How to Nurture One's Craft People know about the love languages, yes? If not, definitely look them up, because I feel like I understood how I expressed and receive love better once I read about the generality of these categories. I am a HUGE words of affirmation- tell me what I’m doing right and wrong or else I have no idea.
Which is why I love constructive criticism. I always, always, always want to do better, because I can’t always see what I’m doing wrong in the first place.
And after finishing my first season of my podcast, I know how I needed to improve and am taking the time to do so. So I’m giving myself the month of February to read up on those who are masters in the skills that I need and boy is it HUMBLING. I’m reading and listening to the works of all of these people in the travel, writing, and podcasting field and how to be a better interviewer, writer, and listener and will often pause and think to myself, “ Could I ever be as good as them?”
Because there are the voices in my head that whisper words of doubt and hesitation- can I be a great podcaster, writer, performer? Can I be a great storyteller, will anyone care? This picks up on my sensitivity towards words of affirmation.
So having negative words of affirmation against MYSELF could be a huge setback because if I listen to the voices of doubt then I might believe them and never book another one-way ticket, create another episode, or tell an honest story. And for others, these voices could be so loud that they inhibit people from living a life less bold, creative, or adventurous as it could be- and I can’t settle for that.
I need to remind myself that everyone has had, at one point or another, these deleterious voices, especially the ones whom I am reading and looking for guidance from. The people I’m reading have also had nights of wondering whether they were good enough and it hasn’t stopped them.
So, I’m going to give myself my own positive affirmations, sit down, be humble, and read.
Travel for the Thrill
My bed is my favorite place in New York. I’m grateful for it every day when I am reminded of all the planes, hammocks, sunken beds, and mattresses cloaked in shredded mosquito nets I have had to sleep on.
I love lying down flat on my 10 inch mattress when I am reminded of how my body would have to contort itself on the awkwardly angled bus chairs, propping my head on a makeshift pillow- some combination of a sweatshirt, scarf, and tights- that muffle the abrasive vibrations of the rubber tires repetitively and endlessly hitting concrete.
I love closing my eyes to the perfect stillness of my room with no fear that someone sharing my space will be snoring, blasting reggae music in the hostel room next door, or attempting a quickie in those tiny single hostel beds that architecturally structured to inhibit sexual relations.
I love waking up without the fear of wondering “Where will I be sleeping tonight?”
I love my consistency; I’m grateful for my comforts; I enjoy waking up relaxed, but there is a thrill that no longer greets me in the morning.
The thrill of being roused by a distinctive melodic beeping of an awoken city; the thrill of having new dreams; the thrill of waking up under an altered angle of the same sun. The thrill of different breakfast smells, morning news reports in unfamiliar languages, and watching someone else's morning ritual. The thrill of wondering where will I be sleeping tonight?
The thrill of being alive can sometimes only be experienced thousands of miles away from the bed that has been warped to your body after years of sleeping in it.
It is a thrill and fortune to be awake at all.
The End of a Journey
It’s such a weird feeling to wake up one morning and to not have to work on the project that you have been pouring your time, energy, and mind into for the better part of three years. And my rat brain was immediately like, “ ON TO SEASON TWO.”
I am always in the stifling grip of the productivity monster- that Protestant work ethic that has been hammered into my being and makes me think I need to keep WORKING and CREATING and DOING something all the time. I have this feeling even when I have returned from a trip and think, “ When and where is my next flight?” I need to keep GOING.
Now, I know this is a cliche, but it feels like I’m sprinting during the New York City marathon. I’m trying to bypass all of these other runners who are pacing themselves, thinking that they are such suckers and I’m beating them, and I’m seeing more faster, when in reality I’m the sucker who be left on the side of the road on mile 4 because I have pulled a calf muscle and am caught guzzling Gatorade and Ketamine for electrolytes and painkillers in order to keep going. And because I keep thinking I need to keep running, running, running and catch up to everyone who is so far ahead of me, I feel paralyzingly overwhelmed. And as a runner, I have found that my stronger runs have been when I allow my body to take breaks in between them.
So I’m giving myself a creative break, to give myself time to reflect on all of my adventures, all of my passport stamps, and all of the achievements I have made. It is important to look back once you have reached the apex of a mountain, to reflect on who you were and who you have become before looking at the top of another mountain. Since I have given myself some breathing room I have found is creativity and inspiration in places I wouldn't have explored. My creative mornings are messy and honest and playful, and I’m enjoying it more than if I just jumped right back into working, working, working, working. I don’t want my work to be perceived as work; I want it to be play. Take a break, look back, and relish in all that you have achieved.
In Defense of Strangers
The word “strange” originally meant “being beyond the usual bounds or boundaries,” and evolved to mean foreign only later. The notion of foreignness eventually became personified in the word “stranger”—a new or unknown person. A person beyond the usual bounds or boundaries. An outsider, a newcomer, a person who is, whatever else they may be, assuredly not one of “us.”
Humans are instinctively tribal. We have a deep drive protect our own tribe and look on all others with suspicion. Strangers represent the unknown, and the unknown can either scare us or excite us. Some of us live for newness and adventure even as some of us prefer to stay home.
But there is no doubt that we humans are born wanderers. Of course we are, or we never would be explored and settled in Easter Island, Greenland, or Argentina. And where did it get us? We learned! We discovered! We invented and we progressed.
We crossed paths with people who were different from us in body, color, and customs. We advanced, we loved, we blended, and yes, too often we killed and conquered. Because even as we wandered, too many of us continued to look upon each other with suspicion, unable to discern our similarities. In “stranger” we saw “threat,” and “threat” made us afraid, made us feel we needed to protect our homes, our families, and our egos.
Oh, the ego. The jealous, insatiable succubus inside of us that blinds us to our commonalities. The ego is why the word stranger connotes danger—because the “other” isn’t like me, and is therefore wrong and frightening. And if that’s the case, why would anyone ever want to interact with a stranger?
I’ll let Mark Twain take over on this one.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts,” Twain wrote. “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
The failure to seek out the perspectives of others is nothing but arrogance. Interacting with strangers forces us to reach deeper within ourselves and find a different way to understand how the world works. Though we are a nation of immigrants, yet we are so easily moved to xenophobia and fear. It is far too easy to press that button and reactivate that primal fear of the other, to convince us once again that what is different is threatening and must be kept out. To once again make us see each other as strangers and treat each other with suspicion.
Now more than ever we must reach out to strangers. There is so much we can learn by listening. When I traveled, I was wrench out of my comfort zone and into the unknown, not knowing my trajectory or my destination, and like the ancient wanderers thousands of years before me, I learned, I discovered, I laughed with incredible people I would have never known had I not left my home to go find them. I want to push people to see the world in all it’s color.
The picture attached is of me with three individuals from three separate countries that all met within the last 24 hours. I explored Machu Picchu with them and they gave me stories and perspectives I might not have found on my own.
I believe I have been changed for the better and live life more compassionately. Now I want to share those stories with you. I hope you will join me on my journey.
Strangers Abroad will be launching next week and I couldn't have done it without all the wonderful strangers I met along the way.