Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I've been working on a story about something called "the abyss."

I was baffled about "the abyss" at first, not knowing what this was when a man gave me an unsolicited lecture about how he'd walked up to the edge of the abyss, looked in, and changed his life.


This was in the context of advice which I neither asked for nor encouraged. The reason it's absurd is that his "abyss" was him 1) giving up his worldly possessions, job, and life to go traveling and 2) traveling again and moving to a new city. Essentially throwing himself off a cliff into the unknown.

Changing his life, he meant to say, in a daring and unpredictable manner.

Which I, uh...would know nothing about? I shook my head and moved on. People are batshit.

But this abyss idea. I like it. Not because it's right. It's wrong. Dead wrong. But it's a common enough misconception that I want to work with it. I've been writing a piece about this abyss, and the piece is still weak. But I like this part, which starts with when I left my job and home and went around the world the first time, all by my lonesome:

Over the next year, I grew stronger and more confident. I could tangle with taxi drivers on every continent. I'd snarl and fight for my independence from touts, battle my way through power-negotiations, and then I'd sleep. Deeply, unconcerned about murderers and rapists breaking into my budget hotel room.

There's no place for fear in the abyss.

There's also, oddly, no abyss in the abyss. I leapt, to see if a net would appear. Not only was there no net, there wasn't even a cliff to throw myself off of. More like a mild ditch. I landed with a thud. Bruised a bit from an overturned truck and a cracked rib in Ethiopia, but the ditch was just a few feet from where I'd thrown myself off.

That can't be right, I thought. Where is the rest of the abyss? So I did it again. Over and over. I stopped packing and unpacking and instead just got rid of things. That was nice and made it easier to try something pointless over and over. 

Jumping off of cliffs isn't real change. It's just rearranging the furniture.

Yeah, I can work with this abyss idea. But I have a feeling that people who believe that travel effects change are going to hate me.

It doesn't. Travel offers insight, confidence, knowledge, but mostly, it's fun and eye-opening.

Change is something else. 


Alexander Rapp said...

The feeling of falling can be pretty fun, but I agree that it's rarely if ever a good way to get anywhere.

What sort of change were you/he/people with this misconception expecting, beyond "insight, confidence, knowledge" and some good stories to tell?

Marie Javins said...

I've mentioned my idea about drastic change/travel/throwing oneself off the cliff to a few people (in the context of I don't believe that it creates real inner change), and I've had some pretty drastic reactions.

Travel media wholeheartedly supports the idea of transformation through travel. I wish it were that easy! But I realized from the severe reactions people have had to my "travel doesn't change you" comments that people have STRONG ideas about this, and firmly believe their personal evolution came from a short journey, as if an external journey mirrors a journey within.

Based on years of throwing myself off plenty of cliffs, I don't believe in this. I think it's definitely fun but real change usually involves sitting still (and some misery, most likely).

It's interesting...I'm not sure how to handle the severe reactions. It's a bit of a hindrance to embrace the contrarian view and risk pissing lots of people off.

Though I am quite sure I'm right on this one.

Sue said...

I totally agree with you Marie! I look forward to reading the finished piece, and any online shit storms that are generated by it ;)