Hmmm, an interesting question to ponder
As I prepare for the trip, the trip that I’m calling “The World Tour”, I am not only working through all of the technical and logistical details of the trip, but I’m also spending time thinking about the philosophical aspects of the trip, trying to come to grips with them. Sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of a situation, or a conversation, and from that conversation comes a question that seems important. Does the question seem like a question that many people should consider, not just me, the one preparing for a “world trip”. And so it was this weekend, as I ate dinner at a friend’s house on Saturday night.
Do you want to visit every country on Earth?
Ralph invited a few people over for dinner on Saturday, and while eating appetizers, we got on the subject of travel, and it got me thinking. I was asked whether or not I was afraid of what might happen to me in some of the more remote countries, such as Russia or China. I thought about the question, and decided that the best answer came from two different places. Both places are relevant, but both showed how complicated it is when someone embarks on a journey to faraway countries and lands, to cultures of which I am not familiar, and to a schedule which is being developed using mapping s/w, and research discovered on hundreds or thousands of Internet sites, without any first hand knowledge of the places themselves. How did I really feel about going to these places?
I responded first by saying that it seems that my insatiable need to experience life as an adventure was part of the answer. This is the part that affected the decision about which trip I would take, and why. You see, I had decided that this trip, happening at age 60 should be a trip that was bigger, bolder, more remote, more difficult than anything that I had done before. I wanted to see places that were “very remote” and which only a small percentage of global citizens would ever see, and an even smaller percentage of US Citizens would ever see. And so, I decided to visit Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, and elsewhere.
So, my first motivation for a trip like this was driven by adventure. But, what else was shaping my thoughts, and had caused me to suddenly find this trip, and begin planning. Well, during the dinner party, the conversation came around to World Travel, as it often does when I’m granted even a brief moment to talk. I mentioned that there are 193 countries on Earth, but after a bit of research for this Blog Post, I discovered that there are now 195 countries on Earth, so my information was a little outdated. Anyway, I mentioned that there are 195 countries on Earth, and I thought that every man, woman and child should have a desire within them, to go forth and visit as many of these countries as possible. I realized that not everyone would have the financial means to visit all of these countries, and certainly finding the time to visit all of these countries would be difficult, but that was not my point. My point was, if we ignore our limited flexibility to get away from our jobs, and family, and ignore the fact that world travel to 193 countries might be outside of our financial wherewithal, we would answer the question honestly, and it seemed to me that there is only one answer that would be satisfactory.
That answer would be Yes. Everyone would want to visit all of the countries on Earth, and they would want to see and feel other cultures. And they would want to travel the world as it is today, while being afforded the chance to look back over thousands of years to see how societies and ancient civilizations had lived before us. Certainly everyone would have that innate curiosity that creates the wonder of a child, seen through the eyes of an educated adult. Certainly no one would be able to say that they didn’t want to see an Ancient capital city, formed and used as the capital of a civilization that might be no more, or might have simply changed substantially. Certainly everyone would think this way, right?
More than one way to skin a cat
Well, as we talked, I began to see that the wanderlust that I feel, while strong in me, is not strong in everyone. There were others who had just as strong a feeling of not wanting to see these places, as I had for wanting to see them. To understand this, perhaps we should travel back in time to when I lived in California, and was surrounded by like-minded people.
In California, we, the citizens of California were often described as living in a bubble. Certainly those of us that lived in the Bay Area of SF lived in an area where as much as 86% of the citizens were considered to be Progressives, Democrats, Liberals. We’ve all heard the saying; “As goes California, so goes the Nation”. But, when you’re living in the middle of a progressive society such as this, it can be hard to see that there is another point of view at all. And, when looking at the values that the Bay Area exhibits, it’s easy to think that we’re not only surrounded by like-minded individuals, but that we can be confident to know that our way of thinking is correct, right, and just.
Well, as a progressive, I certainly still believe that, but for contrast sake, I’m simply trying to show that as I lived in a politically progressive area, such as the Bay Area, I was also surrounded by friends who were adventurous, and who also shared this wanderlust, and a desire to see the world. This group, often led by Ralph, the instigator whom we would call Ranger Ralph, would routinely pack ourselves into SUVs and cars, and head off to some amazing and magical place, often located in a National Park, where we would see and do things that were amazing, and that very few people ever experienced. We glacaded down the side of a dormant volcano, or walked between shear rock faces, in an ice-filled stream. We loved adventure, and as we looked at each other, we believed that, if given the chance, everyone would want to do this sort of thing.
But, perhaps we were wrong… As I listened to the answers coming from the Dining Room table on this Saturday night, I was shown that almost everyone has a sense of adventure, but the degree to which it drives our desires, and ultimately our lives can vary; And it can vary a great deal.
Now, with 8 months to go before I jump on the bike and head North to Toronto, I am beginning to think about my own sense of adventure. I’m wondering about how I might embrace this desire to learn, and to see different cultures, balancing it against the pragmatic need to be sure that I’ve not left anything to chance. The planner in me wants to enjoy the trip because of what did not go wrong, rather than surviving the trip, in spite of what did go wrong. How much planning is enough? If I plan for every possible eventuality, and lay out a schedule that allows me to see all of the most prominent things that a visitor would want to see in a given city or region, am I missing out on seeing things that only appear through spontaneity?
What can we learn from others?
I recently saw an interview with Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com. Living in the Bay Area, most of us had some first-hand or anecdotal experiences with Marc, but I had never interacted with Marc in any way, and had only limited interactions with the Salesforce product. So, I was not really well-informed about who Marc was, as an executive, as a leader, as a resident of the Bay area, and as a global citizen. During the interview Marc spoke about his direct communication style, which is simply driven by his Ethics, and his desire to do the right thing, under any and all circumstances.
Now, I’m certainly not interested in being a defender of Marc for any of the controversial things that he’s said, although I agree with his point of view in most cases, I want to simply dwell on how he uses his belief system to drive all of his other decisions. I love the idea that Marc, the CEO of Salesforce considers his obligation to humanity, and the homeless population of SF to be more important than the overall profits of Salesforce. To illustrate this, in the election of Nov 6th of this year, Marc was a strong supporter of Prop C, a ballot initiative that would tax Bay Area companies, in order to help address the homeless problem in SF.
Marc’s advocacy for Prop C is only one simple example of how we all might put the global good ahead of our own self-interest. As you read this, I understand that you might be a fiscal conservative, or a social conservative, and you might not agree that putting aside money to aid the homeless is a good use of funds, or that these people deserve our help at all. I get it, not everyone agrees with the position that Marc took, but what is important is that he let’s his personal ethics and values drive his decision, even though he’s supported a local law that will cause his company to make less money.
You might ask, how does this example of Marc Benioff being philanthropic affect my trip, in any way? And I would say that it’s not entirely clear to me how it will affect me, with one notable exception. That exception is that I need to be sure that as I travel the world, and I see things that are wrong, that in the moment, I do what I can to help people, and to create an event that makes the world a little better, not a little worse. It seems to me that I have the capacity to do these small things, and that when I complete this journey, I want to be able to recall all of the amazing things that I have seen and done, but also that I can recall all of the good that I’ve done. So, as I ride in Europe and Asia, and travel from Country to Country, crossing through Customs and Immigration booths before heading into the no-mans-land that exists at border crossings, that I am always conscious of the people that I meet, and how I can make them think positive things about Americans, and about me, and the rest of my fellow riders.
Ok, OK, now what?
I tend to do things to extreme levels, not being satisfied to be partially committed to a hobby or objective. And so, it will of course be a challenge to be sure that I’m always listening to the angels on both shoulders, rather than just the angel on one, or the devil on the other. I’ll need to plan like crazy, yet be open to happenstance. I need to get myself into excellent physical condition, while hoping that I’ll never need to use this strength to get me out of a jam. I need to be sure that I have excellent knowledge of the inner workings of the motorcycle, so that I always know the best, fastest, and most effective way to repair any issue on the bike, while hoping that nothing breaks. I believe that the trick will be to effectively channel each of these forces, and while remaining calm, use the enthusiasm to create an experience that will last a lifetime, not just the 110 days shown by the itinerary.
I know that some of you are wishing that you could be on a trip like this, feeling the wind in your hair, and seeing the amazing scenes from around the world, while others are simply glad that you can experience this world tour through the eyes of someone else. You’re glad that you won’t have to put up with the intense heat, foreboding cold, technical riding challenges, and constant movement that will be the World Tour of 2019. In both cases, I’m so very glad to have you come along for the ride.