October 2013: I wormed my way into the path of traveling (let’s scratch those fieldtrips goodbye), that is to mention being on a cramped plane with the monotonous voices of flight attendants, squeezing inside the tuk-tuk with newly-made drunk friends from foreign lands, listening to the cool wind and sipping my third cup of instant coffee on a cozy hammock, walking along the narrow pavements of the city with a talkative guy from the hostel. It changed my life, and it kick started the best and the truest points of living. For one who speaks after 25 years of existence, I might have been born again. Every traveler we’ve met, every travel blog we’ve read may say similar things of why traveling is essential. Nothing can truly teach us how to live except by living it, and by living I mean plunging into it wholeheartedly.
Where to plunge, you say?
- INTO CONNECTION
Every person has that ready-to-share concoction of stories. Bring your own and let it flow out. Don’t think, just talk because anything can be interesting. Then listen, because again anything can be interesting. A few minutes of exchanging basic information and it will be like a river that never runs out. “Where are you from?”; “How long have you been traveling?”; “Where’s your next stop?”; “Any plans tonight?” and on and on. You can chat about the teddy bear on the couch, the naughty couple below your bunk bed, or the breathtaking sunset you’ve witnessed on a deserted island. The point is conversations are an investment. I truly, madly, deeply believe in that. They go a long, long way even after they’ve ended.
Beyond that, when the silence has settled in, a thread of connection is weaving and the rest will follow.
- INTO KNOWLEDGE
Along the journey, everything is learned firsthand: analyzing the intricacies of subway routes and hiking directions, visiting the hippest local bars in town, saying thank you in other languages but not really knowing how it’s spelled, passing those travel documents and tapping those transport cards, knowing the various eating and drinking ways of a certain culture. You can also learn a great deal from merely observing the old couple sitting inside a coffee shop or the businessmen in suits walking along the sidewalks. Learning and traveling are inseparable.
It’s swimming in an inevitable, endless pool of knowledge without actually poring over thick books and memorizing extraterrestrial jargon. Who doesn’t want such miracle? Knowledge is power. But great power comes great responsibility. That’s where the number one plunge becomes useful.
Beyond that, you learn about yourself. There is vastness and depth in the outside, but what you’ll discover after is the purest of your greatness within.
- INTO A SENSE OF WONDER AND GRATITUDE
Each rise and set of the sun is like opening two boxes of gifts every day. That is what traveling can impart to us, a childlike sense of wonder. Fresh feelings of appreciation spring for each moment no matter how adventurous or ordinary. Who are we to say what ordinary and extraordinary is? The thing with traveling is that we usually keep in our pockets our itinerary for the day or for the week. Beforehand, we imagine images of majestic temples, sunny shores and blue waters, upbeat music and cheap beers, polite hostel mates and all things splendid. But plans, most of the time, go to waste. The truth is there is no plan.
We are bound to be vulnerable to the reality of the unknown and the thrill of spontaneity. Up for a round of beer and cards? Game! Up for sunset sidetrip to the canyon? Game! Up for a taste of the chicken intestines? Game! When the occasion presents itself, enjoy it with great abandon. It may come in all forms and sizes but whatever that is, greet it with gratitude.
Beyond that, the moment you embrace it with beauty, it becomes beautiful as it is. Aligning perspective to the most positive is one magical phenomenon.
- INTO THE TRUTH
You don’t need all those fancy dresses and cool sneakers and that wide-range collection of lipstick. They will all just stay untouched and crumpled in the bottom of your luggage and covered with your necessities. It’s a liberating skill, to pack as light as you can. Less is more, they say. The more space you have in your bag, the easier it is to carry, plus the more room you’ll save for future souvenirs. The same can be applied for the web of pressures, thoughts and expectations we inappropriately bring to supposedly relaxing vacations. Leave them all behind, if you can, throw them away for good. Venture lightly and brightly, create more breathing spaces for the genuine joys of travel. Plunging is more pleasurable when naked.
Beyond that, when you go home and carry a slightly heavier bag, that added weight will be more than just wet and dirty clothes and souvenirs for the family, but a soul packed with priceless lessons. You’ll probably get to understand why you traveled in the first place.
I could fill this whiteness profoundly describing that nothing-but-incredible feeling of plunging into a journey. But I can’t really, this is all a reminder of what is already there, an emphasis of what you already know. You’re going to be the next one loading your pages with words that will seem to be never enough and never exact. But first, book a flight or head for the bus station. Bring two basics: backpack (personal travel belongings + money) and a heart full of curiosity and courage. Discover your beyonds along the ride. And live into the answer.