There is something magical about travelling for me. The busyness of modern life has wrapped me up in layers, and travelling unwraps them slowly for me, if I do it long enough.
I have grown to be spoilt with the life I had in San Francisco, getting used to a level of comfort. I had my own apartment, high-speed internet (duh), a huge tv complete with a network attached storage that acted as my media server, with every other media device you can possibly think of, and a hot shower with the best pressure ever. I got used to on-demand services for laundry, food and transport.
I justified all of that with the reasoning that I was working really hard, which I was.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, leveraging on resources to make parts of our lives efficient, I totally subscribe to the “wear the same top/tie” movement – some decisions are really not worth the cognitive load. But personally for me, I think it is dangerous when leverage becomes attachment, or when it conditions me incapable of adjusting, and I mix up my original goals with the fear of losing my comfort.
I have spent five days in Bali now. The internet works, and doesn’t. Even if it works, sometimes it is excruciatingly slow. I could type five long sentences before I finish uploading a picture. The initial frustration I felt grew to amused acceptance, so I adjusted. Instead of browsing facebook or watching netflix (sadface), I spent more time reading my kindle instead. In-between moments I sat with my legs in the pool, or the edges of my balcony, staring into the air. I started to wonder about my capacity to stare in the air and daydream. I used to do it so much in my younger years – in those days we didn’t even have mobile internet and I couldn’t afford to have a laptop, so I would only go to internet cafes.
I felt really uncomfortable with all the sweat I had within five minutes of walking, and it got to a point when I just decided to live with a base layer of stickiness. After a while, I barely noticed it. It was still uncomfortable, but it stopped annoying me.
The first few days I didn’t really enjoy my own company, because my mind (oh my beautiful twisted mind) was perpetually shouting at me for everything I have done and everything I did not do. I cannot win with my mind. When I am pursuing conventional success she accuses me of being a sell-out, when I am trying to be a hippie she tells me that I wasn’t strong enough to be out in the world. What gives?
The difference between then and now, is now I am capable of noticing the differences in my reactions to my mind. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and having thoughts of self-destruction, I sat with it. I wrote about it in my private journal. I read more – the right books always magically appear for me. I read and re-read the document I had prepared for myself in such scenarios, a document that contained my philosophies and values. I could easily spiral, it just takes a split-second to go over the edge, I assure you, but this time, I stood at the edge.
I started to become amused at myself. It helped that I was also reading “Furiously Happy”, by Jennifer Lawson (aka @thebloggess). I thought I put myself out here in public. She takes the concept of putting ourselves out there to a whole new level. I had so many thoughts and emotions to that book. I became grateful that I didn’t have any urges to tear out my hair (and felt sorry that she did). I was comforted that someone out there realises that depression is a curse but also a gift, a condition that makes us feel so deeply – both the highs and the lows. I can only appreciate how beautiful is the ordinary because I know how shitty it can get.
Ordinary is great. I am now sitting the balcony, still worried about my painful eyes but I can’t tell you how grateful I am to remember that I am not having a migraine or thoughts of ending my own life. It is having the capacity to notice such mundane moments other people take for granted.
I can digest my food, wow. I can breathe through my nose, wow. I can see colours, wow. My heart is filled with love when a stranger smiles at me, wow. I sat on a motorbike to get home, entrusting my life to a stranger I met on the street, wow. I can think, wow. I can write, wow. I see wild chickens and ducks passing through, wow. A dog came to greet me, wow.
Travel inevitably unravels the layers I unconsciously put on to face society. It grounds me to my core personality, before all that conditioning, all that expectations. Travel forces me to adjust and accept whatever conditions it throws at me. I feel myself stepping down levels of comfort very slowly.
Travelling alone gives me the space to sit with my fears and anxieties. I cannot escape with busyness or familarity. There is only how much of internet I can browse and how much of kindle I can read. There isn’t anyone for me to hang out with, or responsibilities I have to fulfill. I have no excuses to stop contemplating.
With that space, I realized with my mind (and plenty of other things), it isn’t about winning, but it is about listening, to seek to understand where these accusations are coming from. Self-love can never come from acquisitions or accomplishments, but it comes from acceptance and the willingness to explore the depths and layers.
Sometimes life isn’t about finding answers, but being able to endure and contemplate the questions.