“Travel like Ghandi – with simple clothes, open eyes and an uncluttered mind.” (Rick Steves)
When I wrote the post, The magical moments of life, I still had quite a few thoughts on expectations. Many years ago, when I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time, I realised how photos, the media and guidebooks create expectations and rob us of the joy of a first sighting. By the time I stood there, in Paris, expecting to be wowed by the sight… I felt like I had seen it a million times before. Is it not the same with many other things in life – love, food, work, friendship – someone is always telling us how we should experience it, what it should be like. We rarely have the opportunity to experience something without any expectation.
I keep on thinking that I’ve got it sorted – that I can approach life with zero expectations. And, sometimes it works, and I can experience the moment – pure and simple. And, then there are times when I get caught up in a preconceived idea of what the experience, place or person should be like. The reality is very rarely what I wanted it to be. And it would have been so much better if I’d just let the moment be, and unfold into whatever it was supposed to be.
I read so many guidebooks about travelling around the world, what to expect on your first trip to Asia, sights to see, things to do – I’d already seen and done everything before even getting on the plane. And by the time I arrived, there was an expectation about what this place or its people should be like. I could not just experience it for the first time.
I had great expectations of the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the Taj Mahal… none of them disappointed… but I did not get the “wow” that I had expected. Maybe it was because I’d seen it so many times before – on television, in guidebooks… and maybe its because we become jaded by life. We want everything to be extraordinary, spectacular, life changing. I had to revisit the Sydney Opera House a few times, before it hit me how extraordinary this building was. And, after negotiating my way around thousands of tourists at the Taj Mahal, semi-irritated, and disappointed, I eventually decided on a quiet spot where I could take in the whole building – I sat for a while, saw the light change, and realised what an incredible monument to love this actually was.
I had no expectations of Nepal. It was just a place I knew, instinctively, that I had to go to. But I had read very little about it, and nobody had told me anything about it. When I stepped of the plane, even the air felt different. And I fell in love with the place. It was chaotic and crazy and like nothing I knew. It was unexpected.
I’ve had to train myself to make a conscious effort to approach each moment as a new moment, with no expectations. But, it takes a while to retrain the brain. I came back to Greece this year, expecting it to be the same as last summer, but it has not been. Because I’ve changed. I want different things for myself, for my life.
I don’t think the way we live life allows for us to approach even one day without expectations. But, what if you try – even for an hour – to expect nothing? And see how life just flows… try to notice what it feels like to feel the sun on your skin, what your food tastes like, what the person sitting opposite you looks like. How does it feel to experience something for the first time?