About six months ago, I was working in a job where I sat at a computer in an office for 50 or so hours each week. My best friend, Dusty, also sat in an office at a computer all day, and so we would gchat about our daily monotonies pretty frequently. The majority of our conversations centered on what a waste it seemed to be, spending our time inside in front of a computer all day long.
A few months earlier, we had backpacked around Southeast Asia for about two months with no plans but a ticket into Saigon and a ticket out of Bangkok 60 or so days later. It was one of the best times in my life, and seemed even more attractive in the fluorescent light of our respective offices. It became a fairly common practice every week to, over the course of our gchat conversations, calculate how long we could spend on a little island in Thailand with the money that we had at the time. With the money I had, I could have spent six months on Koh Lanta, a tiny island in the Andaman Sea, drinking coconut shakes and riding mopeds through the rainforest. But I didn't.
I ended up leaving my job, and so did Dusty. Neither one of us are sitting in an office all day. But still, last week, Dusty came back to our place and said, "Dude. I'm ready to bounce."
What makes traveling so attractive? Of course it's getting to experience new things, getting to be away from the daily grind, getting to be a slightly different version of ourselves, but I think the draw is more about the mindset that it allows for than the actual reality that comes with it. Waking up every day with a sense of excitement for the unknown. Approaching each interaction during the day with a sense of wonder. Not thinking about yesterday or tomorrow, and just about whatever's right in front you.
The thing is, we don't need to be in transit to be able to approach our days this way. It is possible for me to be living my normal life and be excited for the unknowns of the day. I meet new people and do new things every day. Yes, they might be in Santa Monica, a few blocks from my apartment, but what's the difference between a new person here and a new person in Cambodia?
I read an Alan Watts quote recently, and it goes as follows.
"As it is, we are merely bolting our lives -- gulping down undigested experiences as fast as we can stuff them in -- because awareness of our own existence is so superficial and so narrow that nothing seems to us more boring than simply being. If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted yesterday, I am likely to get nothing more than the thin, sketchy outline of the few things that you noticed, and of those only what you thought worth remembering. Is it surprising that an existence so experienced seems so empty and bare that its hunger for an infinite future is insatiable? But suppose you could answer, "It would take me forever to tell you, and I am much too interested in what's happening now."
There seems to be resurgence among our generation in attempting to explore the world, to "expand our horizons." But there is ample opportunity for horizon-expansion wherever we happen to be. Exploration of self, of routine, can be just as revolutionary for our state of being as exploration of foreign lands. I think I'll wake up tomorrow, walk down the street, and put on my adventurer's cap.