A Quick Refresher Lesson in Why I Travel
The other day I had a wonderful discussion with someone that I thought I would share. The person, a middle-aged man who has lived the better half of his life as a nomad. He grew up as an expat child and continued on from there. Traveling is, as he put it, in his blood. He has seen too much to be normal and knows to much to be stationary. He shared a lot of insight with me that I’ll keep with me in my travels. Throughout our discussion, we traversed many topics ranging from politics to life aspirations even happening upon the short story of the fisherman. (If you haven’t read that I strongly recommend it. Just search Fisherman story) He, who was currently living on a Caribbean island, mentioned that he was currently living the life that most people work their entire lives to retire for. He was in his own sort of paradise.
As we continued he asked me how I liked living in the Caribbean. He said that he usually gives people six months to adjust to see if they can do it or not. I quickly answered with my complex response to a question that I have been asked multiple times. I am not going to go in to too much detail in this post, but I will in a future one. Since arriving in Puerto Rico, I have had mixed emotions on the place. Some of the more frustrating things have been trying to get things done on a business side. For instance, the bureaucracy, lack of urgency, or constant ‘mañana’ attitude that have been so commonly associated with Latin America have been a challenge for me to adjust to. As I expressed to him my challenges and complained about my frustrations, he retorted a bit of travel wisdom that was a great refreshment to me. He said, “I understand all of these frustrations that you are having, but if you sought an easy life where everything was as you wished it to be, would you not have stayed at home? We as travelers leave home in search of these challenges. Traveling presents the best and the worst of the world and it is something that we just have to accept as-is sometimes. You have to understand that when someone tells you it will be ready in a week, when it will really take three, they say that because they know it is what you want to hear. They know that if they say three you will be upset.”
What he said was basic, but brilliant. It is something that I think is often forgotten as travelers. In the heat of the moment, traveling can be a frustration, exhausting, and heavy. When looking back, it is worth every bit of struggle. I was reminded of the positive aspects of traveling. I remembered that to understand a people and place, you have to fully immerse yourself into it. That comes from learning the language, eating with the people, understanding their customs, et cetera. One doesn’t have to agree with everything that they see, but they need to respect the cultural process behind it whether or not they find it to be correct.
Our conversation also reminded me of the difference between real friends and those who are superficial. A real friend will always tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to. The same goes for people.
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