The journey is slowly settling into all of our cells, like time-released medicine. A good friend of ours, who took a similar journey, said this happened to him in the months and years following six months of travel. The journey itself, so close up, can be hard to see. I suppose this is true for all things in life. When we’re up close, we see a few things in great detail—for better or worse—but when we give our experiences space, we gain perspective.
Perspective is one of my key teachers of the last couple years. When people ask me why I took such a leap away from my life into the unknown, the word that feels most accurate for me is, perspective. I’ve got a mix of perspective happening these days. Throughout the journey, I made a point to communicate that such profound shifts in one’s perspective do not require people to take a year or more out of their lives to explore foreign lands. I made this point because I wanted to affirm for people that everyone has access to existential transformation, regardless of if they leave home or not.
This is both true and false.
The transformation occurring in me today is one that began twenty years ago and led me to this phase of my story, where a profound shift in perspective was required to further open up, dive in and shake loose all that was stale in my life.
My perspective today tells me that in order to transform, we must break open. We know, thanks to the poets, the mystics and the scientists, that change requires change. We cannot keep walking the same exact path, living the exact same life, telling the exact same stories . . . and expect transformation.
What opened me up was trust in myself in the face of the unknown. What encouraged me to dive in deeply, was the desire to understand what I was struggling to make sense of. And, what supported me in shaking loose tethers I carried for so long — that were not leading me to joy — was the necessity of navigating discomfort without the convenience of habits and excuses from back home.
The expansion we earned from the trip is tested now that we’re back in the U.S. This is a culture of distraction, mindless consumption and convenience. We have to be mindful about how we walk through each day, not slipping into old habits, patterns or mindsets that we painstakingly untethered from during our journey. Sometimes it feels like running in quicksand. Social norms are dense and tempting. That’s how they sustain themselves even when their very existence is noxious.
Our year in South America was as pivotal to us as a PhD program might be to a scholar. It was a character-building, perspective-giving classroom though we couldn’t have gleaned the same quality education from books, blogs or professors.
There are many ways to gain perspective. You don’t have to leave your country to glean some, but you do have to leave your comfort zone.