Paint would peel from the humid walls and take-away boxes lay strewn across the floor. Headaches, checking my phone between headaches, the ceiling fan whirring, to see if that girl—or whichever girl—had responded. Fomo, I pull back the skin of my hanging face. Where are the girls going tonight; do I have enough energy for the mall?
One afternoon I took a bicycle out into the Atacama, and the torchlight broke and the stars came out and we didn’t know if we would ever find our way back to San Pedro until the moon swelled and swooned and illuminated it all. We were out there for hours, but even in that dust bespeckled night, we were warmed in perfect wonder, and still.
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Last week I unpacked the mechanics of initiation: what actually happens when we go through an experience that changes us, matures us, and shows us the face of the sublime. We explored how we can have these experiences more. This week, I want to make distinctions between different forms of travel.
Not all adventures are the same, and there are a wide range of mindsets among travelers themselves. I want to share this because the more you understand the drives that fuel your wanderlust, the more you’ll design the right kind of adventure from the outset—and save yourself plenty of time, money, and even unnecessary depression, along the way.
Why does someone yearn to travel? I believe the condition known as ‘itchy feet’ stems from a mêlée of unmet needs, a drive for completion, or what might be described as the ‘call of the wild’, which, I believe, is the call of a soul yet to be embodied.
Rebellion as Sanity
Throughout my years on the road, I met a good many men on something akin to an exodus. Screw this homelife, this job, this government, this nasty, nasty ex… I’m off! You typically meet these vagrant types where the booze is cheap and the girls are easy, and this travel is marked by fulfilling one’s preferences and staying out of work as long as possible.
I say this without judgment! I was in a deep state of exodus during my early travels—a lazy gringo extraordinaire. Exodus is a rational behaviour: a coherent response to growing up in a sick, sick society. But if your travels are predicated on running away, you stand to miss the more constructive, more meaning-fuelled moments travel can bring.
But if a rebel does have the curiosity, the energy for a little adventure, he might end up finding, pardon the cliché, his cause.
Flight of the Pan
It is a humble question, then, to ask: what am I missing in my life, in my soul, that has me want to wander? For many, this is a question of what society didn’t provide in our youth. Connected teenage sex. Good parties, free of bullying, forced drinking and status-games. Love. Belonging. Stimulation, novelty. Generally tasting the rainbow. Few like to admit this to themselves, but really their travel is a ploy to ‘make up for lost time’ and complete a sense of adolescence they never truly had. This is certainly what depth psychologists would say.
If we never have this ‘second adolescence’ and heal the unmet urges that trouble our souls, we will never grow fully into adulthood. Some people point and call such fulfilment-seeking ‘western decadence’, or the sign of an immature society. In the absence of military service or religious norms, we shop the spiritual marketplace and hold full-moon raves in the woods. I do believe this is social progress, though, rather than social regression. We all need to complete the tasks our outdated institutions robbed us of: finding an authentic voice, embracing our sexual feelings, fitting into the groups we want to belong to as members, and exploring the women of the world.
In the past, completion of our adolescence would be confirmed—through conscription, joining a guild, or university graduation before degrees became commoditised. What you lack, as you wander the hedonistic centres of the world, is someone to perforate your dream-bubble and confirm that you’ve done it, that you’ve completed the lost tasks of your youth, and that you’re ready to be more. Without confirmation, you get caught in hedonism: the heinous and corrupt syndrome of the window-hopper, Peter Pan!
Part of me jokes. But again, I do not wish to judge. There is a lot of moralism in modern men’s work that slates the ‘eternal child’ badly—and those who denounce the adult ‘man-child’ are typically those who miss out on tasting life fully themselves! There is no need to grow out of any ‘stage’ prematurely just because some psychologiser shamed you! But there is more gratification available as you enter the stages I comment upon next.
Now if you need to complete the work of—ahem—‘second adolescence’, what you need to know before traveling is:
1. Intel on the destinations that will most likely provide the experiences you need
2. Which ’scenes’ will be great to be part of when you get there, and
3. How to truly belong to the relationships you wish to be part of as a partner.
Clarify this and you will make expedient progress. As a rule, you will initiate yourself far more quickly by exploring retreats, workshops, and natural adventures, than you will through gambling on dating apps, or playing pick-up in bars. The more you can name what your traveling is truly about, the more explicit you can make yourself to others, and this truth-speaking will enrol others into helping with your task.
Yes—there is quicker progress to be had by realising you’re healing some unmet needs than simply acting out of your unmet needs, thinking that getting more lays will fill this void.
Now when you feel abundant around sex, community and belonging (and abundance is less about swimming in oceans of it, but knowing the supply is always there), a different aspiration starts to beckon. It’s weirder. A strange aspiration, to wander in your solitude, to get lost, to seek the spirit, the mystery, the enormity of it all. Rather than to grow, it is to disappear. This is a sort of travel unmotivated by other people, by fitting in, by finding any enclave or ‘scene’. ‘Younger’ people will think you’re ferrel; only the wise will see what you’re seeking. And what you are seeking, after all, are the beginnings of a mystical awakening. All of a sudden, three silent months in a monastery become more enticing than three solid months of beaches, booze and bunda.
When your travel is motivated by a drive towards silence, everything changes: your path, your destinations, the friends you choose en route. Direction is determined by an inner whisper, rather than the consensus of crowds. When you stop asking for recommendations and follow the guidance of—dare I call it, your soul(?)—travel suddenly looks different; different different indeed.
The only question is, did you learn how to listen to yourself yet?
Now what you need to know in this ‘stage’ of life is that, first, this kind of travel is possible. You need maps and tools, styles of meditation and inner work, nudges to encounter the mystery and not the fool’s gold. Here, you’re grappling with the limits and maturity of your ego, while dying to experience that which transcends the ego. The guidance you need now is more inner—the outside world you can handle. You’ll need the right books, the right teachers, the right dead spiritual heroes. You’ll gravitate to the climes, times, and cultures that compel you; things that whisper in your ear amid dreams and film. The romance of the Steppe, of imperial Japan, Himalaya, Gaul, the Antarctic: you long to be lost of the staid conditioning of home.
But Humanity is Messy
It is easy to talk in stages: a linear progression of Exodus, Second Adolescence, and Mystical Encounter. In truth, my early travels had all these motivations mixed and present and intertwined. But as I was unaware of my anger toward home, or of my beautiful-and-god-given need for belonging, I sabotaged some of the more excellent adventures I could have had, fingers slipping from the precipice, and I fell into empty travel-time, encrusted habits, all alone.
Initiation doesn’t all unfold easily, nor magically. Our humanity, perhaps necessarily, is messy.
But what if you could move through these phases of your life with clarity and precision? What if you could address your needs more efficiently—and know exactly how to press into your edge? It would reduce the mental noise, and make the clarity of your experiences much more pronounced. You will less likely repeat the same repetitive episodes, and you will choose the roads that hold more initiatory power for you.
As an adult, I have seen the mysteries, I have understood my gifts to give, and I know what I’m devoted to in this world. The more that Covid restrictions are lifted, the more I’m looking forward to seeing what adult travel is like.
I have a strong intuition, though. And I am still visited by fascination, by urges, by visions that will amplify my gifts. The travel that now visits me in dreams contains stranger, more idiosyncratic choices. It is travel in service of my service to the world, rather than seeking for my ends alone. Re-initiations, remembrances, re-revelations. Everything now is aligned and bound to a larger sense of purpose. Travel is no longer about getting lost, but about missions: laser-sharp, laser-honed, unique.
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At every stage in our lives, travel—when embarked on with intent—offers us the chance of initiation, of marking a rite of passage. Do you want to grab more meaning and transformation from your travels, whatever your life experience?
Then join me this Saturday for a unique, two-hour Masterclass: The Art of Initiatory Travel.
There are still spaces for the main Masterclass, and a couple of spots left for the ‘after-hours’ VIP.
¡A la aventura!
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