Your Brain on Travel (Guest Post)

Hello World U.P. friends!

 

For those of you who may not know me my name is Ashley Grant (or as my blog followers know me Beloved Brainy Babe). I will be doing a social media take over for World U.P. this month focusing on how my first huge travel experience has changed me thus far!

 

Three months ago I hopped on a 16-hour flight and began my first adventure abroad. Prior to February 21st, I had never been anywhere outside of the US (except for two cruises which allowed me to spend a day at each of a few destinations in the Bahamas and Mexico). To me, the logical first step to change this was to move to Australia for the coming year…. By myself. While the idea of moving 10,000 miles away from home seemed a bit intimidating at first, it has been an incredible, growth-filled, life-changing experience already and I’m only about a fourth of the way through!Ashley 2The first major adjustment that I am still working to cope with has been the enormous time difference from where I call home. Minus a few hours during my morning (or at home’s night) or some very late nights for myself allowing me to speak with home quite early in their morning, the vast majority of my time is spent without my family, friends, and support system just a phone call away. I have always been the kind of girl to call my mom during every grocery shop in case I can’t find which aisle an item is in and she can easily tell me what to look for, or when I received a good grade on an assignment during my days at university I would immediately text my family to share the good news. Now I can send that text, but I won’t get a response until I’m already asleep for the day and that initial excitement has worn off.

 

At first, this made for some long, lonely days. I felt I had nobody to share my good news with or to help me feel better when something not so ideal would happen. But then there was this internal shift, this sense of self-acceptance. I began doing things for me. That might sound a bit expected as everybody does things for themselves, but I began fully embracing the feelings of excitement and disappointment as they would come in my day. When I got my first job abroad or  I missed the bus and had to wait 30 minutes until the next one came making me late for my first meeting of the day or when I confirmed an apartment that I would make my home for the coming months, I began learning to cope with these welcome (and maybe not so welcome) daily occurrences on my own. I would have a celebratory dance party in my room or practice some deep breathing to calm myself down or take myself to a nice lunch. After a while, I didn’t need the external support or reinforcement. I began fully being in the moment for myself, not to tell someone else about it.

 

My brain doesn’t look for someone else to tell me good job and make me feel reassured for my wins in life. It doesn’t need someone else to be its shoulder to cry on. This big, growing, emotion-filled, excited brain of mine has learned how to fully feel excited for itself and to soothe itself. What a wonderful change indeed.

 

I truly have become my own best friend in these three months.

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Don’t get me wrong I have also met some incredible people and made heaps of friends (yes I’m also getting down with the Aussie lingo)! These new friends who have shown me that if I am my own silly self I will attract people towards me that are on that same fun mental wavelength. My social network has expanded in ways I could never have imagined. Prior to arriving in Australia, I had one friend who was a foreign exchange student in my high school that lived in Finland and two girls I had as pen pals in French class that lived in France. Otherwise, all of the human connections I had were housed within the great US of A. I now have friends in Germany, the UK, Italy, and all around Australia and, again, I’ve only been here three months! Image how much this social network will grow as this year progresses. This change has made me (and my now internationally connected brain) more engaging in new social settings for you’ll never know how great the person in front of you is at Starbucks unless you take the awkward leap and start a conversation with them.

 

For those of you who may not know, the ‘U.P.’ in World U.P. stands for understanding and peace. The final big change I have noticed through this experience thus far is that I feel I have a better understanding for those around me. Not only have I developed this desire to connect with all sorts of new humans, but I also have developed this better understanding of others. Traveling has made me realize that oftentimes people are not intending to be hurtful; rather the likely case is that the action that frustrated you may be the outcome of a cultural norm in their friend group, family structure, religion, etc. This newfound understanding has contributed to more peaceful interactions as I am no longer easily offended by others actions. The acceptance of others’ habits around me has also brought to light some of the oddities in myself that have remained my norm for so long due to my being surrounded by people with similar habits. Being in a new world so different from my own has made me see the good in others and learn to accept the things I don’t understand in them which has brought me a new inner peace as well.

 

Adventure is out there and you should find what that means for you! Every new adventure exposes your brain to something it may have never previously experienced. You don’t necessarily need to move to a new country to see changes in yourself. You could simply become a tourist in your own country or your own area. Put yourself out there, talk to those around you and see what changes you notice in your own brain!

 

Keep dreaming World U.P. community,

Beloved Brainy Babe

 

A Letter From The Executive Director

Dear Friends,

Welcome to our new and improved website. Thanks to my dear friend and previous RVA resident, Devon Charles, our webpage looks professional, clean and bright!

I thought that I would christen our new web presence by finally  posting a letter from the World U.P. Executive Director, me. I’ve been fighting this post for a while. You see, this letter hasn’t come easy, because there’s the letter to everyone that I should write, and then there’s the letter that I need to write. The version I should write is poised, professional, inspirational, and creates confidence in the community that I have every ability to create the most diverse, dynamic, and successful non-profit that the Richmond community has every seen. I should write you a cover letter that makes you want to donate all your time (and money) to World U.P., and tells you numbers and statistics.  I should reiterate my professional experience for you and why I’m qualified to be an Executive Director. In fact, I want every person to know all these things, but the problem is that should has never worked for me. Instead, I’m going to share with you what I need to write. If you want my qualifications, I’m happy to share my resume.

The letter I need to write gives you the raw honest truth as to why World U.P. exists, the amazing people I get to work with, and what exactly it is we are trying to accomplish. I’m going to share my heart. So, stick with me friends, because once my heart starts talking – it’s difficult to shut up.

In June 2016, I asked myself a very difficult question – Why does so much hate exist in this world? While I didn’t know the answer (and doubt I ever will), I knew that I had never felt so blessed to be a privileged, educated, moderately traveled, white woman in this century. Living in a time when we literally have access to the world at our fingertips, I never understood how it is that we can still hate people we haven’t met and so easily judge the people we have. While there are many explanations and theories out there, I tend to think that it all boils down to fear. Fear of the vast unknown and finding out that all the things we have come to so firmly believe isn’t true. Fear is the biggest stimulant of hate and judgment – it motivates some and isolates others. So, how do we overcome these fears? Personally, I think that experiencing our fears head-on and learning about our fears unveils three things (1) the hidden beauty of the thing we fear, (2) how to differentiate the good in the fear from the bad, and avoid the bad, and (3) we are capable of more than we can imagine. So, if fear cultivates hatred and judgment of others,  then theoretically experiences our fear can cultivate love, peace, and understanding.

I believe that cultural experiences helps mitigate racism, religious intolerance, and hate.The problem is that there’s a HUGE portion of society that don’t have access to classes on religions of the world or language classes, much less access to travel. I think that anyone who wants to have cultural experiences, should be able to have them, for free. People shouldn’t have to choose between surviving and becoming a citizen of the world. I think that’s a problem – and it turns out that a lot of people agree with me.

I have to say, I frequently get overwhelmed by how many people feel as passionate about this mission of World U.P. as I do. Let’s talk about some of those people for a moment, shall we? Once you’re done reading my long post – take a look at our Team Page. Look at those smiles! Aren’t they some of the most beautiful and sincere people you have ever seen? I feel blessed EVERY SINGLE DAY that I have found such wonderful people to work with in this organization. We push each other, we compliment each other, and above everything else we support each other. When we get together to laugh, talk, plan, develop, and coordinate – it doesn’t feel like work. To me, it feels like hanging out with some of my best friends. We are all vastly different, but we who share an amazing mission/vision to live in a peaceful society that is a melting pot of races, religions, foods, music, arts, and languages – a culturally diverse melting pot, if you will.

So, these amazing people and I got together and decided to try and create opportunities for people who cannot afford them. Opportunities to learn about other cultures. Opportunities to travel. Opportunities to interact with people they wouldn’t normally meet. Opportunities to experiences things that are traditionally expensive or availability, that to some they seem frivolous or are what dreams are made of, and ten months later, here we are. Over the next few months we hope  to roll out a few programs (which can be seen on our home page) that can broaden people’s horizons and further cultivate a community of cultural understanding and peace.

I hope that this blog becomes a place of community inspiration, education, motivation, and information for anyone who wants to start something big or just see a more peacefully diverse society. All the -ations, really. Most importantly, I want this blog to be a sea of voices, not just mine, so I ask (and beg) you to contact us with questions, comments, articles, stories, etc. that think would make great content for our site.

Thank you in advance for joining us on this journey, supporting us, and tolerating my over use of terrible puns and dad-humor.

Peace, Love, & Understanding,

Liz Dukette

¡Buen viaje!

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In just four short days I will be arriving in the wonderful country of Mexico and will be there for about a week. Having studied abroad there during the summer of 2015, I am so excited to be going back. Studying in Mexico City and Oaxaca was an incredible experience, but I’m really looking forward to being able to enjoy this trip without the stresses of school work!

There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding Mexico and the Mexican culture, as there are with everything, but I hope posting photos can help bring to light the day to day realities of the culture and its people. I’m excited to see some of Mexico during a different time of year and am interested to see what has and hasn’t changed since I was there last.

I hope you’ll join me through pictures throughout the week – I’ll be posting trip updates via Instagram! Follow us at @world_up_ or feel free to follow my personal account at @vicccccck (which will probably have more frequent updates).

I will have a more extensive update about the trip as a whole once I return, but until then…¡hasta pronto!

~Victoria Reichert//Director of Marketing

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#WorldUPMexico