Goodbye 2013: Closing Thoughts from a Twenty-Something-Year-Old Traveler

It’s hard to write about my life after I traveled around the world for the better part of this year. Instead, I found it easier to disappear as if I fell off the face of the blogosphere.

I work a lot since returning from studying abroad. I have two jobs in the food service industry. They keep me busy day and night, but I enjoy them on most days. Even though I’ve fallen back into a routined life again, the environment allows me to be with people. I have the opportunity to engage in conversations about anything.

Restaurants bring in any and all walks of life. I’ve met people from around the country and the world. I met a few aviation engineers from New Zealand and a man from Uruguay, all of whom have been living and working in the U.S. for a few years. My traveling experience made me more aware of and curious about my surroundings.

This year is coming to an end, but I cannot complain because it treated me so well. It handed me the world on a silver platter that was the MV Explorer. It pushed me out of the door to my comfort zone (albeit I might have willingly ran out) and reassured me not to fear the unknown. It encouraged me to embrace the possibilities in life because it has so much to offer. After all, I’m guaranteed only one life and, dang it, I better do something with it.

It’ll be a year in January since I left for San Diego to set sail on the voyage of my lifetime. I admit that I find myself drifting back to the past. I’m nostalgic for Semester at Sea and the people that I met and grew with along the way. I don’t think I’ll ever find a way to properly express my gratitude, but I try to live my life a little differently now. It isn’t easy.

My eyes have seen things that my heart and mind could hardly grasp and understand. I’m still processing it all today. I struggled with the thought of my life in America contrasted with life elsewhere. I felt an emotionally-charge complex combination of guilt and gratitude; I had gotten the luck of the draw, but I couldn’t help feeling as if I didn’t deserve it more than Su Thi, the 17-year-old girl selling postcards in Burma, or all of the children at the Akatim Ric Primary School in Ghana.

Why do I get to wake up beneath warm covers surrounded by sturdy walls and wrapped in heat during the cold, winter months? Why do I get to drink clean water from any faucet in my house? Why do I get to graduate from college with a degree that helps me get a decent paying job? Why do I get to travel the world?

But I realize that the luck of the draw is just that: luck. It wasn’t up to me to be born into a more privileged life. I shouldn’t feel guilty because it would mean that I have knowingly committed some act of wrongdoing when the truth of the matter is that I did not choose to be born in America to a middle class family nor is it wrong to be born in America. However, I would be guilty if I failed to recognize this privilege; and beyond that, I would be at fault if I only used this knowledge to my own advantage instead of using it to help others.

I hope to achieve this as I turn the page into the next chapter of my life. I accepted a position to serve with AmeriCorps FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for 10 months. I head west to Sacramento, CA toward the end of February to start training. I’m not quite sure what I’ll be doing, but I’m excited for this new adventure and the opportunity to serve others. Also, I’m hopeful that it will open many more doors to opportunities. My desire is to help others and to continue being shaped but the world around me.

As the new year comes to an end, I’m thankful for everything I have been able to and for all the things to come. I’ve learned that I can’t, nor do I prefer to, chart out the details of my life. I don’t wish to know the future nor do I spend too much time worrying about it. I want to live in the present moment. I want to see and do so many things. And the best part is that I’m just getting started. I had the privilege of visiting 15 countries in this year alone, but I have only dipped my toes into the water. I caught the bug and I cannot wait to see more. (And you all are more than welcome to come with me!)

Happy New Year everyone!

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