An open letter at the end of my travels, to all those whom I have met along the way,
I am back in the United States, readjusting to this time zone and American restaurant portion sizes. After a year of travel, I am happy to be home, though my idea of “home” is fast changing.
I am tempted to make all sorts of sermons about what I’ve learned, but I have a hard time distilling my experiences into easily digestible lessons. There is no wisdom earned by traveling, no insight inherent in moving yourself from one place to another. The messy and complex and valuable lessons come from unsettling your perspective, whether you are at home or abroad. They come from considering that other ways of living are as valid and multi-dimensional as your own. They come from traveling outside of habit and assumption into spaces that are not designed to make you feel comfortable. In trying to do this, for months, I’ve realized that I don’t really know much at all. I want to be quiet for a while.
In lieu of any lucid traveling advice, I instead feel a deep urgency to express my simple gratitude. For I have spent this last year as a guest of the world, a guest in many countries and in many people’s homes. I have been hosted by farmers, dentists, nuns, insurance salesmen, artists, casino card dealers, teachers, and IT technicians. I have been given clothes when I was cold, food when I was hungry, love and support when I was lonely, and gifts for no reason at all. Anything I gave was returned a hundredfold. No matter how much or how little people had, they shared.
I am fairly overwhelmed by the kindness I have received in the last year, wanting to repay those who have given so much. But no one’s kindness keeps a tally, and people who offer such hospitality do not expect something in return. Instead, I hope to pay forward and multiply all the gifts that I have received.
From the smallest villages to the biggest cities, hospitality is a human value. And so is kindness. Adjacent to suffering and conflict is people being kind to one another. In my highest highs and lowest lows, I saw that we all share this bent. I will attest to this, and practice it, for the rest of my life.
To everyone who has shared a word, a meal, and compassion and empathy, I thank you for all that you have given me. I hope our paths will cross again.