Pre-Reflections for the Trip of a Lifetime

Packing suitcases and my US passport to travel to Falfurrias, Texas.
Packing my suitcases and US passport to travel to Falfurrias, Texas.

There is much I have been preparing for as it gets closer to the day we leave to travel to Falfurrias, Texas. I’ve spent days preparing by writing lists for everything I’ll possibly need, shopping, and packing my bags. I’ve thought about how I will be able to handle the environment of South Texas and what things I can preemptively do to help me physically in the field. In reflectance, I find that this is just another aspect of the privilege in how I live my life. Those who cross the border from Mexico to Texas don’t have the luxury to buy clothing to protect themselves from the harsh vegetation including thick pants and leather gloves. Migrants, likewise, don’t have the time or funds to prepare ahead of time like taking enough food, water, and medications to aid them on their journey. My teammates and I are privileged to be traveling with others who know the area, support us, and are very prepared in case of an emergency. These individuals embark on this journey with minimal supplies and guidance driven solely by a want for a better life. The experiences of migrants making the journey to cross into the United States will be nothing like our own. This experience will help me attempt to understand the challenges millions of migrants face entering and living in the United States.

I have gotten increasingly nervous each day as it gets closer when we leave on January 3rd. I’ve been most concerned with how I can mentally prepare for the things I will see while searching the Texas wilderness for migrants in distress. I’ve found that I am a very empathetic person and tend to place myself in other’s shoes in order to attempt and understand what they are experiencing. In reading literature on migrant experiences, it has become more and more clear how this experience will test my ability to handle my emotions in the field. The personal accounts that I read about are sometimes hard for me to understand or digest fully. Seeing the physical remains of migrants’ journeys in person and hearing stories from those who’ve dedicated their lives to searching will likewise be hard but necessary for my growth. Talking with everyone on the team and back home can remind me to keep a positive attitude amid such an emotionally challenged environment. I am very thankful that I will be traveling with a team with which I feel comfortable asking questions and expressing how I am feeling.

The Beyond Borders humanitarian mission to the Texas-Mexico border is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There will be so much for me to learn and experience while in the field searching for individuals who may have gone missing en route. Being able to experience hands-on the reality of this humanitarian crisis and the culture of these areas will be truly enlightening. I am very excited to learn from and work with Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery and with the South Texas Human Rights Center. Hopefully, the work I get to do in the Texas Borderlands will help aid in individuals keeping the basic human rights they are entitled to. This experience, I foresee, will be life-changing and solidify whether I want to work as a forensic anthropologist in human rights contexts.