As I roam around meeting people I feel like a sponge- soaking in every little piece of wisdom and inspiration. Every person I meet is interesting in some way. Even the ones I have not been particularly fond of… are interesting. The guy working at the front desk, the woman on the train, the guy sitting next to you at the airport gate, the taxi driver, the flight attendant and the backpacker sleeping in the dorm bed next to you- all of them offering up some form of inspiration and a whole lot of life experience.
I take it all in eagerly. I am knowledge greedy. I’ve been this way since I can remember- always wanting to dig deeper, understand more and gather up pieces of wisdom like jewels. Knowledge is power, and wisdom is grace. I am of the belief that the more I learn, the better I can be for myself and the rest of the world. This is the heart of all the reasons I enjoy traveling. Inspiration and information come at me from all ways no matter which direction I happen to be going that day.
Take my final day in Brasov, Romania, for example. After a great few days celebrating Halloween at Dracula’s Castle it’s time to move on to my next destination. Into the cab and off to the train station I go.
My taxi driver starts out very quiet and standoffish (most would think he was being rude)- I take this as a challenge to break the ice! So I do. I crack a joke about something stupid and he laughs a little. There. Ice broken. Ha!
Then he asked me the standard [cliche] questions. “Where are you from?” California. (He frowns) “Is this your first time in Romania?” Yes. “Are you on holiday? How long?”
“No, not really a holiday,” I go on.
“I am backpacking for a long time and started out here in Europe. So far I’ve been gone a couple months.”
He shook his head disapprovingly. “Ah. I guess I understand,” he says. He’s thinking what a strange person I am- I’d imagine. I spotted an eye roll in the rearview mirror and felt criticism coming.
Interesting response to say “I understand” then act as if I were being outlandish. I chalked it up to a language/cultural barrier but knew this was about more. People have such conflicted views on the lifestyle I chose, particularly those who come from a family-oriented traditional background. Those people think I am living selfishly and erratically. He is definitely one of those people.
So then I asked him the standard questions “Are you from here? Do you like it? Have you been to California?” He said yes, yes and then no. Then he said “I have only been to Italy, but I come home because there is no place like home. I don’t need to go anywhere else.”
“Ah,” I said- judgey eyes right back at him, “I understand. I miss home but seeing the world is better.”
He replied earnestly, “You have one life. How you keep it is YOUR problem.”
We both nodded and smiled and then returned to silence. It was funny and awkward…like an exchange in a Woody Allen film.
This got me thinking…Yes, this one life. My life… my only “problem” now. I left all the others behind, after all. I realize then (for what seems like the 100th time) I made the right choice. I took ownership of my own life- my problem- and took to the road to exercise and strengthen it. Thank you taxi driver for reminding me of this. And thank you for reminding me of our fundamental differences. I am proud of them. How I keep my life is my honor and indeed, my problem.
I get out of the cab and throw on my heavy backpack and make my way into the train station with a lot of food for thought.
This life I’ve chosen isn’t normal- I suppose. Many people think I’m crazy or wild or running away from something. Many people react like that cab driver, but I no longer pay it much mind. I don’t care what they think- anymore.
Everyone has the right to choose how they live their lives. I took an extreme and untraditional path this year but it is undoubtedly the best decision of my life.
“This one life.” My “problem.”
And I’ve got this.
Are you taking control of your life….er… “problem” lately?