Whether you’re in a relationship or embracing the single life, you are only guaranteed one person in life: yourself. This past valentines weekend, I spent the entirety of it working jobs back to back with very little sleep in between. Traveling ain’t cheap, especially with my upcoming plans. I’m always thinking of ways to save money or make more on the side. All the articles I’ve read about saving up for traveling usually have the same tips; stop partying and drinking so much, cut down on shopping, buy cigarettes less frequently or quit altogether, etc. As helpful as these may be for some, they won’t necessarily apply to me. I’m not much of a party girl. Perhaps I’ll take a glass of white wine here or there. And shopping? Please. If I have something already, I don’t see a point of getting several of the same thing in different colors. Needless to say I’m far from a shopaholic and haven’t been to a mall in ages.

I say all of that background because right after valentines weekend, I worked one of my jobs on Presidents’ Day. On my way home, I was passing by a small shopping center and thought to stop by. As a disclaimer, I had been meaning to purchase myself a new pair of flats. The one pair I have is beyond beaten up and pushing unacceptable. While quickly looking about a discounter store, I found a pair of black and gold flats I didn’t have to think twice about. On my way to the front of the store, I passed by a selection of dresses. In the past when I would go shopping, I would see nice things, try them on, then think about if I really need it and return the next day to purchase. Not this time. A coral dress with feathers hanging down the side caught my eye immediately. I walked a bit closer to it deviating from my direct path to the check-out area. It was the only one of its kind. It also happened to be my size. ‘Wow, this is really pretty. I could wear this almost anywhere. But no, I need to save my money for travel, even if it is barely $20. Every dollar counts,’ I thought to myself instantly.

Immediately following that thought, I picked up the dress and made my way to the checkout line. It was Valentine’s weekend and I hadn’t gotten myself anything. Every year I make a point, relationship or not, to get something for myself for the holiday. (One year it was a candy apple red sports car. Beat that, boys!) I urge you to do the same if you don’t already. While saving up for something grand and being strict about your spending is always good, don’t forget about your own miniature desires. As mentioned, I’m not huge on shopping or doing many things just to treat myself. You have absolutely no idea if your life will even make it to the time of your grand plan. Take some time to treat yourself every now and then. Be your own valentine/gifter once in a while. I advise this to myself as I am advising it to you.

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“It’s freezing out here! Let’s go someplace warmer, say…California?” And just like that a girlfriend and I had bought out tickets to a much warmer destination. “I’m not leaving until I go surfing,” I turned to her on the plane with a smile. We were all packed up with our swimsuits, tank tops, and shorts. We landed in sunny San Diego and proceeded to the hostel located right on top the sand by Pacific Beach. As soon as we walked in, we saw a few people sitting at the common picnic table laughing over a joke we had come too late to hear. We checked in, and settled into our room. Another female was already set up on one of the bunks. By the looks of her belongings scattered about, she had been there for about a week so far.

The next day my friend and I went to go for a swim. Unfortunately, we failed to realized California does actually get cold in the winter. Over the next couple of days, I had layered as many tank tops as I could and never dipped a toe into the water. Meanwhile, my friend had bought a souvenir hoodie that became more of a necessity. We decided to make the best of our time since it at least wasn’t snowing. One of the days there we decided to grab a football from the hostel and play a game of catch on the beach. It probably looked as stereotypically cinematic  as it sounds. Two females barefoot on the beach wearing shorts and tank tops with jackets thrown over tossing a football back and forth and laughing at the missed catches. Yes, that was us. Suddenly, we saw 3 guys walk over the miniature hill close to us and come into view. They came up walking shoulder to shoulder, then stopped to take in the view of the Pacific Ocean. I took one look at them, turned and smiled at my friend, and secretly prayed they were staying in the same hostel as us. Luckily, they were.

The next day, we met our other hostelmate. She seemed talkative, outgoing, and full of energy. She had planned on hitting the waves and invited us to join her. My bones couldn’t withstand it. “I feel itchy,” my friend turned to me randomly once we were alone. We both figured it was just dry skin and moved past the moment. We saw 2 of the 3 guys sitting at the common picnic table. Being the social butterfly I am, I walked over and asked what they were up to. “Hey! We’re trying to figure out some travel stuff but our laptop just died and we lost the charger.” They were Australians, and it was so very noticeable with their heavy accents. It was also so very attractive. One of them caught my attention more than the others. He had shoulder-length dark hair, green eyes, and hadn’t shaved in maybe 3 days. For some reason I had taken my laptop with me to the west coast and good thing because it came in handy! “I have a laptop you can borrow.”

As one of the guys searched the web on my laptop to book their next destination, the green-eyed one and I chatted about what they had done so far and what was in store for both of our trips. It was the third member’s birthday and they were all going to Hooters that night for the first time. The three of us then went to the grocery store to stock up on fruits, water, and other quick foods. We all parted ways right after exchanging information. I met my girlfriend back in our room. Apparently she had made a friend of her own who she was quite interested in. He was also staying at our hostel.

The other girl in our room came in and began chatting away about something I currently forget. My friend noticed some small red bumps covering her arms and legs. “What’s that?” she asked. “I’m not sure. The doctor said he didn’t know and advised me not to go traveling anywhere, but whatever!” Not necessarily the words you want to hear from a hostelmate’s mouth. The Aussie had texted me. They were heading back from Hooters and he wanted to spend some time with me. My friend went to hang out on the deck with her new friend so I left the hostel and went for a boardwalk stroll with mine. An elder woman stopped us along the way to tell us how cute we looked together. ‘Keep talking,’ I thought to myself, only showing a gracious smile on the outside. It was such a nice walk and much warmer wearing his jacket. (I’m starting to wonder if this was the correct side of my blog to post.)

Later that night, my girlfriend and I were the only ones in the room getting ready for bed. “When you weren’t here, that other girl told me she was staying in your bed before we got here then transferred beds for some reason.” As a friend and a germaphobe, this is information I would have definitely liked to know as soon as she found out. I paid the information no mind as I had already been sleeping on the bed for some days and whatever was going to happen was going to happen regardless. Plus, I was too pumped for our red carpet event the following evening!

In my field of events at the time, I was selected to be one of the hostesses/models at MTV’s red carpet pre-award show event. Unfortunately it was going to take place a week prior to my arrival, but I was still extended an invite to the party and allowed a plus one. We each had packed award-winning dresses for the event. The hostel folk were kind enough to drive us to the train station and told us how easy it was to get to LA from San Diego with 2 different trains. We boarded one train, then did the appropriate transfer. After we arrived in what we thought was our location I asked a train attendant our whereabouts, “Hi! We’re trying to get to [party location].” “Oh, you gotta take another train to get there.” We listened to the man and hopped on a third train. We stepped out and walked up to the station booth to confirm our location. “No, you’re about a half mile from downtown right now. Trains don’t go to LA.” “Okay, so how do we get there?” I asked her. “You drive.”

Seeing this as a sign and cutting our losses, we decided to just walk the half mile downtown and at least treat ourselves to a fancy dinner. For the second time that trip, I was happy to have so much technology in the palm of my hand. We arrived at a French restaurant with dim lighting. Perfect! We were escorted to our table with eyes staring from other tables as we walked through. It was as if we had made it to an event after all.

Upon our return home, my friend found out within a couple days that she had a brought back a case of bed bugs from the hostel. That would explain the itching. A week later I noticed my skin was looking pretty dry. My doctor ended up telling me a week after that I had contracted scabies from the hostel. It was annoying for about a week or two of treatments. And then it dawned on me. I did, in fact, leave without going surfing.

When traveling for business purposes, there are ways to save those extra dollars from being spent unnecessarily. Whether it’s coming out of your own pocket, or out the company’s wallet, here are some tips to save some bucks for leisure travels.

1.       Eat meals at the hotel

As I was nearing my hotel, I thought to myself, ‘I wonder what areas are nearby for dinner or to grab a drink and maybe meet some locals.’ I exited my car and felt the drizzles of rain starting to come down. A better thought came to mind: Perhaps I can eat at the hotel restaurant. Not as social a setting as I would have liked, but after the long drive to get here and the oncoming rains, it would have been pointless to doll myself up for a few hours out. Not to mention the work day starting bright and early! By eating in house I save on the gas and time it would have taken driving. Also, since the receipt is obviously from the hotel, a company might be more willing to reimburse the cost. (Or you can at least write it off on taxes.)

2.       Enroll in a hotel rewards program

If your company has you staying in hotels often, it’s wise to enroll in a rewards program. At first I thought I should wait and compare the different chains before committing. A year later I still was traveling for work and had completely overlooked enrolling or even deciding on a chain’s program. It wasn’t until I checked into a Marriott and the man behind the front desk offered me enrollment. I went for it. And I encourage you to as well. My only real suggestion would be to choose a brand that is worldwide. Then, when you want to go on those leisure trips, you may have accumulated enough points or “nights” for free nights!

3.       You don’t need to see all the sites now

Usually when I travel for business, the time out of town is never too long. I always try to sneak in an outing where I can be social or see what the locals are up to. This definitely has it’s pros and cons, but going back to suggestion #1, it might be better to save the outings for leisure travels and focus on business during business travels. Every penny counts!

4.       See all those amenities? They’re yours!

Some may think this is a bit tacky, but if I’m staying at a hotel, regardless of whether the hotel or I booked it, I’m taking home the extra shampoo, conditioner, unused soap, etc. Yes, even the mini sewing kits. But that’s okay. I paid for it! And if the company did, then it’s no different than if I were using them at the hotel itself. Plus, you’ll save on purchasing those needed items when you’re back home or traveling for leisure. The only items I would say refrain from are the $2.50 bottles of water. It’ll get charged to you one way or another. Just don’t.

 

I was in an unfamiliar part of the state next door exploring. There were a multitude of bars surrounding me all looking lively. The first bar I passed had different entry ways to the same location. I peeked inside while still walking by. My eyes met with one of the patrons inside. He was with a small group of others. I smiled, looked away (mostly to make sure I wasn’t about to run into anything), and looked back at him. His eyes were still on me. I smiled again and continued walking. After doing a lap around the area itself, I thought to go back to the first place and have a drink. The man was still sitting there with his buddies. I looked his way, then continued on to the main bar. If he was interested, he could approach me.

After a few conversations at the bar with the bartender and a few random men, a blonde bartender in front of the bar approached me, “This is for you from someone, but he doesn’t want me to tell you who he is.” She passed me the shot of vodka…I think that’s what it was. I thanked her as I already knew who the prime suspect was. “So tell me, is he sitting on this side of the bar or that side of the bar?” I questioned, playing along with the little game. Keeping her word, she only told me which side of the room he was sitting. Eventually, another man from their group came up to me, “My buddy sent that over to you.”

“So where is your buddy now?”

“Oh, he went to the bathroom now. When he comes back I’ll give you a sign which one and I’ll put my arm around him.”

This was getting ridiculous. Are we in middle school again? “Okay, well you tell him that he can come over and talk to me himself.” I was not about to entertain a man who cannot even approach me in the very least. After my “secret” admirer returned, the sign was given. I ignored it as another guy had initiated conversation next to me. Once my new conversation ceased, the man himself finally came over.

“So it was me who had sent you the shot.” No shit Sherlock. “Well, thank you,” I said with a smile. We chatted briefly and I was brought over and introduced to his friends. They were all cops. He bought me a few more rounds after his friends left for the night. He let me know he had to take care of something at his house but invited me over. It was less than 10 minutes away. I carried on in the area solo after he left. Some concert was about to start so I stayed for a little short of an hour to check that out. Looking down at my phone I had 2 missed calls, a voicemail, and a few texts from this guy. Really? Cautious to whether this guy was off his rocker, I initially thought against going over. After a few more minutes I figured it was only so far away and it’s not like I was anywhere close to home. Sure, why not? I called up a girlfriend beforehand and told her about the situation and gave her his address in case of anything. Ladies, I highly suggest you have a safe friend when going to a guy’s place you don’t know, or even going somewhere privately with a man.

When I arrived he had my favorite wine awaiting me along with more shots of vodka for himself. Apparently, it was his drink of choice and he wanted to see if I could handle it when sending the shot over to me. “How old are you?” I blurted out. Turns out I was barely over half his age. In a certain light, it was an interesting and different experience. Perhaps a very experienced man could teach me something new. I had no real intentions and just went with the night. He had some music playing from one of those mini iPod whatnots atop one of those larger speaker things. One of Rihanna’s raunchier songs came on. I threw my head back in laughter with the wine glass in hand, “I really like this song.” He stood five feet in front of me staring as I slowly rocked my hips side to side. Within 5 seconds, or less, I was suddenly pushed up against the fridge behind me. I was not amused, but hoped he had his pros and cons.

As time went on, we continued to go on a few dates. We went to the same place and always talked about the same topic- work. The servers always had to know his profession, he made every joke and comment referring back to it, and it was all over his social media. I felt as if I was out with someone my age or slightly younger. As time went on, I thought perhaps the communication would fade. I was wrong. Now it all adds up.

When I was much younger and in grade school I always wondered why certain guys went after females much younger than them. Something just did not add up about that. Apparently, some men never change.

 

“This is what he said, but I’m not sure what he means by it, or if he even means it. What does this mean?” Ladies, we’ve all done it. A guy makes some kind of contact with us and we consult different people to find out the hidden meaning behind his words. Regardless of age, we all do it. Hopefully a bit less as we get older, but then again look at the women on Sex and the City. “If he said that, then just go with what he says as truth. Why would he lie to you?” a girlfriend once told me. As much as I think that’s solid advice, I must disagree. There are many other reasons or motives as to why he could have said that. Guys don’t just say things…right?

This entry will not be a story, but perhaps a thought that needs to be explored. Guys, I regret to inform you that anything you do or say will be held against you. Ladies, let’s think before we hold every little, insignificant thing against them.

For example, a guy you are getting to know gives you a compliment. Regardless of the compliment or his intentions, we question, doubt, and/or accept it. Typically, if you are unsure about where any of it is going, you may think he 1) just says those things to other females to flirt, 2) actually means it, 3) is just trying to get in your pants. Note: there is a difference between all three. The first is a catch-all, the second is individual sincerity, the third is individual ill-intention.

If you are an ideal woman unsure of yourself, you may go back and forth between options 1 and 3, depending on the circumstance. You may subconsciously think that the things he says he cannot mean sincerely. Perhaps you doubt you are worthy of such compliments. I would go on some tangent on how you should not feel that way, but let’s be real. Everyone feels a little unsure of themselves sometimes. We’re only human.

If you are an ideal woman with high confidence, you may take the compliments with a smile and believe it could be any of the three mentioned options. If option 1, you hear his statement, but essentially keep it moving because you don’t want to waste your time with it. If option 2, you already know his statement is truth so you hear it and again, keep it moving or entertain him. If option 3, you dismiss the compliment because you don’t have time for that.

All of this may seem as if I’m way overanalyzing the simplest of things, but I’m just writing what some of us are thinking, but keep inside. Perhaps if we all take things for what they are, we may possibly deal with the consequences of naivety. Perhaps if we doubt everything that comes our way, we will prevent ourselves from opening up and believing anyone’s word. Perhaps we could take a closer look as to why we interpret others’ intentions as we do.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”
– Anais Nin

 

I feel as though that has been the question of my past few weeks. Getting ready to travel cross-country and overseas was initially a nice thought in my mind. ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome if…’ Knowing my family may not share the same thoughts as me, I somewhat kept the thought as a potential act that I’d fantasize about here and there. But as mentioned in my previous post, my mother was not all gun-ho about the idea of me traveling about solo. Over the next week and a half, we went back and forth on the decision. Two Latin women driven by passion and emotion. And of course, news travels quite quickly. Within less than 24 hours, family members in other states and those still in the home country knew about the situation. Surprisingly enough, my mother informed me that they were all ecstatic about my decision and fully supported it. I was relieved. It also pushed my mother to open up a lot more and get on board as well. I must say, wanting to do something completely out of the ordinary and having family support is the best feeling in the world.

Although there are several months until my journey begins, I have started looking into transportation and lodging in the different states I’ll visit. Unlike what I see most travelers do, I’m choosing to stay in each location for a couple of weeks as opposed to a few days. I don’t understand how someone gets to know an area in that beyond short amount of time. Visiting a museum or attraction in a foreign area is considered a visit in my book. To travel somewhere is to get to know the land, the locals, the food. Definitely the food. Stay at hostels to be social, eat at little hidden cafes, climb a mountain, and perhaps visit a museum in between. But the most important thing to travel is to explore.

I have been fortunate enough to be in a contract position for over a year now which allows me to travel for work. Not thinking it would be an issue and wanting to cover all my bases, I called up the company to inform them about my future travel plans.

“Not anytime soon, but later on in the year, I plan on doing a cross-country trip. Would it be possible for me to simply call and let you all know where I plan to be for the next few weeks and work in those areas?”

“Of course! Are you just traveling around just because?”

“Yeah, pretty much just because. And I can’t think of a reason not to.”

“I love your attitude!”

For any of you out there with resolutions or desired unmet, I urge you to stop thinking and start actively working towards those goals. When in doubt, ask yourself “Can I think of a reason not to?” If you come up with nothing, then go for it, like soon.

“Let’s just meet up at the café for lunch.” That was the plan for myself and another girlfriend. The café was in a bar town, but we had no intentions of doing any major drinking. Before we knew it, time had reached us with the catching up, gourmet sandwiches, and coffee with heart swirls atop. We decided to go for a walk since it wasn’t too chilly out. We were on the search for wings. “There’s an Irish pub right at the corner. They’re bound to have some.” From the Irish pub we hopped to the next restaurant to check out the ambiance, then to a bar randomly to see what they looked like before prime hours. As we did a quick walk around, she pointed out a Middle Eastern man sitting at a high top booth, “Hey, I know that guy!”

Introductions went around and I met the friend of my friend and his Hispanic friend. For keeping track purposes, let’s call the Middle Eastern man, S, and the Hispanic sir, H. “I think I’m going to head out shortly, I want to get home pretty soon,” she whispered to me after some conversation had gone by between the 4 of us. Not yet ready to leave and feeling my social butterfly wings spread, I told her I’d stick around a bit longer. Thankfully, we had driven separately so no one was on anyone’s watch.

Solo Mission

The majority of my interaction was with S. Every now and then H would jump back over and randomly start busting out his moves in a suave fashion. Or at least I’m sure that was the intent. It just wasn’t really the place for all the Usher moves. Turned out the two of them was with a group of folks. I did not have much conversation with anyone aside from the two. Out of nowhere, Security comes over and tells one of the females in the group she needed to go with him. “What! Why?? No! I just bought a beer! That’s not fair!!” She had gotten into some typical minor altercation with another female while at the bar stand. “I’m sorry about this, I’ll take care of it. I’ll take her out,” S volunteered. He had told me earlier in conversation that she was his ride home so it only made sense he had to leave as well.

Since I wasn’t necessarily making conversation with anyone else, I felt the awkwardness slowly starting to creep up. I grabbed my coat and reached for my purse. H saw my purpose and came up to basically talk me into staying a bit longer. “Where are you going now?…That’s so far though!…What’s it like up there?” Suddenly, one of the guys in the group shouted, “Hey everyone, look who I ran into!” Apparently the group wasn’t familiar with the new additions, but some introductions went around. They were 2 men; one tall, white, bald man and a blue-eyed man with a little more than 5 o’clock shadow. Let’s name them Drunkie and Cutie, respectively. Oh, I could stay for a little bit longer now.

Detour in the Night

As I entertained and explained my destination area to H standing on my left, Cutie was standing on my right. Although we had not been introduced, I was going to make it happen myself. I turned to Cutie, “Hey, have you been to (destination area) before? I’m trying to describe the area to him. What would you compare it to?” Now the 3 of us were in conversation. That lasted about less than 10 minutes. Drunkie spotted me, circled the table, and grabbed my hand for a dance…in the bar that had maybe 4 tvs in the room playing music videos you could barely hear. What was it with guys wanting to dance in this place that was definitely not a nightclub?

I kindly turned down the dance offer with a smile. “Just twirl him around a little bit,” Cutie suggested. I looked around and realized the large group had hauled out. I was there with Drunkie and Cutie, two lawyers. Conversation continued on with Cutie for about 5 minutes until he asked, “What are you drinking?” As I thanked him for the drink, Drunkie tried his advances on me yet again. I suggested we all play some of the bar games available. We ended up at a pool table and played some weird combo of 1:1/2:1. It really made no sense, but everyone was enjoying themselves. Drunkie decided to randomly walk off outside with the pool stick. Cutie and I continued the game with flirty, competitive banter. After a few rounds, I suggested we check out another bar not too far away. I remembered him saying earlier in regards to me going to a farther location, “When you go out, you gotta choose one place and stick to it.” Regardless, he was down for the change of scenery. Plus, we were just going a few streets down.

Here’s Where it Starts

He offered to pay for a cab so we wouldn’t have to walk. It was getting a bit chillier as the night went on. We arrived to the next bar and walked up to the door. Cutie looked up to the sky, then over to me. “I forgot to close out my tab at the last place and they still have my ID.” Luckily, the cab hadn’t gone too far. We hopped back in and headed back to the first bar. “I’ll just wait here for you guys,” the driver told us. “No, it’s alright. We might as well just stay here. Everything is about to close in about 30 minutes anyway,” Cutie responded. We walk up to the bar area together and he retrieved his ID and credit card from the bartender. Then he started patting himself down. “What’s wrong?” “I think I dropped my phone somewhere! It’s not on me!” Cutie had one of those iPhones with one of those cases that acted as a wallet as well. Silly. We ran back outside to see if the cabbie disregarded our request and waited on us anyway. He had not. “I may have dropped it outside when we were at the other bar. I know I had it then.” We definitely weren’t taking another cab. He had parked closer so we took his car. As we walked up to his luxury car and he held the door open for me, some teenager was simultaneously parallel parking behind his vehicle. Right before the door closed, I saw the back of Cutie’s head saying to the clearly new driver, “You’re touching my car.” “Oh, I’m sorry, man! Is there a scratch?” Too focused on his lost phone, he walked around to the other side of the car. “Thanks for being cool, man!” the guy shouted through his own window. Without much response, Cutie came over to the driver side of his car. “Did that guy just hit your car?” “Yup.” In the same breath, the guy pulled up next to us and threw up a thumbs up and ‘hang loose’ gesture following, then drove off.

The beginnings of a Meltdown

Cutie drove down the street to the second bar. “I know I sound pathetic, but my phone is my life. I need my phone. I know, I’m pathetic.” I tried to reassure his suppressed larger issue and just keep him calm for the time being. No luck at the second bar. Thinking the phone could had slipped out of his pocket and into the cab, we returned to the first bar’s area and checked the driver of every cab passing by. Thinking smarter, not harder, I called the number on the side of a cab for the lost and found number, or to possibly track down the driver a bit more strategically.

By the end of the night, he walked me to my car, thanked me for all my help, and gave me his email for contact.

So over the holidays, I went to visit my mother. My initial plan was to ease her into the thought of me traveling overseas as I knew she wouldn’t be completely onboard with her only child continent-hopping. For college options, I had one. The closest one. This was not by choice either. “You’ve seen one campus, you’ve seen them all!” my mother told me as a Senior in high school. Now beyond my college degree, I understand the need to include her and ease her into my train of thinking oh so slowly.

As I sat down with her to eat dinner and watch a movie on tv, she turned to me, “Okay, talk in commercial breaks! So tell me about your recent trip. The plane landed, and then…?” So focused on my plans for the new year, I almost completely forgot about my recent trip I just returned from the other week. I told her an overview, then slowly started going into more details, and more details.

Before I knew it, the word-vomit had happened. All my advice for breaking future travel news was out the window. I blame my Latina side. My impulsiveness, impatience, and mostly passion for travel plans started to escape my mouth faster than I could think. I told her about all the costs I had looked into, destinations I created a blueprint for, research I had done about extra fees and documents to be filled. “Have you considered what you’re going to do for a full-time job? How are you going to get more experience if you go around traveling instead of working?” “I feel I’ll actually gain more experience through travel. Travel allows you to see different perspectives, meet others, and find yourself. I think that’s what your 20’s are all about.” Surprisingly, she didn’t completely shut me down. I think she realizes by now, I’m quite stubborn. When my heart and head are set on something, there’s just no talking me out of it. At least I did adhere to one thing I wanted to accomplish with her, which is making sure she knows I did my research. I feel if others are aware you know what you’re doing, they have more confidence in your decisions.

But in all honesty, even with all the research and experience, do any of us know what we’re doing?

Okay, “almost lover” may be a bit extreme, but the song definitely pops into my head. Joe and I had been sending emails back and forth a week into online dating. Coincidentally, we had made profiles around the same time. We sent several emails throughout the day as if we had known each other for years. At first I thought it would just be a cheeky thing, but soon found out we had far more in common than expected. We enjoyed the same type of music, were inspired by the same artist, had an affinity for the same fish, both preferred a specific wine every time, and we both disagreed with the notion of staying in touch with exes. It was insane, in a good way. Unfortunately, Joe has a job that requires him to travel out of the country every month. About 2 weeks into our chat, he told me he’d be leaving for Europe for a couple of weeks. Slightly bummed, he made it very clear he wanted to see me once he returned.

I mentally prepared myself to not hear from him for a bit meanwhile. Surprisingly, that was not the case at all. We still sent messages back and forth as if he were still in town. He made no excuses of business, time difference, or the like. He was to return on a Saturday. “I land around ‘x’ time so anytime after works.” I, not wanting to sound too much, responded, “I know you’ll probably be exhausted after your 13-hour flight. I can also do Monday or Tuesday evening, if that works for you.” “I don’t mind Saturday. Nothing some coffee or energy drinks can’t fix if I get sleepy. He’s my flight number in case I get delayed or anything and can’t contact you.” Oh, he was good at keeping a permanent smile on my face.

The day of meeting finally came. Joe texted me as soon as he landed to make sure we were still on for that night. We definitely were. Once meeting up and walking over to each other, I could feel the butterflies going from my stomach to my throat. ‘Oh wow, he definitely looks like his pictures!’ I thought, trying to come across as calmly as possible. “It’s nice to meet you. I got you something from overseas,” he announced as he wrapped his arms around me tightly. ‘Can this man do no wrong??’We got into his car. The gift bag was awaiting me on the passenger seat. It was both of our favorite candy. Awesome.

After a bit, we decided cooking-one of both of our passions-would rule over dining out. In the grocery store it was a natural vibe going together down the aisles. There’s something about grocery shopping with someone else I find very romantic, in a comfortable sort of way. After purchasing the preferred wine, we headed back to his place. I met his cat, and his roommates. We marinated the main dished then took a break to watch some tv. Of course we both enjoy the same television shows, surprise surprise. The next thing I know, he makes a bold move and plants on right on me. It was very consensual. Remembering the food downstairs, we trekked back downstairs to finish dinner.

Cooking to the tunes of our favorite artist, we maneuvered around each other in the kitchen in perfect sync and without warning. Everything was just so…flowy. The vibe, the music, the feel, all of it. Still playing music from his phone, we sat at the table to eat our scrumptious meal. Making light, yet continuous, conversation as we eat, his phone suddenly went off. It was midnight. I got a quick glance at the caller out of reaction to the music ceasing. It was a female. “This is one of my co-workers. She’s in California. I have to get this. Excuse me.” Something about a co-worker calling at midnight just did not seem right to me. Even if in another state. It was 9 o’clock her time. ‘What was work-related and so important it couldn’t wait until normal hours. Could this be the flaw I know will come in this way-too-perfect reality?’ The phone call definitely make me uneasy, but trying to move forward with our nice time together, I dismissed it. An hour or so later, he dropped me off and kissed me goodnight.

The next day, I did not hear from him. Wanting not to smother him and give him a bit of time for himself, I waited. Then Monday came. Two days, no big. Weird since we were talking practically every day before then. Tuesday, still nothing. I sent him a feeler text later in the day on Tuesday and received a short yet kind response. Wednesday, nothing. Thursday, nada. By Friday, I was confused and didn’t want to misread a good thing if it was one. I sent him a text asking if we could talk. Much later that night he called me to explain.

“I had a feeling you would have wanted to talk. I’m sorry I’ve been a bit distant the past week. You remember that phone call I got?”

“During our date, yes.”

“Well, she is my co-worker, but she’s also my ex. We broke up about a month before you and I started talking. When I answered the phone that night she asked if I was on a date. I don’t know how she knew, but she just guessed it since I hadn’t called her back from an actual work discussion earlier that day. It’s hard because I see her everyday and we didn’t break up because of anything in our relationship or anything with me. She was still in love with her ex and needed to get herself together.”

I called this. I knew this shit was too good to be true. And I definitely knew all this had to do with that damn phone call. I was not about to be part of this vicious cycle. I thanked him for letting me know the information and, as a lady, removed myself from him and the unhealthy situation. Pity.

 

As I prepare for future travel and begin to downgrade my belongings, I start with my books and CDs. Yes, I still own CDs-I even have a couple of mixtapes, literal cassette tapes. On my bookshelf I noticed my teen Bible and a Quran laying upright next to each other, but divided by a single thin piece of literature. Growing up Catholic, there wasn’t much room or desire to educate oneself on other religions. In college years, I took an interest in Islam and because of which, was given many gifts of Islamic CDs, religious books, and pamphlets from my generous muslimah girlfriends.

Sorting through which books I would entertain from the ones that would just collect dust, I realized I hadn’t opened either of the two in years. I paused for a moment to decide if I should continue to hold onto them, or pass them on to someone who would make better, and active, use of the books. Torn by slight guilt, but more so potential regret, I slipped out the thin literature in between the two for donation and left the 2-inch thick books on the shelf. Next to each other without separation. And understanding both religions, I suddenly did not feel the hesitation of allowing them to touch.

Lately, I’ve been feeling as though traveling can be a very spiritual experience in itself. It’s not so much about who’s worshipping who or disowning any God or gods. It’s more about finding yourself, what you truly want out of life, experiencing all the beauty the world has to offer. It’s about having gratitude, seeing how others live, and expanding your horizons. If our makers, or the universe, wanted anything for us and our happiness, that sounds like it would be it. In many religions, one is meant to fulfill his or her purpose. I feel many go though their lives as a devout follower, yet never really see. Travel allows for that eye-opening. Mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I’m sure this will get opinions stirring, but that’s okay. I’m sure some may not agree with me, but that’s alright. This is my space to share my opinions beyond the socially acceptable. So be it.

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