Giving & Receiving and Living in the Gift

Giving and receiving is a basic human need in my opinion and something I have learned a lot about while traveling. Especially receiving.

A cup of tea, the first thing that met us at the border of Iraq

When you live like this, without much money and possessions and (materially) not much to give, you are to some extent dependent on the good will of others, and this is an experience that I think many are afraid to face, out of many reasons.
First, many people would say that they are afraid that people would not be giving - naturally, since many of us have been raised in a society where people see it as a virtue to be independent and people don't give a lot to each other. Everything is being bought and sold, even human relations.
Second, people are afraid of receiving because they are afraid to be dependent and afraid to owe and be in debt. Deep down I think that people are aware of the karmic wheel of giving and receiving and feel that what they take they have to give back. So deep down a fear of receiving is just as much a fear of giving, really.
A lot of people would also say that they would feel that they exploit people and they'd rather work and pay for everything, which is a fine cause, but with money you loose a lot of human connection and experience and you also, in my opinion, end up giving a lot less.
When you refuse a gift you are saying "no thanks, I'm fine, I don't need you".

The bounty of nature. The trees that give us so much. Karimabad, Pakistan

But I have come to believe that "standing in debt" is not a bad thing at all, because receiving with an open heart leaves you in a space of gratitude, and this is a really beautiful and pure space to be in!
It leaves you with a full heart, full of wanting to give back to the world.
It leaves you humble and full of awe of the goodness of the world.
As my friend Kevin McNally put it in his book "Hitchhiking the World" when he first started hitchhiking: "I learned how humbling it is to be dependent on the good will of poor people and this simple fact is what shaped my approach to travel for the next 30 years"

Me and Sparrow with the gift of salty chai and sweet biscuits. Kashmir, India

Furthermore by receiving a gift, you also allow the other person to give, which is a really beautiful thing.
I guess that most people have experienced giving a gift from an open heart, from your own place of gratitude, without a wish to be paid back, but giving to a person in need, that didn't expect your gift. That is a truly fulfilling experience that can leave you feel more full or rich that before you gave!

People standing in line at the free kitchen at the Golden Temple in Amritsar India, that feeds around 100,000 people daily for free all day long.

After all we are all born into gratitude, having received life and care from our parents or the people that took care of us when we were born and we would have died without an immense amount of help from others.
So everybody is able to give from this place of gratitude and nobody should be afraid of receiving. Because standing in debt and being dependent is what makes us human and what makes our souls grow. We are deeply dependent on each other and on nature to survive and grow and we are not alone.

Jeff and Reza saying goodbye to the people that hosted us for many many days in their art space in Diyabakir, Turkey

By traveling you really learn to be in gratitude, because you have nothing. You have many experiences of sleeping out and being woken up by people or police. But being given just a rooftop to sleep on and waking up to people giving you the gift of a huge breakfast among the gifts of nature, the shining sun, flowers in bloom and singing birds, fills you with awe and gratitude!

Matt and Jeff grateful for the morning, Midyat, Turkey

Breakfast on the rooftop
Even as a 'poor' traveler with not much to give, being rich in experiences and a different culture,I believe that we gave a lot to those who chose to house us and give us food. As we were carrying instruments and played music, we always shared our music and sang with the local people. We shared our experiences and beliefs and listened to their stories and learned and taught each other skills. For them it was also important that their stories got heard from someone from outside and carried with us to the world.
A meeting of different cultures will always be an opportunity for giving and receiving.

Listening and learning, Jodhpur, India
This shepherd family shared a huge meal with us in their nomad tent in the mountains of Eastern Turkey

Sparrow and a Kurdish girl, Turkey

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  1. "When you travel like this, without much money and possessions and not much to give, you are truly dependent on the good will of others. Mostly poor people."

    Not to rain on your hippy parade, I gather that you're enjoying yourself a lot... but doesn't it sound even a tiny bit exploitative to you to live off poor people when really you could just work three months a year (fruit picking or something) and pay for your own travels?
    I know many people who hitchike and sleep under the stars, but they don't get poor people to maintain their first world habits...

    Just saying.

    1. Hehe, yeah I get your point, and met this kind of behavior from many travelers also, who refuse to receive gifts for one reason or another, but that's what this post is about, not to be afraid to receive gifts, even from poor people. (the funny thing is, poor people are often the ones more happy to give and share, and I don't think any of the people I met and shared with felt exploited)
      Maybe I expressed myself wrong by saying that you are dependent on poor people giving you what they have, it's not really what this is about. Its more about opening up to giving and receiving and sharing with everyone.
      You also won't really get any "first world habits" (whatever they are and whoever is considered to be a first world person) covered (if I understand you right...). When you live in the world of the gifts you are probably in a "first world" view, very poor yourself.
      You can work for money and spend money, but you will miss out a lot of human connection. You can buy everything yes, even friends now a days, but a gift has in my view much more value than a store bought item.
      Thank you for your comment anyway and I hope you understand a bit of my point and you are welcome to not agree of course :)

    2. By first world habits I mean the privilege of traveling without having to worry about money because somehow, deep down, you know you're not dependent on struggle for your survival and these gifts end up being a commodity.


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