How many countries have you been to? How many miles have you hiked? How many top ten mountains have you climbed?
For those of us who’ve been traveling for any notable length of time, we can recall a period when these questions were important to us. But, as the natural progression of exploration goes, these inquiries make less of an impact on us than, say, questions like ‘how much do you know about this culture,’ or ‘how much time did you spend researching the ancient ruins of [wherever],’ or ‘how many languages do you speak?’
This is the graduation of interests that comes to any long term traveler who’s put in their dues and thought a little deeper about what it means to explore our world.
The truth is, there will always be someone out there that has done more, seen more, or is better at one thing or another than we are. And this is also true of us — as we certainly have our own talents as well. We may be better at keeping a blog than the next person while they may have visited more temples throughout Asia. And they may have travel stories from 50 countries while we have just as many stories from only a few.
When we boil it down to its most basic parts, the game of comparing ourselves to others is all relative. And ultimately, there’s never a need to do so. Because, even if we strive to visit the most countries, to learn the most about other cultures or to ride the most trains in the world, the person sharing that exact same experience will do so a completely different way. And therefore, they’ll value very different parts of that same event.
Leaving the contest to the inexperienced is best, so that they can learn to achieve in their own speed. Eventually, they will come to a point where they may realize that in the game of life, the only thing winning or losing determines is how we feel about ourselves. And in that, the same result can be achieved simply by doing our best or performing at our worst. It’s not others we’re competing with, after all.
So if we remember that the competition only exists within ourselves, it will only be our previous accomplishments that we will seek to surpass. And in that particular game, we always win.