Last year I began this small youtube series to counterbalance the message of corporate news. If you watch or read "the news" you'll quickly get the impression that our world is a hostile place where violence perpetually occurs. Is that true?
From my experience as a world traveler, what is happening in the world is usually the sublime hum of humanity puttering along: Friends chatting at cafes, drivers stressing on their way to work, people falling in our out of love, children being raised, projects and work underway, etc. This series is designed to subtly call attention to the tactics of big news and adjust our focus.
This episode is a bit of a departure. It capitalizes on the general American ignorance of world geography. Enjoy and if you have more curiosity about the series look here.
Everything in life has a beginning, middle, and end. This transitory nature of existence applies to the hard physical world where atoms are constantly spinning and shifting, and it also speaks to the nature of your conscious awareness.
Your awareness is, in fact, the only world you'll ever know. The landscape that appears within is different than what's in mine, even if we were sitting at the same restaurant, eating the same dish, and enjoying the same view.
You are the Hindu godhead of this conscious world: creating, maintaining, and destroying its constructs. One event that reliably generates this process of change is travel.
Travel is one of Shiva's world destroying dances and it's also the lotus bloom opening of Brahma's creation. When you have unique, intimate experiences with people who appear different than you, something shifts. An outdated, oversimplified, and often fearful impression is destroyed, so that a newer, fresher, more nuanced one can come to life.
Once upon a time I took a beautiful woman to a remote spot deep in the Mojave Desert. We woke up the next morning in serene isolation and realized we had a code-red critical problem: Both of us forgot to pack coffee.
I went to the nearby visitor's center and knocked on the doors of a few RVs. Did they have any coffee to spare? I'd gladly buy some for a generous price. Suspicious looks ensued. I went to the defunct restaurant inside the visitor's center and asked if there was any old supply in storage. No luck. Finally we drove 50 miles back to civilization to buy weak black drip from a Greek restaurant.
Why the desperation? We were both addicted to caffeine, and if you've ever cold-turkey quit coffee the withdrawal is a long, grumpy affair. Our romantic getaway would have had a dark cloud looming over it.
Now I would not have that problem. A 30 day no-caffeine challenge has changed my relationship to the substance. In the same way these challenges have introduced more discipline in my connection to sugar, alcohol, tobacco, social media, gratitude, and meditation.
Would you like to do a little more or a little less of something? Help yourself out by adding this effective tool to your will power. Doing it with a friend adds solidarity to the mix and strengthens resolve. When you finish your 30 days formally re-assess your relationship to that thing and how you'd like to proceed.
The one question I get asked the most about Road Less Traveled is "Where can I see the episodes?" Being on several networks around the globe is fantastic, but when someone tunes-in determines which episode they get to see. They could also miss the airings entirely.
Now I can tell everyone where to find us, because Road Less Traveled full episodes are available online on Yatra World. For the price of a fancy coffee (or a happy hour beer) you can binge adventure, food, and lifestyle all night long.
Get your wanderlust fired up with a tall stack of Road Less Traveled on Yatra!
Our culture is obsessed with comfort. Collectively we have been coddled by modernity. We want more legroom, softer mattresses, and any vehicle that will save us from physically moving our bodies. Get in a time machine and travel to any generation before us and you'll be the softest, most sensitive soul around. Our hunter/gatherer ancestors, whose genes we still carry, would be stunned. Perhaps they are stunned inside of us at this very moment.
Suffering, inconvenience, and exertion are part of life. Just like one must experience heartbreak to get love, and betrayal to grasp trust; we must truly learn how to hold suffering to appreciate its absence: the sweet state of being at ease.
There is also a life principle at work. Accomplishing the best stuff involves pushing past challenges and imagined limitations. To become a better person one must take the Hero's Journey, walk into the dark cave, and face some tough things. If we don't learn how to frame hardship properly on the front side of life, it will find us truly unprepared on the backside.
The easiest realm in which to learn the virtue of suffering is in the physical. For that reason I organize Tuesday Trail Runs. Once a week we interval run up a small mountain in about 7 stages. The idea is to complete each segment with almost nothing in the tank and RPMs hovering at the edge of the red zone. Often I'll cry out in relief at the breaks as the powerful sensation of exertion giving way to rest floods my body. The more tension I hold on the segment, the more powerful the wave of glorious release.
On the trail the mechanisms of the self defeating mind get real clear. The first ascent triggers a cacophony of arguments to quit or walk. I treat this first chunk as chance to watch the modern mind's resistance to exertion. It's a phenomenal exposé of excuses.
On the second segment I cycle through empowering narratives to replace the weak ones.
For all other segments I settle on the technique that works best: Mindfulness and presence.
Hardship is a fascinating state that most of us work so hard to avoid. I encourage you to start a practice where you can hold and examine it. You'll find that what you were afraid of isn't so bad. It isn't bad at all. There is a side of you to explore there.
If you find yourself in LA, join me on my trail runs
In the fall of 2016 Maximilian Sperber and I decided to take vacations to a couple countries off the tourist highway. We filmed the experience of arriving fresh, with no planning. Then we cut a short video of the first destination, Kiev, thinking the series might have a market. After some strong bites from Tastemade and Fullscreen we got distracted with other projects and the weeds grew on D.U.
I am of the belief that good material should be seen. I create content, including these blogposts, not to make money but rather to put ideas out into the world. Sometimes the money follows and sometimes it doesn't; but I'm compelled to move forward either way. Each one of us was designed by nature to do something. We all have our talents and our truth to share. If we share that truth honestly we can help each other connect to the essence of this brief, wondrous life.
There are two more episodes worth of D.U. content "in the can" that one day we may edit and release them if a budget manifests. For now, I hope you enjoy Destination Unusual: Kiev, and I hope the video inspires you to seek out unusual destinations for your travels.
Living in the city is like diving a coral reef. There is a fascinating array of color and movement, but at some point one must surface and decompress. Thankfully, Los Angeles is a city surrounded with fabulous options to escape. I get out often to exhale, gain perspective, and reconnect with the natural world.
Here are some of my favorite mini adventure destinations from Los Angeles:
1. Joshua Tree
This is the L.A. classic escape. Setting up in a popular campground like Jumbo Rocks allows for heaps of hiking and bouldering. However, when you're ready to level up, scan the maps for OHV roads, get yourself a 4x4 with survival gear, and camp backcountry. I've got a handful of secret backcountry spots in J-Tree, some recently discovered among the BLM land on the east side of the park.
2. The East Side of the Sierras
When Summer comes around in California I get super giddy about the Sierras. The deeper you can penetrate, the more exclusive it gets. Speaking of exclusive, the 395 side of the mountains has a fraction of the visitors who come in from the west.
3. Deep Creek
These hot springs have been on the nudist community's radar for over 30 years. Once a locals' secret spot, it's getting more traffic nowadays, but the long drive and moderate hike discourage many. Although it's technically illegal to camp at the springs, there is a perpetual clutch of regulars who risk the occasional ranger raid. Deep creek is special in that you can jump from the hot springs into a cold stream in an instant, and, if you like getting naked, go bananas... visitors have been thoroughly warned. Wearing clothing is the unusual maneuver.
4. The Mojave
The Mojave is the desert that California forgot about. Most people blow right past on their way to Vegas. If you stop to explore you'll find heaps of treasures: springs, ghost towns, abandoned mines, sand dunes, lava caves, and sweet isolation. Just remember that this isn't Disney Land. A couple bad judgements (especially regarding lack of water) could lead to your quick death. Here's a neat little video cut from some of our Road Less Traveled footage.
5. The Ruins of St. Francis Dam
This lush forest in the middle of the dry California chaparral is rooted in what was a giant lake. That lake was held in place by the magnum opus of Los Angeles' celebrity civil-engineer William Mulholland. Just after midnight on March 12, 1928 the dam collapsed sending Mulholland's reputation and over 500 bodies down the valley and out to the ocean on a 100+ foot wave. There are plans to do something official with the site, but for now it's off the beaten path. More information on this blogpost.
There is a misguided concept that runs deep in Western culture. Christians express the idea with the acronym NOTW (Not of This World). Neo-spiritualists rephrase it by saying "We are spiritual beings having a human experience." And most of us carry this frame by imagining ourselves static capsules, encased in flesh, walking through a foreign (and often hostile) environment. This is a complete illusion of separation in an interconnected universe, where everything leans on something else. It's a misconception that undoubtably leaves us all feeling disconnected and anxious, and puts our planet in peril.
Here is a quote from gotquestions.org, a Christian site (highlights added):
"We are still surrounded by all the horrors and tragedy of this life, but this is not our life. The knowledge that we are not of this world gives Christians hope even in the darkest times; hope that this will pass and at the end of it we will be in heaven with our God, face to face forever. This cracked and broken place is not where we belong, and it is not where we will stay.
The appeal of this philosophy is evident. The challenges we have as a species are stressful. Watching the news is like consuming anxiety. What a relief to completely wash one's hands of all global problems with zero guilt. Stand by, ride it out, and grab your flight to paradise.
But what if this conjecture is wrong? It's impossible to verify stories of an afterlife. We see, hear, taste, smell, and feel the world every day. If this reality, confirmed by our physical senses, is our home then NOTW becomes a disastrous manifesto of non-responsibility. A bad idea that has spread past Christianity.
Recently I was at the University of Santa Monica, a school offering a spiritual degree in philosophy. This same concept was passed around in different clothing. One man, addressing the entire room with a microphone, began a long, rambling thought with, "We all know that this world is not our home..."
This perception even permeates the secular world. Look up from your screen and you'll likely feel a sense of subject and object with everything you see. There is a clear border between "you" and "not you". But is it really so distinct?
To challenge the idea here are a few questions to ponder:
"Hold on Jonny", one might say, "there is a difference between the body and the spirit." We have a spirit that is NOTW... that's the real us. OK. Let’s think about our spirit and how it might resemble the person our friends and family know.
What makes Jonathan Legg different than you?
Imagine a steel bar falls off a construction site and lands on my head. Instantly the brain is reorganized. My travel stories and a sense of adventure disappear. The new man remembers nothing about Jonathan Legg. However, he is a much more peaceful and kind person. When this man dies what does his spirit feel like: Jonathan Legg with his sense of adventure or the man who doesn't like to travel, but is extra compassionate?
The steel bar is unnecessary. This restructuring is happening every day.
This brain (and body) of ours is constantly reorganizing in a slower fashion. Brains at 2 years, 30, 90, and 'recently dead' are assembled differently, with profound affects on perception and behavior. Which version determines the characteristics of the spirit? Would a person to be lucky to die at 30 (to have a spirit in its prime), unlucky to die with Alzheimers, and terribly unfortunate to die while in a coma?
If this undocumented spirit, flying off into eternity, resembles none of these personalities, with no cognition of former selves, why do we cling so tightly to this phantom?
Here is the answer: the "spirit" is an escape capsule for the ego. A doomsday shelter for the pending identity apocalypse.
We live in an era of individualism unknown to our tribe-centered ancestors. The constant anxiety we feel in this modern age stems from our hyper-inflated, separately packaged egos. Egos that are culturally isolated from their environment, disconnected from each other, and terrified of their mortality. We cling to NOTW theories out of fear. They are sequels scripted to give the ego the happy ending of a Hollywood action hero.
Like many sequels there are some serious flaws with Jonathan Legg Part 2: The Real Jonathan:
What if we drop the sequel script and pay closer attention to the original movie that is in production right now. Let's look at it fresh as if all the characters, including us, are entirely OTW.
What if we embrace the fact that we are part of this planet just like the plants, birds, and whales? The air we are breathing at this very moment came from a tree that needs sun. The sun is crucially a certain distance from this earth. The sun's distance is governed by forces that extend beyond this solar system to the farthest reaches of the universe. This would make us a glorious arrangement of pieces which connect both down and up into the entirety of existence.. a continually changing assortment which is remarkably conscious in the here and now.
Who needs a far-fetched, piddling sequel? The original is a timeless classic.
If you consume news it's easy to believe the world is a dangerous place, with tragedy around every corner. While there is unnecessary suffering we can work to eradicate, and there are hazards to avoid; mostly mundane things are happening around the clock. These moments can appear boring, disappointing, or utterly beautiful depending on the mental state of the observer.
99.9% of The Time News has three goals:
If you find the content of this series boring, please take one moment to examine that feeling. This is normal life. Isn't it a terrible thing to view normal life as boring? How did our minds get overstimulated to the point where we can't find the simple beauty in day to day existence? How can we reverse that trend?
If you'd like to make one of your own 99.9% of the Time News Reports I'd be happy to collaborate. Reply with your interest in the comments.
Half of Americans suffer from loneliness. In my travels I've seen its prevalence around the world. The world, however, is spilling over with people. How is this possible?
To answer that question it's worth looking at how humans evolved. The Pharaohs of Egypt seem like long ago, but this was a recent event in the totality of our history. For 95% of this time we lived in tribes of 20-100 people that were completely egalitarian . Our ancestors hung out with all their family, friends, and homies all the time. They worked together, played together, grieved together, and constantly had each other's backs. Everything was shared. There is a strong possibility (as reflected in some modern day hunter-gatherer tribes) that they had no words for "mine" or "yours". Their concept of autonomy was much different than today's idea of individualism.
Flash forward to 2018. The tribes are gone. We are encouraged to believe that success means having your own house and living in it alone (or with a small nuclear family). The 4,000-5,000 ads you see in a day prod you to distinguish (i.e. separate) yourself from the pack: wear a better watch, drive a snazzier car, have cooler gadgets. "Exclusive" is an alluring word in marketing, but who is being excluded? Perhaps it's you.
Johann Hari, in his book Lost Connections, has called materialism a "junk value", comparing it to fast food. It hits the right signals in the brain but does not deliver the goods. Multiple studies have shown that people who think happiness comes from accumulating stuff and superior status suffer higher levels of depression and anxiety. This doesn't keep marketers from trying. That's the nature of today's economic game.
The philosopher Epicurus emphasized three things for human happiness: Friends, freedom, and thought. Author Alain de Botton has demonstrated how advertisers consistently link these three virtues to their products:
On top of all the advertising misdirection there are a couple more doozies: pervasive religious beliefs that the earth is, in fact, not our home; and agriculturist ideas that nature is our enemy. Whoof! No wonder why so many folks feel like lonely soldiers trudging through a hostile world.
The good news is we have the power to break free of this matrix and reform what we lost. If you were born in the bottom 95% of human existence you were born into a tribe. From the day you popped out of momma everybody in the group had your back. That tribe had an intimate relationship with nature, from which it did not consider itself separate. Today we get to form our tribes. It is, thankfully, not that hard to do. The toughest part is taking those first steps. Something I will ponder in an upcoming blog post.
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.