I saw her across the room and I was instantly attracted to her light. It had been the most horrible year and I desperately needed light in my life. She reminded me of myself when I was her age: a dreamer, an adventure seeker, and a passionate learner. She was sixteen and I was nineteen, and three years seemed like such a gigantic gap back then.
My thoughts were interrupted by our instructor. He was a rather enigmatic character and I don’t quite understand how he ended up teaching Italian in the Caribbean or what he was thinking when he would stare at one of us or out in the distance. Nevertheless, I felt grateful for him because Italian class was an oasis for the desert my soul was experiencing. It was a break from hating my life and hating myself. It was a crack that let in fresh air into my trapped dreams.
An hour was never enough… and now it was over. Back to reality. And then she came over and introduced herself. And my life was never the same.
I had never met someone quite like Carolina… and I must confess to you, as she celebrates her thirty-sixth birthday, I have yet to find a better friend.
Do you have a BFF? Then you know what people mean when they say they’ve found a soul mate: someone who’s so good for your soul you don’t really understand what’s in it for hers.
Carolina is the whole package. She’s loving, courageous, kind, focused, driven, compassionate, generous, confident, disciplined, adventurous, down to earth, both wise and smart, caring, has a great sense of humor, knows how to listen, will always tell you the truth – whether that means soft words, hard words, or words that make you snap out of it.
When you’re in her presence, you can’t help but pay attention and be inspired. Her unshakable faith and incredibly positive outlook in life were exactly what I needed when I met her almost two decades ago. And one thing is to be friends with someone whom you respect, love, and admire, and another is to enjoy her unconditional love and support.
We went to concerts, to the beach, to the movies, and always had a great time, but she has also been my rock in the not so great moments of my life. She knows exactly what to say and what not to say, and she goes the extra mile to let you know she’s there for you, and you can count on her helping hand.
She’s my loyal, unconditional, loving friend. But wait, that’s not true… It’s really not about me. Carolina is an extraordinary friend to everyone in her life. That’s what I most love about her.
And that’s what I saw that Monday afternoon when she came into class. We became inseparable, and in a matter of weeks, after a close call, I woke up from a coma reciting her phone number, asking someone to call her.
I don’t think anyone understood why, after eight days wrestling with death, I would request to see someone I’d just met, but, it is clear: my soul needed her light, her love, her positivity in my life. She’s an angel and I thank God for her, because I know He sent her to me.
1996 was a trying year for sure, but friendship trumped and triumphed. And to celebrate Carolina’s birthday and the upcoming 20th anniversary of our friendship, I partnered with Delta Air Lines once again to promote the contest My Next Trip Back, to pay her a surprise visit in the Dominican Republic, spend some girlfriend time together, and finally see our babies play together, too!
Even though I moved to the USA in 2001, Carolina always found a way to come and see me. California, Florida, it didn’t matter, she’d show up at my door and light up the room with her joy. But after she became a mom and since I’m a new mom again, it’s been increasingly challenging to find ways to visit one another. I’m sure you can relate. It’s sometimes difficult to set up a play date, or a mom’s night out with friends that live down the street, so imagine how tough it can be to reunite with a friend who is thousands of miles away, across the ocean.
If you had the chance to visit a friend back home and spend time with her, who would it be? Or, if you had a chance to go on a trip together with your friends here in the USA to Latin America, what would you do with them?
What would you want to experience together?
How would your story become unforgettable?
When the Delta Air Lines team asked me that question I had no doubt whom it would be: Carolina, my best friend, my maid of honor, my inspiration. Through break ups and make-ups in our lives, I am very blessed to know our friendship still stands.
And you have a chance too to make your story come true. Participate in the My Next Trip Back Contest! The most creative, original, and compelling stories will be selected as the winner. Two fortunate people will get the chance to visit Latin America and surprise their friend or their parents (your mom, dad, or both). It’s very easy to enter for a chance to win: visit https://goo.gl/zDiUUw, fill out a form answering 3 simple questions, and upload up to 4 photos about your story. This will generate a video for you, and you can share with everyone you know using #MyNextTripBackContest. Participate as many times as you want and share your story in social media for greater chances of becoming one of the finalists! Deadline to submit your story about your parents is may 8th and deadline to submit your story about your friends is may 31st.
Sometimes we suppress a dream because we don’t see a possibility of it happening. With the My Next Trip Back Contest, you can open yourself up to dream, to imagine, and to create a story that you want to be a reality. That’s fun in itself and you’re going to love it.
When I started imagining my story, I knew immediately I wanted to go to the beach with Carolina. Back in the day, we’d go to the beach together, but neither of us knew how to swim!!! Last year, thanks to Delta Air Lines, I got to swim in the ocean for the first time in my life to show my daughter how to face your fears. My story inspired Carolina to start swimming lessons, to learn too! I grew excited daydreaming about us meeting and swimming together with our families.
But here’s the tricky part. I wanted it to be a surprise. I quickly found out that trying to get information from her without giving it away was going to be hard. So I turned to her husband, and he helped me plan it all out. She married a fantastic man!
It was almost midnight on April 14 when my daughters and I arrived in Santiago. It was our very first time arriving through this airport and the girls’ first time in La Ciudad De Los Caballeros (the city of the gentlemen). We had a very comfortable, enjoyable flight, and were anxious about the reunion.
When she saw me she ran to me in shock, and we hugged, laughed, and cried, as if we had just seen each other and as if we were seeing each other for the first time in years. It was a whimsical moment I will never forget, and the beginning of a beautiful journey.
Going to the beach was as divine of an experience as I had imagined. As we played and danced in the water in that beautiful moment of joy, it became clear to me that our souls are ageless, and we are timeless.
But, to my surprise, there was so much more magic in the seemingly mundane:
Saying good morning
Praying together at the dinner table
Saying goodbye to her all dressed up and ready for work
Talking to her about our families
Seeing her kiss her babies good-night
Feeling at home in her home
Learning about her surroundings
Going out to dinner with new friends
Shopping for groceries that accommodate our vegan lifestyle
Giving gifts and receiving gifts
Seeing our kids play together and start a new cycle of friendship
Singing the lyrics to our favorite song in Italian, though we hadn’t heard in years…
Ti attraversa il cuore,
Che non se ne va.
“When friendship crosses through your heart, it leaves an emotion, that does not go away.”
I’m grateful for Delta Air Lines’ My Next Trip Back Contest for the precious indelible memories with my BFF.
She’s amazing… I don’t know how she does it. She gets better through the years, and through the distance, and she’s never stopped being a great friend. Now that is she a wife and a mom, she is exemplar at both. And she’s a rocking successful corporate leader who is always pushing herself to grow and inspire her team to do the same.
Do you have a friend who encourages you when you’re struggling, who lifts you up when you fall, who praises you when you, who gives you advice when you’re lost, who has your back when everyone else has turned theirs, and is a beautiful, remarkable friend all around? I call mine Carolina. She’s the real deal… and a light in my life.
How would you celebrate an important friend in your life? Now it’s your turn to create your very own unforgettable story with your parents or friends. Share it in the comments below and enter the My Next Trip Back Contest at https://goo.gl/zDiUUw.