With age, we forget how to listen to our instinctual urges without hesitation. We lose track of time as it swiftly passes us by, constantly denying the reality around us. We abandon our dreams to assume the responsibilities of adulthood, a disillusioned idea of what society wants us to be. The older we get, the less we remember what life was like in the days of our youth.
Do you remember how fun it was being a kid? Life was so carefree. No responsibilities. No job. No worries. No taxes.
Children live enthusiastically, eager and curious to learn about anything and everything. Not yet jaded by the world around them, kids live with inspiring bravery and hopefulness. They dance. They sing. They say what they mean. They have the power to teach us some of life’s greatest lessons, including how to truly live.
It’s almost as if we spend our entire lives attempting to return to who we were as children.
What do children know that adults seem to have forgotten? Felipe Sant’Ana Pereira traversed through 32 countries to get acquainted with the children who lived there to find out for himself.
“I’m not against compromises or being a grown up, but I believe that the compromise we have with our dreams must be stronger than anything else, including the passage of time,” Pereira explains. “I realized the common thing everyone in my life, even myself, was missing was youth, and nothing made more sense to me than seeking this youth. I was not looking for it in its literal form, but on its fountain: kids. I was determined to learn, through their words and eyes, how to stay young in this fast accelerating and chaotic world.”
When he was a teenager, Pereira spent a few years entering brand-sponsored online contests, where he won every kind of prize imaginable, such as televisions, money vouchers, video games and cellphones. He then took those prizes and sold them–saving all the profits for his trip.
Inspired by his globetrotting mother (who never failed to bring him home fascinating souvenirs, such as Hungarian wooden boxes) and a best friend who was “ignorant of all rules and passionate about fun,” at the age of 19, he embarked upon the year and a half journey to uncover how to avoid getting lost in the shuffle.
And what he discovered changed his perception of youth, and his purpose in life, forever.
I’m sure I’ll be doing this in five, 10 or 20 years, even if I don’t exactly know how, yet.
Telling stories and trying to encourage people to follow their dreams is what he loves most, though in our ever hectic world, people have become used to consuming mass quantities of information in bits and pieces (think of Snapchat, or 140 character tweets).
Children are incredibly passionate about listening to and telling stories, it doesn’t even matter what the stories are about. Science fiction, fairy tales, or ramblings about a place far, far away in a corner of the universe where evil is non-existent. With their insatiable curiosity, these children brought to life marvelous, imaginative narratives. They reminded him that stories still have the power to captivate; that they still matter.
The magic of storytelling was how he survived as a kid, creating epic fables with his wandering imagination.
“One of the paradoxes of our era is the fact that the more platforms we have that allow the sharing of stories, the less we actually dive into a story to a point where we can truly comprehend (and later replicate, or adapt) its fundamental structure. It’s mythical skeleton,” he says. “The more we have spaces to share stories, it seems the less we are able to do so.”
The simplicity he observed in these children gave him a new understanding of his own childhood. It gave him a glimpse into the magic all adults seem to be missing. He also learned something else of importance: that adults have forgotten how to value one another’s differences.
While growing up, he would always hear jokes about his nose and body hair, but while traveling through Indonesia and Cambodia, he was often complimented on these physical traits. He sees how features, physical or not, may not be appreciated in one place, even if they are in another. Everything is a matter of perspective.
“I’m a completely different person now from the one I was before this trip,” he goes on to say while remembering the many adventures he embarked upon. “An old man I met in Portugal told me that the secret to youth is ‘to keep realizing dreams’ and that ‘each dream we realize makes us a bit younger.’ I think it’s fair to say I’m a little younger now. Ultimately, I learned that we cannot be happy all the time. Life’s tough, and most of the stuff that happens is out of our control. But I learned that we can be happy anytime, if we’re willing to allow ourselves to. The way we react to uncontrollable events is purely our choice. The speed of time is impossible to change, but the direction its passage leads us is ours to navigate.”
Some of his most memorable moments? He may not distinguish between good and bad experiences, as he “thinks everything that happens might be useful somehow,” but there were countless memories that he won’t soon forget. At one point during his trip, he was awaken in the middle of the night by his Turkish hosts and sent away from their house because Syrian troops were bombing neighboring cities. In Bulgaria, he had to undergo an emergency surgery in an ex-Soviet hospital (that had no soap in the bathrooms). While traveling through Indonesia, he was “adopted” by a local Javanese family. There was even that one time he was high up in the Himalayas where he taught English to Tibetan kids.
Pereira ended up turning his priceless travels and experiences into a book called Jovem o Suficiente, which can be purchased online (currently only available in Portuguese).
Inspired to follow your dreams, or embark upon a round-the-world journey? Pereira offers some excellent advice.
“Plan early, start small, aim far,” he says. “No big dreams get fulfilled out of the blue unless your dream is to win the lottery. Planning is essential and will shape your path. Starting small will make you overcome everyday inertia and get you going, and aiming far will prevent you from giving up before adversities.”
As Gandhi once said, “To believe in something, and not live it, is dishonest.” Pereira believed in something greater than himself and his reward was a glorious, unforgettable adventure.