Why We Do Better

Traveler’s calm

Already sweating and five minutes late, I huffed to the last intersection and smacked into dozens of people jogging down MLK Boulevard. Apparently, the organizers of the Oakland marathon selected today to send an uninterrupted stream of runners to prevent me from reaching my first yoga session in twelve months.

A familiar feeling settled over me as I searched the avenue for any path across.

I call it traveler’s calm: the serene curiosity you experience in response to a plan gone awry. A comfort with imprecision.

Travel frequently enough, and you will miss planes, board the wrong busses, wander into vaguely menacing neighborhoods, confuse restaurants for residences and residences for restaurants. You will show up far too late or much too early. You will ask the wrong questions and give the wrong answers, usually with incorrect grammar. You will apologize, apologize, apologize.

Spend enough of your year in this fashion, and eventually you stop worrying about getting anywhere “on-time.” You respond to lost bags, bad directions, missing taxis, and awkward conversations with bemusement rather than existential dread.

This isn’t some sort of enlightened pseudo-spiritual perspective, it’s a natural adaptation to the imprecision of exploring a new place.

Remain in any one city long enough, and the adaptation reverses: you develop routines and habits and schedules and begin to demand precision once again.

A thought occurred to me as I glared at the procession of joggers: perhaps I’ve been in the Bay Area a little too long. Perhaps I need to find my passport.

Yoga mat strapped to my back, I darted into the stream and ran alongside the marathoners. Slowly, strangely, I edged my way across the street.

I was ten minutes late to yoga, and somehow everybody survived.

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