This world is as beautiful as a planet in our galaxy can get - but the magnificence and depth of the human soul is marvelous beyond words.
Travel expands our concept of life on this earth. It broadens our perspective, our awareness of what it means to be a member of team humanity, and allows us to remain in humble awe at the beautiful puzzle we all create together. It turns our conceptual knowledge into wisdom through experience and many times results in a shift in how we view ourselves on this journey along the road called life.
1) We Are All In This Together
No matter who we meet in this world and whether they live an apparently vibrant life or a simple one based on society's standards - underneath it all we are all on a common journey to that place we call happiness.
For some the road has been rougher than others with many large boulders to climb over, some have elegantly figured out how to glide over any obstacles and to soak in the full presence of each moment, and some are still searching for the path that aligns most with their inner vision of their own potential.
Yet here we are. All human beings - all full of sweet imperfections that bring us together perfectly. We are one consciousness, observing itself in seven billion mirrors.
We co-exist on one planet of green and blue, we all start from two cells and then life's magic transforms us into conscious and thinking creatures that can contemplate the meaning of existence, grow our own food to sustain ourselves, nurture the deepest of relationships, and literally create more life in the process of living out our own lives.
We all feel emotions - from love to fear, from laughter to tears, and everything in between.
It does not matter which corner of the earth that has abstractly been labeled a country we find ourselves in - our deepest roots are one and the same and our commonalities far outweigh our differences.
“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” - Carl Sagan
2) There Is No Such Thing as Normal Living in one place, it's easy to get so used to cultural customs of our home that we forget that other people may experience the same daily tasks and routines in a completely different manner. What's commonplace and "normal" in one country may be strange to us, just as "our" ways of life may be strange to them.
Take, for example, the midday siesta that is common in some European countries like Italy (or Spain comes to mind as well). Shops and restaurants close for lunch for about 3 hours but then stay open later into the evening. Restaurants may not even open for dinner until 7 or 7:30pm.
While this is the norm for Italians, visitors may wonder how this can work and where one can get a meal if they haven't had lunch yet and it's 2pm (we've wondered too; hopefully there's always a Coop open nearby :-)).
The more we see how the definition of "normal" changes from place to place, the more we learn to accept all the beautiful differences between cultures and learn to appreciate their background instead of judging anything that's outside of our typical standards.
“ Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. ” - Mark Twain
3) Our Cultures Mold Us into Who We Are...Much More Than We Realize
There is no doubt that our external circumstances affect our behavior, just as our behavior shapes how we experience our own reality. This is just another of life's feedback loops, just as reflected in our mind-body connection.
Living our lives through the lens of the culture we grew up, we sometimes forget how deeply it affects everything about our present behaviors and habits. It is precisely the fact that we may have been immersed in that culture for such a long time that we are like fish swimming in water but we don't even realize we are in water because that's all we have ever known.
A culture's values are ultimately reflected in its people's daily lives and habits. For example, cultures that place a high value on communities and family create habits that revolve around these such as long mealtimes or large houses where generations live together under one roof.
Those raised in countries that have experienced hardship may still be wearing those scars and those scars may very subtly (and sometimes not-so subtly) reflect in that society's daily lives. An example that hits closer to home for me, is that people living in countries that were taken over by other nations or cultures at some point history, may seem more distant and less friendly and trusting than others because the fear of being taken over is deeply etched into their history. Likewise, the belief that there are never enough resources and that there is a limited amount of everything can lead to a zero-sum game thought pattern which then reflects in the economy and entrepreneurial spirit of a country. Certain behavior patterns become so deeply ingrained in the thinking of the nation that most people don't even know they have a negative mentality that limits their belief in what is possible in life.
“Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can't even describe, aren't even aware of." - Ellen Goodman
4) All Our Friends Were Once Strangers
I still find it amazing how we can meet a complete stranger - a person that we did not even know was alive - and in a matter of time, the roots of friendship start growing to where we eventually can't imagine not ever meeting them. When you really think about everyone you know in your life, there was a point at which you didn't even know the person and somehow you met and now you just call these people "friends" and "family" instead of random strangers. This can apply even further to families, since even your parents were strangers before they met..but they did, and here you are.
We have made some beautiful connections along our journey and it is nothing short of inspiring to see how many wonderful people there are in this world once you take the time to get to know a complete stranger through spending time with them every day.
Even souls that stumble upon our journey for just a few hours in the pub have left a mark in our hearts. Old, kind men from tiny Slovak villages, for example, have randomly sat next to us and spent hours talking about their lives, families, love, and politics, and even despite the language barrier, have grown to love Bryan as one of their own..all simply because of the innate human connection they were aware of. They came as strangers, some bought us drinks, some invited us over, but all of them left as friends.
The language of being human is far deeper than the words we can verbalize. When we remember our connection, there is always a way to communicate and to understand one another on a soul level even if we don't understand a word that another is saying. Travel is proof that most communication is truly non-verbal.
"Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands." - Linda Hogan
5) Appreciation is Best Cultivated Outside of Our Comfort Zones
Hot showers in clean bathrooms, washing dishes under hot running water, having constant access to a washer and a dryer, having the convenience to go to the store on Sunday - these are some of the most mundane things about daily life that we often take for granted, yet when we find ourselves in a situation that differs from those standards, we quickly realize how precious they are.
Traveling and living the Workaway lifestyle brings reminders that we should always be thankful for what we do have. Sometimes we come to expect certain things as normal but these might not be consistent with the lifestyle of the country we find ourselves in.
For example, Europe's eco-friendly and sustainable ways of living often result in us realizing how much less of anything we truly need than we thought, but it also makes us grateful for the abundance that we do have.
The little things grow much more in value - the comfort of a soft bed, the kindness of the human heart, the connection to those whom we no longer see on a daily basis.
No matter how beautiful or unappealing our external environment may be, it is ultimately our internal environment that controls how we feel on a daily basis. We are the ones that get to choose our perspective and we carry that with us wherever we go - may it always be a positive one full of sunshine and rainbows.
“Change your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly.” —Tony Robbins