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Th Impermanence of Travel


Being a typical conversation among friends and colleagues, I've previously reflected on travel and how it has impacted me but have recently added a dimension to it. When we remove ourselves from a known environment and are placed in a new one, we are exposed to new flavors, smells, communities, vistas, politics and cultural traditions. These new items can excite, challenge or even frustrate us.

An episode of "Waking Up with Sam Harris", in which he interviewed Frank Ostaseki, founder of Zen Hospice Project, added an additional perspective for me. They asked the question, "why is a real flower considered more beautiful than a plastic one?" Even if they were identical, we would feel different about the real one than the plastic one. They pointed out part of the beauty of the real flower is the fact it is impermanent. Nature worked hard to create it but one day it will be no more. We cherish it because we will one day no longer have it. A memorable meal, an evening with friends or even loving another person comes and goes the same way. Part of what make love so powerful is in the grand scheme of the universe, it is neither guaranteed nor permanent. We all come and go from this life and the desire to hold on to things we care about tightly is the natural.

Part of what makes vacation so exciting is the fact that it will end. We take great pleasure in the upcoming relaxation, outdoor adventures or new sensory exposures we have planned or anticipate encountering because they are fleeting. To draw a clearer distinction, when I think back on the year I spent living in Malaysia, one thing I enjoy reflecting is the process of a completely foreign environment becoming my home after many months. Without question it continued to surprise and delight me just like my city of St. Louis. But in the earliest of days, even basic tasks and chores like picking up the dry cleaning, grocery shopping and working out were familiar things but in a new land. After a while, they became my new normal.

The next time I'm on a vacation and I'm dreading its impending end, I will try to keep in mind that may be part of what makes it so enjoyable in the first place.

Go Forth Boldly


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