The Spanish gentleman pictured above is stroking his calloused finger against 6,000-year old paintings at Cueva Remigia, Spain. Such cave art stretches across swaths of Spain, and is considered, collectively, a UNESCO world heritage site.
In my last week in Spain before flying home, a group of us climbed a bright green, sun-drenched mountain to emerge an hour later at the ancient paintings pictured here! …and at first we couldn’t see a darn thing.
It took a good half hour of the guide explaining each barely perceptible streak of red paint for us to even begin to make out the various hunters, stabbed-to-death animals, and “bloody footprints” on that wall.
And now it’s analogy time!
When you return from a momentous experience, be it nine months abroad or one week of intense volunteering somewhere, at first you stare at the blank rock wall of your personality, thinking: “Grr… Despite those crazy past days, I see no changes at all in who I was!”
But oh ho ho and a bottle of evolution juice: you HAVE changed! And just as it takes the guide’s pointing finger to finally see the arrow shooting across the rock-scape at Cueva Remigia, it will take an ongoing series of situations to highlight your changed nature after you return home.
Here are some changes I’m starting to notice after 270 days circling the earth:
1.) Extreme patience for things I have no power to change.
Long lines? Being hopelessly lost for an hour? Painful traffic? After a strong dose of West Africa, Iberia, and Asia, the mind develops an ability to go to a misty trance place where time goes “purrr” and doesn’t pain one to pass.
2.) Lack of patience for things that are not good that I do have the power to change.
Aka: not putting up with ridiculous treatment.
Let’s say, hypothetically, that you were sort of dating someone before you flew out of America. When you returned home after seeing and doing so much, do you think you would put up with foolishness, disrespect, or bad behavior? A resounding “NO,” ladies, a resounding “NO!” Hypothetically, of course.
3.) New fire to work hard and do meaningful work that makes an impact.
Sightseeing and meeting new folks is AMAZING, but it clangs hollow after several weeks straight. I’m starting to smolder with excitement to get back in that classroom for summer school teaching, and to follow that with a blossoming career of fulfilling and idealistic work!
4.) Appreciation of kindness.
Constant travel is stress. It’s awesome stress, but stress nonetheless. Thus, lately, when I encounter someone who makes things easier or nicer for us all (even just by a pleasant tone of voice), a radiant sunbeam of bliss fills my soul. I feel a wave of appreciation for the power, impact, and importance of sweetness.
5.) Such a richer understanding of our world and of history.
From Vietnam War movies, to Thai restaurants, to the Ghanaian flag, to Spanish words, so much now has thick new layers of comprehension and triggered memories! Travel made everything richer, understanding-wise.
6.) Massive new adoration of home: the city, the country, the culture, and the loved ones.
Euphoric, massive appreciation of so much I took for granted before.
7.) A new calmness.
I’m not saying my wanderlust is completely out of my system (that’s as impossible as taking the crazy out of Lady Gaga), but I feel really tranquil where I am right now!
8.) A belief that the seemingly impossible can become possible with hard work, creativity, and determination.
Is it possible for fourteen Ghanaian students and four of their teachers to raise enough money to travel to London for three weeks? Yes.
Is it possible for a Thai woman to go from absolutely nothing to owning her own restaurant, all on her own? Yes.
Is it possible for a carpenter or teacher to save enough money to travel a ridiculously long time? Yes.
Do we need to put up with life situations we don’t like? No.