So many people are living for the rush of some idea of a future that isn’t grounded in the right now. A future holiday. A future job. A future home. A new smart phone. And they forget to live in the meantime.
Like the ancient Pharaohs, it’s almost like a lot of people are stashing possessions for an afterlife – but in a twisted way that will just see them dried up, albeit pretty, corpses (maybe even before they die). Even the concept of a bucket list of travel experiences is used in this way, it’s not about enriching our experience through our lives, but towards some mythical end of life experience (which for many is too late). I think we need to dump the idea of a bucket list and change it to the “Grateful heart list”.
In mentioning the Pharaohs, I mean no disrespect to Egyptian culture, I’ve just spent four weeks experiencing it and I love Egypt and the Egyptian people. So the comparison between the Pharaohs lifestyle and modern Western materialism is very tongue in cheek of course.
Because folks, we Westerners are definitely not Pharaohs – late stage capitalism makes us more like consumerist addicted zombies.
I realised today that I haven’t had that kind of thinking for over ten years now and just how liberating it is to be free of it.
The irony is that since I freed myself of that kind of thinking all number of things I once dreamed about, happened. Particularly in regard to travel and adventure (and on shoestring budgets too! I am far from wealthy in a material sense).
I do a running tally of all the “little” things I am grateful for every day, as much as I possibly can. This also means setting achievable goals for life’s experiences (like travel or study, not material things) that give me joy and a sense of contribution. It’s all funded through meaningful community based work (in both community services and the arts) – work that I love (not dread).
I come from a family where travelling overseas was not common. Not in my immediate family. My Dad travelled to fight in World War II (he would be 95 his coming April if he was still alive) but for many of the generations before me, they didn’t get to travel like I do. *I need to add that when I travel, I do not do “tourism”. I use responsible and ethical travel options, homestays, support local economies and try and keep my carbon footprint as low as I can. I do not do checklists of places to “say I have been there” and try to avoid hanging around in “cliques of foreigners”. I spend time with local people and immerse myself as much as I can for as long as I can (usually four – twelve weeks).
Basically for the past three generations in my family – they travelled to (potentially) die in a war, migrate to another country, or flee a fascist regime. They then built a life for themselves and future generations. However for me I had to abandon the things they prized once settled in a place to achieve a more privileged form of travel.
I don’t have a mortgage and I don’t aim to own the latest in anything. Happily, willingly. When I move house it’s two small cars worth of moving. I could pack up tomorrow and be in whatever location I desire, still earn good money and still contribute to any community.
I realise I am very privileged in this sense. I hope that my contribution to the world will mean that generations after me take what I have for granted. That is indeed my hope.
However I don’t own much. What I do own is:
- A heart full of respect for other people and their culture/s,
- A passionate desire to see the world find some peace with itself,
- A sense of joy at the beautiful little things all around me each and every day,
- An appreciation of nature and it’s gifts,
- A wealth of great stories about fantastic places and people,
- Language skills in six languages now (from beginner to intermediate),
- An ability to problem solve and feel good about my contribution to the world,
- A university education (again something my immediate family were not privileged enough to be afforded), and,
- A life filled with intelligent thoughtful work, art, comedy, writing, regular travel and adventure.
I don’t own a bucket list. I threw that idea out with the ‘before you kick the bucket” bucket it came in.
What I do own is a grateful heart. Let me rephrase that another way too.
A GREAT FULL heart.