When I signed up for Facebook I was already in my second year of graduate school. I know this makes me sound like I’m old enough to have been personal friends with Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly, but really I’m only 32 years old. Back then before the dreaded Timeline format, the personal section was pretty simple. You entered your name, school, birthday, and favorite books, quotes, movies and tv shows. And then it gave you an open-ended opportunity to tell everyone “about” you. This was your chance to make a first impression on the world. What would you say that let people know who you were?
I remember one time when Jessie and I were talking she asked me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I told her that if I had my choice, I would like to remain a student for life. I have a deep love of learning. The content usually doesn’t matter. It’s the process of discovery, the expansion of understanding, the lengthening of perspective that gets me all charged up. This is who I am. This is what I was made for.
And so as I stared at the screen contemplating what to say about myself, these words came to me: “In school for over 20 years, little work experience, no idea where I’m going, and loving it!” I felt this was an accurate, if rather succinct, representation of my experiences and my goals.
I wrote this in early 2006. A few months later I took my first real trip outside the country. I spent three weeks in the sands of Israel, plunging my fingers in the dirt in search of ancient artifacts. What I found were the mysteries of life hidden in the people, the inescapable culture, the devout religion, the exotic food, the architecture, the hills and the desert, the complicated beliefs about their past. Up to this point I had studied many things in school: English, mathematics, social studies, science, art, music, history, drafting, geography, psychology, philosophy, theology, ancient languages, religion, archaeology. I had even traveled quite extensively throughout the continental United States. But this was different.
I had stepped out of my own world, experienced a different way of living, and then examined myself through the lens of this new experience. What I discovered was I had become a student of travel.
I have come to view travel as a great portion of my curriculum. I am hoping that this blog will be my classroom. I don’t want it to be simply an autobiography or a memoir; it isn’t meant to be a travel narrative or a string of interesting little anecdotes. It is a collection of essays of my learning. Some lessons are deep while others are very trivial. They all matter. I hope you enjoy learning with me.
– Ryan, 15 March 2013