Archive for the 'Life Experiments' Category

What is the point of a Friendship if it fades?

I’ve been asking far too few questions lately.

Usually when I share something with you here, I want to give you something to be excited about, someplace you can dream to see someday.

But today, as I was triaging through old files, I came across a folder on my Mac called “Friend Docs,” resulting in a cascading series of events that led me straight down Memory Lane.

You see, ever since I got a new iPod, I’ve been shooting ABSURD amounts of HD video, and it’s filling up my drive faster that I anticipated. Turns out, a surprisingly large chunk of my space was also going to files that people have sent me over the past decade or so. Within the “Friend Docs” folder were photos of people I haven’t talked to in years. A Japanese musician, a German photographer, a graphic designer from New England. I suddenly wondered why I hadn’t spoken to them in so long and what their lives had become.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know I’m not expected to stay in touch with all of them. Sometimes connections just fade naturally. Travel has taught me this. Life has taught me this. And I get it. I accept it. Usually, I even welcome it, because when we let go of a connection that doesn’t resonate with us, we make space for something even better to come through.

I am living proof of this.

But as I shuffled through old videos and photos (even pictures of post cards), I couldn’t help but get a bit melancholic. Once upon a time, these files had meant so much to me. And now I didn’t care at all about most of them. Only a few, the few that sparked a memory, held any remaining value for me.

And I couldn’t help but ask myself: What was the point of these friendships? We don’t stay in touch any more, so were they a waste of time? Was I pursing a weak friendship connection in the first place with some of these people? Perhaps. Perhaps.

Heck, I used to have a pretty good Japanese vocabulary! (Reminded of this by a screenshot of me Skyping with an old Japanese friend.) When I try and read hiragana now, I almost feel embarrassed at how much I’ve forgotten. What was the point? What was the point of any of this if my memory for language is like a sieve?

Stepping into a flooded fieldI let this thought stew for a while, and this afternoon I decided to go for a walk.

Outside, I discovered that a nearby stream had flooded, no doubt from all of the recent snowmelt. I’d been here dozens of times, maybe hundreds, and I’d never seen it like this — like a perfect mirror had been placed slightly above the landscape, and I stepped into the water with my waterproof shoes (just because I could).

Then I realized something.

In this changed environment, the stronger elements, often the older elements, reached out of the water easily. They would be fine.

A tree rising over a flooded field

I reflected: perhaps the passage of time is like a slowly rising flood. The memories are still there, submerged, but they aren’t always available for me to consciously access. And each of those memories has roots that go deep, even if I can’t see them. They reinforce other memories. (It’s all one big neurological network, right?)

It’s funny, because I’ve had this attitude toward relationships for a while now, that if something ends, that doesn’t mean it’s a failure. As long as I learned something, as long as I grew, it’s not a loss. But I guess I wasn’t applying this same belief to friendships. Or at least, not all of them.

But it remains true.

As I stood out and reflected upon my own reflection in the water, I realized: even if I learned another language fluently from a friend and then forgot it because the friendship faded, there would be growth in that, even if I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what I’d learned about life. Even if I completely forgot the language afterward, it would still be worth it.

And then I expanded upon it. I realized that everyone I’ve ever met, no matter how briefly I’ve known them, has added to my learning in some way. Either they’ve provided more data for me to realize something new about humanity has a whole, or just provided a minor perspective shift, the learning is there, no matter how small.

In the end, not everything has to be remembered. And not everything has to be practical. It just has to be experienced honestly.

That’s something I expect I’ll have to keep telling myself.

What about you? From traveller to traveller:
How do you react when you reflect on friendships long faded?

How to Violate Expectations, Scratch the Travel Itch, & Stay Fresh

What do you do when you have The Itch?

I should back up a bit. “What is The Itch?” I’m sure you’re wondering.

There are two flavors of The Itch that I’ve come to discover. One is the undeniable feeling that I’ve gone far too long without pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, far too long without exploring someplace new. The other kind is when I’ve gone too long without writing, without expressing something meaningful, without contributing something of value to the planet. In either flavor, The Itch is my mind’s way of countering creative stagnation and mental constipation.

The Itch is vital to growth. Vital.

And now I’m beginning to wonder if satisfying one side of The Itch has led to causing the other. In a nutshell, I had an extremely eventful seven days last week, strengthening my social circle and doing some volunteer work in the process. But when I’m out of town, I try to focus on getting the most out of that experience.

So I don’t write.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I did make a journal entry, but I didn’t write or outline anything for this site. I took a conscious break from this place, a place that has become a testing ground for my writing voice in many ways.

But you know what? I feel good about that. I’ve grown to trust my intuition in all things, and I felt completely congruent in putting this site on hold for the last ten days or so. Instead of trying to do two things half-assed, I decided to be completely immersed in being away. And I grew from it. (There’s no better way to scratch the Travel Itch.)

I’ve also decided to be less predictable in posting new articles. After all, with over 240 articles, thousands of travel photos, and other bonus material, there’s certainly enough content on this site to occupy someone for days. Days, I tell you!

And now, I’m home, embracing Stationaryness once more.

Deciding to Do One Thing Well

As antithetical as it may sound, I actually love periods of Stationaryness. They allow me to focus completely on the act of creation. In fact, I’m quite certain that my book, an extremely complex and massive project, would not be coming out in December if I had travelled more in 2011. But I decided to focus on creation and not exploration during that time. I decided to do one thing well, and I really relished in that. I thoroughly enjoyed it, actually. :)

And in early 2012, The Itch manifested itself again just in time for Steve Pavlina’s workshop in Las Vegas. I decided to make a whole trip out of it, staying with friends in Milwaukee before I flew out, and then Couchsurfing in Milwaukee on the way back. It was a truly unforgettable experience that I’ve written about in various articles.

But one experience stood out in particular.

After the presentation on the final day, I asked Steve what he would do in my position. What would he do to continually grow his audience if he were in my shoes?

And you know what he said?

Two words: Violate Expectations.

I wasn’t completely shocked considering it was coming from a guy with a professed love for Violator, but it made oodles of sense to me. People remember what’s different, what’s strange and novel. And over the past year, I’ve turned that advice over again and again in my mind. I’ve done my best to apply that advice, and articles such as “How to Pack Your Backpack like Chuck Norris”, “How to Tell if a Friendship is Real”, and “How to Become a Superhero” are some reflections of this.

How to be an Unpredictable Blogger

But recently I’ve realized that this isn’t enough. If you look at the archives, you may notice that I’ve published an article nearly every week, like clockwork, for nearly three years. And if you look at those dates on a calendar, you’ll notice that over 90% of them were published on Tuesday or a Wednesday. In the beginning, I found that creating a structured schedule was very helpful for me, but now, I’ve decided that it’s time for a change.

I’ve decided not to confine myself to a rigid posting schedule anymore.

Some articles may come out early in the week, while some weeks may have an article appear on a Saturday. Some weeks may be completely quiet. And some weeks may feature two new articles. Anything could happen!

The bottom line is, nothing is assured anymore. And I’m making a conscious effort to incorporate a more spontaneous and unexpected flavor to Byteful Travel. After all, my favorite travel experiences of all time were always unexpected in their beauty.

Much is in store. And I’m so excited to share it with you. But until then… I’ve got to eat some lunch. As bizarre as it may sound, I try not to eat much at all before I write for the day. I find that it slows me down.

So, considering all I’ve eaten so far today is an orange and I’ve said what I’ve intended to say, I shall now eat a healthy vegan meal. And if you’ve experienced The Itch for yourself, feel free to tell me about your thoughts in the comments. :)

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