It could happen any time.
Earthquake, tornado, Armageddon.
It could you know.
Or: sunshine, love, salvation.
It could happen.
That’s why we get up in the morning and look out.
There are no guarantees in this life.
But there are some bonuses.
Like morning, like noon. Like right now.
Two days before my partner and I were about to head off for a month-long holiday in Indonesia, we both had the same question arise in our minds – why?
Suddenly we couldn’t quite remember why we had thought this would be a great idea. Why would we want to leave our home, which is in one of the most stunningly beautiful countries in the world, New Zealand, and spend lots of money travelling to an unknown, less developed, and therefore, presumably challenging, foreign country? Not to mention having to say goodbye to our adored dog! Having done heaps of travelling in our twenties and thirties, surely we knew by now that a sunset on Bali, or a boat trip around exotic islands, however fantastic, is not the place to find real, lasting happiness or fulfilment?
Of course, we went anyway, cos it seemed too crazy not to.
We had a few days on Bali, then almost a week on the surreally chilled out tiny island off Lombok called Gili Air. Then we flew east to Flores, and we have just spent another week in the little dishevelled yet booming harbour town of Labuanbajo, jumping off point for the off-shore islands which make up the Komodo National Park.
It’s not been all bliss and relaxation. We had an incident with a money changer on Bali who tried to cheat us out of $1.2m rupiah, although we were on to it, the police were involved and our money returned. There was the time when we rented a motorbike to drive up one of the volcanos to a crater lake, and got not one but TWO punctures in the ‘middle of nowhere’. I got food poisoning half way through a day-long scuba diving trip. There have been disagreements between us – one wants to stay in, one wants to go out. And let’s not forget all the disasters that my mind worried about that didn’t actually happen but definitely could have. I call them my ‘doom’ thoughts. Like, maybe the plane will crash. Maybe the boat will sink. Maybe our bags will get stolen, or maybe we’ll get swept away by the strong underwater currents whilst diving around Komodo. Funny thing is, I’m not really a nervous traveller. I’ll give most things a go, and during my times in Nepal, India and Myanmar especially, I developed a reasonable level of tolerance, patience and acceptance. But my ‘doom’ thoughts are habitual it seems, although I don’t experience them often when I’m at home, in a routine. So being out of a comfort zone is an opportunity to practise not believing everything I think, remembering thoughts are just thoughts and they have no power unless I believe in them.
Of course there have been very many moments (minutes, hours, days) of joy, peace and awe. Waking up on beautiful Gili Air and having a large glass of Lombok coffee whilst making the only important decision of the day – whether to have a banana pancake or an omelette for breakfast. Scuba diving around Komodo was the best diving I’ve ever experienced – just seeing the gigantic (5 meter wide) manta rays gliding through the ocean like flying saucers is something I’ll never forget. Eating possibly the best pizza I’ve ever had ANYWHERE, in ramshackle Labuanbajo was incredible! (The relief of finding a mechanic on the day we got the punctures was utter joy of a different kind!) Watching the sunrise from the rim of Kelimutu, revealing the tricoloured volcanic lakes was otherworldly. Taking refuge in a roadside restaurant (after 90 minutes of winding our way up a mountain, on a motorbike, in the rain) that made the most delicious gado gado AND served hot ginger coffee, was heavenly. Swimming with turtles was just magical.
Travelling is so good for the mind, just like everyone tells us. And how else does our mind get challenged if we only ever stay at home, or spend time around people and places that conform to our common, preferred experiences. The benefits of travelling in ‘strange countries’ is not just about collecting the good experiences, although given the choice of course we’d like to be able to control life that way.
The poem above is by William Stafford, and it perfectly captures how my mind has been bouncing around this month… It’s nice to be home!