Nurture the Now-Decisions


Having traveled long enough to write a library of books on what not to do on the road, I have found it useful, when thinking of the future, to concentrate solely on the decisions I’m currently facing.

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When finding ourselves at the crossroads of any life decision, we generally immediately think about how this will impact our future. And while it’s certainly not a bad practice to strive to ensure that our future is progressively better than our past, it’s actually more important that we keep things simple – gestating the current changes and challenges.

There’s a lot to be said about being present in each moment. This points to a reflective notion of leading our lives. But it also allows us to stay centered when facing important choices. After all, among all the hurried mistakes we have the potential to make, the ones we regret the most are those that we had the available options to change at the time.

So how do we get over this chaotic mentality when facing tough times? The old adage of “Keep It Simple” applies here. And in doing so, simple is relatable to how we are living at the current moment.

Think about it: the future is a something that hasn’t happened yet. And when we are contemplating planning our lives around something that hasn’t yet affected us, there’s no concrete way to balance whether or not the decision we’re making is a good one.

Does this mean that making a five-year plan or investing for retirement is not a good idea? Of course not. The aspects that will take care of us in our future are items more of us should pay attention to. But these are decisions that we make specifically for our future. And therefore their effects will be expected and, if we’ve played our cards right, assured.

However, the decisions that are in the now, should also center around the same notion of time sensitivity. Now is when we will be affected. So now should be the time to consider.

Stay in the moment, keep things simple, and even if things don’t go as planned, we can still rest easy knowing that we did the best we could with the circumstances we had at the time. And in that, we’ll never have any regrets.

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Centering on Our Own Feelings


Thinking over the thousands of miles under my belt and beneath my tattered shoes, there’s one thing I wish I could have comprehended at the beginning of it all. And that is the notion of other people’s feelings.

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It’s absolutely impossible to control how other people feel. There will be people who hate us just because we walked into the room after they experienced something negative. They may dislike us because of our skin color. The very thought of us may bring people disdain because of something they watched on the news or a pre-established community opinion of the place we’re from.

But we should never allow this to be seen as anything personal. There are a million things that influence how we act and react. Among them are fear of rejection, fear of reprisal, fear of hurting someone’s feelings or inadvertently insulting someone based on tradition, culture, values, status and on and on. The list is neither small nor simple. It’s a complex network of interactions that have shaped our communication throughout the ages.

The important thing to note, though, is that, while it is the righteous thing to do to be cognizant and proactive in our efforts to remain positive and bring positivity to others, we ultimately will never have complete control over others’ feelings.

By our normal, everyday actions, we are sure to offend others. We will disrespect people based on their beliefs. We will enrage others because of actions we neglected to take. And worse still, we may even be attacked for simply being at the wrong place and time.

But equating any of these notions with that of personal accountability makes about as much sense as waging a war based on rumor alone. When we travel, we do not represent our government. So we should never let people speak badly to us because of what our president has done. We should never assume that it is a reflection of ourselves that a person becomes inflamed at an act of which we were not conscious. And we should, therefore, very easily be able to let go of the prideful or aggravated emotions that often accompany what appear to be unprovoked assaults on us.

The next time we find ourselves feeling badly about what someone is saying or doing to us, we should first ask ourselves if this activity is founded. What could we have done to deserve this negativity? And if the answer is “nothing,” than this is exactly what we should do about it. Because this strife does not belong to us, we should never assume ownership of it.

Carrying on through life is much easier when we can say with confidence that we neither invite negativity, nor offer it to others. But thriving in this life can be found by focusing only on those aspects we can control, and freeing ourselves of those we cannot.

Insights from the Pavement: Welcoming New Dirt


Silly, though that statement may be, it still has a profound meaning within the constructs of one’s home.  And while abroad, this statement will remain with us if we take the time to apply it in our at-home lives.

While traveling, it’s certainly important to be in the moment with each of the everyday items that requires our participation (walking, meeting, writing, planning, etc.).  But one of the few things that we rarely engage in while on the road is the action of cleaning.

We clean our clothes, we take showers – some of us might even polish shoes or hats (I am one of these people).  But generally while we’re traveling we don’t do the same type of cleaning as we do at home.  And this might not seem important (or even noticeable) to most people.  So it might just as well go without note that our bodies actually miss the experience of cleaning our spaces.

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I realize that this is an odd statement to make – especially for those who would just as soon lounge on the beach with a martini than to sweep the kitchen floor yet another time.  But cleaning has a way of giving us the opportunity to see things from a different perspective than we normally have.

Cleaning really doesn’t benefit us in the same way that other actions do.  It doesn’t get any more of our pages edited from our new book.  It doesn’t get the financial reports in on time.  It doesn’t walk the dog or take the kids to school.  But it’s important nonetheless.

Cleaning isn’t just an act of making things shinier.  When we’re in the moment of cleansing our space, we are engaging that place within us that transforms internal intentions into physical action which ultimately rejuvenates an environment.  So it’s much grander than the connotation that the word “chores” brings with it.

Philosophically speaking, the dust that moved around us while doing the things in the past has eventually sifted down onto the floor.  And so these little particles, which will remain until they have been swept away, represent the other types of work that we’ve previously engaged in.  Sweeping them away clears a metaphorical workspace for new activities, more work and therefore more progress.  And once swept away, these particles will be replaced by the remnants of our future efforts.

So in this way the action of cleaning means something much more subtle, yet no less profound, to our inner selves.  Taking off to travel also means leaving that activity behind.  And whether or not we find ourselves with white sand and bottomless martinis or a dusty road with an endless horizon, we will continue to create, progress and carry on.

So the next time we return home we should welcome this time to clean.  When sweeping, mopping or scrubbing, we should be in the moment of not only cleaning the physical elements of the past from our space, but also welcoming the growth that this new, clean space will allow us to manifest.  And the next time we find ourselves remiss of our cleaning duties, we’ll still be able to rely on our pattern of welcoming new dirt.

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If you liked the photo from this journal, why not visit the album from Bangkok HERE.

Insights from the Pavement: Assessing time


Time means many different things, depending on where one might find themselves around the world.

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There’s no denying that many of us have felt the impact of that very statement while lazing away in a hammock as waves crash down on the nearby beach.  Time, in that way, is only measured in terms of the piña coladas that separate the day into more of a detached sequence of sonatas playing out a in a grander symphony of relaxation.

On the other hand, those of us who’ve missed our bus to get to our downtown jobs know the very essence of even a single minute that passes through time.  Each minute, in this case, is more akin to a measure of frustration that shapes our realization that tardiness may cost us much more than the sip of a tropical drink.

These two extremes mark the very fringes of our expectation of time.  And most of us reside somewhere in the middle.  But when we visit a new place, we should be sure to pay close attention to what time might mean in the current location.

In the west, being punctual shows others that we are professional, dedicated and that others’ time is important to us.  In the east, however, being late might actually work in your favor, as it can also be seen to mean that a person knows his level of importance and therefore his lateness is the expression of that concept.

More times than not, our expectation of time while traveling abroad simply relates to the ability to catch a bus or that a train will arrive on the scheduled time.  But it is important to be mindful that this may not be a frivolous matter when dealing interpersonally with those who expect certain things of us.

Being invited to ceremonial events such as weddings, family feasts or annual celebrations hold a completely different prospect for those who did the inviting.  When in doubt of how to handle these occasions, it’s always best to show up early.  Having this in mind will keep us from looking as though we are either too humble and self-conscious, or too egotistical and feel that others should wait on us.

Developing this pattern while abroad may well be the catalyst for continuing this beneficial trend at home as well.

Follow me on twitter: @cyleodonnell

Like the photo from this journal?  Click HERE to visit the album of photography from the Samchoek, South Korea market where I took it.

Insights from the Pavement: Look at what you’ve done


Finding what we’re passionate about comes easy for some.  Creating music, painting a portrait or taking a beautiful photograph seems simply to be in some people’s blood.  For those of us who are blessed to have that kind of talent, it’s a marvel even to sit in their presence and watch them work.

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For most of us, however, finding, exploring and possibly mastering a specific craft seems a bit harder to reach.  The apex of our efforts, then, becomes realizing a goal that we may have set for ourselves to one day get to a point of mastery within our interests that drives us to continually do better.  And as we chip away at the rough outer edges of the product that will eventually be our life’s work, many of us experience extreme moments of satisfaction along the way.

On the other hand, while it seems nearly impossible to imagine, there are so many of us who simply pass right by this experience of self-gratitude and just keep working – never becoming aware of the amazing accomplishments that we’ve created along the way.

Having a creative outlet is important.  Dedicating ourselves to one or more items in this life rewards us in many ways.  But if we never turn around to gaze over the ground we’ve covered in our endeavors, these amazing accomplishments fall by the wayside to the one person who they should matter to the most – ourselves.

When we get busy creating something in our lives that others will enjoy and benefit from, keep in mind that if we don’t also enjoy the fruits of our labors, we may be little more than slaves to our own craft.  And eventually, under these conditions, our craft will fail and ultimately our engagement in this lifestyle will seem as pointless as the efforts that were never appreciated along the way.

When we find ourselves at a pausing-point in our work, we should always take the opportunity to look at what we’ve done and smile quietly to ourselves at the brilliant new thing that we’ve given back to the world that has sustained us.  It is important that we don’t become callous, prideful or an overindulgent in self-advocacy.  But if we are involved in our activities because our efforts were truly inspired from a place within us, our gratitude will never fail to fill us with a sense of unending humility.

And that, alone, is worth a lifetime of work.

Do you agree or disagree?  Tell me in the comments.

Follow me on twitter: @cyleodonnell

If you like this photo, check out the Canada album it was taken from in 2005 HERE.

Insights from the Pavement: Using Your Presence


It’s only in recent years that I have come to realize just how much physical space I take up – and therefore, how I must come across to people.  I am quite a big person, standing 6’4” (193cm) and weighing 230 lbs (104kg).  In addition, my first reaction when I am engaging in stimulating conversation is to become animated and to shape my words with my hands and my body.

And since many cultures around the world are extremely put off by boisterous movements that are natural to me, many times I’ve missed opportunities of connecting with people for reasons that I never realized at the time.

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For those reading this who don’t really have any way to relate, I’d have to say that it’s a bit like being a fully grown Labrador retriever that still thinks it’s a lap-dog.  It’s a big, fumbling animal that reacts cluelessly to its owners’ attempts to get it to understand it’s all grown up.  Except, most people are too polite to ever tell me that I am intimidating them with my loud presence and quick hand movements.

Over the years I’ve learned that I need to curb my activities when I speak to others and sculpt my words less with the motion in my hands and more with the choice of my words.  This, of course, allows the person I am speaking to to be less focused on these big, swinging arms that I am waiving around and more on my topic.  I also notice that when I speak with young people, it’s better that I fold my hands together behind my back or place them in my pockets and not square up my shoulders to them so as to not seem too physically engaging.

There are many other examples of the conscious effort I make not to subconsciously affront people.  But suffice it to say that we all expend a great deal of energy communicating our information to others.  So it makes sense that we should also pay a certain amount of attention to whether or not these efforts may be misaligned or misdirected.

There’s really no way to measure how much of what we say comes across differently than we intend.  The best we can hope to do is to come close to getting our ideas out there.  But if we take the time to investigate how we come across to others, we can maximize our efforts and use our best attributes to our advantage.

This will also go a long way in letting us know of items in our lives or about our appearance that we might like to change or do away with altogether.  After all, if what we’re trying to communicate is only lost in a sea of actions or visual attributes that are working counter to our aims, we would benefit from knowing of that which stands in the way of our interpersonal contact with others.

This may well be the difference between connecting with people in that new place that we visit along our travels, and missing opportunity after opportunity to get a deeper sense of the foreign cultures which we’re exploring.

Follow me on twitter: @cyleodonnell

Like the photo from this journal?  Click HERE to see the photos from this year’s Thaipusam Festival at the Batu Cave in Malaysia.