Every year I attend a conference for an organization called SIETAR, which stands for Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research. The event is like a triple espresso shot of motivation for me because I am surrounded by those in my field as we share ideas and generate new ways of doing our work. My mind and spirit are revived and I return to my cross-cultural training and consulting afresh.
This year’s conference took place in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I stopped in Virginia Beach first to see a friend and take in the tranquility of the water. When I arrived, my long-time friend Jane and I wandered along the beach, took in the sights at Colonial Williamsburg, and ate fish tacos at a hole-in the-wall-shrimp-shack.
In this peaceful place I was able to let go of pressure and gain perspective. I remembered that in the hurried frenzy of running a company, training and keeping up with current world affairs, there is a space in between. That space is where my real work happens, the place where dialogue happens, where I form a relationship with my clients, and where excitement about India or China sparks.
When I attended the conference, a word popped up during one of the sessions that I hadn’t heard before: liminality. The word means “threshold” or “a transitional point between two spaces, processes or ways of life.”
There was the theme again – the spaces in between.
That message continued to come up throughout my week away. I was reminded by the keynote speaker to see the world on the basis of what is both inside of us and outside of us. In other words, we need to study up on our topic of expertise, keep our desks organized and our e-mail inbox under control. But we also need to pay attention to keeping ourselves grounded, cultivating stillness, and fostering creativity.
The world is no longer expert-focused. People are now looking to innovators and those with extraordinary imaginations to generate the next wave of culture. This is why Facebook, Twitter, and other tools have swept the globe, because they help us to connect in the spaces in between.
These reflections are a large part of the reason that travel continues to draw me into its fold. My trips shake up the norm and allow a different sort of work to take place, partly because I took time to play.
In Colonial Williamsburg I sat in George Washington’s church pew, watched sheep grazing in the sun, ate gourmet cheese and vanilla fudge, sat by a creek with wildflowers and a good friend, browsed the shops selling ye olde souvenirs, and watch spring color the blue sky with bursting buds.
Play also helps us connect with liminality, to hover on that threshold, to make better decisions and innovate more often. We sometimes just forget to engage in playfulness. I urge you to remember.
“Out beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” – Rumi, 13th century poet and philosopher