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Learning life’s lessons through travel

Monday 19 September 2022 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Opinion


Learning life’s lessons through travel
Ruta Tangiiau Mave. Photo: CI NEWS

Travel is the only thing we can buy that gives us nothing in our hands but can truly make us richer beyond material wealth, writes Ruta Mave.

I am sitting at a wharf side cafeteria in Palermo. There are yachts larger than my house docked in front of me and cruise ships bigger than my hotel and population of Rarotonga sitting further out. It is a city that has been invaded and occupied the past 2500 years by Greeks, Arabs, Romans, and Normans. It has been a multicultural and mixed religious hub for centuries around this port so close to the coast of Africa. The invasions continue with tourists from all walks of life, religion, status and curiosity.

Writers and artists, famous and infamous, have flocked here and penned notable words about the air, sea, food, seafood and people. The film The Godfather based upon a story of Sicilian mafia family renowned for organised crime were from a village 60km inland from here. Ironically, they couldn’t film there as the ‘family’ of the area wanted to charge protection money so the director filmed the rural scene elsewhere, but the final tragic scene of the third movie is filmed on the steps of the Opera House in Palermo.

Meanwhile, here I am soaking up the atmosphere trying to believe I too can join the ranks of the greats and pen a small and hopefully enriching tale that will encourage you to travel and see this world outside the bubble we sew ourselves into.

Travel is the only thing we can buy that gives us nothing in our hands but can truly make us richer beyond material wealth. It is an investment into knowledge and understanding and one hopes, empathy. Too often we remain at home in our comfortable hub judging what others have or do. When we travel, we get to walk miles in different shoes and experience their surroundings and from such a perspective perhaps come to understand and learn from them.

Some say they travel to escape life, when really you need to travel before life escapes you and passes you by. Travelling to new countries and cultures assaults your body’s senses with new sounds, languages, accents, volumes and tastes of fresh, and homemade, lavish and simple, visual landscapes of crowded cities and undulating countryside’s and most difficult of all to adapt to the various toilets and pillows. 

Travel can leave you with some trinkets that hold many monumental memories and its these that will always be of a constant delight and comfort for you during your life. Memories are the only treasures you can be guaranteed to take with you when you die and never regret.

Travelling is not for the faint hearted it takes a lot of time and energy so much so after you return from your holiday you need time to recuperate. It is a great test of longevity for a relationship travelling together and losing luggage – it’s right up there with untangling Christmas lights.

Sicily landscapes are rich in historical monuments older than Jesus. I was able to place my hands on the stones carved by slaves 800 BC – before Christ was born –from a productive and trading civilisation of 300,000 people. The soil is rich from volcanic activity and the agriculture is abundant with grapes, olives, citrus, herbs, and all manner of bountiful vegetables. Food is crafted, cooked and savoured in bright colours of the rainbow we usually only see on our health charts at school, not on our plates to eat.

It continues to baffle me how we with very similar volcanic fertile soil, swaths of available untended land and a desperate need to make our own economy grow from our own hand, we have not been able to achieve an equal contribution to our economy as seen here in Italy. So far the best I see we have produced in comparable amount is the mafia.

The initiative started in Aitutaki and too slowly implemented by the Agriculture Ministry to export our fruit has been more painful to witness than watching paint dry on a humid day. We have always had the unique position to be the organic farm to New Zealand. We don’t need to go for world domination from the start, we couldn’t cope for one – we should look at the niche market of sustainable, organic, pathway because that is the future – at least it should be ours.

Italy is the land of sweet breakfast pastries and cream filled cannelloni, pasta, pizza, cheeses and four course dinners yet I have only seen one obese person. Italians are not all thin but they are far healthier, than us. Our health is bordering a pandemic of generational NCD children who know no other life, we need to travel back to the healthy practices of our grandparents to save our grandchildren.