My eldest daughter, Jodie, left home yesterday for a year or so back-backing around the world with her boyfriend, Wesley. There were tears at the airport, of course, but underneath I get a good warm feeling from knowing they are self confident enough to go happily with just what they can carry and a handful of work permits for different countries. Her brothers and sister have the same daring spirit too, and I'm glad. You miss your children when they leave but isn't it good to see them stretch their wings!
As is my way, I wanted to write her something but didn't really have any advice to give because, like me, she would have probably ignored it all and just done her own thing anyway... which, I believe, IS the best advice. So instead, I quoted this passage written after a long journey not dissimilar to her own. It's from a book called 'Gift from the sea' by Anne Morrow Lindbergh who traveled with her husband Charles Lindbergh on his pioneering flights in the 30's and 40's across many continents. This is what she learnt:
The beach is not the place to work; to read, write, or think. I should have remembered that from other years. Too warm, too damp, too soft for any real mental discipline or sharp flights of spirit. One never learns. Hopefully, one carries down that faded straw bag, lumpy with books, clean paper, long over-due unanswered letters, freshly sharpened pencils, lists, and good intentions. The books remain unread, the pencils break their points, and the pads rest smooth and unblemished as the cloudless sky. No reading, no writing, no thoughts even – at least, not at first.
At first, the tired body takes over completely. As on shipboard, one descends into a deck-chair apathy. One is forced against one’s mind, against all tidy resolutions, back into the primeval rhythms of the sea- shore. Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules. One falls under their spell, relaxes, stretches out prone. One becomes, in fact, like the element on which one lies, flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings.
And then, some morning in the second week, the mind wakes, comes to life again. Not in a city sense – no—but beach-wise. It begins to drift, to play, to turn over in gentle careless rolls like those lazy waves on the beach. One never knows what chance treasures these easy unconscious rollers may toss up, on the smooth white sand of the conscious mind; what perfectly rounded stone, what rare shell from the ocean floor. Perhaps a channeled whelk, a moon shell, or even an Argonaut.
But it must not be sought for or – heaven forbid! – dug for. No, no dredging of the sea-bottom here. That would defeat one’s purpose. The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea."
Not only is this a great way to journey but don't you think this captures the essence of what it is to really live? What I love about our travels (especially the ones off the beaten track and in places where there's a new language and culture) is that the things that we normally rely on aren't there any more. It's like having to learn to walk and talk and find our own way all over again. You have to rely on inspiration and insight instead of all the know-how and props we accumulate and get so used to. But then when we meet people openly, without the baggage, it's wonderful.
Strange isn't it, the best of times are always when we bring the least with us, when we don't organise or plan things but just show up with an openness and trust that somehow we'll take care of whatever comes. Everything becomes fresh and new and utterly delightful. Yet most of us seem to have forgotten how to let all things be-as-they-are, to know what it is to relax and simply 'Be', to be "empty, open, choiceless as a beach – waiting for a gift from the sea" as Anne Morrow Lindbergh puts it.
And I know there are many that consider this a selfish or irresponsible way to live; and those who wonder how the hell we could find peace within a world that it is full of problems and dis-ease. But someone has to start anew, don't they? How could there be resolution while ever we see conflict as the cause of our stress and not effect? Where will we ever find peace and joy in this world unless we bring it with us?
I hope my kids learn what it is to really travel light, to be at Home anywhere and feel the security that comes from knowing what true Love is -- the sort that's not dependant on anyone or anything. Then they'll know they bring something wonderful to the world wherever they may go.
Take your time Jodie, enjoy making friends.. and know that I love you all, always.