Traveling opens up the windows of our perception and casts a larger net of understanding the universal human experience. When we are exposed to other cultures and people who function in a different way of life than we do, our belief system is shaken down and we rebuild with a new narrative.
One thing that I’ve recently began to notice is the various lenses we as cultural communities view the concept of “life”. As I was driving through to Marrakech, I couldn’t take my eyes of the vastness of the hills I saw, the endless amount of trees that covered them and I began to think about the many animals that reside within this stretch of desolate land. Then I began to restructure my thinking of this place I viewed as barren and started to think about all the forms of life that are found here. That this is life, the biological existence that breathes life into our planet.
Then I began to think about other perceptions of life and how they differ in various cultural contexts. For example, in American civilizations life is for the most part viewed very linearlly and materially. Most of my friends that work the standard 9-5 job qualify their “life” as being Friday-Sunday with necessary happy hour drinks sprinkled in to break up the dull routine of the weekdays.
In Thailand, the culture has a much more slow and simple attachment to this concept of life. They view it as the work we put in every day to survive, the meals we cook and forage for, the time we spend with our loved ones. It is a pace that allows one to stop and think rather than always be reacting.
Italians view the concept of life as two main things really, food and family. The center of their world is what they fuel their body with, what they fill their temple with, and how they take care of their families. When I lived in Florence, the way of life was you live to work, not the other way around.
As I grow more familiar with Moroccan culture and customs, I feel a similarity to the importance of stopping and appreciating what life has to offer. Rather than building a fear of the future in their minds, Moroccans live day by day with a new day providing new possibilities. A close friend of ours here in Essaouira runs his family shop, and his motto is that maybe today he is rich and tomorrow he is poor. But every day is different and meant to be enjoyed.
As we travel more and cast our net wider and wider, we begin to understand what we want to prioritize and how we can mold our life into the way we want to live rather than the way we think we need to live because we have been raised that way.