There’s a problem in today’s society for us men.
It may or may not be obvious what that is, but the repercussions compound relentlessly, causing boys to halt their mental/spiritual development in a way that can propagate for the rest of their adult lives.
What’s the impact?
To name just a few, you can say it’s contributing to a lack of ethics in today’s society, a growing number of failed or non-existent relationships and generation of men growing up with a sheer lack of necessary characteristics to fulfil their role in life.
In this post, I’ll go into:
- What I think the problem in today’s society is
- Why it’s important and how it causes a mental/spiritual slowdown for boys and stops them becoming “real men”
- Why travelling is an important part of growing up for men and ultimately how it can go a long way to help solve the problem
Although the scope of what I discuss is in light of the perspective of a man, I’m NOT suggesting it DOESN’T apply to women NOR that every man needs to conform to this. Both are a separate topics that can be discussed elsewhere.
The Problem with Today’s Society
As age-old humans, we’ve evolved to grow up in small communities with the primary concern of day-to-day survival. Those communities evolved tried and tested philosophies of “living”, passing down from generation to generation. If things weren’t passed down or weren’t learned properly, they had a material impact in the ability of that community to survive. Since the introduction of the modern era and the sheer acceleration in the way we can live, some of the important philosophies we once swore by are being left by the wayside.
One of those is the philosophy of boys being shown and understanding what it takes to become a “real man”.
By real man, we’re talking a mature adult male in every sense of the word.
Looking into the way in which primitive cultures lived, many, if not all of them had some form of initiation process. My father used to tell me how young Spartan boys were given years of training then sent into the mountains alone to survive off man-eating beasts that roamed the hills and given tasks of covertly killing state-owned slaves called Helots. Only once they made it back, would they be allowed to marry and recognised as a man in their community.
When I visited Uluru and Kata Tjuta in Ayers Rock, I learned how young Aborigine boys were separated from their mothers and fathers and taught the necessary skills from their elders (grandparents). Walking around Uluru, there were rocks in which young boys peeped through holes to watch skilled adult men hunting the last emu who visited the watering hole (so the ones ahead wouldn’t know what happened and would continue to return for water in days to come). They were told philosophical stories and built up a strong sense of their role in the community and the rights and wrongs of life. Stories about looking after your fellow men, not cheating on your wife and respecting the elders. Only once the other adult males felt they were ready and worthy of the responsibility of adulthood mentally, did they partake in an initiation ceremony that acted as their rite of passage. I won’t go into the details of ceremony, but like the Spartans, it was certainly something that provided a definite recognition of the change in maturity of a boy in becoming a man.
Why is it Important?
This lack of rite of passage to maturity for men means that they can physically grow up and age, but not necessarily build the mental and spiritual maturity that is necessary.
How do we know it’s possible? Well, if you look at today’s society, there’s an every growing number of
- husbands who physically or emotionally beat their partners
- juvenile bully bosses who make unnecessary work of their subordinates to make up for the lack of ability or effort
- men who live a life of pure materialist indulgence that wind up a statistic later in life
- criminals who are completely and utterly dependent on the society/state to live
- the employee with all the credentials on paper to do the job, but fail to achieve anything useful and moves onto another identical role only to repeat the cycle
This generation of men find it difficult to ever find their feet that is the foundation of life skills attributed with being a real, mature man and therefore ultimately struggle to achieve a fulfilling purpose in life for themselves and others around them.
Why Travelling is an Important Part of Growing up for Men
If you agree with theory I described, then you may wonder how this related to travel?
I believe that the act of travelling, can supplement or even replace the maturity process for men.
It happens because:
- The skills and characteristics of a mature, adult man are repeatedly tested during this time. Mastering these skills/characteristics will make travelling easier and more fulfilling
- Men are thrown in and out of a new, small, travel community many many times. Time and space to fail, retry, master and succeed in learning
- The structure of each community means they’ll be subjected to a whole spectrum of other men and women, both mature (to take example from) and immature (to mentor)
It may sound a little theoretical, so here’s a list of those skills/characteristics, why they’re important to becoming a mature man and how they relate to travelling.
A mature man is authentic and honest. He has no ulterior motives because he isn’t afraid of being honest about his pursuits or his feelings. The more authentic and trustworthy you look and act, the more likely you are to be part of a positive group experience when you travel. Whilst I agree with solo travel being the “default” standpoint for travellers, supplementing with group travel, even if temporary IS a great experience. A group of trust, allows people to share and share well. Sharing rides, sharing rooms with women, making plans to meet en route (that are time/financially costly to change). A traveller who’s inauthentic, will be tiresome to people who have to constantly make adjustments to the “true” result and those opportunities that seem to open up for others just won’t happen for you.
When we think of a mature man, it wouldn’t be out of the question to think about someone like James Bond. Why? Well, James Bond is a character who oozes composure. There is definitely evidence of clarity of mind. He has an objective, a mission and there isn’t any woman, bad guy or martini that will stop that from happening. There is an air of acceptance of whatever situation is bestowed upon him and he does his best to deal with it. Sure, travelling won’t turn you into a fictional movie character who will always dodge death, but the way composes himself is something to be admired and to strive towards.
When you travel, you will always have to deal with bumps along the way in pursuit of your travel goals. You might lose your backpack (check), you might lose your bankcard (check), you might fall out with a friend (check) and you may not be able to do all the things you wanted to in the time you have (check). Learning to stay composed in the face of any situation and what other people can mentally put in your way is a skill that will certainly be tested as you travel. The better you cope with it, but more you’ll be at peace with your journey and learn from it. If you don’t learn to maintain composure, then you’ll have a very hard time of it. You’ll get plenty of chances to practice it during your travels and the beauty of it is that it’ll never be the same from one person to the next.
If you ask a woman to name five things they look for in a guy, I’d bet everything that “confidence” will be one of them. There is a heavy association of confidence with maturity. If you then ask what they meant by “confidence”, there’s also a good chance that they can’t be specific – “you know, they just need to be confident”. Unfortunately, most don’t realise that confidence isn’t something that you can magically teach someone overnight. It’s something that can only happen from within. A momentum effect that starts from learning to wholeheartedly love yourself, trust yourself and let that resonate in everything you do day-to-day.
You may have an overbearing boss, partner or parents that have never given you the chance to nurture your own confidence. When you travel, you have to learn to trust yourself and your decision making ability every day because there isn’t usually anyone else there to do that for you. If you don’t speak up when you need to, you’re likely to get a raw deal so you learn to trust yourself.
- Someone in your assigned “preferable” dorm bed when you checked in?
- Tuk-tuk driver trying to persuade you to visit a “shop” to buy local crafts?
- Your bus you were expecting to pick you up never turned up, do you change or plans or improvise how you get to your next destination?
- You have no idea where the hostel you were expecting to stay at is and need to start asking around?
Learning to trust your own ability to act whatever the situation will build confidence in yourself with time. As you travel, you’ll be thrown countless small (and a few big) decisions to make so that process will be accelerated and is a positive byproduct of the “stress” of everyday travel.
Learning to be a Protector of Yourself and Others
Lets face it, men are on average, physical stronger than women and are more frequently challenged in that regard on a daily basis. I’m not going to suggest it’s “more dangerous” for a guy to travel – women have their own set of unique dangers. But men are often expected to fill the role of protector, for both themselves and others around them. The older you are, the likelihood the more physically strong you are (up to a point of course) and most likely you are to be called upon if there are many men in the group. Many guys in today’s society can grow up not having been in a single fight or having to act as the protector of a group (always had an older brother or a very sheltered life).
When we think of a mature man though, we don’t think of a brawler. We think of someone who knows when to step up to a situation, when to know how quelling a situation can be for the best and when to just go for it. If you’re a guy, you WILL be on your own at times, you could even be the only male in a group or just the most physically strong. In all three of these situations, you need to learn to cope with the responsibility of being that protector.
Respect Among Other Men in a Team
When we think of a mature man, we think of a guy that has the respect of other men. The most likely way of gaining that respect is by firstly demonstrating that you have the skills, characteristic and attributes and secondly nurturing those very same things in others. I.e. you become a credible role model for young men to learn from. Every guy has a set of characteristics that have come “natural” to them (through their unique life’s experience) or have dedicated time to learn.
I recall when I was at the Elephant Nature Park, the dogs that roamed around decided to have a scrap with each other, with around 60 of us volunteers in the same room. in a matter of seconds there was bunch of snarling, barking and swiping with it seemingly directed at one of the dogs in particular. It felt like everyone was frozen in the moment, then out of nowhere, one of the volunteers stepped right into the pack of fighting dogs, lifted the dog in danger high into the air and carried him out of the room. “Just step in and take the dog who’s being picked on out of there. The other dogs won’t go for you because you’re not in their scope” he modestly said. Here was a guy who very bravely used his experience, maturity and skill to deal with a situation AND demonstrate to others how to do it themselves next time. He gained a huge amount of respect in my mind that day. To finish the story, that dog funnily enough ended up sleeping at the end of his bed that night onwards.
A man won’t gain respect if he always tries to act the hero or dominate, when it’s not necessarily needed or doesn’t help others to grow too. As you travel, your own unique set of skills and experience will be leant upon in someway shape or form. You won’t know how or when, but trust me when I say, it WILL happen. You’ll get the opportunity to work in a team and demonstrate that skill and when you do, if you learn to do it with modesty you’ll no doubt gain plenty of respect.
We often here people say how someone’s “changed” when they come back from extended travel. What that difference is isn’t necessarily physically obvious and often difficult to equate into words. For guys, though, it could well be that on a subconscious level they’ve taken another step to becoming a mature man.