I leave in less than one week for India.
The thought of this is thrilling, terrifying, and to-do-list motivating. As Paul Thoreaux once said, “Travel is glamorous, only in retrospect.” In other words, those Tumblr posts of maps, airline tickets, and Jack Kerouac quotes should include companion posts depicting Hepatitis A shots, anxiety selfies when a visa is taking a week too long to process, and bank account statements reflecting flashing low balance notices.
But despite all that, everything is strangely, slowly, but wonderfully falling into place. The visa did arrive (though too late for me to get a refund on that ticket to Chicago to ask the consulate where the heck my passport ended up), I found a travel backpack that didn’t entirely break the budget, and I’m stocked with malaria pills for six months.
Plus I am halfway to my fundraising goal! Can’t quite express how grateful I am to everyone who has donated. I just had coffee with my former study abroad professor, who asked me some of the challenges in being young and having the dream to tell stories around the world. I rattled off a bevy of issues (travel, lack of insurance, terrible freelance pay, constant hustle for stories, equipment problems) and they all sadly come down to one thing: money. To be a journalist, most places require you have a college degree in journalism. That costs money. Experience at publications is also key to getting a foot in the door as a freelancer later, and that rarely comes as an entry-level job anymore. Often, those jobs are in major, expensive, cities. So many young journalists are coming out of college well-educated and prepared, but saddled with moving costs, rent, student loans, all supposedly funded by internships (which, of course, rarely pay). So then we end up with journalists who can also dip into parent funds to help them live their dream, which boxes out many people who understand what it is actually like to be low-income, which is what many people report on in our country and the developing world. It is a cutthroat, painful, and extremely difficult cycle that does diminish the quality of our journalism.
With those realities in mind, I am truly so thankful to those who believe in storytelling enough to donate their money to support it. This year I was lucky enough to have an internship that paid, and paid well enough that I could buy groceries, live in an apartment, and pay my monthly loan payments (though certainly not enough to have savings). I’m also incredibly lucky to have a mom who was able to financially help me move across the country, which would have otherwise been nearly impossible (unless I literally ate grass for two weeks when I arrived in Boston).
It is possible to be a freelancer without all the things I mentioned above. I’m so excited when I hear stories of people who do that – forgo higher education, read as much and as widely as possible, save money for travel, and just get out there and do what they must do. I also know how horrendously hard they have to work to do all that, and how tough it is to make the decision to say no to the beast of higher education that has become a wildly overpriced cover charge for work in this country.
Would I ever give up the last five years of my life for the $28,000 I have to pay back now? Absolutely not. It is a high price to pay to grow up, but my goodness has it proved its worth time and time again. I also know how lucky I am to have a home where I can live and not pay rent if need be. I also know how lucky I am to have a father who constantly reminded me how expensive my college of choice is, and repeatedly making me fill out transfer forms to cheaper colleges, so I took advantage of every privilege given to those in higher education and never for once took it for granted. I also know how lucky I am to only have $28K of debt (especially after reading this sobering, though impressively nuanced story on us Boomerangers).
Anyway, all this is a long way of saying, those of you who have supported me, I am thankful in a way that you can’t ever know. You’re not just funding my return ticket. You’re funding five years of hard work, a college degree that trained me to be the human being I am today, the internships where I cut my teeth, the four months in Morocco that changed my life. You make the waitressing shifts, folding boards at overpriced teen stores at the mall, walking backwards in front of countless prospective students, those two weeks in January when my bank account hovered at $5 while I consumed only ramen and hot chocolate WORTH IT.
I love what I get to do, and this trip is an opportunity to help even more people find joy in what has made my life worth living. Stories are so cool! Writing is cathartic! Photography and video transport messages to the soul! And with your help, I can help a few students in India have the same experience I’ve been so fortunate to have.
So if you can, donate here. As you can probably tell, I am eternally grateful.
I also made an intro video for my future students that gets into my story, at least what is is so far. Check it out here.