Neda & I often reflect on our travel adventure and wonder how much we changed through the process. Did we become more relaxed in the face of stressful situations? Are we more comfortable with the unknown? It is hard to quantifiably measure such things. Certainly as we have returned into the flow of everyday life we notice those old ego habits we had hoped perhaps to leave behind. We can still be small minded, still get caught up in the dramatic stories we create, still be myopic and miss the big picture. It feels a bit like the title of John Kabit-Zinn’s wonderful mindfulness book, “Wherever you go, there you are."
Street Performer in a Melbourne alley
And yet things are different for us. We have relationships to the world we never could have dreamed of and a context to place our experience that makes it so much richer than before. And anytime we might forget these lessons, our trip seems to echo up from the past to remind us.
One such example of this occurred a few months ago while we were driving over to my brother’s house listening to our satellite radio. The voice resonating through the speakers tickled not just our eardrums, but our temporal lobes as well. Suddenly we were transported back to March of last year where we spent an action packed day walking the alleyways of Melbourne
. We had been checking out the various graffiti street art of the city when we stopped to listen to a talented street performer who crooned away while selling CDs from his open guitar case below. His voice had a unique twang that we had admired at the time…and suddenly were hearing in our car halfway across the world!
Sure enough, a quick look back at our pictures confirmed that it was the same guy! His name is Mike Rosenberg and he’s been playing on streets around the world to help finance his music, put out under the moniker “Passenger”. And just recently he made it big, with his hit single “Let Her Go” topping the charts in countries around the world. And what song did we happen to record on that sunny day in Melbourne? Listen for yourself:
And here’s the studio version: Mmmm...we miss Seoul!
The Passenger story is just one example of our trip reminding us of the depth of experience we gained traveling the globe. Other examples come to us anytime we go out to eat our favorite ethnic food. When we go out to Korean BBQ in Lansdale we can joke with the waiters about the districts of Seoul where they are from. Just recently a trip to a local Vietnamese restaurant led to the owner reminiscing with us about his days in Saigon (and comping us some spring rolls as well!). We speak in Thai to our waitresses and admire their hill tribe produced dresses and then later talk to an Indian friend of ours about our experiences in his hometown of Calcutta, which he returns to in a few months.
Then there is the recognition that it was not only us who was changed by this trip. The labor of love that is this blog affected others as well. This was very sweetly and poignantly demonstrated to us a few days ago, when my old friend and co-worker Lindsey Harvill prepared to depart for her own adventure. She wrote on Facebook recently:
“Backpacking through Thailand with Aldo Merino - just ourselves and these tiny packs!! Special thanks to Neda Fields and Jeff Fields who inspired me by sharing their insights on their blog during their world travels. I learned so much about the importance of respect for the culture and environment and how to fully embrace all aspects of a new experience.”
So what do we make of all of this? Perhaps it’s helped us to realize that transformation isn’t necessarily measured in complete overhauls to one’s personality. It’s measured in the smile that comes to your face when a song reminds you of a beautiful day. It’s measured in expressing interest and knowledge in a stranger’s homeland and finding that suddenly you are no longer strangers. It’s measured in how much we inspire others and the good that they then go on to do in the world.
Is it quantifiable? No, not really. But perhaps all these stories urge us to not be too hard on ourselves for the explicit ways we have not transformed by reminding us of the subtle ways in which we are ALWAYS transforming.