We’ve all been there. Getting together with friends and friends of the friends, starting to tell a story, it may be from your latest travels, and then be constantly interrupted by someone else who must tell their own story first and faster. Even if something bad happened to you in the said travel story, you are still interrupted because they had experienced something much worse and they must tell it first.
I have always appreciated a good listener, even more than a good storyteller. A good listener always has time for you. You know he/she will listen to you and will give your storytelling the importance, patience and time that it deserves. And if you know how to listen, your future travels, too, will be wiser and more interesting. Because, as photographer Frederique Peckelsen says in our latest interview, “one thing I have learned though is that there is no need to travel just for the sake of it. Sometimes I felt that I had been home long enough and it was time to just go somewhere. Those journeys would never really impact me, because they might have been initiated out of boredom, instead of real interest in a place. I rather have a place coming to me through a photo that sparks a fascination or an article about the history of a place or even an old illustrations book from a certain area than me just picking a place to go to just because I want to leave.”
There are things I have missed since March and things that I haven’t. One thing I haven’t missed is having to put up with someone who needs to be the center of attention all the time. I know now who is willing to listen first. And when they in turn have a story to tell, I will be the first one affording it all my attention.
That’s the beauty about books. You always have the freedom of choosing the books you read. And only the worthy will get your undivided mindfulness until the end. A good travel book will require all your attention and interest, but it will also offer you room to dream, courage to take a leap of faith, power to transport you, the impulse for change. Maybe from now on we’ll be more selective with the stories we choose to listen to so that the experience feels just as enriching as when reading a good travel book.
Beryl Markham and Martha Gellhorn were both reluctant in telling their stories. That’s the first thing that made me interested in their books, the introduction to Beryl Markham’s book, West with the Night, being written by Martha Gellhorn herself. Both unconventional, brave, contradictory. Beryl Markham, a pioneering aviator, who recklessly pursued her life and freedom with a child-like curiosity – “I learned what every dreaming child needs to know – that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or beyond it.” Martha Gellhorn, novelist, journalist, war correspondent and great traveller, although she called herself an amateur traveller, who gathered the best disaster stories from her lifelong peregrinations in what came closest to a memoir that she ever wrote, Travels with Myself and Another – “Nothing is better for self-esteem than survival.”
It’s time to take time to listen better, read more and sort ourselves out.