In 2012 I graduated from the University of Swansea with a BA (Hons) in Ancient History.
After a year trying to work out why life outside the education system wasn’t working for me as much as life within, I got the opportunity to do something outstanding.
I hitch hiked with two friends to Marrakech, through France, The Pyrenees, Spain and then between the Pillars of Hercules to Northern Africa.
By the end of that trip I had lost one friend and gained one soulmate.
I witnessed experiences which will never leave me.
I saw a new way to exist.
There was light at the end of the tunnel.
Back in the UK I met a highly influencial character who set me on my path, and I flew to New Zealand, Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud.
And I found a land and a people and a way to exist which filled me with what I can only presume people mean when they say ‘the light of God’.
The majority of the years since I have spent on the road.
‘On the road’ is more than three words. It is not a cliché. Only if you did not understand it would you think so.
Those three words are the ones which we pilgrims choose to embody the very essence of what we do.
I spent almost four years on the road.
I spent almost four years a foreigner, in the lands of our neighbours.
I would like to tell you what it has meant for me to be a foreigner.
It has meant feeling again and again the most glorious of feelings, the unexpected welcome of a stranger; the outstretched hand, the curious gaze, the endless questions, the warmth of human connection; Love.
It has meant awe. Awe at everything.
Challenge; physical and mental. That cannot be stressed enough: Challenge.
Growth; of identity, of spirit, of heart. Brought about by Challenge.
I let go of Atheism. The beauty is there if you listen.
It has meant learning to trust my gut. Instincts keep us alive. The mind has questions, the body has answers.
It has meant hello. Hello, hey, hi, bonjour, hola, Salam Alikome, hallo, kia ora, om suastiastu, namaste, ciao and g’day.
It has meant goodbye. So many, I long ago lost count.
I have moved and been moved.
I have loved and been loved, and let go of words like ‘hate’.
It has meant Life, condensed and encapsulated and shaken around like a snowglobe with me in the middle.
Most significantly, what all this led to and contributed towards, it has meant a seismic shift in perspective. Rebirth.
And the story isn’t over, not by a long shot.
I call it: Chapter One.
In response to Daily Prompt: Foreign.