I’m something of a black sheep in my family.
An introverted child that thought far too much; family, friends and relatives quickly marked me as quiet. A little odd. Or just plain weird. Growing up, I did little to counter that argument, playing computer games for stretches of time that would make a Japanese MMORPG blush.
Growing up, I didn’t have many inspirational figures in my life. I was a little too thoughtful, preferring to ‘think it out’ than ‘talk it out’- something built into our Irish genes perhaps. Inspiration, if it came, would be in the form of a Tony Robbins book, which got me pumped up in the moment but never lasted long enough to exact any real change in my life.
During my late teens, I began to tentatively creep outside my little bubble. Safe holidays to the west of Ireland soon become daring weekend trips to Spain, as I began to grow in confidence, testing new waters.
The decade that was my twenties was massive for my own personal growth. During that time, through a range of different methods, I developed a backbone to travel alone. Initially very nervous, I soon found solace in meeting with like-minded travellers, and interacting with the locals.
A collage of faces across countries and continents over the past decade have blended into one.
A middle aged psychologist who befriended me for a summer in Montpellier, educating me in Franglish about the merits of Freud, while we soaked up the simmering sun and sipped local wine.
A group of Chinese tourists who saw me wandering alone, and felt the need to befriend me and share the sights of Shanghai, despite our language difficulties.
A nomadic traveller in San Francisco, same age as myself, yet living each day as an adventure and detached from possession- unpredictable, fun and bursting with life.
A Guatemalan language teacher who, despite our class ending for the day, continued to remain with me to help craft flirty messages to a local girl I had met the weekend before.
A Colombian girl that I met on my first day in Medellin who slowly coaxed my Spanish out, to the point where seven patient months later I can now speak fluently.
Each interaction, especially with a local person in my chosen destination, has fuelled my love for the country and culture, and deepened my love and appreciation for the people. I’ve seen countless examples of the kindness and generosity of locals who welcome foreigners to their land.
Naturally, some of that goodwill is made with the intent to extract money from the tourist. However, off the beaten track and when you enjoy an extended visit in a country, you get to know the people and it’s easy to get inspired.
What inspires me most about these people who have entered my life, is that they don’t necessarily have the wealth and comforts that we think we need back in Ireland. While we argue about buying a second car, or whether our child is old enough to own a cell phone, many of the kindest souls I’ve met don’t have the same squabbles over superfluous possessions. They seemed more content with their lot, basic needs catered for.
In the relative poverty of Guatemala, after language class I would go to the nearby park and kick football with some local kids. They wore rags, and the ball was as hard as stone, but the kids didn’t care. Nor did they mind the gringo joining in.
Sometimes when we strip back the possessions, the titles, the pomp and façade, especially by visiting foreign countries, we see in others what we would like to see in ourselves. Just one person, same as everyone else – no more, no less – hoping to make a connection.
Inspiration is hidden everywhere. You just need to know where to look.
He can be found at aidanjreid.com