Why do we travel? What is it that brings out the wanderlust in our souls?

For as long as there have been modern humans, they have wandered, explored. Some for reasons of survival or economic or political necessity. But others, many others, explored for the sake of exploring. As Sir Edmund Hillary said, when asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest, “Because it’s there.”

One thing I try to do, when exploring, is not to simply be a casual observer, but to learn something, something about myself, something about my own culture by virtue of being in another place. As I pack my things, explore my options and clean out my life, there are two lessons that I have been learning.

First of all, I come from an incredibly materialistic culture. We buy things, things we don’t need and often only vaguely want, just for the sake of doing it. As I go through all of my belongings, I realize how much stuff I have that I have purchased, usually recently, and don’t use or need or want anymore. It is sickening. I vow, as I’m stacking up stuff for Goodwill, to spend money on experiences in the future and not objects.

And then I get an email. A marketing email from Lokai, the company that makes those stylish “Live Lokai” bracelets. They have a new water bottle they’re selling. Water bottles are one of my areas of weakness. I don’t know why, but every one calls to me with a siren song. I think, “Well, if I buy it maybe I will drink more water. That will be good for me.” I almost hit buy. Then I remember: I have at least half a dozen perfectly good water bottles at home, why do I need another one? Why is it that we can’t resist buying things we don’t need?

The second lesson I have learned is to ask for help. I hate hate hate asking for help. I’m an American. Independent. Strong. Pull-myself-up-by-my-own-bootstraps. I would rather pay a stranger to do something than ask a friend to do it for me for free.

Guatemalans, I think, are better about this than Americans. They have a stronger sense of community often, and they ask when they need something. When I was there in July, the non-profit organization I went with toured a healthcare facility in El Estor along the Rio Dulce, an under-funded healthcare clinic with many pressing needs. The woman who ran the clinic didn’t hesitate, given this opportunity to speak to the organizational director, to spell out exactly what she needed for the clinic (even though we were simply there on a tour, not to evaluate a need for assistance). She asked for what she needed.

So I will try to overcome the guilt and discomfort I feel when asking for help, and just tell people what I need from them. So far it has worked well, I have a ride lined up to the airport (thank you, Charlotte!).

T-20 days until I am on the ground in Guatemala.