Friday, September 23, 2016

Chasing Yesterday's Sunrise - Appreciations of World Travel

Sunrise with clouds over rocks and calm ocean

In a long solo journey, you learn to appreciate the unique qualities of time as it relates to place: one night with a fascinating new friend trying to get out all of your stories before dawn, one week in a hotel with a family not your own, one hour in a church with a congregation you will never see again. The idea of time is something man created. We found ways to measure it, yet there is nothing we can do to have any influence on it. Time marches on without negotiation, without prejudice, without malice or hope. In travel, just as in life, so much is subject to variables, change, and finality. These all play into what we do and where we are relative to the ticks on the clock. Thanks to the invention of flight, not only can a human actually encounter yesterday's sunrise flying over the Pacific Ocean, but the human brain can realistically comprehend both the size of the planet as well as our relative positions on it. In my five-hundred days and nights of travel - a very long time with seemingly infinite decisions - I found in the end a story that cascades finitely like paint from a brush on the canvas of my life's portrait. Within that story is a lens through which I wish the rest of the world could view.

You can certainly save a lot of money by approaching this understanding in the library with an atlas, some mathematics, and your choice of other books, however there is a restriction to the manner in which the "home" brain perceives time. At home, we generally conform to a schedule based on expectations - our boss's, our family's, or our clients'. Time in this regard, is often the ruler of our day and the master of our universe. Due to inevitable repetition, it is easy to take moments and relationships for granted; the brain is trained to think that there will always be a next time. To see it in terms of muscle memory, the "home" brain allows you to function more efficiently in a familiar environment. However, due to redundancies, we can limit the scope of our grasp outside of what we predict and relive on a daily basis.

In world travel, each day is a possibility - a blatant opportunity for discovery. The "traveling" brain must constantly observe, measure, theorize, learn, adapt, and keep the rest of the body safe from danger in ever-changing environments. While time is certainly a force to be reckoned with in making these discoveries, there is more of a freedom from the mundane captivities of time while abroad. Each day can be fueled by mysterious destinations full of nature, art, and profundity. The "traveling" brain picks up on magnificence, that - while it may not be able to fully grasp at the time - would otherwise go undiscovered.

Consider the confrontation our minds encounter at a funeral. Someone who played a special role in our lives ceased - often without warning - to exist in the human life form. The ceremony is the moment we truly accept the loss of the deceased after a lifetime of next times. Funerals cement a certain finality; brains finally register. That being said, a world traveler can be found to experience a funeral every day, in that there becomes a realization that with every bus, train, or plane, you may very well have lost something or someone from your life forever. It is in this continual pattern of loss and gain due to changes in place and time that the world traveler can learn to adopt a unique appreciation for the moment, as if knowing ahead of time when the next funeral will be. Given an extended journey with some degree of flexibility, the world traveler may attempt to cheat time and "death" by revisiting old destinations or familiar faces. This can be met with some measure of success, but just as you might imagine, trying to travel through time, cheat death, or alter destiny are like trying to capture all the beauty of the world on one canvas - quite exhausting... and ultimately futile.

Nevertheless, just as any rigorous exercise of the human mind such as educational study, pondering philosophy, learning a new job, or even falling in love, chasing yesterday's sunrise strengthens the muscle of possibility. The exploration of time and place to parts unknown - even if you cannot cheat death or alter destiny - pushes us all to seek answers to questions we would have never even thought to ask. With all its stresses and excitements, this may actually be what helps propel humanity to where it was meant to go in the first place - some mysterious destination that is artfully and profoundly magnificent.

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