How to travel the world without seeing the rest of the world.

Beyond time and money, it takes an obsessive level of interest in the world to want to see all of it. Sure, there’s Maldives, Paris, Sydney, Napa, etc. But the world is not exclusively Mai Tais in beaches, or cigarettes and a magazine in a cafe. There are places such as Bolivia, India, Somalia, and the rest of those countries which to describe as severe is an understatement.

Unfortunately, I have a very poor imagination for a person who loves and enjoys reading and writing as much as I enjoy wine, food, music and sex, not necessarily in any particular order. 

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In order to complete the equation of fully getting lost in the orgasmic pleasure I get from reading and writing, it becomes an imperative for me to experience and collect stimulus from different landscapes and people.

Take sentences such as;

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…”  from the The Prince by A. de Saint-Exupery

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“Anyone who is observant, who discovers the person they have always dreamed of, knows that sexual energy comes into play before sex even takes place. The greatest pleasure isn’t sex, but the passion with which it is practiced. When the passion is intense, then sex joins in to complete the dance, but it is never the principal aim.” from P. Coelho.

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For me, lines like those are as usefully descriptive as a limbless person playing charades, or a mute explaining the beauty of poetry.

In short, it becomes necessary for me to see and experience the world, which isn’t always a bad thing if you only read about wineries and brothels, but I’m also interested in Hinduism, the Bolivian alitplano, German Christmas, touring endless Moroccan highways and bullfighting.

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So in order to have more time for books and notebooks, I made a list of guidelines that will give me a general idea of what the world looks like without having to see the rest of it.

1. My best tip is to divide the world in terms of religion. 

Religion has the biggest influence and impact on culture and lifestyle. And why not, after the crusades, burnings at the stake, warring prophets with their delivering words.

It may not always be the same for each country. For Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur in particular has Islam-lite compared to Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern nations. But monks are never balder than the next Buddhist nation.

Religion may not have dibs on food selection, but next to terroir, they have the biggest say on it.

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2. Visiting neighboring countries tend to look similar, be it in people, architecture and culture. 

Because most borders are relatively new compared to human civilizations, we don’t always have to see the world through countries, instead, divide the world in parts. While some countries are sandwiched, like the Basque country between France and Spain, most tend to be drawn from the same pepperoni pizza. Take for example Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, they are like different versions of a curry that is India. Hong Kong and Macau, tearing themselves from China, for better or worse. Or Yugoslavia, broken down into a couple of super nationalistic eastern European countries, but visit each one and you’ll probably see more castles than you ought too. As much as the Germans and Austrians like to differentiate themselves from each other, they speak the same language for chrissake. And don’t even get me started between Spain and Portugal.

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Although sometimes, similar neighboring countries are on your side too. I wanted to see Tibet, but for now, Nepal will do because the Chinese government took over and imposed ridiculous rules for visiting.

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My tip is to visit those old superpowers where civilizations centered themselves during the time when they used animals, precious metals and stones to trade for commodities. They would usually be a few countries per continent. They would tend to be where architecture and culture are grand, such as Rome, Peru, India, China, Russia etc.

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Or if you want to have a view of Mediterranean life and architecture, skip between 3 countries, they are not exclusively Spain, France and Italy. Check out Slovenia, Bosnia or Croatia too and you would be surprised to see that its not always comfortable and sexy. And still, there’s Greece and Turkey (again, choose one) for Europe meets Asia. Also Tunisia, Libya or Algeria for the African continent. Israel, Lebanon, etc. for the Asian side. They mostly form the Mediterranean sea and you wonder why they sell kebabs in different names from all those countries.

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3. Nature will always be nature. 

If I dropped you in the middle of a tropical forest, would you be able to tell if you were in Brazil or South East Asia? Or if, like Leonardo Di Caprio from Inception, you wake up/arrive from/in a dream/real life (only Christopher Nolan knows) and find yourself randomly beached, could you even tell which continent you are in? The Philippines have 7107 islands, sounds intimidating. But visit a a really nice beach, maybe two, same for mountains, do it good and you’re done.

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When I was seriously contemplating about taking a $400 90 minute mountain flight over the Himalayas, some European guy from trip advisor wrote “If you’ve flown over the Alps on a nothing special commercial flight, its not gonna be very different.” That was a really lame thing to say but I realized after that he wasn’t completely wrong and $400 poorer.

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Between deserts and snow, they’re always hot and cold, sandy and wet. The Sahara transcends from a lot of African nations, some are at war with each other. Choose one and save yourself from the risk of being caught in the crossfire. 

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4. Food

When it comes to food just as in wine, “terroir”, or land, is king. Before immigration, refrigeration and shipping, if a couple of countries reside on the same valley, coast or mountain, don’t expect the vegetation and animal protein to be different. Don’t believe what the Portuguese say that they have completely different cuisine from the Spanish, you are probably talking to a person named Ego. Or land locked nations, again, like Germany and Austria, sausage anyone?

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5. Colonies

When it comes to colonization, I have a very mixed feelings about it. Its a two faced coin. Producing mixed cuisines and beautiful people (mestizas, creole, etc), but it made the world so much smaller by erasing cultures and wiping out the indigenous people. I have a big reservation when it comes to visiting South Africa for the people because I find it decidedly English in so many ways. Even parts of Australia. Maybe because they mostly came from England anyway.

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Borders give us a challenge but we don’t always have to see the world through countries. The idea is to spread up that map, take a ruler and lay it on the map, stick pins between countries maintaining 2-3 inches of space in between. Divide the world in maybe 8-10 trips, do it well by completely immersing yourself in each one and you will get a sense of what the world looks like without having to see the rest of it.

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How to live everyday as if it were your last, and survive tomorrow if it isn’t.

The thought hit me when Marla Singer from Fight Club said, “My philosophy in life is that I can die anytime, but the tragedy is that I don’t.” To say that it has changed my life is an understatement. It cracked me, beat me, and flipped me like an omelette is how I would put it. Let’s be realistic. You can die anytime. There is no way you will know when it will come. Though some fortunate ones, like people with old age, terminal sickness, or death penalized, they are the enlightened ones with regards on how everyday must be spent. But for the rest of us, young and healthy, we are as ignorant as we are in denial about the capricious nature of death.

Regardless of the subjectivity of happiness and meaning, I find it important that everyday must be spent as meaningfully as if it were your last, and survive tomorrow if it isn’t. So in no particular order, I will share with you the gift of knowledge on how I finish my day feeling complete and satisfied.

1. Work for today

Living a meaningful last day in life doesn’t mean you skip work and have a “The hell with it” attitude towards it. Work is a necessary element in life, from  our present get-filthy-rich mindset as it has been since the stone age. Money is important. People who say otherwise have yet to live without it. With that being said, work is a necessary responsibility in life. But it is crucial to understand that work is not an end, it is a mean to something greater in life, to get you to your dreams, big or small.

2. Achieve goals

Setting goals make living meaningful in trying to achieve them. Find something you are truly passionate about. Set long term goals but divide them on short term ones. It is important that everyday becomes a success. You want to travel? Slowly set aside money for it, read about the place, plan as if you were leaving tomorrow until you actually are. Want to write a book? Write a few sentences everyday and you’ll be surprised that you might just finish a book faster than what it takes a published author with undisciplined work ethics.

3.Make people you love know it

I always hear in people who’ve lost loved ones say how “I wish I did more.” Its not rocket science, let people you love know how you feel for them because you might never get the chance to do it. It doesn’t mean overdoing it everyday. I still argue with my parents, but every night I kiss my mom good night, and give my dad a big hug. I spend time with them, but just enough that I still have enough time for myself. Or I may disagree with people I love, but I will not fall short on what I can do that I am comfortable with for them. Overdoing it will burn you out. What’s important is you give enough of yourself to them that if either party ceases to exist tomorrow, there will be no regrets.

4. Smile often

This is pretty easy. I would not spend my last day, and therefore any day, with a frown. Smiling makes life lighter despite of whatever situation I’m in. Remember to catch yourself when you’re stressed, pause, and smile. It doesn’t take the problem away but stressing out with a smile is better than stressing out with a frown. Have you ever been smiled on by an innocent looking stranger and remember how there was suddenly hope for the world? Smiling is contagious. Smile often.

5. Eat well

I’m not talking about going organic or ceasing to eat animal protein. Sure, being healthy is important but one thing I learned early on in life is that happy people live longer than healthy people. When I say eat well, eat whatever that satisfies your craving but keep in mind the consequences. Understand that binging doesn’t make eating fun. Take time to enjoy every bite. Make eating an art by not making it simply about consumption but an experience. A wonderful lunch can easily transform the mood from a morning of hustle and bustle, and don’t get me started talking about the pleasures of dinner. Even Jesus had wine for his last supper.

6. Exercise

It is scientifically proven that exercise releases happy hormones (chocolates too, but that’s for number 5!). It doesn’t have to be a strict routine. Remember that the only wrong workout is the one you did not do. There is an instant gratification in exercising. Though parts of it may just be a lie, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, even when in front of the mirror.

7. Sleep well

You can’t YOLO this one out. At the end of the day, it is of most importance to get a really good, quality sleep. It is where I get the energy from which I make meaningful days from. And if it is the moment that caps my meaningful life, then it is nothing but the most beautiful sleep.

The only thing that beats a well spent last day on Earth is to have another one. Another chance to fulfill, and achieve. To eat more food and feel good.  Another day to express love, and to smile. It is not wrong to look to the future but never confuse the present with anything other than what it is, a gift.

A movie script ending

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Prologue

5:30 am, your phone rings the alarm you imprudently set the night before you slept, just after you finished your second bottle of wine.

Act I

A smell of certain but distant familiarity in the air as he walks up to her, ever so feverishly beautiful as she sat by the bed, not a word of invite to come close to her because Helen of Troy knows what herculean effort it is not to. His pride takes over his feet and he defiantly walks around the room, pretending not to notice her while she does something in her computer. Did he just see her fingers playfully tuck her hair behind her ear? An effort from her to unblind side her from your vantage point? He over analyzes as he panicked to find something for his hands to play with, buying time to think before the air gets stale and the silence deafening.

“You don’t need to be so damn cunning”, he wanted to say, “Your hair falls differently on your face now”, he said. She looked up, pretending to be puzzled from what he said, but she knew she’s already had him from the moment he nervously grabbed his phone to check nothing, and said, “You notice too many things about my face, but you can never look straight at it.” Damn her, he thought.

He struggles to find courage to come and sit on the bed beside her, realizing how making those two steps can feel like crossing the widest, deepest ocean.

Act II

In bed, shoulders barely touching, he listens to all the new things he missed out on her, years of it. While he struggles to focus on her stories, responding with generic uhums, yes, and exactly!, she reaches in for the bottle of wine beside him, as her bare skin uncovered by her tank top touched his, for a moment, an electric current runs from her skin to his shoulder, sending a shock to the deepest nerves in his body.

“Oh how pleasantly devouring it is to be struck by a lightning! Benjamin Franklin was wrong to wait for it under the rain, it was from her, my heroine.” He thought.

Emboldened by the shock from the current that still runs through his nerves, he stretches an arm that finds its way around her slim neck. A few interminable seconds of nervous silence, to feel no resistance from her and  the sight of a sly smile across her face, he knew he’d just won the lottery. Suddenly, her words became bubbles and the room looked like the sky from underwater.

The night went by as she excitedly continued to talk while he helplessly descended deeper underwater, holding on to her tightly, as if the slightest gap between them would drown him.

Act III

He reaches for the snooze button. Windows all at their pale shade of blue, he turns to look at her, the source of a faint glow amidst the darkness. He delicately pushes her hair back from her face to see what cherubs looks like when they sleep.

He plants a blasphemous kiss, it lands as soft as cotton, but she gives a muffled grunt anyway. Stubbornness was something she never lacked. Even demigods, just like humans, don’t want to be disturbed this early in the morning.

She breathes, warm and alive. She’s human after all.

He rests his head back to their only pillow, facing her, their eyes leveled to each other. Instinctively, he closed his eyes when he saw a slit of opening from hers, afraid it would turn him into a stone when she opens them. Yes, she could be as vicious as Medusa sometimes. He felt movement, and then the unexpected kiss lands on his face. Medusa or not, he had to open his eyes but it was too late, her sleepy arms were already wrapped around his suddenly weakened frame. There has been no embrace emotionally reciprocated more than this.

Finding the strength to overturn her, he endlessly kissed her face as she began to laugh on every tickling kiss that lands. Not a part unkissed, from ear to ear, forehead to chin, every sweet laugh from her an encouragement for him to pursue.

When the alarm rang for the last possible time, and it was time to pull away, he understood that if magnets had feelings, this is what its like every time you pull them apart.