One of the best things about travelling alone is that you can change your plans in an instant, should you so wish. I did exactly that last month when travelling in Argentina.
I was in a hostel in the northern city of Salta one afternoon, lazily browsing the internet, and stumbled upon the TED website. To my excitement, I saw that there was a TEDx event happening in Argentina that very month. I then realised that the event wasn’t only this month… it was the very next day. A few more clicks and I realised that a) the event was sold out, and b) it was 743km away (that’s further than the distance from Lands End to Edinburgh.) But I knew I had to go. I speed-packed my bags, jumped in a cab to the bus station, and bought the first possible ticket to Córdoba.
I travelled 14 hours through the night across Argentina, and arrived in Córdoba at 7.30am on the day of the event. A cab to a hostel, a rejected hostel space, another hostel, the fastest get-ready ever, one more cab, and I finally arrived at the event.
I was a teeny bit late, but they snuck me into the theatre between talks, and it was only as I sat down and the first talk began that I realised that it was unlikely I’d be able to understand any of the talks, as all except one were in Spanish..!
I found through the day though that this was actually not so important. The speakers who really shone did so with their bodies, faces, and spirits, rather than with their words. You could feel their passion – you could feel them come alive when they spoke of this thing they loved. That feeling for me transcended language. There was a beauty in the way these people carried themselves. There were moments in which they captured me and took me with them on their journeys, despite my not really understanding their words.
Later in the afternoon, they played my favourite ever TED.com talk, from Isabel Allende. I have watched it probably a hundred times before, and yet I still laughed and felt moved on this occasion – the difference being, this time I was not alone.
“Passion lives here.” These words of Allende’s rang loud and true for me at TEDxCórdoba. It was a real joy to feel the passion of all the speakers they had on stage, and more. It struck me, once again, that brilliance lives everywhere. In hundreds of cities, towns, villages – slums too – this event takes place across the world. Every day, people of all colours and sounds take to the stage, to share their passion with the world. These amazing moments, amazing stories, amazing people – they exist everywhere! And even more excitingly, there are probably many more – artists, scientists, heroes, just waiting to be unearthed.
We live all the time bombarded by bad news. Messages of war, crime, recession, global warming, flash-flooding, terrorism, murder. Sometimes I wonder how we are even able to leave the house, for fear of these terrible events we are so often warned of.
But the voices in Córdoba for me that day signified hope.
These folks on stage had an antidote. Sometimes that was clearly heroic or benevolent, like Jesús Gabriel del Valle who talked of ‘Escuela Móvil’, a mobile school he founded, running out of the back of his car, taking education in all shapes and forms to kids who wouldn’t otherwise be able to go to any sort of school. But then even others, like the guitarist Horacio Burgos with his beautiful live performance gave me hope about the world too. Music, such music. What a gift he has, and how lucky we are to experience it. On stage, with all lights, all eyes, upon him, he looked perfectly at peace. He had a stillness as he played, his quiet, contented soul, no happier to be anywhere on this earth to be anywhere other than where he was now. He felt comfortable in his own skin.
Imagine – imagine – how many of these souls there are out there, waiting to be unlocked, waiting to find out who they were meant to be, waiting to contribute their wonderful thing to the world.
What I loved about TEDxCórdoba was feeling that something good can exist, and it can exist everywhere. These people, this passion, it doesn’t belong to super-hero stories. It doesn’t even belong to just TED.com, or the Olympics, or Hollywood stars. It was there in that room in Córdoba – the same thing that was there 6 months ago in that theatre in Birmingham at TEDxBrum.
I felt that spark of hope about the world, and I know in this I was not alone. Something good can happen.
The TEDx team made me feel so welcome and honoured to be there, and they crazily even decided to introduce me to the whole audience..! I was dreading this at first, but, as with everything, it wasn’t half as bad as I’d thought. So many people seemed genuinely touched that I had travelled so far for their event, whereas for me it was all just a matter of course really. Why wouldn’t I travel overnight for 14 hours to get there?
You put all this time all this work into this thing in the hope that someone cares, in the hope that it matters to someone. And when they do, and it does, it makes every last second of effort worth it.
TEDxCórdoba mattered to me that day. The world is an incredible place and there is so much to be enjoyed and marvelled at within and beyond it (there is water on the moon!). Sometimes we just need a little help to feel it.