December 09, 2003
A Necessary Blood Transfusion
I'm suffering from traveler's anemia - and there is only one cure. Lucky for me, the cure arrives in one week's time. But, I'll get back to that.
Traveling alone, in one word, is freedom. The freedom to go where you want, when you want, with who you want, for whatever reason you want. It is the ability to turn on a dime, to scrap your plans in favor of a passing fancy. It is being the CEO, CTO and President of your own company. It is being in CHARGE.
Traveling alone, in another word, is loneliness. It means regularly having dinner on your own, asking strangers to take your picture at tourist sites and worrying that the bus might leave without you if you run out for a bathroom break. It is giving the stuffed animal you travel with a name.
I value independence as a character trait. I see it as a sign of strength and of self-confidence. The ability to swim upstream,to make up your own mind, to be the master of your fate.
Dependence, on the other hand, has not typically been high on my list of qualities. Whether it be a girlfriend unable to make decisions without her boyfriend's input, a worker who only does what he is told, or a grown up child unable to pull away from parents - dependence brings weakness and insecurity to my mind.
In Stephen Covey's book "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," he explains that the optimum path for an individual's growth is an evolution from Dependence to Independence to Interdependence. Even though I first read his book eight years ago, I am just now beginning to understand what he wrote to be true.
Traveling highlights a person's strengths and weaknesses. It makes one realize what they can do and what they can't do. It makes you aware of your mortality, your needs, your desires - in a way that is magnified and amplified. Every day is different, every day offers challenges, tests, opportunities to shine and opportunities to wallow.
While I have enjoyed, and at times, reveled in my independence, I have slowly begun to realize - to truly understand - that Independence - which I once saw as the Holy Grail, is really just an intermediary step. That Covey was right - that one must reach Independence, but not stop there. That one must continue to the final step - the harder step - of Interdependence.
People need people. This is not my opinion - this is a fact of life. Modern society would simply not function without Interdependence. From the garbage men who provide a thankless but vital service, to the factory worker who made the T-shirt I am wearing right now, to the coffee bean farmer that provided me with my morning beverage of choice.
In one week's time my brother Sasha will fly from Indianapolis, Indiana to Bangkok, Thailand, carrying with him the cure for my anemia - his presence. I am in need of a "blood" transfusion - a bit of the familiar and the familial.
I have attained Independence - excelled in it, in fact. After 13 months on the road, I don't think anyone can dispute my claim or my "success." However, if Covey is right, and I think he is, then my claim of "success" is as premature as the Prime Minister of Thailand's recent announcement that Thailand has "won" the war on drugs. I've finally realized that Independence is not the goal - it is a step in the process.
I still have a long way to go. Interdependence is a whole new ballgame and one I am not use to playing. It is being ok with not being able to do everything on your own. It is the realization that sometimes its better to have someone else do the job or make the call. It is learning from others as you learn from yourself.
My brother and I will travel together for two months - through Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, maybe even Myanmar. It will be a new way of traveling for me - of relinquishing control of all of the power, the decision making, the planning - of sharing the journey and moving forward as a team. I am looking forward to it.
Hurry up Twirpy - I miss you!