I love to travel.
Flipping through the pages of National Geographic, adolescent mind running wild, I knew one day, I’d see in person everything that sparked my inspiration.
So when the opportunity to move to the island territory of Guam arose one year ago, I was simultaneously frightened and excited—ready and severely unprepared for adventure all at the same time.
A professor I interviewed in college once told me that with each new place you visit, a metamorphosis much like that of a butterfly transpires, sometimes without you even knowing.
She said it’s like shedding an old skin, only to reveal a shiny, fresh coat of perspective, saturated in gentle judgments, supportive embraces, and confident steps forward.
Moving to Guam was no different.
An island whose history was riddled with colonialism, war, and tragedy, Guam offered an opportunity for me to grow in educating myself on its battered past and complicated present.
I was assigned last March to write a series of articles for Chamorro month, highlighting and celebrating the unique culture of Guam.
Yet something strange happened when I began to research and dig.
Unintentionally I threw myself into my work. The goal of writing the articles became a mirror, and as I held up the countless stories of struggle, turmoil, and success, they became reflections of my own experiences, linking me to a culture and people who, just one year prior, I knew nothing about.
I convinced myself that the island of Guam and I went through similar experiences, torn between loyalties and split between cultures. I had almost convinced myself to write this post comparing the history of Guam to my own life—bundling up centuries’ worth of unique history, sticking it on a scale next to my own personal trials, and saying, “Look! We’re kind of the same!”
My mixed journey hasn’t always been positive or enlightening. There have been some very dark and stormy moments, especially toward the beginning, that tossed and turned the little ship I use to sail through life. But as a traveler, you never let something like a little wind and rain get in your way. Guam never has, and neither will I.
But along the way, my journey became less about understanding myself and more about finding a community of people with which to identify.
I still yearn to be a part of something bigger than myself connected by culture, language, food, history, etc. Some might say I have twice as much of that on my plate since I’m African American and German. But I’ve always found it difficult to connect with those groups since I wasn’t raised fully one or the other.
So in my mission to educate myself about an unfamiliar place and people, I almost threw away hundreds of years of culture and history to finally find something or someone who was like me.
What I ended up realizing was that no two stories are alike. My story, just like Guam’s, is one in a million—not to be compared with anyone else’s.
I looked in the mirror once again to admire my glowing, new coat of perspective.
I may never find a community of people with shared experiences due to the sheer fact that my journey is specific to me. Maybe I share a language with some, food with others, and culture with a select few. But as a traveler, there’s just something inside you that’s never satisfied.
So as I continue on in my journey, I know I’ll meet people with whom I’ll share certain cultural aspects of myself. And with each new friend, I’ll create my own cultural community specific to me. I’ll never stop looking for those with cultural traits like myself because I want my community to grow for as long as I have the energy to step into a new adventure.