Going Home

As the end of the year approaches and the holidays finally roll around, many people are going home to visit their loved ones. If they don’t already live near their family, people will be traveling all over the country. Last year, when I began this project, I wrote a lot about home around the holidays. I wrote some pretty dreary posts, ultimately saying that I didn’t plan on going home for the next four years.

There was a lot of emotional angst with the mentality of I wanted either all of it or none of it. I wanted to go home and stay home or wait until I could stay. It was a rough time. I did end up going home for a couple weeks in March but, for the most part, I stayed out of Minnesota.

As that time of the year comes back, I guess I wanted to bring it up again. I’ve been in Charleston for the last 240 days, or 8 months. I really haven’t left the city since I’ve arrived and some of that angst is coming back.

I won’t finish my contract until May 2017, which is quite a ways away. It’s a long time to stay in South Carolina. However, I still feel the same way as before. I can’t imagine going home just to come back down here. Leave is valuable and takes a long time to replace.

Eighteen years of my life were spent in Minnesota, I want to use my leave going to visit somewhere new. Maybe go to Portland or Boston. In the last year and a half, I’ve been home for 14 days. Yet, I can’t bring myself to use my leave just to go back to someplace I’ve already been. I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone but I thought it was worth bringing up.

Has anyone else experienced this? I left home a year ago and it seems like everyone here is pushing me to visit. Especially this time of the year. Yet, I don’t know where to go or why exactly I don’t want to go home. It’s just I don’t. Do you have any advice?

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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

 

Playlist Live Tickets

At work, I watched as Playlist-Live tickets were sold. The number of available tickets dropping from 77 to 70 to 69. The last event looked amazing and I was really bummed about not going. So, today I bought a ticket. I don’t have a car to get there yet. No hotel booked. Not even a guarantee that I’ll be able to attend. But I decided that I have things that I want to do in my life and I can’t wait for all the details.

I can’t plan every aspect of my life. $200 is a lot of money, especially for an event that doesn’t have a lineup released yet. I’m not sure I’d spend $75 for a band concert. But I know that this is something I want to do, even if I’m alone.

I fear driving for 5 hours to go a city where I don’t know anyone. Especially with having to return to work a few days later. What if I have complications and I’ll be back late? I could get lost or experience any number of difficulties. My family is on the other side of the country; I can’t just call for help. These are all the things that limit me and run through my mind constantly. They keep me at home and in my bed. But I can’t experience life from under my bed sheets.

While I don’t know everything that will happen, I plan on going to Playlist-Live 2015 in Orlando, Florida. It’s nearly 6 months away and a 300 mile drive, but I’m really excited. Maybe I’ll get back into making videos or change how I blog. Who knows? Plus I’ll be finished with my 365 in just a few months! Maybe a vlogging 365 will follow? Mm, probably not. But who knows! I’m liking this mystery and daringness that I’m finding within myself. There are obstacles we put in front of ourselves that we must overcome and tonight I feel like I’m surpassed one.

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P.S. ONLY 90 DAYS LEFT! WOOT!

CouchSurfing

After many months of neglect, I’m finally getting involved with CouchSurfing again! I’m inspired by Benny Lewis, Marcus MB, Amanda Palmer, and many other people. If you don’t know what CS is, it’s basically a network of travelers. Instead of staying at hotels when you’re visiting a new town, you can ask to be hosted. You’ll stay on a stranger’s couch or in their spare room. It’s a great way to travel cheap and I’m sure I’ll write more about it in the future.

Malia AuParis offers many great travel videos and advice on CouchSurfing. She’s been around the world and staying on stranger’s couches since starting. Her wit and humor is entertaining and I highly recommend her videos.

Find me on CS!

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How Traveler’s Communicate

While reading “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail”, David Miller talks about how hikers communicate and their willingness to talk about their lives. The long days of walking with strangers, teamed up with a common goal (to finish the hike), cultivates a different sense of community. While living in the city, talking to a stranger may seem bizarre, it’s common for hikers to discuss their personal lives with equally unknown hikers.

AWOL (David Miller) write in his book that many days are spent hiking 10+ miles with somebody that you just met. In your office, it’s unlikely that you’d talk about your aspirations openly but on the trail people are receptive. You feel un-threatened because you’re likely to never meet this person again. Eventually it becomes natural to say where you’re from, what you were doing with your life, what you want to be doing instead, and about why you’re out on the trail.

Although I’ve never been long-distance hiking, I believe that traveling has shifted my communication in the same way. When I fly to another country, I often have meaningful conversations with the person I’m sitting next to on the plane. There have been businessmen from around the world giving me life advice simply because I ask them. When you’re traveling, your communication changes.

You realize that the person you’re talking to won’t be in your life forever. Rather than having small talk, you immediately go deep. It doesn’t really matter if a stranger knows where you’re from or what you dream of doing. You’ll probably never see them again and so what if you do.

After you open up many times, you realize that even when you aren’t traveling it doesn’t matter what you say. You can be open with more people in your daily life because you know that it really doesn’t matter if they know about your ambitions.

Another bi-product is that you begin to have less idle chatter. When you meet people for only a couple hours, you decide to skip the ten minute conversation about the weather. Instead you opt for talking about your passions in life.

Spending many months in foreign countries has changed how I talk with others. Sometimes people complain that I only have deep existential conversations. They also talk about how open I am to share my life. These are directly caused by traveling and meeting so many people for such a brief period. I dive deep into conversation because I want to know about your life. There’s no point in complaining about the Charleston heat, I want to know what you’ve done with your life and what you’ve learned.

Perhaps it’s a cursed traveler’s mark but AWOL had it right in his book: going to new places changes how you talk with others.

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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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