Eliza Raven

Kaunas and 3 important truths

Published about 2 years ago • 4 min read

My dear friend,

I’m writing this letter to you from the very Hoxton-y lobby of the Moxy Kaunas, Lithuania.

I couldn’t write to you last week because we were on the road on the way here on our latest epic road trip across 5 countries in 3 days to get here on time for the wedding of the year!

It has been a very wonderful time of reconnecting with our extended and adopted family, celebrating love and happiness and enjoying the most incredible opportunity to visit one of the most welcoming and beautiful places I’ve ever visited. I know that you know how much travelling means to me, and that I think it’s the most important education you can gift your children, but somehow I’d forgotten how much it all means to me!

The last 3 years have been hard. We have been cloistered within our own 4 walls for so much of the time, and despite the mad trek mid-pandemic which we made across Spain in 2020, it still doesn’t feel like we’ve been anywhere much for so long - and I think I know why…..

It’s not just that we haven’t been anywhere new for a while. It’s that the last time we did we travelled in quite extreme fear and trepidation. We had to learn new “rules” to keep ourselves safe and to ensure the safety of those around us. We had a new monster under the bed, and none of my comforting bedtime tales would eradicate him. Which is why it’s been such a joy this time to travel confidently - I’m still a snail taking my home with me, so we are still doing these mad treks inside Norma, The Normous Van, together with all her electrical display “quirks” which I still can’t seem to iron out! This means that we progress at a steady pace, rather than a speedy one, which is also something I greatly appreciate. Lithuania is a country which feels unhurried; untroubled by any idea of rushing; a feeling which is infectious and very welcome.

We have spent restful nights listening to nightingales, owls and nightjars, camping beside ancient forts. We have stayed in some luxury in the centre of Lithuania’s second city, Kaunas (Kohnus) and promenaded on a Sunday down the wide, pedestrianised avenues of the central areas, dashing through fountains, visiting orthodox and catholic churches with their amazing rococo and byzantine architecture. We’ve eaten SO well. And through it all, the people around us have been generous, kind, relaxed and unhurried with us. It has reminded me of some essential themes which I’ve managed to push to the back of my head and heart - which maybe I shouldn’t have.

Firstly, it reminded me that time is all we have.

Yes, I know it’s a cliché, but these truisms exist to remind us of fundamental shared realities.

We do only have this very present moment, and in choosing to take a chunk of time out to travel and see the world, I’ve become aware again of just how important it is to embody and truly experience each and every moment we are granted.

Secondly, family (no matter how you define it) is everything.

My own biological family is tiny and riven with the kind of issues which fracture those relationships still further, so that despite embodying my karma as a pattern-disrupter and someone who defines themselves through their desire to find common ground and healing, I have been motivated to extend my definition of “family” to include my non-bio “chosen family”. I see this as such a huge gift. To feel empowered to create a family of wonderful humans, whose connection and relationship with me is one of choice, is a very powerful thing. These are my people, my tribe, and once you’re in, you’re in. The past week I have spent celebrating and immersing myself in my chosen family and it has been balm to my heart and soul.

Thirdly, it is so important to slow down so that you can appreciate each and every aspect of your human experience.

This is it.

It’s all we have. And if we don’t appreciate it right now, we will never get the opportunity to do so again.

Breathe in this moment. Take the time to have that cup of tea or coffee. Say yes to that drink with a friend. Pick up that unopened book. Walk over to that magnificent tree and feel the depth of the folds of it’s bark. Smell those flowers. Feel the sun and the rain on your skin.

Experience life.

There have been times when I thought that I might have run out of that time. Believe me, it concentrates the mind in the moment, but it’s equally surprising how quickly we forget this truth. I had forgotten it. Thank you Nathan & Bea, for providing me with a reason to do another mad trip and re-remember in my soul how important connection, community and this present moment really are.

This country of Lithuania, from where I’m writing to you, remembers this lesson well. Everywhere are the combined ribbons of the flags of Lithuania and Ukraine, plaited and knotted together to remind us of how interconnected our present, past and future moments are. There is no “I”, only expressions of “we” - and we would do well to find moments to remind ourselves of that every single day.

The resilience of these people, and their irrepressible desire to live their lives fully expressed - the wonderful mishmash of architectural styles clearly expressing the very different historical periods of their communal past - Prussian Empire, Soviet invasion and domination, and now their modern, liberal, European society. 19C curved cupolas and balconies not out of place on German or Danish houses giving way to brutalist immense structures built to symbolise power and dominance, giving way yet again to vast swathes of glass, fountains that rise out of the very pavement - and yet, as we passed through the old town on our way home from yet another enormous and delicious meal, the roads and pavements are being repaved exactly as the Romans had paved them all those years ago. Ancient and modern coexisting together to express the full story of this wonderful place.

So what lessons am I taking home with me?

Aside from the importance of appreciating and truly embodying each and every moment, I want to learn to peacefully coexist with my own past. To learn to appreciate my internal architecture and see how each part of my story adds value to who I am today. To accept fully my complex nature and to know that those who come across me find beauty in all my different facets. There is no “good” or “bad” here. No judgement. All parts are welcome. Come as you are. You’re perfect.

Wishing you the peace to feel at ease in all of who you are this week as we set off back to familiar places.

All love, Lizzy xx

Eliza Raven

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