Note: A dear friend of mine recently turned 25 and asked those of us who have seen 25 come and go to write a letter to the 25-year-old version of ourselves as a birthday gift to her. When we talk about the "why" behind travel, this is it. What follows is what has become a bit of a travel manifesto for us.
Poco a poco, que sera, sera. Little by little, what will be, will be. The universe has a mysterious way of revealing itself to us, and we must have our eyes and ears constantly open, because often the revelation comes as quickly as it goes.
But take a deep breath. You're in a job you find unfulfilling and it seems that, day by day, your confidence takes a hit. Maybe you're not as dynamic as you thought. Maybe that career you didn't just dream about, but presumed would be yours, is beyond your reach. Before you know it, your thoughts and frustrations become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If 30 is the new 20, what's that make 25? I know it's easy to get frustrated, easier still to doubt yourself in the midst of uncertainty, but know this: It can all work out, provided you have the will and the patience to make it so.
Love. Love with incredible foolishness. I'm not just talking about a partner, though that's great, too. I'm talking about life. Assume the best in people. The goodness, that is to say the light in this world, is so much stronger than the darkness. Walk into each day with optimism. Believe in the best of people and have patience when people stumble toward your expectations. Life often has us think of ourselves and sometimes others as particularly wicked, but, in reality, we're all just a bunch of normal folks who stumble, fall, and hopefully, get back up. If you meet the world with a loving heart, I am not just convinced, but I'd dare say that I know, it will determine how the world meets you in response.
Travel. Say "fuck you" to the culture that says two weeks of vacation is enough time. Chart out the ebbs and flows of your work year, and don't be afraid to ask for and take unpaid time off. When you venture into the world, it jars you awake. It not only awakens your senses, it invokes a deep sense of realness in your soul. You feel alive, and all at once connected with humanity in this startlingly authentic way, despite feeling a disconnect of language or whatever else. If only we all traveled more, we would understand that it's not just about how similar we are as human beings. No, it's much more complex. It's also about differences, beautiful differences that hopefully light a flame of curiosity in your heart. Celebrate difference, and return to similarities. We are alike where it matters, regardless the culture, the age, the political philosophies. But it's our differences that make this world fun and difficult to live in. Seek out people who are different than you, and share your unique identity with the world around you.
Listen to stories in order to better tell them. We live in a culture that grows ever suspicious of the storyteller. Data and statistics are needed and right in their own place, but ours is a society that has survived on story. It is ignited by our curiosity, and it develops our imagination in such a way where we can not just be entertained by a great song, movie or book; rather, we find a way to imagine lives that are very real, just not our own. If you do things right, that is to say you travel with incredible love and passion, you'll encounter stories that yearn to be told. For me, the stories that most need telling are those of the people in the shadows of society, who for too long now have been told their story is somehow less important than mine. Listen to the stories that you find, and bring them back with you. Without fear, embrace the art of storytelling. Captivate your audience, direct them to see what you want them to see. And if you do this, the rest has a way of working itself out. That crummy job will soon give way to a better one. There will always be places to travel. And the stories we hear and then tell, shape our souls and determine what it means to love.
Finally, be as patient with yourself as you are with other people. You're still figuring stuff out and to that I say, Hallelujah.. You are full of love, and you are loved. Rest assured that this is the greatest truth and take it into the world. The world needs loving hearts, analytical minds, and curious souls. That's the trifecta, and you've got all three, even if you don't realize it yet.
Follow Patrick Furlong on Twitter: www.twitter.com/travelandtango