One thing that has stood out to me in particular is how immersed I felt in the human trafficking community of San Diego and just the city in general. I love traveling, but when I travel, I rarely venture outside of popular tourist hotspots. I rarely feel the need to get to know the location beyond that, and though it’s easy to point out the flaws in that touristy method of traveling, it’s admittedly what I enjoy. I’m the kind of person that enjoys deciding places to go and planning attractions beforehand. There was a running joke on the trip about me checking Yelp to verify whether every restaurant that we were already was good or not, and it was only after I pushed hard for it that we decided to stop by In-N-Out on the last day. Going on this trip, I feel like I’ve gotten to know San Diego pretty intimately. First off, we stayed at a hostel in heart of the Gaslamp District. The abundant art on the walls and the scurry of young travelers encapsulated a culture that we couldn’t have emulated in a hotel or group house. I think that staying there very much primed us to open our minds more than we would have.
We traveled to various places throughout San Diego County, even venturing into Orange County on two occasions, but through these meetings and excursions we received a different, unique piece of the area every time. We took part in discussions among grassroots service organizations, local government officials, normal citizens, professionals, and law enforcement, and it felt like I was seeing a new piece of the puzzle every time. The sense of community between those groups undoubtedly contributed to that feeling. We visited the beautiful Coronado Beach, once rated the top beach in the U.S., and watched military planes fly into the Naval base located on the island. On the last day, we took part in a vigil in which we stood on street corners where trafficking activity was known to happen, and had interactions with traffickers and victims as they yelled at us in passing or stopped to exchange words. The profundity of our experience with the city was something that I’m not used to, and I think it’s because of this that I feel confused about this connection I now feel with San Diego and the anti-human trafficking community there.
It’s only my first day back, but I keep catching my mind drifting off to think about different occurrences and conversations from this past week. It’s only an issue because I’ve been trying to do homework all day, but I think it’s indicative of how immersive the experience was.
This relates a little with #1 and #2 above, but I’ve felt somewhat mentally isolated since I returned to Duke. After arriving here from the airport, I went straight to bed in my empty room since my roommate hadn’t arrived yet, and my social interactions with my friends that I’ve seen so far have been slow and detached on my end. Especially in doing this blog post, it feels I haven’t mentally finished the trip yet and it’s been noticeable personally as I’ve walked through campus today.
This is admittedly kind of a filler but I included it since it explains some of the reason for #2 and #3. I was really determined to not become jetlagged on the way back from this trip, but I failed to go to bed before midnight the last two nights of the trip and consequently couldn’t sleep until after 2:30 am my first night back. This morning, I woke up at noon, which is the first time I think I’ve done that since last Spring. Even though I used to sleep in all the time before then, it felt especially weird to wake up that late because I hadn’t done so in a long time, and it’s thrown off my mental state all day.
I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to go on this alternative spring break trip, and the trip itself has made me feel more lucky. I witnessed conditions and afflictions that I’ll never have to worry about, and even the group reflections among the students on the trip reminded me how privileged I am to have the comforts and the company that I have. I’ve been doing a better job of keeping this in mind recently for the sake of my own happiness, but I hope I can do a better job of utilizing it as motivation to be a greater agent for positive change in everything I do.
Also, I made my NCAA bracket really hastily since I was so busy on the trip, and it’s doing surprisingly well so I’m getting pretty lucky on that front too.