In 1996 I undertook my first long-distance trip. I chose to go to Australia because I had seen Ayers Rock (Uluru) on TV as a kid and wanted to see it for myself. I also headed to New Zealand “on the way”. Naturally, I met a lot of people who traveled for a prolonged period. I realized that this was a lifestyle for some, at least temporarily. But was it also attainable, sustainable and desirable?
Traveling to me opens up a sense of freedom I hardly ever get in the treadmill of job-meetings, weekend activities, and summer holidays. Maybe that is my problem, and others feel differently? From conversations with people, my feeling is that I am not alone though. In a deeper sense one could say, what is life but a trip? Does it need to be externalized when it could also be internally?
For now, I would answer that it is a matter of taste and that both paths are possible. I experience existence as an opportunity to experience. Neither the accumulation of possession nor the achievement of status of any kind seems to give me lasting joy. Assuming that joy or happiness is an end in itself. Life offers an opportunity to learn in a very general sense. Be it about the nature of existence itself or the intricacies of human interaction. Irrespective of the precise structure of the outer situation.
On the flip side I wonder, can you retreat to for example a monastery and meditate to learn how to efficiently interact with other individuals in a productive and positive mental state? I cannot have any definite answer to it since I have never tried this approach. I would think that the challenge is not as much to find a peaceful spot inside of your mind (although that is a challenge already, mind you). In my humble experience with human interaction, the greater challenge will be to hold onto that state of mind in the confusion and mayhem that human interaction often poses.
Implicit in the above is that I buy into the idea that life is best lived in the attempt to obtain a state of mind that “evades”, or maybe better said “transcendents” the troubles most of us experience daily. Many of the worries and sorrows we experience taint the joy of living, for most of us. Many philosophers and thereby religions have dedicated themselves to solving the conundrum of living life to the fullest whilst experiencing as little discomfort as possible.
I will not be able to summarize all the approaches here. However, one can easily say that none of the available approaches that are commonly accepted as valuable teaches us materialism, egoism, and diversion of any kind. What does all my mumbo-jumbo have to do with traveling?
Traveling in my experience confronts me intensely with the question of how I interact. It teaches not by exposing myself to theoretical constructs or thought experiments, but actual tangible experience. It is not uncommon to go through many intense emotions within one day while on the road. As someone said to me the other day, who traveled for the first time: “I go from happy to sad, to scared to upbeat, and back again in one day. Multiple times!”
I understand that this emotional state is not for everyone. But for me, it is a valuable opportunity. To what end? That is the ultimate question, isn’t it? The reason for, or purpose of life. For now, I like the approach I read the other day: “The purpose of life is, whatever you choose it to be”. For myself I would add: May it be something you may not regret. I have the feeling I will not regret seeing the world, meeting people and learning about “stuff”.
Besides that, I guess most of us would say life is about happiness. Not in the sense of eternal ecstasy, excitation, or elation. Rather in the sense of balance, homeostasis, and tranquility. Happiness in this sense is a state of mind, internally, no an external state. Obtaining it is a practice that I am convinced of by now. I sense that traveling is a great practice for me. If the best way, again, I don’t know. Maybe I should try the monastery? Or maybe not. 🙂
So is traveling the real-life now? Still got no answers only questions. And how about you? Quo Vadis?