|Crashing waves near Point Dume|
As a rule, when I travel, I don’t network.
I travel to visit with friends and family. I often stay at their houses, work with their schedules, and ride in their cars. I have limited vacation time provided through work, so I don’t often get more than a long weekend when I visit loved ones, and it’s just not worth it to me to carve out a space for friendly networking, no matter how beneficial or fulfilling it might be.
I also travel to get some perspective on my day-to-day. I spend nearly all of my spare time (and some of my work time) talking about consumer ethics, manufacturing, and sustainability. I write and photograph for this blog. I pitch articles and tinker with html and obsessively check Google Analytics. And, while I find it immensely gratifying, I also tend to get tunnel vision fairly quickly and it’s hard to get a sense of what matters most.
Physically leaving my environment and visiting with people who know me outside of that context helps me better gauge my long term goals and better understand my role within the world I occupy.
|Daniel and me at a dusty outlook over the city|
Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself is not be a “conscious consumer” for awhile.
Now, that’s not to say that I shouldn’t be mindful of the things I purchase on trips, throwing my moral convictions to the wind. It’s to say that I strive when I’m away to remember that I’m a person, first and foremost. It’s healthy for me to separate the “consumer” part from the “conscious” part for a few days, to practice being considerate of others and myself without that being attached to want.
On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I explored desert landscapes, people watched at Venice Beach, admired modern architecture, ate cuisines not available to me in Charlottesville, watched the grandest ocean sunset I’ve ever seen, climbed to the top of Point Dume, chatted with the locals, binge watched all of Stranger Things with friends, and took lots of naps. I helped with the dishes and chopped the vegetables for dinner. I set the table and took twilight walks.
And I felt like I was able to get real clarity on what I want for myself and what I need in both a career and in a life. I was challenged by the task of living in someone else’s home for a week and learned how to compromise and work through impatience, which reminded me that this task of just being with people harmoniously is something hard and worth accomplishing.
|The sunset in Malibu|
I think a lot of us conscious consumers and ethical bloggers think that if we can reach some secular humanist version of enlightenment and make ourselves perfect, that will have a ripple effect and the world will be forever better.
But I think that’s a lie. If I become a vegan who makes all my own clothes out of hemp I’ve grown and hand dyed with herbs, if I live on a homestead and sing to the animals and paint with all the colors of the wind, I might find some personal gratification. But that’s just a drop in the bucket. The world is vast and it’s not my job to change it by myself.
I believe I have a responsibility to act with intention in small and big ways. I believe that my choices matter. But if I burn out, what good am I to anyone? If I forsake intimate relationships for networking visits, if I visit a fair trade store instead of climbing a mountain to see the sea lions play in the water below, if I am nice on the internet and mean to my husband because I’m too tired to practice kindness, am I really succeeding at bettering myself in the end?
Some days, being a person is hard enough.
My advice to myself and to you is to be as patient and kind as you can be to yourself and others. Take a break from your personal brand and watch a sunset. Sometimes in the clutter of war, sweatshop tragedies, and political turmoil, I forget that life is actually still worth living. I forget why I’m fighting or what I’m fighting for.
But after time away, I remember that I’m fighting for my and everyone’s right to laugh raucously with friends and binge watch Netflix and get soaked by the cold waves of the Pacific Ocean.
I’m fighting for a right to live, and live well.