The truth and the light

The truth is travel is not for the faint of heart. Relationships, internal and external, change, sometimes dramatically. People who leave the comfort of home before they’re emotionally capable only do a disservice to themselves and their host countries.

See Exhibit A: Lindsey Craig

The life of a traveler can leave you feeling absolutely solitary and misunderstood. You get attention not because someone wants to get to know you, but because you look and sound funny. You dress oddly, you do things the wrong way, you’re talking to yourself. Like a buzzing and gaudy neon sign in a quiet neighborhood, you’re always getting attention, wanted or not, and the locals are staring and whispering about you.

My friend Sandy and me with my Dominican Republic host mom, Cristiana. She spoke no English, and the first week was hard, but we forged a strong friendship over five weeks.

You’re multiple time zones away from the most important people in your life, and those relationships will evolve and become something far different from what you originally had. Sometimes you find the light of your relationship is dimming. Maybe it’s gone out, but you pretend it’s still there and awkwardly fumble around one another in the dark. It’s no longer easy to maintain the friendship.

(Really, though, isn’t that the case no matter if you’re traveling or if you’ve lived in the same city for decades?)

Mt. Rainier 2006: still friends with Sean, lost touch with Krishna, don't remember the other guy's name.

Traveling near and far allows you to meet some of the most incredible people in the world. You click. You stay up until the wee hours of the morning because you’ve met someone who challenges you and makes you think in completely new ways; your world has been blown open. Yet, a few days later, you both head off in your own directions, never to cross paths again.

Life brings you new and incredible people all the time, but often you don’t get to hold on to them. They’re the fireworks of relationships: brief and brilliant. Sometimes they make your heart pound with excitement; sometimes they make your world a little more beautiful; sometimes they’re flat out annoying; and sometimes they scare you. If you try to hold them, you ruin them and get hurt in the process.

Two women from the Dominican Republic that taught me more about life than any Chicken Soup book.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be; some of your relationships are fireworks, some are lanterns, some are spotlights. You only have so much energy, so much personal electricity. Put too many lanterns and spotlights in your life and they’ll all be dim.

I’ve discovered that I must be willing to accept myself and my relationships for what they are. Force a firework to be a lantern and find yourself disappointed. Expect yourself to fund enough electricity for an over-capacity crowd of relationships, and you’re going to fail yourself and those who end up meaning the most to you.

Relationships come and go, but memories and backed-up digital pictures are forever.

Travel lets you see light around the world, and it’s a beautiful, beautiful world. More importantly, travel lets you discover your own light; you find what makes you shine and where you can create sparks. You also get to know the people in your life who are willing to put a little more energy into your relationship even when you can’t reciprocate, just to make sure your light stays on. Relationships will change, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need to make your life even better.

6 comments

  1. One of my favorite Jason Mraz songs has the lyric “…there’s a light in everybody; send up your ray of sunshine.” Your posts are sending sunshine into your Aunt Di’s life.

    1. My favorite is Live high, live mighty, live righteously.

      Or maybe Hold your own, know your name, go your own way.

      You have his acoustic album, right? I was just listening to it this morning. It calms the soul.

    1. Big hugs right back! Now get back to studying. We’ll celebrate with simultaneous cross-Pacific drinking when it’s over. You can have a route 44 cherry limeade in my honor, and I’ll have a vanilla Dr. Pepper or something in yours… if I can find it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s