I don’t know about you, but the ends of the Earth seem much further away, much more foreign when I am far from them. When I’m going about my everyday in the midwestern U.S., places like Hong Kong, Iceland, Cape Town, Rome, Santorini, and Stockholm seem light years away. In fact, they feel so distant that they hardly seem real. It’s as if they are these magical, made up places that only exist in post cards and blogs and maps and textbooks.
So, I go on, living my ordinary midwestern life. Going to school. Applying for internships. Meeting friends for coffee. Shopping at Anthropologie. Eating at Chipotle. All in the little, comfortable, familiar bubble that I call my world.
Until about a week ago, that is, when I arrived in Madrid, Spain – my home for the next four months. Four months (ahh!). In just seven days, I have learned seven thousand things about this place that didn’t exist beyond the photos I saw online. I’ve made horrible mistakes like losing my wallet in a cafe for hours (a kind barista kept it for me behind the counter), getting lost on the metro (got home safe and sound…an hour later), and telling the waiter “no hables espanol,” essentially telling him that he didn’t speak Spanish instead of the other way around. But despite all of this, I have fallen in love with this ancient, colorful city. Stepping on that plane in St. Louis was terrifying, but since then, I have been able to see the vibrancy of this culture with my own eyes.
And suddenly, the world feels smaller. It doesn’t seem so daunting. So massive. So monstrous.
So what am I saying? Pop your bubble. Go ahead and do it right now! Let go of the comforts that you know and love. Learn a new language, open up the possibility for hundreds of conversations. Step into a relationship that requires a little bit of a risk. Travel somewhere new – even if it’s within your own state. Take a class that’s outside of your major. Watch a different news station. Drive a new way to work. Volunteer.
Everything seems scary and distant until we get a little closer. Everything seems foreign until we open our heart a little. So my prayer for you all, and really my prayer for me too, is that we can move in. Close those gaps. Lend a hand. Meet the eyes of our brothers and sisters who don’t look like, live like, talk like, or express themselves like us. Such beauty comes from making our world a little bit bigger.
words and photo by Kate Payne