It was a fascinating experience to be both a traveler and a tourist in Colombia. Before this trip, I had forgotten there was a difference between the two! Now, I remember why being a traveler is worth the effort.
A traveler has a flow, no real fast agenda. A traveler chooses to stay in places where they have the opportunity to connect with fellow travelers and actively engage in the local culture and these places are not always the safest or easiest to get to. On the other had, a tourist stays in safe, secure areas that are often easy to get to. Moreover, tourists have no real need to connect with others. In other words, they more or less stay separate from the local culture, they are watchers. Tourists make a daily game plan and go by it.
While we were mostly travelers on our recent trip to Colombia, we also embraced our inner tourist. Near the end of our trip, we chose to stay in the safer areas of town and did not make deep connections with the local people as we did during first part of our trip. Being a tourist felt more familiar. We could allow ourselves to turn off the constant awareness you maintain as an alert traveler. Moreover, we could communicate in our native language. Yet, as a tourist, we found it difficult to be “in the flow” and noticed that we were crankier. We also felt out of touch with other travelers. What does that mean exactly – not to have to rely on all our senses at the same time as a tourist? Why does it feel more familiar?
As a traveler, you have to use your left brain to communicate and maneuver, but it is your right brain that works to maintain your “flow’ of staying in the moment. Actively engaging both halves of the brain and being in your body is a good balance for your whole system. The trick is to find your “flow” and trust that the Universe will have your back – even when you crave those familiar comforts. The familiar comforts trigger our old habits of how we usually exist. In that familiar place, we live in our “stories” of who we “think” we are, which does not allow us to simply “be” in the present moment.
In one short moment so much can take place. I meet the eyes of this man in this photo. In that moment what happened? A connection was made of curious inquiry on both sides. My initial inquiry to myself of what had this man seen during his life in this huge city of 9 million people? Bogota was once one of the most dangerous cities in the world and that was less than 20 years ago! I felt drawn to take a picture of him, in that moment, standing in this plaza square filled with pigeons and people. Surrounded by the architecture of very old governmental buildings and churches. Then in a split second my inquiry of what was his story changed on a deeper level. It was a connection of feeling that we were the same even though our actual lives were so very different. In that split second moment of eye contact I felt a perfect “being” moment of true connection.