I flew to San Francisco to escape the chilly air and dreary days of a Wisconsin winter, hoping for the ocean air to infuse my lungs with something more. I wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere I could find myself anew amongst all that was different. I suppose everyone has a deep longing to travel, to explore, and to see the world. We want to find something unfound and in the process, change who we are. It’s a literal journey that we consciously explore, but what exactly do we store mentally and physically except for beautiful pictures of Instagram-perfect shots? They are but a million images of different people in exactly the same spots, and we gloss over the things that are undesirable. In all of my pictures, you see no panoramas of urine-soaked streets with a smell that stays with you for blocks, no homeless beggars that never meet the gaze of passer-byes, and certainly no young migrant families traveling long distances on public transportation just to get home. And yet, this too was part of the trip and part of the journey, or at least it should be.
When we tell stories, we weave together narratives that are beguiling and alluring to others, stories that flatter us, and stories that are pleasing to the eyes and ears. My vacation pictures are all of these things, inciting wander-lust and envy, but they don’t tell an entire story. Perhaps it is because I know it would fall on deaf ears. I know my audience tires of hearing of the struggles of those they know nothing about. People in worn-torn countries, who see death imprinted in the shadows of the clouds. People who are immigrants, who fear that their families will be ripped from them because of laws intended to keep safe a country they helped build. People whose rights are routinely trampled upon, who have been shouting for centuries in a vacuum space that uses silence as a blanket for apathy. I understand why they distance themselves, for I am guilty of that, too, but when we tell cleaned-up stories that don’t reveal the whole truth, we lose the essence of what is really there.
You can never rest in one spot for too long until the siren of adventure calls for you again. Everywhere you go, you fashion a familiar home out of the unfamiliar so you can fall back. What you fall back on is where you must inevitably return to, a place that feels like home, but if we always feel the urge to escape and see the unknown, what is it we’re searching for in the first place? Perhaps it is to find ourselves in the eyes of strangers staring back at us: a reflection of how you are seen.