First Thoughts

Departure into Unknown Land

“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton

Eight Months.


Being so young I was very susceptible to the change in culture. I picked up the Aussie accent pretty quickly and adapted to my life as a year one student. My parents were attending the local university and the three of us were living in an apartment on campus. Believe it or not, at the age of six, my best friends were twenty-year-old college kids.

These kids were cool. They would invite me up to watch cartoons with them and would sneak me cookies. The would let me join into their frisbee games and would leave a spot for me on their blankets while they studied and I colored. My parents loved having so many “babysitters” around to help out so they could focus on school. Well, my mother did anyway, my father, on the other hand, decided school work was not as important as “life-skills.” When we arrived back to the states my mom came back with double the college credits, whereas my father came back with 3. He chose nature over his degree. He chose surfing and the ocean over sitting in a class that he could have been doing back in the states.

Photo By 
Diana Mironenko

At that age, and even now, that was something I always admired about him. Sitting on the beach after school and watching him surf was one of the coolest things. Occasionally when my mother had a full day of class, so my father was in charge of bringing to and from school, he would call me out and we would spend the whole day by the ocean. We would walk to the small market and get orange pop and cheesy bread for lunch, but other than that would be out there all day long.

It was always a joke in our family that learning “life-skills” was more important than school. I truly believe that the experiences he had, and that I got to participate in, were more rewarding than sitting and learning about math. Being outdoors and in nature was a large part of my childhood, but it is the memories on the beach in Wollongong that I think of immediately. The culture that surrounded me was exciting. That excitement triggered a need for more.

Three Weeks.

When presented with the opportunity to travel to a different country, one where they don’t speak English, one where I would be independent of my friends and family. I immediately said yes. I got my whole family together and presented the idea and everyone was on board. I was headed to Spain with an exchange program for three weeks when I was sixteen.

Spain was so different from anywhere I had ever been. I was staying with a boy named Xavi and his family. Of course, I remember the food we ate, the shops I went to and spent a little too much money, and the people I met. But, the memories that stick out most to me are again, the ones that strayed away from the “human world.” Our free time when we were at school was spent on the playground. This place felt like a chain-linked dessert. All the kids, all ages would gather in this enclosed dirt field to let loose from their day. Some would be kicking a ball around and fluttering up a tornado as they ran in the dryness. Some casually looked for shelter in the shade with their group. For me, I just sat and took it all in. The sun felt differently, and the dirt smelt different. People engulfed me to listen to me talk and ask me questions about America. Again, an overwhelming sense of excitement surrounded me.

I thought I would never find another beach that compared to the one I spent many days at in Australia, but one weekend Xavi brought me up to Costa Brava, and it was like something straight out of a magazine. The water was as blue as the paintings I’ve seen from the Caribbean. It was a private beach so we were the only ones there. You have to hike down to get there and it was so untouched by man. It was the most beautiful play I have ever been.

Photo by Madison Ballou

I was lucky enough to travel back to this beach and see my Spanish “family” just five years later, but that story is just too long and crazy to be combined with anything else. It stands alone as the best trip of my life, second to my two months spent in a Prius driving across country. Again, a story for another time.

So, when asked what my non-human experience is, I think about my travels and the cultures I have seen and learned about. I think about how I am constantly trying to compare what I am so accustomed to in The States, with all of the different, incredible places there are out there. This comparison has proved that leaving familiarity is where you will find extraordinary.

When I am questioned, what nature is, my response is simple. Nature is my days off that I spend hiking Mount Monadnock, paddle boarding on Granit Lake, or snowboarding at Okemo. Nature is my dog’s happiness as she rolls in the mud and jumps in the rivers on hot summer days. Nature is my childhood and the many nights playing kick the can with my neighbors. Nature is the four incredibly prevalent New England Seasons, and the different moods and feeling each brings with it. Nature is the inspiration for my art as I paint the evening sunset onto my fresh-out-of-the-kiln pots. Nature is at the center of passion to travel and see the world.

When I think of the non-human world I think of things that humans have affected. The different cultures around the world that are influenced by the people in them, their climate, their land location, and the history mankind has spent there. Traveling and witnessing these different places has been something I have valued since I was little. Having young parents allowed me the opportunity to do exciting things that someone in their twenties would hope to do. My first great adventure was when I was six-years-old. My mother, father and I traveled to Wollongong, Australia for eight months.

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