This question gets asked a lot by other people, for sure. But also, we tend to ask ourselves this question a lot.
Not so much in the metaphysical sense (but really, what the hell ARE we doing here???) as in the sense of “What the hell are we doing with our days here? What, really, are we doing?”
This trip has been different in a million different ways as compared to my previous journeys abroad. It’s different from Mexico because I was studying there, and only 19 years old and just getting a grip on the whole “living outside of the US and speaking a different language” thing. It’s different from Guatemala, because then I’d just graduated college and was interested in getting some more abroad experience, but only temporarily, and only prior to my backpacking trip. And then the Middle East/Europe was different still, because it was a three-month backpacking trip, where the intent was couchsurfing and sightseeing and pure exploration. And of course it differs from my other jaunts abroad, which were time-constrained vacations with friends, full of fun and jam-packed activities.
So this, my friends, is vastly different. I’ve come here to live creatively, as I’ve said before, and I can only answer this question for myself, as I’m sure the answers from Leslie and Amanda will be slightly different (or maybe startlingly similar). But what has unfolded, and what I suspected might unfold, is that my life has continued as before. The landscape is different, the language is different, but I now know so much more about what kind of life I want, and how to live that life, than I ever knew before.
I wake up and eat granola. I do yoga and center myself. I spend my days enacting some form of productivity (this used to be working at the medical clinic, but now it is working with the various jobs I have in the US), wandering the city, drinking coffee, writing stories, facebooking, cracking bad jokes, laughing in large groups of people, cooking my meals and chopping vegetables and picking herbs from the yard, sharing energy, singing loudly, observing things around me, creating sounds and faces, talking to friends and family back home, learning new words and phrases in spanish, sneaking photos of moments that inspire me, and journaling.
Really, nothing has changed. Except the official language is now Spanish, and there are slightly different customs and taste patterns and ways of getting from Point A to Point B. Oh, and there are those volcanoes in the distance. Those definitely didn’t exist back in Sandusky.
This is the most resounding insight that has come to me throughout all my years of travel and wanderings and vagabonding and backpacking and surfing: life is basically the same, everywhere. People wake up, they eat, they spend their days in the fashion they see most fit for their beings, and then they go to bed. The difference is landscape, language, and some degree of cultural construct.
The differences between here and there are limitless, if you look only on the surface. I don’t have my own car, I can’t find natural peanut butter, utilities are more expensive, bottomless cups of coffee are non-existent, people walk more and are accustomed to different types of transportation standards, there are no commercials on TV, all the houses are gated for security, and on and on and on.
But as far as my emotional and psychological experience has been, this shift – this literal enormous shift from one hemisphere to another, from one country to another, from one language to another – has barely registered. How could it be?
What I believe to be true is that I have been afforded the space – physically via a new location, mentally via quitting my job and my prior life and the bulk of my possessions – to really assess that which comprises a meaningful and rewarding life. And I can only assess this due to the fact that I have been cultivating this life amongst my family and friends, my familiar sights and my hometown and my house and my creature comforts, for years, all with the intent to really discover what it is that I want from this life.
So what is it that I really want? What the hell am I doing here, then? I’m here to live, as I’ve been living, but with new energies coming in, new influences and new experiences. New on the surface at least, but very similar to that which I’ve been accustomed: sharing, learning, experiencing, and loving.