By Sonny Morton, Sarah’s father
I joined Sarah for a few days in Medellín, and she asked me to write an entry in her blog. Maybe she expected me to write about our time in Medellín but I have chosen to take a different tack. Sarah will not be surprised. I write this from the perspective of a parent whose child has chosen to create an experience that carries some risk, and to some may seem reckless. How does a parent support such a choice?
Let me make one thing clear. I am not ignoring risks. There are risks associated with backpacking around anywhere for weeks at a time. What makes a trip like this scary (for her and for those who love her) are the unknown nature of what she will face, and the distance. If she gets sick or robbed or lost, I cannot promise to be there to fix it. Technology makes it easier to stay in touch but distance is still a barrier to doing what parents reflexively do – fix problems.
So why do I support, even encourage, this type of thing? Because there are certain things that such an experience teaches a person, things that are worth knowing. Here is a partial list of the reasons why it is worth swallowing your fears and getting “a little bit lost” (or encouraging your child to do so).
1. Good and evil are not national characteristics and the vast majority of people are good. You cannot learn this from anything but experience.
2. People are shaped by their history, and knowledge of history is essential to understanding the world and its people. There is a lot of history you will never know unless you go there.
3. It is easy to make friends if you try. Sarah has learned that travel is more about new friends than solitude.
4. Decision-making improves with practice. Travel of this sort gives you daily practice.
5. Resilience – things happen. Flights are canceled, the bus breaks down, you get food poisoning… You learn to overcome, and you learn that it is almost never as bad as it seems at first.
6. The value of graciousness. You learn quickly that yelling and a sense of entitlement get you nowhere, but a smile and “hable despacio, por favor” (speak slowly, please) will solve problems and make friends.
7. Being in charge of your life feels good. Sarah has been in charge of this experience from conception to planning to execution and adapting on the fly. Think she won’t carry this approach through the rest of her life? Not a chance.
I will close with a picture that I took of Sarah as we parted in Medellín, she for the next part of her trip and me to come home.
I texted it to my wife with the caption “My heart swells with pride and breaks at the same time.” Now home, the heartbreak of parting has receded but the pride will remain for the rest of my life. As the lessons she learns will remain with her.