I have come to embody a very different mentality. Perhaps I presented a version of myself for so long I started to believe in it? Perhaps I was never quite as stuck as I thought I was? Luckily one day, I took a chance to change and I arrived in Brazil. Being here has given me many opportunities, but one of the biggest changes has been having the time and the money to travel. I still find it hard to believe I am really in the places I am visiting. There is a constant sense of unreality about walking down these South American streets. It is like I am in a Disney created ‘Latin America Ride’ except this ride is interspersed with reality checks; instead of animated singing puppets I see a hungry man eating rice and beans off the pavement. I still cannot think of myself as someone who travels. I have a borrowed rucksack, it sits awkwardly in my flat and seems as out of place as the guidebooks, photos and souvenirs on my bookshelf.
Did I move too fast, change too quick? Is half my mind still tucked up on my sofa in Brighton watching TV and dreaming of escape? Travel brings me joy but I`m not sure if it is the chance to look at this beauty, these amazing, wonderful sights and experiences, or is it more simply just the act of being there? I can`t decide if looking at these remarkable things is as important as the feeling of: I managed this, I did this, and I am here. For me travel is rooted in the sense of freedom and confidence it brings and this is as important as the place. I don`t want to be the person who ticks off a list; seen that, tick, been there, tick, tick, tick. I want to relish each opportunity afforded to me. When I think about leaving Sao Paulo and I look from the rooftop pool across the magical city to the view of the mountains in the distance and the sun is shining down and I think I must be crazy to leave all this behind… I have to check myself. At least I had this, at least I was here, at least I got to experience this.
In a few days I travel to Costa Rica, another wonderful opportunity. To see a friend I met in Bolivia, who lived in Australia and now I am meeting her in Central America. If this seems normal to you, I assure you it is not to me. Look at the map in the picture at the start of this post, not so long ago I wouldn`t travel from Hove to Brighton. A good friend moved to London for two years and I visited her once. The journey from London to Brighton is a 40 minute train journey. The distance and time is shorter than the average Paulista´s journey to work. And yet it seemed too far to me. My horizons were small and they have been expanded beyond my wildest dreams.
And in my school and my classroom, a plethora of languages and experiences. I spent a lesson yesterday exploring and sharing Google maps with four students. They shared with me their worlds in Japan, Belgium, Argentina and Brazil. I got to show then Brighton too, our worlds bought closer and connected by these comparisons.
I struggle to explain how privileged I feel to have the opportunities I suddenly have. I struggle to express the changes that have occurred in my life and in me. I find it difficult to express my gratitude for and pride in, this achievement. I know I am rewarded by the things I get to do, I know I will take pleasure in every moment. I advocate change to others; I tell them how it helped me. I encourage my students to appreciate the experiences they have, to relish the interactions, to share and celebrate languages, cultures, similarities and differences.
As the memories of the sights and smells fade, I think something else will remain with me; a connection with people. The knowledge that my horizons can be so much wider than I thought, that you can communicate and connect with people and make a home in a different place. ‘We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.’ Anais Nin.