Tag Archives: Travel

Ever Expanding File Cabinets and Brain Flexibility

Stretch Your Mind

I met a friend for lunch the other day. Not really a planned thing, we had bumped into each other a couple days earlier and had made tentative plans on the spot. Kind of like “I’m gonna be here, at this time,” kind of thing. So anyway, he was telling me about this neighbor of his who recently moved in next door. Kind of a weird guy, but not in a bad way. Sometimes when you get a new neighbor, especially in a small apartment complex where you know you are going to run into this person on a regular basis, it can be a little interesting at first. Everybody wants to see who the new guy is.

It’s kind of like when you start a new semester at school. You have a whole bunch of new classes, and you aren’t sure what your classmates will be like, or any of your teachers. And you know that the first week of school you usually don’t do much anyway, so there aren’t any worries there. So you are pretty much free to let your curiosity roam and imagine some possible futures. Of course, that usually only last a couple of days, until you realize that it’s just another set of classmates, and another teacher.

Of course, sometimes you get lucky and sit next to a really cute girl or guy, or your teacher is particularly entertaining, somebody that actually enjoys their job. But more often than not it’s simply a matter of getting to know new people that turn out to be pretty similar to the old people.

So anyway this guy was into all kinds of exotic artwork from various different countries. He had traveled quite a bit and collected little pieces from here and there. When my friend saw him moving into his apartment, he couldn’t figure out exactly what the guy was all about. He saw him carrying in these different carvings and stuff, and had to come up with a story of what the reason was behind him. Maybe he was into voodoo, or maybe he was a professor. Every time the guy would go downstairs to his moving van, he’d bring up another box of stuff. And my friend couldn’t help but watch the whole time. His moving van was parked underneath his window, and when he walked to his apartment, he had to pass his big front window.

I was reading this book once on hypnosis. It was a hard book to read, or at least to pay attention to. It was written to give an objective overview of hypnosis and what it was, but the author also wanted to give the reader a subjective experience of what if felt like to feel the first hand effects of hypnosis. But he did it in an odd sort of way. He would be writing about some clinical aspect of hypnosis, then he would switch right into to a firsthand experience of it. What made it so interesting was that he never let the reader know when he was switching. So you’d be reading this, following along, and all of a sudden you would stop and wonder exactly what this was, and where this was going. Like you are sitting there, trying to remember what it was you were reading before you got to this part, and although you thought there was some sort of connection, you aren’t exactly sure what it is, now, reading this. But because it’s easy to find things like that interesting, you just keep on reading.

He was saying that when the mind looks at something that is unfamiliar, it is much easier to put it into a category that already exists. Some experts believe that there is a discreet time in a person’s life, when the categories aren’t completely labeled yet. This is up to about 7 years old. Not that we can’t create new categories after the age of seven, but around that time, the brain switches into “put it into it’s appropriate category” mode from “make a new category mode,” which can make for some interesting hallucinations, like my friend experienced when seeing this guy bringing all those weird things into his apartment.

The fun stuff happens when the brain finds a couple of possible categories, but there is nothing else that suggests what category to put something in. If you’ve ever had the experience of eating or drinking something, and getting one thing while you are expecting something else, you can understand this. Like if you grabbed what you thought was a bottle of ice water, and it turned out to be seven up, there’s be a brief pause while the brain figured out what in the heck was going on. You see the water, you decide that it’s water, so the brain already prepares and taste buds, and everything to receive water, but when the seven up hits your mouth, the brain has to back track and switch all of it’s reference information. That can take up to a second, and during that second your brain is temporarily off line. It’s actually pretty cool.

But after he talked to him, he did turn out to be a hobbyist. He liked to travel, and he would just pick stuff up at random, usually on his way to the airport out of wherever he had visited. If he were into furniture, he would have all kinds of different furniture pieces. If had been into music, for example, he may have had different musical instruments from different countries.

But because he’d picked up all his stuff in a completely random method, none of it fell into the same category, which made watching him move in so interesting. He was just some goofball who collected a bunch of random stuff from bunch of random places.

The interesting thing is that he told me that after watching this guy move for a couple hours, and just feeling his brain be sent in all different directions as he tried to figure out the connection between all this different stuff, he said he had this weird feeling for a couple of days afterward. Like he somehow felt he had more room in his brain or something, like it was stretched out somehow.

He said that he was able to remember things that he’d thought he’d forgotten, and was able to remember other things in ways that were different than he had originally experienced them.

Make All Things New

I was taking a bus last weekend to a town not too far from here. It’s in another prefecture, and they have a really good museum there. They’ve taken five hundred or so of the most famous paintings from all time, and reproduced them using some high tech ceramic imaging. (Gotta love Japanese technology!) Supposedly they are completely weather proof and everything, so they will last two thousand years or so. So if mankind decides to destroy ourselves through global warming or nuclear holocaust, at least the aliens will find all of our best art work when they come scavenging in a thousand years or so.

So as I was riding this bus, I was reading through this guidebook. When I travel, I usually don’t like taking tours or planning my trip out extensively, like some people do. In fact, all the times’ I’ve traveled overseas, I’ve only booked the first one of two nights in advance over the internet, and after that I sort of make it up as I go along. It’s much more fun that way. So I usually read whatever travel books are available, get some information online of what I can see there. That way when I get there, I kind of have an idea of what is available, and based on my mood, and the weather, and whatever else happens, I can plan my trip accordingly. When I came to Japan for the first time, I was in one city (I honestly don’t remember which one) and I was deciding on what city to visit next, and I made my decision by taking a poll in the bar I happened to be drinking in at the time. That’s really a fun way to travel.

When you really look at some of the decisions you make, most people would be surprised at how many of them are really made by taking other peoples opinions into consideration. When people spend their valuable time and money on packaged tours, as is common in Japan and in other countries in Asia, they are pretty much letting somebody else make ALL their decision for them. Which is good in some ways, because it allows them to completely relax and just enjoy their trip without worrying about what’s coming next. It’s good when you can release anxiety like that.

So as I was flipping through what information I could find about my destination, I started chatting with the girl sitting next to me. As I turns out, she was from the town I was going to. Only instead of being excited to be going there, she was a little bit depressed. She was going back home after a long week of vacation in the city where I live. And like most people, as I’m sure you can imagine, she wasn’t looking forward to going back to the daily grind. Coming home after a vacation can be a depressing thing indeed.

It’s interesting when two people can look at the same thing and feel completely different interpretations of it. There’s that old story about two guys in prison, and one guy looked out the window and always look down at the ground, and was always depressed, while his cellmate would always look up at the starts and feel inspired and uplifted. The guy that looked up at the stars went on to win the Nobel Prize in Bio-Medical Economic Literature, while the guy that looked in the dirt all time turned out to be the guy that invented telemarketing. Or something like that.

But once I told her I was going on vacation, and asked her opinion on the fun things to do in her town, she got a little less sad, and a little more excited. Although she had to work the next day, so she wouldn’t be able to show me around personally, she seemed to find herself in a much better mood after telling me all the cool things about her city, that only a few moments ago she was dreading returning to. I guess putting things into a different perspective can really brighten your mood if you want it to.

And sometimes when you can do just that, you’ll be surprised to find that some of things around you will take on a whole new meaning when you allow yourself to see something that has always been there for the first time.

Making Connections can lead to Engaging Ideas

So I was sitting in the airport, waiting for my friend to come through the gate. The airport I was wasn’t an international one, just one that has domestic flights to different parts of country. My friend, however was coming from a connecting flight from an airport that was a major international hub. Because the island I live on doesn’t have an international airport, you can’t fly here directly from outside the country. You have to make a connection.

Some people don’t like to make connections. I remember I had a connection once in Seoul, where I had to wait for about ten hours. I don’t know if you’ve stayed ten hours in an airport where you were stuck in the international section, but it’s pretty boring. Because you are only passing through, and not staying, you can’t really go outside, because you’d have to go through customs, and figure out what to do with your bags, and it is generally a big hassle. Of course if you have to stay in such a boring section of an airport with uncomfortable seats, and only one channel on TV, then you can figure out a way to go outside your comfort zone and explore what is outside. There can be some pretty cool stuff out there sometimes.

Other people will go to great lengths to avoid making a connection. I don’t know if they think that making a connection is an inconvenience, or something bad will happen, like they might lose something. Sometimes people can’t help, despite how hard they try but to make a connection. Personally, I think connections can e really good. They can really make a trip more enjoyable. It adds to the distance between where you are coming from, and where you are going. Some people would just like to disappear at point A, and then reappear at point B. For them, traveling is a nuisance to be avoided at all costs. I suppose if you were going to an important business meeting where people would be discussing life and death situations of profits and mergers and other issues, you might want to stay focused, and teleport yourself there. But when you are traveling for fun, I think connections are fantastic.
The most elaborate sequence of connections I made was for a seminar I went to on an island in Belize. First I flew from LAX to Miami. Then I took another big plane from Miami to the Capital of Belize. Then I took a small chartered plane from the capital of Belize to the island. Then, because the part of the island I was going to wasn’t connected by enough land to build a road, I had to wait for a taxi boat to take me to my final destination. Then I had to walk through sand to get to my bungalow. It really made feel like I was in a completely different world. Los Angeles seemed like a whole other side of the galaxy, a million light years in the past.

Some connections can be long, some can be short, others can be really interesting and unexpected. Somebody I was talking to in an airport bar told me that connections aren’t really a hindrance, they’re really are a conspired sequence of people and events that are helping you to get where you are going. And it’s pretty cool knowing that wherever you want to go, you’ll likely run across a secret group of people to pop out of nowhere and help you along the way.
Who knows, you may even be one of these secret people that can pop out of nowhere to help somebody else.

When my friend finally showed up, she was really glad to be here. I asked her if she had any jet lag, and all she said was that although she had remembered thinking before she left that she might have jet let when she got here, she didn’t think her jet leg was nearly as bad as she had predicted before left. Which just goes to show, that when you get something new, like this, you can’t help but wonder why you didn’t discover this before, simply because you were able to make the connection.