Travel like you care

This is one of the most important subjects to me, so don’t be surprised if it comes up again (and again, and again…).  What started as a soapbox posting, turned into something much more candid.

I have just finished the wonderful book Three Cups of Tea.  Thanks to the recent rain I was actually able to stay inside and finish it.

So the good news first; If you’re feeling down about the state of the world, this is the right medicine.  If you, like myself, are feeling overwhelmed by the recent stupidity and greed that seems to plague the most vocal (and often influential) citizens, politicians, and groups that make America what it is, pick up and read.

Literature has oft influenced my life, but this book is the most influential I have read to date.  For the past few months, and even years, I’ve wandered about wondering what to do with my life.  I’ve climbed some pretty big mountains in my life, which I will tell you about another day.

Like Greg from the story, the greatest and most life changing event for me has been failure.  In TC of T. Greg fails and attempt at K2, where he chances upon a village with a great need: education.  The rest of the novel talks about how that failure turned Greg into one of the greatest humanitarians of our time.  I once felt like the protagonist, able to reach the most difficult peaks in the world.

After High School, I went on a mission where I learned that I wasn’t as religious as my upbringing had lead me to believe.  When I left home for my two years in California, the bishop (leader of the local churches) asked me to rate my faith on a scale of one to ten.  I responded, “9.5.  We could always stand to get a little better, right.”  When I returned, thankfully he didn’t ask me that same question.  For, if he did the number would have been the opposite.

After my mission, I went to college, where I learned that I’m not as intelligent as High School had made me out to believe.  I first started at BYU (which may be your first clue that I’m not so intelligent).  While there, I did very poorly.  I worked three jobs, went to school full-time, and struggled with my dwindling faith.  From there, I went to the U (that’s University of Utah for those of you who don’t habla Utahteco (Utahteco is … figure it out)).  I felt myself fatigued and running of steam, but I was so close to the peak.  As my world crumbled away, so did my desire to graduate.  Against a rock and a hard place, I took the path of least resistance, and it was still a very close call.

For the next two years, I would fail at almost every relationship I had.  I had my first romantic relationship at the age of 21.  Why so late you ask?  Well, to love the one your heart chooses rather than society requires a lot of courage.  The best decision I ever made was to love.  So, back to my dating history.  The first was brief, but had a lasting impact.  I followed with a string of bad romances (did anyone else think of Lady Gaga), each one getting longer in duration, but worse in compatibility.  Finally, giving up on love altogether.

By now, I was feeling slightly liberated and empowered, but my family and friends had a ways to catch up.  After all, it took me 21 years to come out to myself, and everyone I knew had to do the same.  It was hard, most people stopped talking to me.  One day they knew exactly who I was and how to talk to me.  Then the next, they saw me as a stranger, and didn’t know how to communicate with my type.  Needless to say, it was difficult for all of us.

The straw that broke the camel’s back, were the economics.  I left home with no money, no job, and no where to go.  I ended up staying with friends, or in my car.  Eventually I found a great paying job, and a room to rent.  Shortly after I moved in, the position I had was terminated.  The whole ordeal was at least shady, and at best misunderstood.  So I pounded the pavement all day everyday.  After a few weeks, hundreds of resumes, and few interviews.  I became desperate and took a job as a server.  I was horrible at it.  I dropped two trays full of alcohol, and never mastered more than five tables in the four months I was there.  More often than not, at the end of the day, I left with less than minimum.  It was a difficult time for me.

With only a few weeks left until I graduated, I sincerely questioned if I would make it.  I began to see graduation more and more as the answer to my problems.  I had enough money to choose between school supplies and books, food, or gas for my car.  Most days I scoured the campus for any sort of party, or open house that advertised free food.  I think I even joined the Feminist Club for a free slice of pizza.  Towards the middle of the month, I usually ended up parking my car where ever the gas light came on.  From November to March was particularly hard as I usually walked in snow, slush, and cold.  The majority of my days began at 5 or 6 when I would get up to walk to the nearest public transit.  I spent a full day at school before taking public transit to work.  During the slow times, I did my homework. usually finishing after midnight.  Sometimes I was lucky enough to make the last train, but more often than not, I walked the almost five miles through commercial areas and under freeways to get home.  Several times, I was followed, propositioned, and once even threatened.  I questioned if it was even worth it, and began to wonder if I could make it to my graduation in the spring.

That was the lowest point of my life.

I did graduate, but it didn’t solve my problems.  Things got better slowly.  I moved from job to job, until I did something I liked, and almost made a liveable wage.

I lived in some pretty horrible places, but I also lived in one of the best.  My landlord was one of the most understanding and loving people that has ever come into my life.  She accepted me when no one else did, even when I didn’t have a rent check to give.  When it felt like I had lost everyone, I found my most dear, and first lifelong friend.

With time and experience, relationships with both friends and family have improved.  Sometimes that is time is what it takes, even for the people we love.

I am currently dating the most wonderful man.  I’ll keep you posted about us.

While graduating did solve my problems the way I wished it had, it has provided me a world of opportunities.  While still incognito, I studied abroad in Spain.  While there, I learned what it was like to be free, and I flourished for short time.  Even with the little I had, I was able to travel.  Through grants, scholarships, and choosing miles over meals, I traveled to Bolivia where, like Greg, I helped build a school, went to San Diego, San Francisco, and Denver where I worked with immigrants, the homeless, and people of every type.  In school I studied the difficult intersections of poverty, discrimination, and privilege.  In life, I learned about, well, life.

So, here I am, sitting overlooking the Mediterranean on a particularly beautiful day.  I came here to escape, but instead have found myself.  Mortenson’s tale has reignited something within myself.  In my travels I have seen what he describes.  There is so much need throughout the world.  I’ve begun to think of traveling in a new way.

Imagine traveling not to see a place, but to help make it better.  What if people booked causes instead of cruises?  That is my proposition.  I hope my family trip to see the Grand Canyon includes bringing school supplies to the Havasupi.  And, when we go to Disneyland (if we go, Yikes!) we help sort food at the Orange County Co-op.

See the world, and make it better.  No one has to go through what I did, or worse (I personally know a lot of people who had it much worse than I) to know that people need help.  My personal struggles have made me form a commitment to alleviating pain and suffering at home and abroad.  If you’re reading this help spread the message that things get better.  Even when they seem so bad you can barely stand it, know that there is so much more out there.   Know that failures whether of your own merit, a societies, or otherwise, know that you can change it. But, we have to make a change.

Care about yourself first.  Care about those you know.  But, also care for those that you don’t.

Travel like you care.

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4 responses to “Travel like you care

  1. You make me cry. Thanks friend.

  2. This breaks my heart Bud, but maybe not for the reasons it was intended too. I’ll explain…you make it sound like your family totally abandoned you at your lowest, which is not true. It takes 2 to make a relationship thrive, and at those points when you were lowest, you never once let any of us in. Phone calls were rarely returned, emails left unanswered, heck, we through you a birthday party which you neglected to even make an appearance at, yet in reading this, we were horrible to you because you are you.

    I have always loved you for being you. It doesn’t matter if you were purple with green polka dots, you are my brother and therefore will always mean the world to me. I have always tried to support you in your endeavors, and to read that our relationship became strained because I stopped talking to you, makes me very, very sad.

    You chose to leave home…no one forced you out. To read that you were near homeless, and know that you had a bedroom waiting, is dishearting. Did you really hate us that bad or not trust us enough not to come home instead of sleeping in your car. My home has always had an open door policy-and I would have hoped that you knew that, but apparently we aren’t as close as I must have imagined we were.

    I’m sorry to bring this all up, but this post really does make me sad. But it makes me sad for reasons other then what was intended. I feel sad that I wasn’t there for you when you needed people, but then I feel like I wasn’t trusted enough when you need people.

    • Hey Katie, you’re absolutely right there were choices on both sides. Writing about it is my way of working through things. Like i said, it was hard on both sides.

      This was a pretty general post, its purpose was to work through, and be able to express some things in a new way. You will never know how difficult this was for me, just like I will never know how difficult it was for any of my friends or family. One thing that is hard to understand is, “why make such a difficult choice when there are other, seemingly better options? Again, for lack of space it’s impossible to write everything. Keep in mind though, that I had already suffered some pretty devastating losses. I was going through a lot of abandonment issues (and not necessarily from you or anyone you know), had pride, and any other number of complex reasons made the choices I did. Seeing that in myself has made me more forgiving of others. I hope you will also consider that in regards to forgiving me.

      There is another part which is more difficult to explain is the emotional, mental, and physiological changes that occur under those circumstances. I don’t excuse myself from things I did. In fact, I’m having a difficult time coming to terms with it. But, suffice it to say that the parts of the brain that control long-term memory start to shut down in order for short-term memory to be allowed more capacity. The brain is more concerned with daily survival, and constantly having to adapt to new circumstances, than anything else. Sometimes called “fight-or-flight mode,” you can only think of things in the moment. The past and present disappear, and days of the week, plans, and any number of other things are forgotten. The more intense, and longer the period of stress, the harder it is for an individual to use that long-term part of the brain. I don’t say this to excuse myself, I really do feel horrible for not remembering things, especially that party. But, I hope that with this explanation you will understand a little more about why I did, or in this case did not, do what I did.

      I did consider other options, but my decisions were also influenced by a fear of abandonment. Having been hurt by being abandoned before, to me, at the time, the best option was not to give others the opportunity to abandon me in the future.

      I hope this explains a little. I hope you understand/empathize/forgive me a little more after reading this. Again this isn’t meant as an attack on anyone, but more as a way for me to work through a very difficult process.

  3. You are as dear to me as family. Only, you are the family I choose, which makes you a friend forever. I love you Alex! More than you know.

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