The highway is dark, barely illuminated by the waxing gibous moon as I walk it alone. In the distance, coyotes howl. My pace picks up as the hungry cries grow louder, nearer. This was the last time that I would be caught on a dark road in Texas by myself.
“Why are you doing this?”
Most people would be wondering, “what made you leave wherever you were and endanger yourself?” These aren’t the people straddled with debt and soft skills, of course, they have families, homes, and property. They have a life somewhere, and wouldn’t immediately understand seeking life in the world and outside of these bubbles.
Our bubbles are the most separating piece of our lives. It informs our politics, our religions, and our relations. Some linguists, such as those familiar with Sapir-Whorf would even venture to say that their language and culture not only creates this bubble, but strengthens it.
We see this happening in politics and religion most clearly now, and especially as populist nationalism grows around the world. This sort of tribalism can make any place dangerous for what can be deemed other. Couple this with the neverending stream of missing or murdered backpackers, and it can be quite clear why people ask me in such shock, “why are you doing this?”
I’ve always felt like other. With fill, with friends, in school, in church; you get the picture. That was before I began to transition too. So now that I’m openly trans, 25, very left-of-center, and whatever else may set me apart, I’m finally finding peace in being or feeling so different.
There’s something about feeling hundreds of miles under your feet. Something about backpack tan lines. Reusing rainwater. Eating what grows from the earth. Falling asleep beneath only the stars. There’s something to this kind of freedom.
This kind of freedom doesn’t have a bubble. You learn people are mostly good and that they all want to be loved. You learn that everyone you ever met was key to who you are today.
People can change over time, because with enough patience and kindness, their bubble gets worked around new ideas. That doesn’t mean I try to change anyone. In fact, I do just the opposite, I try only to understand their views.
“What if plants had feelings?”
Not to say that I didn’t try in the beginning. Tell me the Earth is 10,000 years old, climate change is made up, and that we should be okay with eating animal people because “what if plants had feelings,” and you could of easily gotten my goat.
Now I only listen. I don’t just soak it in though. I get acquainted with their logic. I try to understand which directions peoples’ hearts are taking them.
“What is freedom?”
I want to be able to see the world safely. Who doesn’t? So the most important thing to do first, is research.
I did my research before travelling, but if you’re staying in the United States, the best research you can do is ongoing: interviewing people about their opinions, views, beliefs, and whatever else drives their decisions.
Ultimately, we all have immense power, whether that’s as a creator, as a family unit, as an individual, as a voter, or as a congregation, or something else, our words, actions, and decisions all have lasting impacts.
So I set out from El Paso, TX to complete my trek to the Pacific as a photojournalist. Taking photos as I go, prepared for whatever event or situation may arise to be documented, I ask decision-makers, individuals: what is freedom?