It seems to me that everyone likes to travel, but, as Paul Bowles noted, not everyone likes to change. Some people land in a strange country and immediately think of what they’ll tell their friends back home. These are tourists. The traveller, on the other hand, doesn’t even know if he will return. For the tourist, self-transformation is the reason for travelling. He travels, primarily, to change.
Most of us go through life like the tourist, even in our own towns and houses. We register what happens to us, carefully and with documentation, just so we can relate it to friends and family. We think of ourselves as the unchanging part of the mechanism, players in a videogame, going through rooms, countries, the world, wearing the same clothes, repeating the same stories, thinking the same thoughts. Even our plans for the future are based on a rigid adherence to coherence.
What we don’t realize is that, by assuming that we will be the same tomorrow as we are today – with the same tastes, the same reasoning processes, the same limitations – we are, in effect, condemning ourselves to not changing.
In this way, we are like the tourist that stays on the tour bus, making sure nothing dangerous happens to us.
Our minds have evolved to protect us. They register what has made us safe in the past, and goad us into repeating the same behavior in the future. “Why get off the bus and get our hands dirty?” says the mind. (Our mind, actually, is the tourist bus. Its default mechanism is to avoid change, and until we stop the bus and ask to get down, we’re stuck in a continuous loop.)
Science tells us that we can rewire the brain, we can reconstruct our DNA, we can learn new tricks. But first we have to believe that we can, and that’s the tricky part. The bus driver certainly won’t be the one to tell you that you can get off. He likes driving you around and around, over and over again. He’s actually going to try to stop you if you ask to get off.
So look around and start talking to the people who aren’t on the bus anymore. Don’t get angry with them, or tell them that they’re missing the tour. They did something crazy, something no one in their right mind would do. And they’re the only ones who can tell you what you really need to know.
They got off the bus, and they know where the door is.