Category Archives: travel

I’m Getting Paid to go to Mexico!

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So, major, major things are happening! 

I moved to NYC recently to start interning, and since moving here, everything is just booming! One of my internships is at a travel magazine. In February I started blogging for them, which turned into writing articles for the website, and I helped edit the last issue, which means my name got printed in the magazine’s Masthead…That’s right, my name…..IN PRINTIN A MAGAZINE! (Can I officially start referring to myself as writer now?  Have I “made it” ? )

And now, I’m working on my first feature article to get published in the print magazine, AND I just found out I’m taking what’s called a press trip to Mexico.

I never knew what a press trip was.

I never knew how much money could be spent by companies. It’s literally mind-boggling.  As someone who has spent my entire life bored out of my mind working in restaurants and retail, working 9 hour days only to have a 30 minute break, just to make 8 dollars an hour…. It’s seriously fucking crazy. Our magazine is sent gifts ALL THE TIME by places and companies wanting us to write about them.

And a press trip is where a tourism company, hotel, or airline, PAYS REPORTERS TO TRAVEL THERE in exchange for having an article written about it.

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So….

I get to travel.

AND GET PAID. 

Is this even real life?

 

People around the world, listen to me. Hard work actually does pay off. I spent so many years thinking I’d be bored and miserable forever. Thinking I wasn’t good enough for a job I loved. Thinking I wasn’t smart enough to make my dreams come true.

I didn’t start grad school until I was 27. I won’t walk and receive my diploma from Harvard until I’m 30.

And up until I got back in school, my life was a raging shitshow (as any of you will know if you’ve been reading my blog before then)

I was a late bloomer. Depression, loneliness, anxiety, self-doubt, and self-hatred controlled my life since I was 10 years old.

…since my life went to hell.

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But you know what, I didn’t give up.  And if any of you out there feel like you’re the outcast, or feel hated, or even if you hate yourself – It can get better. 

Hope is real. And hope can get you through.

And I know it’s hard. I fully understand that believing in yourself, when all you hear your entire life is how shitty you are, is basically fucking impossible. It takes so much strength. So much hardship. So much perseverance.

But it’s so worth it.

You deserve happiness. You deserve success. You deserve it all.

 

So the next time some bitch comes along and tries to put you down, rock some hardcore Miranda Priestly realness…

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And remember…

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You’re better than them.  You always were.

 

Travel on my friends,

The Dark Horse

 

(This was written out of passion, not logic! So, no, this wasn’t proofread)

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Dispatches From The Far North

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Have I ever mentioned that after college I ran away into the woods?

 

LA had worn me down and beaten me to the ground. I was so depressed I could barely stand up most of the time. And then that’s when I discovered American Transcendentalism, and the ideals of running away and escaping capitalist society.

I took Thoreau for his word and ran away.  And now that I’m older and read Thoreau more clearly, I’m pretty fuckin annoyed… because he never actually ran away. He lived on a lake only a few miles from town. He literally would walk home and eat with his family and shit… what a twat.

I on the other hand, during my period of total infatuation with his ideas, really did run away into the middle of nowhere. Where there were no roads. No phones. No sewage systems…

I went to the Northwest Territories, a little north of the Great Slave Lake.

There, I lived in a “cabin” which was really just a plywood box that was covered in arctic tarp. Recently, I found the pictures I took of inside my cabin.

Whenever I’m feeling down, writing and art has always saved me. And so, being up there was no different.  Armed with nothing but sidewalk chalk (why was there sidewalk chalk? I have no idea…) Anyways, armed with sidewalk chalk and bare plywood walls, I got to work.

Here are a few of my derelict masterpieces:

 

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Here, with CHERRY BOOM, I needed color, and I need fun. I went for a retro-Pac Man thing because it was exciting.  It was something that made me feel like I wasn’t completely lost from society. A memento that there was a world full of video games, ice tea, and mattresses that I could return to at some point.

 

 

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This was my manifesto to the world. I wrote this, and then read this to myself every night before going to sleep. It was a way for me to tell myself that I’m not done. I went to the woods to find myself, but the woods wouldn’t be my final resting place.

 

 

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My absolute favorite.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written these words in my journal, or said this under my breath as I’m about to take on a challenging day. The albatross has always been my spirit animal. They’re so large, so misunderstood, and so solitary, that it’s hard to imagine how they survive. But, against the odds, and against the elements, these birds flourish, even though they can spend months over the open ocean without ever even seeing land. They’re stronger than you’d ever believe. And so, I look to the albatross, flying high, for inspiration.

 

Eye to the sky!

 

~ The Dark Horse

New York, I Have Arrived!

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Somehow. Someway….

It happened.

I’ve finally arrived.

I’m in the land of Joan Didion, Robert De Nero, and Anna Wintour.

And It’s so insanely exciting and cool and terrifying and thrilling and wonderful and stressful.

I mean, people, listen to me, I am currently writing in a cafe in Manhattan, surrounded by brownstones with iron fire escapes, and the sounds of honking and all the rest of those very New Yorkish things.

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And obviously that sensory overload is good and bad. Sensory overload can lead to anxiety. And I’ll be honest, I’m getting a tad of it.

It seems like too much has gone right. I mean, who lands a good job in New York, finds an amazing apartment at a great price in a wonderful neighborhood, has good roommates, and…. is actually happy?

Does anyone else out there feel like happiness is one of those things that other people get, but the we don’t?

It’s like I’m waiting for the floor to drop at any moment.

Like, maybe this job will fall through. Or the owner of the apartment will sell, and I’ll have to move….or worse, what if I can’t find a place afterwards? And then I have to leave because the stress has caused me to have a mental breakdown and lose my job? It seems like I’m so used to pain and misery that I no longer have the ability to even believe that a good life exists.

It seems that whenever something good starts to happen, a hurricane alarm goes off deep within me. Some old sailor starts screaming, “Batten down the hatches!” I start to brace for the bad to begin again.

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AND YOU KNOW WHAT?

THAT FUCKING SUCKS AND IS UNFAIR.

 

And you know what else? I’m really fucking over it. Done. (Or for all you eighteen-year-olds out there, I’m #done).

 

It isn’t fair that I have to live a life convinced that I don’t deserve good things. Or think that I’ll never be happy.

Fuck that. 

And Fuck all the people out there who have conditioned me to be this way. 

Fuck all the kids from my grade school who called me faggot.

Fuck all the kids in high school who spat on me, and who told me they’d beat me up if they ever saw me in the bathroom.

Fuck the teachers who stood and did nothing.

But double fuck the teachers who made comments themselves. I’m looking at you freshman year health teacher who told me I’ll die of AIDS simply for being gay.

And also to my old German teacher who was openly homophobic. 

Not to mention EVERY SINGLE religion teacher I ever had, who told me I would go to hell. 

Fuck my old boss at Aeropostale who made fun of me for having depression and anxiety. Im sorry that you’re a grown 37-year-old woman who’s life has amounted to working in a bumfuck mall in a cornfield in Ohio selling cheap clothing to little girls that fall apart after a month. 

Fuck everyone in Ohio who discouraged me from dreaming big. Who told me the world would eat me alive. Who told me I’d never be good enough. Who told me I was stupid. Who told me I was ugly. 

FUCK ALL OF YOU. 

CUZ GUESS WHAT MOTHERFUCKERS, 

I live in Manhattan now. And I just got a job in television. And I’m finishing up my Master’s where I’m putting together a book full of my essays. 

So, here’s my cock. suck it.

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Werk.

 

I’m ready to embrace a life of meaning. A life where maybe I can even help change other people’s lives. A life where I’m happy and fulfilled. And I’m done even remembering what a bunch of boondock Ohioans tried telling me about life.

~ The Dark Horse

 

 

The Night I Thought I Was Going To Die

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So, over the weekend I flew back to Boston from Ohio.  I was scheduled to fly home on a Boeing 737, which looks like this:

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I booked this flight back in August because a roundtrip home was like, $170 so I had to jump on it. Back in October, Delta changed our take-off time.

Then they did the same in November.

And twice in December…

And when I arrived at the airport on Saturday, I also found out that they switched our plane to a Boeing 717, which looks like this…

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I honestly think I’ve only been on a plane this small maybe once in my life, years and years ago…

The engines are literally attached to the sides of the plane!!!!!! Dear Lord Help Me! 

 

Then as we board, the captain comes on the intercom and is like,

“The weather here is pretty good, but when we arrive in Boston there’s heavy downpours and wind, so it’s gonna get pretty bumpy at the end…”

Kill. Me. Now.

On small planes, you feel everything. You feel every time the plane speeds up and slows down, every time it goes up and down, every time you make a turn.  It’s basically driving a Mini Cooper at 400mph, 30,000 feet above the ground.

Luckily, everything was fine for most of the flight, but then as we hit central Massachusetts, the sun had set and the storm began.  The seatbelt lights went on.

We descended into the clouds and then stayed there for a good half hour, why? WHO THE FUCK KNOWS.

When you looked out the window, it looked like we were in a tornado. The lights on the wing illuminated the sky directly around the plane, and all you could see was raging rain flying all around. Remember that scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy looks out the window in the tornado? it was just like that.

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You could feel the G force. When the plane pushed up, you sunk into your seat. Then as the plane fell rapidly, you could feel the moments of airtime. You could also watch the nose of the plane going left, then right, then down and left and up and left and down and right, and on and on and on….

 

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I was having a massive airplane teddybear Twilight Zone episode moment. Has anyone ever seen that episode? With William Shatner and the airplane teddy bear that destroys the plane? You should watch it right before a flight…

 

But then the scariest thought of all came to mind:

THE LANDING. 

The temperature in Boston was hovering slightly above freezing, with torrential rain and wind, and I’m in a flying Fiat. And to sweeten the deal….

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This is Boston Logan airport. All runways dead-end straight into the ocean. yay! 

 

We began to descend into the potentially iced-over runway.

All you could see was rain rushing by the window, blanketed by a misty blackness.

Then suddenly, out of nowhere, we were beneath the clouds, and literally almost already on top of the runway.

We touched town, but then bounced up.

We actually bounced! 

Then landed again.

We began stopping so fast that I was being thrust forward in my seat.

You could feel the plane swerving left and right.

I thought to myself:

Ok. Im in the aisle seat. So if there’s a Southwest woman sucked from the window event…I’m probably safe.

I’m not at the back of the plane… so if there’s a Qantas engine blows up event, I’m not near the engine.

I’m also not at the front of the plane… so if we have a Jet Blue our front wheel explodes and the landing gear catches on fire, I’m also probably not gonna die…

but then…

All I could think was “Asiana airlines cartwheeling at SFO”

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There’s no way my little flying tricycle could ever withstand that. The plane would break apart instantly.

 

But luckily, we landed safely.

I guess I didn’t almost die.  But still, the drama was there, people, let me tell you

it was thereeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!

 

~ The Dark Horse

(And no the wasn’t proofread. This was written out of trauma! Trauma I say!)

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What China Taught Me

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So, I got back from China a month ago, and I realize I still havent blogged about my time there. And I think it’s pretty important to.  So, here it goes: I was there for a summer internship, and I recently returned back to Boston for school.

However, I’ve come back a changed man.

I feel more confident now. More sure of myself. Stronger. Wiser. and…. Well… I’m trying to figure out why.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this new feeling. I love feeling like I’ve somehow reached a new milestone in my life. A new “breakthrough” as the physiology world would like to call it.

And I think I’ve discovered what happened:

I was teaching English with this program. The program was horrible. The other Americans there were racist against Chinese people. They hated China and thought it was so “like totally weird” as one girl put it. And so, I had no choice but to breakaway.

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I taught my class. I had to obviously. It was how I was making my money in China. But after the schoolday was over, I left. I didn’t hang with the Americans at all. I needed to escape their toxic, and frankly, disgusting fucking attitude towards the world. I still get mad just thinking about it.

Like when my boss…my 35 year old boss who chose to work in China picked up a pair of child scissors, and then said “I wish they made full-sized scissors in this country, but Asians have these damn midget hands” ……

There are so many problems with that, not to mention that my classroom had full-sized scissors, so my boss had either gone his entire 3 years in China using only child scissors, or he just didn’t respect Chinese people (and apparently little people either).

And that was just one of MANY…. Don’t even get me started on the time when my boss brought the two African American teachers into a classroom and said, “We’re doing a scavenger hunt for the students and one of the tasks is to take a picture with someone born in Africa, so they’re probably going to come up to you and ask for pictures… is that ok?”

FIRST OFF: THIS IS COMPLETELY TRUE. PEOPLE, I SHIT YOU NOT.

AND SECONDLY, WHY SAY THAT WHILE I’M IN THE ROOM? HOW STUPID ARE YOU? So obviously, when the two black teachers went and told everyone what he said, I was there to back their story up.

OK. MOVING FORWARD. MY BLOOD PRESSURE IS GOING OFF THE CHARTS JUST THINKING ABOUT THAT FUCKING PROGRAM.

 

ANYWAYS…..

So there I am. In China. I don’t know much of the language. I don’t know a single person. And the one thing that I’m sure of is that I want nothing to do with anyone in my program. I signed up for that program being promised a great way to visit China, make some money, and have a group of friends to explore with.

That wasn’t going to happen…..

So, I ventured out alone. I had no other choice. I couldn’t handle being around a group of people who went, “Squat toilets? OMG EWWWW LIKE, WHERE ARE WE, THE JUNGLE??”

I joined a gym. Gyms are a great way to burn off energy, meet people, stay healthy… and hey, if all else failed, and I literally couldn’t find anything to do, considering I was now in China alone, I could always bum around at the gym for hours.

So, I went to the nearest gym (which was three subway stops away at the China Art Museum Station). I walked in and held up my translation app. I tried showing the words, JOIN, GYM, MEMBERSHIP, WORKOUT, and EXERCISE, but nothing worked. The women at the front desk didn’t understand.

So I mimed the actions of lifting weights. Then I pointed to me. And then I pointed at the ground. Trying to show Me, workout, here. Finally, the women understood. They went and got a trainer to give me a tour. The trainer, named Tommy, was hot as all fucking hell.

PEOPLE LISTEN TO ME -> The young men of Shanghai are like the fucking Asian Adonis.

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They’re way taller than any Asian stereotype. They gym like crazy. Their skin is perfect and hair always impeccable.

I stared at Tommy and shook his hand. Oh my god his biceps.

He didn’t speak much English, and I didn’t speak much Chinese. We toured the gym completely using translate apps.

He would speak into the app: “1,000Rmb for the summer.”

It would translate it to English, and then he would hand me the phone.

I would then say, “1,000 is too much. Make it lower.”

Then it would translate it to Mandarin, and I would hand it back to Tommy.

Something about haggling with an app, rather than face-to-face emboldened me. It was much easier to demand a cheaper price when you didn’t have to look the guy in the eye when asked.

Finally, after much back-and-forth and such, we arranged that I would pay 600Rmb for the summer. A good 400Rmb cheaper than the original offer. After I paid, Tommy, my new gym buddy, had me add him on WeChat (which is like the Chinese WhatsApp…and Facebook…and Instagram…and Apple Pay…it’s kind of like everything, really)

That night, I felt proud. I had just walked into a gym and managed to get a membership and haggle the price, even though I hardly spoke the language at all.

Then, I got a message from Tommy. It was in Chinese, but luckily WeChat has a mode that translates it.

He said he wanted to hangout. He could teach me Chinese and I could teach him English.

Obviously I said yes. How could I turn down a hot straight gym guy who wanted to hang out with me?

I told him yes.

He responded with: 哥们

I translated it, and it read brothers. 

I didn’t immediately know what it meant, but I imagined that it was probably the Chinese version of calling someone “Bro”. The idea that a hot guy called me bro made my heart beat fast… also, it got me a little horny.

 

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My gym was in Pudong, along with my work. So I started visiting areas of Puxi a lot (the other side of the river). I did a lot of exploring around The French Concession, Shanghai’s  trendiest area. It’s tree-lined streets, cafes, and mega-malls were always fun. And it was there that I made another group of friends. I wandered into a bookstore/cafe called The Mix Place.

 

I was walking around, flipping trough books and magazines, blown away by cool this place was. Then a girl next to me, very shyly informed me that the books here are all in Chinese.

I smiled, and said that it was fine. Then I complimented her on how good her English was. She blushed and acted shy. She told me studied a year in America, in San Diego. Then her friends, another girl, and a guy (who of course was fucking hot as hell. How do these Shanghainese guys stay so fucking fit?) We got to talking. I told them about my love of Asian food, and how I fell in love street food like Jianbing and baos.

They were all impressed that I, an American, had ventured into the realm of Shanghai street food. We all swapped WeChats.

Flash-forward a few days, and we were all hanging out again. Running amok all over the city. Imagine one of those movie montages where a group of friends are running around town, eating all the food, laughing, walking through the city lights, and there’s all that fun music playing to much fanfare, hoo-ha, and pfeffernusse.

We tried foods I wouldn’t dare alone. Stinky Tofu, century eggs, Chicken stomach.

We also got amazing treats, like milk tea, bubble tea, duck jerky, soup dumplings, and the list went on.

 

It was a culinary bender of epic proportions.

And we did this A LOT! It wasn’t just once! These people became good friends of mine. We hung out a lot, and It was amazing. They showed me Shanghai.  The ins, the outs. The wonderful, and the even more wonderful.

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On the train, where to next? The options were endless.

 

 

BUT DON’T THINK I STOPPED GOING TO THE GYM! I gymed 5 days a week.

And Tommy was a big help with that. Being able to walk in and get a high-five from that sexy motherfucker was a huge incentive. Then we’d say hi and ask each other how we we’re doing. Then there was this one time when I saw him in the locker room. After his shifts, he would work out… and I saw him in his underwear! (squeal!)  Oh my god. I don’t know what else to say besides that he was just a beautiful work of art.

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And then came the day when we actually hung out. We got coffee (but both of us ordered tea) We did a lot of talking through WeChat translate and Google Translate. He always gave me a look though… A look that made me think maybe, just maybe… he wasn’t straight. I never asked him, I liked the silent, multi-language game of cat and mouse we had developed.  Was I his bro? Was he just a super confident and sexy-as-all-hell man?    … or was he secretly wanting me as much as I wanting him?

 

Through Tommy, I was introduced to more of the Shanghai gym bros. And I have to admit, I developed crushes on all of them.  And here’s the best part: Shanghai has 24 million people. There isn’t much room to have personal space. To solve this problem, the folks of Shanghai just stopped caring about personal space. (How easy is that?) It was totally normal for one of the gym bros to see me in the locker room, while he was completely naked, just chillin out naked, cuz why not? And then just start chatting with me. My eyes would always wander southward… glimpsing at the pecs….the six pack….the adonis belt…. OMG HOW DO THEY DO IT? 

 

By the end of the summer, between my French Concession friends, and my gym bros, I had a very full social life in Shanghai. More full than here in America actually…

Is that kind of sad?  Naw.

Anyways, it’s like this: I realized that I built a life for myself in a city I didn’t know, learning the language as I went along. It was a crash course in life. But I did it. I survived.

Nay!…not survived, I thrived!

I said fuck you to the all douchebags around me. They spent their entire summer experiencing “China” only by clubbing with other Westerners in the tourist clubs until 4am, coming back to campus, having to wake up at 730 to “teach”, after class they’d go take their naps, so they could be ready to hit the clubs again that night.

They ended up loving “China” by avoiding China. They stayed in their groups of 10 or more Americans, keeping each other safe and in a bubble that would never be questioned. They were weak.

On the flight home, I thought of Tommy, and the other sexy as fuck gym bros.

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And then I thought of my French Concession friends. And how much fun I had running all over the city, eating everything in site.

And that’s when I realized I had balls. 4 years ago I was collapsing from agoraphobia in Australia. The depression I was trying to fix, alone, for the past ten years had finally broken me. The depression brought anxiety, which brought panic, which ultimately led me to lock myself in my apartment, afraid to experience more panic attacks in the outsides world..

But now, I felt like the King of Shanghai.

How time flies right? 

 

~ The Dark Horse

(PS- I’d like to thank Harry Shum Jr. for standing in as my “Tommy” visual representation.)

 

 

 

Crazy Rich Asians is Crazy Amazing

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People of Earth, it has been a very long time since I’ve seen a move that made so happy and giddy as this one.  I have to say, Crazy Rich Asians is totally worth the hype.

I visited Singapore a few years ago and instantly loved it, so last year, when I had hear that a movie was going into production that was based in Singapore, I had a little schoolgirl fit.

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And let me tell you, the movie delivers!

 

Ok, let me ask you this:

Do you enjoy feeling happy?

Do you love movies where the location is as much a member of the cast as the characters are?

Do you love movies that showcase food?

And movies that have this….

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hubba hubba!  Check please! 

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But in all honesty, as someone who fully believes that travel heals all wounds, this movie made me so happy. I love when movies can fully transport you to a new place. It’s such an amazing feeling to feel like you’ve gone somewhere.

Plus, it’s just a such a great feel good movie. I haven’t smiled so hard during a movie in a long time. But this movie made me feel like I was in high school again. Like someday I’d go to far off places, I’d find love, I’d have an adventure. It was just so amazing.

And am I aware that this post rambles on like I’m insane?  YES. Of course I am. But I don’t care. I loved this movie.

And I think that if you’re feeling down and need a pick-me-up.  Then you should see it too. It’s a great two hours of your life.

Don’t believe me? Just look at Singapore…

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No do you believe me?

 

~ The Dark Horse

 

(and no this wasn’t proofread. this was written in a primal state of pure childlike glee)