Throwback: Travelling, Life, and the Bigger Picture.
This piece was taken from my old travel blog and, as you’ll see, my love of travel has clearly been a constant throughout the years. I had completely forgotten that I had written this, and yet, it reads almost like a transcript of “The Love of Travel,” which I wrote only a few weeks ago.
Originally written May 30th, 2013.
Note: So this ended up being really, really ridiculously long…but it’s probably one of the most honest pieces I’ve ever written, where I was actually able to put almost my exact feelings into words. I’m really not even sure who’s still following this (except Emily—thanks man! Haha) but hopefully it reaches someone out there who sees things the way I do—jump down a few paragraphs to where I really start getting into deeper thought.
I wrote this on the plane ride from Phuket to Bangkok, and from Bangkok to our final destination for the day—Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
I grabbed a complimentary copy of the Phnom Penh Times, which was pretty entertaining in itself. Not a ton of people know this, but I’ve always loved writing, and I find it interesting how writing styles are different across the board. I found that Cambodian journalists write rather comically, or maybe they just have more facetious news stories.
They also showed Mr. Bean on the plane, which I haven’t seen since I was a kid. I used to watch it with my mum all the time, and it just got me in a bit of a reflective mood…I don’t think anyone knows, but my mum is currently in the process of moving to Vancouver. She’s been e-mailing me a lot during this trip—when something is upsetting her, what’s happening with moving and her company transfer, and just general updates from back home. By the time I return to Calgary, she’ll have fully transferred all her things to her new condo in Coal Harbour. It’s a funny thing because I’m not homesick, yet when I return home it’ll feel even less like the place it used to be. I feel like being on the road right now is what’s most comfortable, and when I get home I’ll feel more restless and like I belong elsewhere more than I usually already do.
(The “Deep Stuff”)
Anyways, I was just thinking about what I’ve experienced so far in my travels, and I feel that I see things weird. I feel like others see the people here living in “squalor” and only then value the luxuries they have at home. It’s hard to describe, but I don’t ache for what I have at home. Sure, the first few days you don’t think you could live without 3G (or what, LTE now, or whatever they come up with next). But what I really feel is admiration for these people’s ability to persevere in such simple conditions—or at least, conditions that seem to be the bare minimum to us. But it’s a funny thing: because they have known less, they appreciate more. The deaf laugh more often; the toothless smile wider. Maybe it’s not that they’re underdeveloped…it’s that we’re overdeveloped. Don’t get me wrong—modern technology and how far we’ve come is amazing. It’d be ridiculous to say that we should go back to the dark ages, where simple scurvy killed hundreds of people and communication was dependent on horsepower. But appreciating my iPhone is much different from needing it. I just can’t say that the people in these countries are necessarily “underdeveloped,” when it seems that they are actually far more able than many people I know, when it comes to celebrating and appreciating the truly important things.
…because they have known less, they appreciate more.
I always wonder what my life would be like if I had grown up with these different ways of living. If I could, I would want to be able to experience every aspect of every different culture. One example is cooking—another one of my passions. The culinary knowledge of a culture. To professional chefs, exotic dishes can be such an exact science, precision in measurement of ingredients and the components that make a dish just so. But for the Thai people who have lived there for their lifetime, their fingers are engrained with the pinches of spices and herbs that season pad thai so that the flavours are perfectly balanced. It’s almost an innate knowledge, for which there is no recipe that can be imitated, without the context—the actual history and experience of the people and the generations before.
If only I could just live through every culture from birth to death so that I could understand everything: the language, the customs, the changes they go through at every stage of life. Bat Mitzvahs at 12, Quinceañeras at 15, La Tomatina in Spain, Holi in India, Sak Yant Buddhist tattooing—all the ceremonies, rituals, festivals and celebrations of every culture and every religion. This kind of knowledge is so valuable it can only be learned through living and experiencing, and I always mourn that it would be impossible for me to live all these lives and gain what I think is a true understanding of the world—the intangible knowledge that can only be understood through years of practice, family tradition, and each unique cultural environment itself.
I think my “curse” in life is wanting to know everything but never being able to. I can’t pick a scholarly major because I want to learn about and understand the whole world. I sometimes wish more people put greater value on this kind of knowledge. For me, I find it difficult to go through a lifetime perhaps knowing the entire theory of relativity, but not the way people in other countries live. I sometimes meet great people along my journeys though, who give me hope that the thirst for culture and to understand one other, will one day supercede the thirst for money and material—which reminds me of one of my favourite quotes from the great Jimi Hendrix: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” It just gives me hope to know that there are other people out there, who study other religions and cultures not because they have to or need to, but because they just want to know more about the world.
When I’m old and weathered, I don’t want it to be because I worked so hard to buy the big house on this street with that three car garage for those cars…and yet still didn’t have enough for the bigger house on that better street with the eight car garage powered with hydraulic lifts. I want it to be because I absorbed the world; took in everything from the poverty and suffering to, of course, some of the good things I ventured across in my adventures. The stories, the lives, the ideas, hopes and dreams of the people I met across the world. I’m not scared of many things but thinking that I might put myself in a cubicle and slowly forget the world out there because the media and people around me repeatedly tell me what I’m supposed to want, terrifies me.
But as I said before, it’s impossible to know everything I want to know. Perhaps accepting that fact overshadows everything else and it’s why I seem chill or apathetic a lot of the rest of the time—two words I always hear describing me. I guess it’s just hard to make a big deal out of localized drama when you’re thinking about the bigger picture. It’s like being unable to appreciate a giant masterpiece of a painting, because there’s one wrong brushstroke somewhere in it. Maybe I just seem so apathetic because when it comes to everything else, nothing compares in magnitude, or matters in comparison, to the crazy and beautiful world I don’t yet know out there.
Anyways, enough deep talk for now! Gotta book a hostel for us in Bali, then explore the streets for dinner at yet another unfamiliar and unknown place before bedtime. Seven hour bus ride to Siem Reap at 7am tomorrow woo!