Travel lessons: low expectations, the unexpected, the flow

On my SE Asian adventure, I traveled from place to place alone. But for the India and Nepal portion, I traveled with a group. Why the difference, and the contrast between the two experiences, I will discuss in another blog.

The group leader on the India/Nepal trip would remind us every morning, and sometimes more often: “Keep expectations low, expect the unexpected, and go with the flow”. You could argue that having us develop this frame of mind was a little self-serving on his part, but, it is perhaps also a good life lesson.

India is a land that while full of beautiful people and wondrous experiences, is also an ancient, crowded, developing country. So if you go there expecting the manicured experiences of developed countries, and everything to go according to plan, you are likely to be disappointed.

There are downsides to low expectations, hence the saying “the tyranny of low expectations”. However, low expectations do at least enable you to meet reality with a certain amount of equanimity, and occasionally be surprised on the upside.

Like no place I have been before, India is definitely a place to expect the unexpected. Just because you have a plan in the morning, does not mean it will be unchanged by the afternoon. Whether it is a political rally, a delayed train, or a building closing. While this is India, this is also life. “Life is what happens while you are making other plans”. Indeed. Don’t be shocked when the unexpected happens, that’s life.

When the unexpected happens, how should you respond? Go with the flow. Resistance and craving is the root of suffering said the Buddha. Don’t grasp to what you thought should have happened, go with the flow. While I believe there is nuance here, as expressed in the famous “Serenity Prayer“, and maybe even that is not adequate, it is still good advice to go with the flow. Don’t be a lemming of course, but when things change in ways that do not rock your moral sensibilities, then go with the flow.

There is something about being closer to nature for a couple of months that makes you more in tune with the forces of nature, with the natural flow of things. I imagine people who live their whole lives close to nature have an innate understanding of these forces.

In addition to a morning meditation on all there is to be grateful for, perhaps the following mantra maybe of some help: “Keep expectations low, expect the unexpected, and go with the flow”.

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