Travels by Michael Crichton

A couple months ago I was in the legal library and a friend passed this book to me. He mentioned that he enjoyed it to the point he read it twice. Books can find their way into your life in fairly random ways and this one was no exception. With this rave review I decided to get started that evening.

“Travels” is a series of short stories by the same author of Jurassic Park. When I began reading the book I felt like I was was on these trips that Crichton has taken throughout his life. Although, he’s not merely summarizing vacations. This is traveling. A far different word/idea, right? It’s the lessons, reflection and wisdom gained through time away when adapting to new cultures, new people and new places. In a twisted way, kind of like incarceration.

In broadly writing on travel he states: “Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of food, your closet full of clothes – with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience. Such direct experience inevitably makes you aware of who it is that is having the experience. That’s not always comfortable, but it is always invigorating.”

That’s powerful in many ways and since reading the book the idea of direct experience has been with me. First, I miss having a refrigerator. What a wonderful device. Second, everything here is a direct experience. We all wear the same clothes, eat the same food, are on the same schedules. No one is in their preferred surroundings, everyone has had to make new friends and find new routines. It’s not always comfortable but if taken with the right attitude, can be made manageable.

Sans all the things we use to define and comfort us, such as clothes, friends, a home or our community, the direct experience comes into play because it’s a stripped down version of you whose having it. There is no clouding it with ‘things’. People say that prison takes your time and your freedom. It does but ironically, while it’s not what you want to be doing with your time, your time, as intangible as it may be, is the majority of what you actually have so people shouldn’t say prison takes it. What it does is remove choices of what you want to and can do with that time.

Whether your bored or happy, anxious or calm, excited about the future or nervous, be appreciative that you have choices in not only how you can respond, but what you can actually do. Remember or discover who it is that’s experiencing it. Strip away all the other stuff and get to the core.

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