June 26, 2007

The Evolution or Revolution of Self
Bangkok, Thailand

Aaron was out running errands when I left the hotel and bumped into him on the street. He said that if he didn't know I was in town, he wouldn't have recognized me. My friend of 15 years would've strolled right past me.

"I was watching you walk away, and you know, I never figured you to be a swarthy guy," Aaron said, on our first day at lunch. I wasn't familiar with the word, which he told me meant dark-complexioned—a notion I rather liked.

The two of us have been spending a lot of time talking and catching up on our lives. I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time to just talk with the man—when he's been in the U.S. his time is split among many—and I feel like I'm catching up on an entire decade of his life.

Aaron feels the same way. Out of his closest friends, he felt like he knew the least about me. And now, given all we've talked about recently, he seems to be particularly astonished.

I enjoyed speaking with Aaron about my personal revelations, the choices that lead up to this lifestyle, and the belief structure behind it. My "principles on life," as he put it. I spoke freely, knowing that nothing needed to be censored from this life-long friend, and that he himself could identify with many of the aspects of life I was articulating.

"You were so conventional before," he said at one point.

"And now?" I questioned.

"So… unconventional. Do you know anything about Buddhism?"

"Not much," I said. (The only the research I've done has been to answer questions of Thai behavior in my environment).

"Well, a lot of what you're describing is in line with the beliefs of Buddhism," he said. "I personally don't know any monks, but I think you're probably about the most Buddhist person I know."

This, coming from a man who lived in an Buddhist country for several years, was rather stunning.

Tomorrow Isn't Promised

One of my overarching philosophies on life—or, more specifically, living—is that of "the moment." The moment means everything to me. Yesterday is the past. Tomorrow isn't promised. Today, right here, right now, is what's important, and what is to be valued above all else. Like a sunny day in the middle of monsoon season, it needs to be embraced. The next day could be cloudless just the same, but you never know. To do otherwise is wasteful.

This mentality couples well with my style of travel. If I'm not smiling, I change something. A new home, city, country, or continent—these things are easy for me to change. Maybe this is why I smile more than most. I smile so much it confuses people.

Walking with Aaron one afternoon, he turned to me and said: "You know what I notice about walking with you? How calm and peaceful the expression on your face is. I'm always surrounded in cities by people who've got scowls—it's very refreshing."

But at the same time, living in the moment is a very intense, short-sighted way of life. If I'm happy, I've very happy. If I'm stressed, I'm very stressed. It's sort of the goldfish syndrome—who I'm told only have a 30-second memory. If a goldfish has been hungry for 30 seconds, it's been hungry its entire life.

I coined this phrase nearly a decade ago: "Live for the moment, look to the future." Embrace the now, but plan ahead.

I don't think I ever truly embraced the now as I did before I started traveling perpetually. My life has since become a series of moments. Some have been amazing, some have been depressing, but all have been defining (in that particular point in time).

So I'm left asking myself, has all this been personal evolution, or revolution? Aaron seems to think revolution—as if there's been a successful coup inside my head.

Many of the old ways are no more—long live the nomad.

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