Travel Advice: Leave Your Ego at Home and Remember You’re Mortal.
Sometimes it’s good to get your ass kicked. Yeah, that sounds crazy, but there is an element of clarity in it. A good tumble down some stairs or falling off a tuktuk can instantly remind you that you’re not Superman. When traveling around the world and into foreign countries something can happen to your perception. After several months, you get comfortable with the people you meet in foreign lands, you start settling into the mold of a traveler, and you let your guard down a little, sometimes a lot. This is healthy, because you have realized that most people on the planet are inherently good no matter where you go and you can now ease yourself into the local culture a little more.
However, maybe a year later, I’ve found with many people, including myself, you completely lose your cautiousness and a deceiving feeling of being bulletproof starts slowly and subtly blanketing your personality. This is not healthy; this is when the backpacker most needs to be cautious. This is why I believe you need a restart button, something to take you back to your healthy level of awareness. This is why I think that sometimes it’s good to get your ass kicked.
Now, I’m sure you’re scratching your head right now, but seriously, every now and again the universe checks us to let us know we are not bulletproof. For instance in Bangkok, Thailand one night one of my good buddies went out to the club with us, got hammered drunk, met some girls, insisted we leave him with the girls and continue on with our own debauchery. The next morning he woke up in the gutter behind the club covered in several hundred bug bites, no money, no girls, and no way to get into our apartment. So he slept by our front door until we woke up the next day…around noon. This was an unfortunate incident, but our friend learned a lesson, and even though he was now short on bucks and covered in bites he was large on experience and a newfound reality that he was in fact mortal and not in Kansas anymore.
This brings me to my second point; leave your ego at home. Backpackers after extended stretches can fall into two extremes if not careful. They can become the “I know everything and I’ve been everywhere one-upper dude” or they can become the “Introverted quiet guy with headphones on checking Facebook in the corner of the hostel lobby dude.”
When you travel no one knows who you are, so why do you care about looking cool? Re-invent yourself, be a nerd for a day, or be Don Juan for a day. No one knows you.
The “One-upper” guy I described above will bring his ability to learn from other travelers and locals to a grinding halt “because he’s done everything.” Bullshit, nobody has ever done everything, I don’t care if you’ve been to every country in the world, and you still missed lots of amazing encounters along the way. When you spend all your time looking cool you’re missing out on being open and having fun with others. You’re never going to hear about the cool secret temple “So and So” saw last week or the awesome noodle place right around the corner. You wouldn’t either allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to ask questions or open enough to hear the answers. Have fun on the guided tour alone, I’ll be experiencing and appreciating things with the rookies who are still excited to try and see new things.
Now, the “introvert dude” is the opposite. He forgot that part of traveling is interacting. Traveling is about discovery, part of that is meeting new people, one of the biggest parts actually. No amount of Facebook or twitter in the lobby can replace real human interaction and having a shared new experience. Sometimes something becomes more beautiful when you hear the reaction to it come out of someone else’s mouth. When you appreciate with others a bond forms and the things you see become even more incredible. Be brave and the pay off will be sweet.
Some of your greatest moments backpacking will be missed if you’re “too cool” to sing karaoke with the locals or “too shy” to go on an adventure through the jungle with new peers. The too cool thing gets me the most, time and again I see people not try food, refuse to embrace local customs, or not open themselves up to something new because they are more worried about their image/ego than they are about experiencing a life style that more than likely they only have a limited time period to experience.
To put my money where my mouth is here is a video of myself swinging out on a rope over a waterfall in Luang Prabang, Laos and then subsequently smashing directly into a tree in front a huge group of laughing on-lookers (several hot foreign babes in bikinis). Was it embarrassing? Terribly. Did I get hurt? No. Did I go and hide? Nope. Did people judge me for being a dope? No, they bought me drinks to honor my ridiculousness. Do I have a great and funny story to share for the rest of my life? You betcha. Additionally, I learned something; I’m not tree-proof or bulletproof, look before you leap dumby.
So, I’m not telling you to go get your ass kicked by a tree, but I am saying please remember that you are not invincible for your own safety. And also, remember to ditch the ego because whether you’re too shy or too cool, your missing out on life. Quit worrying about yourself and worry about missing the world.
In the words of the Smiths, “Shyness is nice and shyness will stop you from doing all the things in life you’d like to.”
Until next time Shameless Travelers, may your adventure be painless and your ego go missing.
*For more travel videos check out my Shameless Traveler YouTube Page!
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