I feel… the same. I spent two and a half weeks in the Philippines, in a country and culture completely foreign to me. And yet… I don’t have anything deep inside of me to untangle. I feel the same as I did before I left.
That in itself is a new experience for me. Every other time I’ve traveled, whether it was Brazil with my family in middle and high school or eastern Europe and South Africa in college, I’ve come home filled with new thoughts and convictions.
Is something wrong? Am I missing something? Where are all of those aha moments, self discoveries, and fiery new ideas?
I think part of this is because it wasn’t my first time in a developing country. Yes, it was my first time in Asia, but it wasn’t the first time I witnessed poor living conditions or beggars on the street. It wasn’t the first time I saw the juxtaposition of poverty and wealth living side by side in the same city.
Have I become desensitized? Or is it okay to not have an emotional response to poverty up-close?
Another factor, another difference, was this wasn’t an educational experience. I wasn’t part of a university group. I was on vacation. I learned a lot about the country and the culture, even immersed myself in it in some ways (like riding jeepneys and other public transport with the locals), but I wasn’t reading books or having formal academic discussions about a particular piece of Filipino culture or history.
As I write this, I’m smiling to myself. I’m realizing that I’m trying to create a mess to untangle. I’m not comfortable with the fact that I had a good trip without it being a life changing experience. Now that’s just silly.
It will be four years since graduating from college, come May. (Wait, what!? How is that possible!) I’ve noticed that my life crises and discoveries have slowed down considerably. Life is pretty stable and predictable. When I do learn new things, it doesn’t knock me off my feet in emotional turmoil. I’m feeling pretty level and comfortable with who I am and how I fit in the world.
Maybe that’s why this international experience didn’t rock me. Maybe I’m just past the stage of being overwhelmed by the world. Or, more likely, the kinds of things that will shock and surprise me have changed and I just haven’t encountered them yet.