I’ve had a thing for globes my whole life. I can hardly pass one without stopping, spinning it, and playing some lightning-round competition of name-that-capital. No matter how much or how far I travel, there’s still a certain thrill about imagining the sensory joys that each new city might offer.

As a child, a globe felt like an escape clause from a contract that had been written for me – a contract that I would stick close to our two-storey home, and relish the tidy middle class certainty my parents and grandparents had created.

So from an early age my frontiers were geographic. Call it old-fashioned wanderlust, but I felt a calling — really I did! — to explore. To soak in different languages and rituals, ways of building homes and marking births and deaths. And at the same time to be reminded of an enduring common humanity bound up in the shape of our lives.

First there was France on an exchange program, then South Africa at the dawn of democracy, Mozambique after a civil war, Zimbabwe in the middle of an HIV/AIDS epidemic. By the time I was on a beaten-up helicopter flying to the airport in Sierra Leone, or riding on a bus through the hairpin curves of Kosovo’s hills and mountains, there were very few challenges I couldn’t face.

I’d built my courage muscles by practicing curiosity – sitting for meals with strangers, asking question after question, and walking down roads whose names I couldn’t pronounce. By getting lost. A lot. And asking for help. I’d honed my self-awareness, developing a second set of eyes to observe myself – gestures, posture, clothing, and choices – through the eyes of others. I’d learned to sit in the discomfort of long car rides over bumpy roads, bathing with buckets, and the piercing glares of strangers. I’d learned to connect through conversation with people whose skin was a different shade, or who followed religions that held no currency for me.

I’d learned to adapt – to let go and take in nimbly and intentionally – through a virtuous cycle of introspection and exploration. And that adaptive ability has been the single most useful skillset I’ve taken into my life as a mother, writer, partner, facilitator, speaker and entrepreneur. As I now head towards other closer-to-home frontiers – personal and professional – having the courage to adapt is my go-to magic.

Courage muscles can only be built one way: through the deliberate curation and tracking of diverse experience. Ideas help us to make sense of our lives, but tracking our experiences shapes habits and practices; it develops skill and mindsets. Now, those experiences need not be in far flung places, but they do need to be diverse enough to remind us of the space we have to grow into, and the skills we can pick up along the way.

Through experience we stretch out into our lives, no longer needing to remain contained to apparently fixed expectations, roles or patterns. We develop a type of personal operating system that allows us to accept – maybe even enable – disruption. Personal growth and change become a lived experience, not an intellectual one.

Antacara is about crossing our frontiers – not through setting goals and writing plans. Or even by putting pins into maps and buying tickets to get there. But by building up the muscles it takes to support us on our lifelong journeys of joyful exploration.

Don’t expect helicopters and hairpin curves. But do expect to sit for meals with strangers. Expect questions and streets with names you can’t pronounce. You might even get lost. But then, maybe you are just waiting to found.

Leave a Reply