I recently read Aleph by Paulo Coelho. My first book by Paulo. And the book was quite impressive. His storytelling is excellent, his style intriguing, and best of all, the stories make you think of your own life. More of what’s needed in the world, I think. For me, I post blogs, to clear my thinking. This post, then, is a statement to the ability of Paulo’s writing to encourage me to think. Several discussion topics are suggested at the end of the book—a feature more authors should consider—one of which captured my attention while reading. Paulo wrote:
“We human beings have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we’re always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn’t act as we should have. Or else we think about the future, about what we’re going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don’t want and how to get what we have always dreamed of.”
Hum! do we? Do people avoid the present this much? Worry to this degree? I think for many the answer is yes. However, those with greater confidence, greater levels of self-esteem, the focus on the present is much much greater. And in the present, we think about using our abilities, and our reaction to those events we readily understand that are out of our control. When events occur, and certainty exist, we focus our thoughts on what we learned from the experience, and how we would adjust our skills and efforts—our knack for living life. And to what do we aim, well that’s a mixture of the person, for many people its the dreams Paulo writes of, but for others, and I work to include myself in this group, the aim is for a proper balance in our relationships: self, work, family, community.
In his time of struggle, and all of us have these, Paulo sets off on a journey to discover and energize himself. Travel and vacation are commonly prescribed solutions. I’ve recently had several great adventures precisely because I’ve traveled and allowed myself to discover, rather than travel to see some monument. No checklist of things to see, places to go, nor artifacts to collect have been included on my trail. Some people find it disappointing when they ask, “What did you see on your trip to Brazil?”
And I reply, “I spent time with my friends, my Brazilian family. I took the train and bus everyday to class, I studied, I even, on occasion, helped Vitoria with her homework.” For many this ends the conversation. A welcome relief for the both of us, because I didn’t take the time away to come back an entertain, nor did I go to become a testimonial for your travel. I went for my self discovery, and to create the proximity with my family, I traveled to improve my life.
Thus, travel taken appropriately can be full of self discovery. A trip separates you from your routine. The determinate, however, is not the separation, but what you do with the lack of demands and expectations that are your routine. The choices are a) worry about the past, b) contemplate some material achievement, or c) experiment and enhance your knack for living. I enjoyed the later in my trips to Cuba and Brazil in 2011. The opportunity to observe and inquire of others about life, to step into another culture seeking appreciation and understanding, and to become trustworthy enough so that strangers are willing to share, these are the activities that enhance your life. Me, I still have lots to learn about balancing life’s relationships. My journey will continue.