‘Are you gals ok?’ I call out as I weave my way along the sandy path, passing by one of the bigger bamboo cabins on my way to the dining room.
I get a chorus of ‘we’re fine, thank you’ from the group of friends gathered on the verandah. It’s a loose arrangement. One is in the hammock, a couple are on chairs, another perched on the low wall. Sandals are in a pile by the step, towels and bathers are hanging on a rope line, drying in the afternoon sun.
They return to their conversations as I continue along the path. My heart is singing. These are the moments I most love.
New friendships are being forged.
An outsider would think the gathering was a group of friends or family. But no, it’s only day 2 of our Sharing Timor-Leste trip and this cabin is already established as the cabin to ‘drop by for a chat’.
Occupied by two friends, they take the time to do what Hugh Mackay describes as ‘building bridges’ in their neighbourhood.
Earlier this week I listened to a podcast interview with Hugh Mackay, the much respected social researcher. He talks at length about the epidemic of anxiety and the fact that loneliness is a major social issue. Despite our economic growth we are more distrustful, more anxious and less healthy.
Yet he’s optimistic, believing at our very essence we are social animals and our sense of needing each other will pull us back from the brink of rampant individualism fragmenting our society.
“The state of the nation starts in our street, in our own neighbourhood.”
Hugh suggests that taking an interest in, and treating our neighbours with kindness and respect is a good place to start. Building bridges to neighbours who may be very different in nature, beliefs and way of life, will create a more compassionate society. One that looks out for each other.
“We have to connect with each other. It’s that connection that gets people through.”
Our island neighbourhood of bamboo cabins is made up of travellers from around the world. We all come from very different walks of life.
We have one common thread… we’re curious and adventurous enough to take a boat to a small island off the mainland of Timor-Leste, a destination that definitely ticks the travel description of a ‘the path less travelled’. This is no resort. We’re all here to immerse ourselves into the local culture and have a few outdoor adventures.
By looking out for each other on our adventures, sharing stories, fun and laughs, our small group shifted from strangers to friends in a matter of days, extending to others in the neighbourhood, regardless of differences.
At the same time there was respect for personal space. Eye contact or a wave of the hand was enough of a gesture to convey the ‘I’m happy chilling in my own space right now’ message. Introverts and extroverts found the balance.
I love that this type of travel scenario makes us more open to making real connections. Taking away the ‘busyness’ of daily life and the distractions of online connectivity really leaves us with no excuses. All we need to do now is take a little of that holiday friendliness back home.
The kindness sent out from the verandah of the ‘drop by for a chat cabin’ was felt far and wide. The neighbours we all would love to have.
The interview with Hugh Mackay is well worth a listen. I have touched on just one comment and there is much more depth to it than what I have put across here.
Link to podcast: Hugh Mackay – His latest project examines why so many of us feel anxious and alone. Hugh believes the solution to this emptiness is just outside our front door – in the neighbourhoods where we live.
If you’re up for making some real connections in with new people in small neighbourhoods join us in Bali, Fiji, Timor-Leste, The French Alps and Sri Lanka. Pack an open mind and a sense of curiousity, everything else just falls into place.
Need a hotel on your travels? I use Agoda.com.