It was a few years after Elisabeth and I first began researching, brainstorming and idealizing a move to Southeast Asia that we came to agree it wasn’t only feasible but necessary. With over 20 combined years of experience within our respective fields, we were flourishing – working for and living in the communities we love and adore.
It was then during the peak of my life that my father passed away at the age of 64. For the first time in my life I was faced with the lesson of immortality. My pops was one of the closest persons I knew and loved. He was a hero and friend of a few words who set standards rather than guidelines, placing modesty over arrogance, and perseverance over entitlement.
My pops not only provided all he could for the happiness of his family but he inspired within me the same determination.
The year during his illness, coma and passing, and the year that followed was extremely difficult to my mind, body and spirit. As a Capricorn I was steadfast to work it off, trying to balance family, career, love and a social life. I was giving it my all and somehow able to make it all work but the reality was – I wasn’t all there. I broke down mentally, physically and spiritually. I was beat and exhausted. That’s when I realized I had to step back and ask myself what I was doing and why I’m doing it – so that I could begin to plan for what’s to come – before I completely went bonkers.
I’m grateful for my life partner Elisabeth as she’s been my anchor, keeping me in line and in check. I’m indebted to her as she knocked some sense into me, encouraging me to slow my roll to focus on self-care. I took some time to re-evaluate my life, and among many lightbulbs I’ve since come to realize that one can’t just binge on self-care – it’s a daily practice we all deserve and need.
I recognized that one of my most effective mediums for self-care had long been traveling. Traveling helped me learn, heal and grow at a much faster rate. It’s also a much needed source of self-love and development – which I needed now more than ever.
I’ve always known that in order to live a more encompassing and inclusive life, I had to continue acquiring knowledge, culture, experience, and relationships. In order to understand the depth of what diversity actually means, I had to understand the depth of what exists in the world. In order to become a more well rounded leader, healer and artist, I had to be curious and hungry to explore beyond what I was accustomed to.
You see, the world is huge. Vast with people, cultures and landscapes unique to what we’ve come to know through American education, media and pop culture. This planet we live on has nearly 7.5 billion human inhabitants on 7 continents – 195 countries spread out on 197 million square miles. That’s insanely impressive.
At the same time, the Earth doesn’t seem that big. With our current technology it’d take you less than 2 days to fly around the world – and that’s only because you would need to stop to refuel. You can communicate with someone halfway around the world at the press of a button – well, with keys I suppose. And you can pretty much share and access information anytime and anywhere; with the help of the internet of course.
In the scope of it all, this means that America isn’t at all that big. With 320 million residing in the United States, that’s less than 5% of the world’s population. With 30-40% of Americans identifying as people of color – depending on your sources and definition, that’s a fairly limited pool of culture and diversity.
From my basic cultural observations and studies, and limited travels in and out of America, I’ve found two things remaining constant with us humans.
- There exists similar challenges, problems and issues. From politics to poverty to crime to education to health issues. The banes of this world are very much alike, and very much affected by one another. Don’t get me wrong, there’s different levels, intensities and specificities to each but it’s all similar at the core. Essentially what affects one group or geographic location also affects the rest of the world. Which brings me to believe that we’re more connected than we like to think, and we’re more dependent on each other than we allow ourselves to be.
- The pursuit of happiness is at the forefront of it all. Whether in the form of material wealth or information, abundance of family and friends, or quality of health – we’re fueled by happiness, or the pursuit of it. Although our animal instincts are based on survival we humans have the additional drive to thrive. While survival is simply just living, thriving is about living to one’s full content – otherwise known as happiness. Happiness is also subjective with different levels, intensities and specifics. And although happiness is attained through a wide spectrum – from abundance to none, good to bad, right to wrong, etc. – it ultimately comes down to the satisfaction of one’s ego.
With these two consistencies in mind, I believe we’re on a continual quest to make happiness more efficiently obtained, and to an extent more accessible. This doesn’t mean everyone wants accessibility for everyone as it so often unfortunately means we only want it for our self/ego. Thus leading and contributing to the reoccurring challenges, problems and issues we face as human beings. What a vicious cycle, right?
Regardless, it’s the addiction to happiness that makes way for progress and growth.
With everyone’s definition of happiness being different and unique, this means everyone “problem solves” in their specific way to achieve their version of bliss. And that’s a beautiful thing. The drive, inspiration, critical thinking, collaboration, celebration, and whatever else it takes to achieve happiness is what needs to be cultivated and shared. That’s how we acquire new tools and solutions to progress individually. And through learning, teaching and improving upon these ideas and technologies, that’s how we progress as a whole.
As an American I’m thankful for my privileges and liberties, and for those who help make it happen. I’m fortunate to have been born and raised in a country where I have the opportunity and responsibility to define and pursue my own version of happiness. And although things aren’t perfect here, it’s the freedom to wander and wonder that I believe can and will help us advance.
To me, traveling is about obtaining happiness. Happiness is absolute power – derived from harvesting and sharing knowledge, culture, experience, and relationships.
In the next few pages, I’ve listed four simple questions along with my reflections that might help you figure out what traveling means to you, and might also help you become a more mindful traveler.