Amidst a million luminous dots, our gaze searched habitually for the Southern Cross on a clear winter’s night. The familiarity of space, stars, and an unimaginably expansive cosmos enveloping all above.
But as late evening eyes adjusted, so too, came the notion that this wasn’t a Southern Hemisphere platform from which we viewed. There was no Crux or Pointers above, and the Pot (visible from both hemispheres) lay capsized, morphed into the belt of a great Greek hunter.
When stargazing from the otherside of the world, the common merges with the uncommon, the recognizable transforms into the unrecognizable, as awareness and perspective alter and realign to a new location.
Travelling, just like stargazing, carries with it a dichotomy of the familiar and foreign. Even in unconventional places it’s possible to discover the connection of home in everyday situations. But look again, observe and interact, and a new variety of life seems to unfold.
It can be subtle, like the offer to try a regional cuisine amongst welcoming hosts. Or exaggerated, like watching elephants crowd around a Namibian waterhole at sunset. It can be exciting, like listening to the howl of wolves as you drift off to sleep in the Carpathian Mountains. Yet beyond words, explanations or parallels, it simply becomes ‘a travel experience’.
Twelve years ago when working in the Western Australian desert, I watched an Aboriginal medicine man shake out the illness from a sick patient. Placing one hand on the sufferer’s head, he channeled out the ‘bad’ from within the person whilst quietly chanting words in his native tongue of Wati.
At the time, I felt awkward and confused by what I’d witnessed. After all, this wasn’t the conventional method of healthcare I’d grown up with in N.Z. And it wasn’t until years later, that I acknowledged my own feelings then as a lack of understanding. Not that I understand now, but I’ve since learned that my way isn’t the only way. Travelling, just like looking into the night sky, gave me an outlook on life that taught me perspective and diversity.
Perhaps it’s through this diversity and perspective that the real lessons in life come to light. The experiences we gain from travelling can show another narrative of the world we live in. Yes, it can be exhausting and challenging sometimes, but whenever I need to remind myself of how fortunate I am to travel, all it takes is a gaze into a Northern Hemisphere night sky, for a perspective of the familiar and the foreign.