In my last blog I admitted to a few of the many travel blunders I have made in life. I then had the gall to offer unsolicited travel advice and we all know what happens to people who do such a thing. Circumstances will circle around faster than a bashed tetherball to hit the advice-giver in the back of the head. Every time I spout off as if I know what I am talking about, I am invariably forced to look into the depths of my own words.
In the blog I needlessly advised that nothing goes according to plan when traveling. Can I hear a collective, “Duhhhh”? Stepping in even deeper, I further advised, and this time in a patronizing tone, “… when things don’t go according to plan, it does not signify the end of the world.” Can you see it coming? Within days of posting the blog, my travel plans went to hell.
A friend and I were nearing the end of a phenomenal one-month “working vacation” in Cape Town. Our plan was simple. When we weren’t exploring the area, we would pursue our respective passions. For me it was writing and for him it was mathematically solving the world’s problems.
There we were one afternoon, in full pursuit while under the protective spell of Table Mountain, when my computer crashed. In one moment there were brilliant words flowing from my fingertips and rolling onto the computer screen. In the next moment the screen was dark and the computer unresponsive. I made an “eeking” noise and looked up in horror at my friend.
A computer whisperer by nature, he immediately recognized there was a serious problem. He stopped calculating world saving parameters to whisper to the real love of my life, my ultralight ASUS computer. With some cajoling, data was recovered but my love was gone and with it, my travel plans.
Falling into the arms of my other love, the iTouch (basically a handheld iPad), I did what we often do when confronted with tragedy; I shared my pain on Facebook. In the time it takes someone to glance at a few words and compose even fewer, I heard the notification dings of what I expected to be an outpouring of empathy. I opened Facebook and instead of empathy, felt the hard and cold smacks of a tetherball. Showing no feeling, feelings were suggesting that this might be the “magic” I had just written about. One particularly subtle friend suggested that I “Go back and read your last blog.”
I didn’t need to read it, I wrote it. My advice consisted of condescending counsels for travelers such as “being flexible”, “a sense of humor”, “opportunities to learn” and “creating space for magic”. Clearly, my friends did not understand that such counsel was for others and that my current situation was extremely grave. There was no humor to be found and the occasion was completely devoid of learning opportunities. Resisting the urge to strike back with well-phrased comments, I removed myself from wifi range.
Hours later, after finding the empathy I needed in the depths of a South African pinotage varietal, I began to consider that perhaps, my friends had a point. It was as if the gods were testing my resolve. How I responded to this catastrophe would determine if I could still consider myself as someone who rolls with the waves, adapts to situations, and can find calm in chaos. Upon further reflection I realized that it would in fact determine if I could continue to call myself a traveler.
Fortified by drink, I decided they were right. It was time for me to create space for magic. “One week without a computer?” I said to myself, slowly accepting the reality of the situation, “No problem. Besides, Shakespeare wrote his life’s work with a feather.” And it was in those very thoughts that I saw the shimmer of magic.
Travel, family, work, catastrophe, joy … all of it … this life is about perspective. Getting it, changing it, losing it, and rediscovering it. Diving down into the details, then pulling back up to fly over the landscape and realign with your horizon. It was a concept that had been flirting with me for some time and was finally mine to command. Magic dwells in perspective.
If Shakespeare could write timeless masterpieces using a quill and a pot of ink, surely I could manage for one week with a pen and paper. Who knew what sparks might fly, what ideas might ignite? I could take the opportunity to put aside my passion for writing to pursue my passion for exploration. I found myself nodding in agreement with my thoughts. I had given bad counsel indeed.
Now, before you read further, not a single thing I am about to write should be construed as advice. I am simply sharing how magic, once again, found me. Because you see, worlds do end when things don’t go according to plan. But, if you wait just a bit, new worlds are created.