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Life is a variety of experiences – depth, quality, lived in the details. In a previous post I talked about how I want to be defined by actions, not interests. Here, I want to talk about how those actions are defined not by what they are, but how they are done.
Not long ago I was in Asia for nearly two months, with one very striking detail: none of the countries I went to during this trip are ones I haven't been to before. To many this is incredible – there is so much of the world to see! Why not explore a new continent?
I always despised that way of thinking, of the world as a constructions of continents, countries, dotted lines on shallow maps. Ten countries, 20, 44, 100, what does it really mean? We live in a world of quantification, statistics, GDP, population, where facts and figures are readily used to dehumanize and, sadly, destroy the diversity that exists around the globe.
Travelers are, in many ways, more prone to this than others. Contrary to popular opinion, I've seen that, in fact, traveling on its own does not open minds at all. I saw this in Thailand, meeting Westerners who don't even know how to say thank you (khop-kun-khap) in Thai despite spending weeks here, who complain when buses are late with snide remarks (“They want to make more money”) - even though the $1 fare means the driver will make maybe $2-$3 an hour...if he's lucky. The complete lack of context in understanding the historical, often interconnected reasons why the north - Europe, America, and Japan are rich, and most of the south – including Southeast Asia is not.
I'm back here because Thailand wasn't a item on a checklist. Neither was Singapore. This trip barely compared to my previous trips to Southeast Asia. Then, I was a backpacker, seeking to find myself, this time, I'm a writer/traveler, looking for opportunities, trying to meet people who are working to help the world, moving towards my goal of understanding the global experience in all of its complexity.
You don't need to travel to a new place to attempt something new. All you have to do is be mindful of the world around you. I learned as much about myself during 13 months around the world as I did the summer afterwards, exploring for the first time, the diversity in my hometown of Kansas City.
This applies outside of travel too. For example, writing. I meet writers now everywhere, whether in the writing group I organized in NYC, SF, or Jakarta, or while on the road. I'm a multi-medium writer, who jots notes anywhere, keeps a journal, and even hand-writes some drafts.
Most writers stick to one medium, and I often here quotes like this -
“Oh my god, I could never handwrite!”
“I only write on an Apple.”
It astounds me, for one simple reason – how I write effects WHAT I write. The medium effects the outcome. By limiting yourself to one medium you are limiting what you can write. But not expanding new boundaries thought something as simple as a pen, you are shutting off your creative potential.
We do this everywhere. I quit Facebook, and rarely do I meet anyone who says "I love Facebook," but everyone is tethered to this tool, unable to see how they can keep in touch with people another way. You can. There are many ways to keep in touch – I regularly use numerous mediums from email, postcards, Whatsapp, Twitter, and old-fashioned phone calls to talk to people. The quality of the communication is part of the quality of the friendship. Facebook, I believe, limits that communication capability, and reduces the dynamism of friendship.
Try something new. Turn off your phone for a week. Quit Facebook for a month. Take a new route to work. Handwrite instead of typing. Go to a new bar, have a new drink, break the patterns and recover, realize, the magic of how.
Or, simply go watch a child in a playground, and how he or she experiments. Children will often try to do something so many different ways, always experimenting with the How. This curiosity, that is how we learn and grow.
In the same vein, I believe this is wow can we make the world a better place. Let's start by focusing more on how we're hurting the world first, and how we can change our actions every day. That is why I'm learning to do this trip, enjoy each moment, be conscious of my own impacts, and wait for the right opportunity.