31 December 2012
Words for the New Year
Did you know, you can quit your job, you can leave university? You aren't legally required to have a degree or even a job, it's a social expectation, not the law, and no one is holding a loaded gun to your head. You can sell your house, you choose not to renew the lease on your apartment, you can even sell your vehicle, and all your things. You can redefine the bare essentials, discover how little you can really live on, and be awe of the freedom that comes with having few possessions.
You can see the world on minimum wage, you do not need to be wealthy. You can master the art of sacrifice. You can give up your morning cup of coffee, you can give up cable television, you can stop buying new things you don't even need. If you do need something, you can buy it for less than you used to, and put the savings in a jar. You can eat at home, instead of eating out, you can put the leftovers in the fridge and eat them for lunch.
You can sacrifice climbing the hierarchies of society, you can get off the jungle gym of who's who, of competitive work positions. You can forsake the expectations for you to be an up-and-coming something-something, and a sensible citizen. You can take risks. You can conquer your fears, by conquering you mind. You can triumph, you can raise hell, you can live like it's your last day alive.
You can say farewell to your family, your friends, and if they love you, they'll let you go, they'll know it's not forever. You'll make new friends on the road, people from near and far, from all walks of life, with one thing in mind: to travel. You might be surprised at the hospitality of strangers who will love you like family, usher you into their dwellings, give you a place to rest your blistered, wandering feet, and a plate of home-cooked food to eat.
You can travel. Say it slowly so that it sinks in. Scream it from some mountaintops. And if you dream of it, but aren't doing it, than you don't want it enough. You want a degree from a university, a piece of paper declaring your worth in other people's eyes, a well paying job, or to please your parents, or to remain in the limitations of your comfort zone, more than you want to travel. And that's alright, if it's your heart's greatest desire, but please don't envy me, don't wistfully sigh and say, "I wish I could travel like you, but I can't."
Do you understand what the word can't means? Chances are, you aren't reading this from amidst a famine in the desert with malnourished children you must feed, or in a rain-soaked cardboard house in the slums. You probably live in what is considered a first world, wealthy country. You at least, have a roof over your head, and food on your plate. You probably own luxuries like a cellphone and a computer. You're probably reading this on one of those now.
Chances are, you can afford the three dollar a night guesthouses of India, the ten cent fresh baked breakfasts of Morocco, and et cetera, because if you can afford to live in countries like the United States, Australia, or England, for instance, if you can survive in these places, than you can certainly afford to travel in most of this world, which lives on much less than you.
So please say to me, "I want to travel, but other things are more important to me at the moment, and I'm putting them first," instead of, "I wish I could, but I can't." I have still yet to meet someone who has said this to me, who truly, and without a doubt, cannot.
You can, however, only live once. That's the saying, isn't it, and the enrichment of my soul that comes from seeing the world is worth more to me than a degree, or a high-paying job, or pleasing other people who have different expectations of what I should do with my one life to live. Of course, you must choose for yourself, follow your heart's truest desires, cliche as it sounds, but know that you can travel, you're only making excuses for why you can't.
Speaking of which, forget you ever knew the word can't, forget that you know what it means. That word is useless to you, it will take you nowhere. The word can, however, will take you farther than you've fathomed, even in your wildest imaginations. You see, it's only impossible until you do it, and then suddenly you realize it was possible all along.
To this day, and in all my travels thus far, I have never met anyone who has quit their job, or left school, or given up everything they've known to see the world, and regretted it. None, nil, zilch, not a soul. Instead, I have only met people who have grown old and deeply regret not traveling or not traveling enough, who regret focusing on money and the superficialities we're told are supreme. I have met only people who have realized too late that there is more to living than this.
P.S. I wrote an abbreviated version of this originally on Facebook, and also posted it on my Tumblr, I have, however, greatly expanded and slightly edited it, for this entry. I hope it still rings true. Furthermore, this is the beginning of what will be evolution in the content I post. Future entries may include ones like this, on traveling, as well as, subjects such books, film, culture, and so forth, plus diary entries as most of you are accustomed to. I hope you'll enjoy them.
P.P.S. If you could travel anywhere in the world, right now, where would you go and why?
All photos in this entry are by one of my favorite photographers, Steve McCurry.