“Genuine self-care requires that we recognize we can never realize transformation or healing in our communities until we transform and heal OURSELVES. This is the concept of radical healing....Radical healing recognizes that loving and caring for Your Self is a revolutionary act. Particularly for people of color, women, and LGBTQ folks--to proclaim our love for Our Selves in the face of trauma, discrimination, sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia is a bold act. The revolution begins here. Only when we learn to love and care for ourselves, nurture and heal our deep wounds, and view ourselves with kindness and compassion can we then love, heal and show compassion to others in our families and communities. Only then can we lead authentically, unite others, and transform communities through collective healing and systems change. Leading with love will always prevail over leading with anger, sadness or hate. And it begins with the love and care of the self.”
–Self-Care is a Lie, Bruce Thao
For the past two years I’ve engaged in research within the trans community, with a particular focus on violence against transgender people. Being trans myself, and having experienced violence as a result, doing this research has simultaneously been immensely rewarding and excessively strenuous. I know, in the grand scheme of things, two years is nothing and I have a long road of more personally invested research ahead. But the challenges of this research, combined with pure exhaustion from working my ass off in school for as long as I can remember, numerous struggles with mental health, and my own experience with oppression, has burned me out to say the least despite my efforts to consistently engage in self-care.
As the fall term of my M.A. concluded and the realisation that I would be graduating (again) in a mere 8 months, the impending question yet again loomed: what am I going to do after I finish school? Just like the previous year when I asked myself the same question, beginning a PhD was a shortlisted option. However, unlike the previous year, this time around I had an actual offer (funding opportunities yet to be known) which I learned of when I was traveling over winter break. What I had been dreaming of for the past three years could become a reality. But something didn’t feel right. I quickly realised that spending another 3-4 years in school researching trans necropolitics (I pick uplifting research topics, I know), only to (hopefully) enter academia afterwards, would be detrimental not only to me personally but also my research. I needed space from academics and research and school in order to engage in radical healing, finding a way to truly love myself so that I could thrive and come back to my research with fresh eyes, a clear mind and a rejuvenated soul.
When I was traveling with The Monsoon Diaries, I experienced the world like I never had before. The feeling from the adrenaline rush from constantly being on the move, seeing the boundless beauty that exists in the world, and building meaningful friendships with people who were once strangers was incomparable. I was challenged intellectually, culturally, emotionally, and politically. I learned how much there is to see and experience in the world, and how much I appreciate my youth for giving me the energy and flexibility to go see it. I got a small taste of what that clear mind and rejuvenated soul feels like.
During the trip I kept reflecting on what I wanted to do after I finish my Master’s and I came up with this wild dream to take a year off before starting a PhD to just backpack around the world. I pretty quickly slammed it down in my mind because how the hell would I pay for that? But every time we had a long bus or train ride my mind wandered back to that idea. It was like a mosquito bite: the more I scratched it, the more it itched, and I was far too impatient to ignore it.
I had a week between returning to Brighton and the term starting so I almost immediately dove into researching and planning to see if I could actually pull this off. I envisioned a mix of solo and group travel so I can get the best of both worlds, and began considering where I wanted to go. That’s when this wild day-dream turned into something that seemed like an impossible yet exciting and life-changing challenge: 100 countries in 1 year.
It’s been done before. Graham Hughes holds the World Record for most countries visited by ground transportation in a year: 133. So 100 countries without the restriction of only ground travel seemed pretty manageable in comparison. After trying out about five different rough itineraries to get a ballpark figure for how much this would cost, getting advice from Calvin (the founder of The Monsoon Diaries and our fearless leader on the Trans-Siberian/Mongolian trip) and running numerous different possibilities of budgeting and funding options, I discovered that this impossible dream might actually be possible. But the only way to find out is to try. And, as Calvin reminded me, if I run out of money, that’ll just be part of the experience.
So why 100 countries in 1 year? For starters, I’ve always loved a challenge, never willing to back down or take no for an answer. This adventure poses not only logistical challenges (like where the fuck am I going to put all my entry and exit stamps in my passport or how do I renew my passport when I’m constantly on the move???) that energise me, but also challenges of endurance, physical stamina, intellectual engagement, and so many others that fire me up, making me wish I could start tomorrow. I also want to prove to myself and to others that being trans should never hold one back from seeing the world. Unfortunately it often does, but I hope in some small way I can begin to change that. While I will embark on this journey with that goal in mind, as I learned in Beijing when we missed our train, flexibility and adaptability are necessary in travel. So if things change as I go along, then I'll embrace it and enjoy the unknown.
I’m not so naïve to think that travel will be the solution to everything (or anything, necessarily). But I do know that I need a change, and I have a deep yearning to get out of my comfort zone and explore the world. I don’t want to end up going straight from one degree to another, just to immediately start working until I retire, and will there ever be a better time to take this kind of break? Probably not. So I’m prioritising myself, doing what I feel I need to do for me in the now so that I can fight for others more compassionately and energetically in the future. I’m attempting to pursue radical healing through a slightly unconventional method. I’m going to try to carve out a little more space in the world for my community by merely existing in spaces and engaging in activities that aren't designed with trans people in mind. And I'm ready to set out on the adventure of a lifetime.
So stay tuned over the upcoming months as I blog about the planning process and get ready to kick off my journey in August with The Monsoon Diaries in the Balkans.