A while ago (actually a few years ago) I celebrated my 30th birthday in Vancouver. I needed to get away from it all, and get my sushi fix at my all-time-favourite restaurant (Kingyo on Denman Street). After dinner I walked around the neighbourhood, and sat down on a small bench in the West End district to listen to some music I heard coming from the apartment building behind the bench. It didn’t take long until a lady walked by and noticed I was listening to the music. She sat down and shared the story I now share with you: the music was played by an older couple living on the top floor of the building, and they regularly played their piano and many (!) other instruments with their balcony doors wide open. On New Years Eve, every year, they would play “Old Lang Syne”, right at midnight, to ring in the new year. Although I’ve never met them, and without them knowing it, they’ve played for me on my 30th birthday – and made an impression on my special day I’ll never forget. Thank you.
This year I turned 32, and even though many things have changed, I found myself back in Vancouver to celebrate. Being the creature of habit I am I had dinner at the same restaurant, and I went for a walk in the same area after. To my surprise, I heard the music again. I sat down and listened for a while. What are the odds.
Tonight it’s New Years Eve. I’m sure they’re playing Old Lang Syne, and while I won’t be sitting on my Vancouver bench tonight, I’m there in spirit. The old couple probably will never know the impression they left with me and how they were part of two special moments in my life. I remember those moments, and this story, everytime they play “Old Lang Syne” on the radio during the holidays. The story also made me realize we probably do the same every day, all of us. Without realizing it, we’ve touched many lives with something we thought was insignificant. A friendly “hello”, a smile – you never know how far it will go. You might have just made that person’s day, because it was all they needed in that very moment. For that I thank you.
May that be our collective New Years resolution for 2015 – to touch as many lives as we can, and leave every person and situation we come across a little better than we found it, him or her. It’s the reason I do what I do – whether it’s sharing my stories through my photography, books or public talks – it all comes with one important invitation – to go see all the beauty this world has to offer for yourself. That’s what prompted me to write a book about the zen approach to travel. It’s not just about travel. It’s about finding freedom and happiness – living your life on your terms. So for the sake of old times, I wish you all a very happy New Year, and Bon Voyage!