Many people think of travel as an experience and rightly so. Saul D. Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals, aptly captures this thought:
Life is an adventure of passion, risk, danger, laughter, beauty, love; a burning curiosity to go with the action to see what it is all about, to go search for a pattern of meaning, to burn one’s bridges because you’re never going to go back anyway, and to live to the end.
Travel is not a walk in the park and is usually exhausting. When you travel, you throw yourself out of your comfort zone, immerse yourself into situations you find yourself and draw out unique experiences along the way. This is why you must draw the line between copious amounts of prior research and the experiences you get when you get to your destination.
Indeed, travelling engages your mind, stretches your limits and challenges your prejudices of what the ‘other’ part of the world looks like. More often, the stories you regale your family and friends with are those unexpected moments with strangers who shared unique insights about that country and tell you things about their life to lift curtains you never imagined.
Business guru Tony Schwartz says, “Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose upsides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.” This applies to travelling as much as it does to daily life. When we sit in open-minded spaces, then we should expect boundless opportunities.
It usually begins with curiosity, then continues with a desire to hunt for new stimulus even within unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells, faces, and the openness to string new information together and understand them. These eventually subtly start shaping your worldview and may begin to erase your innate prejudices.
Asia’s favourite maverick philosopher and one of the fathers of Daoism, Zhuangzi, writing 2400 years ago had his own particular views on the subject. He implored us to learn to think, feel and act with spontaneity, by freeing ourselves of presumed judgements of right and wrong or can and can’t, by finding alignment with our inner nature and the nature of the world, and by learning to trust the impulses of our inner voices.
A frog in a well cannot conceive of the ocean.– Zhuangzi
We should take that same approach to travelling – striking a balance between careful planning and openness, not to pass judgement at every opportunity and respond to experiences in a way authentic to yourself. The world is infinitely complex and far bigger than usually imagined.