Monday, February 15, 2016

international travel and coming home

I love traveling, but I also love coming home.

I love feeling the energy of another place, another country. It helped that on my most recent trip, I didn't get sick, and it was safe enough for me to walk around by myself. The country was beautiful, and there was enough infrastructure that we could get ourselves from the airport to the hotel. I read a lot on the way there, and had a lot of really good discussions with my co-travelers about everything you can imagine. I laughed until I cried twice.

The days were long - sometimes we were out working for 12 or 13 hours. We'd come back, grab a late dinner, and tumble into bed exhausted, but usually not before checking emails. One day, my mom had sent me a long email. I read it all and responded something like, "I read this. I loved it. Too tired to write more." (But really, isn't it better to respond this than to not respond at all?) On days where we were out and about less, we'd meet and plan the next day, figure out what things we needed to prioritize.

We made ourselves slow down a couple of times - a few hours on a Sunday, for Saturday night dinner, before we caught our bus to the airport on Tuesday afternoon. Those are the moments that you see photos of on social media. Like most social media, it paints an incomplete picture. I didn't photograph the time I stayed up till almost 1 am answering work emails, or the time I chose to go to bed instead of staying up to answer them (balance!). I didn't photograph our late night meetings. I did photograph myself when I found out my flight home was delayed yet another hour; but I won't be sharing that one. You can just imagine it.

I met some amazing people - international coworkers, hotel staff, sponsored families. I heard painful stories and stories of determination to get to where they are now. I had to write them down late at night because I want to remember them and I want them to shape me.

I believe that the amount to which we can experience and hold pain is also the extent to which we can experience joy. For me, traveling is a mixture of both. It's not just the wear and tear of travel - it's seeing the lack of opportunities or the corrupt power systems. But it's also seeing the spark that families carry inside them. To focus on only the positive things is easier - but just like in art, the negative space brings perspective, clarity.

I love traveling, but I also love coming home. Coming home gives me space to process the trip. And when I travel, I miss parts of being home, especially Caleb. But leaving makes it sweeter. I came home to a clean house, homemade lentil soup (per my request), flowers and a welcome sign, a fire in the fireplace, and taps on the maple tree to make homemade syrup. I spent a few days remembering what it means to slow down, rediscovering my own rhythms and waves.

I love traveling, but I also love coming home.