And, when you’re in the midst of it all, it’s hard to fully collect your thoughts, feelings, and desires. You’re moving at a fast pace, with roughly 40 pounds of baggage strapped to your back, arms, and innately, your insides. You’re meeting people from all over the world, with hundreds of life stories that they are open to sharing because you’re in a foreign country with people who you may or may not ever see again. And, then, there’s the select few that you know you connect with so strongly that you will make the effort to meet at a another time, in another place.
Sometimes, you’re sitting lazily under a palm tree doing nothing and drifting off to the sound of local kids and a family having a picnic on the waterfront as the wind blows and the sun beats down on your legs. Other times, you’re watching the tourists completely flood the city, gulping down one too many drinks, leaving a trail of their trash as they head into the next pub. You ask the locals how they feel about this, and you know while it’s good for their economy, they’re sick of it, even if it only happens six months out of the 12.
You accept your ignorance of having not known the history of a region so rife with struggle and conflict, and truly understand the impact on personal lives when you become close friends with a girl who was displaced by war and separated from her family for two years. You hear the pain and growth from experiences you’ve been so privileged to have avoided merely by the fortune of being raised elsewhere.
It becomes clear that travel is sometimes glorified and beautified, and not always simple. But, you also realize that all you need to survive is food and water. You can change beds nightly and focus on the beauty of having the opportunity to meet more people because you’re in a constant state of flux. You see that there is a sense of stability in always being open to changing surroundings because you rely on so much less and can be ready for anything, at any time. Things really stop mattering so much. You can be alone and content. You can be surrounded and content.
At times, you’re disconnected technologically, so then, you’re totally connected in real time. As if real time even exists and has meaning. I’ve been consumed by people watching. By endlessly seeing that when people are in big groups and have nothing to say, they bring their phones into the conversation, avoiding eye contact and using their thumb to tap accolades to the edited photos on their screens. Or, they are taking snapchats of what’s live in front of them to broadcast to those back home, showing that they are here and you are there, not experiencing the same thing that they are experiencing behind a screen. I’ve been there. I’m happy I haven’t had the means to be for quite some time. It’s made days longer and connections stronger.
Mental pictures are my oldest and newest currency. They are the ones to cherish because they are becoming a part of my future.
I’ve pulled a splinter out of the toe of a stranger, a bee sting out of the hand of an older man, helped friends to their bed after wild nights that became mornings out, checked in on an acquaintance with low blood pressure, and jumped at any opportunity to help strangers when I have the means. I’ve had multiple nights in a row with no sleep and days of exploration, with days of simply passing the time and avoiding the heat.
I’ve talked about the meaning of life, God, love, desire, goals, fears and challenges with multiple people, mostly men, but also with some women, too. I’ve spent hours inside the busiest club on an island to talk philosophies with a friend. I’ve heard wild stories from wild nights of people who are finding themselves and learning what they seek romantically.
I’ve held onto the fact that many people derive the meaning of life from the relationships they make and the amount of people they can help.
Days roll by and time moves slower because you’re taking it all in. You’re connecting on very deep levels, having serious conversations over drinks and cheap eats while you realize the amount of talent and creativity people possess is broad, extensive and unique. You learn that people discover what they are good at over time, and sometimes later than expected in life, as well as having it come to them by chance. It gives you hope. It makes you realize that life doesn’t happen at ages, it happens in stages. And at various points in time because of the choices you make to take the chances and do the things that have always scared you most.
You see that, while yes, people do the same things to survive all over the world, cultures and norms are vastly different. Ways of talking, value systems, expectations, and actions take different forms. You understand that trusting your intuition is one of the smartest and most necessary tools you can bring to the table. You pick up on ways to know who means well and those that are just floating on by. You can spot the people still finding their way, and you can relate to having been there and then seeing those ahead of you, knowing you’ll get there, too.
You appreciate the inherent goodness in people and learn more about yourself through what people tell you they think of you. And, many times, it’s repetitive, which makes it the “truth”?
It’s not what you do, where you live and what you have. It’s who you are and what you do with the limited time you have here, there, and everywhere.