I recently read a book called The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin. Benjamin tells the story of four teenage siblings who, on a lark, ask a fortune teller to reveal the dates of their deaths. She tells each child their death date (which they then keep to themselves). As the book progresses, we are left to determine whether the dates, and the fortune teller, are legitimate. Are the kids in control of their fate or is life pre-set? Does knowing (or thinking they know) their death date affect that actual date? And how does this knowledge affect how they live their lives?
I was discussing this book with a group of friends and the inevitable question came up: would you want to know your death date? Most of the group said no. But a few persons did say yes. Somehow, this knowledge would give them peace. For me personally, it would totally stress me out. I mean, who needs an extra deadline – the ultimate deadline?
The next question that got asked is: what would you do if you did know how much time you had left on this Earth? Interestingly, the answer for each person resoundingly was the same; they would travel. Now when I heard that response, I thought to myself – that answer pretty much indicates that you think that Travel is currently lacking in your life. So why not fix that problem right now and incorporate more exploring. Because remember, these folks answered Travel knowing they would know their date which could be soon or 50 years from now – yet they all said Travel.
And even deeper, why Travel to begin with? Why not spend more time with family or push one’s self harder to achieve greater career success or just make more time to relax? What is it about Travel? At its root, Travel is just making an effort to go somewhere else where things are unfamiliar (how to get around, what to do, strangers) and what is usually effortless has to be considered (toothbrush has to be dug out of the suitcase instead of sitting on the shelf waiting, etc.). Of course, usually where one travels has some attraction that presumably cannot be found at home (a nice beach, cool cities, unique hiking trails, etc.) so here one can argue that Travel enables one to have new and different experiences.
Full disclosure, my family and I travel a great deal. And I really do not think we could squeeze anymore traversing into our calendar. So that is not my response to what I would do differently if I knew my date. I actually didn’t have a response; I am not sure I would do anything differently. (But is that because I am travelling enough? Does that have anything to do with my lack of response at all or am I just clueless?)
I guess the moral of this story is you better go buy a plane ticket!