The last post featured a woman’s life lessons learned during the time she spent beside her dying husband’s side. You might prefer to start reading about why Rita was faced to make a life changing decision at 62 years old here.
It was suppose to be an easy decision to make. The construction of the first floor was completed. All I had to do was sell the house and make my way back to Germany. Why now was it so difficult for me to do this?
Yes, the reason I came back to Chile was because of the house my husband and I bought and because he loved it here. But this wasn’t enough to make me stay. Adapting to this culture, the people and the lifestyle would be too much for me.
At 62 years old, did I really want to go through this change?
It was one thing when my husband was alive, he took care of all the finances and the major decisions, but now, I was alone. Yet, I felt a part of me telling me to stay.
As the construction of the second floor began, I decided to discover this place a little more. I went for walks every morning through the fields and in the village. All I could see was the dryness, broken down houses and people living in poverty. I would come back to my house, sit on the porch and ask myself,
“Why am I still here? How could these people live like this?”
Despite all the good reasons to leave Vicuna, there was something strong keeping me here. I knew I would not be able to leave until I had my answers.
One day, as I was walking by the river, I saw a group of people crossing a wooden rope bridge. It was swinging from side to side and I started to panic. “That thing cannot support all those people. It will break any minute now and they are going to fall.” As I looked closer, I noticed they were laughing and talking to each other as if walking through a park. This was not the first time they were crossing the bridge. They were not sharing my fear. I looked down at the river and saw a bright light from the reflection of the sun. Surrounded by all the mountains, it was the most beautiful scenery. There was something special, something that seemed to fill the air around me and I no longer felt afraid. I felt my husband’s presence and an inner voice telling me, “It’s going to be okay.”
I wanted more of this sensation of feeling like nothing else matters. Freedom was at my reach.
That night, I sat out on the porch. It was pitch dark with only the bright light coming from the stars above. I had never really taken the time to appreciate this view. This region has one of the most spectacular night skies in the world. Just ten miles south, is El Pangue Observatory along Elqui Valley, with a magnificent view of the Milky Way. On this particular night, I looked up at the sky. If you stare long enough, after a while, you get a sensation that you could reach out and grab one in your hands. I picked out a star and cried out to it for help. “Please, let your light shine on me, guide me to the wonders of this village.”
The next morning, I made my way out to meet the people and find out why they were choosing to be poor.
Every morning, the men made their way in the mountains with their livestock, mainly to make cheese. They sold whatever they produced for food to feed their families. In Germany, we have everything at pretty much the snap of finger: If we want light, we turn on a switch and we have light. If we want hot water, we turn on a faucet and we have plenty of hot water. If we are cold, we turn on the heat. These people live on a ranch with hardly a roof over their heads. They go out to the river to get their water. They have no electricity and need to make a fire for heat and to boil water.
After having spend several weeks with them and build their confidence, I asked them:
“Do you ever think about moving to a big city where you would have more conveniences?”
Every one of them replied, “We have what we need right here. Moving to a big city would not give us more, it will give us less. We are very blessed with the fresh water from the river, the beautiful night skies and the peacefulness that comes from these mountains. We have the light from the sun, when it is dark, we go to sleep, and we do not need artificial light. Everyone I love is part of my life.”
They had all the riches that money cannot buy.
They were at peace within themselves. The happiest people I have ever been around. They knew all about life in the big city but were not in the least bit interested.
I went back to Germany after almost a year to visit my family. Soon, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. None of my old friends had time to go for a coffee. I only got to see my grandchildren on Sunday afternoons for lunch. Although, everyone kept telling me how much they missed me and wanted me to stay in Germany, they had other priorities: work, housework, shopping… And I was not one of them. I felt out of place. I felt I was getting in their way. In the evenings, they were too tired to go for a walk, play games or just talk and laugh. Instead, they watched TV or sat in front of the computer to escape their stressful days.
I remembered being once a prisoner to living this fast pace life.
For the first time in my life, I was free to do what made me feel alive without the stress of doing something for a later day that might never come.
I went back to my home in Vicuna where I was surrounded by the people who taught me that we are not rich by the things we own, but, by the special gift that we all have within us. It is true that in Germany I had all the conveniences and commodities that I did not have in Vicuna, however, I did not have the inner tranquility that I felt in Vicuna.
At 62 years old, I felt more alive than ever. I had the energy to take charge of my life.
I wasn’t sure exactly how but I knew I wanted to be around people.
One night, as I was sitting on my porch admiring the night skies, there was a knock on the door. “Please, we were told you had two extra bedrooms in this house. We have tried all the hostels; they have no more rooms available. Can we sleep here? We will pay you the price of a hostel.”
I made them some hot tea and we sat together and shared each other’s stories.
I just could not ignore the message I was being given by those four travelers. I looked up at the stars and asked for strength and courage.
I took the decision to enroll in night courses to learn how to start and manage a business. I was going to run my very own hostel. My husband always took care of all the finances. I did not know the first thing about this stuff.
It was scary, but, it was the most exciting moment in my life.
It was not easy going back to school at 62 years old. There were moments were I felt overwhelmed and thought maybe I am too old for this. I would just slow down, look up at the stars and ask for strength and courage to keep going. I really wanted this. I believed that it could happen. I just had to believe in myself.
Today, it is 8 years that my Hostel ‘Donde Rita’ has been open.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved – Helen Keller
Whether it’s losing your job, a relationship breakup or moving to another country, sudden changes can leave us feeling vulnerable and alone. Have you ever been faced with having to start over due to some unforeseen change? How did you do it?