"Open your eyes. Open your eyes."
One of my favorite opening lines to the film, Vanilla Sky.
When I would come home to visit between traveling, peoples eyes would light up.
"How was it?!" They would say.
I would freeze.
How do you describe seeing crushing poverty after seeing the most beautiful places in the world available to only a select few who chose to forge a new path, or have enough money for someone to take them? Did I deserve this? How do you even explain a whale to most people who've never even seen one? How do you explain feeling oneness with the world to a person whose never left a segregated, violent city or a small country town?
I was initially ecstatic to finally be able to travel. I gave up my life of familiarity and comfort with 84 dollars in my pocket to take a chance and the chance turned into a flourishing path I never could have dreamed up. All these books I had read in my life would become my adventure. I would get to smell the rain forest. Lay on the desert sand. Run through the wild forest. I would get to do this. Me?! I grew up like everyone else. I didn't have any thing but past of disadvantages.
But why Me? Why me? Why me?
I would work relentless hours aboard a ship and lay on top of the boat and gaze wildly at the stars. But the work turned into lethargy. Anxiety. Disdain. All these emotions I would come to learn were familiar cycles for the average laborer on oceans. All those songs about growing delirious on the water, they were true.
There was no amount of running on land or fresh unpolluted air that could banish this exhaustion. In fact sometimes, it became worse.
I would see a humpback whale glide along the water. I would understand in a wild moment life is so much more. Tears would fill my eyes. I then would think, well why do I get to see this? I would question God, “What is my purpose here?” Why can't my entire family see this? My friends? A person in poverty?
I would travel with well-to-dos. People who I never imagined existed. They would normally drone relentlessly on about themselves. I would try to pretend I was someone else. I would soak up their mannerisms. I tried not to talk too much. I would listen.
I would watch all the tourists destroy the environments we all were traveling to. The trash on the ground. The constant talking. The inquisition of the next meal. The wondering where the local pubs were. They had abandoned the most important values we held as children. Wonder. Curiosity. The circle of life that is found in nature. The travel guides would steer them away from seeing the real locals. The poor. The drunks. The forgotten. The less desirable areas.
But I wanted to see this. I didn't want to turn a blind eye to these things that stir up emotion and uncomfortable feelings.
How then do you make sense of this? I tried.
I wrote. I drank. I prayed. I paid attention. I listened. I meditated. I read.
I would listen to the jealous undertones in inquisitive voices.
How do you get to travel?
I wish I could travel.
I am so jealous.
How do YOU get to go to all of those places?!
This would almost bring me to my knees in tears. Do you?! Do you know what it's like to see the truly poor? Do you know what it's like to see the trash in the ocean killing everything? Do you know what it's like to throw up for days on a rolling ocean? Do you think you can handle getting sick from the drinking water in a dirty city for a month straight? Do you think you can handle getting assaulted on the streets because you're a woman?
Do you? Do you? Do you?
Well you can.
It's uncomfortable. And strange. And dangerous. And emotional. And exhausting. And lonely.
But it's beautiful and soul changing. You will grow into someone you hardly recognize. You will care about others. Animals. Life.
You can travel. You can leave. You can chose the path that few take. Or you can stay still and continue to go to Starbucks on the weekends and Target on the weekdays. You can be afraid. And self wallow. You can work a job that breaks your body and you and will never give you back what you give. You can drink at the bars and work a 9-5.
Or you can choose to live.
You can choose to taste the vanilla skies this world has to offer.
Open your eyes.