19524 miles later

Traveling; a time for naively exploring, stepping into new lands and new experiences clutching nothing but a battered rucksack and a sense of the unknown. A world inhabited by the dreadlocked, the gap yaas and the run-aways, bringing forth images of those Kodak moments; colourful street festivals, unscalable landscapes, chance meetings and friendships to treasure until the very end.

I don’t think I’ll get tired of telling Peru-Colombia-Panama-Costa Rica stories any time soon.
I’ve been in cloud-covered mountains and jungles, seas clear and warm as a bath, waves that crush the breath out of you, sand dunes and a desert oasis, volcanoes and tropical islands. I’ve seen storms and lightening the colour of candy floss, more stars than you can ever imagine, been woken up by howler monkeys, gone swimming at night with plankton lighting up the water, sailed with dolphins and learned stories from ancient cultures that speak not of gold and silver as treasures, but knowledge. I’ve been stared at and shouted at in the street because of the colour of my skin, had kids run up to touch my hands and arms to see if I feel the same as them.

I’ve met some of the kindest, most open and caring people. I’ve also seen some pretty desperate poverty. My eyes have been opened.

Part of me was expecting to collect ideas, inspiration and concepts to pull back into projects back home. While I’ll take something from the mindsets and way that new ideas are linked to the past, other scenarios are simple too far-removed to place them into a Western setting.

I come from a world where the type of design I work in is becoming increasingly about logging-in, signing-up, networking, clicking, button pressing, liking. Existing not as you; but as a 2-dimensional, pixellated version of your personality, created and edited to please the multi-faceted world out there.
I’ve spent the last 6 weeks witnessing places and people who’s lives would look more at home in the pages of a National Geographic. This overly online version of service design, which we can happily exist in back home, suddenly has absolutely no place or meaning. Apps will fix nothing.

Now, the tough job is taking those elements – the thought-provoking, the humble and the unanswered questions and stitching them into my soon-to-be digital everyday designing. With the rest of the Snooks off jet-setting for the next wee while I’ve got a bit of time to think ahead and do some typical kirstyjoan list-making. It’s this readjusting or the expected readjusting that is swirling around in my head (clearly I’ve been spending a bit too much time with a certain question-asker).

For me, this aftermath has also brought about a sense of inward pressure – people expect me to have ‘changed’. It’s a curious expectation, not necessarily a bad one, but it is there in the lingering looks and the questions about the future. (I also have returned with a slight tan, for those who know me well this is an unheard of and slightly flummoxing scenario to be faced with.)
Now that the washing has been done and the photos uploaded (http://www.flickr.com/photos/59272950@N08/collections/72157627954282354/  for those that might be interested) I’ve had a bit of time to pull from the thousands of stories I’ve collected – now is the time for planning and dreaming. Lonely Planet calls it soul-searching.

I’m not the sitting-on-top-of-a-mountain-finding-myself kind of girl. In fact, any hint of such activity and I am reduced to giggles, running Bridget Jones-style quotes through my altitude-addled head. I find the whole expected transformation thing vaguely ridiculous.

So how does one bring these new experiences, sights, sounds, smells, people and stories into their life and work without becoming a bit of a cliché? I think at this point I need to take a spoon of my own medicine, listen to a piece of advice I found myself repeating during my last two weeks away, and just ‘give-it-a-go’. You never know until you try. And goodness knows, I never would have ended up on the other side of the world if it wasn’t for a feeling of adventure, a touch of courage and a bit of a wild leap.


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