Internet has the power to make beautiful things happen.
You can feel all alone, checking your emails or your latest twitter mentions, without a single interaction, when all of a sudden, out of the blue, something totally unexpected happens.
Lately, as I was tweeting about ‘The Musician Samurai Code’, trying to promote its forthcoming release, I had the chance and honor to unexpectedily meet with Cristina Luisa – traveler, writer and dreamer – as she defines herself.
Since then, we talked a lot and I soon realized that, in its own way, she’s started her own Samurai’s path. She broke some conformity rules, she faces herself on a daily basis and takes risks so to live the life she’s been dreaming of for a lifetime; without complaining about the probable consequences of an uncommon way of living.
A true Lady Samurai attitude. No question about it.
Consequently I decided to give her the opportunity to tell us about her blog, the people she meets, her past life, her dreams, her choices and exciting forthcoming projects.
I really hope you’ll enjoy meeting with this passionate and wonderful woman and you could relate to her beautiful and inspiring path as much as I do in many ways.
Enjoy and spread this story as far as you can.
Hi Cristina, can you tell us just a few words about you, your job and what your passions are?
Hello and thank you so much for the opportunity to be interviewed. I am honored and excited to share my thoughts with 35 Next Years. If I had to choose just three words that best describe me, they would be: traveler, writer, and dreamer.
Academically, I hold a Bachelor’s degree from UCLA in American Literature and Culture, with a minor in Biological Anthropology, and a Master’s Degree from SDSU in Latin American Studies. While travel has come to define me far more than my education, the latter deeply reflects my interests. I love to write, and literature has been a huge part of my life since I was a child. In terms of Biological Anthropology, I am a strong believer in evolution and mainly chose this minor because it allowed me to study the idiosyncrasies of primate behavior. Lastly, I devoted myself to the interdisciplinary study of Latin American Art History and Political Science because of the time I spent living and traveling throughout Mexico and South America. I wanted to learn more about the politics that dictated everyday life, as well as the art that often resulted as protest or propaganda. Also, I wanted to see more of Latin America, as well as learn another language- Brazilian Portuguese.
Aside from my education, I am a passionate, free-spirited, ever-curious and compassionate person. I can communicate and identify with a myriad of people, whether or not we speak the same language. I love adventure, the unknown, and laughter. I don’t do well conforming to rules or societal expectations. Also, I am an avid daydreamer.
By profession, I am a freelance writer. Copywriting, social media promotion, web content, resume writing, editing, ghost writing and PR are just some of the writing hats I adorn. I am also a travel writer.
In terms of passions, mine is quite a lengthy list. Whether it’s writing, travel, human rights, animal rights, adventure, music, visual arts, nature, positivity, books, linguistics, poetry, truth-seeking, or meeting new people, I’m down for it, 150%. I also am trying to become a better photographer.
On a daily basis you travel, you blog and write travel chronicles on http://chroniclesofatraveladdict.com. However, these aren’t just simple activities: they are part of a lifestyle, an art of living. Could you tell us a bit about the way you want to nurture this way of living?
Yes, you are absolutely right in that I live a completely different lifestyle than most. Every day, my life revolves around travel in one way or another. If I’m not doing it, writing about it, researching it, reminiscing about it, or planning it, I am most definitely dreaming about it. My lifestyle, as you said, is a type of art. It is easy to have an 8-5 kind of job, being a “weekend warrior”, but there are many sacrifices that come with my way of life. However, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks and I wouldn’t want it otherwise.
I currently nurture my way of life by working as much as I possibly can. Freelance can be an unsteady means of income, and it’s nice to have reserves when the free time rolls around and I want to travel. My ultimate goal is to sustain myself economically with my travel writing. As such, when I’m not traveling, I continuously scour the internet researching different destinations and keeping myself up-to-date with what’s going on in the world. In addition to reading National Geographic, Matador, Gogobot, and watching the Travel Channel (not to mention Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown”), I take advantage of all the wonderful travel blogs out there. Doing this, as well as attending events such as Travel Massive, keeps me involved in the ever-growing global travel community. This keeps me focused on my goals, inspired, determined, and ever-more productive.
My motto is ‘Life is learning’, which summarizes the fact I’m hungry with knowledge and new levels of understanding. In your case, what did you learn from your travels you never really thought you would?
I completely agree that life is one perpetual learning session. The beauty of travel is that you never really know what you will learn. It is a journey into the unknown, and each country, city, and town hold many surprises yet to be discovered. When traveling to a destination, I usually have some preconceived idea, a visual image, of what I think it’ll be like. Normally, it’s very different than what I thought. One thing travel has taught me is that I have a never-ending capacity to be moved, to connect with others, and to learn new things about myself. Whenever I go to a new destination, I aim to learn about the local culture, customs, language, and history. I think the most important part is, however, that each new place teaches me something I never expected to know about myself, my boundaries, and my courage.
During the past few years you met a lot of people around the world; what did you figure out about human beings during these trips?
Over the last 11 years I have been traveling, I’ve met many unique people from all regions of the world. Many of these people have become very close friends, no matter the distance. I have lost touch with many more people, but I can’t say that their presence in my life was any less significant, however. Meeting all of these beautiful souls has given me a very solid belief in the kindness and generosity of strangers. I was always taught to be leery about trusting in people, and while that is still sometimes a concern, I think that people overall want to do good. No one wakes up in the morning aiming to be an asshole. Maybe circumstances have made that person act out in a certain way, but that is not the human condition.
Human beings are very curious creatures, with a variety of belief systems, politics, religions, cultural practices, superstitions, aspirations, and so on. However, the more I get to know a wide array of people from across the globe, I can say that we all have certain fundamental desires. We all want to be loved and understood. We are all seeking the reason why we are here on earth. We are all doing the best we can to understand this crazy thing called life. We all want to be part of some kind of community. Many of us don’t agree with the society in which we live, nor the government that rules us. Most of us love to celebrate life in whatever way we deem acceptable, whether it be through festivals, shrines, meditations, or parties. Being alive is difficult, but it’s a gorgeous thing. We all want to be happy and successful, yet neither of those words have cookie-cutter definitions. Most of us would like to be rich, but only because of the illusion of happiness it brings.
Honestly, don’t you feel a bit homesick sometimes? Or do you feel well wherever you unpack?
This is a great question! 99% percent of the time, I never get homesick. I may miss my parents, relatives, good friends, and dog all the time when I’m abroad- but most often the thought of wanting to go home dissipates within a minute or two. Mainly, I just wish the people I love could accompany me and enjoy everything that I’m taking in. Realistically, however, that wouldn’t be possible for many of them because of the lifestyles they have chosen.
As I spoke of recently on a podcast, some of my best friends are spread throughout the world. I miss them all the time I’m away, but it also brings into question the definition of home. In my early twenties, backpacking throughout South America, I longingly wondered where my home was. San Jose, CA- my hometown- surely wasn’t it. That’s where I grew up, but not where I feel at home.
I sought to find one singular location where I felt at home. Over the years, I found certain places, like San Francisco, Guanajuato, Quito, Sao Paulo, and Hanoi, where I felt extremely comfortable. I either did or would have loved to live in these locations. However, that stirring feeling never left me. I guess this is why I don’t really get homesick- “home” is an ever-changing place for me. It’s where I feel comfortable, where I am happy, and that place can easily change from one day, one week, or one month to another.
All in all, “home” is where I am in the present, as long as I am happy to be there, learning, and feeling peace within myself.
Living on the road, meeting with people from all around the world must help you find yourself a bit more every day. When I want to be a bit of provocative, I say that, the more we meet people, the more we are alone, inwardly speaking. Don’t you think that creating an unexpected and uncommon life, leads to get out of the mould, consequently getting us to undertake a loneliness path?
You are absolutely correct. Meeting people from all walks of life, from all areas of the globe, readily makes one realize one’s truth. Preconceived ideas quickly dissipate. Living a life on the road, no matter how rewarding, tends to isolate us travelers. It is a completely different way of life that not many “off the road” can understand. In a way, I can see how you would state that this would be considered a path of “loneliness”.
As a solo traveler, though, I will argue that being on the road, constantly meeting and connecting with like-minded people, is much less lonely than living in one’s hometown, where no one gets your ambitions or passions. My life is definitely uncommon, and one which my loved ones would have hoped against. However, getting “out of the mould” of society, living life freely and open-mindedly, is absolute freedom to me. Within that freedom, loneliness is but an illusion.
In many ways, if you read my story, you could get that I can easily relate to yours, even if I don’t travel so much. By the way, even if I live the life I want to live, as any human being, I sometimes have to face bad emotions, which are necessary to improve. Hence, what about yours? Since a lot of people tend to idealize an ‘I-want-to-be-myself’ art of living, could you tell us a bit what part of toughness your lifestyle implies?
As you know, being yourself is not easy. I completely relate to your life story and feel that we have both struggled greatly to achieve a sense of happiness. Misery, broken relationships, misunderstanding, confusion, and a terrifying leap into the unknown were all part of my evolution, as I believe they were for you. I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was a child, but there was always the conformation complex. Even though I opted to study what I wanted for both of my degrees, there was always a guilty pull to find a “normal”, “real” job.
I worked for years as an Administrative Assistant, behind a desk, watching the hands of the clock crawl in circles, trying not to fall asleep. If I was lucky enough to have a window by me, I would stare outside and daydream. What was out there? What was I missing out on? And so, for years, I would work these dreadful jobs, save up, then get the hell out of the country. It was a torturous cycle of extreme happiness, exploration, freedom, growth, and then back into the cage of normalcy.
Just earlier this year, I found myself 31 years old, seldom freelancing, recently separated from my ex-fiancé, and miserable. I hadn’t traveled internationally for five years and it was tearing me apart, day by day. Like you, I knew something had to change. I didn’t know exactly what, but I had to do something. And so, I began my travel therapy. Pieces of my life’s puzzle slowly fused together, the fog in my mind cleared, and I once again got to know myself. I decided that I was meant to write and travel. This was my path and to this I would dedicate my existence.
You’re absolutely right; many people idealize my lifestyle and often tell me they wish they were brave enough to live like I do. They are right in that this “art of living” takes courage, but it isn’t easy. Sure, I get to travel the world, meet interesting people from all walks of life, and work wherever and whenever I decide. I can even work in my pajamas, which is super cool. When you said, “I don’t like the idea that my boss can do whatever he wants with my time, my skills, my thoughts,” I completely understood what you felt. I want to own my time, own my life, and this means I have to make many sacrifices.
There is no safety net in my life. Paid work, and thereby income, does not come routinely every two weeks. Sometimes I have to work 14 hour days, seven days a week. Other times, there is no work for weeks at a time. I constantly have to scout new, potential clients. Since my goal is to sustain myself as a travel writer, in my “free time” I write about travel. Then there is the incessant networking, social media promotion, and so on.
What I do is far more work than a full-time job. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, I am painstakingly carving out a place for myself in the world of travel writing. The uncertainty of the outcome can be daunting. I don’t know if I will ever be able to obtain the status of a lucrative travel writer. What I do know is that I have no choice but to find out, and enjoy every moment of the journey. All in all, taking ownership of my time, reality, and dreams outweighs any setback, beyond question.
After reading your inspiring and thought-provoking post about ‘The truth about addiction’, one can easily understand you have a fire inside of you, a bursting flame which is could be defined by ‘Living is traveling’. I can relate to that too. I could explode or implode if someone would try to stop me thinking, writing etc… Sometimes I say to myself that, when I’m really at peace, I won’t have to deploy so much energy and the fire will calm down. What about you? Do you see yourself as a never-ending traveller? To summarize my question: what are you going to do for the next 35 years? J
Thank you for the compliment. I most certainly have a fire inside of me, and if it is not tended to, it at times grows into a conflagration of demand. I believe that is why I decided to change my lifestyle, because I had abandoned my passion for so long. It consumed me to the point that I had no choice but to listen to what that fire was saying. It told me that I was not alive, that I was living a zombie-like existence, wasting my precious hours away. This revelation saved me, resuscitated me, and gave life back to me.
Because I feel at peace only when I am traveling, I don’t think that my quest to see and explore the world will ever stop. I don’t want it to. As I discussed in “The Truth about Addiction”, I only feel really, truly alive when I am on the road. It’s not a luxury for me; it’s a necessity, like oxygen. Travel is an integral part of my being.
I do envision myself as an eternal wanderer. The next 35 years of my life, I see myself continuing to write, explore, learn, and obviously, travel. I will take my writing and photography skills to new levels, and have my work published more and more extensively. Travel stories will manifest into books I’ve written. Hosting a travel show would also be a wondrous accomplishment.
Eventually, it would be quite beautiful to fall in love again and have children. This hypothetical family, of course, would be nomadic as well. All in all, I’m not quite sure what the future will bring me. I do know however, that it will involve an overwhelming amount of travel and writing, not to mention savoring the life I was meant to live.