Islandmomma

Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


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“Believe You Can” is Marieke Vervoort’s Motto: Something We Should All Remember!

Traveling is good for you; it broadens the mind; it opens us to experiences, opinions, and ways of life we are unlikely to see if we don’t stir from our hometowns; it makes us more tolerant of different opinions, and raises our general knowledge and our empathy for others. Mark Twain famously said

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Passionate as I am about landscapes and seascapes, the best travel memories always come back to the people I meet. It might be the waiter who makes you laugh, the good old guys playing dominoes outside the bar you stop to joke with, or the kindness of strangers who go out of their way to put you back on the right road when you are lost. Sometimes people who are totally extraordinary cross your path, making your travel really inspiring.

In April in Lanzarote I met someone who is, simply, one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Meeting her was an experience not to be forgotten. Her name is Marieke Vervoort, which is likely a name you don’t know unless you are familiar with her world of Paralympic competition. This story is as full of positivity, determination, focus and inspiration as you will find anywhere.

Until she became ill at 14, Marieke lived the active life of a sporty, teenage girl. Without warning, in 1993 a, then, mysterious illness struck. It is rare, it is degenerative, it is progressive and incurable.  By the turn of the century she had lost the use of her legs, and the condition, which few in her home country, Belgium, suffer, had confined her to a wheelchair. To use the word “suffer” in the same breath as her name seems a bit insulting. She does, but she takes it in her stride, deals with each day as it comes.

Marieke Vervoort

 

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Travel and Challenges as Metaphors for Life: Birthday Musings

How come I didn’t write about my afternoon at the climbing wall in Kendal? Can’t for the life of my remember now. Perhaps I was overcome with shyness, perhaps I thought everyone would laugh? Afterall there were ten-year-old girls practically running up the wall I was so stoked to have climbed! I was hugely proud of myself, and even prouder that Austin was proud of me!

It taught me a lot. I know now why climbing books sell so well, why Joe Simpson and Andy Kirkpatrick are so avidly read. It isn’t all about the climbing, it’s because climbing is a metaphor for life. You don’t jump from the bottom of a mountain to the top. You take it painstaking step by painstaking step and it’s scary, and it’s hard work, and it’s an overwhelming buzz when you finally make it. Okay what I did wasn’t probably even the first rung of the ladder, but it was an inspiration!

Me at climbing wall

So is travel:  you have to plan, miss buses, wait for planes, put up with surly people, dirt, loneliness, boredom  but the good stuff makes it all worthwhile, like reaching the top of the mountain (or the climbing wall!) the buzz you get from experiencing new places, trying new foods, meeting new people, learning about different lifestyles, being overawed by the planet’s beauty is beyond words.

It seems to me that modern life just makes us so comfortable that we lose touch with “real” life, with actually living, experiencing life, instead we watch other people’s pathetic lives on reality tv, grab another ready-made meal and get drunk every weekend to forget how boring our lives are – at least a lot of people do that, and I am more than aware that I’m talking about those of us who are lucky enough to have been born into “western” society. Living a “real” life in Mumbai or the middle of the Sahel simply means surviving sometimes. I know that, and not that I mind my share of wine, nor a good movie, but we shouldn’t expect things to come to us easily.

We have to seek, work at/for, plan, and most of all challenge our perceptions (mostly of ourselves) if we want the buzz. We have to do that bit extra, go that bit farther, dream that bit bigger.

This is what I learned from “climbing,” and also from traveling. The traveling thing I was born knowing, but became more of a challenge in doing it on my own. I had to conquer shyness and my own self-doubts.

I’m very lucky to have two sons who encourage me. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be blogging now, and I would never have climbed the wall. I am incredibly grateful to them both for their inspirations.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I had my first surf lesson! I never got off my stomach, lying on the board and spent more time in the water than on the board I think! Unlike the climbing I doubt it’s something I will try again, but it still taught me things – if at first you don’t succeed try, try again for one! Even on my stomach for about a half a minute I finally “got it” – at least I think I did! That rush that comes when you feel as if you are flying over the water. Also, I hadn’t been for more than a gentle swim in quite a while, and I tend to get a bit nervous, unlike my sons, swimming never came naturally to me, so it was good to regain confidence.

Biggest lesson from yesterday, though? It was fun!!! I think with all the worries brought on by the recession and stuff, I’d forgotten what it was like to have pure fun! And it was good! Happy birthday to me!

 


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We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

The title of this post was Randy Pausch’s mantra.  He died yesterday.  He was 47.  If you need any inspiration in your life, if you need to stop from feeling blue,  if you need to try to understand what it’s all about, just put his name into YouTube.

World is a sorrier place for his passing.  We always say things like, “If everyone were like him what a better place the world would be”, but then we forget that includes us.  Gonna try a bit harder.

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