The greatest difficulty of travel is that one is forced to take oneself along. – Alain De Botton
Well, I officially made it 8 weeks in the Marshall Islands without crying or having a meltdown – sadly, my record was broken yesterday. While on a Skype session with my family, no less. I’ve survived a bout of bronchitis, a vicious intestinal flu, a couple of blistering sunburns, several hour-long battles with cockroaches, numerous power outages and Internet failures, changing a flat tire in the rain, and countless other mishaps. But this week proved to be a bit too much, and I think it was simply time for me to shed a few tears.
If you’ve ever traveled, especially internationally, you can likely relate to the concept that the second you step off the airplane and set foot in a new place, your entire reality changes. Your perception irrevocably shifts, for better or worse – though when traveling, I find it’s always for the better. When I’m talking to friends or scrolling through Facebook, it’s both frustrating and amusing to see the things people post or complain about. For example, I have a friend who actually complained to me the other day that it became too dark too quickly before he could finish a round of golf. Yes, you read that correctly… a round of golf. I just saw someone else on Facebook complain about having to update their iPhone to the new iOS9. Seriously?!
But again, it’s all about perspective.
A few weeks ago, I was house/pet-sitting at what I would venture is probably one of the nicest homes here in Majuro. There, I had access to a washer/dryer, a television, hot water, and constant air conditioning. It was absolute paradise! All of those amenities were things I have at my home back in South Carolina. But here in Majuro I felt like I was staying at a 5-star hotel. Again, perspective. My apartment here at the school is wonderful – I have a kitchen, a bedroom, bathroom, and air conditioning. Running water (usually). Internet (most of the time). Sure, my twin bed is tiny and you can see every mattress spring poking through the surface, but I have a bed! I make enough money to buy food, clean drinking water, and am able to single-handedly keep Amazon in business. Compared to so many others here and around the world, I am undoubtedly fortunate.
This is exactly why I think everyone, especially those from the United States, needs to travel. We take so many things for granted each and every day, and our reality needs to be shifted. We need to step outside of what’s comfortable in order to grow, become more open-minded, and to gain that perspective. Some days here in Majuro are tough. Some days hauling my 5-gallon jug to refill water or lugging around laundry to the Laundromat when it’s 100 degrees outside sounds and feels absolutely horrible. But I have access to clean drinking water, and the luxury of a closet full of clothing. As long as I remember why I’m here, that is what is truly important.
Earlier this year, after I knew I was moving here, I did some research and found this hilarious blog: Women Who Live on Rocks, which details the “charming eccentricities of island living.” One entry in particular has resonated with me this past week: Island Living is Not for the Weak-Hearted. As the author so eloquently and accurately stated:
“If island living has taught me anything at all, it’s resilience. Life is life, no matter where you make it, no matter how drop dead gorgeous the view… Island life at its worst makes me a tougher person… And a more appreciative person of my “normal” when it returns.”
I came here looking for a change and for new experiences – and Majuro has certainly answered! Hearing “Ms. Taylor, I love you!” whenever I walk around campus, and having the chance to photograph the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing makes the not-so-great days worth it. I’m meant to be here, and will simply tackle the obstacles as they come. Though I could definitely do with a few less cockroaches.