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Stranger in a Strange Land Newsletter: December 2012

So, I wrote my first newsletter in years in December 2012. It was about realizing I didn’t want to lead travel tours or speak on unschooling; how I felt lost and angry not knowing what to do; and why the year 2012 may have been the best year of my life (even though I didn’t do anything worth writing home about).

Not sure why I didn’t send it in December. But here it is now.

Dear Readers,
It’s been a long time! I last wrote almost three years ago and I first wrote this travel newsletter over 10 years ago. I was 18 years old writing from the Netherlands and the start of my travels. Now, I’m 29 years old sitting in my own apartment, in my hometown of Arlington, Massachusetts (while sipping herbal tea and wearing slippers).

Whether I’ll keep this newsletter going long enough so I’ll be wearing diapers while writing it: I don’t know.

But I have continued traveling. In summer 2010, I led my third Worldschool Travel Tour (again to Japan). In 2011, I traveled around Israel, Palestine, and Egypt during the start of the Arab Spring. And this Thanksgiving, 2012, I went to the exotic lands of North Carolina and Florida!

I was actually planning on traveling to China this past winter (2012). But I changed my mind at the last minute. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Actually, this year at home in Boston has been one of the best years of my life. It really has.

Why? Travel, or anything else really, is not worth much if you don’t bring your soul along. My last few trips abroad I had wonderful experiences, met some great people, and learned a ton. But I wasn’t really there.

The name of this newsletter, “Stranger in a Strange Land,” comes from the poetic translation of my last name: Gerzon/Gershom. But the literal translation in Hebrew is just “Stranger There”. But I wasn’t there. So I definitely couldn’t write this newsletter, be a Gerzon, or be an Eli even (whatever that is).

I kind of lost my way a few years ago, dear readers. This past year has been like one long, slow soul retrieval. I’ve been trying to find myself again. I’ve been retracing my steps far beyond the last few years and exploring new areas as well.

This past year I fixed the the handle on a drawer on a desk I inherited in 1997 from my uncle, dad, and grandfather. I waited 15 years to do a job that took 15 minutes! I took out art I made many years ago from inside that desk, and displayed them in my room. I finally threw away things I had held on to, and moved from house to house in unopened boxes, over years and years. I finally framed two beautiful paintings I bought in Guatemala on Lake Atitlan in 2006.

I started taking classes and volunteering for the first time in many years. I studied voice acting. I acted in a teeny tiny play. I’ve been volunteering teaching English to a man from Algeria. As people often say: I think my student has taught me more than I’ve taught him. I’m just now completing a course that’s trained me to volunteer as a spiritual caregiver for elderly people in the Boston area.

All those things may seem pretty little on the surface, compared to world travel, but they’ve had a lot of meaning to me. And that’s what travel was always about for me: finding meaningful experiences. I’m not sure why I lost that sense of meaning in my last few trips. But that’s why I’m glad I didn’t travel to China this past winter: I didn’t want to travel without that meaning again.

So what happened a few years ago that took me so off track? A few years ago I thought I had things clearly laid out: I would keep leading Worldschool Travel Tours, speak at unschooling conferences, write for my blog, and finally write a book. It was such a relief to have what seemed like a steady, long-term, monetarily viable occupation that others would appreciate and even validated all the “weird” things I did: leaving high school, skipping college, and wandering the world. But I started to have my doubts about it all.

I was very angry when I realized I might not be the right path for me after all. I felt kind of betrayed actually.

I haven’t followed any sort of conventional path in my life. Instead, I made a deal with the universe: I follow my bliss and work my butt off, and in return, the universe shows me where I’m meant to go next. It had worked so miraculously before. It wasn’t showing me this time. I thought the universe wasn’t holding up it’s end of the deal.

I felt so lost and angry, including at myself. I just couldn’t move forward. All I wanted was some meaningful way of being of service to this world. Actually, what I realized eventually is that I was holding myself ransom. On some level I decided: “Alright, universe, if you’re not going to hold up your end of the bargain, I’m not going to either. I’m not going to really try.”

It took me a long time to consciously realize that’s what I was doing. When I finally said it out loud to someone else I realized how completely ridiculous, immature, and sad that stance was.

What really helped was realizing that the universe hadn’t actually betrayed me or broken its end of the bargain. I had.

The deal was I’d follow my bliss and work really hard. But at some point I started following my ego rather than my bliss. There’s a big difference between those two things. But on the surface it can be hard to tell.

I didn’t do things that were against what I believe. But I avoided writing and speaking about what I was really interested in: the things that challenged myself and others, the things that gave me bliss.

I do often feel like I wasted a few years of my life following my ego and then being angry as my main occupation. It can be very upsetting to reflect upon. But at the same time I did make a living, travel, and get a new apartment during that time. I also studied a lot of history, hung out with friends, dated a lot, read a lot of comic books, played video games, and listened to NPR and Democracy Now! constantly. Those can all be great things. And they were great for me much of the time. I guess my effort to do nothing valuable was only half-assed.

Anyway, I suppose it was something I had to go through. But I hope I’m able to let go of my anger, look at things honestly, and move forward more quickly, if I find myself in a similar situation again. And I encourage others to do the same. Life is short.

Ultimately, I do need to forgive myself for whatever time I may have “wasted.” Otherwise, I’ll just keeping getting angry about the fact that I’ve been too angry. And I am thankful that I stopped when things didn’t feel right. I could have kept going in a direction that wasn’t right for me.

Also, I definitely need to write more, I’d love to speak at more conferences, and I might even lead more tours. I just have to be clear about my goals. I have to bring my soul along and incorporate the things that really matter to me in what I do and say.

Recently, I’ve been getting involved with activism against global warming. I’ve thought for many years that global warming is the number one important meta-issue of all issues: if this planet becomes unlivable for us what does anything else matter? But besides the fact that we need to, I also now have hope that we can change the course we’re on. I’m starting to devote myself to this because I have hope and see it as a huge opportunity.

I hope everyone has a wonderful season of shining light into the darkness. May you continue to shine light into the darkness in the coming year, even when the darkness is not so clear.

Yours,
Eli

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