Post by Alba C. ’20
I think it says a lot about Porter’s that travel is valued to this extent because it provides the most authentic, valuable learning experience there is. I am lucky enough to have traveled a lot with my family. I’ve grown used to change, culture shock, the challenges/discomforts and joy of travel, but never experienced the kind of deep immersion that the Vietnam trip offered.
I think my difficulty in articulating my experience has made me realize how the trip allowed me to “lose my identity” in a way that redefined being a “global citizen” for me. It was meaningful to break away from familiar relationships and spaces that form my identity (previously which had always been preserved even when traveling) forcing me to fully integrate into a new culture and environment and to build new relationships in that vulnerability. In experiencing what I’m calling “loss of identity or selfhood”, by practicing empathy not being a tourist, I don’t mean becoming dissociative but rather suddenly and extremely mindful. I think I’ve never felt so fully present.
Vietnam was able to teach me this because of the level of “discomfort” it provided which was not really discomfort at all but relinquishing of my sense of control. I came to the conclusion during the trip that being a global citizen is not intellectually “understanding” people but rather being equipped with the interpersonal skills and self knowledge to invest in people and establish proximity and compassion. This is what I think people mean when they say love is most important thing of all. Love is a skill: learning to build relationships, to listen, to take in the world without judgement and learn with your entire being and selflessly.
As someone who is introverted, cerebral and anxious, these intermittent states of new found mindfulness (which is really selflessness) I achieved during the trip showed me how beautiful and freeing losing yourself in a place and with people is. I’m sure that in our meeting I’ll get to tell you more about what I saw and did but it was helpful for me, and hopefully interesting to you, to attempt to articulate what it is I learned.