Vakano Vibes

Some hoard spoons, coffee cups with coordinates, or postcards with points of interest. I accumulate bracelets from my travels, or any day of significance.

My wrist is often a collection of stories with each piece of arm candy: the pineapple cotton bracelet I got the day I adopted my cat, Pilar Pina Colada; the braided blue bracelet I purchased surfing in Australia; the turtle beaded treasure my friend got me from Barbados. All of them have a meaning.

It is peculiar that when I went to Colombia last summer, I hoarded a heap of souvenirs, but not a single bracelet.  I went wild buying bikinis, colorful kitchen utensils, shoes, handbags, but forgot to claim the one thing I actually collect: a bracelet.

It was destiny to find VAKANO BRACELETS at the Fresh Fest in Downtown WPB. A chalkboard sign called, “Get a free bracelet!” I screeched my heel tires and scooted to their booth, recognizing the Colombian slang word that branded their stand.

Vakano, pronounced “bakano,” is Colombian slang for “awesome”. Their founder Melissa Ortiz, an Olympian and killer soccer player, started Vakano to support artisans of her motherland.

The biggest Colombia had on me was seeing third world poverty mere miles from our luxury resort. I vividly remember taking the gondola to Parque Arvi floating over the la olla of Medellin. Outdoor sewage, stray animals, and school children in uniforms hopping happily down the streets are all tattooed in my memory. Climbing through the Andean mountains, I thought, “I am so blessed. I wish I could help.”

With VAKANO, you do more than help, you support. “Helping” is good, but what I believe is greater is supporting somebody’s craft, giving them a reason every day to wake up, care for their families and do what they love. Think about your work, passions, the sense accomplishment you feel and how this molds you as a person. That is something that VAKANO does which “help” just cannot do.

Asking for help is something that I did not see within the Colombian culture. Amongst poverty much worse than the US, I was not once asked for money. I was offered to purchase hats, shoes, water, and fruit but not a single time was I asked, “Can you spare a dollar?” Colombians take pride in working, and they do not expect money to be handed them without providing a good or service to you. Something we Americans can learn from.

After getting my Vakano bracelets, I pulled out my Colombian souvenirs, called my cousin Brittany and said “¡Vamos a rumbiar!” {transl: Let’s go out}. I wanted to relive Colombia for an afternoon and sought out my favorite thing about La Paisa: fresh fruit drinks.

I put my camera in my mochilla {transl: backpack}, threw on my Maaji bikini and we headed to Shave Ice by the Sea at the Lake Worth Pier. The owners, Peter and his mother, shared their story as we sipped on shaved ice reminding me of Cartagena. Peter’s mother had a fruit stand in Nicaragua, and he wanted to bring the spirit of his country to the Palm Beaches and they started their shaved ice stand. He also sells hammocks and goods from Nicaragua, sharing a similar passion for artisans of his country. Vakano, indeed.

Be awesome, my friends! You can shop VAKANO BRACELETS with my code “TheGlobalLocal” for 20% off. And as always, live global and stay local.

Much Credit Due:

To VAKANO BRACELETS for your cause and the opportunity to collaborate with you. The best part about VAKANO  is that I didn’t need to convert to Colombian pesos in my head. On that note, an extra special thanks to the vendors of Cartagena for their patience with my mental math.

To Shaved Ice by the Sea for the photoshoot opportunity, the laughs, the delicious drinks.