribe has several computers and even a Facebook page! From my understanding, the Sarayaku people have one foot in current technology and another in their traditional ways of living off the lush Amazon Rainforest along the Bobonaza River.

In 2002, the Argentine oil company CGC, came on to the Sarayaku land after receiving permission from the Ecuadorian government to search for petroleum. The Sarayaku felt threatened and were forced to defend their land for ten long years. When, in 2012, representatives from the tribe traveled to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica to fight for their land. After the long trek, the Sarayaku people were victorious at that court hearing. Although they won this battle, the threat of government-run oil companies impinging on their land still exists. In the last few years, the tribe has been developing an ecotourism business model. This is where Worcester Sate comes in. Apparently our group has important knowledge that the Sarayaku need for their ecotourism model, and the tribe has important spiritual and environmental knowledge that will be shared with us. Pretty exciting stuff!

To get to this remote area in eastern Ecuador, we must first fly into the capital city of Quito, the highest official capital city in the world at an elevation of 9,350 feet above sea level, perched high in the Andes. ecu protests

Last week, 10,000 citizens protested in Quito, opposing proposed constitutional amendments that would permit Rafael Correa to seek a fourth term as Ecuador's president. Many indigenous groups were part of this uprising to push Correa out, because he has allowed oil exploitation  and mining on their land. The protests resulted in some violence and 47 arrests.

Just four days ago, the Cotopaxi volcano (30 miles south of Quito) erupted, spewing ash seven miles into the air. This ash reached the capital, which forced residents to wear surgical masks in the city's streets. Several hundred people living close to Cotopaxi were evacuated from the area.


At 19,347 feet, Cotopaxi is the second highest peak in Ecuador, behind only Chimborazo (20,564 ft). The Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador's most active volcanoes and is considered one of the most dangerous in the world because of its glacial covering, which can result in lahars (mudflows) if a major eruption occurs.

Obviously it's a tumultuous time to visit this region of the world, but as of right now, the political unrest seems to be at bay, and Cotopaxi has been quiet since the small eruption over the weekend. Fingers crossed that we remain unscathed in Quito!

I can't wait to see fantastic wildlife, capture some amazing footage, and transform my current view of the world. Stay tuned for my return blog post and my Summer 2015 edit coming in September!

In closing, I leave you with this:

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

– Ray Bradbury

Break Your Boundaries.

Photo links

Ecuador flag link-

Ecuador protests-