A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
Desperation forces your hand.
I have a comfortable life here. I’ve got a home base of operations. I know the surrounding area. I know a decent amount of the area beyond that. I have my grocer and my bank, my wifi hotspots and my nature access. I’ve established myself here as a more permanent transient. But with familiarity comes comfort. And usually comfort’s bastard brother: complacency. I have found myself starting to slip into a rut here repeatedly. When you know a place you sink into it. You wrap it around yourself. Sometimes it is a warm blanket on a cold day that helps you find solace. Sometimes it is a rug limiting your struggle as you get thrown off the bridge.
I’ve long since learned the act of forcing my own hand. This trip itself was a model of that. Before I fully decided on the country, long before I had a visa, eons before I decided how to sell and donate all of my things, I started telling people of my plan to get here. The more people that knew, the larger the crowd to hold me accountable. If you tell enough people you are going to do something, you pretty much have to. And so I spread the word far and wide, telling everyone who would listen as a manner of forcing myself onto a plane and out of my comfort zone. But this is a crutch.
Using the same principle, I’ve started to figure out how to work with my surroundings. I don’t have a large group here who will hold me accountable. I have only myself and my situation.
The ultimate goal of this train of thought would be to hold myself accountable to myself. I have started to be better about this. My first real lesson came in Costa Rica, my first solo international trip. Only a couple months after my final and spectacular breakup with Beth I forced myself to get on a plane and leave. On day two I found myself staying near a mountain allegedly great for watching the sunrise. I needed to wake up at four and hike the mountain in the dark to see it. Sure thing. And so I woke to my alarm the next morning and talked myself out of it. I didn’t really care that much, right? When I woke rested in the daylight I realized how much I did care.
When I had a girlfriend I would play up how much I wanted to do something and then when it came time I would hesitate. As the supportive and enabling partner she was, Beth would convince me of the things I already knew. She would prop me up and motivate me to follow my dreams even when she didn’t agree with them. She was trying to make me a better person, and I was simply using her support as a crutch. Here in another country with on one to convince me of the things I already knew I wanted, I had two options. Tell myself I want something and do it. Or don’t do it and stop telling myself that is what I want (e.g. learning guitar). A day later I got up before dawn and hiked for hours to hear the first morning calls of the Monteverde Nature Reserve long before the first tourists showed up. I had done what I wanted because of myself.
But those times are still not guaranteed. I will still hem and haw, I will still talk myself out of things for any number of reasons. And so I’ve learned the find the intermediate step. Forcing my hand with desperation.
I’ve grown tired of staying at the same hostel, again because it is fine and not something I am passionate about. Why pay $25 a night to be fine? Why not save it or spend it to be happy? And so I spent some nights not booking in, knowing that they would fill up. When I go out for the night it forces my hand. I have no place to sleep. On a nice night, there is always the backup of camping in the park. But when it is raining, I have no alternative plans. Hostels fill up. And I am left with no option but to make the night work out.
In the past week I have spent two nights crashing on couches. Both times I met the groups around 11pm, spend the next few hours drinking and hanging out, and getting an offer of a couch to crash on. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. It doesn’t matter if you have nothing because life took it all away, or because you consciously missed the bus to force yourself to hitchhike. No alternative is still no backup plan.
Bigger than this one point though, this trip isn’t about learning how to get couch space. It isn’t even about learning how to hustle something that I need. It is about learning how to put myself out there. How to be confident. How to walk into a room as the person I want to be. It is about figuring out what I want to do, seizing that with both hands, and running with it. I am in a new location with people who don’t know me, many of whom are transient themselves. I can be whoever I want to be. I can test the waters. I am in as close as we get to a life-simulation. What better place than here? What better time than now? Time to test out the Justin I want to be and see if the positive feedback loop quickly helps it to become the Justin I am inherently.
[Addendum: Since writing this entry but before posting it, I forced myself out of the hostel twice. Once resulted in me sleeping at a new hostel which felt like being back in the university dorms with my old circle of friends. The other resulted in me sleeping in the back of a friend’s car quite comfortably.)