Updated: Mar 9
As I lay in bed on a cold Sunday morning, I look around the room and notice that everything here is familiar to me. Out of the window, I can see the same rooftops and red bricks that I see so often that have come to no longer notice. I do not know who occupies the houses but the exterior has become a sight I know very well. I wake here each day in the same four walls and realise, there is nothing more I can learn from this space in which I call home.
I have a routine again, I go to work, in the same office with the same colleagues. Although the context can sometimes differ slightly, the conversations pretty much remain the same, day in day out. I go to the same shops, buying the same things, rarely drifting from the pattern. This way of life is safe, or at least that is how it feels.
In my garden, I grow various herbs, in particular, I’d like to introduce you to Spearmint. Mint plants will grow to fill the space they have. If given a small pot to live in they will not grow more than their allotted area. If you take that same plant out of the small pot and place it into a much larger one, you will see it grow and expand to fill its new capacity. As it grows and expands the plant itself begins to change. It becomes stronger, more condensed and full of life. The plant has more to offer, more attraction. The same thought process can also be applied to humans. We grow to fill the environment around us and in order to learn and evolve, we need to widen our horizons.
To learn something new, first, you must experience something different. Routine is safe until something unexpected happens and our safe-haven comes crashing down. A minor change in our life that was not orchestrated by us becomes a huge inconvenience. Our ability to deal with a new scenario becomes difficult because our capacity for understanding it is limited.
How can travel expand your awareness?
When you travel to a new place, a different space, you start to become aware of something different from what you have always known. The first stage of growth is when your consciousness starts to break down its walls of entrapment. This is you observing and feeling a new perspective of the world you inhabit. You start to really understand the vastness of the space you have around you. Your perception of reality changes with every new landscape and climate, new faces and languages and from here, you embark on a journey to learn about new cultures. You see other ways in which people live, thrive, suffer and solve problems. Your understanding of people is enlightened and through understanding others, you begin to understand yourself. Which inevitably leads to compassion and self-growth.
In February 2016, I was in Mexico City. Pollution filled the air, whilst on the ground, hoards of people were rushing by, moving in hast to get on with their life. I was on my way to meet a tour bus that would take me to Teotihuacan, an ancient pyramid city, 30 miles north-east of the city. I was quite early so I crossed the road to buy a coffee whilst I waited. Back then, I used to smoke cigarettes and as I stood at the meeting point in the Plaza del Zócalo, I lit my cigarette and took a sip of my coffee. Yuck, I moaned as I spat the coffee out, “what a waste of money!” The minibus pulled up and I put the cigarette into the still full, coffee cup and chucked it in the bin. I hopped on the bus and took my seat next to the window.
A few moments later, a man in tattered clothes and no shoes walked by carrying what looked to be his only possessions. He then proceeded to look through the bin. I watched as he pulled out my coffee cup and his face lit up with excitement, realising the cup was still warm. He lifted the lid up only to see my rotten cigarette floating on the top. His face fell in disappointment, his illusion shattered. What happened next horrified me at first, the man then scooped the cigarette out of the cup and began drinking the coffee. Initially, his actions appalled me, how could he do that? Then the reality kicked in and just like that, my thought turned into disgust at myself.
I realised at that moment that not only was I ungrateful for the fact I had been able to purchase the coffee, to begin with, I was also blindly unaware of how my actions would affect those around me. As I continued on my travels, I become more mindful of the people I passed, observing and listening without judgement and my awareness began to widen and grow in the same way as the mint plant.
I learned more about myself in 6 months of travel than I did in the 29 years that came before it. It taught me how to really live my life in the way I want to, while still holding kindness and respect for others. I was able to recognise when a change was necessary, like this morning. I woke up knowing that in order to pursue my next dream, I had to re-position myself in the game.
Travel can bring new insight into your awareness. You come to realise that you are the queen on the chessboard, able to move any number of squares vertically, horizontally or diagonally and that this conscious power will ensure you will always be able to find opportunities that lead you into the life you want to live.
Written by Chloe Gosiewski - The Travelling Cat - TEDx