Mindful Wanderlust

by - 3:46 PM

People are not their politics. None of us have any right to hold prejudice or judgment against a people group or a country until we actually take the time to explore the place for ourselves, get to know the people, and try to understand the culture and history. 

Again and again, I'm learning that travel isn't just about going places. It's about taking the opportunity to break the barriers of misconception and prejudice, to see for yourself what life is like for different people, to expose what the media portrays a certain place or people to be. This is the thing that I find most fascinating when I go places. Although I may just be passing through, I'd like to stay long enough to allow the people to touch my life in some kind of way - to illuminate my thinking, to provoke me to new understanding. Travel isn't about going on another holiday. For me, it really is about challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone. Ever since I stepped foot in Australia six years back, I had told myself, I never want to stay in a place long enough to become so comfortable that I turn complacent - without even realizing it!

The direction you take in life is really determined by your intention. There's a great deal of power in intention, because it is driven by the will. If you do not live, travel, work, play and serve others with intention, you'll only be happy when things go alright, but crumble when things go wrong. You'll be wandering from one thing to the next, or even focused on doing the same thing, in the same place, with the same people, over and over again and expecting different results - but you won't really get anywhere, both on the inside and outside. And that, my friend, is a kind of insanity.

I think traveling is the coolest thing ever, but I'm not an advocate of living the backpacker life all your life and traveling indefinitely. Really. I don't believe in that. Personally, I would get bored. Without a purpose for traveling, I would honestly fall into the void of depression along the way!

I remember the turning point came for me when I realized this truth and it came to me in a moment of lucidity. I was traveling in Bangkok with my family two years ago. My sisters and mom were all shopping-crazed. They loved looking at all the stuff in shops and markets (and Thailand is pretty cray when it comes to this kinda' stuff - colourful, pretty, fashionable, intricate, everything!). After two days of going around with them, I finally said, 'Enough! I'm sick of following you guys around, this is such a waste of time and money, and I'm not traveling all the way just to go shopping!' I don't know, but I've always been like this. I can enjoy buying nice things, but I'd never, ever want to waste my time on a shopping spree - not especially when I'm in another country!

I ended up spending a lot more time with my camera in hand, observing people, walking around and taking photos. I love photography because it helps you see things a little more closely, a little more deliberately. It helps you appreciate the culture and take in the nuances of all the sights, sounds and smells that often just passes you by in a rush of excitement. Photography slows you down and teaches you what it means to really travel, to really go places.

I've found the answer to that. It is about seeing people as they are, accepting them, and allowing them to accept you. Often we go places for self-centered and self-indulgent reasons. We just want to do what we planned to do. But we really have no interest in the people - the very people who are receiving us into their beloved country or community. And I think this disrespectful attitude - which often isn't seemingly a big deal because you're just passing through - needs to be eradicated from our mentality. It's there. You just need to be introspective enough to see it, and address it.

I'm already learning a lot from my three days in Tel Aviv, Israel. And this is only the beginning of my two-month backpacking and volunteering odyssey in this beautiful, beautiful country. In between all my goings and adventures and discoveries, I'd like to write stuff like this - reflections and musings on life, culture, art, philosophy, faith, society and everything else in between.

Again, at every opportunity I have, I'd like to thank God again for His overflowing grace and mercy - for all these crazy opportunities I've had open to me as I learnt to seek, knock and ask. In all this, I am learning to do my part in the things that only I can do (like work and save up, plan and research, ask questions and make decisions, meet and befriend people). But everything else that is out of my hands, I am also learning to trust God with and walk by faith - with eyes wide open. 

As my Dad always says, 'Faith isn't a leap in the dark, faith is a leap in the Light.' You may not always know what the end result will be, but you must know what the challenges and risks are ahead - and yet still take the leap, with God's help. That's why they sing the song, 'By the grace of God go I.' And now, with that, I totally identify! 

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