The Joy of Breaking Down
Some time ago, I saw a programmer named Amit Pitaru give a talk about designing the ideal motorcycle to travel through South America on. He said that when asked, most people responded that they’d want the most reliable motorcycle possible for this task. The prospect of getting caught in the middle of Nowhere, South America was not an enticing proposition.
Pitaru went on to describe the worst thing that could happen on a trip to see South America on motorcycle: not breaking down. When you break down, you have to ask for help. You get to know the locals. You create bonds through your interactions that would have never been possible zipping by on a problem-free bike. You might witness a beautiful sunset fixing your clutch. You might meet a great family or friend fixing a flat.
He went on to say that on your never-break-down-bike, you zip past little towns never interacting with anyone you don’t pay to help you (restaurant, hotel and gas station attendants mostly). You attract thieves because your fancy bike probably makes you look like an easy target. You move through the country efficiently, but detached (by tobar at dresshead.com) . You have no problems, but you have no meaningful experiences either.
His point: life is not that interesting without breakdowns.
Most of us are obsessed with contingencies—the great “what if” scenarios. What if there’s not enough space? What if I run out of flatware for the dinner party? What if I have to sell my stuff? What if people can’t reach me? But what if the “what ifs” were our greatest opportunities to grow and to know ourselves? What if we gave up our need to know what happens after the what if? What if we saw that our journeys happen in the pitstops, not in spite of them? If we believed that, what could we do?
Vehicle Breakdown image on front page via Shutterstock
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