A traveler named Marie Shelton

Photo by: Marie Shelton

“Attention passengers traveling on flight UA5309 to Nashville, your aircraft has changed to gate B79. Nashville. Nashville. Come on y’all, get on over to B79. Thank you for yer patience.”

I have graciously accepted the role of Johnny Cash look-a-like.

Yes, today’s bedhead, 100% grunge outfit (black denim-on-denim, in case you’re wondering) and accidental primrose of a cigarette burn on my left wrist (let’s pretend Johnny had that as well), has left me feeling like one of the greatest music legends of all time, which is great considering I’m actually a broke writer travelling through a man’s world with a flat chest and no guitar to sing my blues away. Like Johnny, however, I’m feeling the need to sing. I’m feeling the need to give a voice to those stuck in the proverbial Folsom Prison– where time keeps dragging on with, thanks to society, no hope in sight.

Syrian Refugees, this one’s for you.


I crouch over my notebook in the shadow of a large 747 and contemplate funny flight attendant accents to get my mind off of the horrors facing my fellow travelers thousands of miles away dying for a new life, but I cannot escape them. They haunt me, because I am living the reality they should be having but won’t if the western world’s obsession with borders and exclusivism continues to deprive them of, well, their humanity.  

4 months ago, I managed to stuff all my worldly possessions into a 3 ft by 1 ft sack that, at best, resembles the shell of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I have driven 10,000 miles throughout the United States and, upon receiving a last-minute job at a university in Guatemala, I proceeded to fly, round-trip, another 5,000 miles. That’s right. In the past 4 months, with nothing but a backpack – I’ve single-handedly travelled the equivalent of more than half the earth’s circumference.

And yet – no matter how far I go, or how uncomfortable I feel at any given moment, I always have a friendly face to meet me on the horizon. There is always a community that opens their kitchens to my hungry stomach, their couches to my sleep-deprived head and their hearts to my heart.  I am a woman that left her otherwise comfortable home in San Diego for, granted, a dangerous journey, but also, granted, a journey permeated by the knowledge and security of a safe landing. Because, at the end of the day, no matter how dirty or broke I am, I’m an American woman, and society has reassured me that no matter where I go, everything’s going to be okay.

If only this were the case for everybody.

Let us come together, world. This is a call to action. As you have given me a glimpse into your warm, loving hearts – I know you are capable.

It is up to us to dissipate the stigma surrounding refugees. The media is scaring us into withholding our innate love and hospitality.

This ends now.