After a good five weeks surrounded by people 24/7, I’m on my own again now. With only a vague plan and no pre-booked accommodation or transport.
I’ve gotten used to not knowing where I’m going to sleep the next day and it’s freeing. Being on your own, you meet people constantly and quickly. Most conversations follow this pattern:
- Where are you from?
- How long are you traveling for?
- Where have you been so far?*
- Where are you going next?
- What’s your favorite place so far?
- What are you looking forward to the most?
* Follow-up-question: Oh wow, __________! I’ve been there, too! Have you seen __________? You did? Great!
The answers to all these questions usually include the mentioning of Australia and/or New Zealand as well as the depressing observation that everything is expensive there when compared to Asia.
I usually try to make it through the program rather quickly to ask questions like “Why are you doing this?” Turns out, most people have more of a story than “Just wanted a holiday” and this is usually the more interesting topic.
Also not a recent discovery, but something that keeps coming up: People hate their jobs, at least considerable parts of it. This always gets me thinking… all the people here, in these poorer countries, leading their simple lives as farmers or doing some repetitive craft, I don’t think they feel the same. They’re not burnt out, down or mentally messed up. And they’re proud of what they’re doing and proud of the skills they’re developing over the years. In the business world, you’re mainly proud of making as much money as possible with the smallest amount of skills and efforts. Making lots of money without really being good at anything? You’re a genius, we should all look up to you.
The lack of the constant pursuit of efficiency was most visible in a supermarket I went to in Ubud: The cashiers are taking their time scanning your items, and after each and every item they have to press three buttons on a keyboard. For the more expensive articles in the shop, you don’t bring them to the cashier yourself, but you only get a little paper slip. While the cashier is scanning your stuff, he makes a pause to get the item himself. During this time, the queue waits. I see potential for optimization – send in a squad of consultants!
(And no, I’m not planning to drop out from Western society to live at the beach, selling coconuts.)