Like I said in my last article (read part 1 here): Traveling Will Not Make A Profound Difference in Your Life, the nomadic life can wear out your mind, body, and soul — including the seasoned traveler.
After a week in Kyiv, I’ve finally settled in, secured an internet connection, and won’t have to change homes for a 4th time, thank God.
Unfortunately, such essentials have left me with little time to explore the city. But I did find a gym to train my submission grappling and established my work routine.
I lacked WiFi for nearly a week, but my withdrawal symptoms exposed a silver lining- more time to ponder the question,
“Does travel make a profound difference in our lives?”
But, like many of my cohorts — when you overthink, you become restless and bored. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
So, on day six, I decided to walk around the city to explore the place I would call “home” for the next three months.
Like Belgrade, the architecture was what the French, or Anglophones, call “joile laide,” simultaneously beautiful and ugly. Some streetscapes intermingle picturesque buildings possessing classic proportions and symmetries, circumjacent to nondescript structures with weeds growing out of their crumbling, graffiti-covered walls.
Other streets were lined with modern buildings that seemed to be misplaced, their shiny glass and steel reminiscent of Singapore and New York City.
The locals, like in Istanbul and Belgrade, did not care about covid restrictions. They tended to look me in the eyes, either greeting me with a warm smile or an alarming frown. Eastern Europeans and Turks share the stereotype of honesty and lack of bullsh*t — Well, maybe not all of them.
Others seemed to know all too well the adage “curiosity killed the cat” and averted their gaze, staying out of reach.
(I understand their reluctance to communicate with me.)
Then, as I was making my way from the city center to the Dnipro River, I came across a scene that caught my eye.
A man was gesticulating and scolding a young boy for discarding his fast-food trash in a flowerbed on the riverbank.
I imagined he was saying something like, “This is your home; take care of it.”
I witnessed the child rise from crying to laughing in the few seconds it took to pick up his litter, place it in the nearby rubbish can, and high-five his smiling father.
I was pretty cold, and it warmed my heart to see an adult teaching a child about responsibility.
Because as a child, my caregivers and teachers ignored the curricula of responsibility, I had to teach myself, through trial and error, the meaning of the adage “sink or swim.”
…. And I’m sure some of you had similar upbringings.
For me, this moment was an epiphany because I realized I was asking the wrong questions.
Obviously, you can argue that traveling is a catalyst that stimulates a difference in certain aspects of your life: you learn something new, test yourself mentally and emotionally in a foreign country etc.…
But this catalyst will not trigger metamorphosis. Your body will always be 60% water, whether moving across our planet as a glacier or a cloud.
As a nomad, I can opine that your destination will not impact your life nearly as much as how you choose to live your life in that destination.
Wander lusting is not as important as taking responsibility for your actions — wherever you choose to live. Be responsible for your rubbish.
“As you make your bed, so you must lie in it.”
This Is Why Taking Responsibility Is Important
Picture this; you decide to travel — after a few months, you observe glimpses into how various cultures interact, hear how their social and political structure evolved, or engage in small talk about how the younger generations overtake their predecessors.
In every major city, small town, or continent or island in the world, you will observe the spectrum of people: ranging from optimistic to pessimistic, emotionally secure to fearful, intelligent to stupid, open-minded to one-sided, and every stereotypical profile in between, Ad Infinitum.
As a tourist, you will find extravagant places to eat, different attractions, historical monuments, scenic routes, soothing music, and even listen to similar horrific historical and cultural stories, etc.…
The list can go on Aeternum.
Everything is new (to you), it’s exciting.
So, you keep traveling.
But after a few more months, your new environments start to lose their luster, your emotions about your journey begin to wax and wane, and you are left in a state of ennui.
A lethargic sense of dissatisfaction and disinterest that keeps you asking yourself, “what is happening?”
But you won’t find the correct answer until you start asking the right questions.
And you can’t articulate the right questions if you can’t identify the underlying reasons for your endeavors.
I’m trying to say that you have to be aware there will always be tradeoffs and consequences for your decisions (regardless of your location.) It’s the baggage you carry with you.
If you spend too much time lusting over your new city, you forget the other life components that keep you balanced on your tightrope: goals, routines, schedules, and structure.
If you decide to slack off and focus on partying in your new country, your academic or professional life might suffer.
If you think traveling or, more specifically, a new external environment will alleviate your boredom, you’re mistaken. Once the novelty fades, and the dust settles…. That boredom resurfaces.
So ask yourself, “What is this boredom?”
And in my case, if you only leave yourself a few hours every weekend to sightsee and socialize…. You get the point.
But take my words with a grain of salt, what do I know?
I’m only a 24-year-old.
Why Should You Take Responsibility?
Jordan Peterson said it best, “Responsibility, not happiness, allows most people to find the meaning that sustains them through life.”
As you continue to travel, you begin noticing that our homelands — although outwardly unique with their own cultures, customs, characteristics, and geographical features — share internal similarities because they are filled with human beings with similar wants, needs, and desires.
After we met our basic survival needs- food and water on the table, roof over your head, heat during the winter, and the ability to sustain ourselves financially — Happiness is what we strive for.
But in reality, happiness is ephemeral and ebbs and flows. You can be temporarily happy: eating food, having sex, training jiu-jitsu, traveling, receiving attention from a special someone, etc.…
One moment, you can be happy traveling from country to country, “living your best life” — the next, you can find yourself in a pit of despair because you no longer feel satisfied with your situation.
This is why I’ve found striving for happiness less efficient than taking control over your life.
And look, you don’t need to start taking responsibility in significant ways.
Start in small ways.
Perhaps, clean your house, be better to your friends and family, start working out…. Go small and gradually build up that responsibility.
As my Okinawan Grandmother used to say,
“Miinai chichi nai.” — We learn by watching and listening.
And ultimately, through this sense of responsibility or the compulsion to be responsible — partial satisfaction with one’s life is imminent.
Remember, half a loaf of bread is better than no loaf.
So, the next time you decide to place traveling on the same pedestal as a brand-new car, I want to remind you that the driver is more important than the vehicle.
Ultimately, if you want a thing done well, do it yourself.