Have you ever walked into a room full of strangers and secretly judged everyone before even attempting to make any conversation? This is a rhetorical question, no need to lie.
I’m not sure if I have or haven’t. On one hand, I love judging people, but on the other I’m too reserved to walk into a room full of strangers. The point of the question though is that that’s what it feels like to travel the world like Zhou and I are. We’ve been hopping from country to country so quickly that there’s hardly been any time to get to know any of them deeper than their smooth skin and hairy moles. And the worst part about it? We’re blogging our unqualified opinions to millions of readers every day.
A famous book that I’ve read part of gives me comfort in this situation though. Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink discusses the idea of “thin slicing,” or creating a surprisingly accurate view of something in the first few moments upon seeing it. One telling example is of John Gottman, a psychologist who, after hearing only a few minutes of conversation between husband and wife, can predict with astounding accuracy whether that couple would get divorced within seven years.
If Malcolm Gladwell is correct, then I don’t doubt the opinions we create after hardly scratching the surface of a new location. Kathmandu is a constant dirty traffic jam, but one with a lot of charm if you’re in the right part of town. Uganda is an under-appreciated lush rainforest with incredibly much to offer. Bangkok is a scam (I’ll never get over this). You can pretty much take these subjective opinions to the bank, although if you’re in Thailand you’ll be charged a $5 fee for withdrawing them again.
If Malcolm Gladwell is incorrect, then perhaps I should form my own philosophy of what’s going on. (I won’t be offended if this philosophical talk is driving you away from this post and back to the TV set.)
One realization that I’ve been coming to recently is that this world trip has been less about getting to know the countries we’re visiting and more about getting to know ourselves. (Please don’t misread this and assume I’m saying we could have stayed at home and meditated instead to get the same results, assuming my attention span was long enough to do that in the first place.) For example, I’ve learned that:
- I don’t have to watch every single regular season NFL game.
- If I try a new food and don’t like it, the bad taste is usually gone in a few minutes.
- I like calling air conditioning “air con” like the Brits instead of “A/C.”
- I actually want to learn another language (probably Chinese).
- I shouldn’t take for granted even things I get through hard work. A lot of people work a lot harder than I do and aren’t afforded anywhere near the opportunity that I have been.
- There are more ways to solve a problem than the obvious one.
- It’s amazing how far an open mind can take you.
I would never have guessed that the long bus rides would be as valuable a travel tool as they have been so far, but they’re the best time to do absolutely nothing but sit and reflect on life. Before the trip started, I actually had an inkling I might use the rides to brush up on my responses for the “World History” category on my Jeopardy! appearance in 2027. But now it just doesn’t seem like the best use of my time. I know that Wat Pho and the huge Reclining Buddha are in Bangkok, but honestly I don’t know too much else about them (although I’m guessing that they’re Buddhist). I know the Nile flows through Uganda and that it has some pretty gnarly white-water rafting, but I don’t think “What is gnarly white-water rafting?” will ever be a question on Jeopardy! So I’m left pondering my life and this new direction it is taking. The conclusion I keep coming to? It is incredible how much one can learn about himself simply by spending most of his savings to change environments every few weeks for an entire year.
Picture of the Day: Since today was another off day, I bring you my feet on the way back from the floating village.