Traveling is a means of listening


The most uncomfortable part of traveling is returning. I realized this sitting in the Dubai airport staring up at the blue tiled ceilings waiting for my delayed plane to arrive along with the dissonance that would soon follow. I knew yet again I would feel uneasy when I came back to the uniform of everyday life.

Returning always leaves me in a costume that no longer fits the way it used to- baggy in places where I store my nationalism, prejudice, and unchallenged opinions on how life ought to look, and tight in the places where I store my empathy, questioning, and sense of connectivity with the world.

After the swing of assignments, paychecks, and Netflix return, I am tempted to allow life’s comfort to place me back in my unchallenged manner of thinking and more comfortable attire. But I cannot return from living abroad as if I only spent a week collecting sunburn and tourist trinkets from my Cancun vacation. I find little value in that.

I’d much prefer to continually redress my mind with the millions of mundane moments I observe of peoples’ lives in places I once believed to be foreign. I want to redress myself over and over again until foreign is no longer how I see the world and the people who dance around in it.

No longer would I be able to passively watch the news and hear of people in places like Russia, Taiwan, Brazil, or Syria, and feel just as connected as if I had watched a dog food commercial or heard the catchy tune to a fast food joint as a dog-less vegan. “Today a massacre in Istanbul left 39 people dead after fighting breaks out in….after fighting breaks…give me a break, give me a break, break me off a piece of that kit cat bar.”

To me, what is worth more than a degree or cushy savings account is a life well traveled, and one open to the tailoring that comes from seeing beyond our own human experience. Traveling is a means of listening. Although listening may not always be comfortable or easy, it is essential. Rolling around on those dentist office patterned carpets in airport terminals becomes less daunting when this purpose is lodged in my mind.


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