travel: live love learn laugh
Live love learn. This was a personal little mantra for many years. I had it engraved on the back of an ipod nano.
On a wonderful trip to South Africa, I was given a small bead with the words ‘life love travel’. This is now part of a necklace, together with deep blue lapis lazuli beads that were given to me in Afghanistan.
A couple years ago, in Dubai, a friend and ex-colleague inspired me to add ‘laugh’ to the mix. So now, live love learn has become live love learn laugh. Has travel fallen away? In a word: no. Travel is, for me, the essence of what it means to live, love, learn and laugh.
Live. This is something we all do, without thinking about it. Our bodies take care of this for us, for as long as we breathe. But to live and to Live; these are not synonymous. To Live is to make the most of what we have. Our health, our relationships, this world we live in. This entails responsibility. Making the most of what we have does not mean being wasteful and taking as much as we can of all that we can. It does not mean abusing our bodies (eating badly and too much, sitting too much, moving too little, staring at screens), our relationships (seeing only our own perceived needs, blaming others, hurting others, neglecting others) or this world (seeing only our own perceived needs, wasting resources, hurting nature, neglecting nature).
Rather, making the most of what we have means developing the skills we have, taking care of ourselves and others, taking care of the world we live in. This is to Live.
“Living well means loving well”. This is from James Orbinski’s book ‘An imperfect offering’. It essentially summarises the paragraph above. A wise man once said, “love God and do what you want”. A paraphrased explanation for the current purpose would be that if we love someone or something, we will want to do what is best for them. And maybe not what is best for them by our definition, but what is best for them by their definition. So love yourself, your personality, your body, your quirks, your shadows. Love others, with their lightness and darkness. Be forgiving of yourself and others. Love this world, and take responsibility for how you live in it.
Life is also about learning. As babies all we did was learn what it means to live, to survive. We learned to walk, to talk, to eat by ourselves. We learned social codes. We learned to love. And this learning didn’t stop just because we grew up. We learn new things all the time, depending on what we engage in, how we Live. Engaging with others, with the world, stimulates us, our brains. We as individuals change throughout our lives, based on this learning. We learn to better understand ourselves and others. Living and loving can be invigorating, but it can also be deeply painful. But it is in these painful times that we have the opportunity to really learn, to grow.
It is not the act of laughing that I refer to here, although this has its own, great, merit. But the act of laughing can be fake. Laughing can be hurtful, mocking. It is possible to laugh on the outside, and be hollow empty on the inside.
Rather, I refer to laughter of the heart; heartsong. This is the bubbling giddy feeling of aliveness that can be utterly overwhelming. It is the deep deep sensation you get when you are with someone you love and you know they love you in return. When a child takes your hand and gives you their complete dependence. When you stand on the top of a mountain, surrounded by white peaks, and feel deeply completely and purely alive.
This laughter is also what is stifled when we are hurt, lonely, lost, empty. We can make or break heartsong depending on how we treat each other. The laughter of the heart has a great impact on how we engage in life and are able to learn, how we love others ourselves and the world around us.
Thousands of years ago we were nomads. We moved from one place to another. We did not own any land, we had only things we needed and that we could carry with us. Travel now means many different things to different people. It can be physical and geographical, but it can also be emotional, internal. It can mean holiday, adventure, work, escape, flight, or simply a way of life. Travel can be chosen or forced upon us.
Here I want to acknowledge the people who have been forced to travel from their homes, where feelings of safety and belonging have been ripped to shreds. I want to acknowledge the severe implications of what travel means to them. I want to acknowledge that this travel can obliterate heartsong, it can separate families and spit love in the face, it can place people in a deep despair that impedes learning. It can destroy lives. I wish, for these people, that they will get the chance to Live, love and laugh again.
Personally, travel has meant many things. There has been travel that has silenced my heartsong and robbed me of loves. It has always entailed challenges and sometimes pain. But for the greatest part, travel has meant exploration, laughter, learning, love and Living. Internally and externally. Traveling takes us to new places, and lets us experience other things than we are used to. So, if we let it, travel can be deeply experiential. It can show us sides of life we never could have imagined. It can make us feel deeply alive. It can give us a deep appreciation – love – for the amazing world we live in, and the amazing people that we share this world with. We can learn new things about this world, these people. And importantly, travel can show us sides to ourselves that we don’t get to meet in our normal day-to-day lives. It can put us in situations that challenge us and what we believe; if we let it, travel enables us to learn much about ourselves. It can inspire our heartsong, our love, our Life.