Monday, October 10, 2011

Lessons Learned from Trips 1 and 2

I'm always so amazed by the people I meet on here, and the lives being lead all around us. If we take our eyes of our off of ourselves, for just a moment, what will we see that could change our lives forever? 

I'm one of those people who has been fortunate enough to travel to several parts of the world. I've been in some of the poorest villages, and been in some of the most extravagant buildings. And you know what is the most easily identifiable change that has taken place with in me? You're really never gonna guess, so...

My standard for bathrooms. 

Yep. I'm gonna go there. 

Now, I've never been the most prissiest of girls, growing up camping and all that, but I am from America, the land of large pipes and an infinite supply of running water. I never had a clue that water was a precious resource. I'm from Minnesota, where I see at least 5 bodies of water in the 3 blocks I take to get to work. In my book, water is everywhere, and never something you run out of.  Bathrooms, at the worst were a smelly outhouse, usually built with a nice lookout at a lake. And then I went to Peru.

We were floating on the Amazon, so you would assume that water wouldn't really be an issue. Not the case. In the 15 days we were there, I took a total of 3 showers, none of them long enough to do damage, and all completely pointless after about 5 minutes in the humid temps. Water was a vital necessity, that we were told in no uncertain terms, in Spanish and English, that we were to guard and watch over.  And I began to learn that others do not have some of the things I put little to absolutely no thought into. I was appreciative, grateful, and sad for them to not be able to go swimming without thinking about piranhas. 

And then we spent the night in the village. It was wonderful! The people were so lovely, and kind, slightly freaked out because my skin was like a reflective surface in comparison to their lovely sunkissed tones, but oh so happy! Really, one of the things I remember most about the trip was how unbelievably happy they were. The only entertainment they had was soccer and chopping trees with machetes, and they were some of the happiest people I had ever seen! And then the inevitable happened, and I had to visit the facilities. 

One of the villagers pointed me down a path, and through several hand gestures, I figured out that the bathrooms were down it. I walked, and walked, passed some huts, walked some more, and reached where our boat was. So, I turned around and walked back. On my walk back, I realized that those odd looking huts, on stilts, with the board going up to the top of it? That I would have to crawl up, in my skirt, was probably the bathroom. Awesome. Not gonna go into much detail, but there was no form of a seat, or place to hold on, nor a light to see what might be, which was probably a good thing. I finished up, changed into my night clothes, and vowed never to complain again. 

My 14 year old self was shocked that 1, there were people in the world who lived without so many things that I didn't even consider. Not consider as a luxury, I just didn't even consider them,  and 2, that they did so, happier than nearly everyone I had ever met, who possessed so much more than they did on a material level. But of course, I returned to the States, and my memories were pushed aside, because I hadn't yet come to realize the full extent of what that meant.

So, I went to Mexico. Another trip, same lesson. Again, water was a precious resource, but even more so when you're in the mountainous desert, in a country where the 1st warning you hear is to not drink the water, followed by a 2nd warning to not get your head chopped off.  Where we happened to go to, the water and the bathroom went hand in hand. Yellow, let it mellow; brown, flush it down, but never the paper, because the pipes are about the size of a half dollar. Showers were 3 minutes max, and we often ran out of water, leaving several in stinky situations. Water was not only something that we guarded and cherished, it was something that was limited. It could be stolen from others. The luxury of a bathroom with a seat and paper for free, well, was hard to find. I cannot tell you how many times I've paid to use my own paper and pop a squat.  But you know what that did for me? It reminded me of the lesson I had started to learn long before, but had thrown aside as soon as I was comfortable again. 

No, its not the lesson that things are what make you happy. I'm fairly certain that we've been told that lesson forever.  No, the lesson is to take our eyes off of ourselves, to observe the world around us, AND LEARN FROM IT! There are so many amazing people out there, going through much tougher situations than you. And I say that not to belittle what you're going through, but to encourage you! Learn from them! Gain perspective, acceptance, thankfulness. Lets stop focusing on the little things in our life, that to us might not be good enough, but to someone else is the biggest blessing in their life. The person who is dealing with losing a loved one can remind you to cherish the time we have with our loved ones, no matter how annoying they might be. The person recovering from an ended relationship might just be a lamp post to us, showing us the pitfalls to avoid, and the things to revere. The person behind the counter can teach us patience, compassion, humility, but only if you take the time to turn your eyes off of yourself for a moment, stop telling me that the bathroom at Caribou is disgusting, and I should go and clean it. Because really? If its not a hole in the ground without paper, you have no place to be complaining. Just saying. 

Seriously guys, thank you for reading! I am shocked that you guys continue to come back! Especially Italy, Mongolia, and Russia! I have no idea how you found me, but I would love to hear from you, and learn what is going on in your lives. That goes for all of you! Much love!


  1. I completely understand. Just the use of a bathroom and not just going on the side of a road is a luxury. Truly. Be thankful for what you have and live as though you can learn something from everyone! Great post!

  2. I use to think while singing the song Amazing Grace, the part that goes "I once was blind, but now I see" was all about the blind literally being healed. And one day I realized it was really about getting your eyes off of self because if you're all consumed with self you are literally blind to everything God wants you to see, go or do. Well written Lauren!

  3. I've been to India (not a missions trip) and I've used primitive bathrooms too! And ones where I wish I could've paid for my own toilet paper.