I wish I could write people. My mom does too. I think a huge part of my passion for traveling comes from my interactions, or sometimes just my observations, of people. I realize time and time again how similar we all are. The more I travel, the more I learn there is an art to loving people. Half the time they drive me crazy, but I’m determined to learn the art of loving well.
When I was 15 I went to the Dominican Republic on a trip with my church. We took a bus out of Santo Domingo and drove for hours until we arrived in a little no-name village where we would spend the next week mixing concrete, laying floors, and chasing chickens and children.
You can never predict when an earth shattering moment is coming. I might have guessed that my experiences in the village would be life-changing, but as it turned out, it was really the bus ride there that became a defining moment in my life. I remember staring out the bus window, wondering how much longer it was going to take to get to there when I saw a girl, about my age, balancing a huge basket on her head. If I recall correctly I believe it was a basket filled with laundry, but when I romanticize the moment, I like to picture it being a basket of full of fruit- very Carmen Miranda-esque.
I don’t know anything about this girl, she was not a villager who I later met, she was just a girl on the road that I saw for 3 seconds, but at 15, she had a profound impact on my life. As teenagers, I think we are all selfishly obsessed with our own existence. I will amend that a little bit… At every age I think we are all pretty consumed with our own lives. I know that I am, and was even more so at 15. But somehow in those quick seconds it took for our bus to pass by her, leaving her in a literal cloud of dust, something clicked in my sophomoric, self-absorbed brain.
I realized that she is every bit as important to God as I am. As important as my life is to me, hers is to her. Her thoughts and emotions are as valid and important as my own. She has her own dreams, fears, and (very significant to me at 15) crushes. I remember imagining that she was carrying that basket and thinking of a boy off somewhere who she hoped might love her, very similar to the way I felt about a boy on the very bus from which I spotted her.
This is not meant to come across as a sappy “We Are The World” post- but I know it does. Rather than cuing the music here, I will have a moment of honesty. I’m not good at loving people. People actually drive me nuts. I try to remember my 15-year-old “bus epiphany” when I am listening to someone be loud and obnoxious. I try to remember that all of these people are as precious to God as I am. That their feelings are as valid as mine. That they all have a family who loves them, and people whom they love. But in the heat of those moments, it’s a bit hard for me to remember. Usually I fail and end up rolling my eyes and sighing loudly to show my distaste. I am trying to learn to fight this and be more tolerant, but it doesn’t come naturally to me.
I’ve decided that there are two needs that drive nearly every action. The desire to be loved and the desire to feel important. I am certain that I have landed in the loud and obnoxious category on more than one occasion, but when I’m sitting on the other side of it, I often find myself feeling superior. I find myself thinking: “I would never!” Over time I’ve learned the danger in those words, because no matter what it is… there’s probably a time that I would. Slowly but surely I am training myself to love people because, even their worst behavior stems from emotions similar to my own. The more I travel, the more tolerant I grow- but it’s still hard. And most of the time, I still roll my eyes.
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.