Je Suis Vivant
I thought I was doing pretty well learning French until the four people in the row ahead of me on a flight back when the world was almost normal started speaking rapid-fire French to each other and I realized I have a long way to go. It was like putting a student driver in the Grand Prix. And that’s okay; it’s a journey not a test. Those four people couldn’t speak much English but it didn’t stop them from traveling to a country where relatively few would throw them a bone and know and speak French (welcome to America!). I saw myself in those four, back when I was stumbling through Portuguese while driving across the country and falling in love with the adventure of it all. You don’t need to speak to communicate, you just need to find common ground.
“Add up the sum of our days and that’s who we are. We get what we repeat.” – Seth Godin
The world is in a collective, forced re-evaluation of what matters. I was suffering from bottled-up wanderlust before COVID-19, and I was traveling a lot the last six months prior… but it seems still not enough. Now that I’m camped out at home I’m finding myself less concerned about FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and just living. Learning a bit of French every day, sticking with the habits that build up a life, whether you’re traveling or sitting at home. Eventually I’ll get to put my limited French vocabulary to the test in Quebec or Paris, but for now I’ll keep on plugging away at it.
Travel is often the highlighted passages in our life journal and an opportunity to broaden our awareness of the world and our place in it. It’s a vehicle for growth, teaching you humility gently… and sometimes abruptly. It’s living with a purpose many don’t find in their day-to-day existence. Travel heightens observation and slows down time in that particular moment. That makes it a drug of sorts, making us feel more alive. The pauses in between travel, or between growth in general, offer us an opportunity to contribute, to give something back to the universe.
I’ve got this restlessness bursting inside of me most of the time, but strangely now doesn’t seem to be one of those times. I recognize the need for a collective pause given the circumstances. Instead of sipping a cocktail while watching surfers in the setting sun in Sagres I’m watching the deer, camouflaged and stealthy, walk single file through the woods beyond the old stone wall that pre-dates the deer and the observer alike. I listen to the sound of water heating in the kettle for a second cup of caffeine. I feel the coolness on the tile floor on my bare feet. It seems the senses are still alive and well, observing the world and all that’s in it. Eventually we’ll be let free to wander once again. Being fully alive until then seems the least we could do. Je suis vivant, et toi?
I had a similar experience last year when on a fight from Paris to Brest. Fortunately, my crude high school French allowed me to be civil with two women who allowed me to reach my window seat. “Je ne parle francé” was answered with a smile, along with “Une petite Peu”. Our flight together was pleasant, supported with a few “si’l vous plait” and “merci”s along the way!