When I first started to travel in 2001, I was all about the bucket list. I wanted to go everywhere, see everything. In the age of the ‘gram and instant gratification, many travelers are still like this. They like to list where they’ve been (especially with flag emojis) and where they’re going next. They love to post everything they experience on the road: the sights, the sounds, the food, the people they meet. This desire to document is also wrapped up in the dopamine hits they get everytime someone likes or shares their posts. They feel that if they don’t post, it never happened.
I was like this. However, when I started living in Japan, I had a total paradigm shift. In the beginning, I loved visiting the cities, temples, and shrines and wrote frequent blog and social media posts but after a while, it got repetitive. That’s when I realized that I needed to slow down and try to make sense of all I had experienced. When I slowed down and started to journal instead, I began recognizing the pinpricks of incongruity in my days, the surreal Dorothy moments of I’m not in Trinidad and Tobago anymore.
Pico Iyer calls this the art of stillness.
“…One of the first things you learn when you travel is that nowhere is magical unless you can bring the right eyes to it. You take an angry man to the Himalayas; he just starts complaining about the food. And I found that the best way that I could develop more attentive and more appreciative eyes was oddly, by going nowhere, just by sitting still. And of course sitting still is how many of us get what we crave and need in our accelerated lives, a break. But it was also the only way that I could find to sift through the slideshow of my experience and make sense of the future and the past.”
In other words, it is only when we settle down and think about our experiences that we can truly understand them. It is only in the stillness that we achieve those rare moments of clarity. We begin to realize that we don’t need to see all the countries and tourist attractions the world has to offer. We don’t need to be jealous of other travelers and worry about FOMO if we haven’t been to certain places. Instead, we learn to appreciate where we have been and what we have seen on a more meaningful level. It is only when we slow down that we understand the totality of our travel experiences and can plan what we want to do and where we want to go next.