“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”~Denis Waitley.
They say travel broadens the mind. There is something about experiencing a place, a people and a culture far different to the one you are familiar with that helps to open your thinking to other possibilities. Many of us grow up convinced that there is only one right way to do things, whether it has to do with food preparation, clothing, or worship. To then mingle with people who think the same way about their very different way of approaching life challenges all of your presuppositions. Visiting such a place on vacation whets the appetite. Actually moving to another country is a whole nother matter.
When we undergo a significant dislocation as immigrants do, the process of adapting to a different culture presents its own obstacles. There is the need to fit in quickly, to get settled, so that people won’t raise their eyebrows at everything you do! I had a Trinnie friend who moved from her island home (actually she would quickly let you know she came from Tobago!) to England, and later moved to New York. She made the whole Brooklyn delicatessen shun her when she asked the server how much for a joint. In England the term refers to a nice cut of meat to roast for Sunday dinner. In New York it could have gotten her arrested! In the English tradition a rubber erases errors penciled on a paper. In the US the term refers to prophylactics. So conversations alone can end in confusion and laughter.
For those who don’t travel, a home environment that is heterogeneous may be enough to provide variety and diversity. In South Florida we are blessed to come into contact with hundreds of cultures different from our own. When I seek my exercise and renewal on Hollywood Beach, I may hear languages and accents from Europe, Canada, Haiti, Africa, Pakistan, India, Cuba, South America, Jamaica, oh yes, and even the USA! It is possible to stay in a small corner of Dade or Broward County and encounter people who look and talk like you, but most of us live in a blended world. Even if our neighborhood looks one way, our workplace is probably more diverse.
But the actual act of travel, of moving through time and space has the potential for giving you perspective, for allowing you to see things from another point of view. Whether it is a road trip, a cruise, or a plane journey, something which takes us out of our normal routine stimulates different areas of the brain, creates new pathways. There is a school of thought that suggests that one way to stimulate creativity is to do things differently. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. Step into the bath tub with your opposite foot. These activities stimulate your right brain (left, if you are normally left-handed) and wake it up, sparking creativity instead of the boredom of the routine.
Not only does the act of travel force you to pay attention to your surroundings in a new way, it can also make you appreciate home more. You come back to the familiar and notice it with new eyes. Perhaps you have been given an idea of how to change your living space; perhaps you have picked up a new attitude, or have an idea for a new enterprise.
Last week I appreciated travel in a whole different light. I was scheduled to travel with my boss to a conference in Atlanta. The flight there was delayed by the tornadoes and dangerous weather that had hit the city that day, and we eventually arrived there the afternoon of the next day. Of course those circumstances are never easy, and they are made even less so by the uncertainty. The departure time is pushed back, and pushed back. The gate may change. The flight crew may have to take a rest period, or they may not even be there when the plane is ready.
And the weather delays were not the only problems. There was a ‘medical emergency’ on our flight when we landed! My boss (an ER nurse through and through) and I did what we could until the pros arrived. Thankfully the situation was not too critical. But when we finally made it to the conference, we were not the last ones there. Another group who had traveled to the conference from Minnesota had actually arrived in Atlanta the day before, but had not been permitted to land. After circling several times they were rerouted to Memphis, and had spent the night on the airport floor.
The return trip to South Florida on Friday evening was just as eventful. But as we waited to see if we even had a gate assigned, to hope that our flight would not be cancelled, I was able to indulge in that most fascinating of hobbies, people watching. And I realized that everyone in the terminal was going through the same experience, and it turned strangers into friends. As we shared our stories we found we had more in common than our differences. I saw evidence of people finding humor in the situation, people who chose to laugh instead of curse at the latest time change, or gate change, or lack of a pilot. We figured we could probably make it without a flight crew (I know my friends in the business will be quick to correct that thought!) but the pilot seemed to be crucial!
By the time we were safely settled back in our homes, we heard news of an even worse story, the forced deplaning of a passenger. And so we were able to put our inconveniences into perspective. It could have been much worse (it coulda worse, is a common Jamaican phrase). No matter what the situation you are facing, there are many people who are going through much worse. You may not appreciate someone telling you that, but it is one way to take a step back, take a deep breath and cope with the situation. It coulda worse.
On this Good Friday morning, (again appreciating an extra day off in a country where this is not a public holiday) I hope you can look with new eyes at the day. May you have opportunities to travel and learn different ways of being. May you also appreciate the treasures that are right in front of you. And may your plane depart on time!
Have a wonderful weekend Family!