Coming Full Circle with Analinda Meneses

Photo credit: Nevin Xavier

Photo credit: Nevin Xavier

Traveling Wanderess, Analinda Meneses, is a full time elementary school teacher that has overcome so many adversities in her life and has made the most out of it. Inspired by her struggles to just get up, get out and explore! She's experienced awakenings to live a life worth living and along her spiraling journey, she comes to realize how everything comes full circle. 

She may just leave to a new city right after school on Friday and come back just in time for work Monday morning to share with her students about her travels. 

Analinda Meneses, a social media influencer, may come off as someone who travels for a living but in reality, she just makes traveling possible. In this feature interview, the Traveling Wanderess discusses starting her blog, hitting rock bottom, and the top three lessons she'd like to always remind herself of.

You mentioned how family trips to Guadalajara (taking different routes each time) inspired you to live a travel filled life! What’s the most memorable moment you have with your family from these trips?

Every year we took (it seems like) a different car - the mobile home, a small four door car, a mini van… we always took different cars! My favorite was probably the mobile home because the times we took it, there was a bed above the passenger seat with a window looking straight out and I would just look out the entire time. My mom would take coloring books and different activities for us and all I’d want to do is look out the window all through the night to see all the stars. Especially going down through Texas to Guadalajara, which was a much longer route but that was probably the most beautiful for me. Looking at the night sky or just getting off at gas stations and running around were two of my favorite parts of the road trips. I cherish those because we don’t travel as a family anymore.

What was the first destination you visited on your own without your family?

Everyone has a bucket list. My number one thing was visiting Venice, Italy but it seemed so out of reach. Like the craziest dream. Being from a lower-middle class family, a Latina living in LA, this was never going to happen. It was just a dream. Not something that I’d be able to cross off. The first thing I put (because it was the craziest thing ever) was going to Venice, Italy.

In my early twenties, I was trying to be an avid runner and I would train for marathons. I couldn’t really run like I wanted to and then doctors were saying that I shouldn’t run. From arthritis to tendinitis to different things they were filling out for many, many months it would be hard for me to run at all. It was sometimes even hard for me to walk. I didn’t know it was going to happen, so I booked a trip. I left right when I turned 23. I took the trip by myself, without my family. I went from Venice down to Rome and took a cruise around the Mediterranean. Then I went back to Venice and flew back home in two weeks. Probably the craziest thing I’ve ever done but that’s what triggered it. I loved the high of being in those places and crossing that off and being like, “I’m here!”

I thought my heart was pretty full and when I got [to Greece] I was just like, ‘Oh my god. You guys are filling it up even more.’
— Analinda Meneses

I’m sure it’s hard to pick a favorite but is there a specific destination that really just impacted you and became special to you? Would Venice be it?

Um... to a certain extent. But there are some things that moved me even more. Venice was more of a personal dream. As far as a place that really moved me, it would be Greece as a whole - the people, the culture, the places, the history. Greece would definitely be it. I went there about a year ago on a whim. I got my ticket two weeks before I left. I joined my boyfriend on his trip. I had just quit my job at a school to push through this and he said, “You should come with me!” I said, “No way, I don’t have a job.” He said, “Well, that’s why you should!” It was just very spontaneous. I had never traveled with anyone before. It was still very early on in our relationship, we were just dating and so all of this was new! I was like, “Ah it’s fine, just go. I want to go to Greece!” In that list I wrote ten places and at the bottom of the page I wrote Santorini. At the very bottom. I figured that couldn’t even make it on the list because there was no way I could go there. I saw that list before I went and of course I got emotional. I thought this was crazy.

I quit my job and started something new. It was just a lot more moving, not just personally, but spiritually too. It felt like home, like how I feel in Mexico but on the other side of the world. I did not expect that. I saw so many similarities. I just think the culture is so beautiful and I’ve never gotten so many hugs in that short amount of time. Everywhere you went, people would hug you and pray for you. It was just such a moving experience spiritually.

How did you feel when you got back home from Greece?

While I was in Greece, I didn’t think of anything back home. Responsibilities or pressure or anything. I was loving everything about the place, the island of Milos. If I can picture heaven, it would look just like that and feel just like that. I didn’t care for the responsibilities back home. When I came back I was still in awe of everything that happened on that trip. It took me some time to plant my feet on the ground again. Every time I look back at the footage or talk about Greece, it just comes back. I didn’t think a place and it’s people would impact me like that. I thought my heart was pretty full and when I got there I was just like, “Oh my god. You guys are filling it up even more.”

Photo credit: Nevin Xavier

Photo credit: Nevin Xavier

Have you experienced any kind of awakening through your travels?

Every place that I go to that’s just a beautiful place, like Canada, is incredibly breathtaking. That stopped me in my tracks. Everything that I carry is just shut out. Everyone is stuck in the future instead of living in the now. Like when I go home I have to do this, next week I have to do that.

As far as a place that I can’t get out of my heart and my day to day thoughts… we were in the downtown of Athens, called Plaka. It’s kind of like the black market of Athens. My boyfriend was looking for something and we walked into a store that sold dishes with designs on them, lamps, crosses, jewelry and religious icons. The woman there, very, very tiny, dressed in all black, like your typical Greek mom, didn’t speak any english. I didn’t speak any Greek. She came up to me and started pointing on her chest and then started pointing at mine. I thought I had something on my chest and my boyfriend said she was asking if I had a cross.

I was brought up Catholic but I don’t really practice it, so I was like, “No, sorry!” She turns around and gives me a cross, puts it around my neck and says, “Here. For your travels. For you to have a safe trip.” I thought it was so beautiful that she didn’t care what I believed in, if i even believed in a religion, or what I practiced. She just gave out her heart, prayers, and all her good wishes on me. That was probably the most moving experience. Until this day, when I travel, I take the cross.

Experiencing such beautiful moments in different parts of the world, that’s worth my while. That’s worth my work.
— Analinda Meneses

A lot of people dream of traveling but don’t know how to make it possible. What words of advice can you give these people? How do you make travels possible?

Easy! Don’t go shopping. My family tells me I’m always everywhere and I tell them they’re always shopping! You don’t need all the makeup, you don’t need all the shoes. My closet is so big and I don’t fill it up. Of course, I’d like to buy new things but I just don’t put myself in that situation. Before, brands were important to me and now, I really don’t care about that anymore. It does add up!

For the last few years, I don’t have a plethora of money. I’ve been struggling financially but I think you kind of just need to reward yourself. I’ve paid my way through school, I’ve worked full time, studied full time… it’s never been easy. It’s not just what’s a priority but what’s worthwhile. Experiencing such beautiful moments in different parts of the world, that’s worth my while. That’s worth my work. And it doesn’t have to be international trips. I try to take one or two a year and in between I go to Mexico, I drive to the canyons, I drive to San Francisco and crash at a friends. You don’t need to stay at a five star hotel. That’s just how I do it. It’s not easy. It’s not rocket science. It’s just what’s more meaningful.

So aside from doing your occasional travel and blogging. What else takes up your time?

I work full time at an elementary school in the ELD program. I took a break from the education field last year and I just started back up again. Last September I quit, this September I started again. That’s where my first passion is because even during my break away I had a lot of trouble emotionally detaching from it. That only proved to me that that’s where I need to be. So I came back and that is what takes up most of my time - working with students who need help with English language development or need help developing English as a second language.

Tell me more about your studies and work in the education field! I saw on your blog that you studied Earth Science.

The concentration of my major is Liberal Arts for elementary school teachers but my personal concentration is for Earth Science because I kept taking so many classes under that. I think naturally geography, geology and biology is just my thing. I don’t travel just to see the place, shoot it and go or to cross another place off my list. I go and while I am there I’m like, “Oh. So this is that rock!” And if someone around me doesn’t know how it was formed, I’ll gladly tell them how. So I’m like the park ranger. I think that all ties them together, from education to photography to travel. I thought they were all separate entities but now I see a connection underlying in all of this.

How have your passions in geography, language, and photography affected the way you explore new travel destinations?

This always comes up in conversation naturally. The whole travel stuff started when I wasn’t feeling well. When I didn’t know where that was going to end up. I started taking pictures from my phone everywhere I went. One, so my family knew where I was and two, it just felt good to go back to work Monday morning (no matter where I was, even if I had to drive all night and get home at 4 a.m. and be at work at 7:30 a.m.) and I get my first student to help me come up with the concept of weathering or erosion. I’d pull out my phone and say, “Look at Zion! Look at Antelope Canyon!” I’m so excited about the trip and extremely exhausted but my energy is bursting out of my body showing the students because the students are like, “What! That’s weathering? You went there?” I’m like, “Yes! The person you see Monday through Friday, looking like a zombie actually went there and if I can do it you can do it!” They’re able to have a connection, not just a picture in a textbook.

Photo credit: Nevin Xavier

Photo credit: Nevin Xavier

When did you start your blog the Traveling Wanderess?

In August of 2015, I launched it!

Has blogging since the last year created any opportunities for you?

Yes, of course. I like to use it to collaborate with certain companies and businesses to travel. I don’t use it to market other companies that have tried to reach out to me. I’ve written posts and shared things that I actually want to do. It’s not a commercial. If I went on a helicopter, it’s because I reached out to them directly and found that flight. If I wrote about a restaurant, it’s because that’s my favorite restaurant. It’s not because someone invited me to write about it.  

In one of your posts, you mentioned being on the brink of losing all hope for a healthy life a few years ago. Could you share with us this experience of yours and how you overcame it?

Once I wasn’t able to do the things that I wanted to, such as cycling and running, I found it very hard to sit still. I just wanted to be out, no matter how bad I felt. I needed to be dropped off at work. I needed to go on a road trip even if someone else was driving my car. I was never in physical pain, I just had a hard time walking. The Western medicines and the doctors, I just felt like I was going around in circles without any real solution. That process hurt me more. With that process, I was in pain and I was more frustrated than anything else. I decided after being ill several times from different treatments and medications to just stop going to see the doctors and take a more holistic route because I didn’t know where I was going. It was really bad at one point. I was bedridden for a couple weeks and I just decided to get out there and just catch the sunset. Whether it was just by my house after work, whether it was to shoot the milky way out of my car (because I couldn’t get out of my car). I’ve done that and that never bothered me. I was just glad to be there and I was never angry at the situation. So what started happening is that I would start going out every weekend, no matter how I felt, mainly to Rosarito, Mexico. I’d hang out there and do some work, read, eat healthy. I went down there every weekend for months. Over nine months when I got really bad.

I’d hit the holistic route head on and I tried several therapies and treatments and what not. I changed the way I ate. It was much harder to try and eat healthy in LA than it was in Rosarito. I think taking all these holistic measures and just the drive to get out there really helped me get back to being healthy.

While I was bedridden, one of my good friends, who’s also an inspiration, was kidnapped in one of his travels and unfortunately killed. I got that news when I couldn’t get up for several weeks and that made me even more angry. That was probably my rock bottom. Not being able to get up and see the sunset. But that taught me the fragility of time.

You can’t just be like, ‘YOLO!’ You do only live once but that is why you need to do it right.
— Analinda Meneses

What are the top three lessons you’ve learned in your life so far that perhaps you’d like to always remind yourself of?

Number one is do yourself good. As in, your eating habits, your whole lifestyle, the way you interact with people. Do good for yourself, the people you surround yourself with, the stress you put yourself through. You need to put yourself first in a very unselfish way. You can’t just be like, “YOLO!” You do only live once but that is why you need to do it right. That’s doing your body good, doing your mind good and emotionally doing yourself good. It’s easy in today’s culture to be caught up in the stress and that can make you sick. Expectations and standards make you feel worse.

The second lesson would be: do good for the people that you come across. That means spilling your heart out and sharing your life stories, (even though you might never talk to them again), listening to other people and wanting to have a conversation even if there’s a complete language barrier. Be a good friend, even if you don’t see eye to eye all the time.

The third lesson would be to take care of the next generation, whether they are your kids or not. This goes with students, my friends kids, nieces, nephews, and what not. If you see children, pay attention to them, listen to them and make sure this world is better for them. Not just for a healthy environment but for a healthy emotional and physical state.

I feel like everything comes full circle for you - travel, teaching and blogging.

Yes. But believe me it took me a while to see it! I didn’t see it at first. I’ve had some breakdowns but there’s always a breakthrough. I probably lost a lot of hair, especially in this last year. I’m like, “How do I do this!?” Everyone’s like, “You travel for a living,” and I’m like, “Nope! Not at all but I’m going to make it possible to travel.”

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