You know, I really don't like everything about travel.
There are some things I just can't stand.
Oh sure, these things can be great experiences. They can be a novelty that's fascinating, or fun to do... the first time.
But day after day, they start to get really old. And then annoying. And then sometimes downright unbearable.
I don't like bugs (I've become the 'fly nazi', patrolling my house in Pana with a swatter in hand). I don't like driving along roads with potholes, or riding in a tuc tuc as it bumps along cobblestone roads, and bounces you up and down so hard you can't even breath because your lungs are beating against your chest.
I don't like dodging fly-encased dog crap, or passing stagnant, sewage-smelling water overflowing with garbage each time I walk into town.
I dislike the overpowering noise that makes it impossible to hold a conversation, as you dart around people and between tuc tucs, while passing buses blow exhaust in your face.
I tire of the constant sob stories from passing beggars who believe that it's your obligation to give them money just because you're from another country. I'm sick of the peddlers who practically beg you to buy from them, and get angry if you don't.
I really don't like riding in chicken buses, compressed next to complete strangers while you swerve back and forth along a serpentine highway.
And I really, really can't stand being sick. Being uncomfortable is bad enough, but it's ten times worse when you don't feel well.
But guess what? Who cares?
We visited our neighbors last week. You know, the ones I mentioned earlier, that live in a lean-to shack just next to us.
Maybe I should have told them about my 'troubles' - all my dislikes and discomforts. Do you think they would join my pity party?
Yeah. I doubt it.
They live on a dirt floor. They share the same nasty bed. They use an outhouse to go to the bathroom. They bathe themselves in a pila that's outside, next to the 'road' where people walk. Their yard and house is swarming with flies.
Six of them share two beds like this
The toilet with accompanying toilet paper
And I complain about being 'uncomfortable'? Shame on me. How DARE I.
I'm a despicable human being.
I'm pretty sure that when I finally meet God, he's not going to ask me, "How was your stay on Earth? Were you comfortable? Did you find everything to your liking?"
And if I answer, "Why yes God, it was perfectly lovely. Thanks for the pleasure cruise." He'll probably press the buzzer that says, 'Eghhhh, wrong answer."
I am sure He'll want to know what I chose to do with my unpleasant encounters. Will I hide away and pretend it never happened. "Poverty? Disease? Filth? Hunger? Where? I don't see any."
Or will I 'cowboy up' (as my husband likes to say), and accept the challenge of becoming a big enough person to actually overcome my own dislikes and discomforts, and do something that matters.
I hope I'm able to answer to the affirmative to the latter
New tools bought by our friends to do some work that matters
Digging out the 'gray water' sludge that smelled worse than sewage. The pila behind my husband is where they wash dishes, do laundry and bathe.
And creating this filtering, cleansing gray water circle to catch all the gray water waste
They prepped this space so we could help them plant a garden
We're teaching them the 'Square Foot Gardening' method, which provides for abundant harvests in small spaces
Choosing the food they want to eat
Planting the seeds of knowledge. Affecting generations.
This little boy LOVES carrots. He planted lots and lots of carrots.
THIS is why I travel. THIS is why I came.
I'm not here because I want to be 'comfortable'. I didn't come expecting to find a 'Little America'.
I travel because it FORCES me to grow. And provides opportunities for me to help.
It puts me into situations where I have no choice but to be uncomfortable and see the ugly and disgusting and disagreeable and unbearable.
Being in those situations I'm compelled to make a choice - I have to either grow up or go home. I have to either face the music or turn down the volume.
This is how the world is. It's ugly, and filthy, and filled with bugs. That's the reality of it. Hiding myself away only keeps me small, and it doesn't change what the world is really like.
Sure, I could go back to my bug-less, 'problem-free' comforts of the States, but all that proves is that I can't hack it. I'm not up to the challenge.
And if I can't hack it, it's only because I'm focusing on the wrong things. I'm focusing on the filth (and how much I hate it), I'm focusing on the poverty (and how uncomfortable it makes me feel); I'm focusing on the dog crap (and how I hate the stench).
If I choose to focus on improving myself, then suddenly those things seem to fade away, and the things that MATTER come into focus.
Because ultimately, it's not the filth or the crowds or the poverty that is the problem with my discomfort and distress. Millions of people deal with it - comfortably - everyday.
I'm the one that has the problem. I'm the one that 'can't' deal with it. I'm the one who gets bothered, or anxious or disgusted.
I have to be willing to 'march into Hell for a heavenly cause... and the world, will be better for this' - that at least one woman is willing to face 'uncomfortable' and ugly and not only deal with it, but do something about it.
Going home is not an option. Atrophy isn't a viable alternative. Growth is the only acceptable course of action.
Thanks to our amazing friends who are joining us in this quest
This post is part of a series on Humanitarian Work:
- What’s the One ‘Change That You Want to See in the World’? : Orphanage Visit in Solola, Guatemala
- Honey, I REALLY (Don't) Want to Adopt a Baby : Orphanage in Huehuetenango, Guatemala
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