As we get ready to greet the Fall season, where leaves begin to turn red, orange and yellow and every restaurant and coffee house has a pumpkin flavored something, I reflect on what has been the most amazing Summer of my life (thus far).
Let me tell you about my life motto. "Do what you love and never work a day in your life." That's it! But it comes with a price... You have to work hard to get to that point. Over the past five years and then some, I have been able to learn about the beautiful art of photography. Precisely five years ago, I packed my bags and got on a plane with a one way ticket from San Juan, Puerto Rico to San Francisco. I knew life was going to change but I didn't know the extent of said change. As usual, you have ups and downs and everything that comes with being a grad student, moving to another country, meeting new people and having a four to five hour time difference (depending on the time of the year) between you and your family, in order to follow your dreams. My goal has been simple and I think it's been the same for as long as I can remember: do what you love and live a meaningful life. Somedays I honestly feel that I am terrible at it but others, I feel the need to pad myself on the shoulders and say to myself "Nice work!. Now keep moving!" Well, so far I have been able to do all things related to my fields of study- film, graphic design and the love of my life, photography. I've always wanted to be able to travel for "work" purposes. And I have been able to do so for the past six years. My travels have been either from Puerto Rico to the United States and within the USS. It was not until this Summer that I received the amazing opportunity to pack my bags and fly to beautiful and amazing Panama. It was my first time travel abroad for work purposes, my first time being abroad for the longest period of time. (I've travels several times to Europe and once to South America) and the first time actually visiting Panama. (I would not count a two hour layover at Tocumen airport hardly a visit).
My job throughout five weeks was to teach photography. I mean, not only am I getting the chance to photograph this beautiful country, but I get to teach a younger generation all about the basics of photography. JACKPOT! Seriously, my Summer was really amazing. And between all the patacones (friend plantains), the black beans, the coconut rice, the mango juice... please let's take a quick moment for the mango juice .... the fresh fruit every.single.day, the oh-so-yummy-avocados and the ice cream (because why not) I even lost 9 lbs! (woot, woot!).
Let me tell you why it was an amazing summer. I hiked a beautiful trail where I saw several of the second more rarest bird in the world: the Quetzal, I saw a tree that survived two volcanic erruptions, I faced my fear of highs TWICE and ziplined across the Valley where the longest line was 500 meters long (to give you an idea, the Eiffel Tower is about 300 meters...) to white water rafting, to meeting a really beautiful group of children from two different indigenous communities, to snorkling with sea turtles and literally stumbling upon a sea turtles nest, to watching a sea turtle nest, touching her and then biding her farewell right at midnight (which is why we ended up calling her Cinderella) to swimming at night in open waters (twice) to also getting stuck in open waters (not so awesome I admit) to being able to make new friends, to explore a beautiful country and learn more about its people, its customs and traditions. To seeing a family of humpback whales just 20 feet away from our boat. To finding myself crying tears of joy for being so overwhelmed by the moment I was living.
This was my summer. And yes, I was working while doing all of that. Here's the thing, you can do the things you love, but you have to put in the effort to be able to do them on a daily basis.
Five years ago I moved out of my country to start a new life in a brand new place. Five years ago, I didn't even know of the existence of Durham, NC. I only hope that five years from now, I have many more adventures and stories to share with you. Until then, I will say that I am grateful for the adventures thus far and am looking forward to what's ahead.
I hope you all had an amazing Summer and don't forget, work smart and play hard.