Mind Maps #7 - A Fool's Paradise, NBA Wisdom, Back Tattoos

Mind Maps #7 - A Fool's Paradise, NBA Wisdom, Back Tattoos

Hi all,

It's been raining for three days in Dulan, a small seaside town on the south-eastern coast of Taiwan.

The town sprawls along a few kilometers of unswerving road - its asphalt spine. To the west, mountains dominate the horizon, with loose, ghostly clouds mingling at their rounded peaks. Eastward, sugarcane fields and grassy scrub stretch down to the sea. The Pacific Ocean is a vast, eternal, monochrome grey.

A young French-Japanese woman, a dorm room neighbour, has surfed every day despite the downpour. She climbs up the stairs each afternoon, tired but smiling, with a report on the conditions.

"Big swell today. Pretty crazy!"

I must admit to being a bit less adventurous. I've spent a few dreary afternoons in the quiet lounge room of the hostel, with its vaguely hippy-ish decor. There are psychedelic couch covers, a shaggy, autumn-coloured rug and a bookshelf laden with eclectic artifacts: dinosaur figurines, an old Polaroid camera, a picture of John and Yoko alongside spy thrillers, romance novels and Dante's Inferno.

Sprawled out on the couch, I read the New Yorker article, 'The Case Against Travel' by Agnes Callard. The writer references everyone from Aristotle to Emerson, who described travel as "a fool's paradise." It acknowledges the joy and cultural cachet that comes with travel but is sceptical of personal transformations that many people claim.

I disagree with nearly everything in the article. It was a great read.

It spoke to a question I've been grappling with; how much from our travel experiences can we really hold on to? It's difficult to point to any material changes apart from a short-lived tan and a bruised bank balance.

Maybe the true value of travel is precisely that it can't be truly claimed, captured or quantified.

With a resigned sip of beer, I've heard departing travel companions mourn their return to 'real life'.

The airport immigration cues, the cocktail on the beach, the butterflies and/or gastric distress in your stomach. Returning home and reacclimating. It's all real life.

Travel offers many lessons. By being helpless travellers, we might better empathise with the experience of visitors and migrants to our own country. By exploring a new city, we can learn to appreciate and rediscover the place we're from. By meeting people from different walks of life, we might come to better know ourselves.

Travel is less about being interesting and more about being interested. Like life, it's fleeting and fickle, and whether you're surfing in the rain or contemplating from the couch, there's plenty to learn.

A few recommendations

📖 Book - I'm re-reading The Children's Bach by Helen Garner, probably my favourite short novel. The story revolves around a family in Melbourne that's destabilized when an old lover and her younger sister enter their orbit.

The language is pared-back but incisive, slicing through with truth. There are hundreds of beautiful, cutting lines in the book, but one observation about the hopelessness of tourists stuck out to me:

What do tourists do? They walk, they stand, they look, they buy...They notice that the day without duty passes with the slowness of a dream.

🖼️ Art - Cat and Parrot, Enoki Toshiyuki

🎙️ Podcast - The basketball world has been in hype mode after Victor Wembanyama was selected as the #1 pick in the NBA draft. The young Frenchman was described as "the greatest prospect in team sports" on ESPN. He's unique, not just in his uncanny shooting and dribbling abilities given his 7-foot-5-inch frame, but also for his mature, even-keeled outlook at 19 years of age. I listened to his podcast appearance on The Old Man & the Three which reflected his thoughtful, committed approach to the game. Check out this short clip where 'Wemby' describes his mentality of playing basketball with a sense of freedom.

🎧 Music - I overheard the song 2° by JADE, a Taiwanese band, being played in the common room at the hostel. The guy on reception/DJ duties was impossibly cool, smoking a cigarette, shirtless, with a cyberpunk tattoo between his shoulder blades.  

Peace, progress & adventure,