Smile. Breathe. Repeat., or The Need to Travel

Last Friday in Missoula, at a public talk given by Anam Thubten Rinpoche, a friend asked me what I learned in all of my travels. I hadn’t put much thought into such a question, but I immediately answered, “that our lives are unnecessarily complicated.”

A second insight I had, as I prepare for a little talk/slideshow about my travels, is just how profoundly interconnected we all are. And how the simplest of encounters can alter the direction of our life. Or, a bit less dramatically, these encounters can provide a richness to life never before thought possible.

But we need to be ‘shaken up’ to realize this. We need radical challenges, changes, discoveries and difficulties in order to see all of this. As Henry David Thoreau famously stated:

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

And there is the contemporary American Blues musician, Keb’ Mo’:

We’re just the victims of comfort,
Connosuiers of pain.

It’s a technological merry-go-round,
Dangerous illusions buried under the ground,
And everyone likes a party,
But know one wants to clean,
Well I’d like to see a change somehow
But I’m a little busy right now,
Just a little busy right now.

I’m just a victim of comfort,
I got no one else to blame,
I’m just a victim of comfort,
A Cryin’ shame.

I’ve realized in my travels the need to be ‘lighter’. Lighter in my impact on the world yes, but also lighter in my possessions that may hold me down. I’ve realized the need for a simpler life.

Of course there are strong forces working against this ideal. I’m in America after all. In my travels I was fairly well convinced that I should have an iPhone or similar device as a handy tool to stay connected and keep data at my fingertips. And maybe a Kindle. And then a friend of mine – back here – showed me his new Nook Color. And I’m due for a new hard drive to backup all those photos. And…


It’s easy to get caught up again, both physically (out in the world) and mentally (taking on all of the desires, aversions, and neuroses of society).


It’s also easy to return to the wanderer’s mind. Or wonderer’s mind. “Same, same” as they say in Thailand. Just stop. Stop being a ‘victim’ of anything, stop being busy, find the song within and let it out! Smile. Breathe. Repeat.

If that doesn’t work, travel. Go far. Abandon your comfort zone. You’ll realize it wasn’t really helping you anyhow.

Smile. Breathe. Repeat.

Images from around India and Burma (Fall/Winter 2010-2011), photos by Justin Whitaker
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