ISSUE 6 â€¢ SPRING 2019
ISSUE 6 RECLAIMING NARRATIVES
Delves into how moving beyo zone—physically and psychol personal growth and healing ourselves to moments of vuln 04
E M I LY L I U
Lessons From Lao Lao
More Than Just My Eye
Table for One
M O L LY S L A N N
ond our comfort logically — can trigger when we open nerability and honesty. 32 36 38 44
A Long Road Home
S U M AYA A L I
The Voyage Team
JORDAN K & KAREN W
On the Trail
“But Is It Safe?”
Editor’s Note As brand spanking new freshmen in college, our team learned to navigate many things in our first year: snatching free food in Red Square, artfully dodging erratic weather, and releasing a travel magazine. We sought the “best” in travel to inspire readers to Instagram-worthy adventures of a lifetime, but didn’t think deeply about “why” or “how” we wanted to travel in the first place. As quarters passed and — dare we say — we matured and learned some things, we realized how important it is to remove our rose-tinted
lenses and share real, impactful narratives from extraordinarily ordinary people to truly reflect the world we live in. As this is the last issue for our founding members, we pass the torch on and say thank you to those who have been with us from the beginning. Our 6th issue, dubbed “Reclaiming Narratives”, moves into the introspective journey that we are often prompted to take when we open ourselves to moments of vulnerability and honesty. We follow the raw and candid voices
of those who wrestled with their identities in unfamiliar surroundings and discovered empowerment in their own way. Ultimately, we celebrate small moments of victory — whether that’s through a spiritual pilgrimage to Mecca or dinner for one in a cozy café — to remind ourselves of the immense power in retelling our own stories. We hope that this issue will serve as an encouragement to reflect on our self-awareness and relationships in a world that is oftentimes not so easy to navigate.
Co-Editor-in-Chiefs: Jayna Milan & Kelsey Chuang
Cover: Ostin Kurniawan @iamostin Left: Daniel Kim @idanickim
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LESSONS FROM L AO L AO Written by Emily Liu Illustrated by Anya Watson
y laolao placed a bowl in front of me. It was hot sugar water with a boiled egg floating in it. As she sat down to eat her share, I hesitantly poked at the egg with my spoon.
I had just arrived in China late last night, my body stiff and lethargic from the claustrophobic, 12-hour flight. I had been to China with my family many times before, but these trips usually resulted in me and my sister hiding in a corner, sheltered from the grasp of Chinese influence. I grew up as an American-born Chinese person in the predominantly white suburb of Vancouver, Washington. This environment cultivated an immense pressure to conform to the American lifestyle that all my classmates were taught through generations. While my family stayed home and ate rice for dinner every night, I went out with friends to eat hamburgers and fries. While my family made a huge deal of wrapping dumplings for Chinese celebrations, I opted to watch Netflix in my room with a box of Domino’s pizza. I wanted to be accepted as an American so badly that I inadvertently grew more and more detached from my Chinese heritage. The summer after my first year in college was different, though. At the beginning of the school year, a high school friend invited me to the Chinese Student Association’s (CSA) first general meeting. CSA’s officers were very similar to myself, born and raised in America with black hair and brown, almond-shaped eyes instead of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Americans I grew up surrounded by in Vancouver. In that initial period of f inding a community, I decided to apply and become a public relations officer for CSA. The more time I spent with the officers, the more I was exposed to various parts of Asian culture that I gradually integrated into my life, and I found myself becoming a representative of Chinese culture on campus. My involvement
in CSA spurred a budding curiosity to learn more about my heritage, compelling me to make the bold decision as a wideeyed 19-year-old to embark on a 10-day solo trip to stay with my laolao (grandma) in Xiamen, China. “Laolao, what is this?” I was suspicious of the dish with the floating egg in sweet water. Was my laolao serious? She chuckled and explained, “This dish is a Xiamen techan (specialty of Xiamen), try it.” My parents often spoke Mandarin to me, but I always replied back in English. As an obvious result, my Mandarin was very unpracticed. It made sense that the most
discernible disconnect between me and my experience in China was created by the language barrier. At first, I passively waited for my laolao to initiate conversation because being in a foreign country and speaking a foreign language suppressed my outgoing nature. When it was my cue to say a few Chinese introductions and phrases to my relatives and family friends during dinners, my broken Chinese and heavy English accent contradicted my Chinese appearance. Even though my relatives were patient with my terrible Chinese, they still couldn’t disguise their disappointment that I was letting my Chinese heritage fade away without a care. As a result, my laolao found it necessary to announce a disclaimer to
“Don’t be scared of something you have
never experienced before, because maybe you will end up loving it.”
everyone at every meal: “My granddaughter is from America and she barely knows Mandarin. She might not understand what you’re saying; she doesn’t know much Chinese.” After sitting through this a few times, I became irritated. It discouraged people from initiating conversation with me, leaving me awkwardly eating in silence while everyone else was laughing and talking. I was even more angered by the fact that I could not defend myself with the limited vocabulary of a third grader. While being provoked was not enough to change my attitude towards re-learning Mandarin, it did prompt me to consider my intentions. I began to see my disposition from my laolao’s perspective and discovered a way to mediate my indignation. Although I could not speak fluently, I actually understood a lot more than I let on. One day when we were visiting a friend’s house, I overheard my laolao confiding to one of my relatives. She seemed disheartened and frustrated that she wasn’t able to communicate fluently with me. I realized that there was no one to blame but myself: I created this barrier from not speaking Mandarin when my parents spoke it to me. There were many instances when I wanted to express my gratitude and understanding to my relatives but my lack of Mandarin failed me. In an effort to connect more with my relatives and my laolao, I began taking more initiative in practicing my rusty Mandarin. I started asking more questions, offered to
do more chores around the house, and initiated conversations during meals, and I finally found gratification and a sense of belonging in being able to share laughs with my relatives. I slowly submerged my spoon in the clear soup, letting it fill the spoon. My laolao’s eyes followed as I lifted the spoon to my lips and cautiously took a small sip. “I’m sure your mother has made this before, but maybe you were afraid to try it. Don’t be scared of something you’ve never experienced before, because maybe you will end up loving it.” There are moments where my laolao can be affectionate and sweet; however, there are also moments where her bad temper gets the best of her. She would constantly bring up the fact that my Chinese wasn’t good enough and was appalled that I knew next to nothing about Chinese culture. After three days of living with her, I dejectedly walked to the empty neighborhood park, called my parents, and unashamedly sobbed on a swing. Being raised by my laolao, my mother knew exactly what I was going through. “Em, she doesn’t mean it. Your laolao just has a huai piqi (bad temper), everyone knows she’s like that.”
owing my fear, I eagerly lifted the spoon to my lips. Since I had no other acquaintances in Xiamen, I shadowed my laolao’s day-to-day life. Every week, she attended drawing and piano classes out of pure interest and enjoyment. Growing up as a classical musician, I had associated music with pain and strict discipline; in contrast, my laolao was leisurely learning little piano songs and painting scenes of dreamy landscapes. One time at a family friend’s house, the host asked me to play something on their piano. I politely declined, but my laolao did not hold back on showing her disapproval. “Why did you learn piano for all those years if you can’t even play one song? You should have at least three songs memorized for any occasion. You wasted most of your life learning nothing.” I spent 14 years of my life learning the piano, and I couldn’t even recall how to perform one out of the dozens of pieces I mastered over
The sugar water was, to my pleasant surprise, tolerable. But the floating egg was a different story. I was crazy about American-style eggs, so the concept of eating a sweet egg was completely strange to me. I carefully cut a piece of the egg and let some soup fill the spoon. With my curiosity overshad-
“ After cultivating a broader perspective on
my cultural identity, I developed a vision of what kind of person I want to become— someone who proudly embraces both sides of my Asian American identity.”
my musical career. Watching my laolao learn things out of curiosity yet with purpose made me reflect on my life in a different perspective. With everything I committed myself to, I began questioning how I could develop myself professionally or personally. How could I change my mindset towards living so that I am able to make the most out of every opportunity, no matter how big or small the takeaway is? Applying this thinking to my current situation, I only got to visit China once a year before I was once again enslaved to monotonous, academic rituals back home. I was grateful to be surrounded by family and people who built a supportive and safe bubble for me to explore in during my visit — but this very support system made it too easy for me to stay comfortable and content with myself. I was holding myself back from actual growth because I was uncomfortable with exploring solutions to the things that made me uncomfortable, and the cultural construct of the civilization I found myself in. For the last 19 years of my life, I assumed that there was only one path to success and happiness and that was through conforming to American culture. Although my time in China was brief and far from the average spiritual enlightenment journey, a change in perspective was the most valuable element that helped me evolve into a more conscientious individual. What I initially defined as independence was challenged through these experiences, leading me to be thankful for the support from my loved ones that gave me
strength and guidance throughout the trip. My laolao’s constant yet constructive criticism shaped me into becoming more receptive and understanding. My once stubborn mindset of conforming to American societal standards dissipated into a burning desire to broaden my cultural experiences. ver time, this reflection began influencing my attitude toward the things that I am involved in, such as classes and extracurriculars. Before this trip, I was indifferent about the purpose of why I committed to things; now, I am more intentional, perpetually evaluating myself on how I can turn each situation into a learning and growing experience. Because of the privilege to taste a small slice of China’s customs first-hand, I came back to the U.S. motivated to embrace my Chinese ethnicity with my American upbringing and to celebrate my Chinese heritage with others through a refreshed perspective. After cultivating a broader perspective on my cultural identity, I developed a vision of what kind of person I want to become — someone who proudly embraces both sides of my Asian American identity. I want to continue growing into a thoughtful and openminded person through upholding core values of family and continual self-improvement, and ultimately I want to inspire other Asian Americans to explore this as well. Although I spent much of my childhood and adolescence hoping to one day be considered American, I achieved that recognition in China but soon realized that it didn’t come with all the glory I once thought it would. Neglecting my Chinese
heritage for so long caused me to encounter hardships in regard to cultural and language barriers that were crucial to connecting with my loved ones in China. It is important to move beyond the constructs of society so we can be seen as who we really are: diverse, complicated, and human. Sometimes we let our emotions get the best of us, and sometimes we need the courage to rediscover and reconnect with who we truly are. Embracing both sides of my cultural identity brought more perspective, happiness, and love into my life. Ultimately, all these realizations came from learning to accept myself as a Chinese American. The flavor of the egg was slightly sweet, yet it still resembled the taste of egg that was familiar to me. I realized that even though I was initially afraid to try the dish, I ended up really enjoying the new flavors. Even after coming back to Seattle and settling back into my college routine, the lessons I learned, things I tried, and experiences I went through from that summer have had a lasting impact on my daily life. On days where the gloomy, grey sky and soft pitter-patter of rain on my window accompany me, I take a sip from a spoonful of comforting, sweet water and reminisce on the mornings where I sat in the tiny kitchen of my laolao’s apartment, savoring the best part of the dish — the sweet egg.
MORE THAN JUST MY EYE Written and photographed by Olivia Witt
Hampi, India. â€œCan you take my picture?â€? A little girl confidently strides up to me, gets her portrait taken, then runs off giggling without giving me a chance to learn her name.
hat does it mean to have perspective? A birds-eye view of a situation, perspective gives one the opportunity to effectively evaluate circumstances to make an informed decision on how to proceed. Unfortunately, ideal theories often never execute well in practice. My fascination with perspective began when I first picked up a camera back in the spring of 2017. As an artistic outlet, my camera helped me during a pretty tumultuous period in my life I was seeing the world in a very singular manner, hyper-focused on the unpleasantries and unable to see past the challenges. The concept of perspective, however, drove me to better understand how to see the world in a multifaceted manner. That being said, it is difficult to learn a new skill when you feel so stuck in your current situation. Not only was my photography beginning to suffer, my outlook on my situation felt perpetual. Ultimately, it was my singular application of perspective that led me to such a frustrating existence.
â€œI have always found traveling is an opportunity for immense growth by placing oneself outside the realm of comfort.â€?
I decided that the only way to shift this was to take that first step past stagnation. That step took me further than I initially anticipated, taking me all the way to India. I have always found traveling is an opportunity for immense growth by placing oneself outside the realm of comfort. I am not implying that life in India is inherently uncomfortable, nor was I hoping to subject myself to it to view my own issues as less extreme. Rather, I was hoping to experience a culture outside of my own. I expected it to be mentally uncomfortable rather than physically. People often underestimate how daunting it is to be in an environment where you do not speak the language, do not fully understand the customs, and must adapt quickly to something so new. I have to admit, it was overwhelming. I packed everything up into my backpack and set off
Bangalore, India. In a mosque, a man says his prayers.
Left & bottom right: Melkote, India. A woman uses her homemade handloom to spin Indian cotton into yarn. Due to its fragility, this type of cotton can only be woven by hand using traditional methods.
“A bird’s-eye view of a situation, perspective gives one the opportunity to effectively evaluate circumstances to make an informed decision on how to proceed.” for the next three months to travel around a country I had only learned about in books. During the first few weeks, I was completely out of my element and was very timid when it came to using my camera. Hyper-aware of the ethical implications of photography, I did not want to misuse my equipment to inaccurately capture something that was not authentic. Perspective is a powerful tool that can either help bolster a truth or conceal it to further an agenda. To deal with that fear, I only shot photos from afar, solely capturing in real time what was happening around me. Although that strategy worked to capture some very raw moments, it failed to better teach me the amorphous concept of perspective.
fixed his clothes and stood up proudly, holding one of his bundles of hard work. I tried to explain to him that he did not have to stop working and that I actually wanted a photo of his hands, but he maintained his prideful pose so I snapped his picture exactly how he wanted it. That moment was the beginning of realizing my perspective is not exclusively relevant in situations like this one. If I held fast to my original perspective of wanting a shot of his hands, I would have missed out on a collaborative and deeply beautiful photo of someone filled with pride by his hard work.
This moment marked a significant change in how I use photography, which can be seen slowly throughout the progression of my work. I learned that in order to tell a truly authentic story, you must not shy away from incorporating multiple perspectives. Seeing my camera now as a vehicle to support the portrayal of a deeper story, I aim to capture a moment in time that celebrates more than just my eye.
In my first few weeks, we traveled a good deal around the city of Bangalore. The thousands of winding streets created a labyrinth of the unknown, a surprise at every turn. One day, my class was brought to a small row of houses down an unmarked street, and were welcomed inside a silk dyeing factory. When we walked through the door, I noticed countless piles of brightly colored silk yarn stacked in precarious piles throughout the room. In the back, smoke from vats of boiling dye burned my eyes and nose. Men were twisting, pulling, and lifting hot metal rods with silk draped on them to disperse the dye into every strand. I noticed a man organizing some silk and asked him if I could take a picture of him working. Lacking a common language between us, he guessed my question somewhat correctly,
Top left two & right: Bangalore, India. Amidst the steam of the silk dyeing factory, migrant laborers state that they work in conditions that make it difficult to earn income for their families. Bottom left: Hampi, India. A Hindu priest welcomed us into his cave temple to honor Shiva, the god of destruction, and give us his blessing of protection.
R E C L A I M I N G S PA C E Written by various authors Illustrated by Laura Keil
We asked our community how they have or are “reclaiming space” in their own way. Here’s what they said:
I. Out of Eden the first woman her body the earth the first environment
and feed the people and feed the spirit
here i am her bridge you could even call it root
and on my quest for truth and beauty perhaps I’ll lay a path to peace
you could even call it branch but if I trace back the thread
with flowers or small stones in my garden of compassion, understanding
perhaps I can help weave the nation to
in my garden of story do you think the land can feel pain? would the land cry for you as you cry for it? the land needs to heal too
wholeness they said only those fully human
health rooted in world reroute and connect to source to place where the garden is a nursery of reciprocity
could write his story (history) no word about the margins but perhaps I can grow a garden instead and tell the story of earth nourish the narrative
II. It was the day before the final exam for Sāmoan language class. Unfamiliar topics were likely to be on the test. Everyone (I included) felt the same dread. Anticipation, anticipation, anticipation. “O fea tatou te alu ai?” The instructors were still on their way to Alafua, so we took advantage of that time to study. The air was unusually calm, and 27 degrees felt more like 32. Despite the small class size, the room was filled with uneasiness. Particularly aggravated by the unusual effort required to study for this exam, Sabrina voiced her objections. “I don’t know why I’m studying Samoan when I’m not going to use it. I mean, it doesn’t really make any sense. Nobody uses Samoan.” Without turning my head, I instantly responded in a monotone voice: “It’s the same thing as saying no one ever uses indigenous languages.” It was either the smartest thing I did that day, or the stupidest. I don’t know. Nowhere in White U.S. can one learn Sāmoan in academia as far as I’m concerned. Who am I to critique one’s critique on the instrumental value of a language that is rarely taught at our institutions?
III. Nature is reclaiming Old objects restating From collapsing roofs To uprooting shoots Nature is creating a cycle Providing decay with no delay Places untouched, yet to be remade Objects continue to degrade Life continues to be made
Or, I’m simply a rebel.
IV. There is excitement in knowing that I am so full of water I am my own ocean. I experience all the seasons inside of me. There is more than enough to go around. I will swim in myself first. Become comfortable diving headfirst into me. Then get pulled by the waters around me. They told me to shrink. They told me to let others grow. They tried to shrink me. I am an immovable force. I am unstoppable energy. I will take up as much space as my body will allow. I belong here. Let my body stretch. I will not allow myself to shrink for them. Thank you Thank you Thank you for existing.
V. Complexion A double exposure poem: Read one side of the poem, then the other, and then all together. witness my mother’s fair skin witness my cousin’s sunkissed cheek dyed by a chemical lie a shade that took beyond weeks to perfect because beauty brands told her natural beauty isn’t good enough she holds her breath wishing she wishes that no one would see her bluff that no one would uncover her true complexion
VI. Dear Rome, I was a piece of parchment paper held together by glass when we last met, Dear Trevi Fountain, I was eleven when I stopped making wishes I threw a coin at you and the milky way fell down from the midnight sky, leaving a trail of dried-dandelion-skeletons. Their needles were still piercing me when I saw you leaning against the summer’s naked night I didn’t know how to break through, to touch you. Dear Bernini, If the rape of Proserpina can be made so soft that I can feel my forefinger meet my thumb between the skin hugging my ribs, can I be sculpted back to life? I’m scared the language holding us together will start to tear. Dear Spolia Wall, You showed me it’s acceptable to hold onto haphazardly stuck remains. You are five weeks of fragments I keep trapped behind the breaking glass on my phone, hoping you will slip through the cracks, materialize into my life Dear Etruscans, You taught me how to exist when I didn’t believe I was alive. Even though it feels like we never met I miss you.
VII. I wasn’t enough. So I spent eight months of my life trying to become smaller. I ran a lot. I ran even when it was midnight and I was sick and exhausted and still had homework. I had to reach that magic number. Then I could stop and everything would be okay for a little while until I’d wake up the next day and do it all over again. I only ate four foods: broccoli, spinach, sweet potatoes, and apples. I was a skeleton. I was dying. But I hid it really well. January 26th, 2018. I got help. My eating disorder screamed that I was a failure. Orthorexia and exercise addiction. I was sent to a facility where they made you eat six times a day and talk about all the shit you were dealing with. I cried because I couldn’t exercise for six months and had to eat scary foods like Snickers. I cried because I had to give up control. January 26, 2019. I’ll be at a climbing competition this weekend. I’ve spent the last year learning how to take up space and reclaim my body. I found my voice and I found myself. I am enough.
TA B L E F O R O N E Written by Nola Peshkin Illustrated by Kyler Martin
fter a few anxious laps around the block, accompanied only by my growling stomach, I finally gathered the courage to ask for a table at a local bistro. I was visiting a small town in Belgium at the beginning of a three-month solo trip and, up until then, never had to face the prospect of eating alone. It was late for dinner after all my indecision, and I was one of restaurant's only guests. I took a breath to steel myself and approached the host, muttering quietly, “Just a table for one, please,” hoping to be seated quickly and get the confrontation over with. He gave me a quizzical look, which I attributed to the language barrier, only to hear him spit out in perfect English, “You are all alone?”
jealous, wishing they were alone instead of on a bad first date. Or perhaps the age of the smartphone has conditioned us into fearing silence and solitude. Regardless of why it’s unpopular, throughout my solo travels I began to relish meals alone and the act of defiance that they became. Exploring international cuisine is exciting, delicious, and a huge draw of travel. It’s hard not to drool over beautiful #foodstagrams,
Here we go, I thought, equally overtaken by the irrational fear that he would follow me home and the more rational fear that he was judging me. He shot another side-eye glance as I nodded, and gestured to a table set for four, where I substituted my hat, backpack, and mittens for companions in the empty seats. Despite my friendly inanimate possessions, the couples seated around me seemed to watch my every move, quickly averting their eyes when I glanced in their direction. Eating alone felt so vulnerable, like I had walked up to that bistro naked. I ordered dinner, people-watched, and felt a little like a circus freak. But as I started to become lost in my own thoughts and observations, their presence faded from my consciousness. My preoccupations shifted to reflect on why it felt so abnormal to eat alone, and why other people with companions were doing the exact same thing as me, yet they seemed to find my actions overwhelmingly fascinating. Did I appear unlikable? Lonely? Narcissistic? Maybe they were
but the untold reality behind those photos often includes enjoying amazing food by yourself. Like every rose-tinted travel blog will tell you, meeting people in hostels or on tours is fantastic. Unfortunately, that immediate connection to other travelers is more of an exception than the rule, and sometimes you end up very hungry in an unfamiliar city without someone to eat with. Before I’d ever traveled solo, I was too concerned about packing enough underwear and not losing my passport to be bothered with such basic needs as eating. I was asked countless times if I was lonely or if I wished I had a partner, and I began to realize just how reflexively people associated my solitude with feelings of pity. In the age of social media, conscious alone time has become a radical choice. If we can listen, see, interact, and speak with others virtually when we don’t have that stimulation in reality, it’s easy to hide our fear of public solitude, and we never have to truly be alone. Instagram does not thrive on posts about single travelers eating silently, sitting and listening to the tables and life around them, sometimes even reading during the meal.
Instead, we are trained to double tap images of many plates and many people, eating together, talking, and laughing. Holiday gatherings, date nights, happy hours, family dinners — we don’t only eat because we need to, we eat because it gives us a shared space to build relationships with others. Food brings people together because it transcends language and allows people to share cultures and stories and create a community. Although food didn’t bring me connections with other people, in taking the time to slow down, meditatively chew, and reminisce on a day wandering the world, I began to find a connection with myself away from the noise of social media or other people’s input. It was a refreshing and unexpected form of self-care to be alone with my thoughts and really listen to myself. Did I want to spend the entire next day visiting museums? How about waking up early to watch the sunrise and sit at a coffee shop? It was my trip and my time, and I felt empowered to do things because I wanted to, not because I felt like I should. Eating by myself also seemed to give me an air of approachability and the go-ahead for strangers to initiate conversation. Sometimes fellow solo travelers asked if they could sit next to me at the bar which led to chatting about our days, or old couples wanted to care for me through companionship. Some of this came from being female and inevitably
possessing lingering stereotypes of fragility, but not being blocked by the barriers of phones or large groups gave us the space to open up and be with each other in a meaningful way, regardless of the few short minutes we had known each other. It would be wrong to neglect to discuss all the instances in which meals alone were still horrendous, even after I had become accustomed to being by myself. Once, in a Parisian cafe, the man behind the counter asked what I wanted to drink, and I asked in French for a glass of water. “Juste d'eau s'il vous plaît,” he mocked in a squeaky highpitched voice. I stared at him over the counter, slack-jawed and angry as he smirked, sauntered off into the back room, and did not return. In the Czech Republic, I was seated in the back corner of a small restaurant filled with windows, eating lunch and attempting to enjoy watching the world go by. Throughout the meal, my male waiter visited more often than normal, bringing unnecessary silverware as an excuse. After each trip to the table, he would stop, stand uncomfortably close, and smile at me, sizing me up like a piece of meat, eyes unabashedly roaming. He uttered vulgarities about my appearance
spent time sharing stories and meals with them, and certainly, my college-student budget was more conducive to picnics than restaurants. But in each bite without a companion, I found great confidence and freedom in not worrying about the opinions of other people. It’s not always a perfectly curated Instagram photo or a glamorous situation, but eating alone is solo travel reality, and one that empowered me to wield my solitude as a badge of honor.
and asked me to come home with him, just quietly enough that the people around us couldn’thear. Circumstances like these are the occupational hazard of womanhood, and I hated feeling like these men were carelessly injuring my independence with each catcall and abuse towards my solo vulnerability. That Belgian restaurant was my first plunge into the cold waters of dining alone, and all I could think was, “Are other people making judgments about me? What if I look weird?” People likely thought both of those things on more than one occasion, and I lived. More than that, meals alone became one of my favorite parts of solo travel. Of course there were cities where I made great friends and
“ It was my trip and my time, and I felt empowered to do things because I wanted to,
not because I felt like I should.”
“HOME” L AND Written and photographed by Grace Madigan
ometimes it strikes as you sit unmoving in the middle of traffic. Other times it hits suddenly and overwhelmingly as you lay in bed looking up at an unfamiliar ceiling thousands of miles away from the peaceful nights you found comfort in. No matter where we find ourselves in the world, there is a yearning for “home” that seems to follow us.
It’s hard to put a label on what “home” is because it changes so frequently for us in this day and age. We move away to go to college, get jobs, and eventually settle down somewhere that’s not necessarily where we grew up. It seems that the accepted definition of “home” is where we feel loved. In other words that have been said many a time, ”home” isn’t a place, it’s a feeling. But what happens when that place we want to call “home” is somewhere that we can only vaguely remember, built only from stories others have told us and depictions we see on TV and in the papers? The way that this “home” feels so foreign, yet strikingly familiar, makes this relationship you have with it unbelievably complex. At this point in my life, I’ve gotten pretty good at fielding questions that are asked of me and my family when they see two white people with two young Asian women. I wouldn’t say it gets easier, it just becomes more normal.
The adoption experience is unfathomably diverse and varied from person to person. It’s impossible to put into a box and neatly present to others. It’s messy and unwieldy, which is at times relieving as you realize that it was never meant to be contained. But at other times it is frustrating when you look around and see that everyone else managed to fit their experience and identity in a tidy little box. It would be wrong of me to suggest that people who weren’t adopted don’t struggle with identity and their sense of self, because they do. Some of the best conversations I’ve had about this struggle were with people who are mixed-race or grew up in communities where they were the only ones with brown skin. But the adoptee struggle to claim identity is unique in that our sense of belonging has always hinged on the fact that we are from a distant place we never fully got to know. The connection between land and humans can be thought about in a multitude of ways, but regardless of how you view that relationship, its existence is undeniable. This connection starts the moment we are brought into the world. It seems almost like an imaginary string is tied around our hearts at this moment to this place we were born. We may not remember it or care to remember it, but it’ll always be with us. That’s how I feel about China. I know it’s in
First picture of Grace Madigan that her parents received during the adoption process.
â€œ But the adoptee struggle to claim identity is unique in that our sense of belonging has always hinged on the fact that we are from a distant place we never fully got to know.â€?
me and on me. My black hair and tan skin, which other girls envied in middle school, inform the world that’s where I’m from. Most people think that’s who I am, but I couldn’t feel further from China or Chinese culture. Growing up, I was much more concerned about school and soccer than about learning Chinese. I swept that part of my identity aside. It wasn’t that I didn’t think about it, because I did. How could I not, when we did those silly family trees in middle school and I had to draw a dotted line from my mother and father’s names to mine while everyone else drew a solid black line? I’ve been back to China twice. Once was to get my younger sister and the other was a trip when I was seven years old that took us across the country, including a visit to where I was born. On the second trip back, I was too young to articulate the feelings being in the country had stirred in me. All I knew was that I felt something. I recall the tears that poured from my eyes and the aching in my heart the day I sat by the lake in the middle of Wuhu. None of the emotions made sense to me. All at once a torpedo of grief, sadness, anger, gratitude and happiness hit me. I felt sadness for what I
would never have — a life in China. I mourned the fact that the woman who birthed me was still out there not knowing my story and I not knowing hers. I felt anger for the circumstances that led me to this moment — the politics and history of China that produced the onechild policy. I felt gratitude toward the woman I’d never know for giving me the life I had. I felt happiness for finally being there — for breathing the same air that she does now or once did and for walking the same streets in the same land that she did. I don’t believe someone can ever fully heal from the trauma of being separated from those who gave them life. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever be happy or feel loved. It’s more complicated than that. Returning to the land you come from is an experience that everyone should have. Pain and confusion aside, I believe the pilgrimage to your place of birth is important because it reaffirms your existence. You may not remember anything about the place, but you will forever be tied to it. This is where you came into the world. I want to return to China again, this time alone. It might be ignorant of me to think that a solo trip to China will answer questions I’ve had inside me for some time. But I want this trip to be mine. I don’t want to have to
Grace Madigan just over a year old at Temple B’Nai Torah after her naming ceremony with her parents Frank and Pamela Madigan. Her Hebrew name, Ariel, was formally given to her and blessed by Rabbi Mirel.
try and explain these complicated feelings to anyone. It’s been over 15 years since I was last in the country. China’s changed a lot and so have I. I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever longed for China. I’ve wondered about it but never felt a draw to the country. But for some reason, that makes me want to go now more than ever. The pain and emotion from my last trip to China are still vivid memories. I couldn’t articulate how I felt and I still can’t. I think part of me wants to return and feel those feelings again so that I can sit with them longer and try to understand them. Maybe over the years I’ve gained something from my life experiences that will let me accept the pain and sadness that filled me a decade ago. Or maybe nothing will have changed and I’ll still sob uncontrollably, unable to fully understand why. Travel can help us escape; it can open up our perspectives but it can also heal. And I hope that maybe I’ll have a chance to heal too.
Grace Madigan in Tiananmen Square. On their trip to adopt their second daughter from China, the Madigan family spent a few days in Chinaâ€™s capital, Beijing.
B E C O M I N G YO U Written by Molly Slann Illustrated by Laura Keil
s I write this, I am sitting by myself in a cafe in Pioneer Square with a steaming cup of peppermint tea, surrounded by people on their lunch break or studiously working. Though I am here alone, it’s impossible to feel lonely. I wonder if that’s just me, or if other people feel as comfortable spending time with only themselves. The world can be a daunting place, and facing it alone is completely different than facing it with someone by your side. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Being alone allows you to get to know yourself. Loneliness is a human affliction, one that people battle every day, but what is it that makes the idea of being alone so petrifying? It could be a lack of confidence, a fear that spending time by yourself would be boring, or a conviction that people will judge you. It comes from a lack of understanding of ourselves and a crippling fear (conscious or not) of being left alone with our own thoughts and voices inside our heads. The irony here comes from the crazy fact that spending time alone is key to providing a strong sense of who you are.
Think about it — you must know some people who will happily travel alone on a soul-searching quest. Now think about their confidence. Those friends are the ones who are unapologetically themselves: they see their own flaws and accept them. Of all the people I know, those who have traveled alone are without a doubt those who have the courage to know themselves better than anyone else. We are part of a generation that makes self-deprecating jokes regularly which often stem from some form of truth. In today’s society, being proud of who you are is incredibly admirable. I have never felt completely comfortable in my own skin. If you met me out and about, you would probably agree that I come off as a confident person, which in many ways I am. I know myself. I can (as my teachers used to tell me) talk for England, and I will comfortably and shamelessly spend time alone. I am, however, still working on other personal aspects that I don’t have confidence in. My family is from a small town in rural England, where you are judged for everything and anything by everyone. Two and a half years ago, I decided I didn’t
“ It’s cliché to say, but traveling alone is a chance to find yourself.”
want to be pigeon-holed anymore. I longed to feel wanted and content, so I moved to London. It was the best decision I have ever made. Seeing how I’ve changed and grown in the last two years has shown me how much my thoughts on independence have changed.
It’s not about being able to stand in front of someone and unravel the inner workings of your brain — if you can do that, props to you — but more about realizing your limitations and not feeling bad for doing something because you want to. If you’ve ever sat at home and hidden a passion because you were embarrassed by it, try to take pride in that passion, and understand that it does not detract from who you are, but adds to who you could be. If you want to fly to Paris but no one can go with you, go by yourself. If that’s too big of a jump, take baby steps and go out to dinner alone or go see a movie.
I’ll list some places around Seattle I’ve found that are really good for trying alone if you want to start pushing your boundaries: Cherry Street Coffee House in Pioneer Square, Cafe Solstice on the Ave, Varsity Theater on the Ave, a small local bar (for persons over 21, obviously), 5th Avenue Theatre, Elliott Bay Book Company, the farmers market or vintage stores in Ballard and Fremont and, last but not least, Molly Moon’s Ice Cream. Learning to love yourself is incredibly important. Traveling alone is something that has really helped me with this, and I hope it can help you too.
I am a complete theatre geek, so having the West End — with all its plays and musicals — on my doorstep was a dream come true. It was this experience that helped me the most. The theatre is a welcoming environment, where you are accompanied by others who share an equal appreciation for the craft. It made me feel comfortable with being alone. Slowly, after pushing myself further and further — my largest step being moving out to Seattle — I am learning to accept and love myself for who I am. What is it about independent traveling, whether it’s to another country or across the street, that makes such a difference? Being alone means you only have yourself to rely on. If you get caught in a difficult or stressful situation, the responsibility falls solely on you to resolve it. On the flip side, being alone gives you the time to connect with yourself. It also grants the space away from others who might distract your personal reflection. It’s cliché to say, but traveling alone is a chance to find yourself. While it might not be an immediate process, as you are unlikely to have a sudden epiphany about who you are, you might start to notice a change over time.
A LONG ROAD HOME: L O V E L E T T E R S F R O M 5 , 2 0 0 M I L E S AWAY Written by Aleenah Ansari Photographed by Ostin Kurniawan
The Hardest Goodbye This is a day of long goodbye to Seattle, the person I love so much, and everything that makes me feel at home. I’m lucky to have so many things that make saying goodbye so hard because it means that the place I’m leaving is truly a home for me, one where I can put up my feet to rest and feel like I’m seen for everything I am. “Come back soon so I can love you” was one of the last things I heard, so saying goodbye was hard this time, but maybe it should be. The difference is that my heart doesn’t feel heavy because I know that I get to keep her precious heart in my life. I’m officially en route to Prague where I will live for two and a half months and will study everyday life under communism and the collective memory of the Holocaust in an effort to answer the question, “Who is responsible?” I know that stories and history can vary depending on where they’re told. This became clear when I attended a Catholic high school. In my AP U.S. History class, we didn’t learn about Roe v. Wade or the women’s rights movement that led to the legalization of contraception or a slew of other political movements. I know even less about my own history and the places where my mother and grandmother lived in Pakistan. I wondered why there was an AP European History class but no class dedicated to the other histories of the world. Instead, we used terms like “reverse racism” and talked about colonial and systemic oppression in the context of the past instead of acknowledging their repercussions today. Do I think about what part of history has been overlooked or misrepresented? Not as much as I should. I hope to understand and explore my own history and the parts that might be missing from my history books.
“You were one in a million. A dream I’m trying to forget. The love of my life. The loss of my life. Incredibly beautiful, easy to love, frustrating, easygoing, stubborn, headstrong, everything I want, nothing I need.”
Torn Between Two Homes
Could I get used to this?
When is love not enough? I’ve been asking this question over and over while searching every corner of my writing for the answer. I say this because I decided to write a love letter to someone else — a person that I used to love. It might sound cliché, but I figured that I didn’t have anything to lose since they’re not in my life anymore. My only goal was to show love in the most vulnerable way possible. What else can I give except everything, my words, and the deep vulnerability of immortalizing my love in writing?
What part? Looking up to see pastel streets and terracotta roofs against bright blue skies that take me back to a place to reset at the end of the day? The crack of fresh bread that complements sweet farmer’s cheese at Mama Coffee? I’m thankful for all of this and more, especially to be learning things I couldn’t learn if I had continued to choose the comfort of Seattle. I never thought about how historical events like the Holocaust or World War II are memorialized in or omitted from public spaces and museums until I saw it done in Vienna, Prague, and Kraków. I hadn’t thought about how countries take, or avoid, responsibility for the dark parts of their history. Settling into a new apartment, morning routine, and way of being outside of Seattle has made me realize that the only constant is change, whether it’s my surroundings, the way I think about my own history, or my education as a whole. What about all the memories that made me fall in love with home? I miss the leaves as harbingers of fall, fresh air, maybe even the continuous mist that sprinkles every Seattle winter. I miss the tradition of going all the way back to Federal Way for Thanksgiving and begging my mom to make her famous stuffing and pumpkin bundt cakes just for me. I miss the traditions I’m still developing, like trying the monthly flavors at Salt & Straw and documenting the way that Red Square changes with the weather. I can’t remember the last time Seattle’s fall leaves didn’t guide me into a new school year. Now, I can see that both of these feelings — the sense of longing for home and the excitement of putting down roots somewhere new — can exist at once. Prague is my home, resting place, and the thing I miss when I visit other countries right now. But I will always miss the things I love, and the people I love can always move. I’m always in transit in some way, but that doesn’t have to make me less present where I am. I’m realizing that more than one place can be home for me, and Prague is on its way to getting a special place in my heart.
I always say that home will be there to welcome me home. Isn’t that the nature of unconditional love, something that’s grounding even when everything else changes? This time around, my love left me shattered. I’m turning the verb “love” to past tense because they don’t want me back in their life in any real way. Now, I’m forcing myself to let go of my dreams for the future with them. You were one in a million. A dream I’m trying to forget. The love of my life. The loss of my life. Incredibly beautiful, easy to love, frustrating, easygoing, stubborn, headstrong, everything I want, nothing I need. I think I’ll always see them as an eternal caregiver who’s been nursing my heart since the beginning. I was ready to come home to the smell of oregano and freshly grilled tomatoes from the farmer’s market for them, all before kissing them on the cheek as they take off their coat and maybe all of this will happen in real life instead of in my head. Maybe I’ll bring them all the way to Prague so I can show them all my favorite corners of the city, from the botanical gardens on the outskirts of town to that bakery with the best devil’s food cake. I know, I know. Some things are only sweet in my head, not real life.
Will this be the end of love? Of course not, how could it be when I’m here, writing love letters and sending them, planning surprises, and preparing to come home to my girlfriend and friends who have shown me love amid everything else that’s happened.
The Final Goodbye
A Long Road Home
The other day, my friend texted me: “I hope you leave Europe with a full heart and no regrets.”
This is my hardest goodbye yet. You are cold air whipping through my hair while sunshine gleams over rested eyelids Worn leather combat boots clattering against cobblestone streets The feeling that students can rewrite history You feel gentle As if you know your own beauty but never have to prove it to anyone Maybe I could have learned more If I had not been so distracted By the love that tugged on my heart But even then you were home, The one that always welcomes me back even when I grab a drink with Berlin on the weekends dance the night away in Vienna entertain the idea of spending a night with Kraków just one more time or stay out a little too late just to watch someone else put on a show for me But you can read me like a book I could never be gone for long You remind me of heartbreak and loss And the general feeling that love can change everything If you let it And maybe just maybe I have found a new place And made it my own You are part of my expanding of home, A piece of the past that I carry with me I’ll save the last dance for you every time
I hope so too. I mean, I was at the edge of my comfort zone while visiting new countries, writing love and loss letters, and grappling with questions about personal and collective history. Despite being in Prague, I’ve missed the stories and places that make Seattle my chosen home. I mean come on, have you seen Seattle? I don’t know if anything could compete with that skyline, dreamy view of Mount Rainier, and dahlias around every corner. Still, my love for the Pacific Northwest doesn’t have to divert my attention away from Prague as a chosen home for this period of my life. I think there is love to be had here, even when I’m 5,200 miles away from everything familiar. I’ve learned that I can be present while abroad and be in love with someone who’s somewhere else. I’ve realized that attitude changes everything, nothing is inherently neutral, and we all deserve to learn the history of our people. I’ve learned that Prague is a beautiful, wondrous, special place that I will miss so dearly, especially cotton candy skies against pastel buildings and the breathtaking view when I walk across the Charles Bridge at sunset. I’ll miss walking through a city full of a rich history of activism, as evidenced by the fact that the center of the city, Wenceslas Square, was the sight of a major student uprising that led to the fall of communism in the Czech Republic. Now the question is, “What will I do next?”
SACRED Written by Sumaya Ali Illustrated by Kyler Martin
n this earth, there are places considered sacred to many people. To travelers worldwide, taking a trip may just be a desperately needed vacation or something to knock off one’s bucket list, but to some people, certain trips are considered spiritual and have deep meanings. Such is the case with my beloved uncle, a man who took what I like to call a sacred trip.
Before my uncle began describing his journey to me he said, “I waited fifteen years, and I saved up so much money just for this one life-changing journey and it was worth it.” This life-changing journey and memory forever lodged into his mind was his pilgrimage, called Hajj, to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia that he took at 40 years old. A desert town stitched at the bottom of the Sirat Mountains in the Hijaz region of central Arabia, Mecca is considered the holiest place on earth to Muslims because it is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Making a trip to this city is considered an act of worship so grand that if a person does it, then all of their sins are forgiven. For many, the trip isn’t just an act of worship but a journey towards spiritual healing and emotional fulfillment. Mecca may seem to be like just another city on earth, but to 1.5 bil-
“ We learn that just like the world, we too are deserving of kindness, healing, and the right to be everlasting.”
lion Muslims it is considered sacred and a place many wish to visit at least once in their lifetime. “I needed that trip, I desperately did,” my uncle said as he described what it felt like to make the pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. For him the trip was one of “spiritual necessity,” one that he deeply needed after losing his mother in the same year. In order to officially begin his Hajj, my uncle entered a sacred state known as ihram, in which he was required to wear plain white garments and had to follow certain rules such as not cutting his hair or nails, or hunting animals. He showed me a video of his favorite part of the Hajj where pilgrims performed Tawaf, an action that requires pilgrims to circle the Kaaba seven times counterclockwise. I was astonished by how many people were circling the Kaaba. People from all different walks of life came to this one place on earth to pray, to seek refuge, and to seek healing in something greater than themselves. Each and every person was making dua (supplication) in their native tongue, praying and asking for whatever their hearts desired both in whispers and in shouts as they circled the Kaaba. I could only imagine the sense of community he felt despite this being a very intimate and personal trip. The first part of his Hajj was spent in Mina, a neighborhood in Mecca painted with white tents. He described Mina as the hottest place on earth, “where the Middle Eastern sun felt like it was sitting on your head and where people would sweat in puddles.” My uncle only spent a day in Mina and stayed in one of the many white tents that covered the area. From sunrise
to sunset he spent his entire day in prayer and solitude, trying his best to prepare himself spiritually for the trip ahead of him. In the next part of his journey, he traveled to east Mecca in order to reach Mount Arafat, a small granite hill that is also known as the “Mountain of Mercy.” “My trip to Mount Arafat was the most important,” he said. In Islam, if a person doesn’t travel to this mountain, their Hajj would be invalid and their pilgrimage wouldn’t be accepted by God. My uncle said that everyone, regardless of their physical condition, hiked up the mountain under the hot desert sun as they listened to the Sheikh (religious leader) give an Islamic lecture about the importance of their trip. After sunset the next part was to be spent in Muzdalifah, an open area tucked in between Mina and Arafat. In this part of the trip, the pilgrims would spend their night under the stars, making supplications as they carried pebbles in between their fingers in preparation for the next day’s rituals. “The night sky in Muzdalifah was beautiful,” my uncle said. He went on to talk about the night he spent in Muzdalifah as one that was memorable due to the overwhelming feeling of tranquility he felt as he trudged alongside the rocky and sandy Saudi streets. “I think it was in that moment that I realized how much this trip was benefiting me emotionally.” The next morning my uncle, alongside the other pilgrims, headed back to Mina in order to perform the next rami (obligation). This obligation was to throw seven pebbles at the largest of three columns, known as jamarat, which is a
symbolic act that represents stoning the devil. After throwing the pebbles, the pilgrims must perform a sacrifice or pay someone to slaughter either a sheep, goat, cow, or camel in their name. After doing so, my uncle had one last thing to do in order to officially complete his Hajj. He had to shave his head and change his ihram clothes, and afterward, he proceeded to return to Mina. When he did, he performed tawaf again and circled the Kaaba seven times. Then he walked between the bumpy hills of Safa and Marwa and thus completed his Hajj. “My Hajj is something I am always going to remember,” my uncle said, and I told him that his story was something I was always going to remember as well. Traveling for a spiritual reason or traveling to a place considered sacred is something extremely intimate. My uncle’s trip taught me how vulnerable a person can be both with the world and with themselves when they engage in such a trip. For my uncle, this trip was about healing, and for others, these types of journeys serve as a means of emotional fulfillment. Traveling can be an act of self-care because, in the process of learning about the world, we learn more about ourselves. We learn that just like the world, we too are deserving of kindness, healing, and the right to be everlasting.
ON THE TRAIL Written by Jordan Khodabande Photographed by Karen Wang
aren Wang is no rookie to the outdoors. Within the past couple of years, sheâ€™s accomplished plenty: backpacking throughout the Pacific Northwest, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and acquiring the necessary skills for mountaineering and climbing. While these experiences in the outdoors have strengthened different aspects of her life, 2018 presented her with an entirely unfamiliar challenge. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a footpath stretching from Mexico to Canada. This 2,650 mile ribbon of dirt meanders through a myriad of biomes: deserts, the High Sierra, old
growth forests, and the Cascades of Oregon and Washington. Setting out on the trail in 2016, Karen was determined to make it to Canada regardless of extreme temperatures, harsh terrain, or any logistical complications like wildfires or snow. Regardless of the long water carries in the Mojave desert and the inevitable snowfall that brings cold weather fronts to the Northern Cascades of Washington, she refused to partake in any skipping or flipping and withstood any conditions the trail presented her. Despite these intentions, she was forced off the trail at Crater Lake, Oregon (mi. 1,820) due to an ankle fracture while breaking through a
fallen tree. Returning the following year, Karen was able to hike the remaining miles to Manning Park, British Columbia where the Northern Terminus monument of the trail stands. All thru-hikers can empathize with one another in the ways that the Pacific Crest Trail has deeply affected them: a restored sense of appreciation forthe natural world, a heightened mental endurance, and countless other ways difficult to articulate. While the Pacific Crest Trail taught lessons of grit, perseverance and keeping calm in a multitude of physical and mental states, 2018 tested Karen in an unprecedented manner.
top left: Trail sign in the Mt. Adams Wilderness, WA top right: Campsite in the Mt. Adams Wilderness, WA bottom: Original trail markers outside of Olallie Lake, OR
On January 1, 2018, Karen developed Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW), a condition characterized by “flares,” after discontinued use of topical corticosteroids used to treat lifelong eczema. These “flares” are painful episodes of intense swelling, redness, flaking and oozing of the skin. Reaching tolerance of her most potent corticosteroid after she finished the trail, she was faced with choosing between enduring withdrawal or moving to a stronger prescription and staying on steroids for life. TSW completely destroyed her immune system, hormone regulation, skin, mental wellness, and ultimately every aspect of her life for months on end. While the accumulation of all these struggles led Karen to believe her life was no longer worthy at points, she confided in her memories on the PCT and found solace in relating her suffering with TSW warriors and survivors, her trail family and lifelong friends. Completely being stripped of the things that gave her joy and purpose, she felt as if she was in a dark tunnel with no end, until there was one. After ten months of withdrawal, Karen found herself at a turning point after months of physical suffering without relief. By nature, TSW is
completely unpredictable. It’s not uncommon for flares to pop up a year after cessation of use, and these conditions are capable of sticking around for years. Regardless, she began to feel normal as she got parts of her life back — wearing regular clothes, seeing dear friends, and less severe symptoms. Following a year of no hiking, she set out to do a thru-hike of the Enchantments. The accumulation of mental endurance acquired through both the Pacific Crest Trail and TSW granted her passage in completing the 18 miles in the alpine paradise of the Enchantments, complete with golden larches, blue lakes, and clear fall weather. Whether it’s the Enchantments or the PCT, Karen has come to realize that the trail is where she feels most empowered, safe, and like herself. Being able to get out and enjoy the world is something she needed to do for herself after an inexplicable year. While still living and battling with symptoms of TSW, Karen has made plans to rehike sections of the PCT in the summer of 2019, as well as train for her first ultra-marathon.
top left: A change of season is evident at White Pass, WA bottom left: White Pass, WA right: Cowboy camping (sleeping outside without shelter) right after Cajon Pass, CA
left: Hikers heading towards the iconic Knife Edge in Goat Rocks Wilderness, WA top right: Campsite after Mt. Baden-Powell, CA bottom right: Northern Terminus of the PCT. Karen makes it to Manning Park, British Columbia after hiking 2,650 miles from the Mexican border.
“BUT IS IT SAFE? ” CONQUERING THE FEAR OF B E I N G A W O M A N W H O T R AV E L S Written by Hannah Myrick Illustrated by Laura Keil
here is nothing quite like the stabbing fear that hits your stomach when you arrive at an unfamiliar destination. That endless reel of worst-case scenarios: you’ll somehow never make it out of the airport, you’ll get food poisoning every single day. Wherever your brain wants to take it, you’re there.
But often there’s more. In its wake lies a horrible fear as a woman traveling that the physical space we take up means our lives and our bodies are at stake. Thoughts like that, reasonably so, make it hard to imagine boarding a plane. The global interconnectedness that has come from social media and the presence of travel in more and more cities around the world has stemmed a #solowomentravel movement that looks to stare that fear straight in the eyes and kick it aside. On the other hand, those hashtags often lend themselves to the perfect digital “reality” that is anything but. So we find ourselves fighting the image of two worlds: the one where we carry nothing but the packs on our backs, traveling solo like an unstoppable wind of thrill, and the one where we are tanning fiends, packing only seven different
bikinis and constantly finding ourselves with a glass of champagne in our hands. These two images of travel can overlap no matter how you like in your own travel experience, but at the end of the day we have to ask: how do we harness the power of a digital reality to stare fear straight in the eyes and create the unstoppable travel experience we’ve dreamed of ?
Unearth Women is a powerful push to make that first step. It is the first ever travel magazine created and run by women, and is stirring the pot that holds the stereotype of women traveling, marking themselves a “feminist travel magazine.” The demographic of female travelers is underrepresented in proportion to the amount that we make up the travel industry. Oftentimes the stereotypical image of “travel” and “women” becomes “Top 10 Balconies to Find a Lover in Paris.” This is especially true in the magazine world with content that targets women, but is found in magazines run by men. It’s a combination that doesn’t add up. Unearth Women tells stories of women from all over the world, so that you leave their content wanting not simply to travel to the places writ-
ten about, but to meet and connect with the women who define those places. From a story on South Africa’s female anti-poaching unit saving the rhinos, to the Hill Tribe women of Thailand creating their own invaluable communities, along with feminist city guides and much more, their content reflects connection and a passion for learning as an impetus for travel. There is nothing quite like diving deeper into a desire to explore new places that is rooted in learning and making new connections. They are not always uplifting stories, but what more is travel than an unveiling to catch a glimpse at the realness and beautiful chaos of the world? “We are more focused on highlighting a destination through a different lens... To survive as a travel print publication is really difficult. In order to survive we had to be as specific and as niche as possible,” says Kelly Lewis, the Executive Editor and Co-Founder of the magazine. Lewis wears endless hats, not only at Unearth Women, but within other projects she founded herself. She created Go! Girl Guides, travel guidebooks by and for women, and Damesly, a
“ Caution as a solo female traveler is healthy; blind fear is not.” women’s travel group which prioritizes learning and specializes in tours for “creative + professional women.” She also organizes the annual Women’s Travel Fest in New York, which sells out every year. Lewis and the staff of Unearth represent a powerful travel community of women — one which has always existed but is gaining ground because of social media. The magazine is moving forward into its third edition of print, international distribution, developing food guides and even a podcast about feminism. It prioritizes a comprehensive look at how we travel as women. We don’t all travel for tans. Many travel for experiences and greater understandings of the world despite the fears that threaten to derail us. “Even though we have the resources to have this information, we still are kind of afraid because it’s still sort of a bold move,” says Lewis, about the same fears that women have come to her about traveling since she started her work in the travel world eight years ago. Unearth Women isn’t the only one challenging us to look past our fears. Last year, Jada Yuan was selected by the New York Times to travel to 52 pre-determined destinations over the course of a year and write
all about it. In her reflection, which wraps up her trip as a whole, she lays it out: traveling for a year is unfathomably draining. It was the whirlwind of her lifetime, but at times, a nightmare. She discusses not just the necessity of being on alert, but the “literal extra cost to being a woman traveling on your own,” like taking taxis instead of public transportation and opting for a guide while exploring certain areas because the tours had a two person minimum. She tells stories of being followed home at night and of moments that made her feel alone and drained. But still, her message remains: “Caution as a solo female traveler is healthy; blind fear is not.” So how do we balance blind fear and experiencing all we’ve dreamed of ? I think Yuan, Unearth Women and the women who tag their photos #solowomentravel on Instagram point to the same thing: community. A recognition that there are countless women who are available and want to help you conquer your fear of exploration. Women professionals in the travel industry and those who travel independently create networks that support us all and encourage us to ask questions about the places we dream to go.
“We’ve created a community of women and we all support each other and challenge each other to see the world,” says Lewis. When we travel, we are forced to confront the ways in which we operate as single beings in the world. But we don’t have to be alone the whole time, because although there’s only so much we can prepare, we can always strengthen our minds and our networks. Support for what may seem to be the impossible is never as far as you think. From you as a single traveler comes a ripple effect of many more. You are an inspiration to all and a source of knowledge that no one else has. And to those female travelers, don’t forget it: your steps forward are your superpower and what build an invincible community of female travelers in your wake.
“The colorful rooftops of Cádiz, Spain. View from the Torre Tavira.” - Sophia Niehaus
photo competition 48
“Captured by drone near Waglisla, British Columbia. The remote white-sand beaches of the Hakai Protected Area offer incredible campsites to kayakers on multi-day trips.” - Alex Nagode
“Located in northwestern Spain, Salamanca is known for its unique architecture and rich history. This image was shot atop the Salamanca Cathedral.” - Emilee Helm
The Voyage Team
LEAD COPY EDITOR
Not Pictured Jamie Brown: M A N A G I N G E D I T O R Johnna Bollesen: C O P Y E D I T O R
Voyage is a travel adventure magazine entirely crafted by undergraduate students at the University of Washington. With stories and photos that span from our home turf, the Pacific Northwest, and across the world, we seek to inspire adventure and increase cultural and geographic awareness.
T h an k you for supp orting Voyage.
ISSUE 6 RECLAIMING NARRATIVES
VOYAGE Seattle WA Spring 2019 voyageuw.com
Our 6th issue, dubbed “Reclaiming Narratives”, moves into the introspective journey that we are often prompted to take when we open ourselve...
Published on Nov 19, 2019
Our 6th issue, dubbed “Reclaiming Narratives”, moves into the introspective journey that we are often prompted to take when we open ourselve...