Wow. I never thought just a few days could change a life in such a deep and fundamental way. Allow me to explain. Last week me and my girlfriend stepped into an airplane, headed towards Kyiv, Ukraine.
Once there, we would go on to meet her family, for me the first time ever. In my head, all would go very smoothly, no problems, no bad feelings, all one big pink fluffy cloud. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong…
Imagine this, a guy, who had lived (and never left) in the Western World for his entire life, always surrounded by a comfortable home and a somewhat quite lifestyle, suddenly is thrown in what at first glance looks like a poor and true second world country.
The life in Ukraine from the first glance
Instead of all the new, modern, and shiny cars, buildings, roads (basically everything), he finds himself almost 30 years back in time. Old cars, mostly outdated buildings, and roads with holes big enough to bath a middle-sized toddler.
I think it is safe to say I experienced a major culture shock when I entered Ukraine.
The first half day in Kyiv was so full of new impressions and just pure shock. In the evening, my brain was completely fried with information. I was mentally and physically exhausted.
It was only because of my amazing girlfriend that I was able to process everything that was happening right in front of my eyes. And process it, I did.
The other side of the coin – what is different from the Western world?
After a good reflection session, and a good night’s rest, I was able to open my eyes to the life that was unfolding for me. Walking to the city of Kyiv, I was able to see the humor and beauty in all of it. I was able to truly listen to what my heart was telling me about this new place, and new people.
Now, I could see the beauty in this completely different environment, feel a certain vibrant aliveness that I had hardly ever felt in the Western World.
Living in the postwar city – how does it feel?
Every day that I’ve been here brought something entirely new to me, with different impressions and experiences and emotions, not one moment is the same as it was before.
For example, on the way to the house, when we had just arrived by the overnight train and were picked up by her parents, we had to stop because a 25-truck deep military escort was passing us by. Just 3 years ago, in this very city, the fighting broke out that started the war. A humbling experience to say the least.
And still, I noticed, among all the poverty and horror that has happened here, life moves on. People continue living their normal lives, they do not walk around moping or feeling bad for themselves. It is truly remarkable to be able to experience all this, powerful even, I would say.
The biggest lesson for the people from the Western World
Since I arrived here I have realized one very important thing above all else. It might not be exactly what you think, that we in the Western World have it so good and should be thankful for all the comfort that surrounds us, for example.
Or, that even when you think you have it bad with your minimum salary in Europe you would be extremely wealthy in Ukraine. Of course, these are all lessons that I have learned, a new perspective that I have gained while being here, but it is not the biggest lesson I have learned.
No, above all else I have learned two lessons that I will forever remember in this life.
Material wealth indeed doesn’t make you truly happy
The first being that you don’t need any material wealth in order to feel truly happy. I have seen that, even though, people here live in small, old and outdated apartments, they are so much alive and happy. I would even say that they are much more alive than any average person in the West.
Because people overall don’t have so much money to spend, people have less electronics and devices than we have in the West.
I believe that this is the reason people are so vibrantly alive. I have learned that it is always possible to disconnect and truly live and feel all the emotions that rise up in your body.
Home is not related to a certain place
The second lesson that I have learned, and I would say the most important lesson of all, is that the word home is not related to a certain place, how cliché this might sound. Home is where the heart is, and it doesn’t matter if this is a house, place, city, or person.
For me, I have very strongly realized that all these seemingly inconveniences about life here don’t matter at all in the grand scheme of things.
What matters most is that you feel at home with the love that is all around you. I know that, wherever I might live, and how poor I might be, as long as I stay connected to that inner source of love, I will be alright.
The ability to love is humankinds greatest gift. It is what makes us human, and it is what gives us the ability to truly be alive. If we are connected to that inner sense of love, we will always be able to be truly alive and experience life in its purest form.
If you would like to learn more about unconditional love, check out this article.
We will be able to truly live in the moment and open our heart to all the possibilities in this world. And when we do that, humankind will spread its wings and truly soar.
If you have any comments or questions about my trip to Ukraine, feel free to ask😊