Saturday, June 30, 2012

Serendipity found? the dirty truth

serendipity in a campsite playground in northern Chile
I've been 'chasing serendipity' (or my own tail), if indeed such a thing can be done, around the world these last 5 years... And now that i've finally back on home soil (well the plane has just crossed the coastline near port headland) i want to share some of the reflections and learnings from my travels - before i am happily embraced back into the folds of friends and family and it gradually becomes a whispy memory.

I guess firstly - on chasing serendipity - can you really 'chase' and catch, the unexpected? Certainly you don't need to run off to a far flung land with a backpack and 3 changes of clothes to find joy, but the kinds of people, experiences and discoveries that transmit this joy are not quite the same as what i was encountering in the tall shiny buildings and urban 'upwardly mobile' set of before.

So I chose to break away ... and as much as there were many moments on my travels that all i desired was to return to the familiarity of it, it wasn't (isn't) for me. Perhaps it was because of good karma, or it just fell into place, but i was fortunate that 2 years ago all the conditions arose that enabled me, with only responsibility to myself, to embark on such a journey.

And what a journey... Of course there's all the sensory indulgences and serendipity of moving at the feet of majestic snow capped sky hugging mountain ranges of the himalaya and andes, being stunned by textures and subtle gradients of luminous white of antarctic icebergs, encountering colourful clouds of fluttering butterflies in the jungle or a red lake of pink flamingos in the high planes of bolivia, curling your tongue over fresh roasted nibs in freshly made smooth ecuadorian chocolate, feeling your heart lift at the strains of ave maria being sung at easter concerts in chile or likewise on a jumpy crowded bus ride in nepal to laugh at some bollywood lyrics ... I've waxed on and off using superlative adjectives about all of these on my blog posts already :)

So ... what i'm going to share now is the the dirty truth of what i've learnt about myself over the last 19 months.

Oops. Momentary serendipitous distraction... The steward has brought chocolate icecream to eat while we pass over ayres rock!

Ok. The kinds of things that i'm still coming to terms with and that will need continual intention and effort to realise. Here goes...

  • my big ego. Before i left london, i used the tall poppy metaphor to my therapist to illustrate that i believed i was special. In fact, i said that i was so special that i had a field to myself. She poignantly observed that was quite a lonely existence. Well. Travel, through continually moving and meeting others as well as some serious introspection with the support of buddhist teachings has well and truly started humbled what i thought was me. I see now that at the core i am the same as others, i am dependent (and need) others around me, and that's ok. In my small field of existence i have special qualities that combine to what i perceive as unique, but 'I' am not unique. In fact, 'my' fabricated 'I' is slowly succumbing and just just starting to dissolve into the universe. Seeing the 'I' and 'mine' for the illusion they are is a lifetime challenge. In deep moments of contemplation, i think i see it as it is, but in practice the mind is so so devious and clever, with so many habits conditioned that my ego reigns supreme 99.999% of the time.
  • that as self sufficient and independent as i think i am, i need people. It's ok to receive help from someone, it doesn't mean that i'm not capable or not in control, rather i can gracefully accept the gift they are selfishlessly offering.
  • that being vulnerable or rather showing vulnerability is ok. Building up a wall to hide behind to control everything doesn't bring happiness. That it's ok to experience the negative; pain, fear, loneliness and then not to try and keep it hidden; but to show it. Not to become caught and attached to it, but to express it and let it go.
  • on feeling and expressing compassion - loving kindness, and empathy - as distinct from sympathy. I'm only just realising how to truly do this (hmm perhaps intricately wound up in the humbling of my ego) and it's hard, and needs continual awareness but through it i i am experiencing deeper connections with people i meet
  • that as joyful and rewarding it is to do things alone, to be able to feel the touch of some you love and who loves you and sharing these magical experiences is to be treasured. I know one has to love oneself, and in fact loving is in many ways an illusion as you can only love the image/perception you create of the person or relationship, but i'm still unenlightened enough to value/succumb to the illusion.
  • that i've lost many friendships through moving around so much and being lazy. Though you meet many people while travelling, these relationships are intense but transient, and because they are often circumstantial, ultimately shallow. That's not to say i've not met people that i've felt a deep and lasting connection with, but i know now how much i miss and value old friends - those who've i spent time with growing together. i guess it's easier to maintain more 'contact-full' friendships when you stay in one place, but no excuses. Oh and hugs. As great as skype is, there's no hugs.
  • that there's many ways to live. Travel, especially in developing countries opened my eyes to people in all walks of life, but the revelation i talk of here is closer to the reality of my privileged life. I am over educated (in mind but not in practical experience), have never been forced into a decision, have every option open to me, have always had enough money to do what i want and i've been surrounded by love and support my whole life. there i was chortling down the corporate career path - not because anyone told me to, or expected it of me, but because i might as well and was ok at it. Then i travel..not the rushed european long weekend, or the hanging out at beach house with others like me, nor a 1 week cultural sojourn to a himalayan village, but the looong term travel... Where you meet the seasonal workers who work 4 months to travel cheap the rest, or others who have given up corporate life for 3 months or 3 years, or families with kids trekking or cycling or backpacking for 1 year, people that go on 3 year meditation retreats, those woofing and volunteering, those that have uprooted their lives to run aid organisations and other businesses in remote places and others with no idea what they are doing in general. These guys give me real inspiration that i too can do something to make a difference.
  • that though i am learning a lot spiritually from many generous and passionate people, i'm not ready to take refuge in one particular tradition yet. I'm definitely dunking my legs in though and already have found many resonances within with teachings.

So... That's some of the truths of my travel revealed... sitting here in suburban Melbourne it's almost like a dream - but i know that I have evolved so much as a person. Yes I'm still asking big questions about what to do with my life - but at least now I'm truly happier inside (rather than just distractedly happier) with who I am.

I'm not sure if I'm going to blog much more - but I am going to put some highlights together of photos and serendipitous moments from the travels, and I guess this will time nicely with a - 1 month after so watch this space! And, more than likely... I'll be off gallavanting somewhere else sometime soon! Perhaps it's even time to ride a motorbike around Australia? get to know my own country better for a change:)




  1. ThX for your great BlOGS!! So honest, intense and straightforward. I wish you all the best with your next journey(s)!

    With love,

    Marleen, july 2011- Sucre, Bolivia
    Now living in Haarlem- the Netherlands

  2. I loved reading your write-up! Almost felt like sitting in a coffee place in Nepal listening to you ;) Best of luck for the next chapter! I'm sure it will be great ;)
    Big hug from Kathmandu

  3. Glad you are back in Oz.
    When are you coming down to Sydney for a visit?

  4. Hi there Fatmeercat. Hope you are settling back well into Oz. Thank you for including me on your distribution list. Sounds like you have had some great adventures and intense experiences. some great pictures. Hope you will enjoy transitioning from the exciting intense relationships of travelling to some slower paced and deeper ones (real friends and family) - and that some of the people and places you meet will stay with you. x Judy (London)