> > > 8-month mission on "Mars": July 2015

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Touching down

During the past four weeks of post-mission life, I’ve been traveling in new surroundings. Soon I’ll have my first encounter with familiar places, and it should be interesting to observe if I can feel any differences in myself compared to how I felt in these situations before, in pre-mission life.

I’m touching down, after being in Hawaii for 10 days and Europe for 20 days. I have been fully immersed in both the luxuries and the stresses of life that were absent on sMars. Here’s a brief summary of my traveling: 1) Hawaii: The Big Island, Kauai, Maui, 2) Italy: Vicenza, Venice, Napoli, Roma, Verona, Bassano del Grappa, 3) Spain: Barcelona, Ibiza, 4) Portugal: Porto.

I’m thinking about writing a book titled “100 ways to *almost* miss your flight” whew.. now I’m down to my last couple of flights, and it should be a breeze traveling to familiar places for reunions with familiar faces. Annually for a week in July, the Dunn family migrates from all over the globe to North Carolina to party it up. I can’t wait to hug on 30+ family members, most of whom I have not seen in 9-12 months. Besides the stock of Port wine I am bringing back for my family and friends, what are my takeaways from all this traveling? I have redeveloped my sense of self, while also affirming and growing my team of people.

In Vicenza, I met some outstanding scholars with “ideas worth spreading" who I have been staying in contact with throughout these weeks of travel. I intend to stay close to this group who inspired me with their talents and deeply touched me with their acts of kindness. The TEDx Vicenza team put together an event of inexplicable convergence. I was in awe of how the stories of this body of 16 speakers from diverse backgrounds had such an alignment and connectedness in theme. It was a full day of awesome!

Leading up to my TEDx talk, I must admit that I was in an inner state of panic! My confidence was tested by the impressiveness of the speaker list, the intimidating venue of Teatro Olimpico, and of course, the fact that an audience of 400-500 people, plus online viewers, is orders of magnitude greater than the audience sizes that I’ve had at conferences and academic seminars in the past. Being jet-lagged and being the last speaker of the day applied some additional pressure. It turned out great though. Despite being absolutely exhausted from traveling allllll the way from Hawaii to Italy, a 12-hour time difference, I think I performed well with plenty of energy. Tony Horton and the crew would be proud, as I channeled our P90X training and did push-ups in the dressing room in the minutes before my talk to get my blood pumping in a positive way. 

I’m still awaiting, somewhat anxiously, the video of my performance, so I can watch and confirm, but I have received enough positive feedback to put my mind at ease. It seems that I did my job as last speaker, energizing the audience and sending them home on a high note.. with something to think about, or at least smile about :) And similarly, the TEDx Vicenza team certainly did their job of welcoming me "back to Earth" in style, introducing me to the Italian way of life, and sending me out on my travels with a relaxed, confident stride.

As I rejoined Earthly life in a new continent, the amazing people that I bonded with in Vicenza helped me to fully enjoy and reflect on all that I was experiencing. I have a couple blog posts coming up about my Euro travels. I’ve re-imagined the future of my blog, and I think you’ll enjoy it, so stay tuned! My TEDx talk, “Real Stress on Fake Mars,” will be viewable online in the next couple weeks. Additionally, I hope that you will watch ALL of the speaker videos from TEDx Vicenza. I will share the links as soon as they are available. Similar to the “Back to Earth” celebration, I am sorry that the live streaming of the event did not work properly for some of my friends and family. Thank your for your support :) Really, endless thanks to my team of people for encouraging my adventures and having an influential role in my experiences and development.