Two years ago, I embarked on my first solo trip to Scotland. One year ago, I embarked on my second solo trip to Bermuda.
I had never planned on travelling solo and believed I wasn’t “strong, smart or capable” enough to do so. When studying abroad in college, I would meet independent travelers in hostels all the time and marveled at their confidence and bravery to explore the world solo. I could never do such a thing! What if I got lost? What if someone kidnapped me? Could I really eat at a restaurant all by myself? Who will take my strategically posed photos for Instagram? Who, who, WHO?!
Then, I decided, why not?
My first trip included an adventure to North Wales to visit a dear college friend. Following that wonderful experience, I had mustered the bravery to board a train (which turned into a bus ride) to Scotland. My reasoning for going on my own, was simply, to prove I could do it. I wanted to challenge myself and do everything I wanted, on my own schedule and budget.
After a Scottish trip filled with castles, tartan, wild accents, man buns (like every dude I saw had a man bun and I was about it) and shortbread, I couldn’t wait to hit the road again with my bad self.
My next trip took me to the pink island of Bermuda. This exploration for me came at a time where I seriously lacked self-esteem due to a medical condition. Suddenly, my life had turned into a sad place, where I only went to work and returned home with a broken, sad heart. I saw myself turning into a person that I never wanted to become, a person that was afraid, shut down and bitter. I felt so, so broken. That’s when I knew I needed to get lost on a sunny island.
It’s funny how being in a new place can bring you back home. Bermuda allowed for me shine, to enjoy the fresh air, to laugh and make people laugh, to feel brave and vulnerable. While hiking and swimming, I slowly began to reconnect with myself. I realized that no matter what happens in this wild life, that my heart and spirit will always remain me. I confirmed to myself that my being is kind, adventurous, bold and giving. This feeling was even felt by my Airbnb hosts, as one wrote that I am “one free, free spirit.”
My solo trips have been unforgettable. I cherish my alone time, solitude and inner peace. I have learned that a train ride can take you to unexpected places. Sleeping alone isn’t so scary. Going far away may bring you closer to your own self, family and friends. Follow your instincts, for they will never steer you wrong. Believe that there are so many adventures to be had and great people yet to meet. Think that every place will welcome you with open arms, despite what the world may tell us. Ask someone to take your picture, they will most likely say “yes.”
"My vagina is a shell, a round pink tender shell, opening and closing, closing and opening. My vagina is a flower, an eccentric tulip, the center acute and deep, the scent delicate, the petals gentle but sturdy.
I did not always know this. I learned this in the vagina workshop.”
These words were first written by Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues playwright, performer, feminist, and activist, in 1998. Yet, these words are still drenched in feminism and radicalism, and the people who receive these words are still stunned and uncomfortable.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the controversial play, a production that is just as shocking, alarming and thought-provoking as it was in 1998. It’s a piece of work that discusses the wonders and hardships of women across the world, from achieving an orgasm to surviving rape and sexual assault, the production unpacks all of the feels. The play makes you wonder, “How far have we really come since 1998?”
The Vagina Monologues ends with the play’s newest monologue titled, “Over It Redux*” in which Ensler, lists shocking statistics and calls out the “passivity of good men.” The piece includes a long list of facts that will make your heart cry, including, “I am over 33 million U.S. women being sexually harassed, and 14 million sexually abused, in work-related incidents… over the hundreds of thousands of women in Congo still waiting for the rapes to end and the rapists to be held accountable… over college campuses being places young women survive rather than places they thrive because of rape culture.”
These statistics shock me, knowing that the woman next to me is suffering and my sister a plane ride away is facing obstacles that I can’t even fathom in my warm, safe Brooklyn apartment, it’s beyond heartbreaking and frustrating. Where are we? Why aren’t we rising up? Why aren’t we screaming with anger and fear? How are we allowing this? How are we not fighting this in our everyday life?
A few weeks ago, I was at a lovely brunch with my boyfriend. A table over was filled with middle-aged women discussing the #MeToo movement. I overheard comments such as, “Why didn’t she just walk away?”, “Why didn’t she say no?”, “Well he (Louis C.K.) admitted it, he didn’t deny it.” and “If everyone knew he was trouble, why was she alone with him?” I couldn’t believe that these older women were defending the perpetrators and even applauding Louis C.K.’s honesty, but how they were straight-up shaming, questioning and degrading these brave women – and all during my otherwise delicious brunch. This is not an unusual occurrence, it happens all the time.
That’s why I decided to participate in The Vagina Monologues this year. Because of that bullshit and all of the real terrors and horrors that consume women every damn day. Our New York University show was able to reach a small community of 200+ attendees, a group of people who may have otherwise spent the night watching Netflix and eating Valentine’s Day candies, a group of people who will tell their friends about the play and create conversation. A group of people more likely to Rise Up.
Moving forward, my goal is to create a safe space within me, where those who are suffering, living in fear or just want to chat about orgasms, can come to. My safe space will exist in my heart, eyes, soul and spirit. Come on over, unpack your baggage and welcome home.
If your vagina could talk, what would it say?
The Vagina Monologues is a play written by Eve Ensler that discusses consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with reproduction, sex work, and several other topics through the eyes of women with various ages, races, sexualities, and other differences. In 1998, Ensler launched V-Day, a global non-profit movement that has raised over 100 million for groups working to end violence against women and girls anti-violence through benefits of The Vagina Monologues.
Although the play has been accused of being anti-transgender and not including enough racial diversity, I think the messages still create discussion about tough topics that women are experiencing on a daily basis.
The first time I saw The Vagina Monologues, I was in middle school and went with my parents to see my sister perform. Sitting next to my Dad as young women discussed rape, sexuality, orgasms and of course, vaginas, was incredibly awkward and startling. I couldn't believe the horrific, hilarious, beautiful, shocking and bittersweet tales these women were sharing with me.
My experience as a surprised audience member pushed me to be an active part of the play in college. I have acted in the production four times and directed the play in Belgium. My belief that these stories need to be brought to life and heard by both women and men has never wavered. The play represents everything I aim to be as a young woman: brave, unexpected, aware, compassionate and unapologetic.
I am thrilled to share that I will be a part of NYU's Vagina Monologues production this Valentine's Day. My wish is to create conversation with friends and family about these sensitive topics and to open some minds. The question remains, if your vagina could talk, what would it say?