I spent the past two and a half weeks traveling. Six airport stops, the equivalent of a couple of days in the air, and several days each in four different ecosystems: the Andes mountains, Lima’s damp coast, the breezy warm moonscape of Paracas, and tropical Miami. We had rainstorms, hail, dry windy sand storms, clouds, sun, low-hanging mist and 100 degree humidity. We wore many layers of fleece in the thin mountain air, bathing suits by the pool, our lightest clothing to walk around Miami, and sweaters and scarves to deal with hotel air conditioning. Now I am home in the gray of Seattle, back in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt, my go-to uniform for this time of year.
What does it mean to experience so many different climates, time zones, cultural and environmental zones? How do we make sense of it all? How do we transition home? I think sometimes because world travel is so accessible, because it is possible to fly all over the globe in a matter of days, that we downplay the significance of the transitions. We forget that our bodies, adaptable as they are, need time to adjust to each place and time. We wonder why we pick up stomach issues or respiratory problems, why we’re not thinking as clearly as we might when we first return. I find myself moving more slowly than usual, resting and napping, wanting to prepare simple, healthy meals and sit in silence. I vow to honor this transition time, feel what it means to be “in-between,” use it to integrate the experiences I had, the people I met, the foods I ate and the places I saw.
As I transition, I think of the people in and around Kathmandu, Nepal, as they deal with the trauma of the earthquake that shook their foundations, killed loved ones, destroyed most of their homes and forever altered their lives. I feel sad. I grieve for a place although I have never seen it, because we are all connected. I feel powerless to make things better, even as I am glad I can contribute to the relief efforts. As I return home, I am aware of many who are likely to be homeless for a very long time. I also feel the pain of what is happening in Baltimore right now, and in other parts of this country where young men are being mistreated and killed because of the color of their skin. My own disorientation because of my travels, in my lucky privileged world where I can experience a family vacation overseas and a global education conference, somehow help me feel the pain and loss of others who are experiencing terrible tragedies right now. And that is a good thing.