Finding Your Awe


What is something that inspires you? Something that just truly makes you, well, gasp. There are moments in life when you come across something so beautiful and pure, that your body is sent into this overdrive state. Your mind is blank, but at the same time, reeling with thoughts; your heart feels as if it stops, and then instinctively kicks back in to pump blood even faster. Everything is heightened.

Everyone experiences this at different times in their life. Sometimes it’s fleeting – oftentimes why people go looking for adventure – and other times, it’s more extended states of bliss. These full body experiences, where we feel unbelievably content with our lives, these are moments of awe.

I think artists and designers are special because we tend to seek moments of awe more often than others. This can be good, but also detrimental (more on that another time). I listened to a podcast recently in which – the name of the person escapes me at this moment – this individual was describing how instinctive and biological humans are. We have this innate drive to eat and sleep (amongst other animalistic behaviors) and those self-sufficiency, survivalism habits are what drive our every waking moment. Whether we realize this, or are actually aware of it, those habits are what consume us.

But, there are times in our lives – times of complete and utter awe – that interrupt our habits. Those awe-inspiring moments are what captivate us. Quite honestly, that’s what some people live for. I’ve met surfers who’ve shared their stories about traveling across the globe searching for the best waves. I have family members who have traveled across the globe for religious pilgrimages hoping to see miracles. I’ve witnessed friends receive job offers for life-altering careers that would take them across the globe. For humans, we are inclined – somehow, someway – to do everything we can to make those awe-filled moments as regular as possible.

I just experienced one of these moments. The photos I’m littering (a terribly ironic word choice here) throughout the text is what gave me goosebumps a few minutes ago. I have no idea how I came across these artists, but my goodness. Scrolling through their website, my mouth was hanging open. Photo after photo, video after video, my body went into that overdrive state.

Quintessenz is a dual-artist team that creates installation and mural work. I don’t know (yet) what it is about the art they create, but it’s something that hits me – and hard. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I was overwhelmed by awe looking at this. I’ve had moments in my life – most of these in nature – that consumed me. I can recognize these moments now (which I highly recommend you become aware of these), and this was definitely one of them.

I beg of you…please check out the website I linked above. Scroll through the endless amount of content and experience it for myself. I will tell you now, this is some of my all time favorite art to this day. If I ever find myself within hundreds miles of one of their pieces, I will make it my mission – completely ignoring my eating and sleeping habits – to see it in person.

Are Flying Cars just Helicopters?

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Back to the Future predicted we’d have flying cars by 2015. Now, 4 years later than the promised date, we’ve only seen hints at such a technology. I’ve never been a fan of the flying car. It seems completely ridiculous to me. Especially since drivers in normal cars can barely get their act together. The last thing we need is to have some lady eating a cheeseburger with her mutt on her lap, criss-crossing across the sky in a flying tank. Talk about road-rage (technically it’d be sky-rage right?).

Yes, I know I’m pessimistic about it. I blame Neil deGrasse Tyson. I listened to a podcast with him some time ago (if you’re interested in the video clip, here you go). In that podcast he had described how the search for flying cars has already been solved: they’re called helicopters. He goes on to describe how 3-dimensional travel has already been achieved as well: they’re called bridges and tunnels. Let’s insert Elon Musk’s tunnel plan below.

So, assuming tunnels become the newest way to travel (which quite honestly is a brilliant idea), are we still going to pursue flying cars – I mean, helicopters – for the average person? I stumbled across this hilarious video last night. And yes, I know, there should be better technology than an old tin can with blades on top in a few years. But if you don’t find this terrifying, you should reevaluate some stuff. Let’s hope videos like this make the public reassess the fascination that was instilled in us from the movie adventures of Marty McFly.

One of the Strangest Things I’ve Ever Done, is Float

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I would consider myself a fairly adventurous person. To me, I value experience a lot more than physical things nowadays. It’s taken me a long time to get here, for sure. Quite honestly, I fully owe this mentality to my parents.

Growing up, my family and I were never big into gifts. It’s not that my sisters and I would ever say we didn’t want presents. I would pine for iPods at Christmas; coming into school after winter break and not having anything to show off, that’s a weird predicament as an adolescent. I had years where I never understood my parents. They decided, when I was approximately 12 or so, that we would start spending Christmas abroad as a family. Over the week or so for our break, my two younger sisters, my parents, and I, would go to a new location – typically somewhere warm. It was incredible, seeing other cultures, foods, beaches, plants, architecture, and more. But being so young, and caught up in the world of other kids having these physical things, I felt almost gypped. Stupid. Honestly, I’m kicking my younger self in the ass right now.

Now, even today, I question some of the things my parents tell me. I hate to admit it, but it’s a deep rooted flaw most children will always have. But I finally understood their motives about a year ago today actually.

I went on an alternative spring break trip to Haiti with a few fellow students. We prepared for months for our trip, and yet, it wasn’t until we were there when it actually hit me – I’ve been outside of the country more times than most of my peers on the trip had been out of state. And that rocked me to my core.

As a kid I was so invested in this image I thought other people perceived. “What did you get from your grandparents?” “Why didn’t your parents get you anything?” “Didn’t you ask for presents?”

I’m not judging the outcomes of those kids. Quite honestly, I have no idea what 99% of the people I went to middle school with are doing today. I’m sure most of them turned out just fine. But my parents – they should be given an award. They showed my sisters and I the importance of being in the moment; of seeing the world. There is so much to explore and learn. It’s not about what you have. It’s what you’ve experienced, loved, and deeply felt.

Which brings me to my topic today. Floating.

Living in Portland alone, I took it upon myself to experience the most unordinary things I could find. It was a colleague of mine that first told me about float tanks. He was raving about this strange salt “device” that would submerge (that’s a punny word in this context) you in this almost sleep-like state. He sounded like he was on some heavy drugs. But then again, a lot of people in Portland did.

So, being intrigued, I decided to research this salt tub nonsense. Turns out, the cult following surrounding float tanks is insane. Picture this big people-sized clam shell, filled with water. When you step into it, eventually sinking yourself into the tank, you bob up onto the surface instantly. Each tank holds hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds of salt, making you float. It would be physically impossible to drown in almost 2 feet deep water.

So what’s the point? It’s allegedly used for re-cycling your circadian rhythm, inducing meditative states, helping chronic pain sufferers, and more. Once you’re in the clam shell, you float, doze off, wade, etc. All while being in complete darkness. It’s main purpose is to rid you of all your senses: floating, suspended, without thought and feeling. Sounds kinda creepy and almost dystopian. Especially when you finally see one:

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I mean, c’mon. Doesn’t that look like something out of the Minority Report?? But in all seriousness, it was totally worth the experience. Most people haven’t even heard of these things, let alone paid to be in one. My session for an hour and a half (a typical one is about 90-100 mins) cost me $80. Yes, I scoffed at that, and almost slightly regretted it afterwards. I never fell asleep, and quite honestly it was very unnerving for the first half until I calmed down. But man, I will never say no to experiences like that again.

All I can say is – even as a young, dumb person still living out in the big scary world – go do that thing you were always scared or unsure of. Indulge your alter ego, make a (somewhat) rash decision, and never look back. I don’t have a bucket list, because I don’t want my life to be this To Do List in which I just instinctively check boxes off. But if I did, I could check the “Big Salt Clam Shell Pod Thing” box off, for sure.

A Mile higher

Flying is such an immersive experience. If you’re a frequent flyer, you oftentimes aren’t aware of the whole process when you’re in the middle of it all. I find myself caught up in the anxiety of long lines, the stupid people arguing with flight attendants, and hurrying up just to wait some more.

But, if time isn’t necessarily a big concern for you during travels, let your mind wander to all of the cool things you come in contact with. The engineering of flight alone, is fascinating. You’re up in the air, miles above ground, eating your crappy complimentary pretzel snacks, completely aware of the fact that the tin tube you’re rocketing in, could fall out of the sky at any moment. And yet, we all willingly do it. Because it’s awesome.

I’ve been in every thing from propellor planes (completely terrifying might I add) to the new-ish luxury 737 from Boeing. And if you’re in one the newer planes, it’s much easier to think about the details we often overlook. Insert the seats.

Seating is extremely important to flying; you’re sitting down 99.9% of the time (unless your bladder is the size of a walnut). And yet, seats haven’t been upgraded all that much within the past few years. The silhouettes, materials, headrest and tray table positions, are just a few things that fliers can expect to be very constant. I came across a design firm called Layer the other day. They do some pretty cool stuff (and all very different too). But the one thing that really stood out to me, was their re-envisioned airplane seating.

I highly recommend checking out their project page here for all of the glorious details. This is one of the coolest re-designs I’ve seen in a while. If I was able to fly in something like this, I’d start taking trips just so I could experience it regularly. Talk about elevated (wow so punny). If design makes you excited about doing something more, that’s a success in my eyes.

Untouched Territory

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I have had the privilege to travel to quite a few places – both within the U.S. and outside of the country. Honestly, I love flying. And road trips have recently become something I really enjoy. However, I have only been on a few trains in my life. There is one line from Detroit to Chicago. But it is quite inefficient (takes longer than if you were to drive) and not that beautiful landscape wise.

I wish train travel was a bigger phenomena in the States. Especially around Michigan, with Detroit being the Motor City, cars are the most prominent way of travel. And even our public transport system is lack luster (if not inexistent). So, whenever I travel to other cities – NYC, Chicago, Portland, San Fransisco, Washington D.C. – I’m always overwhelmed by their metros and subways.

I find it fascinating, seeing everyone jumping through doors, weaving along the crowds. Rush hour is always stressful when you need to be somewhere, but observationally, it’s really out of this world. You feel as if you’re moving in slow motion, as the world – and everyone else around you – is eager to get moving, breezing along, almost completely unaware of the surroundings.

Train travel seems to be getting more and more watchful anticipation from the world. Few countries have started luxury lines, but the iconically unkempt New York subways cars are in dire need of an upgrade. Japan always seems to do it faster and better than the rest of the globe, and their Shinkansen (bullet train) is revolutionary.

As the strive for mobility takes over the U.S., I sense trains will become a key component for long distance travel in the coming years. I’m really curious how it’ll happen, what places it’ll connect, and who will be affected by these newly connected dots.