I studied design for a time at university and one particular lesson stuck with me. The lecturer asked us to put ourselves in the position of a European sailor from the 16th or 17th century (without the syphilis or lice) and asked us who would have been willing to board on a ship set to travel, into one of the many still uncharted areas of the world. She asked us by show of hands if we were open and willing to start on a journey into the unknown where the end was far from certain. I remember looking around the room at the grand total of 3 hands pointed skyward (out of about 35 people) and I realised that I was part of the tiny group of explorers in the room. I think in reality there may not have been anyone willing to board the ship given the romance of such a journey would really be outweighed by scurvy, death by cutlass (pirates of course) or the ever present risk of being eaten by an island native.
Exploration by definition is the seeking of the unknown with the goal to discover something new. I’m interested in the mindset of an ‘explorer’ and as we can see from the example above, some people are more naturally inclined to be explorers than others. Most people might need a small push towards the unknown and all the while some people need to be dragged like a cat getting a bath, kicking and screaming out of their comfort zones.
Yesterday I literally spent over an hour of my life (that I will never get back) trying to convince a woman in my office to try a cup of tea with honey instead of sugar (it tastes awesome). After taking the first sip of her new honey tea concoction her eyes lit up and she now totally refuses to drink tea anything but honey. Taking the chance to try something new (exploring) has enriched her life and changed it permanently for the better. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her, living constantly with the mindset of being afraid to try something new. I know several people like this being so stuck in their ways they refuse to try new things day after day. Think about the potential number of great things these people will miss out on over the course of their lives.
I have a good friend who is 29 years old, he has spent the last 29 years of his life refusing to try sushi, after at least a year of persistent badgering his girlfriend convinced him to explore the world of sushi, he now loves it so much a few months ago he literally ate only sushi for about 4 weeks. He spent 29 years of his life not eating his favourite food because he wasn’t game enough to explore.
Here are a few of my thoughts on trying new things and conquering the unknown, be it tea with honey or visiting the Congo:
- Don’t forget your balls (metaphorical) – You need to have enough courage to take a risk, just know that it gets easier each time you do it.
- You might like it – Think about it, how many foods, experiences, places etc.. are there in the world? What are the chances that you have already discovered your favourites? From a logical standpoint it’s probably something or somewhere you haven’t even tried yet.
- Kill boredom – Like the grooves in a record we love to stay on the same tracks, getting more and more comfortable by forming habits but there’s a fine line between comfort and boredom. Trying something new breaks this cycle and turns what may seem like a broken record into a whole new experience.
- You will grow – Sounds lame, but it’s actually true. Personal growth only happens when you’re out of your comfort zone. This attitude of self-challenge enables you to keep humble and open minded enough to explore new ideas and experiences that may well be better than your existing ones.
I love trying new things and will generally give everything a go once, I like to take the attitude that until I try something how do i know I won’t like it? On a recent trip to the Philippines I was determined to try every new food experience that was put before me. Balut was a new experience. Balut is a raw chicken foetus that’s eaten right out of the shell with salt. It was also the star of a particularly gross Fear Factor episode to put the meals appeal into perspective. Considered a local delicacy, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try it (even when facing the reality of eating a baby chicken foetus). After several Red Horse extra strong beers (6.7%) to loosen me up, I picked up what looked like a normal innocent enough chicken egg. I cracked the shell to reveal a brownish liquid covering a sickly vomit coloured organic looking blob bristling with veins and what looked like the beginnings of fur… When in Rome right? I slurped out the salty brown liquid and shoved the whole thing in my mouth before the logical side of my brain started screaming. In retrospect it didn’t actually taste too bad, it was the texture that got me, it was a horrible mix of slimy egg white, hardening egg yolk and crunchy semi-calcified chicken bones, beak and claws. Yum.
Was Balut going to replace burger rings as my snack of choice? No, I can safely say it will not, but i’m damn glad I tried it and now I have a cool story about eating a half developed chicken foetus I can gross people out with. I guess the conclusion to the thought was simply this: Be an explorer, try new things and try as wide a range of new experiences as you can handle every day, even if you don’t like these new experiences at least you had the guts to try something new. This thought lies at the very heart of long term travel where you will be facing new destinations, foods and people daily, fortunately the unknown of that 17th century voyage has never been easier to face and thankfully today the chances of falling victim to a cannibal are substantially less too.