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Part 1
Know Thyself

1) Why Travel

2) The First Lesson of Traveling Well

3) How to Travel: Traditional Approaches

4) Threading: A New Approach and Philosophy

5) The Walking Threader

6) Road to Discovery

2—The First Lesson of Traveling Well

You can't see it all...

"Many lessons of travel are difficult to relate and are best left unverbalized. Others are a matter of detail and vary in their usefulness from place to place. No matter how much you learn ahead of time, there will be missing dimensions to all your preconceived ideas. It’s impossible to plan completely for what you’ll discover on the way. At some point, you just have to trust your instincts and hit the road.

Still, there is one great truth that you can count on with absolute certainty--a piece of knowledge far more basic than knowing how to read a train schedule in Transylvania or where to exchange your dollars for dinars. It’s a fundamental lesson that shapes the way you experience the world. Taking it to heart can help you keep your head on straight as you dive into your journey. It may not seem like much at first, but give it some time:

Lesson 1: You can’t see it all!"
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

But, oh how I want to see it all! It's so easy to forge ahead on the road, eager for whatever might be around the next corner or over the next pass, never quite satisfied. In a way, after all, that is the essence of the traveler.

"Unfortunately for many, travel time is when anticipation runs rampant. As a traveler, you shift from a home routine into a world of novel situations, blind decisions, and unfamiliar hazards. Many travelers get so wrapped up in the logistics of where they’ve just been and where they’re going to be next that they’re never quite anyplace at all. They swim in a sea of ought-to-be’s and will-be-next’s and just-came-from-there’s. They forget that they could just stop stroking so hard and float, easily keeping their heads above water--it’s a very salty world."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

In chapter 2 of The World Awaits, I take a close look at the issue of finding a balance between anticipation and relaxation, and at the styles of decision-making that make relaxation possible. The heart of it, though, is to realize your limits.

When I first traveled, I expected the opposite challenge -- I wondered about achieving a quantity of experience. My round-the-world plan had enough destinations for five trips. I had no idea how big the world really was, nor of the many ways that it was big. It wasn't long at all before I felt very small indeed -- a feeling that any spontaneous, independent traveler is likely to experience.

"You can't see it all..." It sounds almost trivial. But for a big dreamer with big plans and high hopes for endless opportunity, it's a real lesson to learn -- but not a bitter lesson; a liberating one.

"By traveling in a way that permits a relaxed mind to exist as often and for as long as possible, you will minimize anticipation and maximize “being there.” A mind at ease is a mind ripe for learning and experiencing. The more minutes you spend on the road with a relaxed mind, the more you will feel a part of the new landscapes you’re moving through. You will better sense nuance and subtlety. It will be easier to get a “feel” for the place, and you will be able to perceive the flow of events and the relatedness of regions more clearly. Wherever you are, you are there in the fullest sense of the word.

Take Lesson 1 firmly to heart and be at peace with your limits--relaxation will follow. You will gain the sense of ease and balance your need to face that great “realm of possibility” and find your niche--a task the long road will force upon you at every turn."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved