Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When you learn more by drinking a cup of tea than by going to a museum

This past month I have briefly visited two countries and met old friends there. One of the things I am enjoying most lately is that (more or less successfully at times) I can combine my business trips with visits to my friends.

Indeed, one of the advantages of intense and/or frequent travels is the new things you learn in the new locations. But far from learning just from the guide books, museums, and the alike, you learn from the people surrounding you. The inanimate objects are important parts of a cultural legacy, but they lack the intensity people offer us when telling their own stories. It is always possible to learn historical, sociological, philosophical, and artistic remarks or lessons from the inert witnesses, but it is more intense and magic to get wisdom from the alive, from those who experience and interpret those facts with their minds and hearts.
My approach to learning is integrative in nature. A book will give me an objective fact; a person will give me his/her own impression. I do not see why I should renounce any of these sources of knowledge. Books and people are my true companion means: both give me the pleasure of learning and both give me the pleasure of enjoying life. So I learn about cultural differences and similarities reading and listening.

A visit to a new city gives you a lot of opportunities in terms of cultural and leisure activities. But then it is impossible to get all of it in a short trip. All the must-see and must-do activities proposed in guide books or tourism leaflets are too much for me. If the purpose is to enjoy, one must avoid rushing from one museum to another, from one beautiful statue to the next park to walk through. This time I have skipped a few ones, not only because I had not much spare time, but also because I failed to check when the museums I wanted to visit were not open. But instead I have talked to old friends and met a few new people. And I have got the reward of those instants. I have laughed, danced, eaten, had a bath, and walked with them. I have had lively chats, calm conversations about the trivial and the transcendental, and I have had tea just looking at the sunset in silence with my friends. I had not seen some of them for the last four years, for a year or for a few months; and some others were new in my life. The experience could not have been more enjoyable. Who cares about the "stones" not visited this time? My friends have brought me more joy and it will remain in my heart for quite a while.

No wonder sometimes it is difficult for me not to miss airplanes back home when travelling. I would stay forever enjoying the company of those who are also part of my life, those who make this so meaningful. Internet seems to make all of us connected because we can chat and be in touch with them very easily. But I still value those moments in which you can touch/cuddle, enjoy silently your friends’ presence, and see their smile and/or laugh face-to-face.

I consider myself a privileged for sailing in this ship, no matter what the final destination is. There ain't rough sea when the captain is brave and the lands in the horizon (and their inhabitants) so appealing.