TRAVELING AND SOCIAL CONNECTIONS

MAY 2013 – I’m on an island in southern Thailand called Koh Lanta. It’s quiet, somewhat off the tourist radar which became a welcome respite after visiting the more popular islands along with the tourist hoards. I practically had the entire beach to myself which gave me a chance to recharge. On one particular night I ended up having drinks with an odd mix of people. A journalist from TIME magazine, a photo journalist from the UK and a lawyer from Paris. This circumstance seems like a romanticized story you would read in a book. The likelihood of meeting these fascinating people back home are quite unlikely. Yet, here we are, from different countries and backgrounds sharing some common passions that brought us together. The passion for travel, resisting conformity and following our dreams.

Then it occurs to me that if I chose to remain in the bubble I essentially created for myself back home, remaining within the comforts of routine with work and making social connections with the same circles of coworkers, friends and family, I am isolating myself from the rest of the world and all the life altering experiences that go along with it.

Traveling isn’t just about visiting places. Traveling is also about networking and meeting people who may have the potential to impact your way of thinking or that could possibly open doors you never even dreamed of. You never know that the next person whose hand you shake or say hello to might take you. It could start a domino effect, leading you to an unexpected adventure.

This is another life lesson I’ve been trying to teach myself. To be more open and friendly to people. For introverted personalities such as myself, this isn’t easy, not to mention that in western society many of us grow up learning to keep to ourselves. It has been my observation that people in developing countries seem to have a stronger sense of community than we do. Possibly due to economic struggles, having to depend on other people for moral support. All over the world I see families getting together in the evening at the town squares, parks or cafes to socialize. Our evenings in North America are typically spent in front of the television  or computer. We as an ‘advanced society’ have become so self-sufficient that I think we’ve lost that important connection consequently isolating ourselves.

Is it possible that losing this important social component is one reason why so many people are depressed in the west? Could it be one reason why so many people in western society live a life of consumerism, trying to fill empty voids with material things? I have no facts or educational backing to prove this. These are just some thoughts that have come to mind on my journey. What do you think?

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