Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Long Way Home

I recently traveled alone to Singapore and Vietnam, and several people remarked on how brave or unfortunate it was. I get why some people would think traveling alone would be unfortunate, but I think some of those people just have no idea how to do things on their own, are too afraid of what other people think, or simply don't know how to spend time by themselves. Anyone who's moved to a new city (or new country) where they don't know anyone can attest to feeling alone at times. Though contrary to popular belief, alone does not equal lonely.

*Side note: Vietnam is AWESOME. Super cheap, friendly people, and absolutely beautiful. I received 5 star treatment at $50/night. A driver picked me up from the airport, I had a hot towel and freshly made mango smoothie upon my arrival, my room had orchids all over, a complimentary laptop to use, and more. The concierge was able to reconfirm all my bookings and even get stuff for me (like fixing a belt.) You can get pho for breakfast along with any fruit, bread, juice, coffee you want. $50 a night...

*Singapore was pretty sweet...such good food and great shopping, but SO HOT.


Part of growing up is learning how to do things on your own, and traveling alone is a great way to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and become a more well rounded person. Navigating the streets of a foreign country where you don't speak the language, no GPS/smartphone, trying to haggle with a language barrier, making friends with other travelers from all over the world with interesting stories, and just doing new things in general. You do all these things when you travel alone, and the best part is you can do whatever your heart desires. I can say I had a blast...though sometimes I'm a little concerned how easily I can entertain and amuse myself...

Point, grunt, and order

When you travel with others you have to worry about accommodating other peoples' travel plans/desires or someone potentially ruining the dynamic of the group. Anyone who's traveled with a buzzkill knows what it's like...though the best part of traveling with people you know is being able to experience breathtaking moments with one another; Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, watching the light show at the Eiffel Tower, the view after climbing/hiking a mountain, and so on. Those moments are what make life pretty amazing.

Seeing this with a friend would have been even more epic

I only started traveling alone recently, when I put on my bucket list to travel to all 7 continents by the time I hit 30. I have Africa and Antarctica left...but the top items on my list the next 3 years are Antarctica, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Cuba, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, India, China, Thailand, Cambodia...and World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Life's too short...there are too many things to do, see, and learn that you can't wait around for others to accomplish what you want to accomplish or you'll just end up waiting forever.

There was a moment where I thought: "I could be in a cubicle working, a business meeting, or at the gym...but instead I'm in the middle of Vietnam where I don't know a single soul for thousands of miles drifting on a boat. I am a looooong way from home. This is AWESOME." Really, everyone should try going someplace random where they don't know anyone sometime...not Into The Wild style though, that's just stupid...


There was a comment on reddit (forgot the author) that explains life after college pretty well. It confirms my motives for doing the the things I do, which is do things that make me happy regardless of what anyone else says; mainly traveling, eating, and picking up random hobbies. To continue these things I do whatever it takes (without breaking my principles) to ensure I stay happy.

Growing up you're told to go to college and once you graduate you get the job, a spouse, a house, have some kids, and then you'll be happy because that's the plan. But what metric are we using for happiness? What makes one person happy won't make another happy, and everyone's life is it's really subjective. It's something everyone needs to figure out on their own...really sit down, spend some time and figure out what makes them happy and what they can do to achieve it. The people who figured it out early on...they're blessed. Life's a marathon, not a race...and it's one with yourself, so just do you...happily of course.


Anyways, here it is:

I struggled to graduate, for various reasons. When I called up to get my grades for what turned out to be my last semester (in those days, you used a touch-tone phone to get a robo-voice to tell you your grades, if you didn't want to wait for them to be mailed to you) I was somewhat surprised by how well I had done, and then realized that I had managed to keep my GPR high enough to officially graduate.

That was it. I was done.

And nothing happened. I remember thinking that I expected some kind of "Game Over!" experience. Something that flashed and celebrated. But there was nothing. I thought, "Now what?" and life went on.

Life goes on.

You graduate. You fuck for the first time. Someone close to you dies. Someone close to you is born. You win. You lose. You quit your job. You walk out on your lover. You survive the wreck.

Life goes on.

There is no great Audience watching the movie of your life. There is no great Storyteller who weaves your tale for a crowd. It is not Written, and there is no one to read it. Success? Failure? These are arbitrary constructs of your inner narrative. The universe doesn't care.

Life goes on.

Like a river carving through rock to make a canyon. Like a tree's root, growing and swelling until it breaks concrete, and heaves stone. Like tectonic plates grinding together and pushing plains upwards into mountains, a fraction of an inch at a time.

Life goes on.

It is disconcerting, at first, the way that life just grinds on, regardless of our individual lives. But then, it becomes a comfort. Life throws horrors at you--how can you possibly go on after this tragedy, or that disaster? You just do. Because that's life.

Life goes on.

It doesn't matter how you feel about it. Life doesn't care about your pain, your misery, your joy, your confidence, or your doubts. It just is. It just keeps going. And so, you keep going. There's always tomorrow. There's always this next moment. And this one. And this one.

Life goes on.

And here it is, here is the moment when you switch. When your mind stops just waiting for things to happen. When you stop following the story in your head, and you start writing it. You went to college because, well, that's what you were supposed to do. That was the story. That's what was Written. But, you've turned the page after the latest chapter, and it's blank.

Life goes on.

The page is blank. What? The? Fuck? Where's the final scene? Where's the conclusion? The epilogue? Where is The End? Finis? Good Luck! Good Bye! God be with you! Nope. None of that. All you get is one more breath. Followed by another breath. And another. Your nose itches. The room is quiet. Look, someone dropped a penny. It was minted in 1974. That's a long time ago. A long time.

Life goes on.


At May 4, 2011 at 12:35 AM , Blogger SteeL said...

I'm disappointed you did not mention Laos in your list of places to visit. Though the above article was written back in 2008, there was good reason it made the list and being #1 over all the other amazing attractions should make it an easy decision.

-Guess who?

At May 4, 2011 at 12:38 AM , Blogger Howard said...

Your scary story about the dude staring you down frightened me...


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