MOVIE: FIVE MINARETS OF NEW YORK

Agent David Becker: Because of America, people in Iraq are now free of Saddam Hussein and now live in peace.

Acar Aydin: Everybody knows the US created Saddam. Over a million Iraqi muslims died during your quest for freedom. And this freedom of yours, you only seem to take it to countries where there’s oil. Is that a coincidence?

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Why You Should Travel Young

WHY YOU SHOULD TRAVEL YOUNG
Jeff Goins

Image

As I write this, I’m flying. It’s an incredible concept: to be suspended in the air, moving at two hundred miles an hour — while I read a magazine. Amazing, isn’t it?

I woke up at three a.m. this morning. Long before the sun rose, thirty people loaded up three conversion vans and drove two hours to the San Juan airport. Our trip was finished. It was time to go home. But we were changed.

As I sit, waiting for the flight attendant to bring my ginger ale, I’m left wondering why I travel at all. The other night, I was reminded why I do it — why I believe this discipline of travel is worth all the hassle.

I was leading a missions trip in Puerto Rico. After a day of work, as we were driving back to the church where we were staying, one of the young women brought up a question.

“Do you think I should go to graduate school or move to Africa?”

I don’t think she was talking to me. In fact, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t. But that didn’t stop me from offering my opinion.

I told her to travel. Hands down. No excuses. Just go.

She sighed, nodding. “Yeah, but…”

I had heard this excuse before, and I didn’t buy it. I knew the “yeah-but” intimately. I had uttered it many times before. The words seem innocuous enough, but are actually quite fatal.

Yeah, but …

… what about debt?

… what about my job?

… what about my boyfriend?

This phrase is lethal. It makes it sound like we have the best of intentions, when really we are just too scared to do what we should. It allows us to be cowards while sounding noble.

Most people I know who waited to travel the world never did it. Conversely, plenty of people who waited for grad school or a steady job still did those things after they traveled.

It reminded me of Dr. Eisenhautz and the men’s locker room.

Dr. Eisenhautz was a German professor at my college. I didn’t study German, but I was a foreign language student so we knew each other. This explains why he felt the need to strike up a conversation with me at six o’clock one morning.

I was about to start working out, and he had just finished. We were both getting dressed in the locker room. It was, to say the least, a little awkward — two grown men shooting the breeze while taking off their clothes.

“You come here often?” he asked. I could have laughed.

“Um, yeah, I guess,” I said, still wiping the crusted pieces of whatever out of my eyes.

“That’s great,” he said. “Just great.”

I nodded, not really paying attention. He had already had his adrenaline shot; I was still waiting for mine. I somehow uttered that a friend and I had been coming to the gym for a few weeks now, about three times a week.

“Great,” Dr. Eisenhautz repeated. He paused as if to reflect on what he would say next. Then, he just blurted it out. The most profound thing I had heard in my life.

“The habits you form here will be with you for the rest of your life.”

My head jerked up, my eyes got big, and I stared at him, letting the words soak into my half-conscious mind. He nodded, said a gruff goodbye, and left. I was dumbfounded.

The words reverberated in my mind for the rest of the day. Years later, they still haunt me. It’s true — the habits you form early in life will, most likely, be with you for the rest of your existence.

I have seen this fact proven repeatedly. My friends who drank a lot in college drink in larger quantities today. Back then, we called it “partying.” Now, it has a less glamorous name: alcoholism. There are other examples. The guys and girls who slept around back then now have babies and unfaithful marriages. Those with no ambition then are still working the same dead end jobs.

“We are what we repeatedly do,” Aristotle once said. While I don’t want to sound all gloom-and-doom, and I believe your life can turn around at any moment, there is an important lesson here: life is a result of intentional habits. So I decided to do the things that were most important to me first, not last.

After graduating college, I joined a band and traveled across North America for nine months. With six of my peers, I performed at schools, churches, and prisons. We even spent a month in Taiwan on our overseas tour. (We were huge in Taiwan.)

As part of our low-cost travel budget, we usually stayed in people’s homes. Over dinner or in conversation later in the evening, it would almost always come up — the statement I dreaded. As we were conversing about life on the road — the challenges of long days, being cooped up in a van, and always being on the move — some well-intentioned adult would say, “It’s great that you’re doing this … while you’re still young.”

Ouch. Those last words — while you’re still young — stung like a squirt of lemon juice in the eye (a sensation with which I am well acquainted). They reeked of vicarious longing and mid-life regret. I hated hearing that phrase.

I wanted to shout back,

“No, this is NOT great while I’m still young! It’s great for the rest of my life! You don’t understand. This is not just a thing I’m doing to kill time. This is my calling! My life! I don’t want what you have. I will always be an adventurer.”

In a year, I will turn thirty. Now I realize how wrong I was. Regardless of the intent of those words, there was wisdom in them.

As we get older, life can just sort of happen to us. Whatever we end up doing, we often end up with more responsibilities, more burdens, more obligations. This is not always bad. In fact, in many cases it is really good. It means you’re influencing people, leaving a legacy.

Youth is a time of total empowerment. You get to do what you want. As you mature and gain new responsibilities, you have to be very intentional about making sure you don’t lose sight of what’s important. The best way to do that is to make investments in your life so that you can have an effect on who you are in your later years.

I did this by traveling. Not for the sake of being a tourist, but to discover the beauty of life — to remember that I am not complete.

There is nothing like riding a bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge or seeing the Coliseum at sunset. I wish I could paint a picture for you of how incredible the Guatemalan mountains are or what a rush it is to appear on Italian TV. Even the amazing photographs I have of Niagara Falls and the American Midwest countryside do not do these experiences justice. I can’t tell you how beautiful southern Spain is from the vantage point of a train; you have to experience it yourself. The only way you can relate is by seeing them.

While you’re young, you should travel. You should take the time to see the world and taste the fullness of life. Spend an afternoon sitting in front of the Michelangelo. Walk the streets of Paris. Climb Kilimanjaro. Hike the Appalachian trail. See the Great Wall of China. Get your heart broken by the “killing fields” of Cambodia. Swim through the Great Barrier Reef. These are the moments that define the rest of your life; they’re the experiences that stick with you forever.

Traveling will change you like little else can. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a newfound respect for pain and suffering, having seen that two-thirds of humanity struggle to simply get a meal each day.

While you’re still young, get cultured. Get to know the world and the magnificent people that fill it. The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it.

You won’t always be young. And life won’t always be just about you. So travel, young person. Experience the world for all it’s worth. Become a person of culture, adventure, and compassion. While you still can.

Do not squander this time. You will never have it again. You have a crucial opportunity to invest in the next season of your life now. Whatever you sow, you will eventually reap. The habits you form in this season will stick with you for the rest of your life. So choose those habits wisely.

And if you’re not as young as you’d like (few of us are), travel anyway. It may not be easy or practical, but it’s worth it. Traveling allows you to feel more connected to your fellow human beings in a deep and lasting way, like little else can. In other words, it makes you more human.

That’s what it did for me, anyway.

World-changing Websites

Looking for websites that help you make a difference? Thankfully, with today’s technology, you can help and donate in many ways. There are sites where you can donate money for different people with different needs. There are sites where you can devote your time and do volunteer work. There are sites that allow you to share your knowledge and expertise to help the less fortunate. And there are sites that allow you to donate something and give back simply by shopping, joining a game, sharing a website or talking to people for less than an hour!

Here are some of the sites I looove.

Since we’re always online, I think it won’t hurt us to devote a few hours of our time to do good and pay it forward. 🙂

CLICK AND DONATE:
All you need to do is click and ta-dah, you, my friend, have made a difference!

Care2: Make A Difference
Free clicks generate donations to your selected causes. You can also sign petitions or do “daily actions” through this site.

The Hunger Site
Give food to those in need just by clicking!

ONLINE GAMES:
If you love online games and spend a lot of time playing online, why not try playing games that help change the world?

26 Learning Games To Change The World
A link to a compilation of games that will help you move and make a difference!

Charitii (www.charitii.com)
Play their puzzle and donate to your chosen charity. No registration required.

Free Rice (www.freerice.com)
For each correct answer you get, 10 grains of rice is donated through the UNITED NATION’S WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME to help end hunger. No registration needed.

Games For Change (www.gamesforchange.org)
There are many different games designed to educate players about world issues and inspire more awareness and involvement. Registration is required.

[FACEBOOK GAMES]
Play WeTopia, the game from Sojo Studios (http://www.SojoStudios.com/) where you Play for Good! Earn Joy and choose real world projects to help fund while having fun with your friends.

Food Force – It’s Farmville for do-gooders!

SHOPPING:
We all love to shop, but it feels much better to shop when you at least give something back. Check out these sites and make a difference just by doing what you love doing most!

Buy4 (USA)
Buy from their site and choose a cause to give your donation to. You can track your donations and even promote your cause!

We-Care.com: Shop With Purpose (USA)
A percentage of your purchase helps your selected cause.

Chicify Helps MioFightsCancer (Philippines)
For every PHP 2,000 worth of ANY products in the site, Chicify donates to MioFightsCancer by giving the consumer a notebook drawn by Mio.

SEARCH THE WEB:
We all depend on google, but why not try other search tools and in the process, donate to causes you support?

Goodsearch
They give to your chosen cause whenever you use and search the web.

Movie: New Year’s Eve

“Sometimes, it feels there are so many things in the world we can’t control. Earthquakes, floods, reality shows. But it’s important to remember the things we can – like forgiveness, second chances, fresh starts. Because the one thing that turns the world from a lonely place to a beautiful one is love.”

QUOTES: ON FORGIVENESS

“Forgiveness does not change the past; but it does enlarge the future.”
–Author Unknown

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
-Mark Twain

“People find it easier to forgive others for being wrong than for being right.”
–Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

“Forgiveness is giving up the right to hurt another who has hurt you.”
-Harold Sala

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
–Mahatma Gandhi

“He who cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself, for every man has need to be forgiven.”
-Thomas Fuller

“To not forgive is to let someone rent free space in your head.”
–Rob Bell

“True forgiveness is a willingness to change your mind about yourself.”

“It takes a strong person to say sorry, and an even stronger person to forgive.”

“Forgiveness is a form of letting go, but they are not the same thing.”
–Gordon Livingston

“He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much.”
-Oscar Wilde

“Sometimes, it feels there are so many things in the world we can’t control. Earthquakes, floods, reality shows. But it’s important to remember the things we can – like forgiveness, second chances, fresh starts. Because the one thing that turns the world from a lonely place to a beautiful one is love.”
-New Year’s Eve (movie)

“Everyone deserves a second chance, but not on the same mistake.”

Why We Travel

photo from http://www.recruiterpoet.com

WHY WE TRAVEL
Pico Iyer

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again — to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more. The beauty of this whole process was best described, perhaps, before people even took to frequent flying, by George Santayana in his lapidary essay, “The Philosophy of Travel.” We “need sometimes,” the Harvard philosopher wrote, “to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.”

I like that stress on work, since never more than on the road are we shown how proportional our blessings are to the difficulty that precedes them; and I like the stress on a holiday that’s “moral” since we fall into our ethical habits as easily as into our beds at night. Few of us ever forget the connection between “travel” and “travail,” and I know that I travel in large part in search of hardship — both my own, which I want to feel, and others’, which I need to see. Travel in that sense guides us toward a better balance of wisdom and compassion — of seeing the world clearly, and yet feeling it truly. For seeing without feeling can obviously be uncaring; while feeling without seeing can be blind.

Yet for me the first great joy of traveling is simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light, and from a crooked angle. In that regard, even a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet (in Beijing) or a scratchy revival showing of “Wild Orchids” (on the Champs-Elysees) can be both novelty and revelation: In China, after all, people will pay a whole week’s wages toeat with Colonel Sanders, and in Paris, Mickey Rourke is regarded as the greatest actor since Jerry Lewis.

If a Mongolian restaurant seems exotic to us in Evanston, Ill., it only follows that a McDonald’s would seem equally exotic in Ulan Bator — or, at least, equally far from everything expected. Though it’s fashionable nowadays to draw a distinction between the “tourist” and the “traveler,” perhaps the real distinction lies between those who leave their assumptions at home, and those who don’t: Among those who don’t, a tourist is just someone who complains, “Nothing here is the way it is at home,” while a traveler is one who grumbles, “Everything here is the same as it is in Cairo — or Cuzco or Kathmandu.” It’s all very much the same.

But for the rest of us, the sovereign freedom of traveling comes from the fact that it whirls you around and turns you upside down, and stands everything you took for granted on its head. If a diploma can famously be a passport (to a journey through hard realism), a passport can be a diploma (for a crash course in cultural relativism). And the first lesson we learn on the road, whether we like it or not, is how provisional and provincial are the things we imagine to be universal. When you go to North Korea, for example, you really do feel as if you’ve landed on a different planet — and the North Koreans doubtless feel that they’re being visited by an extra-terrestrial, too (or else they simply assume that you, as they do, receive orders every morning from the Central Committee on what clothes to wear and what route to use when walking to work, and you, as they do, have loudspeakers in your bedroom broadcasting propaganda every morning at dawn, and you, as they do, have your radios fixed so as to receive only a single channel).

We travel, then, in part just to shake up our complacencies by seeing all the moral and political urgencies, the life-and-death dilemmas, that we seldom have to face at home. And we travel to fill in the gaps left by tomorrow’s headlines: When you drive down the streets of Port-au-Prince, for example, where there is almost no paving and women relieve themselves next to mountains of trash, your notions of the Internet and a “one world order” grow usefully revised. Travel is the best way we have of rescuing the humanity of places, and saving them from abstraction and ideology.

And in the process, we also get saved from abstraction ourselves, and come to see how much we can bring to the places we visit, and how much we can become a kind of carrier pigeon — an anti-Federal Express, if you like — in transporting back and forth what every culture needs. I find that I always take Michael Jordan posters to Kyoto, and bring woven ikebana baskets back to California; I invariably travel to Cuba with a suitcase piled high with bottles of Tylenol and bars of soap, and come back with one piled high with salsa tapes, and hopes, and letters to long-lost brothers.

But more significantly, we carry values and beliefs and news to the places we go, and in many parts of the world, we become walking video screens and living newspapers, the only channels that can take people out of the censored limits of their homelands. In closed or impoverished places, like Pagan or Lhasa or Havana, we are the eyes and ears of the people we meet, their only contact with the world outside and, very often, the closest, quite literally, they will ever come to Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton. Not the least of the challenges of travel, therefore, is learning how to import — and export — dreams with tenderness.

By now all of us have heard (too often) the old Proust line about how the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new places but in seeing with new eyes. Yet one of the subtler beauties of travel is that it enables you to bring new eyes to the people you encounter. Thus even as holidays help you appreciate your own home more — not least by seeing it through a distant admirer’s eyes — they help you bring newly appreciative — distant — eyes to the places you visit. You can teach them what they have to celebrate as much as you celebrate what they have to teach. This, I think, is how tourism, which so obviously destroys cultures, can also resuscitate or revive them, how it has created new “traditional” dances in Bali, and caused craftsmen in India to pay new attention to their works. If the first thing we can bring the Cubans is a real and balanced sense of what contemporary America is like, the second — and perhaps more important — thing we can bring them is a fresh and renewed sense of how special are the warmth and beauty of their country, for those who can compare it with other places around the globe.

Thus travel spins us round in two ways at once: It shows us the sights and values and issues that we might ordinarily ignore; but it also, and more deeply, shows us all the parts of ourselves that might otherwise grow rusty. For in traveling to a truly foreign place, we inevitably travel to moods and states of mind and hidden inward passages that we’d otherwise seldom have cause to visit.

On the most basic level, when I’m in Thailand, though a teetotaler who usually goes to bed at 9 p.m., I stay up till dawn in the local bars; and in Tibet, though not a real Buddhist, I spend days on end in temples, listening to the chants of sutras. I go to Iceland to visit the lunar spaces within me, and, in the uncanny quietude and emptiness of that vast and treeless world, to tap parts of myself generally obscured by chatter and routine.

We travel, then, in search of both self and anonymity — and, of course, in finding the one we apprehend the other. Abroad, we are wonderfully free of caste and job and standing; we are, as Hazlitt puts it, just the “gentlemen in the parlour,” and people cannot put a name or tag to us. And precisely because we are clarified in this way, and freed of inessential labels, we have the opportunity to come into contact with more essential parts of ourselves (which may begin to explain why we may feel most alive when far from home).

Abroad is the place where we stay up late, follow impulse and find ourselves as wide open as when we are in love. We live without a past or future, for a moment at least, and are ourselves up for grabs and open to interpretation. We even may become mysterious — to others, at first, and sometimes to ourselves — and, as no less a dignitary than Oliver Cromwell once noted, “A man never goes so far as when he doesn’t know where he is going.”

There are, of course, great dangers to this, as to every kind of freedom, but the great promise of it is that, traveling, we are born again, and able to return at moments to a younger and a more open kind of self. Traveling is a way to reverse time, to a small extent, and make a day last a year — or at least 45 hours — and traveling is an easy way of surrounding ourselves, as in childhood, with what we cannot understand. Language facilitates this cracking open, for when we go to France, we often migrate to French, and the more childlike self, simple and polite, that speaking a foreign language educes. Even when I’m not speaking pidgin English in Hanoi, I’m simplified in a positive way, and concerned not with expressing myself, but simply making sense.

So travel, for many of us, is a quest for not just the unknown, but the unknowing; I, at least, travel in search of an innocent eye that can return me to a more innocent self. I tend to believe more abroad than I do at home (which, though treacherous again, can at least help me to extend my vision), and I tend to be more easily excited abroad, and even kinder. And since no one I meet can “place” me — no one can fix me in my rsum –I can remake myself for better, as well as, of course, for worse (if travel is notoriously a cradle for false identities, it can also, at its best, be a crucible for truer ones). In this way, travel can be a kind of monasticism on the move: On the road, we often live more simply (even when staying in a luxury hotel), with no more possessions than we can carry, and surrendering ourselves to chance.

This is what Camus meant when he said that “what gives value to travel is fear” — disruption, in other words, (or emancipation) from circumstance, and all the habits behind which we hide. And that is why many of us travel not in search of answers, but of better questions. I, like many people, tend to ask questions of the places I visit, and relish most the ones that ask the most searching questions back of me: In Paraguay, for example, where one car in every two is stolen, and two-thirds of the goods on sale are smuggled, I have to rethink my every Californian assumption. And in Thailand, where many young women give up their bodies in order to protect their families — to become better Buddhists — I have to question my own too-ready judgments. “The ideal travel book,” Christopher Isherwood once said, “should be perhaps a little like a crime story in which you’re in search of something.” And it’s the best kind of something, I would add, if it’s one that you can never quite find.

I remember, in fact, after my first trips to Southeast Asia, more than a decade ago, how I would come back to my apartment in New York, and lie in my bed, kept up by something more than jet lag, playing back, in my memory, over and over, all that I had experienced, and paging wistfully though my photographs and reading and re-reading my diaries, as if to extract some mystery from them. Anyone witnessing this strange scene would have drawn the right conclusion: I was in love.

For if every true love affair can feel like a journey to a foreign country, where you can’t quite speak the language, and you don’t know where you’re going, and you’re pulled ever deeper into the inviting darkness, every trip to a foreign country can be a love affair, where you’re left puzzling over who you are and whom you’ve fallen in love with. All the great travel books are love stories, by some reckoning — from the Odyssey and the Aeneid to the Divine Comedy and the New Testament — and all good trips are, like love, about being carried out of yourself and deposited in the midst of terror and wonder.

And what this metaphor also brings home to us is that all travel is a two-way transaction, as we too easily forget, and if warfare is one model of the meeting of nations, romance is another. For what we all too often ignore when we go abroad is that we are objects of scrutiny as much as the people we scrutinize, and we are being consumed by the cultures we consume, as much on the road as when we are at home. At the very least, we are objects of speculation (and even desire) who can seem as exotic to the people around us as they do to us.

We are the comic props in Japanese home-movies, the oddities in Maliese anecdotes and the fall-guys in Chinese jokes; we are the moving postcards or bizarre objets trouves that villagers in Peru will later tell their friends about. If travel is about the meeting of realities, it is no less about the mating of illusions: You give me my dreamed-of vision of Tibet, and I’ll give you your wished-for California. And in truth, many of us, even (or especially) the ones who are fleeing America abroad, will get taken, willy-nilly, as symbols of the American Dream.

That, in fact, is perhaps the most central and most wrenching of the questions travel proposes to us: how to respond to the dream that people tender to you? Do you encourage their notions of a Land of Milk and Honey across the horizon, even if it is the same land you’ve abandoned? Or do you try to dampen their enthusiasm for a place that exists only in the mind? To quicken their dreams may, after all, be to match-make them with an illusion; yet to dash them may be to strip them of the one possession that sustains them in adversity.

That whole complex interaction — not unlike the dilemmas we face with those we love (how do we balance truthfulness and tact?) — is partly the reason why so many of the great travel writers, by nature, are enthusiasts: not just Pierre Loti, who famously, infamously, fell in love wherever he alighted (an archetypal sailor leaving offspring in the form of Madame Butterfly myths), but also Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence or Graham Greene, all of whom bore out the hidden truth that we are optimists abroad as readily as pessimists as home. None of them was by any means blind to the deficiencies of the places around them, but all, having chosen to go there, chose to find something to admire.

All, in that sense, believed in “being moved” as one of the points of taking trips, and “being transported” by private as well as public means; all saw that “ecstasy” (“ex-stasis”) tells us that our highest moments come when we’re not stationary, and that epiphany can follow movement as much as it precipitates it. I remember once asking the great travel writer Norman Lewis if he’d ever be interested in writing on apartheid South Africa. He looked at me astonished. “To write well about a thing,” he said, “I’ve got to like it!”

At the same time, as all this is intrinsic to travel, from Ovid to O’Rourke, travel itself is changing as the world does, and with it, the mandate of the travel writer. It’s not enough to go to the ends of the earth these days (not least because the ends of the earth are often coming to you); and where a writer like Jan Morris could, a few years ago, achieve something miraculous simply by voyaging to all the great cities of the globe, now anyone with a Visa card can do that. So where Morris, in effect, was chronicling the last days of the Empire, a younger travel writer is in a better position to chart the first days of a new Empire, post-national, global, mobile and yet as diligent as the Raj in transporting its props and its values around the world.

In the mid-19th century, the British famously sent the Bible and Shakespeare and cricket round the world; now a more international kind of Empire is sending Madonna and the Simpsons and Brad Pitt. And the way in which each culture takes in this common pool of references tells you as much about them as their indigenous products might. Madonna in an Islamic country, after all, sounds radically different from Madonna in a Confucian one, and neither begins to mean the same as Madonna on East 14th Street. When you go to a McDonald’s outlet in Kyoto, you will find Teriyaki McBurgers and Bacon Potato Pies. The placemats offer maps of the great temples of the city, and the posters all around broadcast the wonders of San Francisco. And — most crucial of all — the young people eating their Big Macs, with baseball caps worn backwards, and tight 501 jeans, are still utterly and inalienably Japanese in the way they move, they nod, they sip their Oolong teas — and never to be mistaken for the patrons of a McDonald’s outlet in Rio, Morocco or Managua. These days a whole new realm of exotica arises out of the way one culture colors and appropriates the products of another.

The other factor complicating and exciting all of this is people, who are, more and more, themselves as many-tongued and mongrel as cities like Sydney or Toronto or Hong Kong. I am, in many ways, an increasingly typical specimen, if only because I was born, as the son of Indian parents, in England, moved to America at 7 and cannot really call myself an Indian, an American or an Englishman. I was, in short, a traveler at birth, for whom even a visit to the candy store was a trip through a foreign world where no one I saw quite matched my parents’ inheritance, or my own. And though some of this is involuntary and tragic — the number of refugees in the world, which came to just 2.5 million in 1970, is now at least 27.4 million — it does involve, for some of us, the chance to be transnational in a happier sense, able to adapt anywhere, used to being outsiders everywhere and forced to fashion our own rigorous sense of home. (And if nowhere is quite home, we can be optimists everywhere.)

Besides, even those who don’t move around the world find the world moving more and more around them. Walk just six blocks, in Queens or Berkeley, and you’re traveling through several cultures in as many minutes; get into a cab outside the White House, and you’re often in a piece of Addis Ababa. And technology, too, compounds this (sometimes deceptive) sense of availability, so that many people feel they can travel around the world without leaving the room — through cyberspace or CD-ROMs, videos and virtual travel. There are many challenges in this, of course, in what it says about essential notions of family and community and loyalty, and in the worry that air-conditioned, purely synthetic versions of places may replace the real thing — not to mention the fact that the world seems increasingly in flux, a moving target quicker than our notions of it. But there is, for the traveler at least, the sense that learning about home and learning about a foreign world can be one and the same thing.

All of us feel this from the cradle, and know, in some sense, that all the significant movement we ever take is internal. We travel when we see a movie, strike up a new friendship, get held up. Novels are often journeys as much as travel books are fictions; and though this has been true since at least as long ago as Sir John Mandeville’s colorful 14th century accounts of a Far East he’d never visited, it’s an even more shadowy distinction now, as genre distinctions join other borders in collapsing.

In Mary Morris’s “House Arrest,” a thinly disguised account of Castro’s Cuba, the novelist reiterates, on the copyright page, “All dialogue is invented. Isabella, her family, the inhabitants and even la isla itself are creations of the author’s imagination.” On Page 172, however, we read, “La isla, of course, does exist. Don’t let anyone fool you about that. It just feels as if it doesn’t. But it does.” No wonder the travel-writer narrator — a fictional construct (or not)? — confesses to devoting her travel magazine column to places that never existed. “Erewhon,” after all, the undiscovered land in Samuel Butler’s great travel novel, is just “nowhere” rearranged.

Travel, then, is a voyage into that famously subjective zone, the imagination, and what the traveler brings back is — and has to be — an ineffable compound of himself and the place, what’s really there and what’s only in him. Thus Bruce Chatwin’s books seem to dance around the distinction between fact and fancy. V.S. Naipaul’s recent book, “A Way in the World,” was published as a non-fictional “series” in England and a “novel” in the United States. And when some of the stories in Paul Theroux’s half-invented memoir, “My Other Life,” were published in The New Yorker, they were slyly categorized as “Fact and Fiction.”

And since travel is, in a sense, about the conspiracy of perception and imagination, the two great travel writers, for me, to whom I constantly return are Emerson and Thoreau (the one who famously advised that “traveling is a fool’s paradise,” and the other who “traveled a good deal in Concord”). Both of them insist on the fact that reality is our creation, and that we invent the places we see as much as we do the books that we read. What we find outside ourselves has to be inside ourselves for us to find it. Or, as Sir Thomas Browne sagely put it, “We carry within us the wonders we seek without us. There is Africa and her prodigies in us.”

So, if more and more of us have to carry our sense of home inside us, we also — Emerson and Thoreau remind us — have to carry with us our sense of destination. The most valuable Pacifics we explore will always be the vast expanses within us, and the most important Northwest Crossings the thresholds we cross in the heart. The virtue of finding a gilded pavilion in Kyoto is that it allows you to take back a more lasting, private Golden Temple to your office in Rockefeller Center.

And even as the world seems to grow more exhausted, our travels do not, and some of the finest travel books in recent years have been those that undertake a parallel journey, matching the physical steps of a pilgrimage with the metaphysical steps of a questioning (as in Peter Matthiessen’s great “The Snow Leopard”), or chronicling a trip to the farthest reaches of human strangeness (as in Oliver Sack’s “Island of the Color-Blind,” which features a journey not just to a remote atoll in the Pacific, but to a realm where people actually see light differently). The most distant shores, we are constantly reminded, lie within the person asleep at our side.

So travel, at heart, is just a quick way to keeping our minds mobile and awake. As Santayana, the heir to Emerson and Thoreau with whom I began, wrote, “There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar; it keeps the mind nimble; it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor.” Romantic poets inaugurated an era of travel because they were the great apostles of open eyes. Buddhist monks are often vagabonds, in part because they believe in wakefulness. And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.

Messages For All the UP Students :)

A message from Butch Dalisay, to all the people who have studied and are studying in the University of the Philippines

“You are in UP because you think and speak for yourselves by your own wits and YOUR OWN TWO FEET, and you can do so NO MATTER WHAT THE REST OF THE PEOPLE in the room may be thinking. You’re in UP because NO ONE CAN TELL YOU TO SHUT UP if you have something SENSIBLE and VITAL to say. You’re in UP because YOU DREAD NOT THE POVERTY OF MATERIAL comforts but the POVERTY OF THE MIND. You’re in UP because you care about something abstract and sometimes as treacherous as the idea of “nation” even if it kills you.”

***

A video of Professor Winnie Monsod’s Last Lecture: a speech she delivers to her Economics 101 students almost every semester. Watch it here.

SOME OF MY FAVORITE LINES FROM HER SPEECH

Whether you know it or not, or whether you realize it or not, you are leaders. I mean not just future leaders, you are leaders now! Why do I say that? First, because you are the intellectual elite. You are creme de la creme. You are admitted into the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Right? Which takes a lot of doing. And the University of the Philippines Diliman is the university that is the top university in the Philippines – bar none. So just YOU saying: I come from UP Diliman, or I graduated from UP Diliman gives you already stature which you do not realize you have. But people will look up to you not only because one, you come from the university, but two, because you come from the university, you have to have something up here (points head). It cannot be that you don’t. If you fail in this class, it’s not really our fault; it’s your fault: because you have what it takes to pass, and nobody’s trying to make you fail, right?

But excellence is not the only important thing that matters. Do you know what the university motto is? Who knows? HONOR AND EXCELLENCE. Honor first, before excellence. It’s not excellence and honor; it’s honor and excellence. And what is the fruit of honor and excellence? Is it not competence and integrity?

In other words, if you have lived up to your promise and your potential as a university student, you are in a position to be part  of the solution of this country’s problems, not part of the problem.

And what does that mean? As far as I’m concerned, you’re a leader now. Can you assure me, that as a leader, you are going to, right now, until you finish your courses, are you going to act with honor? And integrity? Because I’m going to tell you class, you think cheating is something that is very unusual? It is very usual in the university and this is what bothers me so much. Because you do not have to cheat. And cheating in the small things is going to lead to cheating in the large things. And all these people that you have contempt for, because they are corrupt, because they are cheating, are people who may have in fact, been part of the university. As a matter of fact, if you think about it, I keep on telling this, because we are always so proud: UP TAYO, hah! Ok, I think six of the, I don’t know, the majority of the Presidents of the Philippines came from UP, the majority of the Supreme Court Chief Justices come from UP, the majority of the Speakers of the House come from UP. The majority of the Senate Presidents are UP. Eh saan tayo ngayon? (But where are we now?) If they were so good, why are we where we are now? And so you have to ask yourselves that. And part of the reason is because they have always looked at excellence, and not honor and integrity. And so I want you to pledge to me that, up to this, up to now, while you are in UP, please, do not cheat, because once you cheat, you are no longer part of the solution anymore; you are going to be very much a part of the problem.

So now, what is the next step? The next step of course is seeing to it that what you can do, you are going to do.

And that means, therefore, that if you are going to help this country, you’ve got to be IN the country. And if any of you have little ambitions of going abroad so that you can earn more, please disabuse yourself because by doing that, you are essentially betraying the people in the Philippines who trusted you and who invested their money in YOU, because your tuition, no matter how much you pay in UP, is still not enough to underwrite the costs of educating you FROM UP. And then of course there are the scholars: the ones who have the brains but unfortunately come from families whose incomes do not allow the university. Make sure that there is going to be opportunities for those, too. So if you turn your back on the country, if you turn your back on the Filipino people, what you are doing essentially, is you are exacerbating the problem, rather than helping in the solution. So if you insist in going abroad, at the very least, will you pay back THE ENTIRE COST of your education in UP? Plus interest. I mean it.

So here’s the deal: You’re gonna be as good and as honorable as you should be.

The Philippines needs you more than you would ever think. And if it is not you, who else would do it?


***

Honor and Excellence, my fellow peyups 🙂

Click THIS to listen to UP’s original anthem: UP NAMING MAHAL

and THIS to hear the newer version (I like the lyrics of this one more)

My fave lines from the new version:

Malayong lupain, di kailangang marating. Dito maglilingkod sa bayan natin.

Ating ipaglaban, laya ng diwa’t kaisipan. Humayo’t itanghal, giting, tapang at dangal.

Quotes: On Beauty

photo from http://www.mykethemakeupguy.blogspot.com

TIME TESTED BEAUTY TIPS

By: Sam Levenson (One of Audrey Hepburn’s all-time favorite poems)

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.
For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.
For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.
For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.
For poise, walk with the knowledge you’ll never walk alone.
People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; Never throw out anybody.
Remember, If you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

“When you see a beautiful lady walking down the street, you cannot say, “Hi! You’re 62% beautiful. You cannot quantify beauty, you cannot quantify love.”
–Imelda Marcos

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”
–Henry Miller

“People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only when there is light from within.”
–Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“The proof of the pudding is in its eating, not in its looks.”
–Author Unknown

World-Changing Advertisements

Here are some of my favorite marketing campaigns that are really well thought of and inspiring in many ways. Enjoy watching!

MASTERCARD COMMERCIALS:

Elephant

Baseball

FUN THEORIES:

Bottle Bank

CO2 Emissions

Recycle Bin

Stairs

CAMPAIGNS AND SOCIAL MARKETING VIDEOS:

ANTI SMOKING CAMPAIGN IN THAILAND

BEST BUY’S TWELPFORCE STRATEGY

BOSCH’S STONE-AGE MEAT CAMPAIGN

CANON’S PHOTOCHAINS

COKE: RECYCLE BINS

COKE COMMERCIAL: SHARE HAPPINESS

DOVE’S CAMPAIGN FOR THE CELEBRATION OF REAL BEAUTY

IKEA’S FACEBOOK SHOWROOM

UNICEF DIRTY WATER CAMPAIGN

COMMERCIALS:

JOHNNY WALKER: KEEP WALKING

PANTENE’S COMMERCIAL

STANDARD CHARTERED BANK COMMERCIAL