The tropical jungle, a mountain of green comes at me at 60 kilometers per hour. I hold the throttle firm on my scooter as I round the bend of a rural highway in Koh Lanta, Thailand.
A woman concealed in black Muslim robes rippling in the wind behind her, speeds towards me on a motorcycle like a dark angel of the night.
I am in awe at what an exotic place this is, so foreign from my vanilla hometown of Boulder, Colorado. The moment is profound. It hits a sweet spot for me.
I came to Southeast Asia to experience this. This being the foreign, the exotic, the mysterious.
Sometime later, I lose myself in a local market. Women and girls in burkas, physiques unseen and hidden. Dark men in taquiyahs and izars, caps and sarongs.
Commerce and bargaining happen in a language I can’t understand. Dried shrimp, fish, candies, dried fruit.
I have no interest in purchasing anything, only to take it all in. Absorb it.
I don’t belong here and I like that. Something comes alive in me. It’s a welcome kind of “don’t belong,” different than what I sometimes experience in the U.S.
Here I am a traveler, a passerby, no need to hang my hat anywhere for too long. No need to belong anywhere.
Here on the other side of the world, I need only belong to myself.
Self-belonging happens in viewing the foreign, opening to my observer, and working astutely to make sense of the world around me – be it the currency, the customs, or traffic patterns.
I challenge myself to get off the tourist track and seek out remote places. Doing so, I enter a heightened understanding of how I see, perceive, and judge the world before me.
A sense of self emerges, separate and still a part of this swirl called humanity.
In the mundane day to day of life back home, it’s easy to lose this sense of richness. I often feel blind to the beauty around me. I have to work at it — to stay connected to my soul.
Meditate every morning. Schedule time to do things that feed me. Be vigilant with “the comfort that kills.”
Still, I was scared before I came to the other side of the world. Anxiety had me at times.
- What will I do?
- How will I know where to go?
- Will my business fall apart while so far away?
And yet, I told myself, “If you fear it, do it.”
Ironically now, at times, I fear going home. Fearful of the comfort that kills.
While I don’t spend too much time thinking about it, it comes up now and then.
The gift, for now, is the moment. The present. It’s better that way. The future will figure itself out. I am listening.
Fear keeps me awake. And the foreign, the exotic keeps me moving forward, for now.
What’s it for you?
That keeps you feeling alive?
Have you asked yourself lately?
A version of this post was previously published on Stuart Motola and is republished here with permission from the author.
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