It's a wrap!
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
One year. Nine countries. And more people, places and interactions that we could have ever imagined. So, what have you learnt about the world? This is a question we are hearing a lot lately, of course followed by: What’s the plan now? And pretty much every time our mind goes blank. There’s simply too much.
It’s hard to summarise such an intense year -and we’re sure you have limited time to read this article- so we’re keeping it short and sweet. Here it goes!
You can’t help but wonder how is our world in such state when peace and friendliness are the norm.
1 - THINGS WE HAVE OBSERVED:
Wealth and happiness are not correlated. This can be difficult to understand in a society where we associate money (or the things it buys) with happiness. But once the main necessities are covered, it’s the people who are generous to others (not just with what they have, but also with their time, knowledge...) who tend to be the happiest, regardless their their level of wealth. And kids are the best example to show we don’t need lots or fancy things: some sticks, imagination and a great disposition for play will make the happiest children!
When you smile to people, 90% will smile back. About half of that 10% are little children, who look at you confused, and the rest are probably people who are having a bad day or making an effort not to smile, because as our recent post explains, smiling is highly contagious!
Smartphones are idiotising the world. Yes, everywhere people are getting slower, more distracted and less connected with the people and the world around them. There’s a generalised feeling of numbness and necks turning into rubber, resulting in poorer communication and reduced social interactions. Phones might be getting smarter, a lot of people sure aren’t!
People living in the countryside are happier, friendlier and look much healthier than those living in the city. Isolation, poverty and misery are more common in big cities. We haven’t seen any homeless people in the sticks.
Most human interactions are positive and friendly. You can’t help but wonder how is our world in such state when peace and friendliness are the norm, and not the violence and fear the media keeps talking about. But of course, kindness and peace don’t make headlines.
In most places people have welcomed us and greeted us because we’re different. There’s a lesson to be learnt there for the Western, ‘developed’ world.
There’s rubbish and waste (particularly plastic) everywhere. Although people in more developed countries produce way more waste than those in developing countries, they don’t see it so much because they have efficient systems to make it disappear (like sending it to less developed countries). In developing countries you just see it everywhere. Whatever the case it’s extremely sad and heartbreaking.
We humans are all pretty similar. There are more similarities between people of all races, cultures and beliefs than differences. People everywhere feel joy, pain, excitement, worry, anger, compassion. We all laugh, cry, keep each other company and enjoy a good meal. There’s life and death everywhere.
The most inspirational people we’ve met are without fail: hardworking, generous, kind, with a good sense of humour and with an intention to fulfil a life dream that involves making the world a better place in some shape or form.
Other interesting facts: Roosters sing at random. Who said they sing at dusk? Not true. They sing all the time. Mosquitoes, flies, weeds and bureaucracy: they’re everywhere and just as annoying! Avocados are totally unpredictable.
This truly was an unforgettable year, we’ve seen jaw-dropping places, we’ve met beautiful people and we’ve been stunned by the diversity and richness of our planet.
2 - PERSONAL GROWTH:
We’ve become more adaptable, open minded and way more understanding of differences. We all do things in our own way and we all have our little crazy obsessions (often at national level) about how to make the perfect hummus or get the right porridge texture, that’s OK. Not having had a stable place for more than 4 weeks in a row meant we had to adapt quickly to new foods, currencies, transport, culture, accents, prices, roads, different art of queuing...
We moan less and are less judgemental. Although it’s the national sport of oh so many nations, moaning is a waste of time and energy. Nothing gets sorted by grumbling, in fact it depletes you of the very energy you need to put forth a meaningful solution, so now when we see something that doesn’t really work for us, we acknowledge it and quickly find a way around it or, if nothing can be done, we suck it up (very mindfully and compassionately) and move on.
We’ve realised how little we need to live. For one year we’ve only had a large bag with all our belongings inside, so when we got back, the size of our wardrobe made us dizzy. But it doesn’t stand a chance, we’re going to give it the full Marie Kondo treatment.
Contentment, a word in practice. We love extra virgin olive oil, Iberian ham, luscious wine and strong coffee. But in some places it’s just non-existent or ridiculously expensive, so once we got over the olive oil trauma, we found alternatives to cooking and learnt delicious new recipes that are now part of our culinary life. Contentment isn’t just accepting what can’t be changed, it’s learning to enjoy the alternative.
We’ve learnt to savour the small things. Give yourself a very tight budget on a long trip and then get lost on the Bolivian yungas, and you’ll cherish every little bite of that indulgent chocolate you bought 10 days ago like it’s the last one.
We’ve been constantly reminded of how ridiculously privileged we are. We’ve had an education, never been hungry, had a nurturing upbringing and we live in a society where there are options... It is for us to honour this privilege and give back to this world that has given us, by sheer chance, so much.
Every experience counts: the good, the bad, the boring, the stressful, the exciting... This is at the core of resilience and -although it’s a long ongoing learning process- we feel way more at ease with this capricious and impermanent universe.
No matter how far you travel, your dreams, memories, problems, worries and fears will travel with you.
We love chickens! And cats.
This truly was an unforgettable year, we’ve seen jaw-dropping places, we’ve met beautiful people and we’ve been stunned by the diversity and richness of our planet but above all else, what we really keep in our hearts and memory are the friendships we’ve made and the people we’ve met, especially our Workaway hosts. This goes to them: You have made this journey the rich, inspirational and outstanding experience we were hoping for. You have opened your homes and hearts to us and we’re forever grateful for your generosity, warmth and happiness, for sharing your knowledge and dreams with us and for inspiring us to pursue our own. To all of you we bow humbly and pledge to honour your love, your teachings and your trust, in the hope that one day we meet again, maybe even have you rocking in our very own project!
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