“I have always wanted to travel across seas, like to Canada and stuff.” Britney Spears
Possibly the most over-used phrase on dating sites is “I want all that life has to offer.” This would suggest either folks have ignored life in the past, or are just realizing it’s there.
Not that I’m suggesting you shouldn’t try new things. Just don’t go thinking it’ll turn you into a new person. People who run around grabbing all that life has to offer, frequently end up line dancing or sitting in mud baths.
Remarkably, we’re just like Americans, except we know the Great Lakes are called the Great Lakes because they’re lakes.
Britney Spears appears to have everything a woman could want. She’s famous, she’s got tons of money, yet she thinks the Great Lakes are seas. She also imagines Canadians live completely different lifestyles, even though we’re just like Americans, except we know the Great Lakes are called the Great Lakes because they’re lakes.
Frequently, when people talk about new experiences, they mean travel. This comes up as the second most over-used phrase. Dating advice columns recommend including pictures of your vacations. “That way men will see you’re not a stay-at-home Sue,” one columnist wrote.
Well, nobody wants to be a stay-at-home-Sue. If someone says, post pictures, you post pictures. You might post that one of you riding a horse along the beach in Cancun. So what if a guy was holding the reins. At least you got on the beast, and that’s pretty romantic in itself.
I asked a woman once, “What’s it like riding a horse on a beach?” and she replied, “Awesome.” She said the same thing about dinner. I asked if it was as awesome as the horse on the beach. She’d already moved on to her dessert which was “totally awesome.”
The real question is, can life experiences really transform us? Can we, say, leave our emotional baggage in Kuala Lumpur?
We all want amazing things to happen to us, preferably so we can come home, if not completely changed, at least more worldly than Britney Spears.
Truth be told, you can be more worldly than Britney Spears crossing Lake Erie. The real question is, can life experiences really transform us? Can we, say, leave our emotional baggage in Kuala Lumpur?
The answer is no. Kuala Lumpur has over 7.5 million people. How would you like it if they left their emotional baggage in your state?
Nobody’s interested in our emotional baggage, which makes coming home a changed person tough, since half our baggage is emotional, and the other half is turquoise jewelry.
I mean, you can’t look at the Taj Mahal without walking away feeling practically Muslim.
So why do we think a trip, a kayaking adventure — or even line dancing — will fill in what our personality lacks now? And why do we ride horses around Cancun? Are we expecting to jump off and have an intelligent conversation?
This can be blamed on marketing. We buy into the idea that trips are adventures. They’re beautiful, magical and life-changing. You literally can’t look at the Taj Mahal, for instance, without feeling practically Muslim.
This is all romantic nonsense, of course. You won’t walk away from the Taj Mahal feeling Muslim. You’ll walk away wondering why it’s so dirty. Truly expansive minds notice these things. Others take pictures.
If you typically take pictures, chances are you’re not learning anything. It’s like racing from one famous site to another, doing the “postcard marathon trip.” Picture gatherers document trips, they rarely experience them. More shots are taken at tiki bars than sacred monuments.
I did a three-hour mule ride up to the Citadel in Haiti. Here’s what I learned: mules are pricks.
And while you’re smiling away at the Grand Canyon, people are actually taking the three-hour mule ride down to the bottom. I spent three hours on a mule riding up to the Citadel in Haiti. Here’s what I learned: mules are pricks.
Mules probably think we’re pricks, too, which has to be a letdown if you’ve always thought they were cute animals. Same goes for riding a camel around Giza. Camels spit and pass wind like you wouldn’t believe. You’ll definitely come back a changed person if you ride a camel — or even look at one.
“You only live once,” Mae West once said, “but if you do it right, once is enough.” That’s good advice. Trying new things isn’t nearly as important as what they do to you. Like spending three hours on a mule. It’s horrible.
It’s horrible but you learn something about yourself, namely most experiences — good or bad — are there for a purpose. We only think they’re expanding our minds. What they’re really doing is making us wary. Airports have always made me wary. They’re never pleasant. Some are worse than mules.
It’s nice to see The Eiffel Tower in the background, but that’s not what you’re posting. You’re posting lamb chops.
Tourist buses are another good example. Have you ever watched people on tourist buses? I doubt any of them can tell a McDonalds in Japan from one in India. The menus are quite different. That doesn’t seem to matter to tourists. If there’s a Golden Arches, they seem pretty happy about it.
Whenever people talk about trying new things, a lot of them mention food. People like posting pictures of the food on their trips. “The lamb chops are to die for,” they write. Travelling over three thousand miles for lamb chops seems a bit excessive. It’s nice to see The Eiffel Tower in the background, but that’s not what you’re posting. You’re posting lamb chops.
A lot of people like to talk about exotic food. “I had fried grasshoppers,” they’ll say on a trip through Malaysia. That’s supposed to make them brave — if not enlightened — individuals. They could have had fried grasshoppers on their own barbecue (since we have both) but, again, they’d rather travel four thousand miles where people really know how to fry grasshoppers.
The real truth is, “living life to its fullest” may broaden our perspective of the world, but we’re still going to eat too much, sit in airports too much, and end up line dancing and wearing turquoise jewelry.
They’d rather you renovated your house than renovated yourself. We’re actually terrible at renovating ourselves.
Our personalities are more formed by things that don’t change us. When someone says, “You haven’t changed a bit,” it’s probably a compliment. People like constancy. They’d rather you renovated your house than yourself. We’re actually terrible at renovating ourselves.
That doesn’t mean we can’t take trips, try fried grasshoppers, or bring back turquoise jewelry.
Just don’t expect a complete personality change. Fried grasshoppers are food. The Grand Canyon’s a canyon. Line dancing is, well, stupid.
The only real change you’ll see is on your credit card, and, that one life-changing realization that, yes, as cute as they may seem, mules are pricks.
Robert Cormack is a novelist, children’s book author, and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.