I am currently in the midst of what is proving to be my most foreign adventure. While I have lived on other continents before, there is something unique about the perspective in Asia that has been forcing me to revaluate what I think is true.
First and foremost, I am relearning how much travel makes me feel alive. I constantly find myself grinning life a goofball over little events like finding toilet paper or successfully ordering a sandwich. I love being on the road and it is remarkable how quickly I forget that when I am back in my normal routine.
I come from a mindset and a country with a 200 year old history. Here, in the East, I am surrounded by a mindset and history that is certainly much older and more often than not, much wiser. There is old knowledge here and it seeps into everything. Everyday I feel as if I am digging and peeling back another layer of my surroundings. The fact that if I were to physically dig through the earth, I would actually end up back home is striking. Geographically and culturally I am as far away as I can get.
I have already had some of the classic moments of a westerner traveling in Asia. The comically small rooms, the ordering of a dish only to realize too late that it is pig rectum, the polite smiles when I am forced to repeat myself due to my thick American accent. These moments are fun and give me the slight love prod I enjoy from adventuring.
But those are all things that I pretty much expected. They are the moments you see repeated several times throughout the course of a cheesy travel show.
The aspect of living in the East that has surprised and taught me the most has been the rare moments when I have glimpsed into how the people here view the western world. It has been humbling to hear their perspectives of my home.
The West From The East
From the East, it is clear that the United States is waning as the world’s top super power. The writing is on the wall. There is no city in the western world, much less the United States that is run as efficiently as Singapore. This city (and country) has its problems, but in key areas it is outperforming the West.
But this isn’t just true for Singapore, it also appears to be true for many other developed countries in the East. Over here, schools are producing better scientists and mathematicians. They in turn are producing more efficient and better run businesses and cities.
Macau now drives more revenue than Las Vegas, Hong Kong is rivaling Hollywood in number of profitable movies and China is showing the world what blue collar at scale can accomplish. Developed countries in the East are more modern than they are back home. Key infrastructure like public transportation and communication technology is irrefutably better.
America, Fuck Yeah? It is this uncertainty, this questioning of my cultural foundations that drives me to travel. It is a feeling that you simply can’t experience by watching the Nightly News.
Travel is usually talked about in terms of things that are physical; passports, food and people. For me though, the joy of travel is largely mental. Travel is a costume show of mindsets. It is an act that offers both the wardrobe and the lit mirror needed to experience yourself in a new way.
The fried chicken feet and kung fu museums are fun but it is the walking around in the wings of the world stage that I really find enlightening.
At the root of the word question, is the word quest. This is what makes finding some answers so difficult. Those who are brave enough to be curious find themselves standing at the beginning of a long journey. It is a path that leads to ideas and feelings that when they start, are yet unknown. This is where I find myself today. I have many questions and for this reason, I am here, on a foreign adventure, pouring myself into this life list quest.