I think I know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a nomad. You know, my weird transnational dance that got me pretty depressed in the U.S. is starting to seem small. Not only because here, I’ve had the chance to be more aware of other people’s marginalization and my own privilege, but also because I’ve gotten some distance from my own identity issues. And of course, that’s not to say that I don’t pay attention to my own positionality when I was in the States, but it seems like my situation, my weird split identity between two countries and never-ending homesickness exist in a vacuum. No one knows about it, but it hurts. For some reason, the baggage hurts and it felt heavy. I think the reason it felt so heavy is because I have strong ties to both Indonesia and the United States, and only those two places (at least up till recently). So as long as I stay between the two places, my identity will likely always be fractured between the two. Yet, if I were to keep traveling, keep moving and discovering new facets of my identity, that baggage won’t seem too big in comparison because guess what? The world is also way bigger in comparison.
Now that I’m here, my homesickness is split between Seattle and Jakarta, of course. I miss the lush evergreen sights and endless coffee shops and bookstores. But on the other hand, many facets of Amman reminds me so much of Jakarta, and it also makes me miss it. I can’t argue with the fact that my experience here is undoubtedly influenced by my experience of growing up in Indonesia. The fact that Amman reminds me of Jakarta, the fact that hearing the Adzan (prayer calls) makes me so nostalgic for my childhood, the fact that people recognize my name as Arabic — those are things that probably won’t happen to someone who comes to Jordan from, say Nebraska or Philadelphia or somewhere. Here I’m known as the “American from Indonesia with the Arabic name.” There’s so many stories and questions within that, and being able to explore new facets of my identity, new ways of thinking, and new labels I have to go through, is exciting and fascinating.
As I sat here entertaining the idea of coming back soon after I finish schooling, I wonder what kind of baggage I’ll have then. But it’s surprising how leaving places is starting to feel easier. Maybe it feels easier for now because I’m only here for two and a half months. But still, it feels like leaving will be less heavy, less ties, less hard goodbyes (maybe on my part, but probably only because I’ve gotten used to it by now). The reality is, people move on, people forget, people get over things, and life goes on. You’ll discover the people with whom you’ll actually want to keep in touch with. You’ll discover the people who will do the same with you, even if they’re not traveling to the extent that you are. You’ll feel sad when people forget you. You’ll still have people that you’ll stalk every once in a while because you’re curious with where they are now in life (but of course that’s not exclusive to people who travel, everyone stalks everybody else online). You’ll have people who say “I miss you!!!!” occasionally but then never contact you to catch up. You’ll have people you just don’t care about. I know all this better now. Yeah, homesickness is gonna happen, yeah it’s gonna suck for like two seconds, but no you’re not gonna regret moving. Traveling is really one of those things that add so much to you. Your life can either be a flatline with no travel or a series of hills and valleys of experiences when you travel. And when I say travel, I mean like really getting to know a place. Not just touring (or worse, “voluntouring.” Major no-no), but really getting to know the history, the culture, the people, the make-ups of the society, the political issues, the complexities of the country’s existence. It’s a lot to learn, but it’ll give you a whole new outlook on things, even things back home, where you feel comfortable already.
For better or for worse, traveling detracts your innocence and simplicity in view points, it detracts so much from basic-ass rachetness. Not to say that once you’ve traveled, you suddenly know everything. No you don’t, and you’re not above anyone for having traveled, because that in itself is a privilege (I’ll try to provide a counterpoint to this post tomorrow probably, about how traveling is a privilege). But you’ll no doubt learn new things about the world and yourself. You’ll learn new things only to know that it’s impossible to learn everything, so you try to take as much of it in as you can. When you travel, you know a little bit more about this huge and complex world we live in. You know that people are different but they’re people: they’re stupid, they’re not perfect, they make mistakes, they mean well, they can be ignorant, they learn new things all the time, they’re not a monolith. You’ll learn that the world is absurd and a hell to live in for some people. You’ll learn that some places are more of a hell than others, and that our definition of “hell” can be different and the same. You’ll discover that the world is big enough for people to not agree with each other. You’ll learn more about tolerance and disagreeing respectfully, because every culture is different and it’s rooted in thousands of years of history. You’ll learn that everything is connected to each other, and nothing bad in this world ever happens in a vacuum, because we live in an intersectional system that allows for marginalization and oppression of others. Why? Because we’re people, and we’re not perfect, and we make mistakes (some of them are grand mistakes, but for some of them, it’s not too late to rectify, but it takes a [global] village). Most of all, you’ll learn that you are very, very small, and your troubles and achievements are no more than a speck of dust, and it doesn’t mean anything to anybody else, and that’s okay. Traveling detracts ignorance but adds heaps and heaps of knowledge, experience, baggage, and life skills. I think the baggage part is especially true if what you’re doing is more than just traveling, but also uprooting or leaving your home to make a new one. Traveling or touristing is like a quickie in a bathroom stall with a country. Uprooting is like freaking procreation. You’ll birth a new home, a new sense of home, a new sense of the world, a new you. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s kind of true though. You’ll change, and you can’t go back, for better or for worse. Hopefully, you’ll discover the strength to feel that you don’t want or need to go back. You’ll just move on. And hopefully, you’ll use the things you’ve learned to do some good in this world. Hopefully, you’ll change more than just your Facebook profile picture.