The Mindful Art of Travel

Me being part of the crowd

A few posts ago Sandy wrote about travels in Mexico.

I am the Rick who was traveling partner for this trip. So far as I can see Sandy has ended his story at the back door of the hotel in Puebla, our first stop. I’m hoping he will report on the rest of our journey; even though I was with him, it is always interesting to find out what he saw that I didn’t.

I am personally unused to cataloging the instances of intuition (which I take to include the idea of “invisible helpers”) in my affairs. That’s because the interaction is so ordinary. Decisions in my life can certainly make sense, but they have to feel good too, feel right deep inside of me. I know how to deal with other people and situations by that same “feel.”

So the interface that Sandy studies, the role of intuition, is of interest to me partly because I have never studied it and partly because I have lived it.

The bones of a saint being transferred

After we were settled in our more-or-less charming hotel in Puebla, we walked the streets. It is something we both do when we travel, to get a “feel” of where we are. On the first night we found ourselves in a night market. It occupied the center of several blocks and was carefully laid out so that there were two aisles. Each aisle had human traffic both ways, at best three deep each way, or six walking very close side by side. The flow was unending, not relentless, but not hesitant either. Interruptions came when someone might actually stop at a booth to buy something, a tortilla perhaps, or even to look. Because one lane of traffic was then required to merge into its neighbor flow in order to move around this obstruction. It is at times like this that you get to know the community. How do folks handle obstruction? How close will they get physically with each other and remain comfortable? What’s the general attitude? That is, how do folks accommodate the presence of each other?

I learned to ride a motorcycle in Bali, long ago. I have continued to ride in Bali and in Thailand. There is a matter of importance to travelers in this. Because you cannot impose your traffic ideas from home on the flow of traffic in these places, you will quickly accommodate that flow, become part of it, you will soon surrender your insistence on straight lines and you will flow along with other motorcycles, to your right and left, to your front and rear. You will, in short, flow as the locals do, and in this you will find a rhythm, an undercurrent to the community.

Sandy and I were downtown in Puebla, and the flow of the community there was constant traffic, like any crowded city anywhere. Still, by wandering we found ourselves in unexpected situations, once a huge procession involving hundreds of police and troops and thousands of the faithful. We stood invisibly in the center of it all, observing how authority between the Church and the Policia worked in practice.

Out destination was Oaxaca and that indeed was the most important experience, certainly for me. This is Indian territory, well south of Mexico City, where the folks we met could identify their heritage to this or that of the ancient Indian nations.

How do two friends travel together, as we do? First of all we are seasoned travelers, and have traveled together before. So we already know how to do this. But how do we do it? Let me try to itemize:
a. Sandy is both sensitive and alarmingly accommodating in that he barely judges others at all. We travel as observers, preferring comfort, but taking what comes.
b. We always have separate rooms. We do not need to work out the details of our travel relationship in close quarters. I am insistent on this: Sandy is likely less so. He is the more adjustable about such things. I always try to reserve my own space.
c. Travel expenses: we get clear quickly about who pays for what. Sandy will pay for everything if we don’t get a clear divide: he’ll be gracious about it but that is not a sustainable formula. On this trip for example, he paid gas and tolls on the way down. I paid them on the way back. Simple.
d. Once the details of travel are handled, then what will we experience from our travel? Here it is necessary to free one another. Not only because we want to learn differently about places we go, but also to insure freedom. We don’t always have to be interested in the same thing.
e. There is a sharing, a communication from Sandy of the way he sees things, and from me about what I see in them. This gives us perspective, a more focused insight on what is happening.
f. Trust. We have unconditional trust in each other. Not that we submit, only that we believe. We trust. This is something almost sacred, certainly to me.  We both always have veto over anything we are doing.
g. We are free; we have no required belief system or monetary attainment or any of that stuff. We, traveling together, do so because we want to. Each moment. We are free to stop.It is always voluntary.
h. Respect. This is key to travel. To your travel partner, for sure. To those you meet wherever you go. To the rules of this place or that, to the bend of the traffic. The golden rule of travelers is this: respect begets respect. To each other it means we join our wisdom and our discernment, and so our experiences tend to be well advised.
i. Hierarchy. Our rule is, whoever has the best insight into what to do next is our leader. The leader can change at any time. We are jointly finding our way. No one is in charge.

On this I end my observations of travels with Sandy, for now. Thank you.

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