As the title of my blog suggests, I am bit of a traveler. But, this trip feels different. I’ve been fairly stationary over the past few years as I have been focusing on activism, sustainability and building community. I have been learning to garden, looking for jobs in the non-profit sector and hoping to build a life for myself in Portland that is meaningful and makes a positive impact in the world. Unfortunately, just as the “American Dream” has come to a screeching halt in the last few years, so has my “Personal Dream”. The dream in which I got a Master’s Degree in Sustainability Education, and environmental non-profits lined up to hire me to help build their growing organizations. A dream that once hired, I would take my small, but adequate salary and have enough money to buy a house in which I could organize community garden projects and neighborhood potlucks. On the weekends I would go camping, take up new hobbies and enjoy reading a nice book while curled up next to my romantic counterpart. It didn’t seem like I was asking for much, but I did know I wanted it more than anything.
Now, I’m not sure whether this dream was always a pipe dream and it was only my personal lack of foresight that did me in, or if things really changed while I had my head in a book during 8 long years in higher education. But ultimately my dream did not materialize and as far as I can tell, many people are in the same boat.
But, my breaking point was this spring, while working a job I was qualified for with a high school diploma and didn’t pay enough to meet my meager standard of living. The job was also uninspiring and extremely boring. I was tired of being bored, I was tired of looking for jobs in my field and competing against hundreds and thousands of other applicants, I was tired of being poor and going deeper and deeper into debt with no hope on the horizon for a better future. I was just tired.
So I quit. I quit my job and I quit pining after something that doesn’t seem to exist. I quit feeling inadequate about myself and my abilities. I quit thinking this dream was what I wanted. I decided I never wanted the dream in the first place, it was a misguided dream and really I wanted something else.
So, I dove into being an activist with Occupy Portland and began to spend almost all my time working with our developing alternative media coalition and documenting the movement through photography. And I loved it. I loved the community and the energy of people coming together to try to make change. I loved challenging the system that had promised me a much different life than the one I had. I loved being involved in my community and I loved being a photographer. During this time I realized that photography was my passion and I wanted nothing more than to do it all the time.
But, after a while something still didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like what I was doing was really filling the void in my heart for finding a new dream to replace the one I gave up. Something was still missing.
And what I’m learning is that it’s hard to give up a dream and find a new one. Dreams take time to develop, to nurture and to plan for. So, for the past few months I have been living in a vacuum looking for another dream. Working to discover my passions and creative motivations while also figuring out how to turn those things into a sustainable way of making a living. I’ve also been mentally burdened with my desire to help create a better world and unsure how to follow my artistic dreams while also stopping the rampant destruction of the environment and the exploitation of human beings for profit and power across the globe. How can I become a travel photographer while still ensuring that single use plastics are discontinued? How can I spend my time writing, when people in my own city are without a home or adequate food? How can I sit with friends and drink a glass of wine while our biosphere is in rapid decline?
Which brings me to Korea. I leave in just a few days for a trip of pleasure and adventure. In contrast to the stress of being an activist over the past few months, I am taking a break to re-charge and see if I can again fall in love with a dream. I of course want to find a way to be both an activist and live a passionate, happy, centered, and meaningful existence, but until then I may need to take breaks from each world to spend time in the other. My passion for activism is eternal, but creates a stress in my life that is all consuming (and doesn’t provide me with a source of income), while my passion for artistic creativity (that does provide me with income) is at the core of my being, but leaves me feeling like I’m not doing enough to help the world.
Even this trip I am about to undertake makes me feel uncomfortable. Traveling for me is both at the core of an adventurous life and represents so much of what I see wrong in the world. I will be taking an airplane across the globe, which emits huge amounts of greenhouse gasses, I will be eating food in which I don’t know how it was grown and raised, I will be impacting local communities through the influx of foreign dollars and western cultural imperialism, and I will be contributing to the idea that it is OK to move goods, services and people across the globe rapidly and with little effort.
But, on the flip-side, I will be growing as a person and engaging in cross-cultural understanding. My world view that I use to better understand and find solutions to big problems will expand. And I will be feeding my soul and overall creative well being. I will be following one of the dreams that is at the center of my being, which is to see and experience as much of this world as possible and share those experience with others I meet.
So, in a grand effort to try to re-engage myself in the world and find balance between me as an activist and me as an artist and traveler, I will spend the month of April in a new place, away from all that I know and love and hopefully come out of it with at least the beginning inclinations of a new life’s dream. Ideally a dream that will seamlessly bring together my many passions and be both personally fulfilling and help to create a more beautiful, just and livable world for all.
Please check back over the next month to see photos from Korea and learn about what I am experiencing while there.