Passion Passport Founder, Zach Glassman, had a chance to sit down for an interview with Mariah Nogueira, TBLI Round V Winner, in LA last week. The two talked all about her upcoming trip to Samoa: her expectations and goals, excitement and nerves.
Find the full interview here, and be sure to follow along on PassionPassport.com as Mariah begins her journey on Thursday!
ZG: So how are you feeling?
MN: I’m so overwhelmed right now. I have so many things going on, so it’s a little crazy. I’m doing grad school interviews (traveling and getting on skype for), I have an internship, I’m preparing for pre-season (for professional soccer), I have a very serious boyfriend, and I’m getting ready for this trip. A lot of different moving parts all at once.
ZG: I can imagine the thought of being over in Samoa for the first time must also be overwhelming.
MN: I’ve been trying to go to Samoa since high school and I had been talking about it with my grandpa. He always said he wanted to take me but it never worked out either logistically or financially. I’ve really wanted to go forever and this opportunity is just so incredible.
ZG: What was it like to complete the TBLI application – and to push the submit button at the end of the process? How did it feel?
MN: The first questions were fun, relevant and interesting, and then the application asked: “What do you really want to do?” When I sat down to write that answer, it got much more serious. I thought to myself: “Let me really think about this; why do I want to go to Samoa and what I want to do there.” The idea was triggered by my mom – her death and memorial were so recent and I felt like I was having a cultural overload – well not quite overload, but the culture was much more salient. My grandpa had also planned on taking a trip a couple of months prior and was asking if I could go. I just felt like I was getting these prompts and signs that were leading me towards Samoa. This piece of me which was a more prominent part of my childhood – and that I may have been drifting away from a bit ever since – was coming back into my life. I wanted to explore that. I wondered how I could incorporate that into the trip. It became this huge narrative that I never really intended and it kind of developed organically from there.
ZG: What’s the first thing you’re going to when you get there?
MN: Our plan is to head to Western Samoa for a day to start things off. We’ll do a six mile river walk which heads through the rainforest has about sixteen waterfalls. Then, we’ll stay in a tree house for our first night! From there, we’ll head to American Samoa, where my family is. Family is an integral part of Samoan culture and a huge part of my trip.
ZG: Are you nervous about that? A lot of people you don’t know?
MN: I haven’t ever met them. I’m nervous in the sense that I don’t want to be offensive or for them to wonder “where are your roots?” A lot of the idiosyncrasies from my mom and my grandfather are things that came from the culture that I took for granted. I’m really excited to see them.
ZG: I imagine that it’s hard not to have expectations heading into this trip. How do you go about managing those expectations?
MN: I am a chronic ‘over expectations setter.’ I think that I know what people and experiences are capable of, and so – in my mind – I imagine the best case scenario because, why not? Why not hope for the best? I expect to take as much out of experiences as I can to maximize opportunities, but also keep the flexibility and understanding that that’s not life, and that won’t go perfectly, and to make the most out of it. I think that I’m pretty spontaneous so that if things go wrong or change, I can adapt and still make the most of it.
ZG: I like that a lot. The idea of ‘seizing the moment’ and getting the most of the experience. I think it’s a bit different from over expecting, though – kind of ‘expecting the most of yourself and expecting yourself to rise to the occasion.’
MN: That might have a bit of an athletic influence.
ZG: So one of the things you wrote about was not being much of a planner when you travel. A lot of my favorite trips are ones in which I go into it with a blank slate. What has it been like to itemize your trip day-by-day?
MN: It hasn’t been frustrating. If anything I think that the island lifestyle is just a bit more laid back, and so maybe trying to plan and collaborate is a bit more difficult. I enjoyed the process. though – it made me think about a few of the things I absolutely want to do and then see what other activities and items I can include in the itinerary. It got me excited about everything.
ZG: How do you suspect having your grandfather along will affect the trip?
MN: I’m so happy that he could join me. He and I have been very close my whole life and he has been at everything I’ve ever done that’s important. If there were someone who were to introduce me to such a huge part of my identity, I would want it to be him. I think it will be very special for both of us. He’s taking a back seat, he has been a great resource to connect me with other family members, and he speaks the language.
ZG: Prior to this point, you ran some soccer clinics in the DR. How do you think that experience will compare to going back to your heritage and teaching those kinds of skills to people who you have this deep connection with.
MN: The primary difference will be that the Latin culture loves soccer, and I do not know if I can say the same thing about Samoan culture. The main thing that I keep going back to when I think about soccer is that it’s visibility and it’s informing people. I really hope that even if soccer is not their passion, that they can see that they can do things that are not in the mold. Maybe they want to be another profession (athletic or otherwise) but I just want them know that they can do it. The broader message is to do things that break the mold.
ZG: What is incredible about sport is the power of unification. It’s this beautiful arena for bringing people together. A similar thing can be said about travel – that when you travel, you realize that other people are not so different. How do you see soccer as this universal language?
MN: My mom would always say “talk with your feet.” Soccer is a language, more or less. Maybe everyone has different accents depending on where you’re from… or different shoes… or no shoes. I’ve played all over the world, and it’s all the same. I’ve made friends that way and learned more about other cultures that way. It breaks every boundary: language, culture, economics, gender, politics… you name it. I cannot think of one thing that it cannot overcome.
ZG: In terms of your family and your soccer career, can you speak to their involvement in your career?
MN: I started because of my dad; he was born in Brazil and loved soccer. He coached me for my first years. I fell in love with it. As I progressed into high school and college, they were always there to support me. I never felt pressured to pick a particular sport. When I arrived at Stanford, my family was at every home game. My mom didn’t know a ton about soccer, but she was great at seeing my potential and seeing how great I could be. I wouldn’t be here without her encouragement and her belief in me.
ZG: Tell me a bit about the type of person your mother was. Your connection to her and some her hopes and dreams for you as a person.
MN: The first things that I think of when I think of her are her selflessness, her faith, and her love. She was an exceptionally caring person. She was great at making other people feel comfortable around her. She was great with kids and had a big smile.
Thanks, Mariah! We can’t wait to follow along on your journey, and wish you the best in your travels.