A final word on a new beginning

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Throughout traveling, I always end up leaving parts of myself behind in different places. And at the end of a journey, I’m always a little overwhelmed by how much of me is missing, and how much more of me I discovered along the way.

The parts of myself left behind are not lost, they are breadcrumbs, bookmarks for each chapter spent in a different country to mark a particular point in time across the linear passage of my life; where I can remember exactly where I was, exactly how I felt, and exactly who I was in that specific moment.

What I’ve learned is that travel doesn’t always have to be an exotic backdrop to your personal adventures. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be about you at all. It can be about everything you experience within a place — the ability it gave you to observe a world that, at first glance, appeared unlike your own.

Our lives are more or less a consequence of geography and history; we speak different languages, prioritize different cultural values, worship different gods (if any at all), and are born into vastly different social and economic circumstances.

And yet every place in the world has their own definitions of God, duty, love and happiness. Though we become convinced that the ways in which we’ve defined these things divide us, we don’t realize that attempting to define them at all is what connects us universally to being human. And upon closer inspection, you come to learn how these subjective meanings, when it comes down to it, are really not that different at all.

The forces pulling me to come home, to see the people I love and who I miss dearly, remind me that though time appears linear, our lives create a cyclical pattern that continues expanding outward. That you can revisit the same place in the world as a completely different person, while still remembering exactly what it felt like when you were there before, is a testament to how time can feel like a flat circle.

The feelings that so acutely overwhelm me remind me why it’s just as important to honor where you come from as much as the places you go. Home is what establishes the lens in which we see the rest of the world. What begins as a bias can become an invaluable tool, once you step outside of the culture you know and realize how intensely unique each individual person’s lived experience really is.

In all its ugliness, there are still people in this world who block their ability to truly empathize, who cannot bring themselves to walk anywhere in someone else’s shoes because they don’t yet have the courage to take the first step.

It’s difficult to not become discouraged and jaded by the world when you see how hard it is for people to love and understand one another – how sometimes it’s hard even for you to accept people that stand far away from you across ideological lines.

But that doesn’t mean we stop trying. If I’ve learned anything in the past 322 days, it’s this: don’t let your heart become hard. Let life change you, in all the best ways possible. Always hold yourself accountable. Always love yourself. And always love others, even when it’s not easy.

As the old adage goes, this next voyage does not mark the end of my journey, but the start of an entirely new one — one whose uncertainty and grace I will gladly embrace, in hopes that I, and therefore the world, will become better for it.

My time in Nepal

Reflections by Alyson Sagala – Conscious Impact Nepal from Jonathan H. Lee on Vimeo.

I am excited to share with you a glimpse into the past few months of my life, and an attempt to convey why exactly this project means so much to me. Thank you again to Conscious Impact, for being more than just an organization, but a loving family with a vision to serve others while in service to ourselves. Shot by the insanely talented Jonathan H. Lee and edited by yours truly.

Any support towards this project is appreciated beyond belief – whether that’s being interested in volunteering, being able to donate any sum of money, or just sharing this with your networks in hopes of spreading the word about our work. The tiniest of actions can catalyze the greatest of changes – both within this world, and within ourselves. 

The fleeting state of happiness

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As I get closer to the end of my time in Nepal, I can’t help but reflect on how much has changed in my life in the past 9 months. I’ve written and repeated this last sentence several times, but I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought possible.

Loving yourself is a struggle. Don’t let anyone ever fool you into thinking this is easy. Most of us go through life being conditioned to measure our self worth based on validation from other people. Whether that’s having the right job or the right relationship, being worthy of praise in some way by the things you do, or the clothes you wear, or the places you go, or the things you achieve. We spend so much time investing in actions that are supposed to ensure happiness down the line. We forget that the only thing that matters is whether you’re happy right now.

And see that’s the thing. There’s no such thing as perpetual happiness. Happiness is fleeting, the same way warmth wanes away as we fall into winter, the same way rivers go dry only to overflow again when the rains return, the same way people dance in and out of our lives like the tides recede and then overtake the shore.

Growth is exponential. Every year of my life, the change that I see in myself isn’t just more than the year before, but growth in multiple directions, creating different dimensions of the person I’m slowly becoming. There are more layers, more depth, and more ways to explore what it means to hurt, to love, to understand, and to empathize. That also means there are more places for demons to hide. Though self-discovery makes my insecurities seem lighter, they become no less intricate in their design.

We search for symmetry in beauty the same way we find peace in the immaculate creations of nature. There is symmetry in all things, especially in the soul, as long as we allow space for that balance to exist. This all may just sound like the rambling of another millennial, new-age pretentious hippie — but who cares? What people think of you isn’t the important question.

Who am I? What am I doing to make the world better? It doesn’t have to be anything big. It can be reminding your grandparents that you love them, and that you’re grateful for the life they gave you. It can be forgiving those who offend you, by trying to understand the perspective that they view the situation. It can be planting a tree. It can be smiling at someone who needs kindness. Love is not just the supernova, it is the collision of particles at the subatomic level. It exists at every level of creation.

Change is catalyzed by the experiences of life. I have fallen in love. I have lost a friend. I have been alone. But in this moment, for however long it will last, I am happy.

General update:

I know I haven’t been as diligent as I planned with updating this website. The good thing is, that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing. On the contrary, I’ve been writing a LOT. Mostly snippets here and there, observations or thoughts and emotions I’ve experienced in one of the many countries I’ve visited in the past 5 months.

Wow. I can’t believe it’s even been that long. Since visiting Malaysia and Thailand in September and October, I’ve been to Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, and am now back in Nepal. I’ve had some very profound experiences in every place that I’ve been, and I plan on sharing stories about my journeys in due time.

A very good friend I met in Nepal back in November told me that the worse thing you can do is write for other people. I find that I have the biggest problem with this; sometimes I don’t always write what I mean to say out of fear that maybe someone reading may take my words the wrong way.

But really, what’s the point of writing in the first place?

I won’t have internet access again for the next few weeks, so unfortunately this place will continue to be neglected. But website or not, I’m still writing, still reflecting, and still continuing to grow in ways that I hadn’t even dared to imagine.

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Introspective birthday thoughts

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In the spirit of being overly introspective on one’s birthday, I have a few lessons to share that I’ve come to understand better over the course of my travels. Trying to articulate myself within the limitations of human language almost feels like a disservice to my actual thoughts, but I can still try my best.

1. Celebrate your insignificance. Extract pleasure from knowing that the sun will continue setting, and the moon will continue rising long after your time has ended. In knowing that your dreams, your tears, your laughter, all of it is just another lowly spark in the explosive fire of the ever expanding universe. You are everything, and you are nothing. You are part of a shared consciousness that exists between all things, and it is there if you choose to feel it.

2. Time and space move in such a way that we cannot possibly fathom the deepest changes within our souls, the same way we cannot feel our cells multiplying as we grow, or feel the turning of the earth as it moves around the sun.

3. Stop lamenting the past you didn’t have. See the magic in your own individual journey. And if you feel that there is none, go out and find it.

4. Your greatest fears about yourself do not disappear; they are only monsters that evolve in form. We are not meant to conquer them, but how we face them determines the extent of our spiritual growth.

And now for some birthday resolutions:

Do and say everything with intention. Don’t write empty words. Don’t perform actions for validation. Don’t feel the need to announce your intentions before they are fulfilled.

Trying to present yourself as special is not the same as being special. Focus your energy on cultivating yourself rather than creating a cult of self which people only perceive externally.

I feel like I have lived multiple lifetimes in the span of 11.5 weeks, and have grown in more ways than I ever thought possible. Like love, knowledge is not singular and is not meant to expand in only one direction; it spreads outward in an infinite pattern, allowing you to discover connections and understandings between all things that have always existed and are waiting to be discovered.

Gifts from Takure

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Throughout my travels I always find that the people I meet are looking for beauty. We hike pristine mountain ranges, watch picturesque sunsets from white sand beaches, enjoy the buzzing hum of busy cafés on Saturday mornings. It’s strange that people rarely go looking for beauty in themselves, and yet ironically that is where the truest form of it can be found.

It would be absolutely false of me to say that Nepal is not serenely beautiful. Nestled between the mountains of the Himalayas, the village of Takhure is by far and away one of the most perfect places I have ever been to. But it’s not the mystical sunrises, breaking over the horizon like a rosy pink smile, or the whispering trees, or the terraced hills with their weathered faces carrying hundreds of years worth of stories to tell. The beauty I’ve found is in the Nepali people, who have welcomed foreigners from a different land with unbelievably kind open arms, the purity of their smiles like gifts I didn’t think I was worthy of receiving.

Love, we tend to forget, is a universal currency. And the people who have chosen to call this place home are the richest people I know.

I have learned countless lessons during my short time in Nepal. To recount them now within the limitations of human language almost feels like a disservice, but I can still try my best.

I’ve learned to love more heartily than I have in a long time, to love the fleetingness of moments, to love strangers that quickly become family, to love the earth as much as I always should have.

You’d be astounded by your ability to gain so much by living with so little. The luxuries the world has to offer you cannot be quantified with a price. I’ve never known so purely the joy you we are rewarded with from simply living off the land, and creating tangible, useful things with your bare hands.

There are some journeys we begin, which we don’t realize until we’re part of the way through, that we can never return the way we once were. My time here has forever changed me, and I am eternally grateful for the healing it has bestowed upon me. I hope that in time, I will be able to return the favor, with whatever it is I have to offer — with intention, with my continued growing sense of inner beauty, and most of all, with love.

Thank you, and namaste.