I’m here at Changi International Airport on what may be my longest layover to date: 15 hours. I arrived at the eyelid-dropping hour of 1:30 am, and pretty much had the entire terminal to myself, save for less than a couple dozen people scattered about. The silence, coupled with dark skies and a decaf latté, got me marveling over the magic of modern travel, moving abroad, and the milestones that inevitably follow.
Now more than ever, we are capable of changing the landscape of our lives almost instantly. You see, yesterday I lived in Hawaii (where I grew up), but today I’m about to hang my hat in Bali. It may have taken me six weeks of preparation to tend to graduate school work, catch up on some paid work, tie up loose ends, and do my taxes, but in the scheme of things that isn’t very long at all.
Leading up to this skip in my game of international hopscotch, I was inundated with questions: Don’t you like Hawaii? What’s the point – isn’t Bali just like Hawaii? What are you going to do there? Aren’t you afraid of terrorists? The tone of these questions is what defined them, and the list drones on, but my respective and somewhat tired answers are as follows: yes, no, nothing, no.
I realize that everyone who asked such things had the best of intentions and were simply doing their utmost to wrap their heads around my far-flung thought process that is now delivering me to the equatorial shores of Bali. But these questions raised a far more piquant one: are all the major life choices we make reactionary to our current life circumstances? And more specifically, are moves to new places escapist by nature, or can they have a certain level of profundity that elevates them to a near-biblical experience for the individual?
After a great deal of rumination, I had a mini-satori of sorts. That this move to Bali was most definitely — like all the other ones in my peripatetic existence — reactionary in the sense that I am constantly trying to stave off routine and all its attendant dangers — complacency, emotional stuntedness, and the narrowing of perspective. Some routines are, of course, helpful, like exercising or writing every day at a specific time, reading to your child before he/she goes to bed each night, sitting around a table with one’s family for dinner, etc. But what I’m referring to are all the other ones that keep us from improving ourselves and expanding our lives. The ones that let us delude ourselves into thinking we don’t need to aim, point, and shoot an arrow in the direction of our dreams each and every day. And truth be told, I am painfully aware of how easily such habits engulf me, keeping me running –or rather, walking very slowly — in place. Living in new places, amidst cultures very different from mine, has an intense ability to shake me from my mindless routines and from looking at life through an ever-blurring lens.
But re-reading the pages of the book that is my mind also helped me to recognize that this leap was very much instinctual. All signs have been pointing to Bali — some subtle, some incontestable. In addition, there’s my incessant curiosity as to how Bali will “work” on me. You see when I was there this past December/January, I found a boundless creative energy pulsing through me, leading me to produce some of my better writing. And this creative energy filled me with a desire for variety again, to try the things that routine has so dubiously precluded from getting any real consideration from me. Where will it take me? What will it teach me? What will it bestow upon me?
That said, I can’t help but surmise that major life changes, like moves, are a combination of the independent and the reactionary. That they all fall somewhere on a spectrum between the two, depending upon our circumstances — emotional, social, economic, intellectual, spiritual — at a given time. And how escapist (or not) our decisions are determines the trajectory our lives will take. In my case, I can only echo the sentiment of the eminent travel writer, Caskie Stinnett shared when asked why he travels: I hate having my life disrupted by routine.
However, it’s not necessary to travel the world or live abroad to prevent our lives from occupying a tiny cul-de-sac. (They are both certainly effective ways of doing so, but not the only ones.) What is necessary, though, is always remaining open to the unlimited possibilities and potentials that lie within ourselves. For the moment we decide to hold that door for them, they’ll surely start marching in and our lives will become more than our imaginations could’ve ever dreamed.
Featured Writer: Jasmine Cronin-Georgiadi