I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by all the news in the United States over the last several weeks. So much so that it has made it difficult to write about our travels. I am distracted and distressed by it all. And when I do get a post up it feels utterly tone deaf amidst a sea of righteous protests and outrages.
Rest assured that I have been registering my dissent from afar. I have asked my representatives to vote against discrimination and for protecting our natural resources, against Betsy DeVos and for health care access. So far my representatives have voted along party lines. (One of my newly elected representatives once said that he wouldn’t own slaves himself but also wouldn’t stop someone else from owning them if they wanted to. So you can imagine how effective my outreach to him has been.)
The urge to go home and join the fight in person is strong, but so is the urge to keep going. I want to finish what I started, to fulfill the gift of this year that I gave to myself. I want to meet people with different life histories, learn about their culture, art, and music. I want to walk the roads of the people of the past, the ones whose names we don’t remember, but who once baked bread and made shoes and perhaps fought against tyranny themselves. And when I come back, I hope I am a better human for it.
My sincerest hope for all of you reading this is that you take the time to travel. It expands your heart and mind. Oh, you will be in situations that are wholly new and anxiety producing when you travel. But then you get through it, and you’re fine, and when you go home and encounter something different there you’ll be able to say, “I’ve been here before.” And the encounter – whatever it is – won’t have any power over you.
I am not naive. What is being fought for is vitally important. I am not suggesting that you stop. Nor am I under the delusion that everyone has the resources it takes to travel. I worked for fifteen years and made unchangeable life choices to be able to take this year off. Still, even a small trip outside of what you know can be life changing.
Here are a few ideas:
Start local: Go to a nearby city that’s bigger than yours and visit a museum or a science center. Your hometown might have one too, but make the effort to see what your neighbors are offering. If you’re feeling really brave, call up a local office for a religion that is not your own and ask if you can take a tour of their church/temple/mosque. At the very least you’ll have a new story to tell.
Go camping: Anyone who knows me knows I do not like camping. My luggage tag reads “I love not camping” for gawd’s sake. It’s not my thing. But I fell in love with the National Parks on the first part of this trip. Even your nearest state park is a marvel. Someone you know probably has camping equipment you can borrow (or maybe you just need to dust off the stuff that’s been in your garage all these years). Make sure you go to the Visitor’s Center.
Travel together: Some of my first travel experiences were with a group of friends. We’d find someplace beautiful we wanted to visit and pooled our resources. When six people are renting a single house in Mexico the $250 per night price tag is much more manageable. Just make sure everyone is clear that you’re not obligated to do everything together. It’s a vacation, after all. You can split up and still have a lovely time. And you’ll have stories to tell each other when you come back.
Go far, stay cheap: For those of you with a bit more time available, consider traveling someplace like Thailand. The flight will cost you, but after that everything is very inexpensive. And almost everyone there speaks English.
Consider a cultural tour: Some friends and I once took a two week vacation in Bali that included daily yoga and a cultural tour. I can’t say I enjoyed the yoga that much, but the tour was fascinating. I learned more about Bali and it’s people than I ever could have on my own. Plus, we were able to access the temples (including participating in a few rituals) and meet master artists. The downside is that you’re locked into the tour itinerary, but that’s not always such a bad thing.
A few of my friends have told me that when they need a break from their news feeds they check in on this blog to clear their heads for a bit. It has been reassuring for me to hear that. We intend to continue for now, and hope that our sharing will inspire you to stretch your own wings a bit.
Going someplace new will remind you that everyone everywhere is learning about life. We must fight for what we believe to be right, but it is equally important to maintain our own humanity. Take a trip somewhere new. Talk to someone who has a different life experience than you. You’ll be better for it.