Why I Travel MAG

April 25, 2012
By dtietjen BRONZE, Albuquerque, New Mexico
dtietjen BRONZE, Albuquerque, New Mexico
2 articles 1 photo 0 comments

I travel to become young again. Not to become pure or innocent but, like a child born into an unfamiliar world, to be immersed in a place where everything is new and therefore interesting. I travel to become curious – to live with all five senses rather than one. I am aware.

I smell raw fish hanging from stands outside twenty-story buildings along the city streets of Bangkok. I feel an unbearable stinging pain as the Thai nurse pours rubbing alcohol on my open wound – a poisonous spider bite that had begun to dissolve my skin. I see trash, mountains of trash, everywhere in the undeveloped world. I hear the most ridiculous, uncomfortable stories from my Parisian homestay mom – not the proper, tea drinking conversations I had expected.

In Guatemala, I taste tortillas. And tortillas. And more tortillas – 410 in one month to be exact! After four weeks of tortillas at every meal, I was relieved to visit the city of Xela, where the food had more variety. But after just four days I found myself missing the company of the tortilla, of the sound of hands patting together the freshly ground maiz as my home-stay mom cooked for me. And that's why I travel too, to realize those things I truly love. I love the newspaper, and communication, and a hug, and now, apparently, tortillas.

I travel to feel dumb, to feel awkward, slightly stupid. Immersed in the unknown, I absorb the reality of the world and the fact that I know so little. Surely I encounter happiness, but I continually discover tragedy and sadness as well.

When I travel, I often leave home with the pretense of escaping, of retreating into a world where I can become small and need not worry. I leave to escape the worry of my sober mom relapsing again, the worry of her bipolar disorder catching up to her from overworking. And yes, this is why I traveled at first, but I travel now to discover truth. In Guatemala, I found myself admiring the women as they developed a voice in their society. I admired the single moms of my village who worked tirelessly to support their family. I realized eventually that I was admiring in them their resemblance to my own mother; she had raised me alone, working two – sometimes three – jobs to support me, never denying me an opportunity. I realize that I admire my own mother, regardless of our differences. I travel then, to discover these truths and to carry them with me to my world at home.

I travel to be alone. I am put in the most uncomfortable situations, and with nothing familiar I must act intuitively; I find myself. As I interview Guatemalan immigrants who have traveled to the States illegally, who tell me their stories of having seen death so personally during their civil war, I form my own morals. I create my own voice. No one tells me, “You remind me so much of your mother!” or my father, or anyone for that matter. I haven't been in one place long enough to be shaped by just one person or one experience. Instead, my independence is my dorm parent, who helped me learn to do my own laundry as I transitioned into boarding school at just nine years old. My adventurousness is the teacher who took me on my first backpacking trip. My love is my guardian family, who took me in when my mom relapsed. I am my mom in my success, my dad in my name, and Lela, Erin, and Caitlin in my friendship. I am Thailand, Fiji, France, Guatemala, and Hong Kong. I am me.

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