Too much comfort will destroy you
It’s part of the human condition to seek out comfort. It’s not a stupid thing to do; it’s infinitely more sensible to sit on something soft than to sit on a pile of rocks. Making such decisions is widely regarded as a basic sign of intelligence.
But we’re far beyond those decisions. Thanks largely to cheap and abundant energy sources, the level of comfort of the average citizen exceeds anything that could have been imagined by any human that ever lived before 1900. We drown in choice – for food, for clothing, for shelter. Our luxuries are piled on luxuries. We have heated steering wheels in lower class cars, and the food of the world at our fingertips, as much as we want whenever we want it. We have an infinite number of candles to scent our homes, and the nicest beds ever invented to sleep on. It goes on and on and on.
But what is all that choice doing to us? What if the incredible levels of refinement that we live in every day isolate us from most of what’s interesting about the world?
We live in a world where almost no physical effort is required, because we can arrange things so we never have to lift or stretch or exercise. Total comfort, or total absence of discomfort. But what is the price for that over the last 30 years of your life? It’s not hard to see; watch a 60 year old who’s never stretched or exercised compared to a 70 year old who has.
Comfortable travel has distorted and shrunk our world. We live in a world of cheap resorts that pamper us endlessly. These become the standard; each outdoing the other for amenities, quality of food, safety, and entertainment. But a steady diet of those renders all other places boring, too hot/cold/dry/wet/dirty/poor, so we don’t go there. Small town hotels become unacceptable because they are substandard. So we never go there, and never experience small out of the way towns, which make up most of the world. Too much poverty, too many insects, too remote…if these things matter too much we are limiting life experiences to .0001 percent of the earth’s surface. And you’re missing most of the beauty and all the character.
Do you only hang out with people in your social or economic circles? You’re missing the wit and wisdom of 99.9 percent of the world’s people, and more importantly you’re missing viewpoints you can’t even imagine exist.
Do you travel to the world’s most sensational sites, in search of the spectacular and the famous? Then only the spectacular and the famous will do, and the acceptable world becomes incredibly small. You’ll miss out on a billion amazing sights that aren’t obvious or on someone’s top ten lists.
Do you refuse to walk anywhere, requiring not just transportation but luxury transportation? All you will notice will be your dashboard, other traffic, and irritants like the sun shining in your eyes or other drivers. You will notice the endless array of irritants involved in flying and will miss the sights, sounds, textures and scents of the world you move through every day. Only by walking will you notice things like this.
Be uncomfortable now and then. Make your body hurt with exercise that makes it feel like your limbs will fall off. Make your feet hurt by walking around, and seeing incredible things you’d never see even by bicycling. Make your taste buds hurt by trying something new – you might hate it, but you might love it. Go visit Iowa, or Albania, or Mongolia, or the boreal forest, or some flat grassland, or the thirtieth most popular national park instead of only the top two. It’s a big world out there, why miss out on 99 percent of it because it’s not 100 percent comfortable?