Things I have learned since leaving on my travels (in no particular order):
1. Being a social justice activist, feminist and social democrat has not automatically made me open-minded. On the contrary, I have (albeit unintentionally) used my political and social values as a justification for being extremely judgmental – without ever realizing that I was judging. (Note: I do not for a moment suggest this is the case for other folks with similar values. That’s for those people to determine on their own).
2. I am not a good listener. I have always known that I’m almost stupefyingly (how’s that for a word??) unobservant, but I failed to admit to myself that I also don’t listen. Apparently, however, what I lack in seeing and hearing, I make up for in talking. I am concerned that this is not a good thing.
3. Whether your personal spiritual or life philosophy tends toward the Golden Rule (do unto others, etc), karmic law (what goes around comes around), or Newton’s 3rd law of motion (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction), my experience is telling me that these are a) all the same thing, and b) true. What you put out into the ether – call it positive energy, good vibrations, intention, whatever – will manifest. In a nutshell, you get what you deserve. Unlike observation number 3, this actually is a good thing.
4. Despite my best effort to tell new stories about myself, I am frequently reminded that I have to come to terms with the old stories first. Once again – you can’t run away from yourself.
5. It’s true. I really am the world’s biggest complainer. I’m sorry. I’m working on it.
6. My friends and family are always with me, no matter how far away I am geographically, and have never failed to come to my aid when I send out psychic cries for help. Thank you. I love you.
7. I have a lot of friends and family and loved ones out there thinking of me. It’s amazing. I am so grateful.
8. Money does not make people happier. People in so-called developing nations (seem to) have a joie de vivre lacking in our so-called developed nations in North America and Europe. Hey people – stop working so hard and start enjoying life.
9. I have a lot to learn re: number 8.
10. There is beauty in everything, even things that appear at first to be ugly or scary.
11. There are always things to be grateful for, and often the greatest challenges provide the deepest opportunities for gratitude (even if it’s after the fact).
12. A really cold beer on a really hot day is a joy not to be underestimated.
13. My life seems to revolve around eating. While this can be very pleasurable, I am not convinced it’s actually healthy – emotionally or physically. Hey, self: try looking for other things to enjoy once in awhile.
14. I’ll probably never be a vegetarian.
15. I have a capacity greater than anyone I’ve ever met for creating obstacles in the path of my own enjoyment of life. See number 5. And number 13. Friends and family have tried to point this out to me on several occasions, but… see number 2.
16. I take myself too seriously.
17. When bugs bite, it’s much, much better not to scratch the bites. They go away faster.
18. Bargaining with locals when buying goods can be a fun game, if you both understand what the game is. Haggling over what amounts to an extra $2 or $3 or even $5 - an insignificant amount for most North American travellers – can be petty and pointless, when it has a significant impact on the lives of the local population.
19. It’s ok to tip more than the suggested or customary amount.
20. Communication is not about language. Communication is about heart and spirit.
21. I am afraid a lot.
22. I have to remind myself every day that it’s ok to be happy.
23. I use the words “hard”, “too hard”, “should”, and “I don’t know” more than I’d like to. (I had to stop myself from saying “should”).
24. Despite all these shortcomings, I still think I’m pretty neat. I am not even embarrassed about using the word “neat.” And despite all these shortcomings… see numbers 6 and 7.
25. Life is beautiful.