“A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu
I wish I could say I’ve always loved to travel. Maybe I’m good at being in a different place; the getting there is sometimes a whole other story.
Traveling to a foreign locale can be exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating…and absolutely life-changing.
Some of the most impactful moments I can recall in my own lifetime have happened when I was literally 9,000 miles away from home. I remember a trip to Southeast Asia in the late 1990s. My girlfriend at the time was with me, and she made a point of telling me not to give money to the ‘street urchins’ – tiny, often half-naked children who would walk up to you and beg for money.
I heeded the advice until one day in the city. We were strolling along an empty boulevard when a girl of perhaps two toddled up to us, hands outstretched. I pretended to ignore her, but surreptitiously pulled out a bill of the local currency and dropped it behind me…out of view of my cheapskate girlfriend. The bill was worth maybe thirty cents American. I’ll never forget glancing over my shoulder to watch this tiny Asian baby pick it up and stretch it out, holding it to the sun as if she’d never seen such a thing.
Fast forward almost twenty years, and I’m heading over to a different part of Southeast Asia with my wife. We’ll be visiting her family there, and I’ll be celebrating my first real vacation since December 2014…long overdue.
I think I’ll focus on being a good traveler on this trip: no fixed plans, and I’ll try to be less intent on arriving than I usually am. Yes, I expect screaming babies on the 14-hour flight from Houston to Tokyo; I know I’ll be surrounded by over a hundred people, doing what they inevitably do on a flight like that (snoring, farting, arguing…humanity at its least lovable); and I know the airports will be no fun at all.
But I’m ready for it. I’ll have disposable earplugs, a neck pillow, an iPhone. And the “problems” I’ll have, such as they are, will be first world problems. When I arrive, I can enjoy the fruits of travel. I can unplug, relax, play, forget about work for a little while…and just have fun. And when I return, energized, my creativity will hit another new peak. That alone should be enough to make any travel inconveniences worthwhile.