When what you see isn’t all there is

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By: Annie Sragner, Arts & Life Editor

Over spring break, I had many experiences that changed me on a deep, fundamental level. I have lived in Maryland for all 22 years of my life and have only left the east coast a handful of times, so it’s safe to say that my knowledge of the world at large is very limited so far.

Through a series of many coincidences, I recently connected with a group of activist filmmakers from North Dakota called Sandbagger News. Their goal is to highlight and explore the human-environment relationship, but the best way I can describe them is by calling them radical altruists.

A couple months ago, they told me about this spring break road trip idea where they were planning to travel in their seven-person, 1983 GMC Vandura Starcraft van, warmly named “Mathodi,” from North Dakota to Colorado to film their experiences along the way. They had an extra spot in the van and asked if I wanted to fly out and go on this adventure with them.

With no hesitation, I pounced on the opportunity and bought my plane ticket a few days later. Soon enough, I was descending into Grand Forks, North Dakota, and I knew I was about to be completely out of my element.

When we arrived at their house, I was told to just leave my luggage in the car and that we would get it later. My inner Baltimorean was immediately suspicious and questioned the safety of this decision. “Are you sure my stuff will be alright out here?” I asked. My inquiry was met with confusion, but I was assured that I had nothing to worry about.

In that moment, I realized how much my background experiences had shaped my interpretation of the world. Because I grew up in a place where I always had to be aware of my surroundings, safety was always at the front of my mind—especially as a woman. That moment was a pivotal breath of fresh air where I knew that I could let my guard down a little.

Before this trip filled with meeting remarkable people and having larger-than-life amounts of fun, I wasn’t fully aware of how much goodness there was in the world. Unnerving news headlines and missing milk-carton kids may remind us of how horrible the world can be, but there are so many wonderful parts that can only be found through direct encounters.

Through this experience, I learned to not judge a place based on what I’ve heard—or haven’t heard—about it. Our locations determine our immediate encounters, so it’s imperative to realize that what you see isn’t all there is.

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