A Tale of Dirt Roads & Deodorant,
AKA My Pocahontas Moment
I bob up and down in my seat, occasionally clanging the side of my head abruptly against the window pane–clearly a form of revenge on mankind for having long ago forgotten the rocky, untamed, desolate road. My skin sticks to the tattered brown faux leather bench seat, and a continual stream of sweat faithfully travels down the back of my neck. Thankfully for the other passengers' sake, I am armed with a solid supply of Old Spice deodorant for men–the only product man enough to step up to these overactive sweat glands. Coupled with 100 degree heat, I can make for a real treat.
I am en route to Dominical, a small, undeveloped beach town that lies quietly on the south central coast of the pacific side of Costa Rica. Vibrant green foliage surrounds the bus from every angle, and whimsical jungle vines that nonchalantly dangle from the tallest tree branches have the effect of making me feel ever-so-slightly like a modern-day Pocahontas, on a bad hair day.
The air that I take in with every breath is so pure, so clean, and the calm silence so refreshing, at one point I question the feasibility of setting up shop right there, followed by thoughts of whether or not people can actually start fires by rubbing two sticks together.
And then, as we approach a clearing, I see them. There are several of them, and they look normal enough. I can't believe my eyes. Human. Beings. They are gathered together in a circle of wooden rocking chairs, one adolescent-looking girl bouncing a baby on her lap, all of them barefoot. They seem to have a distant, vacant look in their eyes as they emotionlessly watch our bus pass on. A few short meters up the road, we come upon the village's church, a brightly painted rectangular building that resembles that of a one-room school house, followed by a similarly-sized school and a handful of small, tin-roofed homes. My first thought is to question where these people derive an income, as there are no visible commercial properties in sight, but beyond all of the other technical questions one could ask, like what happens when emergency medical attention is needed or, equally curious, where one goes to meet cute boys, the one that lingers in my mind is whether or not they are lonely. Would I be lonely?
I stare out the window for a long time, contemplating such an existence, before a small smile spreads across my lips, taking the place of my furrowed brow and look of worry. It occurs to me that maybe, just maybe, they are the ones who have this whole life thing figured out. They are, in essence, the ultimate minimalists, who have the luxury of being at liberty to simply live life, instead of feeling the unrelenting pressure to make life into some great event. They may not have laptops, or flat screen TVs, Blackberries or Guitar Hero, yet ironically, I get the feeling that they have something that the rest of us can only long for.
There's No Such Thing As a Universal Truth,
AKA My Philosopher Moment
It serves to remind me that the world in which we were born into is only one model of reality. “Life” cannot be universally defined in terms of an ultimate ideal, because what's ideal for you may not be what's ideal for another, and I think that's the important lesson here. For too long, our society has forced a predefined concept of what our ideal lives should look like–education, “good” job, save money, find mate, buy house, spend first year of marriage together, get busy with kids thereafter, go on vacation once per year and then wait until your kids are old enough to make you grandparents, then write your will, then die. People often say that life doesn't come with a manual, but in all actuality, it does. There you have it, the steps to being a “successful” American adult.
But what if there's more out there? What if there are other things you can do? What if you would more enjoy doing other things? Should you be able to explore those options, or are you obligated to follow the manual? Is it possible that there are other manuals out there that make more sense to you?
What constitutes “life” and “living” are relative truths, not absolute ones. Other well-known examples of relative truths that are commonly mistaken for absolute truths include: religion, marriage as an ideal and higher education as the path to success.
Absolute truths are a cruel, cruel joke.
Absolute, by nature, is inflexible, unchanging, unyielding, hard, cold, a little cranky, and, frankly, arrogant. By believing in absolute truths, we become inflexible, unchanging, unyielding, hard, cold, a little cranky, and, frankly, arrogant. And so do our perspectives. Ouch. Kind of reminds me of the old slavery mentality that black people aren't as intelligent as white people. Antiquated. Downright false. And just flat out ridiculous. But there was a period in which many people held this as truth. Nowadays, we'd just call those people ignorant.
I believe that the greatest form of repression is the belief in an absolute truth, and subsequently using that one representation to form core beliefs, values and perspectives that ultimately serve to guide YOUR ENTIRE LIFE.
Travel Helps The Life Design Process,
AKA My Preacher Moment
There are many, many different realities that exist, and other ways of life aren't failed attempts at being you; they are other human beings being them. Your way is not necessarily the way. It might be one way, but by exposing yourself to only one, you're severely limiting yourself. And that, friends, is why I advocate for travel so much. Don't get me wrong: I've said it before, as has Andrew MacPherson in his recent guest post–travel is not necessary to lead an exciting, awe-inspired life. That said, I do believe that travel can bring a great deal of clarity that can significantly help in that journey. Travel helps you break free from your pre-set settings, as a function of your culture, and allow you to form a more objective view of life in general, and more importantly, that of your own. The phrase “reality check” has never been more relevant.
By being exposed to the realities of our fellow human beings with whom we share this great planet, we are engaging ourselves in some hardcore lifestyle design, because we open ourselves to other ways of doing things, other perspectives, other beliefs, other existences, other foods, other experiences, other forms of dress, other forms of LIFE. From there, we are better enabled to selectively pick and choose aspects we like, discard the ones we don't, and essentially engage in the highest form of lifestyle design based on a much wider knowledge of options.
So here's to the villages of the world, the people of the world, and the lessons that await us all as we form our own versions of reality.
“The people who say you are not facing reality actually mean that you are not facing their idea of reality. Reality is above all else a variable. With a firm enough commitment, you can sometimes create a reality which did not exist before.”
-Margaret Halsey, No Laughing Matter