I Love the Unknown

I Love The Unknown

Derek Personal Stuff 29 Comments

I Love the Unknown

Yesterday afternoon, while eating enchiladas in Brooklyn, a friend of a friend asked me a very simple question.

He asked me, “Why are you traveling to the Middle East?”

At first, I didn’t hesitate to give an answer. I began talking about my interest in the education that travel offers and how the Middle East is a region of the world that frankly, I just don’t know too much about. I went on to say that instead of reading about such places as Turkey, Syria and Lebanon in the newspaper (do people even read newspapers anymore?), I’d prefer to just show up to those countries and try and learn as much as possible for myself.

And that was the end of the conversation.

However, a few hours later, while I was sitting on the sofa at my friend’s apartment, I heard a song that I hadn’t heard in a long, long time. It was a song by the group Clem Snide and as soon as I began listening to the words, I had an interesting realization.

Sure, I love that “first-hand education that world exploration provides” that I always mention, but I suddenly understood that this concept does not constitute the core of my need to travel. There is something much greater at work here.

What I truly love most about travel, as made clear to me by Clem Snide, is the UNKNOWN.

Yes, “I love the unknown. I love the unknown. He says he loves the unknown.

It is the unknown that I look forward to most in all of my adventures. It is the unknown that encompasses the education I seek, the human interactions I enjoy, the shocks to the senses I experience and the challenges I endure.

I love having no idea what is going to happen tomorrow or the next day or the day after that. I love the fact that there are people out there right now who have no idea that our paths are going to cross in Turkey this week or in some other land at some point in the future. I love not knowing where I will be eating, where I will be sleeping or what it will feel like to wander the streets of Istanbul’s Old City.

And while not having any idea how I will get from Ataturk International Airport into the city center tomorrow (heck, I don’t even know what part of the city I’ll be headed to yet!) may sound a bit frightening, I am also fascinated at the same time by the unlimited possibilities that lie ahead.

Again, I love the unknown.

Of course, I’m nervous as well! I still get nervous before starting any travels, just as a performer may get nervous every time they step on stage. (Last night, my last night in the US, I think I managed to sleep for only about an hour!) But with every moment that passes and ever step that takes place – the flight, the arrival, the ride into the city, the meeting of people, etc. – the confidence is sure to grow and what was once the unknown may suddenly become a rewarding moment, a lasting memory or a life-changing experience.

So I guess by the time you’re reading this, I’ll be on my flight to Turkey or perhaps already in Istanbul. And while I clearly don’t have any clue as to where this adventure will lead, I sure hope you’ll stick around for the journey!

Here’s the Clem Snide song I mentioned above…enjoy!

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Comments 29

  1. I hate to say but I’m not sure I like the unknown Earl. Maybe because my paranoid mind relates unknown to fear, danger, etc.

    Hope your trip to the Middle East brings you a lot of (good) adventure, my friend.

    1. Hey Moon – The unknown is not for everyone, but I will say that one of the most effective methods of learning and growing as a person is to face our fears and step outside of our comfort zones. If things get too comfortable in our lives, we tend not to be challenged and for me anyway, that leads to the feeling that I’m not making the most out of each day.

      Even facing a small fear can prove to have life-changing benefits!

  2. We’re often asked similar questions – why do you want to keep traveling? What attracts you to Africa/Middle East (or anywhere)?

    You’re right – it really is the thrill of the unknown, especially when it comes to people. Our stay in Europe this summer has been fun, but it’s also an environment that is rather known to us since we used to live in Central Europe and traveled a ton. I’m looking forward to getting back into travel that has more of the unknown…off to Bangladesh in a few months 🙂

    1. Hey Audrey – I can’t wait to read about your upcoming travels to Bangladesh! There is plenty of ‘unknown’ to encounter over there.

      And I know what you mean about being in a familiar place. While still rewarding, it can also lack the challenges associated with having to discover everything for the first time. Basically, that was what convinced me to leave Mexico and begin this trip as well.

  3. Welcome to Turkey Earl!!

    Which part of Istanbul have you ended up in?

    Re the unknown, that is what makes it exciting. even more exciting is when we discover the unknown and it totally changes how we think and act.

    1. Hey Natalie – Thank you for the welcome! So far (my first 24 hours) it’s been wonderful! At the moment I’m staying in Sultanahmet for the first 4 or 5 nights and then I’ll move over to Taksim (where I have a friend who is living there) and explore that area for a few days. I’m so surprised at how laid-back and comfortable this city is…much less chaotic than I envisioned 🙂

  4. YES! That’s exactly why I love to travel! 🙂 It’s the unknown that I love and when I don’t get enough of it, when every single thing around me is so familiar that I could describe interactions, colors, streets, and even patterns with my eyes closed, that’s when I start to feel suffocated. I start to feel like my spirit is being caged and like my growth is stagnating. It feels like my life cannot breathe!

    I’ve only been back in the United States for a little over three weeks now (it feels like it’s been months) and I’m already dying to get back on the road, even if that just means going to an unfamiliar area of the United States!

    I can only imagine where you are right now and that is enough to reinvigorate my sense of adventure! 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Hey Raam – The idea of ‘growth’ is always at the heart of it all. Being surrounded by the unknown is to guarantee that you will grow. You are left with no other option but to embrace your surroundings, challenge yourself and review your own beliefs. And the result can be addicting as you discovered! Once you become used to such growth, it is hard to even spend a day away from the unknown.

      And I’m glad you mentioned the benefit of even visiting another part of the US or of anyone’s home country. I know I mostly speak of international travel, but just a short day trip away from one’s home town is enough to bring us out of our routine and open our eyes to an entirely new and exciting world!

  5. I resonated so deeply with this post! I get such a high when I’m traveling because of the factor of the unknown. Knowing that at any moment I will or could have some kind of unforgettable adventure is just amazing. I think that’s why I loved living in NYC so much, I always felt like anything could happen at any moment. Have the best time in the ME!!!!!!!

    1. Hey Andi – That ‘high’ is addicting! It’s a way to keep us looking forward with excitement to every moment in life and to make the most out of everything we do. We just don’t know where our next step will lead…and the possibilities are endless!

  6. I couldn’t write it better myself! I just returned to the states after a trip to Eastern Europe, ending with Istanbul. It’s all an enthralling unknown – enjoy!

    1. Hey Max – If you have any favorite things you did during your visit to Istanbul, let me know! I’m always interested in picking other traveler’s brains for ideas…

  7. The unknown is a huge part of what makes travel so enticing to me. If I were to stay home, it’s safe to say each day is going to be like the one before with only a few details changing. On the road, you never know who your going to meet, where your going to go, or what you’ll be doing or learn. There are new discoveries everywhere and embracing that is something I thrive on. I’m not scared to jump head first into something I don’t understand or know much about. It’s an adventure waiting to happen.

    1. Hey Jenny – You brought up a good point by saying that you’re not scared to jump in the unknown. I think that for many people (including myself in the beginning) finding the confidence to take such a step is not so easy and that keeps people from breaking out of their routine. But as you’ve clearly discovered, once you take that first step, it becomes much easier every time and eventually, seeking out the unknown becomes natural!

  8. The unknown awaiting us in foreign countries is definitely what makes traveling so interesting and what gets us exciting. What’s awaiting us behind that border? What do people eat (you know we’re obsessed with food ;-)…), how will we get around, will we meet nice people… and the more different a country from our own is, the more interesting the travels there – I bet you’re pretty excited at the moment, being finally able to explore the Middle East. Enjoy your trip!

    1. @globetrottergirls – You summed it up perfectly. I love how ‘What do people eat?” was the first question that came to your mind 🙂

      I guess the unknown also includes getting dengue fever. Sorry to hear that Jess has it!! Hopefully, Flores is a good enough place to rest and wait until it passes. Hope you get better soon!!

  9. Fueled on the unknown, beautiful 🙂

    Lebanon is the place where I was born and is truly a beautiful country, let’s forget for once what newspapers say about the Middle East, you’ll feel safer than most parts of the world, trust me!

    Have a great time!

    1. Hey Daniel – I can’t wait to get to Lebanon and I agree with you about the safety issue. I was telling a friend in NYC that I’m more worried about crime in the US than I am about violence in any other place I’ve ever traveled.

      And if you have any recommendations of things to do or places to visit in Lebanon, please let me know!

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  11. I’m with you, Earl! I love the uncertainty of traveling and the new discoveries you make that you could never plan or foresee. You see things you might otherwise overlook and never appreciate.

    So excited you’re headed to the Middle East & into the Unknown. Great song, btw.


    1. Hey Bessie – It is a great song, right? I think I listened to it about a dozen times on the flight over to Istanbul!

      And I hope you and Kyle are making many new discoveries over there in Thailand!! Hopefully your time there is proving to be more rewarding than you expected 🙂

  12. “By choosing to leave, the migrant has taken control of their life, forcing them to consciously work at daily life, and preventing any slippage into unconscious habit.”

    I was just pondering the truth of that sentence (from this post: https://www.travelblogs.com/articles/existential-migration-feeling-at-home-as-the-foreigner) seconds before reading your post. It is interesting; it has always scared me that when I feel that I know in advance what my day will be like, where I will go and who I will meet and what I will eat, I fall into a mind-numbing state of paralysis, as if no conscious action of mine is even required for this daily routine. Travel for me is like taking control, because by losing control over my environment, I need to be constantly aware of my own self – my needs, my limits, my gut-feeling – so that I can adapt to each situation and each person as they show up. I also find that when faced with a big cultural or language barrier, I am forced to use my powers of empathy a lot more, and put myself in other people’s shoes in order to understand them. I sometimes wish I could find that heightened inner awareness in a settled life, but so far I have found it much more difficult to maintain. I suppose what it comes down to is that when everything around us is unknown, then the only thing we can strive to know is our own self.

    Thank for the song – I love it.

    I’m looking forward to hearing about Turkey – I hear there’s some good rock-climbing there : )

    1. Hey Rose – That was such a great response to this post. I think that facing the unknown does require us to know ourselves and to rely upon ourselves much more than when we are in a familiar, settled life. And this is how we grow, by not being able to rely on routine the get us through the day. We are forced to process all we see as if it is the first time and the result is an excitement and awareness that is unparalleled.

      And I’ll keep an eye for some rock-climbing over here!

  13. I completely agree. For me the best part of any trip is that initial step into the unknown. The leaving of familiar locations and the steps into new and unseen places. After you said it, everything clicked. It is the unknown that makes everything amazing and special.

    On a side note, I have a question. Did you take the picture for this current post or did you find somewhere? I love it, it’s looks awesome and like a really fun railroad to walk down.


    1. Hey Ozzy – I did take that photo actually. A friend and I were visiting the Mexican town of Valladolid and on the outskirts of town we passed by this random railroad track. I have no idea where that track leads but it sure did seem that a wild adventure would await anyone who began walking along it!

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