We are creatures of habit. In our “normal” life, we get used to what is, accept it as our everyday life, and rarely attach a value of good or bad for our joy/well-being/satisfaction/fulfilment or question whether this is what we want. Most of what you experience you already know, you have seen it before, which is why time flies by, sometimes at breath-taking speeds (it’s already summer?).
There are amazing benefits of travel:
- you leave your comfort zone
- you enter new worlds and have the opportunity to be curious and experience them like a child
- you are confronted with new challenges in terms of logistics, language, communication,… – and it feels great to master themyou can open your mind to take in new inspirations
- you find new stuff you love
- you will miss and appreciate things you have at home
- you make new friends
- you can let your love and passion run freely
- you see many different models / concepts of how people live a happy life
- you open all your senses to new sights, smells, tastes, feels, sounds…
- you get an opportunity to reflect what is truly important for you, for what brings you joy
- you can let go of all the day-to-day pressures and demands you think the world at home puts on you, and worry about nothing
- you can enter a zone of seemingly endless meditation
When you face these new situations, you are usually approaching them with a clean slate: as they are new to you, they have not been associated with a value or feeling from you. As it is a primary experience, it can elicit all kinds of emotions from fear of death to amazement to anger to pure joy…
This is what the Barbados experience has felt like:
GLASS HALF EMPTY
It is hot, way too hot. Humid. I am sweating constantly, my clothes are soaked and clinging to my body, and starting to smell. Our luggage has not arrived and I have no clothes to change into, no books, no games, no toothbrush, no surfboard, no kite. The roads are congested. It is incredibly hard to navigate a car, as even with physical or google maps the system of roads seems utterly complex and horribly designed. The roads are badly maintained, full of potholes, sometimes too narrow, especially in moments when buses come at you at full speed. Driving through the little neighbourhoods here in the Southern part of Barbados, we see a lot of abandoned and half-finished buildings, garbage piled up, old cars. Shady looking men are hanging around with beer bottles in front of dimly lit shacks which have been installed as make-shift bars. After what seemed like a long drive we find a supermarket, which is nicely stocked, but we are shocked: prices are astronomical. Back at our house, we find that there is no air-conditioning in our rooms. The wind blows through the window but it is either too strong or not strong enough – impossible to regulate. We head to down to the beach, the ocean is rough and has a strong under-current, I am scared to swim, and dying from the heat. For kitesurfing you need enough wind to fight against the strong current. The heat is exhausting, I feel like sleeping all the time. The tropical climate is giving me a headache. I applied lots of 50 SPF sun screen when I explored the beach, but the same evening I discover a heavy sunburn on my shoulders, nose and back. It hurts, looks bright red, and prevents me from going outside. As the sun sets early, and there is no life around our beach house, we sleep early – or should we say we try to sleep. There is a penetrating loud sound, as if from a creaking old air conditioner, fire alarm, industrial machine. It turns out it originates from cicadas chatting to each other, and they seem to do this all night. At approximately 3 am they are joined by the local rooster who is trying to ensure that each and every member of the local community is aware of his presence and that morning is approaching rapidly (meaning in 4 hours). We wake up way too early (it gets light around 5 am) to the loud sound of heavy rain thumping on our tin roof, accompanied by heavy winds. Our clothes which we hung up to dry on the balcony are soaking wet within minutes. We are stuck in our apartment, with nothing to do. I want to go home!!!
GLASS HALF FULL
I arrive in Barbados with no expectation and very little information. From the time I get of the plane I open my senses. The first thing that hits me is the hot humid air, it feels like it is embalming my skin. I love the feeling of wearing very little day and night, mostly just board shorts. The salty warm air touches my skin. To cool off I jump in the ocean or take a cool shower. The local fresh water comes up through basalt rock and is of excellent drinking quality. Our luggage has not arrived and I have no clothes to change into – I make an interesting discovery: at first I get a sense of loss and need, but when I dive deep, there is really nothing you need here, literally board shorts, a rash shirt, flip flops, and a tooth brush. We have been provided with the opportunity to feel life with less physical possessions than we have fingers on our hands. Brian the legendary waterman has all the toys for playing in the water that we need: Naish surf boards of all sizes, twin tip and directional boards and Naish kites from 8m to 12m. We love exploring our neighbourhood in our little car on the sketchy roads, getting a glimpse of what life is like on the island. We see families and smiles, irrespective of the size or condition of the house. In general, driving reflects the life spirit here: very chilled and friendly – cars will stop and let you in, allow pedestrians to pass. Locals gather and chill in dimly lit shacks which have been installed as make-shift bars, there is a friendly chilled atmosphere. The Bajan accent is a bit hard to understand for us, but after a few beers we get into the groove. In fact, everyone we meet seems to be friendly and helpful and chilled. We get a senses that this island has a real community, people here help each other, hang out socially, make life enjoyable. The first day I come down to meet some of Brian’s crew and express the fact that we are bit slow today, upon which I get the response: “Finally” – this really says it all: tourists come from their life in the city and it takes time for them to adjust to the rhythm of slowness, to become chilled. Food is expensive but also offers a lot of yummy options – we find it easy to make smoothies, veggie curries, eat fresh stuff from the island. The restaurants offer massive plates of potatoes, rice, flying fish, chicken. We also find a raw juice bar and a vegan restaurant with yummy choices. At the gas station, we are greeted by friendly smiles from girls in their 20s with beautiful hair – I have never seen a gas station like this in my life. At the stalls we get fresh mangoes and coconuts. The air is hot, but since we got here the wind has never stopped, ranging from a gentle breeze to a heavy storm. I love the sensation of warm wind on my skin, in my face, in my hair. It keeps the mosquitos away and keeps me cool at night. The ocean is rough and has a strong under-current, but it is fun to play in the beach break, jumping into big waves crashing onto the beach. For kitesurfing you need enough wind to fight against the strong current, and we quickly get the hang of it. Most days there is plenty of wind to not have to worry about the current. The kite spot at silver sands turns out to be a dream, with a large lagoon and a great set of waves up to mast high outside on the reef. Brian introduces us to what must be one of the best family surf breaks in the world: Freights just a 5 min drive away. Gentle waves protected from the wind, no current, peeling nicely from right to left, and plenty of space to play around, some waves last over a minute. Per surf session we meet about 20-30 local turtles that pop up to say hello, sometimes just a few meters awayThe ocean is turquoise in front of white sand and warm, the perfect manifestation of a tropical dream beach setting. The sun is strong, so we protect our skin with rash shirts and sunscreen and cooling aloe vera at night. The cicadas singing keep reminding us we are in a new and exotic place, and after the first night they accompany our sleep rather than wake us. The sensation or tropical rain is a welcome cooling, I fully give in to the sensation of warm drops of water hitting my skin. Even better is a tropical rain in the surf lineup. It is a beautiful spectacle to watch the little impact waves each drop makes, the body senses a cool shower in between waves. In the evenings we head down to the beach, feel the warm wind, and get immersed in our meditation and yoga exercise. My mind is empty, free and ready for inspiration…
As you may have guessed, the GLASS HALF FULL has been our experience. And the FULL section has a lot more content simply because you open your senses. And yes, that is an incredibly yummy green smoothie with fresh mango banana pineapple and spinach, and an incredibly sweet birthday cake.
All it took to get the half full version was a lack of expectations, a positive attitude, and willingness to open your senses to see feel touch hear stuff. Most of the time when I travel, I feel like a little boy, driven by curiosity and amazed by wonder…