Good and Bad: Is it really that simple?


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Everybody thinks that whether someone cheats or not depends on how much they respect their partner. I can’t speak for everyone, but the reason I don’t cheat has a less to do with the person I am with, and a lot more to do with myself.

We make choices every day as temptation swirls around us in all its magical forms. Get out of bed—or don’t.  Work hard—or don’t. Apply to grad school—or don’t. Drink a beer—or don’t.

Cheat…or don’t.

Every choice we make, no matter how small, has an impact on what we think of ourselves. In turn, your life situation is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. When you make choices that grate upon your system of beliefs and betray the person you want to be, you’re disrespecting yourself more than anyone else.

Maybe you could cheat on your partner successfully for a long time—maybe it feels like you’re having your cake and eating it too. It’s warm and safe in the effervescent candyland of denial. But at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to look yourself in the mirror and like the person you see. If you make decisions you don’t respect, you’re the one who suffers the most.

And then once there’s a hole in your moral dam, why not indulge in a few more immoral gratifications? A lie here, a betrayal there, a slippery slope. You spin bulletproof webs of justification. Your moral compass loosens and swings free. Before long, you don’t know who you are. It’s so foggy and empty inside. You begin to doubt that you’re a good person. You trust no one, especially you. Pretending things are fine is all you have. So you cling to it.

Sometimes, it’s not just a few random mistakes that chip away at your sense of self. It can be years of poor decisions that you didn’t even see until they’d woven into a blanket of shame. A beautiful blanket that keeps you warm and comfortable, but pinned down, lying in the bed you made. How did you become a you that you don’t like?

All your decisions felt right and perfect in the moment. And you remember why you made them. But now, deep down, you know it’s all wrong. You’re dying, you’re suffocating, you hate yourself.

Figuring out how to escape the oppression of your own life choices is one of the toughest challenges in life. Some people never succeed. They creep toward old age feeling like sad wasted sacks of organic matter. Nothingness is life’s default setting for a failed mission. It’s resolving yourself to the path you’re on and not thinking you have the strength or the will to do better. But you do and you can. One of the greatest things about traveling and living abroad is that it forces you to completely change your lifestyle. The future happens one decision at a time and we are imperfect beings. Each day, I try to think of the one thing I dislike the most about myself, and work on that, only that.

And, when faced with temptation, I try to be selfish. I think of myself first. Can I live and love the person who gives in? Can you?

The diary of a penguin


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It was a penguin sort of day,
In that penguin sort-of-way

When the shipwreck landed here
Vagrants lost and full of fear

I watched them hug and curse and cry
And one by one they said goodbye

The earth is round and feet are cold,
The penguin truth is sharp and bold

What lies ahead we never know
Rain or fog or sleet or snow

But one thing goes without a doubt
For penguins out and on the scout

We have each other in the end
This loyalty won’t break or bend

Stand on me when you get froze
I’ll help you warm those furry toes

For when the wind blows hard and fast
It’s friends that help the living last.

Buenos Aires: The city of looking up


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What is it about the rooftops in Buenos Aires? Welcome to the city of looking up.

For a metropolis that’s so compartmentalized, the skyline is enchantingly cohesive. Walking the streets, you never know what to expect. One moment you’re passing stone porticoes and neoclassical scrollwork, walking cobbled streets dappled by the boughs of great sycamores.

The next, it’s like you’ve stepped into the opening scene from Pretty Woman.

Dog poop, street food, spontaneous conga lines are all within the natural order of an afternoon stroll. It’s a hurricane of sensation. Who will I run into on the way to work? Emma Watson or Gorge, the homeless troubadour who haunts the subway and my dreams?

But up above the hum of city life, things make sense. The complex unpredictability is quelled just long enough for you to form an attachment to the present moment and revel in the awkward hilarity of your day.

Like a story written in watercolors, your removed from reality just enough to see things clearly.

Expatriotism: A risk lover’s dream come true


There’s no greater feeling in life than the reward of a risk taken and well achieved.

Travelers are by nature, life’s greatest gamblers. We are always searching for the next challenge, feeding off the electric pulse of constant uncertainty. Scaling mountains, trekking to the planets extremities, and leaping off just about anything they’ll let us.

With every risk rewarded, the addiction digs its talons deeper into my gut. As Truman Capote writes, you can’t give your heart to a wild thing: the more you do, the stronger they get.

A way of life

But what kind of risk are you running when instead of leaping off the cliff, you build a house at the edge of it and pull out a pair of binoculars?

Vacationing is one thing, while expatriotism is quite another. For many of us, the kinetic inconsistency of travel becomes a way of life. Once caught in the matrix of periphery encounters, poetic solitude, and adrenalin-pumping exploits, you’re lost forever in an ocean of uncharted potential.

The way you see the world shifts entirely and the tapestry of meaning formed from a new sense of experiential awareness polarizes your sense personal identity.

Suddenly, home is not just the place you live. Home is the piece of your soul that finds its counterpoint in the intoxication of cultural reciprocity.

The risk of cultural investment

According to DW Dilauro’s article Using Neuroscience to Understand Risk, culture is defined as “a lens through which risks are interpreted”.

This is the idea that risk perceptions are a social construct designed to reinforce the institutional framework within a given community. The idea of acceptable behavior changes in every culture, based on how that society measures risk.

So what happens when you drop a risk-loving expat into a web of entirely new sociodemographic characteristics?

A whole lot of adventure. Without even realizing it, expats are taking risks and defying normality at every turn. Most of us don’t fit in. Many of us struggle to find a job. A few of us offend everyone we meet before even drawing a breath. These is are typical trepidations of an expatriot life.

The challenge of adapting to foreign customs and standards is personal growth at its best. The cycle continues as the more we invest and facilitate cultural exchange, the greater the risk – and the greater the reward.

Reciprocity rewarded

If every expat in every nation around the world got together to form a new country, it would be the 5th most populous nation in the world.

As such a formidable group, we have a responsibility to establish standards of reciprocity for future, more mobile generations and inspire a climate of cultural awareness, tolerance, and global understanding.

The inspiration that comes from investing in a foreign culture fills gaps in your soul that you never knew existed.

Remember that while reason is often at odds with reflexive behavior, curiosity is the spark to the flame of erudition.

Spectatorship: Seeking the sunrise beyond the sunrise


Quincy MA, at dawn

As I travel, I become more and more aware of the power of spectatorship and the impact it has on experiences.

Communing with an uncharted moment

Imagine that you are standing on the precipice of a great cliff, watching the golden fingers of morning slowly creep across an empty riverbed. The heather dances scarlet on the horizon while somewhere far off, a lonely swallow croons.

Now, imagine experiencing this exact same scene with 30 other strangers by your side. Scratching, grumbling, giggling – gobbling up the essence of the moment with their intrusive presence. Iphones and irritation ground your spirit to mundane reality and the sacred splendor is shattered.

Spectatorship in all it’s glory

Instead, imagine you are present in the final moment of the final match of the World Cup.

Fifty thousand people are hanging on the edges of their chairs. The vivacious energy of the day is glowing pink in the faces of everyone around you, bouncing off the walls like daybreak through a prism.

The cheerful comradery inspires a unique kind of intoxicated bliss. For this single moment in time, you and everyone in the stadium are linked by the felicitation of the moment. Strangers are your best friends as you coalesce to make ONE GIANT FAN.

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But what if the stadium was empty and the only person there to see that final play was…just you?

Spectatorship is entirely conditional and too many times in the sweep of the tourist trajectory, the distinction between solitude and conviviality is sorely disrespected.

My manufactured moment 

On my recent adventure to Tikal, I was profoundly disenchanted by the way this line was crossed over and over. On the second day of my trip, I booked the sunrise tour, a 4am trek to the top of the highest temple.

Unfortunately, I was not the only one with this idea. By 5:05, the temple steps were staggered with 45 other tourists, cackling and canoodling in the early morning fog. As the girl in front of me cracked open her pack fiesta Doritos, my sense of glory evaporated entirely.

Cause, effect, and traveling true

The cause of this betrayal is largely monetary. Tour groups will market anything as a ‘unique experience’ and then turn around and sell the same manufactured moment to 20 thousand other tourists.

For travelers, this abuse of spectatorship means that we have a responsibility to engineer these moments ourselves, and think outside the box of ‘conventional tourism’. I urge my travel hungry amigos to seek the sunrise beyond the sunrise, a commitment to chase the genuine experience whenever possible.

International Homeless Animals Day: Facts that will shock you


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Those eyes. Black pools of liquid emotion, somehow devoid of hope and full of it in the same moment. Will you be my human?

As travelers, we experience the reality of homeless animals more than most – and there’s nothing quite so soul shattering as gazing into the eyes of a stray. The raw, undiluted compassion that claws at your gut and haunts you for days.

Exploring cobbled alleyways and narrow dusty streets, your eyes meet and part from hundreds of mangy, desperate faces. For a split second you consider sweeping them up in your arms – but something keeps you walking. 

It’s a form of existential reality, like the difference between Skyping your family and actually being with them. You limit your awareness to two senses, hearing and seeing. You connect to their struggle but are not engaged fully or participating in the scene.

Overpopulation rates are rising

According to Dosomething.org, homeless animals outnumber people 5 to 1; a fact that leaves us living side-by-side with our ill-fated friends. The streets of Guatemala and other third world nations are home to thousands of heartbreaking strays that wander aimlessly, spreading disease and piercing your heart with their stoic dejection.

Unfortunately, with so many animals wandering around un-spayed or neutered, the problem is only getting worse. In six years, one female and male dog and their offspring can produce up to 67,000 puppies.

Seasoned travelers know these scenes all too well. We have trained ourselves to tear our gazes away, a defense mechanism to keep our feeble psyches from overloading on the brutal and capacious truth:

Facts & Statistics

  • Only one out of every 10 dogs born worldwide will find a permanent home. 
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are more than 200 million stray dogs suffering across the globe. 
  • According to the Humane Society, 2.7 million animals are euthanized each year because they do not get adopted.
  • 6 million dogs and countless cats are murdered for meat in South Korea every year.
  • In Bali alone, the number of stray dogs is estimated at 500,000 and a rabies epidemic underway since 2008 has already killed 78 people. 
  • 5 attacks by strays in Baghdad have led to the reinstitution of an aggressing eradication program. It’s goal: Killing over one million stray dogs.

 
International Homeless Animals Day

In light of International Homeless Animals day this August 16th, the International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR) and Mayan Families urges you to take action. We will be holding a spay and neuter clinic in recognition of the day and we hope to spay or neuter 10 stray animals.

Together, organizations, friends, and travelers around the world can lift this wretched veil of unaccountability and make a difference, one liquid gaze at a time. 

In honor of our furry friends, wear orange this Saturday and share your greatest, quirkiest pet stories with everyone you know. Orange is the color of animal protection awareness and awareness is the key to making a change.