A good portion of my life has been spent traveling to other countries. Most of my time traveling has spent traveling with the military, but my infatuation with traveling started at a very young age. Traveling to me is not limited to a location, but also involves learning about the culture of people, traveling in my mind, and exploring my own reality. In that sense traveling to me is more about the state of mind I am in, rather than where I go. I want to explore some of these ideas as I share with you my physical adventures around the world.
Traveling to Mexico
My parents were avid adventurers and each year during Christmas we would take long trips driving ourselves from Idaho to the West Coast of Mexico to visit their pristine beaches. My parents, however, would also encounter some less than beautiful areas, showing us some of the poorest parts of Mexico that were often sometimes dangerous. I remember in one account getting pulled over by the Mexican police and asked kindly to provide them with some money, while AK-47’s were pointed in our direction.
Another time we all stopped at a Mexican Indian reservation where we donated some of our old used garments. Our good intentions soon evolved into a brawl between some of the older women fighting over who would take what shirts. It was surprising to me to see such desperation, but it instilled in me a desire to understand other cultures, and to respect what I personally had in life. This aspect of seeing real experiences while traveling also drove me to crave real cultural encounters and watch with close attention to the things I saw.
Traveling with the Military
As I said before most of my traveling was done with the military. One of the reasons that I joined the military was to subdue this traveling itch that I had. Most of the propaganda that you can find in recruiting offices describe getting paid to explore the world. To me, that sounded pretty appealing. What I found was that the military provided an entirely different mode of travel than I was used to.
When traveling with the military you are very restricted to what you can do, and often experiences are laid out in front of you in a very limited period of time. In retrospect, it is a lot like a traveling agency. The explorations you take are often catered to you, and often only “safe” and respectful places are on the allowed to visit list. The culture that you usually get to experience is also very limited and is often covered by the same film of imitation that you would get on tours. There were though instances where the militaries goal to provide me a safe experience went unexpectedly, or where I was able to go off the beaten path and see some of the local cultures. Exploring included visiting some local children while deployed out in El Salvidor, or climbing the highest mountain and visiting a Buddhist temple while in Busan South Korea. For the most part, however, my travels with the military were relatively safe and away from exploring much of the culture I had desired.
When I finally was able to go out on my own and travel without the prying eyes of the military, I noticed that my traveling experiences became more vivid. I no longer planned out every move that I was making and this made it so that randomness could take place. In randomness, there is creativity and adventure!
However, what I did learn from my time in the military is that there is a vast difference between just traveling, and traveling consciously.
Traveling with Awareness
Regardless of how you travel its important to take advantage of it. I find it essential to find out why you are traveling in the first place, what you are interested in, and to not do what everyone else does just because of it being easy. When visiting places with the military, most of my problem was that I stuck to the plan, I went with the group, and I didn’t push out of my comfort zone unless someone invited me to. This is what I mean about traveling consciously. You know why you are traveling in the first place, and you do what you can do to achieve that goal.
I also think it’s important to get lost in other countries, rather than planning out everything that is going to happen. Not only does this remove the stress of planning everything out, but it also makes exciting and unexpected events occur in your travels. These unexpected events not only make great stories but great experiences. Some of these off the beaten path adventures have opened me up to the local country in ways that I never expected.
Traveling consciously includes:
- Being safe and aware
- Understanding why you are traveling in the first place
- Trying out new things, seeing new places, learning about cultures
- Going off the beaten path
- Not planning everything out
This obviously can be applied to mind exploration as well “wink”.
Traveling to Japan
My first visit out of the military was Japan where my wife and I got to spend two weeks just taking trains around the country. We had no idea how to travel on their train systems, or where we were going, but we had a few things in mind. We ended up getting stuck in a few train stations, meeting a drunken Japanese man and getting stuck on the freeway outside of a large fence waiting for a bus that never came. What we learned is that people or at least Japanese are willing to help strangers out. We asked local people what to do, and they went out of their ways to help us out. Though sometimes I saw us to others as a burden, I know that deep down I would have done the same for them, and that is another level of consciousness or a connection that I had with those individuals.
The China Experience
My next trip was to China. I was visiting a friend that I had talked with for years but never met personally, and so that was a bit adventurous on its own. My friend also had never left his home, China, so he had never known my culture or understood much of it. We were both thrown into a mix of confusion and disarray, but in the end, it turned out well. We ended up spending two weeks together, traveling all over China and never staying in one city or even region more than two days. Thanks to my friend’s ability to be open to the adventure I saw more in those two weeks than most Americans see in a lifetime when it comes to visiting China. I also got to experience some very interesting cultural differences that I found mind-blowing.
While visiting the hometown of my friend in Chongqing China we managed to take a small bus with a number of students in it. I had no idea what was going on and why these young students who must have been around ten were with us, but it seemed normal. The kids laughed at me speaking English and they tried to speak to me some of what they had learned in school. Everyone was having fun. The odd thing was that there were no adults around besides maybe the bus driver and my friend and I. I had figured that maybe the bus driver knew the students. It ended up that he did not, and this was totally acceptable there. When we got out of the bus, one of the students also got out with us, and my friend, the student, and myself all got into a taxi. We ended up dropping the student off and went on our way. I later asked my friend what had just happened, and he said that this is normal and that the student wanted to spend time with me as I seemed interesting.
Though I found the level of trust and openness with Chinese people and also Japanese people to be vastly different than Americans, I also found their culture to have some negatives. They often felt distant, more focused on their work and their family, and not as warm when it came to communication with strangers. The level of service in China was also horrible, but in contrast, the service in Japan was out of this world. Every country that I have visited has its differences, and that is why it’s important to be open-minded and explore consciously.
Traveling Through the Mind
Through my adventures, I have learned a great deal about myself, what I enjoy. I have learned that it’s important to take people with you that are into the same things as you are, or at least willing to try new things out. Its also important to take those with you are also trying to be conscious of themselves and those around them. If you do this you will surely enjoy not only your travels more, but also improve your overall view of the world, your reality, and your experience through life. This plays much into the same role as I have discussed in the Hero’s Journey. Where we are creating our own journey, forging our own adventures.
We can use these same tools and techniques when it comes to exploring our own consciousness. The idea that everyone is going to have the same experience in life is simply not rational. We are each different, have our own desires, and some are more sensitive to things than others. We each have our own path. It is, however, important to be open to the randomness that can happen when exploring our minds, either with substances, meditational practices, or simply traveling. Go into your adventure with an open mind, the willingness to learn and explore, and be around those who are going to make your experience better, not worse. Try to remember that life is an adventure and much like visiting another country, the randomness that occurs both good and bad, make a great story to tell.
Lee is the creator of taileater.com as well as the author of a number of published articles that deal with sleep, sleep paralysis, and lucid dreaming. Lee has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is currently studying at Pacifica Graduate Institute for his Masters in Depth Psychology.Lee Adams
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