Self Awareness is Hot.

To put it in the words of my good buddy Davey Jol – self awareness is hot.

When someone has come to know themselves and be comfortable in their own skin, with all their strengths and shortcomings taken into account or at least the willingness to search them out well established, they are 50 points up in my books.  The road is long and the end indistinct – if determinable at all – but all who set out on this personal journey are better off the further along they get.  They are the people more likely to overcome their insecurities and mental chatter to be able to look beyond their little bubble of the world and truly see who and what surrounds them.  They know themselves not just in the sense of their personalities, for that will change as they desire, but also as silent witnesses of their own thoughts.  Their capability to communicate, interact, reason, and truly live life to the fullest is greatly expanded.  It is like going from living your whole existence in a crowd of people who are a few inches taller than you to convincing someone to get you up on their shoulders and viewing the stage of life full on. Don’t be one of those people who can’t see the forest for the trees.  Broaden your perspective, take a step back and truly appreciate the bigger picture beyond yourself and your own personal scenario.

Say you have a bad day.  Normally that would get people down…but not you.  You can see the bigger picture:  that you are consistently working towards your life goals, you are following your passion, that your mix of work and play is satisfactory to keep you challenged yet relaxed and refreshed, and that your friends and family (not to mention you yourself) are there to love and guide and support you.  Suddenly what seemed insurmountable before is no more than a mere insignificant setback .  Remember, eyes on the forest.

It is exciting to think that this is a lifelong path to follow, that there will always be something new to learn about yourself in the world and how you choose to interact with it.   There is no end zone to cross into and no authority other than yourself who can determine how far along you have come.  Enjoy being recursive.  But an open mind free to inquire, an honest desire to improve yourself and expand your outlook on the world and the motivation to make those changes is all you need to be well on your way.

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A ‘world’-class education? Wocka wocka

Travelling can and will teach you a lot of things…more than even you know. From the moment you step off a plane in a foreign country, your senses are bombarded by stimuli that are different from what you are accustomed to. A mere glance at the landscape with all its accompanying sounds and smells will give you an inherent feeling of the place that you would not gain from reading an encyclopedia on your destination. Often, the feeling I get from people entering Bangkok is a “…Oh.” Not many people expect a sprawling metropolis, massive skyscrapers in every direction, giant billboards and honking, state of the art Toyota (oh, aren’t they all) cabs. No, Thais do not live in mud huts. Yes, they have running water. Computers do exist in Thailand. These are the kinds of things that you take in nearly instantaneously without even realizing it, and they are invaluable in assessing the cultural norms and how they compare to your own back home.

Then there are the kinds of things you can actively learn from travelling – cultural displays like dance, eating habits or various historical monuments and museums – all of which offer you insight into what makes a different culture tick. I enjoyed this quote from a book I was just reading about the Vietnam War – a perfect example of how a cultural difference meant all the world. “To Asians steeped in Confucian concepts, time is an endless river flowing from an infinitely regenerative source. Time to Westerners is always precious; to the Oriental it can be spent with generosity.” It even goes so far as to compare calendars in the West with calendars in the East: ours are linear, with pages that begin and end…a year is a long time. In Eastern calendars, time is a wheel with no beginning or end. It goes on to say, “Quick victory is a Western concept. All the Vietnamese had to do was not lose.” They were patient, and it worked. But I digress.

For those out there who have travelled far and wide, it is all too easy to follow the rote tourist route, see what you came to see, and climb up on that high horse and say you’ve done it all. And maybe you’re right.  But what is even more important about travelling is what you learn.  Even if you go off the beaten path and do it your own way – if you aren’t applying the things you learn to improve yourself or the world around you, there is another opportunity missed.

Travelling for the sake of travelling is just like any other hobby. What makes it unique is there are often more opportunities to take what you see around you and use it to better yourself. Look around you, at the things other people do through their unique personalities or through their different cultural perspective. Take those things you like and make them a part of yourself. Remove those habits that you hold on to that you dislike. Create your own culture and cultivate your personality to be how you want it to be. No one else has as much power to do that as you!

Whether it be exercising your body or your mind, testing your ideas against someone else’s, helping someone in need, or contemplating your purpose in the world to better clarify your goals, make every day count. We only gots so many of em. And travelling is one of my favourite ways to find new ways of improvement!

The name of the game is self-improvement, and if a day goes by where you haven’t learned something new or gained a new perspective or changed your life or someone else’s in any way, was that day well spent?

The Lottery You Never Knew You Won

This is a post done by a friend of mine on Facebook and I really liked it. I will cite my sources: This is by Madison “Big Cat” Schwartz. Awesome dude, and apparently he can write too! Our favourite pastimes include discussions about Russia, politics and failed states as well as doing push up competitions while drunk. Which I won. Even though he was in the army.  He also likes pizza.  Here is a picture of him in a bath with another man and a teddy bear named “Mrs. Bear”.

Told you he was awesome.

Take it away, Big Cat!

Whenever I meet people for the first time, the subject of travel seems to inevitably come up. Traveling is a major part of my life, I love it, and thus, I seem to always end up talking about it. People are sometimes unsure how to start planning, and saving for a trip, and a common response when I invite someone to travel with me, or to travel in general is “…Ya… when I win the lottery”. Well, here’s the thing, you’ve already won it, so pack your bags.

Think about your life. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’re from a middle-class family, in the Western world. Now, I’m not a statistician, I’m not going to bombard you with numbers, but I wager you’re pretty stoked that you haven’t been born one of those people that live on less than $2 a day. These people number approximately 2.8 billion, we number considerably less. Not everyone in the world today has the opportunity to travel, we do, and we should take advantage of it. In addition, because of where we live, none of us were pressed into military service at the age of 18 (more than eighty countries worldwide still enforce some level of conscription, effectively removing the ability to backpack freely, at least for a time).

Now think about the era into which you’ve been born. Many of our grandparents, and great grandparents had the opportunity to visit Europe, or Asia, but it certainly wasn’t for pleasure (this is a reference to the World Wars, for those who are less historically inclined). We live in the freest era the world has ever seen, we’re not expected to join the army, get married, have children, or own a home by the time we’re 25, we can, but we don’t HAVE to. We’re part of what’s being dubbed the “boomerang generation”, we have a unique opportunity to have been born into a time when it is very acceptable to pursue a travelers lifestyle for a few years, and most of us still have the safety net of a home to come back to.

We live in the era of air travel. Sometimes, bleary eyed, and pissed off at the lack of movie selection on my 12 hour flight to Bangkok, I have to remind myself that only a few decades ago that same journey took several weeks, and a ship full of hearty sailors. Take advantage of this era when flight prices are at all time lows, don’t wait for that big retirement trip in forty years, the way things are going, there might be no aviation fuel left. Pretty good timing for us I’d say.

And yes, I know, even though all these things have added up to create an era where world travel is possible, it still costs a pretty penny, but here’s a clichéd idea you could try. If you’re a student like me, you drink a shitload of coffee, and odds are you buy your coffee at $5 a cup from the capitalist heathens at Starbucks. Brew your own for a year, and pocket the fivers, and next year we’ll go to this little café I know in Bangkok, and the coffees are on me. Deal? Deal.