It’s been quite a while since we set forth the philosophy we travel by, as expressed by Friedrich Nietzsche:
… in order to understand history one must search for the living remnants of historical epochs — and do so by traveling, as the venerable Herodotus traveled to sundry nations…
Whoever after long practice has become a hundred-eyed Argos in this art of traveling will finally rejoin his Io — I mean his ego — everywhere…
However, it doesn’t seem to work out quite that way for many people does it? Both in our programmer world where we see bright-eyed bushy-tailed digital nomads OFF TO SEE THE WORLD! give it up in short order —
— we never even gave that a full go, personally, it was too obvious that it would be impossible to do a proper job of either work or travel trying to do both, at least the off the beaten track travelling we do —
— and in the travel blogging world here where there’s a constant drip of bloggers out of The Travel/Expat Lifestyle and back to their familiar haunts, which we’ve found mildly concerning we might succumb to eventually.
Turns out that the problem here was described in Seneca’s letters to Lucilius, specifically Letter 28, On Travel as a Cure for Discontent:
Are you surprised, as if it were a novelty, that after such long travel and so many changes of scene you have not been able to shake off the gloom and heaviness of your mind? You need a change of soul rather than a change of climate … your faults will follow you whithersoever you travel.
Socrates made the same remark to one who complained; he said: “Why do you wonder that globe-trotting does not help you, seeing that you always take yourself with you? The reason which set you wandering is ever at your heels.” What pleasure is there in seeing new lands? Or in surveying cities and spots of interest? All your bustle is useless. Do you ask why such flight does not help you? It is because you flee along with yourself. You must lay aside the burdens of the mind; until you do this, no place will satisfy you…
We bring this up today because we stumbled across this excellent piece laying out and addressing this problem, and giving it the name “The Box of Daily Experience” which we appropriated for the title here:
… Travel is the answer much of us look to when we feel the automation of life. The routine of waking up, getting ready, going to work, eating the same lunch, sitting in meetings, getting off work, going home, eating dinner, relaxing, going to sleep, and then doing it all over again can feel like a never-ending road that is housed within the confines of a mundane box.
This is The Box of Daily Experience, and it is the space we occupy on any given day of the week/month/year in which we live our lives. It is what we consider “normal” in the context of an everyday experience, and is the operating system we run ourselves on when we require a sequence of events to default to…
Speeding things up a bit — although we strongly recommend you read the whole thing! — the first reaction is to acquire things. Well, things never make you happy for long, as you Dear Readers probably realize already being here and all.
Second is to take vacations, which are only a momentary respite. So, eventually you come to the conclusion you need to move permanently. Why yes, yes we did. And then, in this telling, you find that you replicate The Box of Daily Experience in your new country.
The cure for this is to embrace … gratitude.
Gratitude is what allows you to feel that same sense of wonderment about your day-to-day life as you would if you were walking the streets of a faraway city.
Gratitude is what illuminates the fact that you are a collection of (billions of) atoms that have come together to create this amazing combination of cells, neurons, and organs that allow you to touch things, taste delicious food, go hiking, laugh at funny jokes, and view the stars in a nighttime sky…
Being grateful about our existence and its relation to others allows for a blossoming of meaning and purpose in our exploration of this life. It is the starting point for an endless list of awesome things we have going for us, and we don’t need to change our physical location one bit to witness this list grow…
Now, we’re totally on board with the idea that cultivating gratitude for what you have instead of discontent with what you don’t have is the single best thing you can do for your mental health and happiness, and the article goes on to discuss meditation and reading and other excellent routes to help with that…
… but personally, we think it goes a bit too far. Acceptance and gratitude are noble and worthy yes, but they can easily slide into complacency. We think that gratitude for what you have needs to be leavened with a healthy dose of aspiration to improvement!
So if you want to be happiest of all, take the lessons of Seneca here to heart — but combine them with the Nietzschean aspiration to be
a hundred-eyed Argos in this art of traveling
p dir=”ltr”>and create yourself a happy and fulfilled life!