I Know What Freedom Feels Like — Part I

I quit my job a few weeks ago, and my first thought after walking out the door was clear, I almost heard it audibly, like a soft voice, riding on the breeze. The sun washed over my skin, and it felt like the first time I’d ever felt its warmth. It seemed the birds chirped in a pleasant chorus — a special song just for me. I felt jarred by the fact that I was jobless, but also comforted by the words softly blowing past my ears.

“I’m going to live in the Dominican Republic,” the voice said.

Crazy, right? This broke girl with nothing to show for the past 4 years of her life as a working adult (part of that time was spent as a teenager, but I digress) is sitting here thinking about running off to some foreign country to live out a fantasy of freedom and exotic island fun? Ha! Sis, think again.

It sounds far-fetched, but I had spent the last year escaping off to that very place. I sat with locals eating la bandera, I’ve walked the streets of Santo Domingo, surrounded by gorgeous people of every shade of brown, speaking that super fast, yet rhythmic Spanish that only Dominicans speak. I even got sick while staying there and still loved every moment of vomiting and writhing in discomfort as I lay in bed, listening to los motos zoom by on the street below through the open window of my apartment.

A saturated city-scape of colorful high-rise apartments and other buildings surrounded by power lines and trees in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

(A view from my apartment in Santo Domingo, taken by me.)

The first time I escaped to my beautiful paradise, I was terrified. And on top of that, a novel virus had just showed up on the world-stage months before I hastily bought my (first ever) plane ticket. My family thought I would surely die if I stepped one foot off of American soil, much less to go meet someone I had met on the internet, a beautiful Dominican man, who I am now planning a wedding with.

I had fist-clenching anxiety from the moment I bought my ticket, to the moment I landed. I began having terrible nightmares about terrible things happening to me, and I questioned to my therapist in every session hoping to God she would tell me my nightmares were just dreams and not cosmic signs that I should not go. I had spent my hard-earned college refund on this, so I was most definitely going to go, no matter what. Or at least die trying.

The days passed and passed some more, and finally, after almost a year, the day had arrived for me to board my flight to Santo Domingo. I had fresh new vacation clothes, even an outfit I bought specifically for arriving at the airport to meet my man, fresh braids that I worked on for three miserable days, and a carry-on full of shit I ultimately would not need. I was ready. Yet still, filled with crippling fear.

At 3AM, my family drove an hour to Atlanta to drop me off at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. I had done extensive research on the layout of the building to avoid getting lost or looking lost and googled many things from, “What to do my first time going to an airport,” and “Steps after arriving at the airport first time,” so I was not worried about walking through the doors. However, the act of getting on a plane and somehow floating thousands of feet in the air made me completely rethink my vacation plans. For years, the fear-of-flying inheritance was passed down from generation to generation until it finally got to me, and I too was afraid to fly, like my grandma, mama and everybody else.

I all too quickly completed the missions of security checks, checking into my flight and walking for miles and miles until I arrived at the gate. Getting on the plane and flying was the boss level of the traveling game for me. And it would be a 3 and a half hour battle before I would win…or lose.

This was just the beginning of a journey I would embark on of going and returning from this beautiful island nation and figuring out my plan to go back and stay for good. The next few posts will follow my past trips in the DR and chronicle my journey on becoming a digital nomad and being able to permanently plant myself oversees on the island, where I hope to make my second home.

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A delicate flower bent by the breeze, a leaf fallen under the trees. Not often heard, not often seen. That is me. But please stay and read; I have much to share