Have you ever had a surprise birthday party? I was thinking about this as we crossed the border from Croatia into Montenegro. I haven’t had one and still, I get slightly anxious when I’m part of surprises. I also have a strange thing about birthday cake and the singing part… it’s my least favorite part of my birthday. I was analyzing why that could be and I think it’s because you can’t really sing or clap for yourself at that moment so you’re at the mercy of the audience. Vulnerability. As we passed the medieval wall on our right and the ocean on our left, I was thinking about the nature of surprises and how much we can either love them or hate them… but surprises always cause in us a gut reaction; they’re supposed to because they’re out of our control. Surprises can scare the (expletive) out of us or they can melt our heart. When we visited Montenegro I didn’t know what to expect. I was coming back from having filmed in incredible Greece and setting up to film in Ireland. Sandwiched between those two extraordinary experiences was our Montenegro shoot. I was unsure of what to expect with Montenegro; I’d never seen a documentary or a travel show about it. I was ready to be surprised and the closest thing that I’ve ever had regarding a true surprise organized for me was what my friend Andjela organized for us in her beautiful jewel of a country.
Andjela is proud of Montenegro as people from that area are. Imagine people who are proud of their country and then double it and then double it again. They love their culture and their history… even though the region has had some terrible moments of war that have been well documented, what I encountered genuinely surprised me. The country is booming economically and there is an atmosphere of hope you can almost taste. Montenegro is a small country but it’s extremely diverse. I was swimming in the ocean one morning and paragliding off a high peak a couple of hours later. We visited epic monasteries built into gigantic mountainsides and enjoyed Skadar Lake which to this day is the most stunning lake I’ve ever seen. The people are attractive and the food has that rich Mediterranean style that has made it a staple worldwide. It’s a great place.
As Andjela drove my friend Sladja and I on this adventure in her cute little green car, I was reminded that miracles are always surprises. Now, you might want to hit the pause button right there because well… many people don’t believe in miracles. I get it. However, miracles like surprises are directly tied to our ability to receive them. For example, most of the beautiful moments in our lives can be somewhat expected and we can still choose to feel surprised and marvel at them as they’re occurring. Allow me to demonstrate.
I want you to remember a memorable sunset or sunrise. There are so many, apparently, they happen every single day. However, those rare moments when we’re up and available to experience them often hold a deep sense of wonder. You know what’s happening at that moment? It’s the miracle of surprise. We are allowing ourselves to be surprised by the beauty of the moment. Surprise then does have a certain level of choice to it. Take a birthday surprise… even if you walk in and you genuinely don’t expect anyone jumping out of closets and throwing confetti in your face, one could still feign as if you did and act annoyed or walk away. Allowing ourselves to be surprised by friends, moments or entire countries requires a collaboration from within to allow ourselves to appreciate and enjoy the beauty found at that particular moment in a way we might not expect.
Montenegro is truly full of surprises. Drive a couple of hours in any direction and you’ll see a completely different landscape, weather, and activity. Montenegro is like a fine perfume in a tiny fancy bottle… except that this one you’ll want to pour it all over and more than on just special occasions. Montenegro surprised me and it did so because of the unbelievable itinerary that Andjela prepared for us. Not only that but seeing her joy and how much she loved the places, stories and people she was introducing us only made it better. It matters… allowing people to surprise us. In this age of abundance of images, posts and excessive information it can feel like we’ve seen every place even if we’re there for the first time. Montenegro reminded me that it takes a wise person to allow themselves to be surprised and find the miracles in the big and small moments. Cynics, entitled and ungrateful people do exactly the opposite.
Every day is a miracle, simply by the fact that we wake up and we’re gifted one more day of life. No one has tomorrow guaranteed, so when we live with gratitude and we appreciate the people we meet and the places we discover, particularly if we allow ourselves to enjoy them as if we didn’t expect it makes every moment better. You know who does this really well? Children. They hold on to that innocence that manifests in their awe and wonder. The next time we find ourselves thinking “been there done that…” let’s choose to remember that even if that’s the case, we’ve never been there and done that on that exact day because each day is unique and holds miracles for us to experience if we allow ourselves to be surprised by wonder. Have you ever realized that no two humans have ever seen the exact same sunset? It might look similar, but no two humans can occupy the exact same physical place… so for each person every single sunset is always, truly one of a kind. This is the type of marvelous world we live in if we open our eyes to recognize it. That’s what being a Global Child is all about… awe and wonder in enjoying the beauty of every place, every person and every moment.