Singapore has a reputation somewhat as a sterile city. Bali is a jungle. There’s nothing sterile about it—which is why I can’t believe it took a trip to Singapore for this particular lesson to hit home.
One of the first things I usually do when I touch down in an airport is grab a sim card. So I’m never offline. It’s a reflex. Kind of like when I go to the bathroom now for a whizz—I no longer stand, I sit.
That’s evolution, folks. Blame the smartphone. It won’t be long before the monkeys pass us out. I fear if I didn’t remove these apps from my phone which I spoke about in my last article, I’d turn into The Hunchback of Notre Dame by the time I’m 50. And I’d be so miserable from devoting my life to a screen that I’d be better off in ashes.
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no two ways about it—she gets pissed with me for spending too much time on my phone. And even though I tell her it’s my digestive issues, when we touched down in Singapore, I decided to treat her the gift of my presence—which is a fucking great gift now that I think about it?
I should probably say that we—together, in unison, blah blah—decided data wasn’t necessary for our mini city break. We were strong enough to go without.
And so, by removing the temptation to check in with our screens, we gave birth to the possibility of being truly present to our surroundings.
Is it even a debate?
Many people who are traveling these days put more energy into curating perfect pictures for friends to envy on Instagram than they do into actually enjoying the experience.
The result of this is that they’re never really present. One could argue they’re never really enjoying themselves either.
A recent study found more than a third of millennials have intentionally posted deceiving photos to make their holiday seem better than it is. And 65% of the honest ones admit they did so to make their friends envious—the bastards!
Is this what social media has reduced us to? Have we turned into a society where deception is more important than reality? Even if it costs us our happiness?
We travel because we are curious. It’s about escape. It’s about adventure, new experiences, relaxation, and letting go. It shouldn’t be about counting likes on an Instagram snap or views on a story.
Nobody wins. Bullshit requires energy. Yours will be drained. You’ll never feel alive or present. And your friends will secretly dislike you.
Where’s the living in that?
True presence is something I haven’t experienced in a while. That’s not to say I haven’t had fun or I’ve not been enjoying my life. But I’m usually at the mercy of my phone, my work, and my ever growing to-do list. Which is fine, I like my to-do list. I get great satisfaction from scratching shit off it. But life shouldn’t revolve around it.
We can all benefit from stepping away from our day-to-day dogma to start chasing more of those moments that make us feel truly alive.
That’s what happened in Singapore. On the first evening, we took a trip to “Haji” near little India—a vibrant lane where people eat and drink on the street as they take in the live music which Haji Lane has become infamous for.
Without any potential for distraction, we were able to immerse ourselves fully in the evening’s entertainment. The talent blew me away. I mean this bastard could sing. He would have made Pavarotti proud. But what really blew me away was the number of people who lift their head up and put their phone down.
I didn’t have a care in the world. Not one. I shit you not. That’s rare. That’s true presence. And I think that’s something we should all be striving for more of.
There’s a lot of crap we’re conditioned to worry and stress about that we give far too much weight and meaning to.
At the end of the day, we’re all going to die. And if our legs are still working when our time is up, we’ll be kicking ourselves for giving so much priority to the stuff that doesn’t bring us joy.
I believe this bad conditioning, too often, results in a bad life. And we’ll keep bullshitting ourselves with every excuse to justify our not living till the very last breath.
Mediocrity is the word they use to scare us. Nothing but excellence will do. We’re trained to look into the mirror and dislike what we see. We’re told to strive for perfection, and we’re conditioned to constantly seek validation.
You’ll never be good enough if you pay attention to the masses.
And what’s really fucked up? We buy the products and click the bait. We fuel our own rage and misery. We buy happiness from people who want us to be miserable.
Is it any wonder social media has turned into a ruthless hunting ground for likes and validation?
The corporations and Governments can’t win without your fears and worries and concerns. Greed cannot win in those moments when you feel content. Social media would struggle to survive in an environment where people are happy because the ads run on fear and its greatest fuel is hate.
Are we losing the ability to live?
I think so.
We constantly seek out ways to optimize ourselves and our lives, but we forget the part about living.
Yes, career is important. But it’s only when you get out into the wild and feel what it’s like to be alive that you realize just how vital it is to your prosperity.
We live in a world where we try to manufacture presence. We download all sorts of apps to hack our minds, our productivity, and our lives. And we think that’s living. We think that’s going to fill us up. Bullshit that’s living. It’s training.
Presence shouldn’t have to be forced. It should just occur. It’s the experience of joy when your phone or your work or whatever problems in life you have aren’t fucking with your mind.
It’s not about running away from your problems. We’ll always have problems. It’s about taking a break from them. So you’re in better shape to tackle them.
Seek out those moments in life—the ones where you feel truly present. Where you don’t have a care in the world. Where you’re truly alive.
Those are the moments you’ll cherish. It doesn’t matter where you are. I felt alive in Singapore. The location isn’t the problem. Distraction is. And we carry that with us everywhere.