Traveling With an Open Mind

I often reminisce about my travel inspiration. Every day I wake up to the memories of the special, mostly unplanned and unexpected encounters on the way back to my life. Those encounters that were full of human warmth and helpfulness. It often brings a smile around my face as I feel a deep joy inside me.

The triggers for these flashbacks are sometimes the photos that are displayed as the background on my laptop. Often it is also the thoughts that float freely when hiking, that bring back these memorable moments.

Many images and thoughts come to mind. So many that I can almost make a medley of it. There were -

- the nice extended family in Ladakh, who spontaneously took stranded trekking tourists along with us to the next town. I'll never forget how I took this ride over the hill in the back of a van on the freshly bottled blood of a slaughtered sheep.

- the young impetuous car driver in Puri, whom we have to stop several times as he zoomed past at the speed of light to get to Chilka Lake. At the end of the frenzied ride with marginal overtaking maneuvers, we arrived happy and healthy at the lake. We invited him to a joint fish meal on the beach.

- the helpful and open-minded shop assistant in Nagpur, who showed us the hidden winery of the place despite the opening hours of her shop and introduced us to the wine growers - although again the winery had just closed. We got our little private tasting anyway.

- the discovery of a concept in Denmark about the hygge, a way of life-based on enjoying the small things. The Danes value the invitation of friends or family to cook together, enjoy a good movie or a rich wine, without wifi or technology in between. Breakfast in bed on weekends, staying a while longer or reading a book with a rich cup of coffee and without hurry, are ingredients that also fall into the Danish recipe to live happily. According to them, it is important to have moments of rest, disconnection (and, therefore) reconnection, as well as pleasure.

And there was this special encounter in the distant Ladakh, to which I often like to think back. It was an adventure that I left without knowing what to expect, a solo trip that ends up being a group trip. I entered Ladakh alone, and as I added towns, kilometers, and anecdotes, I started becoming a world traveler, with around 5 travelers from all over the world. I walk on the frozen layer through spectacular rocky gorges flanked by mountains of almost 6000 meters and we will see some of the most remote villages of this corner of the Himalayas.

Discovering the pleasure and privilege of sharing, I end up distributing the little that the traveler has. Yours is mine and mine is yours, from the mosquito repellant, sunscreen, cutlery, toilet paper, pillow, and in the absence of individual rooms - a bed for 3; a jeep for 5 and the crumbs of some cookies after long hours on the jeep.

It was April, and the Indian summer was slowly announcing. The days were already pleasantly warm, but at night it was still bitterly cold with temperatures around freezing. Ice still floated on parts of the lake, where we occasionally spot a few birds in the distance. And in those weeks when the landscapes and people were changing, the shallow bonds became deeper, in which the Indus has gone from being a river of common flow and width to being the broadest river that I have crossed.

We know that a river crossing awaits us today. One of the tributaries to the lake must be overcome. There is no other possibility. However, there is no bridge. We know about the upcoming adventure, especially in times of snowmelt in the mountains.

Walking deeper is just as little an option. The high mountains are not far. And, there may be leopards there. I'm torn by the thought of them. On the one hand, I would like to meet one in the wild. In the other hand, I also have due respect for a possible unexpected meeting. We enter a monastery and see how the monks live; in addition to knowing other aspects of the society that often go unnoticed.

It's lunchtime. We have been on the road again for a few hours now. The idea of having a lunch break makes us consult together when a small boat approaches us. It is a local native who has come to see us from afar. The river carries a lot of water and is very difficult to cross at the moment. So he offers to take us by boat. We look at each other for a moment, feel unity and jump into the boat, beaming with joy.

We arrive at his village, and a few greet us. Are we hungry? They were just about to have lunch. This time we do not have to look at each other and accept the invitation immediately. What an honest and spontaneous hospitality!

They have cooked some fresh fish from the lake, with potatoes, onions, and other herbs. We get bread and butter out of our backpacks. We enjoy the delicacies. Of course, a toast with a local beer could not be missed. In conversation, we learn that they are currently building a stable shelter for the hikers, so that more people come and get to know this beautiful area.

When asked about the loneliness out there, they answer that they love nature and they will like to be out here all the time. And what about the wild animals? I want to know. They exist, but they are more afraid of us than we are of them. They would not have seen one for a long time. They offer us to stay and spend the night at the village. The fact that we speak some Tibetan makes this encounter easier, more harmonious, and more intense.

I love the Tibetan culture, and they are cultures that are very difficult to understand here, but you have to understand them very well when you live with this type of people. This, in the end, opens our mind, and we put ourselves in each one's place to be able to understand them. The life of people here has been simple as for centuries, that we with globalization have been abandoning, becoming more hermetic, individualistic, materialistic, and undoubtedly more selfish.

I feel nature in capital letters on my skin as I share exciting times during the night around the bonfire. I love the world and traveling because of the feeling of freedom that it gives me. It is a way to open my head, to overcome my prejudices, to understand that there are many different ways of looking and living. It helps me to change the prism and also to know myself more. It helps me run away from the routine and make each day count. Each day have one or more stories to tell.

The next morning I crawl out of the tent. The villagers point a bit in the direction we came from yesterday and asks us if we want to see a leopard. I look at them questioningly and puzzled. They explain that fishermen have found a dead leopard cub on the shore. It probably was attacked in the area by an older male. When the little animal lies in front of me, I see the bite marks near its head. I am a bit sad, knowing that this has happened in real nature and wilderness.

After the breakfast, we dismantle our tent, shoulder our backpacks and say goodbye to the villagers. Not without promising to once again return to this place. The farewell is difficult. The warmth of the villagers in this beautiful and intense, but also deserted, wilderness will not let us go for a long time. Silently, we walk side by side, each one pausing in their thoughts and leaving the beautiful place behind, step by step - but remembering that, we take it home.

When I saw a group of children with some wood, bricks and bamboo canes create trucks, and spend time sharing an imaginary world, I could not help but wonder, what happened to our children. Have they lost the ability to imagine? Have they lost the innocence of being children, as adults have lost the ability to smile at strangers, even the neighbors? I laughed sometimes for others, sometimes alone with me and sometimes with those wonderful strangers.

And I find that strangers are friends and that the most beautiful thing about traveling is not just to know new places, nor to get drunk with beautiful landscapes, nor that the palate goes mad with a whole new repertoire of flavors, the real beauty of traveling is in people, and what they bring to the trip. I can incorporate their different cultures, experiences, and the experiences of life into my own.

So my soul vibrated between surprise, the joy of discovering new landscapes, new customs, new people, new feelings and bittersweet moments like the farewells to the new friends. It is bitter because I fear they may be final, and sweet because they mean they are reflective of common stories, beautiful memories that will remain engraved in the heart for life.

This is not new for me. I have traveled a lot, and very intensely although never as much as on this occasion and I know that that is what really makes a trip exciting. It is clearly expressed by that phrase that says the real destiny is in the trip.

When I travel I return with photographs, with memories, but above all, I return with an open mind. I am always confronted with unknown situations, cultures, customs and languages. I realize that we are different, but we also begin to understand each other. We become more respectful and tolerant. I realize that we have more in common with other people than I had imagined. And in a world that increasingly scares me, it is worth remembering.

It is one thing to be a tourist and another is to be a traveller. A tourist is one who is governed by his brochures, his little practicality and his little flexibility in enriching himself of new cultures over his. A traveler on the other hand is one who takes his travels to his heart.

When I travel, I leave my comfort zone. It does not matter that it is the umpteenth trip that I undertake. Every time the nerves and the expectation invade in the body. There is a tingling in the stomach. There is one night almost without sleep. There is a half suitcase lying. There is an open travel guide on the table. These are signs that the next exploration is around the corner.

16 comments:

Nandhini Chandrasekaran said...

There's a difference when true travellers write their travel stories. I see one here. Good wishes for the contest and for your travels ahead.

Red said...

I haven't had much opportunity to travel in my life, and when I have, it was always withing the U.S. But I agree that traveling is an adventure and really opens you up to different things. I have experienced this within my own country even, and would love someday to be able to experience it all over the world.

Candysfarmhousepantry said...

We enjoy looking back on all the traveling we have done. People we have meant places we have visited.

Steph Dorworth said...

Very good points here, if we travel with an open mind we learn more. We learn more not only about ourselves but also about others. Traveling is amazing!

Elizabeth O said...

I am inclined to agree with you that travelling makes you more open minded. We can learn so much by visiting and taking in other cultures.

Blair Villanueva said...

I agree. When I started travelling it helped me to make my open mind be more open-minded, and become more welcoming as well. Thus, writing travel stories makes it more deep, engaging, and emotional.

Tina Hogan Grant said...

What a great experience camping with the locals. You can learn so much from the people that actually live where you are visiting. Great post, very insightful

Evelyn Lo Foreman said...

It is a personal belief that I can learn something from everyone I meet. Traveling seems like the perfect platform to learn and appreciate all that life has to offer. The basis is however, is as you said: having an open mind. Thank you for sharing your fascinating adventures. 💕 Evelyn, PathofPresence.com 🦋

Sarah said...

I love this. The emotion in your writing had me on the edge of my seat looking forward to hearing what will come next! Can't wait to read about that next adventure!

Get Well with Andrea said...

I love seeing people embrace different cultures and taking time to learn about others. Kudos to you for making the most of your travels

A Busy Bees Life said...

I have been travelling since I was four and I love it. Travelling changes who you are, how you view the world and understand people.

Yeah Lifestyle said...

So agree! I think I am a better, brighter and more well rounded person due to my travels. I realised that I tend not to judge each culture and understand why certain people live the way they live.

Chuck said...

I may don't travel regularly but being open minded while traveling is one of the best thing to do when you're going to unknown place. Just enjoying what life has to offer. -Chuck

Cheichei Va said...

Haven't tried travelling outside my country. So reading something like this is really interesting.

The Simple Mum said...

You are right you need to have an open mind when travelling. I love to look back and reminiscence about past travels. Your account is very moving.

Unknown said...

This is so beautifully written - you have spoken from the heart off all travellers. Thank you for sharing!

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