There’s something about long-haul flights and lengthy transits, which send me into a contemplative realm. I leave behind all of my simplistic daily thoughts and start to analyze my life from an external point of view. I start to question everything about who I am and the direction I am heading in. Thousands of feet above the worries of below, I have an existential crisis. Every damn time.
Sitting in a plane seat is where I do my most harsh, critical self-analysis. Every single motive, inspiration, and decision is questioned. My goals and my direction are objectively put on trial and often by the end of a long flight they have entirely changed. It’s an emotional process that often comes with some harsh self-realizations.
Maybe it is the silence and solitude of a long flight that gives me the space to go deeper. Maybe it’s the expectation of a clean slate or a fresh start in my new destination. It could be the chance of an optional personal reset that entices me to reflect on who I have been and how that could change when I step out of the terminal on the other end of my transit.
When I book a flight of more than ten hours, I am checking in to an existential crisis meeting with myself. It’s not as alarming as it may sound and in reality, I shouldn’t need to soar across the world in a metal tube to delve deep within and question myself. But I do, and it’s a pattern.
This week I flew for 43 hours from Bali in Indonesia to Lima in Peru. If there was ever a time that I was going to reflect it would be in the mirror of my longest ever transit.
My head floated from one area of my life to the next making comparisons, connections and conclusions. There’s nothing to hide from in this life, being open and honest is the only way to be free. As soon as you start to conceal you hide away from ever grabbing your own freedom. I have no instinct to withdraw and no natural reaction to hide my flaws and fears from myself or from you. I’m not afraid to admit to my own existential crisis. I almost think if I’m not having one, I’m shying away from one I should be having.
I’m currently struggling with my purpose. I’ve forever said the most relatable quote for me is, “Nobody knows what the fuck they are doing.”
I find that quote explanatory of the fact that everyone is likely feeling a similar way despite the front they might be exposing. Think about those friends who seem most sure of themselves, their career path and their direction. After everything I have experienced in my life so far, I find such a level of confidence and certainty frighteningly naive.
I’m struggling to accept the notion of completing a project relatively large yet also relatively small. It depends on what it is being compared and to who is doing the comparison. The fact is that none of those even matter for the hundreds of children the project was aimed at helping. Nonetheless, it is on my mind. For example, recently I finished working on Project Lombok. A campaign where I worked alongside an organization to raise enough funds to build six pop-up schools. We managed to raise over $100,000 to enable more than 1000 students to return to school on the island of Lombok.
This is a huge achievement and an incredibly successful outcome. I truly do know that and I have let them hit me wholly. It took four months of intensive work, bold ideas and a great group of people working together. It was an undeniable success but when I step back and look at the big picture of Lombok or Indonesia or even the world, it’s hard to even see the scratch on the surface we made. That might sound very negative and to a degree it is, but it’s how I feel at times. Not all the time but it creeps in.
It’s a trap of knowing that we can’t change the world but we can change something and that in effect is changing the world. This trap is as equally inspiring as it can be paralyzing. To be perfectly honest, sometimes it paralyzes me into a tired state of not knowing where to start. Too tired to start anywhere. It’s not often but it happens. The rest of the time, I am head down and working hard backed by inspiration and motivation to live purposefully and make a positive impact.
I find it a balancing act of emotions, expectations and an elaborate battle of perception. I know one person can’t change the world but sometimes I want to. It’s a frustrating battle of putting your head down to work hard while all the while keeping your head up and eyes open watching the world’s events unfolding around you.
I also feel a responsibility to the opportunity I currently have. This platform, these readers, those followers. How can I let this opportunity slide and look back in thirty years at what we might have achieved together if I had figured out the best way for us to come together on issues that matter to us? How do I balance my desire to fulfill that responsibility with my personal life and other ambitions? You learn to juggle.
The other part of my life that was explored during my existential crisis meeting aboard the Airbus en route to Santiago was my deep isolation. My lifestyle is prohibitive to long-term relationships, deeper connection and a sense of community. That’s the lifestyle I’ve created to be clear. No-one else put me here.
The constant changes of location, intense scheduled adventures, fast-paced motion and an unlikely idea that I will make any of the above malleable enough to fit another person or group makes this life a very solo adventure. I understand this situation is a personal construct. I have the power to flick the switch in a second if I wanted to. It’s possible that I could stay in one location for longer. I could become part of a community. I could open up my life to more people and invite a more collaborative process on my adventures and activities to suit those around me. However, I continue to choose not to.
Why am I unwilling to sacrifice my personal goals for a community and meaningful relationships, when I know so clearly they are the most important aspects to personal happiness and sense of belonging? One and the same. Why am I blocking that avenue?
On the other hand, would it be a disastrous waste of an opportunity to ‘settle’ into a community? Is it possible to find a potential medium? As you can see the questions begin to flow very freely and each one consumes me as the internal debate ignites. Often the fire burns as I realize many of the oversights and mistakes I’ve been falling victim to, courtesy of myself.
The beauty of this life is that if you do look inside and you can be entirely honest with yourself, the answers are usually there. The hard part is coming to terms with the answers because all too often they aren’t what we wanted to hear.
An existential crisis meeting rarely has me entering a new country with a refined ideology of how my life should be lived. The reflection does though, find it’s way into my thought process and future decisions. I look back to those moments aboard the plane where I am in the midst of deep reflection, where my thoughts are most pure. They guide my next moments and they flow into my inspirations, motivations, and decisions.
Like the baggage claim carousel, my mind circulates trying to process the intensity of my existential crisis meeting. It will be continued on the 45-hour transit back to Indonesia in several days no doubt.
For now, I am in Peru working on a tourism film campaign for four days. I will post below the photos of the week (and some throughout the post above) but to give some context, I was invited by the Tourism Board of Peru via an Australian Digital Agency to be the talent for video promotion and to promote Peru via social media. We visited Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Cusco, and Lima.
It was an adventure trip so on day one we began with a double backward bungee and flowed into day two with kayaking and downhill mountain biking. I capped the trip off on my last day by going on a hike to a glacier lake at 4000m altitude. It was an interesting four days as most of the time was spent being filmed rather than regular adventuring but that was the nature of this job. I was lucky to share the experience with Quin (@everchanginghorizon), who is someone I have looked up to as a photographer since I first picked up a camera.
This is just another average week, to be honest. Although there was one final factor that made this week a little challenging. After one year of training, I had to pull out of the Bali Hope Ultra Marathon due to a hip injury. So I will head back to Australia for surgery on an impingement type injury in a few days. Life threw a curve ball. Always put bat on ball, then run like hell and at least make it to first base.
If you did read this weekly, I’d love if you left a comment below. I’d like to add more personal stories each week to this WEEKLY section rather than just a recap of what I did. Hopefully, I can speak truth to the experiences of my adventures and my life and that in turn can hit home with anyone else feeling the same way.
Hope you all had seven days to remember.
Tuesday 7th of June 2022
Oh wow, I never told anyone how reflective and questioning I got during long flights. Mostly it happens at night when I can see the lights below and I realize how I'm just this one single person in a very large world. Then my thoughts would take me all finds of places about myself. I thought it'd sound silly for sharing this, that I was trying to sound philosophical and deep. But from you and the other comments, I'm glad to know it's just me.
As a side question, sorry. I love your blog so of course had to search for anything Peru since I'm planning a trip. Thus this post. I'm curious if you only stayed on the Machu Picchu side or also explored the Huayna Picchu side? Given the side of the Picchu ruins in your pics, I think you walked around the Huayna Picchu side? I love those steep scary stairs and that rock you're standing on. Did you hike to the top or just the bottom/middle? You always seems to spot such amazing vantage points! I'm always trying to as well but maybe I just don't have an artistic eye to find them.
Thursday 23rd of May 2019
You definitely aren’t alone, I can feel that contemplative state coming as soon as I make my way to the airport. Especially when you see everybody with their families, friends and loved ones and you are by yourself. I always have the thought why am I doing this? What am I running from? Is it myself? I just think you have to remember how great you’ve done with the adventure bag crew when you are contemplating what’s your meaning. You’ll never be able to change the whole world, and all the people in it. But you are suing your platform in a way that could make a huge impact on it. Whether you see the difference in the long term or not. You are educating which you won’t see the results of either. Unfortunately these aren’t physical things you’ll be able to see or notice on a larger scale, but you are making a difference in the world.
Tuesday 21st of May 2019
Thanks for sharing this! I thought I was the only one that falls into a deep self-reflection on long flights. Usually flights back home after an overseas trip
Tuesday 21st of May 2019
Apparently, it is a reflective space for many of us!
Tuesday 21st of May 2019
Thank you for being so real with us all, and sharing your heart to openly. You are courageous and vulnerable in so many ways. Check your emails mate! I sent you my reply on there.
Tuesday 21st of May 2019
Thanks so much for dropping past and the email.
Monday 20th of May 2019
Jackson, thank you so much for sharing also this part of your nomad life. This post reminds me a lot the time when I was struggling with my self and my choices, I think everyone here can relate a bit to it, in a way or the other. And to make a point, you already are part of a community, your readers and followers are your community and I want to say thank you for what you are sharing with us. Rest if you need, but never stop to challenge your self.
Tuesday 21st of May 2019
Yea it's a constant struggle but in the best way possible.