For the past week or so I found myself stumbling through the days in a perpetual mind fog. It feels like the world is going to hell in a handbasket. The Las Vegas shooting was beyond tragic and is one of those events that reminds us that there are terrible people in the world. Gun control, Puerto Rico, kneeling during the anthem, and presidential Twitter fights just remind me of how divided our country is. There’s the looming threat of North Korea and what seems like a very scary possibility of nuclear war. Mixed in that fog is also the day to day crap that can definitely put a damper on life like: bowel and bladder programs, a wheelchair break down, a bad hair day, and the Mariners finishing up their season by poking themselves in the eye with a burnt stick – damn, they played many great games and had a real chance to go to the playoffs this year.
The point of this being that basically here, in the US, we have an “always on” lifestyle. The news is always on, employers expect you to work long hours, you’re expected to be always available, respond to email or text ASAP, most Americans receive very little sick leave or vacation time, currently politics is sitting in the corner of everyone’s peripheral vision. This lifestyle can be exhausting, and it’s not hard to see how these super goggles get sucked on to our face that only allow us to see life 12 1/2 feet at a time.
I was driving home the other day and was throwing myself the most brilliant pity party. I mean there were black balloons, pin the ponytail on the sad girl with bad hair, a one-up complaining competition where the winner is awarded a single lonely goldfish. And booze… Lots of booze. Or this is what it would have looked like if I was truly hosting! While sitting in traffic and mentally attending this little party, I did find my mind wandering back to my time in Barcelona. I started drawing parallels between some of the protest here and the current revolution and uprising for independence in Catalonia that I’ve been reading about.
Barcelona has been one of my favorite places I’ve traveled, the beautiful landscape, the food, the whole vibe of the city, and of course the people. One of the first things that I noticed in Barcelona was that I didn’t see many Spanish flags. Barcelona is a port city which often means flags are present, and many monuments around the world fly their colors next to buildings or attractions they are really proud of. So, it was noticeable when I didn’t see a lot of Spanish flags. I did however, see a red and yellow striped flag with a blue triangle and white star plastered all over the city. I later came to learn it is the regional Catalonia flag.
Days before I arrived Barcelona hosted a large Catalonian protest for freedom. Although most of the major protesters were gone there was still a sizable crowd gathered outside government buildings demanding freedom. Being rather curious, or occasionally nosy, I really wanted to understand what was going on here. These people were SO passionate. I approached a young man who must’ve been in his early 20s and I asked him why he was doing this. He said, “we are different people from Spain, we are not Spanish we are are Catalonian, we sit inside the country of Spain but the country does not treat us well. Our culture, our language, our traditions are Catalonian, not Spanish. It’s not that we want to separate, but we want fairness and freedom and we want things to get better. Madrid has turned it back on us for years and has taken our taxes, and taken our money, but refused to give anything back to us. Catalonia is the most highly taxed region in Europe and our schools, hospitals, roads, another infrastructures are suffering in comparison to many other regions. Catalonia is not Spain.”
He was so proud of his heritage, proud of what he considered his country, and thought it was worth fighting for. It reminded me a lot of what we believe in here. In a future.
So I pull into the driveway and I realize that one of the main reasons for the fog, or the pity parties, or the despair for own situation comes from our own myopic view. I like that phrase, or that adjective because it means shortsighted in every sense. Whether you need glasses or a new attitude-there is a lack of perspective.
This isn’t why I travel, but it is important; these are the moments that keep me calibrated. Whatever tre-diculous (tremendously ridiculous… of course) negativity or opinions I’ve built up about my own country, and my own life, I am always reminded that I’m not alone. All over the world people struggle with their government, with the weather, with bad hair days! One of the many gifts that travel gives us is that it allows us to look at our own life and say… wow, the world is big, but we are all connected. I am not the only one on the planet with problems, I’m not the only one concerned for the future, and I’m not the only one with strong opinions. There are literally billions of people who live a different life than me, and that’s ok. We all have challenges and we all hope for a brighter future.
When I reflect on my experience with travel and meeting new people I’m reminded that whatever problem I have in my life, somebody has already faced it and overcome it. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to think back and connect with these stories because it prods me to reconsider my angry rampage in Baskin-Robbins because they ran out of my favorite flavor. It really is not the worst thing in the world. Although, it’s still debatable.
2 thoughts on “How Travel Can Give Us Perspective When All We Can See Is The Rolling Dumster Fire We Call Life”
Jess — Good piece for Seattle Times “My Take” column. This column appears on Saturdays only and is a part of the editorial page. Guidelines: 400 words (you’d have to pare down your piece to meet this word count) Send entire essay to: Oped@seattletimes.com In the Subject line: “My Take” Attention: Mark Higgins Deputy Opinion Editor He published a couple of my “My Take’s”, most recently was on September 9th – my tribute to the victims of 9/11 and Ground Zero. Hugs. s.
Really enjoyed this article and needed to be reminded that we are all connected in this great big world! Thank you!