Reflecting on the past 16 months, I tend to think of myself as having just got off the most incredible, worldwide rollercoaster. If one ever existed, I literally just rode it. I found myself whizzing from airport to airport, town to town, market to market. The sights - incredible. People - fascinating. My mind was on overdrive, constantly on the hunt for more. This fast paced environment however, suddenly reached a complete halt. It seemed as though someone slammed on the hand break and threw me off the rollercoaster, finding myself in the middle of nowhere. Where? The Atlantic Ocean.
I just completed a three and a half week trip, sailing across this incredibly vast space. Pure nothingness. Miles and miles of ocean - land seemingly never in sight. We sailed a distance of over 3200 miles, yet it pretty much seemed like we were going nowhere. In an age where we are constantly distracted by all forms of visual distractions, it is quite fascinating to find yourself staring into the abyss, for days on end.
Reflecting on my most recent adventure, it made me realise the importance of valuing stillness. It is only through stillness that one becomes more attentive, more appreciative. And of course, in a ‘fast lane’ environment that we all tend to be surrounded by, sitting still is what most of us crave and need in our accelerated lives - a break. It gives one the opportunity to sift through the slideshow of one’s various life experiences to make sense of the future, and the past.
To my great surprise I found that going nowhere is just as exciting as travelling across various continents. This means nothing more than sitting still, long enough to find out what moves you most, to recall where your truest happiness lies, and to remember that sometimes making a living and making a life point in opposite directions.
This though, is not a new phenomenon. More than 2000 years ago the Stoics were reminding us that it is not the experience that make our lives, it is what we do with it. Additionally, as Shakespeare noted, ‘there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so’.
I could certainly relate to this as a traveller. I recently went on this incredible journey through Central America - yet this only lasted a few weeks. What I have done with it though, by sitting still, going back to it in my head, trying to understand it, finding a place for itin my thinking - will probably create memories that will last a lifetime. This particular journey thus gave me some incredible memories, yet it is only through sitting stillthat allows me to turn them into everlasting insights.
I will always be a traveller. There is something about the unknown. The curiosity. The seemingly endless life lessons and awe inspiring moments that keep me wanting to know more, see more, feel more. However one of the true beauties of travel is that it allows you to bring stillness into the motion and commotion of the world.
I think many of us have this certain sensation. At least I certainly feel I do. A sensation that we are standing a couple of feet away from a huge screen. A screen that is noisy and crowded - changing with every second. I truly feel that it is only by stepping back, then a few more steps back, and holding still, that we begin to see what our canvas truly means.
Thus, as is noted by modern day philosopher Pico Iyer “in an age of acceleration, ironically nothing could be more exhilarating than going slow. And in an age of distraction, nothing could be more luxurious as paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is as urgent as sitting still.”
So you could go on your trip to Vietnam, Chile, the Galapagos…wherever your heart desires. I bet you will have an absolute blast. Yet if you want to return alive and full of fresh hope, in love with the world - I think you might try to just sit still for a while.