Moved by Moving

Leaving home gets harder and harder every time I do it. And I’m always asked, “Why do you like living abroad?” and “How do you do it?”

After years of thinking about it, I finally found some potential answers, thoughts repeated in my mind if nothing else.

I have developed a deep, deep passion for the world. I’ve had it for years, and I’m guessing I always will. It keeps me going and partly blinds me from the pain that I inevitably feel when I leave. This world just has so much to offer. There are so many people and lessons and activities and views to meet and learn and do and see. The fact that all of this is available and waiting is pretty insane to me and I can’t miss out. Long ago I told myself I would see as much of the world as I could and this goal is never-ending and doesn’t get easier the older I grow, but until that promise no longer serves me, I must go and go and go.

I look around and think to myself that the reason life is so wonderful is because we get to choose. Sure, there are some givens, but at the end of the day I hope we can all recognize that we have the power to change what surrounds, consumes, inspires, angers, and pushes us, simply by making different choices. Sometimes I look at the places I spend most of my time, at the things I own and use, and at the people I share my days with. When I see each of these truly, I am able to trace back to the moment I let them in, and more importantly, the moment I let them stay. Through this consistent practice I’ve come to the understanding that I am allowing what and who surrounds me. When I leave home, I recognize fully that it is my choice, and that there is no one else to thank or blame for what I see when I open my eyes.

I love home. I love coming home and I love being home. I love the place I get to call home, and the people from home that I get to keep in my life regardless of whether I’m physically there or not. I treasure this place so deeply because I only get to have it sometimes. At this point, many places feel like home, and I can’t afford to take that for granted either. But home has always been people for me. It just so happens that a large percentage of the people I love are in the same place, and for that fact alone, I love home.

I crave stories. How else would we learn and grow from each other if we didn’t share them with each other? Most anything we say or exchange in conversation, on social media, through music and film, while people-watching, and when we lie awake at night thinking about our day, is a story. They are being shared in different ways, selectively, and again we can choose and craft them how we want to. Anything that happens to us is one story, and the way we choose to see it once it’s done or tell it when it’s over, are other stories. Every place I go gives me another story to tell, and many to listen to. At any time I can draw from this archive, and I can learn.

I like being uncomfortable. I like placing and finding myself outside of the zone I would describe as “comfortable”. I like the rush of new environments and unfamiliar ground. I like how it feels to know that time is all it takes to adjust to most change and most difficulties. And I know from experience, that when we are uncomfortable, we are growing. It’s easy to stay, but I prefer a little bit of pushing my boundaries if it means expanding my growth as a human through the days I have been given. I don’t like leaving because it’s uncomfortable, I like leaving because of where it gets me. So, here I am again, getting through the uncomfortable changes to find what is waiting for me. And something always is.

Every time I leave home, I cry at the airport while waiting at the gate for boarding. It’s never because I want to stay, but because leaving doesn’t feel as good as arriving. The last few months I spent at home have been everything I’ve dreamt of and more. I am so grateful for all the time I got to share with so many people, all of whom I consider myself lucky to know and connect with. I’m thankful for all the food that I got to eat, and that I am always missing when away. I know that home isn’t everyone’s favorite place, so I know my luck for all that it is, to have been brought to a place that fills me with good love and good memories, each and every time.

 

 

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Airplane Thoughts

When I flew back to the U.S. last week (a casual 26-hour trip) I watched two films that were drastically different and yet exactly the same in their messages. One film was called Human Flow by Ai Weiwei and the other was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, directed by Martin McDonagh. After I watched the first one, I cried a lot. And then I watched the second one and cried a lot too. And after I finished crying a lot, I thought a lot. 

What if we were raised in a culture of acceptance instead of in a world where “good” and “bad” and “right” and “wrong” are defined differently among people to the point where disagreement becomes disrespectful? 

I asked myself what it means to me to feel home in a place that was not always my home. I came to the U.S. seventeen years ago with my family, as an immigrant, and when I think about what that was like, and then I think about refugee families today and what it must be like for them, I feel so much pain. 

My wish would be for everyone who arrives in this country to find safety and feel home, but I know that not all do. I know that fear drives people to choose actions that are easily mistaken for reactions based on hate or judgement. But I also know that we, as humans, are inherently good, and that we are so capable of loving each other no matter where we come from. I know the latter is a stronger and better know, because that is the know that I lived. 

I arrived here at ten years old, and I felt accepted. I went to school and was approached politely by children wanting to be friends, despite the fact that my skin was darker and my eyes smaller. My teachers saw potential in me and guided and supported me genuinely. Strangers smiled at me and showed me kindness. Neighbors treated me as an equal neighbor. And it didn’t take long to feel home.

In Weiwei’s film I didn’t see much of my own story. I saw the version of mine that is a nightmare for me but a reality for others today. And no one deserves a reality like that. I don’t know the solution to the refugee crisis around the world, but I know what I can do and what I am willing to do. And it matters; small actions matter because in the end it is not about the action, but about the exchange between people.

After watching Three Billboards, I realized something that allowed for a new level of awareness in me: We need to get a head start in understanding and internalizing the idea that we are supposed to be in this together. That really is how simple it is. 

Both Three Billboards and Human Flow are talking about the same issue but framing it in different stories. In Three Billboards, the fighting parties come from the same place and are separated only by how they were raised and the roads between them. In Human Flow, they are separated by oceans and wars and cultures. Both are trying to tell us that we are separating ourselves from each other and it’s killing us. We’re nourishing hatred and bigotry and racism and ignorance and differences and we are choosing enemies in the people we share this Earth with. That’s not fair, and we have to fix it.

There is a quote in Human Flow that is important for the world to hear: “It’s going to be a big challenge to recognize that the world is shrinking, and people from different religions, different cultures, are going to have to learn to live with each other.” It shouldn’t be a challenge to meet our neighbors in the middle. It should be natural to our humanity.

In Three Billboards, Woody Harrelson says,Through love comes calm and through calm comes thought.” Love should be our first language as people. Love should be at the center of our existence, as individuals and as a species.

We are better than what we are doing to each other right now. We have to put it together, and we have to take it seriously. We need to choose love, and we need to choose it more often. 

Words of Wander Wisdom

I wrote the following words on a bus in Costa Rica three months ago. At the time, I was addressing aspiring travelers and readers of our #WanderOurWorld series. Looking back, I think I was writing it for myself.

As I settle into this new life in South Korea, I am taking my own advice to heart. I hope you do too.

Advice For The Road

Fill yourself with gratitude. Let it in and let it out. And only put out into this world what you would want to let in. Look around. Look everywhere, and look often. Look in dark places—sometimes that’s where you find the light you need. Remember what surrounds you. Keep it as long as you can. Listen to the stories from those who you encounter, and share yours in return.

Feel the sunshine, the cold, the warmth, and feel the pain and life and beauty around you. Feel yourself change. Feel your heart grow. Expect to be lost at times. Stay humble. Keep in touch. Write. Write. Write. Write all the time. Later on, thank yourself for taking the time to write. Watch the sun rise and set as many times as you can. Pretend you’ll be in this moment forever.

Never compare your travels to those of someone else. Know that your path is yours only. Challenge yourself. Walk the paths you stumble upon. Smile at strangers, laugh at yourself, and take comfort in companionship. Take comfort in independence. Take comfort in being uncomfortable. Believe that you will one day meet again those you’ve already met. Do not burn bridges just because you have crossed them.

Take what you have learned and teach it to others. Embrace your sense of belonging each time it comes alive. Feel home when you’re not. Feel distance when you’re close. Feel fear and excitement and hunger for life in every single moment. Learn. Be a sponge. Try everything. Remember that things are only things, and that is all they will ever be. Open your eyes to the meaning of variety. Believe that reality and dreams can be one and the same.

Ask yourself why you travel.

Remind yourself why you travel.

Spread your courage and share your bravery.

Learn from yourself.

Don’t rush.

Accept the grandiosity of the world, and explore as much of it as your feet will allow.

Go in any and all directions.

Go beyond.

Go away.

Go back.

Go anywhere.

Go everywhere.

Keep going.

And going.

And going.

Your life matters

“Being alive is kinda like hitting ‘reply-all’ to the Universe.”

The Buried Life tweeted this quote recently, and I think it is easily a new favorite quote of mine.  It makes all the sense in the world.  To me, it’s a reminder that we are all connected someway, somehow.  What we do as individuals will have an affect on the world and the people in it, whether or not we realize it, and whether or not we do it for that reason.

So remember friends, you matter, your life matters, and what you do matters.  Never think otherwise.

Things I’ve done right in college so far

1.  Studied Abroad
No doubt about it–my favorite semester.  Studying abroad made me a happier, more cultured, independent student.  I don’t understand why such a small percent of students study abroad.  According to this article on Chronicle.com: only about 38% studied abroad during the summer, and 13% studied abroad for eight weeks or less during the academic year.  Fewer than 4% of students spent the entire academic year abroad.

Studying abroad is life-changing, and it’s something I will always advocate.  It is not an opportunity that any student should ever pass up.

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2.  Volunteered
Volunteering on and off campus is rewarding and eye-opening.  My volunteer trips have introduced me to some really great, generous, happy people.  The opportunities also open doors; last year I volunteered for the Commission on Presidential Debates leading up to and during the second 2012 Presidential Debate hosted at Hofstra University, and  I got to meet and spend time with the producer of the debates, meet important politicians, and see what it’s like behind the scenes during preparation for such a historic national event.  Volunteering is 100% positive for every party involved, and it puts some good energy back into the vicious cycle of a world that is focused on making millions and slaving their lives away just to buy things that only last a year or two. /endrant

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3.  Found a mentor
As a sophomore, I had a professor who took interest in my writing and asked me to share my papers for her to potentially use in her next textbook.  She also proposed that I work with her on my senior research project and thesis.  Two years later, we are still in touch, I still take her classes, ask her for career/academic advice, and this year we will be working on my thesis together.  My professor turned into my mentor, advisor, and I hope she’s ready to deal with my inevitable freak-outs when the time comes to graduate and enter the real world.

4.  Befriended people with the same major
Having friends in all of my classes, being familiar with all of the faces, attending events together, helping each other with schedules, professors, always being updated on missed meetings or classes, etc.  It just makes everything easier.

5.  Befriended people with different majors
I’m a mass media major involved in a medical club–doesn’t seem logical does it?  But because my good friend is pre-med, and the club needed a PR chair, I found myself loving the organization and learning about things that I would hate to take a class on.  I’m more involved on campus and with a great variety of interests.

6.  Befriended the ladies at Omelette Pan
I mean, they give me extra cheese and extra bacon.  I would consider that having the honor of calling the OP ladies my friends, is nothing but a great life accomplishment.

7.  Befriended international students
I’ve traveled to Norway and Amsterdam to visit local friends who I met at Hofstra, and I know I have a place to stay if I ever go to Norway, Amsterdam, Paris, London, Brazil, Russia, Australia or New Zealand.  More than just having places around the world to visit, these friends are unique and there are so many worldly things to learn from them.  Oh, and might I mention that maybe (just maybe) befriending international students will lead to meeting a perfect boyfriend.

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8.  Became a Pride Guide
I couldn’t be more proud to be proud of my school, and being a pride guide is how I exercise bragging rights about my school.  I’m able to meet prospective students and encourage them to come to Hofstra.  I have a network of student leaders and fellow pride guides, and I have only positive things to say about my school.

9.  Had an assigned random roommate
Freshman year was a year of firsts, including living with a stranger.  Roommates are one of the biggest stress factors for freshmen, and it was no different for me.  But it turns out I had the best roommate ever, and we got along swimmingly.  We were totally opposite and perfectly the same in just the right areas, and living with her was one of my favorite things about freshman year.

10.  Worked an on campus job
Even with an on campus job, I remained a stereotypical broke college student, BUT at least I was a little less broke than I would have been without it.  Working for a department on campus also allowed me to work on my time management skills, learn more about my school and how it functions, add to my resume, and meet higher-ups, directors, and upperclass students, and make new friends–all while receiving a steady paycheck.

11.  Loved the dorms
I never understood the students who hated dorms.  They’re a place to live, sleep, party, make lifelong friends, and enjoy college.  Where else could my floormates and I have shaving creamed our buddy when he passed out after a long night of drinking?  And where else could we have had a sleepover in the hallway with nothing but a bag of Cheetos?  Probably not many places.  So take advantage of college dorms; love them, and have fun.  Because it will house some of your favorite memories, and once you leave them, you will find yourself missing the atmosphere.

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12.  Made a fool of myself
I once threw up in a pizza box before we could eat the pizza.  Sometimes, that’s what college is for.

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Am I on vacation?

OH HEY WORLD.  WHAT’S UP?  Long time no chat.  And by chat I mean just me writing a blog and no one reading it.

According to ChristineMeetsLife.com, my last blog was just two weeks ago but it feels like two months.  I’ve been nonstop living every day since I last posted and as exhausting as it is, I feel more awake and present than I ever have before.

Since I last wrote, I spent a few days in Madrid for study abroad orientation and now I’m finally settled in Sevilla.  Everything–and I mean EVERYTHING–here is unreal.  This city is a movie set with a perfect blue sky background.  Every day is a dream.  The streets are like time machines, the buildings are an artist’s palette, and the atmosphere is a drug–addicting and unpredictable.

I feel like I’m on vacation.  And instead of writing in an attempt to catch up, I’ll show you instead–all courtesy of my addiction to Instagram.

Here are pictures from Madrid:

 

 

Toledo:

 

 

Sevilla:

 

 

 

 

Granada:

 

 

These pictures do none of these great cities any justice but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.

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This year I learned a lot about people and friendship, travel, time, and myself. The lessons I learned were simple, and it feels like we should just know them as a common sense but it seems like even when we think we know, we don’t.

The people in my life have always been at the center of my world, and for good reason; I’ve always considered myself the luckiest person for being extremely blessed to know so many amazing people. I value my relationships with people and I’ve always thought myself to be considerate and empathetic and reasonable. I like to think that the people I choose to associate with are the same way, but this year I’ve seen darker sides of friendship that I wish didn’t exist.

The lesson here is that people can be fake and pretentious. They can let you down, and they can ruin relationships. I watched friendships fall apart and people grow apart this year, and it just reminded me that as we grow older, we tend to be more selfish and less selfless. It’s a dog eat dog world, and it’s not until we make these mistakes for ourselves that we learn the lesson.

So one of my resolutions this year is to be a better friend. The world needs more of those.

With all the traveling I was lucky enough to do this year, I learned plenty about the hardship and reward that comes with it. The importance of experiencing travel, seeing the world, spending time away from home, and–as cheesy as it sounds–“finding oneself” will always be aspects of life that I want to acknowledge. For me, travel is the purest and hardest (but best) way to experience life. You learn to expect the unexpected, deal with problems and people, and see the real beauty in what you’re looking at.

My travel resolution of the year and for the rest of my life is to never stop.

2012 also helped me realize just how sneaky time is. It’s quiet, quick, and so extremely priceless. The other day someone asked me how old I was and it took me about six seconds to answer. It feels like the last two years have gone by so fast that I still feel like I’m 19. And I suppose that’s a good thing!

Lastly and most importantly, the last year has taught me plenty about myself. I hate comparing, but I guess it’s the best way to see ourselves as part of this world. So I like to compare myself in terms of what kind of person I am. And my resolution is just to be a better one.