Back in May I had been writing a novel which incorporates quite a bit of traveling, and my friend Don, having read a few pages, said to me, “That’s so American, to travel not for the culture but for introspection.” Well of course, I thought, civilizations have looked to nature and mother earth for answers to life’s difficult questions since the dawn of time, why shouldn’t I? I had never considered that it was a distinctly American thing.
Still pondering this discussion, I asked some of my international traveling buddies, and the consensus that I got was, “Yes, when I travel I find it easier to gain perspective on my life.” Statistically speaking, my data gathering and analysis means nothing as it is severely skewed towards people who are like myself –wandering souls. But it was enough for me to know that if not the majority, a few people around the world were just like me.
I wouldn’t say that I have been running around the world in the pursuit universal truths (though I have found many), but I will admit to a curiosity geared more towards myself than my particular surroundings.
If you look closely at the photo above captioned, “Rebel at the Cliffs of Moher” you will notice a tiny figure walking along the cliff’s edge. That’s me. I arrived at the Cliff’s to find that a 4-foot high cement wall had been built to protect tourists from plummeting to their deaths.
Being that I am very American, I hopped over that wall and ran down to the cliff’s edge. I tried to hide around the corner, but couldn’t get to a place where concern about my suicidal state of mind wouldn’t be questioned, so I had to come back up. A few other tourists had been watching and my friend got a proper scolding from some Portuguese gentlemen who pointed at the “danger” sign. As far as repercussions though, that’s where it ended.
My reasons for doing it were two-fold: 1. I knew with 100% certainty, that barring any suicidal intent, it was perfectly safe. They had postcards in the gift shop with tourists standing on that very edge! and 2. I had something to prove to myself.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that leap over the edge symbolized just how far I was willing to go in order to live out my dreams. I live for moments, experiences, red letter days, whatever you want to call you’re fondest memories. And yet, I had spent every single moment of my life, following the rules, taking no for an answer and never pushing the boundaries of success because my fear of failure trumped my desire for something more. Not anymore.
Something changed that day, and I wasn’t going to let a tiny sign keep me from fully experiencing the danger that is life. Don’t get me wrong, I am not condoning leaping over the cliff’s and possibly getting thrown into an Irish jail, but what I am saying, is that sometimes breaking the rules is what pushes us to do better, to be better.
Read the biographies of anyone who has achieved greatness and somewhere in there you’ll find that they not only broke a few rules, they pushed down barriers. Take Steve Jobs for example (Yes, I know people are sick of hearing about him, but bear with me here). He said, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
I just so happened to come across that quote today, but he isn’t the only one to have said it. Nothing great comes without taking a risk.
For me, leaping over that wall was just the gateway to getting past barriers that I might otherwise have been too afraid to attempt.