Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Toast to Trinidad and Finding Myself


I hope this post finds you well. At this time, I have been home in the US for four days, and I am still in awe of all that encompassed my summer. The research, cultural exploration, personal growth, and raw experiences have left their footprints on my heart, and their lessons intertwined with my spirit. Itzel and I lived life in incredible ways; from exploring our personhoods from the perspective of a different culture, learning the ins and outs of international research, appreciating the various nuances of building relationships, to strengthening our inner voices. This program provides opportunities for holistic cultivation. I honestly cannot articulate all of what I learned- which would normally bother me. But the depth of these lessons penetrate to such intimate parts of my personal existence, that there are some things I couldn't and wouldn't want to share here out of reverence for my personal journey. Thus said, this experience has given me so much, that it would be wrongly selfish to not share some of the beautiful insights. So, The following list is my guide to traveling abroad- hope you enjoy.

1. Be present. I place this tip as number one because I find it to be the most important. Being present means to embrace your surroundings as your current life and to engage with them. I'm not suggesting to give up the life you lived before, but rather to not miss the merit of new experiences for the security of home.

2. Try new things. This one may sound like common sense, but I found it to be more complicated than just trying new foods. It is exploring different parts of your personality, conquering fears, setting new daring goals, changing up your routine, doing away with routine. In essence, it is disrupting your life to open yourself to countless new possibilities, and is important in reaping the full benefits from the experience.

3. Use your senses. A lot of travel advice outlines suggested actions, behaviors, places to visit, which foods to (not) eat, etc., but few sources told me about the importance of utilizing senses. Paying attention to the sights, smells, textures, tastes, and all those things you can sense opened culture to me in some very unexpected ways. I learned that there is more to culture and people than behaviors and those things humans are directly responsible for, and this understanding gave me a new lense through which to see life.

4. Explore. DO NOT STAY IN YOUR HOME. This one is self- explanatory but a necessary piece of advice. Engage with this surrounding environment. The gains are immeasurable.

5. Know you are not alone. My final piece of advice touches on a phenomenon that I experienced and believe many travelers do as well which is loneliness. I found that for myself, there is something so incredibly lonely about uprooting your life and moving to a different environment for a period of time. It's not necessarily a loneliness in the physical sense- as there could be many people around you- but rather loneliness created by being distant from all that which makes you secure: family, friends, belief or values systems, familiar customs, traditions, routines, etc. I found this lack of security to be highly disruptive and hard to navigate at times. But gradually, I realized that people are people no matter the context. We are all under the power of the human condition in that we all feel, think, believe, eat, communicate, act, etc. With that knowledge, I understood that everyone then becomes your family in humanity in some peculiar sense, and with that you will never be alone. This form of connection transcends geography and culture, and thus helps combat loneliness. I'm not saying you will never or should never feel alone- in some instances I believe that feeling is beneficial and necessary- but I am saying that in such loneliness, remember you are not completely alone and sometimes it'll take leaning on and appreciating your universal family to push through those hard times.

I hope these tips prove useful in some way, and I thank you for your time spent reading these words. This summer gave me a beautiful rich chapter to add to my story, and I sincerely thank the MHIRT program for the opportunity. For the last time, I send my love from Team Trinidad- thank you for everything.

Much Love,


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