Freedom for me is the ability to live in the moment, completely dedicating myself to the reality of the present, free from concern and anxiety. This does not come easy to me; from my career to my daily gym routines I usually like to plan things out. It is no wonder I find freedom in travel; it is when I’m most able to be present and adventurous. Disconnected from my daily routines and unable to measure or anticipate outcomes, I exercise faith that everything will be ok.
Though seemingly contradictory, when travelling I feel completely independent and dependent at the same time. My feelings of independence are grounded in the need to rely on my instincts and to carve my own path. There is no pressure to please anyone or to wake up on a pre-determined schedule. Furthermore the act of relying on my own intuition to navigate foreign spaces is self-edifying
The dependence on the other hand comes from the fact that I am out of my own comfort zone and in someone else’s space and community. I have to rely on them not taking advantage of my vulnerability that results from me being out of my element. I am dependent on the surrounding communities, on the people I encounter and on the lessons I learn each time I am forced to question what seemed like an established truth to me.
Recently my brother and I took a trip to Brazil. We were headed to Argentina but could not pass up on the possibility of visiting Rio de Janeiro. One afternoon we found ourselves on a search for one of Rio’s most famous landmarks, Escadaria Selarón, a set of colorful stairs designed by Jorge Selarón. However with one wrong turn, we ended up on a journey through the hilly Santa Taresa neighborhood]. Swept away by the seductive and care free nature of Rio’s culture I put aside my normal urge to stay on schedule, I lost myself as I watched the older men playing card games, took in the colorful graffiti that covered the walls, heard bits of the music rising from the mountainside gardens and houses, and interacted with the people we met along our assent to the top. A phrase painted in black ink on a brick wall during our walk gained meaning with each step we took, it stated “I am dead set on living”. I felt free to just live and run through the streets losing track of time and worry.
As the sun began to go down, we refocused on our goal and began to ask people where we could find the famous stairs. Through many peoples broken English, our nonexistent Portuguese and hand signals we found ourselves at a veterinarian’s office. There, we met two gentlemen who spoke English and graciously offered to drive us to the stairs. After no more than a slight hesitation, we found ourselves in the back of their station wagon headed to what we hoped would be Escadaria Selarón. By the time we finally arrived, we had made new friends and gained a whole new appreciation for Rio.
I found freedom that day in the balance between being able to live in the moment and trusting that in the end I would arrive at my destination. It was through relying on community, being in the moment, and my instincts that I was able to enjoy the experience and the journey. To me the freedom not to worry about the future and to live without the weight of expectations ironically always rejuvenates the goals and purposes I set out to accomplish. Travel reminds me to be free to take risks and to be myself no matter what. We often hear the quote life is as much about the journey as the goal; travel brings this to life for me.
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Post by Phillip Landrum.