It was the end of November when I sent an email home to my core family members saying I may end the trip early, citing being over “living out of ziploc bags and a suitcase” alongside my desire to “set up my own place again, have stability, and sleep in the same bed for two weeks in a row!” I was considering cutting my Africa travels short to fast forward to India and the Big Shared World finish line.
It was the thoughtful response from my older brother John that gave me the spark to keep going. While he wrote that he’d be happy to have me home safe and sound… “On the flip side, right before you left, you told me that on this last leg, that you didn’t want to skip or miss out on anything and didn’t have a set date to be home. It was more of an “I’ll be home when the work is done” type of attitude. So I’d hate for you to have spent so much time, energy, money, etc. and then cut the last leg short for any reason… I think when you are able to see the finish line on a project, sometimes people have a tendency to not run as hard to that line as they had the first part of the race. If you don’t think you’d have any regrets being done, then I’d say head home, but if even a small part of you says that this was my plan, I’m already on this end of the earth, I may as well finish strong, then finish what you started…
Its not like when you are done with the traveling part you are done done. You still have a ton of work to do…”
To know my brother and me is to know we have a little bit of an ongoing sibling rivalry, with some oldest/youngest tension in the mix. We are part of one of those families that is extremely involved in each other’s lives. With that comes the pleasure of having a strong family support system no matter what life throws at you, but also the natural opinions that come from being in close proximity to each other. John was the only person in the first stages of my initial idea to travel the world with three questions who actually challenged it. I was so hurt to not get his immediate approval, but by the time I finished crying to my peacemaker middle sister about our conversation, he had taken the time to email me an apology for coming across as unsupportive. He wrote paragraphs full of ideas and insights, and finished with the simple thought that humbly summed up some of the emotion behind both our responses; “I’m jealous that you can even think about an adventure like this!”
It was fitting to me that at the end of this global journey, one that I’d like to think has made me a better individual in the process, it was my brother who had become my source of energy to finish strong. Continuing my journey in Kenya after hundreds of responses to the BSW questions, I had my first answer that truly shocked me. To the question “what does a good life mean to you?,” a bright eyed young woman answered that her life had been full of difficulties making her not actually know what a good life means. After finishing the other questions and turning to a more casual conversation, she stunned me again as she asked what my answer to the question about a good life was so that she could have something to strive for. As if that wasn’t profound enough for a reason to have kept going, it was also in Kenya where I reconnected with a colleague who spends time between Nairobi and Washington DC. Just as I thought heading home would help satisfy my craving for future stability, we spent time in Africa discussing ways we can work together in the future. And when I go to DC this coming week to find a new place, I have a full day meeting for a project we’ll be collaborating on. Highly doubtful that all would have transpired had I not kept going.
Alongside encouragement to keep traveling, my brother’s email finished with some wise foresight of what I faced when I return to the “real world” that my BSW journey had arguably taken me away from. This reality is one with fast paced expectations, constant updates, and rewards for the most cleverly curated content, where significance and substance are often treated with less interest than the trivial and topical which is easy to like and share.
As my brother’s email supportively reminded me of all the immediate pressures of the world I would return to upon arrival back home, it gave me the foresight to begin making a list of goals for the new life I would like to establish upon my return to “reality” after being away. While certainly I have seen and experienced cultures that have vastly different values than those in my home country, many of which I relate to much more than the ones under which I was raised, I still desire to not only live within the one I come from, but thrive here. For me, the new year’s biggest challenge will be to consistently incorporate all the beautiful lessons I have learned while away as I establish my new life back home.
MY 16 GOALS FOR 2016:
1. Create a home conducive to hosting friends and family.