Travel Post Mortem – “Did You Learn Anything?” Pt 2

It was weird at first to pay for most everything in cash – we just don’t carry much of it at home – if at all.  Just whip out that debit card – and don’t forget to write it down in the check register at some point. Getting 18 coins pound sterling in change for a 20GBP  note weighed heavy in my pocket.  After awhile I started thinking that it was pretty cool.  I could feel the weight of abundance right there in my wallet.  It felt more real than the plastic.  Back home now I get strange looks when I pay in cash.  Counting out $2.40 in quarters for a latte yesterday had the barrista thinking I was somehow on the dole or something with the look she gave me. It gave me an appreciation for the small things – like pennies – they count too….

In the US when you meet someone it seems the first question asked is “what do you do?”.  Frankly – in all of my travels I never got asked that question – and thank god.  What would I tell them?  Unemployed ’cause I decided to chunk it all as a PMP and take a year sabbatical???  What I found is that folks were more interested in who I was, what were my values (cleverly rooted for by baiting me with slamming comments on current America affairs or politics), what was my favorite music, place, color, food, etc…. In short – they were more interested in who I was rather than what I did.  I found that refreshing and am determined to practice that lesson here.  I never knew that slant of the perpective and what it offers in really learning about someone until I was away from it and just how ingrained my inculturation was that it never occurred to me prior.  I think it’s a much better way to engage with a new person. What we do for a living comes and goes – just look at me.  But who we are is rather constant over time. We hope…

I’ve never been a clothes horse but I always wanted to look my best and have the attendant plethora of hair and skin products crowding my bathroom as well as the “3 size” closet of clothes to prove it.  Oh, and let’s not forget at least 50 pairs of shoes – mostly black – mostly high heeled – lining the special shelf in my closet.  Nothing strips a woman down to knowing her essence faster than traveling for months on end with no blow dryer, 4 changes of clothes and one pair of shoes – flat soled at that. Hard to create an image to hide behind when your mascara drys up and you realize the only decent outfit you have is trashed and you have to show up to said function anyway.  I realized that the high heels, the makeup and the perfect hair were a veneer all carefully worn and applied to disguise my latent insecurities and admittedly – on occasion -self loathing.  Somehow I learned that if I just managed to look good no one would notice – including myself.  Well – that got unlearned in a hurry however uncomfortably.  To my surprise – people I met on my journey didn’t care one whit.  Who knew?  What a delight to be appreciated simply for who I was – bare faced, short and mouthy – with bad hair.  The bigger revelation was I got really comfortable with  ‘just Me’ in the process.  Not getting rid of my high heels though…

I’ve said this before in prior posts but truly – there are angels everywhere.  I can’t tell you how many people stepped in and saved me from myself.  Raised by circumstance and parenting to be an extremely independent person – it  was always pulling teeth to get me to ask for help.  Growing up I was always told to “figure it out” or “look it up” so I did – what choice did I have?  Subsequently I got really good at figuring out everything in my life for myself – or so I thought.  While I am not suggesting that a person shouldn’t strive to access their own resourcefulness whenever possible – I know how wonderful I feel when someone comes to me for a solution and I am able to provide one. By absolute neccessity I learned to let people do that for me and I only hope they got the same warm fuzzy feeling.  Maybe not all of them – but some.  The power of two is an amazing force…

Even at 5’3” I can make myself really big when threatened or I percieve I’m in a shaky situation. A confident posture and direct eye kept numerous situations from becoming ugly.  The pants hid the jello knees….

How much I don’t really need in this life.  Sure there are a lot of things I want but – need?  Sure I salivated over many things in my travels – but at the end of the day I reminded myself that I would have to carry that additional weight on my back in my carry on for the rest of the trip.  That made me become very choosy especially after I discovered how expensive shipping anything home would be.  Over time I likened it to personal baggage. How much was I willing to take on in my heart or head that I would end up having to pack around or drag behind me?  I think this was the seminal lesson learned.   I plan to expand on that at some point.

A sense of humor is absolutely critical as is not taking myself or my plans to seriously.

In the movie “Out of Africa” – Karyn comments on the fact the earth is round so you don’t see to far down your path or horizon” (I’m paraphrasing)  Had I known what I was going to encounter on occasion I may not have gone.  At the same time – if I thought the experience could only afford me XY & Z and not kept an open mind, open eyes  – the innumerable magic moments would have passed me by completely.  I learned to lose the expectations and simply Be where I was at any given time.  And that made all the difference….



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