So I’ve been in a little bit of a funk lately. From other travelers, I know this can be a normal part of the extended travel process. Minus a short trip back to the states to take care of taxes and attend a family wedding, we’ve been gone since January 19, 2016.
That is over nine months of a life of continuous mobility with limited belongings which means I wear the same clothes over and over and over again. Although somedays, lack of clothing choices feels like my biggest challenge, I realize it is not.
For me, one of the hardest things about this type of travel, is the feeling that I am not to connected to the community around me. Although we have met some amazing people along the journey, the connections that get made are too brief. Before we know it, we’re packed up, and heading to the next destination.
At times, it helps to stay in one place a little while longer. For example, this week, we decided to stay in Quito, Ecuador for an extra week. This does more than just allow us to rest, it allows us to develop a small feeling of community, even just for a brief moment in time.
When we stay in one place for even a few days, we try to build our connections by visiting the same vendor every day for juice, eating at the same restaurant, donating to the same street performer or beggar, frequenting the same gym, or even sometimes it’s as simple as purchasing water at the same corner tienda. By doing this, we know what to expect, or who to expect in our day to day dealings and they begin to expect us. But, it’s more than just the feeling of being recognized, it’s the act of being acknowledged.
All of these simple ways have allowed us to build a tiny community while on the road. This tiny community gives me a sense of belonging which leads to a feeling of responsibility to those around me and helps to give me a sense of purpose.
To me, a sense of purpose is crucial. Today, I am learning to find it in a much simpler ways than every before. When I was working as a nurse, I knew what my purpose was. Today, my sense of purpose is on a much smaller level and it usually comes from much simpler things.
Here are some of the things that have helped me feel part of community and give me a sense of purpose while traveling. Supporting the local street vendor by purchasing my juice and food from them rather than the local market or restaurant. Donating my change to the elderly beggar on the street with hands so deformed she can’t even hold the cup. Smiling and saying hola to the little girl who looks at me from behind her mother’s legs, not sure if she is frightened of me or just shy. Telling the mother that her child is “muy bonita”. Giving my leftover food to the local animals whenever possible. Volunteering with a local organization that works with kids while in Guatemala. And, even a few times along the trip, I was able to provide nursing care and education: once for a gentleman who needed wound care, education and supplies after a toe amputation, once for a family who needed education for their newborn baby who was born with Myelomeningocele, and once for a gentleman who had a seizure in a busy market place who needed nursing care until medics arrived.
All of these things help to give me a sense of purpose today and although it’s not the same as when I was nursing full-time, if I don’t recognize and acknowledge those little ways that I feel and become part of the community I am in, I will just be another body passing through.
How do you build community and a sense of purpose in your own travels? Let me know, I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions.
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Until next time,