After I quit my full-time job, I was determined to blog more. In the start of the new year, I made a resolution to blog once a week. Now, here I am eight months since quitting and almost six months into 2018, writing my first blog post. And it’s about a trip I took a month ago!

In any case, during my travels through three major cities across eastern Canada, I was inspired to write. Here are my observations…

  1. Canadians are super friendly! I met so many nice people during my travels.
  2. They have great coffee and coffee shops. While there, I became obsessed with Second Cup.
  3. Tim Horton’s was not one of those great coffee shops. It’s equivalent to a greasy fast-food joint, with the same smell, low-quality food and stale dining area.
  4. Everyone speaks French as a primary language in Montreal. I wasn’t expecting its prominence, but really liked how it made me feel like I was in a far-away country.
  5. If you’re dining alone, the restaurant staff absolutely do not want you taking up a table. I was offered the bar first every time, and a couple places wouldn’t even let me sit at a table after I requested one over the bar.
  6. The cities shut down on Sundays. Both downtown Ottawa and parts of downtown Toronto were dead on Sunday.
  7. A lot of people smoke. I’m going to blame the French influence.
  8. Poutine is not that great. I prefer cheese or chili on my fries to gravy any day.
  9. Meanwhile, Beaver Tails live up to their hype. And now the franchise is headed to the states thanks to a gentleman I met at a Montreal bar who recently purchased eight with the intention of US expansion.
  10. Most restaurants, including non-fast food, cook their burgers on flattops instead of grills. I noticed this on a few menus and could taste the distinct flavor in mine at a gourmet burger joint.
  11. It’s freakin’ expensive here. Even though the US dollar goes further, prices are high on average and then everything incurs a 13% tax.
  12. The shoulder months are not good for visiting. My friend warned me, but it wasn’t until I was there in April that I truly saw how wet and ugly everything was. I can imagine how beautiful it is in the winter and summer when the ground and trees are covered in snow or greenery, respectively. The other downfall was that a lot of things were closed in the off  season.

Verdict: I had a great trip and would definitely go back to Toronto. I absolutely loved that city! I’d give Montreal another chance, especially because Old Montreal is really cool. Ottawa is only worth a stop if you’re passing through to or from Montreal and Toronto.

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It’s been five years since I last posted new year’s resolutions on my blog. As such, it’s safe to assume I didn’t quite hold myself accountable to all of that year’s goals. So, this year’s first goal will to be (1) recommit to annually sharing my goals and making a valiant effort toward achieving them.

2) Blog at least 1x per week
3) Read 1 book or magazine per month
4) Find 1-3 more writing gigs
5) Run 2 miles per day (total 730 for the year)
6) Visit gramps at least 1x per week
7) Hike a 14er, ideally in CO
8) Snowboard somewhere new
9) Visit a new national park
10) Move to a new city
11) Start donating blood again
12) Find at least 2 more steady freelance gigs (or a FT remote job in journalism)
13) Finally close dad’s estate

“You’re so busy” is something I hear often. It’s also not uncommon for me to get a “boo” or sad face emoji when I have to turn down an invite. As long as I’ve been old enough to use a planner, I’ve had a busy schedule. And as long as I’ve been able to tell time, I’ve been squeezing every minute out of every hour.

Most of my close friends know this about me, so it can be mildly irritating when they give me a hard time for being so busy or not being available with fewer than 48 hours notice.

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel guilty, though. It’s a bummer when I miss fun activities or, worse, friends’ life events. But I’m both a planner and a woman of my word, and I also have a legit case of FOMO. So if I want to do something, I’m going to say “yes” to the first invite or I’m going to plan it myself. And once I’ve committed, I’m not going to flake. (Unfortunately some of friends are too comfortable with doing the latter.)

The last time I heard “you’re so busy” my friend then told me to “cancel things” so I wouldn’t be so busy. I was both humored and confused. Why would I want to cancel the things I had planned? It’s not as though these things appeared on my calendar without me knowing. Sure, it can get exhausting, but I took on all of these plans/trips/events/activities/etc. And again, I don’t bail.

So recently when I read an article about shifting the notion of being “busy” to that of being “focused,” I finally felt as though someone understood me. And I started feeling less guilty.

“When we describe ourselves as ‘busy,’ it takes away the intention behind our priorities. ‘Focus,’ on the other hand, puts us back in control of what we want and need to get done.”

A simple word makes the difference between a schedule filled with mundane tasks or meaningless activities and one filled with those that are important to me. My guilt and negative self-talk around being busy aren’t warranted. I need to remind myself that I’m focused on doing things that improve my life, and hopefully others’ around me along the way.

I haven’t yet used the approach when communicating with friends, but I’m hoping it’ll help them understand that my “busyness” is not only self-inflicted, but also purposeful.

“Reminding your friends why you’re so focused can help them better understand that you’ve chosen your schedule for a reason. You’re not just busy fulfilling other people’s demands—you’re working on something that’s important to you.”

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Now, at this point in my life, as I make some big life decisions and changes, my calendar is more packed and color coded than ever. I’m focused on accomplishing as much as I can in my last weeks at a company I’ve spent 7.5 years. I’m focused on getting the most I can out of a city I’ve lived for nearly 12. I’m focused on finding a new place to call home as I visit eight cities in three months. I’m focused on making my passion of writing become a full-time reality and sustainable livelihood.

“Put yourself in control of your schedule—in all its hectic glory—and know it’s packed with reason and meaning. It’ll lead to greater satisfaction and more motivation as you choose to keep hustling.”

When i think about what I’m focused on, it reminds me that my schedule is not full of meaningless tasks and activities. There is intention. This is what I have prioritized. I am in control of what I want to do.

It amazes me how intensely people debate on social media and how willing people are to berate friends over status updates and comments. But that’s what our society has become. People can easily hide behind their profiles and argue to the death without having to face their opponents – who may actually be their close friends. And gone are the days of sharing something without hearing an alternate opinion or even pissing someone off.

I was aware of all of this when I recently shared an article on Facebook, and I knowingly opened myself up to opinions and even ridicule by posting it. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t shocked by the level of attention (mostly negative) that it got.

Two weeks ago, a United Airlines passenger was yanked off a full flight that was preparing for takeoff to Louisville, Kentucky. He was the fourth of four passengers who were (mostly) randomly selected among the economy class to disembark and take the next day’s flight to accommodate four flight crew who needed to get to the destination to make a flight they were scheduled to work.

At face value it doesn’t seem right that paying customers were bumped to make room for staff, but ensuring these crew members arrived to the flight destination on time meant avoiding a potential chain reaction of delayed or even cancelled flights – and, thus, hundreds of inconvenienced, pissed off passengers.

I don’t know the procedure for when flight crew call in sick and can’t make it to work. But again, at face value, four fewer people for the connecting flight meant it wasn’t going anywhere.

So, back to the passenger.

When his unlucky seat number was chosen to take the next day’s flight, he decided he wasn’t moving. So much that a federal officer had to board the flight and remove him … or “reaccommodate” him as United CEO Oscar Munoz put it.

What happened at this point is what caused a social media uproar and frenzy of debates.

Because the passenger vehemently refused to leave his seat, holding tightly to his seat and screaming, the officer “had” – I put had in quotes because I don’t know enough about the law to know if that was standard protocol – to remove him. The passenger hadn’t committed a crime, but the situation quickly escalated to one that didn’t appear too different from someone resisting arrest.

In one of my comments of the many that populated my Facebook post, I likened his behavior to that of a toddler midtantrum, kicking and screaming. I immediately got called out for that. No, I guess I can’t confirm that he was kicking, but he was definitely screaming and resisting with all his might. It is this resistance that made it difficult for the officer to remove him and, ultimately, a contributing factor to his severe injury.

As he resisted and the officer pulled, the passenger ended up falling face-first into the armrest of the seat across the aisle. I think he broke his nose and lost some teeth in the fall.

Because this incident was captured on film, it immediately became a case study for social media mavens and novices alike to dissect. The majority were appalled by United’s behavior – understandably – but there were a decent number of people who demanded the law enforcement agency take some responsibility and an even smaller number who had opinions about the man’s behavior.

Without much to form an opinion on beyond the smartphone videos and initial reports – keep in mind that is all anyone not on the flight had to work with – I placed myself in all three of those aforementioned groups. And in that order as I slowly collected my thoughts on the shocking event.

First: Holy shit, is that how overbookings are handled?! I never want to fly United if that’s how they treat paying customers.

Second: Oh, that officer isn’t a United employee? So who’s crazy directive was he following to engage in such violent measures?

Third: Sure, getting bumped to a much later flight really sucks, but is that appropriate behavior for a grown-ass adult?

Everyone seemed to be shying away from that third point.

I couldn’t help but think about what I would do in this situation. Sure, I would be pissed, maybe throw some verbiage at the United agents, maybe shed a tear. Ok, probably both… in that order… and lots of tears. And United’s 1-800 number would probably hear a lot from me until I received what I considered to be reasonable remuneration for my inconvenience – and that’s after they accommodated me overnight and then on the next available flight.

But what I would also do is stand up and walk myself off the plane because that’s what a federal officer has asked me to do. Sure, I don’t mind breaking the law to stick it to a behemoth corporation (e.g. trying to sneak into Disney World as a late teen in defiance of its outrageous prices). But in a situation of this magnitude and that affects a large number of people, I’m going to obey the law – even if I’m not in the wrong.

I get it, the law is absurd. Actually, what is the law even? And to be honest, sometimes there isn’t even a law being enforced, as we’ve seen unfortunately in numerous recent police brutality cases.

But if a government officer with a badge and a gun is asking me to disembark the plane, I’m going to do it – just like this man and his family did when they found themselves in a similar situation with Delta shortly after the United incident. He stood his ground, stated his rights, complained, reminded the airline he had purchased the seat, even threw out some curse words, but ultimately he decided to get off the plane – and his wife seconded that decision.

Yes, it’s super shitty that airlines are allowed to overbook and then kick paying customers off. It’s even shittier that they can treat these customers like crap. It’s maddening that these companies get away with it and are rarely held accountable – just for an extra buck to pad their billions.

On a greater level, this is so wrong. And on a smaller level, in the Boeing 737 that was leaving Chicago that day, it was so wrong.

While I by no means think this man deserved the brutality he received – even though some of my friends seem to think I do merely because I posted an opinion that wasn’t aligned with the sympathetic majority – he’s earned the award for best dramatic performance in my book. And a gazillion dollars in an out-of-court settlement with United.

As appeared on NonDoc.com

At first, it was my friend’s all-caps, double-exclamation-mark Facebook post that motivated me to look closer at the article she was sharing. But then it was the headline that fully pulled me in: Society is creating a new crop of alpha women who are unable to love.

Finally, someone had defined the way I felt as an independent, strong (read: bossy) female who has been single exactly seven years this month.

Or so I assumed based on the title of the article.

The article was actually an excerpt from a book accompanied by a video clip from Fox News’ “Fox & Friends.” Author Suzanne Venker was being profiled for her controversial tome, The Alpha Female’s Guide to Men & Marriage, and its idea of the alpha female’s role in a relationship — or lack of, rather.

It’s that latter caveat to which Venker dedicates most of the video and excerpt. It’s also the part that didn’t sit well with me, especially considering I had clicked into an article that seemed to describe me so well in its 14-word headline. In the simplest sense, this woman was basically saying that women need to be the more submissive “betas” and allow men to have control as the natural “alphas.”

“The goal is to get one of each, but if [the female] is bringing alpha energy to the table, and he’s alpha by nature because he has all the testosterone, you’re going to be like two bulls in a China shop,” Venker explained in the Fox News spot. “If you want him to be the more feminine person in the relationship, I guess you could do that, but that usually doesn’t work for most people because women are naturally feminine.”

I immediately thought of all the testosterone-less men I’ve dated over the years, ones who were far from those she described as the norm. I also thought of all the stay-at-home dads that exist today in support of their wives’ career pursuits. While I agree that a relationship needs a balance of opposites, Venker seems convinced that the men are always the alpha and, thus, women can’t and even shouldn’t be.

Venker: Women need to revert to beta status

After women stopped being groomed to be wives and started being groomed to be leaders, which is what’s happening today, Venker says men controlled the relationship: from calling a girl and paying for a meal to even proposing. Although she still claims “almost all relationships start that way” — which seems part delusional and part storybook fantasy in this day and age — she says women soon shift to the alpha mode, which then confuses the men. At that point, problems arise, there is “a lot of contention” and “the relationship starts to deteriorate.” Venker saw this happen between her parents, her mother being the quintessential alpha wife.

“An alpha wife micromanages, delegates and makes most or even all of the decisions. She is, quite simply, the Boss.”

By the time I finished watching the spot and reading the excerpt, I was infuriated. Now I understood my Facebook friend’s all-capped comment with swear words and double exclamation points.

Was this woman living under a rock?! In what day and age do men always make the first call and pay for dates? And in what world are all men testosterone-filled? Does she truly believe, after all we’ve accomplished as women — ability to vote, work, earn executive titles — that women need to revert to being submissive and serving their husbands? It sure sounded like it.

Is my ‘alphaness’ actually the problem?

As much as I was infuriated about her portrayal of strong women and how we are the ones causing problems in relationships, I couldn’t help but think about how I’ve been single for so long and how many of my past relationships didn’t work out because I am so independent and set in my ways. I ended up with guys who saw something in me but ultimately couldn’t handle my need for space, time alone or with other friends (both female and male) and decision-making that didn’t involve them. One after another, I called each of the relationships off.

While I don’t buy into most of Venker’s wild assumptions, accusations and generalizations, I do wonder if my “alphaness” is making it difficult for me to find love. I understand that two alphas may find themselves butting heads, but why did my relationships fail when I often found myself with betas? We had the balance of masculine-feminine energies that Venker spoke of (but with me in the masculine role), yet each one ended sooner than the last.

And why was I ending up with this type in the first place, when their neediness so starkly contrasted my independence and what I wanted out of a significant other?

If I looked to Venker for the answer, she would say I need to get in touch with my feminine side, that I need to change.

“We’re constantly pointing fingers at the men, when we’re the ones who are actually the problem,” she said so matter-of-factly in the news spot. “If you exude positive, feminine energy, they’re very responsive. If you’re coming in with negativity, or hardness rather, they recoil; they don’t want it. The husband needs from the women softness instead of hardness, happiness instead of anger, more compliance and less dictatorial.”

So because I’m an independent, strong female, I’m a negative, hard, angry dictator. Well when you put it like, then I probably do need to change. No wonder my relationships don’t work out!

Search for balance continues

With all the author’s outrageous talk aside, I’ll admit I may actually struggle with embracing my feminine side. I rarely let a man help me or take care of me, I often shut down their compliments and I’m also quite competitive. I’ve always believed I can take care of myself, and I’d rather do things my way. I am one of those aforementioned females raised by an alpha mother to be a leader, not a wife.

So as I strive to be a leader and do things my way, do I knock down anything that comes in my path, including men who are interested in courting me? Venker quotes Jackie Kennedy in her book: “There are two kinds of women: those who want power in the world, and those who want power in bed.” Am I so focused on my personal power goals that I’m not making room in my life for a powerful relationship?

While I won’t be buying Venker’s self-help book, I appreciate the self-reflection it has incited. And as I put myself out there in the vicious world of dating — that to Venker’s likely surprise mainly involves texting rather than calling — I will definitely be more conscious of the energy I’m putting into a relationship.

So although I’m not going to change who I am for a man just because some deranged “culture critic” says to, I will more willingly contribute to the necessary balance in my future relationships.

Facebook friends shared my outrage after seeing the post on my news feed.

 

January 8, 2017

I’m sitting at the airport after my first flight, the first of two layovers and a stopover. Not the ideal flight itinerary considering how exhausted and sick I am. For the second time this trip, I’m sick with bronchitis. Fortunately – for that reason only – home is around the corner.

I land at LAX at 11:50 am tomorrow, Sunday, January 8. That’s four days later than my original flight itinerary, which had me leaving Rio on Wednesday and arriving to LAX that evening. A much better flight itinerary, yes, but it was too soon. I wasn’t ready to leave Rio, to end my trip, to head back to reality.

It would have meant only 3.5 days in Rio; I quickly learned that wasn’t enough to do and see everything in the incredible city. I’d originally booked four, which I knew wasn’t enough but was all I had “time” for. But when it came time to check in for my flight from Sao Paulo, where I think I had too many days, I realized that I had booked my flight to Rio for January 30 instead of December 30. A new flight – for $260 to $500 – wasn’t in my budget, so I booked an overnight bus. This meant I’d lost my evening and would be arriving to Rio a day later. I lost most if that day, too, because I’m one of few who can’t sleep in cars, buses or planes.

On top of that mishap, I also had a few days of bad luck trying to visit Christ the Redeemer due to weather and timing. So after just a couple days in the city, I knew I wanted to stay longer. Fortunately my flight was refundable and my boss was understanding. I got to see Christ the Redeemer and got some extra days at the beach – which are highly necessary for someone like me.

All that explanation was basically to say I wasn’t ready to head home. But now as I sit here at the airport, I wonder how ready I am now. Put aside the bronchitis and this dreadful flight itinerary ahead of me, and could I stay longer? Not necessarily in Rio, but in South America, on the road? Could I keep traveling? Am I ready to go back home?

I’m ready to do some laundry (my way) and wear some different clothes. I’m ready to sleep in my own bed and actually sleep in because I won’t have any noisy dorm mates or any sites to get up early for the next day. I’m ready to start working out again and eating better. (I’ve definitely put on some LBs during this trip – lots of carbs, booze and sweets.) I’m ready to pare down my spending and pay off the debt I’ve incurred. (Despite traveling by bus and staying at hostels at times, all the travel and food and activities are expensive. I don’t even want to try to tally up how much I’ve spent.)

But I’m not ready to go back to the real world, the reality where I have to work every day and re-accumulate vacation days and justify taking time off.

It’s this weird dichotomy, where I’m ready to have my routine back for the stability but I’m also not looking forward to the monotony and lack of daily adventure in a routine . I also have no problems with my job; I love the company, my boss is great and I’m freshly in a new position. It’s more that I’m dreading work itself. People spend so many hours, days, years of their lives working, and some people never even get to see the fruits of their labors.

I’ve traveled quite a bit, but this trip has only confirmed how much this world has to offer. There is so much to see and do, and I’ve only experienced a small portion. Heck, some people have never left their hometowns or crossed their state lines. While that will never be a reality for me, I hate to think that I’m headed back into a daily routine that involves working in an office eight hours a day. I haven’t lived that life in 64 days! Going back is going to be quite an adjustment, and I foresee myself struggling for motivation in the early days.

I’m not looking for sympathy or a pity party. And I definitely don’t want my boss to question letting me take this trip in the first place. I just don’t know how long it will take before I’m “ready” to be back. By the time I’m ready, I’ll probably have already planned my next trip 😉

Disclaimer: I recognize that I’ve slacked in my blogging. I’ll admit I slowed down, but I do have some posts to put up from the past few weeks that are saved elsewhere. I’ll also add some photos to previous blogs. In the meantime, I’ve added all photos to my open Google album here: https://goo.gl/photos/Q9CEN7Vmi4UcFFoU8

P.S.  Thanks for reading!

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December 25, 2016

As long as I can remember I swore I would never miss a Christmas with my family at home in Colorado.

But, here I am, at a hostel in Sao Paulo, Brazil, after a long day of traveling from Iguazu Falls. It’s Christmas Day.

When I was a kid, the thought of being away from my family on Christmas never crossed my mind because I was obviously living at home. But even when I went out of state for four years of college and then moved to California for a job, I knew I’d always be going home for the holidays. And even when i had a serious boyfriend of 2.5 years, there was still no question that I would be with my family at Christmastime.

I grew up with a tradition of celebrating on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Christmas Eve was what my siblings and I looked forward to the most because it meant “party hopping” until church, finger foods and snacks for dinner, presents!, staying up late and slumber party at grams and gramps’ house. We even got to open presents from Santa that night. Christmas day meant sleeping in, playing with the toys we received, a proper christmas “dinner” at 2ish and board games into the evening.

Our tradition was largely built from the fact that my dad didn’t have living parents to spend the holiday with and my mom’s only married sibling devoted Christmas Day to his in laws. Our annual tradition just worked for our small family, and us kids loved it. I never wanted it to change.

But as is often the case, things started to change. One year in high school, my dad proposed that we start going to the 5:00 service instead of our normal 7:00. We had pared down the number of friends we visited before church and my new cousins (from the married uncle) didnt need to be up late the night before going to visit the other side of the family. It just made sense to go  to church earlier. I, on the other hand, was livid. I can’t honestly tell you why, though, aside from the fact that it was change. It disrupted our beloved annual tradition. “Thats not how we do it,” I cried. I probably even told my dad i hated him.

I eventually got over it, but I still blamed my dad for ruining Christmas that year.  Meanwhile, everyone else (i.e. the adults) was very happy with the change.

20161218_195348In college, Christmas changed because my dad had started drinking (though we didnt know it at first). I came home for the holidays a couple years to someone who was not my dad: he was acting weird, being especially argumentative, experiencing odd health issues and even falling. I remember calling my boyfriend and crying to him that dad had ruined Christmas again.

Dad was in and out of the picture at Christmas in the decade following as he often opted for the bottle over his family. During his sober stints, grams would invite him to join, but it was incredibly awkward. We all refrained from drinking, which had become part of the tradition as we all came of age, and we watched his every move to make sure he wasn’t sneaking alcohol from my grandpa’s well-stocked  cupboard in the kitchen.

After moving to California, I still looked forward to going home for Christmas, even when I had zero vacation days having started a new job just two months earlier. I bought an overpriced plane ticket and went home for a long weekend.

Not too long after that, though, drama in other corners of the family started boiling over. My mom, her siblings and the wife who married in would go through bouts of fighting, jealousy and shit-talking behind backs. At one point my aunt in law didn’t like our family (maybe she still doesn’t). Then my blood aunt started getting sickly jealous of my mom. And all the while mental problems plagued at least two of them.

I know every family has its disfunction, but ours has gotten bad and the sibling drama has really started affecting the rest of the family.

Last year, was the first time I was confronted with the idea of not spending Christmas with the whole family. My sister and brother brought it up in a group text message. I immediately felt the same way I had 15 years early when my dad proposed changing Christmas. I hated that they were putting me in this position. I didnt want anything to change. As my eyes welled up, I shot them down and then excused myself from the conversation.

Later my mom brought it up, sensitively proposing that we try something different. I wasn’t happy about it, but finally accepted that I was outnumbered and it didn’t make sense to force people to be with each other on Christmas when they didn’t want to be. I reached out to my friend whose family has an annual party on the 24th and invited myself there. I told her the family might be in tow.

In the days before Christmas Eve I ended up finding out through a sibling that my mom had chickened out on her own plans to skip the annual Christmas tradition and would actually be there Christmas Eve. What’s more, it had been communicated to everyone, including the grandparents and cousins I adore, that “Lindsay won’t be here for Christmas because she’s going to a party.”

Once again, I was livid at Christmastime. I didn’t want to change plans to begin with but felt cornered and had decided it was for the greater good.

In the end I went to my party, with siblings in tow, and recorded that as the first Christmas (Eve) that I wasn’t with my (whole) family.

Looking back, maybe that was the transition away from my beloved holiday tradition that I needed considering I didn’t spend Christmas Eve or Day with my family this year. Or maybe I subconsciously planned my international sabbatical over the holidays on purpose because of how unconfortable and drama-filled Christmas had become.

Aside from missing my family, I’m not too bummed to have missed being home for the holidays. The fam went back to the tradition and all the aunts and uncles were pleasant in my brief FaceTime chats with them on Christmas Eve. It all seemed to go off without a hitch this year, which I’m sure makes my stressed grandma happy. She had all her family under one roof for the holidays again, except me.1482628068508

Last night I was at a hostel in Foz de Iguazu (my first night in Brazil). It’s summer, so I was dripping sweat in the under-air conditioned lounge. I had walked to the main part of town and treated myself to a steak dinner and bottle of wine. Other Christmas Eve dinner options included sushi or Pizza Hut.

This morning I visited the Brazilian side of Iguazu Halls. I had toured the Argentinian side yesterday, but today’s views were equally magnificent.

There were a lot of people there – away from their families for the holiday – and the summery, tropical weather did not evoke any wintry, festive feelings. It did not feel like Christmas. In fact, it hasn’t really felt like Christmas at all this year.

I have been traveling for nearly two months and have hardly seen any holiday decorations. No houses were decked in lights, no stores appeared to be having holiday specials and Christmas music was nowhere to be heard. The exception was a fancy malls in Buenos Aires. A three-story tree sponsored by Carolina Herrera stood in the middle surrounded by other decorations and a “picture with Santa” station. These were the only indication that Christmas was around the corner.

It was good to be reminded that it’s Christmastime and experience a little festivity, but it also reminded me that it was all I had this year. Yeah, it rarely feels like Christmas in warm SoCal, but I always had my family and snowy Colorado to go home to.

This year, Christmas was a Spanish-speaking Santa at the mall, a Brazilian steak dinner by myself, a day-trip to the amazing Iguazu Falls and a FaceTime chat with my family. Sure it’s not the Christmas I imagined as a kid and it’s far from the tradition that I tried to hold onto so tightly, but it’s a Christmas I’ll remember and cherish forever. I’ll probably never have another Christmas like it.

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