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follow the music

September 21, 2021

"Follow the music." Three words of the best travel advice I've ever received.

Three words that opened up my existence to an entirely different reality: because I understood it, and because I followed it.

I've always been one for serendipity, but ever since following this advice, magic has not come in droplets. It comes as a coursing river stream, with one synchronicity after the other.

Initially, I didn't even hear the music, but once I started to listen carefully, I've followed it to many places: from the roaring symphony of blizzard during my Everest base camp trek to the soundless wonder under the stars and swirling aurora in Abisko (some of my favorite travel stories in this thread here).

Traveling has allowed me to explore projections of my own psyche reflected in the variety of infinite surfaces around the world. It's acceptance of myself in different fun-size mirrors, with only myself as the constant. I've felt this most strongly on extended travel journeys. Long-term living induces an entirely different mindset than vacations.

Vacations sometimes feel like temporary fantasies: opting out of "actual life" for a week or two before the inevitable return. When full immersion occurs in a completely different part of the world, over a long period of time, there comes the somatic realization that these magical moments don't only exist in siloed pockets of life: it is the entire life. Life itself is the miracle.

More than that is the ability to meaningfully integrate these experiences. After a certain escape velocity (about three months in a new home), sparks of familiarity arise in initially foreign environments. Home feels less attached to a physical place, and more to a feeling. Acceptance of different worlds becomes biologically habituated.

Especially in a society that experiences proximal disconnection, there are platforms like Airbnb and Couchsurfing that allow for discrete geographic places to be connected in non-physical ways. This enables the guiding principle behind travel: celebration of diversity through human connection.

We are mere guests of this world, yet a synthesis of accumulated cultures over time. As Carl Jung wrote, the meeting of two personalities is akin to an alchemical reaction: both are changed. When more are inspired to travel, the probability of catalyzation also compounds: the probability for cultural exchange towards a greater shared understanding. When we scale wonder in each other, through each other, only then can we be closer to a larger, collective truth that lies outside of our own lives.

As the karmic wheel churns, and one song fades into another, I end with the first words that catalyzed my journey to inspire the next explorer: "Follow the music."