Greetings from Montauk, NY

Aside from a few flaws that I’m to blame for (not writing or exercising as much anymore), I truly am the happiest this year than I’ve ever been in my twenty-eight years living. So, here I sit, on August 15th, in Montauk, NY; a small beach town on the very end of Long Island, not too much unlike Rincon. It’s a surfer’s and fisher’s paradise that’s surrounded by oceans, bays and lakes, with a lot of fun bars, pretty beaches and a young, diverse work crew.

I love the fresh air, the rich, wooded areas, the beautiful homes, the clear skies filled with millions of stars at night, working in a beach bar, and being only two hours from my family. I’ve met amazing people, stayed in beach mansions, been lucky to work for great owners, entertained my home friends and family and ate the freshest fish I’ve ever had. And I’m very grateful to have mostly high/cash-paying jobs to help fatten my starving, ‘fall travel’ savings account.

On the flip side, I miss the Puerto Rico! The Coquis! It’s way more expensive to live here than in PR, most of the tourists who come for the “scene” and not the ocean are in a league of their own and like to be avoided by the residents (there are boat loads of them), and since the work-load is greater, there’s less time/ places to work out and cook for yourself and the stress levels are higher- internally and between friends.

That being said, I’ll miss certain parts of my life here, in a month and a half when it’s time to leave, but I’ve actually never been more excited for the next two seasons! The fall is my favorite time of year, for some cliché reasons- the aesthetic beauty of the leaves changing and falling, wrapping the streets like a warm blanket, the abundance of festivals, wearing scarves, drinking pumpkin beer and celebrating my birthday (October 3rd).

Come December, I’m leaving on a Jet(Blue) plane to continue my affair with Puerto Rico. Don’t tell Long Island that I’m sick of his snowboots and sweaters, I’m trading him in for his better-looking, Caribbean cousin.

Advertisements

Introducing: Rincon, Puerto Rico

I boarded the plane at five in the morning and sat in the cozy seat between two strangers. The woman on my left seemed to be traveling for business and the man to my right was probably going home. I was kind of in-between in more ways than one. So many thoughts ran through my head.

First, I felt overtired (that would happen after only 45 minutes of sleep the night before hopping on a three-hour flight). Then, I took one last look at the snowy earth below the plane and I was excited. I can’t believe I’m finally leaving NY for more than a week “vacation”. I’ve been complaining about the northeast winters since I graduated college and there was no need for me to be home anymore. As the plane rose and there was nothing to see out the window and before the in-flight movie had begun, I started to tear up. Knots tightened in my stomach and I cried a bit while everyone around me slept. I did have a moment of fear and homesickness and uncertainty pass through my body- but just as fast as it came, it disappeared. Our movie was “Due Date”, which I couldn’t wait to see, and the comedy covered my negative feelings. Then things looked up from there.

I had noticed a couple of guys my age board the plane and remembered Jens’s text from the night before. He told me I was on my own with transportation to Rincon from Aguadilla since all their rides fell through. “Most of that plane is headed to Rincon, anyway, you can easily split a cab,” he reassured me. So, at baggage claim I introduced myself to the guys, Dave, Rob and Brian and turns out they were not only headed my way, they had five other friends and two rental cars- so they gave me a ride and a fun weekend! Instantly, I had eight new friends. I showed them around like a “local” would and we hung out as a big group all week. It was a pretty good start to an amazing couple months.

Stef and I have a cozy apartment with two sweet roommates, Matt and Tim. Our place has connecting “hostel-type” rooms so we meet new “neighbors” every couple days and they share morning tea/coffee/conversation with us. I walk everywhere, including places to look for work, we buy eggs at the corner bodega and the beach is about a half a mile down the hill. We’ve helped foster a puppy named Rica and unwillingly shared some cliff bars with, um, a baby mouse… it comes along with the open-door type living we have.

True-local Puerto Ricans, not just the people (like my friends) who are seasonal, are so friendly. They’re always waving and saying “Buen Provecho” (enjoy your meal) if you’re eating near them. All the “stray” dogs have names like Carlos and La Playera and “live” with everyone at different times or just hang with us on the beach all day. I’ve seen Puerto Ricans riding horses at night to the bars and an old lady in her nightgown flicking ice cream to a cat on her roof. I’ve eaten pinchos (chicken shishakobs) on the beach, tons of plantains and the best sushi I’ve EVER had (and it’s rolled by my best friend, Jens)! I do some yoga stretching in the mornings and run up and down my hilly street, I’ve watched the sunset with a coconut in hand and went bowling with Stef and my new friends.

Most importantly, there’s hardly any TVs and I haven’t seen one mind-numbing reality show yet!!

I’m constantly learning something new and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been (as cliche or cheesy as it sounds). Even if it’s listening to the travels of our hostel-staying friends or finding out about an interesting spot near mi casa nueva, I appreciate every moment, person and event and I will never regret this decision- even if “society” looks down on me for it…

Gracias, Puerto Rico.

Created March 13th, 2011. Location: Rincon Puerto Rico…

“The screen door has been known to whine as it opens, so I escape quietly, closing it slowly behind me, leaving the big door open so a breeze can travel over our guests as they sleep on the couch bed inside. I set my laptop down on the plastic furniture on our third-story deck and have a seat in the nineteen-nineties floral seat cushions that line the plastic chairs. As I type, the subjects in my peripherals distract me, hence why it takes me so long to write out here! I see the valley coated with tropical plants and trees that disappear abruptly into the ocean beyond them. Brightly colored, cement houses are swallowed by the greens, yellows and pinks of the brush and plantains and coconuts that hang from their branches. It’s never too hot out here since the breeze and clouds visit every now and then to say hello. Besides the leaves blowing into each other on the palm trees or bananas brushing against the house, the only other daily, constant noises we hear are frogs and animals. The Coqui frog is my favorite, with it’s high-pitched singing that helps us sleep at night. There’s also the galloping of local Puerto Rican’s horses as they cruise around town. But the most distinct and frequently heard around here are the roosters when they crow their little hearts out. Yes, that well-known crow you hear in movies as a farmer’s alarm clock happens every few minutes in Rincon and not just at dawn… (It’s a much more pleasant sound than trucks and cars whipping passed my bedroom window all day on the busy streets of the New York’s suburbs.) Some visitors have thought the noises to be annoying, but I’ve come to love it. It’s a soothing reminder that I’m living in a place where people own roosters instead of extra cars.

I can’t help but think of my mom every time I’m on this gorgeous, wrap around porch overlooking all this beauty. She’d love being here. Actually, all of you would. And if you’ve been here, you’ve probably already told me you miss it and throw out some memory or crazy Rincon icon that stands out in your mind (like the Medalla Light drinking, bus stop crew or Bienvenidos, the traffic director). Someone asked me what it’s like but I just can’t fully explain it. It’s going to be to hard to go back to the “real world”, especially when I have no plans for my (near) future. So, I may be back here next winter and try to keep up this lifestyle for the summer and see where it takes me…”

Destination: Rincon.

“So, when’s your next adventure?” My mom asked as I unpacked my luggage from my week-long trip to Puerto Rico. This was my third time to the surfer-village of Rincon and second time visiting my best friend and neighbor, Jens, who has lived there every winter for the past few years.

I laughed in response to my mom’s question because she knows me and understands my crazy wanderlust. I had already started to plan my next get-away before I even exited the plane. I was thinking I’d go to Costa Rica in March or April with Stefanie (one of my best friends/travel partners who I went to PR with). We want to teach English there this fall and our friend, Sandra, who is one step ahead of us, would show us around.

But could I even wait that long?? The second day I was home I was already depressed from the cold weather, fed up with my hooptie car and, to make things worse, I started getting sick. I also felt like I broke up with my significant other… Stefanie didn’t fly home with us!

@ cofresi hotel drinkin "pirata's"

I was back in twenty-degree weather turning from Tan Aykroyd into Pale Earnhardt while she was vagabonding around in Rincon with our new friends… Within one week she scored a cute, cheap place to live and an awesome job to fund her rent and coconut drinks until her summer workplace reopens here in New York. “How can I get back to Rincon?” I thought to myself as I cried into my pillow that night.

“Come back and share a twin bed with me,” Stefanie enticingly texted me from 1600 miles away.  Now, I’ve been known to slack on the decision making, ask anyone. But this one was easy. All it took was a head-cold and a text message.

Fast forward two weeks. My countdown is at two days until I board the plane to my personal paradise. Let me preface this trip with: It’s not (really) a vacation for me. I’m going to work! Most importantly, I’m going to finish my online TEFL course with Stefanie and blog about my time there. Hopefully I’m inspired to finally do what my five-year-old self wants: write my heart out. I’m also going to do yoga,

Matt and the puplearn to surf, make hemp necklace’s, eat amazing new food, help foster puppies, meet hundreds of new people (locals and tourists), trade my treadmill for hilly streets, budget, cook, go to bonfires, watch reggae bands on the beach…and who the hell knows what else?

Soul-cleansing euphoria…

And let’s face it, when you still live at home, you’re single and your best friend tells you to come live with her and two amazing new friends for $200/month, where it’s always eighty-something degrees, wouldn’t you go?

Peace-out, snowy boots and hand warmers. Hola, utopia.

Celebrate life.

This was a tragic week. No, a tragic year. Within six months I had three people close to me pass away, including my live-in grandma and my forty-year old aunt due to horrible cancer.

Tuesday night the count hit four. A Twenty-one year beautiful co-worker of mine died in a car crash involving three other co-workers. My staff and I go into work every day to comfort each other and wait by the phone for word on the others who are in critical condition. (see below for the news article)

The month leading up to this tragedy, although on paper looks exactly like every other month in my twenty-six years of life, has been interesting. I’ve been waiting for moments for events that may inspire me or reshape my future and I can say August, 2010 hit the closest yet.

When a death occurs, it makes you appreciate life and those around you. That line is pretty much the most cliché thing I’ve ever heard-yet true… The trick is, to actually carry those feelings of appreciation with you *passed* the consoling period, the wakes, the funeral, the following week. People should use these sad times to reevaluate their lives. I mean, talk about turning a negative into a positive, that’s a rather large negative…

This month, my parents did just that. I have always been a little too close with my parents, after all, I am almost in my :gulp: late twenties, living home and my mom is one of my best friends. So, naturally, I’ve always admired them, in the normal way children admire their parents. This month, however, after a few months of grieving and adjusting to life minus two family members, they each reevaluated their lives and my admiration became inspiration.

My dad is the cutest man you’ll ever meet (just had to mention that). This month he cleaned up our once-finished basement-turned storage room, dusted off his 1980’s drum set, uncovered studio equipment and speakers I didn’t even know existed and started jamming again to his favorite music. When he left his cover band behind around the time I was born, there were always high hopes he’d relive it again. But four more babies sort of prevented that…. Now, every night he asks me to put music on his hand-me-down iPod so he can practice and each Sunday, old buddies join him to fill our home with music of the Eagles and Tom Petty (My favorite’s “Peaceful, Easy Feeling”).

My mom had always been self-conscious about something (I’ll keep private for now) and too afraid to change it. Following her mother’s passing, however, she decided life’s too short, so she overcame a fear she’s had since childhood and I’ve never seen her happier or more confident. Just like *that* both of my parents accomplished something they’ve put off or afraid to do because they decided to appreciate life.

So, what am I going to do with this negative? How am I going to turn not only a tragedy, but my family’s inspiration into my motivation? For one, I’m taking a cross-country road trip…. What started as a vacation to help our friend move to Washington, is turning into a three-week exciting adventure through cities and parts of my country I would never have thought to visit. This could be my event! The one that lets me peek into my future, changes my outlook and keeps me inspired. Or, it could simply be the coolest vacation I ever have. Either way, it’s already the biggest (for lack of better words) thing I’ve yet to do in my life and It feels amazing to know I’m actually going to LIVE it and not just read about it or talk it to the ground…

Rest in peace, Kristin. Life is short, tell people you love them, tell them they’re beautiful (thank you E.Stern), kiss your mother and hug your father everyday (and/or brothers and sisters) and *appreciate* EVERY opportunity given to you.

http://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/deer-park-woman-killed-three-injured-in-pa-crash-1.2236057

 

NY Times Travel Show ’10

Thanks to my Twitter friends for bringing it to my attention and to my old friend, Ryan, for the free ticket, I ventured solo into the city Saturday to see the NY Times travel show at the Javits. NY was just hit with its second snow-rain storm of the year, which left the streets with mounds of slush and the sidewalks with puddles of, well, melted slush. So, what does a Long Island girl who rarely treks it to the city do when spending a day there? Wear polka-dotted rain boots (thanks, Stef) and many layers of socks and pants, of course! (Don’t judge, I have poor circulation…)

This weekend made me realize a few things. I’m kinda getting the itch to move to the city (I can go into that in an entirely separate blog post) and being alone on a train is better for your brain. I relaxed, caught up on emails and finally caught up with my Hemingway book that I started in the summer (eek! I know). Although, you would probably disagree if you’re a commuter and your job makes you travel to NYC everyday from mid-Long Island or beyond.

Back to the travel show… It was essentially a trade show with hundreds of booths set up, each offering info on a different country in the world. If you weren’t there to book a trip and take advantage of travel show discounts, then you probably went for the inspirational speeches or live music and performances. My favorites to “explore” were definitely Jamaica and its neighboring islands. Live Jamaican or reggae music is hands down the most fun genre of music to see live. Maybe I love it because it reminds me of my amazing week-long Puerto Rico trip last year, or maybe it’s just their consistently crazy-awesome outfits and enthusiastic dancing. Anyway, when you’re at a trade show and you’ve run out of entertainment to watch, like my new friend,

Dave, of GoBackpacking.com, and I did, then you will probably end up entering all the contests! My parents frequent the trailer shows since they’re life-long campers and have won a trip to Ireland that way, so I have my fingers crossed…

Where did this new friend come from you ask?? Ok, let me back up a sec. I originally “followed” Dave on Twitter and thankfully he was nice enough to meet me at the travel show. We tweeted our locations and attire. 😉 Dave and I met up during Julia Dimon’s speech, which I absolutely loved. I had skimmed her blog before arriving at the show, but there’s nothing like seeing someone in the flesh and hearing them speak with enthusiasm about their life and travels. She’s a travel writer turned TV star in Canada, and, well, she has my dream life! It never ceases to amaze me how much goes on outside of the “real world” I’ve been so (unwillingly) accustomed to…

After a few hours of circling through the countries, a rushed handshake with Julia and a handful of contest entries, Dave and I headed south along the river en route to meet his high school buddies at a charming little German bar (shout outs to the Ofenlochs!) in the West Village. I was VERY impressed with the neighborhood and I’m so excited to go back! But, maybe I can enjoy it more when I’m comfortable in only one layer of clothing.

A greasy, yet delicious, potato pancake and a refreshing pint of beer that I can’t pronounce kicked off my evening which led to a series of unexpected but awesome events. Grabbing a beer turned into bar hopping and meeting up with my city friends. My girl, Nikki, from Brooklyn came out and took me to her friends bar, Bond St., that also serves sushi! I was in heaven. We sampled new fish (my new fav food) and I think God, himself, made the ricotta pudding-ish dessert he gave us after. One-or four Vodka sodas later, we braved the cold to walk to one last neighborhood, where my ex-coworkers and friends, Shiina and Charles, were as well! I ended the night at a decent hangout bar, Boss Tweeds, where there’s a giant chalkboard on the wall for our amusement…