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Travel, Self-Improvement, and Batman

July 30, 2012

In preparation for the Dark Knight Rises, I re-watched the first of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, and because our new blog has been on my mind, I perked up during the section covering Bruce Wayne’s self-imposed exile. And while I don’t specifically encourage masked vigilantism or violence as a solution to problems, I do think Mr. Wayne has a pretty good understanding of the ways in which travel can shape someone.

So Bruce Wayne has a series of incidents that force him to do a little self-evaluation, like the death of his parents, the utter corruption of his city, and thoughts of revenge. Your reasons probably aren’t quite as dramatic, but we have all stepped back and asked ourselves these basic questions before. Is there something I could be doing to make myself a better person?

When you travel, you throw yourself into unfamiliar territory. The rules you used to play by at home might no longer apply. When a society values a different set of skills and attitudes than the ones you have carefully fostered over the years, you learn the hard way that in other areas you are severely lacking. Travel exposes your weaknesses, and most of us aren’t comfortable having our faults laid out on the table. But at the end of the day that’s the only way we can really work on them and make ourselves better. Throw yourself into a truly challenging situation, and after you crash and burn a few times you will emerge that much stronger. So don’t think of it as a weakness so much as a challenge.

“Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Bruce had an ambitious goal. I’m not aiming to become a superhero any time soon, but I like the idea of setting lofty goals. So my travels might not take me to a ninja-training academy (although that would be awesome), but I think I can still liken myself to Batman at least in the sense that I realize the rest of the world has a lot to offer. Sometimes we don’t even know what it is we’re looking for. In the movies, Bruce didn’t know he wanted to be Batman when he first set out. He simply left with an open mind and his calling came to him.

It takes a lot of courage to leave your comfort zone like that, but I guarantee you that you’ll have some extraordinary experiences. Our mission here is to help ourselves and our readers become global citizens so we can make a positive impact on the world. And trying to make the world a better place is a very heroic thing to do. But Bruce Wayne had to improve himself before he was able to improve Gotham City, and you shouldn’t feel any shame in following suit. Doing something for yourself isn’t necessarily selfish as long as you take something positive from your adventures and use them to make other people’s lives better.

I’m using a comic book hero because I think it’s a fun way to illustrate a point, but when I was studying Buddhism in Japan I learned something similar: the difference between a Buddha and an Arhat. Both are people who have reached Nirvana, but only the Buddha turns the Dharma Wheel. In other words, the Buddha is the one who uses their enlightenment to help people.

We do not condone this type of cultural exchange.

How you choose to make the world a better place is entirely up to you. However, one of the simplest ways to start is to just live a more responsible, globally-minded lifestyle. Traveling internationally gives you a frame of reference when keeping up with international issues and help you understand the role your country plays on a global scale. Maddy’s last post gave some cautionary statistics of the skewed ideas that can come from volunteering, but if you find the right program and approach it with the right attitude it’s still a fantastic way to contribute while learning a lot about yourself.

So whether your experiences bring you enlightenment, ninja training, or just a better understanding of other cultures, go on an adventure! When you travel you leave your comfort zone, and when you push yourself you will almost certainly leave with a broadened perspective.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2012 9:20 pm

    Excellent point. I know I felt a twinge of discomfort at times in Europe. But another thing about that jump away from your comfort zone is that you can also discover hidden strengths. For example, that trip to Europe made me realize how good I am with public transit. A minor talent, sure, but I had zero reason to use that beforehand.

    Oh, and I have a great idea for a follow-up post: http://comfortabledisease.blogspot.com/2012/07/traveling-as-consciousness-raiser.html

    • July 30, 2012 9:31 pm

      On the other hand, going to New York and moving to Seattle made me realize how awful I am with public transit. But it’s sink or swim and I’m much better with directions because of it :). Even if I got lost a few times…more than a few times..

    • July 31, 2012 12:07 am

      Funny you should mention. In my draft for this post I gave a few examples of things I learned I needed to work on, and public transit was one of them. Subways are okay but I have a rough time with buses.
      Anyway, that’s a good point about strengths. No need to just focus on the negative! All in all, though, it’s really just a matter of taking that discomfort and turning it into an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your environment. Thanks for your addition and the shout-out on your own blog!

  2. Jaynne permalink
    July 31, 2012 1:54 pm

    Very interesting reading. As much as I have traveled all over the world have never felt ill at ease and readily adapted to my surroundings. The only time I was in real discomfort was in Afica at the airport..we were the only white peole in the terminal and everyone stared at us and got really close. We were indeed afraid of what might happen as it was a time of unrest there. We were so happy to finally get on the plane!

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