Traveling, practice of the beauty of imperfections

By Lee San

International tourism has been locked out for almost 21 months now due to the coronavirus, and the standstill remains very much so today. Even then, we all believe that someday the shut doors will reopen again. All we can do is to wait patiently and hopefully we can put this pandemic behind us very soon. Let’s take this opportunity to rekindle the sweet memories of those years when we were able to travel around freely!

I’m just curious what kind of attitude or mood with which you are prepared to restart your new journey once the national borders open up again.

As a matter of fact, the mode of travel is something very personal. In the past, some people chose to momentarily leave their homes to embark on their journeys just to express their moods. Some set out their journeys by following what most other people did, traveling casually and aimlessly but still enjoying themselves tremendously. Others took the opportunity to travel and enjoy good food with their families, friends, classmates or colleagues, cherishing the rare and much treasured togetherness along the way. Of course, there was always this group of people who kept grumbling and finding fault during the journey, occasionally offering a thumbs-up if the food or arrangement suited their taste. No praise for the tour guide, anyway.

It looks like the true significance of traveling differs from person to person!

I’m not sure whether you would agree with me that traveling is a journey to explore the future and the unknown. Before you set out for the journey, you have already started dreaming of a rendezvous with everything unknown. As such, the journey will not always go the way you like, in a route you have planned to completely suit your taste, habits or liking. Anyway, wouldn’t it be monotonous and uneventful if everything goes very much as we have expected or planned?

We only learn to appreciate everything that we used to come across in our past journeys–anything that popped up before our eyes, every single person that we met, every story that unfolded, and those travel buddies who loyally kept us company–just because we now have to temporarily surrender the privilege of traveling freely.

We should be much more appreciative of every opportunity to travel post-pandemic. Perhaps we have even thought this way: give me one more chance, please, and rectify all the discrepancies that I possibly had in my perception of traveling!

I really love the famous quote by late 19th century British philosopher G.K. Chesterton: “The traveler sees what he sees; the tourist sees what he has come to see.” Very simple and straightforward, and absolutely reflective of the attitude required of a traveler in real life. Auguste Rodin, French sculptor of the same era, once said, “Beauty is everywhere. It is not that she is lacking to our eyes, but our eyes which fail to perceive her.” They remind us of what type of attitude and respect we should have while traveling. What I want to add here is that we must have a magnanimous heart when traveling.

If we have a broad vision and a generous heart, we should be able to experience many good things in life. The preciousness of wagyu lies with what we can’t see with our eyes: the utter care and attention displayed by the breeder and the person who prepares your food. The mystery of the pyramids is derived from the committed belief of the Pharaohs and craftsmen. The visual and mental impact of the Roman Coliseum is the symbol of a great bygone era. The love story behind the majestic Taj Mahal is touching our hearts, while the resilience of Oshin of northeastern Japan makes a powerful motivation story for modern people. All these constitute building aesthetics, precious cultural legacies and unique culinary characteristics we have inherited from people all across our world, and they are truly excellent vistas with a strong connotation. They have not only enriched our journeys, but have also helped shape our distinctive world views.

Although traveling can be a very low-key feast of luxury, it can also be a lifetime journey of endless explorations.

In Japanese, 侘寂 (Wabi-Sabi) aesthetics is a simple, practical philosophy of Zen whereby everything in this world has its imperfect aspect, and we must learn to look at them with an accommodating heart and accept them as they are.

In view of this, each time we set out for a journey, it is an occasion for us to practice the Wabi-Sabi philosophy as we attempt to visualize the beauty of a world full of imperfections, experience things which are weird and unusual and spend time with strangers who have lots of stories to tell. Along the way, we come to realize all the little things about life and upgrade ourselves.

Let’s appreciate all that we have now, confront a world of new normals, and value the philosophy of life with a genuine heart. If we can do just that, then our traveling life will become wholly fulfilled.

Let’s face the 2022 New Year together with expanded confidence and audacity!

(Lee San is Founder and Group Executive Chairman of Apple Vacations. He has traveled to 132 countries, six continents, and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.)


Lee San
Apple Vacations


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