"... Whichever you first came to would have satisfied you if you had believed you were at home at all. As it is, instead of travelling you are rambling and drifting, exchanging one place for another when the thing you are looking for, the good life, is available everywhere." - Seneca
I've been encountering this same idea across numerous occassions recently. Seneca's writing, Joseph Campbell's writing, the story of The Parable of the Prodigal Son and on a Youtube conversation between Joe Rogan and Guy Ritchie about the mythology around King Arthur. And I find it interesting because, if Life presents you with the same message over and over and over again, it is at least deserving of some of the day's attention.
When I sit down and try to decipher what is going on and what these experiences were trying to tell me, it is all very noisy. A common thread I can pick out at this stage, one that ties them all together, is the idea that a soul that seeks out travel and new experiences out of necessity is likely one that is restless and incomplete.
... Me? Restless? Incomplete? What does that even mean?
The meaning behind this clearly did not reveal itself immediately to me, but what I do know is that it was quite confronting even on the first impression. I have always gone along with the idea that travel and adventure and exploration was the thing to seek out when I would have the resources available. I mean, of course! Why would I ever turn down a chance to go abroad and experience new cultures and meet new people? Who wouldn't want to go on that adventure, where you can let go of 'everyday life' and have free reign of doing all the things that you don't normally do?
“Because 'new' is temporary, overseas adventures are temporary and travels are temporary but everyday life is what you come back to.”
Now, especially after the past 12 to 24 months, I am not as sure of this anymore. I have had the opportunity of hopping excitedly between different jobs, permanently leaving the town I grew up in and making new lives out of new places and exploring new cities in Australia through flying for work. Lots of moving around and lots of new experiences and people and food.
But what I've eventually come to realise is that, the magic of flying away and leaving for different places has lost its wonder very quickly. Like the greying businessman in his work suit piling up frequent flyer points by flying out to work everyday, the plane soon becomes like any other vehicle. Like a school bus, but for grown 'adults'. Maybe I'm desensitised from over-exposure with too much change. Maybe, but maybe it is not actually as straightforward as it might seem.
What is it, exactly, that is driving this? What is it that is pulling me away from home? Are there things I am running away from?
The thing that makes travel so enticing to me, is the wonder of seeing the 'new'. New things, new scenery, new people, new food - things that take me away from the 'normal' that I have grown accustomed to through living everyday life. And what is scary for me to realise now is the idea that 'new' is a transient being. It is always changing, shifting and ultimately deteriorating into the norm.
'New' might be exciting and adventurous to me, but not new to the locals living in the faraway place that I have paid big money to travel to. Given enough time, 'new' devolves into it's default state of 'normal life'. With more awareness and now that the rose tinted glasses are slowly coming off, 'new' becomes an unreliable goal to strive for. Because 'new' is temporary, overseas adventures are temporary and travels are temporary but everyday life is what you come back to.
Temporary holidays filled with transient freedom and careless decisions become very tempting when you are trying to run away from the rest of your life. Travelling then becomes a balm that eases the pain just long enough, before enough annual leave accumulates and you can run away again in a few months time.
So where does that leave us? Well, this.
"As it is, instead of travelling you are rambling and drifting, exchanging one place for another when the thing you are looking for, the good life, is available everywhere."
The realisation that the good life is everywhere. My interpretation of Seneca's words would be more along the lines of the good life is where you make it to be. Whether that is in the snowy mountains in Japan or on the beautiful streets of Paris or in the corporate heart of a big, bustling city, I have slowly stumbled into the realisation that it does not really matter where in the world I end up because Life will only be as good as I want it to be. There is no need to run away, because what I have, here and now, is good enough and worth staying for.
I now believe that in order for someone to understand and come to a better appreciation for what he has, he would first have to lose what he has got. I have learnt that Life is funny in that way.
You have to lose and let go of what you have in order to gain perspective and begin to separate the wheat from the chaff. A lot of what we think we want and where we want to get to in life gets influenced by the places we grow up in and the people we surround ourselves with, and the whole act of leaving what is familiar allows us to detach from it all. Only then, we can start to form some clarity of what needs to be cherished and what to discard.
A wise person once said something along the lines of 'a great life is composed of many great days'. So get out there, focus on the day, discover what is possible, learn, fail, succeed and ultimately orient yourself towards building the life that you want to live. And then you'll stop running away because there'll be things worth staying for.
“ After lunch with a good 55 miles to go, I settled into my afternoon trance. This was a kind of deep meditative state, in rhythm to the bicycle during which I 'played' tapes of selected episodes from my life - or else the same injustices over and over again.
These 'tapes' all related, of course, to life back in the West. When in China, I dreamed of the comfort of home; when in the comfort of home, I dreamed of travelling through China. ”
- Michael Buckley