Sometimes when I'm home, I turn the camera on my family. They like to cheese it up in photos, but when their cheek muscles relax a bit and they get into their element, you can see the real smiles emerge.Read More
Do you know where we were a year ago today?
This is a game my family plays. Actually, this is just a common sentence equation my parents throw around, about which my brother and I like to joke. Whether we recall where we were last month or dream of our future location a week away, the Clarks can often be found discussing their coordinates except where they are in the present.
Today, I'm sporting my genes and recalling my exact location at the 2010 New Year: on the Pacific Harbour beach in Fiji, taking a break from an exhausting project. Don't worry; I have a purpose for this nostalgia.Read More
My mother, Margie - I've certainly put her through a lot, especially in these last four years:
Seemingly disappearing for 12 days in India because I didn't want to tell her where I was going...ya know, so she wouldn't worry
And probably the worst, taking off to Fiji while Grandma battled one mean bout of throat cancer
Mom has had a hard year, probably the hardest of her existence, watching her own mother deal with a fate arguably worse than death.
Losing the Matriarch
While I was lounging in a Delhi hotel room on the World Traveler Internship, Mom told me via Skype the dentist had found cancer under her tooth. As I literally watched shooting stars over Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania from my tent, Grandma Evelyn was being wheeled out of a surgery that tested the limits of human strength to recover from. And while Mom learned of her nearly certain fatal situation, she still supported my desire to go to Fiji and implement a humanitarian project.
Having been paired with my father since she was 15, I often wonder how it's possible for her to understand my desire and need to be alone, to travel the far corners of the world without anyone at my side, to be comfortable in near squalor altogether. It certainly wasn't an easy realization to come to, as I was firmly encouraged to correspond constantly on my Big Journey via Blackberry.
However, on this last trip to the South Pacific, my mother surprised me with her understanding of my desires, my abilities to survive completely out of her arm's reach, and my competency in dissolving extreme issues with differing minds. When Garrett returned early from Fiji, he had a long talk with my mom over the phone and reported back that even in the wake of our ridiculous stories, she knew I could handle myself and trusted I'd be okay (without even a hint of her normal "Ooohhh, Lindsaaaaay" sigh and stress-induced headache).
Whether she listened to history and assumed everything would turn out fine or our issues were relatively trivial in comparison to Grandma's, Mom proved to me that even though she'd rather I stay stateside and safe, she knows if I must pull my global stunts, I will...and it will be okay.
And what was most surprising from this shift was the timing of it all. Though I did plan the Fiji experience around what we thought would be Grandma's easiest battle through chemo and radiation, the status of her health and aggressive cancer affirmed the entire war would be a tough one to weather and even witness. Mom wanted me to be around for it all, even though Grandma (in her classic understating tone) told me it was fine to go and even miss her funeral (since she wouldn't be there to miss me anyway).
Grandma was selfless, and so is Mom, and I see this hereditary link now more than ever in the hindsight of this winter (thought not as if I didn't realize this before).
The Parental Support of a Nomad
I get a lot of messages from young travelers worried about their parents' impressions of their journeys, and they wonder, "How do your parents deal with you being alone and all over the place?" Though they're not dropkicking me out the front door (nicely, that is), my parents certainly have proven to be understanding of my insatiable and sometimes indescribable desire to move. Fear is always a factor, but as I continue to show more maturity in my reasons for travel, they continue to feel more comfortable with my choices, especially since I've managed to survive this long.
All kids make great stress inducers for their parents in some fashion, and those of us who like the road can certainly create extreme moments of fear on a daily basis. But the road to gaining understanding and support from a worried parent isn't very long at all.
My mom was actually the one who nudged me toward taking my Big Journey, against her own wishes to have me close by. She knew I wanted and needed the experience. She allowed me to be selfish and traipse around the Earth, while she woke up early to check and e-mail me the weather of my destination before I even arose.
On this Mother's Day, I wanted to say thank you, Mom, for understanding, even in the midst of your hardest hour. I think you'll fill the shoes of the Matriarch to the tippy toe.
There are three reasons why I really love this day on the calendar, and aren't the final reasons in these sort of lists always the best?
Four years ago today, I flew solo across the Atlantic for the first time in my life...solo meaning without family or friends, not Amelia Earhart-style. After having studied abroad in Italy during high school, I found it absolutely necessary to return to Florence, my favorite city in "the boot," and study that which inspired me: art and the Italian language.
What began with that memorable flight was a sequence of events that eventually propelled me toward Semester at Sea and the lifestyle I now call my own. Living in Florence, I took the constant inspiration and my favored style of impromptu prose writing and created a travel voice for myself. The world and its elements became the ingredients of my artistic movement. I became an aspiring travel writer. That was May 5th, 2006.
Two years ago today, I boarded yet another plane to Italy; however, this ticket wasn't round-trip, unless you count round-the-world as such.
I suffered yet another travel-induced bout of insomnia, vibrated with anxiety, and took off on my solo venture toward self-understanding and global experiences. May 5th, 2008 marked the day I started my Big Journey, when only two days prior I moved a tassel to the side and earned my college degree.
Today, I'm not flying to Italy, nor am I bound for the boot anytime in the foreseeable future. Instead, this year marks the first time I understand what the holiday is about. Because the classroom wasn't my optimal learning environment (and my memory stinks), I never really grasped the holiday until now...now that it's my job to know all things Mexico.
I recently revealed how I landed my next travel endeavor, and now it's time to explain this dream job in a little more detail.
I'm going to Mexico in June, not because I decided to spend all my money again or because I got a free trip somehow. ProjectExplorer has deemed me worthy, thanks to my various venues for my travel documentation, of being a traveling producer, shooter, and photographer for their online educational programming for children.
I'll be one unit in a team of five, all collaborating skills and passions to create dynamic and innovative media that will educate classrooms around the world about the country of Mexico. Why Mexico? Because they invited us, silly!
Prior to take-off, I've been studying Mexico's many facets: its pre-Columbian civilizations, the grand capital of Mexico City, its legendary revolutionaries, and all things contemporary south of the border. Because of this duty, I know that Cinco de Mayo marks the day 148 years ago when:
Mexico drew its forces before the city of Puebla and began their assault on the French. The battle, lasting from daybreak to early evening, ended with a French retreat at their loss of nearly 500 soldiers, while Mexico saw less than 100 killed. The win represented a great moral victory for the Mexican government and her resistance to oppressive powers.
...in case you wanted to know.
I've been frantically reading narratives on Mexico, such as David Lida's First Stop in the New World, as well as chatting with friends who would call Mexico their home tomorrow if they could. My training in academic research paid off for the job thus far, and soon I'll be applying my other learned skills in videography and education to the creative side of this gig.
Through our 80+ short films, hundreds of photographs, and numerous blogs on Mexico (see example site page here from the Jordan project), we're hoping children understand better the culture, history, and people of Mexico, and with that kind of education, we all know what awesome things can result. I dare say world peace, but world citizens also works.
And so, on this Cinco de Mayo, I may just learn how to make mole poblano (the classic meal of the holiday) or dumb it down to a simple celebration of Mexico with a cerveza in hand. Regardless, this year's holiday is a thrilling reminder of my immediate future with ProjectExplorer and our first trip together - to Mexico.
If you'd like to be a part of ProjectExplorer, participate in the Good Global Citizen campaign (the one that eventually landed me the gig) by making a video answering the question: What does it mean to you to be a good global citizen? You'll join the ranks of Ziggy Marley and Desmond Tutu if you do!