There is a famous quote by Ibn Battuta, ‘Traveling – it makes you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller’. To travel the world is a privilege. In a perfect world, (after everyone is fed and watered of course), my wish would be that all the souls on Earth had access to this opportunity. To see, to learn, to discover and to do better. The sad reality is however, that they do not.
And so, for those of us who are so lucky, I feel it’s upon us to share the stories of our travels, for better or for worse, and to create the conversations that need to be had.
And so, for those of us who are so lucky, I feel it’s upon us to share the stories of our travels, for better or for worse, and to create the conversations that need to be had. To raise awareness and assistance for those we speak about, in the hope that they too, can one day join us in this journey.
Earlier this week in a pub in Buenos Aires, I posted a little excerpt of a bigger story to my social media about a man named Diego. It came off the back of a frequently asked question, ‘what is the best thing about travelling?’, as well it seemed a good opportunity to shed light on something very real.
I’m sitting in a pub in BA ‘watching’ the soccer, – yes we found one so that @ciall16 can follow his beloved Man Utd. It’s not overly interesting to me, because AFL.. so I thought I’d use this time to discuss something more meaningful, to me & hopefully others too.#letsdobetter
A lot of people ask us ‘what is the best thing about travelling?’ Every time, the answer is the people & their stories. Where they come from, the ins & outs of their everyday, & what life offers in their shoes.
This is Diego. Or between broken language (on my part) & his many missing teeth & gummy grin, it’s my interpretation of his name.
In a bustling La Boca, a colourful barrio (neighbourhood) that stems a rich history, & unless better understood it’s non other than a tourist trap of bright facades, souvenir shops & street performances; Diego sat silently on this bench offering his goods. His manner showed signs he was unwell & perhaps has endured a tough life.
In the mass of people surrounding, there were tourists with their many long-lensed cameras, shiny shoes & purses of seemingly endless cash, street vendors with beautiful stalls who would pull you in, and then, Diego. Just there, probably unattractive to most, without any interest from the public, offering what were clearly second-hand goods from 2015 & prior. Bless him.
This is absolutely not the first time in my life I’ve noticed disparity, we know you don’t need to leave home to see otherwise, but the streets of the many countries outside of Australia absolutely demonstrate the struggle for survival. And it’s a harsh reality check to how lucky & privileged the majority of us are. Born into it more often than not. Even if it’s no more than clean water, a roof, an education & love. It’s all we need & far beyond what others have.
My question is, how did we let this get so bad? When did society become ‘above’ others to afford all that it has, to leave others with so little? And how do we fix this?
And so, we bought a magnet from Diego, it’s battered & ugly, but it has a story. Our small offering is absolutely not going to change his world, but it made him smile, he was incredibly gracious & that’s a start.
The post received more engagement than I anticipated, all very warm and encouraging (thank you), and it initiated the discussion that I had hoped for. As well, triggered admittance to living increasingly busy, consumer-driven lives. Which I too, am guilty of.
But in a busy La Boca, and many other parts of the world for that matter, it would be easy to look past people like Diego and reassure yourself that he, and others like him are not your problem. To brush if off and seek some level of comfort (if there is such a thing?) in believing that ‘there are systems in place to help’. But, it is our problem. Poverty, homelessness and the continued disparity and displacement of society is all of our problems. One of which mankind has created and we contribute to, every day when we don’t slow down, notice them and offer the smallest tokens of kindness. A smile, a sandwich, a dollar, a conversation. Because with that, there is hope, which stems change for a better place. For them, and all of us.
A smile, a sandwich, a dollar, a conversation. Because with that, there is hope, which stems change for a better place. For them, and all of us.
And so, to answer the question, ‘what is the best thing about travelling?’, it is the people. Every time. The locals and their stories, which in turn become our stories. The people like Diego who turn up everyday when life is tough. To do better and to try harder. He may have sat there unnoticed to many on that bench in La Boca, watching the world go by in his grubby clothes, with his small offering of second-hand souvenir items that were far from glossy to the cashed-up tourist; but his graciousness, his holding of my hand for that little bit longer, and gummy smile is something I won’t forget.
In all of its superficial flaws, it’s incredibly beautiful, because it made a difference to him.
I can’t wait to place our very chipped, faded and somewhat ugly Buenos Aires magnet to use, and know that is was his. In all of its superficial flaws, it’s incredibly beautiful, because it made a difference to him.
And so, in this New Year, I think we can all do our bit to create change, in whichever means our individual contexts can afford.
I challenge anyone who might read this, to pay it forward. I’d love to hear how you were able to brighten someone else’s otherwise darker day.