Sit Down with Cliches

Have you ever repeated a word over and over again only to find that at such a fast pace that particular word loses it’s meaning and simply becomes a strange sound? If not, here’s a fun game to try. Pick a word, any word, and repeat it until you’re blue in the face. Go on, this is a safe space and I am giving you full permission to live in the moment.

A silly game designed to shed some light on the human brain shows us that repetition dulls awareness. Let’s take the word “love” for example and repeat it until it sounds like an alien spacecraft hovering five inches above the ground. One of the most powerful emotions and expressions in our human experience, love, becomes reduced to an obnoxious and meaningless noise. This constant repetition, sending us clear into oblivion, is the problem with cliches. They are wise words that are so overly repeated that they often lose their meaning and pizazz.

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Children in Myanmar loving life.

Follow your dreams.
Money doesn’t buy happiness.
Live and let live.
Be yourself.
 Forgive and forget
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Laughter is the best medicine.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Zazz on a ledge on Hua Shan (mountain) in Shaanxi, China.

It has even become a cliche to hear these sayings and, “take them to heart.”

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Fisherman showing off in Inle Lake, Myanmar.

We love cliches because they are so often true, but inspiration is fleeting without application. I challenge you to break the spell of the meaningless word sounds, go beyond taking it to heart and take these words to action. After all, “actions do speak louder than words”.

How can we reverse what appears to be obnoxious noise, thus transforming this cloudy clatter into meaningful application? It’s not the repetition alone that dulls cliches, it’s the speed at which we consume them. We read and see Pinterest and Instagram photos with interesting backgrounds and Insta-inspirational quotations posted online; sometimes we share them, or give them a “like” all in order to get our enlightenment fixes for the day. However, these words seem to insta-come and go, in one ear and out the other, as we continue about our day with little internalization of what these words actually mean. Let’s make a collective goal to stop treating our words like fast-food. It’s time to pause, taste, and enjoy our meal.

“Old habits really do die hard” but they can die eventually. Take advantage of the simple insta-reminders throughout your day to help clear the meaningless noise by reflecting. The next time you find yourself reading a beautiful quote on your timeline or newsfeed, remember to sit down with the cliche as if it were a decadent cup of coffee. Taste it, smell it, and let it give you energy to take action. It’s natural to be swept away into the fast-past hustle of life and social media, so don’t get yourself down when you do because there is yet another cliche that just so happens to be true: “The more you try, the more likely you are to succeed.”

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Zazz showing off her goods on the Great Wall of China.

Quality Over Quantity

A fellow traveling friend recently asked me how my experiences visiting new towns and cities have changed since I first set off on the road nine months ago. Does the excitement of seeing a new place still compel me to, “go, go, go” and explore every crevice, monument, and tourist sight possible? Or do I take it slow, spending a day or two in my guesthouse or hotel relaxing?

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Western Australia

It didn’t take me long to answer his question. I have thought about this many times before and I have found that the longer I’ve been on my travels the less of a tourist I’ve become. I’ve found myself spending hours, sometimes days, indoors, on the porch, or in a restaurant reading, writing, painting and skipping popular tourist destinations altogether.

This is a topic I have talked about with other travelers before, and it seems to be on many nomads’ minds. What’s more important, quality or quantity? Should we feel guilty for not exploring everything we can of a new place? We travel in order to see, explore, and experience new things after all, shouldn’t I get off of my computer and do exactly that?

What I love most about travel is that it is a reflection of our journey through life itself. While caught up in the mundane tasks of everyday modern living, we often forget to see the whole picture of where we are. Our lives are relatively short on this earth and we shouldn’t take our days and hours for granted.

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Learning para-sailing

Living and being completely in a moment is exactly how we avoid wasting our lives away. If the hectic worries of catching a bus at noon or seeing x number of sites before evening is getting in the way of actually being wholly in a moment, then we should take a step back for a second and let go. If we’re burying our nose in maps and guide books and treating a place like Disneyland, then perhaps we’re missing the point of travel. We’ve got to take time to breathe, look around us, and reflect on the moment. If we’re too preoccupied on sticking to a schedule and our minds are filled with fears of missing out, we often are missing out.

The mirror of travel has shown me that, just like in life, I can’t do and see everything; it’s not humanly possible. But it has also shown me that life and experience is all there for the taking; I simply have to learn to close my laptop sometimes and walk out the door. As the hectic rush and worry of, “go, go, go” can take away from living in the moment, hiding away in a rented room for days can do the same. 

There is no Lonely Planet book to answer my friend’s questions on when it’s right to sit, and when it’s right to go. The pace we choose to travel and live our lives is a personal thing which can change from day-to-day. The important thing to remember is that quality, not just quantity, is most rewarding.

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Melbourne gallery art installation by Mark Hilton.