Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Further Refinement

If you're jumping on now, this post might make more sense if you read the one that preceded it, "North America is Boring."

I've been talking with a few people since I wrote my post yesterday. Sometimes it helps to let ideas flow freely onto a page, and sometimes it helps even more to go back and refine those ideas a little bit.

Okay, so the first comment I was hearing is the chicken-and-the-egg phenomenon. As in, the connection between travel and an emotional and spiritual growth following that travel IS a factor and is important for very many people, but what's more important is that personality seems to be a determining factor. The people who travel to exotic lands and make the most out of it are the kinds of people who are looking for adventure. At the same time, there are plenty of people who travel (for work or whatever) who HATE it, who are much happier at home where things are simple and predictable and comfortable. So really, it depends on what kind of person you are. I happen to be one of those people who NEEDS to travel. I know I'm not the only one, but upon further reflection, I realize that there are other kinds of people out there.

Further, you can become complacent and atrophy anywhere in the world if you never go out and do anything. You could be in the most wonderful, beautiful, exotic place in the world and waste all your time playing video games and sleeping. It all depends on how you spend your time and how you exercise your opportunities that's important. If you let yourself be bored in one place, chances are that only moving where you live isn't enough. Sure, things will be new and exciting for a while, but you'll soon slip into your old patterns in no time flat. But also, making a blanket statement that nobody has a problem with patterns and cookie cutter lives outside of North America simply isn't true. You'll find people like that living in every country of the world, I'm sure. Or so I'm told.

Another comment was that travel isn't a solution. And after thinking about that, I think I agree with it, even though I don't have a frame of reference. The idea here is that after going and living in a foreign land, when you get back to Canada you've changed and grown as a person but everything here has stayed exactly the same. I've been told that there's a culture shock that lasts for several months after returning, where travelers lament their return and many immediately head back out again. I've experienced this phenomenon through some of my friends who have returned in the last few years, including my friend Charlie, who can't seem to stay in the country for longer than six months anymore, and my friend Mr. Mike Blue Jeans, who upon returning from Scotland took several months to find Canadian girls attractive again.

But travel is important and can be a life-enhancing experience. I guess I see it now more as part of a big puzzle, a single piece of a greater picture that I need it to be. I need to do more in less time.

My friend Sara directed me to another weblog after reading my post. I should have kept the link, but the gist of it was that the author was venting about how angry it made him when people said they were bored. And despite the (possibly poorly chosen) title of my blog entry yesterday (I couldn't resist the sensationalism), I couldn't help but agree.

The gist of the argument is that life is very short. 80 years of life is a number that is easy to grasp. If you broke down the number of days and used people to represent them, it would fill a large hockey arena. That's a number that you can grasp, that you can process visually (or so this person argues). The idea is that there's way too much to do in life to ever be bored. There's too much beauty to see, too much music to enjoy, and too many things that we can learn, and experience and enjoy.

And I think that's entirely true. In the past, I remember I have gotten angry with people when they said they were bored, especially if they have too much time on their hands. And that's because I don't feel that I have enough time on my hands to do what I want; time is an opportunity. But at the same time, I don't think that my thoughts yesterday overtly stated that I was bored. I think they state that I am reasonably happy and have plenty to do (too much, really), but I don't feel complete.

Stacey and Sara's advice is that I need to enjoy my life here more, that there are things that I can do to make it richer in my very own backyard. And I think that's true, to an extent. I think I would need to talk to another person who feels the way I do who hasn't traveled outside of North America to be sure (both of them have had that opportunity). It all goes back to frame of reference, for me. I think that traveling, and especially living, abroad is just one of those experiences that my life will never be complete without. But that doesn't mean that in the meantime I can't see what I can do about finding new things to do right here at home.

Anyway, one of tools that have popped up to help people with this sort of thing is a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days. I'm not sure where the idea came from, but I know that a bunch of people have tried them, with various levels of success. The idea is that you put things on the list that are attainable, but still always wanted to try, then as you do them (you should be on a schedule to do one ever 10 days or so), you cross them off the list. Flying to the moon would be a bad choice, no matter how cool that would be. Painting a picture is a good one, especially since I've been procrastinating about that since high school.

I think I'm going to try it. I haven't framed what I want to put on it yet, but you can guarantee that travel will be on there.


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