As I sit here on the Hikari 462 shinkansen screaming past rural Japanese towns between Kyoto and Tokyo, I rewatch Phil Hellenes’s “Science saved my soul”. At the end of the video, Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” comes on. I gaze into the never ending sky and contemplate how small I am. How small we all are in relation to the universe. How we all came from the universe, the product of supernovas.
I want to savor every moment in this short life I have.
I often envision myself as a professional boxer, jumping rope in front of a mirror, body pouring sweat. I am staring into my own eyes, determined. I remind myself that preparation is hard work but I need to do it if I want to win the battles ahead of me.
This vision of myself lends me strength when the grind has worn my soul down.
I had previously volunteered at this retirement home teaching the residents how to use Facebook, Skype, YouTube etc. You know, trying to make them “hip” and “cool” except I was only making them as “hip” and as “cool” as myself, a tech-dinosaur in comparison to the current generation. After these lessons, I gave out an email address asking the residents to email me anytime they had technology-related questions, or if they needed help setting up their computers or phones.
A few months after my last official lesson, my cobweb-filled inbox receives an email asking for computer help. I pop over to the lady’s place and proceed to fumble my way through the process. As I chatted with her, I learned she was a well-traveled person. This was evident by all the Spoils of Travel I saw adorning her apartment. There were tiny statues of Buddha and Ganesh. Paintings from Cuba and Peru. Walking sticks from various countries in Asia. A variety of smaller knick-knacks and collectibles which looked foreign.
I started thinking about all the spoils I’ve collected throughout my travels, or lack thereof. There are the Nepali prayer flags. The unframed canvas painting from Malawi of a woman balancing a jug on her head, something I purchased because I gave in to the persistence of someone I wasn’t even sure was the actual artist. The…the… that’s all I got. My apartment is minimalistic in decor and charm. It is basic (read: boring). Anyone who visits will think I’m plain vanilla Ken and maybe I am. They’ll never see (and then ask) about the hand-drawn self-portrait created for me by a 7 year old orphan girl in the mountains in McLeod Ganj, or the rare thousand-year-old smuggled Egyptian papyrus art showing Horus and Seti embracing, or the rare gold medallion I won from a battle with a Shaolin priest in Henan province. They’ll never see any of it because I never obtained any of them. OK, so they are all fictionalized but you get the point.
What I’m trying to say is that I’ve done my fair share of travel but through it all, I did not have room or money to buy many souvenirs. My backpack had finite space and mailing souvenirs home was not exactly economical nor convenient. If you think the US Postal Service is horribly inefficient, wait until you are in Tiny Village, India. All I have are my pictures (why did I not learn proper photography skills my first RTW trip? I’m too embarrassed to print and hang them up), my gradually-fading memories, and this blog.
With so many negative events happening in the world each day, and me spending most of the day taking in that negativity, I find myself spending more nights finding equilibrium by watching Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and reading books by Robert Fulghum. I was starting to forget that there is so much beauty in humanity; my travels have taught me that. Watching Parts Unknown (a form of travel that will make do for now while I plan for the real thing) and reading the wise, insightful words of old man Fulghum, helps me to end my days with a warm, hopeful smile.
Every time I talk to someone about scuba diving, they give me the same reply: “I don’t like being submerged in water”.
Water covers roughly 70% of the Earth. I’d consider scuba diving a form of travel. We are traveling to parts of Earth that can’t be reached by train or plane or walking. To visit the “cities” and meet all its “citizens” in these parts of the world, you have to wear some special gear, your Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Getting Open-Water Certified is like getting a passport to travel to cities beneath the waves.
When you fear what you don’t understand, seek to understand and your fear will disappear.
Stunning video filmed by Eunjae Im (www.ejlabs.net)
My coworker and friend Brent gave me a CD last week that he recorded with his band. The album was called ‘Life Beneath The Waves’. On its cover, we the viewer see a scuba diver from the underside. The sun is showing just above the water.
I asked him if he could sign it with “Happy Travels” and he did.
I listened to it on the way back from work today. The album’s namesake ‘Life Beneath The Waves’ came on. And throughout the song, the melody and lyrics touched me like few songs do. It sang about not wanting the big house, the big car. It sang about how it’s nice to just be free beneath the waves. That song put a big, fat smile on my face all the way home. I had to play it on repeat.
I’ve spoken about my diving trips to friends. Often times, they have no interest in it or just can’t relate to the feeling one gets being 30 feet underwater, seeing a different world go by. I feel sad that many won’t ever experience this world because they either have no interest or are too afraid to try it.