When I first thought about writing this story, I envisioned it’d be the kind with the happy ending. You know the one I’m talking about: where the guy and girl end up together happily ever after. But, life happens.
Picture it: Austin, 2013.
I was six months out of a four-year relationship and heartbroken that he’d moved on so quickly and I was floundering. I’d moved into my friends’ house; then moved out of their house into another friends’ house. I spent most of my days at work or going to grad school; trying to build my blog; and planning my escape from work.
My first relationship after the “big one” was with a guy I’d known for several years and I was feeling happy again; excited about a future with him. Until one day, he texted me (yes, texted) that he ran into a girl he used to hook up with and decided he wanted to be with her instead. That whole, “sorry, I didn’t mean for this to happen; you’re a great person and I still want to be friends” bullshit that you know is never going to work.
In 2008, I shed tears of genuine elation that we, as a nation, had finally come together and progressed to a point where we elected our first black president. For eight happy years, I lived in relative bliss knowing that this man had my back because he had my nation’s best interests at heart. His administration ended the Reign of Terror enacted by George W. Bush, and it was nice to be able to travel abroad without people asking me essentially, “what the fuck is wrong with your country and your president?”
Two days ago, I shed tears of sadness, fear, anger, and frustration when Hillary Clinton conceded to Donald Trump. All of the hope that I had for continued progress was dashed in that moment. We, as a nation, elected a man who is not fit to run our country.
A lot of people have been posting that it’s “just an election” and that the “liberals” and “elites” need to get over it, there’s no reason to cry. Obama himself said, “the sun will be up tomorrow.” And yes, the sun has come up, and it is “just” an election, but it’s so much more than that. I’ve never been comfortable with people telling me how to feel or to stop feeling a certain way. So I’m here to tell you: feel whatever it is you’re feeling. Cry, if you need to. I’ve cried several times. I know it may seem melodramatic, but I’m mourning the loss of the progress that we’ve made for eight years under the Obama administration. I’m mourning the hope I had for our first woman president–for a president who would advance this country in so many ways and continue to make us a great nation.
The upcoming US Presidential Election is not just a huge deal for those of us who live in the United States. It’s grabbing headlines around the world, and most everyone is watching to see what will happen on November 8th.
My travels over the past few months have seen the topic of politics come up numerous times–foreigners wanting to know both my political stance and what I think will happen to the United States and the rest of the world based on the election results.
It’s no secret that I’m a Democrat. I’ve brought up politics and my bleeding-heart liberal ways on this blog before. I don’t hold people’s politics against them; and I hope no one will hold mine against me. My feeling is that politics are exciting to talk about and debate over, and as long as we can have intelligent conversations and discourse about them, we’re all good.
While I’ll be casting my vote for Hillary Clinton in a couple short weeks, the outcome of the election is still one big question mark, and that causes me much anxiety. Why? Because I’ve thought about a world in which Donald Trump is president of our country and that scares me beyond belief.
If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while or are one of my close friends, you know that my desire to see Pakistan has been unquelled for the past few years.
So, it’s with a heavy heart and much sadness that I write this: I was rejected for a tourist Visa to Pakistan without reason.
found on Wikipedia
This is my first Visa rejection and the process has offered a glimpse into how difficult it must be for people from non-Western countries to secure Visas for travel. As an American, I often take for granted how powerful my passport is and how it allows me absolute entry into almost every country–something for which I’ve always been grateful (and a bit guilty).
When I traveled to India recently, the magnitude of the poverty I witnessed was both astonishing and overwhelming. I was constantly slapped in the face with it and left there feeling heartbroken and helpless. I wanted nothing more than to rescue all those children and bring them home with me to nourish their lives in every way possible (I mostly wanted to read them books, hug them, and tuck them into warm beds). But obviously I couldn’t do that. While I spend my full-time workdays in the US indirectly contributing to helping millions of Americans receive the benefits they need in order to live a happier and healthier life, I cannot do the same for all the children of the world no matter how badly I want to.
Over 20% of India’s population, or roughly 179 million of India’s 1.2 billion people live below the poverty line of just $1.25 American a day. Compound that with the fact that schools are expensive and you see the number of uneducated people in the country sky-rocket.
A couple of weeks ago I was having a Twitter conversation with a personal friend about travel when she caught me off-guard: she thought I was still traveling full-time and writing freelance to fund my travels. While that was the case not so long ago, I have been working full-time again for longer than I’d like to acknowledge and doing freelance to pull in some extra cash on the side. Despite the fact that I work at a pretty demanding company and work roughly 45 hours a week, I still manage to squeeze in a ton of travel.
In fact, this year alone I’ve been to Florida twice, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and India. (Oh, and I moved to a totally new state–Georgia!) And I have plans for Vermont and the Bahamas coming up later this year, along with a few other trips in the works. It’s not impossible to maintain a full-time job and to still squeeze in a lot of travel–some of that international!
I just finished reading Lost Girls, a tale of three women who quit their jobs to set off on a round-the-world trip for a year, and much like What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, parts of it struck so close to home that I felt that I had written them myself. In one of the last chapters, I found myself:
“I hadn’t acknowledged my feelings until now, but they hit me full force: I was ready for something more than just a job. I wanted what most women secretly (or not so secretly) want deep down–to fall in love, to be a girlfriend or a wife, to come home to someone who wanted to come home to me. I’d never really made much space in my life or my heart for these things before.”
“There is nothing like a train journey for reflection, and the passage from Casablanca to Marrakech is one of the most inspiring I know. Movement has a magical effect on the mind. It stimulates the eyes, distracts them, allowing real thought to take hold. I stared out the window at a landscape changing by slow degree from urban to farmland, and then again, to a desert panorama–baked terra-cotta red.” — Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights
My journey to Marrakech was a bit of a different route, but much the same experience–eight hours rocking away on a train, watching the landscapes change and feeling myself change from my time in Morocco.
My six-seater first-class car gained and lost a lot of people along the route, giving me time to watch how local people interacted: a wealthy couple in their late-20s–the man looking like he didn’t want to relinquish any control to his wife, but the woman was fiery and feisty and not ready to let him have the last word; an older couple who seemed so sweet and as if they loved each other so deeply that they’d drop anything to care for the other; and finally, my favorite–the old man.
Probably my biggest regret in past travels was never giving myself some time to relax. Nobody really tells you how exhausting long-term and fast travel can be–you think you can keep going on this adrenaline rush, and maybe you can for a little while, but then you just sort of bottom out. And it’s miserable.
With several months of full-time travel, where I hopped between cities and countries every five or so days, I found myself getting burnt out quickly. And what that boiled down to for me was falling into little mini-depressions. I was so tired and so jaded that there were days when I truly did not even want to get out of bed. Here I was on this once-in-a-lifetime trip, exhausted and bemoaning my enviable lot in life. Knowing that only made it worse–that I was sad and tired but that many people would have killed to have been doing what I was doing and to have been where I was.
Has there ever been a country that has just called to you? Imploring you to visit? To explore its cities and roam its streets? To taste its foods and experience its culture? To buy its wares and immerse yourself in everything it has to offer?
I have known many: Italy, Iceland, and Morocco, to be more specific. And after visiting each one of those, my heart grew a little larger to make room to fit all of them inside. Each one of them was special and amazing in its own way and, despite some difficulties in a couple of them, they each earned this rightful place at the top of my favorite-places-in-the-world list.