World Narratives

The Sarajevo Boys Club

The Sarajevo Boys Club

Together, we ignore the folk music that fills every conversation gap and develop our bitter coffee breath. Turtle-Neck nudges the stool where my feet rest and quickly apologies with a wave. I crack a full smile, eager to be acknowledged, quick to prove I’m open to chatter myself, though we exchange none. The Daydreamer folds his paper and stands to deliver 1 KM to the bar for his espresso before walking out the door. He waits a beat before turning right, then walks straight towards his car. I notice the others don’t question his departure. He backtracks to the edge of the patio and turns left to saunter by the rest of the shops on the ground floor, hands in pockets–breaking for oxygen, I imagine. The patio door swings open again, and the newest member lifts a cheek onto a stool, pulling his Marlboros from a pocket as first order of business.

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When you're jetlagged in Bosnia

When you're jetlagged in Bosnia

I continue to mull over my initial impressions of this city as they compare to my pre-conceptions without extensive research. How do I explain the feeling of dropping into a new city whose energy I don't know? What are the true risks to safety? Where's the highest concentration of lively people, impressive food, and gorgeous architecture? What does life feel like in this city, and how ever-present is the memory of its recent war?

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Rain clouds blow through the highlands of Scotland

Rain clouds blow through the highlands of Scotland

I had heavenly expectations of the highland air. I thought it would be uncommonly sweet, a cold drink of water for my lungs. Instead, the air I invited in smelled like fresh biology, life and death but more of the former. Somewhere nearby, there was undoubtedly a cow sweating, a rooster breathing heavily, an earthworm realizing it could now slither back underground. From a 1st floor window, I sucked up all that biology in a moment of wonder and discovery, in the specialness of a start.

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Mementos from a beautiful chapter in the Pacific Islands

Mementos from a beautiful chapter in the Pacific Islands

One of my favorite weekends involved a road trip to the Coromandel to celebrate Nick’s birthday at the newly-purchased home of Andrew McLean. We had a complete blast making music with melodeons and djembes, rebuilding bonfires on the beach, and eating crazy amounts of barbecued meats and veggies. I have never witnessed such a unified affinity for nature by a country. Through the channel of our local contact, it felt like we got a taste of this focus on the outdoors and the joys of sharing it with friends. I endeavor to adopt a little of this and take it with me wherever I go next.

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An earthquake challenges my understanding of reality

An earthquake challenges my understanding of reality

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.

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Assume the world wants you to take risks, keep learning, and do what you love

Assume the world wants you to take risks, keep learning, and do what you love

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.

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The time I took ten students to the war-torn region of Kashmir and they loved it

The time I took ten students to the war-torn region of Kashmir and they loved it

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.

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A journey back to north India, a mind running in place

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!"

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With pocket money and a rickshaw, some kids discover Hyderabad

With pocket money and a rickshaw, some kids discover Hyderabad

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.

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After three weeks in India, I finally feel like I'm traveling.

After three weeks in India, I finally feel like I'm traveling.

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.

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From Chelsea to Chinatown, a walk inspires words

From Chelsea to Chinatown, a walk inspires words

Vacation is when watery, oily, acidicjuices are plowed with crusty bread, where butter comes in clumps and goes down in littler ones, flavor bombs, when you have time to pour the second cup of honey with a punch of rose. Aimless and timeless, there might be no other method to managing a day for you.

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Sitting pensive amidst a teal river in Bumthang, Bhutan

Sitting pensive amidst a teal river in Bumthang, Bhutan

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.

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Feasting on the specialness of visiting Bhutan

Feasting on the specialness of visiting Bhutan

With time to wander the streets of Thimphu I mosey, no muscles or desires attempting to accelerate a slow discovery

Light, open spaces, crowds, and amusing sounds I can't remember but a handful of passing thoughts during the walk

There were a few moments that made me pause and take a photo

Those genuine moments are visitors from another time

When I traveled to be moved

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