Life is one big lesson.
We can take these seemingly uncomfortable teachings with a pinch of gratitude, and move forward in life, growing, expanding our mindset or we can repeat the same lessons and suffer in a painful cycle of victimization mentality.
I choose the former. I know a lot of people that don’t. It’s bloody hard. Really hard. To look at yourself and call bullshit and push through regardless thanking life for pushing you down, takes gumption. It requires you to muster the courage to face what you’d rather not, all the fear, angst and past the stories you’ve played on repeat and work shit out. Come up with a solution.
My life happened for me, not to me. Everything that I have been through is a lesson, something I needed to earn the knowledge of before moving to the next level. This perspective shift changes everything. So does travelling...
In reflection of the events over the past few weeks, which have been increasingly hard to sit with, accept as they are and remain thankful, it's made me reflect on my personal shifts.
For this reason, I am going to share an expert from my very first overseas travel. As a single mother throughout my 20’s I didn’t create the opportunity for overseas travelling until my early 30’s. Actually, the credit should go to my husband for making this a “investment in happiness” as he so aptly refers to our expenditures . My spiritual journey was in full throws, given my experiences, however experiencing the culture shock was the next lesson I needed to level up.
In September 2012, Shannon & I jumped on a plane heading for the Himalayas’ to trek the Annapurna region. The following is my first experience outside of Australia, I was 31 years old. I could have easily been 13.
“Day 1- Kathmandu...
Flying into the city and looking through the planes windows was culture shock enough for me. To me, Nepal was painted as the majestic mountains of the Himalayas, Sherpa’s and yaks. The drive through the streets to the hotel, sat deep in the put of my stomach. It was reminiscent of a war scene, people trying to rebuild through the rubble. I quickly learnt that this is how most of Kathmandu lived, and they all looked so happy.
Behind the security gates of our hotel, a modest building, I smiled knowing this was our home for the next few days before we headed into the mountains. The room was small and clean, with the basics. The shower and toilet shared the same space but I didn’t care as a pleasant surprise of warm water flowed from the shower.
Our first walk – or should I say dodge, in the streets of Kathmandu was an interesting one. Immense fear of the chaotic movement of traffic and mesh of people, I clung to Shannon like a small child does to their parents’ leg. The market place was crowded, filled with all the imaginable silks, pashminas and trinkets and stall holders summoning me to buy their wares. Their broken English was quite good and I quickly understood that no wasn’t enough for their eager sales pitch, so better to smile politely and keep walking.
Walking to local supermarket later in the day, I was somewhat adjusting to the shock of the first 12 hours when I felt a tag at my arm. A little boy, about 10 years old, the same age as my own daughter, shabbily dressed, arms held out in front of him, started begging for money. I’d researched the customs in Nepal in the months prior and understood that this was prevalent and to avoid giving them money, no matter how desperate things may appear. This was my first experience of corruption.
I headed the warning and kept walking, consciously holding my bag in front of me. The next minute I felt him grabbing more aggressively at my arm, trying to turn me around. His touch and mannerism sank in through my skin; shame, sadness, and remorse. The smallest amount of money would have made the difference, I argued with myself.
My child was the same age, how could I have walked away from him, it was tugging at my heart strings to think that this was his life. No school education, but a life of begging to provide for his family. What was his future to become? Does my child appreciate the life she has back in Australia? "
There are so many experiences not dissimilar to this first day in a foreign country. Our repeated life experiences teach us something, educate, teach us to sit with the uncomfortable. These experiences open up cracks to let in more light and conversely, let more of your light out into the world.
I have since returned to Nepal a number of times, once alone. Walking the streets of Thamel (a main hub of Kathmandu city - the capital of Nepal) alone, fearless, no one to cling to but to take it all in and accept it for what it is.
Whilst it is incredible hard to see these children still walking the streets begging, I have come to learn that there are something I cannot change, somethings that need acceptance wrapped in understanding. We can only truly get this from travelling; it can’t be taught or absorbed through the pages of a travel magazine. Some things sit heavy in your heart, they change you. This first day in Nepal has changed me, for the better.
What was your first experience of travel? How did it change you?