Saturday, 6 March 2010

Observations in Commerce 8 - Travelling; Event vs Experience

1. Travelling - Event VS Experience

This is a big one, so bare with me..

“So an experience is not simply something which has happened to you. Your state of mind during the experience will determine its lasting value.
I use the term ‘event’ to describe that which happens to us, but has no lasting value.
Experiences are events which have been prepared for and which can be digested and understood. Experiences can change you. Events wash over you and are easily forgotten.
Most of what happens to us each day is in the event category.

(So for those of us who are unprepared, or who do not digest the events of our lives, are there no experiences and do we remain the same?)”
Christopher Ross

Today, life as we know it within civilisation, is of such a fast pace that there is very little time left for digestion.

In fact, on a literal level, vast areas of ill-health can be linked to the intake of bad food resulting in very poor digestion, which ultimately has fatal results.

Metaphorically speaking, the visual events that take place throughout our day aren’t digested, pondered upon, or even given a second thought.
Granted, reflecting upon everything that happens throughout your day would take a great level of discipline, time and clarity of mind. It would probably drive the average person crazy if they even attempted such a task, or more likely, attempted to even find the time to try such a task.
So you could argue that to contemplate the events of your day would be a relatively futile action, if we’re suggesting that the outcome was varying degrees of dementia.
And perhaps letting a certain amount of events go by in our day-to-day life, undigested, is a good thing. Especially if our sanity remains intact.

But where this Observation in Commerce is focused, is upon man’s self-deception, specifically; the man that says he has a collection of ‘experiences’ when in fact, upon closer examination, his collection is merely a stack of events.

I think there lies a real danger in telling oneself that you have had the ‘ultimate collection of experiences’. Why? Because from this, spawns the illusion of self-change.
“So for those of us… who do not digest the events of our lives, are there no experiences and do we remain the same?”
The above would lead me to answer “Yes. There in fact are no experiences and we do remain the same.” Yet we still tell ourselves that we’ve gained a collection of experiences, and that we have changed.
When one makes this habit of convincing oneself of positive self-change, all that can result is a reality constructed from a foundation of disillusion.

And in no other field have I seen such a greater presence of this pathology, than in the field of Travel.

As I write this, I am staying (temporarily, thank God) in a trendy, flashpacker hostel, (all be it the cheapest option) in Auckland, New Zealand. No surprises, the place is full of flashpackers.
Day after day, each flashpacker reels of their list of ‘ultimate experiences’ to me (usually at a very high-speed, record time, I might add).
They do so in such a way, that when they hear themselves retell their stories aloud, it appears as if they show signs of relief. Relief that spawns from self-assurance (albeit misguided) that they really have experienced what it is truly like to travel.
It’s almost like if they don’t tell their story aloud, then it didn’t really happen.

And that led me to ask this – ‘What does the above behaviour suggest about how deep their experience really affected them?’
If repeating the synopsis of the event is the only method one has to make the (not so) magical event come back to life, how on earth can that lead to positive self-change?

A prime catalyst for such a deception, in my opinion, is the Facebook culture we now live in.
I think that Facebook is a vital tool for diluting people’s experiences into mere events which are then disguised collectively as special experiences, under the labels of ‘ultimate’ this, or ‘unforgettable’ that.
(Oh the irony of calling something ‘unforgettable’, only to upload it to a database so that you don’t forget about it and to make others aware of it.)

Hours on end, I would sit in front of Facebook, looking at photos of other people’s events. The layout would suggest that these people were having an incredible lifestyle, full of unforgettable experiences. I would then believe that the way to have such experiences myself, would be to capture them then upload them to the site, as I too would now be one of cool-crew, and perhaps, one day, someone else would be sat in solitude, hoping to be as cool as me.

Which brings me to the accomplice of our Facebook-fuck-up culture; the digital camera.
‘Oi, let me get a picture of that!’ he cries. ‘I can’t wait to put this up on Facebook.’
In this hostel, and throughout our flashpacker community worldwide, these are the conscious and sub-conscious thought processes plaguing their heads.
(I’m all for photography capturing the true moment, the real experience. But photographing events and labelling them to yourself and others as amazing experiences in dangerous.)
And so when one’s head is full of such thought processes, how on earth does one find enough space in their head to digest their event at all? The child who fills his stomach with bland bread and water before a mealtime, has no appetite when they reach the table. No wonder.

This somewhat pathologic process of ‘capturing the moment’ in such a rushed, ADHD manner, can only mean that the ‘moment’ is lost, not captured. Perhaps we should rename this process, ‘Capturing the Showment’.

Taking the above behaviour into account, imagine yourself repeating these actions daily, for a period of time such as a gap-year, or even a 6 month package-tour, and you should be able to predict the negative effects that would result.

Travelling was once an action that created self-change. ‘Nothing happens until something moves’.
It seems now for the most part, however, travelling is a great catalyst in providing the illusion of self-change.

Plenty of people I meet on the road, including friends of mine truly believe that their ‘round the world experience’ had a changing impact on their lives. Yet, to return to their box, and continue life as they had before, can only suggest a hint of disillusion.

Worst of all, returning to their box convinced they are now free. And we all know ‘None are more hopelessly enslaved that those who believe they are free.’
Better to realise one is in a box than to return to one believing in ignorance that it doesn’t exist.

En masse, it doesn’t seem like travelling has helped in making this realisation.

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