6 minute read
November 26, 2017
This fourteen-part series is based on our journey to Japan and Indonesia, beginning September 13, 2017. In each post we use our presence in Asia as a broader background to the usual exploration of how we fit into this world. Welcome to our private life.
There has been an unspoken progression in our relationship. Since the beginning we’ve had a focus on self-improvement, and the way we live has evolved in both geography and scope of possessions because of it. After we moved away from home to Washington, we started working on our personal inventories – both emotional and tangible – to make our lives lighter. Now we continue doing this because it makes our life easier since we plan to be mobile in the long term.
As life has changed, so have the things we prepare for. And traveling has helped; each time we pack for a trip we realize we need less than we have. A month ago or so I heard someone say, “we only prepare for the things we are afraid of.” it was profound enough to change how I approach preparing for everything, and now in Bali when I think of the way we live in the us, that statement clearly applies to life in general: being here makes me think more about why we still live in America.
When abroad I ask myself, why are we visiting? Part of our purpose is to cultivate experiences and integrate that new knowledge into our lives. But more important, the travel has become a way for us to expand on our existing philosophies by drawing from sources we wouldn’t otherwise have. And we happily do this because we relate more easily to other people than to Americans.
We are consistently optimizing ourselves for mobility, and we relate better with foreign cultures than our own. It’s only logical that the preparation and curiosity will take us permanently outside the us. Fear is the only reason it hasn’t yet.
I started writing this entry five different times because I wasn’t sure where it was going. The first few versions were stories about riding through Bali on mopeds and how none of us ever thought we would be weaving our way through buses and dump trucks on narrow pocked streets in the south pacific. That immersion was one of the best experiences in the last two weeks, but when I considered why, I gradually realized our respect for others and the good experiences mean, no matter the hardships, we can survive anywhere and we will be happy regardless of conditions. In Bali, where westerners might call the culture primitive and consider the people poor, they simply live different than us. So if they can make it work, what are we afraid of?
More than other places, the visit to Bali has made me think about why I don’t quit my job so we can spend our lives embedding ourselves across the world, remaining as long as we want instead of staying for a week or two and then returning to the US. How can we really understand other people without living like the locals, isn’t that really why we are here? Why do it halfway?
Near Medahan, Bali Indonesia
I used to think that ‘new’ was better, but my opinion changed when I started traveling. At the time I assumed with youthful ignorance that everyone, everywhere drew values from the same base and pursued the same goals, but clearly that isn’t true. To Americans it is not always obvious that values are based on personal experience, and that very few really care about the evolution of gadgets.
In one of our only ventures into modernity during the entire trip we met some australian tourists at a condominium resort near the beach at Medahan, where we lounged for an hour on pillows in the courtyard with waiters and bartenders at our whim. At the time we disregarded the space fifty feet beyond resort property where, at the edge of the shaded daybeds, land returned to its native agriculture, but in retrospect the contrast was very distinct. We didn’t ask the locals if they had a preference, but I’m sure there is incentive to work at the resorts over toiling in the adjacent paddies. As different as the daily local Balinese life is from a typical American’s, economics is economics and the Balinese want better just like us. So the fact that tending the field does’t require English skills means it pays less, and submitting to tourists is more lucrative for those who can speak the language.
This blending of rich and poor also occurs in the us, but the lines are not as obvious as divisions in third world countries because even the less affluent in America have access to luxuries like cars and cell phones and television. I struggle with empathy for American poor because it’s impossible to know who decides to carry a mobile phone and still go hungry.
Gianyar, Bali Indonesia
Friendship has never been very important to me. In 45 years I’ve stayed in touch with three people for longer than a few years at a time, and I never really understood why until I met her. So I appreciate the relationships she has, not only because they have enriched my life, but also because they force me to consider why I’ve made it this far with only one long-term friend.
Now I realize my mild dissatisfaction with early friendships was really a projection on others of how I felt about myself, and it wasn’t until I started accepting my own personality that the criticism and judgment ended. The transition began before we met, but I credit her for the convictions she brought to our marriage that helped me understand where I came from.
Gianyar, Bali Indonesia
Sometimes I make images only to provoke the memory of its setting. Aesthetics are still important, but in these photos that is secondary. I used to edit out of my collection the images that I thought had less visual value than the memories they provided to me since I underestimated their purpose. Now I keep all of the images that mean something to me because I don’t really care what anyone thinks about them.
So yeah, I took this just for the hell of it. And I’m glad I did because I miss this guy.
Gianyar, Bali Indonesia
Food is always an issue because of the boy’s allergy. We almost didn’t bring him on this trip because we weren’t sure about communication to confirm if anything we ate contained peanuts, but that fear was totally unfounded. The Japanese hardly use peanuts, but, for safety, we had translations to help us confirm, and there are so many western tourists in Bali that communication is easy enough to feel confident. Most of the issues we find in America are related to processed foods that hardly exist here, a consideration we completely overlooked.
Still. After two weeks of sushi, ramen and nasi goreng, we miss our food. We also miss cooking when we travel, which is a big part of why we don’t stay in hotels.