Walter Mitty, leaps of faith and “The Moment”
posted by Stephanie in Dot Dot Dot
The road to self discovery in Iceland started by a leap of faith
About more than ten years ago, right when I graduated high school, I had a planned to take a solo sojourn to India during my gap year. I bought my back pack, registered myself to a volunteer program in the Himalayas in a rescue center for Tibetan monk refugees, read all the books I needed to read including a great amount of Indian contemporary literature to better understand the culture and immerse myself… I was armed with contact numbers for relatives of friends living there, I had planned my entire voyage looking to give meaning to the buddhist tattoo I acquired when I was 16… To escape my life and go as far away as possible, to see the world, unhindered, to feel and embrace life and whatever may come my way. These weren’t empty plans. I had bought my airplane ticket. In one month I was ready to go. My mother, worried sick out of her mind thought it was unwise for an 18 year old girl to travel solo to India, flew to Paris and forced me to refund my ticket. And took me on an amazing mother and daughter bonding trip to Naples and Capri.
I still have that backpack. Unused. With the tags. Waiting for that ultimate adventure that I had always dreamed of. I can’t help but think of how different my life would have been had I actually gone to India. That summer, my life took a sharp turn, instead of meeting buddhist monks I met my destiny in front of the Eiffel Tower at a picnic in Paris. I had met who was to be my first husband. Young love, stars in our eyes, two great people with our lives ahead of us. I was engaged six months later and married not too long after. I tied myself down, there was no one to blame but myself. Every summer instead of going out to discover the world as all my other friends did, I stayed home like a good wife, taking on interesting summer internships in Paris, summer study programs, throwing myself into the working world and taking short vacations nearby. I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. Then life happened and things did not work out and I found myself in Manila, with my unused backpack and my passport still empty of new stamps, trapped in a golden cage. Fortunately at the age of 24 I was still able to turn things around and start fresh, meeting not too long after the ONE. But the journey wasn’t easy and much of my life had always been about that great leap of faith.
Two nights ago I finally got to watch “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Not only was I surprised by how beautiful the film was, it was also extremely moving. When he pulls out his old unused backpack, I couldn’t help but think of mine. Still unused but proudly with no regrets. That moment in the movie, set in some remote part of Greenland, with Space Oddity playing in the background, as he runs towards the helicopter piloted by a drunk stranger, he takes that leap of faith that will change his life forever. My leap of faith was letting myself fall in love again. To open my heart, be vulnerable and accept what life has in store for me. To see the world with the best travel partner God has given me. Five years later, Jonathan and I have stamped away our passports, each year choosing new destinations and new adventures. From exploring the depths of the sea, to hidden temples of Angkor and having tea in Ceylon, walking to the rhythm of violins in Prague, even old places take on a new feeling when we go together, wandering the streets stumbling onto new paths.
“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating
in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today”
There are much of our travels not captured on film. In fact the very best moments have always been camera free. My husband always said to me “The best picture we ever have is up here” while smiling and tapping his head lightly. In an age of Instagram and the constant need to update the world on every moment I feel like sometimes we forget to just live it. Live it fully. Melt into that serendipitous moment when the universe conspired to bring you there. The evening in the Maldives where we found ourselves under a blanket of stars feeling so far away, on a dot in the middle of the ocean. The moment we stepped into a clearing off the temple of Preah Tom in Angkor full of butterflies, feeling the energy of beautiful spirits, like they were blessing us. Happily intoxicated in New York in the Rose Bar of the Gramercy Park Hotel, oblivious to all the celebrities that were apparently there that evening. We were young, in love and newlyweds, we were the rock stars. Driving home after dinner with my family in an old castle in Tuscany where the food was splendid and the wine divine, and we laughed until they had to gently force us out… Still laughing in the car, our tummies nourished and our hearts full of love and the radio starts playing “Tonight, we are young…” Moments that have no photo, no evidence except in our memory and etched in our souls. Moments that become part of us and changes our lives forever.
At the end of Walter’s quest, when he finally reached the top of the Himalayas in ungoverned Afghanistan, photographer Sean O’Connell who has been patiently waiting for the appearance of the elusive snow leopard, and when the ghost cat appears, the silent solemn moment ensues like this:
Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.
And one day I may even use that backpack although now, a new adventure that is parenthood is soon about to begin and we will probably be carrying a different kind of cargo. Here’s to a life full of leaps of faith and staying in the moment. A life full of love with no regrets.
Love and Light, Stephanie
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.