Backpacking with someone through a foreign country on a shoestring budget is a great way to get to know them quickly. It’s a new environment every day; you have to trust each other, stick together even when you disagree, and have each other’s back. People’s true colors emerge under pressure.
Living through 2020 is like backpacking on another planet. Australian wildfires, Trump’s impeachment, a global pandemic, closed borders, a whiplash recession, peaceful and violent protesting across the US, Britain’s withdrawal (kind of) from the EU, Iran and the US nearly going to war, postponing the summer Olympics, 2020 Presidential Elections.
Remember how people respond to these events. Change and uncertainty reveal authentic characters and temperaments. You don’t get to know someone’s real character when things are calm and comfortable. Watch people closely and remember who will be your best travel buddies for next time.
I predict tears and laughter in airports and train stations across the world when we can travel again. Some people, especially immigrants who have journeyed far away from their birthplaces, likely won’t see family and friends for a really long time. Reuniting with loved ones like children, parents, and grandparents will be a cathartic experience. I do not think people have yet realized that pre-pandemic was the last time we would see the people we loved for a very long time.
Firetrail at Midnight on Mt. Tamapais by J.L. Stanley
Certain places I visit share the same frequency and feel.
It can happen in crowded cities, deserted beaches, or somewhere in suburbia. There don’t need to be dream catchers and wind chimes tinkling in the wind for me to get a feeling that I’ve tapped into a resonance I’ve felt somewhere before.
A couple of years ago, my brother and I were walking down a wooded lane in Mill Valley, California. It was early morning, and the sun was shining through the Redwoods. The road ahead of us that was leading up to the foot of Mount Tamalpais was mottled with patches of light breaking through the leafy canopy. We stopped for a few minutes and enjoyed the silence. As we were standing in the middle of the road, my brother remarked that the feel of the place reminded him of the time he’d spent in Cornwall in South West England.
We started walking again, and the next road we saw was named Cornwall Road. Someone had come to this place before us and tuned in to the same frequency.
Next time you get that feeling that everything feels familiar, it’s worth pausing for a minute and listening. You’ll get to travel around the world without getting on a plane.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
Traveling to a country where you are a minority and look different, is humbling and builds empathy for other cultures and ethnicities. Walking into a restaurant and being the odd man out before you even open your mouth will make you more welcoming to strangers who stand out in a crowd.
Traveling through a foreign country that has a different religion and customs will teach you that the sun doesn’t revolve around your home country and that other cultures and races are getting on with life just fine without you. You realize there’s not only one way to live.
Be curious, be humble, be open-minded. Travel fuels your creativity and makes you a better global citizen.
The saying goes that the days are long and the years are short. Five years goes by in a flash.
Take a moment to look back on the last five years and ask yourself what advice you would give your younger self if you could travel back in time and share a meal together. Think about the experience and guidance you would provide. Do the same exercise with a ten-year look back. As a 30-year-old what advice would you give your 20-year-old self? If you are 40 what information would you provide your 30-year-old self?
A couple of insights bubbled up for me when I played this out in my head:
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Take more risks.
Be patient, but don’t hold on too long. Have the guts to know when to leave. Knowing is the easy part. Saying it out loud is the hard part.
Back yourself more. Everyone is making it up as they go.
Learn by doing. Over-analysis will paralyze you.
Don’t be in such a hurry to start a career. The career will find you when you are ready.
Be kind to your body.
Don’t stress so much. There’s only now. Most of the time you land on your feet, and most of the things you worry about are in your head.
Small contributions compound over time. Small acts of kindness, small investments, small tweaks add up.
If you want to make new friends or nurture existing relationships, then find shared interests. Shared interests create shared experiences and shared memories. Find communities that work and play together.
Suburban America is compartmentalized into McMansions, high fences, and car friendly neighborhoods. Suburban America is not a healthy garden to grow a community. People have everything they want at their fingertips but are still isolated and lonely. When last did you have a conversation with your neighbors or fellow tenants?
The good news is that concentrated urbanization is trending and housing legislation is adapting. Sadly tech hubs like San Francisco have been slow to adjust and will see an exodus of young people and families looking for more affordable living arrangements and better public services.
Individually owned cars will be a legacy mode of transporting and will be surpassed by communal ownership and various forms of public transport. Public transportation like trains is a leading indicator of growth in new companies. More trains in cities equate to more successful startups. Sci-fi novels are pretty good at telling the future, and most of them envisage dense cityscapes, and that is full of skyscrapers.
We see the same trend in farming. We will do more with less space as people urbanized. The Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the US, which has 270 times its landmass.
Healthy communities depend on each other, are compassionate and look out for their neighbors. More and more people will migrate to these megacities and sadly away from family. The community will become their family over time…any immigrant knows this from personal experience. Compartmentalized America is in for a nasty surprise as these trends start to accelerate. Adapt now and start exercising your community muscle.
With the age of automation in full swing, we will be interacting more and more with software and hardware over humans. It’s an exciting time. Michael Fassbender’s role in Prometheus is a perfect example how androids will help older people on a daily basis. I also like the idea of TARS in the movie Interstellar. We’ll see the same trend in mobility, healthcare, finance, childcare, teaching, and sex. It’ll happen really slowly and then super fast. Humans will come to depend on AI the same way that we depend on family and friends.
With the tsunami of AI and Android assistance, people are going to lose touch with other humans. It’ll be possible to spend years alone with Androids and not see or touch another human. It will be like the space travel we see in sci-fi flicks where explorers live in space capsules protected from the harsh outside environment. These capsules will start to pop up on earth…first in hospices, then schools and then homes.
Over time people are going to crave real-life interactions again. There will probably be vacations zones and place that are Android free and zero technology zones. People will pay a premium for the imperfection of humans, whether it’s screwing up a food order, a casual conversation, while waiting in line, or brushing past someone on the bus. Things we take for granted or shy away from today, will be paid for and cherished.
Real life, authentic interactions will be something our grandkids only read about, but never experience. This thought makes me thankful for what I have today.