The power of connection

This September, after a long time, I enjoyed my first short holiday in Spain. Lovely Sitges, situated at the rocky coast close to Barcelona, is a welcoming town with friendly people and a very relaxed atmosphere. Walking along the promenade was safe even at nighttime, and outside the main tourist season it turned out to be surprisingly quiet and restful. 

Reconnecting with a friend I had not seen in ages while staying at his local B&B in a room with a spectacular sea-view felt very special. Communication through phone or video calls provides a bridge I am thankful for, but meeting and talking with someone in real life is so much more enjoyable. And we had a lot to catch up on.

So I found myself waking up to the sound of the ocean, looking at pink coloured clouds in the morning sky while getting served a fantastic breakfast. Sitting on my balcony in the evening, it was amazing to watch the sun setting behind the famous landmark church of St. Bartomeu and Santa Tecla turning the sea into shimmering gold. Enjoying walks along the coast in the balmy air filled with the aromatic scent of pine trees and gazing at surfers riding the waves.

I cannot remember having ever been at a place where I felt compelled to take so many pictures of the same view at different times of the day. Again and again, trying to capture the beauty, the changing colours, these delightful moments full of relaxation, peace and joy. A wonderful place.

Time slowed down it appeared and so did I, living at a very different, intentional pace savouring every minute. It did me good and made me connect with myself again. It also tipped me off balance somehow. 

When time came to return home I wasn’t ready for it, instantly regretting not being able to stay longer. This longing for a change of scenery, the connection I had built already during these few days to this place, to my friend and people I met were stronger than I had expected.

Back home now, I am trying to maintain this somehow detached sensation, feeling happy and sad at the same time and dreaming of the ocean waves at night.

Life is a journey, not a destination. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I had missed traveling a lot. During the past two years since covid turned our lives upside down and we all had to stay put, my mind had often traveled instead: to people and places I could not visit, wondering if and when I would find them again, changed somehow or maybe unchanged, connecting to them in my thoughts and wishing them well.

Telling myself not having the need for traveling and being ok with breaks at home certainly worked by pushing this thought to the furthest corner of my mind, but I hoped to return to it for sure one day.

Life goes on regardless. We are looking at the same sky, and all that was left for a long time was hoping we’d come out of this situation unharmed. 

Now it feels like emerging from a long tunnel, blinded at first by the light, incredulous to find the light is still there.

Carefully adjusting, still cautious while stepping back into life. Noticing changes, losses and new realities. Questioning old approaches and trying new ones.

We know more now. We are counting our blessings. We remain watchful, realistic though confident. We made it.

Looking at the Spanish people who survived covid and all the heartbreak coming along with it I felt deeply for them. People having lost loved ones, their business or livelihoods, the toll it took on them is enormous.

What struck me was their rigour and discipline complying with the rules still in place – far more strict than in my own country – and on the other hand how much they enjoyed life with family and friends making the most of every minute. Sensing resilience in these friendly faces of people sitting outdoors in cafes or walking on the promenade, I felt happy they had pushed through. The human spirit is not broken.

The pandemic has hit us hard and left its traces. Some decisions taken turned out to be too harsh, but nobody knew better when all of this started. Some decisions were not strict enough, too little too late or being enforced half-heartedly. Some wrong turns were taken and it became obvious that many governments simply chose the usual complacent, unimaginative modus operandi, opting for “the easy way” instead of making bold moves and focusing far more on people’s needs.

Imagine, what we could all do – together – if we really wanted to. (Greta Thunberg)

But then, as is so often the case, it is the ordinary citizens who do the right thing. So many people extending a hand, generous, committed, exploring solutions and offering help in a multitude of creative ways. Building new networks, taking care of, supporting, upholding and inspiring each other. Not giving up. Suddenly, things shifted fast. And that shows us where we should be heading.

I am really curious: what will change further, what will remain? Will we build on what we have learned and build back better? Will we fall back into old mistakes?

Will we finally pluck up the courage to set the course for a sustainable future and a people focused society?

The importance and power of human connection is not a dramatically new insight, but it has become clear once again: this is what matters most, above all else.

Regularly meeting my friends here in Utrecht – outside and at a distance –  got me through pandemic time. What a blessing. 

Being able to visit my family in Germany this year brought back a piece of normalcy into my life and calmed my worrying mind.

Welcoming the first visitors at my place and now finally, starting to travel again and reconnecting with friends further away and in other countries is just great. 

Did we need a reminder to make sure we re-focus our thoughts and actions on what really counts in life?

For sure, connection to others is the invisible fabric that carries us through. We can’t do without it. 

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