A Parallel Between Travel and Life I’ve Nearly Missed Out On

November 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

photo by photobunny

Of all the traveling I’ve done, I haven’t learnt one of its most useful lessons, until recently when I sat down with a friend to discuss ( and of course me getting a second opinion) about life and career choices.

In independent travel, we often say that we “have the destination in mind, but not knowing how we’ll get there”. This is the novel and excitement that independent travel brings. The way I travel, say if I want to get to Bangkok from Singapore, I wouldn’t be the type to look for air tickets six months ahead. The way things are going in my twenty-something life, I can never exactly know what would happen in six months. For now, I wouldn’t want it any other way either, but just leaving it to the logos, and not fighting it.

So back to the Singapore to Bangkok example: there are many ways to do this. If I wanted to truly enjoy each step of this journey north through West Malaysia, I could take the Malayan Railway (KTM). And still within the KTM there are choices, of either the standart West Coast route that runs through Kuala Lumpur or Penang, or the more exotic Eastern Jungle route, which runs at snail’s pace but provides for an amazing sightseeing experience through the Malayan jungle. Both the Western and Eastern routespass the Malaysian-Thai border at Hat Yai. Here I might add that the alternative choices to rail (I’m a big fan of the rail, wherever I go) would be to take buses, ride a bicycle, hitch a ride (if you’re so inclined). All can and have been done before.

If I took the overnight sleeper train in Penang, I could reach Bangkok in the next 24 hours, hitting sights such as the Bridge over the River Kwai (aptly renamed by the Thai authorities). But if I was in no hurry to reach Bangkok, I could take buses from Hat Yai to the heavily touristed Phuket and Koh Samui.

All else failing, I still have the choice of simply buying an air ticket from Kuala Lumpur / Penang to Bangkok. The destination and journey remains the same: Singapore – Bangkok. The adventure and meaning lies in not planning out exactly how I’ll get there, but to actually do as the situation and circumstances fit. What if I make new friends along the route and decide to explore Koh Samui instead of rushing to Bangkok? I can do that.

I wondered why I never thought of life in those terms: of having a destination in mind, yes, but realizing that there are a multitude of possibilities to get there. Maybe its because I’ve always preferred to think of life not as a destination, but more of a piece of music, not intent of getting to the end, but enjoying every moment of it, whatever it may give. The analogy of life as music and dance hits me hard and I would love to write more about this someday.

The more I put thought to this, the more I realize it is the best and possibly the only way of avoiding what Robert Greene calls “tactical hell” when living out one’s own life. To think of the larger plan, the grand strategy, rather than being mired in the miniscule battles and events that we deal with everyday.

Not every battle needs to be fought, not one particular mode of travel needs to be taken for me to get to my destination, to achieve my “grand-plan”. I pick and choose my battles, can do them at a later time, or avoid it completely, as long as they all bring me somewhat closer.

If I can just keep this in mind I might just save myself the grief and pain of worrying about career  and life choices I make. I would still put thought into them, but instead of worries, all I need to keep in mind is: Whatever I choose to spend my time and effort on, so long as it puts me closer to where I want to go at the end of the day(s).

Life is too short to be spent worrying.

(Thanks to Shannon Low for inspiring this post)


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