Friday, August 23, 2013

Traveling is a mindset, not a place

It's been two years since I returned to the states. In 2012, I did not take one flight. This year, I joined my sister and friends on a short jaunt to Iceland (which I wouldn't do again- I'm no longer built for those hasty American glimpses into foreign lands, skittering along the surface and returning exhausted). Though I've visited copious amounts of our fair country since arriving back via old-timey automobile transport, I'd say the theme of the last year especially has been slowing down and traveling in place. 

Traveling has very little do to do with actual movement, and much more to do with your mindset. I can travel just as easily in the Portland metro area, as I can anywhere else. My years of actual travel have honed my observation skills and opened my mind to listening to people's stories and interacting with strangers. I find myself traveling every day, in different ways. 

It's in the small interactions with folks around town. It's listening to my patients who are from all over the world and relating to them, having been in their home post office in Phnom Penh or their home town of Saigon or Lviv. It's visiting fill-in clinics not knowing what I'll find and making friends unexpectedly. It's seeing the light change in the sky and the weather shift from season to season. It's meeting couples on the hiking trail, and having them show up in my exam room another day. It's mulling things over and working it out on paper. It's approaching each day as an experience to be had with things to learn. 

My travels have made me a better person and better able to relate to others. I've learned to appreciate simplicity and beauty. I've learned to forgo shopping in favor of wandering. I've learned to be open to chance encounters and appreciate a friendship, even if it only lasts ten minutes.

It's been a strange experience not wanting to go anywhere. I feel rooted in a way that I could not have been before embarking on my time overseas. It's taken me a while back here to feel that I was on solid ground. I have a good relationship. I have family. And I'm in a place I love. I've been able to work and enjoy my patients. And bike and feel healthy with the great food we have in the Northwest. 

Maybe it's my age. I'd spent my entire childhood and early adulthood doing everything right, moving at the fastest pace possible, crossing off all the markers of adulthood, never taking time to understand what I thought was important about life. Now that I'm back, I feel relaxed and happy to be in one place. Hugged by trees and mountains, and free to breathe the fresh air of the Northwest, I think I've found home.

[looking at flowers and light]
[my bike takes me through the world, the best form of transport]

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