Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.
– Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain had some serious travel wisdom, however I find myself unable to internalize what he meant by this "teetering in the unknown". Up till now, my "travel" has been geographically constrained to North America sans a family European trip, a week in Barcelona, and a dogmatic mission trip to Panama.
On these trips, I traveled like an American — unconsciously operating with my existing ideals and superimposing them on the space around me. There was no "culture shock" simply because I never put myself in an environment that was strong enough to shake me — choosing to stay in hotels, Yelping everything, and doing the sorts of activities that one does on "vacation."
Given this set of experiences, it's no wonder that when those around me talk about their "transformational" travels or even discuss the value of travel, I don't quite understand — I can't. Don't get me wrong, the appeal is there. I've spent plenty of hours appreciating Parts Unknown, solo-trekked Hawaii, and daydream with wanderlust. What's missing though is the lived experience of exploring this unknown.
I can view it from a distance, dream about it, and live it vicariously through friends, but until I do it myself, I won't truly understand.
This is the case with most things, right? When people talk about their view of the world it's entirely shaped by their experiences. In daily communication when perspectives are being shared, we nod and agree as if we understand (even if we don't). I liken it to getting advice from someone "older and wiser" or reading a book in high school. Even if you grasp a fraction of it, there's still a lot missing that you don't recognize until years later.
There's nothing wrong with this; it's a process that everyone goes through. What I appreciate though is the rare moment of recognizing when that context has been filled and you've come full circle. It's wonderfully delightful and confirms you're learning and growing. The unfortunate part? You generally only recognize it after things come full circle.
In 5 hours, I head out for Thailand. It'll be my first time in Southeast Asia and my first real travel experience. I couldn't be more excited. Specifically, I'm excited about the fact that I get to observe my understanding of this unknown slowly take shape.
When I first started writing this reflection, I planned to outline on how I expected my current worldview to shift and what I hoped to learn. I quickly realized how much of a fool's errand this would be. I don't know what I don't know and over-engineering this travel would neglect me of the growth that comes from letting things unravel naturally.
This led to another realization. Instead of trying to engineer my learning, I need to shift my approach entirely. See, for the past few months, I've operated as "systems, process, and discipline" Cam. While I love this facet of my personality, this version of Cam does not pair well with travel.
As such, I'm being intentional about creating space for another facet of myself to develop on this trip. What does this version of Cam look like? Like the experience of real travel, this is an unknown.
The best I can do is aim to be an active participant in the journey and shed the facets of my personality that have directed my life the last few months. I'm going to lean into the full scope of the experience — exploring curiously without constraint or fear; to have fun and not take myself so seriously (gasp).
This means I'll be completely offline. No laptop, no planned writing, no coding, no "planning my day". I'm simply going to exist in a state that feels completely unknown right now, but hopefully becomes a little less so over the next few weeks.
While I can't plan outcomes, it's my hope that both the lived experience of travel becomes clear and that I shape this undefined facet of my personality. One that, upon return, will give me new resources to draw on and an updated lens through which to view the world.
Maybe that's what Bourdain meant. You know? It's this process of recognizing that you don't know what you don't know and then get to experience it taking form right in front of your eyes.
I guess I'm about to find out.