Saturday, February 1, 2014

Probing the Depths

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It's that time of year again. The one where I start getting restless- gazing longingly at my suitcase, watching travel documentaries, and scouring the library stacks for anything by Freya Stark. How inconvenient. School has barely begun and I'm thinking of anything but digital curation and appraisal methods. Instead, I'm starting a Pinterest board (God help me) and swooning over pictures of Plovdiv and Malin Head.

I have learned through the years that my travel bug is never about a longing to get away. It's more complex than that. It's a longing to meet new people. To gain a fresh perspective, to see the world through other eyes. To feel small, because that is when I learn the most about who I am and my place in the world. Nothing pops my self-centered bubble world like unfamiliarity.

It's so easy to get stuck in my own opinions and worldview and declare that "I AM RIGHT! I have the answers! I understand it ALL!" Until a new place, a new face, shake up my preconceived notions about grief, fear, religion, joy, womanhood, politics, motherhood, or love. (Books do that too, but that's another blog post.) I want to know what the world thinks, how it pulses. I want to know other people, if only to understand the many ways that we are all wrong and all right.  

I want to probe the depths of the gray shades that make up life's answers, shedding the black and white of self-importance.

In Ireland, surrounded by nothing familiar, I discovered a part of myself that existed outside of my daily routine. I was chuckled at in a supermarket for forgetting my money when buying groceries. I talked with an old man about Irish history on an abandoned island in Sligo Bay. We got lost, we misread signs. I was bold, I was nervous. I felt self-conscious and I felt confident, sometimes all in one day. We listened to Irish news radio and realized there is so MUCH happening in the world that we tune out.  

That jolt of unfamiliarity, like an electric shock to my ego, wakes me up and reorients me. In doing so, it also focuses my priorities and lightens my expectations of myself.

It's a world-shaking thing when you look west across the Atlantic, not east. Or when you see the mountains of Colorado from above, rather than below. When you eat blood pudding or watch Irish reality TV or sign up for a library pass in a library that is actually a 14th century church. When you hear what others have to say. When you learn to listen, not to talk. When you stop looking through your own eyes, and start to walk in the moccasins of strangers. There is no greater feeling.


  1. I love this piece. And as my husband and I are contemplating a trip to Italy, this will be good for him to read. He is nervous about being way out of his comfort zone, but you are right - that is when we learn the most about who we are.Thanks, Jillian. Once again, the teacher becomes the student!
    Mrs. Z

    1. Thank you, Mrs. Zarnikow. I always appreciate your encouragement. A trip to Italy sounds just wonderful! You deserve it. I hope you and your husband have an amazing time- I can't wait to hear all about it.



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