I'm watching the Vancouver Marathon from my apartment window and giggling as seagulls drift by at eye-level. Canada represents my final destination of this academic year, and though it was an exciting year and an important one for my own growth, I am glad it's behind me.
Traveling with a math expert this year introduced me to the beauty of slow data. With every car ride or room change, she plugged miles traversed or beds switched into a spreadsheet. By the end of 220 days "on the road," she presented to us the impressive numbers of our #cdtravels:
- 110,745 kilometers of transit = 2.76 times around the world
- Total hours on planes, trains & automobiles (not layovers or wait time): 246 hours / 6 work weeks
- 50 beds roughly, averaging 4.4 nights per bed
If you're wondering why I spent the last year making an epic carbon footprint (not proud of that), take a peek at the TGS Changemaker Program and read my post on this curriculum development mission. If you're not sure how I went from travel media to writing curriculum documents for a high school, I understand your confusion. It surprised me, too. Here's something on my evolution.
Last year at this time, I was living in Florence, Italy with THINK Global School, plugging away at graduate school and enjoying as stable a lifestyle as I've achieved in the last decade. Between then and now, I changed jobs, visited ten countries, and wrote two years of projects with three colleagues.
Here's what it was like... Read More
To my knowledge, there is no perfect equation that all can use in order to strike that balance between experience and processing time. Homework, books, projects, trips, community building, sports, and other desires or pressures will tug at one’s attention and make it difficult to prioritize processing time for maximum personal benefit.
Over my years on the road, I have witnessed in people who prioritize - even slightly - the documentation of their experiences:
- more emotional stability
- more ease with forming concluding thoughts about a place or experience
- more clarity in drive or future path
It will take time to experiment with travel writing techniques in order to access inner thoughts, make the most meaning out of your world experiences, and utilize time most wisely for maximum gain. That time, however, will be fun and rewarding. Read More
For the last two years, I've used these little collages as a way to quickly chronicle a chapter of my work life. While this says "Hiro" (a.k.a Hiroshima) and some of the images are from elsewhere in Japan, this represents some of my favorite moments this term, the ones I continue to savor even months later.
In January 2013, I traveled to Bhutan with 30 international students, only to come home with mass amounts of footage that couldn't be condensed into a little web video. Fifteen months later, I screened a feature-length film from that trip to the students who lived it. (I was even able to share it with the Prime Minister of Bhutan and receive feedback!)
Semester at Sea impacts my day yet again :) Matthew Straub and I were on the S'07 voyage together, and a few years later, we discussed participation in The Nakavika Project after I returned from Fiji. I think having the common bond of SAS-hood inspires people to stay connected and communicative with other global and passionate people. Since chatting about potential collaboration on TNP, we've been in touch about ideas and our work.
The more wonderful people and places I encounter, the more difficult choosing causes becomes for me, and I can understand that you might as well find difficulty in extending much of yourself to this cause with so many other things begging for your support. That's why I hope it feels entirely doable to you to simply follow them on Facebook and begin your engagement there. A message, a photo, or a "like" could be just the encouragement they needed for the next step.
From a state of unconsciousness to complete lucidity in three seconds, I sped to the realization that an earthquake challenges what I know to be true about my reality. A building trembling and swaying, a bathroom vibrating bottles off the counter, a need to brace myself between two beds …and none of this occurring on a ship, as I’ve experienced before. I was not at sea; I was very much on land.
Kerouac considered the beauty of the form to be in the process of painting a single moment as simply as possible in three lines of text. He often wrote in "Western haiku" form, which didn't follow a strict 5-7-5 syllable equation. Since I'm not a fan of a creative process that includes the frequent counting on my fingers, I embraced this style and experimented yet again with the haiku, this time during a TGS club session called "Word."
I wasn't a part of the planning process for Kyoto, so every day presented new information and surprising activities I gulped up. The highlights included walking through a bamboo forest, watching chunky snowflakes coat the city, and our tea ceremony with a maiko, a geiko (or geisha) in training. I rolled my own sushi for the first time, which was a bucket list item, and I finally visited the orange gates captured in Memoirs of a Geisha.
Arriving at the bus terminal, I turned right back around and got on the Portliner train to try and get as close to the ship as possible. Having not traveled with my passport, and knowing the insanely tight restrictions on boarding, I knew there was no chance of talking my way on as a nostalgic alumna. As I rolled closer, I snapped pic after pic of increasingly higher quality until I found myself face-to-bow with my former nautical home.
There are many reasons why SASers develop a lifelong love of the program and the vessel. For me, Semester at Sea changed the whole course of my life. I don’t know who I would have become without my round-the-world voyage in 2007. I certainly wouldn’t have met Garrett and Alexis, wouldn’t have felt strong enough to take my Big Journey, wouldn’t have aspired for the STA internship, and wouldn’t have landed in Japan today with my job at THINK Global School.
My third exploration of these Instagram collages is providing some great perspective on our time in India. Instagram images feel like highlights of daily joys, and usually a sum-up post of images from a place is a showcase of your best and most influential moments. Making a little visual quilt of the daily joys seems to weave the kind of fabric that makes sense to my mind and likely memorializes a place akin to how I will mentally.
While my job expects me to make high quality media, I also enjoy using social media to share the daily small joys that often don't get a glossy coating. Using Storify, I curated a story of the previous year from my various online venues, resulting in the most ground level reflection of my experiences through Bhutan, Boston, and Hyderabad.
Have you ever been on a trip that you knew was so special: every detail seemed divinely delivered, every moment one to journal about, every vision worthy of an Instagram? This was the sentiment possessed by all involved in our trip. Lazy nights spent huddled around the fire were coupled with songs or thoughtful talks about travel. Even in moments where the students were out of their element, up before dawn, freezing, or pushed to their physical limits on hikes, they were still so engaged. The usual shyness of students in need of filtering questions through their teachers to the guides dissolved after a half hour on the ground. The students loved Ashika.
Though my steam was running low by the end, the students and I agreed that the trip was a bit of a mental recharge to engage with where we were living. I spent many hours chatting with the students about their upcoming first graduation ceremony, gender inequality in India, and traveling solo as a female around the world. I pretended to be a guru in a cave on the train, accepting students into my lair (joining me in my double seat) for questions about life and happiness. My answers were usually, "Write about it!"
Open blocks to explore hundreds more, we feel strongmoving into a space we somewhat know, a city we sheepishly call
our home, from our hostel for the homeless.
Bulk home goods to crispy street food, we were happy.
Dirty lake walks to all-star city specialities, we were happy.
We were happy by choice, equipped with freedom
and company that subscribed to the daily magazine of discovery.
Regardless of the reasons why it didn't happen, I know what I want: engaged students every step of the way. That investment in time must provide me immediate return, onto which I can bank that long term effects are plausible. I am building daily on a blueprint created many years ago, when a long trip provided me a clear life goal. Of course, I also must find ways to steady my mood and know I cannot control all the variables that allow a student to be an engaged one.
We burn fuel, and sometimes we observe where that takes us,hypothetically hoping it's toward patch-covered nirvana, an open mind
Regardless of the "where to" but focusing on the "so what"
What is travel, and what is a traveler?
Flickers of lightning are faint but always to the left of my aim toward the horizon. They provide an additional layer of drama to my nighttime ride home from the city of Hyderabad. I booked a taxi with the help of a Hindi-speaking friend, someone whom I quickly and liberally offered my trust purely on the grounds of intuition. Hair still wrapped from a previous motorbike ride, I hope it helps me evade any potential disturbance I've been warned about, regardless of how secure I feel with being in a taxi at 8pm in the countryside. My iPhone low in my lap, I text my new friend to say that my limited Hindi and our common ground of "right, left, and straight" have brought me back to where I'm living for the next four months. Read More
Bhutan in the winter energizes the hunger for discovery that's resident in children lucky enough to be young. It would take a dark closet for decades to produce this contrast anywhere else, the specialness clear with every sip of cold mountain air or gentle exchange. I can't say this is what travel should always be, because it's only through their unique set of occurrences that yielded such an outcome. But what they have set up, from my effortless post, has a wonderful effect. Wool is nowhere near our eyes, and we are learning individual lessons from the backgrounds we brought.
It's cold, and my body begs to be energized beyond the limits of my water consumption; disregarding the extreme altitude difference, abused toes, conserved clothing, or painful, chapping skin. It's the sloping of land that begs to be traversed. It's Scotland. Switzerland. Bhutan.