For over 25 years I wandered the world. Along the way, I had many adventures and learned about myself, people and the world.
These are some of the things I learned:
1. I learned that people all over the world want the same basic things: enough to eat, clear water, decent shelter, good health, education and opportunities for their children, an honest way to earn some money and respect.
2. I learned that some of the poorest people on this planet are also some of the most generous. They share what they have, even if it is only a glass of water. When someone offers you something from the heart it can be considered very rude to refuse the generosity.
3. I learned I could be comfortable in the company of world leaders and dignitaries and, with people in the slums of Africa, South America and Asia. Take away our outer trappings and labels to find underneath we are all the same.
4. I learned you have no idea what you will do when mugged. In Lesotho, I had a knife to my throat and still negotiated to keep the things in my bag while offering them my money. They agreed. Foolishness or a moment of total clarity?
5. I learned that each culture has a different interpretation of personal space. From experience, I have found that the more populated a country is the less personal space you are given.
6. I learned in some countries going by local bus meant sharing a space with more than just people. As this is the only means of transportation for many, you could find yourself sharing a space with an assortment of chickens, goats, produce and anything else which needed to be transported.
7. I learned to appreciate everything I had and yet to have no attachment to them. This was taught to me when Iraq invaded Kuwait. During this war I lost most of my possessions, including all my professional documents. Things can be replaced.
8. I learned how resourceful I was. In Zambia, daily skyrocketing inflation resulted in a diminishing salary. Being open to suggestion, I found alternative means of earning more money, and lived well for two years and became closer to the local people.
9. I learned to trust strangers. In Alexandra, Egypt, a friend and I were standing under a street sign trying to decipher the Arabic on our map with the Arabic on the sign when an elderly man stopped to help. With gestures we indicated where we wanted to go. He called someone, a young boy appeared, then he waved for us to follow the boy. We did and we arrived at our destination. Later, we discovered we were in a part of the city that most Egyptian wouldn’t enter unless they absolutely had to. Sometimes you just have to trust and know everything will be just fine.
10. I learned the joy of spontaneous laugher, singing and dancing with new friends in Greece, Russia and Latvia. Freedom is completely enjoying the moment.
11. I learned to be completely aware of my surrounds and notice things that were slightly off. In Ethiopia this saved me from being shot at. I was driving toward the centre of a small city when I noticed how still everything was. In an instant I knew something was wrong. Within seconds I was facing tanks, soldiers and a mob of people. Because I had slowed down, I was able to take the next corner and get out there right before shots were fired. Trust that voice that says, “get out now”!
12. I learned to experience life fully and to embrace whatever was presented. I learned to love all people and to respect this beautiful planet that we live on.
You don’t need to travel to the world for experiences, they are present all around you every day. You just have to be willing to look at the blessings each holds.
What lessons have you learned from your life experiences? I would love to hear them.
Photo by Moyan Brenn