Monthly Archives: October 2013

Living to Work or Working to Live?

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Down a forgotten street in a unknown town a women walks by without a sound but the creak of her cart. The same cart that has carried fruits, vegetables, waste, boxes, paper, bottles, plastic and family members. The cart has a bicycle seat but the women typically chooses not to ride for fear of missing pieces of discarded treasure. Her eyes always lowered to the ground. Living with rarely looking forward. Her clothes are fitting. Fitting of the status which she was born unto. Shapeless and full of hidden mystery. Humble to the public but a shining star among those who know her. She speaks only with just purpose. Not wasting speech on trivial pursuits. She wakes before dawn and goes to sleep long after dark. While the world spins past her she works anonymously. At times, ghostlike in her presence. Sometimes forgetting herself. Coal pale eyes that search not for love or passions. Her search starts at basic needs. The simple wants. Simple wants that are overlooked by a small minority of the lucky few who complain via text as they drive towards castles for homes and grocery store closets. She rests her eyes after an honest days work. She is quick to sleep. Knowing tomorrow will be predictable and unsurprising but still full of struggle and tedious back break.

This for the large part is the majority, if you are reading this you are the minority.

In another part of the world he sits idle. Waiting as he always does. Hoping hassle does not come his way. His life has been anything but easy. A tale to fill books of more hardship than words are fit to describe. Numb to the noise around him, he is forever in his thoughts. But he is anything but broken. He is proud. Tired of the monotony at times but still full of hope for the future. The lines on his face are each a story unto themselves. But his journey through life is also not completely unique. In a sea of those in similar if not worse desperation he is typically forgotten among the beeping horns and passing feet. All of us simply trying to survive given our means and circumstance.

People. They are around us in every facet. However, we choose to ignore the vast majority, only calling a few family, some friends and acquaintances. Billions of people and rising. So many people with different stories, lives of wonder, lives of predictability, lives of desperation, lives of happiness and lives of all of the above. We are our own creations. Most of us grow up, go to school and then we go to work. Some begin their true life’s work before others. Some are always shifting from one job to the other. Some let their jobs define them. Some love their work and others haven’t a thought. But what is work if it has no purpose?

In George Orwell’s ‘Down and out in Paris and London’ he states that, ‘Suppose it is granted that a PLONGEUR’S work is more or less useless. Then the question follows, Why does anyone want him to go on working? I am trying to go beyond the immediate economic cause, and to consider what pleasure it can give anyone to think of men swabbing dishes for life.’ In essence, why do we continue to put people and ourselves through lives built upon needlessness?

In the first two cases, which I described above, the people work in order to maintain themselves, their families and survive the best way they know how. Simply, the acquisition of money equals an ability to eat, live and enjoy the necessities. On the opposite end of the spectrum there is the work for luxuries sake. Survival is no question, it is a certainty. People’s work vastly useless is simply there for the purpose of acquiring more so other people can continue on acquiring more and down the line from the outlet stores, to the factory and the fields. My travels have allowed me to see the dichotomies that exist between places that seem as though they are different worlds at first glance. But at the same time the similarities are startling. Work for the sake of work is what it has come to in most instances.

But I believe there can be a balance. To work with the knowledge that what you are doing is done under the best possible pretences of your wants, hopes and desires. If you wake up on a Monday to go to work and you are as happy as Saturday then you are doing something right. You are in it for the right reasons. It isn’t work anymore, it is a life. By calling it work then you have already given it a negative connotation. So being in a fortunate position, don’t let it slip away. Don’t look back at what could have been. Don’t be lazy. A life of action is better than a life of waiting. No one enjoys waiting so why put your life on hold? The number in your bank and the size of your house won’t make you happy forever. Maybe for a moment. But constant happiness lies at your fingertips. So reach out and grab it.

Are we living to work or working to live? Once you begin to decipher this question, the other parts of your life will make much more sense.

Staycation Hainan

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The world is full of hidden wonders and I often find myself rushing out in search of the wild and unknown. Seeing what trouble I can get myself into. It is the thrill of unpredictability, the big question marks, not knowing where I will be sleeping that night and what types of characters I will run into that I love. Traveling without a plan has been one of the greatest changes I have made to the way I choose to see the world. Besides the start and end everything else in-between is a blank page. Maybe there is a sight here or there I would like to see, but nothing is booked prior. No hotel arrangements, tour groups or pesky promises. Arriving somewhere, only to let the ebb and flow scoop me up.

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I recently got back from my latest adventure. Before I chose to do the trip I had thrown around a number of places I could go that I had never been to before. There were a number of ambitious and safe decisions floating around. I was tossing ideas up and shooting them down as time ticked ever closer to the beginning of the Chinese National Holiday. When I came to think that right outside my backdoor there was a whole world I have barely explored. This is how Staycation Hainan was born.
The tentative idea was to explore the inner reaches of the Island. Though Sanya is International tourist destination that is known for it’s beaches and sunny weather year-round, the interior is without a doubt almost completely devoid of tourism. This is what interested me. Prior to this I had done some exploring of a few nearby areas, but never more than a two day excursion. I chose a few spots on the map that I thought I would like to see and left on my motorbike into the relative unknown.

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My days of riding were full of sunshine and rolling mountains. Ox carts and smiling people with years of hard work marking their faces. Unexpected encounters, towering dams, rushing waterfalls, pirate ships and lighthouses. I took off at a time where the rice fields are almost ready for harvest and the rainy season has made everything green, green and more green. It was a literal rush of fresh air. To go places few foreigners have explored. To meet people who typically only see western people from their televisions. To share a cup to tea, another gulp of Tsingtao, a new food, to tell my story, to hear theirs, to make someone smile for a moment, to get lost and always feel like you were right on track. The interior and western coast of Hainan is a place often overlooked. An absolute hidden wonder of South East Asia. Where you can see beautiful beaches, rolling mountains, clear waterfalls, bright green terraces and a vibrant local culture. China is an amazingly large country. One with hidden wonders beyond all recognition.

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After taking this trip I have a greater respect for the place where I live. The people who share this island and the struggles of their labour. Life for the majority of the people is absolutely removed from the bustling big cities. Living through different types of stress than their city counterparts. I cannot say simple lives with a notion of romanticism, because they are anything but simple. Family, dedication, the land, hard work and appreciation of life’s forgotten pleasures are thoughts which come to mind. This is not the China where your shirts are made. Not the factory outlet, but the self-sufficient back break.

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When you find yourself idly staring at map thinking of taking a travel chance, try considering those little known places. The one’s right in front of you. Take the vacation where you adventure into your own unknown. My route took me from Sanya, to the mountains of Wuzhishan, further north to Baisha, westward to coastal Dongfang and back through the beauty of Ledong. Places almost anonymous, but an adventure I will never forget. Staycation at it’s finest. Right outside my door. So next time you are planning a trip, looking to far off places for adventure and wonder, don’t forget to explore outside your door first.

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