Unexpected lessons I learned from traveling in 2017
I have been absent because I have not been inspired. Perhaps that is somewhat my own fault. This should be a happy time of year, and it is, but sometimes it is stressful and lonely and I'd like it to be less of that. Sometimes that is all one's mindset though, so I am going to work on it not being stressful and lonely for me.
I visited 4 new countries this year and 6 total. For a recap, the new ones were Panama, Colombia, Denmark, and the Faroe Islands. I revisited Iceland and Canada. I travel to meet people and experience other countries and to see the world, but sometimes I learn some timely, important life lessons because of my connections with people. So I will share two lessons that I've learned this year.
What I liked most about Panama, and this is probably true of Central America as a whole, is that people on the street greet one another with a simple "buenos" as they pass, regardless of whether they know them or not. This is just a shortened version of buenos dias (good morning) and is nice way to acknowledge someone as you're passing them. I'm not the most outgoing person, I don't usually strike up conversations or say good morning or hello to people I don't know unless I have a reason to do so or if we are currently doing an activity where we naturally will have a conversation starter. For example, I will talk to people I don't know in a running club or at anything circus-related. But I want more greeting people in my life. I personally like when people smile at me, it is nice, regardless of whether I'm having a good or bad day. I'm going to start acknowledging people with at least a smile and maybe a greeting, depending on the time of day. I think this is one thing I can do that might inspire others to do the same, or at least bring them a little bit of cheerfulness that they might pay forward. Life is better when we are nicer to one another.
The Faroe Islands
One of the best parts of my Faroe Islands trip was befriending a very nice couple from Stockholm, named Desiree and AnnCharlott. We met while trying to explore Nolsoy on a very rainy day and we ended up drinking in the only bar on Nolsoy with a bunch of locals. They invited me to join them on a puffin watching trip to the westernmost island of Mykines the following day and I happily accepted. While we were in the bar on Nolsoy though, we were talking to a local and the conversation ultimately turned to politics, he had been teasing me by saying "Make America Great Again" after learning I was American. The local Nolsoy man, who was probably my age, was discussing the Faroe Islands relationship with Russia and Putin. And AnnCharlott and Desi (Desi grew up in Finland) obviously had strong opinions about Russia. They had a very interesting and heated discussion but no one raised a voice, no one insulted, no one left in a huff, and everyone listened. I was floored. In the current political climate in the United States, it is very difficult to have a political discussion that doesn't become a name calling argument with someone who doesn't agree with you. It shouldn't be difficult. Even though I know it will be insanely difficult, we have to talk to each other without being angry or hurling insults. I know it is hard, but the two sides are so far apart right now, some civility is important.
So I guess my 2017 lessons should ultimately translate into mantras for 2018. Be nicer, greet one another, discuss with patience and understanding.