Tag Archives: Paul Theroux

“Only an animal does useful things. An animal gets food, finds a place to sleep, tries to keep comfortable. But I wanted to do something that was not useful – not like an animal at all. Something only a human being would do.”

Gerard d’Aboville quoted in The Tao of Travel, Enlightenment from Lives on the Road – Paul Theroux

I remember a conversation that took place before I left for my 365 day adventure, in which I made a remark about how I wanted to leaveNew Yorkand travel for a year because I had lost my focus.  I had argued that travel could give me a clairvoyance that I couldn’t find anywhere else. Six months in, I’ve been rolling this thought around in my head, thinking that there was something else I was trying to encompass in this statement that wasn’t initially coming across.

Finding this quote from Gerard d’Aboville, who rowed across the Pacific solo in 1991, made me realize that what I was trying to grasp in my actions and in my use of the word “clairvoyance” wasn’t just that additional knowledge or experience that comes so easily from walking into a new place. What I meant was that I was craving the awareness of our own humanness that can only arise when we push ourselves to our mental, emotional, and physical limits. Without this, we lose our connection to the humanity around us.

Why was India the first place I chose to come to when I left home? I have been thinking about this a lot lately too. It was not because I had been before and knew the country and the language. It was but because it was and remains the hardest place I have been. Throughout almost 40 countries, no place has broken me down and built me back up likeIndia. No place has shown me the limits of my own person likeIndia. If I am looking for a deeper sense of my own humanity, this is the only place that I could have started.

What I have learned from this, is that if we, as humans, are searching for more clairvoyance, perhaps that can only come by using our biggest challenge, our biggest obstacle, our biggest fear,  as the place from which we start.