Gente Mal was an important part of my life for several years, but I am moving on. My new project, constantnomad.com, is a travel blog designed to inspire others to explore this earth and volunteer their time to help fight poverty and injustice. Gente Mal will still be here, so feel free to explore the old posts and relive my year in Mexico City and my time in Guatemala. But if you want regularly updated posts featuring fresh and creative content, reflections and thoughts on life in America, and “How To” guides that teach you how to do stuff like travel the Amazon River by boat, be sure to visit constantnomad.com and visit often. You may just turn into a constant nomad yourself.
“What do you want to do before you die?”
It’s a simple question, but sometimes I wonder how many people really have a good answer for it. I have a million responses, and my journals are bursting at the seams with list upon list of things I want to do, places I want to go, dreams I want to fulfill, and languages I want to learn. But there is one list I always go back to.
In the sea of gray and drab concrete I live in, I sometimes forget just how bright and vivid colors can be, especially the color green. In Asia, the color green takes on a whole new meaning, and rice paddies glisten like jewels laid out across the plains.
I took this picture while I was biking across Laos with two of my girlfriends, but the rice paddies were just as beautiful everywhere I went in Asia- Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Burma. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my travels in South East Asia. It was such a magical time in my life, where all the possibilities in the world loomed on the horizon and I was drunk on my youth and zeal for life. I hope I can rediscover that feeling.
According to statistics from the New York Times, nearly 190 million people, or about three percent of the world’s population, lived outside their country of birth in 2005, and the map below paints a fascinating picture of just who is moving where.
Global migration is big, and getting bigger all the time. Human beings are fast becoming one of the hottest commodities around, and like all complex social phenomenons, international migration can simultaneously benefit and harm millions. Although human trafficking and worker exploitation are all too common, hard-working migrants around the world still manage to support their families and can even bring entire countries out of poverty. According to the World Bank, in some countries, such as Tajikistan and Lesotho, remittances make up more than 25% of the country’s GDP. Can you imagine? The auto industry in the US, long considered one of our strongest, only accounts for 3-4% of our GDP, and no other single industry in the US accounts for more then 15-20%.
Although Haiti has faded from the news, the suffering I witnessed while helping with the earthquake relief effort earlier this year is still seared across my brain. I can still remember the little girl I saw who lay dying in the dirt, and I can still feel the ground trembling beneath me in the aftershocks. In one single moment, this tiny island nation lost over 200,000 lives. Yet even before the quake, life in Haiti was difficult- over half the population (54%) lives in abject poverty, and 80% of the population lives below the poverty line. Surviving in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere was hard before the quake, but the current state of affairs has made daily existence seem unbearable.
This sunset was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in my life, and the fact that I was witnessing it as I padeled up the Amazon river in a canoe only made it all the more amazing. We were somewhere outside of Iquitos, Peru, deep in the jungle, getting ready to travel the whole Amazon river by boat, unsure of what lay ahead and yet so deeply inspired by what we saw around us. As the sun slowly drifted down across the horizon, the jungle came alive with the sounds of a million forms of life, the stars exploded across the sky, and my heart stopped beating for just a moment as I contemplated just how much beauty exists in the world.
As I try to mentally prepare myself for another long week of work “inside the box,” I’m remembering all the incredible journeys I’ve taken over the years. My odyssey years, as I call them, appear to be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean I can’t revisit all the memories from my travels.