One of the most common things I’m asked when I introduce myself here is.. where did you come from? While I am the type of person who really enjoys having a deep conversation with someone.. I’ve learned that socially when you first meet someone, most of the time they aren’t asking you for your life story when they ask you introductory questions. In the hospital, it is usually an easy answer — they want to know where I last did my training.. but usually I can’t leave it at that. Deep down inside, I want to tell the about the last year of my life, so I usually tack on a “oh, but I spent last year working as a pediatrician on an island in the Pacific.” This usually leads to a .. “oh, really? where?” to which I usually reply “Saipan, it’s kind of close to Guam.” and the conversation usually ends there because they probably were just being polite and asking me in order to introduce themselves.
But, I do find myself thinking of Saipan often, and something I read online today helped me solidify some thoughts in my mind about why I am so dissatisfied with those introductory conversations. It’s not because I am dying to tell them about the white sand beaches, fantastic snorkeling, beautiful views, tropical fruit, etc.. it’s because I want to share with them the community that I developed there.
This article entitled “Stop Telling Me To Travel in My 20s” reminded me of what I’ve voiced in the past and alluded to on this blog. It basically said that it’s not all the traveling that makes you a richer person… it’s as the author says: “But the most important truths of life, the most incredible stories I have, are of the people I’ve loved. The connections I’ve made.” In my brief conversations about Saipan, I cater to what people want to hear — how it’s different, how it was exciting, how it is beautiful and tropical, how it was a great experience for my medical practice, etc.. but talking about the fun times I had with the nurses I worked with, the running group that changed me from a non-runner to a runner, the gym that turned into practically family.. is what I would talk about if I was more honest. And that could have been in any small 14×4 mile area that someone lived in.
I know I am lucky to have traveled more than most, and I still do love travel.. and know my personality is such that I always will love it and will likely continue to do it. I have visited countries most people have never heard of, been to more than one continent.. actually, the fact that I’ve been on a plane is so much more privileged than most! Don’t fret.. I still am printing out all the lovely pictures of sunsets/scenes that I enjoyed while in Saipan.
But at the end of the day.. like for example, in my last week there.. it was about seeing people. No, I did not need to go sit on a beach and work on my tan before I moved to the land of living in a cloud. No, I did not need to make sure I visited all the secret awesome places that only the locals know about. I wanted to make time for people. As I am meeting a whole new community here, I am so glad that I’ve been reminded of this — and it makes me strive to keep the connections that I made back in Saipan strong.
Just a reminder today to appreciate what you have around you and not to think that life is necessarily better if you just change the scenery. (This doesn’t mean no travel for me though.. just am more encouraged to travel with other people to share that experience with them, something more important maybe than just the travel itself)
Turns out, not where, but who you’re with that really matters. –Dave Matthews Band