Between August and December of 2012, I traveled to 10 countries, 25 cities in Europe. My biggest takeaway, aside from the memories and encounters, is a thick pile of scattered notes, inspirations, and thoughts currently sitting on my desk.
The downside of traveling so extensively in such short a period of time is that I barely have time to fully embrace all the “eureka moments” that popped up- they can be a theme for a series of paintings, an insight inspired by a conversation, or a discovery about myself. Developing an idea takes time, and when I only had a week to see a city, I didn’t want to waste time writing in my room. So what I have learnt is how to capture ideas with very few words and sketches in my notebook. They have to be concise enough to not take up too much time, but extensive enough to help me recall the full eureka moment despite being thousand of miles away from the actual spot. This allowed me to fully indulge in a constant stream of stimulations without worrying that I’d lose them.
I was lucky enough to be raised in a family with a deep passion for traveling. so the exhilaration of visiting new places isn’t something new. But I wanted my trip to be beyond that. Self-discovery or development can occur at every point in life, but I really wanted this trip to be an intensive journey of trying to tackle some of the harder questions that have been on my mind. Some people believe that these are questions that we will never be able to answer until the day we are on our death beds, but I believe there’s merit in answering them to the degree that whatever projects or career you dive into are purposeful choices based on intrinsic motivations rather than a result of trends or societal expectations. So the questions I had in mind were:
1. What drives you?
2. What are some insights you have (about human nature, civilization, or the fields you are interested in) that very few people share?
The main reason for first question is that I genuinely believe that both happiness of an individual and the success of a conceptual innovator are contingent upon how well-developed his/her core belief is. “What drives you” is one of the questions that’d bring us closer to our core belief. Fancy one-liners such as “I want to have a positive impact in the world” or “I want to change the world” wouldn’t work. The answer has to be built from the ground up. What I meant by ground up is that I believe that there are things, and then there are the idea of things. For example, there’s the passion for creating art, and then there’s the passion for the idea of art. A deep connection with the notion of pushing frontiers through creating something from scratch is the passion for art, wanting to be seen as artsy and appreciative of the finer things in life is the passion for the idea of art. Enjoying the process of experimenting with new business model is the passion for entrepreneurship, wanting to be known as a founder is the passion for the idea of entrepreneurship. It is not uncommon for people to be distracted and therefore waste their lives chasing after the wrong things that don’t make them happy. One thing I try desperately to avoid is letting the hyperbolic glamorization of individuals in the media distract me into wanting things that do not necessarily connect with my core motivations. Those are indicators of success, not success in of itself. It’s the difference between internalizing societal’s definition of greatness versus externalizing your own. In the long run, the creations that matter are those that have truly pushed frontiers by redefining what it means to be human, and that can only happen when people stick to their authentic self. Traveling, especially traveling alone, helps us focus on who we are, and not who we want to be. It’s almost like an incubation period for that so-called “authentic self”.
As for the second question, Peter Thiel does a great job in articulating why insights are important in his lecture, “Secrets”, so I won’t bother repeating it here.
I want to devote the next series of blog posts to capturing some of the inspirations I got from my travels. In a way, this is just a very personal attempt to clarify my thoughts and hopefully, capture my growth. Regardless, I hope they will provoke thoughts or at the very least, amuse the inner wanderlust in you.