The deluge of sensory stimuli that traveling manifests remains enthroned, isolated from any peculiar neighbor, and continues to incessantly exalt its nonpareil stature as the apex professor who lectures on expanding the perspective for the brave few willing to learn.
Albeit, even while seated present in attendance of this metaphysical study hall, the subconscious of the quintessential student tends to daydream; and thus, its absent self aimlessly wanders down the corridors of its own mercurial mind only to be discovered in the back row of an auditorium sketching stray, doodled questions in the margins of its bound notebook.
To the dearest unamused classroom attendee, who we can be safe to presume found slouched in the corner isle seat impatiently waiting for the teacher to skip past the frivolous syllabus and get to the damn point, here’s the coveted SparkNotes summary: Traveling the world has a unique ability to unearth thoughts never previously evinced.
This month, I, along with close friends, backpacked around the many beautiful landscapes within Myanmar marking (#23) for countries I’ve visited in my brief lifetime. From the vantage point of others, that’s expected to be a strong enough impetus to write a cohesive travel blog of my ongoing journey around the globe. Paradoxically, the (#1) reason I don’t is that I’ve found the most repetitive thoughts I happen to conceive throughout my adventures perpetually boils down to a simple and concise thesis: Insignificance.
The more places I travel to or live in — cities, states, countries, continents, hemispheres — the more I realize I’ve only seen and explored but a tiny spec of our humongous planet.
Who am I to tell you which countries to travel to this year or which hotels, hostels, cafes, restaurants, museums, or landmarks give you the biggest ROI for your vacation budget?
The more books I choose to read — fiction, non-fiction, psychology, philosophy, poetry, biographies, investing — the more I realize I’ve only consumed an infinitesimal fraction of accessible literature.
Who am I to tell you which of Shakespeare’s plays you should dive into or which of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays you should read twice?
The more people I have the opportunity to meet — new friends, friends of friends, friend’s family members, members of my own distant family, coworkers, strangers — the more I realize I’ve branched out socially only so far.
Who am I to tell you which Instagram influencers you should try to DM or what networking events you should attend?
The more industries I have served — sales, marketing, management, media, education, and now writing — the more I realize I’ve only occupied but a small cove in the vast and limitless ocean of labor force.
Who am I to tell you which line of work will bring you the highest level of job satisfaction or employee engagement?
The more music I experience — songs, artists, bands, genres, local concerts, massive festivals — the more I realize I’ve only listened to a handful number of sounds within an ever-expanding universe of music.
Who am I to tell you which underground indie artist you should follow on SoundCloud or finally end the debate whether Burning Man supersedes Coachella?
The more of the inevitable I encounter — life, death, joy, tragedy, good, evil — the more I realize I’ve only fancied a taste of what life can give, and for that matter, take away.
Who am I to tell you the difference between what makes a good life from a bad one?
Why would anyone listen to me answer any of these questions; what the hell do I know?
Streams of thoughts regarding insignificance can often lead many down a river that eventually washes up in a dark place. In today’s modern age, numerous countries are collectively battling a cultural epidemic tainted with the highest numbers ever recorded of those suffering from anxiety, depression, and suicide. This strife is inextricably linked to the startling trajectory of national news headlines being littered with hellacious, and downright intolerable, human behavior concerning mass public shootings, both in schools and known to be safe public spaces.
Despite all this, the jury is out and the data is in: we are living in the safest era in human history. Don’t just take my word for it though. Yuval Noah Harari, an Israelian professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a New York Times Best-Selling author with a Ph. D in History from Oxford, backs this with statistical data in his book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. He writes, “In 2012 about 56 million people died throughout the world; 620,000 of them died due to human violence (war killed 120,000 people, and crime killed another 500,000). In contrast, 800,000 committed suicide, and 1.5 million died of diabetes. Sugar is now more dangerous than gunpowder.” Sugar? Go figure.
The freedom to travel during this era provides exposure to a wide spectrum of people made up of those with everything seemingly prospering for them to others who are scraping the bottom of the barrel just to get by. This helps to foster a more compassionate understanding of the fact that anxiety-fueled panic attacks, manic depressive episodes, and suicidal thoughts and attempts are evidently nondiscriminatory no matter where you go.
Plus, if one is able and willing to explore, there’s a chance to transcend past merely studying other diverse cultures from a textbook and experience life first-hand in various regions of a rapidly changing conglomerate ecosystem. Sean Maguire, the character played by the late Robin Williams in the movie, Good Will Hunting, encapsulates the result of forgoing this privileged opportunity better than anyone:
“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling.”
Disclaimer: I strongly support travel bloggers and have absolutely nothing against them. For the globetrotting all-stars like Nomadic Matt or Adventurous Kate, who both rake in six figures a month to finance their travels, how could I not cheer them on? They have amazing lives traversing the world and are gleefully willing to document insightful, and oftentimes critical, information via a full repertoire of diversified income streams that ultimately enrich the world of travel.
We are all vulnerable to an antagonizing war with outside forces that influence us on what we should or should not do with our short lives. In many cases, there are individuals that sit beneath the shadows in their disguised director’s chairs producing a movie in which you are cast as anyone but the lead role. For some, that’s their relatives pressuring you to pursue graduate school, study hard, and become a lawyer or a doctor. For others, that’s their peers insisting you should skip school instead, get high, and play Fortnite. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either because similar to the fact there is an infinite number of ways to the top of a mountain, there is an infinite number of ways to live a quality life.
For me personally, my current novice understanding and acceptance of my inherent trivial nature have provided an immense amount of comfort in liberating myself from the notion that I should write a travel blog simply because the list of places I’ve been fortunate enough to experience. Instead, I’ve felt a moral obligation to follow my #1 goal with writing which is to provide value in other ways in exchange for the precious time spent by those who consciously choose to read.
In the end, everyone is facing their own unique battle. So, if I could leave you with one thing, it's this: Your environment does not dictate how your movie ends. In fact, it’s your ability to make decisions that are congruent to empowering your frame of mind rather than relying on a deus ex machina to save you from faulty decisions in character development made earlier in your story’s plot. But, to reiterate from earlier — what the hell do I know?
I would like to conclude with a series of questions and allow you the freedom to answer them on your own accord. If you feel compelled to message me and share your answers, I would be honored to listen.
1. How would your perspective transform, if you decided, via any medium you so choose, to proactively invest time in learning and understanding more about your inherent insignificance in the world?
2. What type of life plan would you design if you decided that you will not succumb to your external environment’s attempts to dictate what road you are expected to travel?
3. If and when you are able to achieve the first two: What is something far greater than anything previously expected of you that you’re willing to strive for?