The Zen of Travelling

We are coming up on the end of what would be a normal length vacation (left SFO on Sept 2nd, it's now the 18th). The idea that we are barely getting started is just sinking in.

I've been thinking a lot about how we travel, trying to figure out how to make it easier, better, basically seeking the zen of it. Laura's article about being uncomfortable resonated with me. We are seeking discomfort, and trying to make peace with it.

Riding a bike is about learning balance. Anyone who has ever learned how to ride a bike knows that you lose balance, and, in the early days, fall. As you progress, you still lose balance, but regain it quickly enough to avoid falling. Once you master riding, you are constantly losing and regaining balance, but so quickly that it feels like you are very rarely off balance.

This is what I am seeking, not to never get annoyed with travelling, but to not stay annoyed, to get back my travel zen as quickly as possible.

In Zen Buddhism, you don't try not to have feelings, but to just notice and not be triggered by them.

What are the annoyances of travelling? It's effectively an infinite list:

  • It's too crowded

  • I don't understand the <subway, train, locker..>

  • It's too loud

  • Can't find <person, place, thing>

  • Something isn't as expected

  • Tired of <walking, sweating, waiting, eating strange food...>

  • <Person> isn't listening to me

  • <Person> is complaining that I am not listening to them

  • <Toilet, shower, sink, door, elevator, train...> Doesn't work like I think it should.

  • Dealing with different languages

  • Dealing with different time zones

  • Different cultures

  • Traffic

  • Slow service

  • Smothering service

  • I am <tired, hungry, thirsty, in pain, having diarrhea, constipated, annoyed, annoyed that I am annoyed>

  • Fed up with <person> doing that annoying thing

  • Fed up with <person> being annoyed by me doing that thing

  • Luggage

  • Missing luggage

  • Strange bed

  • Out of battery

  • Slow WiFi

  • No WiFi

Basically, there's always something to be annoyed about. I have realized that even during my "normal" life in California, I'm often on edge, capable of annoying and swearing about small things. I am working on my balance.

As I do so, I notice many times when an annoyance is about to hook me, and I side step it. For example, two days ago when the hotel desk person agreed to a price to store our luggage and then tried to double it. I was pissed, as was Laura, but I realized that the amount in question was $2.15, and the value to us of not schlepping our bags was far more. I let it go.

Other times, I fall right over, and start yelling or swearing or going passive-aggressive. But, I am getting faster at recovering, apologizing, and moving on.

This isn't always easy, as one of the easiest forms of annoyance to fall over from is someone else being annoyed and losing it.

So, when I regain my balance, I often have to help others with theirs - since I just knocked them off of their zen bike. This is actually kind of fun, making a big deal out of nothing, apologizing for doing so, and then convincing everyone else that it was no big deal.

One of the goals that I have for this trip is improving this balance. I believe I am making progress. I hope that this will carry over into whatever phase my life enters after this huge adventure. I suspect it will make life a lot easier.

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