“Yeh mate,” said John the tall Australian with the round belly, “Thailand is a pahty.”
We were at the Gecko hostel in Paraty, Brasil and when I’d reflect on this sentence later, I’d reminisce that if Thailand is a party, Brasil is a poem. It was my first exposure to my favorite continent, and from the moment my plane’s wheels touched down until I departed, every moment seemed touched with a pinch of sepia whimsy.
Our journey began in Sao Paulo, in the home of some missionaries who took us to a churrascaria and drove us to the ferry the next day.
Rio was on the horizon.
We were about 300 miles down the coast from the fabled city, and every day, we inched closer to the magical town.
We got a hostel in the cobblestoned, colonial Ubatuba and another in Paraty, where we met John the Rotund Aussie. One night, I played kids’ worship songs on the ferry across a bay, and the parents of some of the kids invited us to sleep on their floor that evening. Rio was on the horizon.
Days later, a coach bus whisked us from the bayside rural towns and we finally entered the limits of Rio de Janeiro. We had made it.
We checked into a hostel which doubled as an antique store; it was thin, tall, and long like a book on a shelf. It was on one of Rio’s hilly streets and we spent the evenings on the roof or the beach. We got mugged at gunpoint just off the Copacabana. We were in Rio.
But after a few days, we made the journey back to Sao Paulo where we would fly back to the United States. We had arrived at our destination after weeks of progressing toward it, but the ‘being at the destination’ part of our trip was over. Strange.
For a week, Rio rested on the horizon and I felt like things would lock in once we arrived. Like we’d feel a sense of completion. It was all we thought about for a week — how do we get to Rio? Do we take this ferry or that shuttle?
And then we arrived, and then it was soon time to leave Rio.
Time is weird.
You keep expecting some sense of arrival, but it never comes. You never arrive.
Now, my destination on the horizon is different. It looks like buying a house, having money for travel, coffee, and food, and having a consistent, locked-in circle of friends. But like Rio for my friends and I, none of those things are permanence.
What are you striving for?
You can’t attain it anyway with any sort of permanence.
You could lose your job or your car could break down and drain your bank account. Your friends get married and have kids and are reduced to bi-monthly lunch partners. Nothing lasts.
You have nothing in your hands except now and this and what you can see here before you in this instant. That’s what you have.
And you have the option to enjoy it or complain about it.
God sends snakes to kill thousands of Israelites when they complained in the desert and I always thought this was a bit of an overreaction. But when you realize that there are journeys and destinations and they’re really not that different from one another, and the present is all you’ll ever have, complaining becomes a much bigger deal.
Because if you’re not happy right now, what guarantee do you have that you will be in the future? Even if you get your way — you get what you want — you’re not promised that it will last. And then you’ll complain again.
So enjoy now.
There are no destinations, only presence.
You can be grateful for what you do have now, or you can complain about it, hoping for a better future which will never really arrive.