“Welcome to the Community.”
It was my first night out in my new hometown. I knew one person. She and I had met only once before.
New place, new people, new everything. My instinct was to feel like an outsider. But when I got introduced to the first of many people that night, that was his greeting.
“Welcome to the community,” he said.
It caught me by surprise. And it made me smile.
And I kept smiling, as it happened over and over. After two or three “welcomes” to the Santa Cruz community, I sensed that this greeting was common, a genuine expression of acceptance and warmth. After the 10th, I realized my new home was comprised precisely of the type of community I knew intuitively I would find.
Returning to the United States after three years traveling, I was not sure what to expect. A myriad of articles posted by travel friends led me to believe the return—to the country, to “society,” to “normalcy”—would be a challenge.
Going on a long-term vagabonding mission—seeing and experiencing life so far outside of the norms—was supposed to lead to disconnect from my old circles. My very being was to be reshaped, and even close friends would not understand the experiences that would transform me.
Warnings abounded about the “hardest part” of travel that awaited me in the return home.
But the anticipated shock of the return never landed, because I did not attempt to return and insert my newly shaped self into my old lifestyle. Instead, I chiseled out a new life informed by my travel experiences, seeking more of what I had felt abroad.
And at the heart of both the travel and the return lies the community.
A few years into my meandering, self-disapproval gripped me as I toiled to provide a satisfactory answer to the nagging question:
What do I have to show for this extended expedition into frivolity?
The answer that kept my self-doubt at bay was that I had been building a community. My time was more social than productive. But the social interactions—weeks getting stoned around beach bonfires with friends in Western Australia, celebrating the first big landmark on a seven-man motorbike tour of the Ho Chi Minh trail, finding energetic connections at a tantra workshop in Northern India—gave me the best education I could want on humanity, perspectives, happiness, and connection.
I learned about life and people on a far broader scale, finding indescribable value in my evolving global community.
My departure from my attorney life in San Francisco came from a piling-on of discontent, not from my personal community, which was and is fantastic, but from the discord of a life not fully lived. I had all the things I could want. But, the stress and demand of the job, the pressure to make and save as much money as I could, and the repeated observations of how a consumption-driven paradigm yielded waste, destruction, and poverty led to anxiety, insomnia, and despair.
I wanted better, but I needed to understand what “better” entailed. That’s where the community comes in.
It is impossible to pigeon-hole the amorphous “travel community” into a defined set of parameters. And I want to avoid preachy rhetoric about the elevated ideals of those who travel. That said, thematic currents of true progress-seeking prevail among those willing to leave the comforts of conformity for a life of novelty and discovery.
At the core, perhaps, lies Mark Twain’s astute observation that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” Travel provides exposure. Exposure broadens perspective. Perspective allows understanding. Understanding breeds empathy. And empathy gives us the mechanism to seek that which is good for ourselves—and for everyone and everything around us.
This broadening of empathetic behavior catalyzes better stewardship on a multitude of planes.
Witnessing poverty firsthand inspires us to want to provide food, shelter, and medical care to those in need. Conversing about global political dynamics with persons meant to be our foes offers avenues to connections we are conditioned to forsake. Directly observing sea levels encroaching on coastal livelihoods creates direct awareness of the worsening state of global climate change.
Choosing a lifestyle outside of “the system” gives perspective on the corruption and control of the industries, individuals, and governments that thrive off of disenfranchising the masses. Embracing the idea that life is to be enjoyed inspires adventure, beauty, and excitement, which in turn produce a positive internal energetic field that is rightly projected onto the external environment.
Expanding consciousness inspires deeper understanding through mindfulness practices and psychedelic experimentation, which promote awareness and improve our ability to lessen conditioned, reactive behavior and communicate more fully.
But the message here is not that there is this mythical, disparate “travel community” wherein one can exclusively learn of the good life.
The community is broad, and it is everywhere.
If you are reading this article, on this platform, chances are you understand. My purpose here is not to explain, but rather to encourage a collective consciousness of this developing global community.
All around the world, a critical mass of people is waking up, part of a grassroots evolution of the human species. A revolution of consciousness is afoot. This community, the tribe, is taking shape.
The community has no form, only the collection of forms of those who comprise it. It lives by no set rules, but is guided by principles of love, sustainability, and progress. It lives nowhere, yet exists everywhere. It prioritizes no one, and instead focuses on the common good. It encourages collective action, while prioritizing individual growth and internal change.
It forsakes the tunnel-visioned capitalistic drive for profit, and pushes back against the manipulated hierarchy of wealth, status, and power, exclaiming we all are equal. It accepts everyone where they are, offering equal parts grace and encouragement. It loves no living creature more than another, understanding we are all part of the same great expression. It works actively to protect the environments and ecosystems that give us the gift of life.
It employs mindfulness as a foundation, instigating awareness in the most wholistic of senses. It sees no division among us based on purportedly defining characteristics, instead endeavoring toward unification through celebration of diversity. It punishes no one for unintentional ignorance, while offering a myriad of paths to enlightenment. It seeks wisdom of ancient cultures, plant medicine, and perspective-changing experiences of all kinds. It employs tools of yoga, permaculture, (non-judgmental) veganism, ritualistic ceremonies, and self-help. And it embodies characteristics of flow, harmony, energy, connection, and love.
As abstractly and nonexhaustively as I may be defining it, it exists, this community.
I have seen its people with my eyes and felt its soul with my heart.
Its presence was easily detectable traveling alongside other extreme seekers in environments naturally lending themselves to acceptance of the unknown and community building, but its network runs deep and wide, and its presence bursts to the surface as social geysers, flooding the arid plains of unconsciousness.
You, reader, experience it through this very platform of Elephant Journal, as well as your individual means of connection. And I feel its waves continuing to ripple out in this return home, as I consciously choose jobs and activities that offer conscious progress, such as writing for NuMundo, an organization dedicated to global transformation through individual, transformational travel experiences. Indeed, it was the NuMundo vision of creating a global network of transformative travel impact centers that inspired my confidence in, and vision of, the larger global community with the knowledge and determination to change the world.
The local community into which I was welcomed is not an isolated one. It is an extension of the global community I have just described. That community is everywhere. Its numbers are multiplying. Its power is growing.
I did not realize it that night, when I was welcomed to the local community so openly, but that welcome was simply an expression of the broader embrace offered by the community to which I already belonged.
You belong to it too, dear reader. You are part of this global movement. You are an essential part of the greater whole. You have gifts to give and love to receive. This global community is here for you and expects good things from you. You are a part of a collective that is changing the world the way it needs to be changed.
I am glad you are a part of it.
Welcome to the community.