I'm Going to Live Longer than You (and It's Because I Travel)

20 October 2015

Let's start with a quick math lesson. Actually, it's not a lesson because this is something you already know- something that is innate to every human that you unlearned at one point.

If you were raised in a culture that makes schooling mandatory you were probably taught additive math as an introduction to the world of mathematics. This approach states that if you are counting you would start at 0 and then add one and then add one and so on for infinity.

However, this is not how the human mind is actually programmed to understand the world. In fact, all across the natural world, you will find that logarithmic math is actually much more applicable. This approach to math proposes that we count in a recursive manner; 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on. You may know this sequence as Fibonnaci's number.

This logarithmic thinking plays a crucial role in how we discern things because it causes us to look at the world as proportions.

If you live to be 80 years old, by following additive math, each year is 1/80th of your life. But that's not how we actually perceive things. Instead your mind looks at time like a logarithm:

Therefore, by age 9, you've already "experienced" half of your life. Viewing our lives as proportions is why people often say they feel like childhood went on forever but their adult years just flew by.

To expound, going from 3 to 4 years old is way more apparent than going from 79 years old to 80 because when you are 4, that last year is 1/4th of your entire life. But going from 79 to 80? That last year is hardly discernible at all from the other 79 you've experienced.

So what does all this math have to do with traveling? Well, I'd like to postulate that there's a way we can "trick" our minds.
Trying chicken feet for the first time in Hong Kong
One reason the first few years of your life seemed so long is because pretty much everything was new to you. But as we get older, we start picking up on patterns and, before you know it, you're pretty much functioning on autopilot.

To quote one of my favorite songs of all time:

"What begins as an unguarded
train of thoughts slowly can become
an addiction to the slumber
of disconnection and the resonance
of memory that no longer has a shape
but keeps you numb through
the hours till gone is another day"

- Half Asleep, School of Seven Bells

A bit poetic but basically it reaffirms that as time progresses we become "half asleep". Our bodies are alive but we're not really conscious anymore. We fall into ruts and become numb

We stop questioning. We stop perceiving. Everything becomes a blur until another day/week/year is gone.

Benjamin Franklin said it much more succinctly: "Some people die at 25 and aren't buried until 75."

But travel can revitalize the mind and "wake" us back up.

An hour trying to figure out the subway lines of Tokyo will feel longer than a week of your usual routine. The meal you have at a tiny street cafe will suddenly be so much more satisfying then the lunch you pack every day for the office. Each new scent in the open air market will be invigorating.

Your brain will become stimulated when you throw yourself into a new and challenging environment. Like a child, you'll feel the wonder of learning something new when all your senses are activated again. Your mind's natural thirst for knowledge will be quenched.

So that's why I say I'm going to live longer; because I am going to perceive so much more of my life and not settle into comfortable ruts.

Travel isn't the only way to perceive more and even constant travel isn't necessary to start "re-proportioning" your life. Maybe it could be a new hobby or a career change. Anything that shakes up your typically routine will help you slow down time and enjoy every moment.


Source on how humans perceive logarithms.

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  1. I LOVE this Aryn! I've been feeling this particularly lately and it's good to know that someone else is able to verbalize everything :)

    1. Thanks, Michelle! This honestly took so long to write out- like how to I get all my feelings into words???

      Lately I've been a little too routine-ish. Time to shake it up ;)

  2. This is a very interesting perspective. Not sure I got all the math but still a cool read!

    1. Haha, I'm not a very math-y person myself but I did my best to explain it. The link at the bottom has a fuller explanation.