I guess what I want to do is start with a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, because it sums up what I want to say in three sentences:
“It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.”
Three years ago, I might say I had blurry vision. I didn’t know this, though. I thought my eyeballs were just fine.
I was surrounded by beauty: the aesthetic exquisiteness that is Miami, the glamour of the city, and, seemingly by osmosis, that same attractiveness and glamour pouring out of its inhabitants. I was completely desensitized. Not once did I stop to appreciate the beauty I lived in because it was “normal” and I was “busy.” Busy working, busy catching up with life…I was basically busy being busy.
Then I came home for a short while after being on the road for six months. “The Road” was sheer amazingness, wrapped in adventure that fed the soul more good stuff than any human could ever imaging needing. Yet, “Home” gave me an unexpected gift: a new pair of eyeballs.
Gone was the unfazed version of myself that would walk into a fancy hotel without batting an eye. I now saw everything with magic, wonder and amazement, even though it was exactly how I’d left it. I appreciated the beauty I had taken for granted so many years before. I visited friends who lived in apartments with uber luxurious lobbies and stood there, mouth wide open, staring at the lavishness that surrounded me; I appreciated taking a dip in a cold pool on a hot day, overlooking the bay as the sun smiled down on me. For the first time since I had lived there, I grasped the beauty of my city. And I also realized how fortunate my friends and family were; because they lived in a place bursting with splendor, extravagance, and a level of affluence that many people in this world might never get a chance to experience.
What we consider “normal” is not normal at all.
Traveling is life changing in many ways, but the most valuable transformation I’ve come across so far is this noticeable change in perception.
When you are backpacking, luxury isn’t something you encounter often. I used to live in a reasonably nice apartment in a reasonably nice part of town. My friends lived in high rises in the swanky-up-and-coming-downtown area or even-swankier-South-Beach. I never saw these places as luxurious before. But after staying in hostels for a while and not really knowing when my next shower would come, you learned to live on bare essentials and the word ‘luxury’ left your vocabulary. You adapted.
That is, unless of course, you go back to a place called Miami.
These places that I thought were ‘decent’ before now left me speechless. They weren’t ‘decent’ – they were mind-blowing!
It’s incredible how the human being can adapt so quickly to its surroundings and how years of perception are shattered and re-engineered in six short months.
These brand-spankin’ new eyeballs are incredible. I see the world completely differently now. I’d almost dare to say I have the eyeballs of a child: everything appearing enchanted and the world seeming full of possibilities.
So if you want a new pair of eyeballs, it’s easy: go. Go visit remote cities, experience a culture so different from yours that you are forced to step out of your comfort zone, and strip away the unnecessary. You’ll realize that somewhere between the smelly hostel bathrooms resembling prison lavatories and witnessing the most incredible sunset you’ve ever seen in your life, you lost that blurry vision and things came into focus.
Wanderer’s Warning – I must warn you, I cannot be held responsible for any subsequent side effects* that may result from these new and improved windows to the soul.
*These side effects may include quitting your corporate job, saving up enough money to travel for a year or more, and developing an incurable addiction to travel.