24 February 2010

RECAP! It’s All Over!

Middle East By Matt - 161

Four months, nineteen countries, nearly 10,000 miles and countless granola bars later, the sojourn of a lifetime has come to a close. While I am still in the midst of processing this whirlwind adventure, I have begun to see some of the “take-aways” from this kind of experience.

The first is that I am “at home” when I’m moving. Not just traveling but physically moving. Whether it is on a train, plane or bus, when I am in motion my blood starts pumping, my heart races, the endorphins flow and I am really really happy. This is no doubt a rather difficult need to constantly fill. That is, it’s not easy to maintain constant motion on a day-to-day basis.

Middle East By Matt - 024

Traveling overland is THE BEST. Plopping down in different places is definitely more convenient from a time perspective but moving on the ground means you keep time and space attached in a more human sense. Yes, you still move faster than you would by foot but you’re not soaring OVER everything at 400 miles an hour. It also allows you to see the slow transition from one country to the next, one continent to the next, one culture to the next. I don’t know if I’ll ever really be able to “plop” again. It just seems terribly unnatural now (not to mention terribly expensive).

Couchsurfing is the greatest social phenomenon since AOL in 1993. Connect with people online who are offering their couch to weary travelers for free. Crash at their place and don’t just sleep, but make new friends, see the sites through the eyes of a local and eat way delicious food that you’ve either cooked in or eaten out at a local joint. So basically, save money AND meet new people. Does it get any better?

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People - human beings - are remarkably similar creatures. When I first started traveling I hopped from the USA to Europe and it felt like I had landed on another planet. They “talked funny” and “ate funny food” and “drove tiny cars.” Then I was whisked eastern to China, which equally felt like another universe. They “talked really funny and “ate really funny food” and “drove really tiny electric scooters.” The further I go, the less “funny” things seem to be and the more “real” everything begins to appear. That is, human beings the world over are dealing with the same issues from finding a job to raising a family, cleaning their house to getting dinner on the table, seeking out happiness to rolling on the floor in laughter. Our entire identity is built on seeing what makes us different than anyone else - understanding our own existence by how it compares to the existence of others. This has driven to fight wars over those differences, driven racism and discrimination and fueled hatred of “the other” for literally thousands of years. What would happen if we focused on what brought us together as a species? You don’t want to kill someone who is like you and it’s certainly hard to hate someone that you see as similar to yourself because then you’d be sort-of hating yourself (which is definitely not in our nature).

Maybe that’s the real lesson here. Seek out similarities rather than differences. Look at the world and our existence and one big challenge that requires all of us thinking and acting together to guarantee survival. What a novel concept...

Kyle Taylor

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