Stepping Onto The Less Traveled Path

“I wanted real adventures to happen to myself. But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.” ~James Joyce

Four days ago I was sitting at home in California, distractedly watching television before leaving for the airport. Today I’m writing this post from the small town of Raglan, a surf mecca on the north island of New Zealand. This paradise is the first stop of many in an extended trip I’ve just begun. Here lies the edge of my comfort zone. Here I step beyond.

Traveling is the surest way I know of experiencing the contrasting perspectives by which we can attune our own. Besides the vast diversity of local flavor, there is the constant vortex of travellers from around the world to interact with. And besides the personal benefit of witnessing different perspectives, there is the personal benefit of challenging yourself to accomplish unimaginable feats.

As it pertains to this blog, I travel the world seeking different answers to the question, “What is it to be Human?” No single place has the ultimate answer. No place is perfect. But each culture has unique insight into the answer to that vastly multifaceted question. Each culture exhibits a small piece of the perfect answer. And each culture exhibits a small piece of a most abominable answer. I learn from both.

Sometimes there is a glaring discord between a foreign culture’s position on something and the position I’ve learned. But red given blue can also make purple, as well as the infinite spectrum between. No answer is irrelevant. No perspective is too strange, or incongruous, or atrocious to be understood for what it is.

It is far too easy to examine another culture through the lens of our own. This can lead to misunderstanding, judgment, and enmity. Furthermore, judgment of any aspect of foreign society blinds us to the possible beneficial lessons hidden amidst the reasons why that aspect exists. The expansive slums in India might seem repulsive. But seeing men emerge from their hovels wearing clean, ironed, white collared-shirts; women adorned in traditional saris; and children playing happily in the aisles, depicts this extreme poverty in a less pitiable light. These people live their lives with appreciation and contentment, and that has taught me something about where happiness truly resides.

Ultimately, witnessing the alternative lifestyles of other cultures reveals the edges of your own. What begins as true and necessary becomes subjective and conditional. Over time, after being exposed to many different ways of life, and facets of society, you realize how contrived nearly every social construction really is. You become unbounded by the bricks set by any nation, any culture. You become free to pick and choose the qualities and priorities you wish to emulate. From that freedom you become a truly unique individual.

That is the greatest gift of travel.

Thank you for reading.

-C

Leave a Reply