I have been struggling. I have felt the stress and pressure of traveling from the
beginning of our trip. From trying to prepare for the unknown, to sleepless nights on buses and airplanes, scorching hot days, strange foods and foreign tastes, to navigating new cities and meeting new people. Even good and wonderful experiences are stressful. I have been dealing with this on top of a feeling of displacement, a longing for home and the people there. I have lived a transient life for a number of years and since coming to SSU, I have felt a feeling of “home” for the first time in a long time. As I travel, I cannot shake the feeling of being far from the place where my heart is.
As much as I would love to be lost in the excitement of seeing new places and having incredible new experiences, my heart is hurting. However, if there is one thing SSU and the community there has taught me, it is to accept my own vulnerability. Now, this looks a lot different when traveling than it does in my home community with people who know me, but I am learning that even on the road, being open in your weakness connects people. I have learned not to hide my hurt and I have noticed something interesting when I do: people respond to vulnerability.
Since beginning our trip, I have had the honor of sharing some special moments with different people: my classmates and pilgrimage partners, the bartender at the cool hipster venue in Malaysia, my home-stay family here in the Philippines. In these quiet moments, when you can be open and vulnerable when sharing about your fears and your heartache, others respond. I have seen beautiful bridges being built between people from different countries, different cultures, and even between those who speak different languages. Everyone understands hurt, everyone’s heart speaks with tears. Walls which separate cultures through customs, manners and ways of life come crashing down when you are vulnerable. Strangers become friends when they share their feelings of loneliness, women become sisters when they are honest about the weight they feel from society’s pressure, a woman becomes a mother when she comforts a girl who is far from home.
At first I was upset with myself as I struggled so much on this trip, feeling like I was cheating myself of a whole experience when visiting another country. Now, I feel more relaxed and comfortable with my struggle. It is my experience, and by sharing my vulnerability with those around me, my experience has become holistic and enriched.