So you had a little travel fling.. right on! Romantic connection is a beautiful, enlivening thing, It's a mind expanding experience (if you are actually taking interest in the contents of each other's brains).
Now you're back home and still flirting over a texting app. An invitation appears: "Come back and see me." You flip open your laptop and start browsing flights.
It's an admirable move. The mark of a romantic soul. However, let's adjust expectations and strategy before buying that ticket. Misadventure may await you. Are you ready for it?
These are ever present possibilities, but don't be dissuaded. Instead, change your perspective and approach:
Revisiting a travel fling is always a toss of the dice, but with the right preparation you can stack the odds in favor of a winning roll. By setting a realistic frame and controling expectations one can have a memorable trip no matter which numbers turn up. And remember the goal is that both people end up feeling empowered from this interaction. Let's all leave a trail of beautiful memories in our wake. Be honest. Be kind. Be your best self.
The "fearful creature" mentioned in the video has pointed out that I did not provide any solutions for what author Johann Hari has called the "ego addiction", an unhealthy attachment to self that is isolating us from each other. Here are my best ideas to scale that back:
* The term "drugs" is used to cover everything from caffeine to aspirin to crack to magic mushrooms. Clearly there is a difference between sipping a cup of coffee and injected heroin into a vein. We need new vocabulary that does not lump all mood altering substances under the same tainted banner.
** The "war on drugs" has been one of the most destructive and evil forces humanity has unleashed on itself, responsible for many more deaths than the drugs it purports to combat. It is fueled by hypocrisy, racism, and greed. To uncover the full perniciousness of these policies I'd recommend the documentaries 13th and America's War on Drugs as well as the book Chasing the Scream.
*** I've heard terrible stories of charlatans taking advantage of the vulnerable. Specifically if you plan to go to South America to experience an Ayahuasca ceremony vet your shaman very carefully.
Last Spring I made a blogpost which featured my pixelated buttocks. The post appeared on a popular hiking Facebook page. While most comments were supportive, a couple men blasted me. They were profoundly offended to see a bottom even blurred. One dude told me I should register as a sex offender.
When did these men consciously decided they found the gluteus muscles (and the skin and fat which surround them) so offensive? Did they sit down one day to figure out which body parts were cool and which shameful? Of course not. They were impressed at a very young age through a variety of mediums.
Now I had my awareness completely on the subject. What was wrong with the backside of the human body? For that matter, what was embarrassing about the frontside? Did we not all have similar features from little innocent babies to sweet old grandparents? I couldn't seem too find fault with this design when putting full reason on it.
However, the disesteem for ourselves runs deep. So deep that I discovered a new pocket of it under the full moon in Goa, India. Once again the matter cleared up when put under the full gaze of awareness and query**.
Have you had a similar experience?
*Book reference in video is Lost Connections by Johann Hari. He speaks about some of these thoughts on this podcast.
**There are some thorns imbedded so deep, however, that noticing them is just the beginning of a long process of pulling them out. The most pernicious, given to us by the same advertisers who have contributed to body shame, is materialism. Extrinsic thinking that acquiring a possession will make us happy. Study after study contradicts this belief, but it's so dominant all but the most enlightened fall under it's bewitchment.
I'm the lonely protagonist obstructed from my objective. The folks slow to get off the plane keep me from my goal, inefficient drivers do great injustice by reducing my speed, a crowded sidewalk on the way to the taco truck is a colossal inconvenience.
I often slip into this perspective under the bewitchment of thought or emotion. It occurs during figurative or literal movement towards a goal. Fulfillment awaits me at a destination and any impediment threatens my heroic mission. Yet, upon arrival, my troubled journey ends with only brief satisfaction before a new quest begins. I got from A to B, but now C beckons.
There are two unhealthy viewpoints in play here.
The first is that life can be savored only upon arrival. But arrival to exactly where? The majority of life will unfold between landmarks, goals, and achievements. It happens in traffic, on the plane, and during day to day striving.
Ultimately we labor towards a moment in which we hope to rest in present contentment. But.. Could that contentment occur right now?
The second problematic perspective is duality: Jonathan against the world.
Am I not a creature of the world? Do I not fall somewhere in the spectrum between atoms and galaxies? And is everything in this span not a piece of one big thing?
The airline incident occurred between myself and a woman. Both of us believing ourselves to be inconvenienced protagonists. Both of us focused on getting to a future moment instead of resting in a present one. It's a classic road rage formula which transcends highways and airports to infect our whole lives if never brought under the light of awareness.
Everything is on the line when you wake up. Looking at the cell phone is a plunge into the energy of others, the comparison traps of social media, and the anxiety of world news. It will start you off unbalanced and unfocused.
Dedicating the first moment of the day for yourself is the truest way to "look out for #1". A brief routine to consciously center oneself will make a remarkable impact on the rest of the waking hours.
Here is my current routine:
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world. - Walt Whitman**
If you've ever climbed to a mountain summit you know the jubilation of the accomplishment. We lift up our arms, high- five our companions, and take pictures. Then the elation quickly fades as thoughts of descent and food replace it. But what if we could savor that moment a little longer? Enter the barbaric yawp.
The mountaintop is a special place for release. Not something refined for your friends' ears. Not some cliched sound effect. Not something muted for fear of disturbing the neighbors. Rather give a vocalization to your "I am that I am." The sound of your life-force. The announcement that at this moment in time you are truly alive.
Take off your clothes if you dare. Sense the warmth of the sun and cool of the wind on your skin. Feel the grit of earth under the feet. Recognize that you are a product of this natural world. You are a ripple in the fabric of the cosmos.
Observe everything around you with the gift of awareness. What a mysterious thing it is to be conscious. Notice the beauty of existence exactly how it is. Then spread your arms high and sound your barbaric yawp so it can see you right back.
If you'd like to see my barbaric yawp in action be warned that you'll see me naked from behind (i.e. bare-assed): Naked B.Y.
** The first time I heard this poetic stanza was as it was referenced by Robin Williams in Dead Poet's Society.
Coffee is one of the world's favorite drinks. It has many health benefits. It's the centerpiece of pleasant morning rituals, business meetings, and casual dates. So why stop? A temporary break from caffeine could make a profound impact on your perspective. Principally in these five areas:
1. Sympathy for your fellow addict: Go cold turkey on your coffee habit and you will quickly realize you are an addict. Moreover, there is a good chance you will relapse before breaking free (while reciting the classic excuses used by all drug addicts).
The rough attempt to quit caffeine will create sympathy for the staggering amount of people in prison for drug possession. Perhaps you could become an ally in changing the world's draconian policies to something more like Portugal's successful model of decriminalization.
2. Boost your self control: One of the great virtues in life is self control. Are we a slave to our passions or do we have choice? Whether it's porn, coffee, or refined sugar; the only way to prove control is to confirm the ability to stop. You've got a whole lifetime to indulge. Can you abstain for just one month?
3. Reframe views of happiness: There are many folks who would benefit from anti-depressants but don't utilize this resource. Why? There is a societal disapproval of chemical cures... a belief that a person should be able to make themselves happy through pure willpower.
Quitting a caffeine habit will smash this perception in the teeth. A day or two into the cleanse a chemical reaction will plunge one into a deep state of grumpiness. A grey raincloud will hang above. Watch how fast it evaporates just minutes after drinking a coffee. Everything is right in the world again.
While contemplating a new appreciation of chemical cures, the caffeine abstainer can also seek other methods of finding well being, such as meditation and mindfulness.
4. Get a grip on anxiety: There is a heap of worry in our modern world. We are inherently anxious creatures. But what is our baseline and how much is the caffeine? Temporarily removing this stimulant provides a more accurate assessment of the stress we process.
5. Unleash caffeine's power: To the addict a dose is like scratching an itch. Its appeal is the sensation of relief. To the casual user a dose provides the full potential of a drug. After breaking a coffee habit, one will discover that caffeine becomes a useful tool for moments when a boost of energy and alertness is most useful. The addict doesn't get the same reward.
The research say coffee consumption is positive, but committing to a cleanse has many benefits. I'm a fan of the beverage, but also dedicate myself to the occasional break**. It gives me a sense of self control, makes me more understanding of the delicate nature of brain chemistry, and has given me more sympathy for people who struggle with other addictions. Hope it does the same for you.
** The first break from coffee, done while filming in Romania, was a bitch. The withdrawal lasted 10 days. Sleepy, lethargic, and grumpy most of the duration; although I'd occasionally wake up at 4AM wide awake. Now I no longer cold turkey my breaks from caffeine, but will slowly decrease consumption over the course of a week until I'm off the sauce. However, that cold-turkey experience was extremely valuable for self growth and understanding the addictive power of drugs. I recommend everyone try it once.
People often ask me how to get a job as a travel show host. Although there is a lot more work involved than most realize, I'm very grateful to have my position and voice. Becoming the host of a travel show was a pinnacle moment. I felt like my whole life had funneled towards that destiny.
When opportunity came knocking I didn't think, "I hope I get it." Instead, I realized, "I am this guy." I had accrued a life full of decisions that shaped me into the ideal candidate. Although there are many ways to cook an omelet, these are some of those decisions I made and the path I took:
If yo want to become a travel show host I wish you the best on that journey. Keep in mind that most people I've met in LA who came to "become famous" are long gone. If you want to host a travel show simply because you "want to travel and get paid for it", you only have a piece of the puzzle. You've got to have a "why" and you'll only find it by living the life, discovering yourself, and cultivating a higher purpose before you begin to broadcast.
Don't give naked answers. This was the advice of my friend Max Sperber. To be fair he garnered the wisdom from a book, but he put his own nuance on the explanation, as I will now do.
In a previous post I recommend asking better questions to dive deeper into knowledge and connection. But what if you're being asked something mundane? You can still adjust the depth of the conversation with this trick. If you want to engage with the querier, don't give a naked answer.
A naked, or stripped down, answer is straight to the point and superficial.
Now try this:
Now let me ask you this:. Where are you from? What do you do?
Earlier this month, on the beaches of Sri Lanka, an Indian man asked me this: "If you were to summarize all the collective wisdom and experience you've gathered in life into one thought, what would it be?"
Wow. I decided not to overthink and blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "Most people in the world (including myself) want to do good. They want to connect. But we are all terribly blinded in the snowstorms of fear."
Now I'm passed this question on to others.
The lady at my Yogyakarta homestay quoted the Roman Virgil "Fortune favors the bold."
Another said, "Live your life. Enjoy the experience of existence."
One of the many things I learned at Burning Man is that by eschewing perfunctory questions (which are frowned upon) we have to search for more unique ones. "What's your job?" will get a well polished answer. To ask "Who are the kinds of people you most respect?" would immediately plunge the listener into contemplation, create appreciation for a well crafted inquiry, and produce a genuine bit of knowledge. The conversations I had in Black Rock dove immediately into the profound and vulnerable. They brought out real insight gained from a wealth of life experience different than mine. They created a stronger bond between the discoursers.
How would you answer the above question? And what is a question you employ to get a better answer?
I'm Jonathan Legg
The road has been my greatest teacher.. challenging stagnant beliefs, disarming prejudices, and developing understanding of others. I hope the content on this blog will bring a sliver of that juju to you.