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Monday, August 4, 2014

Travel and putting down roots: aka living out of a suitcase

Be forewarned: This post is going to ramble around the topic rather a lot. Watch for parentheses! Having been warned, you may now proceed at your own risk.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to live a minimalist life, to be able to travel at the drop of a hat, to not be weighed down by a lot of things. The idea is extremely attractive. I don't want a lot of material possessions that I have to pack around. (That being said, I keep picking up souvenirs.... Everything still fits into the one suitcase, though, plus my backpack and purse.) And every place I go, I find people and places that I want to go back to. So there's got to be a balance somewhere. The book Into the Wild is a good example of how minimalism could be taken to an unhealthy extreme, and it shows the tension between putting down roots and living free of ties to others. Because travelling and never putting down any roots would be incredibly lonely. No matter how may books get written about the self-finding and empowering nature of standing alone in the middle of a foreign city. Or on top of a mountain, or whatever. Human beings weren't designed to live life in a solitary bubble. My point here is not to complain about loneliness. Quite the opposite, really.
No matter where I've gone, there are always people to connect with, to talk with, and explore with. I've made some amazing friends who I hope to keep in touch with the rest of my life. Social media makes that easier, since most of them live a long way away from where I live when I'm at home. And even here in Madrid, where I'm exploring by myself, there are people to interact with, at least on a temporary basis: there's a nice girl at the desk of the hotel, there are other people in the movie theater laughing at the same parts of the movie (How to Train Your Dragon 2 is AMAZING. Go see it now!) and there are friendly waiters at the Peruvian/Spanish restaurant around the corner (and delicious food!). Oh, and there are the friends I met in Portugal who took time to meet up with me here in Madrid also. There was a lady and her son from Argentina on my train from Barcelona to Madrid and I talked to her for a good while since the train got delayed. (I love Argentine accents and it was great to use mine again.)
Going to Church on Sunday, no matter where I go, is wonderful. LDS.org has a list of all the chapels and I am able to attend the meetings and feel the Spirit. I love being surrounded by a community of brothers and sisters, however small it may be.  I got to play the piano in Relief Society on Sunday, and that was lovely, too. No matter where I go, it feels like there's at least one reason for me to be there... at least one thing I can do to help someone else. And there are so many things that other people have done to help me. I went to the temple on Saturday and spent a few hours there. There weren't as many people as I am used to seeing in Provo, but it was lovely to feel the Spirit and be there in that sacred place.
Human beings aren't designed for solitary living. I've said that already, but it bears repeating. There's something about us that NEEDS other people to be healthy and happy. And God puts people in our paths to help us along the way. We just have to keep moving forward and looking for the good things in other people. Right now, I don't know for sure where I'm living this next year, I may not have the scholarship I thought I did, I don't know what exactly I'm going to do after I finish my MA, I'm not even 100% when I'll finish my degree, and I definitely don't know what my life is going to look like in 5 years. I'm living out of a metaphorical suitcase in some respects. But I don't want that to stop me from putting down metaphorical roots. Uncertainty sucks, but it doesn't have to be paralyzing. Some things are still certain. I'm still doing what I enjoy, I'm still making plans and working towards then, and just because I can't see the future doesn't mean I don't plan on enjoying it.