|The elephant in my brain is, well, let's just call him different.
It's a simple question: Why Travel?
Why spend the money I could have used to buy a nice house, a nice retirement, a better car, the American Dream itself, and instead throw it away to bumble around the world with a wannabe hippy head-band?
There are many simple, vague, cliched answers:
1) Travel educates you about other people and cultures
2) It educates other peoples about your culture (for better or worse)
3) It makes you "grow" as a person, aka "To find yourself"
5) It's freakin' fun and exciting dude. Duh!
All these answers are true. But each of these simple explanations gently tug at something big. And when you pull on these strings, the curtain falls away and reveals a door to a deep nameless "thing", a light that shines in the eyes of all my fellow backpackers. We all feel it, we somehow "know" it. And yet, it is only now, after years of reflection, that I am starting to grasp the tip of what that "thing" actually is.
To answer "Why Travel?" in a fulfilling, meaningful way, I will break up this essay into several posts. Each will ask a question, and then attempt an answer that builds upon the last. First,
1) What is meant by "traveling"? A solid definition gives us context. Next,
2) What are the root causes that separate cultures, cause men to kill one another, and even commit genocide? Tackling this fundamental issue leads to clearer insights about why travel is an inherent "good" in the world. Then,
3) What does it mean to be a "spiritual" person in this modern world where science has already displaced God as the reason we are all here?
4) Finally, what is our purpose in life, and what questions will we be forced to ask ourselves as we die? Yes, I will attempt to weave Death itself into my answer. Hopefully this silliness doesn't result in a wormhole which rips apart this blog, or the Earth itself.
Right then. Let's see if I can sum up: I am about to attempt to explain the human condition, the nature of good and evil, and the meaning of life and death itself. Shouldn't take too long!! Let's get started.
(PS: The answer is 42.)
What is the Definition of "Traveling"?
In previous posts, I have poked fun at the various "levels" of backpackers, which I modeled after the Tae Kwon Do belt color system. You can read the full post here. But to quickly summarize, here they are:
Yellow Belt: "I can't believe I'm actually in front of the Sydney Opera House. Let's take 300 different poses of me jumping and doing handstands for my Facebook profile pic!" "Woohoo, I just did a bungy jump in New Zealand! I am such an adrenalin junkie and world traveler, and guess what, did you know Aussies don't actually drink Fosters? I can't wait to write a 500 word Facebook post about that."
Green Belt: "Isn't Lonely Planet so totally awesome?! We just met and it turns out we are going to all the exact same places at the exact same times!" "Woah, you're also going to the Full Moon Party? It's going to be like totally sweet, all 10,000 of my new Aussie BFFs from Ko Phi Phi will be there too!"
Blue Belt: "Fuck the Full Moon Party. It's so fucking Lame. All you first-time Southeast Asian backpackers on holiday for 2 months are noobs. You have no idea the stuff I went through in Mumbai. Can't you see all my Indian baggy hemp pants and beads and how much cooler and wiser I've become in my entire year away traveling? Um by the way bro, can I get a lift to the Full Moon Party, I need to sell some beads to help me keep traveling. So, like..... nama-fucking-ste. And stuff."
Red Belt: "Hmmm, this Travel Group on Facebook says that in order to better monetize my blogosphere and tweet-verse, I need to increase ad revenue through differentiating my travel brand." "Hello, Outside Magazine, yes I was wondering if you would be interested in helping become a sponsor in my charity campaign to install solar panels in villages in Northern Sumatra while saving the Orangutans. In exchange I'll provide excellent content and high-resolution photos for a feature. What's that? <sigh>. Fine, I am OK with sleeping at the Smiling Bedbugs Hostel. Sorry? >^< Sure, bunk beds it is. <sob>"
Black Belt: "Hi, my name is Anthony Bourdain. I get paid bags of gold bricks to travel wherever the hell I want, to do whatever I damn well please. They could film me eating cockroaches while taking a dump on the camera lens and I would still get paid my bonus. Hmmm, actually, that's a great idea for my next episode!"
|Anthony, I love you. I hate you though. No seriously, I really love you.
As you will see in the next few posts, true Travel as I have defined above is over a long enough time period for that clock in your brain to slow down, become quiet, and, if you are lucky, for it to rest. And that is when surprising, amazing, and wonderful things become possible.
(click here for Why Travel, Part 2: The Nature of Human Conflict)