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I Took An 'Eat Pray Love'-Style Vacation Around The World & Here's What I Learned

The blessings may not manifest as quickly as we'd like, but God's timing is perfect.

Travel

My first passport stamp was in La Romana, Dominican Republic.

I remember the beautiful people and blue waters but not much else. I hadn't quite come into my own yet spiritually. But it DID awaken a part of me that wanted to see more of what the world had to offer. That was three years ago. Since that spark has been lit, I haven't stopped traveling.

Every year, I commit to seeing at least one new place. And the more I dedicate myself to satisfying my curiosities and becoming more of an "explorer" than a "traveler", the more the universe yields lessons that nurture my spirit. Today, travel is more than just an opportunity to show off for "the gram". It has become a chance to connect with the Source and receive lessons that I may not have if I had simply stay home.

New Orleans reminded me of my power.

The energy was thick and welcoming, the food nourished me. The ancestors spoke to me. I remember speaking with my grandmother before making the trip. She'd made her transition in 2015 and had been gone for two years. I put her picture next to my bed hoping she'd visit me in a dream. It wasn't until I got to New Orleans that I heard from her. A random tarot reading in Jackson Square encouraged me to step out on faith and expose my writing to the world. It was probably some of the best advice I received in years. I haven't stopped writing since.

New OrleansWriter Tiffany D. Smith

Jamaica taught me patience and that although blessings might be delayed, they aren't denied.

I missed my flight going and coming back. In between, our excursions were cancelled or delayed due to heavy rains. I was introduced to the ackee fruit and learned how if it is eaten before it becomes ripe, it could cause death. A lesson in receiving the right thing at the wrong time. While stuck at the airport in Jamaica, I learned that after two months of waiting, my work had been published for the first time. The blessings may not manifest as quickly as we'd like, but God's timing is perfect.

London taught me that I don't always have to control every situation, that sometimes the beauty is in NOT knowing what's next.

I booked a flight to the U.K. for my sister's birthday and decided not to take over the planning process like I usually do and just see where the trip led me. And every experience (from the food to the sightseeing) was memorable. Usually, I don't trust that to happen without my doing. But changing my approach and thought process yielded something special.

TulumWriter Tiffany D. Smith

Tulum taught me to be still, I don't always have to be in constant "tourist mode".

Many times we go on vacation and we think that if we don't maximize the time by sightseeing that the trip is a waste. NOT SO! The ocean commanded me to slow down. I was captivated by the breeze, the beautiful white sandy beaches and the sun. It was probably the first time that I had actually napped while on vacation.

There are so many messages to receive while jet setting if we're open to them. Here are 5 tips to tap into your spiritual side and receive lessons from source while traveling:

1. Set an intention.

LondonWriter Tiffany D. Smith

When you go on a trip, set an intention to receive something special from that particular place. Sometimes the "something special" is just rest. But if you set out looking for a lesson, or to receive direction and guidance from the Source, I promise, you'll get it. You don't have to force it. All you have to do it set the intention and just be. You always get what you look for in life. Setting an intention is the best way to receive nuggets of wisdom from your higher power.

2. Get to the nearest body of water and meditate.

There is something powerful about water. It teaches us a lot about how we should go about our day-to-day lives. It is gentle, yet forceful. It flows where it chooses. Meditating at the nearest body of water, (no matter how small or how vast) reminds us of our OWN power. Sitting still (preferably with your eyes closed) for at least 5 minutes not only allows you to hear from the Source in a special way, but it gives you a chance to see just how creative and infinite your personal capabilities are.

3. Get up early and watch the sun rise.

Jamaica Writer Tiffany D. Smith

Watching the sun rise not only relieves stress, but it brings a sense of peace that is unmatched. It also reminds us to be thankful for another day of life and to appreciate God's art. Much like the sun is a vital part of the earth's function, we should allow it to remind us that we too are necessary and needed as a source of someone's light and growth during our time here on this earth.

4. View setbacks with a different set of eyes.

I get it. Sometimes a thing is just a thing. And whether it's an unpleasant encounter, a delay of some sort, or something much worse, in the midst of chaos, the last thing we want to ask ourselves is "What is this teaching me?" But most times, there is a lesson in every mishap and setback if we take the time to not panic and take a more rational look at the bigger picture. Ask the Source what you should be learning from the current situation.

Understand that life doesn't happen to you, it happens for you.

5. Show gratitude.

Look around. Remind yourself that you've been granted the opportunity to see the world, connect with people, and explore a new culture. It shouldn't be taken lightly. When we show gratitude, we open the door for even more beauty, abundance, and blessings. It also helps us to better enjoy our time away because we are focused on the good vs. the bad. Taking the time to be present and thankful for all of God's wondrous works should be top priority on everyone's travel list.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Originally published October 2, 2018

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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