There are places and people that change our lives forever. I think that all experiences no matter how big or small, have an impact in our lives. No matter how big or small the events are, they still count. I don’t know if the last seven years of my life have been the most evolutionary or it is just that I have become more aware in the last seven years.
In these last seven years, I have had the opportunity to travel more. Some of these travel experiences have changed my life dramatically and so, traveling has become addicting. El Camino de Santiago, and my recent trip to China are the highlights. The funny thing is, how it is that I came to reflect on this. It was brought to my attention at the comment of one of my closest friends. We were talking on the phone, we had not yet seen each other since my return and she said to me; “There’s two times when I have seen you come back changed from your trip.One was when you did the Camino and now upon your return from China.” I thought her observation to be very interesting because I had not yet had the opportunity to sit with her and talk about my experience in China.
Yet she could sense the change in me. My friend and I are so alike, we understand each other at a deeper level. So much so, we can recognize the slightest change in each other.
Change is a process. We only realize it when the differences are evident; but consider the compilation of smaller events, soon forgotten, that add up and lead us to the next turning point. Sometimes these small moments make the biggest change and yet go unnoticed. I think this is the effect China had on me. It was a compilation of small events that led to resurfacing of feelings and finally have taken me to a new turning point. I feel my soul has grown a few inches taller.
I can’t really explain why China. I can only gather some observations made on the culture but most importantly my feelings and reactions to the way things worked around me while I was there. I guess looking back now, when I compare it to the camino I can see some similarties. In both journeys, I found myself fighting or resisting to the system in place. The first week of the camino I was sick of walking for over 20 km daily and kept complaining. I asked myself what the hell was I thinking? Until finally, a week after, I just accepted everything the way it was and became a part of it. It was the same in China. I resisted at first because I found everything completely different to all I knew. I felt like misunderstood foreigner.
I went through phases. First the excitement of seeing my friends, witnessing their wedding and being able to add another exotic and cool experience to my list of adventures. Soon I ventured to other cities on my own with confidence, as I am so accustomed to doing. At the sight of the first challenge, I freaked. For the first time in my life, I found myself lost in translation, lost without guidance, and I felt completely helpless. In the past I have had some rough experiences to say the least, yet I never felt helpless before. I wanted to stay in my hostel room and crawl into bed in fetal position. I wanted to cry and come back home to the safety of all I know. But thank the Lord for smartphones and Google. With those tools, a day’s mental rest, and some resolution I ventured out again. I didn’t want to miss out on seeing what I had set my intention to, and of trying the foods I wanted to try. In short, I refused to not have the full experience. The challenges are also part of it.
While I was there, another friend that was keeping up with my instagram posts asked me what had been the most surprising or unexpected thing I had experienced? I said, everything. Everything has been unexpected and therefore, surprising; about the culture and about myself. My own reactions to the environment there. In my reply I also said that if I had to choose one word to describe the whole of the experience, I would choose humbling. Now that I had more time to reflect upon it I can also say that, among other things, the experience was also liberating in some aspects. I found myself resisting somewhat to the circumstances, until I finally gave in and surrender and everything flowed perfectly after that. It was in the moments where I was completely helpless, that my needs where suddenly met. Help came in suddenly and in the most unexpected ways. I realize no one would help if I could take care of it myself. Yet when I surrender and allowed myself to be vulnerable and helpless the universe provided.
When I was doing the Camino, I met a woman who would say, “whatever you need, Camino provides.” I understood what she was saying at the time, but it was not until much later that I realized the depth of her words. In the same way Camino provided, the universe provides in whichever path I choose to take. But provisions only come when they’re needed. I can be a superhero, or ask to be saved by one. Neither answer is right or wrong, is a matter of what are needs are at a given moment.
For me it was an awakening with a feeling of extreme gratitude. In many cases very emotional. Even if it was a small scenario where anyone else would’ve just said thank you and smile; I became emotional over it because it was unexpected to me. It was all surprising to me not because I didn’t believe it could happen, but because I never allowed to happen to me. May b e it is something I could’ve learned at home or anywhere else in the world; but may be, I just had to be in a place where I couldn’t speak the language, be completely helpless or at least, I thought I was. Something that was completely different to evoke these feelings and challenges and be able to overcome them by simply surrendering. It was not about overcoming the challenge with knowledge, and/or being strong. Instead it was by surrendering and allowing myself to be the way I am at that moment, unchanged, not judge and without judging.
And this is what has made China extremely special for me…4 days to my return, I felt I belonged and that I had been there before. I hope to return in the near future.