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What I Wonder When I Wander: If knowledge is power, then why is travel weakening me with neuroses?

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I think travel might be making me terribly neurotic and there is nowhere I notice this more than in New York City.

The beauty of New York is that you can get almost anything from anywhere around the world. For us, this means that all of the knowledge, experiences, smells, tastes, flavors, cultures we have experienced in the last three years of travel and the ten years of life abroad before that all converge here, in one place.

Yet this is exactly what is causing me apparently quite a bit of stress. Not stress like the people in Muang Ngoi Neua in Laos who had to hide in caves for a decade during the Vietnam War, scaling down a mountainside under the cover of darkness just to tend to crops just to survive.

No, these are total #firstworldproblems – tiny, nearly invisible stressors. The ones that go unnoticed, like those 1KB files that save onto your hard-drive. Slowly, the small stressors start to add up, kilobytes turn into MB, MB into GB and then possibly, these gigs turn into terabytes, though this is a number that is still too big for me to wrap my head around. Let me explain.

It all started at the Brooklyn Flea

Yesterday we went to the Brooklyn Flea, a fun flea market with a mix of stands selling everything from original hand crafted T-shirts and retro furniture to giant pink elephants and boxes of Garbage Pail Kids, all surrounded by food vendors selling food from around the world.

brooklyn fleaSo there we are, soaking it all up, enjoying from two perspectives: the first because we love flea markets like this, just like all our fellow 30-something hipster-leaning flea visitors and the second from the outside perspective, how happy we are to be in a place that has such clever products, delicious and healthy food – and be able to be on the side of those who can afford such things.

Fair trade feels good, unless…

We saunter past a stand selling fair trade organic chocolate made in Africa for $7 a bar, and that little bit of stress starts downloading. The health-conscious side of me that loves the idea of organic 70% cacao wrestles with the part of me that has seen these ‘fair trade’ farms in action. The latter wins, annoyed at the fact that my fellow flea market shoppers who will buy this chocolate will simply think they have killed two birds with one stone – having scored organic chocolate and helped people in Africa all in one day.

Let me tell you, in the last three years, we have toured coffee plantations in Central America, salt fields and pepper farms in Cambodia and tea plantations in Malaysia and make no mistake, this isn’t like strolling through a vineyard in the Napa Valley. These people are working a ridiculous amount of hours for ‘fair’ pay, a subjective, relative term far from being enough to earn them a middle class living that the people who actually purchase this chocolate would actually consider ‘fair’.

salt field workers cambodia
Salt field workers in Cambodia

Ralph Waldo Emerson eloquently said, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” 

I can’t un-see something, un-know someone, un-do what’s been done and this knowledge forms the lens through which I experience the world, one I wear like Google Glass, interpreting the present as I travel onward. But I am finding that wrestling with the conflict between my knowledge and my actions.

Too much food for thought might be a slippery slope

You might remember way back when I was wondering if I would ever get healthy on the road. Since then I have begun to really inform myself and have made massive strides, especially since my cow incident in India, to get my health and fitness back on track. Armed with the knowledge, I have had the power to change and yet I am also armed with knowledge gained by experience of just how privileged it is to be able to afford these luxuries and then again how annoying it is that I can’t just be sure that average, everyday food at the local supermarket is as healthy and nutrient-dense as it should be. Take milk.

The stand next to the chocolate stand at the Brooklyn Flea was a guy selling nut milk. Three years ago, I’d have scoffed at a guy in a lumberjack shirt and beard selling ‘milk’ of nuts, but after traveling and learning from others just how unhealthy our milk is, stuffed with antibiotics and hormones illegal in other countries, I’m actually happy to see him selling his almond milk and I want to buy some myself.

Of course, somewhere in the background, my system is downloading those kilobytes of stress by my anger with big food and the confusion I feel about being able to drink something so ‘natural’ like milk. Or water! The U.S. (and Canada) adds fluoride to the water for healthy teeth and bones, while European countries (along with most of Oregon) outlaw it because it causes bone decay and other horrific diseases.

Which is right?

Can I drink the water?

How bad is milk for me really?

No one expresses my inner rage about this like comedian Lewis Black, in this hilarious bit on Milk and Water.

As a part of my intensifying health kick, one thing I was ecstatic about for our time in New York was super healthy Kerrygold grass-fed butter. Happy cows, hormone/antibiotic free…all made in Ireland. Can’t go wrong with that, right? Upon doing more research, I discovered a clip by yet another happy bearded white guy, (cleverly titled Kerrygold’s Mooovin to Africa) explaining how Kerrygold will be helping the local African communities by relocating there. And here we go again. Let the wrestling match begin between my knowledge of nutrition and desire to eat healthily and my understanding of the on-the-ground realities behind do-gooder marketing.

Are we  causing malnutrition by eating this health food?

The worst conflict for both Dani and I, however, has been our love and guilt surrounding quinoa, a South American grain packed so tight with protein, magnesium, iron and fiber it has been credited by academics for the rise to power of the Incas. Forbes called it the ‘Superfood of the Future’. I imagined how healthy we would be filling up on quinoa throughout South America, but it turned out to be pretty hard to get our hands on. When I researched why we weren’t finding barrels of it spilling over at markets everywhere, I came across headlines like ‘How Many Bolivians are Dying Because Foodies Love Quinoa?’ and dozens of articles asking whether it is even ethical for consumers outside of South America to eat quinoa and whether our consumption is causing malnutrition in Bolivia and Peru. Essentially, the supply of this super food is being cultivated almost entirely for export only and prices are now so high that the locals can not afford the food that has been sustaining them for a millennium.

quinoa salad at quinoa
Quinoa Salad at Quinoa restaurant in upscale Vitacura neighborhood |Santiago, Chile

Does that keep me from eating quinoa? No. Before we flew to New York we picked up a kilo of quinoa from a local market in Chile, but I’ve also ordered it in restaurants as it is often the healthiest food choice on the menu.

Will anything ever feel purely good again? 

This isn’t all about food. When we try on $30 jeans at Target that were made in Cambodia, for us the country isn’t just a far-away place to be silently ignored on the tag of our jeans. Cambodia we visited where the smiles of the people melted our hearts, a place where we cried inconsolably at the injustice of the Khmer Rouge and were inspired by how noble the people are rather than hating us for our countries’ lack of involvement in ending the genocide. But we buy these jeans, made in Cambodia, knowing they don’t get a truly fair wage to make them. These jeans fit better than ones sold in Latin America, and also we don’t want to spend $100 on the ones that are handmade for sale at places like the Brooklyn Flea. After all, our funds go to traveling the world, to further feed these neuroses (wink wink).

The other day I came across an article about an amazing organization here called Badass Brooklyn, a local dog shelter “saving badass dogs from idiot humans”. They rescue dogs from inhumane kill shelters in several southern U.S. states, placing them with a wide network of foster families before finding them permanent homes. And yet, rather than just feeling happy at the purity of these badasses, a big part of me actually feels sad, intensely sad thinking about stray dogs in Central America or South East Asia, who are treated so poorly it breaks our hearts on a daily basis while we are there.

And yet, these street dogs exist because they don’t have kill shelters, where dogs are killed if no one adopts them after a month or so. An Argentine pointed that out to me recently, and I realized that we don’t have dogs on the street because so many are just put to death instead. So who is right?

Street DogI constantly take what should be little moments of happiness – like finding a pair of $30 jeans that fit, reading about the badasses or being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet, and contradict them with something I have learned at some point on the road. The thoughts come and go in a split second, just a few KB of stress download, but it all adds up thought after thought, day after day.

There are genuinely good people who will just buy that $7 bar of fair trade chocolate, or a dozen to give to friends and family, and then grab a bottle of almond milk to wash that sweetness down. They will experience no conflict, their souls at ease.

But not me, at least not yet. The more I travel the world, the harder it is to reconcile my own role within it.

What’s the takeaway?

Would I give up a lifestyle of travel just to avoid the constant, neurotic voice inside? Absolutely not!

Because it is this discomfort, this inner conflict back on my own turf, these are some of the true lessons that travel offers to its most diligent students. What a holidaymaker absorbs from a trip to Cancun for spring break is a love of an ‘authentic’ hot sauce and a new Winsin y Yandel CD.

What I wonder is, if our task as travelers is to learn to navigate through these neuroses and emotional conflicts, how many of us can take these gigabytes of stored stress energy and create, teach, produce something meaningful from it all…?

What do you think? Am I just completely neurotic or do you have similar thoughts after periods of long-term travel?

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33 Comments

  1. Life gets progressively harder, then you die. And/or Ignorance is Bliss.

    No really, “Don’t worry, be Happy!”

    We’re all Bozo’s on the bus of life!

    You and me, we’re NORMAL, just ask me.

    1. Thanks, as always, for your quintessentially ‘Steve’ form of support! 🙂 I am glad that you see that this is normal, the more you see the world. I am not sure, though, that life has to either get harder and then you die, or you stay ignorant. I think that what I’m really trying to do is wiggle in between my discomfort and ignorant, implicit acceptance and writing through it is my way of figuring that out…make sense?

      1. Jess, sorry for the simpleton, pathetic one liners, I just couldn’t help myself. I didn’t feel like getting into a long drawn-out philosophical reply that day.

        You’re right about life getting progressively harder, then you die. It’s more of a bell shaped curve, with the hard part in mid-life. And I certainly don’t subscribe to “ignorance is bliss”, as I’m well aware of what’s going on around me politically and economically. Sticking your head in the sand doesn’t solve anything.

        Everyone has their limits on what they think is “right”. It’s a very subjective “feeling” that varies greatly from culture to culture and religion to religion. Traveling only exposes us more to these differences in societies.

        As I stated earlier this morning in Steph’s blog; I strive to strike a balance between being an observer and a fixer.

        However, I still stand by: “Don’t worry, be Happy!”

        1. I definitely think that exposure to all of these differences is really the key and the gift that travel gives you. When you stay in one place, things can become very black and white (or blue and red), us and them. But when you travel you are exposed to a myriad of ideas, and you realize there are hundreds of solutions and points of view. Also, I completely agree with don’t worry, be happy. Those who are able to maintain a positive outlook on life, even in the face of all of this, are the ones who are able to lead and affect the most change, anyway. This is why I am not writing about feeling guilty or bad. I am just writing about it all in order to learn to deal with it, know what I know and live within a positive mindframe in spite of it all.

  2. Hmm! You don’t have to travel far from home to see injustice. I believe the best we can do is the best we can, and if that means we don’t shop for certain items or eat certain foods, then that is what we do and if someone asks why, then we tell them. We don’t need to preach about it. I don’t agree with drinking bottled water, but does that mean I will never do it? No. Sometimes needs must and that is what we ought to be looking at. Do we need it or do we just want it?

    Traveling around the world can open your eyes and mind to new things. The good, the bad and the ugly. That is life. You can’t change the world or save every street dog, but you can change yourself and the choices you make because of your experiences.

    Unless you have a solution to the world’s ‘problems’ there is no point stressing about it. I spent some time traveling in Kenya and learned much about some people’s lives there. Some was good and some was eh. People live on the street everywhere and many are exploited. It is a shame and a fact, and you don’t have to live in the third world to experience it.

    There are two sides to every story and we ought not to compare our personal standards with others. Some people in Pakistan might think that the people who make the Cambodian jeans have a really cushy number. It’s relative. Do I have concerns about injustice and fairness? Yes, but I don’t let it get to me and is why I try to be a decent human being. Do I feel guilty? No, I don’t. It serves no purpose.

    I think that you probably are being a bit neurotic because of information overload and you are most likely a sensitive person. Maybe you need a holiday? 🙂
    Arlene recently posted..The Inspiration Board

    1. Hey Arlene, thanks for the support you offer here. I don’t feel necessarily guilty about things as much any more (I got that out in a post last year, the comments of which were also quite supportive!), but it’s just that with all the knowledge I have gained, as you also know, it’s just that every thing that provides happiness, relief, a sense of doing-good for others, I see with a grain of salt, I suppose. I am definitely sensitive and wouldn’t want to be any other way, but also these types of observations tends to come up whenever we travel from one place to somewhere so incredibly different – this time from the desert of northern Chile to New York, New York!

      Anyway, it’s not as much about guilt as it is with just always always always seeing the big picture and wishing, just sometimes, that I could snuggle up to that cute little marketing message that gives others those warm fuzzies.

      1. Ah, bless you. We live in a complicated world and we can’t let things get us down. I am sure if we thought about things too much, we wouldn’t eat or buy anything so we might as not exist. As that isn’t very productive, we should try to make informed choices. With the age of the internet, there is a lot of information out there that can be confusing. It is akin to looking up your symptoms in a medical journal and thinking you have a life threatening disease when it may only be a cold. Who is right? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/fairtrade-is-it-really-fair-7717624.html I am more confused after reading this than I was before. BTW, I was only saying you were neurotic in a tongue in cheek sort of way. I really enjoy reading about your travels and I got your book to help us prepare for our own trip. Thanks for that! 🙂
        Arlene recently posted..The Inspiration Board

        1. Thanks Arlene! I hope the book helps you out! I know what you mean with the Independent article, there are so many sides and what is so fair about fair trade…it’s all about making informed choices, that’s absolutely right. 🙂

  3. This is such a great post. I really enjoy this series. I think noticing these things doesn’t make you neurotic. You’ve just had your consciousness expanded and that can never be a bad thing. All you can do is improve yourself, spread the message as best you can and not feel guilty about things that really are completely outside your control. Maybe your tiny steps to do better will encourage others along the way.
    Tracey – Life Changing Year recently posted..Funniest Language Barrier Moments While Travelling!

    1. Hi Tracey, thanks so much and it really means a lot that you enjoy the series. It’s strange and a bit scary to spill out all my own observations to an infinite audience like that 🙂

      Again, it’s not that I feel guilty, it’s more about not being able to see things simply and just enjoy them, but because of the bigger picture that I do see, I don’t feel able to just enjoy things that are meant to be ‘positive’. If that make sense?

  4. It’s really fun hearing about your adventures going to the same places I go to in Brooklyn like the flea.

    I feel pretty awkward about how much I like buying $3 100% cotton towels from wal-mart when 1 tomato can be the same price here in hawaii, and it really highlights the problem with a $3 towel.
    Kate recently posted..40 Tips for Traveling in the US on the Cheap

    1. Ain’t that the truth! I love getting deals when we are in the U.S., but then you have to ask why in the hell the products are so cheap here and not elsewhere!

  5. Another amazing post!

    I’m going through a lot of these conflicts as well. First off, the very fact that you are thinking and writing about these issues is the right thing to do.

    No single person or action is going to save the world, but many people encouraged to change their behaviours can and will make a difference.

    The world is screwed up, no question, so what do we do? Do we continue shopping without any regard to the consequences of our purchases? Or, do we start changing our purchases and actions to better reflect what we know is the right thing to do?

    The cheapest and easiest purchase often wins out of convenience or necessity and that is okay, I think.

    I like to fly in airplanes, even though it’s the most environmental destructive form of transport. However, my knowledge of this fact makes me fly less and has also drastically changed the other choices I make in my life.

    Is it enough? I don’t think so, but we all have to start somewhere. We just need to courage to stand up for and help those most in need. That is the best contribution each of us can make in our lives.
    John Bardos recently posted..Amazon Publishing with Warren and Betsy Talbot of Married with Luggage

    1. Hey John, thanks! It’s great to see how a fellow nomad thinks about this, because I know you see many of the same things we do as you travel the world. I think what I am really exploring in a way is how to reconcile the reality with the desire to just live comfortably and be happy. I don’t ever want to return to the ignorance is bliss model, I don’t want to turn bitter/sarcastic/become a know-it-all. How do we, as travelers, learn to grow from this place where we see the conflict and the chasm between reality and marketing and still be happy and delete all these stressors so they don’t affect my life? See what I mean?

  6. Finding joy in the midst of sorrow… do I have the right to be happy when others are suffering? Is it even possible to enjoy this life, knowing what we know? You write about some great real-life examples of what I see as a much larger question. Read Pema Chodron – she’s quite good at speaking to the apparently unreconcilable central issue you are addressing here. And sometimes, it’s just “drink the tea”. No more than that.

  7. “Drink the tea…
    While the cup warms your hands,
    while the steam is rising,
    while the goodness is sweet
    and the taste lingers.

    Fall’s leftover leaves blow,
    even as spring is greening,
    and the beds of sleeping flowers wait
    for care and sorting out.
    Dust settles like a blanket of snow
    on all the things that name you.
    The windows say “wash us”,
    the dishes are keeping company in the sink,
    the bedclothes are scattered as if blown by the wind.

    The tea cools.
    Life passes on.
    There’s only a brief moment, a tiny spot,
    on which to stand and see and taste.
    Take care, don’t miss it,
    that steaming cup of joy…
    that sweetness
    that grows colder now, even as you reach for it.”

  8. Great post, thanks as ever.

    I really empathise with what you’re going through and have shed many a tear myself over the suffering, exploitation and injustice in the world.
    But I have also learnt to see it from a different perspective.
    I have spoken to people in the East who have asked questions about life in the developed world and then shaken their head with disbelief. I have seen them shed tears of sadness that our lives have lost so much of their meaning – and quite often we’re so deluded that we don’t even realise it.
    In the West, it’s not uncommon for an average day to involve working in a windowless room, staring at a computer screen for hours on end, getting food out of machines, being crammed into a tube that takes you to and from work, crushed against other bodies with no one saying a word; and then in the evening, watching a TV programme where people taunt and tease each other, or playing a computer game where the object is to kill as many people as you can. A lot of people go through days at a time without sharing a smile with another human being.
    On the streets of these same cities, community has fallen apart, hate crimes are common and the elderly are forgotten and left to rot in their own mess. Depression and other mental health issues are hundreds – if not thousands – of times more common than in the countries where tea pickers work 15-hour days; tea-pickers who chat with each other in the fields and then go home to their extended families.
    I’m not saying it’s OK for people to be treated the way the quinoa and coffee growers are treated. I’m not saying that at all. But every day I watch people, shoulders slumped, in their grey and black suits tramping over London Bridge like depressed ants. Some could argue they are just as much slaves – slaves to money. They haven’t realised yet, of course, that money won’t make them happy and the faster they chase it, the further they are moving away from true happiness. These are people tied to jobs they hate for 50 years, just so they can buy bigger houses, bigger cars, bigger televisions, so they can watch even more people hating each other.
    I still find it hard to believe that people in the West who know about the horrors of factory farming and abattoirs, let alone the environmental damage that meat farming is doing to the planet, still voluntarily shove mass-produced meat in their mouths on a daily basis. The lack of respect – for each other, for animals, and for the planet – speaks volumes about how little these people value their own lives.
    But there is hope.
    Scientists and spiritual leaders agree that the next stage in human evolution is the evolution of consciousness. The only hope for our survival as a species is to evolve towards a state where we stop seeing ourselves as individuals and start seeing ourselves as parts of a larger whole – the human race – that requires the cooperation of all of us working together in order to function and survive, just as the 50 trillion cells in our body all work together.
    And this evolution of consciousness is happening all over – because we know that our survival as a species depends on it. It’s a race against time because of the destruction we’re causing to the planet, but I believe we can do it. A few years ago, fair trade chocolate didn’t exist. Now there is an awareness – we know – that it’s wrong for others to be treated like that. Yes, we have a long way to go, and yes, it can really get you down sometimes, but please take comfort in the fact that it’s changing. All we can do in the meantime is do our best as individuals to live lives that cause as little suffering to others as possible, and spread the awareness as far and wide as we can.

      1. Thank you Sharon. And thanks for your comment, which of course is about living in the moment – which is the only place that change can happen because that is all there is. Change can’t happen from a place of dissatisfaction – first we have to learn to stand still where we are and accept it as it is. Only once we can accept it can we change it.
        And of course, being grateful is key. We’re so often aspiring to something just ahead of us. We need to stop and be grateful for what we have right now.

        1. I wrote it for my sister, who has an endless “to do” list and who struggles with honoring her own pleasures and desires…

    1. Melody this is amazing! I followed that line of thinking entirely. I mean, Dani and I both couldn’t agree with you more about people not realizing that they are slaves to money, consumption, etc and she and I, along with so many of the people who do what we do, are happier with and would prefer less $$ to that kind of life. When I think of utter slavery, I too think of London Bridge, Dani was one of them trudging over the bridge every day into the city from our little apartment in Deptford, with a sick feeling in her belly of the boredom she’d feel until the minute she left. I also follow that people are becoming more and more conscious about food – not just the chocolate, but grass-fed meat and you know, 20 years ago I think we’d have just all eaten Quinoa and no one would have ever investigated the plight of the Bolivian farmers and how they are affected. So, I can see what you say that we as the human race are indeed becoming more conscious, and so in the end, I shouldn’t be annoyed about the chocolate (which is really just a symbol) instead I should be happy that people are forward thinking in that way. Thanks for sharing this, it really resonated.

  9. As I read your article I was wondering if you would mention quinoa and you did. I was introduced to it last year and have hungered for it ever since. Soon after I had it my 30 year old daughter told me the whole story on why I shouldn’t buy it and I have not although I always look at it in the store. I’m also refusing to buy clothing made in Bangladesh until they clean up their act over there.

    1. I was with you on the quinoa obviously but I back off a bit when I hear people say ‘they’ and cleaning up their acts. I mean, if you do that, boycott a struggling economy, what about ‘buying American’. If anyone in the world needs to clean up their acts, it’s right here – pollution, big food, medical bankruptcy, fracking against the well being of the people in the community…so, while i know we have full voting power with our dollars, I don’t tend to be down with boycotting necessarily in a lot of those cases…

  10. Jess, as usual this is a thought provoking and beautifully written piece.

    As you might remember, like you I am an enormous animal lover and have many, many problems with the food industry. And in that context I find myself thinking of the exact same dilemma you have here – it’s sort of a downer to be knowledgeable in this area, because you feel bad about almost everything you eat.

    I know you’re a vegetarian and I think that’s terrific. My attempt at balance is to do the best I can without going crazy. I absolutely will not eat veal or shark fin soup or any foods that are very high on the cruelty scale. And whenever possible we purchase cage free eggs and chicken, and we have substantially reduced our meat intake to pretty much just poultry. That said, I know life is not a picnic for the chickens and turkeys even raised “cage free” and I always strive to try and do more. My sense is you too have found a good balance, both from an animal and a human rights perspective, and I think that’s great.

    Re: kill shelters, I too have very mixed feelings. I think it’s an international travesty that so many animals are homeless/abused/neglected/put to death unnecessarily, and just thinking about kill shelters breaks my heart. That said, I tend to think that it is probably better to have an unwanted animal given a quick, painless death in a shelter than it is to subject it to a lifetime of cruelty and starvation on the streets. In an ideal world every single animal would have a loving home, but given the reality we face, I don’t entirely think kill shelters are overall bad or inhumane, even if I personally support no-kill shelters and do everything I can to promote animal adoption for dogs and cats and my beloved small animals, too.

    1. Completely and totally valid points, I agree with you entirely here. I also have a hard time with kill shelters because we do see so many homeless/neglected animals around the world. Awful people do awful things and maybe it would be better for them not to have to go through that. It’s just so so sad when you know the other side, how happy the dogs are, for example, when they are adopted. If I were going to become active in the issue of kill shelters etc I think that prevention is the key – breeders are what need to be stopped, as there are plenty of beautiful dogs/pets out there and if people would go to shelters and not pay $2000 for some sort of labradoodle breed, this wouldn’t be an issue in the first place.

      In the end, it can be a total downer when you know too much, but I’m just trying to figure out how to reconcile it all with a positive frame of mind…

      1. Entirely agree Jess. I’m a very vocal advocate of “think adoption first” and my wife and I have adopted 9 guinea pigs over the years and counting. (We’re allergic to cats and don’t have the time for dogs, and guinea pigs make really wonderful pets.) There is simply no reason to buy an animal when so many amazing and loving animals are facing death sentences and can be adopted.

        The only thing I’d say is I don’t think breeders are the biggest problem, even though I dislike them. Pet stores are actually worse because they’re fed by puppy mills which are an absolute abomination. At least most breeders treat their animals well, whereas puppy mills ensure absolutely horrible lives for the animals they keep captive.

        1. Point taken- true contempt now redirected at puppy mills and pet stores, you’re absolutely right. Secondary anger with breeders. Love for Brooklyn Badasses strong than ever 🙂

  11. Beautiful article ladies! It is true, travels make you understand the reasons behind injustices in the world much better. Before I move to Cambodia and started working on human rights issues I never knew how bad the conditions in clothes factories were. I have met workers who got shot at during a protest organised by their union. Things like that are often incomprehensible for people living in the first world. Before I came here I knew things probably weren’t pretty, but had no idea how horrendous conditions really were. Traveling made me a more responsible consumer I think.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Can an Englishman fall in love with Germany?

    1. I didn’t even know first hand about the situation in the garment factory, I just assumed, to be honest. Now I feel even more frustrated because I have more knowledge, but I’m still probably going to buy the jeans at Target or Gap. That means that a part of my identity is someone who, knowing what she knows, still supports that in some way. Ugh. But no, it’s important that we know – the more we know, the more of a chance there is also to start to eliminate the ‘otherization’. If people see Cambodians as equal, then it should be fairly clear that those conditions are unacceptable….

  12. Why do you think it is “neurotic”? You know more now, and so there is more to think about everything than there was before. And there will always be a disconnect when you see other people, who don’t know those things, doing what they do.

    1. Neurotic: a person who is afflicted with a neurosis or who tends to be emotionally unstable or unusually anxious. Unusually anxious being me in a market trying to enjoy things, instead annoyed with myself for the constant back and forth conversations in my own head about bullsh*t marketing to sell chocolate vs possible truth behind ‘fair’ trade vs wanting to just sample the chocolate and be happy about it and move on without having six million freaking thoughts about a damn chocolate stand. 🙂 Also, I’ve been living abroad for the last 13 years, the first three years of which were in Central America so I have been feeling so many of these things for so many years and it never just dies down inside my head. You’re right about there always being a disconnect when watching people who dont’ know what they’re doing, doing what they do. Frustrating, but also, maybe I”m attracted to the idea of innocence being bliss, because the grass is always greener?

  13. I go through this ALL THE TIME. It is truly a tornado stress attack for me. The need to learn, the attempt to ignore facts that are inconvenient and sad, and the inability to find a balance. A few days ago I thought of you, because a stray dog fell in love with me in Mexico and it made me want to die. I loved him immediately, and for a split second, when I was told his friend had been adopted by a hotel guest not too long ago, I thought “i could save this one!” But then I remembered, I already have a rescued dog, one who I have to fly to different countries sometimes. What could I do for this one? I left feeling miserably guilty.
    Rease recently posted..Burma Superstar: The Powerful Taste of Burma in San Francisco

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