My parents were not hippies or environmentalists. I wish they were, but they were frugal, and we were poor.

The result was intense water conservation practices. Turning off the faucet while brushing my teeth, reusing boiled water to clean dishes, and “if it’s yellow been mellow.” I was taught from a young age to save water.

I grew up in California during the Blackouts of the early 2000s, the subsequent Brownouts, and drought year after year.

I always assumed human usage wasted the most water.

The sink, toilet, shower, watering the lawn or filling swimming pools.

But I learned an astounding statistic. It takes 2,700 liters of water to make a single white cotton T-shirt. For context, the average person consumes about 3.1 liters a day. That means my white T-shirt is worth 871 days of drinking water; I didn’t even keep my shirts that long. And that changed how I look at my closet and malls, even how I interact with people.

Imagine the world without pollution.

Picture the most serene place in the world. Some of us may imagine an empty beach gazing across open seas, the top of a mountain admiring the curvature of the earth or the beautifully lonely and barren desert.

These peaceful places are without people. The way you wish you could post your Instagram photos. But when you arrive, you realize humanity has left its trace: trash, swarms of people, and pollution.

Welcome to tourism. Going to beautiful serene places, experiencing the world in all its beauty, but knowing that you have to pay a steep environmental price to be there. …

Travel connects communities, fosters compassion, and builds empathy across different cultures and traditions. Can travel and immersion help America heal the wounds of systemic and institutional racism?

I think it can.

Traveling alone will not solve racism. The levels of oppression and association by inaction continues to cause detrimental effects on Black Americans. In terms of every economic metric, Black people in America are marginalized, oppressed, and victims of hundreds of years of continuous racism. And that has never ended.

Reinvesting our time, compassion, and dollars in our Black communities will help build understanding, trust, and equity.

It’s about investing in the existing communities. …

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The person I am today is the direct result of the places and people I have encountered. Learning from others and sharing in their unique cultures, bestows perspective, and blossoms empathy.

But, it also causes enormous environmental harm.

I am a globe trotter. But as a child, my family could never afford to travel. I was born in 1992. And like many millennials, I came of age during the Great Recession.

My family was not wealthy. We were by all definitions considered low-income, and without a hefty financial aid package from Carleton College, I couldn’t afford further education.

Both my parents immigrated to the US. Their stories entrenched in world travel. My mother was born on the island of Bohol in the Philippines. She met my father- born in Copenhagen, Denmark- in Hong Kong. They married and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where my two brothers and I were born. …

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Photo by Yunming Wang on Unsplash

If we think of our lives as films, color makes it interesting.

Your routine is black and white, but a happy hour adds some yellow. Date night contributes red. Perusing local shops throw in orange, and a yoga class gives us blue.

Today, variety is hard to come by, and life is feeling increasingly like a black and white Humphrey Bogart movie.

But here’s the catch. Those movies are brilliant.

They could not lean on color to convey emotion. Instead, they found other techniques to bring excitement and suspense.

We can find joy and appreciate these difficult days by thinking back to the classics. …

It can feel like we’ve delivered a crushing blow to simply say, No.

And to soften its effect, we wrap it in a pretty bow.

The No is hidden in an “I’m sorry,”

Which puts the blame on us.

We feel the guilt and shame.

But that’s not our aim.

We can’t help the suffocating feeling of letting someone down.

It truly feels like be being drowned.

If you are like me, saying No, is one of the hardest things to do. I grew up with a strict mother. Any kind of deviation from her expectations were met with wrath. …

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“Everything has just blown up!” Said a friend who works at AWS during brunch.

Eventually, conversations just devolve into work. But now, with COVID-19, we have something new to discuss. Or, so we thought. This brunch took place in Seattle, and last weekend a few cases popped up about 8 miles from where my partner and I work.

It’s changed the structure of the upcoming week and month by putting a temporary end to all work travel, canceling huge customer events, and actively encouraging work from home. The following week started looking and feeling pretty light for everyone.

Or, so we assumed. …


Elijah-Mae Christensen

I only have two life goals. Never stop learning and always seek to understand.

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