confessions of a free spirit globetrekker
i think i was born like this. well maybe not born. if i think back to how i got this way i can clearly remember life changing events along my journey. i have always been a dreamer.
when i was little i always dreamed of living in africa with the elephants and bushmen and hottentots, a little blonde girl running around with tribesmen in loincloths speaking in click, my only friends the animals and these kind africans, immersed in an exotic world of different, where no one was like me, where i had to figure it out by myself, atypical from a normal prediction for my life, obsessed with the kalahari landscape and wild animals, spending my days carrying water in buckets on my head, whispering taming messages to the lions, sitting on rocks making bows and arrows with my buddies, eating plants, and dancing under the clouds. and then when i was 15 this movie came out that was exactly like i’d dreamed i wanted my life to be, with reese whitherspoon called ‘A Far Off Place.’ It only fueled my interest more. i wanted to go far away, to understand the different.
in college i traveled outside america for the first time. i went to australia to learn about the aborigines. from there i went to bali, indo. from there i went to fiji. i couldnt get enough. i was exploring the world, learning cultures. i wanted to go to the farthest most different places possible. and sleep in huts not hotels, drink kava, pick coconuts. i wanted to be an island girl, a drummer in a native band, respected by the other. by now i had grown dreads with hand blown glass beads from every country i’d visited in the south pacific. i traveled with my backpack and drum, so i was easily relocatable, free at the drop of a hat to move on to a new place of wonder. the thought of possessions and answers made my skin crawl.
naturally the major i graduated college with and later grad school, was cultural anthropology. i was always one of them. i just never knew there was a name for it. when i took a class in college i realized thats what i was, both relieved that my philosophy was actually something with a title, but also disappointed that there were others.
i turned this wanderlust into grad school achievement by intellectualizing my thought process into theories and structured fieldwork, becoming enthralled by such cultural anthropological intellectuals as margaret mead and bronislaw malinowski because they were like me too. reading their work was comfortable and fascinating. i wanted to be them. but in my own way.
i took to the himalayas to frame my research on the tibetan refugees. india and the himalayas is the perfect place for someone like me. i got lost in its grandor, majestic peaks, vibrant culture, ancient philosophy, spirituality. i couldnt go home. so i stayed for 5 years. i adopted yoga and buddhism. i learned to think with my heart, follow my dreams, have faith in this life, and my own powers, and to trust my own path, and not compare it to other who seeme more ‘normal.’ i learned that i didnt want to be normal. i embraced me and lived life the way i wanted to, with a backpack and a tent, at 18,000 ft, with nature, with the tibetan way of peace and harmony and inner happiness. i managed to do research and lead expeditions during this time, and traveled back and forth to the US. but my trips home became fewer as i never wanted to leave this world. when i went home i realized i was so different. i was offended by everything i perceived as racist slang, felt guilty in a 3 bedroom house when my friends didnt even have water to drink. i didnt want a new couch or clothes or trip to the mall. the thought of possessions made me feel cramped, pressured. i was too far gone at that point. the values and concepts of the traveling world that i had discovered had taken over and i could no longer mask it by being a normal american girl. my entire identity had changed. the things i had seen, felt, thought. i was different now. i wanted to explore the world and be a part of real life. i had officially become an enlightened globetrekker.
it was then that i got pregnant with my daughter, now the glorious, soon-to-be 6 year old ray of light angel princess of my life, river cree. in a flash i had to give up my indian life. i chose to stay home in america and raise her through her formative years around family and friends in a normal setting, until i felt the time was right to ‘enlighten’ her as well.
so i named her river not because of river phoenix. although it seems like he was probably pretty cool and would probably have been a soul friend, that is not why. in the himalayas i was always surrounded by majestic surging rivers, beautifully wild and free flowing from the top of the world in tibet, to me symbolizing purity and freedom. clean, clear, sparkling, turquoise, pristine, natural. and whenever i got off track and listened for the water, i would always find my way back. so the river always led me home. i thought that was nice for my daughter. she would be beautifully wild and free. she would be clean and clear and pure and sparkling and natural. she would keep me on track. and would always lead me ‘home.’
i became a single mommy when she was one, after staying home with her for a year, resenting the fact that i had to switch up my life and live a way that wasnt really me. but i loved her to pieces, so i mustered through, creating a new life in america with normal friends and mommy playdates and tried to bury my true self as best i could, doing my damndest to pretend that my 5 years in the himalayas never existed, never changed me. pretending that i fit in, taking my baby for stroller walks in my subdivision, buying cars, furniture, houses, and taking one-week vacations to the paradise that i now live in. i pretended that this life was acceptable to me and blended right in with my old navy clothes and baby carrier. i made a valiant effort to normalize and embrace this time in america with my baby.
when i became a single mommy i had to find a job. i hadnt worked in america in so long i didnt know what to do. i landed a job at my local university in the anthropology department which was perfect timing. while i would prefer to be in the field making a difference and living life, i would suck it up and work in a bricks and mortar academic department to provide for my daughter. so i was thankful for the opportunity and rocked it out as best i could. my schedule filled with playdates and swim team and yoga classes, a big house, live in nanny, wine nights with the girls, all the trappings of a fully functional american working mom, millions of friends, organizations, and date nights out for sushi. i found happiness in the local landscape of my ocean in southeastern north carolina, in times with my baby, and special talks with friends. but my globetrekking heart was rotting away.
4 years into this role i started to get really antsy and claustrophobic within my life. this wonderful life i had created on my own for my baby and i. my house full of beautiful furniture, new car, acing my job. i had it made. but i wasnt happy. i didnt want any of it. i wanted to be me again. so i looked at my baby and gave her a squeeze and said ‘i think you are ready. let’s go.’
and we haven’t been back since.
Click here for all other Enlightened Globetrekker Publications
Follow us on facebook if ya want: The Enlightened Globetrekker
Or twitter (new but still counts right?): @enlightenedgt
Please email with any questions.