I was trying to find the cradle of humankind. My hosts had given me a map printed from the internet and generously lent me their car to drive from suburban Johannesburg to the museum in downtown. South Africa is busy tearing up all the roads in Joburg in preparation for the World Cup in June 2010, but the map failed to reflect this. I drove to a dead end with no detour in sight. After getting lost for another 20 minutes, I realized that I was far from my intended destination. After calculating how long it might take to get back were I to get lost again, I abandoned my plans and followed signs to the Lion Park.
I could list all the different places in which I’ve been lost, but I am afraid it might sound like I am somehow bragging. This is simply the most recent confusion. I could show that each time I’ve been lost it has lead to some other, unplanned for but unique experience which I would never have found were I had been looking for it. The Lion Park was nice, but to tell such a story would be dishonest. My travel is sometimes for business sometimes as a tourist and I am granted only a limited amount of time and money in both cases. Being lost may very well lead you to an unexpected discovery, but it’s difficult to honestly compare what you’ve seen to what you’ve missed. In real life, being lost is incredibly stressful no matter how zen-like you hope to be.
Time is the enemy. On may way to the Cradle of Humankind and finding myself in the lap of lion cubs instead, I knew that, above all, I needed to be back in time to drop off my friend’s car and still make it across Joburg in an airport shuttle; driven hopefully by a driver who knows which roads are closed today. The needless stress threatens to ruin my time petting playful, 20 kg lion cubs, and worse, I’ve imposed it upon myself.
My blog is hardly an advice column. I do not think I show you the best way to travel. I spend too little money and squeeze far too much into each too short of a trip. I try to do business and still lug a camera everywhere. I save money on hotels and pack too few clothes. Skipping wireless hotspots and expensive cell phone calls keeps me out of touch with people I care about or business I need to do, and wearing this shirt for the third time will probably cause concern for my seatmate on the airplane who will worry about the rumpled, underdressed person next them and hope he’s not too smelly.
For me, the best measure of success isn’t all the things one has acquired or the impressive list of accomplishments. Success isn’t even be how much free time the person has, although that’s getting close. Instead, success might be measured by the amount of control over time one has. The freedom from procrastination and time sucking habits. The financial security to spend time unwisely but as desired. The intelligence and wisdom to fill life with activities that entertain but are enriching, that yield pride, instead of excuses.