Barefoot Corporate Warrior: Summer 2022
Off the Leash and Loving It! Paul Bird praises the dimensions of travel.
There aren’t many of us but we tend to get around.
I have said and thought this many times over the years when I am in a remote, offbeat or unusual offshore setting and hear the dulcet twangs of an Australian accent.
I then wonder why I am surprised to see that my fellow Aussies have made the leap from the safety of home to an exotic and enticing location somewhere ‘out there’ in the big, wide world.
We Aussies love to travel. And because of our remoteness we have been forced to travel comparatively big distances in order to get just about anywhere.
Travel feeds something deep and instinctive in our souls. We were all hunter-gatherers once, roaming in search of food and shelter. From our origins in Africa we spread slowly but surely to the four corners of the globe. Travel is in our DNA as a species.
We are all travellers through space and time – our galaxy, The Milky Way, is spinning at around 210 km/second (yes, per second!). Like all matter, we are made up of a great jiggling energy in constant motion. Energy travelling.
So travel is not only in our blood, it is actually what we are made of.
And now that we are (fingers crossed) off the leash again following pandemic restrictions it seems that ‘revenge travel’ is a real thing.
I have been lucky to have been overseas twice this year and feel both energised and awakened by the experiences of going abroad – but also of coming home to all that we cherish and enjoy here (carbuncles and all).
For me, travel offers experiences which impact all the dimensions of what it is to be human – the thinking, emotional, physical and spiritual self.
It also offers up numerous fun facts guaranteed to amuse, delight and inform your friends and family no end (“maybe”, I hear you say).
For instance, having recently visited Sicily I can report that Palermo is widely regarded as the most conquered city in the world. Over the past 3000 years or so it has been ruled by (I will aim to get this list right and somewhat in historical order) the Phoenicians, various Greek city-states, Byzantines (Greeks again), Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Normans (Vikings), Austrians, Spanish and French. There is also some evidence that refugee Trojans (yes from that Troy) had also arrived there earlier than the Phoenicians so potentially add them to the list.
Apologies if I have left someone out but as I travelled around Sicily for 10 days or so, this convoluted history emerged as we visited one historical monument after the other.
While I find this fun fact interesting I can report my re-telling of it has met with mixed reaction.
I suppose that is travel at the macro scale where understanding human history brings a certain awareness and wisdom about how we all got here and are doing what we are doing.
Travel also operates at the micro scale involving interactions across the kaleidoscope of good, bad and indifferent between the traveller and the locals.
It makes all the difference if you know or are introduced to a local or if you can access the knowledge of a local guide to help you understand some of the nuances which would normally escape the casual or superficial travel experience.
Logistics count when you travel, particularly for long-hauls. We enter a gigantic system of procedures, processes and control mechanisms.
I have found that venting against the system is a complete waste of time and energy.
Better to assume that the system is imperfect (created by us imperfect humans), something will likely go wrong/not completely to plan and adopt a flow posture mentally and emotionally in order to traverse the myriad forms, queues, toilets, food and beverage, baggage trundling, security checks etc.
When I say ‘flow’ I mean a state of walking, sitting, eating (in between inflight Hollywood blockbusters), always coming back to the present without judgement. The connection has been delayed? One of the bags has failed to emerge from the carousel? The person behind you is snoring loudly (earplugs are always good) – it is what it is.
If there is nothing you can do about it, do nothing. Difficult to do I know.
I once heard a Buddhist monk say he loved long-haul flights because he knew he had 12 hours of meditation ahead.
While I have no pretences to being able to achieve this, I do try and channel the monk in me and secure a little, teensy weensy slice of relief from the whole, exhausting experience.
The same mindset applies to the unsettling and discombobulating experience of jet lag. ‘This too shall pass’ is a helpful phrase at 2.30am when your body has decided that the night has officially ended and it is now party time. The problem is that around 12 hours later your body will also have decided that it is now sleep time when your mind is telling you it is now party time!
We all develop our little tricks to outfox the body when we haul it across multiple time zones but let’s be honest, whatever we do we really are simply tinkering around the edges. All we are doing is attempting to make the brutality of the bodyshift a little more tolerable.
So, in the end it becomes a practice in both flow and patience.
I find that travel reinforces certain beliefs and challenges others.
Not judging this as good or bad, it is refreshing to learn how other cultures tackle the same problems and issues when abroad. Different strokes for different folks! Some do things worse than us, some do things better than us. Some simply do it differently to us.
That’s travelling with one’s eyes and ears open. Australia has re-opened to the world. Can each of us do the same?