Saturday, April 26, 2008
What I have learned....
So I have been home now for almost a week….and I have felt a bit reluctant until now to write any sort of “final entry” for this journey…perhaps its because a part of me never wants to feel that my journey is ever over and that once I write this, I might suddenly become sad and disillusioned because I am no longer “away” and the reality of being home will suddenly come crashing down on me..
But what is probably more realistically the case is that it has been so long since I last wrote an entry (over a month) and I don’t seem to have the energy or plain old ability right now to try and recap all that I have experienced since then; I guess there is a lot to be said for living each day to the fullest and sometimes it is just best to “be there” in the moment instead of always trying to be the storyteller after the moment is gone..
(a grandmother watches her daughter and grandchildren go off to school.There were lots of tears and hugs before this moment tookplace.I was in a bus at the time, leaving Hanoi, Vietnam.)
(Inside the infamous Fern Grotto at Halong Bay, Vietnam)
So that is ,in fact, how I have been living for the past month-just being in the moment and enjoying qualtiy moments day by day.. I returned to Thailand for 3 more weeks after an amazing month in Vietnam and revisited friends on both Ko Lanta and Ko Phangan, two of my favorite islands that I now consider a second home. I spent many nights laughing and catching up with what seem like old friends-a very nice feeling indeed and a reminder to me of how I must always come back to this part of the world to say hello. And it seems this time around I just laughed and smiled SO much with these wonderful people I feel blessed to now call freinds.
(my wonderful Swedish friends on Ko Lanta who now feel like family to me.)
(Me and my wonderful freind Jacquie (England) who I have now met up with in Thailand 3 years in a row ! )
(My freinds Gee(France),San (Thailand),and Jerry (USA) at a "farewell" dinner for me on my last night in Ko Lanta.)
(Me and my wonderful newfound freind Kate, from England. She is an amazingly talented painter and jewelry maker and is a much sought after costume designer for professional theater in London.)
(A scrumptious breakfast by the beach with my wonderful girlfreinds on the island of Ko Phangan.Many had just finished a grueling 2 hour yoga class and were all smiles that food and rest awaited them!)
Returning to Thailand after being gone a couple of months was also a great reminder to me of the many things I first fell in love with Thailand when I first traveled there over 8 years ago. There is a softness in the people and culture that I grew to reappreciate and the ease that I had in communicating with the locals was such a renewed blessing, especially after having just been in Vietnam for a month,where it seemed like almost a constant daily struggle to communicate with the locals in English or with any sort of non verbal communication,for that matter…there is not anger with this fact- it was just a frustration that I had to deal with daily for over a month.
Luckily, with pateince and persistence, I was able to form some wonderful new freindships. The young vietnamese girl in the picture below has already insisted that I make it to her wedding next year! And I will definitely try and be there, fingers crossed!
My Vietnamese freinds Anh and Hung were my official tailors in the city of Hoi An-a city famous worldwide for very inexpensive ,high-quality tailormade clothing. I couldnt pass up the opportunity to feel a bit "like a princess" for an hour or so as I was fitted into a few pieces of clothing that I will be wearing for many years to come-all for around 70 USD !
So after 3 weeks of blissful beach and play time both on my own and with friends, I return now to Honolulu with a renewed sense of purpose and an awareness about life or what I feel life is all about…at least for me.
It is great to be back, of course, and to have all the luxuries such as hot water and wondefully paved roads return to my life again ! And my cat Kukla is just SO happy to see me; she has followed me everywhere from the moment I have walked in the door.
The other day I had lunch with a friend and after a half hour or so of him sharing all his news with me,he suddenly stopped and said “So, you are back. What have you learned ?”
The question took me for a “bit of a loop” at first for I had literally written 100’s of pages of observations and thoughts into my trusty lil ol laptop since I left over 4 ½ months ago. And I just didn’t really know where to begin; it was like I was suddenly being pressured to be the “wise sage” in 60 seconds or less….and I didn’t like this pressure nor do I usually respond very clearly when under this sort of pressure;
Almost 5 months of life-transforming experiences cannot be summarized in a minute or an hour, or even a day…no novel, blog entry, photo album, story-telling session, or conversation will ever really be able to accurately share all that I have seen, learned and experienced these past few months. And I knew this….. and I know this will always be the case when I come “home”.
So my visceral reaction to my friend’s question was to just say what came to the top of my head:
“I come home being more grateful”,
“less is still truly more”
“don’t sweat the small stuff”
“I am happiest around playful children”,
“Live life simply”,
I seemed to have garbled out a few more seemingly profound thoughts (at least to me), but as I looked into my friends eyes, it seemed I had already lost him….completely…..So I stopped. Just stopped. And tactfully changed the subject back to him.
I know almost immediately now when someone is not really listening or really cares what I have to say. I don’t say this with anger nor do I take these sort of moments personally (anymore). I am just grateful to have this awareness now and to be wise enough to know when to stop.
Life is too short to expend energy where it is not being reciprocated.
So from now on, when someone asks me this question, “what have I learned”, I am going to calmly respond, with a smile, “I have learned that I have a lot more to learn”….unless, of course, they really want to hear more..
for with every trip I take, no matter how near or far, I always come home with a renewed love and appreciation of being an observer- a “student of life” if you will….and that I do seem to learn most when I am quiet and still and watching…and listening…to everything going on both outside and inside of me.
And that my ‘life journey’ certainly doesn’t end every time I come ‘home’….for I do all I can to live my life here with this renewed sense of awareness and energy…..and I practice being still and quiet as much as possible- a definite challenge , of course, in a world that still places so much more value on “what you do” instead of on “who you are”.
So I say good-bye for now and thank those of you ,from the bottom of my heart, who have so faithfully kept up with my journeys and stories while I was away. Your many words of support and kindness have been most inspirational to me and have kept you near in my thoughts. Thank you.
I would like to end now by sharing with you a few notes I made a couple of weeks ago about what I felt to be a few secrets to happiness in my life. People often told me while I was traveling that I was “always smiling” when they saw me and one night I just sat with my computer and decided to actually write down those few things that helped keep me smiling consistenly on a day to day basis. I hope a few of these thoughts will help bring more smiles to your life as well.
Be Grateful….wake up every day giving thanks for something…anything. Go to sleep at night with these same thoughts….Your life will seem so much more full.
Be “Great-full”….be the best person you can possibly be..fill the world with your greatness…it is in all of us…this is why we are here.
Love everyone and everything…as much as possible…your heart will thank you and so will the world.
Spend time with children-they remind you of who you are and where you came from.
Talk to nature and listen. You will learn a lot.
Listen to animals while looking in their eyes.They have a lot to say.
Live your life passionately- become the screenwriter of your own life’s script- anything is possible….and what a great gift to leave after you go.
Stop worrying…This means you are living in the future…
and not in the “present”…remember, it is a gift to be here…..now.
Treasure your friends and family-they are the real riches in your life. No fancy car or home will ever fill your heart as much as the sound of a best friend or family member’s voice telling you that they love you.
And last but not least…(this is my favorite insight for myself)…
LAUGH….a lot……you only get one shot at this thing called “life”…..don’t take yourself so seriously…you’ll be “gone” before you know it…and lord knows, we all just look a heck of a lot better when we’re smiling…
so until next time…be well, travel safe, and never underestimate the power of your smile…