We’ve already established that I don’t lead a traditional life. While my friends are settling into the cities in which they may stay forever, taking steady jobs and getting higher degrees, I’m still wandering around, unsure if I will travel more, get a masters, find a permanent job, ditch all my things and become a nomad, etc. etc. you get the point. Sometimes, I am jealous that I can’t afford steady hot water (or instead choose to pay for weekend trips to dingy hostels), don’t have my own permanent address to list on masters applications, and don’t have all my possessions wrapped up neatly in one home or even on one continent. Some people would even call what I’m doing avoidance. Most of the time, however, I get to wake up in the morning and ask myself, where shall I go today? What shall I do next month? It’s pretty liberating to think that, in May, I could be climbing the Himalayas (always dream big) or farming in Italy. I now have friends—or friends of friends—on every continent (save Antarctica—know anyone with which you could put me in touch?), and it wasn’t until I began traveling cheaply that I realized I can go anywhere. It’s not too expensive to sleep on couches and work odd jobs or barter. It’s still being done; in fact, it’s quite common. In the next three months, I already have plans to visit Berlin, Dijon, Paris, Reims, Epernay and Provence, and I’m working on setting a loose travel schedule for when my lease expires in May.
Two years ago at this time, I would have told you that I was going to graduate university and move back to San Francisco (which I may still do at any time), get a steadily paying job and settle down for awhile, tired as I was from having made four big moves in just two years. Now, after two more giant moves and my third residency card, I can’t wait to move again. Though I am still actively pursuing jobs in writing, editing, teaching and translation, I have not confined my future within those walls. One day, I see myself settling somewhere, hopefully with my own garden, and hopefully to a sustainable lifestyle. Unfortunately, I think I am very privileged to have come to this realization. Though my lifestyle this year has not been expensive to carry out so far, the education that allowed me to travel and think freely was worth several good-sized houses. I am privileged enough to have discovered what, exactly, privilege means.
Mind you, I have not emerged from my cliché journey of good grades, well-known university, valuable diploma, and abandon to soul-searching world travel entirely selfless, and have far to go on that journey. I have an entirely selfish desire to see as much of the world as possible and experience and discover what it means to live. More unselfishly, I believe in living modestly, locally and sustainably, and in spreading those concepts to areas where they do not yet exist due to the unfortunate excess-waste conundrum. I have access to areas where agriculture abounds, and the choice of what to eat, and the privilege to say that I eat well for myself and for the world, but many people do not. Food deserts are not in my top 20 list of future travels, but one day I would like to voyage less selfishly and learn more about the politics behind them, and how to reverse those politics. This all comes, ironically, at a time when the villas of Brazil are being burned down and entire towns of families displaced to make way for the affluent FIFA world cup, and my biggest worry is figuring out who will let me live for free in exchange for labor? I hope that growing my own person through travel and experience will one day enrich the lives of others—or is that, too, a selfish idea? Is there action that can be taken now? We’ll start here with publicity.
So, clearly, I have come to no conclusions about myself or about the world, and could talk in circles for hours about sustainability and social justice all while wearing my favorite pink nail polish. All I really know is that I have too much stuff. Two larges suitcases are too heavy, and too frivolous. This week, I am off on a mission to find an inexpensive backpack so that in May I can dump most of my belongings with a coworker (maybe in exchange for a pie) and embark on a mission of exploration. I thus far have two placements lined up, where I will hopefully learn more about sustainable farming and cooking, and where a sweatshirt, towel and sturdy pair of shoes will suffice. If I’ve learned anything from traveling over the past four years, it’s 1) always bring your own towel and 2) cheap wine exists for a reason. Wish me the best of luck, and don’t hesitate to pass on travel suggestions.
PS if you want to know what a food desert is, take a look at this inspiring TED talk:
And for information on the situation in Brazil: