Not All Those Who Wander…

Not all those who wander are lost- JRR Tolkien

There is a fairly prevalent idea that runs through the international teaching community- we’re all running away from something.  This is probably one of the more true statements I’ve ever come across in my life.  Why else would people pack up their homes, lives, kids and fur babies, ship all their most treasured worldly possessions and head off into the great unknown?  We say goodbye to family and friends, we sell houses, cars, furniture.  We rent out properties, stuff everything that wasn’t deemed worthy into a storage locker and say, “See you next Christmas/Spring Break/Summer!”  There are tears, long hugs, promises to email.  We watch our nieces and nephews and grandkids grow up on Facebook and count the hours to figure out when we can Skype. 

We spend two or more years settling into our new ‘home,’ meeting new friends, figuring out the street vendors you can trust and the ones who will give you Guatemalan Gut Rot.  We learn to grocery shop like the locals and ‘splurge’ on Doritos and Kraft Dinner when they are available.  We try to blend in to our new cultures while often clinging to those who are also from ‘home.’  We learn to love or hate our new country.  Our children are born in these countries, often with funny or harrowing tales of hospitals that ‘you have to see to believe.’ 

And then, we sell off all of our new possessions and do it all again in two or three or five or ten years. 

And why?  Well, we are all running from something.  Me, I was running from a fear of the future.  I was lost after college and the opportunity to have someone point me in ANY direction came in the form of my friend Kimi and a job in the Dominican Republic.  But I did find myself on this journey- I figured out who I was, who I wanted to be, what I wanted and where I wanted to go.  And when it was time to go home and MP said, “Why, what’s waiting for you there?” I had no answer. 

So I kept wandering.  But trust me, I am not lost.  I found a home with my husband and kids.  In wandering over this great big world, I’ve found friends I would never have met.  My eyes and heart have been opened in ways I never could have imagined. 

I was lost.  And many of my friends and colleagues from around the world may still be lost.  But most of us continue to run- whether it’s to or from, it’s hard to say.  But I can almost guarantee that most of us know where we are and where we’re going. 

Here’s a picture of me and Cristin.  We were under a tree after eating pizza.  No one was lost then!

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4 thoughts on “Not All Those Who Wander…

  1. Aww, the last time I saw you! I don't know how to correct that, but one of these days we shall wander into the same sphere again. Love that picture, remember that day well, and love you!

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  2. Thank you for this. I also think my travelling says less about me and more about the people who constantly “harrass” me to settle down. I get to travel AND teach math. Why should I wait until retirement to experience the world?

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