Saturday, June 18, 2016

Hearts and Minds

Well, damn Daniel, back at it with the backpacking. 
It's been a while, me writing here, hasn't? In fact, I'll be honest, it's been a while since I've written much of anything really. Since returning of April 2015, I've hit a creative slump with a few bursts of energy here and there. But man, when I was travelling, I was writing up a storm - weekly short stories I sent to my good friend Maria, book chapters, blogs about ants in my pants, you know, the usual. And then, I got back and all that just...stopped.

My life did the opposite of stop though. I came back and started a job where I finally made more than $24,000 a year as a pretty damn good middle school counselor (at least, I sure hope!). It was a successful year, but here I am again, on the verge of traveling to unknown destinations and feeling...well, alive. And ready to write again. So crazy ready. On that note, I'm a bit rusty, so expect the occasional word bumps along the way.

I'm feeling the high I've been longing for a while now. Also
, fair warning, there are going to be a ton of links in this post. Mostly to earlier posts from my last travels through Asia and Africa. It's both as a reminder to readers that are either really bored or have never read my writings and want context to my A.D.D. thoughts. (In the top, under history, you can go through all the past stuff as well). Either way, lots of blue underlines all over the place. Apologies all around, drinks are on me next time. 

For this post, I'm going to use it as a re-introduction to who I am, and why I do this and write about it.

This blog is about many things.

This blog is about escape. 
This blog is about learning. 
This blog is about adventures.
This blog is about eating bugs (silk worms, pictured). 
This blog is about life, both its achingly gorgeous moments and it's soul-smothering dark moments
And, most importantly, I think it's a blog about simply being a complex human being in a wonderful and sad world.

So, a breakdown of how I write these things.

I HATE boring writing. If it bores me to type it, it would bore you to read it. I'm not going to write about it unless it's either:

a) entertaining and will get a good belly laugh going, or
b) something that I find profound or meaningful (hopefully)

I write differently than most blogs you've probably read. I don't write like an English professor. I write how my brain processes things - sometimes it's an absolute mess to follow - but I think it adds authenticity that a lot of writers weed away through the editing/pleasing process for their readers. I have a distinct style and I roll with it (though sometimes I switch it up to stretch my writing muscles) that you may not like. That's okay, I won't be offended (maybe a little). I'm also a mess of contradictions. So, there's that.

I travel in an odd way. I don't plan, I don't bring books or guides and I just go wherever the wind takes me beyond the first planned day in a country. This leads to fun, trouble, and unexpected adventure.

As to the why I travel, that's a bit harder to explain. I've tried to before.

It's different this time, I think. I am not the same person I was last time I traveled. Maybe how I write and what I write about will be different. Maybe I'll talk about architecture more. Or maybe I'll just end up sharing more ironic toilet encounters. It really could be either...I haven't a clue.

How is different this time? Backstory.

When I went on my Bonderman (here's a link to an interview I gave about what that was all about), I had just finished up my Master of Social Work. I had a very good mentor in college who was, undoubtedly, my biggest cheerleader and was genuinely excited to hear my stories when I came back. Actually, excited is too tiny of a word. This was the kind of man that could inspire you to march out the door on any given day and go change the world. His eyes would sparkle - honest to God, just light up like the stars  themselves were powering them - when he talked about the things that drove the fire inside him: religions and social work and living a life for others. He was hungry to hear my stories and for me to live them. He was, to put it another way, overwhelmed with joy to see the person that would return, undoubtedly different and new and changed.

And so, I went. And I had an experience that blew my life away. When I came back, I was so ecstatic to tell him about all that I saw. I wanted to tell him about seeing bodies burn in Varanasi. I wanted to tell him about praying with a monk in Thailand. I wanted to tell him about hanging out with my friend Mikayla (who worked in the Peace Corps) in South African villages with names you had to click you tongue to pronounce. I wanted to bury him in stories.

But life attacked me. A job and bills and family and day-to-day life caught up with me and I was unable to secure a time to meet with him until just about one month ago.

So we met.

And I had come back to a man who had a terrible stroke. I'm not new to friends and family getting hit hard with health problems, but this one most certainly took the breath from me. 

The first realization: the stroke had taken a piece away from the man. 
He was reserved and much too quite. It was a struggle for him to talk. His memory seemed distant, as though already leeched away. 

The second realization: the stars were stolen from his eyes.

I sobbed all the way home and drank myself to sleep.

It was a grim reminder that what we are, as human beings, when everything is boiled down to it's very core is very, very simple. We are our memories. Without them, what are we? Who are we? The quickness and unfairness of life takes no prisoners and in a blink of an eye, sooner or later, the stars in all our eyes will die out.

But wait! I need to take a pause with all this sadness!
Another thing about me and my writing: While I never shy away from the sadness of life - of which there is an ocean of it - I always, always, ALWAYS balance it with the best, and the good, and the gorgeous tidbits of life that can bring light - however long - to a previous darkened sky. There is darkness, but there is always a flashlight.

So, back to it.

The grim reminder was, well, grim. But it reminded me why I do this. Why I keep fighting to remain in motion. The stars might be gone, in a sense, but because they burned so very bright, they left an impression on me that no stroke can ever erase. From neither myself or from him.

My mentor instilled in me an adventure for life. He instilled the stars in me. And my mission - my goal - is to bring that to others. As we can all see from the news at any given time, life can be incredibility broken. But what we don't get enough of is how in this brokenness, there is wonderful beauty in places and people that the media may say there is not. But there is, despite what the tvs or preachers or congressmen or newspapers say. My God is there beauty in things all around the world. And I want to show and share that.

I'm only going to be gone for a little bit this time, no eight month stint, but that's okay. I'll have plenty to write about and this time I won't have a large gap in my entries, as I have mini-trips planned later on this year... 

I hope you will enjoy it. I hope you can soak something in. And I hope through my writing you can come on an adventure with me. If I get a laugh or a "hey, that made me think", then I've done my job as a writer.

So here's the rough plan that I would gladly take input on. I fly in Thailand to visit Mac and Noi, the two friends I met last time around. I've missed them dearly, like I do almost all of the people I've met traveling. Because that's what happens when you're away from all that you know: you attach to what is universal across all lines of life - human relationships

From there? Nepal? Maybe Laos? Then...maybe Vietnam? I've been debating about going either there or Japan. Then again, I might do neither and go meet up with Lizbett, who is also traveling nearby and has written for this blog before (and, spoiler alert, what she wrote was amazing).

Then I come back for Round 2 - Fight! - of School Counselor Nick. And, of course, start planning my next adventure.
Before I go, a very quick aside. My friend Felice wrote to me recently and asked if I travel to escape. It took awhile to come up with an answer. I think that's true to an extent. Complacency is one of my biggest fears in life, so yeah, I do travel to escape (although that brings its own challenges).
But I also travel to do the opposite of escape - I travel to participate. To be apart of life on a bigger, more confusing, more beautiful, more tragic scale.

I travel for my mentor. 

I travel for my dad (who has been and is as encouraging as my mentor). 

I travel for those who are on different adventures in life right now and can't travel for extended periods of time and would like to see through another's eyes.

I travel because I'm escaping into adventure and participating in something more.

I travel because the writer in me is starving.

And, I think more importantly, I travel because the stars in my eyes are burning oh-so-very bright.

So I have about one week to pack and get ready to be back in my second home, Bangkok. Cheers, my friends, and see you soon.


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1 comment:

  1. Hopefully, the kids (and I) didn't suck your will to live to much. I wait to see you come back with some of the jadedness of the year have been erased by your travels