This girl radiates positive energy and happiness. She is an artist, studying to be a yoga teacher and is very spiritual, which is quite apparent in her attitude, the way she speaks, and what she says.
Her and her boyfriend have been travelling since September. She is Italian, he American. They met working in Texas, but they didn’t actually start dating until they began travelling together. She said they’ve been together only 4 months; I say that when you are travelling with someone, spending most every day and every night with them, a 4 month relationship is more like a year in “normal” dating terms. They appear to have an amazing, healthy relationship. The way they speak to each other, calmly solve conflicts, and enjoy each other’s company while maintaining independence… it’s exactly what I hope to one day have with someone. They are traveling southward, as she soon needs to be in Cusco, Peru for more yoga training.
I didn’t become very close with her (or her boyfriend) – we didn’t even exchange contact info (i.e. become Facebook friends), but she was the memorable kind of person I’m always so humbled to meet.
Let’s call her Spirit.
I’d like to introduce you, also, to Mal. She works about 10 days a month as an editor. She spends the day editing online, makes a quick $100 or $150, and continues to enjoy life, work-free. She is a talented writer (I linked to her blog when I wrote about a Barefoot Mexican Paradise), a quick, witty person, and a spontaneous adventurer. One day, Mal and I went for a run in the rain. As everyone else ran for shelter, I commented on how I like dancing in the rain. A minute later, we were on our way out of the hostel, running through town, and eventually ending with a walk on the beach, sharing mosquito frustrations as the sun disappeared.
One morning, Spirit, Mal, and I were sitting on the patio at the hostel, chatting away. Mal told Spirit that, after much thought and deliberation, she had come up with a response to the question, and she was quite happy with it. I had obviously missed missed some conversation between these two because I had no idea what they were talking about. Spirit observed my ignorance, and began to explain about her project.
She has been asking people what Personal Freedom means to them. Her intention is to use all of the responses to form a book aimed at offering various perspective on Personal Freedom. She is asking this question to all kinds of travelers and locals in the places she goes.
When I asked her about her motivation and reasons for doing this, she had, unsurprisingly, a very spiritual, love-thy-neighbor kind of answer: She needs to do something for the greater good. She doesn’t want to just travel, she wants to do something special, something meaningful. With her work, she hopes to influence people by opening their minds to other perspectives, ideas, and possibilities.
Mal gave a profound, short-and-sweet answer: “To me, personal freedom means learning to listen to what makes you happy instead of what you think is supposed to make you happy.” Wow, pretty awesome, right? She’s a wise gal, this Mal.
Spirit asked if I would also contribute my thoughts. I shared my concern that my response would not be authentic, having just heard another response with which I actually really agree. I would want to say almost the same thing, and I don’t know if I would have come up with a similar answer had I not heard her’s.
We got to talking a little more about the idea of personal freedom, and I shared some of my thoughts. Both women were pleasantly startled when I said, casually, what would become my definition of personal freedom: to not be bound by others’ expectations. It’s very similar to what Mal said, and surely influenced by it, but it’s my own thought. And one I quite like.
Personal freedom: to not be bound by other people’s expectations.
We continued this very intriguing conversation and naturally let it wander to other engaging, thoughtful topics.
These two women – Spirit and Mal – are wonderful people. They are the kind of people who brighten my day not just with laughter, wine, and the like, but with intelligent, profound conversation. I am a better person for having met them. I only hope I have done and can do the same for others along the way.
Here’s to those wonderful souls who are bright, shining stars in our lives, who help us reach for a better version of ourselves – whether for one day, one year, or forever.