I have been fortunate enough to have been given many great travelling opportunities. It continues to this day and I am determined to continue pushing the boundaries of exploration on the journey of life.
I am writing this post from Syktyvkar, a city in the Republic of Komi in the north-western part of the Russian Federation. It is a twenty-four-hour journey by train from Moscow and we made that journey over two weeks ago in scorching temperatures. The train was a real Soviet Relic, like many buildings and most of the infrastructure I have seen thus far. The hot water boiler on board the train was coal-fired and the toilet flushed straight onto the tracks.
I travelled here with my wife to meet her family. This is Jenya’s home town which she left more than eight years ago to start her own travels, a journey on which our paths came together. Tomorrow we fly to Saint Petersburg. This was the first city she lived in after she left Syktyvkar and a lot of the friends who attended our wedding live here and are eager to see us again.
Saint Petersburg used to be called Leningrad until 1991 and it was also the Russian Capital until the Revolution of 1917. I visited the city with her in early 2009, it was winter then, so I am eager to witness it in summer. After little over a week in Saint Petersburg, and almost a month in Russia, we will travel by overnight train to Moscow from where we fly back to Cape Town via Dubai from Domodedovo Airport, one of several international Airports in the Russian capital.
Moscow, a city of over 10.5 million people, is the largest city in Europe and the seventh largest city in the world before Beijing, Tokyo, London and New York.
I met Jenya for the first time in Amsterdam. Exactly two years ago. To the day. No kidding.
But it all started almost ten years ago. That was when I started blooming into the traveller that I am today. At the tender young age of sixteen I left my parents’ home and went to live in a foreign country, Denmark, with a new family and entirely new surroundings. For an entire year. To this very day that experience has shaped my life in definitive ways. I learnt a new language and I learnt that before one can truly enjoy the good company of others one must first learn to enjoy one’s own company. I learnt how to be myself on my own without being lonely. And because of that I made some friends there that remain good friends to this day. Friends that travelled all the way from Denmark to be with me at my wedding in March earlier this year in Cape Town.
I have three younger sisters.
The oldest one is currently dancing and performing in Turkey and learning to speak German. My younger sister has just left to become an exchange student herself. She will spend the next year learning Spanish in Chile. The youngest one is on her way to High School.
Together we are exploring largely unexplored paths through life. Not just us but many other people. Young and old. Every year more and more students opt to study in foreign cities for no reason other than travelling. During the course of backpacking missions through South America and Europe I learnt that even the people unfortunate enough to be stuck with pre-packaged tours would actually prefer doing it independently and without such rigorously determined itineraries.
Jenya’s cousin and her husband left for Turkey a week after we arrived and after talking to the two of us they were surprised and inspired to hear that these two young people have seen so many places. Once in Turkey, inspired by new sights and sounds, they spontaneously decided to make a detour to Israel. Before being overpowered by doubt and insecurity they bought the air tickets on-line from their hotel. No pre-booked tours, no specific plan just an urge to travel.
Travelling is not taking a two-week holiday once every two years and spending it in shops, hotels and restaurants. Travelling is not blitzing through eight or ten different cities in twelve days and returning with nothing but souvenirs and a flash drive full of snap shots. Although this is what you see when you visit popular tourist destinations like Rome or Cape Town, tour bus load upon bus load of tourists zipping through without stopping to contemplate where they are, this is not what people really want. People want to travel. Work commitments and financial restraints are what stand in their way.
If you haven’t fallen in love while travelling you haven’t really travelled. This is what we search for when we travel. This is what people long for when they go and book packaged holidays. They are cheated by companies who, like most companies these days, use them to make profit. They are promised the world but gain nothing more than a few cute postcards. People are not too blame. They should be commended for having the courage to want to take the plunge into the unknown. It is the material constraints of this world that restrict them to the shallow end of the pool, not a lack of ambition.
Ultimately we are all travellers. Every single person. True, some of us like things to remain constant and do not like things to change. Some do not seek out new experiences and some even prefer to stay at home. But none the less we are all travellers. Even the Grandmother who has watered her plants and had her morning tea at exactly the same time for the last thirty years. Because ultimately, no matter how hard we try nothing can ever remain constant.
Even if you work the same job in the same office for decades, your place of work will change over time. People will come and go, the walls will be painted and the boss may decide to change the curtains in the smoking room after they are stained yellow from years of passive smoking.
You may live in the same house you were born in for the rest of your life but that house will not stay the same. Each day it becomes older, just like yourself. Time wears off the paint and the plaster and becoming older is essentially a form of travelling.
There is no denying that we are all travellers. Unless you have found a way of freezing time, you are a traveller. Whether you like to admit it or not.
What is travelling? It’s what you make of it. All life and every person bears witness to the dynamic nature of life. Everybody experiences the constant renewal of experience itself. You can choose not to pay attention to it, but it will happen none the less.
Why do we travel? Because it reminds us that we are alive. It brings you back to Now. That is the constant renewal of experience. The feeling of being alive and in touch with your own experience.
The only moment in time that really exists in so far as we will ever have access to it is Now. We can think about the past and the future, but we can only exist in this moment. Now. That is all there ever is and all there ever will be, no matter how much time you spend thinking about past or future events. Even while you think about those past or future events, you do so in this moment of Now. Why do we travel? Why do we seek out new experiences? Because it gives our mind a very good reason to stop thinking and pay attention to our experience as it is unfolding. While thinking of past or future events, you cannot help but remain largely unaware of the current moment. If you spend too much time thinking in this way you may lose touch with Now. What is Now? Your experience is Now. You are Now.
You cannot think about your experience and have your experience at the same time. You cannot think and experience at the same time, for once you start thinking your awareness is drawn away from the experience itself and for all practical purposes you are no longer having those experiences. Your body is, but your mind is pre-occupied with itself.
By thinking too much you run the risk of losing touch with your own experience. Travelling, experiencing the un-experienced, brings you back towards Now by drawing your attention out of your mind and towards your own experience, precisely because the experience is foreign. Because it is foreign the mind cannot afford not to pay attention. When it pays attention it cannot afford to think too much.
Go bungee jumping or sky diving or learn how to surf. I guarantee you that for a few seconds you will stop thinking and simply experience.
We are all travellers. We must, and we do travel through life.
The point of life, the experience of everything that we refer to as “my life”, is to bring us into touch and to keep us in touch with Now.
Now is the only time and place that we will ever have direct access to. It is the only place that we will ever be able to live. We can think in the past or the future but not live there. To put it differently, we will never be able to experience the past or the future. The past or the future can only be accessed indirectly, by thinking about it or looking at photos or plans that stimulate thoughts about it.
Thought is a great ability to have. It is something which has enabled us to do great things. It enables us to do the very thing we are doing right now. Reading and writing.
Thought is a great gift as long as we use it fully aware of the fact that it is indeed a gift. Gifts have a certain quality. If one takes them for granted the situation is almost guaranteed to turn sour. As long as thought is used with respect and in moderation, there is no real risk of losing touch with Now.
But if life is not interspersed with moments of mental silence, which enables us to focus ALL of our attention on nothing other than our experience of Now, we will become trapped in thought and ultimately lose touch with our own experience. We take thought for granted and the situation turns sour. Everything that we experience will then immediately be turned into a thought, before we become aware of the experience, and we will not be living-thinking beings but thinking beings only, having lost touch with an essential part of our human being. Being itself.
Our world today is obsessed with thought. Many people are acutely aware of this and continually seek out new and exciting experiences to remind themselves that thinking is only one tiny aspect of what it means to be human. A friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook. We were surfing huge waves and his comment on the photo was that we do this kind of crazy looking thing to “remind myself that I am alive”, because in that moment all of your attention is on life. You cannot afford to be anywhere else.
René Descartes’ famous dictum: “I think, therefore I am” no longer holds much truth. Rather it now serves as an observation. It answers the Question: Why is our society is so materialistic and dysfunctional? Because we mistakenly believe that we are who we think we are. We are much more than that. Neither thoughts nor words can define who we are.
The truth is closer to “I am. Because I am, I am able to think.” Meaning, that which you are is what allows for thinking to occur. You are the awareness which is always present in the background. You are the canvas. Thoughts, words and emotions are the patterns and colours drawn on the canvas.
Stop thinking. Do you hear that silence? That is you. You will be happy to know that you are not the voice in your head telling you this and that. Thought is nothing more than that. A voice in your head.
Being is what allows for thinking. But thinking and being are not one and the same. Being allows for many other things also. To an extent it is because we still believe Descartes that the world is what it is. Because we believe that thinking is all there is to be being human, and that by thinking better we can solve all our problems, we have created a materialistic world which doesn’t allow for genuine travelling to take place within mainstream society.
Thought will not solve our problems, in fact these ‘problems’ are no more than the symptoms of obsessive thought.
Unfortunately we do not, and cannot, allow ourselves to simply be, without thinking about it first.
The world today is dominated by humans who have lost touch with their own experience. The world is composed of humans who cannot be awake without thinking of something. Doesn’t matter what, but the mind has to think, and, unfortunately, when there is nothing constructive to think about, like solving puzzles, writing or reading, the mind will think negative thoughts.
Any traveller perplexed by the absurdity of packaged tours crammed with snapshots and souvenir shops can testify that those people are there only in their minds. They seem never to have time to just sit and absorb the experience. There is always a rush for the next attraction. This is the reality of main stream inter cultural experiences. There is no experience involved, only ideas and expectations about experience.
It is only because we, as humanity, are no longer in touch with our own experience that we are able to commit horrible atrocities.
A human in touch with his/her own experience simply is not capable of committing horrible things like murder or environmental destruction.
The point of life is to keep us in touch with our own experience so that we do not commit these atrocities. But we have lost touch with it and that is why our world is what it is. Materialistic, dysfunctional and atrocious around every corner. War, slavery and environmental destruction is a bigger part of the world we live in today than it was at any other time in history. All our clever thinking has not brought us any closer to improving our situation. If anything it is only taking us further from ourselves.
Travelling is the most readily available and easily accessible way for most people to focus their attention on their own experience of Now. Why? Because travelling to different places where surroundings are new and experiences are unfamiliar is a very effective way of drawing attention away from the incessant (and involuntary) stream of thinking in the mind.
Some people sky-dive and others do drugs. But most people long to travel.
It is easy to test this. Travel to a foreign country and find yourself a room with a view over a busy street. Stand on the balcony and look down at the street and you will notice after some time that it is quite easy to look at the street, and everything that happens on it, without constantly thinking. Go back home, sit in your lounge on your favourite couch and stare at the wall. In comparison with the earlier experience of travelling, how long can you sit without thinking of past experiences or future chores? Not very long.
This may come as a surprise to some people but because thinking is a gift, we are not in control of what we receive. We do not, cannot and never will control our thoughts.
You are not in control of what you think. To say that you are, is like saying that you are in control of your own digestive process or your own breathing. There are things that you can do to influence the process, as in breathing and digestion, but, for the most part, it simply happens. If you were in control of breathing you wouldn’t survive the night. You would suffocate as soon as you fell asleep. Similarly if you were in control of your own thoughts you would be able to stop thinking whenever you wanted to.
If you don’t believe me, test it. How long can you sit and stare at a wall (or with closed eyes if you prefer) without thinking? For the average person, perhaps a few seconds. If that.
Thinking is a wonderful gift. As long as we are aware that it is a gift. You cannot control a gift. Just like you cannot take for granted (or for that matter worry about) the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow. You can do no more than simply appreciate the beauty of the sunrise and let it be what it is.
The world we see around ourselves was created by people under the illusion that they control thought and that they can control life with their thought. It is only in a world like this that oil spills and human trafficking are considered a tolerable part of human existence. A problem that we will fix tomorrow. It is not a problem that we will fix tomorrow. Those things are not meant to exist in the first place. Period. Our true nature is one of pure love and beauty. If we would only allow ourselves to become one again and cease to fragment our reality through obsessive thought. Borders, divisions and absolute truths carved in our flesh with words…
The illusion that we control thought (and therefore life) only hides the fact that we are currently controlled by thought. Completely out of touch with our own experience. Capable of committing atrocities.
But life changes. We travel. And travelling unravels the layers of obsessive thought that hide your experience of Now.
Beauty, Truth and Love always exist within this moment. It can only be hidden, but cannot be destroyed.
Obsession with thought ensures that we fear the future and hate others based on the past. Obsession with thought takes us away from Now and in so doing it hides Beauty, Love, Truth. Obsessive thought makes it impossible to Forgive because we can always find a reason, an excuse, not to forgive.
The point of forgiveness is to look past the reasons. The point of forgiveness is not to think about it, but to simply do it. If forgiveness is rationalized it is no longer Forgiveness.
Our Experience of Now, whatever that may be, opens our eyes to the underlying Beauty of life that can never be destroyed and allows us to forgive.
Experiencing Now makes Forgiving as easy as breathing.
I am a traveller. I want nothing other than to share the beauty of experience with as many people as possible.
Truth does not lie in thought. No amount of thinking will ever bring you closer to truth. No words will ever be able to describe Truth. Truth can only be found in the experience of Now. Your experience. You.
Unravel Travel is a label that attempts to do the impossible. To point toward the eternal Truth of the experience of Now. It is something that we must all find for ourselves, which is why it is impossible to label it with a name. No words will convey this truth and yet words are the only means we have for cognitively sharing our experience of truth.
It is only in obsessive thought that fear, hate and anger exist and plague this beautiful planet.
But within the silence of Now you experience everything that you are and that is the Truth. You are Truth. And in being honest with yourself Now you will find that you are full of Love and capable of forgiving the worst. But this takes time. It requires travelling.
That is the reason for the existence of Unravel Travel.
To uncover that Beauty and make it manifest. To bring awareness into the experience of life. To replace thoughts about experience with experience itself. To bring the focus of our attention toward Now. To extend the awareness of the only moment that really exists, Now, to the people that we share our experience with. To share Love.
The reason for the existence of Unravel Travel is to do that which cannot be done with words…