5 Tips for Traveling Introverts

I’m living proof that introversion and love of travel are not at odds. That said, introversion is all about managing stimulating situations before they red-line to stimulation overload, and travel is packed with novel sensory experiences. There’s an art and science to getting the most out of travel as an introvert. Here are a few tips.

5.) Exploit the quiet spaces: No matter how clamorous the city one is visiting, there are  always little zones of solitude, including: places of worship as well as parks and gardens. In travel beast mode, our minds are often focused on getting photos, seeing everything there is to see, and planning our move to the next site, and one can miss opportunities to recharge.

One might not feel comfortable taking up a meditative / reflective stance at a place of worship of some sect not your own. However, if you can shed worries about being seen as a poseur-gone-native, the nice thing is that people everywhere tend to be respectful of your quietude in such places. Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said about parks and gardens, which may require scouting for a hidden enclave. In some countries, sitting on a bench in the park is taken as an invitation to engage in conversation — mostly in places that don’t see many foreigners. [Which can be great, unless one is specifically trying to turn inward for a few moments.]

4.) Meals aren’t just about nourishment: For a long time, I thought I had a pretty harsh tendency to go hypoglycemic. But I’ve come to notice that if it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I haven’t eaten since breakfast and I’m hiking the Annapurna sanctuary in Nepal, I’m hungry and will let you know it, but it’s still possible to stand being around me. However, if it’s 3pm and I’ve been walking around New Delhi all day, I’m probably on the verge of going full-Hulk at the slightest provocation. [The other evidence that it’s the lack of peace and not the lack of glucose causing my problem is that a granola bar seldom makes a dent.]

Of course, a peaceful place to take a meal break isn’t always sitting right in front of one — even in big cities. It sometimes requires some thought before one is on the verge of a melt-down.

3.) Know thyself: If you are the kind who absolutely must see every site in the guidebook, you need to allow yourself extra time in a given city or village above and beyond just what is required to move from place to place. You need to factor in quiet time. In some travel destinations, solitude is built in by virtue of the locale, but in other places, it can be elusive.

Alternatively, if you are the kind who doesn’t mind missing temples 8 through 12 on the “best of” list, the whole issue becomes a bit easier.

2.) Vary your cycles: In practice this can be a challenge because of where sites are relative to other sites. However, if you can have a mix of more and less stimulating locations within a day, and then again over the course of the week, that will help a great deal.

Also, if you are a morning person and can hit the more intense sites when you have that burst of energy, that’s for the best. Alternatively, if you’re a night-owl, match your high energy periods with your high stimulation happenings.

1.) Recognize the upside: Don’t believe the hype that being an introvert is all downside with respect to travel. Most discussions of this subject would focus on how helpful introversion can be in the planning process, and in anticipating problems that might derail your travel itinerary. However, let me mention another advantage that you may not have been as likely to consider. I have found that a lifetime of feeling myself an outsider has desensitized me to instances in which I am really, truly, and vastly outside my culture. So to me, sitting with ex-head hunters in Nagaland isn’t particularly more awkward than attending a party in my hometown.

DAILY PHOTO: Walls at Sacsayhuaman

Taken in the Summer of 2010 at Sacsayhuaman, near Cusco

Sacsayhuaman offers some phenomenal examples of Incan masonry, which used no mortar and involved perfect joints that weren’t perfectly on the horizontal or vertical (i.e. the joints had to be matched up on planes of various angles.)

POEM: Ode to Cheese

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” — G.K. Chesterton



Ah, Mister Chesterton, I must concur.
The Camembert love is lacking, Monsieur!
If there’s a way to make bacon better,
surely it’s smothering it in Cheddar.

On bread and water prisoners endure,
but brie with bread is the height of grandeur.
What, say you, is more addictive than crack?
Just a cracker topped with Monterey Jack.

Yes, poets obsess on love and death,
but you can smell the Roquefort on their breath.
[OK, there’s no budget for Roquefort,
truth is, it’s a canned cheese of some sort.]

BOOK REVIEW: What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula

What the Buddha TaughtWhat the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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It might seem like any book on Buddhism would — by definition — be a book about “what the Buddha taught,” but, no. Buddhism, like all religions that I’m aware of, has experienced the drift that occurs as part of the religification process – though some sects and sub-sects remain truer to the Buddha’s original approach than others. I was happy to stumble onto this book because whenever I’ve read the ideas attributed directly to the Buddha, I’ve always found them to be brilliant in elegance and simplicity.

Walpola Rahula’s book is a summation of what the Buddha actually taught, presented in a way that makes sense for today’s English-language reader. The book is just eight chapters, plus appendices comprising ten texts (excerpted or in whole, depending upon the document’s length and contents.) The first chapter explains the Buddhist conception of the mind, and gives the reader a context for much of the rest of the book. Chapters two through five each link to one of the four noble truths: i.e. dukkha (suffering-ish — the controversy of that translation is addressed in detail), the arising of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha, and magga (the path to the cessation of dukkha – i.e. the eight-fold path.)

Chapter six addresses one of the most controversial and unique of Buddhist ideas, the doctrine of no-soul (anatta.) This is the idea that the idea of a permanent self or soul that is ever-present and that lives on past the body is an illusion. The Buddhist conception imagines the self as being more like a river. It only appears to be a permanent entity, but, in reality, it is different every moment and what appears permanent is more an emergent property than a thing or entity. I found this chapter to be the most interesting, because it is such a unique idea (though one a number of neuroscientists seem to be converging on this way of thinking), it appeals to my sense of simplification versus needless complication, and it was interesting to read Rahula’s challenge of those who have tried to deny Buddha argued thus (presumably seeking to make Buddhist doctrines converge with their belief systems.)

Chapter seven discusses meditation, mindfulness, and misconceptions about the two. When I took the Vipassana ten-day course, it was emphasized to us repeatedly that in the Buddha’s conception is that one needs to do two things in pursuit of enlightenment, live ethically (as per the eight-fold path) and practice (meditation and mindfulness.) While Rahula doesn’t put it exactly like that, that message comes across. (Rahula presents the eight-fold path categorized in three divisions of ethics, practice, and wisdom.) Whereas the doctrine of no-soul is controversial on metaphysical / philosophical grounds, the necessity of practice is passively objected to on the grounds that people really don’t want to practice because it’s challenging and it keeps them from getting the most out of all the apps on their phones.

The last chapter ties things up by bringing what the Buddha taught into present-day in order to ask questions like how it can be applied and what it means to be a Buddhist.

Besides the appendices of texts and text excerpts, there are photos throughout the book, mostly of Buddhist sculptures from around the [Buddhist] world.

I found this book to be very informative. It’s concise and readable, and seemed to me to be very consistent with those beautiful ideas I’ve come to associate with the Buddha. I would recommend this book for anyone who’s looking to learn what the Buddha actually told his students back in the day.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Modern Art and Science of Mobility by Aurlien Broussel-Derval & Stephane Ganneau

The Modern Art and Science of MobilityThe Modern Art and Science of Mobility by Aurelien Broussal-Derval
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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This book is designed to help athletes (and those who train athletes) increase mobility. The authors draw heavily upon yoga and martial arts drills (especially judo and jujutsu groundwork drills) in addition to the usual suspects of modern fitness – i.e. calisthenics, kettlebell, etc. It’s a visual book. The text is highly distributed toward the first half of the book. The heart of the book is pictures and descriptive captions of the exercises and practices described. This isn’t a complaint. I think there is sufficient discussion of the topics addressed and that said discussion was clear.

The book is organized into four parts, and — within each part — by anatomical region. The four parts are: Pain, Breathing, Movement, and Mobility. The section on pain offers many self-massage techniques, often using foam rollers or balls to counteract myofascial pain. I was particularly impressed to see an entire section devoted to breathing, and that it not only explored exercises to free up the diaphragm and intercostals (rib muscles) but also discussed issues such as the role of stress on breath. As mentioned the parts on movement and mobility are heavily oriented toward conveying exercise sequences graphically, and the chapters were oriented by parts of the body.

With a book that is so graphically-oriented, it’s important to mention that the photography, anatomical drawings, and diagrams are well done. The photos make it easy to see what is happening. It seemed to me that they used the right number of photographs to convey the movements involved, and they augmented these with arrows and lines to show direction of movement and alignments. It was usually quite clear what the movement was even before reading the captions. The photos are of varied sizes and orientations as needed to convey the exercise at hand. The anatomical drawings are clearly labeled.

I will say there were three exercises that I found troubling, but I gave the authors the benefit of the doubt as the book seems to be directed toward athletes. I don’t think these are things that will give most athletically-built people too much trouble especially when practice in moderation. However, as anyone may pick up such a book, I would be cautious of these three activities – especially if you haven’t been training in a while or are new. First, doing loaded lunges (i.e. barbells across the shoulders) with one’s knee way out forward of the toes. As the point of the book is mobility, I don’t have a problem with doing floor exercises on a knee this way, but that’s a lot of pressure to load onto connective tissue. Second, doing cobra (Bhujanga, or what they call “Sphinx”) with straightened arms and thighs resting on the floor. That almost always creates a sharp kink in the back with one spinal process prying into another. One can do Up-Dog (Urdhva Mukta Svanasana) with thighs off the ground or Cobra (Bhujanga) with your navel on the ground, but you shouldn’t confuse the two. Finally, they mention doing a roll up into shoulder stand. Unless you are extremely experienced, this is a bad idea because with the chin tucked into the chest there is very little room for error. Work up into shoulder stand slowly and easily. I will point out that this is what I noticed as a yoga teacher, individuals with other experience may see other issues, but I have some experience with the jujutsu drills and didn’t notice anything problematic.

That said, I thought this book was well done. The organization, explanations, and graphics were excellent and it will be a helpful resource for athletes working on mobility issues.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Science of Monsters by Meg Hafdahl & Kelly Florence

The Science of Monsters: Demystifying Film’s Most Notorious Vampires, Witches, Zombies, and MoreThe Science of Monsters: Demystifying Film’s Most Notorious Vampires, Witches, Zombies, and More by Meg Hafdahl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

Scheduled Release: October 1, 2019

Monsters, especially movie monsters, and science don’t seem like peas in a pod – one being fictitious and favoring the outlandish and the other insisting on firm roots in reality. Still, the supernatural creatures that enter folklore or mythology (and many movie monsters derive from these sources – whether loosely or closely) often arise because of some real world phenomena, e.g. genetic conditions that cause one to grow hair everywhere or – conversely – that make one pasty complected and sun-avoiding. It’s these kernels of truth as well as the limits of what is possible that form the core of this book. It considers a wide range of “monsters” from psychopathic humans to mythical monsters to ghosts to aliens to mysterious creatures of unknown origins.

The two focal points of a book like this (e.g. monsters and science) are seldom equal. A popular class of nonfiction books has arisen that exists to convey scientific ideas by exploiting pop culture for examples. This isn’t that kind of book. I don’t say that as a criticism. There is room for both types of books. But in this one, the science is secondary to giving readers interested in movie monsters some context and background. This stress can be seen in the book’s organization (i.e. each of its chapters features a different horror [or horror-adjacent] film and its monster) as well the authors’ expertise (while they consulted scientists, the authors are more knowledgeable about horror movies.) Also, the focus is tighter on the type of monster under examination, and the discussion of science roams through different scientific disciplines (including social sciences and even humanities – and, in one instance, pseudoscience) as it discusses what Hafdahl and Florence are interested in, which is any real word bases for the plausibility of these monsters.

Again, the last paragraph isn’t so much a criticism as a statement of what kind of book this is — and isn’t. (Needless to say by this point, it’s also not a book about the science and technology of making credible monsters for movies [e.g. CGI or the anatomy of a credible kaiju,] which is another worthy topic of discussion for another book.) The fact that the book is inclusive of discussions beyond biology and physics and which range into the social sciences and other disciplines offers the reader interesting insights. The exploration of what makes an entity terrifying was fascinating to me, and there is a significant art, science, and psychology to that subject, itself.

I will say that there was at least one time when I couldn’t really grasp how the science under discussion was relevant to the topic (i.e. monster) under discussion. It seemed as though the authors had succumbed to a common ailment of writing – that is, the inability to pitch material that is good, hard worked for, but ultimately irrelevant.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. I learned about how the monsters of the silver screen relate to happenings in the real world. There were several references to how quirky little news stories influenced screenwriters and directors to come up with some of the iconic horror and dark sci-fi movies. If you are interested in the origins of monsters, I’d recommend you check this book out.

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