One of the hardest parts of traveling is finding the right partner. Whether going away for a several months backpacking or just a long weekend at the beach, choosing the wrong travel companion can very quickly turn your best trip into your worst nightmare. It goes without saying that different people have different interests, different desires and different expectations when traveling, even choosing where to eat can become a daily struggle if you and your travel team-mate are not on the same page. In the past I have been incredibly fortunate with my travel partners, but this time around I had a different vision for how my trip would go. I had it in my head that traveling the world on my own would be the best way to look inside and see what I truly wanted from life. I intended to keep my mind open and step out of my comfort zone to see where my boundaries lay.
When I was in Singapore, awake at 4am wandering the hostel dealing with a pretty mega case of jet lag, I began to look through the bookshelf as I often do. I’m always interested what other travelers have been reading, what stories and lessons they have learned and what they have left behind for someone else to enjoy. Among the ubiquitous dog-eared Lonely Planets, and well worn books in Swedish, German and French was a brand new looking book with a bright baby blue cover.
I picked up the book and examined it closely “Like Milk and Water Mixed – Buddhist reflections on Love” it read. Although I am far from a devout Buddhist, Buddhism has always spiked a great interest in me and a massive amount of respect. The ability to remove one’s self from their own perspective, view people and situations objectively and approach with mindfulness and wisdom is a very difficult task that takes much discipline and dedication. Reflections on Love? Certainly not the type of book I would normally choose to read. The topic of love isn’t something I would say I’m very familiar with, but here I was on the other side of the world with an open mind and also about to head to a Buddhist country, so I figured I might learn a few things.
Over the next few days I absorbed the views and teachings of Monk Shravasti Dhammika on brotherly love, parental love, self sacrificing love, and this is where I was introduced to metta meditation. Metta meditation is the practice of setting positive intentions and projecting positive thoughts towards yourself, loved ones and strangers alike. As with anyone who begins to look inward it was an awkward process for me at first. You feel weird complimenting yourself and although its easy to send well wishes to the ones you love, doing so to strangers and people you dislike is trickier than it seems. But with practice and repetition it became more natural, more honest and grounding. As I made my way through the pages and passages of the book I found myself thinking about how these different types of love were present in my life, and one thing became painfully clear. I had parental love; my parents are amazing people who love my brother and I unconditionally. I have brotherly love; I have an incredible brother Lucas, and I have many friends that flirt or even cross this barrier and I consider them as good as blood brothers (and sisters). The one type of love that was missing in my life now, I once had, and I foolishly turned a blind eye to it.
I had a woman in my life who loved me with her whole being and I swept it to the wayside, so caught up in my own little universe that I failed to see what was right in front of me. I can be a little stubborn sometimes I’ll admit (very Taurus trait) and when I get something in my head its hard to change. When I met Amber I already had this trip planned and I wasn’t about to waiver from my vision, and it caused a lot of strain on our relationship. I wasn’t able to look objectively at the situation and see what a great thing was right in the palm of my hands. Only now after spending this time on my own can I realize how much better it would be if she was here with me, my partner in crime.
I pushed her so far away I feared the damage was irreparable, but as the Buddha says, true love is unconditional and forgiving, and know her love is true. The next leg of my trip after Vietnam takes me to Hong Kong and the Philippines, a place we talked about for hours on end and I now write this in hopes that she will join me so we can take on the world together. Me and my girl, the girl I love, Amber Smith.