Monthly Archives: October 2014

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I ask for what I want.

Asking for something is different from getting it. Most of the time, and for most things, you need to ask before you get.

I asked myself to see the Eiffel Tower, to see Machu Picchu, to see the northern lights, etc. in order to learn, to grow, and to experience life. I asked myself for some time to replenish, to reflect, and to determine my next steps.

To make all of that happen, I need to ask my work for time off. But how will they react? Will they punish me just for asking? Wouldn’t it be easier if I just leave my job? Is this worth doing at all?

Ultimately, these are boring questions, generated through uncertainty and fear. Besides, the answers already exist anyway. Practically speaking, the answers already exist through other people’s past experiences. Spiritually speaking, they already exist within myself; only I know what I want to do and what I think is right for me.

Fortunately, my managers were very supportive and I was able to take my time off. Had their response been different, I would have gone a separate route to accomplish what I wanted: Perhaps I could have taken less time off, or I could have left the job. But whatever would have happened, I would still find a way to achieve what my goal.

Throughout this year planning the trip, and on this trip itself, I had to perform hundreds of interactions asking someone for things. Had I not have asked, I would not have been able to get my replacement credit and debit cards sent to my next destination after I lost my wallet on the second day of the trip; I would not have found a less disruptive way to get back into the Airbnb host’s house after losing the keys in the middle of nowhere after dark on a northern lights tour; I would not have gotten my wallet back after receiving a call from the transportation manager at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta that my descriptive email and plea to check the shuttle busses sooner rather than later helped her find the bus I was looking for; and I would not have been recommended by a coworker and gone to a restaurant in London for lunch, where I found some random WiFi and received a message from my former manager (one of the very managers who approved my time-off) that she was in town, and we ended up in a personal guided tour of the South Bank.

But despite these trip-saving examples, I think the most important benefit to asking is having peace of mind. If asking allows me to remove the nagging thoughts that occupy my consciousness and helps me sleep at night, even if it was probably “safe to assume” I was right and didn’t really have to ask, it’s still very much worth doing.

Finally, if you ask and are successful, you get what you want. If you ask and are less than successful, you’ll learn something from the experience. If you don’t ask, your fate will depend mainly, if not solely, on others and the universe.

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“If you wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes. If you don’t wait for tomorrow, tomorrow comes.” —African Proverb

To plan or not to plan?

In recent years, I’ve become drawn to two seemingly conflicting approaches to life: 1) Be responsible for your life; take control of your destiny, etc., and 2) Go with the flow; whatever happens happens and happens for a reason. They both have very attractive qualities that when discussed separately, they seem to me to be the definitively right way to live.

However, every day, I struggle to decide between the two to adopt. Like this trip I’m currently taking: How much do I want to leave it up to chance that I’ll see Machu Picchu or go on an African safari just by booking flights to the right cities and then asking the locals the day before? And how much do I want to plan out in detail that the free afternoon I had in Albuquerque was actually spent riding a cruiser bike to a FedEx Office to fax a debit card replacement form, or that the panorama tour of Africa canyons that I wanted to do as my optional activity was probably too unpredictable in its majesticness that the chance of touching a cheetah at a rehabilitation center was probably higher?

The honestly simple but still complex answer is it depends, and it’s a balance. For this trip, I ask myself what is important that I need to make sure happens, and what can I consider as nice-to-have? That’s the easy part; the difficulty comes when I have to decide how much time I should spend figuring out each thing based on its importance and sticking to that schedule. I can spend forever deciding on the right round-the-world itinerary, but I have a thousand other things after that I need to take care of (tours, accommodations, transport, currencies, languages, clothes to pack for weather, visas, immunizations, documentations, etc.). I also have to remind myself that I can only do so much to plan a trip (or a life for that matter), and there will always be unexpected events. And finally, the ROI also diminishes as I get closer to absolute planned-ness.

That said, it’s still a constant daily struggle, and I am still finding that balance. I would say that at the very least, I have become better with that balance than a few years ago. I still err on the side of planning too much just in case, but I make sure to leave room for spontaneity (“planning to not plan”). And I find that a periodic check-in with myself helps, asking questions about whether things that were important to me two weeks ago are still important now. The beauty of all this is that tomorrow will always come, and I have another opportunity to do things differently, and hopefully do them better.

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Be like the mayfly.

Sometimes when I fly and look out the window, I see the ever-so-slight curvature of the Earth, or I look down at the ground and can barely make out individual buildings, or when I look at a sea of hot air balloons over a larger sea of people, or whenever I watch those interactive presentations or videos about the scale of the Earth in relation to the rest of the universe, I get overwhelmed by the inability to comprehend just how small I am. “Humbling” is too kind of a word to describe how it makes me feel; “trivial” is more appropriate.

This leads me to two conclusions: 1) It doesn’t matter what I do in my life; it’s most likely not going to affect the universe. I am only a combination of atoms clumped together that becomes what I am at this moment in cosmic time anyway. So I should just do my best to enjoy my life the way I want. (To be clear, like everyone in the world, I have issues to work through in order to achieve that.) 2) With this “I am minuscule and trivial” perspective, I pretty much strip myself of any self-important and “ego” qualities. Of course, this is relative and when put in the context of our daily lives, our importance is different. Regardless, my perspective in the grand scheme of things still holds true for me.

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