Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 91: The Gift of Giving

Over the past few weeks I've become increasingly interested in the reason for my traveling. I decided to travel on a whim. I didn't plan or think about why I was traveling. Everyone travels for different reasons. Some people focus on learning languages or observing cultures while others turn up at every pub crawl they can find. There is no superior reason for travel. As I was curious why I was traveling, I began to think. My reasoning for travel is ultimately selfish. Through traveling I want to come to a better understanding of who I am. So far, traveling has proved to be an excellent method of self discovery. By immersing myself in constantly changing environments, different people, languages, situations, lifestyles, personalities, foods, and music I am able to see what I enjoy and, by comparing these things to myself, chisel away at my personality.

Samuel and I overlooking the city of Barcelona.

I learn about myself from everything around me. Whether a new food with a curious new flavor, observing how someone else operates, or reflecting on why I haven't posted on my blog in the past week. Every day I learn about myself. That is the focus of my travels, and this blog. Ross Roams is a journal of my travels both physical and metaphysical. My travel blog serves as a record of not only where I have been, but how the people, places, and situations have shaped me as a developing person.


This past week that I spent in Barcelona I learned more than I could describe or consciously remember. The intimate relationship between host and traveler that is formed by CouchSurfing provides a perfect learning environment. My second host in Barcelona was one of the most generous people that I've ever met. Samuel was born and raised in Columbia. He is an amazing person not only because he is a vascular surgeon, but he has a profound compassion for other people. He was generous to the point where I felt a little guilty. By devoting his entire weekend to showing myself and another surfer around the city and paying for all of our meals he went above and beyond his responsibilities as a host. He taught me that generosity is the ultimate expression of richness.

A delicious meal cooked by Mr. Generosity.

Another surfer who I talked to had recently been to Africa and she told me how the people there were so poor they couldn't afford enough food or water. Even though they didn't have enough for themselves, they share what they had with others. While she was riding a bus someone gave her a banana that probably would have fed them for a whole day. These people understand that the feeling of fullness does not come from food.

He spent his whole weekend showing us the city.

Since I've been meditating I've become much more aware of my feelings and their frequencies. I've noticed that I'm hungry a lot. I could eat all the time and when I eat I usually eat as much as I can. Regardless of the few kilos this has caused me to gain, I'm fascinated by this. Why am I hungry all the time? Why do I never feel full? I haven't discovered the answer but an interesting thing happened a few days ago while I was exploring Montserrat with two new friends. I brought some food for lunch, an apple, bread, and cheese – enough for one. The three of us were hiking and when we stopped to eat I remembered the generosity that Samuel had shown me. Even though I didn't have a lot, instead of eating all of my food myself I shared it with my two new friends. They graciously accepted and the exchange was pleasant. As we ate we smiled and laughed, savoring the few bites that we had. After eating I was overcome by a strange feeling of fullness. The feeling wasn't because I was physically stuffed, but because I was satisfied.

If you go to Spain, eat tapas every day.

Understanding the giving relationship is powerful. It leads to mutually beneficial situations and feeling genuinely good. It's the foundation of CouchSurfing and hitch hiking. Seeing as giving is an interaction between two parties, it is important that both play their roles. The giver must give graciously, unconditionally, and without any expectations. On the opposite end, the receiver must receive graciously, unconditionally, and without any expectations. It's interesting that even though many consider giving and receiving opposite ends of the spectrum, they are the same. With this understanding the joy of exchange both parties feel good. The giver feels good because he empathizes with the receiver and the receiver feels good because he empathizes with the giver.

Ingredients I bought at Barcelona's boqueria for my 'thank you' cassoulet.

Unfortunately, it was not until recently that I understood the benefits of giving. From a young age I remember thinking "It is better to give than receive," was a manipulative ploy by adults. Now that I'm older, like many other proverbs that my parents taught me, I've found this to be true. But why did it take me so long to appreciate something so simple? Regrettably, many of today's societies are based around money. I was raised in a culture where money rules all. Money distorts our understanding of giving because we are so focused on the monetary value of exchange. We buy from shops, look for deals, scrutinize prices, clip coupons. But we don't appreciate giving because we are so money centric. Richness is not a measure of materiality, which is why giving is misunderstood by many people. Proven by initially paradoxical fact that financially poor people give more than the rich.

Two new friends I met on my day trip to Montserrat.

It's taken me all of my life to develop my appreciation for giving and the more I give, the more I grow. Rich is not the one who has more,  Samuel's generosity was the manifestation of my learning about giving. When I put this into practice, I found myself in a rare state of mind. I was full.


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