Coming Back To Reality: Leaving the Comfort of Nature for the Comfort of Society
Returning from a field site leaves me mixed with emotion. The initial return is always strange. It can take a few days to wake up each morning and realize that I'm not going back to the cabin where the condors fly. I remember a trip to Costco shortly after returning to Costa Rica. I heard someone make a sound that was so similar to the call we would make to find each other in the forest. My initial reaction was to return the call, but I luckily remembered that Costco is not a rainforest.
Saying good bye to a wonderful place is never easy. Days can seem trivial when all that's on my agenda is to go to work for part of the day, grab some groceries, and apply to scholarships. I'm no longer immersing myself completely in the fight to save a species. I return from the buzz of cicadas to the sounds of cars driving down my suburban street. My days are no longer filled with sitting on a hill in Yellowstone, but are instead filled with days of sitting in front of my computer. I am no longer watching the sunset over an ocean but am filling my evenings with the next binge-worthy show. Regular life can seem a bit mediocre, and leave me craving the next adventure.
But it's not all bad. I can sleep each night in a comfy bed. I can turn the heating or air conditioning on. Grabbing groceries is just a jaunt away. I am connected to the online world 24/7. I can see friends and family whenever I want and I can pick up a cat for a forced cuddle whenever the desire strikes. Comfort is a great advantage of leaving the field.
But this push for the next adventure is always present. I find it difficult to stay put in one place for too long. Although my current job is teaching me completely new things about urban conservation, I still return to a suburban home each night. And yes, it's true that a weekend camping trip would take me away from reality for a short time, but it isn't the same as being truly immured in an unusual, unforgettable experience.
I left the field in August 2016. I spent a month at home, then traveled in Europe for 5 weeks. I returned home and have been working with my city's parks department for the past 3 months. This job has provided me with more income that any of my previous field jobs, giving me the perfect excuse to spend some time experiencing the world before heading off to Oxford in September. My last day will be June 29th, after which I will go on a 10 day solo road trip to visit my favorite and yet-to-be-seen spots in California. I'm then going to treat myself to one last great adventure to learn some life lessons and do something to make a difference. I will be spending August at the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmadabad, India volunteering with children in slums. Although not exactly going back to the field to work in conservation, this experience will teach me about a new reality: the one faced by millions of children living in poverty throughout India. It will be interesting to see how my perception on life changes when I return to my own reality in the Bay Area.
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