Inspirational Guest Blog by John Chuidian
So far, I’ve only opened up my travel guides for Southeast Asia once the entire time I’ve been here. There’s something about hearing stories from locals and fellow nomads that is more up-to-date and informative than the politically-correct slant of travel guides, while at the same time, without the rudeness of online interactions on Lonely Planet and CouchSurfing.org forums. Then there is just going with that gut feeling to go to a place that looks or sounds like an adventure which gives a bigger satisfaction for the surprise at the uncertainty of every day. It’s never a dull moment since I’ve just been going with the flow of the universe—wherever it takes me—living by my ideals, without compromise, giving every moment 100%. From spontaneously walking into a volunteer project in eastern Indonesia and offering a hand to help out for a couple hours, knowing that it’s now or never and should let a girl I run into in a cafe that I fancy her, or jumping off a waterfall with my GoPro camera attached simply because it’s there, I am fearless and free. Those two emotions come from stepping outside of my comfort zone and realizing how restricted I was when living a settled life before as a lowly graduate student in America looking to find a way to be fearless and free.
It was part of the great misunderstanding we all had in our program in international relations. We all loved travel for one reason or another, were intrigued by at least one other culture, willing to learn another language, but couldn’t get a job that allowed us to travel or live wherever we wanted. So we swallowed the allegorical Kool-Aid [see: Jonestown cult’s mass suicide] in the belief that we would be in a better place. Less than a year into my program, I discovered a few things that led me to walking out of my program.
First, that nobody needs a license or permission to travel outside of having a passport and visa. Second, travel is not expensive, bringing too many things and buying too much is. Third, I am only young once, and if I waited to be finished with school, out of debt, employed in a good career, and have my own house, I’ll be traveling after I retire at the earliest.
So I cut my losses, sold most of what I had and stored my books in a friend’s garage, packed up my camera and laptop with some clothes into a backpack and small suitcase, and told myself:
“If I need money, I’ll make some; if I feel lonely, I’ll make new friends; I am captain of my own ship.”
So why sail through stagnant bogs where risk is high and rewards are low, simply because those are the known paths? I’d rather chart myself through unknown waters where the risks are higher and the rewards could be greater or lesser, but the journey is the destination, as Dan Eldon once said.
Having been doing this for about five months now, I can honestly say that travel is not just good for the soul, but it’s a way to reinvent myself while finding out that I do have skills and talents that make a difference in the world. As I gaze into the ocean on the beaches of eastern Indonesia, I see the great shades of blue where the sky touches the water which reminds me of how vast this tiny planet is.
I realize I am not the sum of my failures or accomplishments, my life savings or student loan debt, my job or my worldly possessions, I am who I am right now.
Who I am to the people I have encountered, worked with, helped, befriended, and loved in these four months is many things, but if you asked them, those definitions would include “fearless”, “compassionate”, “loving and kind”, “eccentric”, “artistic”, and “unique”. Of course, if you asked others, you might hear other stories, because even when you meet like-minded people, you will encounter those who misunderstand or misjudge, and it’s perfectly fine: I don’t have to be friends with or loved by everyone, I just want to be around those who see the moon and the stars the same way I do, who howl at the madness and joy of existence like all Jack Kerouacs and Allen Ginsbergs out there.
In September, I called up United Airlines and told them I was ready to let them have their seat back because I wasn’t going to return to a life of certainty, which would be ostracized for dropping out of school, without a job or a home, and in the same place I’ve known for years. No, I’m ready to live in perpetual anxiety and excitement knowing that I some days, I’ll go through the rain and feast on tree frogs, that it’s a trial and ordeal to survive for the day I see new lights. And I will do so knowing that if I’m going to die, I’m going to leave this world doing what I wanted, which is to travel, to make a difference, and make art. I could easily try to get a job and pay my dues, work towards a comfortable life in the world I left behind, but essentially, I’d be working hard to buy myself bigger and fancier cages.
So why settle for a fancy fishbowl when I need to grow by getting into the sea of life?
I will never be alone, because I have the company of Dante, Kerouac, Marcus Aurelius, Buddha, Bach, Tori Amos, Bjork, in my audio books and music collection in my iPod; their words, their ideas, their music are what give substance to the nebulous thoughts and musings I have whenever I look out the window of a bus going up and down steep hills and rocky roads and see the world beyond. I will never be lonely, because of all the people I meet, if I am thinking of them, they are certainly thinking of me too, even if not at that same moment.
Travel more, and find yourself connected to yourself. Travel more, and find yourself connected to the world. Travel more, and find that we are all connected, and always have been.
There is a thing called “Paradise” out there, that many travelers seek when “getting away from it all”. Paradise, I’ve found, is a place called “Home”, which is that perfect moment you realize you’re exactly where you want to be with the people who matter, a time that you could stay in forever. Home and Paradise for me is knowing that I’m moving from one perfect moment to the next, making more of those times, and sharing them with everyone I care about and through my art. I’ll continue to do that because as I’ve discovered, being able to write honestly is better than writing fancily; being “there” to take a picture in a place that people would be too scared to go into is better than having a fancy camera; and that a good story shines through in any photography, blog post, or video. The experience is priceless, and the skills are lucrative. It is living each day like this that tells me that everyone would be happier if we all let go and realized that we already have it all— because the world is ours.
Check out more of John Chuidian’s travels and global nomad adventures on his blog heyitsjohnnyc.com