I learnt a wonderfully poignant lesson regarding the joy born from a simple, non-materialistic existence during my time in Cusco, Peru, earlier this year. Through experiencing the welcoming nature of the poorest communities first hand I realised, quite surprised, that these people, who had no valuable posessions, were both more giving of the little they had and significantly happier through this than many of the people I’ve met travelling through the first world.
Gloria, pictured above, smiles her distinct gap-toothed smile as she introduces herself to me. I am clearly lost on the hillside having wandered randomly, as I enjoy to do when travelling, into what resembled a shanty town. She seems happy that I am giving the haggard dog near her feet some attention. After failing to hold a proper conversation, she welcomes me to see her home.
This is her home.
It’s within this deeply enlightening moment that a different, quite damning, light was cast on my perennial ‘real’ struggle with the wifi being a little sketchy around 5pm or my genuinely distressing shower that sometimes has warm, as opposed to hot, water. Completely unintentionally, she had made me feel pathetic. Mostly because her home wouldn’t pass for a garden shed in most first world countries, but also for the simple fact that she was evidently overjoyed with her life.
Interestingly, Gloria seemed to feel quite lucky for having the abode that she resided in. She was better off than those living on the streets. Instead of focusing on how unfair her life is compared to someones in a first world country, she thinks of how lucky she is to have what she has.
It’s at moments like these, that are truly fleeting when living in first world countries, that we are gifted with an alternative perspective. At moments like these we can be truly grateful for all that we have, as opposed to focusing entirely on all that we don’t.
Equally, the happiest smile I’ve seen in quite some time was Gloria’s. She may be poor, she may grind on a daily basis to put bread on the table and she may have little to no material posessions, but yet her smile beams wider than any I am yet to see on Oxford Street in London.
(Photos – Eli Woodbine, Peru 2015)