"Where should we go today?" I asked the girl whose knees make a cameo in the above photo.
She brought her lips together, thinking hard. "Mmmm, let's go to the beach. But if it's storming, let's not. But maybe it won't storm. We can see if it's going to storm?"
"Exploring it is," I said. We had come all this way—might as well.
For seven days, we were Colombians. We got lost in the city streets of Bogota, and walked our naked toes along the coral in the ocean. We sat in tiny cafes drinking fresh guanoabana juice while hiding from the rain, pulling our chairs further inside to safety. We ate ceviche and I tried to order more guacamole in Spanish, which she would correct for the waiter, prompting a nod and a smile that said yes, I think I understand. We saw candy cane churches, the exterior a swirling red and white pattern from bottom to top, and we apologized to the guards who told us we could not take pictures of the Capitolio Nacional. We took a cable car up to the top of Monserrate, the mountain that overlooks the vastness that is Bogota, and we spent hours swishing our hands in the warm water of Playa Blanca.
With each experience, she smiled with nostalgia, and at the same time introduced me to her old friend: home.
This was my first time in Colombia.
One of the greatest challenges I have faced as a writer is remembering the value of not-doing. In fact, catch me in a quiet moment and I will tell you that writing, true writing, has very little to do with "doing," and far more to do with "allowing."
Ideas, good ones at least, cannot be demanded to work.
They are like children. All you can do is bring them to the park and let them run around. They will bring their grandest discoveries back to you. Trust.
It didn't hit me until we were lying beside the rooftop pool of our hotel in Cartagena that it has been almost five years since I have taken a vacation in a warm climate. I went to Europe at the start of the year, but it was rainy and cold the entire time, and we did a lot more sightseeing than we did relaxing.
In Colombia, we saw a lot. But we also relaxed. We kicked our feet up in hammocks and watched the clouds pass through the mountains. We walked up and down the beach, climbing rocks to find a better view of the endless horizon. And I became aware of how long it has been since letting go of the constant need to "do."
I felt like I was seeing the world through new eyes again.
This is the value of travel. This is also the value of stepping away. Productivity, goal-setting, awareness of what you need to get done today so that you can move forward tomorrow, all these things are essential for long-term growth and ultimately "success."
But there is a different kind of success that comes with exploration.
The kind that only asks one thing of you:
Also, I have been doing daily mini vlogs on Instagram Stories, if you want to see more of the day to day.
Now, here's all the content you missed:
What I'm Currently Reading
So, this was definitely an impulse buy at the bookstore a month ago. I just cracked it open, and I'm hooked. The Best American Short Stories 2016.
I never really got into short stories when I was studying creative writing in college—I'm not sure why. Maybe I just wasn't ready for the form yet. Either way, I'm on board now, and a big reason why is because of how much movement is packed into a handful of pages.
Short stories don't waste any time. (I also find reading fiction, in particular, to be extremely colorful, and I find my own writing is far more descriptive and immersive when I am reading stories.)
Well, I'm moving to LA at the end of July (if you didn't already catch that on Instagram). I'm heading out there next week to look at spots.
But before that, I'll be in New York this Thursday for the Quora Top Writer meet up—which I'm really excited for. There are going to be a few editors from major publications there as well, so that will be cool.
I have been getting a lot of requests to start doing more vlogs, and to make my YouTube channel actually active. I'll be completely honest, I think of all the platforms out there, I'm the least knowledgable about YouTube and what makes a vlog compelling (I'm a writer, remember).
If anyone has any suggestions, good resources to check out, or even just things you'd like to see me vlog and talk about, PLEASE share. Comment here. Tweet me. Instagram me. Pigeon mail me. Whatever works for you.