How was your trip?! What’d you learn?! What’s the meaning of life?!
I ended 10 months of solo travel with 10 days of silence.
As I set out looking for answers from the world, meditating for 10 days was admittedly a pretty extreme way to realize everything I needed was already inside. I think I’d rather vote for Trump than stare at one more dude sitting in lotus pose looking like he’s on the cover of Yoga Dads Monthy while my lower back is screaming “ABORT!” But, the physical pain was just a side dish served with many helpings of clarity. After the dust (and my chattering mind) settled down, my last lesson was quite in line with the first lesson I learned when my plane touched down in Saigon last November — change is everywhere.
I knew this cliché on an intellectual level, sure. Even from a biological standpoint I can probably dig up some old high school science notes that explain how on an atomic level all matter is made up of tiny vibrations, but in the past 10 days (and 10 months), I came to understand impermanence on an experiential level.
I experienced it after five days of meditating when my right thigh began to feel like it was being attacked by an army of needle-wielding nurses, instead of switching positions, I just stayed put (like a freakin’ masochist) until the weirdest thing happened — the pain suddenly dissipated.
I experienced it when I left a mall in Gaborone, Botswana that, I kid you not, had KFC, McDonalds, and Subway next door to each other and, in a matter of minutes, I was looking out the window at a village that still gets fresh water from women walking with clay pots on their heads to the nearest well.
I experienced it when I learned that the art of a 96-year-old tattoo artist who had just repeatedly tapped ink into my body using a stick of bamboo (not unlike the pain in my right thigh…) might die with her because her only next-to-kin that could carry on the tradition wants to go study computer science.
When people ask if this trip changed my life, the short answer will be yes. I’ll dig for proof that might be visible in the before/after pictures. But the change hasn’t come in an observable, great-aunt-at-the-holiday-party “My you’ve grown so tall!” kind of way. The change has trickled in from a delta of subtle sources. I will forget the majority of the people and places that have contributed to this journey. And that’s OK.
I’ve come to learn that this whole travel thing isn’t about moving after all. It’s about stopping. Stopping, if only for a moment in this whirling world, to think:
“Hey, this person this bite this view is pretty awesome.
How lucky am I.”