“A natural consequence of exploring is a greater understanding of, and ability to empathize with the world. I guess, maybe its more about values, than actual exploring. But to me, those things go hand-in-hand”. – Me
Exploring, like many things, will produce the best results when done outside of one’s comfort zone. If you’re maintaining comfort while exploring, it’s time to up your game. You have to push yourself, or you won’t get anywhere and you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. What you experience along the way, and what you discover might make you uncomfortable, but that sets the stage for a greater opportunity to learn, adapt, and evolve in to a stronger, better-understanding, more compassionate, well-rounded version of yourself. Whether you’re on a difficult hike, discovering yourself in a new role, traveling the world, examining your conscience and learning about your own racial views, or enduring week upon week of not going anywhere. If it hurts a little bit, physically and/or mentally and spiritually, you’re doing it right. Keep up the good work. 2020 has proven to be an uncomfortable year. What. Is. Happening??? Growing pains hurt. But what an opportunity for growth! Much is still unknown, but I try not to fear the unknown. Sure, caution has its place, but I find its much better to approach the unknown with curiosity, and then ultimately know it is not in my hands, let it go, and get excited for whatever is to come. I’m interested and excited to see the results of the growing opportunities this year has given us.
In January I was looking forward to a less chaotic year. I should know to be careful what you ask for. Despite everything going on in this beautiful, turbulent world, its been quieter than ever on my home-front. I’ve been grateful for the great pause this season has provided. I asked for it, after all. With the exception of travel and visitors, which have been cut out for the time being, I wanted more time to rest at home. I’ve been nurturing a little garden, something I’ve wanted to do for years, but haven’t been able to, for one reason or another. I’ve enjoyed every day together as a family (even when they’re driving me bonkers) cherishing the daily flow of our life at home. And I’ve had plenty of time for self-reflection in a slower day-to-day. But for as quiet as 2020 has been at home, out in the world there has been so much noise. Its ebbed and flowed and change directions, but this year’s issues have given me more to ponder than ever before…and I’m an internalizer, so I tend to think a lot.
I can’t even begin to hash out my thoughts and the ways that I feel like I’ve grown over the past several months. But for starters, I learned what Juneteenth is. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know before. My computer is trying to tell me I spelled “Juneteenth” wrong, so maybe we make this a common holiday and identify it as an actual event so that even spellcheck knows its a thing. Among so many other ponderings big and small, I’ve been thinking about how to keep my blog going, to address certain topics and inspire you to explore, without adding to the noise, but adapting and evolving as we go along. I’ve come to a couple of conclusions that I hope to use to continue to drive the content you find here.
One, I believe that getting out in the world leads to a deeper appreciation through greater understanding of it and its people. Keep curious eyes and heart open and allow yourself to be changed for the better. I’ve seen the results of this in my own life, before while living and traveling different places and especially since living so far from home-home in Poland. A favorite quote, by a much more eloquent Mark Twain says,
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
I want you to get out there, not only so you can see and do, but so that you might grow to have a deeper love, broader understanding and higher respect for our planet and her people. Whether that means helping you plan your next adventure, big or small, (because the pandemic won’t last forever) or simply experiencing a new place and learning a thing or two from your phone/tablet/computer screen (because it is still going on). I’m going to keep sharing our travel experience, ideas to help you explore more and I am also working on adaptable, easy itineraries to help you get out there and broaden your horizons. No vegetating! No excuses!
Two, since we’ve moved to Europe I keep saying, everything is the same, but different. I recently re-read Bill Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There, and there was a section where he marvels over the discovery that,
“the world could be so full of variety, that there were so many different ways of doing essentially identical things, like eating and drinking and buying movie tickets”
I wanted to shout “YES! That’s what I’ve been saying!” (mentally, of course, the children were sleeping). But I couldn’t agree more. Since our arrival in Poland, I’ve spent a lot of time observing the various ways seemingly mundane things can be done differently. A friend of mine who also recently moved abroad made a similar observation, saying everything in Europe is 85% the same, but 15% different, and that 15% is enough to throw you. So true. We have a joke in our house. . . How many Americans does it take to change a Polish lightbulb? It’s a rhetorical question, but it is more than one, less than three, sometimes with a cross-language consult with the hardware store salesperson or electrician. You might think that changing a lightbulb is a very easy, straightforward task. And it is. Changing a lightbulb is 85% the same everywhere, I’m sure. They say you should walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you judge them. I say don’t judge them at all. Unless you have had their exact life experience, please, don’t. Everyone’s experience is different. People, like lightbulbs, are fundamentally, lets say 85%, the same. The 15% difference is what makes us interesting and keeps me on my toes, trying to learn, unlearn and understand. I’m not saying I know it all, or that we should all be the same, because variety is what gives spice to life and I love spice, but every time I’ve changed a lightbulb in Poland it becomes easier and I can see that 15% gap closing just a little more through a learned understanding. If I can help anyone see that we’re all the same, but different, then I am doing my job. **
Stay curious my friends. Curiosity might have killed the cat, but its also the reason we know the world is not flat. To me, exploring is way more about values and understanding the world around me, than it is about going on amazing vacations and collecting passport stamps. I love those things, of course, but what drives me is the need to satisfy curiosity and learn more about the natural world and its people. Sometimes its uncomfortable (travel with kids is not easy, its cold and windy outside, seeing poverty makes me sad, flight delays and blah blah blah). But like going on a long, hard run, when its over, my heart, mind and body feel so good, and I’m stronger and healthier for it. I encourage you to try on a similar outlook, because you have been given such an opportunity for growth this year. Don’t remain stagnant. I don’t even see how that is possible at this point. Everything is the same, but we are going to come out of 2020 different. I’m excited to see what is to come.
***85/15% fictional, made up, guesstimated number, not actual statistic.
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