The Love Story of Bags & Valentina
as told by Valentina
Mark Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
This brings light to some of my favorite things about traveling. I was 20 years old when I first traveled abroad. I was fortunate enough to study in Paris through the UC system for one semester, but little did I know this experience would change my world forever. This would be the first time I caught the bug. The travel bug! This bug that would latch to me the rest of my life.
I experienced so much during that trip: I was mugged in the subway, I made friends with local Parisians, I struggled through the language, and all of it became the gateway to visit other parts of France, and many parts of Europe! I was exposed to delicious food, art, culture, dancing at nightclubs until 6 am, navigating public transportation, dreary rainy winters, European fashion, and taking in what it's like to live in a Parisian family's home.
Upon my return home to the States, my family encouraged me to travel abroad again! That next year led me to Rome, where I was studying Art History so it made sense. That trip broadened my mind even more, and it would forever hold a special place in my heart. I already had experience living abroad, so I was eager to see more exciting places around Western and Eastern Europe.
At such a young, ripe, formative time in my life this was all interesting to process back in America. When I came home, I went through a phase in which I felt like no one understood me and I felt the need to dye my hair a different color every week, pierce my nose, and listen to Radiohead on repeat. Woe is me ;-) I thought I was alone in something, but it only made me understand my own uniqueness.
These experiences primed me for what became my career choice -- a hooper & all around dance/circus/fire/burlesque performer... A Traveling Showgirl!
As soon as I had worked hard enough to build up my skills, name and repertoire here in San Diego, I started looking for opportunities abroad. My sights were set high! And my first international gig brought me back to Paris, at the Belly Fusions Festival. Makes sense, because it is where this all began, isn't it? Within a year, I made my first trip to Asia when I was invited to perform at the Singapore Grand Prix, and made a whole trip out of it by exploring Thailand with one of my best girlfriends.
Through the hoop community and hoop festivals, I was able to make connections with amazing people from around the globe. These connections brought me to the UK about a year after first going international. I spent 6 weeks teaching workshops, teaching and performing at hoop and belly dance festivals, and traveling through both England and Ireland. I had some pretty epic hoop-star travel partners including Gail, Revolva and Tiana. It was the trip in which I found my lifelong travel and adventure partner, Bags!
Though the story of exactly how we came to be is complicated (I wont go way into it here), we fell deeply in love very fast during my first time in the UK. Since we lived in different countries, one of the only ways we could figure out how to spend time together would be to travel together.
We met again in Nicaragua where he was doing a circus charity project with Performers Without Borders. Then he met me in the States and we went on our 'Dreaming Circles' tour across the US. We taught 45 workshops in 17 different cities, driving from San Diego to Miami, from Miami to Maine and then from Maine through the Midwest, to Burning Man and back down to San Diego. It was the trip that solidified our travel chemistry.
Up until that point we had only spent about 6-7 weeks together total. We had roughly six months apart and then dove into a car together for three months in one epic road trip. And epic it was! There were definitely trepidations about this course of action. How was this going to work out? It could go either way. It could've totally not worked, being stuck in a car together that long...but somehow, it totally did!
I still remember the beginning of the trip, driving around the Grand Canyon rim and stopping at look-out points. We would get to one and then we would both point to a spot we wanted to climb out to, and just sit to enjoy the view. We always had the same ideas. Without even saying anything to each other, we knew where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. We were clearly on the same wavelength. That's when I knew we would be MORE than good travel partners.
Bags had traveled a fair amount before we got together (Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Qatar, China, Thailand, India, Nicaragua, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Egypt, Canada, Australia, Cuba... Sheesh, the list goes on!) so our combined experience and natural inclination for the unknown made us perfectly paired for adventure. And oh, the adventures we had!
We lived in Nicaragua together for three months doing another Performers Without Borders charity circus project (after which we took a bus from there all the way up to Mexico City). We've been to Thailand, the UK, Sicily, Paris, Amsterdam, Australia (twice), New Zealand (where we got engaged in front of a waterfall), Canada and LOTS of fabulous places across the United States including Hawaii. We have taken more road trips together, done workshop & show tours, created videos, worked on our acts and our art, trained, collaborated, and pretty much hooped and juggled everywhere we went.
We dealt with all kinds of travel catastrophes, we problem-solved, brainstormed, experimented and figured our way through lots of tough situations...together! We stumbled through many different languages, cultures, religions and foreign experiences. We found our strengths, our weaknesses and how much stronger we are together. We just fit like two puzzle pieces! Where he has strength, I have weakness and vice versa. We have opened our minds and we have done it all together as the traveling / performing / teaching / circus-ing power couple that we are today!
There are still so many more places I want to go with him! This year we'll be teaching at Summer Hooping in Mexico and Flow in the Forrest in British Columbia.