a compass leads to compassion…

“we are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams, wandering by lone sea-breakers and sitting by desolate streams…”

throughout my life, i have been given and created opportunities to be a leader.  as a child, my passion for people and communicating with them ignited a life long pursuit in me.  in support of a dear family member and a friend, i began advocating for acceptance and became active in the anti-bullying and harassment movement.  so there’s a bit of my resume…

but what really inspired this post was my time in australia. i explored many states and the northern territory in my just shy of 12 month adventure there…and in that time, i interacted with people from several different countries, backgrounds and interests.  prejudice is something that survives everywhere you go…old habits die hard, history repeats itself…and all that sorrowful jazz.  what was deeply enlightening for me while on my walk about this past year was the treatment of aboriginals all over australia.  i went to museums, i read the histories, i learned of the ancient dreamings and the artwork and the tool building and listened to music and chants…i was also fortunate enough to interact human to human with several aboriginal people.  my first observation of ill treatment of an aboriginal person was while riding the tram in adelaide, sa late at night after future music festival in march.  tram patrons gave deep, heavy sighs, rolled eyes, the tram driver stopped the tram to discuss things  aggressively with the aboriginal passenger who’s crime was breaking the “no drinking on the tram” rule.  sadly, a typical scene on public transport…likely almost anywhere.  i made eye contact at one point when the scene was dying down and offered a big smile.  did it solve world peace? no, but it sparked a smile back and that was enough for that night.  i never once served an aboriginal person in my months slinging drinks in two different bars.  i never saw them in the neighbourhoods i lived in in adelaide.  i began to collect data throughout my time in australia that compared the treatment of aboriginal people with native americans in the states…the two stories, really aren’t that different on the surface.  the bottom line: white people have mistreated tribal cultures for centuries…and the pathetic reality, is that over the decades and the civil rights movements, still not much has changed.

in may, when i went to wide open space festival in alice springs, nt, i was so stoked to find that so many local aboriginal people journeyed into the festival with their families to immerse them in the land, the story of the desert, the music, the art workshops and the overall splendor of a community of people who are passionate about humans and the land we live on.  it was beautiful to be at a festival that included families.  watching children run wild and free with no inhibitions, no trust issues, no worries, was simply gorgeous.  it was such a relief for me to see after several years working with children from all kinds of backgrounds at an at-risk youth center, that some children in some places, are still able to be children…full of innocence and wonderment…fearful of nothing more than the fun ending or having to go to sleep.  there is such a beauty in transformational festivals that empower the youth that are subjected to them at early ages and the adults that create and keep them thriving.  this festival, welcomed all people.  regardless of what your story was, you were able to share it with the other souls dancing barefoot in the desert with you, for that short weekend, your body, mind and soul learned of new acceptance, a thirst for knowledge, a new definition of beauty, a fresh appreciation for the human race and all that inspires it.  it was brilliant.  in my final month in australia, road tripping and living out of a car and tent on beaches and in national parks, we’d occasionally have to stop in cities and towns to enter civilization (where we found we no longer belonged), to get supplies, libations and the like.  in townsville, while walking up to wooly’s to get some groceries for the next adventure into the wild, a group of aboriginals was sitting on a bus stop bench and holding out hands for high fives to passersby.  i observed several footpath patrons pass by without giving eye contact, a high five or even a smile of acknowledgement.  feeling fortunate enough to be keeping the company i was keeping, we walked up to them with high fives blazing, smiles from ear to ear and friendly salutations of “how you going, mate?” “happy days!” and we exchanged humanity right there.  we ignited acceptance.  it’s really that simple and it feels so damn good in every little cell.

10 years ago, my dad took my brother and i for a vacation in mexico.  he took us to zhiuatanejo which then, was a small fishing village outside of ixtapa, now likely more touristy.  i felt so fortunate to have the experience i had because it wasn’t your typical american family goes to mexico thing.  we stayed at an authentic local, smaller hotel right on the beach, ate at local restaurants that had been in families for years, serving the ancient abuelas mole recipe that could bring your taste buds and eyes to tears it was so bloody good.  we were there during holy week leading up to easter sunday and were able to see ceremonies through town, woven palms raised proudly into shapes of crosses, hearts and other festive things that i had never seen before.  we spent over half of our vacation meals at ‘any’s’, a delectable restaurant owned by a passionate human named jose, who shared stories of his life with us while we enjoyed his incredible tamales and enchiladas and chile con carne.  these are human connections that begin to weave a tapestry for life.  this experience lit a fire in me…it’s all about compassion.  listening to stories, observing treatment.  at a different restaurant another night, i remember being disgusted and feeling ashamed to be american.  a family with two sons were at a table next to ours and both boys were on game boys (yes those were still a thing back then) while the parents spoke aggressively to their mexican waiter with no attempt to use the local language, not even a weary try at pronouncing menu items in the local spanish dialect…nothing.  just demanding, rude, southern american english spats to get their meals ordered.  i turned to my dad and said how embarrassed i was, but i also thanked him for the experience.

a road to empathy is one that, in my belief, continues to grow throughout a life.  it twists and turns, offers road blocks and obstacles to face…makes you want to laugh and cry…sometimes at the same time.  i come from a very intimate, small community that sits amongst the mountains and the aspen and evergreen trees, the rivers that kiss and cross as they flow through the valley where my roots grow deep.  within this little town, i learned that it truly takes a village to raise a child…that you can’t get away with much when everyone around you knows your parents and keeps you in check when you fail to do that for yourself.  we are big on the arts here, healthy living, recreation, music and acceptance.  throughout high school i took opportunities to be involved in student government, leadership class where we worked to bring ‘don’t laugh at me’ an anti-harrassment program full of hands on activities and facilitated communications with children at the elementary school to open discussions on bullying and hurt feelings, breaking barriers and igniting an acceptance.  my family also helped to work with local advocates and movers and shakers that get things done to bring the  ‘challenge day’ program here to our small scale high school so that lives could be changed, passion and acceptance ignited and social cliques broken for students, teachers and community volunteers who wanted to see and be part of change.

all these experiences have paved my road.  created a passion inside me that i cannot and will not ever let go of.  as i journeyed to australia to fulfill a life long travel dream, i was constantly reminded that this trip was for me…but that i needed to contribute to something bigger than myself.  travel is quite literally, the best gift i have been given and gifted myself…ever.  and this past year, was a lot for me, about self discovery, pushing limits, stepping outside of my comfort zone, leaving the nest, busting through stage fright and emotional fears, growing into myself in ways i didn’t know were possible, opening my heart…even when it was hurting and wanting to close off…to anyone and everyone, keeping an open mind in every situation and circumstance, embracing challenges that a backpacker must face head on with the attitude of, “is that all you’ve got world?!”.  i learned more about myself and the world, humanity and life as a whole than i could have hoped for.  that’s the funny thing about letting the travel bug catch you…you never want to be vaccinated…you never want to be disinfected…you want to keep it forever.

so although i’ll take more trips for myself in the future…for more barrier pushing and self love and discovery…my compass has shifted.  this round, my compass led me to australia…then back home again…but my compass also led me further into compassion.  this compassion has effected my future travel dreams.  i want to travel the world and see anything and everything, but not just for me.  i want to volunteer at farms that have a mission that will effect future growth and healthy food that will nourish healthy souls.  i want to volunteer in orphanages and spread love to babies and children who just haven’t gotten enough.  i want to work with at-risk youth around the world and go on recreational adventures to help keep them kids for as long as possible…with that blissful joy that they deserve…help them learn within an organized education, but also effect their learning about humanity, becoming passionate souls and helping infect the travel bug in them…which will hopefully birth some future leaders…who will be able to help change the world.



photo credit: the interwebs

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