Monday, December 27, 2010

Good Morning, America.

I was arrogant to think that I am immune from jetlag. But it's 20 past 4AM and sleep is nowhere where I can reach it. I will be back at work in four hours and I have no clue how that is going to go. Oh well, I did spend about fifteen hours horizontal today. The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to unpacking and doing the laundry. Tonight, I take a moment for gratitude that I am able to explore and experience, that my health and finances allow me to do so.

I was looking at pictures and videos of my recently concluded trip and I am filled with happy thoughts I cannot quite describe. I was able to test my own limits and I realize that I don't really have very many of those left anymore. Traveling solo reinforced so many things I knew about myself, and at the same time challenged some things I thought I was solid about. And what remains is someone who feels somewhat more compassionate. But hungrier. Thirstier. I saw a thousand new things and some will perhaps unconsciously become integrated into who I am as a human being. I was taught what connected and what didn't - and why.

Witnessing the mad dash for financial success in Hong Kong reinforces that that is not the life that is cut out for me. Nothing about it appeals to me anymore. Some people live for the rat race, but that is not the life that is meant for me. I want time for long hot baths and lazy conversations. I want time for Yoga and dancing and walks and sit-down breakfast. I want the luxury to write about my experiences and share them to whoever wants to listen. I don't want to sacrifice a life where I am tasting and savoring for financial success that can collapse anytime anyway.

Thailand has reminded me of the more important things in life, to simplify my life maybe a tad bit more. It reintroduced me to the lives being led by the commonfolk who do what they can in a harsh world to earn an honest living. They have calloused hands and sunburnt faces, but the smile in their eyes is so deeply genuine. I really do see them as everyday unsung heroes. The cabbie. The tuktuk driver. The sidwalk vendor. The fisherman. The boatman. Camping on the beach and being that close to nature and wilderness was an unbelievably phenomenal experience that I know will stay with me for life.

The Philippines gave me so many touching moments that made me realize how a little bit less selfish I have grown to be. Nothing can rival the feeling of my two year old nephew falling asleep in my arms. Or listening to the sweet giggles of my niece. Or reconnecting with family and friends that have known me all my life. Or witnessing first-hand what kind of a man my little brother has transformed to be.

But I cannot deny the sad parts either. I experience the world from a somewhat detached perspective, but what I found I cannot detach myself from is seeing the earth disintegrate before my very eyes. I could not stop the tears when I laid eyes on Manila again. It looked raped. Violated. Exhausted. Depleted. It shattered my heart to a million pieces. I was cynical to think that my hands are tied and there is nothing I can do to help. But on the long way home, I questioned that. Is there really nothing I can do? What about the Ghandi slogan of "Be the change you want to see" that I often ask of myself and others. What about that?!

I don't want to give up on the country that has been good to me, that has helped shape me. I owe it to my Motherland. Maybe this is Vaughn inspiring me to think differently, but nonetheless, I cannot just watch it die. There must be something, anything, I can do. If Brazil got 20 million people out of poverty in seven years, then there must be hope for the rest of the world.

On the flight back to Reno, I was taught that I need to get out of my head, traveling solo or not. The tiny plane was convulsing due to heavy turbulence out of LAX (one of the worst I've ever experienced). A small voice on my right startled me, "So how was your Christmas?" It was Justin, an eleven year old boy traveling by himself to see his Dad for Christmas. His eyes were huge discs, his face pale and his voice had an unmistakable quiver: "I'm scared." I instantly and instinctively felt like I needed to protect this kid. I talked to him through the entire flight to distract his mind. When it got bad, I told him to close his eyes and take deep breaths. At the end of the flight, we became friends. He shook my hand and thanked me. What a way to end a trip.

I don't know if I am a better person because of what I have experienced in the last two weeks. What I do know is that I try and to me, the trying is already half the battle. I went on this trip to find more grounding, and I did. Three years is a long time to be insulated from the harsh reality of third world. I was worried though that I would have outgrown the Philippines and that I would not find resonance there anymore. On the beach in Pagudpud, I pointed out to my two year old nephew a hermit crab carrying a seashell on his back.

And there it was. The answer to my question of where home was or what it meant anymore.

Home is not one fixed place. It is something you carry with you.



  1. Yes it is..Manilla is within, India is within, LOVE is within...the party is inside...the sky is vast and contains all -- love you sister

  2. Thanks for sharing your journey!