07 Oct Euro Thoughts III
I suppose it seems fitting that I close this trilogy of articles down with some reflection and thoughts on what I have learned during these 100 days abroad and away from regular reality. But before we get underway: in case you’re wondering, I’m writing this paragraph from my thin U-sagging shaped mattress all the way in Warsaw, Poland. Interesting, right? Thought so.
It’s hard not to begin this final installment of Euro Thoughts (well, for now anyway) with the one thing that stuck out most and was so consistent on this trip: experience.
Of course, everyday, no matter where you are or hell, even WHO you are, you experience something. The thing or things you experience can vary day to day, and it might simply be just watching the button click up on the kettle signaling your water reaching 100°C, it might be that you got to watch the Yellowstone Caldera Supervolcano finally erupt (ideally not), or it might just be a typical work day experience where you sent emails, checked Facebook way too many times, skipped all of your meals in the day, filled up on Pringles instead of eating dinner, and fell asleep on the couch watching re-runs of Cheers. Either way, you experienced something.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, there is no getting around it. And whether we like it or not, experiences are here to stay. They’re one thing that aren’t going away anytime soon, and one thing that are indeed necessary to mould and shape us.
Let me ask you a few quick questions before I cut this already way too long introduction and get into the meat of this article. What experiences in your life are recurrent that you are sick of? What experiences in your life do you wish you could experience? What’s stopping you from in fact experiencing those experiences? And, what goals do you put on hold with reasons why you can’t get after them?
On the first leg of my, what ended up being, 24 hour journey from Australia to London, the flight service provider (Vietnam Airlines, in case you were wondering) had a surprisingly wide-range of movies to watch. After reading, listening to music, and staring out the window a fair bit (and the back of my eyelids), I decided to scroll through the options.
I ended up landing on ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ and decided to give it a go. Ben Stiller is sometimes pretty funny after all. But even so, what better way to pass the time whilst being boxed in a window seat with not too many inches between the seat in front of me and the peak of my knee caps, right?
Critics and haters would and do in fact say that it’s quite a terrible movie (it was sitting on 50% rating on the day of writing this particular sentence), but when another one comes to mind starring Jim Carrey that shares the same themes, it’s hard to speak bad of the overall concept of the movie. (In regards to the Jim Carrey movie I speak of, it goes by the name of ‘Yes Man’.)
You may or may not have seen either of these movies, and that’s okay. I forgive you. But if you have them on your to-do list, and you are way too touchy, perhaps skip the next few paragraphs or so in case of some very very minor spoilers. Alternatively, you can go watch them both now and come back. I’ll wait.
So, as you would know if you have seen either of these movies, essentially, the overall theme behind them involves the main characters opening up to new things in life. Trying different things they never thought they could do or in fact, would ever try. And in doing so, pushing their comfort zones to the point of being able to experience so much more to what life has to offer.
With a greying Ben Stiller playing the main role as Walter, you learn early on that he has been working the same job for so many years without ever doing anything outside his comfort zone. Because of this, he takes to imagining how he would prefer to be and how he would prefer to live. Which is fair enough, I think. Being unhappy and unchallenged in life for so long would surely send you crazy. But, the sad thing about this is that this is one thing that actually occurs in real life too – perhaps even far too often too.
Anyway, as the story peaks and draws to a conclusion, he eventually breaks some boundaries and steps out of his comfort zone after a few small nudges from the right influencers and influences. He learns a lot about himself and gains some great perspective on life resulting in a much happier and challenged life. Curtains close and everyone walks out of the cinemas feeling happy and pleased with how his life turned out – possibly a little more bored with their life also.
I wouldn’t say it’s the best movie I have ever watched, nor would I even categorize it in my top 10, but it was definitely an almost perfect movie to watch on my way to the unknown.
Totally different experiences and challenges that you would never find in your normal routine are inescapable on a daily basis whilst abroad. Experiences like being dropped off literally in the middle of nowhere suddenly due to it being the bus’ terminus on our way to a festival in Wachtebeke, Belgium and not knowing where the next station is, or even when the next bus is coming, is one.
Experiences like being shown an insanely small cave entrance in the side of a cliff at a not too well known beach on the border of Montenegro and Croatia by our Croatian host that upon entering, you could barely see or move and after swimming for 5-10 metres, it opening out into a 0.5mx0.5m area where you could literally drink the saltwater due to the spring water from the mountains diluting it so much, is another.
But even experiences like meeting someone new every single day from all parts of the world – all with a very diverse mix of personalities and people also fills the bill. And it really was always amazing to me how quickly relationships could form with people and how often groups of random people in the one hostel could suddenly feel like your best friends. Even when, after hanging with them for sometimes a lot less than 24 hours, you were never going to see them again.
The different and always changing experiences are inevitable when abroad. But that brings me to my first question I asked you at the start of this article: what experiences are recurrent to you that you are indeed sick of?
Of course some experiences, like brushing your teeth, paying your bills, and breathing air, are somewhat necessary, despite the fact that you may indeed be sick of them, but think about it. What sorts of things in your life are past their use-by dates?
Experiences, whether good or bad, are great for teaching us things. We can learn so much about ourselves from just small, inadequate, and even mundane experiences. But what really is such a shame is that too many people choose to avoid stepping across the void and miss out on grasping these very available new experiences. Which brings me back to my second question: what experiences do you wish you could have?
A hard question to answer. But think broadly. What types of things do you feel like you’re missing out on in life?
It may come as a shock to you for what I’m about to tell you, but the mere fact that I am writing this particular paragraph from my actually really comfortable seat on-board a train from Praha to München, is because of that above picture.
Around a year ago, I stumbled across a viral video titled ‘Humans are Awesome’. (Which I’ll link a similar one too as I can’t find the original at the bottom of this article). In it there is a short segment of BASE jumpers risking their lives from a cliff at Navagio Beach on the island of Zakynthos.
It wasn’t even just the visually-pleasing scenery that this scene had, it was also the insanely crazy jump they were completing that drew me in. After seeing this video, it clicked even more in my pork mince-like brain that there really is so much more to life than just going about it in the “normal” way. You know; the “correct” way, as society deems it. The life that entails getting a job as soon as you can, working it until your old and able/have to retire, meeting someone, falling in love, obtaining children, purchasing living facilities by taking out a loan, continuing to work and pay off your mortgage along with your human pets’ education and food bills until all of a sudden, you’re 65, and are now put in the ‘is possible to retire age, but possibly hasn’t got enough super to be able to’ category. Which is all well and good, don’t get me wrong. I mean, who doesn’t want to own a house and spend a solid amount of time with someone they love? But the fact that we only have so little amount of orbits around our sun (at most, 10-12 dozen), it can make it such a sad thought if life is an unhappy and unchallenging experience. One situation that possibly occurs all too often on our planet. Perhaps even others. Who knows really?
Anyway, seeing this video just made me want to experience it for myself. And so with merely that little motivation, I decided to put an idea into action. One thing that isn’t always the case.
Too often, it seems, are there times when you can think of something that you’d like to do, but never in fact do it. Hell, even saying what you’d like to do, can sometimes even never happen. But actually stepping across the line and committing to doing something you want to do, is a whole other story.
It takes a lot to back-up what you say you’ll do. And that really does go for so much more in life other than committing to a three month trip overseas. Situations like committing to adjusting into a new way of healthier eating that you’ve said you would do for the past six months, stepping outside and moving a little bit more like you told yourself you would after that super lazy weekend, or even finally looking for a job that suits your ideal lifestyle, rather than submitting to the one you have now.
And so what started with an innocent viewing of a viral video on Facebook whilst procrastinating, and an idea, it resulted with me being able to write this very sentence from the balcony of a villa in Zakynthos.
And indeed the reason why, after just over a year after viewing that small video, I managed to take this photo:
You might be thinking, that’s all well and good Hayden, but not everyone can travel – not everyone has the money or freedom to do so. But the fact of the matter is: everyone does. Freedom is one thing we all have in this life. Possibly one thing we only have. But also possibly one thing that a lot of people take for granted.
The logic of me leaving my business after working so hard on it, is hardly easy to do. Even canceling the lease I had on my unit too is also hardly easy. But it was my choice to in fact do it. A choice that not a lot of people possibly would make. And one reason why a lot of people come back many years later with regrets, “I wish I’s”, and even “I wish I had traveled when I was younger” statements.
Freedom, one thing that is there for everyone, and the perfect segue to return to this question: what’s stopping you from in fact, experiencing those experiences you think of?
A lot of you know that I’m a big fan of ticking off things in life. One thing that I managed to do countless times on this trip, but also a time where I had to put so many of my other ones on hold. But with so many days where it was inevitable that I would be away from them, it’s made me so much more determined to get after them when I return.
It goes without saying, but one thing that is also consistent on this planet are people that become too complacent with their unhappy life. Giving up on pushing boundaries is a far too simple feat to accomplish it seems. But with less than 14 weeks left of the year, what about you? What goals do you put on hold and come up with reasons why you can’t get after them? What do you hope to get started or completed before that guy with the beard tries to squeeze his way down your chimney?
There’s only so much time we have to get after it, and we really do have to embrace every single second we have on our small, perfectly located, molten interior planet. Far too often we can be caught not living in the now, and rather looking for an escape. Even when staring into our LED-lit smartphone screens, we lose our focus on everything that is happening around us. Remember the time before we had phones? Neither do I. But back then, we actually talked to each other (strange, I know). Everyone’s day wasn’t filled with us pointlessly refreshing our news-feeds, checking how many likes we gain for pictures that will be forgotten before the end of the day, or even swiping birds at pigs.
Embracing every single moment and really getting after everything in life is one thing that should be a default setting in all of us. One day it will all be over and having too many “should haves”, “could haves”, and “would haves” surely wouldn’t be too pleasant of an experience. We have every chance to take control of every and anything in our life. And we can say, do, think, and literally change any aspect of it at any moment. It’s quite a weird thought really.
Maybe we all need to be a little but more like Walter Mitty. Maybe we need to stop daydreaming and wishing our lives were different. Maybe we need to stop counting down the days and hoping things will change. Maybe we need to start getting after things with a little more passion and enthusiasm, rather than staying locked into our ways and ideas. You chose to read this till the end (which I appreciate), so that means you have the ability to choose what happens next in your life. And with so little time left of this year, what better time could it be to think about what’s next?
As for me? Well, as I begin to pack my bag for the last time this year, making sure everything I brought with me and accumulated on this trip fits into it so that I don’t bust a zipper, I look towards the ever looming, yet sometimes somewhat sad opportunity to get back after the goals I want to tick off in mine and my clients’ lives. So what better time to drop in the nice and always overused cliché and say: bring on the next chapter.
“The only source of knowledge is experience.” – Albert Einstein.