“I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.” ~ Jack Kerouac
There’s a digital man I talk to, who drives me crazy every now and then, and sometimes makes me cuss out loud. So I’ve been thinking lately what his problem is…
I came up with a long, long list of issues I shall read out loud to him when we meet face to face. Most of them, imagined. But for that to happen, I have to start with the first item now, because it’s pretty much his only hope out of his workaholic cave. (And, since he also makes me smile, I’ll give him one last chance.)
Problem: He’s a longtime workaholic entrepreneur.
I’m debating whether to use the biggest Word Press font or neon lights (or take my clothes off) or anything flashy like that so I actually get him to read this from head to tail. Mind you, he’s also blind and has some serious ADD, but who could blame him?
Don’t all workaholics have a special kind of caring ADD for the rest of the world and full neurotic attention for the one they’re trying to build—especially if they’re also self-taught entrepreneurs? Sometimes you just can’t help being crazy.
Solution: He needs to get his head out of his (cough)—what’s a more educated word for “ass”?—and start noticing the big wide world beyond his backyard.
In other words, he needs to start packing. Because in the inverse order of things in which reality actually works, the only way he will save his life is by losing it.
*Note to Self: remember the sole reason you can understand and speak workaholism is because you’ve also been abducted by it in one way or another. It’s like a cult. You’re either in or out. So keep it humble. (OK, voices…I said OK!)
So I started by sending him this letter:
I understand you’re busier than God (trying to save the world and all), and that there’s barely enough time not to fall even further behind than you already are every day of your temporary life, in a world in which 24 hours are just 24 jokes of time…
And that you feel like the whole thing’s on your shoulders, and that “nobody cares” like you do, and that you’re 110% necessary in your business, work and mission every minute of every day (at least for the next 20 years until you can retire and at least have that heart attack in peace)…
And that the very thought of “killing time (and injuring eternity)” gives you the shivers… And that failure is not an option… And that fun sometimes looks like a liability and that you think your only real asset here is work, baby, work, must work until you drop…
And you postpone the Happy for when they declare it a country and they decide to make you President, you know, sometime in the next millennium after the world’s been saved (hopefully by you).
And you put people on hold until that other life, when you’re all reincarnated cats or something with four legs and no hands to type, and you can no longer do any human things, just meow and bark and drink water from ponds. The timing will be better then, for sure.
And though you say that the journey and not the end is the real goal (and quote Steve Jobs in your dreams), you act as if whatever (whoever) exists between you and that is mere decoration.
And all you need is love, they say (you know), but you think it’ll come to you in the mail and if it ever does, you put it on the shelf next to your books and say: don’t move, don’t breathe, I’ll be right back. And then, 10 years. (Like love ever listens.)
After which, I tried playing Adventure Doctor to cure him of his travel myths.
1. I don’t have time to travel.
You don’t have time not to travel. Drop the linear A+B=C schoolboy logic for a second. Get your hands on some quantum physics. (Yea, you know, the cat that’s in two boxes at the same time, that stuff).
Time as we understand it is an illusion. Travelling is like a prolonged meditation, inception, a dream within a dream… We take all sorts of breaks throughout our lives. A five to 20-minute mind escape during the day, an eight-hour dead break at night, a weekend getaway, a two-week trip to the beach (or to Paris)…
A clouded mind and tired imagination is a predicament for inner constipation and future disaster. In other words, you start to stink. You need another kind of shower. The real reason why travelling might occasionally turn our regular lives into chaos and get some of us off our path is because we don’t do it often or plan it well enough.
It’s like if you let a dog loose after chaining it for months (shame on people who do this!)… the poor thing will bite everyone he sees. That, or stare at ants all day and try to be best friends with cars and enemies with bicycles.
He’s not unhealthy because he’s free, he’s unhealthy because he doesn’t know how to use his newly found freedom.
Linear factory logic makes you do as much and as hard as you can. Non-linear logic makes you be as efficient as you could if you actually used your imagination instead of just talking about it.
(Like still getting away and working—less hours—from your laptop).
“Less is more” is not just a fashion quote. It’s our crazy century’s life motto.
How can you find more time by seemingly wasting it? I don’t know the mechanics behind it, but if done mindfully, it’s what atheists would call… a miracle! A gap in your usual space and time will open doors you didn’t know existed, present you with enjoyable shortcuts to the only journey you’ll ever really take.
Your life—-that’s the whole point—is passing—-that’d be point two.
2. I don’t have the money to travel.
Maybe you don’t—if travelling meant flying first class, eating at Hey-Look-I’m-A-Tourist-Feed-Me-Local-Looking-Sh*t-And-Charge-Me-Double restaurants, staying at five-star hotels, in suites with strawberry, champagne and chocolate room service; and a killer view over a beach you’d rather contemplate from your balcony ‘cause it’s so damn hot and sweaty outside.
But neither life nor real travelling happen at five-star hotels or tourist hot spots. Life happens in the unfamiliar, unsafe streets and homes. And it’s not that expensive.
It’s in the smells of all that food you call “exotic” ‘cause you haven’t tasted it often enough, and in the smiles of children who say cute things in foreign languages and actually believe them to be true.
It happens when you look in the eyes of a stranger who doesn’t understand a thing you’re saying, and yet they see the god in you and you in them and realize how small a beating breath we are.
So, save a little, steal from your grandparents (but ask first), use your retirement money (at this stressed out pace you may not make it to 60 anyway)…
Work those few extra hours for a month or two—you’re gonna work them either way, but it’s more fun when they come with a prize—and leave the rest to Hermes (god of travel).
The world is full of—guess what—people, and there’s a couch in almost every home.
Thanks to our online labyrinths we’re now more connected than ever, but most of us are still reluctant to make use of all the benefits of what is yet the most democratic media—and, for now, our only real hope to jump over cultural prejudice, political landmarks and self-imposed boundaries.
You have 5000 friends on Facebook…do you really think you’d starve in Paris? Because if that’s the case, you should delete your account (and starve in Paris anyway).
3. I’m already a smartass. I don’t need to go to another city or country for enlightenment.
Fine, that may not be your inner voice, but keep the tone. Whatever you think you know is nothing until you see it from a different vantage point. And it’s hard to see that other point, when everyone you ever talk to shares most of your values, a common heritage and language and cultural memories. It’s like spending most of your life in an unventilated room.
It is nothing short of amazing how things change (and by “things” I mean you) when you get out of your comfort zone. Think of it as a void over which your mind needs to jump in order to expand.
It’s not a life-or-death issue… unless you’re a lonely, workaholic entrepreneur with a restless mind, living in the 21st century and trying to make the world a better place. In that case, travelling is mandatory.
Choose your Mecca. Do your pilgrimage. Be in awe.
Somebody said, you can’t really serve your country until you get to know other countries. Travelling is ultimately much more than pleasure or prolonged meditation, or cultural enlightenment or mindful expansion. It’s your duty as a citizen of the world you’re trying to help.
4. Who needs to travel (with the whole body) when you can navigate online (with the mind)?
Let me guess, you sleep alone or with your dog…
See, that’s one of your (my) issues. We’re so connected, wired in every way, a 24/7 screenshot-face, until it’s easier to touch a keyboard than a tree; to read about a monument rather than see it; to learn a foreign language from movies rather than from the people who speak it; to have sex with an image rather than a person; to send each other funny and inspiring pictures rather than look each other in the eyes and shake a stranger’s hand.
Turns out real human hands can be sweaty.
This virtual world we hang our so-called-lives on, like tired, electronic birds on wires, could not exist without its flesh and blood version. Your life extension should never replace your life. This is dessert, you need to eat real food first. No wonder we’re so spiritually thin. But we already have the food… Why won’t we eat it?
5. Travelling won’t change anything. Change comes from inside. You take your Self with you wherever you go and you can be happy anywhere.
There’s a partial truth in this—that everything you need is already inside you, but here’s the trick: for that everything to come out, you need to get outside your usual surroundings.
Just as we get attached to people, we get attached to places. True unattachment is still a bit of an illusion, at least for most mortals. Or maybe I haven’t met many gurus.
Your Self is not limited to your body, it extends throughout your surroundings (who really knows where you begin and where you end?), connecting with space based on the memories (bonds) of the first experiences you create in each place.
That submarine world of yours is a silent network of thoughts, actions, feelings and hopes, with strong neural connections deeply related to the space you’re occupying. Sometimes you can’t even tell where the storm came from or why some boats keep on sinking.
To break your old and deeply rooted negative patterns of thought, you need to first of all notice them and you can’t do that from the same spot you’ve occupied your whole life. Some things you just can’t hear from the people who know you best. In some cases, you’re more likely to listen to a stranger in Kazakhstan than your own mother.
Travelling makes you uncomfortable enough to question things about your life you’d never notice in your familiar places. And yet—if you organize it well enough to avoid most predictable drama—it’s also pleasurable enough to make this discovery into an adventure, rather than a terrible life lesson.
But still, he wouldn’t listen…
So I said, “fine, don’t believe me, I’m a surreal, pixelated shadow, most days I’m not even sure I exist… Neither are they…”
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” ~ Miriam Beard
“All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it.”
~ Samuel Johnson
“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things—air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky—all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” ~ Cesare Pavese
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
~ Pat Conroy
“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.” ~ Anatole France
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure—self-determined, self-motivated, often risky—forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind—and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”
~ Mark Jenkins
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.”
~ Aldous Huxley
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain
“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” ~ St. Augustine
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” ~ Seneca
I think he left…
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