Humanity in Honeymooning
“You cut here,” said Sahib indicating to his arm. “Blood coming.”
“You cut here” said Sahib, indicating to Pete’s arm, “Blood coming.”
“People are people.”
August 2013 Dal Lake
What is a journey? It can be a physical endeavor, an adventure of the mind, the overcoming of challenging obstacles or just finding a way to get from one place to the next. You may be a different person at the end or it may be a journey which continues throughout your entire life. Your daily commute may be painstakingly boring but it’s a journey nonetheless. Marriage is also a journey, an enduring one with its own undulations, peaks and troughs. Journeys are not discrete and they are not exclusive; they run side-by-side, overtake each other and sometimes collide.
There’s no collision quite like travelling over 20,000kms on a bicycle, as a honeymoon. Arguably such a journey is what a honeymoon is all about; exploring the other, learning what makes them tick (and abusing this knowledge where necessary), rising to challenges and a relying on the other for support. However, limited funds to undertake this journey means little in the way of honeymoon decadence and luxury. In every sense, this is a journey which strips things back. With no bills to worry about, no mortgage to pay, no appointments to miss, no traffic jams and no broken washing machines, you are essentially free. Without all this noise in life, you realise that all you have to worry about is what you will eat, where you will find water and where you will sleep (oh, and how to build a marriage). Little money, but lots of time.
Time gives you the ability to see the world differently, slower. You can notice a windowsill where somebody has lovingly tends potted plants, you can notice that the guy sweeping the street has a slight limp. You have the time to smile at people and receive their smiles back. You have the time to help somebody push out their car from a ditch. As a couple, you also get to see each other in more detail. You get to see the uglier side of a person, the tired, the belligerent, the unnecessarily irritated. On such a ‘honeymoon’ the only time you spend apart is to go to the toilet, or perhaps to shower. All this time is revealing, you are able to see the unique quirks, the strength and the wit of the other. Above all, you realise they are only human.
Then you realise that every human is only human. We all have the same needs: Food, water, sleep and somewhere to go to the toilet. Everybody has had a Mum and a Dad, they are somebody’s child. You can visit the furthest land away, the most exotic, the most remote and people have pretty much the same needs. What a disappointment! You quest for adventure, to eat interesting foods, meet new people and to see strange cultures, only discover that these people are scarcely different to the characters back home. Some are kind some are grumpy some are sad. But the truth, and perhaps the important point here, is that, essentially, people are good.
In our wildest dreams, never would we have expected the generous hospitality and acceptance that we have received. Every night we have to search for somewhere to find water and a place to pitch our tent. Usually there is somebody who will point us in the right direction, sometimes invite us into their house to enjoy a dazzling array of home-cooked food. These are the people that make our journey and the people that thwart our expectations. We have slept in bird hides, gardens, basements, a horse stable, apartments, a wolf research centre, boats, petrol stations, picnic huts and a girls boarding house, to name but a few, all on the goodness of people. I wonder if I would have been so hospitable to a stranger cycling around my country?
One particular incident particularly stands out: In Uzbekistan we had an experience of hospitality which opened our eyes to a true and selfless generosity. We were searching for a camping spot on the plains, when a heavily eye-browed man appeared and said we could sleep at his house. We met his entire family and were quickly instructed to sit and receive chai, yogurt, homemade bread, and later, rice pudding. They brought the prided television outside for our amusement, although we were basking exultantly in the natural, simple country life. There was a baby of everything; child, donkey, cow, cat, dog and even chicken. The family were so content, they laughed easily and their eyes were alive. Economically, they had nothing, yet they shared with us their lives and the food they had. It was a true lesson in people and of family, they had happiness a six figure salary may never buy. They worked hard but they did it together, with their families and friends.
Being on a physically trying journey into married life has clearly shown the kindness, happiness and simplicity of people (and of each other). By simply peddling into peoples lives we’ve witnessed more humanity and more kindness than could ever be believed if you only ever watch the news. Whichever country, religion or political orientation, people have the same basic needs. So next time you feel upstaged by somebody or you have that smug glimmer of superiority to a colleague, remember that they are only human, as fragile as the next and completely reliant on food, water and sleep. Just like you.