Friday, July 31, 2009

It's really happening, folks.

It was a pretty standard lazy day off. I slept in, did laundry, caught up on So You Think You Can Dance and Dexter, Sarah got home from work early and took a nap. And then...

We made the ultimate first step towards our Latin American Adventure. Sarah made me push the button. And then we screamed. And our hearts pounded. And Captain Kirk's face kept flashing up for an entire minute that felt like ten as we waited for the confirmation screen. And our hearts still pounded. And my blackberry popsicle melted. And then the other foot landed and we screamed some more.

And then we went down the street for a congratulatory dinner of french toast at our favorite local diner.

At this point in my un-financially-stable life, that was a HUGE step.

Tomorrow: we buy our packs.

Love as always, Laura

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What the hell are we doing and why?

Dear reader,

Now that you know a little more about our lovely selves, allow me to let you in on the Plan.

Our journey will take 6 months. We will be backpacking, in other words carrying as little as is possible to survive. We will be staying in hostels. Taking buses. Perhaps even hitchhiking. We start in Cancun because it is remarkably inexpensive to fly there, and work our way down to South America, making a counter-clockwise loop. Around the continent. We will visit beaches, volcanoes, ancient burial grounds, temples, museums, restaurants, markets, witch-doctors, rain forests, and more. We set out October 21st, 2009.

So many people don't travel because it is "expensive". Yes, it certainly can be. And it doesn't have to be. Sarah and I will be traveling on $20 a day. Take your lives into your hands. It is possible to see the world, if that is what is important to you. This is our plan. We are going to demonstrate the possible, and write about it as we go. We are both writers, and I am also a photographer. As technology permits you'll see our experiences as you read them.

Sarah and I are a very entertaining couple. We constantly make friends, conversation, and jokes. People around us tend to smile at the conversations they overhear on the subway. Stay with us. We will take you on our adventure and share our triumphs and pitfalls.

We have been preparing for a couple of months. Researching where to go, what to see, how we get there, what we need there. We are steadily storing up our inventory of pocket knives, flexible bowls, moisture-wicking clothing, safety pins, and books.

What do you know about traveling in Central and South America? We need all the advice we can get.

Love as always, Laura

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Laura Sorensen

Introductions are always slightly awkward, right? Here I am, extolling my many virtues. I think for a lot of people an introduction is "How can I get these people to like me in 5 sentences or less?" Well, I happen to think I am pretty fabulous, though not without my faults, which give some spice to life.

I was born in Wimbledon, England. There we go, already traveling from the womb. My American family lived in England for a few years, and I have always dreamed of claiming my citizenship in the UK so I could go live in that land of green, rolling hills, cliffsides, theatre, ghosts, fairytales, moss, rain, imagination, and ancient history. I am an actor, and after having lived in London for 6 months during college, I consider London the best theatre city in the world. I would love to return to the land of my birth and live there. But I won't yet.

After moving around a bit during my formative years, my family ended up in upstate New York. In the spring and summer it is Edenic, though winter is something of a bitch. I also grew up Mormon, the discussion thereof could comprise an entire book. I'm sure if you keep reading you'll hear more. Suffice it to say, by the age of 24, about a year ago, I was no longer Mormon, and exploring life with an entirely new outlook. It was a second adolescence. Leaving this church (which I retain much respect for, though am critical of) has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself. And introducing yourself to a world where the truth as it was taught to you is not actually the truth, at age 24, is profoundly and thrillingly overwhelming.

After achieving a BFA in Acting at Brigham Young University, and living a stifling year at home saving money, I made it to Manhattan. A city where every human emotion is wrung out through each frenetic day and restless night. I love this city. Anything is possible, though hardly ever easy. And you meet an amazingly diverse crew everywhere you go. I live in the heart of Washington Heights, and travel to Soho every day, so I constantly see two ends of a spectrum. This keeps life in perspective, and interesting.

I moved to NYC because I am an actor, and obviously this city of dreams is one of two places actors gravitate to in the States. But my day job is as a Makeup Artist/Skincare Expert/Educational Trainer for Seph0ra. I consult and teach all day long, my actorly skills come in quite handy, and I am scrimping and saving for the day Sarah and I head out of the country, packs on back, books in hand, adventure in heart.

Before I buckle down to my dream of earning a Masters degree in Acting and pursuing a life of living art, I need to venture out into the world some more. I am a steady traveler; previously I have explored France, Kenya, England, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, parts of Canada, and the United States. Latin America is next on the list because A) it is a cheap place to travel B) it is entirely foreign to me C) Sarah is fluent in Spanish and D) it contains such diversity of culture, adventure, spirit, and history. Travel gives a person an extra dimension that is unattainable by any other avenue. When I meet someone well-traveled, I meet someone knowledgeable, interesting, open, wise. Exploring a third-world country opens the eyes of an American. We have so many luxuries that visiting a country closer to the ground gives us not only a perspective on our blessings, but also what we are missing out on. Living a "simpler" life can give a clarity, an appreciation that we miss in our modern world of bells and whistles.

So what do I expect from this grand adventure? I expect to come back a different person. I expect to learn. To learn to an exponential degree. I expect to practice self-sufficiency, and to live without modern convenience. I expect to see great sights. I expect to meet so many people. I expect epiphanies. I expect mistakes and mishaps. I expect frustration. I expect laughter, tears, songs, stories, sun, friendship, and spirituality.

I hatched this idea and introduced it to my roommate, my best friend, Sarah. And she latched on and ran with it. We promised each other on the second day that we wouldn't back out. This trip wouldn't be possible for me without her. And it wouldn't be possible for her without me. We will love and hate each other through this experience, I am sure. But our friendship, if it hasn't already, will be cemented as life-long. She is a wild card. Spontaneous, funny, unpredictable, smart, and makes friends with absolutely anyone and everyone. I am slightly more down to earth, though I think we both fall into the dramatic category. We balance each other out, and will be a fantastic pair to take on the world together.

Read on, and share our adventures with us.

Love as always, Laura

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Sarah Wolstein

Laura says I need to introduce myself to the general public. Well let me start by saying I absolutely loathe the photo above. I'd much rather meet you laughing. Because that's me - I'm always laughing. But, okay. Let me introduce myself in a few hundred words, yes?

I was born and raised in the suburbs of New York; Westchester, to be exact. I've got four parents, three brothers, two homes, and, of course, myself (in a pear tree). No, no, let me take this seriously. It's just that I feel kind of like an ass, rambling on about myself. How about this: rather than sing my own praise, I'm going to instead tell you of my struggles. Of the atheist in the foxhole.

I've led a bit of a nomadic life. I grew up with my father and brothers after my parents divorced, and have been bouncing around since the age of 13 or so. First to rehabilitation boarding school, then home, then friends' houses, then college, then another college, and another, and another. Right now I'm in Manhattan, just working and waiting to leave on this trip. You might say I'm a bit stir-crazy. I get anxious if I'm in one place for too long. Anyway, as a result of this lifestyle, I've developed the ability to, as my mother would say, 'charm the birds out of the trees.' Yes, once I hit that switch, there's not much you can do. You'll like me. Not to worry, though - the switch is off at the moment; for now, I'm giving you me sans affectation. (Oooh, she knows big words, too.) Where was I? Ah, charm. So I've little problem meeting new people or making new friends.

This brings up an important point: I am a living, breathing paradox. While my transient lifestyle has made me an expert at adapting to almost any environment, my nature is attention-drawing. For example: I am just as comfortable in the intellectually-challenging arena of an educational institution as I am walking the streets of ninety-eight-percent-Dominican Washington Heights. I am equally content discussing Hobbes versus Locke as Don Omar versus Tito El Bambino. I am as opinionated about the Gestalt approach as I am about Manny Pacquiao's technique. Call me a hybrid, call me contradictory, call me illogical. Many do.

Something I struggle with these days is a complete disenchantment with the trajectory my life was on. I was attending Columbia University. Ivy League material only a few months shy of a Bachelor's degree in Psychology. Surely, afterward, I'd have gone on to pursue a graduate degree, and settled into a lucrative nine-to-five. Please do not misunderstand: psychology was a wonderful pursuit. Interesting, illuminating, practical. It's the afterwards that I recoil from. The prospect of waking up and going to a job, which, psychology has taught me, I will inevitably hate, coming home, going to sleep, and doing the same thing the next day. I'm not against routine. I'm against anything inane. You see, I couldn't answer the question, why? Why do it? So I can make money? To buy a house? To support my children? To raise them up? To retire? To have worked my entire life only to wish I'd done things differently? That. That seems so far from a meaningful existence. I think, and I could be wrong here, but I think that we have diverged so far from our basic humanity that we don't even know how to feed our own souls anymore. So I've done what any rational human being would do: I've extricated myself from the system. I've halted the kinesis. Instead I will leave the country in search of a healthier life. So, why are you here? Living vicariously? Well, whatever your thing is, get up and do it. No reason I can and you can't.

Anyway, like I said, I'm off to South America for six months with my best friend Laura. Everyone responds the same way: "oh my gosh, that's amazing! Why?" Why, indeed. Because I believe there is life on Earth, and I'm going to try to find it. Because I need answers to fundamental questions regarding myself and my humanity. Since the life I was born into doesn't suit me, what life will? If people are so very isolated from one another, what will draw us closer together? Is there a place where idealistic people like myself can realize the lives they dream of? Or am I just suffering a post-adolescent existential crisis?

Siempre Buscando,