Horse power 

Photo by Wells Baum (Peru)
Trains and tractors made the world less dependent on horse power. As the 19th century came to a close, horses were abundant. Consider this fact:

“In 1900 there were 145,000 horses in the French army and 130,000 horses working in Manhattan, while at the same time in Australia there was one horse to every two humans.”

Horses went from animals that drove economies and conquest to sprinters at the pop of a pistol. This looks like a fascinating read: Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship

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Blurry on purpose 

Photo by Wells Baum

It's in the moments of deliberate unfocus, scattered attention, that make an imperfect photo more interesting than manual focus-peaking.

What's the point of taking another high-resolution photo that can be Googled?

What's unique always stands out, just like a purple cow.

India 2014

Looking out to see in

Images by Wells Baum

Travel retrains the eye to see. It is only when we face sharp contrast, can we make vivid comparisons to the unfamiliar (and familiar) back home.

Travel induces perspective. It is the practice of curiosity.

Anything that removes the banality of everyday life and replaces it with a dose of novelty to shock the senses makes one appreciate both what is out there yet to explore and acknowledge what we're used to seeing.

“I just want to travel.”

 

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Photo by Wells Baum

 

Believe me, who doesn’t. Seeing the world is at the top of the list for all of us.

The smartest people I’ve ever met have all traveled the world. They get to see, hear, and taste its diversity as well as its sameness. The world can be so flat yet still so unequal.

If you can travel, travel. But avoid getting caught up in the theory that travel holds all life’s answers. Embrace what you have, and explore the fascination of life that already surrounds you.

“It is impossible to travel faster than light, and certainly not desirable, as one’s hat keeps blowing off.” – Woody Allen

5 Things I Learned From Vacation

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We should go on vacation more often. Here’s why:

1. Break up the Routine

We should go on vacation primarily to relax but we should also go to step away from the monotony of the daily grind. Doing the same thing every day creates a life of boredom and automation. Stepping away allows you to reevaluate the things you do and ask yourself why you do them in the first place.

“Will you live to work or will you work to live?” — Roots Manuva

2. Examine Your Own Language

Take a vacation abroad if you can. By doing so, you’ll challenge yourself to a game of communication. You’ll realize that while English is the world’s language, millions of people still don’t speak it and you may have to use your hands. You also won’t have the luxury of Google Maps since you won’t have a 3G or 4G connection which means you’ll have to ask for directions face to face, with a real map. Google Translate won’t be there to save you either.

3. Embrace Different Cultures 

Frustration is a natural part of travel. No one speaks the same language and operates the same way. For sure, the one thing you can count on is the food being different.

The point of travel is to embrace the local culture and to note the things you like and dislike. You can’t possibly know what you like until you try to discover it all.

4. Escape the Internet

If you travel abroad, you certainly won’t have the luxury of ubiquitous Internet access like you do at home. This is a chance for you to rewire your brain and connect neurons instead of external bytes. You still need to use your own brain to think. You also need to look people in the eye and show emotion.

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Photo by Wells Baum

 

While going Internet-less can be frustrating at times because you want to instantly share the cool things you capture, it forces you to share only the things that matter. The more content you have to play with, the more you selective you can be in only sharing the worthiest highlights.

5. Enjoy More 

You have more time on vacation to do more stuff. You can drink more, sleep more, work out more, read more, learn more, and think more. You can catch up on side projects and explore your intuition.  You can free your mind from the stressful restraints of a schedule.

Vacation is a chance to freshen up and reprioritize the work that matters.  Most importantly, vacation gives us a chance to live life at random, as we once did when we were kids.

Taking the Local Versus the Express Train

The main differences between the local and express trains are the number of stops and speed.

You can take an express train that leaves 15 minutes later than the local and still gets to the same destination 5 minutes quicker.

However, seats are limited on the express train while the local has plenty available. The faster train may save you time, but it may also be the least comfortable route.

In many ways, life is a perpetual decision between taking the local or taking the express train.

You can fast-track a goal and be done with it but be really stressed along the way. Or you can gradually get to your destination by slowly progressing, enjoying the process.

Everyone has to choose the path that’s right for them. Some people will mix it up depending on priorities that day or simply what’s available at the time. For instance, you may completely alter your original intention of which train to take simply because it’s running late and the other is available at that moment.

Most important is the realization that you’ve got to get on the train and just go. Once you’re on, you’re on; there’s no turning nor looking back. You have to live with your decision.

Turkey, At The Crossroads

There’s incredibly controlled tension in Turkey, a quiescent clash of civilizations between Ottoman and European empires, East and West, Islam and Christianity, and modernity versus traditional ways of life.

The three cities I visited in Turkey each had their own unique way of life.

Ankara is a city five hours East of Istanbul. Ankara is the capital of Turkey and like DC is the host of multiple colleges. It is here where we visited Ataturk’s Memorial (Anitkabir), which looks much like the Lincoln Memorial. Like Lincoln, Ataturk saved and rebuilt the nation.

Ataturk was a visionary, modernizing it for the 21st Century. Ataturk is a god in Turkey, an omnipresent image on signs, billboards, and statues that constantly remind the Turks to continue his vision.

Elmalik is a small village of 90 people, mostly relatives. The town has its own mosque, coffee shop, livestock, and crops. It even has its own unique dance. Elmalik is a flashback to life a century ago before automobiles and of course, the Internet. The villagers work hard, consuming only what they produce. It’s a gentle reminder that we have to be grateful for what we have.

Eregli is a steel town on the Black Sea, 2 hours northeast of Istanbul. My wife grew up in Eregli surrounded by seagulls, fresh fish, ships, and the cave where Hercules is known to have killed the three-headed dog Cerberus. In addition to the expanded family and never-ending servings of Borek, there are two specific things that I’ll never forget about Eregli.

The first is the military. Eregli is a critical industrial harbor, one that Turkey protects carefully to stave off the potential for Russian interference which sits across the other side of the Black Sea. The battle for resources is something Americans rarely feel as a remote island with major distance between competitive powers. Eregli is right at the heart of economic and military attention.

My wife used to live in a different part of Eregli now occupied by conservatives. The area felt like a scene from Iraq, with women in black veils head to toe and kids running around unruly on rocky streets. I felt slightly scared but more curious.

The second lasting memory of my trip to Eregli is the woman that refused to shake my hand. I accepted her behavior but also became frustrated with her lack of compassion and ignorance. Unfortunately, there are many others in Turkey that think the same way. It’s for this reason Turkey is stuck between the past and future.

Instanbul is a clash of civilizations. It’s the archetype of world order, where cultures stand out and get equally embraced. The pluralism in this city goes back to the precedent set by Ataturk to move into modernity. He converted Hagia Sophia into a museum to celebrate all walks of life.

Hagia Sophia is the antithesis to religious war, perhaps the world’s apotheosis of global unity. The Turkish Airlines motto “Globally yours” isn’t so far fetched after all.

The energy, crowds, and pace in Istanbul is just like New York. Just stroll through Istiklal at midnight. Istanbul is the only city in the world that walks backward and forward at the same time, balancing tradition with the future. It’s at the heart of world order, where all cultures and beliefs intertwine.

Atatürk, father of Turkey

via giphy

Atatürk did it all. From the 1920s – 1930s he gave birth to modern Turkey and transformed its alphabet, culture, education, economy, and its freedoms for women. There’s even a day to celebrate kids only, April 23, much like Father & Mother’s Day.

Walking through Ataturk’s memorial, you get the sense that he played the role of both Abraham Lincoln in uniting the nation and Martin Luther King Jr. in making equality and opportunity coexist. But he also played the role of teacher. Atatürk's library was extensive, full of Western literature including his own books on Geometry and Language. He was incredibly prolific in his writing which manifested in the beauty of his motivational speeches and quotes, like poetry.

There will never be another Ataturk, even the Turks acknowledge that. But Turkey today is still a reflection of Ataturk’s vision and thoughts. Turkey is a beautiful mix of Eastern traditions and Western practice, a culmination celebrated in its arts.