Imperfect is Perfect

August 30, 2020

Imperfections are what make the world beautiful.

Being perfect isn’t what makes something beautiful — it is the imperfections that make these “perfect” moments and “perfect” places more special and, yes, more beautiful.

This gorgeous world we live in is absolutely “perfect” for us — human beings and all life on earth — because of its’ imperfections. The Earth isn’t perfectly round and it is tilted on its axis which helps create the seasons we experience. Without these (and many other) imperfections, our life could not be supported on planet earth.

Similarly, it is the imperfections of a place that can make it so special. Have you noticed that so many of the things that we think of as beautiful are imperfect? Waterfalls, caves, hot springs, and mountains are just a few features that draw us in — each one is an imperfection in the earth’s crust. Waterfalls occur because water (or glaciers or landslides) has worn through the crust carving a path that is harder in some places and softer in others creating some long meandering rivers and some raging waterfalls. Caves are holes carved out of the crust or simply never formed crust. Hot springs, bubbling mud, and thermal pools and geysers happen when earth’s imperfect crust is thinner and magma seeps close to the surface. Mountains can form from crust wearing away or from tectonic plates crashing together in a not-so-perfect manner.

Everywhere we look, nature shows us how beautiful imperfection is. The most gorgeous sunsets are those where the sky isn’t perfectly clear but is instead dotted with clouds that change colors as the sun sinks over the horizon.

What is a perfect tree? Is it one that is short and symmetrically leafy? Or maybe one that is full of thick branches that reach to the sky?

My perfect tree is not “perfect” at all. I think of old giant trees with hundreds of years of history and the scars to prove it. The gnarled branches, hollowed out insides, and massive girths make some trees — like the California Redwoods — that much more beautiful and, well, perfect.

Countries, cultures, and people are “perfect” in the same way — with all their imperfections. Imperfect trips and imperfect days give you the best stories to tell and meeting other imperfect people helps teach you the most.

There is no perfect country or perfect place (politically, culturally, or geographically), but every place is perfect in its’ own way, and the imperfections are perfect for some people.

For example, Venice, Italy, is on my list of “perfect” places — but Venice is filled with imperfections! The city is literally sinking, floodwaters drown the lowest level of houses and shops, everything is very expensive, and the canals can be quite unpleasant during the summers. Does that sound perfect to you?

But, those same imperfections are what make Venice magical. The now-sinking city built on stilts and made up of a thousand islands is exceptionally unique because there are no cars, no roads, and canals and bridges around every corner. The floodwaters are damaging, but also cleanse the city in a way. Locals know how to prepare their homes and their shops for the aqua alta and they get their beautiful city mostly to themselves for a time.

Those same “imperfect” canals are home to fish that the Venetian chefs turn into incredible seafood dishes like squid-ink pasta, sarde in saor (sardines with onions and raisins), caparossoi a scota deo (clams in lemon pepper sauce), and baccala mantecato (salted cod cooked until creamy). The overcrowded, canal-filled, sinking city is one of my favorites in the world. You try gliding along in a gondola through the Venetian canals after dark and then tell me that Venice isn’t the most “perfect” imperfect city ever.

As perfectly imperfect a Venice is, I find so many places around the world just as beautiful — but in different perfectly imperfect ways. The tiny island of Aitutaki, Cook Islands is one of my favorite places in the world that is absolutely perfect to me, but it is far from perfect. The tiny island cannot be reached by boat because it has a hundred mile reef completely encircling the 12 square mile island. The entire island has only one tiny combined post office, fire station, and police station near the single tiny school, the “big” grocery store (that makes the choices in a U.S. 7–11 look plentiful), and the one place to get fast food on the island — a small, family-owned burger stand.

There is no city, no sidewalks to walk down, no fancy restaurants, coffee shops, or cafes, no clubs or movie theaters, and, for the most part, not even street lights. While visiting, I couldn’t even have any ice cream because the entire island had run out and they wouldn’t be getting any more for a few weeks!

Roads were partially paved, and mall hotels didn’t have air conditioning and might only have bare lightbulbs in the rooms. But what Aitutatki lacks in less-than-perfect development, it makes up for with picture-perfect natural beauty.

No street lights means very little light pollution so you can see the Milky Way just by walking out to the beach at night and looking up. The huge, circular reef that caused delays and difficulties in shipments also created a crystal-clear atoll around the island teeming with colorful fish, massive and vibrantly colored clam shells, giant coral heads, and friendly eels. Even if you aren’t comfortable diving or snorkeling, the water is so pristine that you can see straight to the ocean floor from the boat! The Aitutaki atoll has dozens of small, uninhabited islands and sandbars that each seem to be more picturesque than the last.

Aitutaki is far from perfect, but its imperfections are what make it such an amazing place to visit. Just like the most beautiful places in the world, your imperfections are what make you beautiful too. Nothing and no one is perfect. We all have our flaws — for some of us it is our weight and size, for others their anxiety, fears, or mental health — but each of us is unique and beautiful in our own “imperfect” way.

The next time you judge yourself harshly for not be perfect, remember that none of the absolutely best things in this world are ever perfect.


Featured Image: The sun setting through a beautifully imperfect tree in Kyoto, Japan (photo by author)

Leana’s an avid world traveler who has been to over 40 countries and will be venturing to her 7th continent in 2022. She believes in ubuntu and that adventures make life worth living. To follow her journey as a plus-sized woman with unquenchable wanderlust as she continues to seek out all that the world has to offer, you can check out The Overweight Adventurer.