Camels are strange beasts, and they have an alarming habit of napping to pass time in the heat of the afternoon. To a casual observer, a napping camel looks like it has just keeled over and died. There is something deeply unnerving about watching a dirty-blond pile of motionless camel bits suddenly animate and, defying more than a few laws of physics, right itself into a cohesive animal.

Hello! It’s Sasha Goldstein, and for the last few weeks I have been floating around on the trade winds: Spain, Portugal, a circuit of France, Belgium, and Morocco. As I write this I am back in Canada, where I will stay for the next few months.

I have finished culinary school. The last month was intense, and culminated with a five-hour long practical examination presided over by not one or two, but six chefs. The test was exacting and difficult; the kind of precision acrobatics performance where nothing is allowed to go wrong and a single misstep can cost you, at worst, success.

Of course, everything went wrong and I failed the test. The school delivered the news in a generic form letter: I would not graduate, unless I opted for an expensive re-take, and if I failed again, I would be denied a diploma. No pressure.

So, after a bit of tantrum-ing I dusted myself off, paid an exorbitant re-take fee, and re-did the thing — this time sans-mistakes.

Then I spent a week prancing reluctantly around in whites, accepting my diploma and posing for the school PR-department people along with the other graduating students (we were not enough for a soft-ball team — of my original thirty-student cohort, only two other students finished).

And just like that, it was over. The whole furious thing. I had planned to spend my remaining weeks in France quietly, recovering mentally and physically, while making arrangements and plans for my departure and pending transition.

What actually happened was that spring arrived and with it, tax-season and a conga-line of visiting friends and family. After doing some rudimentary napkin-math, I arrived at the conclusions that: A — I was about to be broke, and B — traveling around Europe is actually cheaper than entertaining visitors in Paris for any amount of time exceeding five days.

Thus, I found myself sitting at a small desk in the town of Taghazout, Morocco, gloriously bored, staring at a distressingly flat ocean and watching camels nap. .

As is wont to happen during such periods, my mind began to wander over the past ten years. I am nearly thirty-three now. Ten years doesn’t seem like such a long time, but ten years ago I was twenty-three, merely a wene by any yardstick.

Ten years is a peculiar period; it is long enough to encapsulate the complete transformation of a life, and yet brief enough that it can pass almost without notice. Taken as a parcel to be used with intention, a decade is potent. It can swallow the vicissitudes of focus, time, and energy that characterize real long-term ambitions, but its end looms nearly enough to eradicate “somedayisms”. You can do a lot with commitment on a ten-year scale: master a language, become a musician, learn to paint, reimagine a career, turn an infant into a small human, build and sell a business, or become somebody so foreign to your younger self that you are almost unrecognizable.

And the most astounding thing is that a life contains so many decades.

There is a Dillard quote that I love and think about often (from The Writing Life):

There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading—that is a good life. A day that closely resembles every other day of the past ten or twenty years does not suggest itself as a good one.

That last part — a day that closely resembles every other day… — that is Dillard saying “Don’t get too comfortable, or too complacent, or too distracted because if you let time pass it most certainly will.” It is both a warning and a reassurance.

Richard Linklater, in his fabulous documentary-on-acid Waking Life, includes a conversation between Caveh Zahedi and David Jewell about how film has a unique ability to capture what Zahedi calls ubiquitous “holy moments”.

"You know, like this moment, it's holy. But we walk around like it's not holy. We walk around like there's some holy moments and there are all the other moments that are not holy, right, but this moment is holy, right? And if film can let us see that, like frame it so that we see, like, 'Ah, this moment. Holy.' And it's like 'Holy, holy, holy', moment by moment.

The idea that holiness is everywhere, but we just can’t see it, is sort of… buddhist? And he’s right. Film has this ability to make us attend to the mundane preciousness of things — a fleeting expression, a sunset, an empty street in the rain.

Other things can evoke holiness. Meditation can evoke holiness. Nature can. Art can. So can food. Perhaps a useful analog for holiness in all of these examples is wonder.

Being in Morocco reminded me that travel — of a certain kind — can be an awesome tool for revealing holiness too. You go somewhere sufficiently foreign, you loosen your grip, just a little, on control and comfort and predictability in order just be. You eat the food, drink the water, fumble your way through the language, and cram yourself into rickety old vans that swerve into oncoming traffic to get around obstacles like camels, mopeds, and other buses.

In “Neither Here nor There”, Bill Bryson writes:

“Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you only have the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”

I love that premise: travel as a kind of state-modifier, allowing you to see holiness in ubiquitous moments. You bumble around in a foreign place, which to everyone else is totally unremarkable, noticing how crazy and weird it all is, and making interesting guesses about where you might go and what you might do and what might happen. We actually refer to the state Bill is describing, in another context, as “childlike wonder.”

What’s more: seeing your guesses through, absorbing their consequences, adjusting them as you learn about a place, a people, a culture, or a way of life, requires total presence. You reinvent yourself in a some small way, each time you encounter new ideas and models for living. It is impossible not to come out of such experiences changed.

Of course, different folks have different tolerances for weirdness. And there’s not a thing wrong with munching on chicken fingers at a Hard Rock Cafe in some remote corner of the world, or hiring a tour guide instead of wandering around a city on your own, or opting for the air conditioned tourist bus instead of local transportation (yours truly: an outspoken fan of such buses). It just takes some intention, and some courage, to reconcile the desire for “safe,” “known,” and “simple” with actual exposure to a place; to walk the line between indulging oneself and insulating oneself against the many benefits of traveling. Used with such intention, unpredictability and discomfort can become a kind of currency, to be used when possible to enrich your connection to the people and places that surround you.

This all sounds a lot like “adventure”.

In his cult classic “Vagabonding,” Rolf Potts writes:

The secret of adventure … is not to carefully seek it out but to travel in such a way that it finds you. To do this, you first need to overcome the protective habits of home and open yourself up to unpredictability. As you begin to practice this openness, you’ll quickly discover adventure in the simple reality of a world that defies your expectations. More often than not, you’ll discover that “adventure” is a decision after the fact — a way of deciphering an event or an experience that you can’t quite explain.

The notion of adventure (cultivating wonder, courage, presence; revealing holiness) as a practice — as something to be practiced — is, in a word, holy. It is an antidote to an existence in which each day closely resembles every other one.

And herein lies this most excellent and awesome power. All of these things: things that seem bound to such exotic sensory stimuli as camel races or a near-death experiences in rusty old vans in the middle of the desert — are imminently portable. You can return home after travel and bring with you the ability to notice and appreciate, even simply be present with, such mundane triumphs as functional traffic systems or public parks. I have a memory of returning to Vancouver after one of my first long stints abroad and thinking “Damn. The air smells like pine needles and rain here. I love that.” That memory still makes me smile every time I come home.

So travel, with permission and intention, begets adventure. Adventure, with practice, begets presence and wonder, qualities that you can keep with you when you are no longer on the road. Presence and wonder beget days lived well; days of years-long (ten years long!) cycles, that can be repeated, with passion and purpose, over and over ad-nauseam until The Big Sleep.