The curtain call on 2012 is almost due. It is the time to reflect on what has been and perhaps what might have been; it is the time to begin to contemplate what waits on the other side of 2012 and to again dream of what could be. This has been a busy year for me: 129 flights, 13 overseas trips to 8 different countries (UK, Switzerland, India, China, Russia, the USA, Turkey and Argentina) – two of them for the first time (India & Turkey). Spending about 52 days overseas and countless others in the air or lounging around airports. The most visited countries were the UK (five) and Russia (two) whilst my longest trip was to the Asia Pacific Leadership Program, Hawaii (two weeks – smart I know!) and the shortest was Switzerland (one day). Add to this the load of domestic trips and it is easy to see why it wouldn’t be entirely inappropriate to walk into airport lounges with a, “Honey I’m home” greeting! Yes, it has been a busy year but there will be no complaints from my side as in our TomorrowToday context, busy is good. Busy means we are getting by, busy means we are doing what it is we love.
We all undertake journeys of one sort or another and the journey of 2012 need not have taken you to different places around the country or globe to constitute ‘a journey’. So my fellow-travellers, here are some personal reflections and lessons that I have learnt along the way of the journey tagged ‘2012’:
Tourist take pictures, pilgrims collect stories. I make a conscious effort to travel as a pilgrim. Yes, I do take pictures (with an iPad) but I try not to miss the moment because I am stuck behind a lens. I make a deliberate effort to find the story when travelling although I must admit that the stories usually find me! Whilst in Turkey I knew that having a Turkish bath simply had to be on the agenda. The fun was convincing three others that we needed to share in this experience and so off we went without a clue as to what to expect. We got a story! It was one that I suspect others in the group regretted not having shared, their courage failing then when the recruitment drive was on (or maybe they simply knew what was in store!). Point is, travel as a pilgrim. Collect stories and let the stories find you. You won’t be sorry you did!
Embrace the whole experience. I love encountering different places and destinations. What is not to love about being in Honolulu, Istanbul, Moscow, London, New Delhi, Beijing or Buenos Aires? But getting there is easy not to like. Hours in a tin tube at 37 000’, sitting in airports, standing in queues, delayed or cancelled flights, next door passengers who fail to grasp the concept of a ‘shared armrest’ and of course one could continue with a list of woes. However, if I were to start hating the ‘getting there’ my life would be miserable as so much of it is spent ‘getting there’. So I intentionally embrace the journey as much as I do the destination. Of course the occasional business class ticket certainly takes the edge off travel and once this year I even got upgraded to First Class on an Emirates flight from Dubai to Moscow (they had to forcibly evict me from the plane as I grimly held on to the seat wanting to spend another week there!). Embrace the entire experience – the good and the ‘bad’ for by doing so you open yourself to a greater sense of appreciation and expectation. Not to do so is a little like wanting the benefits of being physically fit without willing to put in the hard yards to get fit!
Stay grounded – be present. Strange when so much of my life is ‘in the air’ but what I mean by this is that we need to remember who we are and from where we come. Staying grounded is important in maintaining the attitude of being a learner. To stay grounded is to not believe the hype or one’s own ‘press’. It means maintaining a sense of wonder that others want to hear what it is you have to say – and seem to enjoy doing so! Staying grounded means understanding that things change in a blink and so to enjoy the moment and live the present. Here and now, that is what is important; here and now – that is what matters most. It is all too easy to live in the past – or the future, and so rob the present of your full attention and absorbing all it has to offer.
Look for sense making patterns. When so much of my time is spend in situations that ‘make no sense’ (to my understanding or worldview) the challenge is to look for sense making patterns. There is always a logic that underpins actions that may seem bizarre – the trick is to find that logic and seek to understand it. This is what it means to engage in diversity and so looking for sense making patterns means that I have to suspend my own judgments – something easier said than done when encountering difference!
Of course there are countless other ‘lessons from the road’. One would be to always ensure you have the right documentation! I nearly had to spend 10 days in Buenos Aires as a result of not having my Yellow Fever inoculation certificate with me… but that is another ‘story’! I am sure you must have your own ‘travel’ lessons from 2012 and it might be a good idea to carve out some uninterrupted time to allow those insights and lessons to surface. I don’t think you will be sorry you did!