Here I sit, with a brand new camera and very old backpack and I feel like it's the first day of school. For 5 years, I've been steering my life toward this moment: packing the little I need in a single bag and hopping on a one way flight to the other side of the world. I've dreamed of what it might feel like to step out towards something completely unknown, trusting that I'll find my way. I have a few things with me I know; this orange LL Bean backpack, embroidered with my initials, a gift from my aunt and uncle for graduating high school in 2005. In the pockets, coins and receipts from other times I went searching. This backpack is the one thing in my possession I know well. I'm taking it with me into a part of the world- and a part of myself- I've yet to meet.
I've learned there is little I know for certain, but I'm pretty sure of this: There are some things we only learn about ourselves in the wilderness. I've been comfortable for a long time. Even when I wasn't sure where I was headed in my work or from where the next paycheck would come, my physical security and comfort were never in question. The privilege loaded into that fact is heavy. I'm thankful for it. I know entire national populations cannot say the same thing. I haven't done a thing to deserve it- privilege is, by definition, unearned. I've always been surrounded by people who know and love me, and whom I know and love. And yet, I believe there's something critical and primal and deeply human that we can't know until we step away from the conditions and relationships that keep us so damn comfortable.
So I'm getting uncomfortable. The thing about travel is it forces you to face yourself; when you travel, the place in which you suddenly find yourself doesn't know or care about your preferences. You change. You adapt. You make yourself smaller so the place around you can teach you, stretch you, show you how to take up space in a more compassionate, considerate, conscious way. These are lessons of the wilderness. If we are to learn them, we have to go. And we have to go alone.