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Breathing in Somewhere New
This is how I know I'm *alive.*
March 17, 2023
Happy Friday, travelers! Very soon, I’ll be traveling to countries 27 and 28: Panama and Ecuador. Aside from those dear to me in off-screen life, you’re the first to know.
I don’t typically share why I want to visit a specific country, in part because the answer is uncomplicated. If it’s a sovereign state, I plan to go there. If it’s not a sovereign country, I may or may not.
But there’s more to the story. Isn’t there always?
At work this week, I wrote about the air we breathe. What’s in it, swirling all around us and likely shouldn’t be. How unclean it is, unhealthy. And where it all went wrong.
Page after page of research, my browser tabs looked like tiny squares from being squished into the same window. Down the carbon offsetting rabbit hole I went.
The conclusion I was brought to was entirely unhelpful, but honest. It’s unclear how helpful it is to purchase carbon offsets because we don’t have a standard means of measuring it. After all, trees are living beings—we have tried with everything we have to control them, but they surprise us every time. I hope they do it in spite, because “control” is a nice way of saying “damage.”
When you buy carbon offsets, no one can accurately quantify how much carbon each tree takes out of the air because their behavior is unpredictable. Some die before their time, just like human beings. Others grow from scattered seeds, an unexpected birth amongst herbivorous ash. No two are the same, their uniqueness a nuisance to data and figures and cold, hard facts.
And I realized, as I was taught through a screen by these experts, that the very things they described of trees apply perfectly to creativity. To travel, to exploration of the world around us, at home and away.
I cannot count how many of my ideas have died. They could fill a graveyard with their potential that I didn’t have the time, energy, or money to see through to their fruition.
But sometimes, like trees, one idea dies and its remnants become another. One plan dies, and its remains transform into another. That gives me hope that the good ideas lay dormant for now, become great in their due time and will be ready for their day in the sun. For now, I wait with them until that day comes.
One of the things I admire most about every culture I’ve visited outside the States is their deep connection to the land. Every person I’ve met on this journey has taught me what it means to not only live in nature, but to live because of it.
We exhale what trees inhale; trees exhale what we need to inhale. We breathe life into what we create, then that creation converts our energy and gives back to us in its own way. We humans are a creative bunch, even if you don’t consider yourself a creative person. Everything we do leaves a mark on this place we call home, for better and for worse. It begs a conscientiousness from us to be caring of this creation we walk on, where every footprint counts as part of the tapestry of that place.
The same is true for places new to us. For our relationships with one another. Every time I traveled somewhere new, I absorbed my surroundings and left my own mark. Each country is part of me now, some more than others. Some for better, others for worse, all a mixture of the two.
This dream is about more than checking off a list of country names. The numbers make it easier for me to keep it straight in my head, but each country is much more than a number. Panama and Ecuador have waited their turn for years to premiere in the Journey to 197. Like those that came before them, they will each leave their mark. I will, in turn, do the same to them with the best intentions and imperfect action. Nothing about this is simple, which is exactly why it’s worth doing anyway.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out. I’m going away again, to somewhere new. My heart can’t contain its excitement. This is how I know I’m alive.
What’s On My Tray Table
A few nights ago, I finished Pam Jenoff’s literary debut, The Kommandant’s Girl. Within the crowded sub-genre of WWII historical fiction, there are many, many novels published with just okay writing. Plot runs the show.
The Kommandant’s Girl reads like a debut in writing style, word choice, sentence structure. But that’s okay—we’re all beginners once, and the book still should have been published.
Where Jenoff shines in this work is her winding, weaving plot. In the beginning, we are introduced to Anna, a young Polish woman from Krakow. She paces through the city anxiously, avoiding Nazis on her way to the market. It turns out her real name is Emma, and she’s been hiding as a Gentile woman for months.
Emma pulls this off with the help of her resistance fighter husband’s aunt Krysia. When her kind, courageous aunt-in-law hosts a dinner party with the highest-ranking Nazi officer in Poland in attendance, he offers Anna a job. What transpires is a not-so-unlikely love story where the boundaries of heart and character are tested.
This novel left me with more questions than answers, which is an A+ in my book.
If you’re intrigued, you can find it here.
I hope your days are full of love, laughter, and adventure. Until we meet again!
Be brave and stay that way,