“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Do you dream of traveling the world? Do you imagine the insights and knowledge you could gain from being somewhere else?
Today’s guest post is from Sam Simon, an avid traveler and constant learner who loves cold beer, spicy food, and crashing waves. The experience he shares is something we can all relate to… getting away can help us learn about something close to home.
Keep reading for Sam’s touching story about finding gratitude in the face of loss. And be sure to follow his blog, Chasing Gabo.
The life I’ve carved out for myself is distinct in its route and clear with its priorities. I’ve spent the better part of the last four years living in two countries in Europe and now one in South America. To each of these countries I’ve moved alone, on a one-way ticket, and to the last two I was jobless and homeless. The idea that you should collect memories and not things is evident as you can often find me in a tattered t-shirt and dusty shorts scouring the internet for inspiration.
I fell in love with traveling at the age of 19 in the plains of East Africa. My older brother was working in a refugee camp in Zambia and I spent a few weeks with him and my father in the surrounding countries. I was always skeptical of “moments of clarity” but when the wheels hit the ground back in California I was, as the cliché goes, bitten.
Traveling has expanded my horizons in ways I never could have envisioned. I’ve learned two foreign languages, eaten foods I didn’t know could be eaten and, most importantly, forged hardened relationships with people from all over the world. I’ve dedicated my life to expanding my horizons in ways I simply never thought were possible.
In early May I was faced with an opportunity to reflect on my life from a point of view that thankfully I don’t often face. My grandmother was dying and I was 4,000 miles away. This is the type of nightmarish scenario that can keep people from traveling but up until that point had never been an issue. On paper this seemed like a non-decision, as the only option was to go home and pay my last respects. Life, however, is never played out on paper.
I meet many people on the road who seem to be running from something. They don’t feel there’s anything for them back home and they go out on in search of whatever it is they think they’re seeking. In many ways I can relate, but the one point where we undoubtedly differ is our relationships with people back home; they’re running from them, I’m running with them. I wouldn’t have the confidence to do what I do if I didn’t have my family (extended) along with me every step of the way. The comfort of a text message, an email, or Skype call is incalculable.
The complication from my grandmother’s illness was that she was never a part of that equation. In fact, she was never interested in being a part of any equation that involved my brother or me. I remember few times when she made an effort to see us but a phone call or group email was always more than enough contact for her, despite living just one city away for the entirety of my childhood. As it became clear she would pass away soon, I made a decision I knew I could look back upon with pride. Although I was only four months into my time in Colombia, I decided to go home, not for her but for my father.
Traveling is often about learning about other cultures and about yourself, but I can apply this lesson to the rest of my life. This ordeal gave me cause to reflect on the state of my relationships with my family and my friends. It reminded me that I will face great loss in my life and that there are those I can lean on when that inevitability manifests itself in reality. It took me nearly 25 years to learn anything from my grandma, but if her lasting memory is a reminder to take a step back and be grateful for the relationships I have with the people who I love, then I can be certain that wherever I find myself in this world, I’ll add her memory to my collection with a smile.
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