Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Motherland Visit, Part 2: Was it All a Dream?

The Context

I consider myself quite a good traveler, in the sense that I am pretty aware of importance of time, being open, and myself.

The importance of [linear] time manifests itself in little things, e.g., jet lag and idle traveling time to different places, and big things, e.g., the amount of time you have afforded your self for the entire trip and at certain places, and how you structure your time with either purposeful adventures or purposeful idleness for the possibility of unexpected adventures. Again, I believe awareness of [linear] time (I just got done reading The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching by the brothers McKenna; their discussion of “time” has got me all heated…) has the capacity to thoroughly enhance or hinder a trip.

Timing: I was in the Thailand for 14 days. The minimum amount of time I like to afford myself on a (relatively) new destination that takes more than 12 hours to reach by plane. While there was full itinerary planned for us, it was a “hurry up and enjoy” structure in the sense that they wanted us to see as many enjoyable things as possible, valuing the quantity over the quality. Although this is not entirely accurate because there are a number of things that we purposefully did not plan to go see that would have traditionally been on a lot of visitor’s itineraries. Simply put, there are many things of high quality (my bias is towards the architectural, spiritual, and cultural significant) in Thailand, and we could only do so much.

I’ve always viewed “being open” as an attribute, which by definition allows for some people to come equipped with an openness or to cultivate it much like one would any skill. Being open is the mental state I would ideally like to inhabit in regards to traveling. When you expect nothing, or rather do not have strict expectations, anything can happen. I try to approach every experience abroad with as much openness as possible, allowing for the full range of possibilities that may stem from that experience whether they be beneficial or detrimental (but for real though, that which doesn’t kill you will make you stronger).

Being open: This trip was exceptional in the sense that while I have cultivated an openness, my openness was tainted by the undeniable desire to compare this current experience with the one I had 20 years ago. Thoughts of “Was it going to be like I remembered?” and “What do I expect?” littered my mind once I opened the flood gates to finally letting it sink in that I was going back “home” (in a manner of speaking). I believe this contributed to the dream-like state of the entire trip, but again, that is a story to be told later. Again, I tried to be as open as possible.

Finally, being aware / knowing oneself (as much as possible in the moment) is a process that comes from introspection and experience, which simultaneously exerts influence on and is shaped by one’s travel experience. In a larger sense, being aware of oneself, there’s a certain freedom attained such that you can push the limits of comfort and discover parts about yourself and the environment that you wouldn’t normally otherwise. In the smaller sense, you can plan the sort of the trip you know you would enjoy the majority of.

Awareness: This trip is not necessarily the trip I would plan for myself. While the destination was a goal for the better part of the past two decades, the major difference between this experience and past travel experiences is that I was more of a passenger along for the ride. Basically, Thailand is the only place I would choose to spend two weeks straight with my family, in a family house, always within reach 24 hours a day, with the day’s activities being planned by an outside source. But these are the circumstances and I was actually looking forward to being placed in a much more passive role than I would like.

As I am still developing and reacting to the experience, I have yet to concisely articulate how my awareness has changed. I believe it has, I feel it, and hopefully the writing process will facilitate this process.

Thanks for listening.

Part 3 to come...