10 years living, traveling solo around the world: 30+countries, 4 continents, a baby & a life-altering diagnosis [pt 1]

Happy New DECADE! Hola hola, I’m BACK—and with a crazy, exciting, emotional series of photo essays summarizing my past 10 years living and traveling solo around the world. It will also explain why I kind of “ghosted” y’all (sorry about that). I’m proud to announce I’ve made it to the other end of the tunnel after MANY sharp turns and (mis)adventures—so excited to start off a new decade finally able to share them with YOU again.

Off we go!

A decade of living and traveling solo around the world (part 1!)

2009-2010

Lived in Egypt, Morocco, and Florida; also explored Spain, Italy, Iceland, Panama, Mexico, NYC

I ended the previous decade – which officially started my solo adventures traveling around the world – with a year studying abroad in Egypt, a summer traveling the Middle East, and 4 months in Morocco.

female traveling to Pyramids of Giza Egypt

traveled to the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt at age 20

traveling solo around the world Red Sea camel riding

Riding camels through a natural reserve bordering the Red Sea. 2009

ancient Egypt temples, Abu Simbel

Ramses II, your ego is truly heavy (me at Abu Simbel Temple, summer 2009)

female travel to Bahariya Oasis Egypt

Bahariya Oasis, Western Desert, Egypt! Visited in 2009 (Photo: Fellow student M. Begault)

And it was among the great contrasts of the barren desert of the Sinai Peninsula and one of the bodies of water with the most abundant marine life in the world that I got certified as a SCUBA diver, all the way to advanced. I even got to explore one of the top 10 ship wreck dives in the world, the SS Thistlegorm.

solo traveling around the world, scuba diving in Egypt

descent for DEEP dive for my PADI advanced open water certification in the Red Sea, Egypt

traveling the Sinai Peninsula solo, Egypt

seemingly barren of life on the surface, teeming with life underwater! That’s the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt

“Oh, and a few quick trips to Europe!

first trip to Rome:

solo travel around the world Rome Italy

My 1st trip to Rome was possible thanks to Couchsurfing. Fall 2009

That December, I finished a magical semester living in Morocco (which I road tripped with fellow exchange students over the weekends!)

study abroad in Morocco

me in Essaouira, Morocco with one of the local kids we took in for lunch

beach in Morocco road trip

Hidden beach found during a road trip through Morocco, fall 2009

Morocco is where I flew out to the UK and onto a sick 6-day stopover trip to ICELAND! Crazy that it was cheaper for me to do this free side trip with Icelandair on my way back home to Puerto Rico than to book a more direct flight, haha! That was my first time in Iceland and, 10 years later, it still tops my list of most favorite countries in the world – it’s like visiting a different PLANET:

Iceland travel tour blue lagoon

Me with silica mud mask at the Blue Lagoon, Iceland. December 2009

Iceland waterfalls photos frozen Skogafoss

In front of one of the many majestic waterfalls of Iceland. December 2009

I even got to see the northern lights! I CRIED, their beauty overwhelmed me:

Iceland northern lights aurora borealis

HD cameras/smartphones were not as affordable back then (2009!), so my pictures don’t do them justice!

After spending the Puerto Rican holidays with my family, I went back to the continental U.S. in January 2010 and got to swim with manatees in Florida. It was my 1st encounter with animals in the wild!

adventures around the world swimming with manatees

swimming with manatees in Florida THIS close is one of the top highlights of my whole LIFE

student swimming with manatees

I couldn’t stop smiling!

I was still a full time college student, so after the Spring 2010 semester kicked off, I took advantage of my very last official Spring Break to sail the San Blas Islands, Panama and to party on an overwater hostel in Bocas Del Toro:

Panama Bocas Del Toro hostel

Solo travel around the world = many friends made! From left: American, Puerto Rican (me!), Australian, American, and Israeli at over-water hostel

solo female traveling San Blas Islands Panama

One of the many isolated, pristine San Blas Islands, Panama. Spring 2010

GRADUATION!

After working my butt off holding several jobs/writing essays for study abroad scholarships to pay for university plus travel the world while studying full time, I finally graduated with honors distinction from college in December 2010. Took me 5 and a 1/2 years (2 degrees, 11 countries, and a 3rd language later) but hey, gotta work hard and play hard.

graduating after traveling the world

me graduating with 2 degrees from University after traveling the world!

BUT! Before hitting the real world? A BACKSTREET BOYS CRUISE!

solo travel around the world, Backstreet Boys cruise

Me at the bottom (blue/white dress) holding Brian and the rest of the BACKSTREET BOYS! Only Kevin missing 🙁

Limbo dancing on stage with the Backstreet Boys at a beach party in Cozumel. One of these photos of me actually made it to be the cover photo of the official Backstreet Boys Facebook page after the cruise. EPIC!

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After an epic celebrity party cruise and graduation,  I said good bye to 2010 and hello to 2011 by watching the ball drop NYE in Times Square, New York City from the VIP lane! Click on that pink text link to read the full story on how I pulled this off (it involves NYPD officers…lol)

solo female travel NYC New Year's Ball drop Times Square

New Years in Times Square, NYC – memories like this one will always be part of my daily happiness!

2011-2012

From solo traveling around the world to a wedding, a baby, and other surprises

Little did I know this year we would have a very Puerto Rican wedding and I would find out I was going to be an AUNTIE. My little sis is all grown up!
<3

Puerto Rican wedding family photo

little did I know this would be one of our last happy family portraits…

from traveling around the world to a baby

from solo traveling around the world to my very first BABY NEPHEW! Born in 2012

Another pivotal chapter of my life also began in 2011: TRAVEL BLOGGING!

That’s the summer LatinAbroad was born!

And this would be the year I’d meet “The One” for me.

from traveling around the world to Tampa Florida

Mr. B and me on the far left in our base camp, Tampa Bay, Florida

Shortly after, I traveled without a plan to Curacao. From ending up in a guesthouse recommended by the very taxi driver that had just picked me up at the airport to Couchsurfing and hitchhiking with strangers around the island, this is been one of my funnest trips to date!

best beaches of Curacao, Kenepa Grandi

me at one of the best beaches of Curacao, Kenepa Grandi

travel without a plan, Curacao Nov 2011

what I love about traveling the world: Locals like him

2012 was mostly about professional growth and exploring the Americas for me. I got promoted to marketing and translation manager after working for a year and a 1/2 with a company and was gaining experience so I could eventually spend more (and do more) while traveling around the world–no more financial restraints or limits!

I still had a handful of adventures that year though, including my first travel conferences in NYC and Keystone, Colorado; my first press trips, sponsored hotel stays and tours in Puerto Rico and Playa Del Carmen; and even my first-ever SNOWFALL in Texas!

Cenote by Mayan ruins in the Yucatan

Me rappelling into a cenote by Mayan ruins in the Yucatan during my first sponsored press trip

Zip line videos Toro Verde Puerto Rico

Me in the middle of The Beast zip line in Puerto Rico: Among Top 2 Highest ones in the world!

 

2013 – when life and dreams crumbled…

This was the year things turned awry – my health went from perfect to terrifying…I got chronically ill (took 2 years to get an official diagnosis for) and was never able to use my hands the same way again. I couldn’t type nor mouse click. I spent up to 14 hours bedridden. I could barely blog, even with aids and voice recognition software. I was discriminated against and unfairly fired from a job I loved. I tried to sue but had to settle for a crap amount because hey, Florida is a “right to work” state and fibromyalgia is a “suspect condition.”

BUT! The irony is that because of this sharp turn in my path I reached the lifestyle I always dreamed of having – and MORE (keep reading this series to find out HOW!).

partying in Tampa Florida

Me (far left, in red) unsuspecting that, in a mere few days, my life (and health) would never be the same…

PART 2 of 10 years traveling around the world series coming up soon!

 

2 thoughts on “10 years living, traveling solo around the world: 30+countries, 4 continents, a baby & a life-altering diagnosis [pt 1]

  1. Hi Maria,

    Just read about your fibromyalgia. Seems our stories are echoing each others. I had a car accident in 2013, which amongst other things has caused fibromyalgia. It has and continues to be a journey in managing, but I’ve been learning a lot, especially about how strong and resilient I am, what and who makes me happiest, and it has forced me to live a more balanced lifestyle. I am looking forward to tuning into Part 2 of your series, to discover what you’ve learned from all of this and what is working for you.

    Sending hugs from a snowy day in Canada.

    • wow, I would love to read more about your story. Have you written about it on your blog? I have followed you for many years, but once I got sick I kind of stopped being online so much. Would love to catch up and talk through our challenges to see if some of the things each of us have been doing could help the other

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