They say that travel is a life changing experience, one that can open the mind and cause reevaluation of your thoughts and opinions. While I don’t like to put myself in a box with those who pretentiously brag about their ‘gap yah‘ (I’ve already written about tourists who use foreign countries for their own personal gain and kudos), I would be lying if I said that being immersed in a culture that is vastly different from the UK hasn’t had an impact on me, albeit in quite personal ways. So without further ado, here are four things I’ve come to realise since moving here.
1. Relax & Accept
Before coming to Nepal, I was a pretty high-strung person. My friends would probably have described me as neurotic (and that would be the nice way of putting it). Things breaking or not going according to plan is a part of everyday life in Nepal and the people here are completely accustomed to it. I don’t know where it comes from – I guess the Buddhist/Hindu background from which the country has developed – but there is a real sense of acceptance that permeates the culture. If things are out of your control or don’t happen the way you want them to, there is a saying that the Nepali people use – key gar ney (I hope I have spelt that right), which means “what to do?” Meaning, if something happens that is beyond your control, why bother spending time complaining about it? There is also a well known humorous saying used by Nepalis and Westerners alike, ‘Nepali time’. If you are told someone – say, the plumber – will be around in 30 minutes, you have to allow a margin of several hours before expecting them to actually show up. Everything is very slow paced here, and that teaches patience. It also taught me to be less entitled. If I am not actually in any sort of rush, then why do I get frustrated if service is slow? Why not take life as it comes and experience every moment, including the things that go right and the things that go wrong. Living moment by moment is an important part of life in Nepal and is something I will definitely take home with me. To think now that I used to boil with rage if a bus was late or cancelled is crazy. Things happen when they happen and spontaneity is a virtue, not a problem. It’s far more productive and just plain fun to take advantage of those times when your ideal plan for the day or the hour gets changed and do something new. It’s a cliche, but it’s true that it’s in those moments when you really experience life.
2. Pause & Think
This is something that meditation has really helped me come to appreciate and understand. We spend a great deal of our time just reacting to the environment around us. Mostly for me, it’s the people around me. I have a tendency to react very impulsively, emotionally and rashly to the things people say or do. I get offended or irritated quite easily. I am quite a demanding friend, requiring a lot of time and attention from others. While I accept that this is just who I am and have no desire to change it, what I can change is my reaction and expectations of those around me. For example, when I am sad about something, I can be pretty needy as a boyfriend and need a lot of affection etc. Coming from this perspective, I easily slip into this state of mind where the needs of the partner are not considered and I then get upset or angry, and don’t feel supported when I am imposing myself on somebody who is trying to relax or concentrate on other things. Through meditation, I have been trying to learn to stop in those moments of irrationality and empathise with everyone involved in the situation. I am far from perfect at this, but I have significantly improved throughout my time in Nepal. I have stopped relying so much on other people, and have began to found happiness within myself instead. I have become better at taking a step back, calming down, and letting go of unhelpful or hurtful feelings. Too often we let our lives be dictated by the whims of our feelings, and are thrown around by whatever we feel in that moment. Taking the time to really stop and think to yourself ‘I am feeling insert emotion here‘ and really letting yourself experience how that emotion feels so you can better understand it is so important. By doing this over a long period of time, you come to recognise how you feel a lot quicker and can stop yourself from acting impulsively as a reaction to that feeling.
3. Break Your Own Rules
This one is particularly pertinent to me and might not be relatable to anyone else. I am a rigid man. I am an incredibly structured man. I am a very systematic person. Anyone who knows me at all knows that every single thing I do in life is too complicated unless I can codify, categorise, and systemise it. Even people I have known for upwards of ten years are still surprised when they find out that something that I do which, on the surface, probably looks spontaneous or productive, is actually the result of an outright crazy complex system of rules that I have created for myself. I’ll give some examples, starting with quite a ‘normal’ one, relatively speaking. I constantly break time up into chunks of 5, 15, 30, and 60 minute intervals. So, let’s say I send a text to somebody asking if they are still planning to come to a party one night… I will systematically check my phone for texts on each of those milestones and will probably have a different rule depending on the situation. Like if I don’t hear anything in an hour, send them a message on Facebook instead… or give up on the fact that they are coming. But it will be down to the precise minute. That one might not be that crazy (this says a lot, I can’t even tell how weird these are to other people!), but another example would be this book I was planning on writing. I planned it for maybe two months before I realised I had completely sucked the fun out of it. That’s because those two months planning were spent doing the following:
- Think up 100 different types of characters
- Think up 100 different needs a character might have
- Think up 100 different settings or locations
- Think up 100 different themes
- Go through each list and pick one out of two of the ideas
- With the remaining 50 from each list, repeat the process (and I am not talking about just halving the list… It would be idea 1 v idea 2, idea 3 v idea 4 etc…)
- With the remaining 25, pick one in 5
- With the remaining 5, pick one from each
- With the now semi random mixture of different characters, themes, needs and settings, put it all together and make it into a story
This process took me two months and the idea I was left with was obviously deeply flawed. I was able to make a premise for a plot out of it, which was surprising. But obviously the ideas that I came up with in isolation did had baggage attached. I imaged a particular story for a particular character, with its own themes and settings.. That is how normal people use their creativity. I had to systemise it in order to feel like I was being productive and in the end decided to just give up and make this blog instead. For somebody who has the desire to be creative, and can have that spark ignited when working with others, if I’m left on my own I go a bit nuts.
That very long insight into my mental brain aside, I have learned that it’s important to question your assumptions or patterns of behaviour. I think everyone has ‘rules’, they might just not think of them as such. Obviously not everyone goes about it like me (most people enjoy living), but we all become victims of our own principles and lines of thinking. They do imprison us. Often when we are faced with a new idea, we can be cynical off the bat. This especially seems to be the case around issues such as feminism. Before meeting my girlfriend and discussing her views on feminism, I believed that I believed in equal rights and that women were fine really. It took months of arguing about the subject for her to finally show me that my worldview was completely skewed and that I had privilege and blah blah blah (a topic for another blog post). The point here is that the things we take for granted in everyday life are all subjective and can all be changed! That’s the great part about being human, we have the means to expose ourselves to different views and different people’s experiences to open our minds and question how we do things. This should be something we collectively cherish, but sadly, practically, too many people push back against a worldview that is different from their own. Be open minded. Spend just one day assuming you are wrong about everything. Catch yourself when you are deep in thought and play devil’s advocate, but do it from the perspective that you are actually wrong as opposed to using different arguments to bolster your position on a subject.
4. Put Yourself Out There
I already talked about this at length in a creative sense on this blog, but I am talking more about personal relationships now. There is a bitter irony to the fact that in the modern world, while being more connected than ever through the internet, we are completely disconnected in our relationships with other people. ‘Facebook stalking’ is an actual thing people do. We all have a list of maybe five or ten people who we keep an eye on on social media, and we know it’s weird because we hardly even know those people. Something stops us from just sending them a message to say hi and ask them to go for a coffee or a drink or whatever. These are the basics of making friends. I think it becomes especially harder as you get older. I think that if you meet people and don’t immediately hit it off and become friends, then it just becomes a bit weird to start talking to someone new – or to be honest about your intentions. Why is it so weird for someone to say “hey, I think you seem like a cool person and would like to get to know you better, do you wanna meet up?” And I am not talking about the dating world at all here. I guess we are afraid of rejection and in a way it’s fair enough. Many people would react negatively to that. I have always maintained that I would go for a drink with literally anybody if they asked me to, no matter how weird it was or how little we knew each other. Because why not? Nepali people I have met care a lot less for stupid social boundaries. If you meet a Nepali person who likes you (or even if they hardly know you), they will invite you in as if you were best friends. They don’t have this unhelpful sense that it might be weird or invasive or anything. They are just upfront with their intentions and just nice people. This is a huge thing that I am going to take back with me to the UK. For years now I have had people who I have admired from afar, and only recently realised that it is that behaviour that is far more weird than me just striking up a conversation with them and potentially making a new friend. Yes, there are people who will be a dick about it if you message them like that… And to those people I say, fuck it. If they react badly to you just being upfront, genuine and honest, then why do you let that asshole make you feel bad for trying? Don’t do that. I’m not sure if I’m talking to you, my reader, here or myself. It doesn’t matter. Just do it, yeah?
So, as my time in Nepal slowly begins to wrap up, those are my four main takeaways from my time here. I am really excited to begin the next chapter in my life and see how this new mentality goes down in the UK. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you on Wednesday.