“As you move through this life and this world, you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return life – and travel – leaves marks on you.” – Anthony Bourdain
Personally, I blame Central America.
In October of 2008, the opportunity presented itself to visit El Salvador for 10 days with Habitat for Humanity. There to build houses, as expected, it was an amazing experience. Lifelong friends were made – some of whom I still speak with regularly.
They say these types of trips change you. I didn’t necessarily believe that.
I was wrong.
It planted a feeling inside me never to be erased.
Over the next 10 years, I had the good fortune to visit every country in Central America and many of the Caribbean Islands. Mostly for pleasure…sure…but there was one recurring theme. One thing that poked at my conscience again and again.
That people with…in most cases… seemingly little in the way of material possessions, actually have so much.
Note: to be clear, I’m not speaking of people who want more but don’t have it, but people who have chosen to live with less, and are content.
So much sense of community. So much true pride of country. So much pleasure found in the little things.
A meal. A birthday party. Simple gatherings at a friends house. A friend who isn’t trying to impress you with the newest and best… with better…bigger…prettier.
In the last few years, it was Costa Rica that I found myself in most often. Some 35 weeks of last year alone. Most of my time there was spent in a small, rural community about 2 hours north of San Jose. And the overbearing lesson of what I learned during my time there was how to be happy with the little things. How little is really needed. To be happy. To be content.
The time spent in Costa. The mission trip to El Salvador. The trips that followed. These experiences have made it more and more difficult to engage in my work.
Have you had an experience like this? That creates an irreversible rift between what you have to do, and what you want to do?
For the most part, my company tears apart perfectly fine homes. Homes that would be considered palatial by 90% of the world, to make them better… bigger… prettier.
“Someone has to build it, it might as well be us”. How many times I’ve uttered this phrase when struggling internally with tearing apart someones home to make it…better.
But the dichotomy is still there. Still chipping away.
Does it really matter if your 11 foot long kitchen island is 40″ from the main wall of kitchen cabinets or 42″ from the main wall? In your 5000 square foot house? Will guests notice? If they do, are they the type of people you want to call your friends? Does it require a conference call with the architect, project manager, cabinet manufacturer and designer?
All in a quest to show your “friends” you are bigger…better…prettier?