A blog – well if you knew me just 5 years ago you would be amazed that I even read one let alone had created one of my own. I have evolved from an individual who much like Kennear’s role as Frank Navasky in “You’ve Got Mail” believed the written word was just that and only that, Written. I still love the sound of a typewriter, but evermore am I enamored with the smell and touch of the written word. I used to dream as a young girl that maybe one day I would write something noteworthy enough to be printed and collected for others to treasure as I do of articles, books, magazines, and journals. Therefore, writing a blog is very foreign to me. So, while I have my trepidations about this adventure I am hopeful that my words and who I am will inspire or at minimum provoke a contradiction and ensue an elegant conversation with a reader.
Except, truly how can you appreciate what I write and my personal experiences unless you know who I am as an individual, or at least as I see myself. I am Kristina Alexandra Pulido Almodovar. I am very proud of my name, and I have always been most proud to whom I was born unto and my birthplace. I was born in Bogotá, Colombia to Carlos Pulido, a native, and Susan Gibmeyer, an American from Baltimore. They met in Fort Lauderdale but when my father realized several months after they wed that Susan, my mom, was pregnant, he immediately moved back to his home, Bogotá Colombia. The idea of moving to Bogotá in the 80’s was a risky one for many reasons, but my mother embraced the idea with open arms. She knew that it would afford her child dual citizenship and an opportunity to have the experience of life through a different perspective.
Ok so side note, Yes you read correctly, Bogotá in the 80s, during all the narco-trafficking, FARC, and other militant groups. However, luckily my father came from a family that was part of the higher 1% and our ability to have safety unlike others was beyond a blessing! In fact, when I got older I asked my mother why Bogotá especially at that time – simply she said, “Because fear should never be your motivation for anything, instead you should understand what you are afraid of and then figure out how to overcome it. What type of mother would be if I didn’t teach you this from an early age? What type of example would I be setting if I didn’t keep your connection to your roots and other family?” This answer has been the driving force for almost all that I do when I am fearful or feel lost.
As time passed, about 4 years later, too many bombs, too few job opportunities, and too much stress from the city pressed eponym father’s vision for a bright future. Miami was his answer. We had family there, and the hope was that a fresh start would help the marriage. Unfortunately, the move was only a band-aid for the marriage and shortly after resulted in a divorce. I was 4 and fluent in Spanish – it was all we spoke in the home in Colombia. Suddenly, my world was too unfamiliar between the divorce, the new environment, and every interaction with others was in English not Spanish, so I became MUTE. It took me almost 5 months before I began to speak, and when I did it was never in full sentences. If anyone has ever been through a traumatic situation and has gone mute to endure it, knows that in silence you can learn more than most will ever learn by using their tongue. Through music, favorite television shows like “Que Pasa USA?”, and ESOL classes I eventually learned English too well. I started to forget Spanish. I started to forget my family in Colombia. It was then decided I needed a refresh. Quickly, my father and I boarded my first Pan Am flight.
Pan Am was so amazing back then, it is a tragedy that flying is not as it was when I was a child. The flight attendants were all ladies, and they looked so elegant and posh. Don’t misunderstand I embrace all sexes as flight attendants, but as a young girl it was like watching one’s Barbie doll fantasies come to life. The woman were role models because although many men coveted them as sexual idols for me they took charge of an entire plane and flew the world. There my love for travel began. It is funny to think that the flight that was meant for me to reconnect with my family was the one that forged my desire to travel the globe. I wanted to be as free as a bird and have those same adventures as the Pan Am ladies.
After a long visit we returned home to Miami. The fire was ignited in me and I became a child driven by what next “somewhere” and adventure I could embark upon with my favorite Barbie. I was not your average child. Like most children I wanted Barbie dolls, dresses, and makeup however upon every birthday, Christmas, or Easter when asked what I wanted MOST it was the chance to visit a new “somewhere”. In order to appease my hunger my father went so far as to make a game out of the city we lived in and play fake “Miami Vice”. We would watch the show and see all the cool places that the stars visit. He would take me to each building and recreate an imaginative world that we were tracking down the bad guys. It was awesome. My mother had a different approach and idea she realized we lived in the epicenter of cruising so naturally, my mother said let us take this to the next degree – I will take Kristina on a cruise around the Caribbean .
Well, you know how they say that things have a funny way of working out when you least expect it, it is SO TRUE! I remember very fondly my first ship and cruise. It was a small but an elegant ship, the Costa Riviera of Costa Cruise Lines, and we went to the Western Caribbean – Jamaica, Mexico, and Grand Cayman. Still, I can recall the feelings of joy and goosebumps I had when I climbed Ocho Rios’ Dunn’s River Falls. I was about 7 at the time and thought wow this is just so magnificent.
Did I mention I was a stubborn and precocious child? Well, my mother decided on our third day at sea she wanted to play in the casino. Thus, she convinced me to attend the child care program while she gambled. I was very excited because it was being hosted in the same room we had seen the marvelous Vegas show with the gorgeous dancers and their colorful feather headdresses. My mother said maybe you will be lucky enough to meet one of the dancers or even see the costumes, that was all the convincing I needed. However, after an hour of playing games there were just children. No promise of any dancers -costumes – and Not what I had in mind. Instinctively, I took things into my own hands. I waited until the children directors were not looking and highly engaged in their conversation to notice me sneak back around the red velvet curtain into the dancers dressing room. Finally!! It was paradise, costumes galore, makeup and props. I sat down and played with the makeup – just a little eyeshadow on my cheeks and bright red lipstick on lips – lol. Then I proceeded to put wigs on, hats, and with the help of a chair got that feather headdress that weighed a ton down and onto my head. Unbeknownst to me, the entire hour I was “missing” the ship’s photographer captured every moment of mischievous renegade. After about an hour, I let myself be found and thought goodness that was a close one – if my mom had found out what I done I would be dead! The directors never said a word; I thought they didn’t want to get yelled at either and sadly believed I was safe.
Later that night at formal dinner, the photographer who came around every night to take photos didn’t come around with just his camera. Instead, he had a folder with him and asked if he could take a sit with our family for dessert. Suddenly, my mother looked at me and then spoke in Spanish, as she did when she didn’t want others to know she was angry or concerned, asked “Oh goodness, Kristina what did you do now?” The photographer answered her back in Spanish and said, “Your daughter did something magnificent!” The photographer came with the public relations representative for the ship and the director of marketing who also happened to be on vacation. The conversation traversed quickly into do you mind if we use these images and schedule a session for your child to become a spokes model for Costa Cruise Lines! For years, I was fortunate enough to travel via Costa Cruise Lines and visited almost every island you could imagine in the Caribbean, Leeward and Steward Islands, and more.
Time moved quickly, I got tired of doing photo sessions for cruises and wanted to experience more than cruising. I wanted to see places in the states and I began to miss my roots very deeply. I especially missed my family in Cali and unlike most teenagers I was very well aware of the happenings in Colombia but didn’t care wanted to be with my family. The 90s in Colombia were in one word – tumultuous and truthfully I am almost ashamed to describe it as such because we were the lucky few who could afford to live in guarded walls and have the finer things in life to secure us. Nonetheless, I turned 15 and instead of a traditional quince party I asked for three months in Colombia and to tour around Cali and Bogotá. I wanted to be able to see the mountains, the rough terrain, the areas of nestled in between that no one ever visited. It was wonderful some would say dangerous, but we took whatever precautions necessary and it changed my outlook on my birthplace and relationships with my family forever.
Fast-Forward to college in Tallahassee, because staying anywhere near home was not even a thought. I became a Kappa, A Kappa Kappa Gamma at FSU, and meeting so many women from so many different states and backgrounds opened my eyes to how many more places and people I wanted to meet in the world. I travelled to New Orleans for the Blues Festival, camped throughout Alabama, ventured through the panhandle beaches, and did a good number of visits to New York City. Focus was quickly diverted on getting a job and being on my own and being able to support myself but still fuel my passion for travel. The golden ticket was found again when least expected. I was chatting with a client who I was training to reach his physical goal and from that conversation I next found myself working in sales for Carnival Cruise Lines.
Although the job was not within my wheelhouse of studies, I did not care I leaped at the opportunity to once again be acquainted first hand with travel. Suddenly, my world stopped revolving and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time, but this time the forecast was dismal. I am forever grateful for Carnival allowing me to work from home and spend my mother’s final days together. When my mother passed I became keenly aware that if I wanted something, someone, or a certain lifestyle I needed to do it not dream it! I woke up one day and like a thunderbolt realized my best guy friend was someone who I wanted something far more with, I wanted him as a life partner! He – Omar – also worked for Carnival in the same capacity, sales, and the sparks between us were always there, but we never acted upon them because we valued our friendship more! Except, Omar was the individual who gave me the strength to face every day during my mother’s illness and after. Omar shared the same love for travel and culture; his dreams were just a great as mine and he had no intention of not making them a reality.
Ten years later, we are stronger than ever and have renewed our vows in Paris just this September 3, 2016. We have also decided to embark on a new adventure together – our own travel business including a blog. We both have our worries and concerns about stepping out on this ledge, except I won’t lie doing it together versus alone has created a unique connection unlike any other we have established thus far in our marriage and friendship. Wonders of the World Travel, LLC is our company and is affiliated with Avoya and American Express. It has been an honor to be able to learn about more than just cruises, and bond with other travel agents about different products. The learning process is never-ending and personally that is what pushes me to succeed. I relish never feeling stagnate albeit mind and travel. Everyday there is a new request and opportunity to learn about a city, product, tour, and nurture relationships with vendors that my husband and I have used for years but truly couldn’t endorse. Now we can, and more importantly we can offer the good, the bad, the advice in between, and the learning lessons we have had over our travels. My hope is that our blog will truly unite us with readers, who like my clients have become, will be a welcomed addition to a unique friendship that endures both the good and bad Together!
So in the words of one my most favorite women of all time, Maya Angelou, “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try to understand each other, we may even become friends.” The hope is that through my expression of our wandering the wonders while aiming to understand all of your travel experiences that have made both You and I cry, laugh, eat, worry, and make one happy to die if necessary – it will lean into a Genuine Friendship. Thus, I hope you will take my “hand” and Wander the Wonders with Us!