The Gifts of Mindfulness, Perspective and Science

Three weeks ago, I spent a weekend alone in Portugal. Following, I visited Amsterdam (S/O to my good friend for his extra ticket) and hiked Croagh Patrick on the Northwest coast of Ireland. All the while, I also always found time to enjoy Cork. As I wrote about in my last post, each place was completely different, yet there are undoubtedly common threads connecting each. Specifically, during the past few weeks, I have been considering three recurring themes: mindfulness, perspective and science.

Portugal was supposed to be a trip oriented around hiking the Algarve Coast and enjoying their famous beaches. Because it was a solo trip, I also intended for it to be an opportunity to grow in my social skills. Though it was incredible to spend time outside in 85 degree weather, and socializing with strangers became significantly easier, the highlights of the trip ended up being far more complicated than originally intended.

I ended the weekend fascinated by the ways the cliffs had evolved, disturbed by the coast’s dark history in the slave trade and contemplative about the best way to travel (literally through different counties, and figuratively through life).

In case geology is of any interest to you, the horizontal lines arose from the the the minerals in the water interacting with the limestone as the current dragged.
Ugh, I just love staring at the indents and caves created from the crashing sea! An amazing 15 mile hike, I’d say!
Who knew that Lagos was one of the first slave trading ports in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade? Henry the Great from the age of conquest sits in the middle of Lagos. His presence and the way he is still honored in this city added a dark, ominous shadow.
The stunning water transforms when you realize it was through this same body that people were dragged unwillingly to live an enslaved life, separated from their loved ones.

One of the most poignant moments in Portugal happened as I socialized with a New Zealander (named Eliot) who had hitchhiked Afghanistan-Iran-Georgia-across Northern continental Europe-down Western Europe to Portugal. Not only did he avoid public transportation, but he also only stayed in a hostel for two nights during his year of travels. His stories were incredible, and his social skills were impeccable. What fascinated me the most though was the idea of him drifting from country to country without a set plan of when he would arrive to the next destination, how long he would stay or what he would during his time there. Moreover, the fact that it was all dependent on human connection and relationships was even more enticing. When I asked him what was next and he replied: “I have no idea. New Zealand has nothing for me, so I’m just waiting for something to fall into place”. Never had I met a 28 year old more content with not having a long-term plan!

This conversation triggered a broader philosophical dialogue in my head. One that considers the rhythms of connecting with people, new cities and environments. How could I connect more deeply with each? What knowledge do I need to gain? What personal and/or societal norms limit the depth of my connections?

Mindfulness, perspective and science consumed my mind as I tackled these questions. I’ve come to understand that it is through mindfulness that we are able to understand our innermost emotions – what distracts us day to day. Mindfulness reveals the ways that we limit ourselves because of societal norms. It reveals the emotional pains that preoccupy our mind. Perspective allows us to dissect these emotions by pushing us to consider them more broadly. It gives an individual moment context marked by history and its connection with the modern world. It further reiterates the ways we are interconnected with countries near and far. And then there is science. A discipline that has incited fear in me for over a decade is ironically what consumes my mind the most nowadays. Evolution, hydrology, ecology, geography, geology, astronomy, the anatomy of the body, the psychology of the brain – science provides tangible knowledge about the connections we make in a way that allows us to understand them better.

Stop to smell the flowers!
From a taxidermy art exhibit in Amsterdam- disturbing, yet it makes you think doesn’t it?
Just consider it…
Coragh Patrick – the mountain some consider to be the Irish Pilgrimage. On St. Patrick’s day, people climb this barefoot or on their hands and knees. All I’m saying is…. the climb was challenging in hiking boots….
My attempt to capture the steepness of the worst part of the climb! Now imagine doing that barefoot or on your hands and knees…..
Between the views and the simple church, I swear the top was capable of making an atheist consider religion.
Saint Patrick’s bed where offerings are made at the top of the hike… also where I made my first offering to a Saint 🙂

Spending days considering connection is a funny thing. My whole life has been oriented around getting better and moving up in society. Though I have never had a long term plan per se, due to social pressures, I have certainly drafted ideas about what I would like my life to become in the future. I am certainly not ready to scratch those ideas, yet these moments of connection truly do push me to consider what living a more horizontal life oriented around connection would look like long-term. How will it shape my life on an upward-onward college campus? How will it fit and/or transform my career aspirations?

I still have 7 more months abroad. I am satisfied realizing the ways the best side of me from home reveals itself here, overseas. I am enlivened when I gain new insights here, and am excited thinking about the ways my expanded mind will continue to evolve as I travel more and once I return home.

Some Banksy anti-consumerism artwork seems fitting right about now!
As well as some very politically charged Banksy work!

Not mentioned in this post up until now: the scabies infestation I brought back to Cork from a hostel, as well as the many memorable days wandering Cork City and nights lounging in a pub with live music. Fear not though, pictures are below, as well as more pictures from my travels!

S/O to my roommates who did not complain once about having to wash everything they own or about having to sit in scabies ointment for 12 hours!

From Jazz Fest weekend in Cork! Goooood vibessssss!

Just in case you would like to experience more Jazz Fest!

Will 100% miss these Sunday nights!

A secret cave with a rope attached…. cooooooooooooooooolllllll.


Aloe lines the beaches of Portugal! Sad part is that even the aloe is having a difficult time surviving right now because of Portugal’s extreme drought.
The berries that are used to produce Lagos’ infamous 65% proof vodka., Fire Water!
Once again, just consider it!
Disturbing, yet utterly intriguing… am I right?
If you’re anything like me, there is nothing quite as compelling as a politically charged Banksy!
Are you compelled yet?
When you stumble upon a houseboat filled with cats that’s actually a cat sanctuary…. ok Amsterdam!
Joe and Brooke weren’t nearly as amused by the ~innovative~ shoe store I dragged them into… but seriously… if only you could see how incredible these 600 euro shoes were!
Ugh, Ireland!!!!!!
Sunset in Donegal… Ireland is truly a beaut!

Considering the Language of the World

Between traveling Ireland with close friends, city-hopping across Italy and adventuring Iceland, I felt troubled trying to find the words to express the past three weeks. To condense completely different experiences into one post for the sake of maintaining a chronological timeline of my time abroad originally felt the same as diminishing each experience to its simplest form. That said, discombobulated, surreal, completely unrelated experiences are the perfect words to explain the past three weeks. Though I strive to focus on the present moment, I am finding that when life moves this fast, I tend to come to new understandings about the experiences of last week when contemplating a landscape in a completely different country.


My past three weeks began in Ireland, on a Ring of Kerry trip around the Western peninsula of Ireland. I was surrounded by good friends and also had on hand Paul Kalanithi’s book, When Breath Becomes Air, and  Maya Angelou’s audiotape,  Letter to my Daughter. These books in correspondence with the surreal landscapes and the comfort of my friends around me triggered a conversation in my head about the purpose of travelling.

~don’t mess up my feng shui~
I’d live here!
Yes, that is sun shining in Ireland!

The weekend touring the west coast of Ireland was filled with a range of moments – some utterly hilarious, others deeply contemplative. I returned to my apartment in Cork feeling closer to my friends, a deeper love for my new home in Ireland and captivated by the worldly perspectives I had gained through Kalanithi and Angelou. 

Four days later, in Italy, I experienced pure magnificence in a completely different light. Between picturesque architecture lining the streets of Florence, the charming canals in Venice that replace hustling streets, the warmth of Lake Garda as the sun beats on your shoulders, and the picture-perfect Tuscan vineyards – each day was a fantasy full of bliss and an overwhelming sense of peacefulness.

From the top of the Duomo in Florence — ooooo Firenze!
Gondola-ing down a Venice canal 🙂
Seriously though… these streets are impossible to navigate!
Crystal clear lake with rocky mountains behind — Lake Garda is niceeeee
Are Chianti views or Chianti wine better?!?!! LMK!

I, without a doubt, had the time of my life; however, by the end, I could not help but feel a sense of uneasiness. I was drawn back to earlier introspection when I considered what the point of travelling is. I am so fortunate to have opportunities such as this one, but I struggled to conceptualize what it means long term.

Traveling and considering existential questions is undoubtedly outside of my comfort zone. A year ago, I was focused on everything happening around me. National politics as well as the ways oppressive systems revealed themselves on Holy Cross’ campus consumed me. Agitation turned to passion and I became obsessed with understanding race, class and gender norms, constantly feeling inspired to do more.


Though I am still the first to talk politics at dinner as well as the first to bring up American race relations while out at a pub, I am realizing that to sufficiently understand the world, I have to venture outside of my mental comfort zone. Being present in my travels calls for me to separate from the “known” back home.

In some ways, this separation is liberating; financial anxieties seem more trivial than ever.  In other ways, I am intimidated and uncomfortable by the unfamiliarity and seemingly endless depth of my new explorations. It seems that each time I reach a new understanding about the purpose of traveling and it’s connection with the greater meaning of life, I simultaneously feel a wave of discomfort as I realize the depth of this exploration.

This past weekend in Iceland, I reached new ground. I felt a sense of comfort as I realized that the most beautiful places, people and ideas in this world all seem to hold a common thread. In Iceland, I witnessed the most dazzling, dreamlike views I could have ever imagined. The surging waterfalls, the black sand beaches contrasting with pieces of an ice-burg, the perfectly clear night sky with stars that could pierce a soul, the steam rising out of the ground on a 35 degree day, the powerful mountains standing next to a crashing ocean – it was hard not to be left speechless. 

Goosebumps, right?!
More goosebumps… am I right?!
Thermo-temps on a freezing cold day though….
Yes, that is all steam, and yes it was very cold outside!
Yes, those are pieces of an iceberg!
What did I tell you?!

My breath was consistently stolen by the Icelandic views, yet I realized that the core of what  I felt was not much different from breathing in the aroma of fresh vineyards, stargazing with close friends in Ireland or conversing with a stranger about a world without prejudice for 3 hours. The questions dawned on me: Are these moments even much different from stargazing at home with my little sister? Or passionate discussions about community organizing on the Holy Cross campus? Though each moment is completely different in nature, I realized that there is undoubtedly a common thread between the world’s most beautiful sights and other day to day interactions. For the first time, I appreciate that it is through these moments, in completely different countries, with completely different people, that the world offers clarity about God, about ourselves, about the meaning of life and about love. What this means going forward… I am not sure. For now though, this glimpse of clarity provides something to cling onto as I venture into foreign countries, and push myself to consider abstract ideas.  

On that note, enjoy more beautiful pictures below!!

Making friends!!


(That’s my happy face)
Very tired but had to force a smile for the scenery!


After 2 full days of driving around as a group, Joe and I only yelled at each other once 🙂 Enjoy the sunset!!
A hot river awaited us at the top of our morning hike!