This may be called sentimentalism, but a certain sense of loneliness engendered by traveling leads one to reflect upon the meaning of life, for life is after all a travelling from one unknown to another unknown. – D.T. Suzuki
What is this odd feeling of unease? It’s not intense, a little melancholy, something’s just off. Since I don’t and have never experienced ‘homesickness’, it can’t be that. Since going to camps hundreds of miles from home and pitying the fools who needed to have a reminder of their old life every day or cried the first night, I developed an immunity to the allergies of being “somewhere else”. I enjoy the strangeness of traveling and displacing myself in far-away places, ironic considering you can’t really travel that far around the plane of a small sphere. That’s what led me to Boston from Seattle, backpacking through Europe, and now eschewing the straight path out into a nice flourescent job and shifting to the Dominican Republic. I chose it in part because I was going a little stir-crazy. Not out of boredom, but the fear of becoming complacent and following a LIFE board game path letting the dice roll and cards drawn as they may. With the
mirage of choice to take a left turn comes sacrifices, all of which leave a feeling of emptiness at some point.
What’s tougher to replace is your people and relationships, something that always takes time to develop if it’s worth it. It’s essentially impossible -maybe just extremely improbable- to change cultures (and languages) and find a group of people that is on the same wavelength as you. Here, when I see something funny or notable to a friend from back home, and having no means to communicate it effectively (I don’t twit). It never happened when I left for college that I would wish for the good old days of high school or the people there, it was just too much fun at Northeastern. But after five years of those times, the role I played within the lattice of social circles became a bit of a part of me. It’s easy at school as a senior, knowing most people and having those people know you. In being displaced, it feels like you no longer have the safety barrier that ‘this is how you’re expected to act and people are cool with it’, but ‘who are you on your own without those close to you?’. It’s a tough feeling to put into words, so I’m just going to leave it at that.
I am trying to focus on the ‘adjusting’ part in this series, because of a few reasons. The main two are as follows:
1. I don’t want pity or sympathy or anyone wishing they could ‘be here to help me through’. While I have perfectly platonic love for you all, it was my decision to come here and I’m very content with it. It’s a great six-month experience, and I like having as few safety nets as possible for it.
2. There’s no reason to focus on what’s not here, where there’s really nothing to be done over it. What’s the point in worrying about it?
In how I’m adjusting here, I think it’s similar to how most people adjust out of school, when groups of friends fragment across the country like a grenade. I just happened to be one of those fragments that missed the wall of the borders. It’s interesting to imagine if I graduated 10….5 years ago without the advent of Skype or social networking to stay in touch with complete ease. I think that it’s going to be easy to stay close to the people that matter for much longer than the case used to be, which I’m excited about. That knowledge alone could get me through six months (and two years) of moving to new places. That’s going to be a piece of cake.
Another way of coping is by opening my damn eyes. I’m not in a perfect country, it has many of its own issues and setbacks, but it’s paradise. I’m in the straight middle of the Caribbean Sea, where the weather is beautiful for about 22 hours a day, and I can get to any beach in under four hours and $10. In a month and a half, I’ve been surfing, hiking, dancing, relaxing, (and working). Next week, I’m going to a hidden prize beach with the rest of the interns, in their last week here. If I was a summer intern, I would be leaving in 10 days. Hell no do I want that. Hell yes I’m excited about what I’m hoping to be able to do next: travel to Cuba, hike Pico Duarte, get good at surfing, see every corner of the country.
Finally, it’s not that hard here. I work in a Central Office where there are plenty of cool people, enough English is spoken to make it possible to communicate, and it’s in a city of three million people. When (if) the traveling slows down, I’ll have plenty to explore within the city. I’ll keep busy with the gym (crossfit convert), cooking, reading, practicing my shite guitar skills, and relaxing.
However busy or not busy I stay here, this place will be a more than worthy experience. I’m not worried about my friends back home, they’ll be there for a long time. I’m not worried about my family, they’ve dealt with this distance for a while now. I’ll be back, then at some point I’ll most likely leave again, because everything is just temporary. As for now, it’s nice being an outsider finding out how easy it is to call a strange land home. I can and do miss you, Boston, but I’m handling it alright.
Reading: American Theocracy
Listening: Live in Paris, James Morrison
Dominicanismo: Coño – The ‘s’ word / Cono – cone. I’m scared to order ice cream.