Posts Tagged With: thankful

7 years ago today…

What were you doing on this exact date 7 years ago? I was zipping up my backpack to load up before my mom dropped me off at the Sacramento airport for the first day of an unpredictable journey around the world. I can recall having no fear or at least no hesitation in the adventure I was about to embark on. Just excitement and a new found enthusiasm for life!

As each year unfolded and my passport filled to the rim (with about 80 stamps!) I encountered new friends, adopted cultural traditions and continued to allow my mind to expand. Sometimes it’s surreal when I look back on the photos as it usually feels like I’m talking about someone else from a book I read or movie I saw. If you want to see a clear layout with links of my first exciting year on the road, take a look at the 2012 archives!

I was going to make this post about some of my favorites from around the world, cuisine, music, architecture, etc. but as I began to write I felt more drawn to explore what kind of lessons I gathered from a variety of places. Could be that I’m 9 months pregnant and my sensitive hormones are on high, or simply because I’ve never really stopped to ask myself such a question.

So Erika, where did you learn some significant lessons and how did you walk away from it a better person?

PERU – Although I visited several different cities throughout the country, a little village has always stood out to me. I rarely go back to a place I’ve been, but the magnetic pull was too strong for me to ignore in Huambutio. I was invited to volunteer there in a variety of things from teaching English to painting walls, cooking and even to coach gymnastics.

The lesson here was simple, appreciation for the simple things.

Sounds obvious or cliche, but there were a few events that triggered this conscious thought. First was the toothpaste. We taught the kids how to make their own toothpaste (that they got to take home) and the importance of dental health. The enthusiasm and gratitude they showed was outstanding! Something we may all take for granted or even see as a thoughtless item we look for on sale at Target, but these children guarded their portion like it was gold. Makes me wonder if they had ever used any… ever. Next was meal time. The children’s breakfast everyday was 1/2 of a hard boiled egg with a scoop of plain oatmeal (not your Starbucks brown sugar, toasted nut and cranberry shenanigans, but warm oats and water). We would divide an apple into 1/8 slices in order for everyone to get a bite as a snack and occasionally got to accompany it with a few pieces of toasted corn. Lunch and dinner was whatever we picked that day from the garden. A clear memory I have was the evening they said we were goin to make corn bread. Now, I was aware enough to not aimlessly look for a box of ready make Betty Crocker, but I was on the scout for cornmeal and the rest of the ingredients. I can’t remember how long they let me look before informing me that we actually have to go pick the corn to start the process. After I was done blushing, off to the garden we went! An experience that made every bite of that bread savored as if we had spent hours preparing it… because we did!

I suppose all of this hit me harder than I was expecting when I flew out of Peru into the states to visit family. My first stop was Dallas, Texas… home of everything huge! I had my apple bits, a few nuts and some cash to get me buy as I plopped down in the food court during my layover at the airport. A family sat next to me who didn’t go out of their way to be discreet. The children were clearly mad at the toy they got in the happy meal, a meal that they didn’t want to finish for whatever reason. After fits and French fries on the floor, the meals went into the garbage. I’m not claiming that we need to starve to appreciate fullness, or go without toothpaste to love a good sale at Target. I will admit however, that I may have judged this situation in the moment, but looking back now it was an opportunity that invited me to reflect on my own behavior. Had I carelessly disposed of food that could of been leftovers or compost? How many times did I complain, especially as a child, about the items in front of me with no gratitude that I even had options!?

Moving from food to activity, we ventured to the outdoor area and I was pleasantly surprised at the creative use of items that would typically land in the trash. Used plastic containers, snack wrappers, laundry bottles, juice boxes, warm out shoes and more. I loved it!

This experience as a whole opened a new part of my character to this day (even ask those close to me), it’s left me very aware of waste, unnecessary abundance and a love for keeping things simple. I am that weirdo that has 1/4 of an apple in my fridge with full intentions of eating it. I order a to-go box with my meal whenever we enjoy the luxury of eating out. I choose not to go to Costco and buy a village sized pack of paper plates on sale because I “might” need them someday. By no means am I claiming some sort of award winning lifestyle, just sharing the lesson that 7 years later still sticks in my everyday existence. And now with a little girl due any day, I hope to carry this in our family and raise a grateful human that appreciates her surroundings and has gratitude for our simple luxuries.

Categories: Accommodations, Edibles!, Travel talk, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The little boy in blue

I sit on a bench for a brief moment to look around to take it all in. My heart is racing, most likely due to the fact that I ran here, but I’d like to give a little credit to the idea that maybe at this point in time… I’m connected. I’m in Japan at a park in total peace. I am in the present.

I look to my right and just across the way is a group of 7 elderly Japanese people. 5 are looking directly at me with no expression and the other 2 seem concentrated in what appears to be a deep conversation. Next to them is a young boy in a bright blue helmet, that matches his royal blue bike. Attached are training wheels proudly boasting blue shiny wheels. Where are his parents? Probably watching him do the same tiny circular loop that Ive been observing.

My focus is broke by the sound of a chain as the gears shift on the bicycle passing. I nod with a smile at the middle aged man as he floats by. The ever so slight lift of his mouth and wrinkle next to his eye is a polite acknowledgment. I feel my smile broaden.

I watch as he rides past the baseball diamond where there’s a teenage girl practicing a fierce underarm pitch. She’s strong. Behind her is a young boy too far for me to make out an age, but I would guess no older than 12. He seems completely content with each toss of his baseball, straight up and back down to his glove, over and over again. I remember doing that as a child.

I peer back to find that now, all 7 of the older crowd is looking at me. I try to feel out their mood, I’ve got nothing.

Little boy blue is still circling round and around.

It rained this morning so the ground is wet but the sun is out now and the breeze is nice. I begin to be conscious of my body. The bench is cold and I wonder if I’ll have a wet bum when I stand up. Both feet are flat on the ground, my back is straight yet shoulders are relaxed. Although I’m gazing around, my head stays generally still. I must look awkward. No wonder the older concerned group is still staring at me.

Passing the boy in blue comes a father and daughter on foot. The oversized green bows in her hair perfectly match the dainty flowers on her white sundress. The top of her head barely reaches his waist where their hands meet. He doesn’t show much emotion as she jumps from block to block in the pathway, jerking his arm in every direction. Clearly tired of the restriction and probably a relief to dad, she lets go of his hand and continues her game of leaping squares. The bows raise and flop down with every jump.

Something catches her eye.

I follow the excitement in her vision to find a plump woman in heeled wedges holding the leash of a tiny, well groomed dog that looks as if he is attempting to prance his way to a first prize finish. I smile with entertained eyes as the woman stops, puts both feet together and stands with a strong posture… almost to match the pride exuding from her little paw baby. We make eye contact, she smiles and I nod to return the greeting.

I almost miss the adorable school aged girls passing by. I’m distracted by blue boy who is still doing laps on what you’d think is the smallest circular track around. He’s so happy.

The giggling bunch of girls skip by with knee high socks, plaid skirts, white collared shirts and cartoon backpacks. Today is Sunday, I wonder where they’re going.

My attention returns to the wind on my face and the chilly bench which I have now confirmed is most definitely going to leave me with a reminder that it rained today.

I feel calm. My heart rate has slowed back to normal and I sense it’s time to continue my journey.

Unless there is a bizarre scene directly behind me, the lovely bunch of elderly folks are still focused in my direction. I should be going now. I stand with a grin and give a slight bow in respect to the 7 onlookers.

Leaving the park, I giggle to myself as I pass the little boy in blue.

Categories: Travel talk, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Today, I just was.

I sat alone on a bench in Frankfurt today. My eyes were closed to fully appreciate the warmth from the sun on my chilly skin. I must of relaxed enough to fall into some sort of meditative state as I was no longer in Germany, I wasn’t on a “Eurotrip”, I wasn’t that girl traveling the world.

I simply just… was.

I could hear kids laughing with every clink of the tea ball bat. The sound of children expressing joy seems to be a universal melody. A noise that should be appreciated at every opportunity.
I could almost feel the heavy heart beats of the runners as they would sport pass me. Some with great speed, others with a consistent rhythm. All using their lungs to the fullest.
You couldn’t mistaken the panting of the chipper pups that would prance by while sniffing the fresh air. You could almost feel them smiling inside.

When I tuned out the people and their pets with busy feet, I absorbed the sound of the wind through each leaf. A bit too cold for my nose, but a strange sense of warm comfort to my ears.

After what seemed like just a minute my ears were struck with a slight new sense. It was just a soft shuffle… No giggles, no pets, no athletes and for that moment the wind had disappeared from my focus. As I opened my eyes, I connected on the sight of an elderly couple walking pass me. He was kicking the dirt around like a young boy as she scooted along side him. Her hands behind her back as she gazed towards him with the energy of a little school girl. They exchanged words in German. She continued to smile as he looked ahead.

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Makes me wonder what they’ve been through in their lifetime. What was important to them today, how about 10 years ago verses forty years ago? When the sun goes down, what do they give thanks to?

Today was a brilliant day to be alive. My cold nose, warm heart and active ears were in tune with each breath. A breath that I often take for granted. Today… I am grateful.

Categories: Travel talk, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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