Adventure Isn't Like the Movies
Planes, trains, and automobiles - what I learned from getting lost on the Amalfi Coast.
So, I fucked up and accidentally set last week’s “free email” as a “paid email”, so I’m a few days late. When you read this story, you’ll probably understand why I’m such a mess this week. 😂
Back to a normal schedule soon!
I always wanted a life full of wild quests, grand adventures, and never-ending exploration.
I always wanted my life to be “like the movies”. I always wanted to be the hero of my personal movie. I’ve always been a “get up and go” type of person.
Even before I could remember, as a baby, I used to stand in my crib in the morning and shout to my mom “outside!” first thing every morning. I wanted to go to unique places, meet interesting people, and do everything you might read about in a choose your own adventure book or do in the montage scene of a movie.
And so, I made it happen. for the last several years, I’ve been traveling the united states (and beyond) doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This is the first time I’ve really sat down to think about what I’m doing, and while life is pretty great, it’s not exactly how I expected it would be, and I’ve been learning how to accept that and be happy anyway.
Turns out, that’s the real adventure anyway.
Life Isn’t Like the Movies
Ever since I saw Christopher Nolan’s Tenet a few years ago, I wanted to visit the Amalfi coast.
I scheduled myself a week and a few days off after my recent competition in Poland, so I decided to make a little trip to Rome and Vietri Sul Mare happen.
Getting to Rome was easy. I bought a plane ticket, flew there, and then got a cab to my Airbnb, which was my home base for the next 2 days of exploration in a city I had wanted to see since my middle school Latin days.
Then, the real adventure began.
I took a cab from my Airbnb to the Rome train station, and then I plopped my butt on a train for 2 hours to Salerno (oh, and I almost missed the train).
then, in Salerno, due to a delay, I did miss my train to the small town off the Amalfi coast where I was headed.
Then, my phone’s data stopped working, so I couldn’t load my train ticket.
So, I decided to spend a euro (literally one euro) and buy another train ticket to my destination, just to make sure I didn’t get kicked off my train.
I bought the ticket, and because I don’t speak Italian, I went through the whole process before realizing that I had actually bought a bus ticket.
Then, I went up to a worker at the station, and asked, “How do I get to Vietri Sul Mare”, and I held up my bus ticket (which I still thought was a train ticket).
He pointed to the bus stop and said, “the white bus gets you there in 20 minutes.”
I nodded and headed off to the white bus. On my way to the stop, the bus drove off. At the time, I didn’t know that that was the last thing standing between me and a smooth evening of travel to an absolutely beautiful place.
“Oh well,” I thought and plopped my tired ass at the stop to wait for the next bus.
About 2 minutes later, another bus came, except that this bus wasn’t white, it was red and white.
I figured, “red and white is pretty close to white,” and hopped on the bus, proudly showing the driver the ticket I had purchased for 1 euro about 10 minutes earlier.
“I sure hope this isn’t the wrong bus,” I thought. and sat down.
Welp, I Got Lost
Turns out, that was the wrong bus. it took me about 5 minutes to figure that out, but by the time I did, the bus had pulled onto the highway and was hurling itself in the other faster than I could say “arrivederci”.
So at this point, I had no wi-fi or cellular data, no idea where I was going, and all I can say in Italian is “Ciao”, “Quanto?”, and “uno espresso”.
If you’re reading this thinking “Chris, you are a moron…” you are right. I felt like a moron. I was lost and quite anxious.
Eventually, I saw a gas station through the bus window, so I pulled the little string thing in the bus to get the driver to stop, and then I hopped off the bus and started walking toward this gas station.
Then, bless my little heart, I saw a hotel. I later found out this was the last hotel for the next 30 kilometers.
My eyes beamed, my heart rate slowed, and I let out a verbal sigh as I thought “finally, someone who speaks English”.
I walked into the hotel, and after having this painfully embarrassing exchange in broken English, the lady there eventually was able to get me a taxi.
But the taxi took a while to come, and when he did come, it wasn’t like any taxi I had ever seen before in the US. this taxi basically looked like her dad come from home to whip me over to the hotel really quick.
In the end, I got to the hotel. It was lovely, and I loved the Amalfi Coast. My check-in process was just dramatic and more stressful than it should have been.
This Was Just the Beginning
2 days after the story above, I went to Naples to catch my plane to London, where I’m finishing my trip with a few days of seeing people from a past life and touring the city I was born in.
In Naples, my Airbnb host ghosted me (still working on getting my money back there), my phone died while trying to find a new place to stay, and then some random guy on the street kept pointing at my ears and telling me he was a doctor.
Perks of having cauliflower ear, I guess.
Then, I finally made it to the Naples airport, and I almost missed my flight because I couldn’t figure out how to properly check my bag.
Either traveling is hard or I’m just really bad at it because I made just about every mistake in the book this week.
So What Did We Learn?
There is a great deal of peace in learning to accept that nearly everything in life is complete chaos.
Most perceptions of order are an illusion created by the anxious mind to keep you from losing your shit.
Whether you’re getting ready to compete in martial arts, getting stuck and lost in a foreign city, or just stressed out about deadlines at work, the sensation is pretty much always the same. You’re pretty much always anxious because you’re realizing you have no control over your current situation.
Expanding on that logic, if you can learn to be at peace when you don’t have control, you’ll be able to thrive in even the most chaotic of circumstances.
That is how you achieve true order.
By dropping your preconceived notions of structure and organization and allowing yourself to become truly present in the chaos of whatever is right in front of you, you will reach true peace, true order, and a true sense of understanding.
Trust me, it’s a nice feeling.
Nothing is ever like the movies.
But honestly, fuck the movies.
This reminds me of this great clip from Jocko Willink’s podcast, where he talks about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, reality, and expectations. I’d recommend giving it a watch if you struggle with being mindful and present in your everyday life. I saw it a few years ago, and it made me more self-aware and mindful than I think I wanted to be at 20.
It’s one of 2 or 3 podcast clips that I will rewatch when I’m feeling down.
I found this clip at a time when I myself was struggling with suicidal thoughts, a fear of growing up, and the awful sensation that my life was going to be a letdown.
But the thing is, life is a letdown sometimes. It’s especially a letdown if you watch a lot of movies, social media, porn, or anything else designed to satisfy your senses and distort your view of reality.
Your relationship is never as perfect as the one on TV. The food you crave is never as good as the pictures make it seem. Going on adventures isn’t as smooth and painless as movie montages make it seem.
That’s the freaking point.
Real love is messy. Real adventures are exhausting, make your back hurt, and can be a bit stressful. Real pizza is too hot to eat when it comes out of the oven and I couldn’t sleep my last night on the Amalfi Coast because there was a bug in my room who made it his personal mission to torture me.
Everything looks better on social media or in films than it is in reality, but that doesn’t mean that the world is all nihilism and giant letdowns.
Improving your mind is not about lowering your expectations. I think instead it’s about removing them. Don’t let preconceived ideas affect current experiences. Do stuff now, reflect later.
You should learn from past experiences, but you also need to let the current moments stand alone.
The only movie that matters is the one happening in your head right now.