I think I found this article in Matador Network at the beginning of this year and I saved it because I knew I was going to read it again. Today, was that day. Beautiful words.
Open-minded is one thing, but being openhearted takes us to a whole other level.
Travel opens us up to other ideas, cultures, and ways of living life – this is something we all know, and more than likely is a part of the “why” we travel.
But lately I’ve been contemplating what it actually means to be open. “Open-minded” is the phrase most often associated with being receptive to that which we don’t necessarily believe or relate to, or even to that which makes us uncomfortable. But I want to reclaim a word used less often: openhearted.
Interestingly (at least to me), Merriam-Webster defines openhearted first as “candidly straightforward”, and second as “responsive to emotional appeal”. Candidly straightforward is not what I’m going for here – seems a very Western approach to a heartfelt function, doesn’t it? Instead, I think being openhearted is literally about opening your heart to that which is given – or plopped – in front of you.
I think the reason I’ve recently thought so much about being openhearted is because mine tends to get stuck in halfway closed mode. Call it life beating you over the head, or just a deeply-ingrained personality quirk, but I keep myself safeguarded. It’s seemingly easier to survive with a little protection cup over your heart.
I’ve written in the past about how you can heal a broken heart through travel. But what I’ve realized, as I begin to look back over 2009, is that I love to travel because this is the time my heart finds itself fully open to life and the world around me.
It’s almost a survival mechanism in reverse – in order to “make it” in an unfamiliar place, the walls have to come tumbling down. Sure, basic precautions around safety are a must, but the reality is, you must often rely on people you don’t know that well to make it through.
Preconceived notions (or delusions) fly out the window when it’s dark and you’ve just stepped off the plane in Dar Es Salaam without a clue of where to go. Or when the winding streets of Venice keep leading you back to the same place – nowhere near your hostel. You’re forced to ask for help.
Maybe those notions leave fastest of all when you stay up all night talking to someone you meet just hours before, revealing tidbits of both beauty and ugliness you’ve never told anyone.
Travel (of a particular kind) not only forces us out of our comfort zone, it pries open the lid under which our true self – one inextricably linked to all those with whom we share this Earth – has a chance for outward expression.
I snuck in a couple of months of travel around the US this year, and as I sit here settled for a bit, I recognize the luck in feeling that sacredness. It can be a bit hard to recreate “at home”, with all of the directions life likes to pull us, but I’m working on it.
Taking chances when the door is slightly ajar, meditating on a feeling of spaciousness in your chest, simply stopping to chat with the neighbor you’ve never spoken with before – life really is just about possibility.
Leave it to a Poet
As I was writing this, a friend posted the poem The Journey by Mary Oliver that expresses the sentiment more eloquently than I ever could:
One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice – though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. “Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do – determined to save the only life you could save.
Buildings. Tall ones. VERY tall ones. That’s the first thing that struck me of NY. Yeh, I know it’s a cliché, but they were really tall! We took a cab from La Guardia to what was going to be our home for the next 6 days: Chelsea/Meatpacking District (we are still not sure).
Cabs in NY have GPS. Shocker.
High Line Park was a few blocks away from our so called “home”. Amazing place. I didn’t know of its existence (this happened to me throughout the trip).
After discovering the many important and surprising characteristics of our neighbourhood (delis, pubs, the greatest concentration of gay-frequented restaurants, cute boys) we decided that it was time to recover strength from a long day of walking.
Nachos, Chicken wings and cabbage with cream cheese ¿? <—— We had never seen something of the sort but it was very tasty! And of course, Sam Addams. I don’t know if it’s a popular brand in the States, but we sure loved it.
- When you go to any bar, restaurant in the States (I suppose this happens during the Summer), the first thing the waiter brings to the table, besides the menu, is a glass of filled-with-ice cold water. And he/she refills it every 7 minutes. Excellent idea.
Ahhhh…qué feo que es volver a la rutina después de semejante viaje. Todo me parece aburrido, insignificante. Es como si hubiese estado en una montaña rusa por 2 semanas y de repente, desapareció. Es muy loco tener experiencias nuevas (bizarrísimas) TODOS los días, y volver a… esto. ¿Se puede vivir así, experimentando semejantes emociones todos los días? ¿Hay gente que vive así? ¿Dónde? ¿Cuándo? ¡¿Quién?!
Uno se imagina que el sólo hecho de ahorrar, convencer a tus mejores amigos y tomarse un avión ya es razón suficiente para que todo sea perfecto, pero no siempre es así. Hay algo que se tiene que dar que no siempre es tan claro. Una conexión. Química. Podés ser amigo de alguien desde hace años pero ese vínculo no existe.
En el medio de esta aventura, me di cuenta cuán importante esa conexión entre amigos. Esas pequeñas cosas en común o no tanto. Esas cositas (no tan pequeñas) hicieron de este viaje increíble e inolvidable.