Fox. On the Road is a series of travel related posts I will be writing for Eurocircle.com. Follow it, for more musings on aimless wandering, light bulb moments and amazing experiences: http://www.eurocircle.com/forums/profile/72991-sherry-kumar/
Travel is a privilege. Regardless of how you do it, there comes a time in one’s life when we realize that travel is more than just checking places off our bucket lists, and becomes something to be savored, like a glass of fine wine. At a certain point in my adult life, I stopped marking the atlas my parents gave me in elementary school, and started to look for something beyond the wonders of the world.
It took years of searching, travel ennui, and dissatisfaction with my personal life, to realize that what I really was searching for, is myself. No matter where I went, no matter what I experienced, I just couldn’t see beyond what I was looking at. There I was, sitting 11,000 ft up atop the Vistadome of Machu Pichu, staring at the clouds below me, and wondering what the f*** am I doing here. Was this supposed to be a meaningful experience? Why was everyone else so enthralled with Peru, and why was I the only one who thought the destination guides over promised and under delivered?
Maybe it was the rough time I was going through at that point in my life, but like so many people I know, I fell for the usual travel sales pitch, that somewhere, out there was a life altering experience, and that all I had to do was book it.
They say hindsight is always 20/20, so looking back through my newly enlightened eyes, I see the foolishness in attempting to find myself following a guide book. A book is simply an account of someone else’s experience. It can tell you where to go and what to see, but if you follow the instructions, they’ll only lead to a place you can check off your list.
It wasn’t until I completely gave up on travel as the crutch that was going to get me through life, that I started to notice a shift in my perspective. The less I studied the destination, and the less I cared about the itinerary, the more I began to wander aimlessly. I let go of guides, safety rules, must see lists, and advance reservations, and went wherever I was inspired. Most of the time, I just showed up unannounced and unprepared to places like Chiang Mai, Bratislava, Tunis, and Ixtapa.
That is when I started to understand why Brahmins and Buddhist monks give up all their possessions, shed all their clothes, shave their heads, wrap themselves in a modest cloth, and set off on the road going nowhere. Once they walk away from rules, routine, responsibility, and safety, with nothing but a rice bowl as their only possession, they never return. As a child, I found this concept daunting, but now I see the unbridled freedom they gain from the experience.
Really, you must try it to see the magic that happens when you truly let go. Each of those experiences in wandering freely, has turned into the most spectacular journey of life altering consequences. I can’t tell you about the destinations because they are meaningless. The meaning was in the journey itself. It was in facing an unfamiliar, unsafe destination without a plan. Standing at the edge of a jungle without a map or clean water. Finding help in a third world country without American Express concierge services. And kissing a tiger.
The greater gift I received from these wanderings, was a huge appreciation for solitude, and in that I found myself. There is nothing like facing the world alone, and it is something I urge everyone to discover. There is a good reason why Brahmins find a lonely path of their own, and it’s because you can’t find enlightenment following someone else’s. For those of you who are still searching for something bigger from life, trust me, this is it.