It's been a full year since my two month, solo backpacking trip through Cambodia and Vietnam, and it's only now, twelve months later, that I have the words to accompany the experience. I left for Cambodia in late December, on a whim, and without any plan. I've always had the feeling that there was some answer hidden in the uncertainty and solitude of traveling alone, so I set out to find it.
We live in a culture that's constantly encouraging us to distract ourselves. "iPhones! Jobs! The Interwebz! Friends! Shopping! Shows! Read more! Work harder! Don't stop! Feeling a bit unsettled? Beginning to ponder the nature of your existence and impending mortality? JUST BUY SOMETHING!"
I don't mean to say that any of these activities are negative. They're all fun, beautiful, and necessary aspects of our lives. But I'm curious as to the intention behind *why* I participate in the majority of them. Do I even know why? I think in many ways "travel" can be an extension of this "never enough, distraction based" paradigm. "Unsatisfied with your life? Feeling a little restless? Bored? Just leave! Try a new place! Adventure! But whatever you do, make sure you don't slow down *too* much... make sure you don't look *too* deeply within." Got it! So I boarded a plane, and off I went.
Travel is incredible. It's been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, and has catalyzed some of the most brilliant, awe-inspiring experiences. It's propelled huge leaps forward in my consciousness, it's brought me to the most beautiful, brave, radiant humans, introduced me to new cultures, new ways of life, new schools of thought, brutally forced me out of my comfort zone, and brought about appreciation and empathy on levels I could never have dreamed of. The list of positives are endless. But along with the magic, there's always been this underlying feeling that I'm running from something. Distracting myself from something. It of course, was myself, and this SE Asia trip shown an industrial sized spotlight on that truth. Being so far away, and so very alone lit up the aspects of myself that needed work. Big work, and I was forced to look at them. Here's what I learned:
I learned that I could travel thousands of miles, and that my neurotic tenancies would pack up their bags and accompany me. Wherever I went, there I'd be.
I fought hard against this at first. But then I learned to accept it, and to sit with it. What other choice did I have?
I learned how to be truly alone.
I learned how to self soothe, and how to start digging into the parts of myself that I was disgusted with, or ashamed of, or mad at. I learned to forgive them.
I learned that my own heart is a safe place to hang out in.
This last one was the biggest for me. That my own heart is a safe place to hang out in. I realized I was constantly running from ever just being with myself, because it felt too scary. It still feels scary at times. But this new, much safer space has given a whole new meaning to the saying "home is where the heart is." Home is wherever MY heart is. Whether I'm cuddled up in my bed in Portland, or on a motor bike riding down a dusty road in rural Cambodia -- I am home.
Endlessly thankful for these two amazingly beautiful countries, who's people opened up their hearts and homes to me, and extended grace beyond necessity.