I think the hardest part about creating this blog was figuring out a name for it. I will be on a ship for four months so nautical and travel puns, naturally, became foundations for names my family and I enjoyed. But after a while I didn’t just want a name that cleverly incorporated the word “sea” or “abroad” to fit what I was doing; I wanted something that captured the excitement I felt (and feel) about the adventures I expected to have while traveling. Nothing I picked really represented how awesome I expected my trip to be.
So as I was frantically digging through my books searching for something to jump out at me I came across The Tao of Pooh, a great book that makes the concept of Chinese Daoism tangible by creatively applying it to Winnie the Pooh. As a long-time student of Chinese and someone who would be traveling to China within the next few months, I flipped through and found a chapter that was oddly applicable to my inability to think of a good title. The chapter was called, surprise, “Nowhere and Nothing.”
“…a mind confused by knowledge, cleverness, and abstract ideas tends to go chasing off after things that don’t matter, or that don’t even exist, instead of seeing, appreciating, and making use of what is right in front of it. “
The chapter begins with Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin wandering through the woods. Pooh asks Christopher Robin where he is going, to which Christopher Robin replies with “nowhere,” and when asked what he was doing he replied with, “nothing.” Christopher Robin then explains to Pooh that by having no preconceived ideas on what to expect results in a much happier and willing mind. The chapter further explains that “a mind confused by knowledge, cleverness, and abstract ideas tends to go chasing off after things that don’t matter, or that don’t even exist, instead of seeing, appreciating, and making use of what is right in front of it.”
Eight pages of The Tao of Pooh completely transformed how I wanted to approach my trip (and my blog). My blank title wasn’t because I couldn’t come up with clever names (well actually, any clever name thought of came from my sister), it was because I had too many expectations for my semester that couldn’t be summed up in a title. Too many solidified must-do activities and must-have experiences. How could I capture the essence of such a vast experience when I hadn’t even been on the ship yet? I couldn’t. And certainly wouldn’t be able to until I experienced them, if I experienced them. I wanted to make sure I didn’t clutter my brain with unnecessary hopes for this semester, and by doing that I wanted to have a blog that reflected my approach.
So Nowhere and Nothing was born. I admit, looking at “nowhere” and “nothing” as raw words looks odd when applying them to a travel blog. I am physically going somewhere (a lot of somewheres) and doing something (a lot of somethings), but as a student and traveler my expectations are minimal. Who really knows where I am going to go or what I am going to do in each of these countries? When I board my ship I will be boarding not only as an academic student, but also as a cultural student eager for new and unexpected experiences. I don’t know where my mind is going to go after experiencing different aspects of different cultures. I am excited to have an open mind and let adventures come to me.
In the wise words of Christopher Robin, “[Nothing] means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
My chapter begins wandering through the world.