Travel, Significance, Happiness

I’ve arrived in Nice, France and I’m just getting my shit together before I head out for the night.

So, I’ve discovering couchsurfing, and it’s awesome. If you’ve traveled and you’ve never used couch surfing before, you’re an idiot. I’ve seen more of the places I’ve been, I’ve stayed in proper houses instead of in shitty dorms or expensive hotels, and my first host wouldn’t let me buy food for myself. It’s all awesome.

But traveling alone is getting pretty lonely. These past couple years, I’ve lived a very bye-guys-see-you-later nomadic lifestyle. Most of this has been awesome, but when I come back, the void I left in my absence has often been stitched together or changed and I don’t recognize among friends or lovers where I fit in any more. The one benefit to all this is that I’m becoming nice and worldly and stuff, and have stories to tell that attract new friends and lovers to me. But the places I leave behind change without me.

I’m very expressive linguistically. Traveling through France (since the 23rd of April) has made me feel semantically lonely. It’s the same feeling I had when in India, but not as bad. All my human interactions are reduced to struggled half-guesses and gestures. An old woman on the train from Paris to Nice tried to describe to me the significance of a certain mountain range in the distance. We gave up after a few minutes. By that time in Canada, I would have moved on to subtle lewd jokes about the mountain’s shapes. I miss being able to do that. There’s a lot of little bits of humour or thoughts bottling themselves up inside and not being able to share them, or having someone to tell me something interesting themselves, sucks. The closer (concentrically) my friend groups are in the Toronto, the more the language between ourselves is specialized, to the point that with friends I’ve had for years, we don’t really use sentences or even nouns anymore. Every utterance is a pointer to a portion of a previous conversation and our current conversations are just interesting rearrangements of this iceberg of semantics. We converse with conversations. I really fucking miss that. I saw an improv group in Paris and met a Danish guy there who did longform in English. He talked about how it was frustrating that there weren’t any Danes there who did improv; he always felt like he was going half-speed.

I’m currently in the one and only hotel on my trip. A nice jobby with a big bed. Due to a screw up on my part, I didn’t buy the 96 Euro ticket for the train from Paris to Nice, so I effectively got a free train ride, so I’m splurging. I also had to shave off my 3-month beard, which was going to be a mess:

Sometimes I grow this thing. It gets ginger at the tips, which was surprising and a callback to some recessive genes that express themselves in other parts of my family. I’ve had enough with dealing with it and decided it had to go. Sometimes we do things that really only affect ourselves to feel better. Shaving the beard was more permanent action, but it made me think how an action can have a symbolic purpose for ourselves. Today, I needed something big to do and shaving off a 3-month-old patch of hair served my needs.

The more I know about the world, the more I like Canada. To be honest, Paris was…cute but kind of a mess. Its an incredibly old city. The cities I had seen internationally before were all third-world places in South Asia, and the urban planning was all over the place, and they were crazy dense. Paris almost felt like that – it was strange, and not at all what I expected. It seems that the UK was much cleaner and organized; perhaps because the cities are a little bit younger. Or maybe municipal authorities are more authoritarian. At least it isn’t the creepy clean of Singapore.

Canada is great and I really do miss it. If I ever had to leave it without a defined plan of return, I’d probably get a maple leaf tattooed…somewhere. I know I want to live in a big city, and Toronto is wonderful but it’s very unlikely that my academic career will keep me there; there’s too many researchers that do what I do. I’ve been eyeing Montreal. I could do Vancouver too. Ah, Toronto, it’s always back and forth with you, isn’t it?

I think. I think that I’m looking for some kind of spiritual satisfaction with what I do/where I live. I know I’m pretty sensitive to commute time and I like places I can walk around. I know I like working by myself or with small groups of people on things that are fascinating and mind blowing and then discussing, after the fact, what we’ve done and what it means about life and existence and the quest for significance. And I need to be able to experience things that are new. As long as I’m able to do all that, I’ll be pretty happy.

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One Response to Travel, Significance, Happiness

  1. Mohit Jain says:

    good to read about your Toronto nostalgia
    n yup couchsurfing sounds awesome!

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