I have just returned from Edinburgh, Scotland where my friends Laure and her fiancé Vincent, both hailing from Paris, hosted and toasted me for a couple of days.
It is nice to have international friends in international places, for all parties involved, because, as a loving father once said, “If you want a friend, be a friend.”
Allow me to explain.
It all began with Laure’s plan to pick me up at the Edinburgh/Waverly train station at 11:30pm on a Thursday night as I arrived to my Scotland destination by way of London’s King’s Cross station. However, like most of life, things did not go as planned.
An undisclosed “incident” happened on a train in front of ours and we just flat out stopped…for about 2 hours. Of course I contacted Laure, via Facebook, to let her know that I would not be there at the time planned. Long story short, she kept vigilant about keeping up with the situation online so she could time her 35 minute bus ride to the train accordingly. As I arrived, about 1:30am, greeted by Laure’s smiling, welcoming and friendly face, one could never tell by her demeanor she was completely put out and her life disrupted by this American -and now had to take another 35 minute bus ride home just hours before dawn.
I stayed with her and Vincent until Sunday morning. During this time, I was wined and dined, not to mention given first class tours of the city, including Castles, forests and, of course, a Scotch Whisky distillery (the Scots dropped the “e” from their Whiskey as to distinguish themselves…see what you learn when you drink?). In short, I was treated like a Scottish king as I slept in my own room with internet, a down comforter and a teddy bear dressed up like Obi Won something or other from Star Wars.
It cost me nothing.
I suppose there may be a bit of personal payback involved for a trip Laure took way back in 2008 to California when she stayed with us for a few weeks. Yet, then again, when she handed me the keys to her condo in Paris and left for a few nights in 2011, literally giving up her entire home for me, I believed that “debt” to be completely paid: Karmic transaction complete.
Laure and Vincent are, what Rene’s father would call, “good people.” Yet, I keep meeting “good people.” Why?
I have had a fairly pervasive theme in my life lately, namely the idea of what goes around comes around, reaping what you sow, or the energy you send out to the universe will “Karma-cly” metabolize the energy you receive back in (as a side note, the notion of Karma for some is about what awaits each of us in the next life via reincarnation…I am using the term in a more liberal Buddhist sense). Perhaps it is the act of travel that allows the curtain shielding this universal truth from sight to be pulled back and revealed. This reality of Karma is always present -yet it is frequently hidden by the rote scheduling and banality of our daily existence.
Just as an aspirin will cure a headache or water will quench your thirst, travel exposes life’s truths in a way no other medium could possibly reveal.
Travel brings about both vulnerability and strength. To travel as a stranger in a strange land, at least for this sojourner, brings about powerful feelings of vulnerability and insecurity. I typically live in a world full of control, my surroundings quite familiar and my routine as set as they get. Yet it is vulnerability, brought about by a break from routine and the known, that precedes every victory in life. Be it the prizefighter who is the object of incoming strikes and blows from unknown locations moments prior to victory or the marathon runner whose cramping legs seemed impossible to overcome just prior to crossing the finish line, we come to understand that we only become stronger when we subject ourselves to both risk, even calculated risk, and vulnerability.
It is the one who fears and avoids vulnerability at all costs that never grows and expands: Just as muscle needs to be brutally torn and stretched in order for it to grow bigger and stronger, so our psyche needs to be splayed and challenged in order to expand our minds and be introduced to life’s often clandestine and clouded, yet beautiful, offerings.
Yet there is another major benefit to vulnerability, via travel, as well. When we become vulnerable we come to realize that self-sufficiency will not be enough -we must reach out to others in humility and trust. It is a difficult for this self-sufficient man to admit, but needing others is a good thing…a really, really good thing. When we need others it connects us to humanity in general and we learn people can be really, really good.
Then when we reach out to others who are in need and vulnerable, we are sending out that cosmic energy that will return back to us in our most tender and susceptible moments. I read somewhere that is better to give than to receive, but make no mistake- both are necessary in life and both offer us sweet rewards.
So as I expand and “vulnerable-ize” myself, I allow Laure and Vincent to give and add some currency to their universal cosmic bank account –perhaps I should have charged them for my stay? (Even Buddha can’t get in the way of good, capitalist principles!)
As a wise man once said, “Want a friend? Be a friend.” It will result in more than just companionship and international friendships; it will open up a world of discovery and some new found cosmic kindness -this time by way of Laure and Vincent.