Leaving everything to follow our beliefs? This story tells what made me decide on a year-long project while traveling.
"We are coming to bring our boxes at around 2 pm, will you be in?" This simple phrase coming from my friends taking over my apartment is still ringing in my ears. That was a moment when I realized that this is happening. I have literally no address now ( :) ). My clothes and books are stored. My job is officially on hold. There is no way back from this crazy plan. So here I am, with my little suitcase and a backpack, with million yet unanswered questions and three tons of anxiety mixed with excitement. I must admit it is a very unusual feeling. It is like sitting on a train and not knowing where it’s headed. We know it will bring us somewhere great (here learnings). However, in the meantime, the final destination is unknown, and there is no way to stop the engine. That is a one-way ticket. This train will never take the same route to get me back precisely to the place from which I am starting today... One chapter is over. This adventure is more than just traveling and meeting people. This, for me, is a test to verify if my vision ( Goodness Virus ) of the world, one day, could become a reality or whether it is just a dream. Please bear with me :)
Wait a minute...
You must be asking yourself now: “but where is the whole idea of the project is coming from? You cannot tell me, you woke up one day and told yourself: hey, why not travel and spread some utopic ideas instead of working?” Well, you are right. There have been three key situations that led me to put in my leave of absence for a year.
The first and biggest one was doing month-long volunteering and having one short conversation with a teenager. In the past, I was involved in very short volunteering activities, one hour here or one day there. This time was different. I was about to spend one month with an organization Jocum that I found on Google. My mission at Jocum was to visit various places where homeless teenagers were residing and be of moral support for potential reinsertion into the society. I must admit I initially did that by chance. I was single and wanted to go on vacations. My friends were not available. In addition to that, I was pretty stubborn about the destination. I wanted it to be Brazil. My goal was to practice my Portuguese. So, as ugly as it sounds, I initially decided to do volunteering work to get closer to the Brazilian culture and learn the language, surrounded by local people. Volunteering popped up in my mind. It ended up being a time full of reflections and exceeded all expectations. It was a shock at the beginning, to see a reality of these young people I saw every day. It was so different from what I knew. I had a chance to have everything I wanted from my early age, while they often didn’t even have a normal bed to sleep in their entire lifetime. Yet, they are happy to be alive every morning, while me at their age, I was finding some artificial reasons why not to be. I got along pretty well not only with other volunteers ( who were sooooo..nice to accept me with my very broken language skills) but also with the teenagers themselves. They were no longer just strangers, but very fragile human beings with the same type of emotions, yet confronted with different life situations by destiny or by choice. One of them came to me before my departure. Her name was Bruna. Her eyes were always shining with enthusiasm and hope for a better future. Bruna sat next to me, took a breath and held me in her arms. She said: "Thank you so much for truly listening to me and giving me your precious time" - What? -I thought. "This is nothing!" I said. (What’s the big deal to be chatting with this full of a potential young lady and learning about her story?) In fact, I only talked to her a few times in a month. She replied:
"Maybe for you it is nothing, but for me, it meant a lot." Thanks to this conversation, I realized that something so very ordinary and effortless for me could be very beneficial for another person. It felt good :)
This one short conversation was a source for this project’s idea. It was also great to realize that during this short yet emotionally intense vacation, I could meet my initial objectives, have fun, learn a ton and still be useful. A perfect win-win situation! So, in the end, I am glad nobody was available to go with me on this vacation :) Things would have been very different.
The second factor was practicing this effortless volunteering and asking all my friends to promote this principle. That generated many further reflections. After getting back to France from Brazil, I started to look around for volunteering associations that could fit my own interests. Yes, again I was looking for something that was aligned with who I am and what I enjoyed doing. I was constrained by office work and after hours agenda which was pretty full. I wanted to be part of an organization and do regular interventions. However, I wanted it to fit my schedule. "Demanding" - you will say... :) I agree. After a few days of research, I found a few organizations that were looking for people with listening skills. A few weeks later I was already part of ASTREE. I committed to dedicating 1,5h every week at the time of my choice to have a conversation with a member of the association. I was not talking much ( like now..) during these listening sessions. I was soaking in some fascinating knowledge instead, from the two people I had a chance to accompany over a period of a year. At first, I was available on Monday evenings. Then, once this collaboration was completed, it changed to Wednesdays lunchtime right next to my office. I am glad that I shut my mouth, opened my ears and let in this precious life experience which these two gentlemen were ready to share with me. It was such a little effort for me, yet it contributed so much to the way I see the world today. You can only imagine that with my enthusiastic approach to the topic, I was sharing my experience with friends and colleagues.
It was like winning a lottery. I wanted everyone to know about it and maybe help them try it out one day. They could benefit so much! "It is just 1-2 hours of your time spent, on a regular basis, on the things you do anyway, and you can get so much out of it!" I was repeating over and over, losing my breath from excitement.
Almost everyone to whom I spoke around me liked the idea of sharing talents. The problem was mainly lack of time or ideas on what could represent value for others. In fact, our schedules are so tight that it leaves us with less and less time not only for activities or for people around us, but foremost for ourselves! We would rather spend it to take care of our family and friends. That brought me to another reflection. We do not think very often about our strengths or natural skills, and even less about taking deep care of ourselves.
What I call caring for oneself is truly listening to what we need as human beings and doing it. In other words, treating ourselves as we would treat our dearest friends.
It is much more than going for a massage or finding time for a beer while watching a game. These days, taking care of oneself is a luxury and is sometimes considered selfish. What if we were to change that dynamic while people around us did the same? What if we were to start taking care of ourselves in a healthy way? That was the final observation of this year. Listening more to our own needs and being aware of the value we are bringing to others is fundamental. The "cherish" part is based on this idea.
"What if" becomes a "when"
The third factor was a friend bringing up the right subject at the right time.
It was a warm evening in Paris. I was sipping on a glass of wine and enjoying inspiring conversations about life with a polish friend - Iwona. That night our talks turned around traveling and how popular it became over the past ten years. Many of her friends did the round-the-world trip. I always thought this is something "others" can do, but not me. Iwona looked at me surprised: "Yes, you also can.." Like if that was completely obvious for her. The final idea of the project came up a few days after this conversation. I just knew "This is it" when all of a sudden the draft of the project popped up in my head. Thanks, Iwona! :)
Life is a travel with one-way ticket
I believe we all are going through life with a one-way ticket. We were not the same people ten years ago and will not be the same in ten years from now. We continuously evolve through relationships we build, places we visit and life mistakes we make. Every day we learn something new. Cherishing and sharing is another way to keep discovering yourself and keep learning.
This trip is OUR adventure :)