Remembering My Past and Looking for the Future

November 17, 2012


There’s something very important about me that many of you don’t know much about. It has to do with my past. I have decided to share a bit of my story with you today…

Searching for Purpose and Meaning

Almost three months ago, I quit my job. Many of you probably already know this fact. But what I haven’t written much about is what I did before I started traveling.

There are many other people out there like me who also have quit their jobs to travel. Most of them have stories that go a little something like this:

“I used to lead a miserable and unfulfilling life working at a meaningless job, trapped inside a sunless cubicle. Finally, I found the courage to break free and live a life of travel.”

While I completely admire these people and their stories, I feel like my case is a bit different. My job didn’t involve punching meaningless numbers on Wall Street or making money for big corporate businesses. I was working in a non-profit organization for refugees in Texas.

Did I dislike following the same routine every day? Yes.

Did I dislike answering the phone and sitting at the same desk all day? Maybe.

Did I dislike my job? No.

In fact, I had long considered working in a non-profit refugee agency to be my perfect job. My job gave me the opportunity to use my Arabic and Spanish language skills on a daily basis. Additionally, and more importantly, I constantly grew and learned from people who had been through hell and back, yet were able to keep a positive attitude in the face of adversity. Finally, I felt like I was making an impact (however slight) in refugees’ lives.

But I wanted more. I felt unfulfilled and frustrated. So I decided to strike out and explore the world to find myself, and perhaps find the answer to my restlessness.

War & Unanswered Questions

Now, let me fast forward to the present. It’s been two months since I left the US to travel, but I have yet to find my sense of purpose and satisfaction. Somehow my mind and heart are still restless.

These feelings have me baffled. Could it be that I miss my old life and job? How could I be living out my dream of long-term travel yet still feel unsatisfied? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks intensely contemplating my feelings.

Last week, while in London, I attended a poetry reading by Iraqi writer Mohamed Hadi at the Iraqi Cultural Centre. His poems mainly spoke of war-torn Iraq and the pain and suffering of the Iraqi people after the 2003 invasion.

Iraqi Cultural Centre London

The poems enthralled me. I spent the whole evening struggling to hold back my tears. At the end of the performance, audience members were provided with a free copy of Hadi’s book. I spent the next few hours reading the entire first half of it. The book told the story of a woman who goes searching for her kidnapped son in post-2003 Iraq.

From my experience working with refugees, I knew these stories weren’t just fiction. Every single Iraqi person I’d met had horrific stories to tell of kidnap, murder, robbery, and torture.

Iraq is now a shadow of what it once was. In 2003, Bush declared “mission accomplished” and then, eight years later, US President Obama declared the Iraq war was over. But for the Iraqi people, it’s far from over. Iraq lies in shambles. There are millions of orphans on the streets. Everyone who had enough money or connections has left Iraq to resettle in the West.


Photo by: United States Forces – Iraq


Then I had a revelation. A strong sense of determination overcame me.

Could this be the purpose that I’ve been searching for and the reason behind my restlessness? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I have to do something to help Iraq and its people. I don’t know what or how, but I have to.

Recently, I have been following fellow travel blogger Hannah from Further Bound. She is following her passion for travel by keeping a blog which documents her indefinite relocation from the UK to India. In addition, Hannah is organizing a Rickshaw Run to raise money for charity. Though I don’t think driving  a rickshaw through Iraq right now would be wise, Hannah’s efforts have inspired me and made me believe that there must be some significant way I can make a difference.

But how exactly?

That’s where you guys, my readers, come in. I want to hear your opinions and ideas. Has there ever been a cause you cared deeply about? If so, what did you do to act on it? What are your suggestions?

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About Hannah

As a self-professed travel junkie, I have found that the only remedy to my addiction is travel itself. I am in the stages of launching an indefinite journey around the world with no goal other than to explore this small planet called Earth.

View all posts by Hannah

6 Responses to “Remembering My Past and Looking for the Future”

  1. Forrest Says:

    Hannah, I would say most people spend their entire lives searching for what they “really” want to do. From what I’ve seen, those people who actually find what it is they want to do are not very numerous. If you think you’ve found your calling, I say go for it and do everything you can to accomplish your dreams. If you find happiness in something and you can help other people by doing it, it’s a win-win for everyone.
    It takes extraordinary people to change things, and one person can make all the difference in the world, contrary to what most people think. Everyone has a voice in this world, and it just so happens that you have three; English, Spanish and Arabic. I say that counts for something, and I’m sure you’ll be able to make a difference, just keep searching.


  2. Brenda Says:

    You ask tough questions; maybe that’s why more people haven’t answered.

    The best ideas have a clear focus that others can rally behind AND that make sense for the people you’re trying to help. What would “help” look like to Iraqis? I have no idea, but I imagine they might.

    I’ve worked for a non-profit, citizen action group for 26 years – never on the front lines, but I like to think that I’ve made a difference by supporting those who are. I hope you’ll let us know how we can support whatever project you decide to tackle!


  3. zof Says:

    I loved this post. Guess why. I felt like I was reading my own story except I’m not a full-time traveler, just a short-time one. The rest sounds too familiar. Dreaming of working with refugees. Getting a job in refugee agency. Then being frustrated by how little my impact on their lives is. Getting a job in an NGO supporting voluntary migrants. Dreaming about travel. Chewing and having a need to bite more. I’ve always (well, ever since I’ve started working with asylum seekers) dreamt about traveling to one of permanent sending countries of imigration to European Union where I live and work. Last summer I went to the Caucasus where I spent 2 months volunteering in Yerevan. After cca two weeks I had THE feeling that caught you after the poetry reading. This I have to do something for this country and its people imperative. I’m going back to Armenia in two months. I don’t know for how long. This place bought me to tears. I left it as a very changed person. It’s my turn to go and make a change. Simply. By living there, working and being a good zof. I know that helping Iraq might be much bigger challenge. What I wanted to tell you is that I admire your motivation and I fully understand what you feel!


    • Hannah Says:

      Thank you for your comment! It’s always nice to know that there are a lot of people out there who have similar feelings. It makes me feel more confident in humanity’s capacity to be compassionate and do good 🙂

      Your story sounds inspiring and, indeed, a lot like mine! Making a significant change in the world is a task that seems overwhelming and almost impossible at times – but it’s good to remember that even the little things we do can make a difference in someone’s life.

      I just went to a documentary screening and presentation by a man who is helping to get Iraqi interpreters who cooperated with the US forces out of life-threatening situations and to safety in the US. I’m constantly reminded that there is hope!


  4. Dominick Caruso Says:


    A few years ago I also asked this same question, why am I here, why am I alive and not really contributing all that much. Well it still is relatively unanswered.

    Now having said that I also realized that I, we, us humans are animals. Just animals. All animals are on this earth to eat, fertilize, die, decay and finally and lastly fertilize the earth. Not a real joyous heartfelt meaningful description of who and what and why we are. Not at all spiritual, religious, humanitarian, positive, or an inspirational forward thinking way of looking at “us.”

    So, If you found a way to bring joy to yourself and to others. To make life safe and hopeful for not only yourself but to family, friends and strangers while you are going about the business of fertilizing this earth as you were designed to do. Then there just “Ain’t Nottin Wrong Widdat.”

    Because everything is up from being fertilizer.

    I am honored to know you, … Dominick …


    • Hannah Says:

      Haha it’s a bit depressing to think of ourselves as fertilizer. But I suppose it’s true to some extent.

      I really do believe that helping others and having meaningful relationships with other people is the one key to finding some measure of happiness and meaning in life.

      Thanks for stopping by!


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