I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. -Bill Bryson
The idea that we’ve grown up and need to be adults is a false illusion we’ve come to believe once we’ve twilighted out of our teens and adolescence. Society’s outlined our lives for us as adults- graduate from a good college, land a great job working for someone else, slowly advance up the corporate ladder and retire in your 60s with a pension that might be enough to cover your daily expenses. Of course we’ve also allowed mass media and society to define what it means to be an adult- take care of your children, focus all your time on family and work, and be a machine towards these two things. Little room is given for self-discovery, passionate pursuits, and the openness to possibilities of realizing our dreams. There is an inner child in us that still dwells we simply need to dig deep to rediscover this. For many of us travel reveals our childlike soul we’ve buried when we entered adulthood.
Yes, we go on vacation sit on the beach resort, sipping our beach cocktails and wonder where our lives have gone. We sit in a daze trying to disconnect from our lives back home, while in front of us there are children building sandcastles, chasing and running away from waves, smiling, dancing and spinning around. We wonder about what happened to us, where have we gone wrong that we can’t find wonder and awe like the children we used to be?
However the problem with this type of travel is, it’s simply another cocktail or pill we use to numb ourselves from the lives we lead. We again put ourselves in a bubble with other expats and vacationers. Take the hotel shuttle back to the airport, passing by villages and towns we never touched. We got that nice tan and when people ask how our vacation was we simply answer with, ‘the beach was nice’.
The travel I encourage, is to find our inner child, to go deeper, wider, to find yourself in a place completely foreign. If you travel to a place and can’t even smell the roses, it’s as if you’re back home reading a book. The experience of reading about something is completely different than being immersed in it. The text is read but there is no tangible moment being experienced. “To be able to see, touch, breath, smell, and taste the aroma of what fills any destination is to travel. Allow your inner child to give life to the texts your reading”.
Curiosity and inquiry
In our adult lives most of us are curious about interest rates to refinance our homes, news headlines that might affect our investment stocks, the inconvenience of weather on our morning commune, or what new restaurant we will eat our next meal in. Unlike during our childhood when we were curious beyond our own immediate needs and surroundings. Now, we only pay attention to the things that only serve our self-interests. We’ve stopped looking at ants wondering whether or not we can actually burn them with a magnifying glass. We’ve stopped wondering about whether or not dinosaurs or aliens exist. We’ve stopped trying to discover what combination of food and ice cream go well together. Then again, why would we waste time doing those things, they neither give us more time or make us more money? We step out of the door, jump into our cars, turn on the road and become numb (once again allowing mass media to subliminally influence us).
How is this different for me?
Doing a long-term trip has changed the way my wife and I walk out the door each and everyday. There’s so much to discover wherever we find ourselves and we’ve become more curious about things realizing there’s so much we can learn. When traveling we’ve been able to get lost discovering mom and pop restaurants, trying exotic street food, interacting with locals outside the tourist trail, creating friendships with people from around the world, and sitting in various park benches with their own unique touches of local culture. Of course a lot of these locations aren’t found in your travel guidebook but we sometimes go out of our way to get lost and get off the beaten track in an effort to feed our curious and inquisitive drive. On hikes, we see floral and notice the small things we would have never taken note of before, the small stick bugs that try to camouflage themselves on tree branches, the sway of trees with and against the wind, and the song of nature that reveals itself when we open our ears and close our mouths.
When we got back to Manila instead of going to the same places and creating the same routine we left, we go to different restaurants, take different routes to get to places, and discover museums and streets (that have always been there) we’ve never been too. We’ve discovered that travel can be a lifestyle even when you’re off the road.
While in Costa Rica we found a passion for birding. However, nerdy this sounds it’s been a great way to continue “traveling” and discover new aspects of any particular destination. There’s a uniqueness in the birds of this world. The colors, the songs, the calls, the migratory patterns, the physical features are all different from one region to the next. Birding’s struck our curiosity like no other activities has for us. We can find birds everywhere.
The problem is we as adults, know everything especially compared to babies. A quick peek at the lives of babies reveals a lot- they are learning and seeing things for the first time. The ordinary mundane things we adults see as boring are sources of excitement for these babies. So to start, we can tear down our pride and stop pretending like we know everything. Perhaps this could be a move to becoming inquirers again.
Then again to leave everything we know to go out and explore the world is terrifying. What if we get kidnapped, what if we get shot, and what if we get deported? We’ve lost our sense of adventure mainly because we’ve lost our faith in our God to provide. We’ve stopped believe that the universe conspires to help us. We stopped looking up, dreaming, and throwing our faith into a shooting star. In short we’ve became adults.
Why would we be convinced otherwise, when our investments are going down as we track a struggling economy on CNN, BBC or Fox. How could we have faith in a corrupt system full of greed? We’re constantly bombarded with cynical depressing news yet most of us choose to tune in every morning and every night.
Our answer, we have simply chosen to disconnect and unplug from all this noise and believe in the impossible. After all if we shoot for the stars and land on the moon, we can’t say we failed trying.
While we we’re on the road Camille and I we’re past our 1 year mark for our 365traveldates honeymoon. We had budgeted exactly a year out and had about 3000-4000 dollars left after 13 months. We we’re in Ecuador and told ourselves we would continue our journey for 6 more months. We had faith that we would find a way to sustain ourselves and had faith the world would pull all it’s positive energy and love to let us continue to move through South America. Opportunities started coming up once we let go of the worry, stress and sapping negative energy that was bringing us down. We started seeing each day as a great starting point to exercise our faith in a immense love in the form of God and this universe.
Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. ― Shel Silverstein
When children are asked what they want to be when we grow up ambitious answers are given. Space explorer, race car driver, doctor, teacher, and even superhero are common answers. They see the world full of attainable impossible possibilities.
Children go out and seek their potential. Adults seek their potential to amass what this world calls riches.
When we ask adults the same question the answers are usually tied to money- I want to be a millionaire/billionaire. I want to be a CEO. I want to be my own boss. I want to be retired. I want to win the lottery.
We move through this world wanting to control every aspect of it. When we do this we hinder the energy of this world and the Creator to paint his image of who we are meant to be. We lose potential when we try to seize every opportunity to manipulate and control. The problem is you can’t control wonder and awe, they come at the most unexpected times and turns. Those people who have planned their entire future have lost all spontaneity and the possibility of greater things to come.
Travel is gaining the courage to let go of our grip on the so called certainties of this word.
Risk and courage
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave… is not [one] who does not feel afraid, but… who conquers that fear.― Nelson Mandela
Never as a child had I asked “Does insurance cover this?” This came across my mind when we were in Montana after Camille and I had gone tubing down a river for the first time. We ended our trip and found ourselves on a bridge wondering whether or not we would jump off of it. Camille not knowing how to swim, jumped!
While in Bocas del Toro we found another opportunity to get over Camille’s fear of the water by going freediving. What better way to conquer that fear than by taking one breath and entering the open sea to depths of 15 or 20 meters. On her second day she popped down to 17 meters (about the same depth as a 5-story building).
Each day children go out into this world courageously until they are told their old enough to hide from their fears and live a static life.
It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available—more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.Thích Nhất Hạnh
My idea of travel isn’t an escape from our lives but rather an invitation to live our lives to the fullest, just like we use to when we we’re children. Camille and I have worked our asses off in the 9-5 world found glimpses of happiness but when we finally got out and honeymooned for a year we rediscovered our inner child. Of course have our stresses that life brings up and these are moments when we need reminders of what it is to be loved unconditionally by God (whoever that is for you) and by each other. We’re moving away from a life focused on materialism, consumption, and money making and towards a life centered around being content with what we have. We speak from our own experiences in work and travel and have found more life on the road than in the office. This is a case by case basis and like most things in life aren’t geared towards everybody. Our plea is for those at home, in the office or on the road is to rehash our sense of wonder and awe. We move to empower others to believe in the impossible to make dreams come alive just like we did when we we’re silly worry free children. Let go of control and embrace uncertainty as infinite possibilities. Rekindle your inner child spirit and stop burying it’s urge to pop out.
*The original article of this post was written on Tripoto.com