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

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Moving Anchor

After living and working for eight months in a 1000-square-foot dome on Mauna Loa and never going anywhere besides on short, rigorous hikes in mock spacesuits, it’s been a welcome change to have the freedom of travel. Whether it’s by aircraft, car, bus, or even just walking somewhere to grab lunch, the movement in my life has given me the feeling of being as free as a ship at sea! I’m no longer anchored to one small habitat, so I feel the excitement of being out at sea. But I also feel the relaxing calm of being anchored, as I stay inwardly centered amidst the movement and change going on in my life.

The transition back to “Earth” has been a fantastic journey. I am still having “first” encounters with different types of food and culture that were absent in dome life. Having instant forms of communication is a delight. It still catches me by surprise when someone responds quickly to an email. So grateful to no longer have 20-minute communication delays each way! There’s a novelty in interacting with friends, family, and colleagues, and I still have many more plans to make as I look forward to reuniting with everyone again. But I’ve also been savoring my alone time. 

In August, when I moved into an apartment at Purdue to get back to PhD life, it was a shock to realize that it was actually the first evening of alone time I had experienced in almost 11 months! During the mission from October to June, I was obviously never alone in the habitat, and then this summer I was traveling and staying with friends and family. So it was long overdue; finally I set in some roots in Indiana and had a lovely evening to myself in my new apartment. 

While unpacking, I felt girlish excitement about having a closet to hang up all my clothes, most of which I had not seen in many months! After a limited wardrobe comprised of mainly athletic wear for eight months, I have a new enjoyment in getting ready in the morning as I choose from a myriad of styles and colors all hanging in front of me. I don't miss my tiny slice of a room in the dome, nor digging through a bin of clothes under my bed.

After four weeks of focused PhDing at Purdue, now it’s time to play again, I’m in Toronto for a Wearable Technologies conference. Can’t wait to demo some gadgets and converse about wearable device data analytics. My talk is about wearable devices for space exploration, you can read more here!

As an alumnus of HI-SEAS, I’m enjoying my days at sea in this great big world! I feel like a moving anchor, focused and centered even though it has been busy, busy, busy.. as Kurt Vonnegut describes best in Cat's Cradle, “Busy, busy, busy, is what we Bokononists whisper whenever we think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.” Interviews, research, meetings, dinners and yoga classes.. this busy life is good. 

Also, my TEDx talk should come online soon.. it's about time!