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Prequel: an introvert abroad

NEW ZEALAND | Friday, 5 October 2012 | Views [580]

A prequel – because, while I haven’t boarded the plane yet, the journey has already begun…

Being an introvert, I tend to live in two spheres; my inner life of thoughts and ideas, and my outer life of experiences, actions and relationships. While it’s all the same to me, it can be difficult to know how much to share of my day-to-day activities (‘yesterday I went to a museum & then I ate gelato’) vs. my ‘deeply profound’ thoughts about life. Hence why I have never blogged – and why I’m terrible at keeping my facebook status up-to-date.  For most of my friends and family, my blog will just be a way of keeping track of where I am and what I’m doing while I am away. However, I don’t think it will be possible to keep an account of my activities (which would no doubt become impossibly banal) without also sharing some of the insights I hope to make.

The practicalities first: Three months from now I will pack my bags and board a plane for a somewhat belated, but perfectly timed, mini-OE. I have been granted a year’s leave from my teaching job and I have been furiously (some might say obsessively) saving, dreaming, planning & researching for my adventure.

The plan in a nut shell: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, UAE, Italy, UK & as much of Europe as I can fit in before December. I will be playing the tourist, living in communities, volunteering, working and visiting friends & family.

Stamps in my passport, pins in a map, yes, lists ticked off. I will spend next year collecting photos, experiences, ticket stubs, friendships and new perspectives.

But why now? (the deep and meaningful bit):

I’ve heard it said that extroverts must experience the world before they can understand it, while introverts must understand the world before they can experience it.

The problem for us introverts is that we can never fully understand the world. “The more I learn, the less I know” may be a cliché, but it is also true. And so there comes a time when we must get out of our own heads and embrace experience.

In his essay ‘Myth became fact’, C.S Lewis describes this tension between understanding and experience:

“… the only realities we experience are concrete – this pain, this pleasure, this dog, this man. While we are loving the man, bearing the pain, enjoying the pleasure, we are not intellectually apprehending pleasure, pain or personality. When we begin to do so, on the other hand, the concrete realities sink to the level of mere instances or examples: we are no longer dealing with them, but with that which they exemplify. This is our dilemma – either to taste and not to know or to know and not to taste – or, more strictly, to lack one kind of knowledge because we are in an experience or to lack another kind because we are outside it.”

I want both kinds of knowledge! And so I embark on my adventure – to experience life in all its shades and colours, and also to know more about the world in all its glories and contradictions.

Of course I realise that there is nothing particularly original about the trip I am planning – neither in the details of my itinerary, nor in the sentiment behind my desire to travel. But my journey will none the less be unique because it will be my journey. And so I hope that I will be able to share something of my trip that will interest others.

 “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”  Anaïs Nin

I’m not on a journey to ‘find myself’; on the contrary, it is precisely because I now know myself that I feel confident to embrace this adventure. However, I am in no doubt that who I am will come more sharply into focus as I look at life through the different lenses of each culture I encounter. More than this, I hope that I will have enough empathy to see the world through other’s eyes, and enough humility to accept where my understanding might be wrong.

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