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Connection and Purpose On The Road

At the widest part of the earth, the equator in Ecuador.

At the widest part of the earth, the equator in Ecuador.

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,

Katherine

7 Comments

  1. The last few days I’ve been staying with a new friend in San Miguel, Mx. I’ve been helping him with his carpentry jobs because I needed that sense of purpose and community. It felt so good to do something other motorcycle.
    I can relate!

    • Katherine Anderson

      November 5, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Hey Greg, thanks for commenting. That’s great that you were able to help and I can totally relate to it feeling good to do something other than motorcycle related. There is a great good of guys that meet at a local restaurant every week that go riding together. Milton had a great ride with them. Wish I could remember the name of the restaurant they meet up. Hope your travels are going well for you. We are heading out tomorrow, probably some more dirt in the very near future, so glad I took that class with you!!

  2. Hi Kathy–I’m not sure I’m “qualified” to answer your questions about how to find community and sense of purpose in my own travels…because I’m not traveling. The ways that you did mention (staying a few days in a single place, purchasing food with the same vendors, giving leftovers to others, etc) seem valid and authentic. It may be that you could be on the verge of being weary with this journey…for many reasons…you have been traveling long, you are missing friends and family, you are missing your professional work, etc. To me, those all seem normal for being on a trip that lasts months… You may be beginning to long for the delight in the familiar as compared to the delight of experiencing something new. And…maybe on this trip…those “new things” have begun to merge together??? I commend you for trying to find community when and where you can. You are touching others’ lives in many ways…and, even though you may not see any results/changes…you do make a difference every day in someone’s life. Love you…

    • Katherine Anderson

      November 5, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      Yes, I agree. I was just talking to a friend earlier this week who is a couple countries ahead of us and she is feeling similar things. I think that the next time I do something like this I would only travel for three months at a time and maybe just choose a smaller area to cover.

  3. Hmmm… what a fascinating blog post. I have always wondered why so many moto-travelers are basically self-promotion machines. Now I wonder if it is because 1. that gives them a sense of purpose, and 2. that they crave a sense of community…?

    What *is* the purpose of a nine-month (or any extended length) tour? What did you hope to gain from this trip when you first started planning it? (I ask these questions out of genuine curiosity–not being judgmental at all.)

    • Katherine Anderson

      November 5, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Thanks for your comments Lydia. I think that we all want a sense of purpose and have a need for community and aren’t we all self-promotors in one form or another. If you think about it, everytime we step out of the front door we are promoting ourselves in some way. Some ways I can think of just off the top of my head is how we dress, how we act, how we speak, its all a way of self promotion. As for the length of the journey, sometimes I think that 9 months seems like a long time and then other times it seems too short to travel this distance. I have had friends do this journey in 3-4 months and, to me, that is not even enough time to really experience Mexico, let alone travel to the tip of Argentina. I think that for me personally I wanted to have this experience because I grew up in a household where the world was not a safe place and I was tired of letting fear make my decisions for me. For me, I couldn’t think of any better way than to step off and really experience what is out there. Thanks again for the comment.

  4. We enjoyed connecting with you if for only a brief moment. We can see you are spreading positive energy and attitude as you ride through each country and that has a lasting ripple effect. Whether you know it or not, you are riding with that purpose…thanks

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