Three weeks ago, I spent a weekend alone in Portugal. Following, I visited Amsterdam (S/O to my good friend for his extra ticket) and hiked Croagh Patrick on the Northwest coast of Ireland. All the while, I also always found time to enjoy Cork. As I wrote about in my last post, each place was completely different, yet there are undoubtedly common threads connecting each. Specifically, during the past few weeks, I have been considering three recurring themes: mindfulness, perspective and science.
Portugal was supposed to be a trip oriented around hiking the Algarve Coast and enjoying their famous beaches. Because it was a solo trip, I also intended for it to be an opportunity to grow in my social skills. Though it was incredible to spend time outside in 85 degree weather, and socializing with strangers became significantly easier, the highlights of the trip ended up being far more complicated than originally intended.
I ended the weekend fascinated by the ways the cliffs had evolved, disturbed by the coast’s dark history in the slave trade and contemplative about the best way to travel (literally through different counties, and figuratively through life).
One of the most poignant moments in Portugal happened as I socialized with a New Zealander (named Eliot) who had hitchhiked Afghanistan-Iran-Georgia-across Northern continental Europe-down Western Europe to Portugal. Not only did he avoid public transportation, but he also only stayed in a hostel for two nights during his year of travels. His stories were incredible, and his social skills were impeccable. What fascinated me the most though was the idea of him drifting from country to country without a set plan of when he would arrive to the next destination, how long he would stay or what he would during his time there. Moreover, the fact that it was all dependent on human connection and relationships was even more enticing. When I asked him what was next and he replied: “I have no idea. New Zealand has nothing for me, so I’m just waiting for something to fall into place”. Never had I met a 28 year old more content with not having a long-term plan!
This conversation triggered a broader philosophical dialogue in my head. One that considers the rhythms of connecting with people, new cities and environments. How could I connect more deeply with each? What knowledge do I need to gain? What personal and/or societal norms limit the depth of my connections?
Mindfulness, perspective and science consumed my mind as I tackled these questions. I’ve come to understand that it is through mindfulness that we are able to understand our innermost emotions – what distracts us day to day. Mindfulness reveals the ways that we limit ourselves because of societal norms. It reveals the emotional pains that preoccupy our mind. Perspective allows us to dissect these emotions by pushing us to consider them more broadly. It gives an individual moment context marked by history and its connection with the modern world. It further reiterates the ways we are interconnected with countries near and far. And then there is science. A discipline that has incited fear in me for over a decade is ironically what consumes my mind the most nowadays. Evolution, hydrology, ecology, geography, geology, astronomy, the anatomy of the body, the psychology of the brain – science provides tangible knowledge about the connections we make in a way that allows us to understand them better.
Spending days considering connection is a funny thing. My whole life has been oriented around getting better and moving up in society. Though I have never had a long term plan per se, due to social pressures, I have certainly drafted ideas about what I would like my life to become in the future. I am certainly not ready to scratch those ideas, yet these moments of connection truly do push me to consider what living a more horizontal life oriented around connection would look like long-term. How will it shape my life on an upward-onward college campus? How will it fit and/or transform my career aspirations?
I still have 7 more months abroad. I am satisfied realizing the ways the best side of me from home reveals itself here, overseas. I am enlivened when I gain new insights here, and am excited thinking about the ways my expanded mind will continue to evolve as I travel more and once I return home.
Not mentioned in this post up until now: the scabies infestation I brought back to Cork from a hostel, as well as the many memorable days wandering Cork City and nights lounging in a pub with live music. Fear not though, pictures are below, as well as more pictures from my travels!
From Jazz Fest weekend in Cork! Goooood vibessssss!
Just in case you would like to experience more Jazz Fest!
Will 100% miss these Sunday nights!