What better teacher could there be in the world than ourselves? Travel will teach you lessons about yourself and others that no one else can teach you. At least that’s what they tell you. But here’s my account on why. I met Jenny while in Singapore at the Green Kiwi Hostel. My first impression of her was that she was silent and didn't like me. But somehow, I felt as if there was something in her self-assured attitude that didn't quite fit with what I saw in her eyes. Some sort of mystery but also sensitivity. The following day I met her again in the living room of the hostel. As I saw one of her tattoos my curiosity couldn't be tamed any longer and I asked her about it. What followed were almost literally 2 hours of non-stop conversation about tattoos, life, spirituality and so many other topics. That day, we were stuck on chairs for hours as we realised what a great connection we had just made. So much even that I could barely leave to catch my plane. I’ll never forget this moment as it taught me once again that we should never judge a book by its cover. Jenny was deep and sensitive, and were it not for that one question I asked, I would have never seen the beautiful soul she was. When we are stuck on our first impressions, and stuck on ideas about people – it’s in asking better questions that we truly realise the beauty of each person. So when was the last time you asked something personal to a stranger?
Hi was one of the local workers I had met while volunteering in the gili meno eco hostel with workaway. He was part of those kids who’d grown up with family in Lombok, but decided to move somewhere else for work. Whether it was to go look for work, or look for an escape, here became his new home.
He was known to be able to do anything and learn fast – be it to make the perfect bonfire, play ukulele, crack open bamboo in a split second, master poi, or catch fish and crabs - but he was also part of the kids who had grown up with cell phones and youtube. His English remained impressive as he mastered not only part of the language enough to interact with us, but also an English/Australian accent he had picked up from the many Australian travellers that had passed through the gili meno eco hostel.
I soon picked up that around here, any local who mastered English enough was a sign that he had passed a mental frontier as he passed a linguistic one. Learning a language isn’t just about going to a class and picking up how to speak it. Here, if you mastered English, it was because you were in contact with foreigners. And in a vast country such as this one, this meant having either the luxury of it – or simply the open-mindedness. And Hi had in him a thirst to learn and do beyond frontiers that I recognised in all travellers.
As I encountered Felicia writing in her notebook I asked her what had brought her here in Gili Meno. Every year, leaving aside a job she worked very hard for, she allowed herself 3 weeks off away from the office, from her agenda, from people and from technology. It was hard to imagine her from that kind of world as her hair was drying in the sun and she wore but a sarong and seemed to blend perfectly in the surroundings of beaches, bamboo huts and a place that didn’t count with time.
What Felicia’s quote reflects on is that the way we look at things is always up to choice and up to how we want to look at them. When working in an office for instance - some people may look at things as impossible, while others may look at it like opportunities. When talking to a stranger, we may be on our guards – or we may look at them as a potential friend.
How we look at anything is ultimately a question of mind frames and perception. We have in the end the power to perceive reality anyway we want to – and hence also act on it. So that is why any given that I look at something that appears difficult, I try to remind myself that I have the capacity to change that perception and no one else! Share this if you believe in change and self-development!
"Last words for the Road" by Lauren Klarfeld
Book-in-the-making : A collection of hand written quotes left by the people I met on the road (7 years and running)