My Travelling Backpack

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I remember thinking she was super cool and well-dressed in the high school fashion show. But I never talked to her. We weren't even connected on Facebook.

Three years after high school graduation, the vivacious girl showed up at my apartment in Lyon. She had worked with my roommate back in our hometown and was living in the small town of Chambéry, a short train ride away.

We got to know each other for the first time and I went to visit her in Savoie, where we became fast friends. She introduced me to the infamous "Chicken in the Corn" video. Since then, we've hung out together in places like Nîmes, Montréal, and even the line for the French consulate in Toronto. I can't listen to a Felix Jaehn remix without thinking of her. We share a love for Q-tips, Saint-Germain, and the city of Copenhagen. I'll never forget chasing her tram to the airport, either. On a vélo’v with her forgotten credit card in my hand and a British boy by my side. When we all finally arrived at Saint-Exupéry, we had to quickly repack her enormous backpack!

@mytravellingbackpack is 23 year old Roxana Rangel. She's originally from Venezuela but moved to Canada at a young age, and is currently situated in what we jokingly refer to as the "Canadian Tropics" - Windsor, Ontario.

RS: Growing up, your family traveled back and forth from Canada to Venezuela so you were always familiar with airports, long car rides, and different languages. Tell me about the role of language in your life.
RR: When I moved from Venezuela to Canada, I ditched Spanish to learn English. Then as a teen, I relearned Spanish through telenovelas. My lack of formal training in Spanish grammar meant learning French was a challenge, but I succeeded. I continued French throughout university which gave me the language skills to live in France for two years. Now I speak three languages fluently, and I understand Portuguese and Italian (thanks to my friends on Exchange in France)!

RS: Inspirational. When was the last time you returned to Venezuela?
RR: 2016. And it was the first time I saw a parallel of what was being shown in the media as reality.

RS: Having friends and family around the world can be heartbreaking.
RR: You want to visit everybody, you want to be there for the mini-successes and the milestones, you want your shoulder to be there in times of need, but you aren’t. FaceTime and Skype are amazing tools that we are super fortunate to have but they can never replace the physical presence of people. So I am in a constant state of missing. I miss everybody always! Sending all of you hugs and kisses!

RS: What do you miss the most about Venezuela?
RR: I miss the Venezuela that had everybody flourishing, where people felt safe to leave their houses, where medicine was accessible and not a question of not eating for two months to be able to pay. I miss my family getting together and feeling everyone's 'joie de vivre.'

RS: Can you comment on the present living conditions there?
RR: It feels like every time I visit, the condition of my family gets worse and worse. I saw the long lines that spanned the length of blocks to be able to shop at a grocery store. Many of my family members had minimal food. Many were sick and the most basic of medicine was either not available anywhere or extremely expensive. Many lived in fear to leave their house after 7pm when it got dark. I heard way too many stories of family members getting robbed in the daytime as well.

RS: You graduated from Political Science and International Relations from Carleton University. What was the biggest takeaway?
RR: My level of awareness. Whether it was being aware of one’s political viewpoint, or how a certain subject might cause a person to react to issues that are happening around the world, I feel like I am always clicking refresh in my mind whenever I meet someone new. In Spanish there is a saying, “cada persona es un mundo,” which means "every person is a world." When I travel I ALWAYS keep an open mind and it has taught me to read people very well in conversation.

RS: You studied law in France from 2014-2015. Then what happened?
RR: It wasn't until I did my year abroad in the small city of Chambéry that my previous experiences started to form the person I am today! I met people from all over the world, learned bits of different languages, and, for the first time ever, explored a new continent. I got bit by the 'travel bug' and started my hashtag #mytravellingbackpack.

RS: In October 2016, you moved back to France.
RR: Yes, I moved back because I loved/missed it so much. I taught English as a Language Assistant. This is when my Instagram account started. All of these pictures and videos started taking up so much storage space on my computer that when I returned to Canada in April 2017 I talked for NINE months about making a website. I finally had enough one day and said, "Today is the day." I bought my domain and started my Squarespace trial.

RS: When it comes to photography, what do you love about capturing light?
RR: It gives the place you are visiting its 'feeling'. For example, when I went to Malaga, the first thing I noticed was how the sun made the buildings and the streets so warm, bright, and inviting -- exactly what you think of the South of Spain!

RS: Where else did you go in Spain this year?
RR: I was working on a project with Europe's Famous Hostels. I traveled to Portugal and Spain on My Iberian Adventure, reviewing seven of their locations in the Iberian Peninsula: Porto, Lisbon, Bilbao, Madrid, Malaga, Granada and Seville.

RS: What's a day in your life like now?
RR: If you check out my Instagram stories, I start my Mondays at 4 A.M. to open the sports club I work full-time at and the rest of the week my day starts at 6 A.M. I am always wishing everybody a great morning because it’s how I motivate myself to start my day animated.

RS: Is it hard to work at a gym?
RR: I am at the gym everyday but that doesn’t mean I am working out everyday. One of the biggest things I get down on myself for is not giving myself enough ‘me’ time. With my three jobs, I am always pulled in different directions and I could consider the gym ‘me’ time because I would be working to improve my health! So I need to kick my butt into gear and probably quit a job so I can have more time and not be constantly fatigued!

RS: What do you do when you're overwhelmed?
RR: I shut down and I feel like I can't accomplish anything. To get out of this headspace, I start by organizing my room, wash my hair, and lay down in quiet space for a while. It's how I decompress and allows me to calm down.

RS: Your hair is very important to you.
RR: I feel like my hair accents my personality but it doesn’t define me, if that makes sense? My hair is super curly and it becomes a mess when I just keep it up in a bun everyday… it actually becomes a hair nest. Not glamorous whatsoever. I have been using DevaCurl since the end of April, and it has positively changed my curls! I need to stock my bathroom cabinet with #SuperCream because it is a GAME CHANGER. I can’t go back to any other styling product. I recommend it to all my curlfriends out there!

RS: What are your two summer plans?
RR: The first is to explore Windsor-Essex, my hometown, over the summer. After being away for so many years, I have come to appreciate where I have grown up and want to put it on the map as a place to visit. The second plan will come into fruition towards the end of August so you just have to keep up with my website to see what I am up to!

RS: I look forward to it.
RR: Come back to Windsor Rachel, for a week, and I will show you around! You just have to come and visit… that goes for everyone!

RS: Have you been to Detroit lately?
RR: I visited Not Sorry Apparel at Cadillac Square Park a couple weeks ago and fell in love with the ‘Not Sorry’ embroidery on a pair of vintage GUESS? Jean shorts. They didn’t fit me but I still loved them. L O V E. The lady who runs Not Sorry is super sweet and told me you can get anything embroidered, so I am gathering up what I want and waiting for the chance to be able to go!

RS: You love to surround yourself with good energy.
RR: That's all that matters to me. My definition of ‘good energy’ is an instinctive feeling you have with people that gives you a sense of security and ability to be yourself!

RS: What do you find romantic?
RR: Loving someone so much you let them go. Coming home to your person after seeing new horizons is romantic to me, it is love to me.

RS: What's your favourite book?
RS: During my last year of university, I took a break from studying and made my way to Chapters on Rideau Street to check out their clearance section because I love a good bargain! At the front of the store, a beautiful cover caught my eye. The title caught my attention because it was the book my friend Elsa recommended, L'Alchimiste, by Paulo Coelho. As I checked out, the cashier wouldn't stop raving about it, and I understood why after I zipped through the book.

RS: “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
RR: That's my favourite quote because I have lived the truth of this sentence.

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