For most, the word conjures up visions of passports, airplanes, and exotic destinations. But my associations with travel are also ones of growth, humility, love, and endless revelations of the power of hope in the world.
As someone who feels most at peace living out of a suitcase in a foreign country, my greatest encounters with this power have occurred in various corners of the globe. I learned strength through the eyes of my Bedouin friend in the ruins of Petra, Jordan as she recounted her hard life as a nomad and the courage it took to divorce her abusive husband (an act unheard of in many Muslim cultures). I was introduced to true joy by the infectious laughter of Kenyan school children in the Maasai Mara, as they sang out local nursery songs. I identified redemption and healing in the eyes of a seven-year-old Cambodian sex trafficking survivor as she showed me a new handclapping game. Even as an intern with TWLOHA this summer, I bonded with a concertgoer at a festival tent as we discovered we shared the same Fears vs. Dreams.
These moments and people—these blessings—have all played a part in my story, as I hope I did in theirs. They’ve taught me that regardless of circumstances, past experiences, or cultures, everyone has the power to relate to one another. It is the foundation of humanity, a common thread woven between our hearts, that we uncover when we feel another’s pain and joy. An impression is left in our lives, and each participant finds courage to walk on and act as a vessel, carrying the other’s stories with us.
This foundation fosters understanding and enables hope. Whether you are able to travel to distant parts of the world or just around the corner from your home, community is created and thrives within even the smallest of exchanges. There is truth to the cliché sentiment that “we are all connected”—I believe and can testify to that.
Now is the time to count our similarities as greater than our differences; our shared purposes outweigh our varied pasts. The opportunities for connection between people are endless and only need to be seen and taken advantage of. As you read these words, I hope you feel inspired to take the leap—open whatever metaphorical door in your life has yet to be unlocked and allow others in. You might be surprised by how much you already recognize in one another.
“My life story is the story of everyone I’ve ever met.” —Jonathan Safran Foer
—Rachel, Summer 2013 Intern