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September 1, 2017

Traveling makes us super Vulnerable—but it also gives us Unparalleled Opportunity to Find Depth.

A post shared by Peggy Markel (@peggymarkel) on

“Perspective is a special form of magic, where paralleled paths appear misleadingly to converge.” ~ James Bradburne

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As an artist, I search for connections, emotions, and the relationship of things—how simple gestures from others move us.

Sitting in my Florence apartment, I flip through a photography magazine. I am struck by a few of the black and white photographs. The three I choose are subtle. I think to myself: That’s what I am trying to do with my work. Capture depth—in a conversation, in a flavor, in a point of view, beautiful or tragic.

When we make love, we transcend the physical. There are nuances so intimate and fine that the movements seem like a dance fueled by the musicality of the breath.

Even when we don’t feel something, there’s emotion there. It could simply be called disappointment.

I especially love finding this depth of connection through travel.

Moving along with a group of people in a foreign country can be like improvisational theatre. The backdrop is the culture we are weaving ourselves into with great vulnerability, curiosity, and a mixture of fear, excitement, and overwhelm. We don’t know what’s going to happen next.

We are at the mercy of someone else’s lead. This is different from being on your own. When you are on your own, your fear or your curiosity is personal. It either stops you in your tracks or takes you into the unknown with your own intuition for fight or flight. When you are with a group, walking through the medina in Marrakech or back streets of Palermo, you are out of your comfort zone being led by someone you barely know. You must follow. And trust.

Being responsible for people is a big job. It must be done with attention and confidence and a sense of openness, taking the focus off of the “stranger in a strange land” feeling. Using the perspective of awe and fascination, we let the beauty and texture of new sensations bathe us. It can be visually stunning, mysterious, and, most often, full of contrast. The smell of the air can be a perfume of cumin-scented diesel, dust, and roses—all things that deliciously twist the mind.

We move like an ancient caravan from place to place, sharing our personal heartaches and joys, helping each other out while contemplating our habitual patterns. Traveling will bring them out like no other thing, (other than a one-on-one relationship, and that is a trip in itself).

The point is to notice how we are in relation to everything. How do we respond when someone stares, says hello, or begs? How do we resist shutting them out or ignoring them? We make room in ourselves for people and situations to exist within the safe confines we’ve built for ourselves beyond the proprietary aloneness of “me.”

Me is also other. Other is also me.

A nod of recognition is enough. Our personal boundaries are respected, yet we don’t sail through the city with an air of superiority. We consciously integrate our subtle and gross differences. This also creates a sense of peace: losing oneself or one’s sense of separation keeps you from losing yourself, literally, in an ancient city.

After all, why do we travel? It’s about surrender on some level—letting go of what you know to discover something else. “Getting lost” is some travelers’ favorite thing to do.

Rather than walking tough, I walk soft, strong, and humble, knowing that fundamentally, I am no different than those I see on the street. I walk confident that I will more likely find kindness and not malice. I may be a stranger, but my demeanor is more of a curious pilgrim than a threat. It may sound naïve, but it’s been my experience over and over.

However you choose to travel, keep a light footprint. Be kind. Curious. And mind your manners. You are in someone else’s home. Accept their hospitality with graciousness, and be open to their simple generosity. It will warm your heart.

I guess that’s what I want to say. When you travel with an open heart and mind, you drop the fear of other, the unknown becomes known, and you find the familiar territory of sameness. We all want to be happy and have healthy families and enough to eat and a good roof over our heads. Not everyone wants fame and fortune or a three-car garage. Don’t look at others as if they are lacking simply because they don’t have what you have. Let it break your heart that you have it so good that most of your problems are the woes of the privileged.

What traveling can give you is a perspective of how humanity has managed to make it with little. Throw yourself into it, and enjoy getting lost and finding your way out. You might just uncover confidence and compassion you didn’t know you had.

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Author: Peggy Markel
Image: @peggymarkel/Instagram
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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