I'm a month way from turning 23 and my travel series: Becoming 23 is not going as planned.
At the start of 2019, I had dates and locations tucked away for what I thought was going to be a life-changing docu-series on my life, however, a different series has molded my 22nd journey around the sun.
ADULTIN' Series has been a project that I've been working on for the past year, and while it has been the biggest blessing, it has simultaneously been a giant pain in my ass.
I am fortunate enough to be blessed with co-creators, or sisters, to tread these waters with, but that does not make this whole thing less hard. While Malique and Paulette carry 66% of the weight of this project collectively, we were all 100% tired.
Between working in corporate, running this series and ACTUALLY adulting, my mind, body, and soul were (literally) crying for some well-deserved rest and relaxation.
Earlier this year, my lovely friend Jaeda inquired about going on a girls cruise with other hard-working women who deserve a break. At the time, I was anticipating traveling all year for Becoming 23, so of course I had to add this to my list.
This was my opportunity to connect on a deeper level with a friend while experiencing my very first cruise - and I can pay monthly! What a concept!
In the time that I agreed to go on the trip and the trip actually taking place, I crowdfunded $12,000 for our web-series, wrote episodes, directed a few, casted, edited, costume designed, had photoshoots, created social media promotions, devised social strategy, employed a team and a whole bunch of other tiny details no one tells you about when you want to be a producer. Not to mention I was doing all of this for the first time in my life while working at Viacom 5 days a week for 40+ hours! What an even larger concept!
The craziest concept of them all is that I didn't think I needed a break. As the time got closer to purchase my plane ticket to Miami to go on the cruise, I was beginning to fill myself with doubt.
"My bosses will need me at work, I can't go"
"I can't afford the plane ticket, I can't go"
"I won't get paid while I'm away, I can't go"
I called Jaeda, probably a month away from the trip, in complete honesty and told her: "I can't go".
Her response, in short, was: "Well you're going. See you on the 26th."
So I went.
What was I worried about? I made up a million excuses about why I felt I didn't deserve a break, when in all actuality, it was precisely what the doctor ordered.
Not only was I blessed with the fabulous company that was Jaeda and Evana, I was on a boat with limited access to the internet.
Meaning limited access to work.
Meaning limited access to meetings and calls.
Meaning limited access to the anxiety filled feeling of being needed by any person at any moment.
If there was anything I needed, it was zip lining in Jamaica and laying on the beach in Grand Cayman for hours.
What's interesting about the cruise is that I wasn't particularly pressed to visit either island. This could be due to my extremely high standards after living on the beautiful island of St. Croix for majority of my life, but who knows.
I was pleasantly surprised with what both islands had to offer in the little time I spent there and I'm very grateful for the experience.
While the cruise was fabulous, I realized that being on a boat for a week is cool, but I like to deep dive when I get to a new place and you can't really do that on a cruise. It's a very temporary experience that feels like forever.
Maybe it won't be my last cruise for real. I may need another one of these when I just want to escape, but hopefully it won't be during the middle of a hurricane.
After the cruise, my mind felt totally at peace, like the ocean. I was able to jump start a new routine. One that promotes healthy habits, affirmations and flossing every night. This restart has me prepared to tackle all of the work I plan to get myself into.
I also learned that I need to pace myself. This journey is truly a marathon and I can't get the longevity I desire if I burn out in the first half!
I realized that I am creative, but, in order for me to be the highest version of my creative self, I need to give my body what it needs. And sometimes that's in the form of my phone being off, sand in my braids, sun on my skin and tequila at 10 AM.
Vacation is over and I am back to work. Like, work-work. Work that requires me to clock in at 10 PM.
This post is a reflection of that. I hope that you all take some time for yourself and remember that even though we have to work all summer, we still deserve a vacation.
+ My absolute thoughts and prayers are with those affected by Hurricane Dorian - especially those living in the Bahamas. Relief is on the way.
"I am not America's nightmare, I am the American Dream" Grammy nominated and my total icon Janelle Monáe states on her track: Crazy, Classic, Life.
I have always had a crazy, classic, life, but never felt comfortable sharing it with others or living totally in my truth and as of lately I've been stepping closer and closer into the light. In doing so, I've been doing more of what I want to do - like travelling.
This trip came together in the most unique way. After knowing nothing about Utah for 22 years of my life, other than the fact that it was a state, my best friend, Kinoia, gets selected to attend a leadership conference (Go Kin!) in Salt Lake City in November of 2018. The mention of Utah planted a seed in my mind in that I realized that I do not think about Utah - at all.
I wished her luck on her trip and asked her to send photos.
A few weeks later I was on set as a Production Assistant for a comedy sketch with Denied From New York. While introducing myself to the crew, I learned that the director, Maria, was from Salt Lake City, Utah.
Cool. My best friend just went there.
A few weeks after that I was freelancing at the Deadspin Awards, where I met another freelance videographer. As we were setting up our cameras, I asked her where she was from.
Salt Lake City, Utah. Okay Utah, I see you.
I was shook, but didn't take it seriously. Somewhere in December, I sat on FaceTime with my darling, and only photographer I trust to shoot me, Sharimar, and fantasized about a life where we could work freely and have no worries. A life without stress or troubles. One where we could pick up and go skiing for no reason. Get a cabin, have an outdoor jacuzzi, drink wine, etc.
As we dove into our little fantasy trip, I received a Snapchat notification from my ultimate friend, Trevor. Trevor is a 23 year old pilot who simultaneously inspires and taunts me with his everyday travels to various islands, states and countries throughout the week. This time, he sent me a photo of his itinerary to Utah. To go skiing.
Shar, I need to call you back.
I called Trevor immediately and asked him when he planned to go and it just so happened that it was the weekend before I was supposed to go on a previously scheduled trip to St. Croix (We'll get into that at a later time).
This was a sign. So I opened my Jetblue app and purchased a one way return ticket from Utah to NYC with my TrueBlue points (I had 12,000 pts. and it was an 8,000 pt. trip).
So now I have to go.
Trevor had booked this vacation with his boys, leaving me to hurriedly try to round up a group of girls to come with me too. It was last minute, I had no research to give to people, and skiing is expensive.
The trip resulted in myself and my girl Jamie (Also referred to as Coy - who was the best at helping me record and a total fashion icon!) heading to Utah from Feb. 8 - Feb 12.
From there we got a hotel at the Zermatt Utah Resort & Spa. I LOVED them. Everything was absolutely fabulous from the customer service, to the food at Wildfire Smokehaus, to the spa, to the pool, to the OUTDOOR HOT TUB I FANTASIZED ABOUT.
Coy and I had a blast. We got a chance to develop our friendship, define our womanhood, clear our heads, go to the spa, get massages, rant, ski, drink, eat - everything. This was such a well needed trip and allowed for ample growth.
Skiing in it of itself is an expensive sport. I had to pay for rental equipment, a lift ticket, gloves, a rental locker, and more. Shoutout to Sharimar for styling me in my Columbia coat and Oakley shades, and my girl Mabel who loaned me some well-needed ski pants.
I only skied one day and opted out of taking a lesson because - expensive. Everybody in Utah is nice as hell. The nicest people on the planet. I was in disbelief. Random strangers helped me in so many ways. Every time I fell, there was someone willing to help me up. When I was unable to slow down, or figure out how to stop, thus resulting in me clumsily bumping into everyone, people were there to prop me up and say "it's okay".
There were endless words of encouragement on that mountain - and in the state in general. I received so many compliments on my hair, my clothes (The 'You look like you're from New York' tickled me every time), and more.
The nicest state on the planet.
No lie, I had no clue what Utah was like, I feared the people might be racist because that's the perception of the Midwest that I had.
This trip to Utah opened my mind all the way up to the dynamics of society - especially as it relates to the United States and how I'm defining my role within it as a young, Black, woman from the U.S Virgin Islands, with two college degrees, a job, the ability to be resourceful and a strong desire to travel.
I am modern day America. Literally what my ancestors prayed for. An American. This is America.
And that's amazing.
I made friends on every leg of this trip and developed the friendships I already had with Jamie and Trevor.
Utah 2019 was an ever blessed trip and I'm so grateful for this experience.
Better late than never, right?
I posted this video of my solo journey to Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico a few months ago and I did not expect the amount of responses I got from people saying they were inspired and wanted to travel solo too!
I was 8 days away from turning 22 years old and I felt like I had accomplished so much, but had no way to successfully celebrate myself in a way that would be within my budget and left me feeling fulfilled.
My birthdays are usually not my favorite. I, personally, enjoy celebrating my birth, however, I always expect the people around me to share that same enthusiasm and they always let me down. So, instead of unrealistically waiting around for friends and family to surprise me with dinner and shower me with gifts, I took it upon myself to do something that could accurately convey just how much I enjoy being alive.
Traveling to Mexico by yourself is feared by many considering the current political climate here in the U.S. and in Mexico. There's also the reality of drugs, cartels, kidnapping, earthquakes, etc.
I said fuck it and went anyway.
When you are 8 days away from turning 22, transferring money from your savings to checking is a hard, but necessary, task at times and it's exactly what I did to go on this trip. I knew I'd be getting paid soon so I just had to save more money from the upcoming check to pay myself back.
JetBlue Vacations had a roundtrip flight + hotel deal for $540, which was honestly a gift from the Universe.
From there, my only expenses were transportation, food and excursions. I spent roughly 700-800 U.S. dollars.
And it was worth it.
While I was in Mexico, I visited Tulum where I rode an ATV through the jungle, visited Cenotes (underground sinkholes - very beautiful works of art), ate Mole for the first time (Which I only knew existed after reading Reyna Grande's memoir and it is AMAZING), got a massage, received free wine, had tiny fish nibble on my toes, swam on the rooftop pool of my hotel and drank tequila (despite my mother's incessant warning to NOT drink the tequila).
It was an amazing trip.
Mexico really wanted me there and I came back to America 22 years old and an official solo traveller. After that experience I felt prepared to do whatever it is that I want to do and go wherever I want to go for the rest of my life.
Traveling is something I had always seen myself doing, but never thought I'd have the finances to do so. I've since realized that traveling is possible and I will share those journeys here.