Thursday, November 4, 2010

Find Yourself

We travel to lose ourselves, and to find ourselves. Travel affords us the opportunity to disappear from reality, forget about life for a while, and to lose ourselves in the moment. A new identity, a new reality, far from home, far from friends, far from family, its easy to disappear into the crowd. This temporary freedom lets us explore new and innovative identities as we glide through this existence. Is there no better feeling than that of being free on the open road, no ties, no responsibility, no identity. Yet, as we get drunk on this sense of freedom, we forget who we really are, and herein sits the dual nature of the travel. It is easy to get lost, but much more difficult to find ourselves. The open road is addictive, like a sweet drug, we are seduced into a sense comfort. Travel helps us see our reflection, but our reflection is not who we really are.

Life is all about balance, and we need to strive to maintain that. Distraction is everywhere, luring us from our true purpose, and travel provides us great opportunity to explore without ourselves. Yet, if we never get to question who we are, we probably never even wonder, just drone along, “living” a life that we do not understand. Travel lets us escape ourselves enough to get a glimpse of ourselves from the outside, a view that reveals so much. As we lose “our self” we begin to see what we really are. We all carry stories about who we are, who our families are, but do we ever question what we are really doing? Much is said about leaving the nest, looking for a new way, a new identity, but what are we really searching for? As we get further and further from home, we begin to loosen the shackles of our fixed worldview, and we begin to see what is truly out there. If we never leave the nest, we never even know there is a nest to leave, but as we get further and further away from our nest, we realize that the nest is really where we belong. We have to leave the nest to see, but as we do, we realize that everything we need was in the nest in the first place. We need to leave in order to see that we already have everything. That is the nature of our predicament.

Travel is a great tool in this effort. As we travel further and further from what we are comfortable with, we suddenly find ourselves looking in from the outside, wondering why we are so far from home. Lose yourself in the moment, but do not lose yourself. That is the balance, the neutrality, and the essence of this place. Every time you lose yourself, feel free, feel lost, feel empty, try to find yourself in there, the same self you came with, and the same self you will leave with. Then, you will glimpse the nature of this place; the illusion that time and place change us and speed us on our way. We alone choose these paths, yet we alone are the only ones walking them.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Time And Time Again

Did you ever wonder how time moves forward when it runs in a circle? If so, you will have asked why is a clock round? Why does time go from 12 to 12 and then start over again? Why is the 24-hour day based on a circular rotation of the Earth? Why is a year based on a circular orbit of the earth around the Sun? And why do those days and years keep repeating, just starting over and over again, even though we count them as progressing in a line? Why do seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, all count up and then reset and count over again? And what really changes in those quantities of time – Are we different from second to second, hour to hour, day to day or even year to year? We are still standing here watching the sun come up, in the same place it did last year, we are still orbiting that star we call the sun, round and round and round again. Do we really get older as we add up the years, or is this just an illusion? A straight line drawn on top of a circle.

Of course things change, things develop, things progress – at least they seem to. Maybe it’s just the same old scenery, but since we have looked at it so many times, it just seems to change. That store wasn’t there before, nor was that freeway, there are more people here now, more traffic, I have less time than ever before, yet that clock still moves in a circle, and we are still spinning at 1000 miles per hour.

When we travel, we go from point a to point b. Maybe we add in some detours, some back roads, even end up where we started, but we feel like we have experienced a whole lot, met new people, seen new buildings, eaten new foods, spoken new languages – yet, after we get back on the plane, and plug in our ipod, turn on the TV and watch a few old movies, we are right back, right back at home, and soon enough we are at home, in our own kitchen, drinking out of our own favorite coffee mug, watching the sun come up from our favorite chair – and what has changed? We have a memory, a really indefinable experience, we feel like something happened, we can still taste that hot chili tom yum, we can still smell that lemongrass, we can still imagine that wat, but its not here with us, its over there somewhere, on another part of the circle. Now it begins to get really strange when we go back to those parts of the circle to which we have already been. Step off the plane in Bangkok, that thick air greets you, those same food vendors make your soup, and you drink that same lemongrass tea, and yet your calendar, your watch, and your vacation schedule, tell you that it is different – it has to be different. It’s next year - or next decade.

So we count time, we add time up, we get older, we travel, we “see” more, we “know” more, we are wiser, we can do better at crossword puzzles, we can order Thai soup in America and discuss how it differs from that in Chang Mai – yet despite all of our best efforts, time still flows in a circle, beginning each day where it ended the day before, our watch moves from 12 to 12, round and round, same to same, and we are still spinning and orbiting in the same place. Even our whole solar system is going round and round, on galactic time, just spinning away we travel billions and trillions of miles, and yet there we are, holding that favorite mug, drinking that coffee. Are we really older? Wiser? Changing? Or are we just spinning in circles?