I'd hoped to publish a happier piece about my travels in England today- about the buzz and vibrant energy of London that I relish unapologetically, the tranquility (and isolation, both for better and for worse) of the lush and expansive countryside. I wanted to tell you about pints and pubs and beautiful bookstores; afternoon teas and delicious eats; magical theatre and jaw-dropping landscapes. And oh, the hilarious anecdotes of a sassy English grandmother with a penchant for wine and passive-aggressive commentary.
I’ve also got a story about a hangover that lead to a missed train in London that kept me out of harm’s way; I can tell you all about my panic from across the pond while hurricanes and earthquakes ravaged the countries of my birth and ethnicity. The Spanish city I've just excitedly planned to visit is plagued with police violence and political unrest. France is mourning the victims of a stabbing in Marseilles and now a deadly shooting in Las Vegas has left 50 victims dead and over 400 injured.
And if all of that wasn't enough - the loss of life and the destruction and the heartbreak - there is the matter of my non-president. Every morning another asinine (and oft hypocritical) tweet, another piece of bigoted vitriol, another outright lie and an outrage that just *cannot* actually be happening in 2017 except somehow it sure as shit is. This administration works daily to make me sick to my stomach and I have absolutely ZERO time for anyone pig-headedly determined to defend it. It. just. isn’t. right.
To say I'm hurt or heart broken is insufficient. My heart burns.
It’s hard not to feel powerless from my post out here in the English countryside. I confess to feeling guilty for chasing a travel dream and generally enjoying myself while the world is out here burning. That feeling lingers, hard as I try to squash it. It's exhausting to feel ashamed of your joy.
One of the perks of my current assignment is its location at a lovely country home that sits on 45 acres of idyllic woods plucked from a fairytale. I get lost in their natural beauty on a regular basis while walking the family dogs and man, all that nature and silence are good for deep thought. Lately those thoughts have been in reflection on the ways in which travel is not selfish but essential. Time and again, I find that a more honed and developed sense of empathy tops that list.
This reminds of what Anthony Bourdain said on a recent episode of Parts Unknown: “I just wish that more American had passports. The extent to which you can see how other people live seems useful at worst and incredibly pleasurable and interesting at best.” Picture me waving pom-poms in affirmation here. Travel has been not only a fulfilling and enjoyable experience but an exercise in taking the time to consider the hows, whats, and whys of other cultures. I haven’t always agreed with what I’ve seen and learned, but the learning part has been an invaluable takeaway. My eyes, my heart, my brain and my soul are more open and all of this in turn has made me a more tolerant person. This may seem small, but the effect is a potent one: being able to see the humanity in people who don’t look or think like you is a very basic and easy step towards many of the ills that plague us.
I challenge you to practice greater empathy, and if you can, to travel often and everywhere. Imagine what progress might be achieved if a greater percentage of our population sought to see more and thus know more, if we formed our assessment of other cultures and also religions, gender identity, skin color, etc through an informed and empathic approach. Might we see less otherism and find a greater common ground?
I have three weeks left before I return to the states. I hope that time will pass much more uneventfully on the disaster front so that I might return to SoCal and eat all the Mexican food available to me in relative calm and peace. For now, I intend to enjoy what's left of my time abroad and continue to learn, to grow, to observe, to absorb... to come back changed in ways that make the energy I bring to the world a beautiful and hopeful one.