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Do you ever have moments that you wish you could go back to and just relive them? This photograph was taken a few years ago while I was staying with a friend in Spain. It was the third year I had been there. I took the experience for granted.

I wish I could go back and just live it again. Breathe in the salty ocean and the taste of fresh seafood. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever get another photograph with all of them. What I would give for one more night on the coast in Ea.

Memories like this serve as a reminder to pay attention each day. You never know what you’ll miss until it’s gone.

Connections through Dreams

Before starting this, realize that this is all dream talk. It’s more of a digestion of thoughts than a concrete post. I wanted to explain how I make connections in my head but the mind is a difficult thing to explain. We each think different and therefore this may be hard to read. It’s basically a 1,000 word digestions of thoughts!

This post was also written a few months ago. I’ve been taking time to look back through drafts and to start posting old content. There’s a lot of things that I’ve chosen not to share and I suppose now is a good time to share them. As this 365 draws near to an end, I’ve realized that sometimes the purpose of content isn’t to be perfect – it’s just to share or express. Emily Haines said in an interview, “The point is to express a feeling. And there are a thousand witty things that you can say a thousand witty ways, but the idea is not to be impressive, but to be emotive.”

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For the last week I’ve been having weird dreams. Not that it’s uncommon for me to walk on walls or remove gravity completely while I’m sleeping but there’s been something more. The transitions between my dreams have become apparent and I’ve started to realize how my mind connects ideas.

It started around three or four years ago when I first started traveling alone to Spain and Denmark. Before then, most people I knew lived within 100 miles of my house. Once I began crossing the ocean, my friends were on the other side of the planet. Therefore, when I had a dream that I biked to Spain, then over to Denmark, in a matter of hours, I knew it was fake.

Over the years I’ve become lazy in my dreams. Instead of biking considerable distances while I sleep, everything exists on one island. One location that leads to all of the others. It’s interesting that these locations blend together seamlessly and it’s difficult to notice anything unusual while I’m dreaming.

Lately, this island has become defined and I remember it in my waking life. I want to say that the island is perfectly round but I’m not sure. All I know is that there’s a giant building in the center. When I first “wake up” in my dream, I walk from the ocean to the front door. There isn’t a door as much as an 8 foot tall by 5 foot wide opening into the building.

Inside, there is a large kitchen that reminds me of Japan. It’s a flat stove that looks like a hibachi grill, and there’s many tables in front of it. I haven’t been to Asia yet, but it looks like a food place I liked in Seattle. The room is always full of younger kids, with the exception of the cook, who looks to be a weary 35-year old Japanese woman. Steam rolls off from the grill and there’s always a noticeable amount of humidity in the room.

Next to the kitchen is a staircase, there’s nothing unusual about it other than that it leads to a small doorway. The gap is covered in a curtain and the children run up and down the steps. Once up the staircase, there is a hallway that is filled with various doors. I can’t remember what each door leads to but there’s one that leads into the Spanish apartment I stayed in for the years 2010-2013.

The gaining apartment varies between the place I stayed at on the ocean, and the one that was in Bilbao (a Basque city). The point of this door seems to be to send me across the ocean. Rarely do I stay in that apartment, it just gets me over to Spain.

If you continue down that hallway, you’ll find a staircase that leads outside. There’s no door and it connects directly with a beach. The sand is rough and blown into very small dunes. Around the beach there’s grass growing and fencing similar to the Danish beaches I’ve seen. This is my gateway to either the ocean or Denmark.

If I continue down that beach, there is an unusually tall building in the midst of a city. In that city there are only 5 or 6 buildings, and none of them serve a purpose. The tallest building had an elevator inside that leads around 50 floors up. At the top, my friend from Denmark lives.

The layout of this dreamscape is concrete in my mind but when I’m dreaming, I easily get lost. That door that leads to Spain is often ambiguous and hard to find. I usually get too entangled in the Danish beach to find that miniature city. I ask directions but the children in that kitchen are Spanish and don’t speak English.

Everything is bizarre about it but there’s one thing that makes sense: this is how I connect very distant locations into one area. Instead of biking for hours in my mind, I can just walk down the hall into Spain or elsewhere. This island functions as a mental airport where I can deliver myself to any location.

Perhaps our mind connects ideas in the same way: we create shortcuts between ideas that are difficult to get to. We can tie one scent with a location so that we can easily remember it. We store information in these connections so that we can tie recurring information with information that we don’t commonly access.

For example, we may tie the feeling of carpet with a particular memory. Each time we step on that carpet, we’re reminded of that memory. In a more complex example, that carpet may tie to something more intricate, like the feeling of seeing your parents after a long trip. Not the visual memory but the feeling. Every time you step on that carpet, you’re reminded of that feeling when you saw your parents after a year separation.

We commonly experience this with smells: I have days that I walk into the bathroom at work and it smells like the summer camp I worked at in 2008. Each time I walk in there, it’s like I’m transported back to then. This tie hasn’t been used in a very long time and it’s very rare that I think about 2008. Therefore, connecting the two is very important. When I smell that, I remember a basically dead memory. If there was no connection, I would totally forget that memory.

If any of you reading this have taken psychology, this would be the connection between the neurons. To keep neurons strong, you connect them. However, it seems unusual that an old connection could still be awoken.

By placing all of these locations nearby in my dreams, it’s like I’m able to skate down these old paths. Instead of having to explore through my whole head, I’m able to go straight to Spain. I don’t have to imagine driving to the airport, going through security, finding my gate, getting on the plane, et cetera. I just walk through a door.

What’s even more interesting is that I use a door to get to Spain while getting Denmark by walking down a beach. In my head I must retain the concept of a door: to connect two locations. For some reason, Denmark isn’t this able to be traveled to so easily.

I guess the lesson here is that dreams are weird. I feel like I have greater understanding of how my mind connects locations now. Anyways, that was really difficult to explain. If you read this far, I’m impressed! The human mind is such a weird instrument.

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16/31 Blogtober

Abandoned Paper Factory; Ea, Basque Country, Spain

There was an abandoned paper plant in the city where I lived in Spain. The buildings were so old that the plants had overtaken and stripped the walls down to stone. The people in the village had grown with the factory and did not see its beauty.

On my first year, I explored and took many pictures. These ones are all unedited and directly off my hard drive. If I ever go back, I think I’ll camp and live there. At the front of that creek is a giant dam and I took pictures with it during my second year. Looking back, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

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4/31 Blogtober

 

Life is in the Small Moments

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When you stand in front of a huge space, your mind wanders. You realize that in the grand scheme, you’re tiny. Your purpose on Earth doesn’t matter in the long run. You’ll be dead in another 60 years, or before this century is over. The world you will leave won’t be very different from today’s world. At the very least, we will still have wars, a separation between the poor and rich, and oppressive or manipulative governments.

These moments that make you feel small, hold onto them. When you realize you’re not important, you’re suddenly free. The obligations that you hold yourself to are gone. Jack Kerouac wrote, “No matter what you do it’s bound to be a waste of time in the end so you might as well go mad.”

Your life is too short to hold back your passions. To others around me, I look like I’m running around in circles. I chase every whim of passion that I find. This week I like painting, so I find an easel and do what I love. Next week I may love writing, so I’ll chase that too. Photography was a whim that I stuck with for a long time. Passion will invigorate you and make you feel alive, so when you find it, hold onto it.

The purpose of life is to be alive. If you spend much time staring out at the world, you’ll miss out on what you could become. These grand gestures, they’re not the purpose of life. You can’t spend your entire life waiting for these feelings that make you feel alive, you have to find what makes you jump with joy and smile wider than your face can handle.

Then you put yourself completely into it: emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Do it as much as you can and until you can’t do it anymore. Push yourself into it. Tell others about it and fill your voice with passion. Smile with your eyes and let them know that you’re alive. Let yourself know that you’re alive.

When these great moments come, they make you feel small. They remind you that you’re human and mortal. We feel alive when we experience this because we know that our time is limited. When we grow appreciation for our passions, we feel small. We realize our short time on Earth and recognize that we don’t have much time to do everything.

That feeling you get when you have those grand moments can be experienced daily. Find the fire within yourself and throw coal on it. Cultivate what you love into your life and you will be fully alive. Life is in the small pleasures, not waiting on the grand moments to happen. Grab life by the foot and chase it down until the end, that’s really all we can do to become passionate and alive.

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Traveling in Basque Country: Ea

04561 The festivals in Euskadi are crazy, I’ve written about them before and I’ll share more of them (and other travels) as I dig deeper into my hard-drive. Over the past few months I’ve realized that I have a lot of material that I haven’t shared yet, so over the course of the these next few months, I will be posting more articles on the places I’ve been to.

In Ea, friends of mine wrote and practiced music they would perform in their own village for a fiesta. These people are very prideful of their heritage, so naturally they sang in Basque, instead of Spanish. Last year I posted a video of them practicing, and I guess it’s time that I share the video of them performing.

IMG_2683The Basque people are beautiful because the pride they have for their people. They’re connected to their roots and understand the traditions of the people who came before them. Fifty years ago, speaking or writing Basque was illegal under Spanish law. Books and other Basque material were destroyed by these unfair rules. Its people maintained the language and kept the culture alive.

During WWII, Spain’s ruler bombed its own innocent population (see Picasso’s “Guernica“) in the city of Gernika. If you go there today, you’ll see that the entire city is new – that’s because it was destroyed almost 80 years ago. Everything was rebuilt since then, and the city stands once again.

The city grows as a testament that the Basque people are both resilient and strong. Many people don’t know about the attack during WWII or the persecution of Basques. That is why it is amazing to visit them. Their sense of pride and heritage is so different from the US.

IMG_2705 IMG_2615 The first country I traveled alone to was Basque Country, and I will never forget the hospitality they had for me. Going to Ea I had no idea that I would come back again, nor did I ever realize the impact it would have on my life.

I think another traveler I met summed up Basque Country pretty well; “You never have to worry about violence at the parties here. They’re kind and you’ll never see a bar fight. In fact, when they’re drunk, you’re more likely to get kissed by a Basque than punched in the face.”

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IMG_2642This fiesta lasted all day and consisted of an entire village of people dancing in the center of town. At night, my friends sang while everyone and their brother came out to watch. They all got together to celebrate life and where they came from.

IMG_2732Everywhere you go, you experience a different culture and a new set of people. When I went to Basque Country, I experienced a sense of community and passion for heritage. I learned of the trials of their people and the celebrations they have to honor their history. In short; we drank, we danced to ska, we ran around the town in our underwear, and I learned the joys of community.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Basque Country, go!

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Friends without Borders

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In 2010, I hosted an exchange student from Basque Country (Northern Spain). We hit it off so much that, after he left, I immediately went to visit him in his country. These trips back and forth to Spain (and to the USA for him) lasted for 3 years. Each time we stayed for about a month in each other’s home.

The first year was different from all the others because it was the first time I traveled alone internationally. The village I lived in was small, and everyone was connected. Each person came from a different background but during the summer, when everyone moved out to their summer homes, they came together.

This photo is of my friend Jennifer and I when we first met. Jagoba (who I was living with) brought me up one night to meet his best friend. We climbed onto the side of a mountain where a church stood and found her waiting for us. I handed my camera to Jagoba and told him to take a picture of us, even though we hadn’t really introduced ourselves yet. I ran over to her and gave her a huge hug!

That was the catalyst for a great friendship while I was traveling.

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Three years later (2012), we took this photo on the other side of the mountain. We had partied together, traveled together, and had many interesting conversations. Who knew that from a running hug, our friendship would start.

The interesting things is that Jennifer doesn’t really speak English… and I really, really, don’t speak Spanish. All of our communication was done in our own languages. She would speak to me in Spanish, and I would reply in English. I understood enough Spanish to pick up what she was talking about, and she knew enough English to reply to me.

You would think that this would severely limit our communication, but it didn’t. We had philosophical conversations about life and the music we loved. It got to the point that my friend Jagoba got upset.

One day he told me that he doesn’t understand how we have conversations. He spent 6 years learning English and yet, Jennifer and my communication was great! He said that he knew both English and Spanish, so he understood what each of us was saying. Jagoba wasn’t angry, he was just astonished at our ability to talk to each other.

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These years that I have lived in Basque Country have shown me that everyone is human. We have different paths and will pursue different goals in life, but despite all of this, we’re able to relate to one another. Jennifer and I met 4 years ago, in mountainous Spain, where there’s good food, loud parties, and always time to go to the beach. We live very different lives but yet we’re good friends.

Looking back, this is why I’m hopeful about the future. Jennifer and I are two people who come from very different backgrounds. We don’t even share a common language but yet we’re able to live peacefully. It doesn’t matter the what our nations or society think, we are able to coexist. I hope everyone has the opportunity to meet someone like this in their lifetime. 🙂 Have a wonderful day everybody!

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Falling in love with the Airport

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This photo was taken four years ago during my first journey over to Spain. It was the first time I traveled alone internationally and I will never forget the experience. The people I met and the places I saw forever changed how I saw the world.

Everything starts at the airport, and the airport is built on rushing people, overpriced food, and repetitive loudspeaker messages. Behind the blare and initial discomfort, there’s a deeper emotion: the feeling of excitement and wonder. It’s the blood of traveling and if you listen close enough, you can hear its heartbeat.

Each person is moving in their own direction, completely unaffected by everyone else. The paths that each person takes are varied and go to different destinations. You see people dressed up going to business conferences while others lug around family members on vacation.

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This trip to Spain was significant because it was the first time I went alone. No one was there to tell me which way to go or who to be. I could find my path and make my own accomplishments. Getting to each gate wasn’t difficult, but I felt great knowing I could get around.

Everyone was so diverse and unique but we were all the same. On the flight to Paris, I sat next to a girl in her mid-20s. She was flying from a Google business conference in Hawaii back to her home in France. On the flight she spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and German to me. What amazes me is that she was only a few years older than I am now. She was born in Colombia, an incredibly poor country, and grew up to be a Google Analyst living in Paris. What have I done in my life that can even compare?

Occasionally when I meet new people at the airport I ask them what advice they can offer to a 20-year-old. The words they give often shock me. On the flight from Minneapolis to Charleston, a woman told me: “No matter what paths you take in life, know that you can always change course. It doesn’t matter how far you go in one direction, you can always change. Don’t ever think that you have to keep going on one path”.

That is the spirit of the airport: the power to choose your path and destinations in life. You become closer to your goals and the excitement of pursing your dreams. Each flight leads to new places and new experiences where you could do anything. I think that is where we feel most alive, where we can follow our dreams and pursue anything without the baggage of where we live or who we are. In the airport, we are stripped of everything and left with only our pursuits. That is why I love the airport.

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