It happened the moment we arrived in Spain: my love affair with unfamiliarity. Wandering the vibrant streets of Cadiz, I was pleasantly still, calmly examining life around me. I noticed everything from the crooked red shutter on the cafe window to the quick-tempered tapping of the flamenco dancer inside. Without any effort, Spain taught me the beauty of observation. Stars filled the Sahara Dessert of Morocco as I found myself onboard a camel named Booboo. Trekking through the desert night with my head propped permanently upright, I wished on every star that shot through the sky. I am a dreamer. Simplicity found me in Ghana. I lived in the Torgorme Village with people who had nothing, yet found undemanding pleasure in singing, playing tag, and merely laughing. I ran through the village as children chased after me, fighting over who could hold my hand. “Stuff” meant nothing. Simplicity was everything. “5-4-3-2-1-BUNGY!” plays through my head like a never-ending cassette tape when I think of South Africa. Standing at the ledge of a 216-meter bridge, I had no choice but to jump. So with a strong attempt at a graceful swan dive, I dove. However, reality was quick to sink in and my graceful dive soon turned into an uncoordinated flop, as my arms flung about chaotically. But nothing compares to the feeling of free falling to your death and then springing back up to life. The next day I went cage diving with great white sharks. I am a risk taker.
They say if you love India, it will love you back. But if you hate India, it will hate you back twice as hard. Well after five minutes, I was in love. In love with the people, the culture, the peculiar stench, the cows. And as my bright blond hair and generous fingertips stood on the street corner of Varanasi handing out free pens, I was alive.Completely driven by the fact that the gift of a simple writing utensil was bringing smiles to people’s faces. I am passionate. Tears filled my eyes as I cringed my way through the Viet Nam War Museum. Climbing through the Chu Chi tunnels, I was appalled by the inhumanity of war. I now represent world peace. Strolling around Beijing, numerous Chinese approached me with casual conversation, yearning to practice their English. One local even took me to lunch where we gossiped over Dim Sum and green tea. I am globally connected.
It is seven a.m. in Japan, and I wake up in a tiny apartment in Kyoto, to my home-stay family clinking about in the kitchen. I stumble out of my bedroom and wander in to see the most surprising sight of all. A mother making her children sack lunches while the young kids scramble to finish procrastinated homework. The sight looks oddly familiar as I think back to my childhood mornings. My eyes are then caught by the young boy sitting on the floor next to the kitchen heater. With his legs tucked into his oversized t-shirt, he is perched in the exact position I used to find myself every elementary school morning. It was at this moment I realized we are all the same. Just parallel creatures stumbling around a diverse planet. And I never realized how beautiful the world was until my Semester at Sea was over, and I was back in Tennessee, resting my head on my old and familiar pillow. Where do I go now? I think to myself every night before I go to bed. Paris, perhaps?