Each Day, One Difference, One Person: My Manifesto

When I woke up this morning, stretching and daydreaming of the pancakes I would later make, I thought to myself, “This day is for me. I’m going to do what I want.”

About an hour later, a good friend and fellow Peace Corps Volunteer called me crying. As a Floridian, she was worried about her friends, especially those she couldn’t reach. No one expects such carnage to happen in her backyard; this shock mingles with a helplessness that makes you wish you could be there to do something, to help in some way, while the other half of your brain tells you there’s no difference you could possibly make.

While washing dishes, I thought about my own responses to these tragedies. Terror, anger, and despair rush through my veins in waves of intense emotion, muddying my thoughts as I try to make sense of them. The problem is that there is no sense in actions of deep-seated hate, such as in the attacks in Orlando. So how should I respond? What should I do? What can I do, if anything? Continue reading

Everything Falls Apart

After returning from a long trip (journey sounds a bit much, doesn’t it?), you realize that everything you brought has been in some way affected. More specifically, everything I brought with buttons no longer works. And so much more than that broke. My portable light? Gives light no more. My sunglasses? Askew. My favorite watch which hung on a necklace? Now a pocket watch. And the flashlight at the end of my umbrella? Not a flashlight anymore. Well, actually, I later lost that umbrella because I decided to put it on the outside of my backpack….so I guess the flashlight bit is irrelevant.

Necklace Pocket Watch

The necklace broke…but now it’s a pocket watch!

You get the point. Things, as in material objects, fall apart when we push them to their limits. As I reflect two weeks after returning, I really shouldn’t have expected what I brought to come back the same. And now’s the part where you expect me to launch into some metaphor about how I’ve changed. But I won’t. I’m not sure it would be fair, much less accurate, to wax poetic about my newfound whatever. Instead, I want to think about the way that I acted, spoke, was, while traveling, and how that can be found in non-travel life.

  1. The People

I consider myself very friendly. I crack jokes in lines to lighten the mood, and always enjoy meeting new people. On my recent trip, however, I was stranger-friendly. For example, when I would sit down after filling my cereal bowl at a hostel, I chose to sit near people I didn’t know to strike up a conversation. And then I would actively join or start a conversation with them. In other words, I didn’t worry about the fact that people might not want to talk to me. I just went up to others and assumed that we would want to get to know each other. That’s not the attitude I have in quotidian life. But I imagine I would meet some pretty awesome people if I did.

  1. Embracing the New

When I travel to a new place, I am undaunted by its newness precisely because I expect it. Any odd thing I encounter, then, seems appropriate because I assume it fits into this unknown context. So when I went to the bathroom in Thailand and saw no flusher, but only a bucket of water, I wasn’t shocked. I just filled the bucket with water and dumped it into the toilet (after doing my thing).* Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. If I usually took this approach, I would not assume that something was out of place, but rather that I didn’t yet know its place.

  1. Don’t Sweat it

Too many annoying things happen when you travel to get upset. I fell asleep on a train in France, found out I was on the wrong train, and then got off at the first stop because I figured that was the best idea. But I walked a few meters from the station, and low and behold, I found a cheap hotel! I had a comfortable rest, woke up, and made it to my destination. I got there a little later than planned, and consequently only spent a few hours in Luxembourg City, but really, that was enough. The advantages of not getting angry in difficult situations are obvious. I’ve always thought I had this talent, but I know there’s room to improve. When the Wi-Fi stops working at my new sublet, it makes no sense to get mad. I knew that the Wi-Fi would either a) work or b) not work, so it seems silly to let its non-functioning ruin my day.

If life is travel, just go with it. Because the other option is that you miss meeting someone who also loves Hemingway, that you don’t find out how much like the ocean fresh oysters taste. And you certainly don’t use the time when your plane is delayed to journal about how much all of this has most certainly impacted you. So yeah, all my buttons broke. But this journey (see, now it’s appropriate) adds up to much more than the sum of its broken buttons.

Ayutthaya Monks

These boys were so sweet! We took pictures of each other, and they waved to us as we motored off ❤

* OK, I have to admit someone did warn me about this…but it had been months before and I temporarily forgot!

A Lusty Wanderer?

People change, or so they say. But, the more things change, the more they stay the same, right?…

T-2 weeks from now, I will leave my country of birth, traveling for several months with no final destination. This might sound like a nightmare or a dream come true, but for me it is the only option. After exiting the Ivory Tower to take on the Real World, I decided that the best way to find my ideal job would be to go to it. There were many other reasons, including an instilled desire to perpetually move and meet people meaningfully different from me. But what clinched the decision to go was a watershed moment commuting home.

I was thinking about this round-the-world ticket I had purchased. It was cheap but had no return flight. I had always known that soon after graduating I would look for a job “in the field”, but I had absolutely no conception of how that would work. As my heart started to beat rapidly, eyes watering, and breath shuddering, I smiled. I knew that I had to go.

Lately, though, I’ve been having cold feet. It’s not that I don’t want to go. It’s that I want to go so badly, it hurts to know that I’m putting myself before everything else I love and want in my life. And while people tell me, “Now is the time to do it. You’re only young once!”, I have a hard time imagining them leaving everything they’ve ever known because they started tearing up on a train.

My point is more prosaic: change is hard. Really hard. And actually changing- your location, your job, your state of mind,  yourself- is harder still. I find it difficult to fathom that I may have changed, that my desire to explore and live unfettered has lessened. Am I still the same wanderlusting traveler excited by every plane ticket purchase, or have I matured into a rooted young adult excited by symphony tickets and trips to the vineyard?

I think I’m probably all of these things, and I think that’s probably OK. Right now, I know I’m leaving, and that’s what makes the leaving so hard. The present is far more challenging to live in than the past or future, and my life to come is just that. So when I’m sitting on my home-bound train, tearing up because I feel selfish for leaving, I think about the person I am becoming. No matter how much or little I value being a nomad, I will always strive to live passionately. I owe that to myself and those I love. Because in our short lives, what is it worth to sit when you could stride, or complete when you could create?

(Answer to come)