Monday, July 22, 2013

America the Beautiful

On top of Half Dome in Yosemite
Nearly 6 weeks and 7,000 miles of driving on the roads of the American west, I’m grateful to have made it back in one piece with only small hiccups to deal with.  The west was absorbing enough that it was difficult to make any conscious time to blog or write anything down.  I was lukewarm to even write this post, but I should put some things to the screen because travel proved again that biases, even against your own country, can be crushed just by putting yourself out there. 

Apart from travelling from Santa Fe to the Grand Canyon with some backpackers and having a friend in LA join me for the drive up the coast to San Francisco, the trip was done on my own with a lot of time to myself, which I still prefer for the flexibility and opportunity for meeting new strangers. The solitude at times got to me, but they were also the most memorable.  

What struck me most aside from the great scenery of the west were the people I came across.  In Salt Lake City I shared a meal with Shawn, a 40 year old man who spilled his guts about his rocky relationship with his son and ex-wives, his numerous arrests for drug use and his experiences as a homeless man in Utah after hitting rock bottom.  For a short moment, we celebrated the fact that he scored an apartment in SLC and was crawling his way back to what was a normal life.  He was hopeful, but I sensed hesitation on his part that he would make another preventable mistake and alienate more people from  his life. The people of America may be some of the most interesting in the world, for the range of opportunity, diversity and consequently, experiences people have.   Living abroad the past few years I created so many biases against Americans as small minded, religious people who refused to travel and consumed to find false security.  Some of this holds water, but I realized that was unfair and ignorant of me to come to such a conclusion.  America has more to see than a lifetime could contain, so I understand why people don’t have passports.

It dawned on me that the reason I traveled so much whilst living in Australia was to escape my life there.  I had a job I enjoyed paying me a 150k salary, beaches nearby, exotic vacations and everything on paper that seemed right, but I was missing my family and those friends I would be willing to stand in front of a train for.   
So here I am in Houston hours before my next flight to Holland to start another journey across the world to traverse 10 countries over the next few months, but the level of excitement is low because I don’t feel the need to escape my life here anymore.   My relationship with my family is solid and the handful of friends I love are here or very close by.   If anything, I have a sense of guilt that I’m leaving selfishly while my sister is on the last leg of recovering from cancer and my dad is in a hospital for his advanced Parkinson’s.  

Dare I say the travel bug is fast asleep inside of me now?  I’ll see when I land in Europe tomorrow.