Sunday, February 4, 2018

What is home? Is travel ethical or unethical?

What is home? Is travel ethical or unethical? These are the two questions I am asking myself the most. 

I have spent the last four plus months traveling around Asian and African countries. I reunited with over 22 different people in these locations, having first met all of them outside of the United States. Each place I stayed, from hostels to host families to friends houses became a piece of comfort at varying levels. Space to call my own, for a night, a week or a month. 

Massachusetts is home. Ghana is home. Thailand is home. Kenya is home. 

The other countries I traveled to, whether for the 1st time or having visited before, were not home - but adventure and experience. Grateful for the experience, but ever pondering my place as a traveler, role as a tourist, ethics of travel and my own whiteness and privilege (especially as it relates to travel) I found myself questioning the entire trip - while also deeply enjoying it. What does it mean that I am able to travel? How can I be an ethical traveler? Is travel ethical? What can I learn? How can I use what I have learned to empower others? Can I empower others? I have many questions and they never stop. 

Home, as I’ve decided for myself, is wherever my heart is, wherever I’ve spent significant time and developed relationships. Yet, I will always understand and feel more comfortable in Massachusetts. Even if I do not want that to be the case. 

I am writing this from a mentors home in South Florida. Betwixt and between a home I know and don’t know I am reflecting on these four months. What I’ve learned, where I’ve been, where I want to go next. Concord and Somerville feel far away, but being in the United States feels familiar and strange all at once. 

Grocery stores and malls loom, and I have not been brave enough to enter one yet. The consumer culture overwhelming, but being observed as the foreigner that I was is no longer my daily experience.   I could be from here. I fit in here. 

Yet, Ghana feels like home. More so than Thailand or Kenya. It was the first country I experienced outside of the USA. For nearly 6 months, at 18 years old, Ghana became the only other home I knew. It will never be completely comfortable, but I have a deep connection to the Labadi town. The music on the streets, bright colors, spicy food, friendships I’ve built, and the general low-key nature of a culture not so focused on individualism and achievement: I love it all.  Ghana was where I learned I could be myself, be accepted and grow. It is where I spent every summer of my college years.

Right after graduation, in 2013, I told my best friend in Ghana, Joeshmail Sowah that I would return to Ghana for her wedding. We were both 22 then, she had been with her boyfriend Fred since she was 16. I planned this trip to be in Ghana for her wedding to Fred. Absolutely beautiful and magical, being a bridesmaid for their wedding is my most treasured memory from this trip. 

Laughter: was the theme of my 5 weeks in Ghana. Reconnecting with Joeshmail and Fred, and at least a dozen other friends, neighbors and old students. Laughter and dancing. I learn so much from my friendships with people experiencing a different lifestyle and feel grateful for the love and lessons they bring to me. What a gift to maintain these long-distance friendships on such a deep emotional level. Time is an interesting thing. There are the friendships that time transcends, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been the connection stays strong. Those friendships that withstand the test of time are the most special to me. 

My community in Ghana is large and varied. From students I’ve known since they were four years old, who used to climb onto my lap and now are nearly as tall as me, to teachers I’ve shared lessons and meals with, to neighbors near my house, to my closest friends who I stay in close contact with while in the US - there were dozens of people to greet, dance with, and enjoy meals with during my five week visit.

And so because of all this Ghana is home: because it is where my heart is. Familiar winding roads, old shops, favorite spots and a home with an adopted brother and sister that always welcome me in with open arms. Grateful and lucky. It is a home where I will still always question my role there and whether or not I should be there, questioning my position of privilege and impact, but it is a home all the same. I always gain so much more than I am ever able to give. 

I will be in a new home in Florida for the next few weeks while I apply for jobs and spend time with my goddaughter and best friend (her mother). Soon, back to Somerville where I will redefine home for myself. Reconnecting with friends and creating community again. 

I look forward to seeing lots of you again and telling you more stories about the adventures, and of course hearing how you are too. 

With love & gratitude,

Wedding photo shoot 

Formal engagement photo shoot
My neighborhood in Ghana
Aburi Gardens
Makola Market

First Dance

Stunning bridesmaids dresses :) 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Acquiesce to Discomfort

Travel, although glamorous on social media, entails many days and nights of less than sexy scenery, poor hygiene, and general discomfort. Learning to unlearn what I knew about my ‘needs’ became second nature as I learned to adjust to the different cultures and amenities (or lack thereof) I was faced with. 

Acquiesce to discomfort, I would often remind myself. 

From less than ideal “bathrooms” to all sorts of transportation methods that try your patience: you get used to it. You’re sweating profusely with your legs sticking to the seat, or you’re shivering and trying desperately to get warm, or your crammed into seats while your arms stick to the person next to you... Travel discomfort (for me) occurs mostly in the physical aspect of transporting. Whether it is the 12-hour open-window bus through the hot belly of Southern India or the 5-hours of bumper to bumper traffic with no breeze in Sri Lanka or the 16-hour overnight buses with frigid air conditioning and loud snoring - one simply must acquiesce and let it go. Put on a smile (and some headphones) and let the time pass and ignore the physical discomfort. 

When you lean into it, you can even have fun. While back in India, after a travel snafu of a wrongly booked ticket (through an agent) we ended up 4 hours outside of where we needed to be - after a 10 hour overnight train. It was 6:30am and we needed to make our way then to the local bus station to reach our final destination. Sleepy-eyed and underslept we found our way. Sitting down with our heavy bags, we played Rummy, ate bananas and waited. The bus was hot and uncomfortable and took 5.5 hours.  There were rarely any foreigners on this local route and we were the only ones who rode it from Hubbli all the way to Hospette. Because of this, we saw lots of groups on their commute to school and work. School children were fascinated, waving, laughing, and asking us questions. Elders smiled and teenagers asked where we were going. What had begun as a bummer for missing part of a day turned into a fun experience, as well as seeing a part of India we never would have seen otherwise. 

For the last week of Sri Lanka, in early December,  after bouncing around for many weeks all over Asia, staying no where for more than a few nights, we decided to settle in Mirissa Beach for a week to soak up some rays and enjoy the beautiful beaches. Having not succumbed to the insane-ness of tourist beaches elsewhere, we were left alone on Mirissa beach. There were few people in the water and no one trying to sell us anything while we lounged. Far less crowded than any beach I’d been to, and absolutely gorgeous. 

For a day trip off the sand, we decided to take a local bus to find a nearby tea plantation. The bus stopped for approximately 30 seconds, and as I was stepping onto the first step the bus took off. Going nearly 70 mph on small streets, Anna and I struggled to stay standing as we held onto the poles above us and braced ourselves for the impact of bumps and halts. Terrifying, and exhilarating, we eventually got seats when the bus emptied out and could feel our heart rate slow down again. 

My final trek from Sri Lanka back to Ghana took a total of 52 hours. It was a true test of my own travel advice to others in acquiescing to the discomfort and exhaustion of the travel time. Arriving in Ghana, my dear friend, and the groom in the wedding, was standing there on the asphalt in his airport security vest. It was a warm welcome home indeed as he skirted me through security and immigration quickly and back into my first alternative home of Accra. 

My next blog will explore my five weeks in Ghana, in my 7th trip there and return to what will always be another home to me. Blogging has taken a backseat as I explore other avenues of cathartic writing. 

1. Hampi, India (where we ended up after the travel snafu)

2. Anna and I, atop Sigiriya Rock in Northern Sri Lanka
3. A Day trip to Galle, exploring the old forts and walled in city (Sri Lanka)

4. Another climb photo from Sigiriya Rock, beautiful views of the vistas 

Until next time,

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Community, Forgiveness, and Summits

Community (Thailand)

When I travel, the heightened sensations, new experiences and adventure are there - but the depth of cultivated community is not. It takes time to nurture community, a luxury most do not usually have when traveling. Though I have a long length of this trip, I have been bouncing around, never somewhere for more than four nights in a new place - this makes it difficult to be a part of a community.

Returning to Thailand was different. After a month in Vietnam with my share of adventure and travel fatigue, stepping off the plane into Bangkok: familiar smells, sounds and language — I felt I was home. I breathed a sigh of relief. 

When we made it to Chiang Mai, my old stomping ground, we (Anna, Alicia and I) spent the majority of our time in Chiang Mai with my community. Kru Toi, my host teacher, welcomed us into her home our first night there and managed to get us tickets to the infamous lantern festival for Loy Krathong at Maejo University.

As always, pictures do no justice to the feeling of magic as hundreds of lanterns light up the sky in the same moment.  The idea behind the holiday is to let go of the bad of the year, and get ready for new and better things. It was perfectly timed as I adjusted to an end to solo travel and travel with friends; with a tough few months behind me and a whole future ahead of me. 

The next portion of my community in Thailand is two young women, Bouquet and Paranee. They were both student teachers alongside me when I taught in Sansai. These two have my heart, and are the main reason I continue to return to Chiang Mai over and over again (although, the food, Kru Patchy & Kru Toi are close seconds). It was an honor to be able to introduce them to Anna and Alicia, who for years had seen pictures and heard stories. We adventured to some of my favorite places, climbing up limestone waterfalls, dancing the night away and walking around Chiang Mai University. (And of course, I took everyone to Pai for a few days, my favorite little town in the world - mostly because I love the feeling of riding the motorbike). 

I was struck by how easy it was for me to reconnect with Bouquet, Paranee, and Kru Patchy and Kru Toi as well. I have built lasting friendships all over the world, each of varying degrees. We do not talk often throughout the years we are apart, but when we reconnect it as though no time has passed. Being back in Thailand for ten days was a brief, but helpful reminder that home is wherever my relationships are. Though I have no idea when I’ll be back to Thailand, I know that I will connect to my community again when I am there, and hope to someday host them as kindly and open-heartedly as they’ve hosted me for the past four years. 

Though I am in no rush to return to Massachusetts, I know that I have also built an incredible community there that I look forward to nurturing and growing when I return. —And Thailand will always remain another home for me. It was a great trip back. 

Paranee & Jessye @ Chiang Mai University — and the whole gang before our overnight bus

Summits - Real and Imagined (India)
Though my previous experience in Southern India was wrought with illness and a fair amount of harassment, I decided to give India another chance - and I’m very glad that I did. This part of the trip was organized by Anna and Alicia, as they had been wanting to come here for quite some time. We ended up first in the Northern mountains of Dharmsala, toward the bottom of the Himalayan mountains. After one too many overnight busses for my taste, we arrived to the small village of Bhagsu within Dharmsala. 

We arrived at 6am and the sun was no where close to rising. Our taxi dropped us off at the bottom of a hill and gestured in the direction of the dark hill and said he thought our hostel was somewhere up there. Nervous, exhausted and in good spirits, with a phone flashlight in hand the three of us began the trek up the steep incline. We knew the name of the hostel, but beyond that did not have much information. After a few fearful stops due to terrifying street dogs, followed by a few wrong steps, and following a herd of donkeys to protect us from the dogs, we eventually found the hostel. No one was around and a sign told us to sit on the rooftop until reception arrived later in the morning. 

The next day, with a paper map not drawn to scale, we headed out to explore some treks on our own. I had previously done some trekking in Vietnam in the mountains and rice paddies of Sapa, and the three of us had done a tough hike up to Doi Suthep temple in Chiang Mai, but nothing had prepared me for the Himalayan hikes we did over the past few days. 

The views took my breath away, as did the altitude.

We climbed up stairs, past rivers, through small towns, and on paths that weren’t really paths but somehow got us close to where we needed to be. The views were mesmerizing and I wish I could transfer what I have seen into photos.  My legs ached and I had to take many breaks, but I did not give up. Never in my life did I imagine I would be able to do this. 13 miles of a variety of terrains later, we took a death-defying taxi ride back to our Bhagsu village and devoured a proper Indian meal. 

The next major hike we did was up to a specific summit, Triund, where we had planned on camping out overnight, but the frigid wind and cold temperatures had us decide to brave the steep decline back to our village that same day instead. 

Hiking up to Triund was one of the most intense physical challenges (if not the most) I’ve ever put myself through. There was a mix of anger at myself, for how difficult it was, as well as pride when I eventually reached the summit after five miles of steep incline and mostly stairs the entire way. At the top, the snow capped mountains and clouds surrounded me and I let myself cry. Tears, for pride of making it to the top even when I thought my legs would not keep going, and sadness for how little I had believed in my ability to ever reach such summits. But, I did it. I look forward to continual summits in my future, real and imagined. Now, I know that I can, there is no turning back. 

New Group, New Place:
After Dharmsala, we went to Kasol, further into the Himalayan mountains. The cold there made Dharmsala seem like a cool fall day in comparison to winters. We hiked alongside snow mountains and even hiked in a little snow ourselves. Looking out your window, walking down the street or hiking, the views were absolutely breathtaking and I continued to challenge myself to new summits. Without heat in most places, it was a constant struggle to find somewhere warm to sit, and we took many trips to the local sulfur hot baths to warm up. 

One of the mornings in Bhagsu, Anna and I trekked to an early morning meditation class in the village of Dharmkot. I was prepared for an hour of silence in which I would try to harness the power to control a stream of my thoughts, or at the very least try to just focus on my breathing. 

We sat in a room full of mostly foreigners, with some Indian locals, on cushions. Silence was the law once stepping onto the grounds. After awhile in silence, a women came to the front to guide the meditation. She explained that today’s meditation would be themed, and she would guide us through. 

The topic of today’s meditation was “forgiveness”

More tears. Not entirely sadness, but a deep gratefulness for the opportunity to be here and to focus on a topic that was so poignant to what I was internally working on. Forgiveness of myself, and forgiveness of those who have hurt me as well. 

As we were guided through a powerful meditation on forgiveness - of ourselves and others - I found myself letting go of anger, and checking in with myself in a deeper way than journaling or self-meditative thought usually gives me. Forgive yourself, she said, as you have suffered enough already. 

That same day, we visited the temple of the Dalai Lama, where he was exiled to out of Tibet. Though he is currently traveling around, Dharmsala is his home and it was fascinating to enter the temple where he worships and is home. The Dalai Lama’s words around opening our hearts to forgiveness and using compassion echoed throughout my head over the next few days. 

May we all reduce suffering by practicing radical forgiveness. 


I hope that everyone who celebrates had a lovely Thanksgiving. I missed my family dearly and wished to be home, but did have a veggie pizza and some Oreos, while sitting by a heater up in the Himalayas so...I celebrated. 

Yesterday, Anna and I said goodbye to Alicia (who headed stateside) and flew to Bangalore, where I am currently writing this blog. Tonight we take an overnight train to Hampi - then back to Bangalore to fly to a new country on the 30th! Sri Lanka! :-) 

Thank you for reading, thankful for all of you - near and far! 


Bouquet & Jessye - silly as always 

Dharmsala hikes

Kasol - Tosh point

Climbing around Kasol
Top of Triund

Being grateful for every moment of this journey - even when I want to give up. Thank you for reading. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

A glimpse of Vietnam: another young (yht & privileged) woman travel blogs

Many travel blogs focus on what the person did: Where they went, what they saw, and tips and tricks.  I have not been in Vietnam long enough to tell you what the country is like, or how the people are - and without speaking Vietnamese, I really have no way of knowing. My experiences have all been positive with the Vietnamese people I’ve met. The places I’ve seen so far have been beautiful, bustling, and confusing. Similar to Thailand, the locals who work in tourist zones speak some English and the Vietnamese people I’d really like to talk to, don’t speak much (or any) English. The cities are similar to cities back home, but with a more rustic feel and more pop-up shops. 

Some memorable experiences have been with Vietnamese university students who’ve stopped me on the street to ask me questions and practice their English (often recording it to show their teachers). Their most common questions are “Have you tried Vietnamese food?” and “How do you like Vietnam?”  They are a bit flustered when I ask them questions back in response. One evening I spent over an hour sitting on the pavement in a circle, with a group of 10 students who asked me to practice English. They took turns referring to their print out sheets of paper and asking me questions, sometimes answering mine. 

Getting lost, taking risks, frightening and/or frustrating experiences that turn into great stories later on - these are the things I think of when I am reflecting on these past few weeks in Vietnam. Many times when I’ve been lost, without data on my phone, I’ve pointed aimlessly at my phone maps in the hopes someone will point me in the right direction. It takes several people before someone even understands what I’m asking (and then I feel guilty for not speaking Vietnamese). Some days I set out purposely to get lost, believing I’ll find my way back. 

Pictures do no justice to the breathtakingly beautiful landscapes I’ve seen, (Sapa, Halong Bay, Cat Ba Island) nor do they capture the adrenaline rush  of crossing insanely busy streets with motorbikes and cars that don’t stop for you, but move around you in some sort of traffic dance.  


I have spent most of my time here in Vietnam walking the streets, from busy cities like Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) & Hanoi to the smaller (more scenic?) places like Cat Ba Island and Sapa. I have written every single day. I challenged myself to hikes I did not think I could do, only to succeed. I swam on monkey island and watched cautiously from the blue waters as the monkeys appeared to be planning an attack on our stuff ashore. Halong Bay, one of the natural wonders of the world, was simply inexplicable. My favorite experience there was kayaking in the bay with towering rock islands above me and blue green water below. There is something about realizing how small you are in comparison to great world wonders, that somehow makes me feel full. 

Mama Mao’s Homestay in the Hâu Tháo Village
By far my most memorable experience was a three day trek into a Hmong village in the mountains of Sapa in Northern Vietnam.

As I stumbled off the overnight bus at 6am, Mama Mao greeted me and asked if I had already booked a tour. Having done some research, I had discovered that booking through a hostel meant they paid the local people minimally. The best way to do a home stay was to meet someone like Mama Mao when you got off the bus. 

Mama Mao showed me the trail we would go on to her village, to waterfalls and rice paddies. We agreed to meet the next morning at 9am so that I could have a day to explore Sapa’s little town. 

Mama Mao picked me up the next day as agreed and with my small day pack, we headed out. The first day was mostly uphill, muddy and slippery. At one point the downhill parts were so steep and slippery that Mama Mao and Mama Mae were both holding my hands preventing what they told me was “death time” if I were to slip down the steep hills with drop offs on either side. They also requested we take a selfie together. (#globalization?)

                                          (Mama Mae on the left, Mama Mao on the right) 

Mama Mae appeared out of nowhere when I was about to fall, gripping my hand and guiding me through rocky, muddy downhill paths. Though I later found out that really she just wanted me to buy something from her, (and after saving my life on the nearly vertical hills I obliged). She followed us for a few hours of the trek back to Mama Mao’s home. Though foggy and the rice had been recently cut, the views were still beautiful and I know it is a place I will to come back to. 

Mama Mao is 30 years old. She has 4 children and married her husband when she was 15 years old, having her first child at 17. Her husband doesn’t work, and their families income is dependent on her doing these tours.  She was kind and patient as I stopped to take pictures or catch my breath. We hiked many miles that first day and then arrived back at her home. I could only see two or three other houses nearby. 

Her home was two large adjoining rooms with cement floors and walls. There were several beds with mosquito nets, a room with a plastic table and then the kitchen - which had a small cement cut out in the ground where a fireplace was that cooked the rice, spring rolls and tea. There was a small hot plate in the corner where the rest of the cooking was done. 

With the trekking over, as the only person joining her that night, I read and wrote. I played tag with her four year old son and helped shuck corn to feed the pigs. The next day we trekked again from 11am to 5pm. The day after that, from noon until 4pm. My legs ached but I valued the solo meditative walking time to be in my own head. 

In the evenings we would sit around the fireplace and her family would all speak Hmong while pausing to tell me to eat more, eat more - in between lively conversations. 

I loved seeing the way Mama Mao and her family lived, and I was welcomed into her home as she does to everyone she brings there. New foods, such as fried maggots, also added to my interesting experience. A homestay is a must do!  


When I’ve tried to start this blog entry several times, this is the sentiment I keep coming back to.

Grateful for the privilege to be able to travel to Vietnam. The United States passport privilege, English speaking privilege, can quit my job and spend my savings privilege, sublet my room privilege — Privilege coats my experience in daily life back in the states too, but here it’s a different awareness.  As I navigate a relatively homogenous country with rich history and a new culture, I am aware of my otherness and the privilege I have to be here - when many of the Vietnamese people I meet have never left their cities, towns or villages. 

I am grateful for my two feet and able-bodied self.
These feet have traversed the globe. Walking up mountains I didn’t think I could summit, but listening to me when I say “I am going to try this.” These feet of mine help me see new sights. They help me take in breathtaking beauty in nature and bustling cities. From the rolling hills and rice paddies of Sapa to Halong Bay, one of the natural wonders of the world.

I am grateful for the kind, warm hearted Vietnamese people I have met who have brightened my days.  Grateful for the delicious Vietnamese street food that fills my belly after easy days and tough ones alike. Grateful for the few fellow travellers who’ve made lonely evenings more fun. 

I am grateful for this experience. Though I want to say it is “once in a lifetime” - the more I travel, the more I know this is going to be something I do for my entire life. As long as I can, I never want to stop exploring. 

Solo Travel: Lonely & Empowering 
Most of the experiences I’ve had thus far, from trekking for many miles in the mountains of Sapa, to walking around West Lake, to swimming on Monkey Island, to just daily adventures around the cities, museum trips — etc - I have been solo. Solo travel to this extent is new to me. 

Though I spent a year alone in Thailand, and many evenings in solitude, I had my Fulbright and Sansai community and a home to come back to - and I could speak a bit of the language - and I had purpose and a job to do. 

Now, each day is up to me. It is a daunting task sometimes to figure out what it is I want to do, how I want to do it, for how long. Free of responsibilities and lost in my overactive mind, I find myself thinking constantly about the world, politics, travel...I write stories in my head, analyze my life, make plans for the future, recall memories — all while taking in the vastness of the new place I’ve put myself in. 

Some days are lonelier than others. There are other travelers I’ve spent evenings and days with, no one consistently but someone here and there. While it fills the void for a day or several evenings, it lacks the depth and vulnerability of a friendship in which you know someone deeply. This I miss. 

However, I have enjoyed these lonely days in a new way. Pushing through them is a triumph. I am learning to enjoy those times when pleasant aloneness transcends into loneliness and back into pleasant. 

I am the only person I have to spend the rest of my life with, so I must learn to love my own company and depend completely and solely on myself. This is my ultimate goal - to be able to battle everything on my own, hold my hand, be my own best friend. 

Of course, FaceTime and some texting here and there keeps me afloat sometimes, but it’s briefly in the morning or at night - the days are just me - while my friends and parents sleep. 

So each day, I adventure, learn, grow, write, read, drink coffee, eat, walk, bike, jog, swim, kayak, hike and more. I do it by myself 90% of the time. It’s invigorating. 

This weekend my friends Anna and Alicia will join me as we head to a beach in Southern Vietnam, followed by Thailand next. Stay tuned! 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Quit job, will travel: my next liminal phase

Pain has a way of causing us to re-evaluate what we want from life - and where we are headed. The recent ending of a long-term relationship and the realization that I was also unhappy at work, led me to feel I needed to get away for a little while, to reclaim myself as Jessye, just Jessye.

Against social norms, or rather against the so-called "responsible" route, I decided to take a leap of faith, quit my job and travel around the world. It is something I have been wanting to do for a long time - and finally have the means, the freedom and the privilege to do so. Emphasis on privilege, I am very lucky.

Since January of 2015, I was dating someone I loved deeply. When our relationship came to a close, my patience was waning at work and my boredom level was growing. Eager for a new challenge and adventure, I realized the time was now. I have been working for this agency for 2 years, 9 months - in two different positions, with a supervisory role as my most recent. Ever the wanderluster, NEW felt important and so...

With those realizations, I gave notice to my job. Put my own mental health first. My last day is September 29th.

I bought a one-way ticket to Vietnam, leaving October 10th.
Two friends join me at the end of October then we go to: Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka. 
Dec 13th I fly to my first alternative home, Ghana, for my dearest friend's wedding.

 I don't have a return ticket yet. I'm not sure of my plan.

So, here I go. Enjoy the updates.

Picture from my last adventure - Colombia - July 2017

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

From Teaching in Thailand to Case Management in Cambridge

*Was Thailand a dream?*  My mind seems to revert to this question often. Despite abundant memories, photographs and lasting friendships, it feels as though Thailand did not happen. As though it just a dream or a very distant memory. It was a shock to the system when I returned home, where I was once again in a liminal, unstable phase. My heart felt divided between Thailand, Ghana, Kenya and the USA, between the dozens of friendships I've made that have manifested in a variety of flavors, abilities and intensities all over the world.

After Thailand and saying goodbye to my Fulbright gang, I backpacked through Thai beaches, ancient kingdoms and genocide memorials in Cambodia, flew to my friends Peace Corps village in Indonesia, and gallivanted around Zhubei, Taiwan with another friend. It was another time of exciting travel and backpacker privilege. Then Boston welcomed me home with the frigid hug of a very snowy winter, complete with one too many snow days and public transportation crises.

It has been nearly 5 months since I left Sansai and almost 4 months that I've been back in America.  My new and current adventure does not have the same exotic appeal as motorbiking through the mountains of Thailand, but it is its own kind of adventure.

After the holidays, in early January, I moved into an apartment in Davis Square with a childhood friend, her college friend and a British guy (we found him on Craigslist). The day after I moved in, I got a job offer. 
Everything was falling into place. After turning down several job offers for teaching in November and December, I was determined to have a job by February. Mid-January, I was offered a job as a Client Advocate / Case Manager with AIDS Action Committee (AAC) at their Central Square office. (Essentially a coach/advocate/social worker for HIV+ clients in the Greater Boston area)

The job:
The past month has been the intense learning curve I was craving. Thrown directly into the chaos of human services, my caseload grew quickly and I began to find my groove as a case manager. Serving as a case manager (client advocate) for AAC means coordinating care for HIV+ clients, everything from referrals for different programs, to housing, to insurance, to food, clothing, jobs, education and everything in between (plus emotional support). The work is fast-paced, engaging (and sometimes enRaging), and interesting. Though sometimes the intensity of the stories/pain are heartbreaking and stay with you past the 9-5 office hours, I feel fulfilled at work. It's a perfect fit for me for now. It is an action-based work environment, while it simultaneously utilizes my inherent counseling skills gleaned from years of spending time with my family as well. Self-care is my biggest obstacle right now, in separating myself from the difficulties of working in direct service positions and all the challenges it brings.

My co-workers (and clients) make me excited to come to work every day. I look forward to work and feel motivated by their wonderfulness. They are exactly the type of energetic, sarcastic, humorous co-workers I was looking for. There is a liveliness to the office that is unparalleled in other communities I've been a part of and I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this community. My sassy nature easily slipped into their already goofy, teasing vibe. I look forward to getting to more adjusted to my work life here and building up my case load even more.

Last week I turned 24 and celebrated with my family and the most amazing of friends. I cannot express how much gratitude and love I felt. I feel incredibly lucky to have so many connections around the world and to be so loved. I miss traveling often, but am very happy with my new job. It was about time the US got some of my humanitarian energies. :-)  I am enjoying this new adventure, but I'm sure the cabin fever will kick in soon and I'll need to have an international endeavor...or go into a Phd program...

Until that next trip,
Thanks for reading.

Angkor Wat in Cambodia

Tomb raider temple!

Hanging out in Indonesia!


Seattle Glass Garden

Sam, Charlie, Ruthie, Anja, Jessye and Anna - Friendly Toast brunch

Anja, Molly & Jessye in Seattle

My bestest roommate Anna and friend since 2000

What is home? Is travel ethical or unethical?

What is home? Is travel ethical or unethical? These are the two questions I am asking myself the most.  I have spent the last four plu...