The fun and games are almost over. My year on the road is officially coming to a close.
This year has given me a lot of time to contemplate the kind of life I want to live and I delved into many living situations to find out which best suits me.
I’ve surfed couches, beds, blow-up mattresses and tents. I’ve lived in cities, jungles and just about everywhere in between.
As far as what’s best, no place is “better” than any other. But I think there are certain ways of living that reflect more mainstream America ideals, such as life in the suburbs.
I just came from the land of aloha and my heart and mind is open to tolerating all walks of life, all professions and all sorts of different people. But one thing I can’t stand is the mindless ideal of the “American Dream.”
Talking with my friend Monica from Colombia, an au pair in Virginia, she was kind enough to give me an honest assessment of her time in America, especially in comparison to life in Colombia.
She expressed that many things in America are plastic, both literally and figuratively: that our happiness is fabricated. Our beds are bigger, our portions are bigger, our opportunities endless. Yet, somehow people are still unfulfilled. Why is that?
Is it because are arrogant enough to believe that we are “owed” the creature comforts of Wi-fi, satellite TV, Starbucks lattes made with skim milk (nevermind what farm that milk came from, or even bothering to learn your barista’s name…)? With freedom should come a certain amount of self-education and responsibility.
What do I mean by that?
How many of you know how to farm? I learned the basics, and I mean the bare essentials, of farming only 2 years ago when I started a small vegetable and herb garden in my Philadelphia urban dwelling. I lived in the city, but everyday for breakfast I managed to collect almost all of my ingredients from my garden: chives, peppers, tomatoes, cilantro. I worked in restaurants where everything was supplied from Lancaster County, PA and everything was sourced locally and home made. I became aware of where my dairy and meat came from. I learned to appreciate what it means to grow your own food instead of relying on a grocery store all the time to provide it.
I learned sustainable and organic farming in Hawaii. I helped harvest and collect pineapple, papaya, mint, mamaki, spinach, holy basil, avocado, Hawaiian bird peppers, eggs, bananas, macadamia nuts, and a myriad of other items. I know growing patterns and basic mulching techniques. I know how to weed and supplement my diet off the land. Is there anything more satisfying than a meal made from things plucked off of your own trees? Hardly.
Living this lifestyle helped me appreciate food as precious sustenance rather than a commodity owed to me by grocery stores and nameless/faceless farmers.
Another thing I see on the mainland is mindless consumption.
People complain about how much money they DON’T have, but continuously frequent drive thrus for iced coffees, can’t bear to quit their mani/pedi habits and buy thread after expensive thread at Victoria’s Secret. They run their AC on days when windows would be just fine. They eat out twice or more a week instead of cooking their own food. They spend money getting drunk as sin on weekends in bars where prices are notoriously high. They mindlessly consume television advertisements, sit by idly with eyes glazed watching commercial after commerical about whitening their already impeccable smile (thanks to their expensive health insurance and religious whitening regime). They throw away perfectly recyclable materials. They throw garbage in the streets. They litter.
Is this the American Dream? It sounds like a nightmare.
Are you guilty of these things? I was at one time, only because I didn’t know any better. I spent my money on expensive restaurant meals and cigarettes. I believe I deserved a good job because I was educated, American. I scoffed at bruised produce in the grocery store. I littered. I’m not proud of these things. But travel changed me for the better.
I’m now a conscious consumer. I farm or at least try to grow some of my own things. I NEVER litter and I actively recycle. I turn off the water when washing dishes, using this Earth’s precious resource sparingly and wisely. I sign petitions again developing natural farmlands and protecting our oceans. I volunteered at an eco-hostel for the better part of a year.
I urge everyone to look at their lives and decide, honestly, whether or not they are living the best version of themselves. Take responsibility for your life rather than expecting someone else to do it for you.
Instead of taking advantage of your liberties, earn your liberties. WORK FOR the respect that so many people around the world give Americans. Self-start. Farm. Know what the hell you’re doing and why. Pick up a book, turn off the television and learn to do something you’d ordinarily pay for. There’s enormous satisfaction in self-awareness that money just can’t buy.