It’s been almost nine full months now since our return to the United States and in many ways, the transition back has been just as much of a journey as our time abroad. We have continued to wander from place to place, seeing friends and family, discovered some new skills, and explored both familiar and unfamiliar places along the way.
Slowly the “reverse culture shock” has lessened, the US way of life has become the norm again, and in some ways it’s almost like we never left. But regardless of the amount of time that passes, there is a small part inside of us that processes and sees life through a different lens than before. A part that holds close to our hearts all the little lessons learned while wandering as we move forward in life. While the memories and stories we gathered along the way are important to us, the shift in perspectives and the lessons learned that are most valuable. Because these can be shared, discussed, and felt with people we see each day. When we allow these lessons to radiate from the core of our being and the actions we take — then they belong to everyone.
As we close out 2014 we wanted to reflect on and share six gems of wisdom that we gathered from our travels and hold close to our hearts.
Each day up to the New Year we will share with you a new perspective or reminder of wisdom within us.
Let the countdown begin!
Out of all the lessons we gathered along the way, we feel that by far this is the most important one. Generally speaking, people are kind. This statement is true no matter what part of the world you find yourself in.
Media outlets, politicians, corporations, and sometimes even people themselves do a really good job of focusing on the negative and the bad in the world. But the sneaky little truth is that when it comes down to the core of a person, most people want to be loving and kind. Most people in the world are able to see you as what you are – a human being.
No matter where we happened to be in the world, we were blown away by the kindness that poured from peoples hearts. It was incredibly heartwarming to experience the number of unexpected gifts (be it a free ride, a meal, an invitation to a wedding, or just a smile) that we received throughout our journey. We came to realize the fundamental truth – that people are all basically the same. Religion, culture, nationality–these are all just layers atop the core of who we are as people. As humans we all need and want the same things, and kindness or love tops the list right next to food, shelter, and health. It is in our human nature to want to be kind to others as well as receive kindness.
There are many languages spoken in this world but kindness is the only one that is understood by all. It can be perceived as being all languages, no languages, or possibly both at the same time.
The generosity of others can not be caged or defined by the spoken word. This is one of the beautiful things about kindness and love: it’s expansiveness and ability to create a deep connection extending beyond layers of differences. We had moments of tremendous kindness shared with us while traveling from people where we had absolutely zero ability to communicate with through language. A smile, or an offer for a ride, or holding our hand and leading us to a place we point to on a map are just a few examples of generosity extended to us in Russian, Arabic, Laotian, Czech, and a handful of other tongues. We may not have understood a word they were saying to us, but the gesture went straight to our hearts and a hug, bow or hand over our heart to express thanks was all that was needed in return.
(And… by the way– there are over 4,500 languages spoken in this world.)
Take a moment to look for an element of nature around you right now. No matter where we are, when we look to nature we can usually spot and feel it’s beauty. And the most beautiful part about nature is you don’t have to go far to find it. We experience and fell natural beauty on some level, no matter what part of the world we are in. This unfortunately is paired with enhanced awareness of our human impact on this world, represented by the amounts of garbage that can be seen in densely populated areas or unneeded consumption.
As humans — just one of thousands of species sharing this beautiful world — it is our responsibility to respect it on a larger scale. Unfortunately, with increasing populations, use of fossil fuels, wasteful infrastructures, and convenience-centered disposable lifestyles, many people have forgotten or never been taught this simple truth. Too often while wandering we witness piles of trash, polluted bodies of water, and people tossing whatever used and now useless manmade item into the river, street, parks, or corner. The basic act of putting trash in a receptacle isn’t the only step toward addressing a monstrous problem of sustainability on a global level.
By recognizing and feeling the beauty of nature we can begin to understand and respect it and our global impact on a deeper level. So take a look around… you live in a beautiful world!
We don’t need much in life to make us happy. In fact, when we have too much of anything (or everything) it can actually have a reverse effect on our overall well-being. And this goes for our mental state, our physical well-being, and psychologically as well.
The act of ridding ourselves of all our belongings and living out of backpacks for over a year surprised us with how little we need in life to survive or find happiness. It was the initial step toward a broader understanding of what it really means to simplify your life. The next step was applying this method to other aspects of living: narrowing our choices down to the few and essential options; and from there picking one or two that will provide what we need without excess. After that, it’s just a matter of rolling with the situation.
Learning and applying this second step of simplification took more time than letting go of the furniture, clothes, and other material goods. But after some time, we found the lessons of simplicity we were attempting to learn were being reflected more and more in the world around us–and where we found ourselves. We began to seek out places that were ‘un-plugged,’ hard to get to, and usually with smaller populations. We became more aware of those around us who were living very simply and with limited means, but with very content and fulfilling lives.
The beauty of simplicity still remains with us and we try to apply it in all areas of our lives whenever possible. Keep it simple and everything else will fall into place.
One of the hardest things to do while traveling was to balance planning the future, writing about our past, and being fully alive in every moment we had abroad in the present. The first few months weren’t without struggle, frustration, and bickering when things didn’t go to plan, or when we felt behind on actually having a plan for how to proceed.
Fast forward to the last few months and you would often find us in a situation of having the intention to leave a town the next day; yet still with no idea how we would be getting there. As we became more comfortable and used to the idea that we couldn’t fully control our journey, we began to instead focus more on enjoying it. Sure, we never fully escaped the exhausting moments of frustration when we were lost for hours. But these mini-crises slowly lessened with our willingness to jump into the flow, rather than fight it. Instead we would plan for the unexpected, enjoy the experience, and trust that things would work out–even when we weren’t sure how.
Today we try remember, even with a more ‘routine’ lifestyle – when things don’t go to plan, just let go and enjoy the experience.
Most people define a journey by a given length of time. For some it can be a few days, for others a few weeks, and some are venturing into the unknown for what sounds like eternity. But the truth is that it isn’t the length of time that matters, it’s how you spend it. It’s easy to get caught up with wanting to ‘see everything’ and ‘do everything’ – and this goes for life, not just travel. Your ‘to-do’ list will be endless — because that is the whole point — that is what life is about. Doing. Being. Experiencing. When we forget this we aren’t really living, and are blinded to the time we have because we have chosen not to focus on it.
It wasn’t easy for us to be so close to so many interesting and exciting places and make the choice not to visit and experience these new and foreign spots. But in the end we realized that just like any other part of life, if we rushed from one moment to the next, the entire journey would be gone in the blink of an eye. When we really started to slow down and spend multiple weeks in one place– that was when we felt truly connected with ourselves, those around us, and the place we were.
We create so much of our reality. So when you want more time, create it. Slow down… maybe even stop and all of a sudden you will see all the time that is out there. Often we are so busy rushing (usually in an effort to save time or out of fear of missing out) that we just don’t see that the time is right there, in abundance, waiting for us to plunge into it fully.