Let’s Get Out of Here!

Guess what? I’m antsy. And I blame it all on a film.

Every month I get to watch a film that won’t actually be at the Midtown Cinema for another month: an early screener for the review I write for TheBurg. This month it was TIMBUKTU, a West African film centering around the Jihadist control of a community in Mali (calm down, kiddos, you’ll get to see the review in the March edition).

The fact that the screener I watched this month was an Oscar nomination for the foreign language category was not lost on me. In fact, I will shamelessly say that it was intentional. I really wanted to see this particular film before the Academy Awards — it’s really hard to get a hold of the foreign language films that don’t have particularly wide releases, so yes. I was a bit biased in my choice.

But regardless of bias, this film is awesome. And, as a fun little bonus, it kept prodding my brain to reminisce about the four months I spent in Uganda back in college. Okay, yes — Uganda, Mali, different places, I know… but the culture and the attitudes of the people were very similar, with some slight Mali-influenced nuances. At any rate, it made me wish I could go back to Uganda and soak in that culture again. Or any culture, for that matter… it doesn’t take much to trigger the wanderlust.

It’s so easy to see why I’m so enamored with storytelling: it gives you a glimpse into someone else’s world. TIMBUKTU is not the first film to have made me antsy. I mean, think about it: watching a movie or reading a book is a really cheap way to transport yourself into another culture or mindset, and meet interesting new people. And writing is the same idea — with The Fields, I literally got to create a culture (or, probably more accurately, mix a few cultures together). It was challenging, and so much fun. But it’s not nearly the same as seeing it in real life.

A pretty succinct image of my time in Uganda: my host sister, Resty, doing laundry next to the family’s fancy-schmancy water tower, with dinner cooking in the background.

If it were at all possible, I would be halfway across the world right now. Not that I despise the place I live in — on the contrary, as I stated in my last post, I love Harrisburg. But… don’t you ever get the urge to peek around the corner and see your neighbors? Or even better, take a day trip and see what life is like in another state or two? Or even better, hop a flight to another country and see how people live their life there? I love people watching, and I love taking note of different people and their customs: what makes them tick, what fuels their decisions, what keeps them going after they have a crappy day, etc. That is what I find my pleasure in — that’s what causes me to get antsy every few months or so. Curiosity. I want to discover how the popular vernacular came to be; I want to eat a whole bunch of food I’ve never tried before. I want to break out of my comfort zone.

About two years ago, I decided to put aside as much of each leftover paycheck as I can muster towards saving towards travel, to try to go to at least one new place every year. Last year, I had finally saved up enough to go to the UK for three weeks. It was a whirlwind — three weeks is not enough time to fully experience a culture, no matter how much you believe it will be, but what  I did get to experience was amazing. It started off rocky, as I was traveling solo for the first time. Traveling alone is something you have to adjust to… it can be a lot of fun, but the first few days are going to be tough. For some, it’s initially scary; for me, it wasn’t that… it was just incredibly lonely. It didn’t help that the trip started off in London, which can be a pretty intimidating place for someone who doesn’t have a friend to help them out. But once I’d gotten comfortable with the idea that I was going to have to either get used to being by myself or put myself out there more, things took a turn for the better. I meandered my way over to Cardiff, then up through Liverpool, and then finished my trip in glorious Scotland, where part of my heritage lies. By the time I had finished my trip, I was elated. I had met so many cool and interesting people, tried as much British cuisine as I could afford, and seen some pretty fantastic sights.

Feeling proud of myself for finding the Boyne Castle ruins (Scotland).

One of the many reasons I chose the UK as my first solo traveling trip was that the culture wasn’t the complete opposite of my own. I could still speak the language, so if I got lost, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world… and it wouldn’t be so much of a culture shock that I would do something incredibly stupid upon arrival. But now I’m ready for another adventure, and I’m actually quite eager to try something completely different. I want to be stretched — hell, I’d even be okay with doing something incredibly stupid, as long as I’m able to laugh about it later.

I’m already saving up for a trip to Romania — my sister, Becky, is moving there next week to work for Wycliffe, and I want to visit her — but there are so many other places that I’d love to go. I’d love to go to Southeast Asia, and hop from place to place. I’d love to go back to Uganda and visit my host family, or go to Brazil, or Russia, or Ethiopia, or Iceland, or — okay, who am I fooling? I’d like to see every country before I die. That’s a lot of like to, but hey, everyone’s gotta have dreams, right?

I’ve wondered if my need to get up and move around the world every so often is just a sign of restless behavior, and a stubborn refusal to lay down roots. But every time that conversation comes up, I always decide that there’s got to be more to it than that. What I think it truly boils down to is that I am not willing to accept that the world is a narrow place. I know there’s more out there that I haven’t seen, and don’t understand, and I won’t rest until I’ve at least tried to see and understand it.

I probably sound an awful lot like a cheesy commercial for a travel agency, so I’ll wrap this post up. But, for those of you who have yet to travel past the border of your own country, here’s one last note: you’re still breathing, right? You’ve still got time. Start saving whatever you can to get out of here and go visit your neighbors.

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