January 4: Something that you’re looking forward to

Well, this is a bit of a repeat, isn’t it? I guess I’ll delve a little deeper into something I’d already mentioned earlier. So one of my goals for the year is to spend my 30th birthday doing the Camino Ignaciano. It’s similar to the Camino de Santiago but instead follows the path of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who is of great importance to me as the saint I chose for Confirmation. I plan to start at the beginning of November and aim to end by my birthday on the 20th. But this is the part that’s going to require some research, so I’m going to have to see if that’s even feasible and if I need to start earlier.

In any case, it will start in Loyola (or Loiola as it is spelled locally) and end at Montserrat. Most pilgrims will be heading the opposite direction west towards Santiago de Compostela along the Camino de Santiago. However, St. Ignatius headed east towards the port cities to get him to the Holy Land.

It will be a rigorous journey in a country whose language I am only moderately familiar with, but I hope to glean many lessons and experiences from this trip that will enrich me spiritually, mentally, and physically.


Vem comigo Day 0: IAH > FRA

My body has no idea what to think right now. My concept of time is already screwy enough as it is with the midshifts, so throw in the international flight and I don’t know what day it is anymore.

To backtrack a bit, I’m going on the Marian pilgrimage with my parents’ church in Houston. We’re hitting up Fatima for it’s 100th anniversary, Santiago de Compostela, Lourdes, Paris, and a bunch of places in between. I’m particularly excited about seeing Loyola in Spain because my Confirmation saint is St. Ignatius. I got to see his tomb, the first Jesuit church, and the apartment he lived in at the end of his life. Now I get to see the beginning.

But before we get there, we have to fly out. We got to IAH three hours early, and there were still group members that beat us to the airport. Anyway, nothing eventful. Just your basic airport stuff. Check in, TSA, you know. But while we were waiting to board, some Hispanic lady sat next to my dad and started talking in Spanish. My dad just played along to see if she’d notice that he had no clue what she was saying. We told her she was surrounded by Filipinos that didn’t really speak Spanish. She didn’t seem to care. One of the Mexican men that are in the group with us chatted with her and gave her a heads up. She seemed to have a grand old time with it. You do you, Abuelita, you do you.

The flight was fine except for the fact that I was trapped in a steel tube hurtling through the air for 9 hours with a crying urchin and a mother making no effort to soothe her child. For my friends with kids, please do us all a favor and if you do decide to bring your child on a flight before they can handle discomfort without crying, do SOMETHING. I don’t care what. I don’t care if it works…well actually I do, but I just want to see some effort to show that you’re not an asshole. And for airlines, just putting this out there…I would pay extra money for a childless flight, especially international.

Then we landed at Frankfurt Airport, and police lady checking my passport asked me about the matching shirts. I told her we were on a pilgrimage and they wanted us to match. She asked how long we were going to be doing it. I said two weeks. She gave me this look and asked if we were wearing the same shirt the whole time. I gave a resounding hell no. She seemed amused.


Does it count as a carry on? Was he wearing anything underneath? Am I going to be in the background of a video on some German Youtube channel? I have so many questions.

Then we got to the gate, and this mofo was the first thing I saw. Not sure what was going on. My first thought was thank God I checked in ahead of time and made sure I was sitting with my family. Because being anywhere near chicken suit on a plane would be miserable. I had so many questions, but unfortunately, I never got answers because I had to go to the bathroom and by the time I came back, he was gone. I’d like to think that he’s very Flula Borg-y.

Well, I have two hours left of this layover before we move on to Lisbon and start our pilgrimage, and I still have a shit ton of Duolingo to do on both Portuguese and French. Oh well. Boa sorte to me, I guess.

30DBC Day 18: My Favorite Places in the World

There are few things that give me more peace and joy than exploring a new place with my camera. One of my favorite quotes is St. Augustine’s “The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only a page.” There is something about a place with history, places that have a plethora of stories to tell if only the walls could speak.

This is by far my favorite picture from that whole trip to Spain

This is by far my favorite picture from that whole trip to Spain

Probably one of my favorite places I’ve ever been is Spain. I know it’s a whole country, but we explored a few different cities, and I loved them all. The Alhambra in Granada was absolutely gorgeous. One of my favorite pictures on my travel wall in my house was actually taken there. It is this gorgeous fortress/palace with intricate geometric designs in the details. I’m a sucker for pretty architecture. And then at some point we went to Toledo, which is known for its swords because of the strength of its steel. And, of course, you know I love swords and weaponry. This trip also turned me on to one of my favorite cheeses, Manchego. It’s made from sheep’s milk. Back when we took this trip, I was a REALLY picky eater, so my diet for the majority of my trip was glorified ham and cheese sandwiches. But they were absolutely delicious. I do want to go back though so that I can really experience the food there.

Visiting Libertad Baybay (pronounced bye-bye) in Bacolod in the Philippines is also fun because that’s where my mother’s family is from and where a good portion of them still live. It’s kind of a slum, but when we spent New Year’s down there, it was an awesome time being surrounded by family. Also, the very first time we were in the Philippines, our cousins took us to Mambukal, this mountain resort with lots of amazing views. Unfortunately when we went, it was raining a lot, so the main trails to the seven falls were closed because the stone was slippery. Our driver took us around back through this village, and we ended up recruiting these two kids to take us a back way to the falls. We ended up trekking through what I guess would be considered rainforest (maybe?) and across a few creeks and streams to get to the falls. Sadly, that’s where I lost my first camera (thankfully only a Kodak point-and-shoot) when I slipped on an algae-covered rock and ended up submerging my camera underwater completely. We tried to save it but all the pictures after that would come out purple. But I ended up getting my DSLR from my parents, so it worked out in the end. Boracay was another amazing resort town. It was real touristy, but I didn’t much care because I was in water up to my chest and could still see my feet in the crystal-clear water. It was AWESOME. That was also where I got my first (and only) henna tattoo. I got a dragon on my left shoulder, spent 10 hours in the sun the next day, and ended up with a tan line from the tattoo for a year. Yeah, never doing that again. On another note, cheapest white ink tattoo you will ever have in your life. But yeah, the seafood there is on point. But that’s to be expected considering that the entire country is just a shit ton of islands.

This was the adorable B&B I stayed at during this trip. The place is adorable, and the owners are the sweetest people ever.

This was the adorable B&B I stayed at during this trip. The place is adorable, and the owners are the sweetest people ever.

Now coming back stateside, I absolutely love the northeast. I went up to Castine, Maine for my friend’s wedding, and oh my goodness. That entire region was like taking an acid trip through a postcard. Almost literally everything was picturesque. Even the old broken down buildings just simply looked “rustic.” In my head, I’m thinking we’ve got buildings like that in Texas, but it all just looks ghetto. That and the lobster…oh my goodness, it’s giving me palpitations just thinking about it. Their rehearsal dinner, they had a lobster boil there on the beach and they had crates of live lobster. Real fresh Maine lobster…nothing beats that. The downside was that I had no idea how to eat a lobster, so I went Gulf Coast on them and just started eating them like a giant crawfish. I got some looks, but I was like fuck it, I got lobster, I don’t care. I had three lobsters to myself. THREE. LOBSTERS. for ME.

Going south a bit, I’ve got a special place in my heart for Manhattan, NY. After all, I was born there. But while it’s a wonderful place to visit and has lots of great places to wander around and take pictures of, it’s one of those places I could only visit in short periods. My favorite thing about that place is going to the Broadway shows. But I will never pay full price for a ticket, that’s for damn sure. TKTS all the way.

Just massive expanses of identical graves lined in perfect rows

Just massive expanses of identical graves lined in perfect rows

I love the Washington, D.C. area. So much to do, so much history, and everything is pretty accessible by the Metro. On top of the government buildings, I still have yet to really explore the entirety of the Smithsonian museums. And of course, with all of the monuments, I have plenty of subjects for my photography. But my absolute favorite place by far has to be the Arlington National Cemetery. Now, I’ve had plenty of experience in cemeteries. I used to work at a funeral home, so I find nothing really creepy about them. But this one sent a chill up my spine upon stepping in. Not in a “oh my goodness, there are ghosts here” way, but in the way you get when you’re suddenly in the presence of something much greater than you. Those massive expanses lined perfectly with rows and columns of simple white graves…there are no words to describe how humbling that experience is standing among them.

Now while I love to travel, my favorite place by far is my home. My absolute favorite thing is not having to have on real pants in the comfort and safety of my own space. It is here I have the freedom to do what I would like, and it is truly mine. Which is probably the reason why I love to travel…because I have a secure home base to return to at the end. And I love Austin. Yeah, we get lots of transplants, and it’s starting to get crowded. But fuck it, I’m a transplant too, and we all love the city. We can share. Especially since most of the time, I do things at off hours anyway, so it’s rare for me to have to deal with rush hour and crowds. I hate that the Austin-y things that drew me in are being torn down for the sake of tourists, but not much I can do about it. For the time being, this is still my city and where I feel like I belong.