By Jessica Golich
One year. 365 days. 8760 hours. 29 states. Millions of incalculable memories. Treasured laughs. Hundreds of challenges. Buckets worth of painful tears. And to top it off, each and every one of these trips have been with solely me, myself and I. First and foremost, I will state with assurance that I perceive that traveling alone is not for everyone. For those bold, courageous, thick-skinned, ruthless, cutthroat, adventurous warriors, the lessons learned may potentially transform into life-changing and at times overwhelming internal shifts of perception. I state with absolute assurance that the lessons that I have learned through traveling have certainly been life-changing for me thus far, and the journey has only begun. When I currently muse upon the direction I have taken my life over the years, and the life I perceive I will live in the future and work diligently toward creating in the present, I find myself circling around the fact that the act of near constant travel over the past year has shifted my perspective on life in tangible and identifiable ways. It has shifted who I am as an individual, how I perceive myself, and how I perceive the world around me. And ultimately, it has changed how I interact with every aspect of the world around me: family, jobs, political views, consumerism, consumption, friendships, and certainly, my intimate and dear interpersonal relationships.
I am utterly convinced that there’s nothing like the intriguing buzz from arriving at a new location highly inspirited and eager for exploration. When you travel, you won’t just be exposed to new and beautiful landscapes; you’ll meet real, multi-cultured, thought-provoking human beings who will alter your view of humankind. It’s incredibly effortless to choose to become stuck in your own little bubble as an individual who prepares their clothes the evening before they go to work the next day, takes a shower, drinks clean water, eats overpriced meals, visits their friends, potentially hits the gym, or gets hammered at the bar, and then starts the cycle all over again. Through traveling, you come across individuals who have excruciating daily struggles just to simply survive, or have been dealt a hand so awful that it puts your cushy, comfortable life into perspective. Over the past year, I have encountered and witnessed poverty, sickness, loneliness, malnourished individuals, homelessness, etc, and it truly stopped me in my tracks and brought upon a feeling of immense gratitude for the way that I am living my life. The experiences that other human beings were and are visibly encountering have allowed me to shape a different view of the world and allowed me to step outside my once extremely selfish, narcissistic bubble.
I deeply understand the darkness, the tears, the frustration and the helplessness. But, I deeply do not understand the lack of compassion. A fire inside of me burns whenever I witness poverty and desperation first hand which is non-related to addiction and/or poor life/financial choices. And after this fire subsides, I then return to my own extremely privileged life, and soon enough, even though I swore they wouldn’t, my own “difficulties” begin to take precedence. I return to a world where human beings have fucking boxes piled of crap they will never use, individuals bitching and complaining endlessly without taking appropriate action, and all I want to do is fucking scream. Are you KIDDING ME? Do you understand how bad human beings have it all around the entire world? Do you not understand how fucking privileged you are to have fresh drinking water (alkaline at that), two functional arms and two legs? I perceive that human beings do not understand and/or practice compassion because they do not have first hand sensory experience, which is perfectly fine, but please do not allow your own world to become so complex and “difficult” that you fail to acknowledge that you have more than likely never reached such a desperate point of survival that you practically choose losing your own life for the survival of your children.
I have experienced and observed a lifetime’s worth of heart-wrenching encounters throughout my travels over the past year, and I haven’t even ventured past the United States….yet. Opinions, stories, and new baseline realities have been shoved into me at startling speeds. I have felt the tug of my shirt by the pleading eyes of a small child staring up at me begging me for a sip of water. I have witnessed a woman begging for the other half of a papaya I was eating and took for granted, and the moment I eagerly began to hand the woman the piece, her hands outstretched with one hand completely free and elated at the mere thought of food and the other containing a dirty heroine needle. I have witnessed a human being have their children walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of stolen groceries to further distract their wrongdoing. I have witnessed a human being rob an elderly woman on a packed subway train and get called out by fellow subway riders for his downright sick, twisted intention and later arrested by local authorities. I have encountered starving children begging me to purchase something to eat to fill their emaciated stomachs within the wee hours of the night. I have fucking dropped prejudice, preconceived notions, and biases I have once created pertaining to human beings, places and experiences. I have dropped my guard. I am open to experiencing in the present rather than experiencing through the image I have created in my mind. And whether whatever image that I presently experience slices a dagger right through my fucking heart or rips another ounce of my innocence right from my depths of my being, it is real. It is happening. It is reality. It is what it is. And through these experiences, I have learned the true meaning of and integrated surrender and acceptance throughout all facets in my life.
Travel has led me to feel more deeply for other human beings without regard for culture or wealth, class or color. Travel has put into perspective the highs and lows in this world. I markedly hurt more. I strikingly love far more deeply. I feel more joy and much more sorrow. I am far less impatient. I debate with just as much passion but far more experiences to call upon. Remain open. Remain aware. Accept that extreme poverty exists throughout the world. Those living in poverty are not invisible or zoo animals in need of an audience. Choose to react honestly to the individual standing in front of you, and do not react based on fear or philosophy. I am no one, really. I am a witness to humanity by choice. And when you go to bed at night in your warm, cozy bed with a roof over your head, keep in mind that there are individuals who would kill to live the life that you are living.