Monday, January 22, 2007

Concluding Thoughts

“By the Numbers”

8 months of globetrotting
66,000 kilometers
5 continents
4 languages
6 surfboards
1 world’s most dangerous wave

24 instances of pretending not to understand a language
251 instances of actually not understanding a language
15 times when I began speaking in the wrong language (eg. speaking French in Taiwan)
50,000 Chinese characters
14 variations of the phrase “I hate Chinese” in my Google search function’s history

1 world’s tallest building (1,676 feet tall)
41 earthquakes (over a 4 month period)

1 near-wife
5 sacrificial cows (in exchange for marriage)
1 girlfriend
187 girls who asked if they could touch my “golden” hair

1,568 photos
13.5 minutes on the “big screen”
300 pages of rambling

90 miles per hour top-speed on my motorcycle
87 red-lights completely ignored

31 laws broken
0 times caught

18 people who thought I was French
1 person who thought I was Chinese/Taiwanese (myself)
0 people who thought I was Senegalese

73 instances of being “pretty lost”
16 instances of being “totally lost”
3 instances of being “somebody shoot me, I’m so lost”

4,872 drivers propositioned for hitchhiking
82 drivers who pulled off the road in response
54 drivers who allowed me to get in even after seeing my surfboard (leaving 28 who frowned/scoffed/laughed and drove off)

3 cases of bronchitis
1 case of influenza
1 case of food poisoning
4 cases of traveler’s diarrhea
1 dog bite (Doberman)
2 motorcycle accidents
49 sea urchin spines pulled out of my body with tweezers
4 sea urchin spines pulled out of my body only after first using scissors to cut the skin
33 reef cuts
2 tubes of superglue used to seal those cuts
1 black eye
2 bruised bones
1 damaged eardrum
914 times I’ve been called crazy (over an 8 month period)

15 minutes to learn the Wolof/Arabic greetings
15 days to forget almost everything else

22 times almost used my left hand while eating tieboudienne
153 times forced to use a squat-toilet
151 times remembered to bring toilet paper
2 times reminded why eating with your left hand is forbidden

2 unforgettable host-families
1 unforgettable surf crew
1 ridiculously long list of unforgettable friends

5 times a day the Muslim call-to-prayer startled me
38 instances in Tahiti in which I thought I was dreaming and actually pinched myself to determine whether I were awake

11.5 hours of new music added to my ipod
6,724 people on rooftops who watched me attempt to do an African dance during the Labor Day Parade

3 instances in which I found myself in the midst of a mob/protest
1 instance in which money that had previously been in my pocket was not there afterwards

8 months of living in the tropics
5.5 days per week, on average, spent surfing (for 8 months)
23 typhoons (over a 4 month period)
5 professional surfers who have stayed in the same Tahitian bungalow I called home
1 country in which I am now officially recognized as a professional surfer

40 showers taken with cold water
3 showers taken using a bucket and watering-can

612 mosquito bites
2 friends who acquired malaria

6 feet between me and an 8-foot-long eel while scuba diving
12 feet between me and a wild rhinoceros on an African game reserve
2 sharks spotted while in the water
10 seconds of deliberation before deciding to continue surfing despite the presence of those sharks

12,966 ft. above sea level
97 feet beneath the surface of the water

303 fresh-fruit smoothies/juices drunk (over an 8 month period)
1,220 dumplings eaten (over a 4 month period)
6 Senegalese meals eaten which did not contain fish (over a 1.5 month period)
24 instances of intense craving for lasagna (over an 8 month period)
19 instances of intense craving for eastern NC barbeque (over an 8 month period)

61 times I’ve told girls I surfed Teahupo’o
44 times I’ve told girls I’m friends with the famous Asian band Wu Bai & China Blue
0 times either of these techniques has produced any real results

25 aloha signs waved on an average Tahitian day
15 bows performed on an average Taiwanese day
4.5 minutes of handshaking engaged in on an average Senegalese day

3.5 minutes of exposure before I’d begin to sunburn in any of the places I visited

1 World
1 Life
1 Chance
…to be Stoked…


“With Words”

“This is my pride: that now, thinking of the end, I do not cry like all the men of my age, [who ask] ‘but what was the use and the meaning?’ I was the use and the meaning. That I lived and that I acted.” – Ayn Rand

“What did you learn?” This is, perhaps, the most important question I can ask myself as I look back on my eight months of adventure. To find my answer, one need look no further than the very beginning of my blog and the Ayn Rand quote which has been there from the start – a quote which has, until now, gone unaddressed. The most important thing I learned during my travels is – ironically – something I already knew. But it’s a lesson not easily retained. No, I’ll go even further: it’s one with an inherent tendency to be forgotten – so much so, in fact, that I don’t believe I would be mistaken to say that each and every time I climbed a mountain or surfed a wave or made a new friend or offered a helping hand – each and every time – I was learning this lesson from scratch.

We begin to die the moment we are born. We all know this deep down, whether we wish to admit it to ourselves or not. We’re frightened by how fast life passes, and we’re frightened by our inability to know what lies ahead. We’re frightened by our powerlessness.

We all face the temptation to surrender. To run away. To hide. To fall to our knees and beg for deliverance. We all wish to know more than anything else that our lives have meaning – that, even in the grand scope of the universe, the little specks which are our existences hold significance… that they don’t go unnoticed.

Many people never find meaning. A few find it in others. Some find it in God. But in a world of doubts and uncertainties, there exists in each man’s life only one Being with the power to bring light to what was previously dark, to convey substance to what was previously empty, to transmit meaning to what was previously absurd – himself.

The fact that life has no easily discernible meaning is our saving grace! It’s what makes us free. It’s what makes us human. We’re not powerless – we’re powerful beyond measure! Our existences are living works of art, and we are the creators – no one else. We wield the brush ourselves. We are free to make mistakes; we are free to fail. But so, too, are we free to innovate and explore, to be bold and daring. We are free to conceive beauty, to pursue the aesthetic. We are free to create works of exaltation. Like Icarus, we are free to build wings. We are free to leap. To soar. To fly.



At 12:37 AM, Blogger JoeBlogs said...

Youve had quite an adventure. Impressive post, more interesting than stay at home moms in the main anyway :)

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