January 24, 2006

As Much As Possible

The experience of traveling is almost always bittersweet. I am a firm believer that it is really only glamorous in hindsight; so often just simply existing in a foreign place is anything but easy or fun--and rarely is it as relaxing as you had anticipated it to be.
During my travels I go through various phases: The initial elation and sense of freedom, followed by the onset of sheer exhaustion due to constant overstimulation (noise, travel by bus, language, etc), a somewhat "stable" period reveling in the novelty of being acclimatised, followed by a panicky self-doubting phase (the why the hell am I here period), and then finally into the well-adjusted phase where I have usually stopped being bothered by petty annoyances and have accepted what I am doing. Unfortunately, depending on the length of the trip, the last phase usually happens not long before I leave.
The most difficult phase for me is usually the panicky self-doubting phase, when I call into question nearly every aspect of my life, lifestyle, motivations, even my own set of ideals. Lately I have been putting a lot of time into trying to figure out why this happens when I travel; maybe it is completely normal, I can't say. Part of it comes from meeting other travelers, who inevitabley ask you lots of questions, and always wanting to know "What do you do?". Having to answer this enough times, I begin to question myself about what it is I do.
In some ways, this bothers me. In others, it is a good process to go through: questioning myself allows me to really think about the paths I have chosen, the whys and hows of my current lifestyle. While it potentially sends me into a fit of self-doubt, in the end I usually appreciate that I can seriously question my motivations, and still feel good about what I do. Because I really don't have a solid profession, but an eclectic mix of random jobs, I always feel a bit out of place when surrounded by people who do have a title, a defining thing in their life that they work hard to maintain. Recently though, as a product of being more mature, I have come to the conclusion that I can't operate that way, and that for me, a narrow focus just isn't satisfying. I need to have my fingers in as many projects as I can, trying new things on a regular basis, and always exploring different, usually unorthodox approaches. Otherwise, I am simply bored.
So, with that in mind, the next time I am asked "What do you do?", I will finally have a reply that suits me, that is as broad as my preferences when it comes to occupations, and that I feel aptly describes my approach to life in general: "As much as possible."

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