Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Travel is Crucial to Philosphy

When asking people what they would do with their lives if they could pick absolutely anything, most would respond that they would like to travel and see the world. When asked why they do not do this, however, there is an extremely long list of excuses that suddenly comes forth, such as “I don’t have the time”, “I don’t have the money”, “I don’t know where I would go”, “I have too many responsibilities here at home”, and I could really go on.  But when you ask the people that do make traveling a priority in their lives why or how they do it, the most common response is, “I wanted to go there because (insert reason here) so I made it happen”. Could it really be that simple? Just pack up and go? How many of us have stared out that window and wondered what it would be like to just go somewhere completely different and experience something new? I hope that all of us have had this urge at least once. So why do I believe traveling is essential to philosophy? Well how can you really expect your ideas, views, or beliefs to really be challenged if you always surround yourself with like-minded people? At the end of this class, I have come to see philosophy as the guide to stepping outside your comfort zone and challenging your own understanding of the world and of life.

I really agree with this quote because it puts traveling into perspective. If you live your whole life only staring at that one page it is all you will ever know. You’ll never see the other pages and realize just how much more to the book there is. There is an ENTIRE book! Just like there is an ENTIRE world out there to explore. It can be daunting to really look at how much is out there and it can also be daunting to imagine how experiencing that world could challenge and change you in ways that you have never expected. It is easy to get caught in the thought that sticking with what you know and staying in your own little bubble is the safer option. But just because it is safe does not mean you should do it. We all took this philosophy class for own reasons and I am sure we each took away our own interpretations of what the topics meant to us, but I do not want to stop there and I do not think that anyone else should. This class opened my eyes to a lot of things and I was surprised at how well it tied into my other classes with me being a Global Studies major. Philosophy encourages you to have an open mind and welcome new ideas and experiences with the expectation to learn something from them. And in my opinion, there is no better way to do that than to step outside your personal zone of comfort.

The second half of this definition is what stands out to me the most; “To understand one’s very existence.” Is that not one of the goals of philosophy? Everyone has their own journey to learn why they are alive and what the meaning of life is to them but that does not mean you cannot stop and listen to someone share about what they have learned in their journey so far. Everyone you meet has a story to tell and something to say that you have never heard before. 

I don’t know about you, but for me to really enjoy a story, it has to be interesting. It has to invoke my imagination, make me want to listen, and really stand out as something I have never heard before. That is why we watch movies, television, and read books. We thirst to know something that we did not beforehand. I have never met anyone who is completely content with what they know right now at this exact moment and never wishes to learn another thing. We begin observing the world around us from the moment we are born and there is no possible way to take in absolutely everything before our deaths. But just because it is impossible does not mean that we should not try. In order to really support our philosophical ideas and viewpoints, we must allow them to be challenged. We must experience things we never have before and we must learn what we can from that. Did you know that only 10% of Americans have passports? Not that I am saying that you must go outside the country to experience something that challenges you, but I found it amazing that in one of the wealthiest countries compared to the rest of the world, there are only a small percentage that go outside of it. With today’s technology we have more ways to be connected than ever before, but actual conversation is slowly losing its value. Texting, skyping, emailing, etc. is taking over at an alarming rate and true, honest, face-to-face talking is happening less. Is that why so many people decide not to travel? Because interacting with people is intimidating or nerve-racking? Maybe. I mean, sometimes it is, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. Remember that feeling you got on your first roller coaster as it was slowly going up the hill? Your was stomach tying itself into knots as it climbed higher and higher and then suddenly that rush of adrenaline as it plummeted down over the hill and raced through the remainder of the track. Remember how exhilarated you felt afterwards? You were nervous at first because it was something you had not experienced before, but afterwards you were saying, “Can we go again?” So just because something makes you nervous doesn’t automatically mean it isn’t worth trying.
Philosophy does not have one subject or one aspect of life that it is bound to. It can be incorporated into everything. But I find it a little bit more difficult to take the words of philosophers that speak from the safety of an armchair seriously. I have a hard time listening to anyone give advice on something if they have never experienced it themselves. I believe we need to go venture out into the world to really figure out what our views, opinions, and beliefs are. I decided to take this approach in my final blogpost because I think this is an issue for many people in my generation. We can live our whole lives enclosed in our own little bubble of understanding if we so choose. We can stay still and stare at that one single page and never flip to the rest of the book. We can… but it does not mean we should. I believe there is way too much emphasis in our first year of college to figure out what we want to do for the rest of our lives. I think it is ridiculous to put that amount of pressure on someone who doesn’t have a really good grasp on what all is available to them. If you had to look back on yourself at 18, could you honestly say you knew everything you needed to know then? Could you honestly say you haven’t learned anything about the world or yourself since then? Traveling has taught me more in a shorter period of time than anything else in my life. I am not promising it is going to be the same for everyone, but I truly believe it is worth a shot. There are so many lessons out there that can only be learned through experience. And now that we have a grasp on philosophy and a foundation on which to build on, it should be easier to seek out the knowledge of the world. I will leave you with the video that inspired me to choose this topic.


1 comment:

  1. And then there's the Emerson perspective (which he articulated after returning to New England from abroad):

    “Traveling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty, and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from. I seek the Vatican, and the palaces. I affect to be intoxicated with sights and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated. My giant goes with me wherever I go.”

    But there's no reason why we should think of travel as an escape from self and circumstance, rather than simply an expansion of relatedness and awareness. "Indifference of place"-? That's ridiculous. It's also dangerous, because it reinforces a parochialism and local chauvinism that's a source of mistrust and division.

    So yes, I agree: get up and go, then come back a larger person. Nice, Stephany.

    (But btw: I never liked Roller Coasters. Slow cruises in a foreign harbor, on the other hand, are delightful.)