The Art of Taking Chances
Or Pushing the Envelope

I’m in the process of attempting to understand life. One would have thought that endeavor should have been addressed early in my life, not in my twilight years. Maybe so. Nonetheless, I am doing it now. On December 10th, I am taking off on another adventure.

It will be a long flight.

In less than two months from now, I am off to Lahore, Pakistan to visit Sandy, my web administrator’s family, and the Khewra Salt Mine. On December 15th, I will be landing in the airport in Yangon, Myanmar. I will have the opportunity to see some of my friends including my family during several weeks traveling. Am I excited?

Yangon International Airport

I have traveled all over the world. I have taught classes and taken classes overseas. While traveling is expensive, I cannot afford not to travel. There are a handful of things that drive me: teaching, writing, caring for Ginger, and spending time with my family here and overseas. However, another drive that I have, which is on steroids, is my hauntings. I need to grasp the cosmic meaning of everything. It all goes back to the song in the mid-60s, What’s It All About Alfie.

I have attempted to understand the meaning of my moment in the cosmos. I’m 76 and still haunted by what’s it all about. I’ve done the dance with death twice, which intensified my drive for explanation about the meaning of my life. Everyone knows that their clocks are ticking. That is an intellectual given. Nevertheless, do a dance or two, your Weltanschauung changes…as in radically. Therefore, when most people my age are willing to sit back and relax, I’m not in the mood to kick back and chill. I get that my dances have affected me in a most positive way. However, I can’t grasp all the other causes that have affected me.

When I take a serious look at what is happening within me, there are others out there who have a similar level of questioning and engagement. T.S. Eliot wrote, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” I get what he is saying. That drive to explore the world might be costly unrelated to money. The desire to explore the world might result in failing. However, I’m willing to take that test.

Robert Frost had a similar mindset. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” I understand what Frost wrote. The less traveled roads are far more emotionally exciting and intellectually benefiting for both of us. Over the past century, I have loved all the roads to all the places that I have gone. However, my two trips to Myanmar changed me.

Another traveler, Mohammed said, “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” What Mohammed understood about life is important. Without traveling, one’s education is very limited. He believed that traveling is the best teacher. This is especially true when you travel to the really faraway places. Mohammed would have seconded Frost choosing the less traveled road. What I love most are places and people who live in worlds radically different from my world. If it wasn’t for my family in Myanmar, I would love to go to places like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, etc. It excites me intellectually. It forces one to process a different culture, tradition, and people.

One benefit of traveling

George Santayana wrote, “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.” Two people from different worlds said essentially the same thing. We all need to get out of our comfort zones…if we wish to be fully educated. Merely parroting the mantras of one’s hometown is too costly if you deem education to be important. I tell all the classes that I have taught to travel. Start with the country where your relatives came from. You will feel safe. I went to Scotland on my first trip. However, as much as I love Scotland and have learned a great deal during my two trips, I needed to broaden my education.

Twenty years ago, Doug Coupland wrote the novel, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, which was about the Generation X. However, he also addressed the issue of risk and risk-taking. “Adventure without risk is Disneyland.” Traveling anywhere is a risk. We all take risks driving to a shopping center. Nonetheless, without risking something by traveling to faraway places, you risk far more. You will live a safe life as an ameba in a sterile Petri dish.

So, we arrive back at my starting point. What’s it all about, Alfie? I’m going to discover what is important for me by traveling….

Ballooning over Bagan