While at breakfast one recent morning, I looked down at the table and saw this fork laying in front of me:
There is nothing remarkable about the fork itself – it’s just another utensil to get food from a plate into my food-hole. But this fork looked exactly like a fork that was in my college house. (And to answer your question, yes, I remember ridiculous things like what a fork that I used over a decade ago looks like.)
Looking at this fork made me ask myself “has traveling made me regress 10 years, to a post-college state of skirting responsibility and the ‘real’ world?” There have been many things that have made me ask some version of this question to myself lately, the fork being the most recent, and I have yet to come up with an answer.
Stay with me here, I promise you this more than a story about a fork.
What I have realized in the past year is that traveling provides people with lots of time that they don’t have in ‘normal’ life – time to do whatever they want. Some travelers take this time and turn it into artistic expressions through writing, photography, music, etc. Other travelers do a lot of navel gazing as they gallivant around the globe. Still other travelers seem to be concerned primarily with having fun. (I am not passing any kind of judgement on anyone, just pointing out my flawed observations.)
Me? I think I am inclined towards navel gazing. The most remarkable things I have discovered about my navel are: it’s hairy, gathers lots of lint, and makes my finger smell.
I can’t tell you how many times, after being seemingly deep in thought, I have turned to Kim and asked a question like, “have you ever thought about how amazing a leaf is?” or “do you think dolphins get side cramps from swimming like people get from running?” or some other completely inane question. The normal exasperated response of “that’s what you are thinking about right now?” has led me to one of two conclusions: I am of far superior intellect and think about things in a way that no one else does or that I really need to get a hobby.
Given my propensity to stick my finger in my own belly button and smell it, I’m gonna go with the latter.
Enough about my weird habits, I’ll get to the point.
All this pseudo deep thinking (deep pseudo thinking?) has made me realize that one of, if not the best, aspect of traveling is self discovery. Regardless if you take the time traveling provides to create art, stare at your own belly, or have old-fashion fun, you discover a lot about yourself. This is something most people don’t see about travelers.
As a “traveler,” what people see is me visiting places around the world, taking pictures of the sights, and brag-sharing them on Facebook.
What isn’t clearly visible is the moments of self discovery and self-awareness that happen. I can’t say that this is something that happens on a regular basis, or that it will happen to everyone if they travel, but I can say that I have had moments where I learned more about myself in a day on the road than I learned in a decade of the working life.
Through travel, I have given myself the time to make these self discoveries. I have not been distracted by a 9-to-5 job, bills, traffic, and the hundreds of other things that your brain processes in ‘normal’ life. With all of this brain power effectively freed up, my mind turns to what it wants to think about.
There are days when I think I am the Buddha incarnate and only a bodhi tree short of enlightenment. Then there are days with monkeys and everything shuts down mentally as I laugh the day away.
Sometimes a fork might just be a plain, eat-your-breakfast-and-please-don’t-talk-like-this-before-coffee fork. But who knows? Maybe the universe discreetly compelled the waiter to put that fork in front of me, just so I would spend a day reflecting on a question that has been tickling my brain for a while.
Someone once told me that there are no coincidences in life, that everything happens for a reason and as you become more self-aware, you start seeing the connections you didn’t notice before.
I think that this could very well be True – yes, true with a big T, as in a fundamental Truth of life. Even if it isn’t, it gives me something to think about (when the monkeys aren’t around).