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I have traveled the world for the last 12 years.
I have lived abroad in many countries, from Austria, South Africa, and Switzerland, to Saudi Arabia.
I originate from Australia and have traveled for six months on board a cruise ship working and seeing Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Middle East (Iran, Iraq, Dubai, and more), Greece, Italy, Croatia, London, and other parts of Europe as well as visiting America to see family and friends.
Within all of these places I have lived, I’ve seen and interacted with many cultures. The main thing that I have learned is that we all judge, we all struggle with our differences, yet we all want to be loved, received with compassion and kindness, and accepted.
This is true even though cultures are so different. For example, in Europe, I can go to a sauna naked with strangers—both men and women. In Australia and America, I must wear a bikini or it is indecent exposure. Yet, in Saudi Arabia, I must eat separately from single males in a restaurant and wear an abaya.
With all of these unique experiences, I did not change as a person—I just opened my mind to new ways. I just did what was required by each culture. From the outside looking in, I was viewed as a different person in each of these settings. For example, with my naked-in-a-sauna experiences in Europe, people in other cultures would call me a nudist.
Personally, each setting made me feel both uncomfortable and comforted, and often challenged, but these new experiences made me realise that none of it was wrong or right. It was, in fact, just a blessing of life—to experience another way, to open my mind and heart, to know that there are a zillion different ways to live. We should stop assuming our way is the only way. We must stop using our triggers to judge and shame that which is different. Instead, we can open our hearts to learn and grow—to appreciate how others may live and be grateful for the way we live.
Even in real life compared to the online world, there are judgmental differences. On social media, if I share a photo or video in a swimsuit, YouTube or Instagram will label it as adult content or someone will classify my content as porn. Yet, I can go to the river, beach, or pool with my daughter and swim in my bikini—and that’s totally family friendly.
I am not appropriate or not; nor is anyone else. I am not right or wrong; nor is anyone else.
We need to tell these stories because this is when connection happens. And this is how we are received with compassion, kindness, and open hearts—not eyes that judge. Understanding happens when we lift the veils of shame and share the experiences that have created us. Sharing our experiences helps us to not feel so alone. And when we don’t share our stories, and we judge what we see, we miss truly connecting with others. We begin to tell stories about people for them; we construct untrue versions of people that don’t actually exist.
We are led in this world—both on and offline—by our perspectives, our truths, and our cultural acceptance, but we have forgotten to hold space for what we do not know. (This is often what feels uncomfortable for us—things we fear, do not understand, and therefore judge.)
As social media allows us to see deeper into any part of the world and into the lives of others, without even traveling, I am reminded more and more of this teaching. Maybe, just maybe, it is our perspective that should change, rather than the people we’ve been judging or shaming.
Too many of us look through the lens of our own perceptions, beliefs, and teachings, and not enough of us look with open hearts and a curiosity to learn and grow.
Too many of us are afraid of what is different, yet we also crave the unknown. We forget that we are all humans walking on the same planet—just with different stories and different lives. We forget that there is no competition, no right and wrong. Each one of us is a beautiful story to be told.
What if we all took a step back and looked at each other’s lives like documentaries? Perhaps we’d look with fascination, curiosity, and the excitement to learn what we do not know or have never thought to do.
No matter what we see online, we really do not see anything at all. Because each person is so much more than our posts. We are just blessed to be invited to see some of their life. We must learn to cherish this small window and not judge so much. Take the opportunity to witness our world through others’ eyes—with gratitude, because this was once not so easily possible. This window is a gift that helps us to grow, to learn that there are endless possibilities and connection points between each other. That this world is never the same sh*t, different day; it is a zillion different things all rolled into one.
The world is our oyster, if only we are willing to live with open hearts.