Walking through a Shiva temple near the ocean with a mind stuffed with facts from the tour guide, I realized I would probably forget it all by the end of the weekend. Without a doubt, the temples I had seen that day were a sight to see: they had beautiful figures hewn into the stone over 12 centuries ago and told ancient stories of gods, heroic deeds and the ongoing interaction between heaven and earth.
That’s not what makes a journey, though. It’s the people. It’s always the people. It’s not the breathtaking sights, but those whose breath is stolen. It’s not the greeting of the early morning sun that you remember, but the friend who fell out of bed to find it with you. It’s not the amazing meals you share, but the smiles and laughter of those around you who have a shared sense of not only where we’ve been but also where we might go next. These people are your cast of characters and they are our storytellers: all unique and equipped with a full canvas of emotion.
A few weeks ago we visited a temple complex that probably covered two dozen acres. The structures were massive and the carvings ornate. We had the chance to go deep inside one of the temples where the heat was maintained at a withering intensity to match the shrine’s holiness. We had another opportunity to see another inner room, but this time I passed and instead decided to sit and watch people in the open-air hall that marked the entrance inside. It was here that I witnessed real beauty as people from all walks of life came to pray, dropping their body to the floor. Hinduism, still strange and unfamiliar to me, did not make much sense as I was herded into those inner rooms, but the quiet reverence that these temple goers displayed told a story I could understand.
The world is ours and powerful, a strength that only comes from a collective ownership and engagement. Like gravity, people give a stickiness to these stories to aid our faulty memories. Forget about the sights you see and the facts you pick as these are just the backdrop for your story. Instead, collect stories filled with people, augmented by experience, and you will find that they will never leave your orbit.