Hey guys. It’s been a while since I’ve written a new post and my grandmother is yelling at me because of this. It’s a gray cloudy day in Lima’s Barranco neighborhood, I’m still pretty tired because I recently returned from an 8-day 100km+ hike, and it’s time to write a new post. I’m still pretty tired, well I’ve already mentioned that, but yes I hope this tiredness doesn’t stifle the writing creativity. I could really use a nap, even though I just woke up. I felt really good on the hike, and really good after the hike, but I think it’s all catching up to me now. 8 days of hiking at an average altitude of like, 4200 meters or 13,860 feet, takes its toll on the body. Regardless, I’m going to write. Gotta keep the grandmothers happy.
After 9 weeks on the road, I wrote a post about the single-biggest thing I had learned, linked here. I also thanked online poker in that post, which will probably become a new theme of this blog. That’s what’s paying for the whole party, after all. Today is August 1st, which means I’ve now been on the road for roughly 30 weeks. Here’s 10 more things I’ve learned so far, in no particular order, except for the last one. That one is the most important.
1. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. However, there is something wrong with making the same mistake twice.
You’re hiking in Chile, it’s moist outside, and you step in something that looks like solid ground. It’s not, and you get mud up to your knees. The mud dries, and falls off. An hour later, you need to poop. There are no bathrooms on the trail. You see the same stuff that looks like solid ground, and while you fell through before, well, you have to poop, and, well, this ground looks more solid than it did before. It’s the same stuff, and you fall through again. And you still have to poop.
We try new things, and this is great. We make mistakes, and this is even more great. This is even more great because mistakes present learning opportunities, and learning is really the heart of it all. So, we make our mistakes once, learn from them, and then don’t make them again. However, when you ignore your mistakes, therefore making the explicit decision to not learn from them, you are doing something wrong. Really wrong. Try, fail, learn, improve, succeed. Steps 1 and 2 are great, but if you ignore step 3, your mistakes become valueless. And there is so much value in making mistakes.
2. Soundtrack your life.
Sitting on a bus and staring out the window isn’t that cool. But how dope is it when you’re watching a movie, and the character is gently dreaming off the afternoon, rain gently tapping the window, and some song like “On The Bus Mall” by The Decemberists –
– comes on?
It all becomes pretty dope – pretty fly – pretty energizing. We all like music. If you don’t, you’re doing something wrong. So listen to more of it, and let it help you inspire you. Listen to more music – soundtrack your life.
3. I’m bad at doing nothing.
I’m bad at doing nothing. Well I can sit on the computer for a while and waste time. But other than that, I’m bad at lying on the beach for an entire day. I’m bad at watching movies for an entire day. I’m bad at not moving, not thinking, not planning. I’m bad at waking up in the morning and then going back to bed again. I wish I was better. But I just – there’s just things I am trying to accomplish. And doing nothing is generally not conducive to accomplishment. This is one thing I’ve learned about myself.
4. There is so much value in just creating things.
Do an art project. Learn an instrument. Make a photo album. Write a blog. I don’t have a good argument for this one, but I firmly affirm that there is just so much value in creating things. I probably could put together some theoretical argument, likely centered around capitalism or Darwinism or the Industrial Revolution or something, but it would be really long, and my point isn’t that controversial to begin with. Just go make something – build stuff. Concrete things or intellectual things. If you have some theory that you always try to explain to your friends when y’all are greening and laughing around the couch, well, go home and just write it down. Make it into a paper – a project. Create something that wasn’t there before.
I like making photographic things lately, and I like this blog. There’s a really good chance I’ll make an iMovie with all of the media from this trip too, when it’s all over. I’ve already got the first song picked out.
5. Stress and happiness are often choices.
Often choices. You can wake up, and just say to yourself: “I’m going to be happy today.” You can wake up and choose not to be stressed. You can choose to smile at the nuanced realities of your day – you can build off of the happiness of others. You can choose not to let things piss you off. Sometimes we are hit with things intense, and they’re tough to ignore. This is why I say “often,” and not “always.” But yes – you can kind of choose to go out and have a great night no matter what. You can choose to not let a bus being 3 hours late stress you out.
In Buenos Aires, I realized that I was on the computer too much. I realized I don’t quite enjoy myself with others as much as I could. So I kind of just said OK, I’m going to enjoy myself in the company of others, more. And I did – I really did. It’s a choice. Like most of life.
6. Challenge yourself.
You don’t really move forward doing things you already could. You don’t get smarter by knowing things you already did. So accomplish – do – do! Do things you couldn’t do before – do something that scares you. Go jump out of a plane. Go on a 3-day bike trip. Go – gogo. Go to sleep smarter and wiser than you woke up – every day – if you can.
I just got back from an 8-day hike. The previous biggest hike I did was 7 days – Kilimanjaro. 8 is bigger than 7. That’s gotta be a good thing, right.
7. Languages are the sh*t.
They’re empowering. Sometimes we get into unspoken secretive competitions about who speaks better. Speaking other languages makes you feel powerful. We all know English. Being able to communicate with people who don’t speak English is really great. It impresses girls too. And like – you’re learning. And learning is what you want to be doing.
Americans generally only speak English. Swiss people generally speak English and French and German and Italian. This does not mean Americans are stupid, and that all Swiss people are insanely motivated linguists. This is a reality of geography. The United States is bordered by 2 countries, and for the vast, vast majority of our population, these countries are not particularly close. As such, they are not concretely relevant in our lives. If you’re from Philadelphia, your dad probably doesn’t go to Canada 3 times a week for business. Your mother doesn’t go shopping in Mexico. So Spanish and French aren’t that important. Switzerland is small, and it’s close to Italy and France and Germany, and then all of Europe speaks English. So, language knowledge is, as I would argue, a reality of geography. Just because most Americans only speak English, it doesn’t mean we’re stupid.
Knowing more than English is dope nonetheless. See #4 and #7.
8. Accommodation choices are important.
Different types of people generally stay in different types of places. In life, you get to choose with whom you surround yourself. In travel, it’s the same. A different type of backpacker will stay in a different type of accommodation. Only sleep in your tent if you want to be with the super-shoestringing badasses, if you find that stuff cool.
9. Life is better with people.
I’m doing my trip solo, and I wouldn’t change it for the world (wait, what?). My mind changes like every day about where I want to go, and what I want to do. I don’t think I could realize my travel dreams if I was with someone else. I think we’d get sick of each other pretty quickly too. I love the freedom, I mean I really love the freedom, I mean the freedom is empowering as all hell, and you don’t really have the same freedom if you travel with someone else. Maybe in another trip I will. But for this one, I couldn’t imagine not it doing solo.
Traveling on your own does not imply constant solitude. Traveling on your own implies constantly making new friends, and constantly figuring out new ways to make new friends. Unfortunately, you don’t always stay with the same people for a while – people that you often really like. As I said, I’m bad at doing nothing. If I meet a great, great group of people, but staying with these people would mean a week of not doing much except partying my stinking face off and enjoying every minute, well, I often find myself avoiding these situations. See #4 and #7. I’m realizing that for me, I’m OK at being alone, and that my top priority is really accomplishing all of the goals and dreams I’ve had and continue to develop for this trip.
Having said all of this, life is still better with people. Your food and drinks taste better when you share them with someone. Laughing by yourself is kind of just pathetic. So life, well life, I’ve realized, is much better with people. I’m still working on striking a balance between being creative and ambitious and active, and sticking around long enough with the same people to make lasting relationships. I’m working on it. I’ve got time. And I work at these goals!
10. It’s all part of the journey.
At times you feel shitty. At times you’re tired, ecstatic, exhausted, angry, stupid, smart, I don’t know, I don’t know. But oh baby it’s beautiful. Because every moment, every try and fail, every mistake and lesson and smile and broken toe and sickness and song is all part of the journey. And really, a 2-year round-the-world trip, well, I’m not big on tooting my own horn, and I’m not going to do it here, but objectively, well, objectively I’ve realized that this trip and the word epic are possibly and mildly synonymous. At the very least, I can concretely say that it is a journey. And every time you are loving it or feel like quitting or are half-drowning in the river or are at the top of the San Antonio pass in the Cordillera Huayhuash –
– it’s just all part of it. You don’t feel good unless you feel bad. So the next time you feel like life sucks, or whatever, just know it’s just another piece of the puzzle, and that you’ll probably feel different the next day. Feel empowered by the suckiness. Because it’s all part of the journey. O, that journey.
So yes, there’s 10 things I’ve learned, after 30 weeks on the road. I’ll be on the road for a while longer, and hopefully, well hopefully I’ll continue to learn. The lessons are always there.
If you want 22 things instead of 10, read 22 Things I Learned At Age 22, from my friend Lauren’s blog Tales from Tajikistan. She’s currently doing a 10-month Fullbright stint in Tajikistan which, when I found out, I didn’t know was a country. Her blog is absolutely hilarious. My favorite one is the one about the Dushanbe Half Marathon. Enjoy.
Heading to Colombia tomorrow, and will start farm work on a coffee/banana plantation on Friday. Eating avocados at the moment, with salt and great bread. Yea buddy.
Cheers from Lima,