Travel is a powerful teacher

by Richard Bellars
Wow…the last time I shared a blog was 18th October 2012! Above Colca Canyon, PeruIt feels like I’ve lived lifetimes since then! With hindsight, after setting up the concept of This Grand Adventure in 2011 (which now needs an overhaul!), it would appear that there was a ‘grand adventure’ that I needed to experience first for myself.
 
“We must let go of the life we have planned,
so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”
~ Joseph Campbell

 Since the middle of 2011, there has been some monumental travel for me in my life.  I don’t just mean the countries visited, air miles clocked and photographs clicked (landscapes, temples, sunrises, sunsets, old friends, new friends…).  Those are some joyful aspects of travel, which have been amazing and full of wonder and colour….and there have been moments of self-doubting despair and disorientation (darker colours, you might say)….and boy, it’s all been a blast on one level or another!

Heraclitus on the Delta del Ebro, SpainOver the last 3-and-a-half years, I have crewed on board the remarkable research vessel Heraclitus, toured ancient sites of western Ireland, trekked in Peru (3 times in 3 years), lived a few months in Guatemala, as well as some time in Bolivia, Mexico, Cuba, Israel, Egypt, and India (twice); work with the Mowgli Foundation has also taken me to Jordan, Syria (pre-‘troubles’), Algeria and Morocco; and closer to home there have been short visits to Normandy in northern France for the 70th commemoration of D-Day, and to Italy for the beautiful wedding of friends in picture postcard Verona.

What I am talking about here is the deeper inner journey that is available to any of us when we travel…if we are open to it!  For me, travel represents exploration and discovery that teaches and grows me through experience from moment to moment; travel invites me to step out of my habitual context to see me for who I am, how I got here, and whether I am on a trajectory that is taking me where I want to go, or do I need to change my bearing – in the sense of both who I am being and what I am doing, as well as where I am headed.

“There is a great deal of unmapped country within.” 
~ George Eliot

 

A local at Pisaq, Sacred Valley, Peru
Travel as a metaphor for the journey through life is as old as life itself.  But there is a difference between thinking something and doing something – putting learning into practise.  If I had to say what ‘one thing’ that has been the ‘difference that makes the difference’ these past years, it is commitment to myself and my own well-being and fulfilment.  That commitment to self has been the hardest thing, especially when it sounds so selfish….especially when ‘the world’ is telling you who ‘it’ expects you to be….or, perhaps hardest, especially when one (or several!) of your inner voices is telling you who it thinks you ‘should’ be for the sake of those you love.

 

“The biggest challenge in life is to be yourself
in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else.” – Unknown
 
I would say this commitment to self first goes for anything we desire deeply Heading from Peru into Boliviato experience and/or bring to the world….travel is just the metaphor.  There is also remaining committed once we return (or should that be “go forward”?) – especially from the ‘escapism’ side of travel….(more here for another time in another blog perhaps…)

 

What I also notice is that the inner journey is ever present and ongoing – we call it life! It’s just that travel is a submersion into different experiences offering new perspectives that make it that much easier to see ‘it’ (life) and to see myself in ‘it’.

None of this I find easy to put into words.  I have wanted to blog on this for months, (even years!), but I think I’ve learned that that’s the point.  So unique and personal is the inner journey that maybe it’s not meant to be captured in words – it’s to be released by being experienced and lived.  Travel can take us beyond words and beyond the mind’s ‘normal’ thinking…if we allow it to.  [That said, words can be powerful signposts and inspirations to others on their journeys – such as I found with this dramatic poem ‘The Return’ – so we would do well to use our words wisely….another blog brewing here too methinks!]

“Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living.” 
~ Soren Kierkegaard
 
Even as I hope to learn from every experience, I realise how little I know, 'Trekking' in Peruand will ever know, because the ultimate journey of awareness (aka “Know Thyself”) is ever-expanding.  What comes from all this, you may ask?  Discovering what’s true for me…and feeling alive!  And noticing feeling alive!!  From that inner place, I continue to learn and live more ‘rich-ly’ from moment to moment.  What also now comes every time I travel and learn something new is a refreshed willingness to help and guide others, where I can, on their journeys too.

The journey continues…

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