We’re thrilled to introduce our latest Haute Guest, Janet Wu. Janet has been a fixture in the Boston News Scene as and anchor and reporter for 17 Years.
In addition to the earnest news reporting she has given to all of us, she also spends her time as an essayist, travel writer, and is a College Professor at Emerson College.
I dread late January. It’s the toughest time of year for me, both physically and emotionally.
The magic of the holidays is behind me. The hope and excitement of the New Year has faded, and I find myself struggling to get back to a routine with the added hardship of bad weather. The cold can isolate us, which makes many feel lonelier and sad. I know why this stretch is called “the dead of winter.”
I cope by looking at nature. While the barren trees around us look lifeless, they are far from it. Underneath the snow and bare branches, things are happening at the microscopic level so that plants and trees can eventually bloom again when the time is right. In a similar way, we can turn the dead of winter into a time of preparation for our own reinvention. The cold weather slows me down and makes me more thoughtful. I spend more nights at home, giving me time to consider and focus on the potential of the still New Year. This is a great time to dream, adjust and make changes.
I’m not one for resolutions, but every year I press a virtual re-set button. When your computer or other electronic device freezes, you hit a re-set button or do a hard re-set. You shut it down in order to get it working again. I do the same thing for myself, by resetting my gratitude and intention. Everyone has their own re-set button. Mine is done with travel.
Janet Looking through the Azure Window in Malta
The first time I pressed the re-set button, I was 22 and just out of grad school in New York City. My college boyfriend and I decided to take a crazy trip of a lifetime and we sought the most remote spots on the planet. We ended up traversing the Karakoram highway, a treacherous high altitude road that starts in the far west of China and goes up and over the 4 steepest mountain ranges in the world into Pakistan. The trip would take us very near K2. We traveled to places you presently cannot visit: Afghanistan, Pakistan and the ambiguous area of Kashmir, which is still being fought over by India, Pakistan and China in violent conflicts that have lasted for decades.
There were no hotels, so we stayed in farmer’s huts.
After dinner one night, in a small mountainous village not far from the Khunjerab Pass, marking the border between China and Pakistan, our host farmer handed me a lamp. He told me there would be just enough oil to light my way up the hillside to my hut.
I asked for more oil. When he asked why, I explained that I wanted to stay up to read and write in my journals.
“No.” he said sternly. “The oil is too expensive.” And then he admonished me with these words: “When the sun goes down, you go down. When the sun comes up, you get up.”
With no electricity in the area, our clay and stone huts had big holes cut through the roofs to allow sunlight in and smoke from the fires out. That next morning, the sun shone on my face and woke me up. I sat on the hillside and watched people emerge to work all day for their survival. They hiked for hours back down below the tree line to gather twigs for fires. They planted, harvested, picked fruit and tended their animals. Everything was done so they could survive.
What I witnessed before me was such a stark contrast to my life in Manhattan where all natural order is manipulated. There, I would be awoken by lights and blaring noise at 2 AM. Some of my friends would eat at midnight and sleep until noon. Right then, on that mountain in Pakistan, I realized that all of my concerns and obsessions were NOTHING in the reality of the larger world.
Janet with Machu Picchu in the Background
Because of that trip, I travel solo to a new country every year, preferably to an emerging country. I don’t bring friends, because inevitably, we would talk about home. I don’t bring books or music, because those things transport me to another place beyond the one I am visiting. I try to stay present and absorb my surroundings. I write about my experiences so I can remind myself how most people in this world live. I need the reminder because, inevitably, as the routine of everyday life returns, I will forget to be grateful.
Janet in Peru studying the Andes Mountains
So, right now, as the natural world around us is enjoying a rest period; essentially, pulling up the blankets in the form of the newly fallen snow, I am also in a contemplative day dream.
I am enjoying this meditative time, dreaming of what part of the world will help me to hit the reset button in a few weeks. For me, the greatest gift to myself is seeking adventure while finding gratitude. I’ll keep you posted where I land.
Keep watch on her new site, http://www.janetwu.com/ on writing, public speaking and charity work. Don’t forget to follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Janet has now traveled to 61 countries, 13 solo. We can’t wait to see and read about her next adventure!