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Avery Houser: Worked in Portland, Traveled around U.S., Africa, and Europe.

July 5, 2011

I moved to Portland, OR for my semester off. Born and raised in NY I had no sense of how life goes on the west coast and had heard wonderful things about the city, that it is a kind of bourgeois paradise, that everyone hangs out all day and works at a bike shop or a coffee shop or a brewery, and generally does their own thing. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but I knew I didn’t want to be at school and I didn’t want to just go home and I had no interest in going abroad, it seemed like a waste of time to pay as much as brown costs for something that seems like a semester of foreign vacation.
I moved into a Craigslist share house with an art student and a 36 year old boat builder come bike mechanic who just moved to Oregon from Alaska. I got a gig brewing a few days a week and wrote for a beer magazine and had a lot of time to read and write and watch movies. It got too expensive to just live on my own with no steady income though so I took the train home via Seattle and Chicago, stayed with friends along the way, biked around. I biked up to school and spent some time there, then spent a few weeks in NY living at home, flaneuring.
My mom’s dad died while I was in Oregon. Sad, yet it was “his time.” In many ways it was a weight off of my grandmother’s shoulders as she had been taking care of him for the last 5 years. She could now travel again, and I had a ton of free time, so we traveled in Tanzania together for 2 weeks. The flight home connected through Amsterdam so I jumped ship and stayed with family there, then met up with my fam in Brussels, then headed for London to stay with a friend from school. It was a whirlwind. It was great to have the time and go with whatever presented itself, things always do. I went in with little structure, but a trajectory emerged. It was defined by an openness to doing what came along and meeting new people. I met such a range of people and saw so many places in a way that would have been utterly impossible in any kind of structured program. I spent a lot of time in Portland with motivated, like minded people who didn’t go to college and had no interest in it, they had other things going on that were physical and immediate and it worked in a way I never knew could before going away. I spent an enormous amount of time with very old people in Tanzania. I developed a lot of respect for their perspectives as they have seen so much, and also realized how valuable the voice of the young is and how much I had to offer them as someone who’s perceptions and opinions are still forming.
It was weird transition back to school, but it was actually very nice to go back into the academic world, into something structured by more than whim and budget (although those seem to be two of the largest factors in everyone’s decision making at Brown even when in school). I felt a lot more prepared to deal with the bizarre social workings after having spent a lot of time alone and getting back in touch with myself as an independent person, something I feel I prided myself on in high school and lost somewhere along the way the first two years of college. And the people at Brown are really wonderful, something I had forgotten, or lost sight of, and think about all the time now that I’m back.

Grandma and me in Tanzania

Montana, on the “Empire Builder” train across the country

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