This thing travel means many different things to many different people. To some it may mean luxury, to others it may be family, and to yet others it is exploring the wilderness of the world, living and breathing danger and excitement. To me it has been all of these things at different times, and some of my most cherished memories are made up of my days in strange lands.
For it is indeed a wide, wide world. I am fortunate to have been through more countries than I have years upon this planet. It may have been genetic, having been born to parents who had a travel bug so strong that they left home as teenagers to start a new life, and have been travelling the world ever since.
I have come to see the world very differently over these years of exploration. In travelling the world without, you come inevitably travel the world within – and it is one that is often far more enlivening, terrifying and mysterious than the one we can see around us.
The first gem in the wilderness that I can offer is about the Earth and its umbilical cord. In the weeks of driving through the hauntingly beautiful Baltic states – Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – I most loved stopping in the forests and walking through the wilderness of tall rustic pines and vibrant green moss. I am a mountain child at heart and loved the forests that were so raw and pure, and came to be more connected to myself than I had living in the city. I saw in moments of clarity that just as a child is connected to its mother by an umbilical cord, so too are we connected to the Earth through the umbilical cord of air. The life-giving chemicals we are fed through this all-pervading gas held me in a gentle caress, pouring into my lungs the fresh and vibrant green forest air that was so removed to the tired air of the cities. When quiet enough in my heart and mind, I felt the life of the Earth fill my soul through her omnipresent atmo-bilical cord.
In a similar vein, I was touched by a magical experience I had in the Dolomite Mountains of northern Italy. Travelling with a friend to an area known as ‘the end of the world’, we came upon a piece of land that had been torn from its surroundings and had risen up like a jagged hand reaching for heaven. After hours of climbing, we found ourselves atop a pinnacle of earth that had an aura of peace so deep that was almost oppressive. Silence. Absolute soul-penetrating quietude. Not even he rustling of the wind, insects or the call of birds. In this place of such intense calm, we could do nothing but sit. How long we sat for, I cannot say. It may have been 10 minutes, it hay have been an hour. We sat and we just were. The chatter in our heads dropped to zero and every smallest thing was perfect to us in this state of bliss. Even today, thinking of this moment brings me immense calm.
The second gem of the wilderness is the breadth of worlds and ways of being that are available at all times and places – with the right key. I travelled to Peru in late 2012 and lived in small villages and with Amazonian shamans for three weeks. The jungle introduced me to an assortment of its inhabitants; monster cockroaches, ferocious mosquito clouds, beautiful emerald snakes, lurking crocodiles, ravaging piranhas and quietly deadly spiders. Most profound of all of these, however, was the Grandmother. This is what the local shamans called Ayahuasca – a medicinal vine that grows throughout the Amazon jungles of South America. I undertook a ceremony in which this vine, along with some other plants, was brewed and drunk. As the Shamans guided the ceremony with their ancient songs and my body started to shudder, my mind opened up to a world of timelessness where beings of vibrating rainbow-geometry and fractal consciousness lived. The plant guided me to things that would most benefit me, while helping me release long-haunting pains. This spurred an interest in meditation and the subconscious, through which I have found unimaginably vast reserves of happiness and peace that, with proper nurturing, have become accessible to me at every moment of my life. I believe that there are worlds of beauty within each of us, accessible through such keys as gratitude and acceptance of what is. Thank you Ayahuasca, you were a great teacher and a key to the love within.
The third and final gem that I would like to share was is the power of new frontiers and fresh starts. While travelling alone through central China, I came to a startling realisation. It was that I had unwittingly grown into my own in a way I had never fully been. Without the strings of friends, family, culture or language to tie me to my old persona, I had accidentally fostered a sense of self that was purely me and far more expressive, unhindered by old habits and fears. I was connecting to the people around me with a heart that was open and far less hindered by my childhood and adolescent fears. Although I had been confronted by social anxieties at home, here in China I was relishing a fearless and openhearted connection with others. Those days taught just me how beautiful it was to open my heart to strangers and love them like I love myself.
These are three gems that travel through the world has given me. The first is an intense appreciation of nature. The second is an appreciation of the peace within myself. The third and last is the power of fresh starts and an appreciation of others. As difficult, expensive and scary as it sounds, I suggest you travel. We are surrounded by an exciting world, offering us untold beauty if only we will stop to see it.