In August 2016 I took a trip to Russia to visit my extended family. It had been 12 years since the last time I visited as a teenager. Russia changed a lot since then. Everyone now had an iPhone and wireless internet, no one was smoking, and wearing seat belts became common practice.
The majority of my time was spent in Kharabali, a town of 20,000 northwest of the Caspian Sea. This is where my family has lived for several generations and where I spent my summers as a young child.
Family, responsibility, hard work, and tradition are valued above all else here, and spending time in that environment gave me a new perspective on how to orient my life. The people in your life that care for and treasure your presence should be held above all else. If you're lucky enough to have people like that in your life you should work on nurturing those relationship. If you don't, invite like-hearted people in. The world will be better of for it.
I visited old family friends and spent time with my aunt, uncle, cousins, and grandmother. We ate crayfish along the Volga River, listened to stories about my cousin's army training, visited cemeteries, and took part in the annual first day of school celebrations.
I was humbled and grateful for the chance to reconnect and rediscover my roots.