I met the most amazing woman at my hostel in Cusco. Canadian and every bit as polite as the stereotype says, you can feel this woman’s warmth from across the cold room. I actually saw her arrive and could feel something odd about her- in a good way. She floated by me on her way to her room. She was putting off this “zen” energy accompanied with total bliss. You become much more in tune to people’s energy and nonverbal cues when you travel. When you’re in a country that doesn’t speak your language, you’re forced to become more observant and intuitive. Just another one of the endless gifts that come from traveling, particularly longterm, but perhaps the most important gift from traveling is the people we meet. People like this woman…
She was in her fifties and staying at a hostel with a bunch of people in their twenties. A married woman with grown children who still travels solo during winters- a true rarity and someone I automatically RESPECT.
We introduced ourselves and felt immediately drawn to each other, at least I did to her.
“What about you? Where are you from?” she asked me in the breakfast room.
“United States…California to be exact. There’s a big difference between saying I’m American or a Californian, so I’ll stick to Californian. Northern California…I eat a lot of carbs and am not vegan.” (My running joke about NorCal versus SoCal girls in their twenties.) We both laughed.
“You know we’ve taken in quite a few of you Americans up in Canada!”
I half-jokingly replied, “I know…I could be next!”
As most conversations on the road do, our chatting went from shallow to deep very quickly when we got to talk about each of our global perspectives on current events in the world, and our particular sadness for the tension back in my home country and others around the world that we have seen. We connected over our mutual understanding of the human experience and the need for peace, balance and consciousness.
She was full of questions. She first asked me about my travels and why I do what I do, then dug deeper than most- like I do with people. I was caught off guard. I could so see myself in this woman. I love to ask questions of people and probe them for depth, and here we both were giving it away naturally to each other. She asked, I answered with honesty and vulnerability, whatever the question was.
You could see the pain in her eyes when I told her about the lows I experienced this year and how I’ve come out of the dark days and into the light. Tears fell down her eyes when I told her about the loss of my friend in April and my Earth shattering heartbreak in May. More tears ensued when I explained returning to my corporate career in the United States over the Summer as I tried to recover the pieces of my broken heart and backtrack to what I knew. (Spoiler alert: it did NOT work out.)
I opened the floodgates. “I traveled with the safety net of knowledge that I could always always always return to my career. I could always go home. I could always go back. Then I learned otherwise. You can’t go backwards AND live in your truth. You can’t revert and continue to grow. You can’t eliminate pain by covering it up, either, and you can’t heal without feeling pain. I know this now. I know it was all a horrible gift that’s lead me right here to where I am now…back doing what I truly love, traveling.”
Then we were both crying.
I could see she knew my pain well. She’d been through something similar and she was trying not to carry it, just like me. She was me for a moment, and I was her. I forced my tears back down, priding myself on the fact that I hadn’t cried much lately and had been getting stronger…tougher. I hated all the tears I’d already wasted on the wrong guy and the wrong job, etc. etc., I just wanted to be able to share my story without getting emotional. I immediately started to feel insecure all over again…then she shook me to the core and woke me back up again. She was an angel.
“Look at what people do with diamonds,” she said. “You don’t put a diamond up against a white light. You put it up against dark….you put it up against black. That way it shines for everyone to see. YOU are a diamond. Look at what you’ve been through, and look at you shining. Thank you for shining your light for the world and for sharing it.”
I cried again (but happy tears this time) and felt my heart swell with pride for reasons that had previously only caused pain. I am not my mistakes or my heartache, they do not define me. My pain has been a catalyst for greater good. I can see it all so clearly now.
Perhaps I needed this woman and she was an angel sent to me that morning. Looking back that’s how it feels now. She came in like a ray of sunshine lighting up a dark room and slipped away when things were set right again, probably off to share her gifts elsewhere.
Thank you, endlessly, you beautiful soul. You’ve re-inspired me and taught me a profound lesson that I’m compelled to share.
May we all be able to see the difference between the darkness and ourselves.
May we all shine brightly against the darkness.
May we all be DIAMONDS against our extreme blackness.