Unknown Territories

By Justice Shorter

Traversing unknown territory can be a treacherous endeavor for most people. As I prepare to embark on yet another travel excursion, I often urge myself to remain cognizant of perceived impossibilities that have proven to be not only possible but practical and brimming with promising prospects.

I am preparing to begin my graduate studies in Sustainable Development: International Policy & Management at SIT Graduate Institute in Washington, DC. Moving to a new city independently as a young legally blind woman can be a bit intimidating. Nevertheless, I am reminded of my own personal traveling triumphs as well as countless other blind women who navigate new communities, countries, continents and cultures each day.

As a blind woman on the move, I’m striving to perfect the skill of adapting to the ever-changing world around me. This mentality ultimately translates into one of my most relied upon mantras: “Adaptation equals survival.” I decidedly choose to see the world differently.

While traveling throughout South Africa, Uganda and Rwanda, I used connectivity, charisma, compassion and common sense to create meaningful friendships that opened up a myriad of unbelievable cross-cultural experiences. Principle among these tenets of travel is connectivity. My insistence on connecting with those around me enlightened my travels in unimaginable ways. Had I chosen to remain reclusive, I would have never stood atop Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. Perhaps I would have shied away from dancing the night away at the British embassy in Rwanda. Maybe I would’ve politely declined to dine on delectable fried grass hoppers in Uganda. Needless to say, I certainly would not have made as many lifelong friends.  

In addition to the principles mentioned above, I am often vigilant in my search for verbal and atmospheric clues when traveling. These audible jewels sparkle with vibrancy in my memory. They collectively color my understanding of the world around me and more importantly, they allow me to center myself amid chaotic circumstances. Whereas most travelers keep an endless gallery of photos, I prefer to produce audio diaries and logs while on my journey. I frequently use the logs to capture the scene around me or to document a moment in time I’d like to remember for a lifetime. Recently, I listened to several entries from previous momentous occasions and I am reminded that despite my ocular obstacles, I am capable of conquering any challenge the world throws at me. This is undoubtedly the most effective method of easing anxiety and warming the spirit before the body is led astray by cold feet.

Travel doesn’t singularly denote out-of-state or international trips. Traveling outside your comfort zone in an effort to explore new aspects of life can take shape in a multitude of exhilarating forms. Traveling to a new place in town, visiting a new shop or organization in your neighborhood, or even choosing to take new routes to predetermined destinations can enhance your probability of learning something new about yourself as well as the world around you.

Justice Shorter is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She recently relocated to Washington, D.C. to pursue her graduate degree. 

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