Each year, I try to undust my passport once or twice a year and see the world with fresh eyes. Sometimes, it’s for volunteer work, other times for writing projects, other times for adventure or “real” jobs or a clearing of space.
This morning, I write you from India.
What is far away often appears most exotic. It allures, because it partly unreachable, that culture, that place ever so slightly beyond your grasp. You get on a plane and 2, 20 or (this time) 30 hours later land into the unknown, just like we do each morning from home, except in a far less tangible way. You step onto fresh soil, your sandals touching the very ground they have never felt before and perhaps never will again. The days ahead of you are yours, seconds to fill and wade in as you please, where time passes slow, thick, and full.
Being abroad reminds that life is large and will not be controlled by us; it is a force we must surrender to, a light into which we must open our eyes.
Wherever we are.
Being abroad forces us to face how you fill our days, what our time is made up of, and what we find rich in life. When far away, particularly when you’ve “set up shop” somewhere rather than slugging your backpack to a different hostel each night, it asks you to face what you carry with you as your home. You see the richness of all that is behind you, in front of you, and yet to come.
You see the whole of the globe as intimately as you see yourself and you see yourself closer than perhaps you would even like.
India is a forcefield of humanity. A composite of beauties and problems, large and small, as potent as they are within your own soul. Hot mornings are spent chatting with the woman shop owner, who gives you water and directions for every time you get lost. Hot days are spent chatting with the men who sweep the dust on and off the pavement. Hot afternoons are spent rinsing off the dust from the scooter rides, the crusty dust that finds every crevice on your visage, reminding you of each smile and laughter and harsh moment that placed them there. Warm evenings are spent holding cool beverages to your face, chatting with new friends and swashing away mosquitos, until tomorrow morning comes.
Two years ago, while sitting in a French cafe in Hong Kong, a bored Swiss man looked at me and said, “When you go far away in the world, you go far away inside yourself.” You see the questions you hold onto, the purposes you would like to solve, the salve you wish to be the world, the people you want by your side. You see the way your heart is purposed toward beauty, as it looks for it madly, amidst the colors and textures and spices that burn through your chest. You feel the way your heart beats alone, yet connected. You ask what difference you are here to make and you get honest about what deeply moves you.
This can happen anywhere. On your own couch at home or at a wooden table hut next to the arabian sea. But the haunting is good – it awakes you. So welcome it. Pay attention to what wakes you each morning, be it the alarm for work or the monkeys rattling on your roof or the pounding of your own heart. Sit silently in the quaking and get clear about what you desire.
And remember to just keep dreaming.