Monday, June 27, 2011

Positive(ly) Portugal

There are two huge beaming positives that came from my vacation to Portugal.  The first, I picked my camera back up after what I'd love to say was months, but more accurately is probably years.  For some people who don't know, I originally went to college to study Photography.  It was my major.  It is why I was accepted to The Maryland Institute College of Art (well, mainly).  I fell in love with photography in high school.  I had/have a passion for all things people, and snapping one moment in time of one person, one look, one tiny piece of someone drew me in and I found myself loving all forms of artwork I could use to explore people (always wanted to draw portraits, never landscapes-- same went for my photography for the most part).  When I found video, I realized I could use it to capture moments like photography, but also use it to tell people's stories, and I fell in love with that medium, as well.

For some reason, when I graduated and found myself strapped with more responsibilities, I found less time for exploration and artwork.  I think we all go through that phase where things we love to do find their way to the back burners for us while we spend most of our time and energy as young adults on creating a career path (that we hopefully enjoy) and finding a balance between work and relationships with friends and loves.  Sometimes it takes it's toll on our hobbies and passions, and it takes something big (like a very expensive European vacation) to remind us that there's more to us than work and relationships.  There's more to pad the happiness with, and sometimes I forget them (a small list:  books, poetry, documentaries, photography, painting, drawing, makeup, nail polish, funky fashion, design, cooking, people-watching, singing, etc.)  I've never had a successful vacation, so I didn't realize how important and useful they are in forcing you to rediscover these seemingly obvious joys.

Lagos, Portugal
(aka "Beach Don't Give a Fuck")
The second wonderful experience I walked away from Portugal with was the healing power of European self-image.  Know what I adore about Europeans?  They don't give a fuck about what their bodies look like.  Europeans are far more concerned with their mental health and with simply what makes them happy.  Because many of the things that Europeans find happiness in HAPPEN to be healthy (walking instead of driving everywhere, fresh local ingredients close by to cook with and consume, etc.) they don't have the obesity issues crammed down their throats constantly like we do in the states.  The most beautiful and freeing experience is to go to a European beach.

Dan and I feeling free at the beach.
I remember going to the beach in the Dominican Republic and seeing the visiting Europeans being so free with their bodies (sometimes topless, sometimes just in skimpier suits, sometimes just in regular suits with complete confidence) and thinking it was really shocking and a little gross.  I wasn't used to seeing cellulite, stretch marks or saggy breasts hanging out so freely-- signs of aging.  Signs of enjoying life and good foods and probably wine and beer, too!  These people on the beach weren't unhealthy.  They were simply real and honest.  They weren't photoshopped.  And the strangest part about all of this-- they were smiling.  Laughing, even!

Happy for hours on this beach.
It may be because of the state of mind I was in at that time in the DR, or the people I surrounded myself with, but being on the beach in Portugal was a completely different experience for me.  Not only was I being cheered on to lose my shorts by the company I was in, but the general population of people on the beach were REAL people.  They had physical signs of living life and not spending every day dieting and denying themselves good food or lazy days if they so choose.  It was completely natural and no one-- NOT ONE person looked at anyone else with judgement.  Find me a beach in the US where a gal with extra flab in a bikini isn't ridiculed and/or made fun of (even if it's behind her back).  I mean fuck just a bikini-- in a swimsuit at ALL being more than 120 lbs, you're going to get glances and you're going to feel uncomfortable in your own skin.  It's unfortunate...

Obligatory Vacation Shot.
And while it's with me now, and will probably fade with time, I have that European mentality about my body.  I felt just as good in my bikini on that beach as I ever have about my body.  It probably says a lot about the people I was with as much as it does the culture I was in the center of.  I didn't feel judged, and it was incredibly freeing.

I'm going to try and hold tight to these two positive aspects of this trip and remember them when I'm feeling too American.


For all of my trip's photography, you can visit here.


  1. No fupa no fun, right?!?!? Great post, Rach. I know that feeling in Europe well, and you're right. It's sad we Americans can't develop that....and wont. So sad. You look great, doll!!!!!

  2. The funny thing about cellulite is that you don't have to be fat to have it.

    It's hilarious to me that America as a whole is so obsessed with body image when the skinny people they idolized are, in my eyes, unhealthily skinny.

    I have so much more to say about the American mentality but, eh, too many words.

  3. Being able to accept our body as it is is one of the greatest gifts any woman can give herself. It's a shame the American media does everything in it's power to prevent us from doing so.

    I'm not sure how or when I came to accept and love mine as it is, but being comfortable in your own flesh is indescribably amazing. So happy you got to taste what that is like and I hope it lingers on your tongue for years to come! Better yet, I hope you find the recipe to make it available to yourself for the rest of your life. Maybe these pictures will be part of that recipe?

  4. You're right, Angela. I think Dan has a lot to do with me feeling more comfortable in my own skin these days, but being in Europe really did a number on me. I hope it lingers, too... so far it seems to have. I haven't felt self conscious or anything in a while-- There are definitely times where I don't FEEL my healthiest or greatest physically, but that's very different than hating my body.

    It is pretty amazing... I hope things somehow change here... it's such a toxic view.