A few weeks ago, I shared a list of the top five things that walking 500 miles helped me understand in a deeper or different way. Here is a bit more context around the third lesson- be open.
Earlier this week, Jenna remarked that we have both been writing a lot about travel these past few months. Perhaps even with puzzling frequency given that this is a learning innovations blog. Yet few activities compare to travel in terms of speed and efficiency at making the ordinary unknown–a critical condition for deep learning, cultivating empathy, curiosity and a host of other learning and flourishing-enabling capacities that fascinate (obsess) us, here at rethinked …*
When we travel, the scope and definitions of what we know become more malleable; we shed our routines and leave behind our habits. Our assumptions are questioned–whether by will or circumstance, or both.
This enlargement of the mundane through added awareness and presence is one of the most fantastic aspects of travel. But what I realized during my walk is that it is possible, easy even, to capture this sense of mystery and presence inherent to travel in one’s everyday. It is a question of choice, of choosing to be open to the present moment.
When I was walking, I met new people every single day–people of all backgrounds, ages and interests. In fact, some of the most meaningful friendships I made were with people I would likely not have been open to meeting at home in New York. I felt significantly more social on the Camino and more excited by the things around me–I peeked around corners; I entered decrepit buildings; I climbed bell towers; I looked up in churches. I felt so eager to interact with the life all around me and I found that many of the barriers I experience in New York, things like anxiety or tiredness, were absent. I wondered why that was and thought how nice it would be to live one’s life as if perpetually in foreign territory. And that’s when I realized how accessible it is to do just that. When I set out for my walk, as I almost always do when I prepare to travel, I set for myself the intention of being open and attentive to the new people I would meet and the new places I would visit. And then I did exactly that, and it was enough, it worked, I lost myself in the best way in the present moment all throughout my trip.
All one has to do is decide to be open to the potential that surrounds us. It seems obvious and it is. But so often we get caught up in the flow of things and we forget that our daily surroundings are teeming with potential for new discoveries, connections and experiences.
Mmm—people! It seems to me that you need a lot of courage, or a lot of something, to enter into others, into other people. We all think that everyone else lives in fortresses in fastnesses: behind moats, behind sheer walls studded with spikes and broken glass. But in fact we inhabit much punier structures. We are, it turns out, all jerry-built. Or not even. You can just stick your head under the flap of the tent and crawl right in. If you get the okay.
We have these ideas of the world being much more impermeable than it actually is. The places, people and experiences that surround us have infinite potential to surprise and delight us, if we just remember to be open. If we make the choice, daily, of asking for the okay.