Finding Nemo

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

So small, so big

Most of us have boarded a plane from New York to LA or the equivalent, and at some point during the flight, amongst the clouds, a thought occurs. As cities and mountains and deserts scroll by slowly below, "How small is the world! How easy is it to flit about the globe, jetting from one end to the other as easy as reading a book."

But, there is a saying: the more you learn, the less you know. The same could easily be said of traveling: the more places you visit, the more you realize you will never be able see it all in a single lifetime.  After my first trip abroad to Europe (backpacker Level I), I knew immediately that I needed to see "the rest of it."  It seemed simple: take a year off like other Euro gap-years, and go to all the cool spots.  A year should be PLENTY.  Maybe even overkill.  The problem, of course, is that the more you travel, the higher in the backpacking belt ranks you rise.  Which means it simply won't do to see 7 cities in 7 days.  You feel the urge, the need, to see each place longer.  To take your time, meet local people, learn new cultures, eat new foods, to get a little bit lost.  And hence, a year suddenly gets broken down to 12 months, which have only have 4 weeks each.  And of course most countries take at least 3-4 weeks to visit properly.  Which means a year away is only a scant amount of time to visit about 15-20 countries.  As there are 195 recognized countries in the world, that means it would take about 20 years of solid traveling to just see the highlights of each!!  Suddenly, a year away seems tiny: the traveler is forced to rank countries, to pick and choose only a few highlights in each place, to try to guess how long they need before flying off to the next place.

And it gets even worse.  After ranking, planning, and then setting off, you realize you are constantly missing out on great experiences you simply did not realize existed.  On a beach in Zanzibar, I spent the week listening to lazy African music, swinging in the hammock, watching the blue-green waves roll in on the white sand.  I was so happy with myself.  I patted myself on the back for being such a great traveler and planner.  But over the course of the next few days, I met traveler after traveler who also decided to spend a few days at this beach.  And they all had visited many other parts of Africa that I had no time to see.  I heard about the wonders of Lake Malawi, of running into huge packs of rare game in relatively untouristed Botswana, of the incredible dunes of the Namib Desert, and on and on and on and on.  I felt defeated.  How on earth could I possibly ever see all of those places?  Here I had planned my neat year off, feeling I had properly ranked all the best places to visit, and suddenly I was left wistful and longing for more time, more money, and a lifetime sponsorship by Itchy Feet Magazine.

Thus, here I am today.  About to embark on another year away.  But I have no illusions this time.  I realize I can't see it all, and never will.  This time its about simply enjoying being on the road again and relishing the adventure of it all.  I will stop and smell the roses, the mud, and fresh rain, the grass, the flowers, the snow, the dirty cities, the fresh kabobs, the stinky camels, and I will smile and be content.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Opening the 7 Chakras

I think because of my upbringing in the bible belt, I have an almost unhealthy aversion to anything that has a sniff of superstition. Over the years, I have evolved from a hard-core agnostic position to something more open-minded I guess.  Mostly I have recognized that I will never know the "Answers", except that 42 sounds as good as anything.  But one thing I have to recognize are the benefits of new and different perspectives.  The ancients of our own earthly civilization have found ideas, philosophies, nuggets of wisdom, that work in unexpected ways.  I wouldn't say I believe that there are necessarily "mystical pools of energy" in our body, but I do believe that the process of contemplating such ideas opens the mind in ways that you otherwise never would.  The 7 chakras idea goes back thousands of years in the Vedic traditions.  There is a process of "opening" these pools of energy by performing meditations.  The basic idea is that energy is supposed to flow throughout your body easily.  But false ideas, jealousies, guilt, and other negative emotions block the flow between each of the pools.  By going through the process of confronting your emotional baggage and casting it off, you unblock your internal energy and allow yourself to fully realize your true potential.  I may not reach enlightenment without a lifetime of practice, but I think the idea of casting off emotional baggage and cleansing my soul is a very attractive idea.  Below are the basic chakras, and a brief description of what blocks the flow of energy within them.  These chakras are listed from the "root" to the "crown", in other words you work through the chakras from the bottom up during your meditations.

1) Associated with Earth.  Located at the base of spine.  Used for Survival.  Blocked by Fear.  You must face your deepest fears and surrender them, let them flow down the river.
2) Associated with Water.  Allows you to experience Pleasure.  Blocked by Guilt.  Look at all the guilt that burdens you.  Accept the reality that these things happen, but do not let them cloud your judgment.  You must forgive yourself.
3) Your internal Fire.  Located within the Stomach.  Grants you Willpower.  Blocked by shame.  What are your biggest disappointments in yourself?  You will never find balance if you do not recognize the things that make you who you are.
4) Located in the Heart.  The source of Love.  Blocked by grief.  Lay all of your grief out in front of you.  You have felt a great loss, but love is a form of energy, and it swirls all around us.  Love from others has not left this world.  It is still inside your heart, and is reborn in the form of new love.  Let the pain flow away.
5) The Sound chakra.  Located in the Throat.  Grants the ability to see the Truth.  Blocked by lies.  The ones we tell ourselves.  You cannot lie about your own nature.  You must accept yourself for who you are.
6) The Light Chakra, also the 3rd eye.  Located in the center of the forehead.  Gives Insight.  Blocked by illusion.  The greatest illusion of this world, is the illusion of separation.  Things you think are separate and different, are actually one and the same.  We are all one people, but we live as if divided.
7) The source of all Thought.  Located at the crown of the head.  The gateway and connection to pure cosmic energy throughout the universe.  Blocked by earthly attachment.  Meditate on what attaches you to this world.  Now, let all of those attachments go, let them flow down the river.  You must learn to let go.  Let the pure cosmic energy flow in from the universe.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Link to my old blogs: Bali to Belize or Bust

For those who want to check out my last RTW (round the world) trip in 2006, here is the link:

I have to say that I really wasn't that great of a writer back then.  I thought I was witty in many of my posts, but it turns out I was just not that funny sometimes, especially towards the end of my trip.  Its weird, I definitely went through cycles of good and bad writing.  At any rate, I definitely plan on making my posts much more informative, interesting, and thoughtful this go around.  Stay tuned!!

NOTE: Unfortunately, Microsoft decided to ditch their "Spaces" which I actually liked, I thought it was an easy-to-use blog interface.  Microsoft forced me to migrate over to something called "WordPress" promising a "seamless" transition.  Of course, it was anything but.  I lost ALL the pictures!!!  Luckily I have them all saved on my hard-drive, but for folks reading my old blogs it truly is sad that you can't also see some of the incredible shots.  Perhaps one day I'll upload my pics to the old blog, but its a lot of work and I will have my hands full with 2011 this year.  Hopefully this Google-sponsored site will be more stable.