I can’t get over how heavy my backpack is. Filled with my six-week necessities, I practically topple over each time I throw it onto my back. What’s most astounding though, are its contents, so familiar to me but extremely mysterious to my Indonesian friends and family.
I have two cameras, a ton of gear, plenty of clothing, several books, and, most dense, the identity that I carry with myself as an American traveler. I greet my homestay families with a big, nervous smile, but the shade of my stuffed bag makes it feel much smaller and less genuine.
Easily put, traveling with such privileges creates a heavy, consistent burden, causing my pack to feel ten times its original weight. On the streets of Indonesia, my white skin draws strangers to demand, “Photo! Photo!” my big bag and American clothing receive stares that I can’t seem to decode, and my smile is met with shy blushes that I crave the chance to delve into.
Although, most difficult for me to accept is that my privilege cannot be removed like a backpack; that along with it I carry the responsibility to disprove the perceived differences between myself and other humans. Sure, we live differently, but really, we are the same. It’s easy to put into words, but almost impossible to take to heart.
My goal coming into Indonesia wasn’t to feel my privilege to a greater extent or to “get rid” of it, but to acknowledge its presence and unfairness while owning it at the same time; to recognize that my situation facilitates more opportunities, but doesn’t make me any more of a human; to understand that no lifestyle is superior to another.
My pack, though stuffed with more and more souvenirs and Indonesian goods, seems to get lighter as we progress and I learn more about not only the lifestyles of those I visit, but my own lifestyle at home as well.