The 21st century ushered in a new traveler. The plane, train and iPod touch makes the modern excursionist. Disconnecting from technology and the conveniences of home, especially when technology becomes a third arm, is difficult.
While technology remains responsible for altering our world forever it can still become a burden. To experience life to the fullest you must accept risk, put aside distractions, and live in the moment.
Parts of the traveling process are akin to getting a master’s degree in life. Get out! Go far away! Leave the country! Yes, you could go to Mexico and drink margaritas with some mamacita, but that’s not education. That sort of passive living does you no good. The education I’m talking about forces you to dig yourself into a culture on a deeper level then ten tequila shots and a worm. Develop your curiosity by putting yourself in unfamiliar situations when traveling.
Humans are risk averse. We are raised and educated to look for and grasp ahold of safety. This is also one of the reason finding our freedom is so difficult. Safe is synonymous with the status quo, and the general consensus according to the status quo is that running away is bad. Think about it. It has to be. That’d be the only way our system would still exist. If we educated kids, indoctrinated them with the virtue to run away now again and break the ties with their former lives when things get too deep and muddled we’d have a world filled with “irresponsible bums who want to do nothing but soul-search and escape.”
Also, safety is a warm cuddly feeling. It is peace of mind and protection gained from knowledge and understanding of a situation. Without knowledge regarding certain factors as it relates to you fear would paralyze you from acting even when the situation is safe. A lack of knowledge can make a situation scarier than it really is.
Let go, and free yourself from the restrictions that fear of the unknown places on you. When traveling or living somewhere on an extended holiday this means giving locals a chance, no matter how odd their behavior seems. Don’t let Eid al-Adha, the largest Muslim celebration in which sheep are killed in the streets, turn you away from learning about Eastern culture. Remember that your customs and way of live may seem just as odd. To them driving a Ford F-350 two blocks to the grocery store for milk in summer seems just as ridiculous. Your curiosity might foster a better understanding of cultural differences as well, and compassion is never a bad thing. Unless you are Bruce Willis in “Die Hard.”
REMOVE THE CLUTTER
“ In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.” -Dante Alighieri
One globetrotter who traveled lightly was Dante. Dante faced exiled after political upheaval in Florence, and lived his adult life as a wanderer sleeping under the stars, finding peace through the generosity/conversation of others and writing. Dante lived comfortable in Florence, and his exile sent him into the “dark wood” where he lost his life purpose. Dante’s exile forced him to reconsider his identity and look at his life in a way that was not possible with the distractions of daily life in Florence. He made his greatest contribution to humanity after rediscovering his priorities by living simply and gaining a fresh outlook on the world.
Pack light and leave the iPhone at home (or at least turn it off). Travel is a time to leave your ordinary life behind and flirt with the possibility of becoming whoever you want to be. Give yourself the greatest chance to grow as a person and temporarily break free from the binds of your life by not checking email, voice mail, text messages, Facebook, and any other form of instant communication. Not to long ago people lived in an age where their phones were connected to their walls and you sent people postcards or letters by mail. Guess what, they survived just fine without all the modern “conveniences.”
Traveling around the world with nothing more than a pack stuffed with three pairs of boxers, two t-shirts, a guidebook, and a few dollars, euros, yen, drachma or currency from whatever country you happen to find yourself in takes courage. All the gadgets and do dads are clutter in this instance.
Instead of the iPhone distracting you from life, the man who biked 4000 miles spanning 5 months and 12 countries distracts you. Or the teenager who left his home in Norway months prior, turned into a vegan and now wants to have a mango farm in the Amazon distracts you. Interesting people are everywhere, think of how many you will find when you set down the iPad. Plus, think of how much more interesting you will become.
Travelling without created distractions means mobility. Leave behind a 7 pound laptop and you leave more than the physical weight at home. Besides leaving behind the obvious worry of caring for expensive property you also leave behind the worries connected to the laptop. Is it a work laptop? For school? Just a source of mind candy after a busy day? If you are not constantly connected to work, school, or Pac man you stop thinking about them. You find other distractions, like running with the bulls in Spain. Which, coincidentally, is way more exciting than reaching level 7 of Pac man.
WORK OUT THE SELF
Think of how much more difficult and authentic life is when you leave behind the convenient. If you are hungry and camping in a forest, who is going to feed you? If you tear a pair of pants plundering through the underbrush who is going to sew it? Born into a social environment we rely on others to solve our problems (we go to a mechanic to fix our car, a chef to cook our food and a seamstress to sew our ripped pants). Traveling alone will teach you to rely on yourself, fend for yourself, and look out for your own safety.
Traveling without distractions will make you more aware of the ups and downs of a trip. Some days will feel too long and frustrating, and others not long enough. You will have many “perfect days” stored away in your memory for use when life gets you down. There will also be times when you want the four star hotel, not a bed under the stars. But then again, you might be surprised at how much life you can life without technology.