8 Things I’ve learned about life through travel


1. The importance of Rain. I’m a city girl, born and bred, so when it rained in my childhood I tended to see it only in terms of a nuisance factor. The picnic that had to be abandoned, slippery roads, having to play indoors. Even though I’ve had gardens as an adult and realised the importance of watering, my attitude to precipitation remained fairly static. It wasn’t until I did house sitting in the country and ran out of tank water which was used for flushing toilets and watering the garden, that I truly understood. To see what was once solid, such dried out earth become a stream of water and sometimes so quickly, remind us that life is always changing. Rain is flow, growth and abundance for all of us. That is, until it becomes a flood


2.Preferences can be limiting. We all have them and they make us feel good. A window seat on the plane, a particular airline, a certain type of coffee, a favourite label. Sometimes the process extends to certain types of people. But when these are not available,we have a choice to either insist we get what we think we need or expand our awareness and discover something new. After all preferences were developed in a previous period of life and based on who we then  were. As we all know travel changes us, usually for the better.


3. Animals know more than we do. Yes, we are the dominant species but animals, both wild and domesticated pets of all kinds, are in touch with the rhythms of life. They understand their participation, they can heal themselves, live in the present moment and know when they are going to die.  They offer us the gift of  learning to connect with our own animal nature or self. Yes, we’ve gained a lot of knowledge over the millennia but lost a lot too.


4.The inner journey.As Bohemian  poet Rainer Maria Rilke once remarked “Every journey is an inner one”Travel can divert you from problems left behind, but if life wants you to transform them and evolve, the problem will eventually manifest wearing the guise of a different person or situation.


5.Chaos as teacher Every plan that goes pear-shaped is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, others and life. In fact, when life conspires to give you a “scenic tour” rather than direct journey, it can often turn out to be far more interesting than what you had planned .
6. Vulnerability. When you travel, unless you have chosen to buffer yourself with an “exclusive” i.e. costly vehicle in which you have outsourced all responsibility with money, you are vulnerable. But then, we are all vulnerable.Subject to death and loss,we just believe that our chosen buffer protects us-and it doesn’t.


7. Our unconscious cultural/ national/personal bias.When I travelled in Canada I learnt about the Canadian dislike of “The neighbours in the South” i.e. the USA. A diffident and somewhat introverted country in which, generally speaking, politeness and courtesy counted, they were frequently confused when travelling overseas for Americans and would react to this insult with an insistence on their Canadian roots. Canadians told me that they felt their country was overshadowed by the more extroverted  U.S. and to help me understand, used the example of Australia and New Zealand.
“But wait a minute”I thought “I have a lot of respect for New Zealand. After all we have a joint history through the ANZAC  legend” but had I asked any Kiwi friends how THEY felt about Australia and Australians?
When I returned to Australia, I decided to ask them. Of course I discovered a view of my country of which I had never been aware. Bullying, superior, insensitive. And what’s more, given the examples they used, I could completely understand that perception.Not so long ago, Australia suffered from an inferiority complex, considering itself lesser than England, the mother country, or the US, our super-power friend. When I watched the Mickey Mouse show on  our black and white television on Sunday night , Asia was considered fearful foreign territory and the shameful White Australia Policy then in operation.And yet at that time  we were sure we were more important than our Tasman neighbour, New Zealand!
My Canadian experience made me even more aware of the lens of selective cultural perception through which we all view life. Its important to clean that lens from time to time or use a fresh one.


8. It’s not what you think. Life is always surprising You can’t tell what life is like for a fellow traveller just by their appearance.That middle aged hippie with the dreadlocks and Bali shirt who looks like he has a personal hygiene problem? He’s the owner of a well known world-class wine label and has just returned from a conference in Bordeaux. That carefully coiffed and manicured businesswoman who looks like a corporate killer? She’s on her way to a family conference in Hobart, hoping to get agreement from her siblings on the best course of action for their mother, newly diagnosed with dementia.
That young Asian man who looks like a first year Uni student? Well actually he’s a thirty year old professor of Nanotechnology at James cook University who is flying to Melbourne to celebrate the arrival of his sister’s baby, the first grandchild in the family.
It’s only by engaging with a fellow traveller that you get to learn their story-which rarely matches your first assumptions.And so it is with other aspects of travel, the town/city/place, the weather, the earth itself.


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