Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Life, you beauty

I’m a happy kind of girl. Unless there is something pretty painful that I’m grappling with, cheeriness and optimism are my default state. This past year in New York has been a good one. I’ve made fantastic friends, I’ve gotten to know one of the greatest cities in the world, and I’ve been learning a lot in an intense but rewarding program. School drove me a bit insane at times, of course, but the madness just made all of us closer and I always managed to have fun.

But this past week, I have felt

for the first time in a long time.

I skinny-dipped by moonlight in the Indian Ocean. I danced with abandon till 3am with people I’d known only a few days but already loved to pieces. I wandered around deliciously sandy and salty and just feeling the sun on my face was enough to make me wriggle with joy. I slept in odd places and at odd hours: on couches and buses, under palm trees. I met someone from Durango halfway around the world. I ate a coconut straight from the tree. I spent several nights singing karaoke, strolling the dusky streets of Nairobi, and overlooking the cityscape from the rooftop while soaking up the company of some really special travelers whose paths all overlapped for a stolen few days. And when you meet a like-minded person on the road, the usual boundaries don't apply. Friendships are near instantaneous, deepest wishes are shared, spontaneous travel plans are made together, next week and two years from now, and you totally mean it.

Being here, meeting other people who love to explore… it’s scratched that itch in a big way. It’s funny how single-minded I’ve been about working in East Africa. I said something recently in my post about going back to Tanzania that I’ve been thinking about a lot: how maybe your first adventure is always the one you fall in love with. I love it here. I truly do. But I wonder if I’ve been so set on coming back here and working long-term because my time in Tanzania was the coolest thing I’d ever done and I wanted to recapture that feeling - and now that I'm here, it feels silly to have ever thought this was the only place I could find what I was looking for.

So… I still want to come back and work here. But probably not for a hard news organization like AP, and probably not for as long as I had planned. I was so gung ho about really immersing myself in the culture for a few years, minimum. Now, I could see myself coming back to work on a documentary, freelancing some radio stories, and then... leaving. What a marvelous concept.

Because, the thing is, there are just so many more places out there.

It’s incredibly liberating. I'm looking at the world today and it all seems tinged with the fire of an Australian sunset, I'm gulping the air down like I'm in the highest reaches of the Andes, each gust of wind feels like a road trip with the windows down.

I’m thinking about going to Paris for a fourth semester. Paris! Then maybe I'll work at a winery/hostel in Spain next summer and go to a tomato-throwing festival in Valencia. Then Australia to find a job with a radio station and learn how to surf. Then who knows? Not this girl!

All I know is it could be anything. And that is exhilarating.

The more experiences I have, the more I realize that what I really want out of life is just to live it. I’d still love to work for National Geographic some day, but I don’t want to make that the main focus of my existence. I’d rather build a life than a resume for something that may or may not work out. It’s like the state forcing elementary teachers to teach to standardized tests. Sure, you may have gotten the end result you were hoping for, but what did you miss along the way?

I have skills now that I can take with me wherever I go. I can shoot and edit video, write and produce a radio story, take photos good enough to sell. I may have lost a camera this summer, but I can't wait to find out what sights the future cameras will capture in my hands. I know wherever I go and whatever I do, I’ll do good work, and I’ll wind up somewhere beautiful.


  1. I love hearing about your incredibly fulfilling life, Emily. I hope your adventure never ends:) Love you!!!

  2. "how maybe your first adventure is always the one you fall in love with"

    Finally catching up on your adventures, little mango, and I love this line! I can't wait to visit you in an awesome, awesome place someday :)

  3. A beautiful Tanzania story. My nephew visted Tanzania and my neice is from Tanzania. I will share your adventure on my Facebook page if that is alright with you.