The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara was the first book I read to completion—strange, I know. It opened my eyes to a world beyond my own—a world where people traveled for the sake of adventure. In the end Ernesto Che Guevara and his friend had a goal of reaching a leper colony, but on the way they had immense fun. There was adventure, there was mischief and there was love. But there were also acute observations of life—of people, of culture, of beliefs and of themselves as human beings.
This struck a silent chord in me. I always loved adventure. As a young boy growing up in Ghana, I spent hours on my little red BMX heading to places, meeting people, visiting friends in far flung corners of the villages and venturing to areas where I knew no one for adventure’s sake. Somehow along the path of growing up, this sense of adventure was lost. It was beaten out and replaced with society’s ideas. To become a scholar, to live a life driven by worry for future security, money, job—all the standard things.
But to what end?
I eventually ended up in a life which was far beyond my natural inclinations and hated it. A career in engineering was a purely egoistic undertaking. Thinking about it now, the thing which got me into the field was a love for Motorsport—a yearning to be track-side as part of a racing team. The role of a mechanic would have been ample to satisfy this urge. But that ‘mechanic’ label would be seen as not good enough, not high profile enough for the son of a scientific genius.
Village folklore told about my father head into the realms of mythology—with tales of trees planted by him which change their size whenever they were unhappy.
I went through the education system as many do, pushing through engineering even when there were obvious signs very early on that I wasn’t cut out for it. I somehow scrapped through a degree—mainly because of an ability to maximize a topic or a project with very little understanding. And so it was I came to struggle at Ford when the going got tough and the tough got mathematics. I hated it to the extent of developing supreme anxiety about waking up to face a work day.
And then I read the book by Che Guevara
So I decided to go travelling—in response to deep anxiety about work and the passing of my mother, I saw an opportunity to emulate Ernesto Che Guevara and hit the road with a backpack.
The trip culminated in a profound epiphany about the metaphysics of life itself, the thing we call consciousness. It was a weighty moment in my life—an awakening to the universal truths on God, the cosmos and the subject of death. I was especially drawn to contemplation on death. It has played a significant part of my life, from my sister, to my father, my mother, and close relatives most of whom all passed away before I reached the age of twelve. Seeing the dramatic wailing and the funeral circus week in week out whilst growing up, and observing the deep sadness and total fear of the inevitable in people left a deep impression on me.
There had to be something more
To experience cultures which so openly embraced Africa’s biggest representation of death into their spiritual lives intrigued me. Depictions of deities with cobras and the like caused me to confront my fear of death.
These cultures, predating Christianity by thousands of years, seem to have theories and philosophies which delved deeply into the mechanics of death. Some of these theories, coupled with my own personal experiences and deepest insights seem to be corroborated by many other writers like Neale Donald Walsch, Helena P Blavatsky, Deepak Chopra, etc.
My discoveries pointed to one thing—that I had been a canvas for others to paint upon what they wished. There was much more to life than the narrow spectrum of things I had been taught to focus on—none of which genuinely excited me.
For the first time in my life then, I was starting to create myself instead of being created. I was opening up to the cosmos to gain my own unique understandings. It was exciting and deeply enriching.
And it came about because I strapped on a backpack
Then buggered off to far lands for the sake of adventure. Not for economic gains, but for adventure and growth. These experiences became Monsoon Diaries, the first book I wrote, which as you can tell from the title, was inspired by Che Guevara’s original book.
And so we come to The Pack Back Society
It is my wish now inspire others from a similar background to consider travelling and backpacking as a way to grow, to discover themselves, to breakdown and question stagnant beliefs.
Not necessarily to drop them for new ones but to ask—if given a blank sheet of thought, would you reach the same conclusions now? Given a new mind free of impressions, would you believe the same the things you do now? What are your thoughts on why we exist? What do you think happens when at death? Am you living the life you desire? These questions serves as an awakening to your own silent witness.
At some point in our lives it is important to check in with our beliefs in order to satisfy ourselves that they hold true. This is especially true in matters such as the meaning and purpose of our lives and on social, economic, cultural and political matters. It is far better to read Plato to confirm your own ideas than to read Plato and take it as gospel.
The other thing about travel
If nothing else, backpacking gives you a better understanding of life, cultures and social systems elsewhere—beyond the TV screen or the internet. It teaches you the need for acceptance because of the intrinsic oneness of humanity. One of the best feelings in the world is when you form a deep connection with a someone from another country, culture and race. This teaches you first-hand that our similarities far outweigh our perceived differences; fostering understanding and love. To fall deeply in love with someone not because you share the same tribe but because you laugh at the same peculiarities of life, or that you share exactly the same perspective on life. This, is the greatest lesson on our innate oneness. It is the beginning of the end of judgment, bigotry and this whole economy of us and them. To learn from each other and adopt the best of all worlds into our own—these are the greatest gifts of travel. Thank you Che Guevara!
Before you go, there’s something else you should know
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