Truth of Travel

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written by Alyssa Kinahan-Dundas / shot on location by Jan Trousilek

inter-dispersed with quotes from Alyssa’s personal travel journal

“If love feels anything like the love I have for the world and the love the world has given me, I’ll do anything for it”

February 1, 2019

I believe it is an innate part of us as human beings to want to experience the world we are so fundamentally a part of. The thirst, love and curiosity to see the world is one of the most intuitive characteristics of being human: to witness something that seems so much larger than us and is yet equalizing in nature.

Traveling the world is so much more than just taking a vacation; it’s allowing yourself to receive a new sense of self as well as to give a sense of yourself to others. If traveling abroad was all about relaxation, it could be done right in your backyard, less money would need to be spent, and time could be gathered getting rest in the comfort of your own home. This is why I believe our minds (whether consciously or subconsciously) push us to be challenged, to be taken out of our comfort zone. There is some intrinsic understanding that one cannot live a life of authenticity without experiencing the authentic attributes this world, and the people in it have to offer. To be challenged, and to be of witness of all the worlds creations, is to be alive.

“When you begin to notice the details of life; its simplicity-things begin to sound different, taste different, and feel different all because you’re aware and giving the world the attention it deserves”

February 8, 2019

Don’t get me wrong, home is home. A place of growth, a place of understanding, a place of likelihood. Home is (hopefully), a place where one can be true, present and real, but as I’ve traveled, I’ve learned to find a sense of home in people rather places. It is through the people I’ve engaged and conversed with, that I’ve learned the true definition of home. It was through meeting people with different backgrounds, stories, languages and religions that I was able to better understand my own background. It was through these people that I began to grow in a way I never thought I could. As I have traveled the world, I’ve not only been growing, but reshaping my mind and actions.

When you step into a place that is completely new, and you are entirely alone, there’s a unique opportunity to present yourself in an honest way. Traveling requires you to put yourself out there, to initiate conversation, to ask for help, and learn basic words such as “hello”, “good-bye”, “thank you” and yes…”toilet”. You find yourself having the simplest, yet most sincere conversations with people who can barely speak your language – just the mere attempt, and care, is touching. The simple act of trying to communicate, when both parties struggle, is one of the most human, and humbling experiences to have. By going through language barriers conversations naturally become more elevated and meaningful. There is no such thing as small talk when speaking with a local woman in the mountains of Northern Vietnam, or a man in the urban streets of Morocco; there is only human engagement.

“I feel like I’m regaining myself and yet, as I try so many new things for the first time I’m learning more about who I am and the person I am yet to become”

February 2, 2019

To travel is to be freed of the shackles you never knew you had and as beautiful as that may sound, it is one of chaos. Traveling has empowered me in ways I never thought possible. I have survived situations I never thought I would and with that I have become someone I never thought could exist. I have been able to prove myself wrong, and succeed more times than I can count, but this new sense of self, also brings on identity issues. Home is no longer home, as I no longer fit. Friends and family see me differently because I am now something they cannot expect. Traveling has caused me to question not just who I am, but where I come from, how I was raised and why I think the way I do. All these questions and concerns don’t always have an answer.

Before my first big trip to study in Morocco for three months, I would define myself as a pretty happy person. I only ever got frustrated with school, work and of course my parents. Seeing the world opened a new door and in it was a big ass mirror; now it was time to question myself. When I began to gain the global perspective of others first hand, life, politics, society and people just became too overwhelming. I could see and understand multiple perspectives but could never come up with one clear answer. I had so many debates regarding Islam, Christianity, gender, extremism, socialism, and feminism, all while studying Arabic, trying new foods, hearing new music and visiting new places. There were so many different ways to think, and so many ways to view life that I was beginning to lose my own voice, forget who I was and even began to question who I wanted to be.

“I wish I could freeze this moment and sit here for eternity. It’s nice to slow down, rest and take it all in. Love who you are, who you’re with and where you are. If I can take that with me home, I know I can be happy anywhere”

January 12, 2019

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“I think the more I challenge myself and try new things, the more I believe I can do anything. I think ‘If I can do this, then you can survive being on your own’, I’ll get through it.”

March 28, 2019

When your personal life views and practices are challenged in such a fast, and intense way, it becomes a bit disheartening at first, and I believe this is because it’s your first “break-up” with yourself. You are a snake shedding its old skin to begin anew. Initially, I began to resent the way I was raised, taught and thought. This resentment quickly turned into nihilism where I felt nothing mattered anymore, including myself. With time, I learned that just because something doesn’t have an answer, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth questioning – there is value in debate. This was my first step towards finding love for the world.

“There is still pain for me to deal with, but everyday I grow, I learn, and I better myself to overcome the demons and pain that reside within me.”

February 7, 2019

My second largest trip was to Italy as an Au Pair where I learned to love myself in a place where I struggled to connect with others. I had to be somebody I trusted, someone I could feel comfortable with – I was my greatest company because I had to be. Although I was welcomed by an amazing Italian family, there were constant moments of separation. I could not speak Italian, and so birthday parties, play dates, and trips to the coffee shop were all met with a sense of division. It takes time to not feel awkward when a group of people are speaking a language you cannot participate in. Eventually I learned how to read body language in order to understand what was happening around me. The experience is humbling, and enables me to appreciate culture, language, and the natural beauty of conversation. By taking a step back, and viewing the world from a different perspective, you find a new appreciation not just for the world, but your place in it.

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“Without people, without connections, without relationships, none of this matters…none of it. I need people just as much as people need me. To talk , communicate, and share.”

March 28, 2019

My latest trip took place in Southeast Asia where I visited Thailand, Laos, Vietnam as well as Australia. This trip taught me how to be vulnerable in loving others. I learned the risks involved in emotionally putting yourself out there and creating deep connections; that there is a chance of getting hurt when doing so. But by limiting yourself to others, you’re limiting yourself to the full potential of life and your imprint on it. Over the last two years, ten months have been spent traveling and living abroad, all while finishing my final year of studies. While my personal connection with myself continued to grow, and my love for the world matured, I became distant with those back home. Less time with them physically also meant less time building and deepening relationships. I felt more alone at home than I ever did as a solo traveler abroad. Although my growth in love was always being watered, there were moments upon returning home that I felt more lonely than ever. No one cares about your identity struggles or existential crisis when you’ve just arrived back from Europe, or Asia, etc.; and so…you fake it. You tell them about visiting white sand beaches, seeing the Colosseum, swimming in the Mediterranean, and eating amazing paella in the beautiful city of Barcelona; the rest is too personal, too depressing and not what people expect after an eventful trip in a new country.

“I was wrong to call my trip, my ‘runaway’ trip. I knew you can’t run away from your problems, that at some point I would have to return home. I thought that maybe if I was physically lost it would match the way I felt inside – lost.”

February 7, 2019

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I began to not just hate my home, but the person I was remembered as…I had changed and I wasn’t sure of who I could be for those who knew me so differently. How is it I felt more like myself in a country that wasn’t mine? How come I have stronger relationships with those abroad? How could I be so selfish to be saddened after living the privileged opportunity of seeing the world? Home was no longer home, and I was no longer me; I felt lost in a place where people said “welcome back”. So I finished my undergrad early, and decided to run away. I figured if I was going to feel lost emotionally I was going to be lost somewhere physically. That way, at least the way I felt would be represented in a physical sense. So once again, I packed my bag and planned a five-week trip to Southeast Asia, where I would unknowingly continue my trip for a total of three months.

“To be honest, starting yesterday and today, the pain of loneliness started to come up again and it pains me, but right now, at this very moment I am at peace with myself”

March 28, 2019

I’m back “home” now, and I’ve brought a lot back with me. I’m doing much better this time around, but each day I have my struggles. I keep busy, and already have booked my next trip. I’ve had the honor of people reaching out to me for guidance. Some ask about how they can travel like me and others share their struggle with depression after returning home; for either instance I’m happy to provide a hand that points people in the right direction, or acts as a hand to hold. You are not alone, you are not selfish, and you are still YOU. These are all things I constantly have to remind myself as well. I don’t like to think that I’m doing okay just because I’m keeping busy and I don’t want to pretend I’m happy because that’s what people expect of me after traveling. I want to know I’m okay because I know myself and where I stand mentally.

“I knew ‘running away’ for my travels wouldn’t BE the solution to my problems, my suffering. I just thought that perhaps I’d find a way to work on them.”

February 6, 2019

I’ll never forget the day I met a retired man, who was in one of the twin towers during 9/11. As we spoke in the bed of a truck, making our way through the busy streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand he shared the very real feelings of fear and confusion he felt when the first plane hit. I later told him that I was contemplating extending my trip and traveling around Asia a bit longer. He looked me straight in the eyes, and with sternness, and love, he said, “do it”. That man will forever be a catalyst for me to keep seeing the world. If a man who survived the 9/11 terrorist attack, found his way to Asia, still living his life, seeing the world, and doing so fearlessly, why shouldn’t I? You don’t meet people like that by mere chance, you meet them on purpose.

“It’s the most beautiful chaos; the most purposeful and fulfilling of series of random events.”

January 11, 2019

See the world, the people in it, and you’re sure to see your true self come into fruition. We are all meant to pay witness and appreciate the world we stand on, nourish from, and change with. The love we find in ourselves is the same love we find in the world; neither can happen without the other. Once you find true love in the world, it is impossible to hate anything it creates, and that includes you .

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written and styled by Alyssa kinahan-Dundas

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photography and editorial design by Jan Trousilek

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