Just a thought….
Covey’s “7 Habits of Successful People”is an insightful piece describing benefits of being actively aware of one’s response given the current state of emotions and the circumstances. There are a lot of take-aways from the book, especially for travelers. The habit I have repeatedly comer back to during the last 72 hours of being on buses, trains, airplanes, taxis, tuk-tuks, and ferries is “Beginning with the End in Mind.”
The transportation part of traveling in a country where I don’t know the language, haven’t the slightest clue how much I just paid the taxi driver (large tip or is he laughing his ass off at dumb westerners?), and aren’t at all certain I will actually live through the chaotic traffic can be an anxiety fueled affair. It’s never easy, but I’ve learned the best things come and bash me across the face demanding my full effort, curiosity, and passion.
So, if the destination is, in my case, Cat Ba Island in Vietnam’s Halong Bay, then 72 hours of in transit is a necessary evil. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the process of traveling and connect with others sharing the same experience. (I enjoyed the moment of being stuck in the middle of a roundabout in Vietnam, scooters buzzing all around, and the only signals are the blaring horns of every vehicle. The entire time, though, I was thinking that we could definitely get into a car or scooters accident any second.)
No. I am talking about the times on the plane or bus when the meditation and patience I’d been practicing left me with nothing but anxiety and frustration. When there is no way of moving my legs because the woman in the seat in front of me and I have to be a good traveler and keep my backpack between my legs at all times. It is distress time.
At these moments recently I’ve praised Covey’s genius. He reminds me that the habit of reorienting myself towards the immediate goal, in this case ending up on the beach in Vietnam, is such a bloody useful tool to direct energy away from the stress of my cramped legs and uncertain future at the traffic stop. Recognizing that, most of the time, I cannot change the state of my current transportation is not only fun but, also, incredibly liberating. If I begin my travels with that knowledge then I am freeing myself from the stress the very moment I step onto the bus. Ahhhhh.
Covey’s insights provided me with a method of recognizing that, sometimes, it is okay when we are traveling to see transportation as a means to an end. This is not to say don’t live in the moment of being, for example, in an open-air tuk-tuk riding along the jagged coast of a Vietnamese island looking out at the karst formations looming in the mist of Halong Bay. However, when I’m locked in a metal tube for more than a few hours, it’s nice to know that I’ll be sitting on a beach in Vietnam at the end of the flight. Very soothing.