Whatever You Decide.

Because The Gate is read all over the world by thousands of readers, I usually have to watch what I write, as quite a few people from virtually every phase of my life read my articles — but although I typically eschew posting personal information about myself, I am feeling like posting something a little more personal right now; so please bear with me with my current catharsis of writing this article.

Whatever You Decide.

I must admit that I have been in a bit of a funk due to a number of issues in life which I have been facing lately. Divulging exactly what they are serves no relevance here; so I will not reveal them…

…and learning of a plethora of bad news has both exacerbated how I feel while simultaneously realizing just how lucky I am. A former coworker recently died. The mother of a friend died only moments ago prior to me writing this article. The father of a long-time friend also passed away. A friend — who is younger than me, mind you — just revealed to me that he will undergo hip replacement surgery at the end of this month.

I wish I could help all of them. I really do.

Sure, I offered an ear to those who need it — but until I figure out how to bring dead people back to life and eliminate the need for surgery, I am literally helpless and truly powerless.

Music Will Not Fix You…But It Can Help

I feel like doing one of two things — or preferably both — when I feel this way: either find an unfamiliar song to which I can listen; or hop into a car and just drive with absolutely no destination in mind.

First, about music: although my music collection contains greater than 22,000 songs, I decided to “surf” the Internet, where one song led me to another — and I happened upon the 1980 song Whatever You Decide by the late Randy VanWarmer, who actually sounds like Christopher Cross singing.

I had never heard of the song before I stumbled upon it, but I have been playing it nonstop since last night; and despite the song having nothing technically great about it, it just hit me a certain way — the right way — when I first heard it. I cannot explain why — except to say that the melody has that get into a car and drive away aimlessly feel about it.

Did an unfamiliar song ever do that to you?

I then thought about the title of that song and how it applies to me, to travel, to life in general. You should do whatever you decide if it helps you to feel better and improve your life — without hurting others in the process, of course.

Music is a form of virtual travel to me. Music is important to me — especially when I travel. Listening to music transports me to various places at various periods of time in my mind. It helps me feel better — or, at least, puts me in the mood in context with what I am thinking or feeling at that moment. Somehow, the aforementioned song by Randy VanWarmer does it for me this time around.

Travel Will Not Fix You…But It Can Improve You

Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in a miasma of articles written by other authors who are endlessly bellowing about miles, points and hawking credit cards and just want to say that enough is enough.

Whatever happened to the advent of travel and its original purpose?

“I wish I could travel like you” is something which I do often hear — although it is typically mixed in with “You are insane with the way you travel — how in the world do you do it?!?”

Certainly not on BoardingArea — where readers such as you also travel frequently — does anyone inform me that they wish that they could travel like me; but I do hear that from people in person. Going to places such as Botswana or Morocco or South Korea or Spain or Liechtenstein or Lesotho — yes, I still have plenty more trip reports coming — is beyond their comprehension. To them, travel is a luxury of time, money and effort. I keep telling them that there are ways around that and that life is short. Sometimes I will hear “yeah, you’re right — I am going to do that one of these days” or “no, it is just not possible for me.”

Either way, they usually do not embark on traveling — unless you count that car trip on Interstate 30 to Little Rock with a stop at an isolated Stuckey’s off some lone exit along the way…

…and when they do express how they wish they could travel like me, there is usually a hint of jealousy or envy in their voices — sometimes along with the unrealistic expectation that I will actively help them realize their travel dreams with significant input and effort on my part.

I do consider myself fortunate that I have traveled as much as I have — but not for the reasons those other people might think.

Andy Luten of Andy’s Travel Blog — a person with whom I have had the pleasure of meeting several years ago — recorded what he called a “rant” in a video in which he was quite candid about how travel will not fix you; and he posted that video in this article.

He talks about his bouts with depression, with which he admits he has struggled for years and that it runs in the family. I am no expert on depression by any means; but it is important to note that there is a substantial difference between being depressed — a temporary phase of being despondent or unhappy, usually caused by an external source or event — and suffering from depression, which is classified by WebMD as a medical illness. Fortunately, depression can be treated.

Here is the video in case you do not see it below:

While it may be possible to no longer be depressed if you are looking forward to a trip to Paris or Sydney or Cape Town or New York, travel is not an antidote for depression. In fact, you may actually be even more depressed when traveling if you suffer from depression.

As I originally wrote in this article:

If you stop and think about it, travel is very disruptive by nature. You prepare for a trip hoping that you did not forget anything, as there is little you can do once you leave. You travel to the airport — sometimes in traffic. You wait in line as you are processed through the airport security checkpoint at the airport by agents of the Transportation Security Administration — even if you do have credentials which allow you to be expedited faster. You wait — either at the gate or in an airport lounge. You then board the airplane with dozens of other passengers — regardless of to which cabin you are assigned to be seated — and you are hurled through the air at 35,000 feet above the ground in a seat in close quarters.

Upon arrival at your destination, you are in surroundings which are either completely unfamiliar; or at least usually not as familiar as where you are based. You might be in a different time zone, which could confuse your “body clock” and cause jet lag. If you are at a foreign destination, you are processed again — this time through immigration; and my experience in Bahrain was not the most pleasant, as an example.

You might cough because you are not used to being around smokers; go hungry as the food may not generally be to your liking; find that products and services are expensive due to the exchange rate; or be uncomfortable sleeping in a strange bed in a strange room in a strange building thousands of miles from home — and probably thousands of miles from the nearest person whom you know…

…and I have not included such factors as irregular operations, inclement weather, disruptive fellow passengers and other anomalies which could threaten to further deteriorate your travel experience — such as driving a rental car in Cairo, for example; which I will never forget for the rest of my life.

If you feel lonely and depressed while at home, the feeling will most likely be exponentially worse when you are hundreds or thousands of miles away from the nearest person or location or food with which you are familiar. Andy Luten is absolutely correct: travel will not fix you — especially if you travel similarly to the way I and other frequent fliers travel. There are too many things which may go wrong; too many things about which to think; and a significant amount of time and planning in order to properly travel — unless you are spontaneously jetting off to a weekend in London; and even that kind of travel has its own issues which are not for those who are faint of heart.

“Whoever you are when you are not traveling is who you will be when you are traveling,” Andy wisely advises. That statement is in line with what a professor — who was incredibly knowledgeable with how the human brain operates — repeatedly said lecture after lecture while I was matriculated in business school earning my Master of Business Administration degree: “If you are born as an elephant, you will live as an elephant and you will die as an elephant. Do not try to be an aardvark. Rather, the key to life is to live as a happy elephant.”

James Taylor also said it well in his song Secret O’ Life: “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. Any fool can do it, there ain’t nothing to it.” He also sings “Try not to try too hard, it’s just a lovely ride.”

Summary

While travel will indeed not fix you, I have staunchly believed for many years that travel helps to broaden the mind. It can improve you; and it offers a far superior education than any book, classroom, or television program ever could, in my opinion. I have learned first-hand about other religions and better understand why people do what they do because of travel. I have seen history live before my eyes, as I mentioned in this article pertaining to New York as one of many examples. I have met many new people from all over the world…

…but it is important to realize that travel will rarely solve your problems. You can literally run away from some problems; but they will be waiting for you when you return from traveling — and they will often be more significant than when you left them.

Other than possibly with medical tourism, travel will not cure any of your maladies. If you suffer from depression when you are at home, you will most likely suffer from it while traveling.

If you are going to travel, please do it for the right reasons: because you want to explore and experience a different environment in ways in which your life will be enriched; and because it is a passion of yours, as it is a passion of mine. Travel is not a “hobby” to me — it is a part of who I am as a person…

…and most importantly, travel with realistic expectations in mind. Some weblogs extol the perceived virtues of travel: how glamorous it is; and how you can do it without spending a penny. Don’t believe them. If you happen to actually experience that elusive utopia of flawless luxury travel for free, count your blessings.

As Andy Luten concluded in that aforementioned article: “To sum it up: make sure the idea of ‘traveling the world’ isn’t a crutch preventing you from working through your junk and living a full life.”

Amen, Andy; and let me add that — because it is a passion of mine and not a “hobby” — travel is a part of living a full life for me.

Life is filled — and fraught — with changes. You can either choose to accept and embrace changes; you can attempt to fight change; or you can create your own change.

As for me…well…I will be okay. Life goes on. I simply have not decided on which of those three choices I will take after I dust myself off, as each road is filled with its own set of potholes on the way to the desired destinations. Whichever way I go — even if only to go home — I will be sure to have my playlists with me…

…and speaking of destinations, now let’s see — to where shall I travel next?

The answer: whatever I decide…

Photograph of a sunset over Copenhagen ©2008 by Brian Cohen.

16 thoughts on “Whatever You Decide.”

  1. Christian says:

    Well said.

  2. GMB says:

    I read somewhere else that you are not a religious person so I wasn’t surprised, even though I was disappointed, that you didn’t mention your faith once in this article. I wasn’t either when I was growing up. I’ve had not so nice things happen to me in the last year too, the two most important being losing my mother unexpectedly (which means I can’t listen to or play music for a year which is very hard for me) and a few weeks earlier losing my job. I still don’t have a job (which means I don’t get to travel much either which is also hard and even if I could travel, I’d have to do it in a way that ensures I can pray with a quorum three times a day in order to say “kaddish”). When you know that everything that happens is for a reason, even if you don’t like what’s going on, it makes things so much easier to deal with. I’m lucky that although we weren’t religious growing up, we belonged to an orthodox synagogue so it at least gave me the basis on which to grow my understanding. I’d love to meet you some day and develop this conversation.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      With few exceptions, GMB, I typically do not bring up religion or politics in the articles which I write — if only because people feel so strongly about them that they usually lead to debates in the Comments section…

      …some of which can be rather unnecessarily hostile.

      I am so sorry to read that you have had such a rough year. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.

      I would like to meet you too. I am not sure of where you are based; but perhaps we will meet someday…

  3. EJ says:

    Blessings to you and your friends and family, Brian. Hope things improve soon.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you, EJ. I truly appreciate your thoughts and wishes.

  4. Jacob says:

    Excellent article Brian. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and perspectives. We all deal with worries and anxieties, no matter how successful we are. So it is great to be reminded of “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. ”
    After a while, for some of us, traveling can get tiring. Ever since I went full speed in the miles and points hobby, I’ve been taking 4-5 international trips a year. It used to be so exciting to be able to travel so much (all my travels are for pleasure). I really looked forward to the flights in business class and first class on the world’s top airlines. Now I just want to get there as soon as possible. I’m very fortunate to be at the stage where traveling in a premium cabin no longer excites me. Whereas I used to read and watch flight reviews and videos, now I never do.
    I have a two week fun trip to Asia coming up and I was thinking of canceling it, but I won’t because of all the friends I will be meeting. The idea that I would even consider canceling a trip is new to me.
    I have always wanted to go to the Christmas markets in Europe. I already booked the time to go and know what cities I want to visit, but somehow I have lost my enthusiasm for the trip. I keep thinking of whether I want to spend a lot of time walking around in cold rain or freezing weather. I already bought the rain boots and rain jacket in preparation for the trip. Such is life. I think I am traveling too much overseas. Interestingly what interests me now is going on a road trip here in the US.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I empathize with you, Jacob — which is why I included a quote in this article from the following article about travel wearing you out:

      https://thegate.boardingarea.com/is-travel-wearing-you-out-dont-worry-it-is-normal/

      I find that before I embark on a trip, I simply do not want to go.

      Fortunately, that always changes once I am on my way.

      Go to the Christmas markets in Europe. I can almost guarantee that you will not be sorry you did so. Just be sure you have a nice, warm, dry and comfortable place to unwind, relax and sleep at night…

      …and when — not if — you go, please follow up with how your experience went, as I am interested in reading about it.

      1. Jacob says:

        Thanks for your comments Brian. I appreciate it. Thanks for the link you shared. I read it and it helped me get my bearings straight. Knowing that everyone goes through the same stuff helps give me clarity.
        Thanks for the encouragement to go to the Christmas Markets. I’ll finalize it once I get back from SE Asia.

  5. bill says:

    Hey Brian. I don’t know you really, even though I read your articles and sometimes travel in your footsteps.
    I can tell you right now I feel very close to you and want you to know you have made my life a little better. Thank you!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Would I be emasculating myself if I admitted that a tear actually came to my eye when I read your comment, bill?

      Thank you so much for posting your thoughts. I truly appreciate it. Comments like yours are what inspire me and keep me going with writing articles here at The Gate

  6. rmah says:

    great article.

    “can” should be “could”

    “I wish I ~~can~~ help all of them. I really do.”

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I fixed it, rmah.

      As always, thank you.

  7. D. L'herbe says:

    sorry to hear of your recent losses. I, too have lost someone I deeply love, very recently. I believe music can heal, but when the pain of loss becomes unbearable, so then is the music.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      You reminded me of a relationship I once had, D. L’herbe; but some significant issues eventually arose which ultimately prevented us from realizing our dream of being together for the rest of our lives. That fact made her cry at times, which broke my heart.

      Whenever she cried or felt sad, I asked her which would she rather have: the pain of the limitations of our relationship along with the amazing things we experienced together; or to have never known me in the first place. She always responded affirmatively to the former. Whenever I asked her if she regretted having met me or anything about our relationship, she said no.

      I am sad to learn of the unbearable pain of the loss of someone you deeply loved. Ask yourself if you would have been better off never having that person become a part of your life so that you would have ultimately never experienced such pain. If the answer is no, then cherish the wonderful memories you had with that person and allow those memories to bring a smile to your face.

      As the old saying goes, it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all — no matter how painful that may be…

      …and if it helps — for what it is worth — I know exactly what you are going through.

      1. Jacob says:

        Absolutely. “…it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all — no matter how painful that may be…”
        1,000x

  8. Fester says:

    Brian, as always a great well written piece. Made my eyes water. I will keep you in my thoughts. It will get better, trust me.

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