Being of the world

2020-04-25 @Travel

I’ve just delivered a short Toastmasters speech on the importance of travel and being a person of the world. As usual, it’s no trifle to package this matter into a juicy seven-minute presentation.

Or perhaps I make sad excuses to render additional kilobytes of text… as Dumas did throughout his fiction. I hear he was paid by the word.

Only that Dumas craftily transformed his excuses into the enchanting storytelling form to have survived the 180-year mark and, according to the Lindy effect, one expected to survive another couple of centuries.

Anyway. Socrates … considered himself a man primarily ‘of the world’, not of Athens [Montaigne, Cicero, Plutarch]. The worldly citizen concept is nothing of a novelty.

These days I hear such a self-identity tossed around often. And I remain weary of it as I had for years. I’ve tagged it as a cliché.

More so, a mere five-minute interchange with a border official will remind you just how much of a worldly spirit you are.

However, I still appeal to the status throughout my introductions from time to time. No single nation do I strictly identify with, and this terse classification feels most fitting.

Notice how I alluded to the feel. It is this property of a worldly identification that most interests me; I less care for it as a rhetoric device.

So how does, or rather, how should it feel to be ‘of the world’? I offer my heuristics.

Less attachment to fixed identity.

An inclination towards a multifaceted world view.

Less of the mine vs not mine dichotomy, or equivalently, the familiar vs foreign.

Less anchoring to own culture, to own land, to own people, to the mother tongue.

To proceed one step further, less of a reliance on local idioms, units of measure, currency, insofar as their adherence a-priori in standard communication.

I emphasize the less, not the total elimination. We’re not binary, nor entirely unbiased. It’s a trend, not a statement of absolutism.

Less diluted worldly projection.

Throughout all travelled nations I tend to notice patterns: the tendency of the less travelled to project the world through the façade of a journalistic lens; through filters of manipulated data designed to fulfill agenda and frighten, or at least raise an air of apprehension.

I hear an awful lot of complaining with regard to how - if I may slightly amplify the wording - how victimized, deprived, underdeveloped, plagued we are, and how much greater of prosperity they live in. Sometimes, the bleak projection expands universally.

Less prejudiced outlook.

Not a rule, but I too often observe a higher dosage of prejudice/polarity (and unfriendly nationalism) among groups with too strong of an attachment to a fixed land and fixed cultural identity; prejudice against individuals, groups, and nations alike; prejudice I myself vividly recall being possessed of like an erosion, in the times before my vagabond journeys across the cleansing worldly tides.

These prejudices concern the neighbour next door, the ethnic group around the corner, the neighbouring country, the social and cultural stigmas, that which is desirable, and that which is dangerous.

And then?

How would one cultivate a mindset more inline with the above heuristics? Drawing on personal experience, the following represents some of my most rewarding pursuit:

  1. Travel, a lot. Spend long periods in different locales. Experience the world with your own skin and observe matters with your own eyes.

  2. Experience different types of environments, social scales, forms of nutrition, ways of product handling, consumption and disposal.

  3. Vary living and sleeping conditions. Vary them significantly, if not drastically. Shock yourself.

  4. Interact with different varieties of locals and of varying economic scales; not strictly vendors or tourism facilitators.

  5. Adapt, or better yet, assimilate local languages (eradicate the word ‘foreign’). Or accept a limiting, filtered, inauthentic experience to the contrary. This cannot be expected in every travel destination, but a handful (or even one) is leagues preferable to none.

At a certain point, the mind becomes increasingly less pliable to new feedback that challenges the status quo; less porous to new experiences. That point can arrive before thirty for some, post-fifty for others.

Now I find that unless you dedicate a period, or micro-periods of your life to vagabond living, that unless you make it your resolve, other matters will ultimately prevail. They always do.

I didn’t embark on my first authentic solo journey until 29. And I feel that I’ve still plenty of turns and corners to navigate throughout many lands; that I’ve still much to see and learn.

Questions, comments? Connect.