Yesterday marked 100 days on the road for me. Here’s what I’ve learned (listed in a general least-to-most important kind of way. Gotta ease into the heavy stuff, yeah?):
One can never have too many bobby pins.
Where on earth do these little buggers get off to? I left with a pack of 100 bobby pins, and I have 13 left. That’s a rate of .87 bobby pins lost PER DAY. Looking back, I’m most sad that behind me I have left a trail of tiny, metallic trash bits. Sorry, Earth. Actually, I am pretty sure they are all shoved into pockets and purses and my backpack and I will find them all when I finally get to machine (and not hand) wash all of my things because they will all fall out and break the machine. Sorry, Future Washing Machine.
Everyone needs Paw Paw ointment in their purse.
THIS STUFF IS AMAZING. I was first introduced to Paw Paw ointment by my Kiwi buddy, Bianca. Bianca has a health coaching business and writes a beautiful blog, so definitely check that out. Anyway, for any of you who aren’t hip to the Aussie lingo, Paw Paw is papaya. Remember that kids song, “way down yonder in the Paw Paw patch,” and how you were always sitting there thinking, “what the f*ck is a paw paw?” Now you know. Also, why were you cursing at such a young age?! Shame on you.
Anyway, Lucas’ Paw Paw ointment is made from fermented papayas and it’s basically a miracle. I love to use it on my lips as a lip balm. It’s also excellent on cuticles and hands during the dry season. You can also use it on cuts, scrapes, and burns to protect them and help them heal. And, most importantly for me in Indonesia, it stops bug bites from itching. It’s like an all-in-one that everyone needs to have with them at all times. I don’t know if you can find this in the states, but someone let me know. If you can’t, I’ll bring a few tubes to the states.
Above all, treat strangers with kindness.
Of course, my Momma raised me to be kind. I knew this already. But on this trip the importance of kindness to strangers became so pronounced, especially in Indonesia. Indonesian culture is very diverse across the islands, but the Balinese believe that raising your voice to another person is extremely offensive. Altercations are generally resolved quietly and kindly.
As I traveled on and off with different friends, I noticed how everyone related to others. In Bali, everything runs on what they call “island time” – the wifi is always slow, the shops on the streets have no numbers making them impossible to find, and meals from restaurant kitchens are often prepared one at a time. Everything takes quite a while to get done, and mostly that’s okay. Where are we going in such a rush? Why do we need to get there RIGHT NOW? As I watched some of the people I love get so frustrated and even visibly angry with a people who have cultivated a culture of calm, these things seemed to become more clear.
Even more upsetting was watching people I love make fun of others. I realize that when we lash out at others, it is most likely a representation of insecurity within ourselves, but it doesn’t make it any easier to see. When we mock people, the tone of our voice and our body language give us away. Our words, and the perceived language barrier, become almost irrelevant. Without naming names, there comes to mind one particular time when I watched a friend relentlessly mock the misspelling of a common word on one Indonesian brochure. She is a bright woman, and perhaps to her it was hilarious, who knows? But the Indonesian woman standing there became pretty embarrassed and apologized profusely for the error. Just in case it isn’t obvious, we were in an establishment in a non-English speaking country that was going out of its way to cater to Westerners. I’m not saying we can’t occasionally giggle about the failed attempts to communicate between global languages – yes, sometimes it’s pretty funny. I’m talking about not being aware of the people around you, and the feelings they have. Watching these things happen made me even more aware of times in my own life when I wasn’t as patient or as kind as I could or should have been to strangers, or to people I love. We are all human. We are all valuable. Be kind.
Don’t underestimate the value of other people’s opinions (or, alternatively, my mom is always right).
If I had a dollar for every time my Mom told me exactly what I needed to hear (whether or not I wanted to hear it), I would buy her a penthouse apartment in NYC. When someone offers you advice, you don’t always have to take it. But think on it for a little bit before you reject it. A few years later you (meaning, I) may be calling that person weekly asking them to tell you what to do about everything.
Additionally, I spent a lot of time being hyper-critical of myself in all the wrong ways. And in some ways, not critical enough. Sometimes, when someone would tell me something about myself that I didn’t like, I would ignore it, even more so if I knew inside that it was true. For example, I spent a lot of time convincing myself that I wasn’t a critical person, but the truth is that I can be a critical person, both of myself and of others. And in many (most?) ways that can be ugly. I did a lot of work these past few months thinking about the way I view the world, and how it lifts me up and how it damages me. Starting to address poor behaviors inside of myself has been incredibly freeing. I should have listened when someone told me that I was a critical being, but I didn’t want to. I just wanted to defend myself. But being alone in the world, and not under the watchful eye of others has given me the space to examine myself, pride somewhat intact. Now that I’ve admitted some of my flaws to myself, my pride has become a little less relevant. Tail between my legs, guys: I am a hyper-critical person and it is sometimes mean. But I’m working on it and it feels so good! It is way more awesome to view the world with wonder, let me tell ya…
Don’t overestimate the value of other people’s opinions.
Okay. I know this seems contradictory. It is. But it’s important. I have learned more and more on this trip, and sometimes people’s opinions of you don’t matter at all. There is a HUGE difference between someone you love looking at you and saying, “hey, you may be happier if…” or, “It hurts me when…” and someone saying, “you would look a little better if….” or “You seem cooler when….”
I’ve learned to really try to listen to what people are ACTUALLY saying to me. In yoga/buddhism/hinduism/a lot of ancient texts there is this thing called the Four Gates of Speech. Before you speak, you are supposed to ask yourself four questions:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
Is it timely?
If the answer to any of these is “no” then shut yo’ mouth. I am trying to apply these in my life. I really love the idea. But it began to dawn on me the other day that no matter how hard I try to employ the Four Gates, other people may not. So I also have to do it in reverse. When someone speaks to you, ask yourself, “Is it true (be honest!)? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it timely?” If the answer to any of those questions is “No” then put your middle fingers in the air and continue on with your business. Not literally. You know what I mean. We’ve gotta put a little filter on the negative stuff that comes in, ya feel me?
This brings me to my new point, my biggest point, and a (slightly butchered, but still) beautiful quote from Marcel Proust:
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Well, if this isn’t the fucking truth I don’t know what is. I left on this adventure because I didn’t know what else I should do with myself. I left because I was having troubles at home, and they were overwhelming me. I left because I was hating myself a little, and because I didn’t know how to fix it. Actually, I didn’t leave because of any of those things. Those things cracked me wide open into a very tender human being. Like the little doll inside the big doll, except the little one wants to grow bigger and is afraid of everything. I left because I wanted my insides to grow, and because I was scared to do it at home, and because I needed to focus on who I wanted to be inside, and not who anyone else wanted me to be.
I’m not a whole new person. I am not a perfect person. I do not hold the key to happiness. But I am a whole person. And I am in the perfect place and perfect time. And I am pretty happy. And I’ve learned a ton.
And because of all of these things, I have decided that it’s time to come stateside again. I am missing my family, adopted and biological, who have encouraged and supported me through the last few months. I miss my friends, who are just the coolest and most talented people in the flippin’ universe. I have unfinished (love &) business with the beautiful and salty woman with whom I’ve shared my life for the past 3.5 years. I have two kitties that are four opposable thumbs away from being able to Skype, and I need their fuzzy faces. Also, I need to see Glenn Close in her Broadway show. Yes, that is a real reason.
I am so thrilled about all of the new landscapes I have seen on this trip, and I am forever grateful for all the new and old friends and family that have supported and loved and encouraged me on this journey into finding new eyes. Please continue to love and forgive me as I stumble and learn; it is an ongoing process.
More (light-hearted, topical stuff) to come ASAP.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!