Travelling abroad will shift your mindset, expand your consciousness and permanently alter your outlook on life. Experiencing other lands and cultures is an adventure that opens many doors (not just geographically, but also doors of our mind and hearts) as well as presents us with some life changing paradoxes.
Paradox 1: other cultures are radically different to your own yet strangely familiar.
You’re in a foreign land. You tread carefully as you slice your way through an Indian slum as if carving messy incongruent puzzle pieces. It’s brightly coloured, with smells of spice, humidity and charcoal that creates a haze.
This haze seems to carry an ancient Sanskrit tune sung from a local temple through the evening air as you navigate past goats, cows and curious stares. You expect it to be filthy yet beautiful women in saris stand in improvised doorways sweeping their homes with pride. Inside a family sits on cushions, gathering around a TV, watching cricket, cheering at a crucial moment.
Men sit on a bench under the shade of a tree, reading the newspaper as kids laugh and play, chasing each other through a labyrinth of alleyways that only a local could navigate.
You get invited to play street cricket and you do, laughing and talking with the locals. This is followed by a dinner invite into the smallest house you’ve ever seen in your life for masala tea and curry. You realise this tiny house amidst the sprawling slums is so different from your own, yet the familiarities of playing cricket, watching TV, hospitality and good food and smiles are universal. It’s so foreign yet as familiar, like a mirror image of your own world in another dimension.
Paradox 2: you realise you own insignificance yet importance in this world.
One of the aspects that affects you most when travelling through foreign countries is witnessing daily life. While that may sound mundane, there’s nothing quite like watching another culture’s daily rituals to feed your curiosity.
Watching others carry out their daily customs, cooking and eating exotic foods and engaging in traditions so foreign creates a deep realisation. In this moment, you realise that your way, your culture, your whole life up until now is only one way of living. One out of millions of different pathways on this planet to experience life.
Yet, at the same time, you become patriotic and realise the importance and love for your own tradition and customs and realise that your way of life adds to the incredible, diversity of this planet’s collective consciousness.
These paradoxes open your mind and your heart. You begin to realise that, overall, most people value the same things. Health, safety, protection and enough money to live. Whilst, depending on where you are in the world, your beliefs and actions you take to meet these values may vary radically, you realise that we are all swimming with the tide of life and all have struggles and accomplishments along our journey.
When you return home, you appreciate your life more. Especially, if your way of life is easier than what you’ve witnessed. This has the effect of opening your heart to others and being more tolerant of your own minor problems and complaints.
Most importantly, you realise that there is no ‘other’ in cultures and the world. There is just us, the human race. Whatever your culture in life, we’re all doing our best swimming in the tide of our global collective consciousness and any concept of ‘other’ is an illusion created by closed minds and hearts that have not yet been opened and unlocked forever by travel.