Probably one of my favorite quotes out there, especially as it relates to my philosophy on environmental issues, is attributed to a cultural anthropologist named Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Since I first heard it years ago, I’ve rattled it off more than a few times to more than a few people. I’d say the general response is the one you’d probably expect to receive after saying any motivational quote aloud – an eye roll with the mock expression of ‘really?’ written across the listener’s face, if not the word actually leaving their mouth.
But what I love about that quote and what I believe lends it power is its ability to be experienced. In those precious moments where I've seen this quote come to life, always the most inspiring moment is seeing it come to life in those who didn't believe in it, or maybe those who rolled their eyes at hearing it.
If you've experienced it before, you know the feeling of purpose and motivation that swells up inside of you and carries you forward for weeks or months to come. If you haven't had the fortune to experience it, I encourage you to seek it out.
Why am I talking about inspirational quotes coming alive? Well, it has to do with that motivation that swells up inside of you and then... eventually, slowly, starts to fade away.
For myself, those inspirational moments feel like giant leaps that carry me forward, where I grow immensely as an individual and feel a sense of accomplishment, achievement, and purpose. But in between those leaps, I sometimes struggle to take the little steps that can carry you just as far. Or maybe I take them but don't recognize them or congratulate myself for taking them.
Okay. Let me take a step back from the abstract here. It can get exhausting quickly. What I am trying to say is this:
Appreciate the little things. Take pride in them. Let them carry you forward.
"What little things? What are you even talking about…” - You
Me - "The little things! Like bamboo toothbrushes, reusable water bottles, canvas shopping bags… your spork and straw kit for god's sake!"
Those are the little things, the small steps. Those are what should carry you through the day to day. You can't have a life-changing-environmentally-focused-volunteer-inspired-rainbows-everywhere-event every few weeks or months which fuels a constant source of eco-friendly adrenaline and motivation.
It's choosing a bamboo toothbrush at the store that costs $4 more than your normal $0.89 toothbrush at Walmart, feeling the price pain for a second, and then feeling good about your choice twice a day, every day (if you subscribe to accepted dental hygiene norms).
It’s breaking out and showing off your refillable leaf-leather notebook.
And it’s denying the plastic utensils offered to you as you proudly pull your spork from your backpack that you've had for 6 years (how have I not lost that yet?) and wave it proudly and unabashedly forward to demonstrate that no! I do not need your utensils! For this is my small difference.
My “kit” that’s always in my backpack.
I love that Margaret Meade quote for the ways I have seen it come to life during some of the defining moments of my life, when I was surrounded by that small group of thoughtful, committed citizens who wanted to change the world.
But I want to learn to love it and to apply it for all those moments in between as well.
A small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world not only when they all come together, but also when they do their small parts separately.
Each little step is still one little step forward. And that's something you should feel good about and it's something that should swell up in you every day and carry you forward for weeks, months, years, and hopefully your whole entire life.
Wave that spork around unabashedly! Slurp loudly from your steel straw! Flaunt that canvas shopping bag! And then pat yourself on the back for doing so. You may look a little strange, but I promise you'll feel good.
Let’s start things off with a small bit of advice. Start using your travel journal before your trip.
Seriously, you’ll realise how important it is, when you are looking back at your adventures, to record even the slightest bit of planning to ensure that your trips have meaning and purpose.
Before all the memories and ticket stubs begin to flood the pages of your journal, make a list of things you want to see, food you want to try, or dedicate a page to language phrases you can use on the daily.
Fresh out of university after four years studying ecology, zoology and conservation genetics, I was well and truly ready for an adventure.
I wanted to book a plane ticket, pack my bags and head out the door as soon as possible.
But two things were stopping me. Firstly, money. Spending four years studying doesn’t mean you’re exactly raking in the cash. Secondly, when I got back and started looking for jobs, what would an employer think of a recent lengthy, self-indulgent holiday?
Then a solution came to me:
Why not combine some adventurous traveling with work experience?
In THE POWER OF MYTH by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers (1988), Campbell states that “Chief Seattle was one of the last spokesmen of the Paleolithic moral order. In about 1852, the United States Government inquired about buying the tribal lands for the arriving people of the United States.”
“The President in Washington sends word he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?”
- Chief Seattle