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  • Writer's pictureJon Charoenkul

Where do I go from here?

In just about a month, this year will be over, so I've been looking back at all of the changes that I've made to my life this year. 2023 has been a year of transitions for me, but there's one change that I've made that has already had a major (and positive) impact: pretending I am a tourist.

Whatever I encounter, I try to act as if I'm new to it, as if I'm in a foreign situation with no sense of familiarity. I came up with this trick after a trip to Thailand over the summer. I noticed that I felt a lot better when traveling, but I wondered why I never allowed myself to feel good at home. I thought, why can't I look at things at home with the same wonder that I do things elsewhere?

I tried it out, and it worked, and made things a whole lot better for me. More than anything else, it has helped me to appreciate my physical space. Everything seems much more significant. The most mundane aspects of campus, the dorm, or the city, which most people might write off as everyday irrelevancies, I observe in awe. I find a lot of value in the little things: the ambience, the routine, the bland.

I think now I romanticize the ordinary a lot more, partly to cope with the claustrophobic repetition of daily life, but also because as someone who exists, I get to assign value. I've always been a deeply philosophical person, and I love the abstract ideas of metaphysics, so being able to tangibly observe some of my deepest thoughts about absurdist meaning put into practice has been fulfilling.

But this new perspective has started to affect my life beyond the physical, and that's what I think was the most surprising, and also the most transformative. Most importantly, I've started to appreciate when things don't go how I want them to. I've learned that nothing really ever goes as planned, and that's okay. I sometimes think, maybe I love traveling so much because it's the only space where it's okay to feel lost. Using this new perspective in everyday difficulties helps me realize that it's okay to make mistakes, to be uncertain, and to be spontaneous.

It's also given me an easy way to interrupt my overthinking, something I've always had serious difficulty with. I'm introspective, for better or for worse. I spend most of my time in my head, ruminating or striving for perfectionism. When you're traveling, it'd be unrealistic to expect to have time for either of those things. This new perspective clears my head and allows me to better identify problems or changes I want to make, and act on those ideas productively.

I really love traveling, and I hope to do it again soon. I've come to learn it's really the one thing I couldn't not have in my life. I don't have the means to do so often, so I really cherish it when I do. But in the meantime, I'll try keep myself in the same headspace as if I were, because it's had such a positive impact on my life experience in so little time. This year I've learned that there's a lot about me and my life that I have to work on, but now I think have a better way to approach it.


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