The Long Road Home

Canadian winters are long and often bitter. Travel may be dangerous with ice, snow and bitter cold temperatures and winds. There are many mornings when it is tough to toss aside the comfort of a down blanket to face a bracing cold day, another long mile and tears of frustration when cars don’t start, bags don’t arrive at the airport or darkness clouds an already exhausted soul.

It has been a long road home and with the first sprigs of green peaking from the cool earth, I have enjoyed this short week without extensive travel. Catching up with my family is a joy in its unrushed and seemingly limitless timeline and planning the fields and gardens for the coming summer is pushing in the corners of my mind. As the sun beats down on this brown land, it is sure to be green in a few short weeks and we will rejoice as calves are born and blossoms crowd out the once frozen spaces. It is this space I love to share with others as they have shared their homes with me.

The world is a small place and we share one irreversible fact – we are all indeed – human. And it is this humanity that knits us together like a warm Canadian sweater despite our race, religion or gender. To experience it, to travel, is to live tolerance, patience, and kindness and to be quick of mind. It is to accept the place you are in, be that Singapore or Saskatchewan, and respect those who you are with. It is to care.

To travel is to learn to love without conditions and to trust in the goodness of those around you. I have at times been dropped off at the side of the road with such instructions as “wait for the blue car” and as I throw my body and backpack into the next blue car – I trust it is the right one. And when trouble comes and I find someone to help – again with full trust as I lay on the floor of the car and the sounds of civil war booms my ears – I with trust that those driving will get me to safety.

Yes, I have been hungry, tired, sick and lonely for home but I have never been truly alone, for I am surrounded by those I am knitted with in humanity and for all its strife and sorrow the world is a good place. Traveling friends who have cared for me are forever etched in my memory. I treasure the moments in little huts and homes as I shared simple meals or lavish feasts both in Canada and abroad. I have heard the silent and unspoken words between two persons who will leave completely different lives, with different endings, and felt the soft touch of a kiss or hug shared between grateful hearts.

Wielding a machete at Cusa's farm in Cuba.

Wielding a machete at Cusa’s farm in Cuba.

We do not change the world – the world changes us. Like that sprig of green pushing its way out of the cold ground, we start believing that we are the flower the world would like to be. In the end, it is clear that we are guests in this bright and beautiful place and our bloom will be heavily influenced by those whom we have met and learned from. That was my ticket into seeing the world through a wide lens – the acceptance that I was the guest and that I was the student. Living and working with men and women around the world is spiritual and vastly removed from visiting as a tourist. It is our shared humanity that enlightens us.

As I prepare for the next steps in my journey – coast to coast in my country of Canada – and those places new to me – South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, France, Poland and others, I know  there will be trials but those moments will pass and I will be buoyed by the infinite wisdom and caring of others. It is a long road home, to the place and people I embrace with gratitude and joy, and getting there through the doorways of the world is always worth the journey.